Dungeon Master Tips in 140 characters or so #21 Combat

It’s been a while but I couldn’t stay away forever. Here is a great list of questions all having something to do with combat in Dungeons and Dragons. Many of these tips might be usable in other games as well.

Question #1: How long do your level appropriate encounters last? (any game)

Neldar10 minutes.

blindgeekuktoo long… with experienced players on focus, most encounters take 1 hour for me

mmarandaWell level appropriate is tough to determine in any edition before 3.0. 3.5 with min maxed party at most 20 mins. 4E with min maxers depends on the tier of play. H 20-40min, P 10-30, E10-60* the Epic is an estimate not much experience with it.

BrianLibergeWhat’s level appropriate? My average encounter is set at 2 levels above standard to keep people engaged. Combat is 1-3 hours

iTavman1.5 hours unless my payers act stupid. Then they’re either really long or brutally short.

GeekyLyndsayJust general responses to @ThadeousCs question… our combats are 30-45 minutes but we are usually below level 10

CanageekYeah, in 3.5 we always preferred levels 2-8. My Dad found even his core-only home game slowing at 6-9.

pdunwinAs long as I want them to.

robcooper224e: almost always more than one but usually less than 2 hours.

AlioTheFoolI’ve only played 4E thus far. Anywhere between 1 and 3 hours depending on level of focus.

TheAngryDM3.5/Pathfinder 15-30 min. 4E 40-80 min. Dragon Age 15 min. Warhammer FRP 20-30 min. Gamma World 30-45 minutes. That assumes a rare situation in which the PCs win. The more common TPKs generally finish much quicker.

symattI’d say about 50-60 minutes less if I can depending on players and situation

DMSamuelcombats take 1 hour to 1.5 hours in 4e for my group, other systems vary, but usually are shorter

Nullzone42: About 35-45 minutes each, for a propery budgeted encounter.

psychopez: as long as I want them too.

PapaBaloo: Right now in low Heroic tier, i would say about 1h/1.5h, i got 6 players though

Question #2: How many encounters do you run in a session? How long do you play?

LeStewI get to run about 1 combat and 1 SC per session…

ArcaneSpringbrdUsually 2 encounters per session (at Paragon), sometimes 3. We play 3-3.5 hours each session.

BrianLibergeSessions are about 3 hours. 1-4 encounters with either a social encounter or IC Planning session, rest combat

robcooper22My players don’t have the focus for 2 much. Usually some roll play, 1 combat encounter, maybe a skill challenge.

symattI write up two encounters per game also have a couple of randoms ready just in case. the last game i ran was two hours. but ive run 7 + hours before. dont get to run games as often as id like. sp end up playing all day

Soklemon1 combat, or 1 combat 1 skill challenge, hybrid, or 2 skill challenge. 4 hours, often with excess time.

scottmalt: Usually 2. We play for 3 hours

digitaldracoPlay time: ~5-8 hours. Encounters: ~2-3 per session. Sometimes only 1 encounter, sometimes none!

glimmthegnomemy group has 1.5-2 hour sessions and we usually fit 1 or 2 encounters in each one

AlioTheFool2 to 3 per session, depending on the encounter length – 1 to 3 hours each.

deadorcsre: Encounters. I usually run a 4-6 hour game. I usually get 3-4 encounters in, some role-play, & a lot of B.S.

d20philiaSounds like my Stormhaven campaign: about 6 hrs, 0-3 encounters.

DMSamuelA 5 hour session will usually have 2 encounters, 1 long and 1 short

Rolling20sUsually 1-2 encounters in a 3-hour session. 4-5 if we get to play for 6+ hours (rare).

DnDJester: I run between 2-4 encounters per session (4e). I probably average 2.5

ObsidianCranehome games 3-4 hours & 1-2 combats usually. Of course lfr is 3 fights in 4 hours usually.

DrOct: Sadly usually only 1 encounter per session. Usually only get 2 to 2.5 hours of play in per week.

D_Gibb: We run 4-5 hours, playing 3-4 encounters.

Question #3: How do you ensure your encounters are balanced?

LeStew: i don’t… if they’re close to death i might fudge a roll or something

stjimmyster: retroactively, via moaning, mainly.

AmazingTriangle: I have no more than 2 soldiers. Lurkers, artillery, and minions can be 3+. 1 controller at all. Terrain that is diff | enc

TimsMartini: fake it. Fake it HARD

ObsidianCrane:  DMG1 xp budgets work basically. No more than PC Level+2 for xp. Don’t worry inside that guideline.

Homerclone: Mine never are. I plan what is in my head and adjust on the fly.

digitaldraco: Start w/ the encounter XP budget table in the Rules Compendium, flavor to taste.

deadorcs: I’m a “by the book” man. I weigh expected XP with the number & level of the party. I then adjust accordingly.

AlioTheFool: that’s easy. The XP chart for 4e. Super easy encounter level management.

DMSamuel: in 4e that’s easy – I use their xp budgets and adjust according to my player’s tactical saavy

robcooper22: Play it by ear: I’ll add a couple more monsters as we’re going along or cheat dice rolls and pull my punches.

glimmthegnome: I usually set up an encounter that fits the dmg guidelines for a 5 pc party and then throw it at my 4 players my games usually have a low num of encounters per day, so the harder fights help balance against that

Question #4: Do you have any tips for speeding up combat?

LeStew: i halve the monsters HP and then up their damage… it seems to make things quicker

ArcaneSpringbrd: Change the philosophy of encounter design. More minions.

mightbeoutthereroll to hit w/ damage dice and call out who is on deck to take a turn next. Also, white board for turn order and hp/damage

Amankhan: Up monster damage, reduce monster HPs. Limit the number of out of turn combat abilities.

crosswiredmind: A friend of mine reminds his players to think about what they want to do before their turn comes up. and he has the roll before they figure out the numbers – there is a 10% chance it won’t matter (1 or 20).

symatti use exploding dice to increase DMG for PCs and monsters

deadorcs: re: Speeding up combat. I try to do a lot of my record keeping on the computer. I also use a sand timer to enforce action.

JoeStroup: I halved monster HP and doubled damage to create the same threat but in less time. Really needed in paragon.

erjholton: The best way to speed up combat is for players and DMs to be familiar with their options and plan turns in advance.

ObsidianCrane: While players are acting be planning the next monster’s go

d20philia: Tips for speeding combat: (1) Announce turns in advance: “Lithian, you’re up. After that it’s Alanso, then Zebith.”  Tips for speeding combat: (2) Impose a time limit (1 min. or even 30 sec.) to announce action. Player times out = PC delays.

metaDM: Speeding up combat. Roll multiple d20s for area attacks. Map the position of the d20s to position of minis for targeting.

Soklemon: Dont force the PCs to kill that last monster, even if its bloodied. It may surrender or flee.

bandofmisfits: Ask the players how many hit points they have left, and then have the monster do that much damage.

DaveTheGame: Not every fight needs to be to the death on all sides- include “outs.”

Rolling20s: Know when a fight is done and let it end. Also, try to get the players to plan ahead.

newbiedm: watch the table and see if you *need* to speed up combat. You may not, the pc’s may be loving the tactical fight.

SlyFlourish: Reveal monster defenses on a 5×8 card folded in half. Speeds up the game significantly. Be damned with the mystery of defenses.

pdunwin: Use any excuse to trigger OAs, defender marks, & automatic dmg against your monsters. MM1 creatures are good for this. They have hi HP & defs, & low dmg, so they would risk extra attacks for squishier targets. More aggressive foes & extra PC attacks also tend to make for a more exciting & dynamic fight. Another idea is to not make it about HP, but about a goal one side or the other must accomplish to succeed. E.g. The PCs have 4 rounds to prevent the monsters from reaching a certain point. Success: Monsters retreat. Failure: Bad things.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.


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Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.
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