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Speeding Up and Streamlining PbP Combat

Originally Posted by Blackrazor View Post
Crazy idea

Kill the HP system and move to a minion like system. Same could be applied to players if wanted - could be brutal.

Players fight: ( I am making the ranks and hits up on the fly)

Minions - 1 hit and its dead
Sub leaders - 2 hits and they are dead
Leaders - 3 hits and they are dead
Sub Commanders - 4 Hits
Commanders - 5 Hits
Bosses - 6+ hits

Rather then focusing on damage you focus on attacks landing.
My only concern is that this speeds combat too much. There are typically 4-6 PCs in a given party, with 5 being the optimal number. If we assume a 50% hit rate, the big dramatic fights with Sub-commanders, Commanders, and Bosses will last only a handful of rounds. On a good round, the Big Bad's Elite enforcer could go down without ever making a single attack!

I suppose one could develop a formula based on (Total monster HP)/(Average party [W] value) to determine how many [W] hits it takes to drop a given opponent. In such a system, however, you'd probably want to count a critical hit as 2 hits. However, this, too will remove a lot of the flavor from various powers - particularly those that grant a boost to damage.

Instead of using a set number of hits, perhaps eliminating damage rolls in favor of fixed damage would be a better option? Any non-critical damage dice would do average damage. Crits would remain unchanged at maximum [W]. Ferinstance:

A dagger-wielding Rogue attacks with Combat Advantage and lands a Sly Flourish. Normal damage generally looks like 1[W]
let's call it 4+3, or 7
+Dex+Cha, +2d6. Average dagger damage is
minimum value + maximum value
(1+4)/2, or 2.5. Add 7 for his ability modifiers and a another 7 for
Average result on a d6 is 3.5; remember to drop fractions at the end of your calculations!
average SA damage, for a total of 16.5, or 16 using standard D&D "drop the fractions" math.

In my 3.5 PbP (haven't had a chance to try out 4e yet), I ask the players to make all the dice rolls necessary to resolve their actions. That means they roll to hit, roll damage, and roll their enemies' saving throws and AoOs if necessary (I provide them with their enemies' AC, saves, and attack info for AoOs). This means that unless someone asks me a question, I only need to post one time each round. In the same vein, I'll roll anything for them that I need to when I post, so there's never any downtime where I ask a player to make a roll and then have to wait for the response.

It works that way outside of combat, too. I've told the players that I use a "say yes or roll the dice approach" to GMing, but since they don't know whether or not I'll say yes, go ahead and roll the dice anyway, just in case. The campaign's pretty new, only about three weeks now, but in that time we've done chargen (which took about a week; some of the players are pretty new), two encounters, and a fair bit of roleplaying -- which seems like a pretty good pace for PbP.

I roll initiative for everyone, and lump all of the monsters together at the same initiative count. I haven't decided what I'll do if they encounter a group of opponents with wildly different initiative scores yet; I might just average them together, because I really like only having to post once for "my" side.

Players don't have to wait for their turn in the initiative order before they post; they post their actions whenever they get around to it and once everyone's posted I resolve everything in initiative order. If someone's action is negated by someone with a better initiative, I'll either adjust it for them if it's something fairly obvious ("The guy on the left is already dead when your turn comes up, so you attack the guy on the right instead") or ask them what they'd like to do instead if it's not.

The three things in my games that I feel make the biggest difference in speeding up combat are.

1. Ditzie
2. Grouped initiative (but only for those with adjacent initiative rolls so I am not breaking RAW but rather having characters delay till their player posts)
3. Providing details on defences and remaining hitpoints as combat progresses (after the first attack on a particular defence of a monster I update their creature status to show what the roll is and if the defence was above or below it, on the second attack I replace it with the actual target number. After a creature is bloodied I display remaining hitpoints for that creature and all like it.)

I still need to check results at the beginning of the combat but towards the end they know enough about the creatures to be able to remove them from the map when they strike a killing blow.

My update format is forever evolving but I think the following example is fairly current, and not as complicated as some of the later combats.

And if you are wondering why the party are all at full health it's because the monsters were rolling terribly and the party wasn't. By the end of the battle they had taken only a few scratches even after the rest of the undead had joined in

The biggest thing I've found that slows down combat is out of turn actions. AoO (OA for 4e types), movement outside of the normal turn, or things that allow the player to act when it's not their initiative.

I use a round summary, letting all the players post their actions and then I post a result with the monster actions, rinse and repeat. But again, if anything allows the monsters or the players to act in between this, it gets dicey and slows down the rate of posts waiting for someone to catch up and take an action. I find this is probably the largest thing that slows down combat in PbP. Instead of focusing on reducing HP or making it hits based I feel like reducing the number of interrupts the game allows is the best way to make PbP Combat flow more quickly.

Originally Posted by DrMorganes View Post
Here are a few things I've noticed that seem to really help speed pBp combat:
  • Provide ALL necessary information to your players: Monster Defense values, HP totals, etc. Heck, go ahead and post monster stat blocks. 4E requires almost immediate feedback so others can plan their actions. Knowing whether your attack hit or missed has immediate impact on the rest of the party.
  • Use an editable map. ditzie is nice, but I'm a big fan of Google Docs. Using spreadsheet-based status tracking means you don't have to worry about folks using the wrong math, or wondering whether a given foe is Bloodied.
  • Group initiative. Player actions happen in the order they post. This plays fast and loose with some status effects and occasionally allows an effect to last longer than it probably should. However, more often than not that extra duration is in favor of the players; I've never heard anyone complain
  • Default attacks. Couple this with Group Initiative, and things get very easy if you need to NPC someone for lack of posting.
  • Conditional interrupts. I play a Warden in several games, and pre-posting the rolls for things like Warden's Fury makes a huge difference. Require the conditional statement in the Actions spoiler every turn, if only to remind yourself that it's there.
  • Have the triggering player make rolls for Immediate actions. Ferinstance, the Warlord makes the attack rolls for Basic Attacks granted to allies, or the Cleric rolls the granted saving throw.

Using these, it's very easy to get through a round of combat - and sometimes more - in 24 hours. HP reduction messes with a lot of other mechanics, particularly with Elite or Solo monsters. Be careful with it.
This is pretty much everything I came to the thread to say. Group initiative is probably the single most important of them all when add in that players actions happen in the order they were posted. No more twiddling your thumbs while you wait for someone to post.

I also require a combat post within 24 hours of a DM combat round update post. That way, you always move at least 1 round a day.

Is there any mapping tool besides ditzie or google docs that could be used in combat? I'm doing my homework as it were before trying to run my first campaign which fyi will be Saga Edition. So I'll need a map to help make things better understood.

DrMorgane's list above has the right of it... giving players the tools to adjudicate their own turns cuts days off of each round, especially when its in the form of a sharable spreadsheet and map. Thymeless has been doing a pretty god job with this lately, though it seems that most of that crew (Sandster etc) take similar approaches. Combine that with letting the group use an initiative block rather than individual initiatives, and there's no reason a round of combat should ever take more than a day.

The truth is though, if you have a strong interupt-controller presence in your party, its always going to gum things up a bit unless they have very specific if/then moves they pull over and over again that can be placed in the DM and other player's hands on other turns... and probably even then, it's still going to give everyone a headache. To be safe, you should probably just always refuse to accept anyone that submits a polearm build!

Something one of my GMs did recently that I plan to adopt myself is taking advantage of the 'Edit Post' feature that GMs can use on any post in their forum. Without needing to make a new post him- or herself, the DM can resolve actions, roll damage, and react to the character's decisions from inside the player's own post, perhaps using a different font color for the edits. It seemed confusing at first, but I think it was a lot less work for the GM (no need to summarize and remember everything that happened in one huge post later) and it helped the encounter go smoothly once we got the hang of it. Also, if a player wanted to take an immediate or free action, they could just make a new post and it didn't mess things up.

Admittedly, I play kind of fast-and-loose with the rules governing combat in my Starship Troopers campaign; initiative is generally treated as a nonexistent roll, since the Bugs share initiative (being psychically-linked hivemind organisms, after all) anyway. If I were to describe the events from a purely crunch standpoint, it would probably be something like this:

-"Player one" engages an enemy;
-Bugs move half their movement speed as a "half-turn";
-"Players two through Y" are given a half-turn to either move or attack;
-Bugs make their second half-turn;
-Players make a half-turn;
-Bugs make a half-turn;
-Rinse and repeat until one side is dead.

In truth, this flows a bit quicker and more cinematically than it sounds; I tend to provide side notes that expand on specific details, giving the players a wide range of freedom within a set timeframe, such as informing them that the enemy will close to melee distance in two turns, or that the "turn order" will be broken down fireteam one-Bugs-fireteam two. Combat encounters are running about a week and change each with this system, though that may be due to a rather wonderful player group instead of any potential PbP wisdom I may have stumbled upon by accident.

Originally Posted by Burne View Post
Is there any mapping tool besides ditzie or google docs that could be used in combat? I'm doing my homework as it were before trying to run my first campaign which fyi will be Saga Edition. So I'll need a map to help make things better understood.
I use the website:

It is a stripped down flash version of Visio.


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