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Speeding Up and Streamlining PbP Combat

Originally Posted by weishan View Post
A very radical option is to give your PCs the tools (and behind the screen knowledge) to resolve and narrate the effects of an attack each round on their own. Then you move, attack, whatever you'd normally do etc.
Sandster does this in his games. The players know the crunchy bits of the opponents they face, and are responsible for updating status effects on all combatants. Goes pretty quick.

Another thing that can be done for more 'epic' combats, is to split it in waves. They're close enough so that encounter power management is still important, and small enough not to swarm the initiative order and bog down things.
You could also roll the initiative of certain monsters together, say, all minions or a subset of them share the same roll (could be refluffed as working in formation or team). This helps preventing cases where all the PCs are separated by enemies in the initiative order (requiring GM input after every character post, which slows down things).
Good ol' initiative delaying also works to solve the same problem.

Originally Posted by Abelard View Post
Interesting... but what about side effects? For example (and this may not be exactly correct, but bear with me), power X does normal damage against the target, and then 3 damage to everyone adjacent to that target. Does that additional damage count as a "hit"? If not, then it seems like you would ignore it... which loses the flavor of the power.

I like the idea, and would be willing to try it in my game's next combat if we can make it workable...
You are speeding up combat ignore non direct damage. DOTs are there to supplement DPR - Damage per round. Since damage is tired directlky to a hit te rest is just fluff. Maybe have fluff damage have a side effect 1 to x damage = -1 to hit ; Y to Z damage = -2 to hit G to H damage -3 to hit etc.

Originally Posted by Blackrazor View Post
You are speeding up combat ignore non direct damage. DOTs are there to supplement DPR - Damage per round. Since damage is tired directlky to a hit te rest is just fluff. Maybe have fluff damage have a side effect 1 to x damage = -1 to hit ; Y to Z damage = -2 to hit G to H damage -3 to hit etc.
edit - So DOTs would deal a HIT/Damage on round one and then a fluff effect on each subsequent round. You could elimate DOTs as damage dealing and just have them deal fluff effects. You could have them only deal damage over time to creature of a certain power level. Example - <Minion or INSERT MONSTER POWER LEVEL HERE> level critters who would enter a DOT could take damage on any round they are in it. Hmmmm.

Most of the encounters I run in my campaign average about 2-3 weeks so far, and without making many radical changes to the mechanics. The most important change, however, was to replace the standard d20 roll with 3d6. This reduced the number of combat rounds wasted due to strings of bad rolls, which were not uncommon for us in the early encounters when we first started many months ago. But the overall results produced better consistency in attack rolls which helped speed up combat without having to nerf the monsters. You just need to be careful about throwing monsters that might be "impossible" to hit because characters can no longer roll higher than 18, and very rarely roll higher than 16. Any DM worth his salt should be able to adjust the monster levels accordingly.

Another change I made, though not nearly as drastic as altering the core mechanic, was to break down the combat round into smaller, more manageable phases. No more than two characters will act before some of the monsters take their actions. This means more updates per combat round, but it is usually much easier to update a couple of character actions and a few monster attacks than keeping up with all possible actions for both sides at once.

Beyond these changes, I spent a lot of time and effort putting together cheat sheets for players, tracking threads, maps, and establishing easy-to-follow formats. What it basically comes down to is taking the extra time and effort in the short run to save you more needless time and effort in the long run.

Since the campaign officially started back in September, one group has completed five combat encounters (including skill challenges and heavy roleplaying along the way) and the other has begun their fourth encounter (also including skill challenges and heavy roleplaying). Full hit points for all monsters. No short cuts. Just food for thought before you decide on something. Good luck with whatever you decide.

I should also mention that we were on a near two-month hiatus, as well.

Have the slowpoke players outline multiple turns at once; if they happen not to be around by the time everyone else has completed their turn, the DM uses the player's plan as a guideline. An example of how this is intended to work.

Two things I use to speed things up:

1) Group initiative. Either the PCs go first (in whichever order the players post) or the monsters go first. That way, once all players have posted I can simulate the rest of the combat round and then post the results.

2) Have each player declare a "favourite" action, such as attacking the closest enemy with a specific weapon. If they don't post for a pre-determined period of time, they default to this action.

I don't run D&D but if I did I'd consider getting rid of things like Attacks of Opportunity altogether, or at least rolling them on the players' behalf.

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.

Opportunity Attacks aren't that much of a pain. OAs in 4E have changed quite a bit from 3.5 in that each player gets one for each monster's turn, instead of just one per round. They're a special-case Immediate Action, so the triggering player simply includes the roll. This is actually very easy if the DM posts important stats for the players' reference.

For pBp combat, I typically rule that an OA will always be made if one is drawn. Sure this plays fast and loose with some rules, and may not always make sense for a monster with average or higher Intelligence, but it certainly speeds things up without removing an important tactical feature. Remember: many
particularly Fighters, Swordmages, and Wardens
Defenders rely on OAs to stay "sticky". Removing them from the game removes access to class features and kills a lot of the 4E flavor Farland wants to preserve!


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