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So How Have You Sped Up Combat?


Advice


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Not that I think combat takes too long but I am always willing to learn new tricks.

I am going to try the great and fantastic Combat Manager this weekend to speed up initiative and damage tracking. I also am using the Gamemastery Condition Cards to cut out the need to refer to the rules for conditions, and I've pre-loaded the PCs spells to a great app (simply called "Spellbook") so I can find spell effects in seconds. I also printed out a copy of the SORD to use for quick reference if needed.

I feel I have a lot of bases covered, but like I said, I am sure others have thought of things I haven't so please share your tricks.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Have people roll all the necessary dice at once.
This way the damage dice have already been rolled if the D20 says that there is a hit.

If they have iterative attacks, have them roll sets of dice, to do the same as above with all of the dice.

Have a player run the intitiative board, letting other players know when they are up next, so that they can decide what they are going to be doing before their turn comes around. Once it is their turn, if they don't know, ten seconds later, they are automatically delaying until they do.


I'm not sure how much actual speed-up we got, but once we started using a stack of index cards, with one card for each initiative roll (so one for each PC, one for all the goblin archers together, etc.) with HP on it we never went back. When a turn finishes, the card goes to the bottom of the pile, card gets set aside for delay or ready, and popped back in when it triggers.

Paizo Employee Quality Assurance Axiomite

I have my players roll out their initiatives when we all sit down at the start of a session. When combat starts its instant and fluid as I feel nothing kills a sudden dynamic ambush like waiting two minutes for everyone to roll their dice and tell me what they got one at a time. After the fight ends, have them roll initiative again for the next encounter. I also use Combat Manager as well, nothing beats being able to type in the name of a feat or spell when a rules question comes into play.

I let my players see the initiative chart and encourage them to know what they want to do on their next round and emphasize that its to speed up combat. Depending on the player this is either incredibly effective or totally useless :P


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What slows down combat in my game is the players of the casters-- particularly the divine casters-- who ALWAYS end up flipping through the books to figure out which spell to cast and/or look up minutia of a spell to make sure it's going to have the effect they want.

Similarly, the casters frequently each take 5 or more minutes on their turn to count squares, draw radii on the map, fiddle with which corner to center, etc, to maximize the area of effect on the battle.

I'm getting tempted to put a three-minute egg timer on the table, and if the player hasn't figured out what he's doing, then he's delaying action until he does.

As for initiative, we use MapTool for combat. It has a decent-if-not-awesome initiative keeper, and hp and AC of all combatants are kept on the token itself.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I let the players track the initiative, its written on our white board so they can always see who is going when. (my npcs/monsters are on that list also). Its a little meta but it helps in a huge way and they could if they wanted track it anyway.

Second and most importantly, within a few seconds of their turn coming up, they have to say what they are going to do. However long it takes to do and resolve, thats fine. But they have to say "im casting fireball over there" or 'I move over to the pillar and attack the orc'. If they dont know what they want to do at that point, they delay until they do and the next person goes. It means less optimized actions, but it greatly improves the flow of play.

Grand Lodge

Have each player keep a running total of all combat bonuses on a scrap piece of paper or notecard.

This way, when each person takes their action, they don't have to add in all the modifiers each time (like from Bless, Inspire Courage, Point Blank Shot, Favored Enemy, etc. etc. etc.). Each time these bonuses change, the player can change the total.

That and having player roll hit and damage dice at once will greatly speed up combat.

What really gets me is players who insist on rolling an extra die with their d20 to attack (so that they have 2 dice in their hands), yet don't roll their damage die, so I still have to wait for them to roll twice.

Also, encourage players to have decided what they're going to do BEFORE their turn of initiative. Employing a "10 second rule" as mentioned above really helps enforce this if needed. 10 seconds is way more time than you need if you've thought ahead of time. Also, encourage players to look up any needed rules (like spell effects) BEFORE their initiative turns so they have that info on hand if you need it.

In the past when I played a wizard, I would put all my spells on 3x5 index cards, one spell per card. That way, I could have it in front of me and didn't have to find it in the book(s). This was in the 2nd. edition days when I had spells from multiple books and Dragon magazines, but it's still applicable now. Already there are a lot of sources for spells in Pathfinder. Not having to look up spells to figure out range, area of effect, duration, etc. saves a LOT of time.

Oh, and use the GM screen if you're not already. :)


"Once it is their turn, if they don't know, ten seconds later, they are automatically delaying until they do." - I second that one

Absolutely no takesi-backesi - if you point on the board a place a stinking cloud there - that's where is gonna be. If you said you gonna move - and the find out the tentacle thingy had reach and you provoke AoO - too bad. Bad combat dessions makes the game fun!

(masters can take their time - they have new monsters for each fight so they are allowed to think, take back if they missed something and so on).

Don't allow people to summon anything they don't have on print. having to look a monster up - takes time - and kills the combat.
- and ask people to reconsider summoning anything at all. If the player can handle it - cool - let him have his fun, but if one player takes twice as long as the other players - he should summon things/have cohorts/animal comapagnions/nice stuff

If the party start to hivemind try a combat round or two were any suggestion from a fellow player is forbidden action (you can't do that).
- it's allowed to spend a free action when it's your turn to come with suggestions...

print spell shapes (30 feet cone, 20 feet radius 30 feet line..) so it's faster to determine what area is effected. - And let the casters point to the center of the spell/start of line and then see what happens.

Have one player keep taps on initiative, another on how much damage monsters have taken (master should just keep an eye on the total).

Have a max of 4 playes.

And force/suggest to players that they write down their current to hit/dam so they don't have to add the +1 from haste, the +1 from prayer in their head for every attack...


Erik Keith wrote:

I have my players roll out their initiatives when we all sit down at the start of a session. When combat starts its instant and fluid as I feel nothing kills a sudden dynamic ambush like waiting two minutes for everyone to roll their dice and tell me what they got one at a time. After the fight ends, have them roll initiative again for the next encounter. I also use Combat Manager as well, nothing beats being able to type in the name of a feat or spell when a rules question comes into play.

I let my players see the initiative chart and encourage them to know what they want to do on their next round and emphasize that its to speed up combat. Depending on the player this is either incredibly effective or totally useless :P

This is actually a GREAT idea. I agree, nothing sucks more than "5 Orcs lunge out of the room to attack, roll initiative.....(wait 2 minutes to figure out the order)".

Combat manager makes it quick, but I might still do this because it will still allow for a little more drama.


Great ideas all around. Like some of you mentioned we have a 3 second rule. Unless you're the first person in initiative order you have to at least state what you're going to do in 3 seconds or you lose your turn or provoke an AoO (whichever is appropriate). They don't have to be specific just, "I am going to attack the Giant Spider". They can then add details if needed.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Erik Keith wrote:
I have my players roll out their initiatives when we all sit down at the start of a session... After the fight ends, have them roll initiative again for the next encounter.

Awesome idea! Consider it stolen!


For my little situations on running effective combat is:

1) Talking in Combat – Talking is no longer a “free” action in combat. You can only talk during your turn. You cannot speak more than a few sentences. - No discussions. Also do not to be surprised if the enemy overhears your discussion and acts upon it.

2) If you don't have a plan on what to do for your turn, with the mindset of the above rule that no one else can talk to you on YOUR turn, you have a few short moments to decide or you "hesitate" and lose your turn. In short, while combat is happening you figure out what you are going to do on the other player's turns. If you are dinking off on side topics (which is fine from time to time) it's your own fault.

The above rule, however, is primarily for the extraordinary sized groups that number 6+ generally when I employ it. Much easier to be more lenient in groups of 5 or less.


I found several things really speed up combat (some were already mentioned):

I use the GameMastery combat pad, and have the players work out their own initiative. Then all I have to do is insert the monsters. With the combat pad, everyone knows when their turn is up, who's next, etc. I have a player manage the combat pad, so I don't have to - as GM, I'm always the slow one at the table.

I give each player 5 seconds to start their turn. If they don't, they get delayed. They have everyone else's turn to think.

I have a one-minute hourglass timer for one or two particularly slow players who like to dilly-dally. If they haven't resolved most of their turn by the time it runs out, they lose what's left. I've found that the majority of player turns can be easily resolved in less than a minute until the party hits level 11 or so.

I have plastic templates for the common cone and blast shapes which greatly cuts down on the measuring.

I have a string that is marked at 30 feet (6 inches), 60 feet and 120 feet that comes in handy for checking line of sight/effect, sight distances, ranges, and even movement.

I keep all the PC "typical" defensive stats (AC, CMD, etc.) on a 3 x 5 card, so I don't have to ask the players anything when the monsters attack. Likewise, I have a combat sheet for each encounter with the monster defensive stats & hp, so I'm ready when the players attack.

I encourage player combat "cheat sheets" that have all the different stats for every variation of attack figured out - like Power Attack, Divine Favor, Bane, Judgements, Deadly Aim, Rapid Shot, etc. This way the player can just find the right line and it gives them the attack and damage - no math necessary.

I also encourage "spell sheets" for the casters with the full text of the spell, so when there is a question (and there always is), nobody has to go looking in a book.

If someone casts a spell and they can't immediately recite all relevant info (range, targets, save DC, damage, effect, etc.), the spell automatically fails. This came up exactly once and has never happened since.

It sounds really severe, but it isn't in practice. Once everyone is motivated to do their part, the combats are fast and smooth. The negative consequences almost never come up.


One thing we try to do- is to know what we're doing before its our turn.

Now sometimes this can change (the guy right before you does something that totally borks what you had planned) but generally speaking no one is sitting there fumbling through books looking for something when their init count comes up.

If you are going to do X, you look it up (or whatever) so that you are ready on your turn.

This can go for knowing what to attack (for melee) or what attacks you are or aren't going to make (for melee and/or archers and such)

pre-planning out where you are going to move and how far can help too.

Knowing ahead of time what spell(s) you are planning to use, or what class abilities. (we have a wizard, witch, cleric, and scroll using rogue in our group). Knowing what you will do before your turn speeds things up /alot/.

Our melee guys tend to roll attacks and damage at the same time using different colored dice. This helps too.

One guy has an electronic dice roller. While we don't alwayas use it, if we're literally rolling double hand fulls of dice we've used that instead a few times to speed things along.

Timing how long it takes players to do their turn should also do the trick, but we haven't had to resort to that. Generally- having everyone pay attention during the entire combat round so they can plan out what they will do before hand does the trick.

-S


I play with as few rules as possible. As long as the action being taken and its consequences are in the spirit of older versions of the game and no one seems confused on why it "could" work that way, we don't look anything up.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

The best thing I have found is to lead by example. I've noticed that the players tend to take their cues from the dm, so when I run, I try to make sure I know the enemies typical tactics, spell effects, etc...that way I can minimize the amount of time their turns are taking. When I'm right on top of things my players take their cue from me and do the same.

I also try to follow the same example when I'm a player. I spend time between turns planning my next move, looking up rules im unsure of, or pulling up spell effects and aoe templates. Color and size coded dice for weapon attacks, with smaller dice for attacks at a lower bonus, etc...

It works pretty well for me, the most complex thing I use is a gamemastery initiative tracker.


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As GM I:
1) Use recipe cards to track the initiative for each player (and 1-2 cards for NPCs). I use pencil and write everyone's initiative and order the cards when the combat starts. It doesn't take long, I call out someone's name and they tell me their Init. The cards work beautifully when people delay and ready actions, which is common with my group.

The init cards not only have the order of initiative, but I also write down all of the current hit points of every NPC as well. I use pink cards for NPCs, white cards for PCs.

2) I put notes of spells and I modify listed stats to include power attack or other variations, so I don't forget (or need to lookup something) during the game.

3) If you're prepared, don't worry about minutia when you GM. Whether the NPC has an AC of 16 or 17 won't matter to the players. Use the rules if you can think of them, if not don't worry about it. Over time you'll get a better handle of the rules.

4) Put PCs "on delay" if the player can't decide what to do within 10 seconds.

All
The most important thing to do for both GMs and players is to roll your attack roll and damage roll at the same time. If you threaten to crit you roll all of the dice again.

Players
1) As mentioned, roll your attack and damage dice at the same time.
2) Know what action you're going to perform before it's your turn. In other words, be able to say your action within 5 seconds of it being your turn.
3) Don't take too long to shake your dice. You'd be surprised at how much time this adds to every session if everyone shakes their dice for 10-15 seconds before they roll. It's even worse if the person rolls 1 die at a time.
4) Knowing how much extra damage you're adding to your roll.
5) If it takes you too long to decide what to do with a spellcaster (looking up rules etc), don't play one. It takes an organized player to play a spellcaster well. Just player a martial PC (or perhaps an Oracle/Sorceror), everyone will be happier.

I find it's mostly the GMs responsibility to keep things moving in combat (and it's mostly the players job out-of-combat). He has the most NPCs (so he has to keep it fast), he knows the init order, and he's also responsible for making sure players aren't slow.

When I'm a player I'm ready to drop my attack and damage dice within 1 second of it being my turn, and being able to add it within 5 seconds. You'd be surprised how much this speeds up combat, which leaves more room for roleplay.

The biggest problem with sessions being too slow isn't combat though, I find the biggest problem are players who take too long to decide "what to do", even when the answer is obvious. Sometimes I just wish I brought along a cattle prod.

Silver Crusade

One thing that bugs me is players who sit there doing the math before they roll. "Let's see, I get my normal +8 from BAB and strength, +1 from the Bless the cleric cast, +2 for the flank..."

Roughly 50% of the time, you'll roll high or low enough that it just won't matter. The DM will tell you if the monster's AC is so extreme that you should do the math even with a really good/bad roll. But you don't need to bother doing all the math in advance - wait until it matters, since it frequently won't.

Taldor

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

The biggest thing I've learned is to make sure Initiative is public. I have a bunch of index card table tents for each player, so I just move reorder the cards so that they are visible to all players. It's not as visible of a timesaver as it is in 4E, but making sure that initiative is visible is one of the biggest things you can do as a GM.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Lots of good advice here.

+1 to rolling initiative pre-fight (and immediately upon finishing a fight). Nothing breaks immersion & mood than breaking out of ingame talk to handle out of game necessaries.

Dice Bag is a free Android app. It's the best digital dice roller I've found.

Summoner is another app, which tracks summons. Pathfinder Spellbook is yet another. They all basically do whats on the tin.


I have all the PC names written on both sides of clothes pegs. I have the players sort out initiative by the dice - though there tends to be a fair bit of delaying as well. They then clip the pegs to the GM screen, and I add some different coloured pegs for the bad guys. As they are sorting out initiative I am sorting out my notes.

These two rules speed things up at our table:
No Take Backs
Your Turn Ends When Your Turn Ends ("Err, I should've added another +4 to my attack roll - does that hit now?" "No, it is now Aragorn's turn. Remember to add it next time.")


Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
bodhranist wrote:
I'm not sure how much actual speed-up we got, but once we started using a stack of index cards, with one card for each initiative roll (so one for each PC, one for all the goblin archers together, etc.) with HP on it we never went back. When a turn finishes, the card goes to the bottom of the pile, card gets set aside for delay or ready, and popped back in when it triggers.

GENIUS.


"I'm not sure how much actual speed-up we got, but once we started using a stack of index cards, with one card for each initiative roll (so one for each PC, one for all the goblin archers together, etc.) with HP on it we never went back. When a turn finishes, the card goes to the bottom of the pile, card gets set aside for delay or ready, and popped back in when it triggers. "

I think I'll try that! - too often the initiative get's messed up - someone get's skipped. With only one name to deal with taht shouldn't happen.
And when we play with initiative public this add's some metagaming - if the lonely BBEG comes first or last everyone waits until after guy with haste/the bard starts his son...

I think I'll try a laminated piece of paper with the players name on it/or bad 1, bad 2 ect.- after combat every player rolls initiative for the next encounter and write it on his piece af paper with a magic marker. When battle is setup the player in charge of initiative ask the GM about monsters Initiative and add them to the correct order in the pile.
- look forward to next sesseion :-)


Haladir wrote:
Erik Keith wrote:
I have my players roll out their initiatives when we all sit down at the start of a session... After the fight ends, have them roll initiative again for the next encounter.
Awesome idea! Consider it stolen!

This isn't a bad idea really, but it's like cutting the bottom off a candle and sticking it on the top. It doesn't really change the time invested, it just means you get into combat more quickly. From a psychological perspective it might make things feel faster, but you still gotta roll the dice and write down the results.

Using an automatic initiative tracker like Combat Manager makes this totally unnecessary.

My biggest tricks for speeding up combat are:

1. No long rules lookups during combat. If you don't know your spell's effects, don't cast it. One thing we do is use a laptop at the table with the online Pathfinder OGC up. That speeds up lookups quite a bit.

2. I play "ready golf." That means if you are ready, you go ahead and take your turn. If we reach your spot in initiative and you're not ready, you are moved back in initiative order until you are ready. It's an automatic delay action. As I move to each player to get their action, I notify the next player "you're up next".

3. Roll all attack and damage rolls simultaneously. Yes, that means you can roll a lot of dice. Dice are pretty cheap. In my 4e game I can sometimes roll more than a dozen dice at once. There's something very satisfying about dropping a dice bomb on the table anyway...

4. Don't argue. All rules decisions in combat are final. After combat, during breaks or other downtime, or between games, debating rules is fine. But it is almost always more important to keep the flow of combat going than it is to get every last minute detail of the rules correct.

5. Don't allow AoE spell casters five minutes each spell to plot out exactly the most mathematically precise way to place and arrange their spell. If they aren't ready on their turn, delay them until they are. If they aren't ready at the end of the round, then they either make a decision immediately or lose the spell.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:


1. No long rules lookups during combat. If you don't know your spell's effects, don't cast it. One thing we do is use a laptop at the table with the online Pathfinder OGC up. That speeds up lookups quite a bit.

5. Don't allow AoE spell casters five minutes each spell to plot out exactly the most mathematically precise way to place and arrange their spell. If they aren't ready on their turn, delay them until they...

I think a laptop or ereader are indispensable for quick play. Combat Manager and the OGC make life sooooo much easier.

I agree about the Area of Effect spells. Point and cast, no time to plot exactly which squares you want to cast into. If you're going to take that much time you lose your turn.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

By using this program: Combat Manager. It is free & the guy that wrote it gets feedback on this thread.


Something I do to speed up the beginning of each combat is I have everyone roll initiative. Instead of dealing with a barrage of initiatives that they are going to tell me, instead I call a number. If their initiative meets or beats that number, they raise their hand and I set up their index card in the proper order. I do this in five number increments (25! 20! 15!, etc) until I have everyone. It speeds up everything by a good minute and prevents everyone trying to shout over each other to get heard.

It is also important to have everyone's AC, Touch AC, and Flatfooted AC written down, updated every time they level or get new armor. It expedites the process whenever it comes time for your 'tons'o'minions' make their attacks. It's probably easiest to put them on index cards. In fact, I tend to like index cards over laptops nowadays. $2 and you have over 100 cards you can put anything on, from magic item descriptions to monsters you are throwing at people.

I also roll both attack and damage rolls at the same time, just in case. It cuts a couple seconds off but it is worth it believe me. Also, for players, it's important to have a list of common damage bonuses that you get to weapon damage (strength, power attack) and the total it makes. Again, it is these little things that shave off time.


I think AC seems to change to much from combat to combat - or even during combat so as a GM I'll ask when I need the number - I'll have enough numbers to keep tabs on without having to update a card when someone cast SoF or is fatigued.


In combat i tend to have a you-snooze-you-lose policy. I ask people once to do their turn, when it is their turn, if they dont react within ten seconds, for example because they find it more important to talk to each other, their turn is skipped. Keeps the battle running smoothly and the distracting chatter down.


Bigtuna wrote:
I think AC seems to change to much from combat to combat - or even during combat so as a GM I'll ask when I need the number - I'll have enough numbers to keep tabs on without having to update a card when someone cast SoF or is fatigued.

I don't think so. Being flanked and charging are two of the things you'll have to keep track of. For AC that I know someone will have (i.e. Mage Armor, AC loss because of Rage, etc) I automatically factor that one in. Aside from those things, there aren't too many spells I can think of that directly add a great deal of AC. And even then, they are usually in small enough increments that it's easy to add them to their current AC. I don't bother tracking HP however since there is a lot of healing and

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