Ask a Pro: Question Five

Monday, June 22, 2009

5. You have a scene where a large orc tribe is attacking a village. You have all of the orcs and various NPCs represented on the map. Do you roll for each and every orc and NPC, or do you, in the interest of saving time, just decide how many of each side dies each round?

Lisa Stevens: Usually the background, especially if it's a bunch of no-named NPCs. But if it's a bunch of NPCs that maybe they know and had invested a little time with, then I'll definitely roll for them. I think it makes it more visceral if you have a situation where the flower shopkeeper is about to get killed and they have to get to him before the bad guys. When I ran the first Rise of the Runelords adventure, and there is the scene with all of the goblins attacking ~~**SPOILER OMITTED**~~, I just sort of told my players that they saw goblins running innocent townsfolk through. I think it lent an air of urgency to the scene, where my players understood they had to hurry because people were dying, and I think that accomplished that dramatic tension well enough.

F. Wesley Schneider: I usually just relegate that to background scenery.

James Jacobs: I just keep it in the background, unless a player gets involved. But if it's an important NPC, I keep track and give the players time to do something about it.

Erik Mona: No, I don't keep track of everything.

Jason Bulmahn: Nothing is more vain and distracting than a GM who has two NPCs having a long conversation between themselves and I feel it's the same with battle. Generally I let the PCs' actions dictate the ebb and flow of the battle: if they are doing well, then their side is doing well.

Sean K Reynolds: The scene reflects how well the players are doing, so the action remains solely focused on the players.

Joshua J. Frost: I roll for everything. It keeps combat fair.

James Sutter: I keep track of as much as they can interact with. There's a good example in Savage Tide, there's the adventure Tides of Dread where the players face an enormous invasion. With situations like that, I think it's best to break things up into more manageable chunks. Because I mean, if you've got 50 characters to keep track of, then a single round would take forever.

Chris Self: I use mini rules for that, and keep things focused on the players.

I'm too lazy to keep track of everything, but I was once in a guy's campaign who kept track of everything; it was kind of cool, in that I felt like there wasn't as much GM fiat.

Hank Woon
Editorial Intern

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