Combat really only 3 rounds?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Widow of the Pit wrote:

Hmm, interesting. My lifelong group of 25+ years must really have a different playstyle than most of you.

Though I would say a random encounter probably wraps up in 4-6 rounds for our group, I have seen many epic battles go 30+ rounds.

30 rounds. I've rarely seen a game where players take an average of less than two minutes per turn, and I've seen many where a player can take as much as five. Let's say an average of 3 min. GMs are typically faster, but they have more to control, so we'll say 3 min there too. Let's say for players and the GM. That's fifteen minutes per round. Let's shrink even that and say ten minutes per round. 30 rounds is then 300 minutes.

Five hours.

No thanks.

Widow of the Pit wrote:

And they were anything but boring! Now, mind you, this is gaming experience spanning 4 editions. Mitigating factors include:

1.) Always having a larger than 4 person group. Sometimes, as many as 10!

Now you've just turned your 30 round encounter into a ten hour ordeal.

Widow of the Pit wrote:


2.) Our DM always plays master villians as intelligent. In mid-battle situations, additional traps are sprung, more allies arrive, creatures are summoned, etc.

Yeah, so does ours. When they have the time.

Widow of the Pit wrote:


3.) You will never drop one of our master villians in 3, 6, or maybe even 9 rounds of direct conflict! In addition, they will retreat, port, heal themselves, whatever.

I'd love to put that to the test.

Widow of the Pit wrote:


4.) We have never used the " a party of four level fours should expect to face a cr 4 encounter...." formula, our adversary cr's are usually higher by 2,3 or more.

Unless we are running a module we pretty much ignore CR. Modules are almost always our easiest campaigns by far.

Widow of the Pit wrote:


5.) Our fatality rate would be several times higher without in combat healing. Matter of fact, in big battles, we would all be dead without it. Most every player has some personal healing resources to boot.

Healing is sometimes necessary. Everyone agrees with that.

Widow of the Pit wrote:


6.) I guess epic fights for us go something like this:1.) we find the major baddie 2.) we spend rounds killing off minions while major baddie blasts us 3.) we finally get down to major baddie and a few leftover minions with the potential of more bad guy allies showing up or being summoned at this point 3.) we try to figure out MB's protections and defenses as he almost always has things that counter our usual attacks/strategies,(Or he uses the environment/terrain to thwart us) about here is when we need healing just to stay alive 4.) The MB mops the floor with at least a couple of us, more healing please 5.) We finally figure the MB out and pour everything into a last few desperate attacks. Much more rarely, we have a flash of brilliance and destroy the MB in spectacular fashion.6.) Loot bodies, gather the dead, retreat to heal, etc.

I was not speaking above of boss fights. Major epic boss battles are different. But we might go three sessions between such fights, and in the meantime have several lesser fights. I think that's how most games go.

Widow of the Pit wrote:


7.) 3 round combat? Only in a published adventure, and our DM rarely uses for fear someone has read the module. Though some of our longer fights get mind numbing at times, 3 round fights would sound boring in comparison. (What? That's it?) Though I suppose at levels 1-2 maybe fights went that fast. So long since we played those levels its hard to remember.

We rarely have three round combats because we usually spend half of the first round buffing and setting our our battlefield control.

I have no interest whatsoever in a 30 round combat. I would consider that to be a massive GM fail.


I have had two seperate encounters get finished within 10 rounds. I wouldn't try 30 round fights in a play by post that would be glacially slow.


Widow of the Pit wrote:

many epic battles go 30+ rounds. And they were anything but boring! Now, mind you, this is gaming ...

Sometimes, as many as 10!...

Good lord. How many of your 10 players where awake after 30 rounds between 10 players.... how many game sessions did that combat take?


The longest fight I ever ran in real time was 2 hours, but it was an epic level fight that had the PC's and the boss using high level magic to recover.


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I have had some epic boss fights have to spread across two sessions, but it is an unfortunate thing when that happens.

Just for some perspective in our games we have a wide variety of encounter difficulty. Some truly are easy, some are hard, some are insanely difficult.

A typical game session for our Pathfinder group is a 3 hour evening gaming session. We typically will have two setup encounters and one difficult one. The setup encounters typically take about half an hour each to resolve, meaning our rounds typically take about six to eight minutes each. Our final nightly encounter is usually closer to 45 minutes and might go seven or eight rounds.

A major epic boss fight might take 90 minutes, but that doesn't mean it takes twice as many rounds. In our epic boss fights our play tends to slow down because of the huge importance of validating the chosen tactics and then implementing them properly. So even though the epic battle can take 90 minutes, it's still usually nine or ten rounds at most.

I will also say that epic-ness is not measured by number of rounds, but rather by what you do in the rounds you have.


To answer some of your questions, I have seen single encounters go 6+ hours. I have seen a battle go over to 2nd gaming session plenty of times. Our average session now is probably 5 hours, but it used to easily be 7-8 hours at a time and we occassionally had 12 hour marathons. The longest session I ever personally ran was14 hours. ( 5pm friday til 7am saturday.) We are all too old for that now, and start nodding off after midnight even if heavily caffeinated.
And yes, though I love the players, 10 player groups are hard to play in.( If I remember correctly, the dm resorted to using a timer for pc decisions) Still, even with one of our friends in Afghanistan atm, we routinely table 6-8 players.
And yes, Adamant, I am confident our "killer" dm could thwart any character you could come up with. He has seen it all and countered it all, though not unfairly. He does, however, take some personal pleasure in quickly demonstrating to pcs what their weaknesses are if they get too cocky. I have never quite decided how I feel about that.
On a personal note, my longest gaming session ever was 18 hours straight (ok I took quick potty breaks) "driving" a group of pcs on a popular MMO. Someone should start a thread about "longest gaming session ever..."


Adamantine Dragon wrote:


I will also say that epic-ness is not measured by number of rounds, but rather by what you do in the rounds you have.

Awesome quote!


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By the way, if your game sessions do not have easy encounters from time to time, you might want to think a bit about game theory. I do create encounters that are deliberately designed for the PCs to feel like they have beat the crap out of me. It builds their confidence and it's just plain fun to kick ass once in a while. "Easy" encounters have a place too. Every encounter should not be a white-knuckle stress-filled hang-on-by-the-fingernails hour. Just like a good story, a good campaign needs pacing. Highs, lows and in-betweens.


Widow, as a GM I do not see it as my job to "take some pleasure in quickly demonstrating to PCs what their weaknesses are if they get too cocky."

My job is to create the milieu for the joint collaboration of a great story. I play my NPCs intelligently and if that ends up teaching the player something, that's great. But what I am reading in your posts sounds more like the GM metagaming to "teach" the PCs lessons.

Not my job. I get no pleasure out of that.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:


thejeff wrote:
Honestly, it doesn't read to me like a short close fight, but as an easy fight. You may be punching well above your official CR, due to tactics and optimization, but that would just make my GMs throw tougher stuff at us to provide a challenge. Things that can stand up longer tend to be able to deal pretty good damage to, so that can get ugly fast. Especially with a unlucky failed save or enemies that can bypass your cleric to either gang the barbarian or reach the casters.

I hear this all the time on these boards. If someone utilizes successful tactics, the accusation is always "oh, you must only have easy fights." We play modules just like anyone else, and typically we find module encounters to be more or less as I described above.

Yes, a GM can always ramp up the NPCs to combat a tactically proficient party. Some do. I consider GMs who punish the use of good tactics to be among the worse sorts of GMs. But they do indeed exist.

I consider it the mark of a good GM. Adapt to the power and skill level of the party. Not just tactics, but also character build optimization. As a player, if I'm interested enough in the tactical aspects to optimize them, then I want to be challenged. If I'm not challenged then why bother with all the optimization?

I'm not always interested though. Depends on the group and the game. I've had great games where the fun was in the roleplay even in combat and we'd do tactically stupid things for character reasons. Honor fights, reckless charges, cowardly characters, etc.
In those games, you need easier so you can play around with it. In games where the fun comes from the tactical challenge, you need to be challenged.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:

A typical game session for our Pathfinder group is a 3 hour evening gaming session. We typically will have two setup encounters and one difficult one. The setup encounters typically take about half an hour each to resolve, meaning our rounds typically take about six to eight minutes each. Our final nightly encounter is usually closer to 45 minutes and might go seven or eight rounds.

That makes more sense to me and matches my experience better. There are more 3 round fights, but those are the easier set-up fights. You're expected to win those with little chance of loss. The real serious fights take longer.


thejeff wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:


thejeff wrote:
Honestly, it doesn't read to me like a short close fight, but as an easy fight. You may be punching well above your official CR, due to tactics and optimization, but that would just make my GMs throw tougher stuff at us to provide a challenge. Things that can stand up longer tend to be able to deal pretty good damage to, so that can get ugly fast. Especially with a unlucky failed save or enemies that can bypass your cleric to either gang the barbarian or reach the casters.

I hear this all the time on these boards. If someone utilizes successful tactics, the accusation is always "oh, you must only have easy fights." We play modules just like anyone else, and typically we find module encounters to be more or less as I described above.

Yes, a GM can always ramp up the NPCs to combat a tactically proficient party. Some do. I consider GMs who punish the use of good tactics to be among the worse sorts of GMs. But they do indeed exist.

I consider it the mark of a good GM. Adapt to the power and skill level of the party. Not just tactics, but also character build optimization. As a player, if I'm interested enough in the tactical aspects to optimize them, then I want to be challenged. If I'm not challenged then why bother with all the optimization?

I'm not always interested though. Depends on the group and the game. I've had great games where the fun was in the roleplay even in combat and we'd do tactically stupid things for character reasons. Honor fights, reckless charges, cowardly characters, etc.
In those games, you need easier so you can play around with it. In games where the fun comes from the tactical challenge, you need to be challenged.

Jeff, I doubt we have much difference in or approach or preferences. A good GM will challenge a party, but challenging a party does not mean deliberately designing an encounter just to make it drag on so the party can't beat it in four or five rounds.

Some of the most challenging encounters I've ever been in have taken only a few rounds to resolve.

My issue is with the concept that I see promoted here and in other threads that the measure of encounter difficulty is somehow directly proportional to how much party healing you have to do or to how many rounds it takes to complete, or both.

The thing is that the real challenge for most encounters is to figure out the specific tactics needed to win. Battles that end up taking several rounds to defeat are usually battles of attrition, not encounters that require or reward clever and effective tactics.

I challenge my players to think creatively, play effectively and synergize their abilities to be as effective as possible. When they do that, encounters will, as a natural result, be shorter.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
By the way, if your game sessions do not have easy encounters from time to time, you might want to think a bit about game theory. I do create encounters that are deliberately designed for the PCs to feel like they have beat the crap out of me. It builds their confidence and it's just plain fun to kick ass once in a while. "Easy" encounters have a place too. Every encounter should not be a white-knuckle stress-filled hang-on-by-the-fingernails hour. Just like a good story, a good campaign needs pacing. Highs, lows and in-betweens.

Very much this. And even those easy fights can drain resources, making later battles harder.

It's particularly nice, from the players point of view, to tromp over something that would have been a TPK or a nailbiter not long ago. It gives a real feeling for growth in power, that isn't always obvious if your enemies scale up right along with you.

If you have a tough final battle with a giant at one level, have a easy set-up with another (or several) a few levels later.


Adamant: thats just our GM. And he must be doing something right as we have been coming back to the table for 25 years. Lol-or maybe we are just gluttons for punishment. He DOES toss us a bone now and then, a truly easy encounter (usually random-but his charts mean you could run into a Tarrasque at 1st level too) IDK, guess its just what we are used to. Others of us have ran over the years, our 2nd best experiences have been with single campaigns but rotating dms. But only our "killer" dm has what it takes to run a consistent campaign that doesnt "bend" to the complainers. (I'm too much of a softy myself, I hate killin pcs. Dont mind dying myself, just soft on my friends I guess)


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:


thejeff wrote:
Honestly, it doesn't read to me like a short close fight, but as an easy fight. You may be punching well above your official CR, due to tactics and optimization, but that would just make my GMs throw tougher stuff at us to provide a challenge. Things that can stand up longer tend to be able to deal pretty good damage to, so that can get ugly fast. Especially with a unlucky failed save or enemies that can bypass your cleric to either gang the barbarian or reach the casters.

I hear this all the time on these boards. If someone utilizes successful tactics, the accusation is always "oh, you must only have easy fights." We play modules just like anyone else, and typically we find module encounters to be more or less as I described above.

Yes, a GM can always ramp up the NPCs to combat a tactically proficient party. Some do. I consider GMs who punish the use of good tactics to be among the worse sorts of GMs. But they do indeed exist.

I consider it the mark of a good GM. Adapt to the power and skill level of the party. Not just tactics, but also character build optimization. As a player, if I'm interested enough in the tactical aspects to optimize them, then I want to be challenged. If I'm not challenged then why bother with all the optimization?

I'm not always interested though. Depends on the group and the game. I've had great games where the fun was in the roleplay even in combat and we'd do tactically stupid things for character reasons. Honor fights, reckless charges, cowardly characters, etc.
In those games, you need easier so you can play around with it. In games where the fun comes from the tactical challenge, you need to be challenged.

Jeff, I doubt we have much difference in or approach or preferences. A good GM will challenge a party, but challenging a party does not mean deliberately designing an encounter just to make it drag on so the party can't beat it in four or five rounds.

Some of the most challenging encounters I've ever been in have taken only a few rounds to resolve.

My issue is with the concept that I see promoted here and in other threads that the measure of encounter difficulty is somehow directly proportional to how much party healing you have to do or to how many rounds it takes to complete, or both.

The thing is that the real challenge for most encounters is to figure out the specific tactics needed to win. Battles that end up taking several rounds to defeat are usually battles of attrition, not encounters that require or reward clever and effective tactics.

I challenge my players to think creatively, play effectively and synergize their abilities to be as effective as possible. When they do that, encounters will, as a natural result, be shorter.

This was one of the hardest skills to develop for me as a DM/GM. Some parties have all the tactical sense of a rock, while others I've run taught small unit tactics to elite infantry. Huge, huge difference in combat styles.

The point is like AD said, get them to think creatively, play well, and work together. Even a not perfectly optimized or even a party with very subpar class choices (re that party list above with the illusionist) can get the job done quickly and efficiently if they work together and know their classes/the system well and use their heads.

Depending on the group I have played with (home campaigns mind you, only organized play I ever did was Living City back when 2e was still alive and kicking and 3e was just crazy talk >.>) combats tend to run from 2-5 rounds. It is pretty rare that the outcome (win/lose) isn't pretty obvious by turn 3, which in a lose scenario leads to the "best option for tactical withdrawal is..." plan. I think the longest fight I've ever been in was...15, 16 rounds, something like that, and that had more to do with bad dice all around the table than any real problems. And yeah, I mean bad dice, whole lotta ones on all kinds of dice.


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Widow, in our group I have the reputation of being a killer GM. I don't pull punches. The last session I ran was actually a TPK because the players allowed themselves to get into a seriously poor tactical position and didn't utilize techniques or abilities they had available to overcome their tactical situation. Even after a couple of hints from me.

But I play my NPCs straight, I don't use my GM advantages to beat the players or "teach them lessons".

After that last session I went over the situation with the players and we discussed what they could have done differently. I believe they will be better players for it.

That session, by the way, was one where a single 9th level wizard defeated a 9th level party (which included a sorcerer) by herself. She never even took a single hit point of damage.


Widow of the Pit wrote:


5.) Our fatality rate would be several times higher without in combat healing. Matter of fact, in big battles, we would all be dead without it.

This is my frequent experience.

Grand Lodge

Widow of the Pit wrote:


2.) Our DM always plays master villians as intelligent. In mid-battle situations, additional traps are sprung, more allies arrive, creatures are summoned, etc.

That is a bit of DM cheat. Oh, they are beating my boss a bit too fast...well take that. Of course no battles last three rounds when that happens.


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Widow of the Pit wrote:


5.) Our fatality rate would be several times higher without in combat healing. Matter of fact, in big battles, we would all be dead without it.
This is my infrequent experience.

There, fixed that for you.

It has been my experience that if this is true, it's usually because we have found ourselves in a battle of attrition. That usually means we aren't using the appropriate tactics.

It happens, but certainly not frequently.


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Widow of the Pit wrote:


5.) Our fatality rate would be several times higher without in combat healing. Matter of fact, in big battles, we would all be dead without it.
This is my frequent experience.

This is an infrequent experience for me, but I'm also not sure where the line is getting drawn on 'dedicated healer' versus 'quicky heal to get ya through' so YMMV.

Most groups I've played in just make sure to have someone capable of tossing off a cure of some kind spontaneously in combat or an equivalent and that is our 'healer' because we patch up after fights with consumables and at the end of the day with extra spell slots if they are there.

I'm a fan of playing a battlefield control cleric, using buffs/debuffs/summons/control spells to add offense, defense, and mitigate if not remove the need for in combat healing.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Widow of the Pit wrote:


5.) Our fatality rate would be several times higher without in combat healing. Matter of fact, in big battles, we would all be dead without it.
This is my infrequent experience.

There, fixed that for you.

It has been my experience that if this is true, it's usually because we have found ourselves in a battle of attrition. That usually means we aren't using the appropriate tactics.

It happens, but certainly not frequently.

I'll thank you to not correct me. You made it incorrect.


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Widow of the Pit wrote:


5.) Our fatality rate would be several times higher without in combat healing. Matter of fact, in big battles, we would all be dead without it.
This is my infrequent experience.

There, fixed that for you.

It has been my experience that if this is true, it's usually because we have found ourselves in a battle of attrition. That usually means we aren't using the appropriate tactics.

It happens, but certainly not frequently.

I'll thank you to not correct me. You made it incorrect.

LOL, "fixed it for ya" is a common technique to make a point on messageboards Mr. Barnes. If that sort of thing pisses you off, you probably should be doing something else than posting on message boards.


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It's common but still rude in many cases. I think it's less common around here too which is one reason I like these boards.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Widow of the Pit wrote:


5.) Our fatality rate would be several times higher without in combat healing. Matter of fact, in big battles, we would all be dead without it.
This is my infrequent experience.

There, fixed that for you.

It has been my experience that if this is true, it's usually because we have found ourselves in a battle of attrition. That usually means we aren't using the appropriate tactics.

It happens, but certainly not frequently.

I'll thank you to not correct me. You made it incorrect.
LOL, "fixed it for ya" is a common technique to make a point on messageboards Mr. Barnes. If that sort of thing pisses you off, you probably should be doing something else than posting on message boards.

Its all good. Some of my posts probably need smiley faces at the end.


Grimmy wrote:
It's common but still rude in many cases. I think it's less common around here too which is one reason I like these boards.

I see it here frequently.

I apologize if it bothered anyone. But to suggest it is uncommon is just silly. I see it all the time.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Yep, an average of 3 rounds is my experience. The only thing that draws them out are when characters have to cover a lot of ground to engage, and when one or both sides has a streak of low rolls, leaving some rounds to have absolutely nothing going on as they miss each other repeatedly. Both of these issues lessen as you get higher in level, as you can cover the ground easier and quicker and attacks miss less while increasing in number per round.

Shadow Lodge

Adamantine Dragon wrote:
I apologize if it bothered anyone. But to suggest it is uncommon is just silly. I see it all the time.

The mods have also made it a policy of deleting such posts.


TOZ wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
I apologize if it bothered anyone. But to suggest it is uncommon is just silly. I see it all the time.
The mods have also made it a policy of deleting such posts.

Alright, you win.

I sincerely and wholeheartedly apologize and totally accept the complete rudeness and inappropriateness of my use of "fixed it for ya".

Will never happen again.

Shadow Lodge

I don't think it's rude and inappropriate. The mods do. I've had to change my ways since learning that myself.


I think it depends on the pace of the game. Oftentimes, a game i'll gming won't so much have the infamous "15-minute adventuring day" as "15-minute adventuring month." :)

In that type of game, when a fight does come around, it's usually a big set piece battle, designed to be an "epic" encounter.

...

(Of course, sometimes they 3-round them anyway ^_^)


Cold Napalm wrote:
Widow of the Pit wrote:


2.) Our DM always plays master villians as intelligent. In mid-battle situations, additional traps are sprung, more allies arrive, creatures are summoned, etc.
That is a bit of DM cheat. Oh, they are beating my boss a bit too fast...well take that. Of course no battles last three rounds when that happens.

Only a cheat if it is being made up/added in on the fly just because the encounter is going bad for the BBEG. If he had those plans already or if the additional traps, allies and summoned creatures are logical and/or within the BBEG's capabilities, all's fair.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Worth noting as well that the CR for many monsters factors in their ability to summon or create monsters. If you as a DM don't use those abilities you aren't using that enemy to the upmost.

Worth also noting that the right tactics and setting can transform even cr 1 creatures into a real threat and a memorable encounter. I find it surprising that so many people report 3 round encounters. Makes me think they must not involve complex settings or the party being caught off guard or thrown off balance in any way.


Like in many things, it all depends.

Many standard encounters in our games are, indeed, over in 1-3 rounds. Those are the many, many encounters that aren't really designed to be challenging unless the party makes a critical mistake, like the good old random encounters. They use up resources, allow the party to hone tactics and gather information, advance the plot, and let everyone enjoy what a tough guy they are. In-combat healing not necessary.

Then there are the still fairly common more serious encounters that do hold an element of danger, in which forces are more evenly matched, or at least the bad guys are a credible threat to inflict significant damage and possibly even the occasional character death. Or perhaps they have a tactical advantage like surprise or terrain that makes things more difficult. These combats can widely vary, running from 1 (if the party either does something tactically brilliant or just gets very lucky) to 10 (if the party is really unlucky or makes tactically poor decisions)rounds. In-combat healing very useful in the longer ones, but conceivable to do without it.

Finally, there are the culminating BBEG fights, which in our games, frequently means the PCs are coming into a showdown with a highly intelligent foe who has access to significant resources. Chances of out-thinking him tactically are considerably less (but still possible, my players occasionally come up with stuff that I would have just never thought to plan against), and are almost certainly outnumbered, and may even be outgunned. These fights do often become battles of attrition, as spells are countered, saves are made, and defensive and offensive buffs are erected on both sides. These usually go at least 5 rounds (and that short only if one side or the other has incredibly good or bad luck) and can go up to about 20 rounds in slugfests in which the losing side has no option of retreat or surrender. They are long and difficult to run, particularly at higher levels when everyone involved has many different options available to them every round. In-combat healing in the slugfests is absolutely essential to avoid party deaths.

And FYI, to keep these BBEG combats from becoming incredibly long and potentially boring in real-time, I recommend putting limits on the amount of time each player (and the GM) has to make decisions about the action they are taking each round. This means no taking up everybody else's time while you look up four different spells and/or feats to determine which one is optimal for the situation (although smart players will certainly be frantically doing that while others are acting before their turn comes up, an advantage they have over the GM who is always engaged). Or, in another example, lots of players like to take their time drawing out the area of effect for some spells that permit such so that it forms odd shapes excluding allies and including as many foes as possible. I allow it, so long as they can announce their action and draw it in six seconds, the supposed length of a combat round. All of this does lead to less optimized actions in combat, but a much more realistic feel, in my opinion.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:


It has been my experience that if this is true, it's usually because we have found ourselves in a battle of attrition. That usually means we aren't using the appropriate tactics.

Perhaps my group has a chemistry just as far to one extreme as the "three rounds is standard" crowd. Totally possible. Nearly every combat seems to be of the knock down, drag out variety and it has never seemed weird to me, but its probably not normal either. Rather, I am quite happy to survive them. A few years back I DM'd a different group for several months and brought that vibe to them. It was not appreciated by all.

What I can add further is that although we seem inches from death again and again... we have a nearly non-existent fatality rate. The other group that I DM'd for a time had regular character deaths.

I can say for sure, however, that if I had to choose between cut and dry 3-round combats or complicated minute plus fights, the 3 rounds would lose out.


I think another thing is point buy and how much leeway in gear the players have. With optimization and a little help from gear level 12 parties can be putting out 200-300 damage a round easy. Add in a well built gunslinger, that number could easily triple.

In my experience at higher levels fights only go a few rounds before one side is pretty much dead as a door nail. Lower levels fights could go a little longer depending on how well people rolled.

How do people deal with spells that just completely ruin encounters? Baleful Polymorph, Phantom Killer, Feeblemind stuff like that. Feeblemind can really rock a BBEG wizards with very little resistance.


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i haven't really experienced 3 round fights, they usually last 7-10 rounds. occasionally over 14 with bad luck. but weekly william, instead of using a bunch of smaller encounters uses fewer but larger encounters. usually we have 2 APL+6-8 encounters a day made up of several smaller but still generally level appropriatish monsters. this gives us more mileage out of our short duration buffs, a need to devote more in combat resources to healing, and bigger, longer, more epic fights there is usually a lot of bodies, especially since the fight is APL+6-8 for factoring a party of 10 PCs plus any additional combat pets, level appropriate allied npcs, or cohorts. so for a normal 4 person party, it's more like APL+12-14. but it is made up of several smaller but still generally level appropriate monsters of anywhere ranging from CR+4-CR-4. plus, each combat round takes forever.

our parties tend to have a lot of damage dealers, very few tanks, and are slim on casters and healers that don't also deal damage in some way.

NPC allies, Cohorts, and Combat pets tend to die like crazy because they are factored as if they were additional PCs for the purpose of determining encounter size. every last Zombie, Bound Outsider, trained hound, or Dominated Giant counts too. we usually try not to use undead creation, the planar binding line, animal training, or long term domination because it just makes the fights longer and more taxing for us.


Darigaaz the Igniter wrote:
In all seriousness, do most combats really only last 3-ish rounds? I've been playing pathfinder for a couple years now and I can't recall a single combat that went over nearly that quickly unless it was a single enemy we bait through a door with all of us readying actions. I think if we get through in 6 rounds we're doing amazingly. Usually about half the party (myself included) are pretty good about optimizing for damage and we're all good at tactics. So it baffles me when I keep seeing here on the boards things like "Combat is usually over in 3 rounds" and "Good dpr is one-rounding a CR equivalent monster if all your attacks hit and roll max damage" or even "you should be hitting on a 2".

It comes from DPR fixated players, some call them power gamers, others say they can only fight battles one way, quick and rushed. So they look at the monsters, and they explode. The 3 round combat is also helped by high magic, you will not see 3 round combats often in low magic until the high levels.

4-5 is more common in my groups, less if against mooks.

Now where it gets more interesting is where defensive parties are involved or whittling down/skirmishing tactics are used. Then combats can last tens of rounds. I've easily run combats that go into 15 rounds. Protracted skirmishes can last a while.

The longest I have ever ran, it was a nimble ranger (enemy) versus a dervish swordsman (pc), over a few hours in-game time (ten minutes in real time). The ranger with their superior speed dragged it out, got the dervish to fatigued, then exhausted and then killed him. Six main combat rounds, all the rest passed quickly as delaying tactics were used and the dervish couldn't catch up.


3.5 DPR fixation has nothing to do with it. You don't even need powergamers to 3 round an APL=CR encounter. Powergamers will likely 1 round it.


wraithstrike wrote:
3.5 DPR fixation has nothing to do with it. You don't even need powergamers to 3 round an APL=CR encounter. Powergamers will likely 1 round it.

This is what my groups, either pathfinder or when we used to play 4th ed D&D, routinely did. we are all munchkins though.

I do have 'concept' characters that are practically useless in combat though, with multiple characters like that combat does take forever. But i'm happy to sacrifice munchkin-ism to play a character concept i think is interesting.

Silver Crusade

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In my 28 plus years of gaming our combat rounds have varied. We have had anywhere from a few rounds to many many rounds.

Sometimes it all depends on the dice rolls. We have had several combat rounds where both sides were rolling misses for probably three rounds straight.

Self healing and healing from other creatures can extend combat for several more rounds and so can a player PC being dropped. Sometimes resources have to be used and tactics have to change to accommodate for the downed player until he can get back into the action.

Can three round combats exist? Of course they can. Are they the average? Maybe with some groups but I can promise you that it isn't the case with others.


Almost half of my battles have lasted about 8 rounds.
The other half was done in 2 rounds.

Sometimes the players are clever, sometimes they are stupid :P


If both sides keep missing of course the battle takes longer.


3.5 Loyalist wrote:
It comes from DPR fixated players, some call them power gamers, others say they can only fight battles one way, quick and rushed. So they look at the monsters, and they explode. The 3 round combat is also helped by high magic, you will not see 3 round combats often in low magic until the high levels.

I would say the opposite is true. I see more 1 round combats at low levels. Then the length drags out as PCs approach 10th. Then we may see some combats become shorter again as we make our way to 20th, but even then not as much as levels 1 to 3.


Out of curiosity, I pulled my notes from the last time we player Council of Thieves. Over 13 encounters, the average length of combat was 4 rounds exactly. A couple lasted 1 to 2 rounds. Two combats went into 8 rounds.

The PCs were at 4th level.


PF fights generally last about 3-4 rounds, with the winner usually known by end of round 2

if combats went on 6-7 rounds, you would only have 2/3 per day and end up with 1 hour work days

So I like, in 4 hours of sitting round the table, maybe 5-6 fights and no rest/sleep period


Pulling notes from when I ran Smuggler's Shiv, it looks like the average combat lasted 2.3 rounds. Several combats only took 1 round. One combat took 11 rounds, another took 13 rounds. However, the longer combats including additional opponents entering into the combat after combat had already started.


Ciaran Barnes wrote:


I can say for sure, however, that if I had to choose between cut and dry 3-round combats or complicated minute plus fights, the 3 rounds would lose out.

Nobody said that the 3 round combats were "cut and dry" except you. A three round combat can be a highly intensive tactical challenge that can take as long as the players need to get things set up and executed properly. Especially if you are using battlefield control and have to work out fairly complex issues of spell and character placement, spell effects on NPCs and dealing with additional summoned creatures.

On the other hand I've been in many sessions with tactically challenged players who end up turning encounters into excruciating exercises in bash-and-heal exchanges that take six more rounds and forty-five minutes more of real time than they would have if the wizard had just realized that dropping a wall on the battlefield would have changed the whole dynamic of the fight.

(UPDATE) Oh, and those "bash and heal" exercises also tend to suck resources dry (especially healing resources) and contribute heavily to the "fifteen minute adventuring day."

Effective tactics not only reduce combat time, they reduce resource exhaustion and allow the game to move forward without constant whines of "I need to rest and get my spells back" by players who have never learned how to manage their spell resources properly.


From the beginning of 3rd edition until current Pathfinder, the time a combat takes is usually inversely proportionate to APL.

At low levels, fights may go on for 4-10 rounds. Because every other swing is a miss, and spells are few and not very potent.

At high levels, they rarely go on for more than 2-3, and are usually CLEARLY decided by round 3, even if there is the formality of dealing the required damage to the stunned/blinded/confused enemy.

On epic level, initiative decides who wins.

Have seen GMs that actively cheat to prolong battles and make them more dangerous, by not doing perception and encounter distance right (so the enemy always surrounds us at whatever distance is ideal for them, roll one stealth roll for every NPC so we are surprised by 10+ enemies etc), and by having a house rule that does away with XP so you can get away with CR=APL+4 battles without PCs leveling up every other encounter.

Whatever works for your table, I guess. Personally, I am OK with battles lasting for 2-3 combat rounds. That usually translates into almost an hour of game time, and I like to RP.


Weren't Bard rd/day uses based on 3 round/encounter for Pathfinder?


Dragonamedrake wrote:
He can usually take down an enemy every round that is his CR or even a few higher. And thats from first level till 20th. Same goes for most archers so thats...

Let me turn that argument around: so an opponent with CR=APL+1 is able to take out one party member per round. Seems like fights should be short indeed - with an equal chance of the party being dead after those 3 rounds as the other way round. And getting killed that fast with practically no time to react is not fun IMHO.

If it doesn't work this way, why should it work the other way around (i.e. for the party)?

I always hated level 1 in (A)D&D when your character could die within one round by an (un)lucky blow. This got better when leveling up (with the exception of certain magics of course, like finger of death - which would just add to the feeling that magic was something powerful and dangerous, though).
If being able to be killed that fast should be the norm for higher levels as well in Pathfinder, I'd be quite disappointed and regard this as a serious flaw of the rules.

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