Combat really only 3 rounds?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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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 depends on the group, the GM, and how dynamic your games are. If everyone just runs together and begins trading blows like they were playing ro-sham-bo (the modern version where you continually kick each other in the 'nads until someone cries uncle, not the traditional rock-paper-scissors) until someone cries uncle, then maybe 3 rounds is about right. If your encounters are poorly designed and just throw one monster of CR = APL+1-3 at the group, same thing applies, since they tend to lose out quickly do to getting mobbed by a party (some enemies are more suitable for solo-fights if they have pre-fight buffing, the ability to summon or create allies, or are highly mobile for hit and run tactics).

The majority of the combats in my games last much longer. Often a minute (in game) or more in duration, even from low levels. Enemies who move about, use terrain and objects to their advantage, and so forth are often much more dynamic, interesting, and also longer. Battles where enemies come in waves also tend to draw things out as well, as you might end up with a battle consisting of 12 enemies arriving in groups of 2, 4, 6; which can also add a sense of urgency to trying to deal with what you have before re-enforcements arrive (it also encourages pacing yourself rather than just blowing your strongest stuff first).

Honestly it's a design thing. Or even just a GMing style thing. You can take a published adventure (designed by a writer) and let two different GMs run the game and get two entirely different results. For example:

Let's say that you're playing in a published adventure. During this adventure there is a barfight with a rival band of adventurers. Out of these rival adventurers you have a barbarian, a fighter, a sorcerer, and a rogue. In one GM's game, the barbarian and fighter rush the party at top speed. The rogue tries to flank the party. The mage stands around and tries to cast spells. In another GM's game, the barbarian takes a total defense and doesn't rage yet, the rogue throws over a table to use as cover for himself and the mage, the mage ducts on the ground behind cover prone and casts enlarge person on the Barbarian, and the Fighter takes a total defense as well. Now the mage has +8 to AC vs enemy attacks (+4 AC vs missiles due to prone, +4 cover), the barbarian is about to get buffed and is tagged with his buddy both of which are at +4 AC, the rogue has cover (+4 AC) and maybe ducks down as well. On round 2, the barbarian gets enormous, rages, and rushes into the fray, the fighter dives in under the cover of the barbarian's reach and begins tearing up anyone who tries to get into the barbarian's space to hit him (while granting the barbarian soft cover vs enemy ranged attacks, netting the barbarian a +4 AC offsetting his -2 AC from rage and -2 AC from enlarge), while the sorcerer peeks up and starts throwing magic missiles, and the rogue shoots his bow at stragglers from behind cover.

Same NPCs. Same location. Totally different encounter.


Ashiel wrote:


Let's say that you're playing in a published adventure. During this adventure there is a barfight with a rival band of adventurers. Out of these rival adventurers you have a barbarian, a fighter, a sorcerer, and a rogue. In one GM's game, the barbarian and fighter rush the party at top speed. The rogue tries to flank the party. The mage stands around and tries to cast spells. In another GM's game, the barbarian takes a total defense and doesn't rage yet, the rogue throws over a table to use as cover for himself and the mage, the mage ducts on the ground behind cover prone and casts enlarge person on the Barbarian, and the Fighter takes a total defense as well. Now the mage has +8 to AC vs enemy attacks (+4 AC vs missiles due to prone, +4 cover), the barbarian is about to get buffed and is tagged with his buddy both of which are at +4 AC, the rogue has cover (+4 AC) and maybe ducks down as well. On round 2, the barbarian gets enormous, rages, and rushes into the fray, the fighter dives in under the cover of the barbarian's reach and begins tearing up anyone who tries to get into the barbarian's space to hit him (while granting the barbarian soft cover vs enemy ranged attacks, netting the barbarian a +4 AC offsetting his -2 AC from rage and -2 AC from enlarge), while the sorcerer peeks up and starts throwing magic missiles, and the rogue shoots his bow at stragglers from behind cover.

Same NPCs. Same location. Totally different encounter.

The flip side of this argument is how well the party works together. Lets say that your second example is what the PCs do instead of the NPCs. They spent a round buffing. Next round they will move in. By the third round they should be getting their full attacks off. By round 5 all the opponents should be down.

If you have a party that works well together usually the only reason fights last over 5-6 rounds is because the situation presented is keeping them temporarily from working their usual tactics. Once they get that situation under control they can usually resort back to their basic tactics and, as I mentioned hp vs damage in d20 is no designed for a bunch of attacks, the fight ends fairly shortly.

But I do not count multiple wave fights as lasting longer...all you are doing is putting multiple encounters on top of each other more or less. The reason that the 5 wave fight took 20 rounds is because each wave took about 3-5 rounds. The same thing also applies to running battles (running up stairs past groups of enemies to reach the top of the tower type scenario) as even though everyone is still in initiative it is really more of a combination of fights rather then one solo fight.

I also feel that a combat that starts with your enemy 500 ft away or up on a cliff/wall, etc. that some of the movement rounds don't really count either. Yes these rounds are vital for positioning, buffing, etc. but once the beatsticks have closed and "enganged" with the enemy the rest of the combat again does not last many more round after that.

Now for epic, end the campaign BBEG fights...yeah the combat can last much longer then your typical fight. The BBEG is buffed, has minions and probably has terrain advantage. It should take a while to finish the fight and probably even reduce a character or two down to out or even dead.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Okay clearly many people on this board and I differ in what we "count" - personally as a DM or a player I count every round of initiative as a round of combat - whether we get a hit in (from either side of the table) or not.

The maneuvering and engaging from range (or choosing not to close but to wait and buff/ready) are key parts of the game - not "counting" them seems both like semantics and frankly a bit silly.

But I think I also play a different game than many on these boards - partially because these days I primarily play (and GM) PFS games - so almost always playing from a prepared scenario with defined spaces and starting points (mostly) - though in many PFS scenarios (my favorites in fact) the space for the encounters can be quick large - personally I find these large spaces a lot of fun to play on - whatever side of the table I'm on - and the time spent closing is a large part of the fun of the game for me. (of course I tend to play characters that have a lot they can do - either spells or attacks from range).

I also believe that it is good as a DM to give players a chance to use all of their class features. Many of the classes in the game have features that function best at pretty long ranges - mounted combat, long range spells, even archers can be effective at long ranges (though even more deadly at point blank ranges) and it is good for players to exercise those aspects of their characters. It is also a different tactical landscape for all of the players when they can't as easily just all stay within channel/spells/buffing range of the clerics/bards etc but may need to spread out. It takes a big table and some creativity at times to track long range engagements but it is also a chance for players to do something different than the 5' step/full attack patterns of close quarter combats.


Rycaut wrote:

Okay clearly many people on this board and I differ in what we "count" - personally as a DM or a player I count every round of initiative as a round of combat - whether we get a hit in (from either side of the table) or not.

The maneuvering and engaging from range (or choosing not to close but to wait and buff/ready) are key parts of the game - not "counting" them seems both like semantics and frankly a bit silly.

[...]

I also believe that it is good as a DM to give players a chance to use all of their class features. Many of the classes in the game have features that function best at pretty long ranges - mounted combat, long range spells, even archers can be effective at long ranges (though even more deadly at point blank ranges) and it is good for players to exercise those aspects of their characters. It is also a different tactical landscape for all of the players when they can't as easily just all stay within channel/spells/buffing range of the clerics/bards etc but may need to spread out. It takes a big table and some creativity at times to track long range engagements but it is also a chance for players to do something different than the 5' step/full attack patterns of close quarter combats.

I do agree that the buffing rounds and closing in rounds do usually count...just not when its taken 5+ rounds at double move to get to my opponent. Sure the GM monsters probably are barraging the PCs with ranged attacks but thats more just foreshadowing to make the fight more interesting in my opinion. If you have 10 archers on a cliffside shooting at the PCs who have to run, fly, burrow, etc. for 5 rounds to get to the archers (besides the mage and archer/gunslinger trying to lay down covering fire) possibly over half your party isn't even engaged yet. And that type of combat should be rare not the norm and if it is the norm for a specific style of campaign you are running your players should have been warned in the first place so that they could make sure their characters had a way to overcome the challenge (that type of campaign could actually be pretty cool!)

For your second paragraph argument I agree and disagree with you. Yes the GM should always give chances for individual characters to show off their individual strengths once in a while but this is a game of 4+ players who are also there. Just as always having the fight in a 5ft wide hallway is rarely going to fun for the massive AoE spell mage neither do you want combat always at 200 ft so that the sword and board fighter has to spend 4 rounds just to actually do anything. Also this a medieval fantasy game...so things are supposed to be close and personal and the group is supposed to stick together to overcome obstacles and not be way off in the distance from each other where they can not support each other. At that point it goes from a group game to a bunch of people doing stuff on their own to accomplish a shared goal.


Just in case anyone's using this thread for research or something I'll give my 2 cp :)

In games I run, 3 round combats only seem to happen for "speedbump" encounters. I include these not even to use up resources, just to let the heroes feel awesome, and make the world feel real (dynamic range). This could easily be as low as CR -4.

CR=APL encounters can easily take 6 rounds. I'm not sure why this is the case for my group, but we like it this way.

From there, harder encounters tend to take longer. I use a lot of mobs, a lot of custom boss-type monsters and npc's but only very rarely a solo. My tough fights usually have a lot of environmental things to consider and some kind of features that can really shift the tides.

What I don't get is if epic fights are not taking more then three rounds, don't you guys see a lot of TPK's? Just as I use fights as easy as APL -4 on occasion, my party might stumble into something higher then APL +4. I prefer when there are a few rounds to figure out how tough a fight is going to be so you can decide to pull out all the stops and nova with whatever resources you have, or even run away.


I should go on record and say that the three round estimate that holds true in my game are contingent on some factors that are present in my very experienced gaming group:

- Good teamwork, good use of buffs and resources.
- Above average system mastery and sense of tactics.
- Mechanically viable character builds (optimized to a certain degree).
- No hampering house-rules like "No buying of magical items" etc.

Remove any of those factors, and you will add at least 1 round per missing set piece, I gather.


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Kamelguru wrote:

I should go on record and say that the three round estimate that holds true in my game are contingent on some factors that are present in my very experienced gaming group:

- Good teamwork, good use of buffs and resources.
- Above average system mastery and sense of tactics.
- Mechanically viable character builds (optimized to a certain degree).
- No hampering house-rules like "No buying of magical items" etc.

Remove any of those factors, and you will add at least 1 round per missing set piece, I gather.

Well, if you removed many of those and I imagine combats would get even shorter. As would campaigns. :P


That...sounds about right, especially if you're running a group of 4. Encounters sized to that # tend to also be smaller.

Things get more complicated as you add PCs, tho if you don't increase the threat to compensate you can potentially end up with shorter stomps.

Also if the GM is running a full offensive from the badguys, instead of mixing in some 'smart play' where they fall back, take cover, move off only to come back in, etc, things can go quickly. how the fight starts is important. If 'all the pieces' are visible and on the board in a convenient array, it can go swiftly.

That being said, a 'few rounds of combat' can take some significant real life time to resolve


Ashiel wrote:
Kamelguru wrote:

I should go on record and say that the three round estimate that holds true in my game are contingent on some factors that are present in my very experienced gaming group:

- Good teamwork, good use of buffs and resources.
- Above average system mastery and sense of tactics.
- Mechanically viable character builds (optimized to a certain degree).
- No hampering house-rules like "No buying of magical items" etc.

Remove any of those factors, and you will add at least 1 round per missing set piece, I gather.

Well, if you removed many of those and I imagine combats would get even shorter. As would campaigns. :P

Reminded me of an oriental campaign, where everyone played monks and ninjas. We died so hard on the first APL<CR encounter, it was not even funny.

Liberty's Edge

TarkXT wrote:
Yup. It's true. Unless it's a large number of enemies or certain special situations combat with a CR equivalent encounter is typically over in 2-4 rounds.

Pretty much, although generally if you look at the AP for guidance, things often come in waves or will have prep time you often don't.


In addition to the time do decide/discuss what you are doing. There is the issue of how the encounter was created.

I have read that most published modules are assumed to use 4 PC's, moderate builds (not optimal combat machines), and moderate system expertise (not expert knowledge of every maneuver possible).

Our group is often 5 or 6 people. Several of the players have very optimal builds. Some are getting to be pretty expert at the system. if the encounters are not beefed up significantly, the fights can be over very quickly.


When a situation arises which hasn't been foreseen, go with it. Adapt tactics based on party strengths and weaknesses etc.I remember playing a defensive monk in Isger who was with a few npcs. Proceeded to run into hellknights and it went initiative. My character notices how much plate they are wearing and the big nasty weapons they wield. I had no intention of letting them test their skills against peasant rebels which made up the bulk of the npcs. I thankfully won initiative and the first round was spent getting right in their faces, diverting as much attention as possible away from the peasants. This allowed the hobgoblin swashbuckler to take adavntage of his flanking abilities and really go all out. Not all of the hellknights went for my character but a fair number of them did, which was good. That encounter went for easily, 10 rounds at least. No peasants killed, hobgoblin got to shine and the sense of achievement over the victory was pretty good. It was also somewhat cool, pitting the melee characters with high AC against each other. Heavy plate versus intuitive blocks and counters. Full plate combatant versus Ip man sort of stuff. Combat can be short but it doesn't always have to be. Ommmmm..........


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Well as publishers Paizo has to design their adventure paths to be relatively friendly to "casual" gamers that have little time to customize the AP to meet the specific needs of the party. There is definitely a marketspace for being able to grab an AP off the shelf and then be able to play it with a set of unoptimized beer and pretzel gamers.

In contrast building encounters so that they challenge highly optimized parties is a significant challenge as there are simply too many unknown variables. Further there is every likelihood that a product that needs high skill and highly optimized PC to succeed with be TPK after TPK for a different group which is pretty much ridiculously unfun and tends to limit sales.


vuron wrote:


In contrast building encounters so that they challenge highly optimized parties is a significant challenge as there are simply too many unknown variables.

Only at the start. After a while a GM who isn't a bad optimizer himself can spot the weaknesses and strengths and plan accordingly. Bad or simply unskilled ones try to hard to negate the party rather than worm around their strengths.


vuron wrote:

Well as publishers Paizo has to design their adventure paths to be relatively friendly to "casual" gamers that have little time to customize the AP to meet the specific needs of the party. There is definitely a marketspace for being able to grab an AP off the shelf and then be able to play it with a set of unoptimized beer and pretzel gamers.

In contrast building encounters so that they challenge highly optimized parties is a significant challenge as there are simply too many unknown variables. Further there is every likelihood that a product that needs high skill and highly optimized PC to succeed with be TPK after TPK for a different group which is pretty much ridiculously unfun and tends to limit sales.

Wouldn't it seem then that the solution for the more skilled/optimized parties would be to "play up"? Either use the slow advancement path, so that you become lower level than the module expects or use a lower stat buy? It seems to me that would be easier than modifying all the encounters to match the boosted party.

Or of course, just have fun romping through it without as much challenge.


TarkXT wrote:
vuron wrote:


In contrast building encounters so that they challenge highly optimized parties is a significant challenge as there are simply too many unknown variables.
Only at the start. After a while a GM who isn't a bad optimizer himself can spot the weaknesses and strengths and plan accordingly. Bad or simply unskilled ones try to hard to negate the party rather than worm around their strengths.

But hard to do in a commercial product, where you can't tailor it to the individual party. You can make it harder, but without knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the group playing it you could wind up with it still a walkover or a TPK.

You can write it to the more casual group and assume the skilled optimizers will find a way to adapt it or you can write it for the hardcore and assume the casual group will a)notice there's a problem in time and b)be willing and able to fix it.


thejeff wrote:
vuron wrote:

Well as publishers Paizo has to design their adventure paths to be relatively friendly to "casual" gamers that have little time to customize the AP to meet the specific needs of the party. There is definitely a marketspace for being able to grab an AP off the shelf and then be able to play it with a set of unoptimized beer and pretzel gamers.

In contrast building encounters so that they challenge highly optimized parties is a significant challenge as there are simply too many unknown variables. Further there is every likelihood that a product that needs high skill and highly optimized PC to succeed with be TPK after TPK for a different group which is pretty much ridiculously unfun and tends to limit sales.

Wouldn't it seem then that the solution for the more skilled/optimized parties would be to "play up"? Either use the slow advancement path, so that you become lower level than the module expects or use a lower stat buy? It seems to me that would be easier than modifying all the encounters to match the boosted party.

Or of course, just have fun romping through it without as much challenge.

Generally adding more minions can add to the difficulty without requiring too much rewriting.

Adding in a few CR-2 henchmen to single monster encounters can go a long way towards equalizing the situation as long as the CR-2 monsters can still effectively hit the average party AC or match their saves.

Extra minions that just function as punching bags and don't actually increase the threat just inflate XP rewards and don't really challenge to party much other than possibly giving the BBEG more breathing room.


In our game the GM has to work pretty hard to avoid 3/4-round combats (assuming CR=APL+1).

Of course a combat can last longer if:
enemy is buffed and ambushes the PCs (1-2 rounds);
enemy's CR is more than +1 over APL (about 1 round for every +1);
enemy employs special tactics (fly, burrow etc) that make it difficult to attack (1 round)

This for a group of 4-5 PC only two/three decently optimized and another 1/2 almost dead weights.


thejeff wrote:
TarkXT wrote:
vuron wrote:


In contrast building encounters so that they challenge highly optimized parties is a significant challenge as there are simply too many unknown variables.
Only at the start. After a while a GM who isn't a bad optimizer himself can spot the weaknesses and strengths and plan accordingly. Bad or simply unskilled ones try to hard to negate the party rather than worm around their strengths.

But hard to do in a commercial product, where you can't tailor it to the individual party. You can make it harder, but without knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the group playing it you could wind up with it still a walkover or a TPK.

You can write it to the more casual group and assume the skilled optimizers will find a way to adapt it or you can write it for the hardcore and assume the casual group will a)notice there's a problem in time and b)be willing and able to fix it.

In a commercial product yes. But, a GM has to be prepared to alter an AP to fit the needs and desires of his group. NO module or AP is going to be able to account for the insanity a group of creative roleplayers will come up with. This is speaking as a writer and a GM. Running the AP games I have I've been more than happy to rewrite or even toss out entire sections of books to account for the needs and desires of thje group.


Well, I find that in combat healing is pretty essential. My group always seems to have one or two melee specialists who seem to think Con is a dump stat...sure they can do a lot of damage but they go down really fast when the bag guys hit them...really ...having a melee specialist at 20th level with only 100 HP is worthless...my healer spends all their time just trying to keep them in the fight...and the healer has 250 HP


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Unklbuck wrote:
Well, I find that in combat healing is pretty essential. My group always seems to have one or two melee specialists who seem to think Con is a dump stat...sure they can do a lot of damage but they go down really fast when the bag guys hit them...really ...having a melee specialist at 20th level with only 100 HP is worthless...my healer spends all their time just trying to keep them in the fight...and the healer has 250 HP

I think you just summed up the reason so many people hate playing clerics.


vuron wrote:
thejeff wrote:
vuron wrote:

Well as publishers Paizo has to design their adventure paths to be relatively friendly to "casual" gamers that have little time to customize the AP to meet the specific needs of the party. There is definitely a marketspace for being able to grab an AP off the shelf and then be able to play it with a set of unoptimized beer and pretzel gamers.

In contrast building encounters so that they challenge highly optimized parties is a significant challenge as there are simply too many unknown variables. Further there is every likelihood that a product that needs high skill and highly optimized PC to succeed with be TPK after TPK for a different group which is pretty much ridiculously unfun and tends to limit sales.

Wouldn't it seem then that the solution for the more skilled/optimized parties would be to "play up"? Either use the slow advancement path, so that you become lower level than the module expects or use a lower stat buy? It seems to me that would be easier than modifying all the encounters to match the boosted party.

Or of course, just have fun romping through it without as much challenge.

Generally adding more minions can add to the difficulty without requiring too much rewriting.

Adding in a few CR-2 henchmen to single monster encounters can go a long way towards equalizing the situation as long as the CR-2 monsters can still effectively hit the average party AC or match their saves.

Extra minions that just function as punching bags and don't actually increase the threat just inflate XP rewards and don't really challenge to party much other than possibly giving the BBEG more breathing room.

Minions are useful even below CR-2. The catch is having the correct minions. Minions who do things like buff and heal people are useful at almost any level. For many, many levels, a few minions and nets or alchemical items can keep parties on their toes (seriously, you try to ignore 20 kobold minions of the 9th level wizard while they're throwing molotovs and tanglefoot bags at your people every round).

Low-level spellcasters are huge pests or great threats in numbers. Can you say magic missile? It has a range of 110 ft. minimum and never misses. The only defense against it is A) spell resistance, B) brooch of shielding, or C) a spell only 2 casters in core have access to (not even POTIONS man). Things like entangle, summon swarm and so forth are also bad. Get a bunch of invisible casters casting summon swarm all over the place and you'll flood your enemies with hordes of spider swarms (pretty much guaranteed damage vs most PCs).

If you're talking about monster minions, things like fiends are pesky no matter what level you are, especially in numbers. Having a bunch of imps flying around invisible and taking pot-shots at you when your back is turned. Lantern Archons en mass are pretty bad too (lots of ranged touch attacks that ignore pretty much all defenses). Vargouille in emass are terrifying. Each one can shriek to attempt to paralyze everyone in a 60 ft. radius for 2d4 rounds. The DC is only 12, but even with a +12 or higher bonus you can still fail. So either deal with the shriekers or risk random members of your party falling down paralyzed for 2d4 rounds each round.


Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:

...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...

{and in a later post}
...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...

This just jumped out at me as a big thing.

I would guess that is a major difference for alot of us. We would never allow 5 minutes for players to plan and discuss what they are doing on their portion of the 6 second turn.

Can't stop and have a committee discussion in the middle of a fight. There are not grid squares marked off on the cave floor. Can precisely measure out the diagonal distance between the flying hawk and ranger. Etc...

You get ~10 seconds to decide then a bit more to explain it. If it is so complex that you can't explain it pretty quick we usually deem it to complex for you to do in 6 seconds without some pretty hefty justification.

So yes, when a plan isn't made ahead of time. We have people charging in before the sorc throws the fireball. Rogue needing to run through the grease to get to his chosen flanking position. The channel energy didn't quite encompass all the badies. Etc...

OK, let's take you at your word. You say you have about ten seconds to decide what to do. I have played a LOT of RPGs over the years and I would call that sort of play...

Remarkable.

Even admirable.

But it is not remotely common in my experience.

Two minutes is far more common in the games I've been in. Two minutes is 120 seconds. I've seen people take 20 seconds to total up their dice. Routinely.

I personally try to get my turn off in a reasonable time. But ten seconds?

I've, on occasion, put a 30 second timer on players in certain time-sensitive situations and that 30 seconds seems to be over in the blink of an eye.

I would love to see a comprehensive analysis of individual player turn time in Pathfinder games. I'd be willing to bet that it's much, MUCH closer to three minutes per player than ten seconds.


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A lot of it depends on the player. I've had players and have played characters who use tons of minions (via summoning, animate dead, whatever) who could clear their turn and all their minions' actions in under a minute, and I've had friends who play barbarians who spend five minutes trying to decide what to do.

A lot of players begin making decisions when their turn comes up. I believe the faster sort already are formulating an idea as to what they want to do on their turn before it comes around, so when the GM says "Okay, your turn" you already know what you're going to do and then pass the baton.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

A few things I do as a DM that I suspect are unusual.

1. When I have a large table I not infrequently call for initiative order even when not "in" combat (usually when we are close) and then use that to make sure that everyone gets a chance to act and that we're keeping track of who is doing what & where when things may happen. Not infrequently in such cases people's turns can be very quick ("I delay" or "I search over here") but especially in dungeon crawls this can be exceptionally helpful in keeping things moving and avoiding one player & character doing all the actions.

2. In combat I adopt the model that many other people I play with use of noting who is to act next as I move from turn to turn (i.e. Sarkis it is your turn, Kiet you are on deck) This helps focus players and keeps things moving

3. I do almost all my rolls in the open - so no fudging on my part mostly and players see what I'm doing.

4. If we have a rules question or dispute we only allow a limited amount of time to quickly check something (generally electronically) but if not we move forward with a simple ruling and choose to emphasize "is it fun & reasonable" over is it rules perfection. I try to get the major things right - but if I need to skip a skills check or allow something slightly unorthodox for game flow and coolness - I'll do that.

5. Turns generally are quick and I don't allow much player to player interaction out of character during a turn. I'll allow basic things (like one player describing how they look to another) or simple short free action speaking between characters) but I won't allow analysis paralysis metagraming discussions "if I did this and you did that..." - we'll frequently suggest a player who is not sure what to do either delay their action or ready an action and we'll move one with the round. This is both to keep things going and because it is often a good tactical move (ready to attack for the rogue to get into flanking etc)


Offensive abilities are to strong compared with defensive abilities.

Spells, power attack and rapid shot are the main culprits in my experience.

Grand Lodge

Unklbuck wrote:
Well, I find that in combat healing is pretty essential. My group always seems to have one or two melee specialists who seem to think Con is a dump stat...sure they can do a lot of damage but they go down really fast when the bag guys hit them...really ...having a melee specialist at 20th level with only 100 HP is worthless...my healer spends all their time just trying to keep them in the fight...and the healer has 250 HP

How hard did they dump their con to only have 100 HP at level 20?!? Elf so they can reach 5 con?!?

Grand Lodge

Adamantine Dragon wrote:


OK, let's take you at your word. You say you have about ten seconds to decide what to do. I have played a LOT of RPGs over the years and I would call that sort of play...

Remarkable.

Even admirable.

But it is not remotely common in my experience.

Two minutes is far more common in the games I've been in. Two minutes is 120 seconds. I've seen people take 20 seconds to total up their dice. Routinely.

I personally try to get my turn off in a reasonable time. But ten seconds?

I've, on occasion, put a 30 second timer on players in certain time-sensitive...

I've been in games where you need to decide what to do in 6 seconds (one round) before. It's tough...but kinda fun too. Makes you pay attention to what is happening on the board. Now this is just to figure out what to do. You can have time to move your character after you declare I move next to bob or to roll dice and calculate the numbers.


Cold Napalm wrote:
Unklbuck wrote:
Well, I find that in combat healing is pretty essential. My group always seems to have one or two melee specialists who seem to think Con is a dump stat...sure they can do a lot of damage but they go down really fast when the bag guys hit them...really ...having a melee specialist at 20th level with only 100 HP is worthless...my healer spends all their time just trying to keep them in the fight...and the healer has 250 HP
How hard did they dump their con to only have 100 HP at level 20?!? Elf so they can reach 5 con?!?

A fighter can do that with a 9 CON and slightly above average luck (fighter PC with 9 CON will average 95.5 HPs) . Sure a +2 CON enchant on a belt would give them a 20% increase in HPs but that would take away from money to spend on ... on ... dunno. No idea what a 20th level fighter could find to spend money on worth more to them than a CON buff, maybe a Figurine of Wondrous Power (Slate Spider) to help pick up the pieces after their glass cannon build shatters.

I can see how a player could produce such a low HP fighter, I just have no idea why one would.

Grand Lodge

cnetarian wrote:
Cold Napalm wrote:
Unklbuck wrote:
Well, I find that in combat healing is pretty essential. My group always seems to have one or two melee specialists who seem to think Con is a dump stat...sure they can do a lot of damage but they go down really fast when the bag guys hit them...really ...having a melee specialist at 20th level with only 100 HP is worthless...my healer spends all their time just trying to keep them in the fight...and the healer has 250 HP
How hard did they dump their con to only have 100 HP at level 20?!? Elf so they can reach 5 con?!?

A fighter can do that with a 9 CON and slightly above average luck (fighter PC with 9 CON will average 95.5 HPs) . Sure a +2 CON enchant on a belt would give them a 20% increase in HPs but that would take away from money to spend on ... on ... dunno. No idea what a 20th level fighter could find to spend money on worth more to them than a CON buff, maybe a Figurine of Wondrous Power (Slate Spider) to help pick up the pieces after their glass cannon build shatters.

I can see how a player could produce such a low HP fighter, I just have no idea why one would.

Well I kinda assumed you would have at least a +6 con item by level 20...


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I'm new to running and playing Pathfinder, but I'm rapidly discovering that combat length & challenge very much depends on whether the PCs are fighting monsters from the Bestiary or NPCs I've drawn up. So far I've often underestimated how easily PCs will slaughter monsters much more quickly than I anticipate. Last week I thought I had a challenging encounter thought up with a 9-headed Pyrohydra against a party of 4 9th level PCs but the poor thing got killed before it got its 2nd turn.


Xexys SPARS syndrome? (Spells, Power Attack, Rapid Shot)


Xexyz wrote:
I'm new to running and playing Pathfinder, but I'm rapidly discovering that combat length & challenge very much depends on whether the PCs are fighting monsters from the Bestiary or NPCs I've drawn up. So far I've often underestimated how easily PCs will slaughter monsters much more quickly than I anticipate. Last week I thought I had a challenging encounter thought up with a 9-headed Pyrohydra against a party of 4 9th level PCs but the poor thing got killed before it got its 2nd turn.

With very specific exceptions, most anytime you pit a party of PCs vs 1 lone enemy in their CR range the battle will be over both quickly and effortlessly. Most GMs mistakenly thing this means throw higher CR single enemies at their players. Resist the urge to do that at all costs. All you will do is continue escalating the problem until either they kill everything or they face an opponent that is hopeless for them to defeat. Each new higher CR foe defeated throws more and more and MORE experience and treasure in their direction (2 CR 1s = a CR 3, 2 CR 3s = a CR 5, so a CR 5 = 4 CR 1s).

Instead try to introduce more variation to your games. Monsters are in the same world with the same rules as PCs. Perhaps instead of a 9 headed pyro-hydra all by its lonesome, a trio of 7 headed hydras, or a group of six 5 headed pyro-hydras would have been more interesting!

Also feel free to mix up your encounters! Facing the same enemies can make battles simple an annoying. However, facing off against a medusa (CR 7) while her 20 headed fast-hydra zombie runs amok on the battlefield would be exceptionally scary!


Adamantine Dragon wrote:

... OK, let's take you at your word. You say you have about ten seconds to decide what to do. I have played a LOT of RPGs over the years and I would call that sort of play...

Remarkable.

Even admirable.

But it is not remotely common in my experience.

Two minutes is far more common in the games I've been in. Two minutes is 120 seconds. I've seen people take 20 seconds to total up their dice. Routinely.

I personally try to get my turn off in a reasonable time. But ten seconds?

I've, on occasion, put a 30 second timer on players in certain time-sensitive situations and that 30 seconds seems to be over in the blink of an eye.

I would love to see a comprehensive analysis of individual player turn time in Pathfinder games. I'd be willing to bet that it's much, MUCH closer to three minutes per player than ten seconds ...

Ok, maybe the difference is not as large as I thought. From you description I thought you were taking 2 to 5 minutes to plan, discuss, and validate your tactics with the other players. Then you would take your action and roll the dice.

That is what we do not allow. I said "10 seconds to decide" (and we don't enforce that for noobs) not 10 seconds to decide and do everything else associated with the turn.
In the middle of a fight, the PC's can't go into a huddle like at a football game before each player takes their turn.
I will try to time it next week, but I bet the total time is still less than a minute. Unless it is wierd carp like extensive illusions or bullrushing through the bonfire.

Yes, if it takes a little more time to describe what the illusion looks like or to add up the dice from the cone of cold, that is fine.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:

...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...

{and in a later post}
...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...

This just jumped out at me as a big thing.

I would guess that is a major difference for alot of us. We would never allow 5 minutes for players to plan and discuss what they are doing on their portion of the 6 second turn.

Can't stop and have a committee discussion in the middle of a fight. There are not grid squares marked off on the cave floor. Can precisely measure out the diagonal distance between the flying hawk and ranger. Etc...

You get ~10 seconds to decide then a bit more to explain it. If it is so complex that you can't explain it pretty quick we usually deem it to complex for you to do in 6 seconds without some pretty hefty justification.

So yes, when a plan isn't made ahead of time. We have people charging in before the sorc throws the fireball. Rogue needing to run through the grease to get to his chosen flanking position. The channel energy didn't quite encompass all the badies. Etc...

OK, let's take you at your word. You say you have about ten seconds to decide what to do. I have played a LOT of RPGs over the years and I would call that sort of play...

Remarkable.

Even admirable.

But it is not remotely common in my experience.

Two minutes is far more common in the games I've been in. Two minutes is 120 seconds. I've seen people take 20 seconds to total up their dice. Routinely.

I personally try to get my turn off in a reasonable time. But ten seconds?

I've, on occasion, put a 30 second timer on players in certain time-sensitive...

I have seen both sides of this discussion inn play, and I have to side with Kydeem on this one. Sure, if you sit there and meticulously plan the most tactically optimal action, spending several minutes of real time doing so, your combats might have fewer overall rounds. But at that point, aren't you playing more of a strategy board game and less of a RPG?

The amount of time it takes someone to total up dice is irrelevant to the amount of time the group spends measuring out exact distances and c carefully planning every movement. I'm not saying you should just run in guns blazing, but at least try to have the team tactics stuff spelled out beforehand(i.e Fighter says "Hey Rogue, flank with me if we get into a fight").

Honestly, my groups combats take a lot more rounds than AD's, but I have a feeling our overall time spent in combat is significantly shorter. Doesn't mean our way is better in any way, it's just that we handle things like this more "off the cuff" and spontaneously, using common sense more than tactical planning.

In fact, we have a sort of houserule(loosely enforced); you can make plans in combat, as long as whomever you're planning with is within earshot of your character, and you spend actions explaining the plan(usually just a move or swift action). None of this sitting down, taking multiple minutes at a time stuff. My group saves playing RISK for a different night of the week.


Ashiel wrote:

A lot of it depends on the player. I've had players and have played characters who use tons of minions (via summoning, animate dead, whatever) who could clear their turn and all their minions' actions in under a minute, and I've had friends who play barbarians who spend five minutes trying to decide what to do.

A lot of players begin making decisions when their turn comes up. I believe the faster sort already are formulating an idea as to what they want to do on their turn before it comes around, so when the GM says "Okay, your turn" you already know what you're going to do and then pass the baton.

My experience as well. We have one occasional player, who is famous for taking an eternity coming up with what to do. Other players sometimes use his turn to take a bathroom break, grab a drink, etc. He doesn't play very often, though.

Personally, I try to plan out ahead of time as best I can what I'm going to do. Even when I played a 30th level spellcaster, multiclassed 8 ways, my turns never took longer than 30 seconds.

One thing a DM I used to play under did, that really sped things up, was once the group got to high level(level 15+), he allowed us to take averages on big dice rolls if we wanted. For example, our Psion was heaving huge handfuls of dice at a time before this, and counting up each one took a while. This shaved a ton of time off of combat.


Just tossing in my two cents... combat is indeed often decided by round three even if its not technically over... but it seems to happen often in our games that we'll have two or even three overlapping combats, foes coming in waves with either a round or two breathing room between them or no room at all - so by the time 3 rounds is over the initial combat is more or less decided, but we have another wave of baddies coming in. Really keeps us on our toes.

To speed up combat, we all stand around the table. There aren't even chairs available in the 'combat room', which is really just an area where maps and figures are laid out. Roleplay takes place in an area where we all sit comfortably, but standing creates a sense of urgency and keeps everyone focused on the task at hand.


Kamelguru wrote:

I should go on record and say that the three round estimate that holds true in my game are contingent on some factors that are present in my very experienced gaming group:

- Good teamwork, good use of buffs and resources.
- Above average system mastery and sense of tactics.
- Mechanically viable character builds (optimized to a certain degree).
- No hampering house-rules like "No buying of magical items" etc.

Remove any of those factors, and you will add at least 1 round per missing set piece, I gather.

My group might be guilty of missing a couple of these.


Grimmy wrote:
Kamelguru wrote:

I should go on record and say that the three round estimate that holds true in my game are contingent on some factors that are present in my very experienced gaming group:

- Good teamwork, good use of buffs and resources.
- Above average system mastery and sense of tactics.
- Mechanically viable character builds (optimized to a certain degree).
- No hampering house-rules like "No buying of magical items" etc.

Remove any of those factors, and you will add at least 1 round per missing set piece, I gather.

My group might be guilty of missing a couple of these.

Heehee. Don't worry Grimmy, I think most groups have at least a few of those issues. Some of my tabletop buddies have iffy teamwork at best. A pair of brothers who often do not see eye-to-eye on things. One will suggest something that sometimes sounds questionable, the other will roll his eyes and suggest that perhaps we form a pool of potential plans, to have the first get upset and be like "Well fine, my plan is stupid, I'll just shut up" or something silly like that, and then the two of them bicker for a bit while the rest of us are like "Okay, let's come up with a plan and let them know when they're back from Bickerland". XD


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Ashiel wrote:

With very specific exceptions, most anytime you pit a party of PCs vs 1 lone enemy in their CR range the battle will be over both quickly and effortlessly. Most GMs mistakenly thing this means throw higher CR single enemies at their players. Resist the urge to do that at all costs. All you will do is continue escalating the problem until either they kill everything or they face an opponent that is hopeless for them to defeat. Each new higher CR foe defeated throws more and more and MORE experience and treasure in their direction (2 CR 1s = a CR 3, 2 CR 3s = a CR 5, so a CR 5 = 4 CR 1s).

Instead try to introduce more variation to your games. Monsters are in the same world with the same rules as PCs. Perhaps instead of a 9 headed pyro-hydra all by its lonesome, a trio of 7 headed hydras, or a group of six 5 headed pyro-hydras would have been more interesting!

Also feel free to mix up your encounters! Facing the same enemies can make battles simple an annoying. However, facing off against a medusa (CR 7) while her 20 headed fast-hydra zombie runs amok on the battlefield would be exceptionally scary!

See, I thought I had it figured out. The Hydra was in its home terrain of a swamp. When it attacked it stayed in the water and used its reach so that none of the PCs could get adjacent to it. On its turn it caught three of the PCs in its breath weapon, which is pretty damn good considering it's just a 15ft cone. Had it simply managed to survive until its second turn it would have gone back underwater while its fast healing restored its hit points and ambushed them again once it was back to high health and could breath again. Unfortunately it only had 135hp, which wasn't enough to survive the bard using Lunge to actually hit it from 10 feet away and 2 crits - one of them a Shocking Grasp spellstrike - from the myrmadarch's longbow.

For the most part though, random encounters aside most of the scripted fights my PCs face are against groups of enemies, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. This particular session was a one-shot because two of my players couldn't make it so I didn't put a whole lot of effort into designing the encounters. Still surprised (and disappointed) that the hydra went down so fast.


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Josh M. wrote:
Just so g*****n sick of seeing the word "fallacy" every time someone disagrees with something. If I made some kind of thing, it was not intentional.

Agree, this trendiness started a few years back. It continues to be spread by a few sites promoting what these fallacies are and how to identify them. Forums keep ad hominem and strawman claims in online circulation.

As someone who actually spent the time to read up on Roman rhetoric and fallacies in arguments, I am a little annoyed at the regurgitated partial internet knowledge. The claims to identify fallacies here and there when you know their knowledge on fallacies is extremely partial. Years of work compressed into a few minutes read online. Usually I find they are a tool to try and win an argument. In my experience the fallacies aren't that common, but claiming a fallacy is a good way to discourage discussion and having an actual back-and-forth discussion of a topic, "let's hear what they have to say, I may have to give ground" happens less when fallacy claims are over-used. It has become anti-thought in a way.


3.5 Loyalist wrote:
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.

Two questions:

1) Does nobody ever miss?
2) Can you send me those dice?

Yeah, people miss. I am not saying every combat is 3 rounds. I am saying that happens a lot more than it does not happen.

Even without powergaming I can hit most NPC's on a 10 or less, unless the GM goes out of his way to power the NPC's up, and if I am told to "bring the pain", then the fight might not last 2 rounds depending on who is playing alongside me.

PS:A GM did tell me to "bring the pain" once. He never issued that challenge again.


I've found combat to generally be over in 3 rounds when Action Economy favors the players. If the encounter is more balance in terms of Action Economy the combats last a lot longer.


3.5 Loyalist wrote:
Josh M. wrote:
Just so g*****n sick of seeing the word "fallacy" every time someone disagrees with something. If I made some kind of thing, it was not intentional.

Agree, this trendiness started a few years back. It continues to be spread by a few sites promoting what these fallacies are and how to identify them. Forums keep ad hominem and strawman claims in online circulation.

As someone who actually spent the time to read up on Roman rhetoric and fallacies in arguments, I am a little annoyed at the regurgitated partial internet knowledge. The claims to identify fallacies here and there when you know their knowledge on fallacies is extremely partial. Years of work compressed into a few minutes read online. Usually I find they are a tool to try and win an argument. In my experience the fallacies aren't that common, but claiming a fallacy is a good way to discourage discussion and having an actual back-and-forth discussion of a topic, "let's hear what they have to say, I may have to give ground" happens less when fallacy claims are over-used. It has become anti-thought in a way.

And a staple on how many "arguments" on certain topics are run. Healing in combat has in particular been victimized by the coming of the strawmen. Most people know that healing has its place, but the anti and pro "movements" make their arguments by saying incorrect things like "If you heal in combat AT ALL, no matter what, you're doing it wrong" vs "Spend every round healing, even if there is no pressing need, because that is all a cleric/oracle ever should do". Sure, some people actually DO hold these opinion, but they are vastly outnumbered by more sensible folk.

For all who wonder: Strawman = Building an argument around an incorrect assumption/oversimplification that makes your side easier to argue for, and/or the other side easier to attack.

Does not have to be a conscious thing either. A lack of understanding can lead to someone thinking that other people are using a fallacy. For example: When I argue that almost every combat is a 3 round affair, I do not necessarily mean that combat is wrapped up in 3 rounds. I mean that by round 3, the outcome is usually very clear, and you're just going through the motions, mopping up baddies that cannot mount an actual defense. In sessions where we are pressed for time, I have often ended combat before everything is dead, in order to save time. You already know the outcome when, for example, there are 5 blind/frightened minions spread out, and there would be 2-3 rounds of walking around smacking them until they stop moving. Wherein they cannot strike back, and the martials in the party need a 2 to hit.

And yes, using "strawman" incorrectly/inappropriately is an excellent way of invalidating the other side of the argument.


I mostly notice fallacy accusations tossed around to just shut down discussions, attempt to take a shortcut to winning by invalidating one side's viewpoint, or to simply insult someone on this board and not get tagged by the mods.

Maybe 5% of the time the actually accusation holds some weight. I don't believe Kamelguru was attempting any of the above, I just tend to get extremely defensive when what I thought was a decent contribution gets shot down as a fallacy/strawman.

Maybe it actually was a strawman or whatever, but if it were, that was not my intention at all. I just don't believe combat has to be rigidly "3 rounds or urdoinitwrong" and that healing in combat actually has some merit(not done every round, only in emergencies).


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I find it irritating when people use words wrong in attempt to show they are smarter.

ideal, fallacy, strawman, literally, inconceivable, etc...

Are almost never used correctly in an argument. If you can't be troubled to use a word correctly, it does NOT show that you are smarter.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:

I find it irritating when people use words wrong in attempt to show they are smarter.

ideal, fallacy, strawman, literally, inconceivable, etc...

Are almost never used correctly in an argument. If you can't be troubled to use a word correctly, it does NOT show that you are smarter.

Agreed, and the fact that almost no one understands the difference between logic and reason.


Josh M. wrote:

I mostly notice fallacy accusations tossed around to just shut down discussions, attempt to take a shortcut to winning by invalidating one side's viewpoint, or to simply insult someone on this board and not get tagged by the mods.

Maybe 5% of the time the actually accusation holds some weight. I don't believe Kamelguru was attempting any of the above, I just tend to get extremely defensive when what I thought was a decent contribution gets shot down as a fallacy/strawman.

Maybe it actually was a strawman or whatever, but if it were, that was not my intention at all. I just don't believe combat has to be rigidly "3 rounds or urdoinitwrong" and that healing in combat actually has some merit(not done every round, only in emergencies).

You are aware that I am referring to the argument you made as a joke is the fallacy argument, right? Which is a strawman argument that some people actually use to defend/argue an opposing view.

Your contribution was sound and reasonable. To say that combat lasts for three rounds is an observation of an average, not a definite truth. Combat can last for anywhere between 0 rounds (superbly effective ambush) to however long a huge battle can take.

Just like to say that healing in times of need is good =/= saying that focusing on offense, and then healing post-combat is badwrongfun.

Between ridiculous (and often illogical) extremes, you find a lot of reasonable ground.

Liberty's Edge

I feel like a party should be able to end an encounter against an equal CR creature in three rounds or less a good deal of the time. Just by math and damage per round, this makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is when a GM just has these kinds of encounters, with time between to heal, etc...

The specific encounter may only go three rounds, but you could be in combat much, much longer as things keep coming or you have to navigate the conditions.


The groups I run in are usually highly optimized. Heavy on DPR for every character. But we always usually have a character that is at least GOOD at healing (not just someone that can use a CLW wand). Its not that we have a dedicated healer, but we have someone that can fill that roll if needed.

A healer is like a seat belt. You wont always need it. But when you know what hits the fan... your sure glad you had one.

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