Combat really only 3 rounds?


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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".


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.


Can you explain why? I'm a number cruncher, it's what I do, but I have yet to make a character that can live up to these expectations without being a defenseless one-trick pony.


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"Combat is usually over in 3 rounds" is kinda of an exageration. But it's true that in 3~4 rounds, the combat probably already has a clear result, even if it's not technically over.

Truth be told, in my experience, except for very high-level, where combat ends in 1~2 rounds, they tend to last a bit longer, about 4~6 rounds. Slightly more, depending on number of enemies and difficulty.

Dunno about "Good dpr is one-rounding a CR equivalent monster if all your attacks hit and roll max damage". How often does that happen, anyway?

I don't think "you should be hitting on a 2" is the only reasonable goal, but a full-BAB character really shouldn't be needing more than a 5 or 6 against a CR-appropriate opponent.


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I've heard of this 3 round thing, and in all my years of gaming it has never been true for any group I have played with, in both modules and home made. I am still baffled.

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

What level are you looking at - that plays a big role


Cpt_kirstov wrote:
What level are you looking at - that plays a big role

Personally, my group has never played higher than level 15. usually in the single digits.


While it's not my experience that fights are over in a couple of rounds, I certainly think it's fair to say that most fights are decided by the end of the first few rounds. Since each participant that's dropped reduces their side's firepower, things tend to snowball pretty decisively if there isn't a deadlock. Likewise, buffs and debuffs accumulate over the course of multiple rounds, assuming their duration isn't incredibly short.


I've never really seen 3 round combats myself either. I GM often for my group, and the other GMs and I are all fairly good at annoying the PCs with enemies moving around and avoiding things, extending Combat to tell a more thrilling tale. Currently, the longest combat our group has ever run was 47 rounds. Often times though, our combats will last roughly 10 - 15 rounds on average, and 20 is fairly common too.

3 rounds of combat seems to me like a game where everyone rushes each other and kills each other in colonial style fighting. Where as my group often times have combat in a more of a guerrilla style fighting with hit and run tactics.


Darigaaz the Igniter wrote:
Can you explain why? I'm a number cruncher, it's what I do, but I have yet to make a character that can live up to these expectations without being a defenseless one-trick pony.

Lemmy has the right of it. Combat typically doesn't end till the last bad guy falls. But usually the result is pretty clear by round 3. The last two or three rounds are simply mop up rounds where buff and offensive spells should stop being cast and the hammer's of the group finish smashing up the enemy.


About 10 rounds sounds about where we're at, and usually there's still strong enemies left until the end.


I think the longest combat I've had in my current campaign was about 10~12 rounds long. Mostly because the two main villains were focusing on hit-and-run tactics.

10 rounds is a lot, IMO, as that involves 4~6 character and (ususally) about the same number of opponents.

So that's what? About 8 standard and/or full-round actions per round?

That's a lot of spells, attacks, special abilities, etc...


Indeed. I think if you're going on longer it's because the GM is making up for fewer encounters per day or intentionally drawing them out for "drama". Neither is particularly bad. Personally I like my battle quick and brutal it lets more roleplaying get done and avoids the Xbox syndrome common with long fights.


I was once in a combat that went 10 minutes. MINUTES! That's 100 freaking rounds. We were WAY over our heads though, outnumbered 2 to 1 with the wimpiest guys being 1 CR higher than our APL. We "won" by surviving long enough for the local navy to arrive, kept the pirates from escaping (anchor token), and only my character died to a well-timed critical hit.

Let me tell you: long fights get boring.

Dark Archive

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Battles are short and brutal. No really, all those "epic fights" in the movies and Dragonball Z are just plain stupid. The whole point of a battle is to kill or disable your enemy before he kills you.

3 rounds sounds fine.


Battles between armies can take days or weeks (if both armies are fighting intelligently and something approaching equally matched), but for skirmishes (which is what really happens in Pathfinder), the fights should be short.


Very long fights can get boring, agreed.
But fights that last only 3 rounds are even more boring. Occasionally they are nice and exhilarating but if the would be the norm I would find that very boring. Where's the tactics in 3 rounds??


My own personal experience is that most combats last four or five rounds at most. Three rounds is not uncommon, but usually means we are prepped before the fight begins and don't have multiple team members buffing or doing other battle prep in the first round.

This is yet another reason that teams who rely on dedicated in-combat healing can be creating a self-fulfilling situation. If there is a dedicated healer on the team, that's one less character doing damage which is enough to extend the fight a round or two, greatly increasing the probability of needing a heal somewhere in the fight.


Liam ap Thalwig wrote:

Very long fights can get boring, agreed.

But fights that last only 3 rounds are even more boring. Occasionally they are nice and exhilarating but if the would be the norm I would find that very boring. Where's the tactics in 3 rounds??

If you scout ahead and get a chance to plan for a fight, tactics that can put the enemy down in three rounds aren't that hard in many cases.

But to answer your question, the tactics that will reduce most combat durations are things like the following:

1. Engage in such a way to maximize full attack potential.

2. Soften the enemy up with higher initiative AoE attacks before melee characters engage.

3. Focus fire on highest threat targets.

4. Utilize battlefield control to maintain tactical positioning advantages.

5. Scout ahead so you can buff and otherwise prep for combat before combat begins.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
This is yet another reason that teams who rely on dedicated in-combat healing can be creating a self-fulfilling situation. If there is a dedicated healer on the team, that's one less character doing damage which is enough to extend the fight a round or two, greatly increasing the probability of needing a heal somewhere in the fight.

On the other hand, the aforementioned snowballing effect means that having in-combat healing can be essential. The key is having the ability to judge when in-combat healing will maintain more advantage than the proactive measures (attacks, buffing, etc) that you could be taking instead.


Actually my question was meant rhetorically :-)

All sound advice that you are giving, Adamantine Dragon, and it certainly is very nice once in a while if the fight just works out as planned.
But I'm thinking of the fights which do not work out as planned, because scouting ahead was not able to give all informations, like levels of the enemies, spells known by the enemies, additional enemies too far away to scout safely but near enough to appear in the fight, every single enemy present at the location where the fight is supposed to happen, magic items present or other stuff like traps, etc. not to mention the difficulty of predicting how the enemies are really going to react to your attack.


Benly, I've been playing this game for 35 years now and I long ago realized that in-combat healing is generally a poor tactical decision. Yes there are times it is necessary as an emergency and you should be prepared for that, but my groups focus on taking the enemy down and healing up as we loot the bodies.

In most of my play groups we have one character who is able to heal in combat at need, and heal significantly, but it is a rare thing for them to actually have to call on that ability. It is usually a "battle cleric" who can spontaneously cast a heal at need, but who otherwise is tanking or using spells to control the battlefield.

I have played with many players over the years. In many cases a new player who starts to play with our group will argue that we need a dedicated healer. I have yet to have a single player who doesn't quickly adopt our healing tactics after seeing how effective our groups are in combat.


Liam ap Thalwig wrote:

Actually my question was meant rhetorically :-)

All sound advice that you are giving, Adamantine Dragon, and it certainly is very nice once in a while if the fight just works out as planned.
But I'm thinking of the fights which do not work out as planned, because scouting ahead was not able to give all informations, like levels of the enemies, spells known by the enemies, additional enemies too far away to scout safely but near enough to appear in the fight, every single enemy present at the location where the fight is supposed to happen, magic items present or other stuff like traps, etc. not to mention the difficulty of predicting how the enemies are really going to react to your attack.

Liam, as characters advance in level combat tends to become more tricky and encounters can become exhaustive battles of attrition. That happens to every group. But in general most battles I've been involved in have been in the four to five round range.

This is, in fact, one of the things I did not like about 4e. In the 4e campaign I went through (which lasted from level 8 to level 26) most of our combats were a dozen rounds or so and took up to an hour to complete.

In most versions of D&D pre-4e and Pathfinder the 4-5 round average holds true pretty well. Or has in the games I've been in.

Even when we are surprised. Your group should have tactics ready for what to do when surprised. Sometimes the answer is "RUN AWAY!"


As a caster my role has been over in two rounds in many games. I cast two control spells then zap away with my throw away elemental rays that I get more of a day than I can use. The hitters just take advantage of the easy pickings. Now things go a bit longer if the monsters are making saves.


Darigaaz the Igniter wrote:
About 10 rounds sounds about where we're at, and usually there's still strong enemies left until the end.

I don't understand how that's really possible? Fights that long aren't unheard of but it's usually more of a once in a campaign sort of thing. 10 rounds is an eternity in pathfinder combat. Without an enemy drawing things out with hit and run style fighting or multiple miss chances I rarely see a fight that reaches the 6th round.

Could you give us a brief overview of how a typical combat plays out with your group? Does your group typically face high CR (APL +2-4) encounters?


I don't know, but we usually have about 6 people so probably.


So, if your fights typically take ten rounds or more, what is your group's makeup?

What are your "go to" tactics in a typical fight? What buffs do you use, what battlefield control spells, how many spellcasters vs martial characters, what level, etc...

How does your group approach combat? Do you have standard tactics to ensure that you gain the most favorable tactical position? Are your melee characters frequently attacking with flanking bonuses and making full attacks? If not, why not?

I am currently running our group's main campaign and the remaining campaign that I am playing in meets infrequently and is more of a role playing vs tactical combat campaign, so I'll go back to my last campaign I ran a character in for some examples of our combat techniques.

Our group included the following:
elf sorcerer - focused on evocation with optimized DC on spells.
dwarf battle cleric - focused on tanking but with impressive combat skills.
half-elf lion shaman druid specialized in bow
half-orc barbarian focused on two-handed greathammer

A typical battle would go something like this:

Round 1
- Sorcerer would win initiative and blast a fireball at the enemy.

- Druid would summon a pouncing lion/tiger which could attack in the first round due to archetype. Druid's AC would pounce/attack either the nearest or the most dangerous looking enemy.

- Cleric would self-buff with defensive spell and move into position to block the enemy attack

- Barbarian would charge the nearest bad guy and rage-smash with two handed hammer. Usually the same target the lion had pounced.

Round 2
- Sorcerer would place wall to funnel enemies towards cleric.

- Druid would make a decision on whether the AC's current target was likely to be put down in one round by barbarian. If not, AC would stay on target and full attack it, if so AC would pounce attack new target, accepting AoO from current target. Druid would then evaluate battlefield and decide if a new lion/tiger was needed, or if she should use her bow for the rest of the fight. Usually it was the bow. Occasionally she would use some other spell if necessary to help with battlefield control.

- Cleric was usually engaged by now and could full attack himself, usually doing significant damage while receiving little himself.

- Barbarian would full-attack smash, usually taking down the first (and theoretically most dangerous) target.

So at the end of round two the main threat was usually down, the Cleric and AC were engaged with and had attacked secondary targets and the sorcerer had the battlefield set for our group's maximum tactical advantage.

Round 3

- Sorcerer looks for a target that is badly hurt and fills it full of magic missiles.

- Druid AC either full attacks current target or pounce attacks new target. Druid can now full attack with bow, using full archery feats for maximum number of arrows and damage. Alternatively she can summon yet another tiger/lion or use some other spell. Usually the bow though.

- Cleric probably still hasn't taken a hit and is full attacking.

- Barbarian either full attacks or rage-charges new target.

By the end of round three the bulk of the enemy force is usually down. The Cleric, AC and Barbarian are fully engaged with targets and the druid has a full bow attack waiting. The sorcerer is in mop up phase with magic missiles.

Round 4

- Sorcerer picks off weakest enemy with magic missile.

- Druid full attacks weakest remaining enemy. Animal companion full attacks or pounce attacks new enemy, if any left.

- Cleric is usually looking for something to do at this point.

- Barbarian is smashing whatever's left.

By the end of round four it's usually all over. If a round five is needed, it's usually not even a full round.

If the encounter includes a spellcaster the druid and sorcerer's job is to neutralize the spellcaster in the first round or two.

If a party member is hurt badly the cleric will forgo an attack and heal the injured party, but this is rare.

If the encounter includes a large number of enemies, the druid and cleric focus on battlefield control while the sorcerer hammers them with fireballs. It's not uncommon for the druid to entangle a bunch of mooks and the sorcerer fries them.

Anyway, just an example. As you can tell, this particular group did not utilize flanking that much. Flanking opportunities were a bonus. Usually we had scouted ahead and were buffed going into the fight. On occasion the druid would even have summoned something prior to the fight.

In fact, in our last fight we knew in advance where the dragon was and the druid summoned two rhinoceroses which allowed us to start the fight with two charging rhinos smacking into the dragon...

(UPDATE: Heh, I went through all of that and completely forgot to add in the lion/tiger the druid summoned in the first round, so add in a pounce/attack or full attack each round from the summoned lion/tiger...)

So give us some specifics...


Adamantine Dragon wrote:

Benly, I've been playing this game for 35 years now and I long ago realized that in-combat healing is generally a poor tactical decision. Yes there are times it is necessary as an emergency and you should be prepared for that, but my groups focus on taking the enemy down and healing up as we loot the bodies.

In most of my play groups we have one character who is able to heal in combat at need, and heal significantly, but it is a rare thing for them to actually have to call on that ability. It is usually a "battle cleric" who can spontaneously cast a heal at need, but who otherwise is tanking or using spells to control the battlefield.

I have played with many players over the years. In many cases a new player who starts to play with our group will argue that we need a dedicated healer. I have yet to have a single player who doesn't quickly adopt our healing tactics after seeing how effective our groups are in combat.

I did say access to in-combat healing, not a dedicated healer. What you said essentially agrees with my post there. And don't try to out-grognard me, I've only been playing a couple fewer years than you. :)


Benly wrote:


I did say access to in-combat healing, not a dedicated healer. What you said essentially agrees with my post there. And don't try to out-grognard me, I've only been playing a couple fewer years than you. :)

LOL, OK, we seem to be in agreement then. There are too many "you have to have a dedicated healer!" arguments that I've been in, I suppose.


As a relatively new DM (one year of playing) with a group of level 2-3ish new players right now, our combats have ranged from 2 rounds to 10 or 11. The typical is more like 6. It really depends how well they strategize. Sometimes they want to go in guns blazing, but their abilities are much better suited to scouting and surprising. The more time they spend before battle, the shorter the battle is. I'm pretty satisfied with the lengths of our combats except when they really start to drag, as has happened once or twice.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Benly wrote:


I did say access to in-combat healing, not a dedicated healer. What you said essentially agrees with my post there. And don't try to out-grognard me, I've only been playing a couple fewer years than you. :)
LOL, OK, we seem to be in agreement then. There are too many "you have to have a dedicated healer!" arguments that I've been in, I suppose.

My opinion is that what you "need" on the healing front is someone who:

1) Can provide substantial chunks of rapid healing in an emergency,
2) Can provide a significant flow of out-of-combat healing to keep things going between fights,
3) Can cure or mitigate ailments,
4) Can contribute proactively when it's not the right time to do any of those, and
4a) knows when that right time is and isn't.

4a depends on the player, of course. "Dedicated healers" tend to overlook point 4, but it's worth bearing in mind that they don't actually have to be attacking to contribute offensively. I find that it often works very well to recommend to those players that they put some resources into buffing and do that when people aren't too badly injured - it keeps to the "support" role they were envisioning, but at the same time it helps move them from a reactive to a proactive mindset.

Anyway, the point is, I do think it's true that you "need a healer" in the sense that a party that can't handle points 1-3 is going to have some trouble. It's just that it's important not to forget point 4.


Benly wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Benly wrote:


I did say access to in-combat healing, not a dedicated healer. What you said essentially agrees with my post there. And don't try to out-grognard me, I've only been playing a couple fewer years than you. :)
LOL, OK, we seem to be in agreement then. There are too many "you have to have a dedicated healer!" arguments that I've been in, I suppose.

My opinion is that what you "need" on the healing front is someone who:

1) Can provide substantial chunks of rapid healing in an emergency,
2) Can provide a significant flow of out-of-combat healing to keep things going between fights,
3) Can cure or mitigate ailments,
4) Can contribute proactively when it's not the right time to do any of those, and
4a) knows when that right time is and isn't.

4a depends on the player, of course. "Dedicated healers" tend to overlook point 4, but it's worth bearing in mind that they don't actually have to be attacking to contribute offensively. I find that it often works very well to recommend to those players that they put some resources into buffing and do that when people aren't too badly injured - it keeps to the "support" role they were envisioning, but at the same time it helps move them from a reactive to a proactive mindset.

Anyway, the point is, I do think it's true that you "need a healer" in the sense that a party that can't handle points 1-3 is going to have some trouble. It's just that it's important not to forget point 4.

You would fit right in with our group Benly...


Thanks for the detailed writeup AD!

Adamantine Dragon wrote:

Round 1

- Sorcerer would win initiative and blast a fireball at the enemy.

- Druid would summon a pouncing lion/tiger which could attack in the first round due to archetype.

- Cleric would self-buff with defensive spell and move into position to block the enemy attack

- Barbarian would charge the nearest bad guy and rage-smash with two handed hammer. Usually the same target the lion had pounced.

Your description sounds like (almost) all party members usually won initiative: cleric is able to move into position; barbarian is able to choose target

Adamantine Dragon wrote:

Round 2

- Barbarian would full-attack smash, usually taking down the first (and theoretically most dangerous) target.

So, the barbarian was not only able to choose his target but also to actually choose the most dangerous one and reach it (i.e. in charge range with no intervening hindrances like other people)?


We don't usually have access to forewarning that a fight is about to break out. The kinds of situations we get into don't lend themselves to scouting ahead and we rarely get arcanists. And even if we do drop a battlefield control spell, that usually only buys us one turn before the enmy is on us. And like I said, even with our optimization we're nowhere near dropping strong opponents in 2 full attacks. Especially with our horrible dice rolls. The running gag in our group is that we'd be more accurate rolling d12s instead of d20s.


My group's combats are closer to 10 rounds than 3, if I had to choose one extreme. In addition to my weekly group's experience with each other, we have also been DM'd and GM'd by designers/writers of Pathfinder in their own adventures, and 3 rounds is uncommon. I believe the people who are claiming 3 rounds is their norm, but it is still bizarre to me.


Liam, while it is true that the sorcerer and druid usually did win initiative (since they invested in high init scores) the rest of the party did not rely on high initiative. Our party has a marching order that places the cleric and barbarian in front, so if the enemy actually moved up to engage US, that actually just increases our opportunity for full attacks.

We accept the fact that we are going to get hurt. We play hurt. For the most part, unless an enemy gets a crit or there is some other major issue (like a save or suck spell the barbarian fails a save on) we can control the battlefield, and usually once we are engaged in melee, tactics work in our favor, not against us. If we suffer some setback, we have to adjust. And as I said, it's not terribly uncommon for that adjustment to be to run away and regroup with better tactics in place.

If the barbarian can't reach the most dangerous target, he attacks the most dangerous one he can. The summoned lion/tiger, however, is almost always able to attack the perceived most dangerous threat, which usually means the summoned lion/tiger is the target of that enemy's first attack. That usually gives us enough time to get the barbarian into that fight, or to summon more lion/tigers.

Sure we sometimes have to adjust our tactics, but even when we do, the fight usually doesn't last more than another round.


For me it is 2 to 3 rounds unless it is a tougher fight(APL+2) or higher.

I think how much the party optimizes, and how well they work as a team is a factor, as well as how many enemies there are. It takes less time to kill one CR 5 than two CR 3's if the party is 3rd level as an example. The one monster allows the party to focus fire.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Benly, I've been playing this game for 35 years now and I long ago realized that in-combat healing is generally a poor tactical decision. Yes there are times it is necessary as an emergency and you should be prepared for that, but my groups focus on taking the enemy down and healing up as we loot the bodies.

I agree. We learned this back in AD&D and it has worked most of the time (almost always). The few exceptions were when we misjudged a situation and was in over our heads.

As for the number of rounds: My experience has been the same as many here. 4 to 5 round for most combats with longer ones being rare.


Really depends on how optimized the players are vs the DM. Also group make up and play style affect how long the combat last.

If you have a highly offense oriented group combat can go quickly.

Heck look at a Fighter Archer. 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...

Fighters
Paladins
Rangers
Inquisitors
Monks

Summoner's can really turn battle in the blink of an eye.
Gunslingers and Alchemist can go all out and do serious damage.
Rogues are quick killers if they can flank regularly.
Rage Pounce Barbarians usually turn things into a fine mist quickly
Druids and Rangers can get some really nasty DPS between themselves and their pet who can usually pounce.
Paladins can be brutal if they smite.
Magus has great burst as long as they have a short work day.

So that leaves Monk (non archer), Rogue (who cant SA), Cleric, Bards, Druids (focused on support), Sorcerer, Wizard, Oracle, and Witch. These classes are great for Support, and for Battle Field control. But they will never match the DPS of the classes I mentioned above. If you find yourself with mainly these classes and few or none of the DPS kings I mentioned before... then your combat is going to take longer.

Edit: I will add that the DPS classes can be poorly made and fall into a third category... waste of space.


Dragonamedrake wrote:

Really depends on how optimized the players are vs the DM. Also group make up and play style affect how long the combat last.

If you have a highly offense oriented group combat can go quickly.

Heck look at a Fighter Archer. 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...

Fighters
Paladins
Rangers
Inquisitors
Monks

Summoner's can really turn battle in the blink of an eye.
Gunslingers and Alchemist can go all out and do serious damage.
Rogues are quick killers if they can flank regularly.
Rage Pounce Barbarians usually turn things into a fine mist quickly
Druids and Rangers can get some really nasty DPS between themselves and their pet who can usually pounce.
Paladins can be brutal if they smite.
Magus has great burst as long as they have a short work day.

So that leaves Monk (non archer), Rogue (who cant SA), Cleric, Bards, Druids (focused on support), Sorcerer, Wizard, Oracle, and Witch. These classes are great for Support, and for Battle Field control. But they will never match the DPS of the classes I mentioned above. If you find yourself with mainly these classes and few or none of the DPS kings I mentioned before... then your combat is going to take longer.

Edit: I will add that the DPS classes can be poorly made and fall into a third category... waste of space.

Just remember all this is based on specific build. I'm currently sitting on an Evangelist of Gorum who easily competes with his equally optimized FULL bab compatriots while supporting them with his songs of war in the DPR game.

I've actually put a lot of thought lately in this line and I'm currently in the process of writing something that will illustrate my thoughts on group optimization very clearly.

EDIT: It also makes me sad cavaliers of any kind aren't mentioned at all. :P


TarkXT wrote:

Just remember all this is based on specific build. I'm currently sitting on an Evangelist of Gorum who easily competes with his equally optimized FULL bab compatriots while supporting them with his songs of war in the DPR game.

I've actually put a lot of thought lately in this line and I'm currently in the process of writing something that will illustrate my thoughts on group optimization very clearly.

Sure there are exceptions... but generally it works the way I said. Clerics usually wont be able to compete with a Rage Pounce Barbarian. A Sorcerer wont out dps an Archer Fighter. But just like you can make a bad DPS build, you can make an exceptional support class that out performs the norm.

But I have seen parties like this...

Cleric (Healer)
Wizard (Illusionist)
Bard (Support)
Fighter (Sword and Board)

Where you getting your DPS in this party lol? Of course you are going to take longer then 3 rounds. Now take this party build.

Summoner (Support/DPS from Eidolon)
Druid (Out of Combat Healer/DPS from shifting/Pet)
Fighter (Archer)
Sorcerer (Mix of Battle Field Control/Support)

This party is going to roll over fights the first group would take forever to defeat... Group make up.


in my PFS groups i have a sylvan sorcerer with a lion animal companion, and usually group with a summoner with an eidolon that is based on a large cat and has lots of attacks with lots of elemental damage with the pounce ability.

we quite often finish encounters before the entire group gets a turn.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Interesting combat description

This seems to be a good approach for a typical or fairly easy fight.

What does it look like in the harder ones? The ones you come close to losing? Do they still only take a few rounds, just in the other direction?

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.


My play group(s) seem to hover around the 6 round mark for combat ending or being in the wrap-up stage. When the party hits into those optimal situations (no ambushes, clear battlefield, no huge distance) the battles can be over in 2-4 (huzzah for barbarians and cavaliers?). I lean towards the 3 round mark being a good idea to aim for when building a fight and sometimes wonder if developers either only occasionally use that rule of thumb or use it when picking the monsters, but forget about other modifiers (terrain, length of the adventuring day, etc.)

At the same time though, this short fight concept can ignore what an enemy caster can do to the party. A single entangle spell cast in a recent 3.5 session added 13 rounds to the fight.

The longest fight before that involved the party fighting an unholy red dragon wearing a mask woven from 3 litches, with a guard of polearm wielding gargoyle rogues nested atop his clock tower. That took 15 rounds in game and over 6 HOURS of real time and that was with a party of a Conjurer/M.Spec/Archmage, Warmage, Rogue, Archer/OotBI, and a Cleric/Warlock/Eld. Disciple.

Sometimes things never go the PC's way, sometimes your players actually work in unison.


My group in 3.5 and now in Pathfinder rarely goes over the 6 round mark, usually ending at 4-5. Although we have had fights lasting 10+ it is VERY RARE. Honestly the D20 system hp vs damage & #attacks is not suited for longer fights. As an example a D10 class like fighter with a 18 con and max hp at lvl 10 would have 140hp. They would also have 2-3 attacks a round (or more for a TWF). Averaging 15 damage a hit they should be getting somewhere between 30-45 damage a round. So even on the low end of that damage they could only survive 5 rounds against a similar opponent 1v1. For blaster casters 1v1 that is reduced even further due to less hp and more damage although a 1v1 controler/buffer fight could last a while. Considering that combat is usually 4v 1 Big Bad or 4v multiple lessers, combat is not designed for very many rounds. Versus a Big Bad is usually even less in my experience as the controller locks him down and the damage dealers walk up and just beat the crap out of them.

Our DMs go out of their way to try and find unusual monsters and put them in unusual combinations to make a complicated fight. Usually the fight lasts until we realize how to adjust to the new complication and then fall back into our tactics. Example:

Combat:

Currently in one our 3.5 games (lvl 15 now, although started at lvl 6) we have a archer ranger, 2H dwarf weapon specialized fighter, a crit based duskblade, a wildshape/summoning druid and a AC tower shield tank battle cleric.

The cleric has a high initiative and almost always goes first. Usually does a buff on everyone and walks forward placing himself in front of the baddie. Baddie attacks tank. The Druid will ether summon something or wildshape and charge one side flank of the monster while the fighter charges the other side. Ranger pincushions. The dusckblade will either flank with fighter or teleport behind and flank with cleric. Next round everyone gets full attacks. If the baddie can dish out a lot of damage the cleric withholds to make sure no one dies if not he attacks as well. By 3rd round baddie dies.

If against multiple opponents we split off into 2-3 teams based on opponents and pretty much do the same. We used to have a sorc force spell based controler/blaster but he died to a AoE (yuck d4 HD) and was replaced by the dusckblade. Then the combat was pretty similar except the sorc teamed with the ranger and either blasted or used wall/ladder of force to keep the baddies in apropiate areas. In addition to this all the casters have AoE spells (the ranger has a necklace of fireballs) to help damage and control as well. Cleric then has everyone line up for the group bought Cure Mod wand(s) and we head to the next fight.

Recently that same group encountered a problem encounter:

longer combat:

Entered a multiple cast darkness room full of some sort of advanced Huge sized displacer beasts. We had multiple miss chances and was getting annoying. We finally retreated to the previous room that only had a 5ft wide doorway (tsk tsk DM). Cleric planted Tower Shield. Casters begun preparing AoE spells. The displacer beasts somehow squeezed by the cleric (don't remember how). We were situated spread out of line of sight of the doorway so we pretty much had a displacer beast to each of us. They started wailing on us. The fighter used special boots of his that allow him to teleport as a swift action with 60ft to a flanking position. Did it right in the one square left in the middle of them all. Now this particular player is slightly newer and the more experienced of us said that was a horrible decision as now they could all full attack him. I mentioned (I am the cleric) that it was a bad decision although he could cleave..."as if that ever happens". The +10 greataxe Power Attacking crit 3 times, and cleaved thru them all. It was beautiful. The whole combat took about 9 rounds.

I hope this was all helpful and interesting.


Stuff with DR/ can make fights take longer and that is what has happened in my expirence otherwise 3 sounds about right.


As I sort of asked before: Are these 3 round fights at all close? Or are these the walkover, resource burning fights?

If a 3 round fight is close, it seems to me it could go bad really fast. Not leaving you a lot of time to turn it around or escape.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I play and DM a lot of PFS and it is a very rare battle that occurs the way folks on this thread have been describing things.

1. Many PFS encounters I've seen (as a player or a DM) have more space than can be covered in one round - due to lighting (or lack of it) difficult terrain or other features. Frequently with enemies who are ready for PCs who don't know where they are. As a result much of the first few rounds may be spent in maneuvering (I tend to play characters with some degree of maneuverability - my longstrided monk definitely changed a recent PFS battle by charging over 100' to close with the enemy Spellcaster quickly but that was unusual. And half the party still took two to three rounds to get into the room let along into the combat (had to climb a rope to get into the room)

2. My recent record was a combat that lasted nearly 40 rounds (because the players triggered 4 different encounters as they tried to finish one off they would trigger another). The players literally never had a break - and I think they all enjoyed that game. They were fairly optimized but it was also in a huge space (literally a gargantuan map) and frequently their slowest characters couldn't close in time - also due to a battlefield that shifted over the course of the battle as NPCs fled one battle only to trigger another.

I think terrain features - lighting, difficult terrain, line of sight etc all help considerably increase a combat's complexity and difficulty. So to can enemies that don't fully reveal themselves until after the combat is engaged. Whether this is just due to mobility or spells/powers (like invisibility) the toughest foes rarely just wait in a line for the players to pounce. And readied actions and generally strong tactics often help prolong a fight as well

Grand Lodge

In my highly optimized games, fights generally do tend to take around 3 rounds. In my more casual games, definately not.


thejeff wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Interesting combat description
This seems to be a good approach for a typical or fairly easy fight.

It has been my experience that these are good tactics against most fights, even fights of higher CR. The specific tactics I listed above don't work well against a fight against multiple spellcasters, but there are tactics that do work against that situation. Some of the tactics work in both. A grappling lion/tiger can ruin a spellcaster's whole day, for example.

thejeff wrote:
What does it look like in the harder ones? The ones you come close to losing? Do they still only take a few rounds, just in the other direction?

"Harder ones" are harder. Sure there are times our group under-estimates an encounter, overestimates our own abilities or just plain rolls badly. In situations like that we do our best to adapt our tactics. If, for example, we realize that we are in a pure battle of attrition, we will change our tactics significantly. If the GM throws a metagamed encounter at us just because he is trying to punish us for being good tacticians, we focus on battlefield control and focused fire to bring enemies down one at a time. That's when healing can become important. It is also when we use our one-shot magic items or haul out our biggest spells. In such a situation the battles are far more deadly and use far more of our resources, but they do still tend to last no more than a few more rounds.

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.

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