Tips and tricks for streamlining combat with many participants


Advice


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While the classic dungeon run is only against a few opponents at a time, sometimes a large battle is very fun and satisfying too.

But when the dice rolling orgy begins many players (and GMs) begin to moan. And not because of excitement.

I'm going to write some of the shortcuts to large dice amounts we use in our games and I hope to hear some from you as well. Some of these come from rules from 3.5, are homebrew or may even be in Pathfinder (I don't know the whole PRD and what things have been added)

Into battle!

1) High level spells or diving in lava or falling from high places. Rolling 20d6 takes a while (or 40d6 for a failed Desintegrate).
So to make it faster, just roll 4-5 dice and average the rest. This also has the nice side effect of preventing extreme highs and lows (if you prefer some predictability in your games). If the number of dice is even roll 4 dice and if it is uneven use 5 dice (this makes averaging easier cause there are no fractions). To quickly average an even amount of dice just take half the number of dice and multiply it by the die size +1. So 16d6 is 8 x 7 = 56 damage.

2) Attacks by large groups of weaker monsters. Just calculate the odds.
Especially good for groups of archers. You can calculate the chance of 1 archer hitting (lets say 25%) and multiply it with the number of archers (lets say 20) and then you get the number of hits (5 hits) without having to roll a single die.
You can even use the average AC of the whole party to calculate and then distribute the hits as its seems most logical (so if fighter stands in front guarding the others he would take more hits even though his AC might be the highest).

3) Combine groups into mobs. Mobs are like swarms just with larger creatures. If your hero is totally surrounded from every side just assign damage that seems appropriate.
Or use a single modified attack (like with a +4 or +6) to see if the mob can hit the hero.
I don't think definite rules will help much here. Just go by feeling.

4) Again this one is mainly for archer groups. Coordinated archers can make an area attack instead of a direct attack showering a square (or several) with pointy death. Hero just needs to make a reflex save to reduce the damage, only 1 dice roll needed.

5) Lots of saves.
One houserule we have is if your save is higher than the DC +10 you don't need to roll at all (so rolling a 1 is like you rolled a -10).
Because when the player who pushed his fortitude save to 25 wades through a pit full of tiny snakes with poison DCs of 11, let him have his glory of being a tough guy.
Or a high level rogue just dancing through a series of "beginner traps" without breaking a sweat.
Apply rule of cool here.

That's all I can think of for now. Looking forward to hear from you ^^


All of these look good, though some will require player participation, and I know that my players like a good 16d6 roll fest lol.

Another thing a GM of mine has done was pre-roll a page or two of d20 rolls, so if she had 10 monsters, she just goes down the line for most of the rolls she makes, only having to add the bonuses.

Some thing our group has tried is rolling both Damage and Attack at the same time.

But I think the biggest time saver here is making sure your players have an idea of what they want to do before their turn. Nothings worse than after 10 mins of waiting for other players, that once they get to someone, they have no idea what they are doing, so be sure of player involvement and interaction with each other.


+1 to having the player know what he will be doing on his turn. I play with a larger group as well, and once we get out of the first few levels, we average all damage dice. Another thing we do is split up the combat jobs: one handles inititive, another mob hp's. This may take some of the mystery out of the game, but it makes things faster. There are some good apps for dice rolling as well, if you have a smartphone or ipod.


Pre-rolling sounds like an interesting idea too. Just hope players are not too suspicious ^^

Yeah you can save some time rolling the damage along with the attack, but many players get annoyed when rolling maximum damage with an attack that didn't hit :P
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How does splitting the combat jobs work?
You mean it is one of player's jobs to say when it is each ones turn?
And another one counts down the HP of the enemy?


Karuth wrote:

Pre-rolling sounds like an interesting idea too. Just hope players are not too suspicious ^^

Yeah you can save some time rolling the damage along with the attack, but many players get annoyed when rolling maximum damage with an attack that didn't hit :P
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How does splitting the combat jobs work?
You mean it is one of player's jobs to say when it is each ones turn?
And another one counts down the HP of the enemy?

We pretty frequently have everybody roll their dice for attacks out of turn, write down the end-numbers of what the attack was, and what damage it would do. Sometimes you have to re-do it, and you have to trust your players not to cheat, but it means that the player's rounds go super fast.

-Cross


Karuth:
One of the players takes inititive from all players and DM and orders them on a magnetic inititive board. (They are neat, just a board that has magnets where you can write players character names on them. You then just shuffle them around to get them in order.) He asks people what they do on their turn.
Another player does keep track of MOB hit points, CR, DR, and AC. We don't know the AC until we've hit/missed to determine it, same with DR. The dm will say hit/miss and how much damage is delt. The player keeps track of the CR for experience.
Another player (me) works with the MOB hit points person to tally up experience points when we're close to leveling up.

We also have a player keeping track of loot to be split up when we get back to town.

You may have other jobs assigned as needed, and all are volunteers for their extra roles in the current party.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

Keep all the mook monsters on one initiative, the boss monsters on another, and friendly NPCs on a third.

Have the mooks and friendly NPCs make liberal use of Aid Another actions. For instance, if you are running 20 monsters who each can only hit on a 19 or higher, split them into groups of 5. 4 of each group Aid Another. The 5th guy attacks and now hits on an 11 or higher.

Do not permit players to dither about their actions. Enforce a strict 5 second limit on players to declare their actions. Of course, it will take longer than 5 seconds to resolve those actions. Players who can't decide take a delay action until they make up their mind.

Require players using spells, special abilities, or combat maneuvers to have the rules already looked up and in front of them before their turn comes around in the order.

Liberty's Edge

Here are some that come to mind for me.

Use dice that are easy to read at a glance. While some dice may look cool, if you have to pick them up each time to read them, that's extra time being used with each throw.

Roll attack, damage, and critical confirm dice at the same time.

Limit player rituals like blowing on dice, taking time to select just the right dice, shaking dice incessantly, etc. Get on with it already.

If you are going to use attacks/spells that require a certain number of dice, have that many dice ready. Don't roll your 10d6 fireball damage one die at a time.

Have a player track initiative (the GameMastery magnetic boards do work pretty well). When initiative changes, prompt the current player that it is their turn as well as let the next player know hes up next.

Limit decision making time for players to 5 seconds (of course, adjudicating the action will take as long as needed). If the player has not stated their action in that time, put their character on delay until after the next player has gone. If they are not ready a second time, they loose their action for the round as they are frozen in indecision. It may sound a bit harsh, but when you have a table of 6 players each taking a minute to work through their turn plus the GMs turn...it's enough time. After doing it once or twice, players will get the idea.

Players using spells and powers should know how to use their abilities or have the details of their abilities in front of them.Nnone of this "I use power X.", "What does that do?", "I'm not sure. I need to look it up...". If they can't say what it does, put them on delay and move on the the next guy. This especially goes for players who summon monsters. Have the stat block in front of you.

The GameMastery condition cards are good for keeping track of conditions during combat. I made my own along with cards for combat maneuvers and other combat situations. They are handy little cheat sheets of goodness.


Kahn Zordlon wrote:

Karuth:

One of the players takes initiative from all players and DM and orders them on a magnetic initiative board. (They are neat, just a board that has magnets where you can write players character names on them. You then just shuffle them around to get them in order.) He asks people what they do on their turn.
Another player does keep track of MOB hit points, CR, DR, and AC. We don't know the AC until we've hit/missed to determine it, same with DR. The dm will say hit/miss and how much damage is dealt. The player keeps track of the CR for experience.
Another player (me) works with the MOB hit points person to tally up experience points when we're close to leveling up.
We also have a player keeping track of loot to be split up when we get back to town.
You may have other jobs assigned as needed, and all are volunteers for their extra roles in the current party.

The magnetic board thing sounds nice. I keep track of Initiative by drawing the table we are sitting on and writing the number at the place where each player sits. Is quick and easy and I don't even need to write down their names.

And I save myself the trouble with counting each EXP. I just give a flat amount after each adventure.

As for Monster HP, AC and DR. I note that on my papers. I tell people when their attacks don't go through because of DR/AC but they don't know the exact amount.
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If I would enforce a 5 second rule the players would kill me XD
They just can't decide so fast. And rolling dice out of turn would be likewise impossible.
In my fixed group it might be possible, but not in the open rounds in the club.

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