Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Discussion: Stream Lining Combat

Forgive the brief post, and the weird topic, but some stuff has come up so I'm putting this up as a place filler.

Combat is one of the slowest parts of table tops, but it is also one of the most exciting parts of stories. So, what do you do to help stream line the experience? Do you trim some of the rules? Skip steps in the process to make things go faster? Make people have attacks cued up, or put the player on timers? Do you do nothing at all, and just run the game as written?

Do you mind if combat gets bogged down by everyone trying to plan out their move as tactically as possible? Or do you encourage it?

Let us know, as well as any tips you've found to be particularly fun and helpful.


  1. My 'go to' system is Star Wars D6- thus, the combat is specifically designed to be streamlined. In fact, the rules even suggest you 'gloss over' or make up rules if you don't quite remember the specifics in the heat of combat. Speed and excitement are more important than a 'tactical simulation'. It works well in this specific setting and system, stressing cinematic action. Even so, when running for highly experienced characters (with large amounts of dice to roll and tally), it helps a lot of folks have computerized dice rollers. Of course, everyone having a laptop isn't always possible.

  2. One of my main methods for streamlining combat that I use is using the players to roll for the mooks against the other PCs. I say "Roll (insert roll) against the person on your Right (or left)." And then I let everyone check if they hit and do damage, which keeps people engaged, and speeds things up by a significant factor at the same time.

    Another thing I do to speed up combat is, as much as possible, asking the next person what their action is while the person before is rolling and doing counting.

    I run fast and loose with rules when it is appropriate for the feel, but I usually stick by them for most games for the simple reason that if they playbook doesn't change as much as possible it makes things easier. Time on the other hand I do run fast and loose with as needed, mostly for narrative reasons.

  3. One thing I have been doing across many different games is doing actions clockwise around the table; we roll initive to see who goes first, then just proceed clockwise. I find it makes play go much faster.

    Something I am going to try with 4E D&D very soon is cutting hit points across the board in half. (PCs, NPCs, monsters) I think this will really speed things up, but we'll see.