As you may be aware combat under the 4e rules can be slow and grindy, in the vernacular.
That simply isn’t necessary. For a party of 5 characters 30 minute combat is achievable, although 45 minutes is probably a more reasonable target.
The DM has put a lot of thought and effort into streamlining combat. Much more than most of the players will ever realise.
But everyone participating in combat has their part to play.
Preparation-wise everyone needs to ensure the following before they get to the table…
- Know your character. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? New players in particular overlook this. Make sure you understand what your character’s role is in combat. This means reading up on your race, class and build. If they are a defender they will be tanking. If they are a leader they will be buffing or healing. If they are a striker they will be looking to pour as much damage on the bad guys as possible.
- Be intimately familiar with your powers. If your character is going to do something in a combat situation they aren’t going to sit back for a few minutes, think about their options, slowly choose one and then start to move. Combat rounds are a few short seconds and folks react instinctively. Make sure you know the ins and outs of your powers.
- Be familiar with the flow of encounters. We use Kirin’s excellent 4e Combat Crib Sheet1, which is basically a complete cheatsheet for D&D 4e combat. It’s high level and obviously doesn’t include every possible contingency. But it covers 99.9% of what you will need to know. If there’s anything in it you aren’t familiar with you might want to brush up now.
During encounters we apply the following…
- No books… This might sound a bit unusual to our more experienced RPGers, but we don’t open rulebooks at the table. The fact is encounters run just fine even when we don’t apply the rules absolutely perfectly. Instead we try to have everything we need available on cards and cheatsheet. If you want to discuss or debate a rules item, note it down and we can look at it after the encounter.
- …unless the group votes otherwise. The only exception to 1 above is if the group consensus is to suspend combat to make a particular rule check.
- Be ready when it’s your turn. Know who has their turn before you, so that you know when it’s your turn. You should be figuring out what you are going to do when the person before you is taking their turn. Number 2 in the first list helps with this.
- Use a fist full of dice. If your power attacks four creatures please don’t roll 1d20 four times. Roll four of them at once. Likewise feel free to roll your attack and damage die at the same time if your power only targets one critter.
- The combat cheatsheet1. Download it. Print it. Love it.
- Condition tracking. Tracking conditions can be tiresome, especially at higher levels. We use small circles of pipecleaner to mark which mini/token has a particular condition inflicted upon it. If your character has a condition placed against it, it’s your responsibility to know when that condition ends.
- Initiative tracking. Ties in with 3 above. We are still experimenting a little here, at the moment we are using pegs and it’s working quite well.
- When you are finished call “Done”. Announcing when you have finished your turn lets the next person know it’s their turn. Please avoid “take backs”.
- There are rewards for being timely! As you’ll see under Rewards System I have all kinds of little rewards in place for things I see as worthy. Combat is one of these. If you can take your turn in under 60 seconds you’ll see what I am talking about.
If you have any comments or suggestions please share them either directly with me, or on this list.
Some of this may seem overwhelming, but it is actually easier than it reads. Just do the preparation part and it’ll be quite easily and naturally.