At World's End
With 4th edition combat takes up an average of 75% of the game time. That’s fine, too, so long as the combat is involving and can keep your attention. Lets face it though: you’ve had your interests wane during at least one combat. Slow combats are like a chore, where you roll dice on your turn then wait for 20 minutes while everyone else goes. I want to streamline this, so I have five steps to making combat go faster.
By now you should all have an understanding about how your character will act on their turn. I expect each of you to know your characters’ powers, their items, their feats and their statistics. With combats becoming more intense there’s a lot more management for me to be doing, so I won’t be able to spend the time to make sure all your attacks have the proper bonuses applied to them.
As such, there are a few changes to how combat is being run. Mostly these are changes as to how much I’m going to manage your actions and whatnot.
I really like how people get into combat and describe their action and attacks during their turn. The only thing I want to change is that everyone makes sure that they describe and roleplay their turn AFTER they finish their actions. Essentially, roleplay your combat after your turn, that way you don’t spend 2 minutes roleplaying while we’re waiting on you to move to the next person. Please roleplay during combat (which includes describing your attacks) needs to take place after your turn; this will save plenty of time in the long run.
When your turn starts, you’ve got roughly 30 seconds to acknowledge it is your turn. Whether you move your token or describe your actions in teamspeak, if you haven’t acted in 30 seconds I’m going to either have your character hold their turn or make them use a pre-set at-will/basic attack. If you need more time (it happens) then please please PLEASE say something in Teamspeak about it. If you don’t speak up, I don’t know if you’re AFK or thinking. Along these lines is…
I’ll be using this more to convey the status of battle, since it’s quicker and less laggy than maptools. I would hope everyone does the same. If you want to set up some cool plan, then talk about it in Teamspeak; it’s faster. Describing your turn can be done quicker in teamspeak as well. Justin is kind enough to let use it, so lets use it.
You’re all level 11, so I think you can put on the big-boy pants and calculate your own bonuses to attack. I assume that your attack rolls made via macros will include things like power bonuses and combat advantages. If you have a bonus to attack/damage, then put it in the prompt that says “bonus, attack” and “bonus, damage”. You don’t have to put in penalties for the enemies’ cover/concealment; that’s more on my end than yours (unless you know the enemy has cover/concealment). This leads into…
If you forget to include a bonus in the macro, it’s alright to mention the bonus right after the attack (“Oh, +2 to CA and +1 for prime shot”). What’s not so okay is saying “Oh, I had a +2 bonus to attack when I attacked that guy, so it should have been a hit” 3 turns after the attack. I know we all forget stuff, so if you forget to put bonuses in your macros, I’ll give you a 1-turn grace period to recall missed bonuses. After that 1 turn we’re going to take it as-is and not worry about it (this goes for me too). The only thing that needs to be taken care of, even out of turn, is ongoing damage and saving throws.
Here are some steps to ensure that your turn only takes 20-30 seconds (barring lag time).
1. Announce the end of your turn
This one is fairly easy: press next on the initiative panel or hit the “end of turn” macro. Please remember to do this. Otherwise your turn is over, and you’re waiting for the next person to go, but the next person thinks you’re still taking your turn. This can eat up time and everyone gets frustrated while we sort out who is supposed to go. So please, announce the end of your turn.
2. Take your turn immediately, unless interrupted
This one goes along with the above rule. Unless the DM (me) specifically says “Hold on, this creature is going to interrupt you,” then you should take your turn. Don’t wait for the DM to sanction your turn before you act: it’s your turn, take it.
3. Decide actions ahead of time
Oh boy, this is a big-un. Deciding what actions to take a turn or two ahead can really save game time. The other players don’t want to sit there waiting while you’re quietly pondering the board, they want to be kicking demon-ass. Please don’t tune-out the game on others’ turns and then take 5 minutes deciding how to act. Even if things didn’t pan out how you hoped, it’s quicker to adjust a plan than create one. Besides, 4e is fairly tolerant of sub-optimal tactics, so you don’t need to spend 3 minutes finding the perfect battle plan; go with what works, and save the awesome stuff for when you have a solid plan.
4. Watch the game
Another tip that ties in with the above one. If you’re going to be able to quickly decide what needs to be done, you have to watch the game. I don’t mind if you’re browsing the web, but this is D&D time, not homework or Warcraft time. Please don’t take your turn, then switch windows to do something else because the combat involves you even if it is not your turn. Your character will undoubtedly take some damage, or be shifted around, or get some bonus or an attack of opportunity; you need to be there to watch for that and adjust. If you’re really on top of it, you can discuss your next turn and how your allies can help set you up. Collaboration is good, we likes it (we likes in-character collaboration even more).
5. Don’t run other applications in the background
This is a curse of the medium, I suppose, but lag can really be a downer for combats. Especially when there’s a 10 second lag between when a macro is pushed and when the text is propagated to all connected players. Even if your internet is excellent, you don’t need to bog your computer down with three internet browsers, a music player and photoshop open. Don’t contribute to the lag. Until maptools gets an overhall with 1.4, we’re going to be stuck with it.