View Full Version : Pathfinder Speeding up combat

2016-11-03, 07:01 AM
Here's the problem:

Combat takes a long time. It'd be nice to be able to be roleplaying through, have a fight, and then continue roleplaying, but it seems that even a squad of castle guards can drag out for an hour or two, all out of proportion for its importance to the story. One of the things that happens here is that players go sorting through their abilities, make their choices, then the fighter, who always goes first, has several cleave feats, including the ability to make five-foot steps between each strike... so he ends up making five rolls, and sorting through the addition on each roll, then five damage rolls, of course, etc, etc...

And while he's doing that, everyone else is getting bored, and start chatting with each other, and then finally it's person 2's turn, and they're like, "What happened, again?" And so it's explained, and so he makes his move, and he's a wizard, so he summons 1d4+1 monsters, plus one thanks to his feat and has to roll for that, gets 6 monsters, has to roll attacks for all of them... and each animal gets two claw swipes, so that's twelve attacks and damage rolls...

And then it's person 3's turn, and they're like, "What happened, again?" And both turns are then explained, and then ... you get the idea.

And when I'm playing, I'm not immune. I can be the player with the deer-in-the-headlights look when someone goes, 'Hey, AG! your turn!"

I'm trying to think on how to speed up combat a bit. Get each person's turn down short enough that the rest of the group doesn't get bored waiting for all the rolling to happen, and actually can pay attention.

Solution 1: Houserule

The first idea that springs to mind is the issue with multiple attacks. My initial thought is just to make it so that all attacks go off of the same d20 check.

If the fighter has three attacks: +11, +6, and +1, then he rolls the d20 once (say he gets a 12) and his three attack rolls are 23, 18, and 13. The first two hit, so he rolls his damage - 2d6 + 8, say. he gets 23 on that damage roll - and applies it twice for the two hits. Boom, done.

If the wizard has six minions, they're usually pretty equal ... but let's say he has three of one kind and three of another. All right, he rolls 1d20, applies the +7 from the first three and +9 from the second three. Then he rolls the 2d6+3 and applies that to all of the first three, and 1d8+2 and applies that to all of the second three. minimal rolls.

Now, obviously, this means your attacks each turn lack variety. Either you roll well and devastate your opponents, or you roll poorly and do almost nothing. Is this ... a problem? Additionally, sometimes you run into that one guy you can only hit by rolling a natural 20 - suddenly having multiple attacks is no longer useful in hitting him. In that extreme edge case, this house rule would change the probability to make high bonuses mean much more, and low bonuses be much more penalizing, I think ...

I feel like every single time we hit a group of minions, the fighter would roll a d20 and 2d6, then look up and say "Killed them all." But then, half the time that practically happens anyway, and the rest of the team plays cleanup.

Solution 2: Houserule

My second idea for trying to speed up combat is by handing out small bonuses for being ready. If you don't have to ask what's going on with the combat, and just can tell us and be ready to roll, then congratulations, you get a +1 to one of your attacks. If you already have all your rolling done before we start, written down on an index card, then you get a +1 to all your attacks. If you're casting a spell, this translates instead to +1 DC for being ready, and an additional +1 CL if all your rolling is done. If you're using a skill, this translates to +1 for being ready, +2 if your rolling is done.

Players like bonuses.

Solution 3: Houserule

Or you can just put down a timer, and if they haven't finished their turn by the time the timer ends, then they get a -1 to all actions. This feels like I'm punishing them, though, and that can really bring down the mood for a game.

Solution 4: Extra props and materials

Not a house rule, but just involved in the issue, so I'm bringing it up.

It can help speed things up a little if people can see what's happening. IE: miniatures and a map. or doodling on a whiteboard. Or something. Involves less "How many enemies are left? What happened?" questions. But that's not always viable, and sometimes you get folks agonizing over exact miniature placement to get just the right amount of cover from just the right amount of enemies...

I've also found that providing index cards to my players of things they do often, so that they don't always have to do the math, really helps speed things up. So the fighter gets his 'two handed broadsword' card, and it adds up his BAB, strength bonus, weapon focus bonus, enhancement bonus, etc. And the bard gets a handful of card for his buffs, so he can hand buff cards out to everyone he's buffing. This really, REALLY cuts down on "Who's buffing now? Oh, I forgot about the bardic performance bonus! Wait, you mean you cast bull's strength on me? I thought you cast it on Bob. I actually hit him then!"

What do you think?

Have you ever used any of the above elements? I've only used #4, myself, and it seems to make some things faster while making other things take longer. It certainly increases the immersion, I've found, and I'm actually working on increasing my supply of visual aids - but this only helps with games around a table - something I can't always depend on.

Have you done other things that I haven't thought of here? Houserules welcome, but just little tips and tricks, or links to other places this has been discussed, are also very welcome. Please share your thoughts!