Five Ways To Speed Up Combat

Lets face it, turn-based combat can be slow. However long you spend taking your turn, you’re waiting three or four times as long for the next one. Here is a list of game-hastening guidelines I recommend every DM issues to their players.

Announce end of turn

When you’re finished your turn, announce “turn end” or “that’s my turn over”. This saves time and avoids confusion. In particular it lets the next player know that you won’t interrupt his turn with an “also”, such as “Also, I want to make a move action” or “Also, I want to draw a weapon as a free action”.

Take your turn immediately unless interrupted

As soon as the player directly before you in initiative announces “end turn”, begin yours. Don’t want for the Dungeon Master to call your name. If something should interrupt the normal initiative order, such as a new monster entering combat or an ability used out-of-turn, whoever introduces it should call “interrupt”. It’s it’s quicker to call “interrupt” when something happens then to wait for the DM to sanction each turn.

Decide actions on the previous player’s turn

Take note of who’s in front of you in the initiative order and decide your action on his turn. As soon as he declares his end over, announce that action. This saves other players from waiting while you think. Your turn is for doing, not thinking. It’s possible that your action will be invalid by the time your turn arrives (the guy before you might kill the monster you wanted to attack), but more often than not this will speed things along.

Roll ahead of turn

If the Dungeon Master allows, roll your dice ahead of time. This method is absolutely vital in high-level D&D third edition games, where characters might roll fifteen or more dice per turn. Be honest and don’t “mike the dice”, a cheat where an unscrupulous player rolls ahead of time and re-rolls on his own turn if it misses.

Use an egg timer

For chronically slow players, use an egg timer set to thirty or sixty seconds. Each player has that amount of time to decide their actions, or else forfeit their turn.

Comments (7)

Ameron (April 14th, 2009)

I think you’re definitely on the right track with these suggestions. Check out my ideas for Speeding Up Your Game. In a couple of cases we’ve adopted the same shortcuts. If they work, why not use them.

jonathan (April 14th, 2009)

OMG… Jonathan you read my.. no.. you read my wife’s mind. I spend some time yesterday digging up articles to help her decide how she might speed up the 4E game she is currently DMing. Instead of saying “do this or that” I thought it would be prudent to send her to the blogs~! (sounds like a form of pirate punishment…) Alas… this post is VERY timely. thanks much!

Frost (April 14th, 2009)

Another useful technique is for the GM to call out who is “on deck” when he announces who’s turn it is. For example, “Rob, you’re up; Sam, you’re on deck.”

Rook (April 15th, 2009)

All great ideas. I’m printing them out now. I also like Frost’s “On Deck” idea.
As far as the “Roll Ahead of Turn”, I always seem to have at least one person who “milks the dice” and to help curb that behavior I assign everyone a “roll buddy”. Someone to watch you roll your dice in advance while its someone else’s turn. You just have to be careful who you pair up.

BTW, I’ve tried the egg timer trick and while I agree there needs to be a time limit, I have found that the falling sands often put too much pressure on some players and they freeze-up. So I just time it on my watch and if they are taking too long I’ll start humming the theme to Jeopardy.

Kiashu (April 15th, 2009)

"However long you spend taking your turn, you’re waiting three or four times as long for the next one. [What you can do is…]"

As well as speeding things up:- You could also play in a group where, rather than merely tolerating one another’s presence as a necessary evil to getting their own game action and impatiently waiting their turn, each player is almost as interested in the other players’ characters as they are in their own.

Chgowiz (April 17th, 2009)

From behind the screen, I’ve gotten to using a whiteboard and abbreviations in getting round declarations of intent, so that I can keep it clear in my head of who is doing what. I also find that combat declarations prior to the actions helps to speed things up in and of itself.

Zom (April 20th, 2009)

Whenever my DMs starts to hand out restrictions I expect them to follow the same rule.

As for the Egg timer, would it be unreasonable to time the DM for each creature?

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