Faster Combat Review

One of the biggest--and to me, more legitimate--criticisms about Dungeons & Dragons is the length of combat. I remember how, back in 3rd Edition, combat was often resolved pretty quickly, allowing us to plow through a good chunk of dungeon in a given sitting.

When 4th Edition came out, though we were excited by all the options and changes, we saw immediately that combat could drag, especially if monsters took reduced damage or could heal. The kobold ambush at the start of Keep on the Shadowfell? That could eat up 30-60 minutes of game time, and that is just for kobolds.

Faster Combat is just over 260 pages of advice and methods on how to speed up combat in your game. Some of it are things that you probably already know, like pre-rolled initiative charts, average damage results (which is featured in D&D Next's monsters), and reducing monster hit points by 25% or more, but there is a lot of other stuff in here, like noting how long individual players take (along with a variety of ways to establish a time limit, as well as a reward system), ways to identify character strengths and weaknesses (along with ways to challenge or pander to them), and combat terrain to use/not-use.

Even better is that is is not just about combat efficiency; there are sections on how to design more exciting encounters (along with a list of 20 random and fantastic encounter locations), run "cannon fodder" and boss monsters, 50 monster quirks, numerous linked resources relating to whatever it is you are learning about, and more.

It is, in a word, extensive, which is good because even if a DM is not willing to invest much time in an attempt to resolve any of the issues mentioned (which not every group suffers from, or even identifies as such), there are still other things that he or she might find useful, like the aforementioned random encounter and quirks, and encounter building advice.

The ebook runs $20, but whether or not it is worth it depends on what kind of games you play (it is intended for Dungeons & Dragons and D&D-related games), and if you have any issues with running combat and/or building encounters. If so I think it is worth the buy, though even experienced DMs might learn a thing or two. You can preview the book's mind map, but this is where I think a few preview sections would help gamers on the fence.


  1. In my experience, combat will run slow depending on the players and DM... i have players that do alot of things and even when they spend all their actions, triggers and such (paragon tier invoker...the bane of my existence as DM), the turn doesn't last as long as the other player that only use a standard action, because he is undecided between what to use and against is just as slow when he DM on what the monsters will do in combat...when he switched from hexblade to wizard it just got longer how much he took his turns before deciding to take an action.

  2. Combat always runs quicker/more smoothly for my group when we use 'Theater of the Mind' combat. Less obvious choices, more room for player creativity, and less to think about really help to speed things along.

  3. When I ran A Sundered World, we did everything TotM. I think the lack of having to think about tactical positioning helped, though chopping monster hit points to 1/3 to 1/2 also sped things up quite a bit.

  4. I think that those tricks might help maintain sense of the 'cinematic' action of Eberron as well.

  5. How well do you think this resource maps to other combat-intensive systems, like Champions/HERO?

  6. How well do you think this resource maps to Champions/HERO system, or other combat-intensive systems? Is it pretty focused on the fantasy genre?


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