The latest incarnation of the Dungeons and Dragons game has streamlined many systems but with the greater focus on combat, a single encounter can now take an hour or more to complete. Here are a few simple tips you can use to put edge back into an encounter that has devolved into nothing more than dice rolling and math.
The 4th edition skills and powers system has limited the possibilities of what a character can do and makes it easier for a player to make a decision. The downside is the often involved effects of these skills and powers – especially at higher levels. The power cards are very useful and prevents players from always flipping through the rulebooks but an even better idea is to make a cheat sheet.
Write down the salient points of each power that you have at your disposal: action required, range, attack, defense and any special effects. Write down the attack bonus and damage with all the bonuses from feats and magic items included. For example, if your level 6 wizard with an Intelligence of 18 and the Raging Storm feat has the Thunder Wave at-will power your cheat sheet will look something like this:
Thunder Wave (standard)
Close blast 3
+8 vs. Ref
1d6+5 thunder and push 2 sq
All the necessary information is right there without you having to work out attack bonuses on the fly or to look up the details of powers.
Try to think about what you are going to do before your turn in the initiative comes up. Pay attention to what is happening on the battlefield so that when your turns come around you are ready to act. Think of it as a real battle. People don’t stand around aimlessly waiting for something to happen – they act.
If your DM is okay with it, roll your attack and damage rolls beforehand and right them down. Then, when your turn comes up you can just describe your actions and tell the DM what the effects are and the turn can move on to the next player.
As any Dungeons and Dragons player can tell you, math is a big part of any game. It is understandable that not everyone can add up tons of numbers in their heads at once. If you are like me and find math to be an annoyance best left to accountants then use a calculator to add up your damage and keep track of your health. This is especially useful at higher levels when bonuses require you to add up lots of high numbers with a handful of dice.
Combat in 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons should be a fast and pitched affair with swords clashing, spells flaring and monsters roaring. With these simple tips you can keep it that way and keep combat streamlined.
Pathfinder miniatures can be a fun addition to your game playing.