There’s always that guy (girl). Always. It’s your turn. You know what you’re going to do. Move, attack, do something funky and you’re done. Forty-five seconds tops. And then it’s his/her turn. Shuffling papers. Questions. Scrutiny of the battlefield. More questions. One minute becomes two. Two become four. The turn finally ends. Two turns later, the player remembers something. The game stops. The DM inserts the shotgun into his mouth and pulls the trigger.
That’s a bit extreme, but there’s nothing more frustrating in a game than an unprepared player.
Combat is a big chunk of Dungeons & Dragons. One might even go so far as to say the default mode of play is combat (across all editions thank you) and thus it should come to no surprise that most sessions involve several battles featuring a wide range of interesting and challenging opponents. A combat should take about an hour to play, less if you cut a few corners, yet I often find it takes much longer when certain players are present. I don’t want to pick on anyone in particular, but I should point out that if I have 6 players and each player takes a minute-long turn, then everyone has to wait about six minutes (including my turn) before they get to go again. This is fine. Only the most anxious people can’t pay attention for five or so minutes. Yet if a player takes 5 minutes or more to resolve his or her turn and you have two or even three players who require this kind of time, then not even the most attentive player will be able to keep his or her attention focused. The result is longer turns for everyone else.
In the interest of speeding up combat, here are some tips players can use to keep their turns short and combat exciting.
1. Print your Character Sheet
Character Builder makes it tempting to play the game from a laptop (or some other magical device). If you level up mid-game (which I no longer let happen), you can make the adjustments on the fly. If there’s a rules question, you can bring up the Compendium in an instant. The drawbacks, however, far outweigh the benefits. For starts, you have to scroll up and down to find the mechanical nugget you’re looking for. As well, I’m not quite sure that CB lets you mark which powers you’ve used, so you have to keep a running list of what you’ve used and what you haven’t. (The old CB did, I know.) Even if you have the page containing your power showing, what happens when you want to use a utility power on page 4? Well, you have to scroll down to that page, review the power and then announce what it does.
This may seem nitpicky, but if this process adds a minute to your turn and everyone does this, it takes twice as long for your turn to come around.
2. Crowd the Table
We play on a very large table. Very large. People spread out all around and once situated, they tend not to move, asking other players to move their miniatures. This requires another player (or me) to interpret where you want to go, adding more time to the turn.
Rather than hang back and let inertia keep you planted in your seat, get up, move over to the battlemat and take your turn. This is even easier when you have a paper character sheet since you can bring it with you.
3. Don’t Help
This is a big one. Unsolicited advice is a giant pain in the ass. It never fails. Player X takes his/her turn. Players Y, Z, and A chime in with suggestions about what X should do. X might have had an idea but now X has to consider the other options presented by the other players. So, my advice? Shut the hell up. The time to talk over tactics with a player is not when that player is in the middle if his or her turn. The time to talk is between turns, quietly so you don’t end up being a distraction. If, however, X asks for help, then offer advice. And keep it short and to the point. It’s not your turn and it’s not your character. The decision rests with the player. Offer your opinion and then be quiet.
4. Know What You’re Going to Do/Pay Attention
When you start your turn, you should already have an idea about what you’re going to do. This is not the time for you to sort through your powers, figure out where you want to move, or solicit advice from other players. If you don’t know what you’re going to do, delay. This way no one else has to wait on you.
Instead of talking about football, Avatar, or something else when it’s not your turn, watch the battlefield. Choose your powers. Plot your next move. Devise a tactic with a nearby player. Do whatever you need to be ready when it’s time to take your turn. You might even go a step further and construct a few attack combos ahead of time so you know what powers to use and in what order based on the situation.
5. Review Your Character Sheet
Before the game starts, take a few minutes to review your character sheet. Check your math. Review your feats. Take notes. If something changed such as you gained a new power or feat, take that information to the DM and show him or her the tech so there aren’t questions in the game. Also, if you have a question about a power or feat, the time to ask is before the game starts. You’ll know you have a question because you’ve taken the five minutes to examine your character sheet.
6. Make Reasonable Choices
Immediate and free action powers extend your turn into other creatures’ turns. Every time you use one of the powers, the game stops while you resolve your clever power and add more time to your turn. One or two of these powers is fine. Filling every utility and attack power with these is not. It’s inconsiderate and annoying. So stop it.
When it’s not your turn, don’t roll your dice on the table to get out the bad luck. Don’t stack your dice into towers. Don’t put your dice in your mouth. Leave them alone. Also, when rolling your dice, roll them on the table where everyone can see them. Don’t use a dice roller app on your phone. Don’t roll the dice behind your books. Don’t roll your dice and sweep them up. This has nothing to do with time. It’s just courtesy.
What have you found that helps speed up the game? What tricks have you come up with? Share them here or in the forums.