April 15, 2014
Taking Your Turn
In some games, there is nothing more boring than combat. Sound weird? Well, let me explain. After initiative is rolled, each player character and enemy take their turns in order. Once you have taken your turn, you must then wait until every other involved character has acted before you get to act again. Of course, this is the fairest way of doing things. Combat is usually designed to balance the amount of input that each character has on the outcome of a battle, that way it is fun and engaging for everyone, but sometimes intent falls short of actually application.
Ideally, each player and enemy should take no more than 30 seconds to a minute per turn, which means that a combat involving five player characters and six antagonists should only between five and a half to eleven minutes per turn, and yet I have seen similar turns take as much as 30 minutes or more. Players being distracted, asking for recaps of what has gone on thus far on each of their turns, being indecisive about what they want their characters to do, looking up rules, and various other things are all things that only stretch out combat longer and longer, which makes it less and less exciting until it risks tedium.
So what can you do to keep combat fun? Well, players, this is aimed mostly at you. Keep your heads in the game. I know it is not your turn and maybe nothing is happening to your character every moment of every fight, but try to keep focus. Pay attention to what is going on with everyone’s character, not just your own. Think. Plan ahead. Know what you are going to have your character do before your turn even rolls around, that way as soon as the Gamemaster announces your turn, you can state your action, roll your dice, and determine the outcome all within seconds. If you cannot think of something clever to do, then do a basic attack and move on. The time for planning is between your turns, not during your turn. Once all eyes are on you, you need to take your turn as quickly and efficiently as possible so it can go to the next player’s turn.
Of course, I am not saying that players should never ask for any sort of recap. Things can get complicated during a fight and sometimes even Gamemasters need to take a moment to sort out just what has happened. If you get lost, wait for your turn and then ask. Not for a full recap, but for specific information. Where is the evil wizard? What happened to that goblin? How many corrupt g-men are left standing? What does it look like the dragon is doing? These sorts of questions are fine, but saying “I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention, what happened?” is akin to saying “I would really rather be doing something else,” and if that is the case, yes, you should be.
Combat can be a lot of fun to play out, but only if everyone at the game table works to make it that way. Everyone has to do their part. Just like in an action movie, you do not want your fights to go on too long or else they start to feel redundant. Quick fights with a lot of action happening all at once are really exciting to watch, and when you are able to capture that same feel at a game table, they are a lot of fun to play as well.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming and fun, exciting combats.