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Tywyll

Speeding Up Combat

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Honestly, it's going to depend on what your group in particular is slowing down on. 

Taking a while to figure out who goes next?  Set up an initiative and phase table! 

Players (or GM) taking minutes to decide what to do each turn?  Turn timer! 

To-hit calculations bogging things down?  Print a table of OCVs and rolls! 

Having to look up what powers do?  Quick-reference materials!  (Or simpler characters!)

Players asking questions because they weren't paying attention?  Spray bottle! 

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There are a lot of tricks, the Hero rules actually have a bunch, such as:

  • Be prepared: know everyone's stats ahead of time.  A sheet with the speed, CV and DEX of everyone helps, and there's an excellent Combat Management program available right here on the Hero site.
  • Give people a set time to decide their actions; if they cannot come up with something, have stepped out to the restroom, had to take a call or something, they hold.  Move along to the next person.
  • People with Power Pools, etc that have to decide a power to use, they have to have that power ready when their DEX and Phase comes up or they use the previous phase's load.
  • Use the OCV+11-3d6 roll for rolling to hit, just say the result, that's what DCV you hit, and the GM can take care of the rest.
  • Group dice by 10's for easier counting.
  • Body for normal attacks is determined with a simple system: count the number of dice.  Add any sixes you rolled.  Subtract any 1's you rolled.  That's the body dealt.
  • Let players help out.  They can resolve damage done to themselves.
  • The old Red October BBS standard of "assign little trash enemies 1 or 2 hits, and they go down" for quick disposal of the less important enemies.
  • When a non critical bad guy goes down, they stay down.

Then there are the extreme measures you can take, clipping off rules to streamline.  I don't recommend this but it might be okay for beginning games until people get used to the rules

  • Don't count END, people just never get tired.
  • Everyone has the same SPD, you just go by DEX rank each phase.
  • Drop combat maneuvers, you just use basic attacks
  • Don't bother with STN damage, just count BODY
  • Ignore various modifiers like range, hit locations, combat maneuvers. Just straight rolls each time.

 

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5 minutes ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

Use the OCV+11-3d6 roll for rolling to hit, just say the result, that's what DCV you hit, and the GM can take care of the rest.

I feel obligated to mention that about half the HERO players I know just cannot grok that method and have to use the "Hit DCV = your OCV on an 11.  +1 roll -1 hit, -1 roll +1 hit" method. 

Tell people both, they'll figure out which one they prefer. 

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The GM can pre-roll a bunch of random Attack and Damage rolls for their NPCs and write them down in a list, so they can just cross them off as their Phases in combat come up. If your GM and players all trust each other ;) you can have them do the same for their PCs.

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If for some reason your players are having a hard time adding their OCV to 11 then subtracting what they roll, you can give them a straight number on their sheet (equal to OCV+11) and treat it as a skill: 11-. 

 

Roll.  Tell me how much you made it by.

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Good advice, thank you everyone.

 

The fight I recently ran had the party up against six assassins. They had martial arts. So that probably wasn't a good choice on my part.

 

I don't want to do 1 hit one kill because I feel like it penalizes some builds and isn't really fair. But on the other hand, tracking everything took a lot of time.

 

I did use a combat sheet with Dex and Spd to track actions, and the players seemed okay with Ocv+11-3d6. Granted this was their second session, so lots of questions and stuff.

 

I am also thinking I should have had less baddies who were stronger instead of how I did it.

 

If you aren't using maneuvers, how do you handle fights in Fantasy Hero? I mean you basically need to Block or Parry to survive a fight. Are people saying baddies shouldn't block and dodge?

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12 hours ago, Gnome BODY (important!) said:

I feel obligated to mention that about half the HERO players I know just cannot grok that method and have to use the "Hit DCV = your OCV on an 11.  +1 roll -1 hit, -1 roll +1 hit" method. 

Tell people both, they'll figure out which one they prefer. 

 

9 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

If for some reason your players are having a hard time adding their OCV to 11 then subtracting what they roll, you can give them a straight number on their sheet (equal to OCV+11) and treat it as a skill: 11-. 

 

Roll.  Tell me how much you made it by.

 

 

Presumably at least one of those is that alternative "roll high" method so many people have supported as necessary and vital.

 

Personally, I don't care what method you use to roll, so long as it works for you.  I use the old reliable DIE ROLL<=((11+OCV)-DCV), and it still works fine.

 

 I would like to point that even though I started play sometime during the 81-82 winter and haven't stopped playing for any appreciably long period, and that I have never met anyone who couldn't grasp the to-hit roll  (which has always made me really question the "serious need" for alternate to-hit mechanics).  The most I have ever had to do-- and damned rarely (I think perhaps three times?  Ever?)-- is suggest that they write "+11" next to the OCV box on their sheet: in both cases, the problem stopped immediately.  The problem _wasn't_ 'the awkwardness of the math (well, using the "subtract what you roll" method did increase the awkwardness of the math by introducing negative numbers, which befuddle people in a "math on the fly" context because-- well, we all know them; we can all do them, but the majority of jobs out there don't use them on a day-to-day basis, making new players have to back up a bit and reset their thinking); the problem was remembering that 11 _existed_, and that there was an arbitrary (from the beginner's point of view) _third number_ involved in the 'me versus you' contest.

 

  Let's keep in mind that my play history involves four different campaigns peopled entirely with players who were children  (community youth groups: one from a local youth organization, two from a library "summer fun" club, and one from a sunday school program).  I seriously question the "inability of an appreciable amount of people" to grasp this and suspect it has more to do with folks who want all the rolls to be "unified" as roll-high.  Again, however, I don't give a rat's rolly red rump how you chose to do it; I just maintain that one is not inherently easier, better or faster than any other.

 

I have mentioned elsewhere that I use a shot clock, as so many others have mentioned.  In small groups, I tend to allow a bit more decision time than I do in larger ones.  The justification, of course, is that in larger groups they also have the time in which they are waiting for their own actions to pay attention to what's going on.  If they just can't make up their minds, they are "Holding their Action" until they are ready to do something and play continues.  If they couldn't state an action by the time limit because they decided to fritter away the shot clock by distracting themselves with a dozen non-sequitors or out-of-character chatter and gab, or-- unforgivable!-- distracting others away from the game, they lose their action, period.  They don't Hold; they opt out, and can wait for their next Phase.  If they continue to focus on anything else _other_ than the here-and-now of the game as they wait for their next action, they are considered to be "in character" and are so thoroughly distracted that their DCV suffers.  (Though I confess: the spray bottle has great appeal!).

 

 Players who _must_ get up from the table (restroom, check-in phone call, quick drink, what-have-you) at other than play breaks are, as others have suggested, are considered to Hold their actions should their phase come up while they are away from the table.  There is an agreement that no one wastes time should they get up for understandable reasons (again: bathroom, quick check-in, grab a drink).

 

As far as one-hit lower-eschellon opponents?

 

Well that depends _entirely_ on the group and their current mood.  If they're anxious to barrel on through an action scene and get back to doing something else (investigation, training, character development or other non-violent interactions), then yeah: I let the goons surrender or run away (Dude, I just don't have that many people playing superheroes who feel it's appropriate to beat goons unconscious every time you see them.  In the words of Kinnetica's players from my recently-concluded youth group "Doesn't that just make us bullies?"  Even in Heroic level, most of my players want to be _heroes_: they will happily accept the surrender of the minions as opposed to having to risk imposing brain damage upon them) in a couple of hits (players will still roll damage, just for appearances, and so that they aren't as likely to pick up on when I'm fudging).  If they are in one of those "I want to get some stress out!" kind of moods (the players, I mean), then we'll have a genuine back-and-forth, beating each pip out of the villains until they are subdued, captured, or running away.

 

Recapping:

 

to speed up the game, get everyone familiar with the various mechanics of their own powers and their defenses, even if you have to give them crib cards.  Get them familiar with the mechanics of "attack."  I say "attack," because let's face it: when we're talking about "speeding up the game," we're talking about speeding up the combat.  The rest of the game progresses at the speed you want, with time lapses as you see fit, cut scenes, etc.

 

Make sure everyone knows that you have X time to decide on your Phase, and what the penalties are for noncompliance.  Make sure there _are_ penalties, and that they are enforced.  Enforced equally to all offenders, of course, but do not fail to enforce them.  The more rigorous you are in this, the less often you will have to do it; I promise. ;)

 

Announce prior to play when the first two breaks will be.  Even if you are in the middle of a combat, _take_ those breaks.  It sounds strange, but for me it has greatly cut down on the number of people getting up from the table: they have a reference, and think "Oh, we're taking a break in fifteen minutes.  I can wait fifteen minutes to get a drink / text my husband / whatever.  

 

 

 

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If you aren't using maneuvers, how do you handle fights in Fantasy Hero? I mean you basically need to Block or Parry to survive a fight. Are people saying baddies shouldn't block and dodge?

 

I don't recommend dropping maneuvers, its going to gut the system and make it feel really simple and restricted.  But it is a way of speeding things up, so I included that as an option.  Its okay for an introductory session or two, but really you should allow maneuvers.

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My suggestion is to go to a hero game at a convention and watch how the GM handles it.  You will note that they do a lot of what is noted above.  Gather normal dice in groups of 10 to figure out stun.  Counting sixes and ones to figure out body.  11+OCV-3d6.  Keep a trip sheet of phases.  Most Con GMs will disallow modification to the trip sheet from Dex drains because it usually means slowing the game down to reorder everything.

 

I've seen also Co-GMs.  The Co-GMs keep track of Stun and End of the all villains or they run a subset of various villains so the main GM doesn't have to.

 

Another suggestion is to eliminated VPPs, especially to novice players.  Some have noted that they require players to write every spell/item from a VPP before hand.  What you don't really want is a new player to try and calculate a power on the fly.

 

Another trick is to use really tiny dice.  A friend, a long time ago who sadly is no longer with us, showed me his system for keeping a large number of martial artists correctly sync'd to their previous action.  He used 1/4" dice or smaller and placed them next to characters and villains when they had done something.  The pips stood for something like the following.

  1. aborted
  2. blocked
  3. 1/2 DCV
  4. stunned
  5. dodging
  6. delayed

If someone aborted to dodge and was stunned, they would have three little dice next to their character with a 1, 4, and 5 next to them.

 

I've done another minor trick for my own sanity when running large numbers of villains is to make their recoveries in increments of 10.  It just makes keeping track of end and stun easier and if they get knocked out, a recovery means they go up one level on the Unconsciousness Chart.

 

Hope this helps.  Once you get used to the system, I've found running the game is pretty simple.

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As GM I never track END for NPCs; I tend to do one or more of the following:

 

1) Buy charactes enough END / have powers with Reduced END so it shouldn't be an issue, unless the fight goes well beyond a Turn or someone gets KO'd and becomes conscious again.

2) END Reserve.

3) Guesstimate -- if someone has high END powers I keep using and/or he Pushes his powers, I have him lose a Phase doing a Recovery, or just not have END (or occasionally burn STUN) to do a particular power.

4) In some cases, a team might have a mechanism in place to not worry about END.  For instance, a group of androids (the New Gods) had a broadcast power truck nearby, feeding them energy (an Aid to STUN + END).  When the players got wind of this, they started seeking out that truck to take it out.  After it got trashed, I started guesstimating the androids' END levels.

 

- - - - -

 

Regarding agents, I group them into single "meta-characters" with extra END and attack damage based on the size of the group (the number of doublings in size).  For instance, a squad of 10 VIPER agents, each with 25 STUN and 9d6 blasters, would become a single group-character (three doublings) having 55 STUN and doing 12d6 (but only rolling one of that attack).  Each loss of 10 STUN reduces their damage by a DC (and cuts their size roughly in half).  I also differentiate between area attacks vs. individually-targeted attacks against groups; the former does straight damage, the latter is divided by the number of doublings in the group.

 

It requires a bit of mental math on my part, but the savings in dice rolls / tallying damage / tracking which individual agents are up or not is tremendous.  Using this, I once ran an all-out VIPER attack on the local PRIMUS base - something like 6 squads of VIPER agents with multiple vehicles versus maybe 3 squads of PRIMUS agents, plus the PC heroes.  It was still pretty complex, but instead of tracking 60 VIPER agents and 30 PRIMUS agents (80 individual characters) I was running 6 VIPER "characters" and 3 PRIMUS "characters", plus the vehicles. 

 

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When I GM, I have a super mini-sheet for supervillain stats, which has worked well for years. Knowing the villains stats is important of course, but this helps.

 

Assume a supervillain has the following stats: 20 Str, 23 Dex, 20 Con, 10 Body/Int/Ego/Pre, 25 PD 25 ED, 6 Spd, 10 Rec, 40 End, 40 Stun, OCV 7, DCV 7 and finally +1 Combat Lvl.  We use Levels.

 

I'll try to write this out as best I can here (because I do this on paper before the adventure). On my scratch sheet for taking damage, the villain would like something like:

 

           (+1)

OCV 7 DCV 7, 23 Dex       (next villain stats)            (next villain stats)           (can generally do this about 6 villains wide)

25 PD/ED, 6 Spd

Stun  Body  End

40      10      40

 

The full villain sheets are nearby. The statistics are also written out in either who's fastest, or who's got the fastest Speed, as the episode requires. If the GM slows down to check his own villain stats, any battle will be slower. So, I hope this helps or at least gives you an idea how a GM can help the game go faster.

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Years ago, I created a program in Microsoft Access (lots of Visual Basic programming) into which I enter the stats for the various characters (including the PCs) as well as a heavily abbreviated listing of their main combat powers, plus any relevant vulnerabilities / susceptibilities.  It can output a speedsheet listing most things I'll need during combat (I can always refer to the character sheets if need be).  I have the PCs flagged so it only lists them in the speed section and don't bother showing their defenses, powers, Body / Stun, etc.  I also flag agents so they can be grouped when necessary (and can list more than one if needed).

 

Here's the latest one as an example, where the heroes are trying to trap the Empress of a Billion Dimensions, but will have to deal with her underlings/bodyguards (The Empress' Gauntlet). 

Speedsheet20181028.pdf

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When I GM, I sort the enemies by DEX.  Having their phases noted on the top of their sheets, tracking their STUN and END on the sheet, and annotating Stunned targets, makes it quick to ID who moves next.  Anyone at  1 minute to recover can be removed from the stack. A d12 to mark the current phase is pretty useful as well.

 

Design NPCs so the math is easy - defenses and REC in round numbers, for example. 

 

The less you have to read the sheet, the better.  Note usual END costs (e.g. I know the Force Field costs 5, and an attack costs 6, so "11+move" at the top of the sheet saves looking for the END for each ability.  On occasion, maybe someone has attacks with differing END costs, but keeping it simple for most keeps combat moving faster.

 

While I do give enemies their recoveries, they are not often fanatics - if they recover (from Stun or KO), they may well decide to slink away rather than rejoin the fight (and if they can grab some loot before they go, so much the better).

 

For players, no, your character cannot look around at a glance and know precisely how far they are from each person on the battlemat - make a decision and go with it.  "Big Eddy the Brick will attack Pulsar - if he is within a half move, he'll stop and Punch, and if not he will just close to HTH range (or he will do a move through)" feels much more like real, ra[id combat than watching the player count hexes to half a dozen possible targets.  But the GM needs to play by the same rules.

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For players, no, your character cannot look around at a glance and know precisely how far they are from each person on the battlemat - make a decision and go with it.  "Big Eddy the Brick will attack Pulsar - if he is within a half move, he'll stop and Punch, and if not he will just close to HTH range (or he will do a move through)" feels much more like real, ra[id combat than watching the player count hexes to half a dozen possible targets.  But the GM needs to play by the same rules.

 

Yeah, part of the reason the PCs do better than my villains is that I try to restrict myself to quick reaction, as if it were me on the battlefield. I mean, I'll do a write up ahead of time if there's a bit set piece battle (this is what they will try to do, here are their strategies) so I have it in my head, but I go with what is happening in the moment.  And I'm honestly not smarter than 3-6 other people so they tend to have poorer tactics than the PCs.

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You can make the game move faster during character creation.  That solves a lot of problems before they ever crop up.

 

--Certain types of powers, advantages, and limitations can slow down combat.  Summon brings more people into the fight.  Activation Rolls mean that you've got to roll extra dice before you see if an ability worked, and often there are consequences if it fails.  Drain and other adjustment powers reduce your enemy's powers temporarily, but they can return during the fight.  Avoid using certain character builds that make the game take longer.  Extra steps and extra record keeping are bad.

--The fewer things you have to keep track of, the better.  If Radioactive Rick is robbing a railroad, and your heroes are just supposed to show up and kick his butt, it's not important to give him a lot of special abilities that eat up your time.  He's a throwaway villain, allow him to behave as such.  Give him enough Endurance to last the fight.  Don't make his powers too complex, such as having a Force Field that he can alternate between PD and ED or something that requires you to think about it.  Don't give him a power that randomly activates on certain phases, or defenses that might turn off if he fails a roll.  All that stuff requires more time from you.

--Monitor your players' character builds.  If your player isn't all that familiar with the system, don't let him build a character he doesn't know how to play.  Variable Power Pools can paralyze a new player with too many options. Sometimes when you can do everything, you end up doing nothing.  Martial arts often modify combat values, and if a player isn't that familiar with them it can slow down the already slow process of figuring out what you need to hit.  A lot of complex character designs can leave a new player scratching their heads.  Make sure everybody has enough Endurance to run their character for at least a turn before they begin play.

 

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One thing you might do, if villains are slowing the fight down too much (particularly agents) is to have people who are unengaged run away.  10 goons versus 4 PCs?  If the heroes are slowly slogging through the bad guys, and it's clear that they'll win even if it will take a while, some of those villains may decide to hightail it.  Bad Guy Agent #6 is behind everybody, and no one is actively looking at him?  Well he just saw Captain Fireball blast one of his buddies.  Maybe it's time for him to run out that door that you "forgot" to draw on the map right next to him.  Just quietly pull the figure and don't say anything.  10 goons can rapidly become 4 or 5 once the bad guys decide it's time to run.  I've had a GM pull that on me before.  I'm looking down at my dice, counting up numbers, and when I look up, half the board is clear.  The PCs were too busy fighting whoever they were facing to notice that his friends have split.

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Yeah I've done that before too, people just bail in a fight (or sometimes more show up), depending on the challenge, how long its taking, and what I wanted to do with the scene.  Ninjas rapel down the wall and crash through the window.  A guy shows up through the door.  A van drives up and throws the side door open, its got a minigun in it!  Or guys just "fail their presence roll" and run away.

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7 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

Design NPCs so the math is easy - defenses and REC in round numbers, for example.

 

I heartily second (or third, or whatever) this.  Most of my NPCs' defenses, REC, and STUN scores are divisible by 10 if I can work it that way; if not, then divisible by 5.

 

If a character is best designed with a Variable Power Pool or a Multipower with variable slots, I typically have a list of frequently-used powers on various logical break points that are easy to mix-and-match.  For instance, a 75 point pool will have sample powers at 25 points, 50 points, and 75 points.  A 60-point pool has them at 20, 40, and 60 points.  It makes picking powers much faster and easier. 

 

In my current Champions game, one of the PCs has a VPP gadget pool she can change in a half-Phase action -- and the player is not at all conversant with the Hero system.  So I typed up a sheet of sample gadgets - all with real points divisible by 5.  So for her 40 points in the pool, she can select a 20-point gadget and two 10-point gadgets, or a 30-pointer and a 10-pointer, etc. 

 

(Of course, it would be faster and easier to not have a VPP or variable-slot Multipower at all, but sometimes a character needs that versatility.)

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These are all really good advice. 

 

However, it's not things like VPPS or complicated builds that are slowing us down. I built all the characters for the players, based on their original TFT characters, so they don't really have any weird abilities. We are playing FH. So characters are mostly skills and martial arts (only one caster). But with that we have hit locations and all that nonsense that slows things down. I want villains to be able to use MA on occasion, but that slows me down (I realize I could have prepared better for that). 

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If there are lots of goons encourage your players to use a good PRE attack to scare the goons into surrendering/retreating.  My players love making a big attack/show of their abilities and then give a command to the remaining goons that it is a good time to leave the field or surrender.  A good PRE roll is sometimes way more effective than an attack/damage roll.

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41 minutes ago, bluesguy said:

If there are lots of goons encourage your players to use a good PRE attack to scare the goons into surrendering/retreating.  My players love making a big attack/show of their abilities and then give a command to the remaining goons that it is a good time to leave the field or surrender.  A good PRE roll is sometimes way more effective than an attack/damage roll.

 

Yeah, but you need like PRE+40 to get someone to surrender...that's hard to pull off.

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1 hour ago, Tywyll said:

These are all really good advice. 

 

However, it's not things like VPPS or complicated builds that are slowing us down. I built all the characters for the players, based on their original TFT characters, so they don't really have any weird abilities. We are playing FH. So characters are mostly skills and martial arts (only one caster). But with that we have hit locations and all that nonsense that slows things down. I want villains to be able to use MA on occasion, but that slows me down (I realize I could have prepared better for that). 

 

I don't typically use hit locations, but it seems to me you could pre-roll a bunch of these (make a list of full-body hits - noting the roll, location, and damage, e.g. 11: Chest, 3x STUN; also some high shots, body shots, and low shots), and then cross each one off as you use it.  To get some player buy-in, have each player roll a number of them once every few game sessions, noting the rolls, and GM can take that list and add the other info to use in a later session.  "Tonight, we're using Ron's list of hit locations."  And since you'll be using them for both the heroes as well as their foes, it should be fairly balanced.  (The GM will need to make sure he's not looking ahead on the list and altering his actions due to foreknowledge.) 

 

As to MA, I list the more commonly-used maneuvers on my speedsheet with the actual effect (e.g. "+0/+2/8d; +0/+1/7d+v/5 throw;" etc.).  That way, I'm not constantly switching between the speedsheet and the character sheets.

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