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May. 1st, 2017 @ 10:35 pm GMing in combat
Mostly first-level combat. Again, a medly of stuff I've stumbled into, please do suggest things.

Delegate whatever you easily can. Get someone else to track initiative order so you don't have to! And look things up if possible, when you want to check an official rule.

Keeping my session notes in tabs in notepad++ on a smartphone works surprisingly well. I can keep a relevant section easily visible, but not very visible to anyone else, needs little table space. And I can google for official stats for monsters if I need ("it's a... panther. OK, just one sec. Ok, 7 damage.").

If I track damage *done* to each NPC/monster on scratch paper, that allows everyone to know what's going on if they happen to be able to see, and establish incontrovertibly that I'm not fudging things that have already happened. However, it doesn't let people know precisely how many hitpoints are *left* which players should not know precisely (approximately how many is often obvious from the description). And if I do want to fudge a little, I can, eg. if the combat is dragging I can pretend a monster had one less hp than I originally intended, or shuffle around combined hitpoints between a crowd of mooks to keep things slightly simpler. I don't think I did last session, but I like to have the option if it would be useful.

As important to an NPC/monster as stats is their tactics: are they a predator who only attacks if they sense an easy meal? a thug who's used to winning every fight and will come in swinging but not know how to handle a combat that isn't going their way? an experienced soldier or adventurer who knows tactics, when to use cover, which enemies to target first, how to work together to gang up, etc. Don't always default to "attack until dead" or "attack inefficiently so the PCs don't all die", decide what's appropriate, and then roll with that whether they win or lose.

Likewise, do they unload with their most powerful attack first, if they're expecting a real fight? Or do they husband resources, assuming they may have many combats today and only falling back on their most powerful abilities when events start to go sour?

I don't usually have a mechanical meaning for "under half hitpoints" ("Bloodied" in 4e and 5e dnd parlance). But it's a useful metric for "does the monster switch tactics now", whether that's activating a new ability (whether they already "had" it but weren't using it), or going into a killing rage, or turning to flee.

Likewise, judge if and when opponents are likely to flee. If they *can* flee most opponents won't fight to the death, but some will. I generally eyeball this, if the fight is clearly going their way or not combined with how committed they are. A well-timed skill check can swing it though. I don't have specific mechanics for a number of hitpoints though, I assume NPCs can judge the tactical shit-hit-fan-ness as well as PCs.

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jack
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From:pavanne
Date:May 7th, 2017 04:38 pm (UTC)
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Random comment partly so you know someone is reading this: don't always assume players love combat? From my far-from-exhaustive experience of about 7 DnD sessions, combat is by far the most boring bit...
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From:cartesiandaemon
Date:May 8th, 2017 10:32 am (UTC)
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Thank you! I really appreciate 'yes, I'm reading' comments.

Which system did you play?

I feel like, most games benefit from *some* combat, because it's a challenge the players can be confident they've genuinely overcome rather than just succeeding or failing by GM fiat, and that sense of achievement and possible failure makes a good story actually activate our emotions.

But definitely, some people just like little and some people like lots. (And IMHO, some systems have combat which is way too complicated and slow.)
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From:pavanne
Date:May 8th, 2017 11:32 am (UTC)
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Which system am I playing. Um. Good question. The one with the big books, the handbook is just called 'DnD 5e' and nice people usually help me figure out the relevant rules as we go along. The setting is Forgotten Realms?

I can see why some combat is necessary... I'm just sayin', I for one am not disappointed if all we do in a session is strategise and negotiate. We fought a gelatinous cube last time and it was boring :)
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From:cartesiandaemon
Date:May 8th, 2017 07:23 pm (UTC)
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I think 5e is the salient keyword. Which is (AFAICT) one of the editions that has quicker combat (not as simple as some non-DnD, or 1st and 2nd edition if you ignore rules ambiguities).

There's hopefully plenty of GMs who lean toward your playstyle (I can certainly do that, even if I default to "some of each" :))