Speeding Up Combat
I'm thinking of starting my own campaign with a few of my friends with me as DM, primarily because I wasn't extremely impressed with the campaign my friend was DMing. When I started thinking about the things I really didn't like, one of the biggest ones ended up being combat. It's possible that our DM just wasn't creating very interesting encounters, but it seemed like combat always took way too long, was just a bunch of us sitting around rolling dice, and every single one was the same.
The big problem I notice with the speed combat encounters is that they involve a TON of dice rolling, a fair amount of rules to remember, and a lot of waiting for other people.
My first thought was to automate the process on my computer. I'm a fairly competent programmer and am working on my own combat simulator. But in the meantime, is there any software that automates not only rolling the dice, but also keeping track of the health of the various characters and monsters?
Another idea would be to change the combat system to involve less dice-rolling. Has anyone done something like this? The most obvious things I could see would be to eliminate hits and misses and give everyone a constant damage roll, but this seems like it would be a trade-off. However, I could see it working well if combat encounters weren't the focus of the game. We could also try to make people roll dice simultaneously as much as possible, and once the players all have the rules down I think I'll try to implement that.
I'm not too worried about this part but I thought I'd mention it. Sometimes we get bogged down with technicalities in the rules (Does this provoke an opportunity attack? Does he have cover here if he's standing at this exact spot? Does that count as a minor action? AHHHHH!!!) The only way to 'fix' this would be to play a little more freely and not worry too much about minor technicalities, which is exactly what I plan on doing. Once I have a complete grasp of the rules I'll narrow them down to what I feel is necessary for the group.
Waiting for other people and turn length:
This is where things get interesting. Sometimes we end up taking our turns very carefully, counting squares, and examining the benefits of a melee vs. ranged attack. But the characters don't have time to make these decisions, and everything on the board definitely doesn't sit still and wait for whomever's 'turn' it is to end before moving.
I'm not advocating simultaneous movement of all pieces, but I think if all the characters had to figure out their moves within the same 10-15 seconds it could make things pretty intense. They would have to talk to each other very quickly to figure out who would do what, and since they would all move at the same time they wouldn't be able to see the results of the other player's actions before their own move. Once they players moved their markers they would not be able to move them back (unless they had enough speed to do so), and at the end of 15 seconds they would tell the DM what they did and the DM would tell them all the result of their move.
Granted, the players would end up doing things that weren't allowed (oh, those rocks were difficult terrain and you didn't get close enough to the monster to hit it), and would all but eliminate their ability to consult the DM about things like that. You could say it would be more realistic, but in order for the players to make good decisions they need to know a fair amount of things about their environment that they'd normally be able to see in an instant, but that they have to ask the DM about in a RPG. But I think with a fair DM it could be pretty fun. Has anyone played this way?
What ideas have you used to speed up combat? How have you minimized slowdowns due to dice-rolling and rule hangups? Does anyone have any suggestions about how to make the idea of simultaneous and timed player actions work as smoothly as possible?
Thanks guys! (sorry for the giant wall of text... :)