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I've never played OD&D, AD&D or retro-clones, but fans of those games often say they run much faster than D&D 3e and 4e, especially to resolve combat. However, it's my experience that D&D at low levels (say, 1-6) runs combat pretty quickly too.

Those of you who have played both old and new D&D, are OD&D/AD&D/retro-clones faster than 3e even at low level in your experience, and if so, why?

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Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/7354/… –  SevenSidedDie Mar 12 '13 at 15:06
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Yes. in my experience both Basic AD&D and OD&D (1st and 2nd) run faster than 3e/3.5 and 4e and indeed PF.

Why?

Combat

Extra feats, manoeuvring and counting squares, attacks of opportunity (and trying to avoid them) adding up multiple bonuses from powers/abilities (bards songs, situational, etc) all work to slow down combat. Yes the to hit DC's are streamlined thinking a little (but good ol' THACO is easy once you can do some simple maths) but there's so much more choice and choice slows things down as players think about what they're going to do through their possibilities.

Basically all the options add up and there is more to consider rather than "go over and hit the orc, monsters generally have more abilities to look up in feats as well that will slow down the GM "Right, now you're sickened, what does that mean?" which until you get used to it all can slow it all down. Yes, familiarity will speed things up, but there's still more to do and think about.

Non-Combat

In non-combat situations there are very limited options for 1e/2e to do much at all, we just defaulted to stat rolls for most things. Now this isn't quite such a marked speed difference against the skill rolls, so I didn't see as much difference - but again there are options like assistance, conditions and equipment that characters will be using to try and up their game. This seemed to force more roleplay into Basic/1e/2e as you had to explain what you were trying to do (in the games we played) rather than "make an X check."

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Yeah, the battle-mat even being used at all is much more common in 3e+ than in 1e-. 3e at low levels is faster than 3e at high levels, but still slower than most other things. –  mxyzplk Mar 12 '13 at 12:42
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It may perhaps be a bit misleading to say there is "so much more choice" in newer D&D editions - I would say instead that these editions define more choices and resolution mechanics in their core rule-sets. In practice, this tends to encourage players to stick with "allowed" choices. The lack of predefined choices in the rules actually encourages more experimentation and creativity in older D&D editions (although I grant that uninspired encounters could/can devolve into boring back-and-forth melee). The lack of predetermined resolution mechanics often makes these choices faster to resolve. –  Craddoke Mar 23 '13 at 0:23
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