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This question is a follow-up to the comments in this answer What ways exist to consistently and reliably grant my allies advantage on the attack roll?


I was confused about timing terms and effects that last 1 minute, like the barbarian rage, for example. Until now, I was sure that each character had approximately 6 seconds to act, and then on his next turn, 1 minute would have passed.

It turns out I am mistaken, as the others users pointed out, and the PHB (p. 181) also says the following:

In combat and other fast-paced situations, the game relies on rounds, a 6-seconds span of time described in chapter 9.

If I understand this correctly, everyone engaged in combat takes turn in the same round, which means in the same 6 seconds. Then another round goes up, etc. This also means that there are 10 rounds in a single minute.

Now this is what disturbs me: in the adventure I am running (party is now level 6), I am pretty sure that most fights we had didn't last 10 rounds..

Is combat supposed to be this quick ?

(I would like to note that even if most of the fights didn't last very long, some of them were difficult and/or deadly, so I don't think it's a matter of difficulty.)

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Yes it is that quick. I’ve found that 1 minute spells often last a whole battle. – Michael Jan 9 at 8:36
up vote 19 down vote accepted

Yes, combat is supposed to be this quick.

Caveat: Since you are at low levels, and both monsters/party have low hit points, you may find that this changes. That will be determined by the complexity of the challenge you present to the party, how smart the enemy is, as well as how many minions are there. The difference between a running battle or a static battle will also influence this.

Now this is what disturbs me: in the adventure I am running (party is now level 6), I am pretty sure that most fights we had didn't last 10 rounds

From Experience

  • Your experience reflects the experience at our table as we went from levels 1 through 6, in terms of how many rounds a given combat encounter lasted.

  • Our problem was that in Real Life Time we had pacing of combat issues as we got used to the new system and got used to our skills ... and the fact that we rarely got all six of us into the game (played on line rather than in person) so that one of us would be running another's character. This slowed down down In Real Time how long each round took, but it didn't extend how many rounds a fight took.

  • Since our adventure party began, we have had one fight, total, that ever lasted longer than 10 rounds. It was a running battle that ended up happening across a number of rooms and corridors.

One of the design goals of 5e was to try and keep combat from taking a lot of real life time per combat. WoTC seems to have succeeded, and a by-product of that (and bounded accuracy keeping armor classes from being too high) seems to be quicker resolution of combat.

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In real life sword fights (or whatever weapon you use) don't tend to last very long. Only in the movies they are long, drawn-out affairs that involve going back and forth, down hallways, up stairs, past other fights and over narrow walkways with something nasty waiting at the bottom. Maybe they do if you're a bard, rogue or other type of swashbuckler or scoundrel, but I digress. Six seconds is a LOT of time in a sword fight during which both parties can attack and quite often.

But if you think the fights are over too soon, look at the fights themselves. Are the enemies cut down by the players without effort? Or do the enemies land blows themselves before they're killed? If the former is the case you might want to consider making the fights a bit tougher for the party so that they no longer steamroll your encounters. If the latter is the case your encounters might be filled with what is called glass cannons: enemies that are capable of dealing out harm themselves but are not very durable. If this is the case, consider using enemies with more HP or a higher AC so that they don't die too quickly.

But most importantly: do the players feel like they're not being challenged? Or do they like steamrolling the encounters? Make sure you are aware of this before you retool your encounters.

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The players are enjoying the fights, the difficulty varies from one to the other, a PC even died, so I think the challenge/fun isn't the problem. I was just surprised to realize that event their best/most complicated encounters didn't last very long :-) EDIT: also, maybe I need to teach my monsters to use better tactics ! – Yotus Jan 8 at 14:52
    
How optimized are the players? Or maybe they sacrificed a goat to the God of Fortunate Dice Rolls so that they're just very lucky (aside from the sinner who go killed). – Thomas Jacobs Jan 8 at 14:54
    
They are not really optimized, we are all beginners, so optimization hasn't been the subject yet. And they aren't luckier than average (the paladin even lacks luck most of the time) – Yotus Jan 8 at 14:57

In addition to the other answers, effects that should last until your next turn have wording to that effect, such as "duration: 1 round," or "until the end of your next turn."

Effects that should last for the entirety of a single battle have a duration of 1 minute, as most battles last slightly less time than that.

Effects that should last through several back to back battles (such as clearing one room of enemies after another without stopping to search rooms along the way) have a duration of 10 minutes.

Effects that should last for several sequential battles in the same area while taking time to quickly search, scout, etc. between battles (and often spells which enable scouting), have durations of 1 hour.

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Is this supported by your observation, or is this something mentioned by WoTC during play test, on the wotc dnd site, from a dev tweet? (It makes sense) – KorvinStarmast Jan 8 at 16:30
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The "one minute per battle" idea is based on developer statements that I vaguely remember, for what that's worth, while the rest are logical extensions of that. – Derek Stucki Jan 8 at 17:04
    
If I can find the source or tweet, I'd like to fold that into either your or my answer as I think it would help improve either. – KorvinStarmast Jan 8 at 18:51

The basic answer is yes combat is this fast in game time.

The 6-second thing has been around since D&D 2e, so that's a known quantity by now. If you consider how dangerous fighting really is, this seems pretty accurate. Even professional level MMA fighting (with zero weapons) can end in 14 seconds or less.

Most combats at early levels will not go 10 rounds. The spells are actually balanced around this.

  • Bless and Mirror Image and Haste all have a duration of 1 Minute meaning they are targeted to last for one combat.
  • Barkskin lasts up to 1 Hour, which means that it can last a few combats, especially in a dungeon.
  • Mage Armor lasts 8 Hours, meaning that it's intended to last your whole adventuring day on one casting.

If you cast Haste on the first round of a fight and the fight goes to 15 rounds, you're actually going to lose your Haste in there somewhere which is bad. Spells are kind of designed around fights not going much past 10 rounds at least at low levels.

Longer fights tend to come when

  • You have a creature that summons other creatures (quite rare in 5e) or just lots of creatures in general. Enough that they have to come in waves as PCs get pretty good at cutting down lots of enemies.
  • Either side has lots of healing or defensive abilities. Damage still tends to be more powerful than Healing, but sometimes your defensive spells can make it unlikely that enemies hit you and that can drag out a battle.
  • Enemies that can only be damaged by one or two PCs. Sometimes the fight is about protecting the one PC who can really deal with the monster.
  • Lots of ground to cover. A Marilith has a Teleport action with a range of 120ft. One use of that ability can cost PCs a whole round or two of movement. Dragons can fly, Wizards can drop giant Walls that run for a hundred feet. Fights at this scale can definitely run for several rounds as people run around trying to gain position.

So as you go higher in level, you may see combats that run for longer than 10 rounds as the scale of the combat increases.

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