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I'm going to be running a campaign during the lunch hour at work for a few co-workers. My experience lately has been that a single combat encounter ends up being the centerpiece of a 3-hour session, which obviously doesn't work too well when we only have an hour to play!

I'm thinking of keeping the story very simple and focused as more of a dungeon crawl, but I could use some advice on how to keep encounters brief, so that we can actually wrap one (or even two!) up in under an hour -- and still preserve the fun?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you tied to using D&D ? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10, 2020 at 14:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ useful video Matt Coville on speeding up combat youtube.com/watch?v=HZe-YKDttGo \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Jan 10, 2020 at 15:13

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Tied to D&D

If you're unable to escape the gravitational pull of the most well known name of Table Top RPGs then I have a few suggestions:

  • Reduce HP/AC but increase Damage and To Hit (on monsters). This will allow your players to hit more often, kill more often, but the monsters have the same advantage. Use this solution if you want combat to have the same tension as regular D&D
  • Just reduce HP/AC on monsters. This will make combat much easier and will take most of the tension out, but it's still fun to mow down an army of goblins in a few minutes.
  • Forgo rolling damage and always use the average (or Max for a crit). This takes out the math aspect and allows you to know how much damage each attack will do before hand.
  • Forgo monster To Hit rolls. Now, I know this one sounds strange but it takes from Dungeon World a little. Every time one of your PC's miss an attack the enemy they were attacking gets to attack (perhaps even make it a free hit to get rid of more math/rolling)
  • Modified spell lists that contain fewer spells with long descriptions that take time to read and to resolve.

These are just a few suggestions I came up with. The main thing is that you need to remove the stuff that takes the most time in your own game. In my games it is almost always the math and rolling, or it's the actual HP that a monster has. If you've played with these people before you might be able to guess at where they get hitched up the most in combat and you'll have to tailor your game design to them.

Pick a different game

If you find all of this to be too much work you could pick a different game to fit your play style. Dungeon World for D&D-lite feel, or FATE for a more pulpy action game. Of course this would also be work, but it might be less work on you to pick a new game then to rebuild the D&D combat system.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Savage Worlds is also another one with faster more tactical combat. I have been trying to move my table in that direction as well. Running Return to the Keep on the Borderlands in Savage Worlds and it has gone fairly well thus far. Learning curve obviously. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Jan 10, 2020 at 18:14
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First of all, avoid combat whenever possible.

Puzzles, NPC-focused mysteries and more can be just as fun for many people as long, drawn-out encounters. They also can be MUCH shorter, and you can reward XP just the same.

Generally though, easier monsters make for shorter combat. If combat is dragging out and you need to shorten it, bring 'allies' who assist in killing it quickly.

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