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My wizard has acquired the animate objects spell, and I'm discussing with my GM how I'm going to use it in combat. We are concerned that using the spell may slow down combat and make it less fun for everyone.

My intent in typical usage would be to animate 10 tiny or small objects (coppers being an obvious choice) and then command them to attack one or more opponents. We're aware that the same command must be given to all the objects, so we know the wording will need to be carefully constructed. I am confident I can do that quickly.

Our specific concern is rolling hits and damage.

So my question is:

How can I roll hits and damage for up to 10 objects against a single opponent, several opponents with the same AC, or several opponents with different ACs, without bogging down combat while I roll tons of piddly little dice combinations? What has worked for you?

If it makes any difference, we play over Discord using D&D Beyond. We typically roll dice in D&D Beyond, but we occasionally use Avrae in Discord for one reason or another. We're pretty open to streamlining the rules to make things faster (for instance, I expect that all the objects will have the same initiative, probably immediately after mine).

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    \$\begingroup\$ If only I could bounty a question... instead I'll just thank you for your courteous consideration, having been a player at a table with a wizard who could neither wrap his head around rolling for multiple objects at once nor around rolling hit and damage dice simultaneously. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Jan 17 at 17:42

7 Answers 7

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Share with your party!

When our Druid used his conjuration spells, he usually asked the party members to help with his attacks. There were 4 players, and basically each player (Druid included) rolled attacks for 2 of the beasts. This slows down combat, but each player is playing twice or thrice the turns, so it doesn't bother them too much.

The Druid still kept control and decided what the beasts were doing. But all players enjoying rolling them and felt part of the action.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow, that's a really clever and cool solution. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Jan 17 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ As someone who has come to be known for extra creatures acting on my turn (be they familiars, animal companions, summons, or just an angry pet badger trying to scare off a dragon) in almost every play group I’m part of, I absolutely recommend this approach. Not only does it help keep everyone involved, but you can also do some of the rolls in parallel (have everyone roll simultaneously, then the GM calls on each in turn for results, like you would do for initiative), which helps speed things back up a bit. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 18 at 2:14
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I'd recommend using the Handling Mobs section on page 250 of the DMG. With 10 objects to attack, it's perfect for it. This will forgo the need for attack rolls, though it means there's no chance of a crit. For damage rolls, you can go with the average.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That is really good. smh! I'd forgotten about that, even though I've used it! I will suggest that to the GM, along with my other suggestions! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Jan 17 at 16:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that this might be going too far in the opposite direction, as it completely removes the element of chance, essentially turning the spell into a flat damage per turn. It also only works if everything is attacking the same target. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 18 at 0:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't argue with the first part of the comment, but you don't need them all attacking the same target to use the mob rules. Even if only half of them attack a target, that's enough justification to use them while the other half attacks different targets. If there are 3 enemies and you have 3 objects attacking each (one has 4), you could still use mob rules to figure out hits for each target, if at least 3 creatures are required to hit once for each target. \$\endgroup\$
    – RallozarX
    Jan 18 at 0:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, in specific cases you can unambiguously assign an appropriate number of hits, but in general you're going to have to make some arbitrary choices in lieu of letting the dice decide. E.g. suppose you apply the mass combat rules and determine that 4 out of 10 attacks hit against 3 targets. Which one gets hit twice? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 18 at 1:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess my point is, this answer is incomplete as it stands, because the mass combat rules don't adequately cover all the attacks you can make with a bunch of animated objects. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 18 at 1:15
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First, use average damage: rather than rolling attack, finding out how many hit, and then rolling that much damage, using the average damage means you can just multiply hits by a static number: much easier and faster.

For determining the number of hits, the fastest way would be to use a dice roller that handles the concept of “dice pools,” a mechanic used in some games where the result of your roll isn’t the sum of the dice you rolled, but instead the number of dice that were above some threshold. So, for instance, instead of checking 1d20+6 against DC 15, they work by rolling, e.g., four d6 and counting how many rolls of 5 or 6 you got.

This maps perfectly onto your needs: roll a d20 for each animated object, and set the threshold at the target’s AC minus the objects’ bonus. A roller that handles dice pools will then spit out how many hit, and that is the number you multiply by the average damage.

There are two problems here:

  1. D&D doesn’t use dice pools, and so it seems D&D Beyond didn’t bother to include them in their rollers, including Avrae. I say “seems,” however, because the documentation I could find on either was really sparse. Maybe there is a way and it’s just not prominent since it’s but used in D&D. Otherwise, many, many other rollers out there can handle them.

  2. Setting the threshold requires knowing the target’s AC. That means either the DM has to roll the attack in secret, or they have to tell you the AC. Ultimately, 10 attacks against a target is probably going to determine the AC anyway, and D&D groups imagine vastly greater significance to keeping it secret than it really has: I strongly suggest the DM just tell you when you make the attack. Realistically, trained warriors should have a very good sense of that kind of information just from seeing how someone stands and moves, anyway.

So I think it’s fairly easy to work around these issues, but YMMV. If either of these is a no-go, there is always the possibility of just rolling 10 attacks, and the DM just manually counts the hits. This can be tedious (and thus error-prone), but not game-haltingly so.

By the way, on the subject of tedious-and-thus-error-prone, you probably want the computer to do the subtraction and multiplication for you. Neither is hard, but in the middle of a game with a lot going on, and wanting to keep things moving, errors tend to creep in. Better to be sure.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, this is the sort of information I'm looking for. Thank you! If you know of an example of a die-roller that works for dice pools, feel free to include in your answer. The GM would probably be happy for me to roll using any old die roller for this specific application. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Jan 17 at 14:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack I don’t run my own Discord server, and I also don’t play any games using dice pools at the moment (and haven’t in a long while, i.e. for at least as long as Discord’s been a thing), but Dice Maiden seems highly-rated and includes it as !roll Xd20 tY where X is the number of bots and Y is (target AC − bot attack bonus). I don’t think you can use !roll Xd20 t(U-V) directly in it, though, which is a shame, but I couldn’t (quickly) find any bots with that feature. Might be worth trying to find one. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 17 at 14:42
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To add to KRyan's answer, KRyan suggested using dice pools in a dice roller.

That is a very helpful suggestion. It turns out that Avrae does support dice pools, although it doesn't call them that.

As an example, this Avrae command will roll 10 d20s and tell you how many are above 15:

!rr 10 (1d20 > 15)

You can add bonuses to the dice and then use the resulting number of dice meeting the threshold to multiply against damage.

I poked at Avrae until I was able to do pretty close to what is needed in this circumstance:

This Avrae command:

!rr 10 (1d20+6 > 18) * (1d8+2)

calculates the combined damage for 10 small objects attacking 1 creature with an AC of 19.

This command:

!rr 8 (1d20+8 > 19) * (1d4+4)

calculates the combined damage for 8 tiny objects attacking 1 creature with an AC of 20.

This looks like it will work pretty well. I can keep these commands in notes, and roll them very quickly.

One downside . . . this doesn't calculate critical hits. I may just forego that squidge of damage, or further investigate how that can be implemented.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh yeah, this is way better than regular dice pool mechanics. Very good solution. At least in Roll20 (where I play most), natural 20s are shown in green, helping to pick them out—I don’t suppose Avrae does the same? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 17 at 16:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Avrae does show the 1s and 20s in bold. I suspect there's a way to implement the criticals, but perhaps a task for another day -- lol, or maybe no day, I'm more interested in seeing how this works and seeing if it's fun for everyone than eeking every possible point out of it, dgmw I'm as damage-hungry as the next wizard, but time is always a factor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Jan 17 at 17:46
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Seeing your description, I immediatly thought of your objects as a cloud or swarm of tiny annoying things. So I will put forward the suggestion of using your 10 tiny objects as a swarm and applying the swarm rules used for monsters.

You and your DM will should decide how many objects need to be grouped at minimum to form a swarm and the size of their influence, but it easily reduces the amount of rolling done, as you just have to roll damage for all characters within their zone of influence.

The amount of damage rolled could also change depending on how many of your tinys are within the swarm (ex: adding a d4 for every 3 objects within the swarm, or d4 to d6 to d8 for every x objects).

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    \$\begingroup\$ No need to house rule when the DMG has rules for grouping like this already, see RallozarX's answer about DMG p.250 \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Jan 18 at 8:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ But otherwise, the right approach nevertheless imho. You're even quite close to the official rules \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Jan 18 at 8:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ True, I was going off the top of my head, with my knowledge in 3.5/ Pathfinder. \$\endgroup\$
    – BuggyMelon
    Jan 18 at 13:40
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I recommend trying it and see what happens. In 5e usually you won't be rolling much more than a dozen dice at once, but in other systems (PF for example) you can start rolling dozens of dice at once fairly quickly into the game.

Does it bog down the game? No, not really.

Animate Objects is even simpler as the DM gets to do all the rolling and controlling. Worst case you animate 10 tiny objects, and your DM has to roll 10 attacks. It's not particularly slow when you think about it; roll hit, roll miss, roll miss, etc.

A quick tip is to roll damage and hit together as one. If you're the kind of group that rolls each one individually this may not have occurred to you as an option for simple attacks.

Definitely give it a try and see if there actually IS a problem, then you can look at solutions after.

My experience is the same online or in person. The only difference is that if you are rolling 10 attacks at once in person you need 10 d20s plus 10 of whatever damage die. In PF this isn't a problem since everyone tends to have a ton of die, but in 5e this is quite unusual and most people probably only have 1 or 2 sets at the table.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer! This would be a better answer if you just limited it to your personal experience. Your recommendation to try individual rolls is not helpful. "Roll, hit, roll miss..." is EXACTLY what we want to avoid. We already know 10 attacks will bog down our game, no question about it. You might also want to mention whether your experience with similar situations has been in person, or over the internet, or both. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Jan 20 at 11:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack Give it a read again, in my experience this does NOT bog down the game! This is why I recommend trying it before you try to look for a solution. You think there will probably be a problem, but in practice you may find that there is no problem, or there is a problem but only in 1 or 2 specific circumstances. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 24 at 2:10
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You can use this tool to roll automatically for multiple creatures. All srd creatures and animate object variants can be loaded automatically

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That is a good tool, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Jan 31 at 23:10

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