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I used a lot of tricks that allowed to skip the counting of every swing and blow and dodge. I think people should share such solutions. My favourite tricks:

Roll a bunch of dice and just take look at the scores. Continue the narration and make the player succeed each time as much as a dice suggests.

Example: You roll 5K6 and get: 5, 3, 6, 2, 1

(5) You block the enemy quite well and finish with a sudden blow on his head, (3) but his helmet serves him well -- he just got distracted. (6) You use that moment to cut his arm badly. (2) While while you back off a little he reaches for a throwing knife and cuts through your leather jacket and your backside. (1) You failed to dodge that. The pain makes you unable to breathe for a moment...

Simplified mechanics. Sometimes a fight is important and you want to use the character's stats instead of just estimating. I've created a fast mechanic for that.

  1. Character stats are 1-6.
  2. Roll 5K6.
  3. Count how many dice are less than or equal to the attacker's main attack ability (strength/dexterity/whatever you use).
  4. If the number is greater than or equal to the defender's defence (resistance/dexterity/whatever), he gets hit.
  5. The hit result is the attacker's weapon stat minus the defender's armor stat (optionally +k3).

Consider a variant where you add or remove "or equal to" in comparisons.

This mechanic proved to be enough for duels with important NPCs, etc. during 3 years of use.

My question: What do you do to get your narration dynamic?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I really like this tool - have used it once (the last game) and it's aided my narration so much. I plan on continuing it, +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Sep 21, 2012 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about wanting to have a discussion on a subject. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1, 2014 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ How is this offtopic? The question is about examples of techniques for dynamic narration. How is that a discussion? Why is everything forced into community wiki? Community death by over-moderation, IMHO. \$\endgroup\$
    – naugtur
    Oct 4, 2014 at 19:20

5 Answers 5

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I do similar things. I simplify the rules (which are usually pretty simple already when we're using Labyrinth Lord) and encourage my players to describe what they're doing. I'm also fairly flexible and encourage actions that are not typically part of combat by allowing them to directly aid those fighting with bonuses. While the number of the bonus may be hidden, I try to describe how the "non-combat" actions are helping.

It does help if there's a goal to the fight beyond just "kill 'em all." A narrative focus like "get across the bridge" or "open the sealed bunker doors" gives everyone something to hang the combat on that's more than just rolls and damage.

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In our session we also on occasion simplify the rules when the combat is non-critical. For example, if the enemies are clearly beneath the level of the PCs. For D&D 3e we allow players to roll all attacks at once, specifying which die color is first, second, third, or just on the "honor system" if it's a really casual situation.

Sometimes the DM will reveal the AC of the enemies to the players so that the players can quickly roll themselves and determine the outcome. Then the players can tell the DM something like, "Two hits, one miss, 23 points of damage."

We also typically allow the players to describe combat in their own terms. Sometimes the player will resolve all their attacks for a round and then describe the entire round of combat as a sequence. Other times, it is describes attack-by-attack. The DM may add additional flavor at times when appropriate.

We recently ran a battle with several powerful characters plowing through over 50 low-level orcs. This combat focused on the narration and storytelling since the outcome was typically 2-3 orcs deaths per player round.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ BTW. From Your experience - is it possible to trigger some adrenaline with narration when there's the rolling? I never managed to make it dynamic enough, because I had to wait too long. \$\endgroup\$
    – naugtur
    Aug 23, 2010 at 10:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know about a constant adrenaline rush, but certainly there is a good amount of excitement. The dice do eventually slow it down, or arbitrating a particular rule that we aren't familiar with. I think it depends some on the situation. In some combat I don't think it would be fair to force the players to be that fast. Their characters are potentially fantastic experts but I don't expect my players to devote hours in preparation so they know the best way to fight instantly. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28, 2010 at 0:49
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At the moment we're using Alternity which has degrees of success such as Amazing, Good, Ordinary, Failure and Critical Failure.

This helps me and the players vary the amount of narration for a given action. If it's an ordinary success it only requires a few descriptive words before continuing, if it's an amazing success then it gets the full treatment.

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I've started using an alternative rule for the d20 system that has the players roll all the dice. While they are rolling, it gives me extra time to think about how to narrate the situation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a step in the good direction. Try doing a really dynamic and fast narration. I often describe a fight so fast that the players hardly manage to react on time. If they hesitate - I pass the hasitation through to the character. It gives us all such an adrenaline rush while fighting or escaping! If Your players don't love the numbers too much You have to try it! \$\endgroup\$
    – naugtur
    Aug 20, 2010 at 20:35
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I like to encourage narration during fights by awarding bonuses to rolls based on cool actions. So if one player said, "I attack the orc" he'd roll his standard attack dice, but if he said, "I jump off the chandelier and kick out his legs while swinging a backhand sword blow" I might give him a +2 bonus, xp award, or some other cool effect.

Even if I don't give the bonuses/extra effects all the time the players start role-playing a lot more anyway. On top of that, it's way more fun.

Thanks for sharing your great ideas, everyone. Very cool.

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