Because my group has a limited time to game each week (about 3-3.5) hours, the amount of stuff we can do in an individual session is pretty limited. In particular, there’†s a big burden on the DM to craft encounters that she knows we can finish in that time. Sometimes the story leading up to encounter or the last few rounds are rushed so it fits all in before bedtime.
There’s a lot of discussion already about speeding up combat, but I ‘ve been wondering if it is possible to stop for the night in the middle of combat and pick up again next week. Here are my group’s constraints that make pausing for a week tricky:
- We game on our hosts’ dining room table, so leaving everything laid out and set up is not an option.
- We usually game every week, but there’s about a 20% chance the week will be skipped, so we need to make sure any needed info is not lost or forgotten.
- The players may be different the next time we game, so we need to account for their characters.
The first problem is probably the easiest to solve. “Sarah” tends to draw the board out ahead of time on paper or a foldable grid map, and so I think the board will stay stable between weeks. We could mark up the board with either post-it flags or wet-erase marker to remember all the character positions and effects. We could then collect all the minis and other detrius and put them in a special box. My recommendation is to have a scribe write down any important info at the end, such as initiave order, effects on the characters and board and how much longer they will last. It’s a bit of pain, but I think it can be done in less than five minutes. The state will be easiest to save if we end the night at the top of a round instead of in the middle.
The second problem is really two problems. The first is information integrity. I’ve already suggested having a scribe record the state of the combat in terms of initiative and monsters, but it’s also important that each character saves his state: hit points, remaining healing surges and action points, used powers, status effects, etc. It’s incumbent on each player to dutifully record this information on a character sheet. Even though we use cards for tracking powers and poker chips for action points, the standard character sheet has boxes for checking off when these things are used. I can see myself doing this all at the end of the night if we are pausing the combat, but not on a round-by-round basis…I’m too lazy. It makes sense to leave all recorded the character sheets together in a folder with the other materials that will stay behind so they don’t get lost. For me, this may mean having two copies of my character sheet on hand — one for reference and one for tracking the battle.
The second part to the problem is inertia. Sometimes it may be better to slog through or rush a combat rather than having to pick it up a week later. There could be a loss of tension, excitement, or motivation between the weeks (or a gain, depending). Also there will a be a certain amount of time dedicated to resetting the battlefield and remembering what we were doing and what the plans were. It may help for each player to make notes about what they were planning on doing at the end of the night. For us, we’d probably use the same tactics we do now for getting pysched up before a regular game: beer and AC/DC.
I don’t know how general the third problem (changing players) is, but it affects my group regularly. In the situation where we have one less player, another player or the DM could in theory take over the character of the remainder of the combat. This is logistically easy since he would have left behind the mini and updated character sheet. The difficulty here overcoming the resistance to play another character. I think it should be issue-free for half of a combat. When we have an additional player, the player can either take over some of the monsters or enter the fray as unexpected backup. This might upset the encounter balance, but since the game is about everyone having fun… who cares? There is still an issue when there is a mismatch of players to characters. When this happens we can instantly swap the characters, which may put the character in a sticky situation, or the player can do as above and play the other character for the remainder of combat before the characters are switched out.
Has anyone experimented with this? I think it’s easiest still to finish up an encounter before calling it quits, but it’s nice to have other options.