A couple things today. I haven't reviewed a Dungeons and Dragons Insider Article review in a good long minute, but there was a pretty interesting one published today behind the subscription paywall concerning some things you can do to speed up combat in your 4E game.
Wait, didn't the D&D 4E blogosphere hash this all out a few months ago? Why, yes, yes we did. All over the place! Seemed like everyone except WotC had some suggestions on how to speed up combat. It's about time they got on the bandwagon. Their suggestions are: roleplaying(!), doubling PC damage, doubling all damage, using average damage instead of rolling dice, using fewer monsters, and limiting character options. I think every single one of those options has been bandied about the interwebs at length and ad nauseum. However, there was a really interesting article over at Campaign Mastery last week where Johnn used a timer on all the participants and discovered that, by a significant amount, the DM (himself) was the biggest time-thief at his table.
Referee, know thy monsters. Use simple ones. Save the one with all the fun tricks to be the boss.
Players, know thy characters. Have a plan of attack in combat. Know what the different funny sized dice are. Know how your powers work.
And here's one that's out of left field: change daily powers (class and magic item) to be 1x per encounter powers. Make red encounter powers usable twice per encounter. This will eliminate a lot of player waffling over which power to use, is it worth it to spend the daily now, should I save it, I don't know...
That was just a thought I had yesterday. Gonna playtest it soon, see how the players like it. I'll have a more in-depth article on that soon.
Now, back to the Old-School stuff.
Rulings, Not Rules
Of all the Old-School maxims, this is one I often have the most difficulty with. And not because I'm averse to making rulings at the table in any given situation. As I read through my old-school rulebooks, the rules are convoluted and often confusing. Some actions require a D100 roll, some a D20, and still others a D6!
There is no real core mechanic to the system.
For the game to work with "rulings" instead of "rules", the rulings must be able to be applied fairly to all players, given the circumstances. No DM is perfect, of course. We all make mistakes.
4th Edition's Core Mechanic, however, allows for more consistent rulings to be applied by the DM in any given situation. Understanding the rules and the system is key to making rulings. A judge in a courtroom knows the law; that's how she became a judge. Her understanding of the law allows her to make rulings that are consistent with precedent. At the gaming table, the rules are there to help the DM make consistent rulings. If you have to keep looking up rules at the table, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG! Set a level-appropriate target, have them roll a D20, add the appropriate modifer, and get on with the game. Tie goes to the players. Know (or have an easily accessed cheat sheet) for all the rules you regularly need to reference. The biggest part of that particular trick is knowing your PC's abilities and powers, and knowing the same for your monsters and villains.
One complaint I see old-schoolers make about 4E again and again is that the system limits players with set powers in combat. However, if the DM won't allow a PC to attempt something because he doesn't have the right power, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!
That's right. Now, everyone take a deep breath, and if you really want to get a firm grasp on the rules and learn how to make better rulings in any given situation, for anything the PCs want to try, go read At-Will. This website should be required reading for every 4e DM. If you haven't spent a good chunk of time reading his stuff, you are behind the curve. And the webchat there is awesome! Hope to see you there!