If you’ve ever played a table top role playing game, you’ve likely experienced just how long combat can take. It’s easy to get distracted talking with friends when it’s not your turn. Or maybe the action on the table isn’t too compelling. Or maybe the battle is proving to be too difficult and the players are struggling to take down a boss while constantly needing to heal. All of this adds up to a gaming session that is tiresome for the players and the GM, and sacrifices story for rote dice mechanics while the players work to defeat the monster.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Faster Combat got its start as a weekly online course that helped GMs recognize where their problem areas are with their gaming group, fix those, and how to develop engaging conflicts to freshen up a campaign. Spread out over 52 weeks, with a new lesson arriving weekly, GMs learn tips that they can slowly integrate into their games without information overload. It’s quite effective, and I’ve learned a lot of great lessons that I’ve put into practice with my own group.
In addition to running a great site, the folks at Faster Combat have now turned their content into an ebook, giving GMs another option for learning how to speed up their encounters. The book is divided into five modules. The first helps you analyze your current gameplay to find the problem areas. Module two focuses on designing monsters, encounters and tactics. The third module focuses combat speed and preparation. The fourth module describes how to bring the story and drama of the module into the encounter. And the last module is a collection of tips and tricks to bring everything together consistently, and to learn what works and what doesn’t.
In my own gaming group, we’re playing Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition — specifically the first published campaign, Keep on the Shadowfell (PDF). It’s a great introduction to 4e but gets bogged down in the dungeon crawl with encounter after encounter of somewhat generic monsters without really advancing the story. I’ve taken a lot of lessons from Faster Combat to tweak the story and make it my own, all while throwing more challenging monsters as the party and skipping other encounters that fail to move the story along.
For me, being a DM was challenging as I was the only one in my gaming group who was up to the task, yet I had never played D&D before. After dipping my toes in the Red Box, and a longer campaign fighting the Iron Circle in the Dungeon Master’s Kit‘s packed in campaign, I felt I was ready to tackle something larger and with more role playing, but still felt there were aspects of running the game that was slowing us down. Being new to D&D, I was really looking for a resource that helped explain the role of the DM in a way that helped demystify the role. The Faster Combat guide has been one of the best resources I’ve found, and the eBook makes digesting the content easier and makes for a faster reference guide than the website alone was.
Going forward, I plan on writing my own campaign continuing our current story but set in the Shadowfell, and plan on rereading the Faster Combat book from cover to cover to help prepare. Being a GM is more than memorizing rules and stat blocks. Keeping your friends at the table engaged both in terms of story and in dice roles is challenging. But the lessons in Faster Combat are an incredible ally in making a gaming session enjoyable for everyone.
If you’re interested, head over to Faster Combat to sign up. There are discounts on the book and the course running until April 5th with the eBook available for $15 or course for $20.