My last session had a fair number of fights. Four PCs, one NPC, and one hireling fought:
- a multi-part skirmish with a bugbear*
- reeks (a kind of killer ooze), twice
- a clay golem**
- two giant black widows
- an unknown number of smaller black widows
- three bronze spiders*
- a bunch of orcs with a shaman and some killer apes and a summoned war boar.
That's seven times we needed to break out the dice (and sometimes the map and minis) and start rolling to hit, defense rolls, damage rolls, consciousness checks, and all the other rolls that make GURPS combat take a little while (but conversely, also make it verisimilitudinous and fun)
Yes, we played for about 9 hours that day, but the combats took up only a tiny fraction of that time. I think they spent more time overall working on the question of "what gear do we loot, and how do we get it back to town?" than on all of the combats together.
That clashes with the automatic assumption that GURPS combats take forever. Douglas Cole asked, how do I do that?
First, I run combat for my vets the same way I run combat for new guys: basic, streamlined, and quickly.
1) 3-2-1 go. If people start thinking about what to do on their turn, I start counting. I don't count while they're moving around or describing their actions, just when they start lollygagging.
2) Simple Combat We mostly use the simplified combat rules from GURPS Basic Set: Characters, modified as I detail here. Briefly, 3 is max damage, no rolls on the critical hit tables, critical misses are a dropped weapon or a roll (depends on the circumstances, really), parries by 1 or more hit an unarmed attacker and do 1/2 average damage, etc.
Mostly, because some PCs really depend heavily on certain rules in order to be effective. So we use those rules. All of the expanded rules for two-handed swords from GURPS Martial Arts are in play, because otherwise the knight isn't nearly as effective (and not using them nerfs his character concept, of a bidenhander master). So are rules for reach (even when we're not using the map), long weapons in close combat (all of the front-line fighters on Sunday were long-weapon users), and a few others.
3) We don't use Extra Effort in Combat. I offered it early on to my players, but they passed on it, so PCs and monsters alike live and die based on their basic combat abilities. This dramatically speeds up combat. I've only played briefly with EEinC, but there were times I could see how FP expenditure bailed you out of a bad mistake to let you live to fight longer.
4) No Rules Lookups. We only nit-pick modifiers when it's critical to do so. You're crawling on your knees in the semi-dark armed with a knife and trying to fend off a bugbear? I pause and check the rules for crawling, quickly look over the modifier lists, etc. and figure out the real offense and defense penalties. But shooting your bow sideways in a cramped condition from a crouch? Uh, crouch penalties and let's just say you suffer Bulk penalties on the bow shot and he's about a -2 to hit away from you. Done. I'm right or close to right almost all the time. I don't get shy about reasonable rulings, either. Raggi is in close combat with a boar that's goring him the in the abdomen but he berserkly wants to chop down with his axe and hit the boar? Yeah, that can happen, call it -3 (half his close combat penalties for a 2-hex weapon) and roll. Look it up later if we think it'll happen a lot.
5) We use round-the-table initiative. If I win the roll, the NPCs all go and then we going around the PCs clockwise. If I lose the roll, the PCs go around clockwise and then the NPCs go. No worries about setting up an interlaced move order.
6) We use a modified mook rule, so unimportant NPCs drop and stay down. This means a lot of fodder types go down in one blow (the front-line guys can knock down most fodder monsters below 0 HP in a single blow with minimum damage).
7) Default actions. We use Wait with a default trigger (attack the next badguy to come into range) so you can just "Wait" and announce a trigger if you need a special one. I let anyone buy a Trademark Move. For monsters I don't get cute with their actions, and pre-write their attack routines and special moves. There is almost nothing to figure out when a turn comes up, because my players are helpful players.
8) We use the map. Placing down some walls and minis doesn't slow down fights, it takes away all discussion about who is where. This dramatically speeds up play, because the players can just look instead of asking.
Add those to the high skill of the PCs, so they can try some crazy stuff with a reasonable chance of success, high damage on their attacks, and their tendency (nowadays) to concentrate their attacks and stay close to each other for protection, and you get a lot of short fights (and this run-on sentence). Their badass levels of skill helps even more, because they're less concerned about a point here or a point there. Close enough is good enough.
All of the above took significantly longer to write, and probably as long to read, as the longest fight we had on Sunday.
That's pretty much how we run through lots of combat quickly.
* Both of these guys are from DFM1. The bugbears were mine, the bronze spiders were Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch's.
** In a move that would drive Jeff nuts, one of my players rattled off the AD&D 2e and 3e abilities of a Clay Golem, and announced how doomed they could be if I was copying those stats. I wasn't. Not for this guy, anyway. It was a heap of clay in seconds. It's funny to me when they recognize the monsters. It's funnier to me when they misidentify them, or identify their powers incorrectly.