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Personally when I DM fights in D&D I tend to resolve them as fast as I can, even if it means fudging numbers to make the fight go faster.

Example:

Level 1 Fighter is rolling to hit a goblin.
Goblin has ac of 12
Fighter rolls a 11. Fighter hits due to an explained enviormental factor. Tumble checks were great for this :laugh:

Fudging numbers will allow you to control the pace of battle.

I'm also not a big fan of "Roll for inititive" either. I let my players roll to see which of them will go first, then I put the people they're fighting in between the players. This keeps players from stacking inititive to go first. It also creates a point, counter point idea to the match and may require more tactical thinking on behalf of the players.

Use descriptive dialoge to describe what the die rolls mean.

This is not what you want:
Player 1: Rolling dice. 14. Adding Atk bonus. 16. Adding weapon bonus 17.
GM: No hit.
Player 2: Rolling dice. 18. Adding Atk bonus. 21. Adding weapon bonus. 21
GM: Hit. Please roll for damage.
Player 2: Rolling Dice. 6. Adding bonus. 10. Damage total. 10 points.
GM: Monster is not dead. Rolling his attack.

THAT IS LAME!!! I would kill myself if combat was done in that way. :headbutt:

What you want is something like this.
Player 1: Rolling dice. Total attack 17.
GM: The Golem takes the hit to the shoulder with out notice and continues lumbering towards it's target. Player 1 notices a chip of the golems form came away from the attack.
Player 2: Rolling. 21 total attack.
GM: Golem takes the shot in a vunerable spot in it's joint resulting in a portion of it's body being disabled. (Attack/movement reduction at DM's decision)

Stuff like that makes the combat interesting. Even asking the players to tell HOW they will attack adds to the atmosphere.

Combat is as fun as you make it. If you don't push your players to roleplay in combat they will not follow your lead.
 

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When I said "give them an arbitrary penalty" I meant that I would resolve the combat in a single attack roll for all players, and they receive a penalty to their attack bonus until they can rest, making multiple combat encounter over the course of an adventure very risky.

I do add flavor to my combats. The problem ain't the flavor, it's the lenght. My players don't want to fight. They feel it takes away time that could be used to advance the plot. They don't find it a source of suspense.

It's probably because I have difficulty to adjust the difficulty of the fight. When it's too easy, it's a pointless waste of time. When it's too hard, we might as well not play if we are going to fail anyway, and when it's in-between, well the time it takes to recover is debilitating to the story. ( I usually play in worlds where magic does not exist, so there is no healing spells or potion, only good old fashionned rest. I could play in a world that include supernatural, but it's not the same feel, and my players love the historical medieval theme there is in my games.)

So I usually don't do any random encounters. The only fight I do are when it's important to the plot, or when NPCs are actively wanting them dead. However, it's hard to have the NPC appear as a threat, it's difficult to make it appear competent if he send incompetent lackeys.
Hmm ok, it seems your players want their cake and to eat it as well. :laugh:

If you're playing in a historical type setting, meaning no magic and such, then I would play most combat like it was a social encounter.

If your guys are sneaking into a castle simply work it off of skill rolls rather then combat rolls.

Example:

The party attempts to enter Castle Ravenloft (god I miss Ravenloft). They find several guards at the gate.

DM: Rouge make a skill check to see if you climb the wall then I need a sneak check to ensure you're undetected.

Rouge: I pass and move to the first guard, I slash him across the throat with my dagger.

DM: Roll grapple check and then an attack check at a negative penality.

Rouge: I got (randon roll) and (random roll). Whats the deal.

DM: You take him down and kill him but you caused enough noise for another guard to over hear you on the battlements, he's heading over to check things out.

Ranger: I fire my bow hoping to take him in the neck and kill him.

DM: Roll at a negative multiplyer...

You get my idea.

Start dealing wth combat like you would with bluff, and other similar skills. Only use the normal D&D type encounter for the large scale plot combats, rather then every combat.

I would also recommend letting the first round of combat going normally then adjusting the numbers as you need it to the encounter. If you make an encounter where you're PC's are shruging off damge from the bad guys turn it up on the next turn. If they're getting spanked turn the damage down.

Personally I don't think D&D is the best ruleset for that type of game, especially in 4th edition. 2nd or 3rd edtition sure but 4th really focuses on combat. If your guys prefer the Social/Story heavy games you may have more fun with games done by Whitewolf or Fantasy Flight.
 
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