... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, August 30, 2013

In Praise of the Minute

There's a recent raging debate about the one-minute combat round in D&D. On the pro side: Noisms. And on the con side: Charles Taylor.

It should come as no surprise by now, but I side with Noisms. I use one-minute rounds, although honestly it doesn't matter what the precise time measurement is, as long as it's enough to represent broad, multiple actions. In other words, as long as one round is not 1 to 10 seconds, I'm happy. I don't like blow-by-blow combat.

When I assign specific times to anything, these days, I've been thinking in terms of Moves instead of rounds or turns. There are two Moves per round or per turn, with one Move being about 30 seconds or five minutes, depending on the scale being used. The traditional armored movement rate of 6 scale inches works out to 60 feet per half-turn, as mentioned in Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, or up to 12 feet per round ... but this does not mean that you can only walk 12 feet a minute (or 24 feet a minute when unencumbered.) This is an approximate distance traveled after taking into account jostling back and forth or evading opponents in mêlée. In other words, it's abstract movement, to match the abstract combat.

But here's something to consider: I once saw Michael Mornard (Old Geezer) say, in a discussion on RPGNet, that when you are using OD&D combat rules at their most abstract, complete with one minute rounds, it takes about one minute to resolve each round... so you are effectively gaming in real time. You could skip counting rounds and just play out the combat, as quickly as possible, then look at your watch afterwards. "Oh, looks like that combat only wasted 5 rounds. At least your torch is still burning!"


  1. While I don't care for Mr. Taylor's tone, I have to agree with his preference for shorter rounds. Abstraction's great for glossing over details you don't care about, but the 1-minute round zooms out to the point that much of what the ref describes just feels tacked on. I want the mechanics to reflect what's going on in the game world and provide the ref with feedback (Was that an actual miss, or did the armor just absorb the blow?)

    'Course, this same reasoning has led me to abandon Greyhawk-style HD progressions, instead favoring a capped version of the originals. That's definitely not for everyone

  2. Not only does it not matter how long a round lasts, it seldom even matter how many rounds the combat lasts. When I DM, I don't even keep track of turns. Things just happen one after another and I roll wandering monster checks occasionally. Strict time keeping is one of those things which I never understood the need for. The DM is guessing on how long it takes to do common things (searching a body, picking a lock etc) so the "turn" doesn't last a consistent amount of time even if you are militant in keeping track of them. Nor do all torches burn at the exact same rate.

    OTOH, I don't like the idea of abstract combat. It just doesn't fit with arrow fire, launching flaming oil or even a thief's backstab. All these things require certain non-abstract assumptions.

  3. I basically agree with you, although I just want to make clear I'm not saying 1 minute is ideal - just that the abstraction of the rules means that it doesn't actually matter all that much how long a round is (within reason).

  4. A 10-second round is *far* from blow-by-blow. A blow takes about 1/2 second to execute - a long way from 10 seconds. It's easily possible for an entire fight to be over in 10 seconds, or for the situation to go from both people at distance, circling, to a flurry of blows and parries, into grappling.

    Hardly a time frame that restricts your abstraction of combat, and a looong way from blow by blow.

    The "abstract" movement rates from 0e are laughable, unless under the influence of an air-to-molasses spell. There's no amount of jostling, evading, or whatnot that can possibly justify it.

    The only possible explanation for those movement rates is that Gygax and Arneson made a serious error in converting from Chainmail to D&D.

    As I've been saying throughout this discussion: if you're arguing for 1-minute rounds, you're arguing that 1 die roll should resolve the whole combat. Tops 2 die rolls.

    Combats just don't take any longer than that.

    1. There's also my followup to Noism's recent post (the tone of which I'm afraid Professor Oats may like even less - I hadn't had my wheaties and had just been driving for three hours) here: http://spellsandsteel.blogspot.ca/2013/09/noisms-and-d-combat.html