Jade Slice: How to Make Every D&D 5E Non-Story-Arc-Ending Combat Take 15 minutes or Less

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Who Wants to Live Forever?
The art of collaborative adventure design

D&D EditionRecently, I began down the road to fixing the two largest obstacles to drawing new players to Dungeons and Dragons 5E. Specifically, I stated the reason why it is important for the Monster Manual to be available to every player during every moment of every D&D 5E game. Last week’s article specifically addressed the following obstacle –

  • D&D 5E New Player Obstacle 2 – The Game rewards system mastery greatly and punishes casual play brutally.

This week I continue down the road of fixing the two largest obstacles to drawing new players to D&D 5E by addressing the following obstacle –

  • D&D 5E New Player Obstacle 1 – The Game takes far too long to play (typically four hours).

Quickly, the world has massively changed since the ’80s and ’90s heyday of D&D, and the normal run time of four hours per play session is severely damaging the game’s ability to attract new players. This problem will exacerbate every year until it is fixed.

The A-Number-1 culprit for making Dungeons and Dragons 5E games run long is combat. Currently the game has a combat focus that makes a six second game-time round of combat take real time three to 30 minutes to play out. This focus on literally blow-by-blow combat is what the entire game is built around and its effects permeate the game rules set, etched into almost every detail for classes, spells and equipment.

Jade Slice,” presented below, is the fix. Using this modification of the D&D 5E Combat Rules, every Dungeons and Dragons 5E non-story-arc-ending combat encounter can be completed in 15 minutes or less.

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ACRONYMS

  • PC – Player Character
  • DM – Dungeon Master
  • MMC – Monster Manual Creature
  • HP – Hit Points
  • AJS – Anno Jade Slice (D&D 5E Rules unmodified as they were before Jade Slice’s presentation on Nerdarchy)

JADE SLICE – THREE STEPS

There are three phases in Jade Slice combat.

  • Launch
  • Standard
  • Resolve

Launch (HP Reduction) – DM presents all MMCs to Players. DM takes all MMCs and determines the grouping of creatures that have the second-to-highest HP total (Treat NPCs or custom DM-created creatures as MMCs.) Those creatures are reduced to 66% of their HP. All creatures that have HP below the 66% HP Reduced Creatures have their HP reduced to 1. All creatures that have not had their HP reduced at this point retain all of their HP. Now reduce all PCs’ HP by the highest amount that any MMC was reduced by. If a PCs’ HP is reduced to 0 or below, their HP is reduced to 1 instead.

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Launch (PCs Strikes) – Any player may now choose to have their PC “strike” any MMCs that had HP reduced by any amount during Launch (HP Reduction). When a PC strikes an MMC they immediately choose one of the following states for the MMC (Killed or Unconscious). In response, the DM hits the striking PC with a number of attacks that the MMC was capable of equal to 0, 1, 2 or 3 attacks (DM’s choice). All effects from each attack are applied to the PC (HP Loss, Conditions, Death Checks) and take effect on the PC immediately.

Standard – Initiative Order is set by the DM (not rolled) according to MMC and PC bonuses to Initiative. DM and PCs now complete one standard round of D&D 5E combat.

Resolve – Once the one round of normal Dungeons and Dragons 5E Combat has occurred (each Player taking their turn and all MMCs acting), the DM checks if all MMCs are Killed, Unconscious or Captured. If that is the case, then combat resolves as it would normally. If instead, any MMCs are standing, calculate the total HP remaining for all MMCs and determine the percentage of that HP total from the Max HP Total of all MMCs (prior to any HP Reduction or Combat Damage). This Percentage is the End MMC HP Percentage. Now determine the percentage of total remaining PC HP from the Max HP Total of the PCs (prior to any HP Reduction or Combat Damage). This Percentage is the End PC HP Percentage. Resolve the combat as shown below (with the DM distributing treasure to the PCs for each MMC that was Killed, Unconscious or Captured).

  • End PC HP Percentage is Twice or Higher than the Value of the End MMC HP Percentage – Each Player Goes in order of Initiative Bonus and declares the state of one MMC (Killed, Unconscious, Captured, Escaped) until all standing MMCs are addressed.
  • End PC HP Percentage is Equal to or Higher than Value of the End MMC HP Percentage – Each Player Goes in order of Initiative Bonus and declares the state of one MMC (Killed, Unconscious, Captured, Escapes) with the DM declaring the state of one MMC (Killed, Unconscious, Captured, Escaped) between each Player until all standing MMCs are addressed.
  • End PC HP Percentage is Lower than Value of the End MMC HP Percentage – DM declares the state of one MMC (Killed, Unconscious, Captured, Escaped) until all standing MMCs are addressed.

warlock

JADE SLICE – THE-STORY-ARC-ENDING COMBAT

The full blown combat encounters that usually take between 15 minutes and 3 hours, which have been in Dungeons and Dragons from the very beginning, are arduous when there are multiple combat encounters in a single play session. However, when your PC adventuring party has worked for four or eight or even twelve play sessions to confront a villain, to destroy a demon or even to take on a dragon, that IS the time to use the full blown D&D 5E combat encounters. In these circumstance, rather than being arduous, the long and grueling combat encounter will be a pleasant shift to tactical play that will have meaning and purpose.

JADE SLICE – THE REASON TO USE IT

To tell stories more quickly. Making D&D 5E combat encounters resolve in 15 minutes or less can open your game to players who are less interested in combat tactics and more interested in telling the story of an adventurer. Jade Slice makes Dungeons and Dragons 5E’s pace match the modern fast pace that most Americans have become used to in movies, television and video games.

CLOSING NOTES

Jade Slice is presented to help rid obstacles to bringing new players to Dungeons and Dragons 5E. Please let us know your thoughts on making the game run more quickly. Thank you and great gaming to you!

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10 Responses

  1. Kenny
    | Reply

    Like the Monster Manual thing, I’m not sure as a DM I’d use this very often. Mostly because then I’d have to spend a whole lot more time preparing story material for my twice a month or so (if we’re lucky) games. I sometimes struggle to find the free time to craft my world/story as it is, so I can’t imagine my players blowing through so much of it without combat to sort of “fill” in some gaps.

    It is a neat idea, but I think other game systems would be what I’d use for faster/smoother combat. For absolutely new players who didn’t really like how slow D&D can be, I’d probably run them in Barbarians of Lemuria, which this system of combat actually reminds me of.

    But, since it is an interesting idea I could see myself at least giving it a shot and seeing what my players think. None of them are new, and a few are the type to clutch their rulebooks any time I DM fiat something. As always, I like reading your crazy ideas, Scott. Thanks for sharing.

    • Scott GARIBAY
      | Reply

      Thank you so much for the feedback.

  2. Mark Palmer
    | Reply

    Way too complicated for my liking. My preference would be to call ‘foregone conclusion’ combats which are only ever going to end in a PC victory. Back that up by using the 13th Age ‘Escalation Die’ mechanic. From the 2nd round onwards there is an incremental bonus which players (not monsters) add to their attack rolls. +1 in round 2, increasing by 1 each round to a max of +6.

    • Scott GARIBAY
      | Reply

      Running a different system does not fix Dungeons & Dragons problems. The game has to be fixed from within the game. DND is niche. Running a different system create significant problems including attracting new players and new game Masters and it fragments The Hobby.

  3. Mack
    | Reply

    My mind exploded with the crunch. Holy shit I would rather run combat as normal but with a timer.

    • Scott GARIBAY
      | Reply

      As long as you are telling stories faster I am happy.

  4. Zofi
    | Reply

    I am very confused by this whole article. How is combat considered “long” or “lengthy” in 5e? If anything, it’s too short. I played a 6 hour session last week and we had enough time for 2 full-length combats and 4 RP moments. Granted, that’s longer than the average game, at no point did we feel like the combat was taking too long to finish. To me, combat is the right speed, and could even be slowed down to make it last longer. There are times when there are never more than 2 or 3 rounds of combat before it’s over. Granted, D&D isn’t only about combat, but when I talk to other players who’ve played previous editions, they are in awe at how fast it is.

    If I want to go use a ballista or other seige weapon that’s out of my run speed, it’s in the second or even third round before I can even use it. By that time, the monster is dead or nearly dead. Where’s the fun in that?

    Soapbox time: Gamers these days seem to be in too much of a hurry, and D&D is not a game that’s played in a hurry. A friend of mine once told me that D&D is more like communal storytelling than it is an action tabletop game. If we look at it that way, as a group storytelling experience, speeding up the story doesn’t make it into a more epic tale, it degrades it.

    • Scott GARIBAY
      | Reply

      We are trying to grow The Hobby. How are we going to grow The Hobby if we are telling people you need to be ready for a six-hour game and I would like to slow combat down? What you’re describing is a situation where casuals are not welcome casuals do not play six our games and want that experience to last longer. With that said thank you very much for reading the article and thank you very much for the feedback.

  5. dragonmasterdean
    | Reply

    What makes a casual player want to game more is a good session. Not just a mechanic that may or may not shorten a game. Casual players are not what needs to happen to grow the hobby but need to make them long term players. D&D takes too long? And how long does the average gamer play console games or WoW or Skyrim? That is nonsense. If a gamer is enthralled with his session and wants to commit to it, he will make the time available. If you want to keep those casual games, give them a good gaming experience. Be a good DM. Use your sources. Pace the game accordingly. There are enough tools and suggestions that you can make any game session as short or as long as needed. If you want to use some odd mechanic or give your players access to all of the information then that by all means is your choice. That certainly does not mean that D&D has to have a mechanic to make every game session 2 hours. Anyone that likes gaming will want to do more, not less.

  6. Heather
    | Reply

    Holy crap my eyes glazed over with the added math / thought on the DM’s side. We think about enough. I’d prefer to haphazardly reduce Monster HP of combat is too long.

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