Dr. Gentleman has a series of posts about Combat that I’m trying (and mostly failing) to read. This post isn’t really about anything I’ve read there, but it has Combat on my mind, and Gnome Stew just posted a little trick about color-coding your dice that I thought was neat, and all that reminded me of a trick of my own that I’d been meaning to mention.
People complain about the speed of combat a lot — roll d20 to hit, what did you get?, that hits now roll damage, what did you get?, describe results of the attack, next action. With even a handful of players it gets bogged down quickly, especially if there are NPCs (enemies and/or allies) involved. But it doesn’t have to be this way, really.
A simple trick that I’ve used, and that I’m surprised doesn’t get used more, is to chuck a handful of dice. Instead of making each piece of the attack sequence a separate roll, grab a d20 and whatever damage dice you use and toss it in one throw. If the d20 hits the AC damage is already on the table, and you haven’t wasted any real effort if you miss. I’ve considered adding a Crit/Fumble die to the mix so that crits are confirmed in the same throw as well. With a little color-coding, you can quickly see hit-die, damage-dice, backstab-dice, crit-die and so on. It becomes a lot more roll-and-go, especially if DMs aren’t coy about monster ACs (which I don’t think they should be, in general). If people start thinking about their next action before it’s their turn (something my players need practise doing), it gets even smoother.