K.R.C. LogoThe Book of Kara

D&D 4E Fast Combat House Rules

Published 13 August 2011

Hi! You've stumbled upon a blog post by a guy named Ryan. I'm not that guy anymore, but I've left his posts around because cool URIs don't change and to remind me how much I've learned and grown over time.

Ryan was a well-meaning but naïve and priviledged person. His views don't necessarily represent the views of anyone.

The following house rules are an attempt to speed up 4E D&D combat and make games more fast-paced, interactive and fun. It also allows a more seamless transition between role-play and combat--the wizard can explore the ancient library of his own accord without standing behind the fighter, expecting monsters to pop out. I'd appreciate any feedback on how it plays.


At the beginning of an adventure, the following steps occur:

  • Each player receives six tokens: a move token, a minor token, an interrupt token, an opportunity token, a standard token and a hero token (aka action point).
  • Each player calculates the damage for his jab (see below)
  • Players determine their initiative draw order based on their initiative bonuses


Immediately upon declaring a combat, players and monsters that are not surprised may spring into action. Monsters act first, then players, starting with the player with the lowest initiative bonus and moving upward.

Springing into action allows a creature to take of the following actions:

  • Shift half its speed
  • Shift 1 square then drop prone
  • Draw up to 2 items and ready a shield
  • Make a monster knowledge check

The spring into action phase is where players declare the use of any powers or abilities that trigger upon rolling initiative (Such as Battlefront Shift or Past Life Flashbacks). These actions occur in addition to springing into action, but each player may only trigger one such power. Resolve any changes in initiative draw order at this point.

Once all players have sprung into action, players draw initiative cards (labeled 1 - 10) from a hat, beginning with the player with the highest initiative bonus. Each player may return his card and draw another one time. If player has a power that allows him to re-roll initiative, he may return his card and re-draw a third time. Players should not disclose their initiative card until their first action.

Initiative Order

Initiative Draw Order always begins with NPCs, then continues to players, and is based on initiative bonus. This allows players with the highest initiative bonuses to make decisions with the most information. A high initiative bonus also gives a player a better chance at drawing a high initiative card.

Initiative Card Order begins with the player with the highest numbered card (10) and proceeds down to the lowest (1). It is the result of sheer luck.

Monsters subtract half their level (rounded down) from a monster's initiative bonus, and the result is their card order. Monsters act before the player with the corresponding initiative card. For example, an Ettin Hunter (level 10, +6 Initiative) acts before the player with Initiative Card 1, while an Ice Devil (Gelugon, level 20, +18 Initiative) acts before the player with Initiative Card 8.

The Combat Round

Combat begins with the player who has drawn the highest number. Before this player acts, all effects that happen at the beginning of a turn (auras, ongoing damage, etc.) are resolved for all creatures in draw order.

That player takes a single action, and then flips over the token corresponding to the action. The following actions may not be taken at any time:

  • Delay
  • Ready
  • Monster knowledge check

Creatures may also pass their actions. Players should not speak during other players' turns, unless an immediate action triggers. Each player should take no more than 30 seconds to declare his action, and the DM may declare a pass if a player takes too long.

Once the player resolves his action, the player with the next highest initiative card acts and so on. The DM returns all opportunity tokens at the end of each such round.

Once four rounds have past, all creature's turns end, and all effects that occur at the of a turn are resolved in initiative draw order (e.g. saving throws), then all effects automatically end at the end of the turn end. Players that still have tokens remaining after four rounds receive no benefit from them. All players are then refunded their tokens and the turn order begins again.

Optionally, the DM can collect all initiative cards and have the players re-draw initiative at the end of each turn.


A jab is an at-will standard action power that any creature can take. It is a quick, weak but highly accurate attack. Any time a player is granted a melee or ranged basic attack outside of his turn (e.g. opportunity attacks, triggering a fighter mark or Commander's Strike). Jab attacks automatically hit but do minimum damage. They cannot critically hit.

K.R.C. LogoPrevious: How I post things to the InternetNext: There is no off-season: NFL.com’s move to YUI