[RPG] way to auto-resolve a fight and account for resource consumption

combatdnd-5eresource-consumption

Sometimes the result of an encounter is easily seen even before the fight starts. If I let the PCs automatically win the fight, are there rules to determine how much resources it would cost them? I.e. how much HP lost, how many spell slots spent etc.

I'm considering a rule like "one point of HP equals 10XP, one 1st spell slot equals 20XP. The encounter is 200XP total. How do you arrange the cost?"

Best Answer

I have faced and handled this issue in OSR and Pathfinder play as follows:

  1. The game master eyeballs the situation and makes a suggestion to the players: each character takes d6 damage, each one is attacked by two skeletons, etc., and after that, all the enemies are declared dead.

  2. Players accept or decline the suggestion. If they do not perceive it as fair, or if they have a stratagem they want to use, or if they just want to feel their power and roll some damage dice against some zombies, or test their new abilities, then they can opt to use the combat rules. They can, of course, make a counter-offer, too, if so inclined.

  3. Once you have consensus, implement and go on.

Sometimes it is the players start with a suggestion - how about we spend all our alchemist's fire and the zombies (on this open field) are declared dead, with no rolling? If you feel it is a reasonable expenditure of resources and there are no surprises in wait, agree. Otherwise, play it out or make a counter-offer.

But if I misjudge?

  • First, do not do this unless the outcome in the situation is obvious. Combat is problem-solving and resource management, so once the problems are solved and it is only a matter of accounting, make an estimate and go with it. Wait until there are no more surprises in wait and stratagems are settled and fairly optimal.

  • As a special case of "outcome is obvious", do not use this if an important character's life is on the line. This includes the player characters.

  • This mostly happens with non-intelligent enemies.

  • If you have a clever and fair player with an eye for this kind of thing, ask them. "Fair" means that they can and want to make impartial judgements about what will happen to their character and the team. Not everyone is up to this.

  • Since you ask for explicit table consensus, it is unlikely that you will screw the player characters badly. You might give them an easy win, but where is the harm in that?

Examples

  • Zombies. Player characters climb onto a roof, decimate the stairs, and then blob off zombies one-by-one as they come. The situation is solved, so I suggest one attack against each by a zombie with a hefty penalty. This is accepted.

  • Fast characters, slow zombies, open plain. Expend some ammunition and done.

  • Dungeon corridor blocked with big moveable walls/shields. Mindless undead on the other side. Oil and fire. Some rolls to see if the pavises catch fire, some strength rolls to see if the undead break through, and then done.

  • Character that can fly, with infinite magic, against mindless undead with only melee attacks. Expend time, done.

Player reactions

Players have been fine with this. Once I made too generous an offer, they declined, and went on to make tactical mistakes and lose a character. What followed was the example with the alchemist's fires, above.