Monday, September 16, 2019

Ten (or six) second combat rounds

I started playing D&D with Classic D&D, so it's probably no surprise that I'm a fan of the six ten second combat round, rather than the 1 minute combat round of AD&D.

Sumo is on now (watching it as I type even). And I think sumo shows us a good example of why combat rounds should be short in man-to-man combat systems. OD&D and AD&D's one minute rounds came out of the game's wargame roots, where a minute of mass combat makes sense. But for smaller scale battles, it's too gross a measurement.

Here's a sumo match from last year between Kaisei (orange) and Ryuden (black). I picked this because I actually know the winner of the match, Ryuden. He was my student when he was a middle schooler. Yes, I'm name dropping a name hardly anyone who reads this blog has heard of before. But I enjoy watching him as he's risen through the ranks over the years.

Anyway, the match starts at the 0:48 mark, and finishes at the 0:58 mark. 10 seconds only.

I think I remember hearing somewhere that the average length of a sumo match is 6 seconds. That means many of them don't even go on this long!

In D&D terms, that means whoever gets initiative usually pulls off an attack that either knocks the opponent down or out of the ring in the first round. And in AD&D terms, that's in the first segment!

Granted, sumo isn't deadly combat. But I think it provides a good example of why a very short combat round is a good thing.

[And I'm surprised that after 10 years of blogging, and 21 years of watching sumo, I'm just creating my "sumo" post label today!]


  1. when you say Classic D&D, do you mean B/X, BECMI etc?

    1. Yes, Classic is generally understood to mean BX, BECMI, RC D&D. Some people include Holmes as well.

      You're gonna tell me it's a 10 second round, aren't you? I've been messing with the Star Frontiers rules for Caverns & Cowboys, and Star Frontiers uses a 6 second round (because it's sci fi so metric, so 6 second rounds make 10 to the minute so it's metric!). So I've had 6 second rounds on the mind.


      Still, the match I posted is 10 seconds. That's one combat round in Classic.

    2. No, I have no reason to correct you, nor do I have the rule off the top of my head.

      Lately I have gone to stochastic combat rounds - they last as long as it takes for everyone to do their action. We settle up the minutes after combat.

      For other instances where seconds count, I use one minute Rounds - things like holding your breath for instance.

      For the purposes of the game, we as modern people with a modern concept of precision measurement put too much emphasis on those measurements. The instances where actual seconds are important are few and far between and can rely on referee fiat most of the time.

    3. True, one abstraction is usually not better than another abstraction when it comes to keeping time in game. If a combat lasts a few seconds or a few minutes is usually not that relevant.

      Still, I prefer the shorter round abstraction. Players try to reality-lawyer too much into an abstract minute than they do into an abstract six or ten seconds.