Before starting, I believe that it is important to clarify the subject matter this article will explore. What we will look at is how long a round in DnD 5e lasts, not how long a session or a campaign last. Just how long a combat round is and everything relative to it.
The latter two are deserving their own articles, as such, they will be addressed properly in their respective articles. Without further ado, let us look at what a round is.
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What is a Round in DnD 5e?
In simple terms. A round is the space in which you can perform an action in an encounter. What that action is, lies entirely on the circumstances of your situation and weighs in many factors. Everything from what your character is, their skills and capabilities, their stats, their equipment, and the environment they are in is taken into consideration.
Round ≠ Turn
This is an important distinction to understand. Many players at first confuse the two to be synonyms, but in fact, it isn’t like that.
So let’s use video game terms to better explain it.
In combat, every character gets their own turn to do an action, after all the characters have performed an action in their respective turn the round ends and the next one begins.
The Usual Progression of Rounds in DnD 5e.
Having covered the basics of what a round is, and looked at the crucial difference between a round and turn; let us now look at how rounds usually progress in a game of DnD 5e.
At the beginning of the encounter, each player throws a Dexterity check to determine their initiative in the round. For any creatures, NPCs, and other characters the DM rolls a Dexterity check based on their respective stats.
This is important because it determines the initiative order, without it, the conflict will carry over from the tabletop to in real life. So, to avoid misunderstandings everyone performs an initiative check.
What is Initiative?
Initiative is as mentioned previously, rolls that determine the order in which characters take their turns in a round.
The basics are as follows, players roll Dexterity checks; as such. Classes with high Dexterity benefit more from this and are usually at the top of the turn order, while classes with low Dexterity are at the bottom.
For checks that are tied between players, the players usually roll a d20 and the higher number goes first. For characters the DM controls, he decides which one goes first.
Having looked at this mechanic, let us go to the most important part.
The combat is the most important part of any session, without it, a session would be just a narration of a story. With it included – an element is added that makes DnD so loved by players for decades now.
The basics are as follows: Each player has at least one or multiple action points that they can use, these are predetermined by the DM or by player skills and/or level.
In each turn, they can perform an action that has certain repercussions. The factors that determine the outcome vary from the positioning of the characters at the beginning of the engagement, the skills and abilities the characters have, and the most important part – the blessings of lady luck. A lucky 20 can change the outcome of any situation rapidly.
The list of actions you can usually do in a round of DnD 5e are:
- Casting a Spell
- Helping an ally
- Searching an object
- Using an object
That’s just the basic actions that you can perform, get creative with how you combine these in battle.
During your fight, you can use a ranged weapon to make a ranged attack. Cast a sleep spell, perform ability checks, perform multiple attacks if the conditions are right, and hit a creature over the head with a hammer. Whatever comes to mind.
These are the basic actions one can make. Of course, there are other actions a player can make, but these are situational. Smaller actions might not even require you to use action or movement points – like reading your character sheet (and frankly, it would be funny if your dungeon master made you waste a point on this).
Having analyzed the differences between a round and a turn I hope the reader has a better understanding of the entire process. The process of rolling checks might seem confusing the first few times newer players attempt it. Especially since for the most part you only get a single attack roll. But after a few sessions usually, everyone gets a hang of it.
The basic process is as follows: An encounter happens > players roll initiative along with the DM > everyone performs their actions > next turn everyone performs their actions again > have as many turns as are required to end the encounter > combat ends and those remaining enjoy the spoils.
If you have any further questions, as always I recommend consulting the player’s handbook.
Other questions that players often ask are “how long is one round?”, “how long are ten rounds?”, “how many rounds is an engagement usually?”, “what are ability checks?”, “what is the worth of one action?”
These are just an example of relevant questions that we will be discussing in their appropriate articles. What we cared about today is only “how long a round lasts?” and I hope you’ve found this article educational. Get involved and have fun.