Is D&D Too Focused on Combat?
  • Is D&D Too Focused on Combat?


    Dungeons & Dragons' wargame roots are well-known, but what is sometimes forgotten is how much its origins influenced role-playing games. Although D&D has been a platform to tell many different kinds of stories, its mechanics focus on a few core themes and one of them is combat -- but it's not the only one.

    The Three Modes

    Jon Peterson in Playing at the World explained that there are three modes of D&D play, in which dramatic pacing is achieved by transitioning between the three:

    ...a mode of exploration, a mode of combat and a mode of logistics. Time flows differently in each of these modes, and by rationing the modes carefully a referee guides the players through satisfying cycles of tension, catharsis and banality that mimic the ebb and flow of powerful events.

    These modes are interrelated in important ways, and modern role-players tolerance for all three has changed over time. Exploration has experienced a resurgence with sandbox-style play. Combat has been de-emphasized, particularly in story-telling games. And logistics are back in vogue thanks to the Old School Renaissance. Let's take a look at each in turn.

    The First Mode: Exploration

    In the original boxed set of D&D, exploration was important, but beyond the scope of the rules. It was a key part of emergent play -- using basic guidelines to encourage creative strategies -- but it wasn't actually part of D&D itself. Instead, D&D encouraged players to buy Avalon Hill's Outdoor Survival board game, as Peterson explains:

    The object of Outdoor Survival is to navigate a wilderness, though there are five scenarios providing distinct justifications for doing so: for example, lost players returning to civilization at the edges of the map or racing to find the object of a search party. Given that the board itself is not a secret from the players (Outdoor Survival has no referee), some other means is required to simulate being lost in the woods, since the players necessarily command a birdís-eye view of the environment. Dice therefore determine whether or not players are lost, and if so, in which direction they will wander. The board is overlain with a hexagonal grid, segmenting the board into hexagons about 1.5 centimeters across; as there are six possible directions on a hexagonal board to move, a six-sided die can easily dictate the orientation of lost players. Each hex contains a particular terrain type, in much the manner of Hellwig: there are mountains, swamps, rivers, deserts, plains and even roads (well, trails).

    Evidence of D&D's interest in hexcrawling is strongly represented in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, which was published after the original set but before the rest of the AD&D line. Each monster has a few noteworthy statistics, particularly: frequency, number appearing, and % in lair. Much of these stats do not make sense in a typical dungeon context, where the rooms are planned out; DMs would likely know the monsters that were to appear in their dungeons, and in fact author Gary Gygax states, "...It is not generally recommended for use in establishing the population of Dungeon Levels." But when used in hexcrawling they're useful in describing the encounters there, beginning with frequency, then determining if the monster encountered is in its lair, and then concluding with number of appearing (which could sometimes be in the hundreds, befitting a camp but not a dungeon room).

    For a time, hexcrawling and emergent play were out of favor as more scripted adventures came into vogue. The OSR has reinvigorated sandbox-style play, in which the players generate the world as they adventure, one roll at a time.

    The Second Mode: Combat

    D&D's second mode is the one most gamers are familiar with: killing things. D&D grew out of Chainmail, itself a product of wargaming, so combat's relevance to D&D goes all the way back to its first iteration. Additionally, it mimics the style of the fiction that influenced it, including the violent Conan among other swords and sorcery novels. What's changed is how D&D scales combats. The emphasis on leveling up was treasure, as explained in a previous article, "The Original End Goal of Dungeons & Dragons." Kiva Maginn (Battletech design lead) on Twitter explains how this changes the style of play:

    As a player, you could gain experience by fighting monsters or claiming treasure. You could lose it by dying in battle with monsters. You could encounter monsters without treasure, and you could encounter treasure without monsters. So there was an obvious 'best' path. Get in, get the treasure, get out. Do as little fighting as possible, because fighting risks XP loss. Avoid encounters when you can, and subvert them with clever tricks if possible. Money you find without a fight is free XP.

    This changed with Third Edition, in which experience points were rewarded for defeating a monster:

    Consider 3rd Edition D&D, by contrast. Gold provides no inherent advancement. At a certain point, you simply don't need it anymore. You have so much of it that it's absurd to bother picking up any more. So there's a new obvious 'best' path. Ignore tricks and clever solutions. Never avoid fights. Kill every single monster in the dungeon, with 'it's in the dungeon!' as your justification for doing so. Seek out harder fights with bigger monsters. Don't stop killing.

    Ironically, D&D became MORE about killing than less, as PCs were no longer incentivized to just accumulate gold to advance. Third Edition also did away with name levels and retainers as being an end gold, so the purpose of spending gold had shifted from building strongholds and hiring mercenaries to personally enriching the character through acquisition of magic items. This change was a recognition that players were less interested in leading armies and transitioning back to a life of perpetual adventuring, and the game shifted gears to reflect that.

    Of course, role-playing has since moved beyond combat -- relying more heavily on the narrativist style of play -- even if it started with the primarily tactical dungeon and overland exploration of D&D.

    The Third Mode: Logistics

    Logistics have largely fallen out of favor today due to onerous nature of keeping track of encumberance, equipment, and gold. These factors were all intentional controls on player greed, ensuring that PCs couldn't just cart out mountains of gold (and thus experience points) without some challenges. You can read a more detailed discussion of inventory management and encumbrance in a previous article, "The Lost Art of Packing it All In."

    Third Edition's shift towards combat meant that the nature of logistics changed to be less about accumulating gold and more about personal advancement, exemplified by Pathfinder which spins out even more options than Third Edition for character development.

    D&D Today

    So where does that leave us with D&D today? Kiva points out that the combat biases are still there, but now D&D has expanded to encompass other styles of play -- it just doesn't emphasize it equally:

    The flaw in later D&D was that it was a game that was good at modeling killing, and spent a decade trying to be anything *other* than a game about killing.

    Inspiration, Personal Characteristics, and Background were added to incentivize players to role-play but as the AngryDM points out, many players forget all about it because of the way it's implemented:

    Itís just this thing thatís easy to forget and sits in the game not really doing anything. It feels tacked on. Vestigial. An afterthought. It certainly doesnít seem to have a clear purpose, as evidenced by the fact that the DM and the players get different advice about it and how it is weirdly disconnected from the mechanics that it seems to be connected to. It seems thrown in. ďPeople like Bonds in Dungeon World and Aspects in Fate, we should probably slap something like that in there.Ē

    Fifth Edition D&D has also changed how experience points are gained, providing an option to level up through milestones instead. This shifts the incentives yet again away from combat.

    Is combat overemphasized in D&D? Maybe, but that's at least partially due to the other two modes of exploration and logistics falling out of favor. If the eight pages detailing combat are any indication in the Basic D&D Rules, combat is still an integral part of the game, and many players are just fine with that.

    Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
    Comments 228 Comments
    1. Ovinomancer's Avatar
      Ovinomancer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jhaelen View Post
      I've seen this argument quite often, but I'm convinced it doesn't hold water.
      There's nothing inherently different about combat that it merits being treated different from any other activities in an RPG. In fact there are numerous RPG systems that have seamlessly integrated combat-relevant skills in their skill system. The only reason combat is treated differently from other skills in D&D is that D&D historically didn't have a skill system.

      Combat encounters could be resolved purely by roleplaying exactly as any other kind of encounter. And the reverse is just as true: All kinds of encounters benefit from a rule framework, especially those that involve some kind of conflict. It doesn't matter if that conflict is fought with weapons, words or thoughts.
      Well, words and thoughts generally don't tend to injure, maim, or kill. The focus many games (not just D&D) place on combat is due to the deadly nature of combat. Games that go combat light on rules also tend to reduce consequences of combat.
    1. pemerton's Avatar
      pemerton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bowman View Post
      Well combat needs rules, role playing does not. Players can always play "Lets pretend" There is no die rolling involved when characters are attempting to solve a mystery, or haggling with a merchant to settle on a price
      You can do combat with "let's pretend" also - I played a lot of "cops and robbers" and "armies" when I was a kid.

      The reason for dice rolling in combat isn't because combat especially needs it - it's because it provides finality of outcome without people having just to agree on what happens.

      You can do exactly the same thing in non-combat arenas of interaction. As I just posted, Classic Traveller had social resolution mechanics in 1977. It's not like this is cutting edge tech if you want it in your game.
    1. pemerton's Avatar
      pemerton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Blue View Post
      I feel that D&D makes the assumption that combat will be a lengthy mechanical part of a session whenever it occurs, so that every character should be good at it. This doesn't mean that you need a lot of combat, or that every session has combat. It does mean that when it occurs it's going to take a good chunk of time and involve everyone.



      Everyone being useful and having a niche in combat is a sacred cow of D&D and I accept that (and can easily play systems that don't have that when I feel like it), and that I accept. Where it could grow even stronger is if it too that assumption about combat and applied it across other pillars, so everyone had niches in them and could contribute, instead of only needing one Face, or one tracker, or one PC who can find and disarm traps.
      I think this would require not only changing PC build rules, but also changing the default approach to non-combat encounter framing.

      I don't use a lot of traps or other "exploration"-type challenges in my games, so can't comment on that. But it's very common for the 8 CHA Dwarf fighter in my main 4e game to make social checks in a skill challenge, because he is trying to produce some outcome in the fiction (make someone listen to him, or obey him, or agree with him, or whatever) and there's no other way to bring that about!

      But I read a lot of posts which talk about leaving all the talking up to "the face". This suggests that situations are being set up so that none of the other PCs (and thereby the players) have anything distinctive at stake which they need to make social checks to achieve. Contrast the situation with combat, where (typically) every PC is at risk of losing hp.
    1. pemerton's Avatar
      pemerton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bowman View Post
      I don't think die roles should ever substitute for players using their brains to figure out a situation.
      I personally don't think that's very contentious, but it's orthogonal to the issue of whether or not combat is especially in need of rules.

      Quote Originally Posted by shidaku View Post
      some editions tried adding rules to social and exploration elements of the game, they weren't terribly successful because all they ended up really accomplishing is setting DC's for diplomacy checks on making gods your friends. That's obviously not the approach we want to see.
      The only edition that does this is 3E. It's not in AD&D. And it's not in 4e. (I'm not sure about 5e, but I don't think so.)

      Quote Originally Posted by shidaku View Post
      Social and exploration is very much less a fixed-outcome sort of deal and I think because of that, it's a lot more difficult to create rules. We don't know what the outcome of talking to the King is.
      The player can establish the desired outcome when declaring his/her action.

      Quote Originally Posted by shidaku View Post
      Unless we're going to create rules that say something like "All Kings are the same." in the same way that all longswords are the same, we're never going to be able to have the same kind of rules we have for combat work for social situations.
      Well, Traveller actually takes that approach to bureaucrats - a uniform resolution scheme for dealing with them. The result is that dealing with bureaucrats is a significant part of Classic Traveller play.

      But there are plenty of systems with universal social resolution mechanics that "the same kind of rules" as for combat - eg HeroWars/Quest, Burning Wheel, Marvel Heroic RP/Cortex+ Heroic. (Exactly the same in the case of the first and last of those.)
    1. Reynard -
      "We try to convince the baron to write us a letter so we can get to the capital without being molested by guards" does not need to be handled terribly differently in the game rules than "We try to move down the hallways without setting off any of the pressure plates so we can get to the treasure without being pinioned with poison darts" or "we try to cut our way through the orc line so we can get to the necromancer without having our life force sucked out." Each one represents a bunch of steps and challenges that are based on the capabilities of the PC as written on the character sheet, guided by the strategies and tactics of the players. The problem with treating the first as special, requiring convincing statements, is that it becomes a game of "GM May I?" very quickly. Imagine the opposite where the outcome of combat was determined by how well you described your attacks and feints and was based primarily on whether the GM liked what you said, what their mood was and whether their kids had really rankled them that day. It doesn't make sense for combat (in a game not built around narrative devices, I mean) so it should not make any more sense in a social challenge or a non-combat skill challenge. Players should not have to be adept orators in order to play a con man any more than they should have to know how to fence in order to play a swashbuckler.
    1. BackInAction's Avatar
      BackInAction -
      One other reason why combat might get more love than some of the parts of the game is the "real life" vs "fantasy" aspect. In "real-life" I deal with logistics, resources, social interactions, etc. all day long. I don't cast spells or swing a sword.
    1. Ovinomancer's Avatar
      Ovinomancer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
      "We try to convince the baron to write us a letter so we can get to the capital without being molested by guards" does not need to be handled terribly differently in the game rules than "We try to move down the hallways without setting off any of the pressure plates so we can get to the treasure without being pinioned with poison darts" or "we try to cut our way through the orc line so we can get to the necromancer without having our life force sucked out." Each one represents a bunch of steps and challenges that are based on the capabilities of the PC as written on the character sheet, guided by the strategies and tactics of the players. The problem with treating the first as special, requiring convincing statements, is that it becomes a game of "GM May I?" very quickly. Imagine the opposite where the outcome of combat was determined by how well you described your attacks and feints and was based primarily on whether the GM liked what you said, what their mood was and whether their kids had really rankled them that day. It doesn't make sense for combat (in a game not built around narrative devices, I mean) so it should not make any more sense in a social challenge or a non-combat skill challenge. Players should not have to be adept orators in order to play a con man any more than they should have to know how to fence in order to play a swashbuckler.
      I agree with you last sentence, but...

      Having mechanical means for suicidal challenges means that the PCs are subject to the same kinds of social "attacks." That gets into telling people how their PC acts or thinks or feels. That's not bad, in and of itself, but it is a big reason people push back against codified mechanics for the social pillar.

      I'm okay with having to adopt what mechanics tell me, but I have a few current players that would hate it. One of my old players would be enraged -- which is weird because he was a fantastic GM, even of ganes that had social mechanics. When he played, though, even trying to apply pressure, much less mechanics, turned him into a stubborn mule.
    1. Sebastrd -
      Personally, I think the greatest failing of D&D is that it doesn't offer robust mechanical support outside of combat. 5E is particularly egregious given that the stated design goals included supporting all three "pillars" (combat, exploration, and interaction), but the rules didn't evolve to cover them. (That said, I'm a huge fan of 5E.)

      If anyone has experience with games that do a good job of mechanically implementing exploration and interaction, I'd love to hear about them. I hate glossing over them at my table, but I've yet to come across a better alternative.
    1. Lord Zack's Avatar
      Lord Zack -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Lewis View Post
      Almost everything in D&D revolves around combat. Combat has always been the main course. And there is no shame in that, but we often see attempts made to either apologize or compensate for it unnecessarily. What I loved best about fourth edition was it actually embraced the true nature if the system. It was the most honest and innovative version of the game, and true to form, flawed no less than any of the others.
      Most people may have played the game that way, but this would be because the early developers failed in adequetly communicating their intent. If you tried to go all hack and slash in Blackmoor and Greyhawk your characters would be slain in short order. Personally I find that a game where combat is emphasized over alternative solutions to be far less interesting.
    1. Flexor the Mighty! -
      Quote Originally Posted by R_Chance View Post
      The Outdoor Survival rules and the encumbrance rules in OD&D/ AD&D made for some fun. Players could starve or die of thirst. You couldn't take it all with you. Pack animals were a good idea. You had to plan an adventure / expedition. Add weather and environmental effects and it got really interesting. It was fun.

      Magic could mitigate some issues as you advanced in levels of course. Later editions started using more and more magic to evade the problems players encountered on outdoor adventures. Too bad. Worrying about where your next meal was coming from gave players something to worry about besides the next combat. It also helped make the game more immersive and gave it a dose of "reality". My initial group loved it, but then we were straight out of miniature wargaming and these issues came up in miniature campaigns (as opposed to just setting up a single battle).
      Yep. I think having to plan an expedition to a jungle like Chuult is cool. As you said its immersive for me. Instead when we went into the dark dangerous jungle its functionally not much different than an adventure on the Sword Coast. The survival checks are trivial and there are a ton of ways mitigate anything nasty. And you level so quick that in a handful of sessions its all a non issue. Just different monsters in the random encounter tables. For me there is zero immersion, no need to put that much thought into how you are going to approach it. But I think D&D editions in general have gotten more and more like that, the immersion of having to describe how you are going to interact with the environment the DM has described is largely removed by making a skill check. Having to think of how I'm going to role play an encounter based on clues the DM has given me in descriptions of an NPC are largely removed by making a skill check. I never get into the mind of the PC, I'm in the mechanics most of the time. All of this is IME and all that. I'm sure for many YMMV.

      I think I need to find an old school game.
    1. Jacob Lewis's Avatar
      Jacob Lewis -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lord Zack View Post
      Most people may have played the game that way, but this would be because the early developers failed in adequetly communicating their intent. If you tried to go all hack and slash in Blackmoor and Greyhawk your characters would be slain in short order. Personally I find that a game where combat is emphasized over alternative solutions to be far less interesting.
      So your argument is that most people chose to play a certain way because the designers couldn't communicate effectively? Can we assume that you are not playing D&D because it doesn't hold your interest, or have you found ways to make it more interesting like most have done since the beginning?

      Incidentally, Greyhawk and Blackmoor are settings, not actual games unto themselves.
    1. Kobold Boots -
      There's a lot of good posts in this thread, but I've yet to see one that looks at the problem from a top-down perspective so I'll give it a go.

      The question really isn't about combat rules, it's about how all of the rules of the game system fit together. If you look at them, you see an ebb and flow over the years that support the pillars, it's more about whether the "first look" at the system makes the support readily obvious based on page count and amount of work on the part of the DM vs. amount of stuff detailed in the rules books.

      At it's core the game has always been, roll a die or dice and try to get over or under a target number. Early on the D20 and D100 were used for task resolution and the others were used mostly for damage. These days it's more about the D20 and hitting a target number threshold. Really, that's as complicated as the game is in a nuts and bolts way and I don't think that ever needs to change.

      To support combat and social situations you add modifiers. Regardless of flavor, it's a +1 through +5 usually and most mods cap out at +2 to give you a 10% swing on a D20.
      To support combat, exploration and logistics you add distance. This is usually in a number of feet, or number of squares (as an abstraction of feet) per turn.
      To support social situations you add an initial disposition table. This is usually a d10 or d20 adding a modifier (usually charisma)
      To support all the pillars you add a basic economy so that things may be purchased, bribed etc.

      Everything else is DM fiat. Which is as it should be.

      If there's a bias towards combat rules (there is) it's because

      1. It's the interaction most likely to cause character death and ending of the game. (Highest risk value interaction)
      2. Character generation requires classes to be different in context of the highest risk value interaction and many abilities are damage related.

      I don't see this as a particularly complicated discussion because like most DMs I've spent a lot of time working out the economic, logistic, and social structures in my game settings before I play the game. I don't need those rules to exist. However, I do like having a combat framework because the time doesn't exist to deliberate every hit roll fairly without that framework as it does/should with every player interaction. Completely free form combat (meaning no rules at all) given all the character options available would prevent the game from progressing.

      Thanks
      KB
    1. ehren37's Avatar
      ehren37 -
      Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
      You can do combat with "let's pretend" also - I played a lot of "cops and robbers" and "armies" when I was a kid.

      The reason for dice rolling in combat isn't because combat especially needs it - it's because it provides finality of outcome without people having just to agree on what happens.

      You can do exactly the same thing in non-combat arenas of interaction. As I just posted, Classic Traveller had social resolution mechanics in 1977. It's not like this is cutting edge tech if you want it in your game.
      This. I don't really see the difference between "I shoot him/"Nuh-uh, you missed" and "I convince him/Nuh-uh, you didn't convince ME". If anything, the latter is even more meta-game and less roleplaying, since its basically a power fantasy avatar rather than playing the character as they interact with the world.

      I like codified social/exploration rules. I have no idea how to mechanically design a trap or disarm it, nor should I need to do so anymore than someone else should have to actually know how to cast a spell. My silver tongue shouldnt really grant me a bonus when my character's stats don't match up. I'm not playing "idealized me, complete with metagame knowledge".
    1. Jay Verkuilen's Avatar
      Jay Verkuilen -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bowman View Post
      I don't think die roles should ever substitute for players using their brains to figure out a situation.
      Use of player knowledge was very much expected in the early days, if you look at a lot of older modules. However, there are some real questions raised by it so it's not surprising that skill systems got developed over the years. Examples:

      (1) What if I'm a rather above average Int person playing an low Int fighter? What if I'm a normal guy playing a wizard with Int 18?
      (2) How do we handle situations where players know things their characters really don't? Example: Making gunpowder. Or vice versa, not knowing how to handle a horse or cross a raging river or knowing how to read ancient Sylvan?
      (3) How about player knowledge of game content? I've DMed a ton and know the monsters of multiple editions pretty well. However, my characters shouldn't know that.
      etc.

      There are reasons why die rolls might well need to overrule players. If you want a way to make it seem less crazy, one way to think about is is that the players make whatever argument they make to the guards to get past the gate but ultimately things come down to the fact that the characters need to know or do something. The DM can adjust the difficulty of the roll such as granting advantage or imposing disadvantage, for coming up with a good or bad plan. A roll is often very useful.
    1. Thomas Bowman's Avatar
      Thomas Bowman -
      Quote Originally Posted by MichaelSomething View Post
      I bet Gygax thought the same way you did. That's why the early rulebooks went lite on the social roleplaying rules because he thought they weren't needed.

      However, lots of people read those rulebooks and came to the conclusion that D&D was purely a combat game because it was full of combat rules and little else.
      Okay, lets get a little ridiculous, lets say the player characters are in a shop trying to buy weapons, and one of them asks, "How much is that weapon?" The DM informs the player that he must roll a D20 to decide the outcome of this encounter. So the player rolls a D20 and the result is a natural 1, so the DM informs the player that the store proprietor gets mad, grabs the sword that is on the table and he attacks the player characters with it, and tells the players to role for initiative to determine the order of combat. The player who rolled the dices asks, "What happened, what did I do?" The DM tells the player, "You rolled a 1 on the d20 and as you know a natural 1 is an automatic failure in whatever you are trying to accomplish, sorry, just bad luck I guess."
    1. Jay Verkuilen's Avatar
      Jay Verkuilen -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bowman View Post
      Okay, lets get a little ridiculous, lets say the player characters are in a shop trying to buy weapons, and one of them asks, "How much is that weapon?" <...> "You rolled a 1 on the d20 and as you know a natural 1 is an automatic failure in whatever you are trying to accomplish, sorry, just bad luck I guess."
      100% that interpretation of rolls really matters but not all failure escalates that way... most probably shouldn't. I mean, maybe the shop owner just doesn't want to sell or raises the price or angrily kicks the PCs out of his shop? Those seem more proportional. Not all interactions need die rolls either. Buying a sword is an example of one that probably doesn't.
    1. Reynard -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bowman View Post
      Okay, lets get a little ridiculous, lets say the player characters are in a shop trying to buy weapons, and one of them asks, "How much is that weapon?" The DM informs the player that he must roll a D20 to decide the outcome of this encounter. So the player rolls a D20 and the result is a natural 1, so the DM informs the player that the store proprietor gets mad, grabs the sword that is on the table and he attacks the player characters with it, and tells the players to role for initiative to determine the order of combat. The player who rolled the dices asks, "What happened, what did I do?" The DM tells the player, "You rolled a 1 on the d20 and as you know a natural 1 is an automatic failure in whatever you are trying to accomplish, sorry, just bad luck I guess."
      You're right. that's Terribly ridiculous. A better example (that came directly from my game last week) is if a PC tries to intimidate an NPC with threats of violence into letting them squat in his estate. It was a strange demand, to be sure, and the exchange could really have used a rules frame work to guide the outcome (we are playing Labyrinth Lord, if that matters).

      As it is, the aristocrat's bodyguards are going to lay in wait and assassinate the insolent PC, but that's a different issue.
    1. mcosgrave's Avatar
      mcosgrave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bowman View Post
      Well combat needs rules, role playing does not.
      Absolutely! Put this on a tee shirt!

      If you compare the development of D&D with board war games, you see similarities. Old games like Napoleon at Waterloo are pure force on force, while intermediate era games like Terrible Swift Sword deal with troop quality and command. Recent games like Arquebus are almost entirely driven by command, and commander activation. Obviously, I generalize grossly here, but as time has progressed since the seventies, our understanding of how to model complex real,world interactions in games has developed.
    1. Lanefan -
      Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
      But it's very common for the 8 CHA Dwarf fighter in my main 4e game to make social checks in a skill challenge, because he is trying to produce some outcome in the fiction (make someone listen to him, or obey him, or agree with him, or whatever) and there's no other way to bring that about!

      But I read a lot of posts which talk about leaving all the talking up to "the face". This suggests that situations are being set up so that none of the other PCs (and thereby the players) have anything distinctive at stake which they need to make social checks to achieve.
      It's not the situations that are being set up that's causing this, it's caused by the underlying rules clearly and obviously granting a greater chance of success when only the "face" does the interacting.

      This is horrible design. Even when there's something big at stake for the whole party, maximal odds of success come via preventing or strongly discouraging most of the participants from playing! Whose dumb idea was that?

      Contrast the situation with combat, where (typically) every PC is at risk of losing hp.
      If h.p. is all they're worried about losing it's not much of a combat.

      But yes, there's strong encouragement built into the system for most if not all characters to participate in combats; not least of which is that to just leave it all to the tank (analagous to leaving an important social interaction to the face to deal with) means you're going to bury a lot of tanks and then spend a lot of time recruiting (and rolling up) new ones.

      Lanefan
    1. Lord Zack's Avatar
      Lord Zack -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Lewis View Post
      So your argument is that most people chose to play a certain way because the designers couldn't communicate effectively? Can we assume that you are not playing D&D because it doesn't hold your interest, or have you found ways to make it more interesting like most have done since the beginning?

      Incidentally, Greyhawk and Blackmoor are settings, not actual games unto themselves.
      I don't really have to do much at all because IMO D&D was never focused on combat to begin with. I just have to encourage the players to not always pursue combat-related solutions. Using a version that has xp for treasure, or adding it myself helps. There was also other stuff like monster reactions, morale, etc. that people tended to ignore.

      Also Gygax and Arneson ran the Greyhawk and Blackmoor campaigns before those were published settings. Indeed they actually were on some level games unto themselves back them because Dungeons and Dragons wasn't published yet so everybody did things there own way.
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