[Very Long] Combat as Sport vs. Combat as War: a Key Difference in D&D Play Styles... - Page 11
  1. #101
    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    A balanced system doesn't keep you from creating an overwhelming encounter, nor keep players from finding a way of making it less overwhelming. It just makes pegging an encounter at 'overwhelming' a good deal easier and more consistent.
    There is a conflict that is readily apparent. The more resources the PCs potentially have to turn an overwhelming encounter into a beatable one, the less predictably overwhelming the encounter is. As variability in PC encounter performance goes up, predictability of encounter difficulty (i.e. balance, in this sense) goes down.

    Now, judging from the rest of your post you seem to have the prototypical preference for Harlem Globetrotters-style, Right to Dream CAS, where "balance" in the PC-Encounter relationship doesn't mean that each side has a fair shot at winning (this is important) -- it means the PCs will almost certainly win. So they get to choose their abilities based on their character concept, rather than being "forced" to optimize.

    Just like in a Globetrotters game, where they get to choreograph their moves based on whatever looks most entertaining, because they know they're going to win anyways. They have the "right" to put on a show, rather than being "forced" to gameplan to win.

    But on the other hand, somebody who is actually looking for a competitive bite to the proceedings won't be satisfied with this. They want to be forced to gameplan to win, because if they do win, that's a compliment on their skill as a player. They like optimizing their build and spell selection on a rules-heavy level, or rubbing mud on their body to avoid bees on a rules-light level, because that makes victory feel sweeter and well-earned. Even if they had to sacrifice their character concept or the serious/gritty tone of the game to get there.

    That's the potential conflict between Simulationism (Right to Dream) and Gamism (Step on Up) in a nutshell. And why I, and I think LostSoul, associate 4e-style CAS with Simulationism rather than Gamism.

  2. #102
    So, what would a hybrid look like?

    I'm interested in a Combat as Sport tactical combat module for boss battles.

    But I'd like it to be legit gamist CAS. The default balance is literal 50/50 balance: the system is not favoring either the PCs, or the monsters. It will be a lengthy, involving, intense battle, where the winner will be who plays their side the best.

    I don't want to have to fiddle around with level+2 or level+5 battles in order to get a "boss battle"--- I want the default setting to be boss battle.

    The lose condition would be literally losing the battle; not resource attrition. So either character death, or story failure, or both.

    Then I would like a lighter, freer and less balanced system for CAW, attrition-based combat to use at other times.

    (A lot of jargon in here, but I hope it's understandable).

  3. #103
    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    I'm still waiting for someone to explain why they think a game should be less like an actual sport, and more like an actual war.

    We /are/ talking about a game.
    Oh I don't know. Maybe people like different things?

    No explanation is needed.

  4. #104
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    The better balanced a game is, the more style-neutral it is. That is, the more a player can play the character he wants, the way he wants, and the DM can run the campaign he wants, the way he wants and tell the story he wants, without the player character having to suck for the sake of concept or the DM having to re-write swaths of rules.
    I don't think it has to do with balance; I think the important thing is the reward system. Look at XP for GP as an example: that is going to have a big impact on different PC concepts and campaigns. I think this is why a lot of people drop the written XP/reward systems for ones of their own - they know the style they want, and they find the current reward system doesn't work for it.

  5. #105
    I read the original post, but (alas) not all the comments.

    I find the Combat as War so much more compelling, fun, and full of depth. The creativity and problem-solving is what D&D is all about.

    The differences certainly speak to the (early) low fantasy roots of TSR D&D (at least how we played) versus the hero-play that WotC has encouraged.

    A nice read.

  6. #106
    Quote Originally Posted by Aenghus View Post
    I prefer combat as sport as both a player and a referee, as it's less stressful and easier to play and run in (less preparation as both a player and a referee, less ad hoc rulings for the referee to make). It's also easier to implement and justify a low casualty rate in.

    I also like old school paladins, and increasingly dislike delays produced by overplanning. I prefer a system where being direct and heroic isn't a death sentence. I don't want a game where there is no safe haven, constant guard is needed against death traps, assassins and poison, and checking everything is essential to survival.

    Combat as War also has its own limitations, as it has a pretty crunchy failure mode. In this mode of play the opposition generally have superior numbers. This style can work well against large numbers of conventional inferior troops, and makes the players feel smart and sneaky.

    The smarter the opposing force is the more likely the party are the ones ambushed and killed without hope of surrender or escape, and it doesn't take much of this sort of thing to make players give up.

    It can be much more difficult to justify the party's continued survival against an intelligent and deadly enemy in this style of play. Almost all DMs I know pull their punches at some strategic level - where the line is drawn is a matter of taste. Few DMs teleport liches in to kill the party before they grow powerful enough to be a real threat, though that's exactly what at least one PC bad guy I've seen started doing once he got powerful enough to do so. After all adventurers have more transportable wealth on them than anyone else.

    To referee fans of the Combat as War style, do they acknowledge there is a line they choose not to go over in the interests of a fun game?
    In a 2e game, the party (about 8-10th level by this point) ran into a devil and didn't manage to drop it before it decided its only course of action was to teleport away. It was very upset its plans had been twarted and decided to take its frustration out on the PCs.

    For the next 2 months, it bedeviled the party to the best of its ability; teleporting-at-will, launching surpirise attacks and vanishing as quickly as it came. It helped cause the death of at least 1 PC. It only ended when the PCs laid a trap.

    The players cheered when it dropped.

    In my 3.X campaign, there was a undead pirate ship led by an ECL 20+ doppelganger vampire. The PCs heard tales of the "Red Fist" and the carnage it caused when they were about 6th level. They wisely declined the request to go sailing through that stretch of water.

    Is there a line? Not really. There are almost always ripples of disturbance caused by large active threats.

  7. #107
    Quote Originally Posted by Libramarian View Post
    I'm interested in a Combat as Sport tactical combat module for boss battles.

    But I'd like it to be legit gamist CAS. The default balance is literal 50/50 balance: the system is not favoring either the PCs, or the monsters. It will be a lengthy, involving, intense battle, where the winner will be who plays their side the best.

    I don't want to have to fiddle around with level+2 or level+5 battles in order to get a "boss battle"--- I want the default setting to be boss battle.

    The lose condition would be literally losing the battle; not resource attrition. So either character death, or story failure, or both.
    This is something I'm very interested in having as well.

    As a GM, I want to be able to play to win without just making my players lose by default because I'm the GM. That means that I want limits on my power. I want there to be a hard-and-fast rule, not just a guideline, that says "this is as much adversity as you're allowed to throw at the players in a balanced encounter". That way, I can genuinely compete against the players: I can play as hard as I'm allowed to, and know that the players will still have a chance to win if they're better at the game than I am.

    I want the rules to be set up so that if the GM and players are all playing expertly, the players lose about 50% of all the serious fights they get into.

    As a player, I want there to be possible consequences to losing a fight besides "everyone dies". I want knowing when I'm going to lose a battle and deciding to lose it in the least catastrophic way possible by fleeing or surrendering instead of fighting to the death to be an important part of the game.

    What I don't want is for considerations outside the scope of the immediate encounter, like the way I built my character or the number of arrows I'm carrying around, to have a major influence on how the encounter turns out. In principle, I'd be perfectly content if all possible player characters had an identical set of mechanical options, as long as how I choose to use those options in a fight influences its outcome.

    No existing edition of D&D matches my preferences very well without significant modification, but in my experience, 4th edition requires less modification than others. My main gaming group plays a game that straddles the line between "heavily houseruled/simplified 4e" and "4e-inspired fantasy heartbreaker", and we've been actively trying to work it into something that satisfies most of the preferences I've described.

  8. #108
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    Quote Originally Posted by thuryl View Post
    I want the rules to be set up so that if the GM and players are all playing expertly, the players lose about 50% of all the serious fights they get into.
    While that'd be fine in some sort of tournament environment - like the Lair Assault organized play, for instance - I don't see how it'd be suited to the more typical campaign. Maybe if you started at a level where Raise Dead is readily available, or have a high-level cleric god-father following them around, bringing them back to life, or just have enemies that are more vindictive than sensible, and keep leaving them alive to 'suffer with the knoweledge of your failure' - any or all of which would get very old, very fast.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tovec View Post
    In combat as sports, everyone is assumed to have an equal chance of winning, scoring goals, coming out on top, or whatever you would like to call it. In sports (played as a game, not a job) the goal is to have fun, play your best and it doesn't matter what the end score is.
    Which is also what you expect from a /game/.

    Which D&D is. A 'roleplaying' game, but still a game.


    Yes, "we ARE talking about a game", but we are also talking about what kind of game we want. Do we want one that puts a challenge ahead of us. Something that actually is difficult to defeat, or do we want something that is given to us. Do we want an enemy to be defeated by our careful execution and skill, or, one that may as well have been defeated in a cut-scene for the amount of effort required?
    A balanced game can put just exactly as much challenge before the party as the DM sees fit.

    Want a more challenging scenario, dial it up.

    I'll admit, a bad game is a challenge to run, though, if that's what you're getting at...
    Last edited by Tony Vargas; Sunday, 5th February, 2012 at 07:31 AM.

  10. #110
    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    While that'd be fine in some sort of tournament environment - like the Lair Assault organized play, for instance - I don't see how it'd be suited to the more typical campaign. Maybe if you started at a level where Raise Dead is readily available, or have a high-level cleric god-father following them around, bringing them back to life, or just have enemies that are more vindictive than sensible, and keep leaving them alive to 'suffer with the knoweledge of your failure' - any or all of which would get very old, very fast.
    Honestly, to me what gets old fast is enemies whose main goal is to see the PCs die at any cost. In serious fights in my group's games, the PCs are almost always up against intelligent NPCs rather than mindless monsters. If the PCs manage to flee from a battle then at some point their enemies are going to get back to what they were doing instead of hunting them down to the ends of the earth.

    I should add that my group also prefers pretty short campaigns, normally around 10 sessions, before we wrap up that party's goal and make new characters. So if a game does end in a TPK because the party couldn't win, couldn't flee and the enemy wouldn't accept surrender, it's not like that's a year of plot and character advancement down the drain.

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