[Very Long] Combat as Sport vs. Combat as War: a Key Difference in D&D Play Styles... - Page 4
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  1. #31
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    Great observation by the OP. Very astute. And it explains why combat in 3e was such a failure to me as a player and DM. "Here are tools to predict how tough an encounter will be!" and "Here are lots and lots of ways to potentially stack the deck in your favor!" and "You get to roll 1000 dice each round!" don't go well together. Planning took forever, the actual combats took forever, and encounter difficulty swung wildly one way or the other depending on which side was buffed to the gills.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Savage Wombat View Post
    You can't really do that in a 3E/4E "Appropriate Encounter Level" mindset.
    I think it is actually quite easy to accommodate both playstyles (for I see it as a playstyle discussion) in one edition. What SW says above is the key to the discussion to have in the DMG.

    The DMG, and the rules with "Encounter Level" and etc, simply provides a framework for what is a "fair fight", aka a Combat as Sport fight. If your X players go up against Y creatures/npcs, then there's a good sporting chance as to the outcome (perhaps slightly favouring the PCs).

    But if you want to play CaW, then that's easy. You know now what's the baseline -- you can easily make the fight easier or harder. For the Bees example, no problem -- add more and more bees. Or it's a big dragon. Or the thousand hordes of hordiness. Or the terrain is against them. Any of those. Then you let the PCs work their way to regain the even ground, or even the advantage. Smoke, diversions, causing avalanches, deception, bypassing the enemy, etc. All of that can happen irregardless of what kind of encounter ruleset you have.

    "Appropriate Level Mindset" is just that, a mindset. I don't think the DMG has ever said "you shalt only ever throw encounters of this level vs your PCs" (maybe it did, and I missed it :P ), and irregardless of whether it did it could simply state "this is how to make an evenly matched fight, now go and futz with it to suit your campaign and player style(s)!"

    And then your players can get all crafty-like and cackle evilly as they come up with their wild and crazy plans. I likes my wild and crazy plans...

    ... and as a DM I would have a system that lets me dial it up or down depending on what works for my group, my campaign, and within their wild and crazy plans. To me, nothing about having a fair fight/sport baseline implies that it would limit or nullify Combat as War as a playstyle, on the contrary, it gives me more information and groundwork to lay my CaW campaign around.

    peace,

    Kannik
    (who is starting to think that the unification goals would be best served by some great discussion in the DMG around playstyles and how/what in the rules to use to support them, and discussing intermixing them and the joy of each of them, and etc)

  3. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Kravell View Post
    The table has five players (as an example) a DM and four players running characters. If one character does something brilliant the DM has the social pressure of four other players to do what is right and let the character succeed. With CaS, the game designers/rules try to take the place of the players at the table and that social pressure.
    Its not a matter of whether the DM is doing "the right thing." Nor, as you mention later in your post, is it a matter of whether the DM is being a jerk, or being untrustworthy.

    Its a matter of whether you're winning when the DM lets you win.

    nyghtwyrm got things right when he said that in a combat as war game, its easy to breed an attitude of players vs DM. But I'll go one step further.

    In a "combat as war" game, unless you have rules for combat as war, and you generally don't, if the game is players "versus" anything, then that anything has to be the DM. The DM may be seriously trying to come up with reasons the PCs plans don't work, or the DM may be play fighting with the PCs, coming up with just enough complications to make things difficult, but no more. But that's what's going on. There's nothing else that COULD be going on.

    I guess I should put in a disclaimer. There's nothing wrong with playing games that way. Narrative and storytelling based games are fine. But if you go into them with a competitive drive, if there's a "versus" to be had, it has to be with the DM. It can't be with the dice, those were intentionally sidelined by the planning stage, which was... versus the DM, either literally, or in a play-fight.
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  4. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Kannik View Post
    I think it is actually quite easy to accommodate both playstyles (for I see it as a playstyle discussion) in one edition. What SW says above is the key to the discussion to have in the DMG.

    The DMG, and the rules with "Encounter Level" and etc, simply provides a framework for what is a "fair fight", aka a Combat as Sport fight. If your X players go up against Y creatures/npcs, then there's a good sporting chance as to the outcome (perhaps slightly favouring the PCs).
    In 4e, it isn't the balance that makes CAW harder, but the lack of strategic resources in comparison to earlier editions.

    Encounter and at-will powers vs. Vancian magic. Healing surges, which ensure a much higher level of (replenishing) healing at low levels, and break the party pool into (mostly) individual resource pools. Where did holy water and alchemist's fire go? These sort of things reduce the effect of previous encounters on the party's next encounter.

    There are also fewer ways to prepare the battlefield, if you try to ambush the enemy.

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Savage Wombat View Post
    You know, CaW requires a shitload more work from the DM in terms of game prep.
    Indeed. That works OK for me (as a CAW DM) because I DM very slowly -- over email, nobody has to see the prep that goes into it, and in my live game (a separate game) we can only meet 2-3 times a year.

    CAW also typically requires you to use modules (to cut back on the work) and they need to be pretty deeply written, with a Simulationist approach for it to work. (Paizo is pretty good at putting the extra love in for that.)

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cadfan View Post
    In a "combat as war" game, unless you have rules for combat as war, and you generally don't, if the game is players "versus" anything, then that anything has to be the DM. The DM may be seriously trying to come up with reasons the PCs plans don't work, or the DM may be play fighting with the PCs, coming up with just enough complications to make things difficult, but no more. But that's what's going on. There's nothing else that COULD be going on.
    I'm a CAW DM, and I'm not a gamist, I'm a simulationist.

    I build complex plans for what the NPC's (monsters) will do in certain situations (before the game even starts), and then ROLEPLAY the monster's actions without the monsters knowing what the PC's are going to do. They will react, in character, based on their plans, their abilities, and their reactions in character to what they are aware of the PC's doing.

    So if the monsters are planning to lay in wait and ambush the PC's, they won't be inclined to follow the PC's plan to get them to chase a PC.

    But if the monsters were planning to find the PC's and run them down, they would.

    If I don't know at all how the monster would react, I'll roll a die to decide for the monster.

    I also ask advice from people outside the campaign.

    A super example of that? On the Paizo/SCAP discussion board, a DM had a situation where his PC's were holed up in a dead-end stone room, with a stone door. He decided the intelligent monsters could figure out where they were sleeping, and would set a fire to "smoke them out". He wanted to know what would happen, given the stone door (not airtight but not flamable). A bunch of other DM's offered opinions, and I got a friend who is a fireman to tell me. That's simulationist CAWS. And it's not remotely, IMHO, about the DM "letting you win" -- it's about the DM playing the monsters to win, and the PC's playing the PC's to win, and we figure out what happens.

    Or, as I'd put, it's what's best in life in D&D.
    XP Hemlock gave XP for this post

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by billd91 View Post
    I'm seeing some value in the CAS/CAW difference. For me, I think this is why 4e feels so much more like chopsocky martial arts movies . . . than real fights. For the most part, I prefer the real fights in my D&D - from a DM's and a player's perspective.
    I know what you mean.

    The idea that's there even a question of combat as NOT war struct me as bizarre. But I realize I'm heavily simulationist, and not everyone is.

    To some extent, 4e was the triumph of the gamist/CAS approach.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by haakon1 View Post
    I'm a CAW DM, and I'm not a gamist, I'm a simulationist.

    I build complex plans for what the NPC's (monsters) will do in certain situations (before the game even starts), and then ROLEPLAY the monster's actions without the monsters knowing what the PC's are going to do. They will react, in character, based on their plans, their abilities, and their reactions in character to what they are aware of the PC's doing.

    So if the monsters are planning to lay in wait and ambush the PC's, they won't be inclined to follow the PC's plan to get them to chase a PC.

    But if the monsters were planning to find the PC's and run them down, they would.

    If I don't know at all how the monster would react, I'll roll a die to decide for the monster.

    I also ask advice from people outside the campaign.
    This is exactly what I mean. You nailed it. A neutral DM makes decisions based upon the most logical and practical choices for the given situation (or random determination if need be), not using meta game knowledge to harass the party. If the game becomes the players versus the DM, its no longer a challenge or entertainment.

  9. #39
    I think one of my problems with CaW is that its so biased towards spell casters in the older editions.

  10. #40
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    Ultimately, a game will support more play styles the better (more robustly) balanced it is. By 'support' I just mean that you can play the game, in that style, without having to modify the game or suffer through mechanical problems with it.

    Conversely, an imbalanced game will /force/ a certain play style (the style that best leverages the imbalances of the game).

    If you're used to playing an imbalanced game that forces the plays style you like, then when you go to a balanced system, you'll have the impression that it's 'not supporting your play style' - because it's not /forcing/ that style on anyone else. You may feel the game 'lacks rewards for system mastery' or 'doesn't encourage' this or that. And you're right, because it's balanced: it's not playing favorites.

    (A less loaded way of putting 'forcing' might be 'rewarding or encouraging' one style or 'discouraging' another, but in the meta-game it amounts to the same thing.)


    Getting back to the original point, though, a balanced game can be used to model combat as 'sport' or 'war.' It just makes it easier to do only the one you intend. If you're running using a balanced system, you can put an 'equal challenge' encounter up against your party and have a sporting combat. If you like, you can put an over-leveled encounter up against them, and they won't have that sporting chance, or a under-leveled on that they can 'gank.' You can even base which combat they get on how well they succeed on some non-combat aspect of the game.

    The DM need only be as fair as he feels works for his campaign at the moment. The game being 'fair' doesn't get in the way of that, it just makes it easier.

    In an imbalanced, game, a DM deciding to give the PCs a 'sporting chance' in an arena or a quick cake-walk side-combat can accidentally TPK them, and a DM trying to give the PCs a 'real challenge' or 'fight they must run from,' may find their meticulously statted-out uberbaddies stomped like snails at a clog dance.


    Quote Originally Posted by Cadfan View Post
    But if you go into them with a competitive drive, if there's a "versus" to be had, it has to be with the DM. It can't be with the dice, those were intentionally sidelined by the planning stage, which was... versus the DM, either literally, or in a play-fight.
    There's also the other players to be "versus," either in a flat-out PvP situation, or by trying to out-shine and out-do eachother.
    Last edited by Tony Vargas; Friday, 3rd February, 2012 at 04:55 AM.

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