[Very Long] Combat as Sport vs. Combat as War: a Key Difference in D&D Play Styles... - Page 6
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  1. #51
    This is one of the most legit bits of theorycraft, and one of the most fruitful and interesting discussions I've ever read on a D&D forum.

    I feel like CaW is facilitated well by Savage Worlds, mainly because the system makes no provisions at all for encounter balance and it always puts all the PCs allies under the control of the players during combat. So during the one page adventure in the core rulebook, the final fight is against a village of 30 cannibal savages. 30 of them. Each with stats as good as the PCs. So what do you PCs do? Subterfuge, a distraction, or go recruit a crapton of cannon fodder to sacrifice.

    We've already had several insightful posts about some of the downsides of CaW, but I'll try to add one more. Tone. I feel like CaW almost unavoidable adds comedy to any game. There's a reason why the excellent example of CaW in the original post and most of the other examples are funny. Because most CaW tactics are crazy and gonzo, and that's almost always funny. A relatively serious heroic game, or gritty game, is kinda difficult to keep compatible with CaW, isn't it?

  2. #52
    Quote Originally Posted by haakon1 View Post
    How so?
    Primarily through the vast array of utility/battefield control spells.

    Spellcasters have more potential to affect the field then non-casters who are limited to whatever local resources can be massaged.

  3. #53
    Quote Originally Posted by Transformer View Post
    This is one of the most legit bits of theorycraft, and one of the most fruitful and interesting discussions I've ever read on a D&D forum.

    I feel like CaW is facilitated well by Savage Worlds, mainly because the system makes no provisions at all for encounter balance and it always puts all the PCs allies under the control of the players during combat. So during the one page adventure in the core rulebook, the final fight is against a village of 30 cannibal savages. 30 of them. Each with stats as good as the PCs. So what do you PCs do? Subterfuge, a distraction, or go recruit a crapton of cannon fodder to sacrifice.

    We've already had several insightful posts about some of the downsides of CaW, but I'll try to add one more. Tone. I feel like CaW almost unavoidable adds comedy to any game. There's a reason why the excellent example of CaW in the original post and most of the other examples are funny. Because most CaW tactics are crazy and gonzo, and that's almost always funny. A relatively serious heroic game, or gritty game, is kinda difficult to keep compatible with CaW, isn't it?
    No. The level of comedy is controlled by how outrageous the schemes can become before they collapse. It is entirely possible to run a serious CoW campaign -- I've done a moderately long one where the PCs were effectively waging asymmetrical warfare. It was more Rat Patrol than Hogan's Heroes in tone.
    XP Hemlock gave XP for this post

  4. #54
    No. The level of comedy is controlled by how outrageous the schemes can become before they collapse. It is entirely possible to run a serious CoW campaign -- I've done a moderately long one where the PCs were effectively waging asymmetrical warfare. It was more Rat Patrol than Hogan's Heroes in tone.
    I think that I would have difficulty consistently coming up with plans that allow me to defeat a clearly superior group of enemies without focusing mostly on crazy uses of magic spells. What sort of strategies did the PCs actually use?

  5. #55
    Quote Originally Posted by Transformer View Post
    I think that I would have difficulty consistently coming up with plans that allow me to defeat a clearly superior group of enemies without focusing mostly on crazy uses of magic spells. What sort of strategies did the PCs actually use?
    It varied a lot over the levels and their actual goals. They had a pretty consistent strategy though.

    Lots of recon: determine where the strength of the enemy was as well as look for valuable targets not in those spots. Try to discover changes before they happen.

    Lots of infiltration: never fight on your own turf if you want to keep your own turf. Try to get locals to provide clandestine support or at least get the locals to be willfully blind to your presence.

    Lots of battlefield prep before engagement: always prep multiple ways out. Always make engagement expensive and give the enemy a clear path to retreat. Collapsing morale is a great way to win.

    Lots of general prep: know the area, have places to hole up.

    Collect and use resources discovered. Cursed objects can be great assasination tools. Non-intelligent/immobile creatures like molds and slimes are great battlefield hazards / weapons of mass destruction.

  6. #56
    Quote Originally Posted by Nagol View Post
    Primarily through the vast array of utility/battefield control spells.

    Spellcasters have more potential to affect the field then non-casters who are limited to whatever local resources can be massaged.
    Like in all things, spellcasters face a tradeoff: do I use my spells before combat or in combat?

    Non-spellcasters can usually do one without sacrificing the other: fighters dig trenches or train militia and rogues disguise or prepare hiding places, neither losing any resources they would use in the engagement. In fact the opposite is true, if they build siege weapons or traps, or even fletch some more arrows.

  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cadfan View Post
    I used to have what you'd call a "combat as war" style.

    The problem was that eventually I started to recognize the man behind the curtain. I knew that I wasn't actually coming up with brilliant plans to defeat the monster, I was, at most, coming up with brilliant plans to defeat the DM. But that's like a four year old wrestling with his father- you only win if (when) he lets you win.
    If you are in competition with the DM something is going wrong. If this is an issue then CaW or CaS doesn't matter, your DM is simply untrustworthy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonblade View Post
    I find that having played all editions that CAW can be deeply satisfying for some players, but for the DM is deeply unsatisfying over the long run.

    I think its a significant contributor to DM burnout. Essentially the DM never really gets to play and they bear an enormous responsibility. Either the PCs come up with a clever plan and win without breaking much of a sweat, completely frustrating the DM and their plans for the encounter, or things start to go horribly wrong and the DM either has to pull punches, or the game ends in a TPK.

    There is a very narrow sweet spot in CAW where the PCs plan something devious, it is mostly a success, but something goes wrong, the DM's monsters manage to get some licks in, but the PCs are ultimately victorious.

    All great D&D moments that I have read, experienced myself, or heard others talk about tend to follow this pattern. The problem is this is a very narrow results window and bad die rolls can totally swing it one way or the other leading to very unsatisfying results.

    CAS results in a more consistent play experience where once the encounter is designed, the DM doesn't have to hold back but can go full bore against the players. So effectively, the DM gets to "play" too. I find as DM its more satisfying for me. As a player, I like CAW when we hit the sweet spot. But its hard to attain consistently.
    I suppose this all depends on what one considers unsatisfying. Did the PC's use a clever trick to accomplish something awesome without having to bleed? Very satisfying.

    Pull punches, good gracious whatever for? Very unsatisfying.

    A TPK? Can go either way. If it was entertaining then very satisfying.

    Consistency isn't of value to me when playing a game in which anything imaginable can happen. In this case consistency is predictability which for active gameplay, is closely followed by boredom.

    For me the thrill of play is not knowing if the outcome will be an all out slam dunk victory with PC's coming through unscathed, a hard won victory that was close and came with costs, a defeat that left PC's licking thier wounds and planning revenge, or total failure ending in the black shroud of death.

    This is from either side of the screen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Windjammer View Post
    This is a super interesting post, so I hope you'll forgive my disagreeing with you on a point of detail. Like many posts these days I do ask myself which game people talk about when they mention 4E. It's certainly not a game I've played that matches the description. Off we go...



    Yes, you'd think so from reading the books, but it ain't so.

    Let's start with a basic question. Ask yourself: when do players try to make the playing field as unbalanced as possible in their favour?

    Easy: when the odds are crazily stacked against them.

    Not quite. This is the fundamental difference between CaW and CaS the OP was talking about.
    From a CaW perspective the correct answer is whenever it can be arranged.

    CaW isn't about fair fights, its about survival and attaining victory however possible. Does a military officer pass up a chance to gain a tactical advantage simply because the fight is fair?

    No. In fact the officer has a duty to minimize losses while achieving the objective. The whole concept of fair play belongs to the CaS theory.
    XP Hemlock gave XP for this post

  8. #58
    Quote Originally Posted by Hassassin View Post
    Like in all things, spellcasters face a tradeoff: do I use my spells before combat or in combat?

    Non-spellcasters can usually do one without sacrificing the other: fighters dig trenches or train militia and rogues disguise or prepare hiding places, neither losing any resources they would use in the engagement. In fact the opposite is true, if they build siege weapons or traps, or even fletch some more arrows.
    Absolutely.

    It's just the utility/battlefield control spells end up more valuable to the team typically than any form of direct damage. Spellcaster become pivotal in CaW because of the extra capabilities they can bring to bear for the group including abilities that can't be emulated non-magically like levitate or water breathing.

    The other classes still have strong roles to play under CaW.

  9. #59
    Quote Originally Posted by Hassassin View Post
    Like in all things, spellcasters face a tradeoff: do I use my spells before combat or in combat?

    Non-spellcasters can usually do one without sacrificing the other: fighters dig trenches or train militia and rogues disguise or prepare hiding places, neither losing any resources they would use in the engagement. In fact the opposite is true, if they build siege weapons or traps, or even fletch some more arrows.
    In a "combat as war" game, much of the interaction with the enemy takes place outside of combat, where there may be the ability to rest before actual combat begins. For example, if your "combat as war" scenario takes place over a three month interval culminating in a final battle, the choice between casting in combat or before combat ceases to exist. And in that interval, the spellcaster's teleport spells, scrying, ability to create or destroy terrain, ability to magically manipulate people, etc, will come in a lot more useful than the fighter's big strong arms.

    Additionally, at higher levels, the spellcaster is going to have more spells by far than there are rounds in the typical combat. The ability to cast those spells in advance, and still have them around once battle begins, lets them front load themselves and essentially get more actions per combat than non spellcasting characters. In the first round of battle, before initiative has even been rolled, there is the potential for the spellcasters to have accomplished more than the non spellcasters will accomplish by the end of the fight.

    At best, the DM can mitigate things slightly by using non-rules based options like letting the Fighter have followers he commands, or the Rogue have a thieves guild, while not letting the Mage have a tower.

  10. #60
    Quote Originally Posted by Cadfan View Post
    In a "combat as war" game, much of the interaction with the enemy takes place outside of combat, where there may be the ability to rest before actual combat begins. For example, if your "combat as war" scenario takes place over a three month interval culminating in a final battle, the choice between casting in combat or before combat ceases to exist.
    Sometimes. But at other times a CAW campaign includes things like the "Oregon Trail" @Daztur mentions here:

    Quote Originally Posted by Daztur View Post
    Oregon Trail

    A lot of people on this thread have talked about how CaW play flows from adversity and how this can be done by amping up the difficulty of encounters. This is certainly one way to do that, but it tends to favor the nova classes and results in a lot of TPKs. Often a better way of putting in adversity is through attrition, or what I like to call Oregon Trail D&D, which makes difficulty depend a lot more on the PCs than on the DM.
    I would XP that post if I could. Would anyone else mind?

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