Tactics And Combat In Fantasy RPGs
Page 1 of 8 12345678 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 72
  1. #1
    Member
    Guide (Lvl 11)

    Christopher Helton's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    St. Petersburg, FL
    Posts
    627

    Tactics And Combat In Fantasy RPGs

    Name:  tactics.jpg
Views: 12626
Size:  148.7 KB

    Think of the old days of FRPGs when parties bumbled into encounters, opening doors without preparation or scouting. Think of how few parties actually took prisoners in order to gather information! And how few parties ran away occasionally rather than engage in a fight that had nothing to do with their mission and might get them killed. And today?

    "Battles are won by slaughter and manoeuvre. The greater the general, the more he contributes in manoeuvre, the less he demands in slaughter." --Sir Winston Churchill

    I want to talk about tactical styles. There are two extremes of approaching a fight in a magic-rich environment. These can be seen as something like an American football team that runs the ball constantly ("4 yards and a cloud of dust") and a team that passes constantly. Sixty years ago in football, the former predominated, nowadays the latter.

    Translating into FRPG terms, the first method is to charge in and cut the enemy down thanks to suitable character classes and lots of perks and magic items that make your folks "meat cleavers." (As in the 9th level character I watched recently do more than 90 points of melee damage in one round.) The second is to set up a defense while the specialist spell casters use area effect and selected individual spells to blow the enemy away. In the first method the characters are more or less like running backs and linemen; in the second they are quarterbacks (and receivers) and linemen. In the first the linemen fire out and try to wipe out whoever theyre up against (run blocking), in the second the linemen are more interested in protecting the skilled positions (pass blocking) while the latter do most of the damage.

    The first method is more common, perhaps partly because it requires less thought and planning. Its easier for players and for the GM. As a person who knew the first time he played D&D that he was going to be a magic user, I favor the second method because you "should" use magic instead of brawn. Thats what magic-use is about!

    A lot depends on the rules. 1e D&D, where the "squishy" magic users had to be protected, encouraged combined arms cooperation rather than individual flair, and the essence of the "passing" method is exactly that, while the essence of the "running" method can run to individual flair. In days of 3e D&D the "one-man army" was in vogue and individualism was everywhere, while cooperation was rare. From a design point of view, having a typical party include only four characters required the one-man-army approach. The spellcasting method requires a larger group.

    In a sense, the "cloud of dust" treats the fight more as a sport, while "pass them to death" treats it more as war. Sports are supposed to be fair; "war is hell," and in war the ideal is to force the enemy to surrender because they face annihilation, or if they wont surrender, to annihilate them without loss on your side. This is more elegant, and efficient, than hacking the enemy down in pools of blood. But perhaps less satisfying for some...

    Your mileage may vary, and most campaigns are somewhere in between. Some sets of rules, and some GMs, dont allow one method or the other to be practical.

    Article contributed by Lewis Pulsipher

  2. #2
    I'm afraid I don't quite understand your position - are you making the case that tactical thinking was MORE or LESS common in the heyday of 1st edition? The article feels a little confusing in the position taken.

    In my experience, it was MORE common to be tactically minded in AD&D for several reasons: (1) because of the lethality of average creatures due to the 0 hp = dead state; (2) AD&D initiative could cause some really nasty friendly fire incidents if the group did not communicate; and (3) the incentive of gold for XP over combat encouraged PCs to rob people blind rather than fight them, and extort every trick possible for making more money even via non-adventurous means.

    Though the pendulum has swung back somewhat over the past 15 years, for a while it was all showboats, everyone vying to show, not that they were good team players, but they had the most awesome character/most damage/highest save-or-suck/ what have you.

    5e has done a lot to move this back, and in my own groups I've seen a lot more teamwork and "completions and hand-offs" where people set up others for one-two punches.
    Last edited by Henry; Sunday, 23rd July, 2017 at 02:49 AM.
    XP pogre gave XP for this post

  3. #3
    Member
    Defender (Lvl 8)



    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Georgia
    Posts
    691
    A lot of quotation marks with little explanation of the meaning left me kind of confused reading the article.

  4. #4
    Member
    Gallant (Lvl 3)



    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Fort Worth, Texas, United States
    Posts
    193
    I'm from Texas so I immediately get the analogies here. I'm guessing some of the international readers won't. I tend to think the individualism style is more common since damage is fun and everyone sharing in the damage helps group dynamics. The whole style of keep the bad guys off the mage so the mage can win the encounter probably won't work with most groups.

  5. #5
    Member
    Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)



    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    406
    We started playing in 1974. My original players were all wargamers. Tactics were always present. Miniatures, rulers and (for dungeon / indoor environments) 1" gridded maps were the norm. Protecting the magic user was a necessity. It became less important in 3.x but never completely went away. That could be because my players were creatures of habit by then though...
    XP Tony Vargas gave XP for this post

  6. #6
    Member
    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)



    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Twin Cities, MN, USA
    Posts
    1,982
    A bit of a disconnect from:

    Think of the old days of FRPGs when parties bumbled into encounters, opening doors without preparation or scouting. Think of how few parties actually took prisoners in order to gather information! And how few parties ran away occasionally rather than engage in a fight that had nothing to do with their mission and might get them killed. And today?


    to

    1e D&D, where the "squishy" magic users had to be protected, encouraged combined arms cooperation rather than individual flair, and the essence of the "passing" method is exactly that, while the essence of the "running" method can run to individual flair. In days of 3e D&D the "one-man army" was in vogue and individualism was everywhere, while cooperation was rare.
    So which is it? Where the "old days" tactics and cooperation free, or were tactics and cooperation emphasized more than in later editions?

    In my experience, in 1e, we ran away a LOT more than in 5e. We took prisoners and had to role play our way to information, as opposed to "I make an intimidation check."

    Like you I prefer a more cooperative, tactical approach, but I like the increasing emphasis modern TTRPGs place on narrative and improv, rather than slogging through wargame minigames. Though—that's not *entirely* accurate. We never used minis and map in 1e. BUT so much more of the game in general was moderated with rules minutia than in 5e. 1e was tactical, but not necessarily in the minis-and-rulers sense, but certainly in the resource management sense.

    Nobody's way of having fun is better. I've enjoyed playing both extremes and in the shades of gray between.

  7. #7
    Member
    Novice (Lvl 1)



    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    United States
    Posts
    20
    IMHO, tactics in almost all RPGs still fall back to fundamental factors that translate to real world conflicts even today.

    - Terrain
    - Knowledge (intelligence about ones self, ones team mates, and the opposition)
    - Training/Talent either side of the conflict may have.
    - Elements of surprise (what your opponent doesn't know can kill them quickly)
    - Availability and quality of resources
    - Environment (weather, time, motion, sound, politics, etc)
    - Communications capability and skill (The single largest hurdle to success for any team is the establishment and maintenance of effective and consistent communications).

    Any and/or all of the above come into play for any given conflict situation.

    If there was anything that I found consistently frustrating to observe as a GM of any RPG, it was the common failure of a group of players to take a few moments to define and plan team roles and tactics to address the most common tactical circumstances and situations. In the military, we generally called this SOP (standard operating procedures).
    Of course, sometimes SOP has to be summarily developed among a group of people who have just met. But any professional crew (in just about any vocation or situation) who may have just met will (before moving out) try to take a moment to at least assign/assume roles within the group so that they can have some semblance of coordination and preparation for an unexpected conflict. This practice will include an assessment of each others capabilities to ensure the right people are in the right roles... and that they are up to the task of fulfilling that role.
    Although RPG character classes generally define role definition from the outset as part of the game structure itself, it is never safe to assume that what you initially observe is the real situation. I recall many an occasion when a party stepped into an engagement assuming the cleric was a healer but to find out that the cleric was specialized as something else completely.

    As a retired military veteran, I can attest that the most effective combat units are those that constantly train in team focused tactics where everyone knows their role in a given situation as well as the roles and capabilities of their team members.
    By knowing their role in the team, each team member can focus their individual skills and resources to carry out that role in a manner that is usually efficient and effective.
    By knowing the roles and capabilities of their team members, everyone can hone their interactions with those around them to compliment each others capabilities... working as a team.

    And always remember.... In hostile territory or situations, avoid splitting the party for any but the most extreme situations.
    XP S'mon gave XP for this post

  8. #8
    Member
    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)



    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Posts
    9,400
    I have two words: LEEEEEEROY JEEENKINSSSS!!!!!
    Laugh innerdude, DragonMan laughed with this post

  9. #9
    Member
    Cutpurse (Lvl 5)

    Over the Hill Gamer's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Bristol PA
    Posts
    86
    As someone who has experience playing every edition of D&D and many other RPGs, I would argue with the premise that players were less tactical/strategic in the old days. Starting with later editions of D&D and quite frankly continuing to a lesser degree with 5e, players have many abilities, spells, feats, skills, etc. Tactics are more about which ability to dial up and coordinating one's various abilities with other players for maximum advantage. In earlier editions, tactics tended to be more about the situation, the terrain, and other factors. Why? Well simply put, you had fewer abilities in the old days and had to look for other ways around the problem. Another way of putting it, players now have more cool stuff to do than they did back in the old days. I think both new and old players think tactically and strategically but the focus is different.

  10. #10
    Member
    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)



    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Cincinnati
    Posts
    2,162
    I'm pretty sure the author is referring to 3E as the "the old days," which totally throws off the rest of the article for anyone who started in AD&D or earlier.

    Most new players start with "kick in the door" tactics until they get their butt handed to them. Some never actually grow out of it (which is a failure on the DM's part, IMO), but most move on to actual planning and tactics. Even in 3E, the height of individualism, you were still more powerful when working with a strategy.
    XP Mercule gave XP for this post

Similar Threads

  1. Tactics in combat
    By JWO in forum *Dungeons & Dragons
    Replies: 102
    Last Post: Sunday, 1st October, 2017, 04:56 AM
  2. What are your party's combat tactics?
    By shadowthorn in forum *General Roleplaying Games Discussion
    Replies: 102
    Last Post: Sunday, 24th July, 2005, 08:29 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •