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D&D General Discuss: Combat as War in D&D

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Claim: If the enemies ever adopted a true combat as war mindset then the PC's would eventually be crushed. This does not happen. Therefore, the enemies do not treat combat as War. There's something that seem inherently unfair about that and yet many still find Combat as War fun.

Discuss!
 

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The monsters aren't trying to win as hard as the PCs would in their place. In a "combat as war" mindset, the players plan their attacks in a way that gives the enemy as little chance to do anything at all as possible. If you can destroy the enemy before they even take an action - or better yet, even know you are there - it is "ideal".

Whether this leads to heroic or exciting action is irrelevant, and in some ways, actively discouraged.

With rare exceptions, the monsters don't behave the same way. Partly because they are usually not the tactical aggressors.
 


Art of war #1
Try to arrange battle with odds 10:1 in your favor, and avoid battle with 1:10.
So Dm should arrange deadly encounter most of the time, and when not enemies should flee right at the star of the encounter.
Otherwies try to be the most bad ass possible during fight, targeting low ac, hitting opponents dying to make sure they don’t come back, retreat and regroup, make false big fight to trigger big spells and ressource, use hit and run, always try to find and target opponents weak point. On the medium run it should be very frustrating for players.
 
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Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
Claim: If the enemies ever adopted a true combat as war mindset then the PC's would eventually be crushed. This does not happen. Therefore, the enemies do not treat combat as War. There's something that seem inherently unfair about that and yet many still find Combat as War fun.

Discuss!
I don't understand the "This does not happen" part of your claim. Are you saying that TPK's don't happen?
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
The monsters aren't trying to win as hard as the PCs would in their place. In a "combat as war" mindset, the players plan their attacks in a way that gives the enemy as little chance to do anything at all as possible. If you can destroy the enemy before they even take an action - or better yet, even know you are there - it is "ideal".

Whether this leads to heroic or exciting action is irrelevant, and in some ways, actively discouraged.

With rare exceptions, the monsters don't behave the same way. Partly because they are usually not the tactical aggressors.
Which is precisely the idea the OP was bringing forward. That you have to have monsters/enemies not engage in combat as war. Why aren't enemies in such campaigns trying to destroy the PC's before they even take an action. That's the unfairness I'm talking about. Combat as war is perceived as PC's being great and intelligent tacticians - but in reality it's just enemies being imbeciles by never adopting actual 'war' style tactics in order to defeat the PC's.

Beating the enemy in a decisive manner can certainly be fun. Oftentimes even more fun than winning a battle intentionally set up to be 'fair'. The issue I'm bringing up about combat as war isn't whether it's fun or not - it's that the model inherently removes the ability of enemies to threaten the PC's in like manner.
 






el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Do the PCs always treat "combat as war?"

For me, how the opponents react has more to do with the specific situation: Do they know the PCs are coming? What is their goal (both monsters and PCs)? How intelligent are they? How committed? How long do they have to plan? What defenses or useful terrain exists? Do they have a personal motive in combatting the PCs? Is a strong leader present? And so on. . . than it does some abstract idea of "Combat as war."

Similarly, there are a ton of questions PCs have to ask themselves about the situation to determine their approach, attitude, and goals.
 

In my D&D campaigns, enemies sometimes absolutely treat combat as war.

I had a fleet of ships ambush the players and engage them in a naval battle.

I had an enemy pretend to be an ally of the party, seperate them, and then have a small squad of guards attempt to arrest each one of them, while chaining their ships and having their crew imprisoned.

I use war tactics against the players all the time.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Do the PCs always treat "combat as war?"
That's an excellent question. I think a game can have a bit of both - but I think it will almost certainly lean heavily toward sport or heavily toward war.

For me, how the opponents react has more to do with the specific situation: Do they know the PCs are coming?
But in a combat as war style game - notice the same question is seldom/never asked about the PC's - 'do they know if the monsters/enemies are coming'

What is their goal (both monsters and PCs)? How intelligent are they? How committed? How long do they have to plan? What defenses or useful terrain exists? Do they have a personal motive in combatting the PCs? Is a strong leader present? And so on. . . than it does some abstract idea of "Combat as war."
It feels like you are trying to pit me into the corner of not having any of these things matter and of course they do. But the general philosophy of combat as war behavior will still tend to have different tactics than the same set of parameters with combat as sport behavior.

Similarly, there are a ton of questions PCs have to ask themselves about the situation to determine their approach, attitude, and goals.
Not so much in a true combat as war playstyle.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
In my D&D campaigns, enemies sometimes absolutely treat combat as war.

I had a fleet of ships ambush the players and engage them in a naval battle.

I had an enemy pretend to be an ally of the party, seperate them, and then have a small squad of guards attempt to arrest each one of them, while chaining their ships and having their crew imprisoned.

I use war tactics against the players all the time.
The premise of the thread would be that you use them sparingly then, because if you actually had enemies attempt to regularly use them on the PC's then their would be no more PC's.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think this varies a lot by DM and campaign, but I think it is kind of baked into a lot of D&D that the PCs are supposed to "win" most of the time. Even if that means running the monsters stupid. It's so rare that monsters are effective that we have the Tucker's Kobolds story for when they are not.

For example in another thread, there was a bit of discussion of how quickly a dragon would die to a few dozen archers because the assumption was that the dragon would attack in broad daylight. Why? Because dragons are there to be killed, of course. Now, a young dragon may be stupid enough to do this but an adult or ancient dragon? Never. They'd wait for a dark night, preferably with rain for cover or at the very least a moonless night. Then, when no one can see it coming until it's too late they'd strafe and fly off into the darkness until their breath weapon regenerated

With 60 ft blindsight and darkvision 120 ft there are so many options, none of which involve coming into melee range. Start a forest fire to cover the target sight in smoke. Fly high overhead and drop a few boulders just for fun. If a particular individual/hero is being annoying enough don't land and fight, just use your 15 ft bite range attack to grab the offending individual and deal with them alone if you don't just drop them from a thousand feet up.

Battle starting to turn against you? Fly away or use that "get out of jail free" card that you bribed/intimidated/tricked a wizard to get a couple centuries ago. You don't get to be an adult or ancient dragon by fighting to the death unless you absolutely have to do so.

So while I do this sometimes, the question will always be is it fun. Sometimes the PCs will face overwhelming odds in my games and charging in headlong is a good way to start up a new campaign with a different set of characters. Other times I want better balanced encounters because I want the PCs to feel like heroes.
 
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Can you elaborate? I’ve no idea what on Earth you mean by most of that.
The term "combat as war" comes from this post, referring (to put it simply) to the idea that characters will approach a potential battle with the intent of leveraging every possible advantage before the fighting starts, in order to maximize their chances of crushing their enemies while minimizing their chances of taking any sort of return fire.

The opposite of this is "combat as sport," where both sides of a fight approach the battle without any sort of pre-preparation (save, perhaps, some modest magical buffing) and simply duke it out, with each side at their presumed strongest a la a sports match.
 

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