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

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
The question is meaningless, because the 4e combat rules aren't what you use for this purpose. You would be using the Skill Challenge rules for that, or else handling things purely narratively. In either case, combat statblocks never even come up.
Two responses:

First, I interpreted @AbdulAlhazred's post as expanding the scope of the conversation beyond 4e, and into a broader discussion of the role of the game world. So my response, although borrowing a term (minion) from 4e, was not intended to be 4e-specific, but instead apply to any game that might use different statblocks to represent the same creature.

Second, even if I had been talking specifically about 4e, my understanding is that one would indeed likely use the combat rules for a three-way combat caused by kiting one enemy into another group of Ogres.

...so...you're not even actually playing D&D, you're playing "the thing I made from D&D that includes several systems that were never part of any official D&D in order to make the things I want to make sense actually make sense"?

Come on, man. This isn't cool for a meaningful discussion about things. You can't substitute "the thing I built out of D&D which differs in key ways from every published D&D" for "D&D," no matter how much you might like to.
This wasn't addressed to me, but I have a strong opinion on this topic. D&D games have had table variation from the beginning. There's no objective standard for how far one can tinker with the system before it becomes not "actually playing D&D", and even if there were, the only purpose such a categorization serves is gatekeeping.

Yes, this means that different people can have different experiences with a game system because they each tinkered with it differently. It makes it slightly harder to talk about D&D because the baseline of what D&D looks like is so fuzzy. That seems like a small price to pay for an awesomely flexible game.

One creature, one situation, one statblock. THAT'S my end-of-story. You determine what the statblock should be when you need it; otherwise, you use its innate nature, which inherently precedes the mechanical-abstraction process.
Even if you don't like my kiting example, my basic point stands. If the PCs don't know what situations will lead to what statblocks (even in general terms), they can't effectively plan around how powerful a creature would be in a particular situation. That makes CaW much trickier by introducing an extra variable (mechanical representation) that complicates PC strategies. (Again, my claim is system-agnostic; I'm not specifically taking about 4e.)
 

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Even if you don't like my kiting example, my basic point stands. If the PCs don't know what situations will lead to what statblocks (even in general terms), they can't effectively plan around how powerful a creature would be in a particular situation. That makes CaW much trickier by introducing an extra variable (mechanical representation) that complicates PC strategies. (Again, my claim is system-agnostic; I'm not specifically taking about 4e.)
Yeah, though I would say that it is unlikely (barring some sort of magical transformation) for a specific NPC to show up as a Solo one day and a Standard another day when the PCs are essentially unchanged. That would seem to imply that the creature's threat level is drastically different every time you encounter it. I don't think that is the intent here.

I would say that you might encounter an 'ogre' as a solo at level 1, it is very strong and fights you by itself, has a good chance to win too! As an elite monster at, say level 3, now it is still a 'boss monster' but it isn't able to pose a lethal threat without support. Maybe at level 7 it is now a standard, its just a routine footsoldier in a fight now. At level 12 it is just a minion, something that might be able to cause some damage, but is not a real threat and can be dispatched with a single blow. Note that if you set these levels correctly, you can set the XP value of the creature the same in all these 4 scenarios.

Obviously, you could simply use a level 7 standard in all 4 cases, but it will suck. The level 1 fight will be a total whiff fest, though the PCs are actually still pretty likely to win in the end, the solo version will be a lot more fun combat. Likewise with the elite at level 3, it will simply be a lot more fun and about the same threat level. As a level 7 standard in a 12th level fight, the creature will STILL be a negligible threat AND you will have to track its hit points and remember what powers it has (whereas minions just generally have one power).

The outcomes of all these fights are NOT likely to vary based on changing the monster type and level, they are simply going to play out better, more fun at the table. This is the goal.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Yeah, though I would say that it is unlikely (barring some sort of magical transformation) for a specific NPC to show up as a Solo one day and a Standard another day when the PCs are essentially unchanged. That would seem to imply that the creature's threat level is drastically different every time you encounter it. I don't think that is the intent here.

I would say that you might encounter an 'ogre' as a solo at level 1, it is very strong and fights you by itself, has a good chance to win too! As an elite monster at, say level 3, now it is still a 'boss monster' but it isn't able to pose a lethal threat without support. Maybe at level 7 it is now a standard, its just a routine footsoldier in a fight now. At level 12 it is just a minion, something that might be able to cause some damage, but is not a real threat and can be dispatched with a single blow. Note that if you set these levels correctly, you can set the XP value of the creature the same in all these 4 scenarios.

Obviously, you could simply use a level 7 standard in all 4 cases, but it will suck. The level 1 fight will be a total whiff fest, though the PCs are actually still pretty likely to win in the end, the solo version will be a lot more fun combat. Likewise with the elite at level 3, it will simply be a lot more fun and about the same threat level. As a level 7 standard in a 12th level fight, the creature will STILL be a negligible threat AND you will have to track its hit points and remember what powers it has (whereas minions just generally have one power).

The outcomes of all these fights are NOT likely to vary based on changing the monster type and level, they are simply going to play out better, more fun at the table. This is the goal.
You appear to be approaching your examples as a DM choosing which mechanical representation of an Ogre will be the most fun for a party of a particular level. That works great in a CaS playstyle, where the DM is planning the encounters with an eye towards fun and balance.

But in a CaW playstyle, that's not the DM's role. Instead, encounters arise organically, when either the party or their opponents try to engage and the other side is either unwilling or unable to avoid contact. The party's decision on when and where to fight isn't a meaningful choice unless it's an informed decision, and having multiple possible mechanical representations of the same monster make it very hard for the PCs to be informed of the capabilities of their opponents (including whether those opponents are biased towards offense or defense).

For example, if a 12th level party successfully learns that the enemy has sent a group of N Ogres to blockade a mountain pass, the strategic value of that information depends on the players having some idea of the capabilities of an Ogre. If the mechanical representation of an Ogre could differ from the characters' experience with Ogres (maybe the last time they fought an Ogre was 1st level), the strategic intel they worked hard to get is much less valuable, undermining the point of the CaW playstyle.

Variable statblocks also complicate a CaW DM's job, vis-a-vis trying to determine the NPCs' strategy. Does the enemy leader know what statblocks the deployed Ogres will be using? Does the leader think of his Ogres as a powerful independent force, or only as support for a more powerful creature (i.e. minions deployed alone are pretty useless)? The utility of Ogres as a weapon against the PCs (and thus how to deploy them) depends a lot on how the Ogres are going to be represented mechanically. Also, it's entirely possible that the deployment of the Ogres to block the pass wasn't directed at the PCs, but instead at a third party. If the mechanical representation of the Ogres changes based on who the Ogres are fighting, that really complicates the enemy's attempts to make good straetgic use of their Ogres.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
In music, for example, chord progressions exist and are vital. In the vast majority of allegedly "only did good work because no one told them they couldn't" cases, the composer will either have an intuitive understanding of chord progressions (particularly cadences), or accidentally re-create them, or imitate the extremely popular ones they heard as a child/teen (e.g. the vast majority of "pop" music uses the exact same four-chord progression, as quite humorously parodied by Axis of Awesome.)
I play music with a couple of guys, and come up with my own tunes now and then. They've both got formal musical training. I don't. And during this messing around I've been told on numerous occasions "What you just did there, it's not supposed to work. But it does." This is the sort of thing I mean: going outside the guidelines can work and sometimes does.
If "generally, vaguely, kinda sorta tells [you] what to expect" is all you need, why are you so hung up on an absolute representation then? The narrative part of a monster--the part that doesn't change, the part that is always true in the world, regardless of what abstractions we derive from it--tells you at least that much anyway. The combat mechanics don't need to.
When talking about "what I expect" I'm referring to the potential outcome of a combat with all the other assumptions - absolute representations, etc. - already in place.
...so...you're not even actually playing D&D, you're playing "the thing I made from D&D that includes several systems that were never part of any official D&D in order to make the things I want to make sense actually make sense"?
Just like any other dyed-in-the-wool kitbasher.
Come on, man. This isn't cool for a meaningful discussion about things. You can't substitute "the thing I built out of D&D which differs in key ways from every published D&D" for "D&D," no matter how much you might like to.
Well, that's what you're gonna get.
Hard disagree, if only because there's absolutely no reason a character should be able to "see in the fiction" that an adult black dragon's scales are 2 points worse than an adult red dragon's scales--arbitrary differences that, while meaningful for what choices you might make, are only meaningfully available to the players if they read the statblock itself.
The meaningfulness comes once the characters have tried hitting each one a few times and been able to realize that chopping through one type of scales is a bit easier than through the other.
Stop.

Stop right there.

I did not say it has "different intrinsic toughness."
Yes you did. See below.
That's something YOU are bringing into this. Stop doing that.

I said its intrinsic toughness remains: but the way that intrinsic toughness manifests in any given context changes.

An ogre, for a 3rd-level character, should be very hard to hit with even a glancing blow, but even a glancing blow should contribute to taking it down. That's both a real, physical element of the world, AND a narrative, pacing element of the game. 4th edition manifests this as "to a 3rd-level character, an ogre is a powerful solo monster with higher-than-average AC and HP." To a 13th-level character, it is not only easy to hit an ogre for at least a glancing blow, it's reasonably possible that they could just cleave through its defenses with a single telling blow. But instead of trying to somehow force "AC 25" to simultaneously be super-duper-ultra-hard for a 3rd-level character AND super-duper-ultra-easy for a 13th-level character (a very delicate balancing act that, quite often, simply fails), it says: "Okay. When you land a hit on an ogre as a 13th-level character, it's not the same kind of thing as when you land a hit as a 3rd-level character. You hit an ogre at 13th, you're gonna kill it dead. Skip over all the complicated mathematical gyrations to make that happen, and just say it happens."

And that's what an ogre minion IS: it is recognizing that, BECAUSE a hit from a 13th-level character is simply so much more than a hit from a 3rd-level character, and BECAUSE the toughness of an ogre doesn't and shouldn't change, the mechanical representation MUST change in order to account for the new relative difference between the far-more-powerful character and the no-more-powerful ogre.
If the mechanics don't reflect the intrinsics (or vice-versa) then either the mechanics are garbage or the intrinsics are garbage; because reflection of the intrinsics is what those mechanics exist to do. Period. They'r either locked together or they're useless, pick one.

Which means that yes, you DID say the intrinsic toughness changed when you said the mechanical toughness changed.
I didn't say that. I said that pretending an abstraction is reality is the problem. "The map is not the territory." There IS a difference between "these are what the mechanics say about this monster" and "this is the absolute totality of what this monster IS." There has to be.
No there doesn't; and further, any such difference is an error in the mechanics at best and plain poor design at worst.

A map, to be of any practical use at all other than artwork or a vague schematic, has to accurately portray what it's being asked to portray. You don't just put a note on a nautical chart saying "By the way, there might or might not be a dangerous rock in this area somewhere"; instead you do the surveying, find the rock if it exists, note its precise location and height/depth relative to chart datum, and then put it on the chart exactly where it is in relation to everything else.

Same with mechanical representaiton of a creature. It's only any use if it's accurate.
You keep projecting onto me the notion that the mechanics MUST be one, singular, only representation when I have explicitly rejected that notion and asked for you to demonstrate why it should be that way. Stop just steamrolling with that same assumption, and either justify it, or accept that you're bringing an assumption that is just, flat, NOT required.
You say assumption, I say fact. And I have justified it, numerous times, with these words: internal setting consistency.

That right there is all the justification required and more.
Not at all unrelated. It is a problem that precisely and exactly arises from treating abstractions (HP) as though they really, literally, physically were the object being abstracted, and not merely symbols standing in for something. When you accept the abstraction AS an abstraction, you can then accept that modifications to that abstraction must also be understood as abstracted away from the actual, physical thing, and thus look for whatever actual situation is happening to have given rise to that abstraction in the first place.
Fine, but when there's a choice between minimizing the degree of abstraction and doing anything else, taking the minimum route seems both easiest and most logical.
Again, you are conflating weird edge-cases with consistent numbers, which is exactly what the problem with 3rd edition IS: that it sets hard numbers for things, and then almost immediately invalidates those numbers because players have the freedom to build their own solutions outside those limits. I'm not talking "dealing 45 damage on a crit." I'm talking "dealing 45 average damage." Because, believe it or not, sometimes it really is possible to achieve crap like that in 3e. You even see shades of it in 5e, despite the overall power-down of the system; for instance, IIRC, it was quite possible (20%or 25% probability, IIRC) for a commoner to deceive Asmodeus himself, while simultaneously being possible for an ultra-tricked-out hyperfocused Bard to fail to do so with roughly the same chance. THAT is the kind of enslavement to numbers I'm talking about: again, NOT weird statistical edge cases, but reasonably common events. (One in five commoners attempting to lie to the Prince of Darkness himself really shouldn't succeed.)
To flip this around - and I don't say this in criticism - instead of pulling edge-case random events you're pulling edge-case rules exploits, which are something any worthwhile DM should shut down as soon as they arise. Why the different approaches to each? Simple. Edge-case random events are just that: random, unpredictable, and infrequent-to-rare. Edge-case rules exploits are repeatable at will and, unless shut down, can and will become commonplace once found.
Not at all. Players are not permitted to fiat declare success, for instance. The rules can and do limit what players can do. With relative representation, however, the system no longer needs to set such rigid scaling, because it innately accounts for "you now deal so much damage that, if you even hit an ogre once, it just dies." So the players are free to employ their zany schemes without being shut down by "no, sorry, you can't do that, it's too much damage" or "no, that's an unfair advantage over the fighter" or whatever.
This assumes there's been such a ramp-up in power level on the part of the PCs that they can ever get to the point where an ogre can be one-shotted every single time. I don't see that as achievable; a character can still roll '1' on the damage die and if their bonuses give enough plusses to take down a 40 h.p. ogre even on a minimum roll that's simply not a game I'm interested in playing.

Put another way, and in more general terms, I see the ramp-up in PC power as being (more than) enough to reflect their development as they advance in level; and see no need at all to also correspondingly weaken (or, at low PC levels, strengthen) the creatures they're facing. It also depends, I suppose, on just how much difference you want there to be between a 1st level PC* and a 12th-level PC*.

* - or 1 HD (or CR 1) monster and 12 HD (or CR 12) monster, either comparison works for this purpose.
No, they aren't. The numbers are there to represent how the creature interacts with its current environment. They don't need--and have never needed--to represent the whole entirety of the creature as a natural object for all time.
Where I think the numbers not only need to do that, but doing that is why they exist at all.
The numbers exist to enable actions, and to respond to the actions of others. D&D has never handled monster-on-monster action particularly well, and 4e was honest enough to admit that.
Not that it exactly comes up every week, but on the occasions it has I've never had any problem whatsoever in handling monster-v-monster interactions*. This is the advantage of absolute representation: the setting can interact with itself on a consistent basis if-when it has to.

* - some example of how this has come up in my games:
--- [rare] the PCs come on to some monsters that are fighting each other, so they take cover and watch the proceedings in order to a) assess the capabilities of the combatants and-or b) let them beat each other up and then move in and finish them all off
--- [common] the PCs summon some monsters and turn them loose to wreak what havoc they can while the PCs do other things elsewhere
--- [rare] a shapeshifted or polymorphed individual, having for whatever reason retained few if any of its original abilities, enters or is forced into combat while still in that form

Most of the time with the first two instances and every time with the third instance I do the requisite rolling and play these out as full combats; an example exception would be if in the first instance there's a huge number of creatures involved I'm not going to roll for each one of them.
I mean, if we want to talk about gamist BS in editions, how about that explicit rule in...was it OD&D or 1e? where the instant a monster allies with the party, it loses its darkvision. Doesn't that pretty well put the pin in the idea that the abstractions were EVER meant to represent the sum totality of things, and were instead meant to represent the interactions between things?
Fortunately I've never encountered this incredibly ass-dumb rule; were I to ever trip over it - or anything else that ridiculous - I'd remove it from my game before I'd finished reading the sentence it was in.
So you agree that you aren't actually playing D&D-qua-D&D then? Because D&D doesn't use "body-fatigue" or "wound-vitality" systems....except...well, you aren't going to like this, but 4e does. Healing Surges ARE a "body-fatigue" system. You can only squeeze so much healing out of a person before they just run out of juice, and even magic can't do much about that. (Daily powers can! ...but those come back in exactly the same way surges do, so it's a wash.)
Healing surges aren't it, but you're right in that 4e is the only D&D edition to even wave at a body-fatigue system in any way; and that's with its 'bloodied' mechanic. 4e IMO went way too far with some of what it did, so its perhaps ironic that I say here that with this mechanic they didn't go nearly far enough; as it's a pretty short jump from bloodied to a full-on body-fatigue or wound-vitality system.
A 747 is hollow and has engines. I'm pretty sure those work differently from flappy wings, and that dragons are not only not hollow, but have very heavy bones. Being flippant about this isn't brightening up the conversation.
Birds aren't hollow either, but their bones are; as I think would also be those of dragons other than a few key structural pieces e.g. spine and leg bones.
Who said anything about "morphing" the setting? You keep projecting these ideas. Please, please, please stop. I said that the RULES are about what the PCs do, not that the SETTING is about what the PCs do. The rules are not the setting, and the setting is not the rules. (Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to play homebrew settings with the same rules, nor established settings with alternate rulesets!)
The rules simultaneously define and reflect the setting, which is why every time I change a rule I have to be a bit careful as in doing so I'm also changing the underlying physics of the setting. If for example I was to take the homebrew setting I'm using for my current game and suddenly overlay, say, the 3.5e or Pathfinder ruleset on to it; though the physical aspects of the setting e.g. mountains, oceans, etc. wouldn't change, aspects of just about every living or undead creature would, and quite dramatically in some cases.
Whereas in my experience, a lone survivor of a party means the game ends, because no one has any meaningful notion of how you can bounce back from that sort of catastrophic failure.
I've seen it happen numerous times both as DM and player. The survivor either finds a way to revive some or all of the fallen companions or goes out and recruits a new party. Simple. :)
The map is not equivalent to the territory. The territory comes first; you draw the map after, and you draw it based on what you need the map to accomplish. It is, I argue, just as needles to say, "One territory, one map. End of story." How could one map possibly be the correct answer for all situations a "describe the physical space" need might appear in, even if we only consider its use for navigating around?
The map, regardless of purpose, still needs to be accurate.
 

You appear to be approaching your examples as a DM choosing which mechanical representation of an Ogre will be the most fun for a party of a particular level. That works great in a CaS playstyle, where the DM is planning the encounters with an eye towards fun and balance.

But in a CaW playstyle, that's not the DM's role. Instead, encounters arise organically, when either the party or their opponents try to engage and the other side is either unwilling or unable to avoid contact. The party's decision on when and where to fight isn't a meaningful choice unless it's an informed decision, and having multiple possible mechanical representations of the same monster make it very hard for the PCs to be informed of the capabilities of their opponents (including whether those opponents are biased towards offense or defense).
I don't necessarily agree. I mean, there IS (and this was a point that @EzekielRaiden made) a FICTIONAL 'Joe the Ogre' that is going to be represented. It has fictional properties. Chances are the PCs/players don't have some exact inventory of the associated mechanics. They will have whatever their intel has given them, PARTICULARLY in a more realistic wargame-like scenario. So I don't find anything problematic about this at all, as long as the GM is doing what the GM SHOULD be doing, which is supporting the fiction with the mechanics. If she's not, then THAT is the problem, not the toolset, IMHO.
Variable statblocks also complicate a CaW DM's job, vis-a-vis trying to determine the NPCs' strategy. Does the enemy leader know what statblocks the deployed Ogres will be using? Does the leader think of his Ogres as a powerful independent force, or only as support for a more powerful creature (i.e. minions deployed alone are pretty useless)? The utility of Ogres as a weapon against the PCs (and thus how to deploy them) depends a lot on how the Ogres are going to be represented mechanically. Also, it's entirely possible that the deployment of the Ogres to block the pass wasn't directed at the PCs, but instead at a third party. If the mechanical representation of the Ogres changes based on who the Ogres are fighting, that really complicates the enemy's attempts to make good straetgic use of their Ogres.
First of all, how the enemy leaders THINK of their forces, and how they ACTUALLY BEHAVE are not the same thing. I mean, simply canvas every single military leader in history who got his ass kicked... Again, a coherent fiction is what works here, and if the bad guys misjudge, well, happens! Given that I'm the GM and I'm simulating their thinking, this all should be about a nothingburger as a 'problem'.
 

@Lanefan ... I'm sorry. I want to engage, but trying is getting me seriously angry, and that's not good for anyone. I don't feel you have meaningfully addressed most of my points, nor particularly responded to my counterpoints, but right now I think it's best if I just...stop. I hate saying that because it feels disrespectful, but I just don't think it's a good idea for me to continue to engage with you on this.

So I don't find anything problematic about this at all, as long as the GM is doing what the GM SHOULD be doing, which is supporting the fiction with the mechanics. If she's not, then THAT is the problem, not the toolset, IMHO.
This, exactly. If the mechanics aren't actually supporting the fiction, that's a problem before you get to any specifics about which kind of mechanics, period.
 
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S'mon

Legend
Fair, but I've read play reports from DMs who would undoubtedly consider themselves CaW, wherein the plans the players executed were (IMO) irrationally convoluted and would have probably been doomed to failure, yet they succeeded in that DM's game.

You can have a CAW adventure where the PCs are a lot more powerful than the NPCs and succeed despite bad tactics. Most real world conflict is heavily unequal after all. If it's CAW then PC tactics should affect difficulty - better tactics should lead to easier victory. But if the PCs are sufficiently superior they should still win even with inferior tactics. In fact balancing things so that PCs always need at least moderately efficient tactics to win is more CAS. CAW has space for both hopeless battles (usually best avoided) and for inevitable victories.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
You can have a CAW adventure where the PCs are a lot more powerful than the NPCs and succeed despite bad tactics. Most real world conflict is heavily unequal after all. If it's CAW then PC tactics should affect difficulty - better tactics should lead to easier victory. But if the PCs are sufficiently superior they should still win even with inferior tactics. In fact balancing things so that PCs always need at least moderately efficient tactics to win is more CAS. CAW has space for both hopeless battles (usually best avoided) and for inevitable victories.
That's true. However, it wasn't what I was referring to.

Let's say that the PCs are locked in a cell and set to be executed at dawn. This enemy is smart. They use an overwhelming number of guards to escort the PCs and the cell itself is warded against magic.

However, these PCs recently watched an episode of McGuyver where he mixes two chemicals to produce an explosion that blows up a wall and allows McGuyver to escape. And by some luck, it just so happens that there's some lichen growing on the wall of this cell with one of these chemicals, and an insect crawling around the cell with the other.

Let's say that in the first scenario the DM has also watched this episode. The PCs combine these chemicals, blow the cell, and escape. Huzzah!

In the second scenario, the DM recently watched an episode of MythBusters where that episode of McGuyver was busted. While those chemicals do produce a reaction, it's nowhere close to the force necessary to blow up a wall or a cell door. The plan fails and it's a TPK at dawn.

Identical scenarios, with the key difference being whether the DM thought their plan should be able to succeed or not. It has nothing to do with the difficulty presented by the scenario itself. It would still succeed/fail if there was only a single bumbling guard and the cell had no warding.
 

That's true. However, it wasn't what I was referring to.

Let's say that the PCs are locked in a cell and set to be executed at dawn. This enemy is smart. They use an overwhelming number of guards to escort the PCs and the cell itself is warded against magic.

However, these PCs recently watched an episode of McGuyver where he mixes two chemicals to produce an explosion that blows up a wall and allows McGuyver to escape. And by some luck, it just so happens that there's some lichen growing on the wall of this cell with one of these chemicals, and an insect crawling around the cell with the other.

Let's say that in the first scenario the DM has also watched this episode. The PCs combine these chemicals, blow the cell, and escape. Huzzah!

In the second scenario, the DM recently watched an episode of MythBusters where that episode of McGuyver was busted. While those chemicals do produce a reaction, it's nowhere close to the force necessary to blow up a wall or a cell door. The plan fails and it's a TPK at dawn.

Identical scenarios, with the key difference being whether the DM thought their plan should be able to succeed or not. It has nothing to do with the difficulty presented by the scenario itself. It would still succeed/fail if there was only a single bumbling guard and the cell had no warding.
Right, this is one of the dimensions of the whole 'nobody really knows the world' conundrum. I actually think this is the less significant dimension of it, but it is one that comes up often enough. Another is the vast range of outcomes that can be reasonably expected from an action, coupled with very limited information about many details of the capabilities of PCs or NPCs.

A very simple example of the later is, can we all jump across a 16' chasm? Can the orcs following us jump across the same 16' chasm? What is a reasonable model for determining success/failure? Should it take into account the height and weight of the PCs? How exactly are those determined? OK, we can simply use STR as a basic estimate, good enough! Now, what about those orcs? It is basically up to the GM how good orcs are at jumping chasms, nobody really knows!

And then we start to get into the more involved things. How many days worth of rations do the orcs have stored in their caves? Can they endure a siege of a week, a month? Do they have a water supply in there? We just don't know. Will disease break out? How fast can they dig a back exit, will it be in time? I almost guarantee you these are not questions anyone has an answer to. Thus the GM will have to answer them when this 'CaW' scenario comes up, and what criteria will be used? There's no real reason to believe one answer is 'more fair' than another! It isn't realistic to answer either way, especially. I mean, we don't know enough about orc society or this tribe to say. I guarantee you B2, for example, cannot answer any of these questions, nor suggest any 'right answer'. The GM will decide, for purely gamist reasons, what happens next. There is no other answer. IMHO this is not a 'wargame'.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
The GM will decide, for purely gamist reasons, what happens next. There is no other answer. IMHO this is not a 'wargame'.
It doesn't have to be "purely gamist reasons". Sure, the DM isn't going to have that level of detail and will need to make something up, but that doesn't mean the DM can't try to make a reasonable extrapolation from established facts in the game world. Sure, there will be inevitably be some gamist component to the decision (and I don't consider that a bad thing), but the decision doesn't need to be exclusively gamist.
 

It doesn't have to be "purely gamist reasons". Sure, the DM isn't going to have that level of detail and will need to make something up, but that doesn't mean the DM can't try to make a reasonable extrapolation from established facts in the game world. Sure, there will be inevitably be some gamist component to the decision (and I don't consider that a bad thing), but the decision doesn't need to be exclusively gamist.
Well, I agree that it will have to be bound by existing fiction, genre expectations, and such. Presumably if the answer is 'out there' in terms of not seemingly plausible (Orcs can go without food for 10 years) then this will have to be worked into the fiction, and should PROBABLY already have been established.

I just mean, its hard to really judge something like "is there enough water supply in the orc lair?" Any answer will be significant in a siege situation where it is coming up. I don't know what criteria you would use to decide, given that the GM's answer is unconstrained by existing fiction.
 

Right, this is one of the dimensions of the whole 'nobody really knows the world' conundrum. I actually think this is the less significant dimension of it, but it is one that comes up often enough. Another is the vast range of outcomes that can be reasonably expected from an action, coupled with very limited information about many details of the capabilities of PCs or NPCs.

A very simple example of the later is, can we all jump across a 16' chasm? Can the orcs following us jump across the same 16' chasm? What is a reasonable model for determining success/failure? Should it take into account the height and weight of the PCs? How exactly are those determined? OK, we can simply use STR as a basic estimate, good enough! Now, what about those orcs? It is basically up to the GM how good orcs are at jumping chasms, nobody really knows!

And then we start to get into the more involved things. How many days worth of rations do the orcs have stored in their caves? Can they endure a siege of a week, a month? Do they have a water supply in there? We just don't know. Will disease break out? How fast can they dig a back exit, will it be in time? I almost guarantee you these are not questions anyone has an answer to. Thus the GM will have to answer them when this 'CaW' scenario comes up, and what criteria will be used? There's no real reason to believe one answer is 'more fair' than another! It isn't realistic to answer either way, especially. I mean, we don't know enough about orc society or this tribe to say. I guarantee you B2, for example, cannot answer any of these questions, nor suggest any 'right answer'. The GM will decide, for purely gamist reasons, what happens next. There is no other answer. IMHO this is not a 'wargame'.
This is why I am always skeptical of the idea that the GM just plays the world neutrally. It just doesn't add up. It only really works if the GM has pre-established facts to fall back on. If the GM has already determined that the Orcs have a massive underground reservoir than short term attempts to cut off their water supply will definitely fail. But frequently events aren't predetermined.

I think most of the time we make decisions about what feels realistic or reasonable, but that's really just a big massive black box. For example, the GM may avoid certain decisions because they will seem to narratively convenient and therefore not feel realistic. Ultimately, like writing an alternative history, there's an aesthetic to these judgement calls.
 

This is why I am always skeptical of the idea that the GM just plays the world neutrally. It just doesn't add up. It only really works if the GM has pre-established facts to fall back on. If the GM has already determined that the Orcs have a massive underground reservoir than short term attempts to cut off their water supply will definitely fail. But frequently events aren't predetermined.
Right, and it is QUITE possible, inevitable even, that SOME questions will have perfectly good answers. Or maybe there's a most logical and probably answer that you can work backwards to from something else. Usually though, there will not be, aside from a few specific questions that are typically focused on, like numbers of forces, their basic weapons and armor, stuff like that.
I think most of the time we make decisions about what feels realistic or reasonable, but that's really just a big massive black box. For example, the GM may avoid certain decisions because they will seem to narratively convenient and therefore not feel realistic. Ultimately, like writing an alternative history, there's an aesthetic to these judgement calls.
Right. And obviously nobody can say what considerations are paramount for any given GM or situation. Undoubtedly narrative logic and a type of consistency are good candidates, though I have seen quite my share of GMs who had no interest in those!
 

S'mon

Legend
This is why I am always skeptical of the idea that the GM just plays the world neutrally. It just doesn't add up. It only really works if the GM has pre-established facts to fall back on. If the GM has already determined that the Orcs have a massive underground reservoir than short term attempts to cut off their water supply will definitely fail. But frequently events aren't predetermined.

Surely the CAW GM will have a map of the orc lair, including any water sources? I certainly do, short of being completely caught off guard. In the latter case I have some generic lair maps.
 

Surely the CAW GM will have a map of the orc lair, including any water sources? I certainly do, short of being completely caught off guard. In the latter case I have some generic lair maps.
I think it is doubtful that this is a typical case. Nobody can say who carries out what practices in their world design, but surely if it isn't water, then the question could be food stores and utilization, or how much oil they have available, or what are their relations with the kobolds like? The world is a complex place. Surely definitive answers to all of these kinds of questions don't exist, nor probably even more than a small minority of the most commonly asked ones. I don't think B2, for example, could answer ANY of the above questions, about the orcs, or the Keep itself either for that matter.
 



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