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

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Sure. But so what?
That was a response to someone asking for elaboration.

So what does the rest of this post have to do with that?
That’s part of the point of CaW. If the players are smart enough to run good CaW, then they’ll probably be smart enough to know when to cut their losses and run. CaW doesn’t stop once initiative is rolled. Good GaW avoids needing to roll initiative in the first place.

If the players are running that clever they’ll also be paranoid and looking for traps. If they lose that, they likely die. It’s not that CaW is bad or hard, it’s mostly exhausting.

If the PCs can walk over the monsters, then the monsters can walk over the PCs. I don’t see the downside. Unless it’s bad because it subverts the notion that the PCs must always win. Well, frankly, good.
 

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dave2008

Legend
You seem to be stuck on the notion of a single group of monsters. There's a reason I used the word 'eventually'. The PC's may have a sizable advantage advantage against enemy group A and may completely demolish them, but enemy Group A isn't the only enemy group and the PC's won't have a sizable advantage against every enemy group.
You didn't answer my question, so I can respond to your comment. If you want a response, answer my questions so I can properly respond. Thank you.
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
You didn't answer my question, so I can respond to your comment. If you want a response, answer my questions so I can properly respond. Thank you.
That was my answer. You asked me a question about a position I don't take and I explained the position I do take.
 

But that doesn't appear to be @FrogReaver's goal
But I do think that it is implied. You can't give everything to your BBEG or otherwise that BBEG would already rule the world. You weight what the other equivalent power houses in your world have and you adjust the possibilities of your BBEG in consequences of what your other powerhouse have at their disposal. In the case of a minor BBEG, you might want to give it a bit more and in the case of a world treath class BBEG you might give it a lot more. As long as you keep it within a certain logical amount and that you keep track as to justify your moves, your players will not complain. At least, not that much....
 


Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
I'll take CaS v CaW every time, thanks, if it's a choice between that and GNS. :)

The one thing with running combat as war that might not jive with the modern game is that true CaW somewhat requires a more adversarial approach on the part of the DM. You're not cheering for the PCs during the battle; you're in fact trying your best with the resources at hand (i.e. the opponents and whatever they have going for them) to - fairly as per the rules - squash them dead, and you're cheering for the opposition.

After (if) they win, that's when you can cheer for the PCs. :)
I would note that it's entirely possible to run a CaW game with the DM not in an adversarial role. Illusionist CaW works just as well (or as badly, as I suspect you would say) as Illusionist CaS. :)
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I would note that it's entirely possible to run a CaW game with the DM not in an adversarial role. Illusionist CaW works just as well (or as badly, as I suspect you would say) as Illusionist CaS. :)
In a lot pf ways doing it makes things even easier because the players go out of their way to seek out & use/manipulate world details in their own benefit so they basically can wind up pumping the gm for worldbuilding loredump & descriptive details that would be difficult to express all at once a opposed to being shaded bit by bit with time to think.
 

dave2008

Legend
That was my answer. You asked me a question about a position I don't take and I explained the position I do take.
I asked if you where talking about Combat as War as a gamist concept or a simulationist/realistic concept. I didn't see the answer to that question in your response.

You said:
You seem to be stuck on the notion of a single group of monsters. There's a reason I used the word 'eventually'. The PC's may have a sizable advantage advantage against enemy group A and may completely demolish them, but enemy Group A isn't the only enemy group and the PC's won't have a sizable advantage against every enemy group.
How does this response answer my question about how your thinking about, or asking us to think about, CaW?

As a refresher, I said:
Are you saying that in a gamist way, such as the DM always stacks the deck in favor of the Monsters? Or in a realist manner?
Perhaps not as clear as I stated above, but that was my intent. If you missed it the first time, do you understand the question now?
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I asked if you where talking about Combat as War as a gamist concept or a simulationist/realistic concept. I didn't see the answer to that question in your response.

You said:

How does this response answer my question about how your thinking about, or asking us to think about, CaW?

As a refresher, I said:

Perhaps not as clear as I stated above, but that was my intent. If you missed it the first time, do you understand the question now?
Sorry, I thought the main thrust of your post was the below part - which is primarily what I was answering.

I don't actually understand that question about the gamist/simulationist/realistc concept for CaW. I have no idea what you mean by those terms.

Sometimes the PCs are the big bad. They have more resources and abilities than the monsters or NPC they face. So even if the monsters do everything (un)realistically possible, they still may not have the advantage.
 

dave2008

Legend
Sorry, I thought the main thrust of your post was the below part - which is primarily what I was answering.

I don't actually understand that question about the gamist/simulationist/realistc concept for CaW. I have no idea what you mean by those terms.
D&D is a game. So are you talking about CaW with respect to the game (DM v Players) or as a simulation of reality (Character vs NPCs/Monsters). Is this a meta concept or something you think should be addressed as if this was a real functioning fantasy world.

Gamist: DM vs Players. AKA a "game"
Simulationist: threat it as a "real" world

I guess I could answer both, but I was wondering what you are thinking.

PS - I see how my additional statement confused my original intent, my apologies.
 
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The tactics employed in combat as war are inherently about making the encounter unfair.

Not quite. The tactics employed in combat are about giving yourself the advantage, and exploiting any perceived weakness of your enemy to achieve victory.

But enemies are never concerned with encounter difficulty, for that is part of overal game balance, which is entirely in the hands of the DM. It is a meta-game concept.

It is the DM who decides how much of an advantage the enemy gets. How many troops they are able to mobilize, how many resources they have, and how smart they fight.

Case in point:

I run a 3.5 pirate campaign. I have done so for many years now. At the start of the campaign I provided my players with the following premise:

A fleet of pirate hunters is on their way to eradicate all pirates from the region. They have been sent by a powerful empire, who hired the best warlord they could find for this task. Their fleet is vastly superior to yours. Unless you take action, they will win. Gather what resources and allies you can before they arrive.

Of course the moment of arrival, the size of the fleet, the strength of their allies, the willingness of other pirates to join their cause... these are all things that are in my hands as a DM. Just because I choose to have the enemy treat this as a war, does not mean the odds will be unfair.
 

I kinda disagree with this, in that the PCs in theory ought to realize what's good for the goose is good for the gander; and that if they're coming up with all these cool tactics it's only natural that there'll be times when the same tactics are used against them.

And yes, when done well it means some PCs will likely die; but almost never a whole party. IME someone always has a last-ditch "getaway car" of some sort.
Well, assume we accept the fundamental premise of the thread, then why cannot we posit two opposed forces, neither one of which is really willing to push things to a decisive fight. So they spar and 'game', etc. but it isn't GAMIST in the sense that it is not serious because we're playing an RPG. Think of the wars in Medieval Italy where troupes of mercenaries basically paraded around 'battlefields' and let a few pints of obligatory blood, and then each side took its fee and went home and had a party. I mean, that's a bit extreme, but this is basically how a lot of conflict works. Each side is really trying to intimidate the other, get some advantages, nobody is willing to commit to a real battle. Eventually the two sides may effectively even become 'allies' in a sense, each upholding its side of a 'conflict'.

That kind of thing might even be a fun scenario.
 

If the DM adopted a "RPGs as war" approach, sure. The toughest boss in the campaign would just burn down the tavern the 1st level PCs were sleeping on night 1 of the campaign.

But the NPC's aren't omniscient. The big bad does not realize those meddling kids are going to uber powerful heroes who will be his biggest threat in the near future, and he has lots of other, more pressing things to worry about.

Actual war tells us that commanders make flawed decisions all the time (Hitler invading Russia), and bad luck can mitigate even the best decisions (the US aircraft carriers being away from Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack). The DM can usually set up the stage in a plausible way so that the PCs have a reasonable chance of success, even if the enemies within that scenario are fighting to the very best of their abilities.
Right, and I would generalize this whole observation. First of all we don't know sufficiently what the actual situation of the participants in the 'war' actually is to judge what they really can and cannot do. War in the real world hinges on a very large number of different factors. Most importantly it is very hard to judge what each side knows (particularly the monster side). So, ALL scenarios are of this 'the GM decides for gamist reasons' sort. CAW simply doesn't exist, so by contrast CAS doesn't either.

There is just whatever fun story the participants in the game came up with. In that sense CAW/CAS can exist, as a tone or maybe you could call it genre, perhaps, of storytelling in D&D.
 

Horwath

Hero
Most monsters do treat battle as war.
Well, if they have sufficient intelligence and information on the target.

We have to realize that adventurers are the exception in the world, and many raiding parties(orc, goblins, gnolls, hill giants) go on presumption that a village or a caravan train is most of the time protected by CR 1/4 or CR 1/2 NPC guards and maybe one CR 1 commander.
They do not expect 5-6 PCs mixed within the guard duty roster.

That is one of the reasons that when I play, I try to convince other players that we should always dress to look like some dirt poor vagabonds while adventuring. That way you can avoid some highwaymen and raiders and many will underestimate you as a target and commit too few troops for an attack.

Now, if the "enemy" has a correct intel about your party and enough troops to deploy, you are FUBAR.


But, in the end monster are here to help tell the story, so they have to be downplayed some in order to PCs progress to the next stage of campaign.
 

Of course the strategies used depend on the type of opponent. But presuming an intelligent opponent that can plan and strategize, this is how I would run them:

They try to maintain superiority in terms of troops and resources. A lack of such may lead them to seek out new alliances and to order for the construction of new weapons.

They may try to eliminate safe havens for the players. This means attacking ports and settlements that have sheltered the players and where they have many allies. They may also attempt to construct safehavens for themselves, such as constructing a new port in secret.

They will try to get as much intel as possible on the players. This means scrying and spying. They may send a spy to infiltrate their crew. They will use powerful spellcasters to cast scrying spells to learn what the players are up to and where they are.

They will try to reduce the number of allies that the players have. Either by killing those allies, or by turning them to their side.

They will set traps for the players and attack them when they are vulnerable. If the players are strong on land, attack them at sea. If they are strong at sea, attack them on land. Lure them into a situation and environment that favors the bad guys and disadvantages the players.

Note that none of these strategies suggest unfair encounters or unwinnable scenarios.
 
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CaW works for adventures, but not for a full campaign. If you have a BBEG for the entire campaign the party is going to be fighting, then the party will die early on in the campaign. They'll have plenty of time to learn about the PCs and plan to counter them. If the party is facing a single group of foes, such as an orc tribe, you can run CaW as part of the adventure with ease. They might have some defenses and ways to gather overwhelming force against the PCs once alerted, but PCs using CaW against them should have the advantage, since CaW is largely an offensive tactic. If you want a BBEG for a CaW campaign, you have to make sure the party is not the only problem they're dealing with, so that the PCs have the ability to stay under the radar (if they know this is CaW, they should do this).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Are you saying that in a gamist way, such as the DM always stacks the deck in favor of the Monsters? Or in a realist manner? If you build a "real" world, Combat as War, as you seem to define it, is not always possible. Sometimes the PCs are the big bad. They have more resources and abilities than the monsters or NPC they face. So even if the monsters do everything (un)realistically possible, they still may not have the advantage.
Which is fine unless it happens every time. Sometimes the PCs, as you say, are simply too much for the opposition no matter what that opposition does. Also, sometimes the opposition isn't really bright enough to come up with any tactics (e.g. a hungry owlbear or a band of brainless zombies); and that's fine too.

If the opposition give it their level best - whatever that may be - before losing (in whatever form that takes, be it death, capture, rout-and-flee, or whatever) then it's still CaW in my book.

Where it becomes CaS is when either of these becomes or remains true: the opposition consistently underplay their hand and don't use best tactics or even half-decent tactics; and-or when every combat is easy enough to be won by the PCs no matter what they do.

Put another way: in CaW the players/PCs are going to lose unless they work for the win. In CaS the players/PCs are going to win unless they work for the loss.
 

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