log in or register to remove this ad

 

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

Fanaelialae

Legend
I think it’s debatable whether what you are calling CaW here is actually CaW.
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. Heck, the very post that came up with CaW and CaS has an example of CaW style play that probably wouldn't work in my game (kiting an owlbear to a giant beehive while throwing mud in order to steal honey).

A CaW style game doesn't need to be hard or deadly. I would agree that many people who play it prefer it not to be easy, but that doesn't mean that a game that is easy isn't CaW.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
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. Heck, the very post that came up with CaW and CaS has an example of CaW style play that probably wouldn't work in my game (kiting an owlbear to a giant beehive while throwing mud in order to steal honey).

A CaW style game doesn't need to be hard or deadly. I would agree that many people who play it prefer it not to be easy, but that doesn't mean that a game that is easy isn't CaW.
Im not so sure. I’ve not seen one example of it being not-deadly with enemy reasons/tactics going along with the CaW mindset. Those principles seem to have to be ignored either by dm fiat of always puttiing in a reason for the enemies to not engage in such tactics or the enemies just being plain dumb and not engaging in anything like that themselves.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Im not so sure. I’ve not seen one example of it being not-deadly with enemy reasons/tactics going along with the CaW mindset. Those principles seem to have to be ignored either by dm fiat of always puttiing in a reason for the enemies to not engage in such tactics or the enemies just being plain dumb and not engaging in anything like that themselves.
I disagree. For starters, not every DM is a tactical genius. If the players are better at tactical thinking than their DM, that by itself is likely to make the game easier by an order of magnitude.

It's not that difficult to come up with a reason for most enemies not to kill if you want to. Obviously, some enemies will kill PCs if in a position to do so, but they need to be in a position to do so in the first place. Others may have very rational reasons to keep the PCs alive (such as ransoming them). Whether or not these things are in the world depends entirely on the DM. You can make a world where enemies are ruthless, or one where ransoms are commonplace. Either is perfectly in line with CaW.
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
Which is what I would call proof that such a DM isn’t running the enemies with a combat as war mindset.
So it's your belief that if a DM isn't doing everything in their power to murder the PCs, they aren't playing CaW? Even if the NPCs have goals that would make them want to keep the PCs alive?

I disagree. CaW is about the DM not holding back. However, not holding back doesn't necessarily equate to killing the PCs, if that's not in line with the NPCs' goals. If bandits want to ransom the PCs, then it's about capturing and holding them by the most effective means available to the bandits. Giant spiders might paralyze their prey without killing it, so that they can have a nice tasty snack when they get hungry.

A world where every NPC is a ruthless murderhobo is one way to do CaW, but I certainly don't think it's the only way. CaW allows for a wide range of worlds, including those where murdering the PCs is not preferred for most NPCs, because they have different priorities.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
So it's your belief that if a DM isn't doing everything in their power to murder the PCs, they aren't playing CaW? Even if the NPCs have goals that would make them want to keep the PCs alive?

I disagree. CaW is about the DM not holding back. However, not holding back doesn't necessarily equate to killing the PCs, if that's not in line with the NPCs' goals. If bandits want to ransom the PCs, then it's about capturing and holding them by the most effective means available to the bandits. Giant spiders might paralyze their prey without killing it, so that they can have a nice tasty snack when they get hungry.

A world where every NPC is a ruthless murderhobo is one way to do CaW, but I certainly don't think it's the only way. CaW allows for a wide range of worlds, including those where murdering the PCs is not preferred for most NPCs, because they have different priorities.
There’s two things going on that you are getting muddled.

1. Whether an individual group of enemies tactics can be described as operating under CaW.

2. Whether all enemies in a CaW campaign must operate under CaW.

I’m addressing 1 and you are trying to act like I’m taking the stance that all enemies in a CaW campaign must adhere to CaW - which is something I’ve nowhere said and frankly don’t believe.
 

Ixal

Explorer
So it's your belief that if a DM isn't doing everything in their power to murder the PCs, they aren't playing CaW? Even if the NPCs have goals that would make them want to keep the PCs alive?

I disagree. CaW is about the DM not holding back. However, not holding back doesn't necessarily equate to killing the PCs, if that's not in line with the NPCs' goals. If bandits want to ransom the PCs, then it's about capturing and holding them by the most effective means available to the bandits. Giant spiders might paralyze their prey without killing it, so that they can have a nice tasty snack when they get hungry.

A world where every NPC is a ruthless murderhobo is one way to do CaW, but I certainly don't think it's the only way. CaW allows for a wide range of worlds, including those where murdering the PCs is not preferred for most NPCs, because they have different priorities.
Why do the bandits think they can get any ransom for the PCs?
If there is a in game reason then they should hold them as prisoner. But their goal is that the PCs do not escape and will do everything they think is necessary and reasonable to ensure that. Holding them in cages, keeping constant watch, torture or mutilate spellcasters and certainly not leave any equipment stored nearby the PCs can use.

Thats very different from the near guranteed escapes PCs usually get in such situations where it is often made sure that they get their equipment back and that they, again, only face small groups of enemies they can handle in their weakened state.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Why do the bandits think they can get any ransom for the PCs?
If there is a in game reason then they should hold them as prisoner. But their goal is that the PCs do not escape and will do everything they think is necessary and reasonable to ensure that. Holding them in cages, keeping constant watch, torture or mutilate spellcasters and certainly not leave any equipment stored nearby the PCs can use.

Thats very different from the near guranteed escapes PCs usually get in such situations where it is often made sure that they get their equipment back and that they, again, only face small groups of enemies they can handle in their weakened state.
Yep. Escapes make for a good theatrical story but the chances of an internal escape from a CaW minded group after already being captured is slim. They hold all the cards so to speak.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
There’s two things going on that you are getting muddled.

1. Whether an individual group of enemies tactics can be described as operating under CaW.

2. Whether all enemies in a CaW campaign must operate under CaW.

I’m addressing 1 and you are trying to act like I’m taking the stance that all enemies in a CaW campaign must adhere to CaW - which is something I’ve nowhere said and frankly don’t believe.
Fair enough. I wasn't trying to mischaracterize your statements.

What I'm saying though is that I don't think that the NPCs doing their best to murder the PCs is a necessary component of the CaW mindset. It's certainly sufficient for CaW. But not necessary.

If the NPCs primary motivation is gold, and they believe that ransoming the PCs will allow them to acquire more gold than killing them, then I think that capturing the PCs is absolutely in line with CaW, provided that they use their best means to accomplish that goal. You haven't suddenly switched to running a CaS encounter just because the NPCs don't want to kill the PCs. A CaS encounter is characterized by being straight-forwardly fair. If the NPCs set an ambush leveraging unfair means and/or overwhelming force to capture the the PCs, that's not a CaS encounter. It's CaW. Despite that the PCs are in no imminent danger of dying. The only real threat may be poverty, but it's clearly a CaW encounter if you ask me.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Why do the bandits think they can get any ransom for the PCs?
If there is a in game reason then they should hold them as prisoner. But their goal is that the PCs do not escape and will do everything they think is necessary and reasonable to ensure that. Holding them in cages, keeping constant watch, torture or mutilate spellcasters and certainly not leave any equipment stored nearby the PCs can use.

Thats very different from the near guranteed escapes PCs usually get in such situations where it is often made sure that they get their equipment back and that they, again, only face small groups of enemies they can handle in their weakened state.
In the post you quoted, I literally said the bandits would use the most effective means to capture and hold the PCs. Obviously, that precludes a near guaranteed escape (unless these bandits are way out of their depth and don't realize who they're dealing with, but that's not particularly relevant).
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Fair enough. I wasn't trying to mischaracterize your statements.

What I'm saying though is that I don't think that the NPCs doing their best to murder the PCs is a necessary component of the CaW mindset. It's certainly sufficient for CaW. But not necessary.
I agree. The question I keep coming back to is why and how that decision was arrived at. Most of the examples and wording made it appear to be a decision in the moment as a way to tilt the encounter into giving the PCs a chance when they otherwise would have none. I hope we can agree that doing that is not CaW.

If the NPCs primary motivation is gold, and they believe that ransoming the PCs will allow them to acquire more gold than killing them, then I think that capturing the PCs is absolutely in line with CaW, provided that they use their best means to accomplish that goal. You haven't suddenly switched to running a CaS encounter just because the NPCs don't want to kill the PCs.
It depends on how and why that decision was reached.

A CaS encounter is characterized by being straight-forwardly fair. If the NPCs set an ambush leveraging unfair means and/or overwhelming force to capture the the PCs, that's not a CaS encounter. It's CaW. Despite that the PCs are in no imminent danger of dying. The only real threat may be poverty, but it's clearly a CaW encounter if you ask me.
I’m not arguing that every enemy initiated CaW encounter will turn TPK deadly. Just that it’s pretty much inevitable that eventually one does.
 

In many cases it's fairly obvious.

In those where it isn't, that's where the DM has to put on a thinking cap. And maybe she guesses wrong; whatever "best hand" she comes up with plays right into whatever tactics the players/PCs come up with during the session. Them's the breaks.
Not to pick a fight, but I don't buy that "it's fairly obvious" argument. If our study of the real world has taught us ANYTHING at all it is that almost nothing is 'obvious' except at a very superficial level, and mostly not even then.

The problem here is simply that it doesn't even work well, even on your terms. Most of the possibilities are a vast array of poorly, or not at all, invented aspects of the setting. Can you defeat the orcs by slaughtering the prey animals they use for food? Who knows? The players don't know, they cannot know. The GM doesn't know either, and if someone wants to try it, he makes up an answer and it isn't based on anything except "do I want this to be the answer or not?" Even if I was a master ecologist I wouldn't be able to answer that question, not until I knew the primary productivity of each area of land, the flow of energy in the ecosystem, limiting factors, etc. Heck, I don't even know enough to list the factors! Neither do you! I could go on for 100 pages and give you ideas of ways to fight 'total war' (and 90% would be drawn from history if I cared to go look). EVERY ONE OF THEM would require the GM to make up some very hard to 'just know a good value for that' facts. If the world did NOT work like that, then we would have become the kings of creation long long ago!

By sheer coincidence I was just reading up on the battle of Waterloo the other day, and that's one instance where - going in - the forces were fairly even. The thing that tipped the balance against Napoleon was the to-him unexpected arrival of a third army (the Prussians) who he had expected his own outlier army to deal with or at least hold at bay.

Otherwise it's quite possible Napoleon could have won that thing.
Yeah, he sent Grouchy with the Right Wing of the army after Blucher, but Grouchy was slouchy and neither pinned down the Prussians, NOR did he rejoin Napoleon in time. OTOH had Napoleon been less pig-headed and not pressed the attack when he had reason to believe he was likely to end up facing the combined forces of his opponents, he could have simply withdrawn. The fundamental problem was asymmetry in strategic position. Both Blucher and Wellington had little to lose. If they were defeated AGAIN (they had both just lost battles to the French) there were plenty more armies which could be brought in later by the Seventh Coalition. Napoleon OTOH had to WIN WIN WIN. His advantage was fleeting, and his power was uncertain and based on a reputation of victory, which he needed to reestablish. Strategically France was short of manpower and logistically isolated. Wellington knew this, that is why he picked favorable ground and forced Napoleon to attack him. It really wasn't possible for Napoleon to REALLY win, even just making him suffer losses was enough for the British. It was very similar to Lee's position at Gettysburg 40 years later, not a good situation to be in.

So, as you can see, and my analysis is barely scraping the surface, even this famous 'even odds battle' is a small part of a very complex overall picture with 1000's of factors, including a good bit of sheer chance, playing a significant part. Obviously in an RPG you can tell a story which SOUNDS like this, but fundamentally it works in a way completely different from the real thing. Calling it 'CAW' and imagining it has some level of realism just doesn't hold water. I totally accept that 'CAW' is a style of play, with certain strictures and conventions which is intended to produce a certain tone in an encounter/adventure/campaign. Even then I'm not at all convinced there is some sort of binary set of only 2 possible polar opposite values for this dimension of tone, but that's kind of another argument.
 

I think there are some misunderstandings in regards to combat as war, when it comes to game balance and encounter difficulty. Combat as war, simply means that some of the opposition in your campaign strategizes. They plan each attack against the players thoroughly with the intent to win (whatever the winning condition may be), while possibly working with finite resources and intel. It also means that the players need to strategize in order to be victorious. In other words, it is a different approach to running a campaign/adventure, with more focus on strategy.

What combat as war is not, or does not have to be, is a meatgrinder. It doesn't mean the difficulty of the fights is any harder or easier than normal D&D encounters. The same balancing should still be considered by the DM. Combat of war describes merely the approach to combat by the players and their adversaries.

Combat as War can be used on a grand scale, where both the players and their enemies command large armies, or on a small scale, where one villain simply commands a small band of minions. It can be used for a short adventure, or for a campaign that lasts several years.

A DM who runs their campaign with Combat as War, seeks a more realistic/strategic approach to combat. They probably will include a few key elements in their campaign:

-Acquisition of war assets / building an army / building ships / obtaining better weapons
-Conquest of land and/or import buildings
-Securing of alliances / diplomacy / politics
-Gathering of Intel / espionage
-Strategic deployment of all of the above
 

This assumes the various monster groups there in fact all get along with each other and would co-operate to this extent.

IMO B2 works way better if the different groups of monsters don't all get along and each have their own allies/enemies/neutrals among the other groups e.g. maybe the Hobgoblins and Goblins are allies but neither have any use for the Kobolds while the Gnolls just piss everybody off, etc.
Right, but who really knows how that would play out based on various PC actions and results? If the PCs killed half the orcs, would the bugbears and goblins join up and finish them off? Are the orcs cunning enough to leave their treasure and withdraw, so that said bugbears and goblins are caught in the act by the return of the party and exterminated by an attack in the rear while battling the orcs? Would the orcs maybe send an emissary to the party to set this up as an actual plan? Could PCs initiate such a plan, and what would the terms be? I mean, those are mostly RP considerations, and I think the game can kind of handle those, but what about logistics? That element is in fact so unrealistic as to be impossible to even talk about IMHO, but such little facts are provided about the whole region that it is hard to really say.

Again, you can make up answers to anything, but there's no 'neutrality' to base them on. Every answer will be favorable or disfavorable to someone. Even simply saying "well, half the time I'll answer the way that is easier for the party, half the time I'll go against them" is a GAMIST ANSWER. In the real world, usually, things simply aren't equally favorable to all sides such that Waterloo happens. Realism would be "usually one side or the other gets crushed like a bug", but that's not a good game. My point is, the idea of CAW as some sort of realistic/verisimilitudinous practice is hot air. It is just as gamist and fixed and arbitrary as any set piece battle you guys want to call 'CAS'. There is no fundamental difference between the two, only that combat in one is a simpler affair of running a single fight on a grid, and the other is a more extended narrative of tricks and ploys (or whatever). That's a fair distinction, but it is stylistic, not substantive.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
I think it’s debatable whether what you are calling CaW here is actually CaW. The enemies in your CaW scenario sound a lot more sporting to me. They don’t do anything particularly warlike.

though it does make me think there’s a third playstyle that CaW and CaS dichotomy miss. It’s the combat as special forces and I think your description above fits this. Essentially you are special and the game is enemies are played in such a way to allow you to consistently punch above your weight via shock/awe/surprise/strategicalness/etc and since you are special the enemy doesn’t ever match you on strategy.

I think this is a common way to play the game and is what is getting confused for CaW by many.
I think you might be placing more emphasis on the "war" part of the analogy than the dichotomy requires to be a useful description of different styles of play. Ultimately, Combat-as-War vs Combat-as-Sport describes a difference in how encounters are approached on a metagame level, and how those differences emphasize different types of IC strategies and tactics, rather than whether the in-world content of those encounters resembles a military conflict.

In other words, a CaW game doesn't need to have anything "warlike" about it or the opponents--all that is required is an expectation that players can (and should try to) have their characters affect the difficulty of encounters before the encounters begin. The source of the challenge comes from finding strategies and tactics to win (or give oneself as large an advantage as possible) before the encounter even starts. CaW is "warlike" merely to the extent that it approaches conflict with Sun Tzu's advice in mind: "A victorious warrior wins first, and then goes to war, while a defeated warrior goes to war first, and then seeks to win." Critically, Combat-as-War generalizes that mindset to all sorts of conflict, including non-combat encounters. (More on CaW in non-combat encounters below.)

A CaS game, by contrast, is characterized by the opposite expectation, that encounter difficulty cannot be changed prior to the encounter, and that it is poor form for players to try. The encounters are faced in the manner that they are presented by the DM. The challenge in CaS comes primarily from finding in-combat tactics to maximize one's chance of success, or, if success isn't in doubt, to minimize one's use of resources. CaS is like a "sport" only to the extent that metaphorically the PCs show up to a "match" and fight the team fielded by the enemy. It may or may not be a "fair" fight, but any unfairness is determined by the relative strength of the two teams, not by pre-game efforts by one or both teams to skew the odds.

The descriptive value of the CaW/CaS dichotomy extends to non-combat encounters, which further reinforces that the "War" in the name is describing a mindset rather than armed conflict.

As an example, consider a high-stakes negotiation. In a CaW game the challenge of the negotiation would be making the opponent want to accept the terms you are going to offer before even sitting down to the negotiation table. (If the PCs are the "purchaser" in the transaction, maybe that means giving the opponent a sudden and critical cashflow problem; if they're the "seller", maybe that means artificially driving up the perceived value of the goods/services on offer.) In a CaS game the challenge for the players would instead be finding the right things to say at the table to get the best deal (either to try to get ad hoc bonuses on any checks made to mechanically resolve the negotiation, or to try to use the most optimal skills if the encounter is being run as a formal skill challenge of some type).

As another non-combat example, consider an audience with a King. Is the expectation that the PCs show up to the audience and use RP and skills and abilities on the character sheet to try to get what they want (CaS)? Or is the expectation that before the audience the PCs try to (e.g.) co-opt members of the royal court to influence the king on their behalf (CaW)?

Because the CaW/CaS distinction focuses on expectations for how the players approach encounters, it doesn't have to be symmetrical with how the DM approaches encounters. Sure, the "symmetrical CaW" approach you've raised for discussion would work as a playstyle (and would indeed likely be comparatively lethal), but the Combat-as-War label has descriptive value even for asymetrical games where the players are focused on winning every encounter before the encounters even start, while the DM is focused on running a game where doing so is both possible and interesting. Sure, enemies not using the same tactics as the PCs sounds artificial in a vacuum, but at the table a skilled CaW DM can make it seem organic, just as a skilled CaS DM can make a series of tightly balanced encounters seem organic.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I agree. The question I keep coming back to is why and how that decision was arrived at. Most of the examples and wording made it appear to be a decision in the moment as a way to tilt the encounter into giving the PCs a chance when they otherwise would have none. I hope we can agree that doing that is not CaW.


It depends on how and why that decision was reached.


I’m not arguing that every enemy initiated CaW encounter will turn TPK deadly. Just that it’s pretty much inevitable that eventually one does.
Sure, tilting the encounter into giving the PCs a chance where they otherwise would have none is not in keeping with CaW. I absolutely agree with you there.

I never said anything about that though.

I was talking about the difficulty of CaW, and how it isn't really a trait inherent to either CaW or CaS.

Now, I will agree that difficulty in CaW is significantly influenced by player skill. A careless group of players is liable to find the game extremely difficult regardless of the actual difficulty of the game.

However, let's assume that these players have taken their lumps and are familiar with the ins and outs of playing well in a CaW style game. The game can be easy or difficult irrespective of their skill. Let's look at two imaginary CaW DMs.

Joe Average has a table of exceptional players. One is a brilliant physicist, another one of the top lawyers in the world, and so forth. As a result of being authorities within their respective disciplines, Joe tends to believe them. They understand these things better than him after all. As a result, their plans tend to run roughshod over his enemies, despite that Joe plays with a CaW mindset and would impartially slaughter the characters if he could. Likely the players find Joe's campaign quite easy.

Then there's Mary Quite Contrary. She also runs a CaW game, but no plan ever survives contact with her. She's a master of finding the tiniest flaw in a plan and exploiting it. She also plays with a CaW mindset, but her players find her campaigns to be borderline impossible.

Now, obviously, these are two unrealistic extremes that are simply meant to be illustrative. However, I would say that all CaW DMs fall somewhere between the extremes of Joe and Mary, and that this will impact the difficulty of their games. Someone who is closer to Joe will have an easier game, while someone who is more like Mary will have a more difficult one.

Even leaving this aside, a DM can design a setting for a CaW game that will significantly influence difficulty. There's an immense difference between a setting where magic use is accepted and well tolerated (within reasonable limits), versus one where anyone suspected of magic use is burned at the stake. One of these campaigns is obviously easier than the other.

A game can be easy or hard irrespective of whether it is CaS or CaW.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think you might be placing more emphasis on the "war" part of the analogy than the dichotomy requires to be a useful description of different styles of play. Ultimately, Combat-as-War vs Combat-as-Sport describes a difference in how encounters are approached on a metagame level, and how those differences emphasize different types of IC strategies and tactics, rather than whether the in-world content of those encounters resembles a military conflict.

In other words, a CaW game doesn't need to have anything "warlike" about it or the opponents--all that is required is an expectation that players can (and should try to) have their characters affect the difficulty of encounters before the encounters begin. The source of the challenge comes from finding strategies and tactics to win (or give oneself as large an advantage as possible) before the encounter even starts. CaW is "warlike" merely to the extent that it approaches conflict with Sun Tzu's advice in mind: "A victorious warrior wins first, and then goes to war, while a defeated warrior goes to war first, and then seeks to win." Critically, Combat-as-War generalizes that mindset to all sorts of conflict, including non-combat encounters. (More on CaW in non-combat encounters below.)

A CaS game, by contrast, is characterized by the opposite expectation, that encounter difficulty cannot be changed prior to the encounter, and that it is poor form for players to try. The encounters are faced in the manner that they are presented by the DM. The challenge in CaS comes primarily from finding in-combat tactics to maximize one's chance of success, or, if success isn't in doubt, to minimize one's use of resources. CaS is like a "sport" only to the extent that metaphorically the PCs show up to a "match" and fight the team fielded by the enemy. It may or may not be a "fair" fight, but any unfairness is determined by the relative strength of the two teams, not by pre-game efforts by one or both teams to skew the odds.

The descriptive value of the CaW/CaS dichotomy extends to non-combat encounters, which further reinforces that the "War" in the name is describing a mindset rather than armed conflict.

As an example, consider a high-stakes negotiation. In a CaW game the challenge of the negotiation would be making the opponent want to accept the terms you are going to offer before even sitting down to the negotiation table. (If the PCs are the "purchaser" in the transaction, maybe that means giving the opponent a sudden and critical cashflow problem; if they're the "seller", maybe that means artificially driving up the perceived value of the goods/services on offer.) In a CaS game the challenge for the players would instead be finding the right things to say at the table to get the best deal (either to try to get ad hoc bonuses on any checks made to mechanically resolve the negotiation, or to try to use the most optimal skills if the encounter is being run as a formal skill challenge of some type).

As another non-combat example, consider an audience with a King. Is the expectation that the PCs show up to the audience and use RP and skills and abilities on the character sheet to try to get what they want (CaS)? Or is the expectation that before the audience the PCs try to (e.g.) co-opt members of the royal court to influence the king on their behalf (CaW)?

Because the CaW/CaS distinction focuses on expectations for how the players approach encounters, it doesn't have to be symmetrical with how the DM approaches encounters. Sure, the "symmetrical CaW" approach you've raised for discussion would work as a playstyle (and would indeed likely be comparatively lethal), but the Combat-as-War label has descriptive value even for asymetrical games where the players are focused on winning every encounter before the encounters even start, while the DM is focused on running a game where doing so is both possible and interesting. Sure, enemies not using the same tactics as the PCs sounds artificial in a vacuum, but at the table a skilled CaW DM can make it seem organic, just as a skilled CaS DM can make a series of tightly balanced encounters seem organic.
I think where you are going wrong is only approaching these terms from the players perspective. That is - the players can treat combat as war or combat as sport. I’m saying this is only half the picture. We also have to consider how enemies are approaching combat. When combined we actually end up with 4 possibilities.

Player/Enemy
CaS/CaS - typically referred to as combat as sport
CaS/CaW - this would be a more survival focused type game
CaW/CaS - this yields the special forces style strategy game
CaW/CaW - this is what I’ve been talking about here and it’s more of a heavy weight punch and counterpunch style game

many people view the term combat as war as describing the CaW/CaS split above.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Sure, tilting the encounter into giving the PCs a chance where they otherwise would have none is not in keeping with CaW. I absolutely agree with you there.

I never said anything about that though.

I was talking about the difficulty of CaW, and how it isn't really a trait inherent to either CaW or CaS.

Now, I will agree that difficulty in CaW is significantly influenced by player skill. A careless group of players is liable to find the game extremely difficult regardless of the actual difficulty of the game.

However, let's assume that these players have taken their lumps and are familiar with the ins and outs of playing well in a CaW style game. The game can be easy or difficult irrespective of their skill. Let's look at two imaginary CaW DMs.

Joe Average has a table of exceptional players. One is a brilliant physicist, another one of the top lawyers in the world, and so forth. As a result of being authorities within their respective disciplines, Joe tends to believe them. They understand these things better than him after all. As a result, their plans tend to run roughshod over his enemies, despite that Joe plays with a CaW mindset and would impartially slaughter the characters if he could. Likely the players find Joe's campaign quite easy.

Then there's Mary Quite Contrary. She also runs a CaW game, but no plan ever survives contact with her. She's a master of finding the tiniest flaw in a plan and exploiting it. She also plays with a CaW mindset, but her players find her campaigns to be borderline impossible.

Now, obviously, these are two unrealistic extremes that are simply meant to be illustrative. However, I would say that all CaW DMs fall somewhere between the extremes of Joe and Mary, and that this will impact the difficulty of their games. Someone who is closer to Joe will have an easier game, while someone who is more like Mary will have a more difficult one.

Even leaving this aside, a DM can design a setting for a CaW game that will significantly influence difficulty. There's an immense difference between a setting where magic use is accepted and well tolerated (within reasonable limits), versus one where anyone suspected of magic use is burned at the stake. One of these campaigns is obviously easier than the other.

A game can be easy or hard irrespective of whether it is CaS or CaW.
Saying a TPK is eventually inevitable under CaW isn’t a stance about its difficulty. You are trying to shift the conversation into being about easy and hard and that’s fine but - you can have an easy campaign that inevitably ends in a TPK and also a hard campaign that does the same.

see the issue with that framing?
 

payn

Adventurer
There is no fundamental difference between the two, only that combat in one is a simpler affair of running a single fight on a grid, and the other is a more extended narrative of tricks and ploys (or whatever). That's a fair distinction, but it is stylistic, not substantive.
It becomes substantive in system design. 5E was built on an idea of modularity, it takes ideas from many playstyles and tries to deliver a neutral position. Since neither CaW or CaS is heavily implied in the system, its fairly easy to push it in one direction or the other. This sort of compromise zone is great for some folks and very meh for others. That takes you to systems like 4E and PF2 which are heavily based in CaS design. Now to get a CaW experience you are working hard against the design decisions of the system. Which pushes some players away from that particular system, and pulls in others.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Saying a TPK is eventually inevitable under CaW isn’t a stance about its difficulty. You are trying to shift the conversation into being about easy and hard and that’s fine but - you can have an easy campaign that inevitably ends in a TPK and also a hard campaign that does the same.

see the issue with that framing?
There's a very significant correlation between campaign difficulty and deadliness. Leaving aside outliers (like a campaign where death isn't typically on the table for reasons) an easy game is FAR less likely to result in a TPK than a hard campaign.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top