[Very Long] Combat as Sport vs. Combat as War: a Key Difference in D&D Play Styles...


I have to say this is the first time I have seen such an argument made, and I have to say it makes sense.

My gut tells me its easier to add CAW to a CAS style combat system, but I admit 4e could have done a lot more in that regard.

I am like the other poster who used to be a fan of CAW (started playing 1ed and B/X) until I became a constant DM... I now know all too well, you win only if the DM lets you in the CAW.

There are a lot of aspects to CAW I still remember fondly however, and I hope 5e can bring them back without actually reverting completely.

Even with all the warts of 4e, I feel it brought a lot of fresh air into D&D. I hope they can figure out a way to make such a disparate group (editions) mostly happy.

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You know, CaW requires a shitload more work from the DM in terms of game prep. As an example, the prison raid I ran tonight (Pathfinder) required me to write up the three main battles standing between the heroes and their goal, and that took a lot of my energy and time. A CaW version of the same fight would have required me to write up the entire prison complex, from start to bottom, and have a clear idea on the total numbers of soldiers in the entire complex - ninety percent of which would be unnecessary when the party decided on their way in.

Of course, my players seem to LIKE railroads. Saves on time and arguments.


I prefer Combat as Sport as a baseline, but with Combat as War as an option only insofar as I (and not my opponents) could decide to take the effort to completely unbalance the playing field in my favor. So what does that make me, apart from a powergaming munchkin? :p


Victoria Rules
Put me in the combat-as-war camp.

Lan-"but I still yell 'he shoots, he scores!' when someone rolls a critical"-efan


Interestingly, it appears that the 4e Executioner Assassin's poisons were designed for both modes - there's a CaW and CaS effect for each of them, depending on if you slip it in someone's drink or just stab them with a knife covered in it. This suggests that "support both" is possible in at least some circumstances.


First Post

I would say I strongly prefer Combat as War.

However, if I look deep down inside, I think I really want Combat as Sport disguised as Combat as War.

(and then it's a turn-off only when it leans too transparently towards CaS)

I used to have what you'd call a "combat as war" style.

The problem was that eventually I started to recognize the man behind the curtain. I knew that I wasn't actually coming up with brilliant plans to defeat the monster, I was, at most, coming up with brilliant plans to defeat the DM. But that's like a four year old wrestling with his father- you only win if (when) he lets you win.

I don't agree. The DM and the other players are equal (the father is bigger and has authority over the child as well as being responsible for the child's well-being and welfare).

The table has five players (as an example) a DM and four players running characters. If one character does something brilliant the DM has the social pressure of four other players to do what is right and let the character succeed. With CaS, the game designers/rules try to take the place of the players at the table and that social pressure.

However, those same rules can hobble the DM and players who do want to work together rather than rely on rules (because you have to mutually prune back/ignore so many rules to get it to work). Conversely, with CaW if the whole table wants to run it like a CaS they can work together to do that, with the DM working on carefully balanced combats and maybe some house rules to cut down on randomness. 5E could have a module that adds those balancing rules right back in for CaS players.

To me, having CaS mandatory asks a bigger question. Why would you game with people you don't like? If your DM makes you feel like a four-year old wrestling with his father and he lords it over you, why game with him at all? Wouldn't it be more entertaining to play with a group of equals and work together to tell a great story?

I suppose you could have a game where it tells the DM how to act and tries to enforce that style of DMing, but if the DM is a jerk isn't he still a jerk even under the rules for a game of CaS? I know some people fear giving any power to the DM and I just don't get that even if I respect their right to feel that way. If my DM turns out be be a dick I just don't game with him, any more than I'd have over for a Superbowl party or go golfing with him. I don't need rules to stop him from being a jerk, because rules won't change that.


All I could think as I read the Combat as War group's attempt at defeating the giant bees and procuring their honey was, That! That is D&D!

You are absolutely right... that evokes some great memories of awesome games… and gives me some ideas… :)


I am like the other poster who used to be a fan of CAW (started playing 1ed and B/X) until I became a constant DM... I now know all too well, you win only if the DM lets you in the CAW..

You are correct, but the entire game can be summed up under “you can only win if the DM lets you”. At any time the DM can do anything, so this shouldn’t apply as a specific problem with this combat style. CAW is just as fair as CAS…the DM is the factor where fairness comes into play and truthfully if you have to worry about the fairness of your DM, then there are more serious issues at hand at your gaming table.

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