D&D 5E [Very Long Indeed] Reconciling Combat as War and Combat as Sports in 5ed

Tony Vargas

Legend
Whether you prefer CAS or CAW is indeed a subjective preference, and nothing wrong with that. However you calling people who prefer CAW 'munchkins' is just you being a not nice guy.
The whole CaS/CaW thing seems like little more than a vieled exercise in calling those labeled as 'perfering CaS' whimps.

By the same token, well, if CaW requires class imbalance & loopholes - which 3.5, for instance, supplies in quantity - and so does powergaming (which is labeled a lot of ways, including 'munchkin,' and no one seems to agree on the meanings), there's a corellation, there. Not that any specific person is a powergamer - well, except for me, I can speak for myself, and I do like to powergame in my own way, I just don't enjoy systems that make it too easy/overwhelming - just that a 'CaW supporting system' and a 'susceptible to powergaming system' seem pretty similar.

I mean, if I look at the CaS/CaW distinction independent of system (which isn't easy, given how it's been presented), I'd certainly think I prefered CaW - I love me some strategic as well as tactical challenges, and some non-linear problem-solving. But, I prefer 4e, which, aparently, doesn't support that style at all. (??) Except, of course, it does, it just doesn't disproportionately reward it (balance clearly being a priority).

On another thread I posted about the different ways 'support' is used in this context. I'd think a game supports a style of play if it remains functional when played that way, and doesn't mechanically 'punish' it. But 'support' often seems to mean 'reward' or 'only works with.' :shrug:


Anyway, this thread has brought up some interesting topics that I'd rather discuss, preferably without the constant ragging on 4e (and more general edition warring, of course).
 
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Tony Vargas

Legend
Neither style inherently emphasizes winning. In fact I feel "survival" sometimes takes the front seat in CAW - escaping or bypassing the encounter is just as good as winning it, whereas in CAS it is usually assumed that the encounter will be won or lost.
Not talking about 'winning' encounters.

In any case, we will also have to agree to disagree, since I feel the playstyle differences are real and have seen examples of them between DMs and players in my group.
Nod.


It is quite clear in my opinion that 4e reduced the effect of an encounter of subsequent encounters. You restore all your hit points as long as you have surges and a larger part of a character's power is in encounter powers.
A 4e character has 1-4 encounter attack powers depending on level, and a comparable number of dailies. That is a greater /proportion/ of power in encounters. A 3.x caster had anything from 3 to, what 40? 60? spells, all of which could, with careful selection, be comparable to 4e dailies, if not more potent. So, yes, greater proportion, but of a whole lot less game-breaking mad power, too.

3.x casters could cut lose with up to 3 offensive spells a round, too.

The peak power of 3.x casters was simply boggling, and the utility spells they possessed quickly made re-charging that power easy. Cheap low-level items made healing between encounters trivial, and there was no limitting mechanic like healing surges.

The introduction of healing surges /increased/ the effect of past encounters on current ones. The reduction in number of dailies also did - to a greater degree than the addition of a couple of at-wills and a few encounters would make up for.

So, no, 4e is not attrition-free or low-attrition, it's just lower-caster-power.

I agree, but think that the sweet spot is somewhere between 3e and 4e. 90% magic resistance isn't as bad as the rogue problem, since there are still a lot of things the caster may do like summoning spells, buffs and weapon attacks.
There weren't a lot of such options in 1e (summoning was pretty whimpy, buffs were prettymuch Strength and Haste, and weapon attacks for a 1e wizard were pretty trivial). SR in 3.5 was hardly a speedbump, though.

Though, actually, I think we're in accord on this one. 4e took things too far in the 'everything always works' direction. There should be more 'that doesn't work so well' than 4e grants. There shouldn't be any 'oh, everything worthwhile you can do is hosed,' though, which prior eds sometimes abounded with. So, yeah, between 4e and 3e. So "silver or magic to hit" and "immune to SA," no. "Resist X/silver" or "doesn't grant CA when flanked," sure, occassionally.
 

In the absence of consumable items it was common in pre-4e games to go to encounters without full hit points. The only exception is high level 3e, where healing was too common for my taste.

For the record, this IME only holds below in games that were either explicitely low magic or started below second level; at second level the PCs have 900 GP each on the wealth by level charts, and a wand of Cure Light Wounds is 750GP. This is a phenomenally good investment. (Yes, a wand is consumable. But 275hp should last quite a long time).
 

JamesonCourage

Adventurer
The Sliding Scale of Meaning vs. Balance

Unless a PC death is on the line every single fight, you cannot have both meaningful fights and balanced encounters. To use 4ed terminology, if each combat is followed by an extended rest, then the ONLY way a combat can have any influence on the characters is if a character dies, everything else gets reset.
To save [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] some time, I thought I'd mention that fights have other stakes, and that careful scene framing from the GM can set this up even with mechanically balanced encounters. I think pemerton would probably mention his party moving in cautiously against some bad guys who were performing a ritual, and that one of the two captives that they were trying to rescue getting sacrificed. This led to the party acting more recklessly and proactively, saving the other captive.

This is but one example of a "meaningful fight" with a balanced encounter. The PCs have something at stake other than their lives, and how they deal with the encounter (and how it plays out) will determine exactly what influence the fight had on the character(s).

So, while pemerton probably disagrees with your statement somewhat more fundamentally than I do, I do think he has a point (if I'm not misrepresenting his opinion). There are other things that can definitely be at stake than whether the party members live or die, and those stakes often affect the game more dramatically than any one PC death (but not TPK).

Anyways, just thought I'd throw that in there, and save pemerton a paragraph or two (or have him add four or five, if I've accidentally misrepresented his views!). As always, play what you like :)
 

Mostlyjoe

Explorer
One of the key issues with CAW situations is that the players may survive an horribly imbalanced encounter through wits alone.

CAS in 4E has some very hard coded expections for damage output that scales by level. Even using the special situation rules from the DMG a Heroic tier group going up against an Epic level foe is going to do next to nothing damage wise and almost never hit the Epic level foes defenses.

CAW play from earlier editions had weakness become more meaningful, saves worked different, and the tiers in play didn't impact as greatly unless there was a meaningful gulf in CR or level. There were times when the PC's 'droped a mountain on em' and survived. Sure, it wasn't expected but sometimes it did work.

That is not to say 4E didn't support some non-linear tactical thinking, it just didn't reward it as much. Ye' old situational bonuses really saved the day in a lot of my older games. That and a portable hole getting tossed into a bag of holding like a small portable SEP nuke. (aka. The Staff of the Magi last resort tactics.)
 

On 4e extended rests - I definitely think that for many campaigns it would be better if an ER took a week in a comfy locale, while an overnight rest restored perhaps 1 Healing Surge. This would allow for a much lower default threat level to still be exciting, while still allowing for occasional spike encounters. It would also greatly increase versimilitude; I have a big problem with the 0 Healing Surge, 1 hp from negative bloodied, 1 death save from death PC who receives no magical healing but is still back to 100% health 6 hours later.
I'm running the house rule "2 surges for an overnight rest. An Extended Rest is a long lazy weekend at base camp or somewhere fortified." It seems to work quite well.
 

The only familiar thing I see is that CaW roughly corresponds to the powergamer/munchkin/whatever phenomenon - the psychology of wanting to 'win' a cooperative game.

Powergaming munchkins and CaW are not directly related. It is a game of course and it is perfectly natural for players to want to win.

The thing to remember is than in winning, the victory is won over the game, not the DM.

The alternatives to not wanting to win are wanting to lose or (even worse) being unable to lose. If you are unable to lose then there is no game taking place at all.

The game is still cooperative between the players and the DM. As a referee the DM can never lose, as he/she was never in the game to begin with.
 

Hassassin

First Post
For the record, this IME only holds below in games that were either explicitely low magic or started below second level; at second level the PCs have 900 GP each on the wealth by level charts, and a wand of Cure Light Wounds is 750GP. This is a phenomenally good investment. (Yes, a wand is consumable. But 275hp should last quite a long time).

Hence, "in the absence of consumables". I start almost all campaigns at 1st level and only those magic items can be found that are consistent with the campaign. CLW wand is something I don't want to see.
 

Hassassin

First Post
Not talking about 'winning' encounters.

Ok. What then? Winning adventures? Winning the game? :confused:

A 4e character has 1-4 encounter attack powers depending on level, and a comparable number of dailies. That is a greater /proportion/ of power in encounters.

Exactly. You restore a larger share of your total power between encounters, so attrition is slower and more limited.

A 3.x caster had anything from 3 to, what 40? 60? spells, [...]

Yes. All reasons why I don't like high level 3e. I wouldn't want high level 5e to look anything like that.

The introduction of healing surges /increased/ the effect of past encounters on current ones. The reduction in number of dailies also did - to a greater degree than the addition of a couple of at-wills and a few encounters would make up for.

So, no, 4e is not attrition-free or low-attrition, it's just lower-caster-power.

Again, compared to high level 3e that is true. Compared to low level 3e or most levels in earlier editions, however, the opposite is true.
 

S'mon

Legend
I'm running the house rule "2 surges for an overnight rest. An Extended Rest is a long lazy weekend at base camp or somewhere fortified." It seems to work quite well.

That seems a reasonable approach, yes.

One thing I think Justin Alexander's right about is the tendency towards too high encounter ELs. I'm sure I do it as much as anyone. Slower healing allows for weaker encounters plus reduced 15-MAD.
 

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