D&D 5E "When DMing I Avoid Making the PCs have 'pointless' combats." (a poll)

True or False: "When DMing I Avoid Making the PCs have 'pointless' combats."

  • True.

    Votes: 85 56.7%
  • False.

    Votes: 65 43.3%

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
You often jump to this conclusion, and I yet again disagree with it.

No matter how much challenge the game presents, it's still 100% in the players' interests to mitigate or reduce or avoid those challenges when-where possible. In-character, the PCs would reasonably do likewise when-where they could.

As a player I (usually) do what I can in-character to reduce or mitigate or avoid challenges presented by the game, but that by no means implies any preference saying I don't want thosse challenges to be there.
Right. It could be that they don't like those elements and want to bypass them to focus on things they do like. But it could be they do like it and bypassing them is part of the fun of playing. One would hope the DM isn't presenting them content they don't like and they have to spend time trying to skip past it, but that's not always the case.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It is for me. It's a simple enough house rule to ban the spell and fix long rests. But according to my players you'd think I lit their houses on fire.

My players disagree. They love anything that makes the game less challenging and hate anything that makes the game more challenging.
My only suggestion is to vet your potential players more carefully. :)

Tell them these things right up front before inviting them into your game:

--- I don't run 5e as written; if you're looking for a by-the-book game you're in the wrong place
--- bad things can and will - not might, will - happen to your characters; if you don't accept this you're in the wrong place
--- the game-world is neutral, uncaring, and out to ruin your day, and it's on you and your characters to find a way to survive and thrive. If this is not your style of play you're in the wrong place.

Now, I should ask: are you running for friends, or store games, or organized-play? The latter two of these carry certain expectations the first does not, and I think attract a different and more serious (or hardcore) type of player. It's also harder to turn players away in the latter two scenarios.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Like when I banned Leomund's Tiny Hut. The players abused the hell out of it. I let it slide until it became clear that they were never going to stop abusing it as long as it was an option, so I banned it. Players complained and quit.
In fairness, if you suddenly banned it mid-campaign then yes your players had every right to complain.

Between campaigns/settings is the time to make changes like this.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
My only suggestion is to vet your potential players more carefully. :)
Other than literally holding their hands and spoon-feeding them info I don't know how I could be. Maybe I should try lab-grown players next. I wonder how cool CRISPR is now...
Tell them these things right up front before inviting them into your game:

--- I don't run 5e as written; if you're looking for a by-the-book game you're in the wrong place
--- bad things can and will - not might, will - happen to your characters; if you don't accept this you're in the wrong place
--- the game-world is neutral, uncaring, and out to ruin your day, and it's on you and your characters to find a way to survive and thrive. If this is not your style of play you're in the wrong place.
Yeah, I'm absolutely up front about my expectations.

"Character death is a very real possibility. Bad things can and will happen to your character. If you cannot accept that, don't play."

And still people gleefully join...only to complain and rage quit when they take damage. It's really weird. It's almost like they just ignore me or assume I'm joking or something.
Now, I should ask: are you running for friends, or store games, or organized-play? The latter two of these carry certain expectations the first does not, and I think attract a different and more serious (or hardcore) type of player. It's also harder to turn players away in the latter two scenarios.
The biggest hit of players joining up then freaking out was my online West Marches game. VTT, voice, and video. Post the kind of game I ran, chat with people and make sure they understood and agreed (session zero), then start play. And a mountain of problems. But this stuff was present from the beginning of 5E for me. Some games with friends, or friends-of-friends, face-to-face in the before times. Basically the same issues at a smaller scale, and more politely discussed because it was people I knew or people who knew people I knew.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Then we must define challenging differently. Because the long rest RAW and Leomund's Tiny Hut prevents the game from being challenging. Which is why I house ruled both. For me, challenging is risk of character death which forces the players to actually think things through and plan and use their resources wisely rather than blindly charge into every fight and burning every resource possible to make every fight a steamroll. RAW long rests and LTH utterly remove that risk except for edge cases. My players did basically the same thing every time. Get into one fight, find a place they can secure for 11 minutes, ritual cast LTH, take a long rest in perfect safety, lather rinse repeat. Whatever timers I put in they ignored. Whatever enemies I put at the door when the LTH ends, they complained and quit. Anything I did to break that pattern, they complained and quit. House ruled long rests, players complained and quit. Banned LTH, players complained and quit. Every version of "hey, could you not" was met with "it's legally allowed as per RAW, so LOL." So I house ruled...players complained and quit.

The players I've had in 5E do not want challenge. They want LOL easy mode. I'm not interested in that. I make that known. The players seem to not grok that and agree to play anyway...then cheese everything they can. This is not my experience with one group of 4-5 players. It's my experience with literally every single 5E group I've played or run with in the last decade. I've burned through well north of 200 players in total trying to find one that doesn't want to cheese everything and just LOL win all the time. Still haven't found a single one. Statistically insignificant compared to the whole community, granted, but not insignificant to me. My recently ended West Marches game had, at its peak, 37 players. Every. Single. Player. Cheesed every single thing they could to make the game as non-challenging as possible. Anything I did to prevent cheese was met with complaints and rage quits.

I did similar. A few times. I got yelled at and players quit. They didn't learn anything. I did. I learned to not run 5E.
Reading this, I can’t help but wonder if you have a very different idea of what “cheesing everything” means than most people, and even players who are down for an old school “give no quarter, expect none in return” type of experience - perhaps even especially such players - are wont to discover this discrepancy in conception of “cheesing” and then leave because they realize they had the wrong idea of the kind of game you were offering.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Other than literally holding their hands and spoon-feeding them info I don't know how I could be. Maybe I should try lab-grown players next. I wonder how cool CRISPR is now...

Yeah, I'm absolutely up front about my expectations.

"Character death is a very real possibility. Bad things can and will happen to your character. If you cannot accept that, don't play."

And still people gleefully join...only to complain and rage quit when they take damage. It's really weird. It's almost like they just ignore me or assume I'm joking or something.

The biggest hit of players joining up then freaking out was my online West Marches game. VTT, voice, and video. Post the kind of game I ran, chat with people and make sure they understood and agreed (session zero), then start play. And a mountain of problems. But this stuff was present from the beginning of 5E for me. Some games with friends, or friends-of-friends, face-to-face in the before times. Basically the same issues at a smaller scale, and more politely discussed because it was people I knew or people who knew people I knew.
Yeah, it really sounds to me like your focus on “this is going to be a CHALLENGING game where death is a REAL POSSIBILITY is attracting players who are excited for a game where they get to to use all the tools at their disposal to try to meet that challenge. Then when you take away those tools because you consider them “cheesing,” they lose interest.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Reading this, I can’t help but wonder if you have a very different idea of what “cheesing everything” means than most people, and even players who are down for an old school “give no quarter, expect none in return” type of experience - perhaps even especially such players - are wont to discover this discrepancy in conception of “cheesing” and then leave because they realize they had the wrong idea of the kind of game you were offering.
Yeah, it really sounds to me like your focus on “this is going to be a CHALLENGING game where death is a REAL POSSIBILITY is attracting players who are excited for a game where they get to to use all the tools at their disposal to try to meet that challenge. Then when you take away those tools because you consider them “cheesing,” they lose interest.
I don't see why you'd come to that conclusion, much less why you'd come to that conclusion for other people.

Picking a race with darkvision isn't cheesing. If it's an available option there's nothing wrong with picking it. What I'm talking about is things like abusing Leomund's Tiny Hut and making it into Leomund's Tiny Bunker and turtling within to avoid any and all risks. That's pure cheese. The game has so few actual risks baked into the game, why is there a need amongst players to remove what little risks remain? What's the pleasure in a game without risks? I mean, obligatory "everyone's fun is equally valid" but I want no part of that drudgery. Do players really want to just win all the time without end? What's the point of that?

Resource management is part of the game. Spell slots are used, you run out, and resources get low. Cool. So what's the point of cheesing spell slots with things like the coffee-lock? So you don't have to engage with resource management? Okay...so then why play a game with resource management baked in? The point of the game is risk-reward, resource management, heroic action, etc. Not some kind of weird spreadsheet calculations where you set up the perfect statistical probability of winning everything all the time. The fun is in the challenge. In overcoming the obstacles. In narrow escapes. There's no fun in "yep, we win again...huzzah."

In my West Marches game I told the players that I wanted light to be a challenge and a struggle so I banned light and dancing lights. The players complained. Because they heard me say I wanted it to be a challenge and their first thought was not "cool, that sounds fun" it was, apparently "nah, I don't want to deal with that." I house ruled rangers and outlanders so getting lost and having to find food was an actual challenge. The players complained about that, too. Because when I said I wanted it to be a challenge their first thought was "nah, I don't want to deal with that" rather than "oh, sounds cool." But...weirdly...at no point in the process of me telling them these things did they stop and think "maybe I don't want to play in this game." They pushed ahead and waited until the game was well under way and they learned in game that yep, light will be a challenge and you can't just turtle all the time to bug out.

When I say I want something to be a challenge, I...weirdly...actually mean it. I want that thing to be difficult. It will be a big part of the game and it will not be easy. To which the players responded with trying to find every possible way to obviate those things as challenges. The game's already so wildly easy and tilted in the PCs favor...why the need to remove what little challenges there are? If it was a mismatch of expectations, then it was the players not actually wanting to play the game I offered to run. But for some reason instead of acknowledging that up front, they insisted on playing anyway, and made the game a drag for everyone.
 

Mr. Wilson

Explorer
Some of my best plot advances have come about from pointless encounters.

For example, my group is currently playing a hexcrawl. When they entered a hex, I rolled a random encounter; in this case it was a corpse hanging from the inside of a cabin out in the woods (I am using a random encounter table made of about 1000 entries I've combined via various tables I've found online). I thought to myself, why on earth would that be there? Obviously a cult was summoning a demon. That turned into a 3 session mini adventure and now the players are investigating Zuggmytoy's latest incursion into the material plane and actively fear fungus or fungus creatures.

All of this happened because of a pointless encounter.
 
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JiffyPopTart

Bree-Yark
There are never pointless combat.
I use random encounter most of the time, they are there to fill the 6-8 encounters per day. But...

Random encounters are always integrated into the narrative.
Sometimes, it is to show them that getting a break while assaulting a base/lair is not really a good idea.
Sometimes, it is to make the players feel that their character are powerful.
Sometimes, it is to remember them that the world does live and that things happens outside of the PCs' influence.
Sometimes, it is to put some pressure on the PC to go forward.
Sometimes, it is for comical relief. (Low level bandits ambushing a high level party then realizing who they are, the PC hears: "FLEE! IT IS THEM! THE (insert the group's name if any or the leader's name)! WE ARE DOOMED!" Even before a single bow shot was fired.
Sometimes, it is to provide them with a possible prisoner to learn about what they are about to face.
Sometimes, it is just to inspire my self to push the story forward into new territory.

To put it simple. I fill the narrative with both the players' agencies and the adventure in mind.
In your bandit example...that is indeed an encounter....but it isn't a combat. There is a difference between the two. The poll was asking about pointless combat.

I find constant and relentless random encounters harm the "realness" of most settings. If a wandering party is consistently getting attacked multiple times a day then so should everything else in the world, including the wandering monsters themselves. The roads of the world would be piled hip deep with dead rotting bandit, goblin, and orc carcasses as no entity could travel along them even an hour without being harassed.

Roads=civilization=some degree of safety.
 
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jgsugden

Legend
Every combat has a purpose, but the purpose is not always obvious. Sometimes you have to see clues from a few different situations to see why there was significance to each combat ... and sometimes that significance only has a very short period of relevance, such as revealing clues about a tougher encounter yet to come in the dungeon (to give the PCs clues to help them prepare for the tougher challenge).
 

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