Saturday, February 4, 2012

Please Read These You Will Become Smarter

Just got off the plane and I am too busy basking in the tits and sunshine to clean up and post any of the things I've written up recently, however, out of respect for your need for regular injections of ludological wisdom I direct you to a recent post full of mad crazy insight:

Check it Combat as war vs. Combat as sport. The best--and least partisan--analysis of TSR D&D combat vs. WOTC D&D combat I have ever seen. Read it now or be forced to follow a link to it every time the issue comes up for the rest of your life. It's a classic on the level of Matt Finch's Old School Primer.

Bonus: (Noisms on how it isn't anybody's job to give you ninja opportunities)




  2. Someone needs to write a hilarious Bee themed adventure.

    Your blues band playing a weekly gig at a local pub = Sport
    Your grindcore band going on a tour of punk house basements = War

    MMA = Sport
    Street Fights = War

  3. Yep, and the process of de-Sun-Tzu-ification happens in other games too; see here.

  4. First- welcome back to LA. I'm sure that it has missed you. If it hasn't throw it in a paper bag and toss it.

    Second- Thanks for pointing out this article. It is awesome, was an enjoyable read and will be perfect for me to show my players who are new to the Combat at War philosophy as an example. I know they get it now, but it always helps for a second opinion.

    Third- I'm going to guess that you prefer the Combat at War style play from your various blog posts, but if not which do you prefer? Why?

    1. Also fourth- On ecology/etc. What do you do to develop the "mud on clothes/smoke to bees" style info for the players (since I know you hack/create many monsters) to have the info they need to create unique and clever "I hit it with my axe" moments?

  5. Me = Daztur

    The "BEES EVERYWHERE! GIANT BEES!" scenario wasn't from an actual game, but it's mostly cobbled together from a few different bits in a series of adventures with B5 (The Horror on the Hill) that I played through last year.

    If anyone's curious, the idea for that post comes from this blog post and discussion thread:

  6. Sport vs. War sounds a lot like 'asskicker vs tactician.'

  7. I loved the article. And I think it's spot-on.
    But I also think there's another player type, who falls into both camps.

    The "support me playing this role" player. That would be the player who might say "I want to play the backstabbing dark elf." - they don't really care if it's "combat as sport" or "combat as war" as long as they get the chance to stab someone in the back during the combat. As long as they get to feel like their character is the kick-ass rogue who kills like a master assassin.

    It's obvious that all players want a chance for their role to shine, so why do I mention this specifically? Because there's a sub-set of those players who don't just want the *opportunity* to play that character type, but they want the *success* of playing that character type. They don't want the game where their rogue tries to backstab someone. They want the game where their rogue kills someone by backstabbing. So they might not enjoy either of the above scenarios, as they don't want to run from the bees, but they also don't want to play "combat as sport" where they backstab and it does 2d6 points of damage, then their opponent turns around and hits them.

    The partial solution for those player types is to tell them to suck it up. The other partial solution is to give them automatic (or near-automatic) successes. The dark elf rogue might be so damn good that as the party is sneaking towards the enemy camp they spot some sentries patrolling the woods. The assassin backstabs (and instantly, quietly, kills) the sentries. Then the party makes it to the camp, and the normal battle (either as war or as sport) happens. The player who wanted to indulge in the chance for their character to succeed at a specific activity type has had the opportunity. And the players who want to indulge in tactical combat also get their opportunity.

    I guess we could maybe describe this as "combat as characterization" - although it doesn't necessarily just apply to combat.

    This is interesting to me, as the solution is different to either the "combat as sport" or "combat as war" players.

    We've got a player like this, and it does create some tension. He doesn't want to indulge in strategy for combat, either as war or sport. He wants his character to rush in, and fight (and win against) the opponent. The character he's playing is a psycho with a chainsaw, who is deadly and doesn't need to plan. He accepts it when the character looses (or wins with consequences) but is clearly not happy when it happens. Which is a problem, because other players want to play "combat as war", and as the article points out, that only really works when they *can't* charge in without first stacking the deck in their favor.

    Our DM is good, and gives a nice balance of cakewalk scenarios, allowing that player to indulge the RP of being able to bully or easily demolish the opponents, and others where the PCs have to use tactics. And is good at subtly broadcasting which sort of scenario it will be through hidden cues.

    This isn't just "catering to one player who doesn't like to loose", as she gives similar characterization opportunities to the other players. (For example, my character is something of a bully. So, when my PC bullies a "normal person" she rarely has me roll anything, and just assumes the NPC backs down and is intimidated. Assuming the NPC already knows my PC. That way I get the characterization of "people who know this PC are scared" - major NPCs, where their behaviour will have a significant impact on the story, of course, need to be rolled against as normal. This isn't a substitute for having the necessary skills.

  8. @tony

    I totally get what your saying--but the combat as war v combat as sport thing is not so much about Player Types as Types Of Combat _Challenges_ As Defined In Different Kinds Of Games.

    When _either_ kind of play is jiggered so its not ACTUALLY a challenge, then its easy for the Combat As Opportunity For Me To Pretend To Be Wolverine Guy.

  9. A friend of mine recently changed our combat approach to a combat as war and I think we had more fun there then we have in years. This isn't saying that "you can only have fun with a combat as war" style of play. What I am saying is that people should dig deep and ask themselves what they want out of the game and look at how they naturally approach combat.

    Now, Zak, is there a way you can apply the combat as war idea to areas of noncombatant? I ask because combat seems to me override other things role playing can do. Making the game one big kill fest. Not that I don't like combat, I just wish other parts of play got this much attention.

    Again, great stuff, awesome find!

    1. Thinking up puzzles and problems (not one-answer-only puzzles--that's puzzle-as-sport, but ones with various solutions) that the players must muster and rganize resources to solve is the way to extend the idea. "Here's a jewel, figure out the heist" providing players with useful information is key.