Feb 11

EN World: Combat as Sport vs. Combat as War: a Key Difference in D&D Play Styles

I recently found an interesting article about combat styles on the EN world site, specifically with D&D in mind, but something that applies to any game that has combat:

People who want Combat as Sport want fun fights between two (at least roughly) evenly matched sides. They hate “ganking” in which one side has such an enormous advantage (because of superior numbers, levels, strategic surprise, etc.) that the fight itself is a fait accompli. They value combat tactics that could be used to overcome the enemy and fair rules adhered to by both sides rather than looking for loopholes in the rules. Terrain and the specific situation should provide spice to the combat but never turn it into a turkey shoot. They tend to prefer arena combat in which there would be a pre-set fight with (roughly) equal sides and in which no greater strategic issues impinge on the fight or unbalance it.

The other side of the debate is the Combat as War side. They like Eve-style combat in which in a lot of fights, you know who was going to win before the fight even starts and a lot of the fun comes in from using strategy and logistics to ensure that the playing field is heavily unbalanced in your favor. The greatest coup for these players isn’t to win a fair fight but to make sure that the fight never happens (the classic example would be inserting a spy or turning a traitor within the enemy’s administration and crippling their infrastructure so they can’t field a fleet) or is a complete turkey shoot. The Combat as Sport side hates this sort of thing with a passion since the actual fights are often one-sided massacres or stand-offs that take hours.

It’s a take on RPG combat that I haven’t thought about before, and it’s one that I now think may be one of those fundamental divisions, like Roll-players versus Role-players, Narrativist Versus Simulationist, and that sort of thing.

The comment thread after also has a lot of interesting ideas bandied about.  I recommend you go to the EN World site and have a read!


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