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View Full Version : D&D combat really is a simulation



Jay R
2015-10-12, 09:42 PM
I have finally figured out what D&D combat is supposed to simulate.

I was watching an early Roy Rogers TV show. In the fist fight, there was no defense or other clear strategy other than throwing punches. X throws a punch at Y, Y throw s a punch at X, and the keep going at it until one of them falls over.

D&D hit points simulate a fist fight in an early low-budget Western.

oxybe
2015-10-12, 10:56 PM
Although it came after the fact, traditional D&D combat always seemed like this to me.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/04/Final_Fantasy_I_Lich_Battle.png

Mr.Moron
2015-10-13, 12:58 AM
Although it came after the fact, traditional D&D combat always seemed like this to me.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/04/Final_Fantasy_I_Lich_Battle.png

This because D&D was a very heavy influence on those early rpgs.

Raimun
2015-10-13, 08:13 AM
This one of the main reasons I don't like the early editions of D&D (before 3rd edition) or 5th edition. If you aren't a caster, combat can get too repetitive. You and your enemy hit each other every few turns (because of abysmal Attack Bonuses) and you deal D8+3 or 4 points of damage. Repeat until combat is done.

Even though 4th edition had its problems, I liked the combat system because even martial classes had actual options when it came to attacks and actions in combat. It was always rather satisfying when choosing to use some special attack made the difference or you could move away from a tight spot with some supportive movement technique.

Frozen_Feet
2015-10-13, 08:19 AM
As someone who regularly plays Old School games with complete beginners, the idea that mundane combatants don't have options is bunk. Beginners will try and do a wild variety of things, whether supported by the system or not, to get an edge against adversaries.

Repetitive combat is something that experienced players do - those who have learned "I hit it untill it's dead" is a viable strategy in 95% of cases.

Thrudd
2015-10-13, 08:11 PM
Early D&D simulates combat on a very abstract level. The die roll represents the result of a period of time during which the character is fighting. It is assumed the combatants are performing various maneuvers like feints and blocks and probing attacks throughout that time period, and the roll tells us whether the character was able to deliver a productive blow at some point. The die roll does not represent a single movement or swing of a weapon.

MrZJunior
2015-10-13, 09:54 PM
In old school D&D you need to get creative, use the environment to your advantage.

Piedmon_Sama
2015-10-13, 10:04 PM
As someone who regularly plays Old School games with complete beginners, the idea that mundane combatants don't have options is bunk. Beginners will try and do a wild variety of things, whether supported by the system or not, to get an edge against adversaries.

Repetitive combat is something that experienced players do - those who have learned "I hit it untill it's dead" is a viable strategy in 95% of cases.

Experienced players know not to bother doing anything but charging and full-attacking because everything else is suboptimal.

Because D&D.... yeah pretty much works by 1930s western rules.

oxybe
2015-10-13, 10:10 PM
In old school D&D you need to get creative, use the environment to your advantage.

That's because the game only gives you "hit with stick" and does little to nothing to expand those options by default as the game progresses outside of "hit with stick more times".

Nothing is stopping you in newer versions to get creative, it just gives you more reliable options outside of hitting with stick.

LudicSavant
2015-10-13, 10:19 PM
That's because the game only gives you "hit with stick" and does little to nothing to expand those options by default as the game progresses outside of "hit with stick more times".

Nothing is stopping you in newer versions to get creative, it just gives you more reliable options outside of hitting with stick.

I agree! However, I still feel like creativity could stand to be highlighted even more.

For example, in my own games, I houserule that you can attack the environment as a swift action instead of a standard one (since the description for standard melee attacks says it's an abstraction and assumes some degree of swordplay. It makes sense that the environment would be easier and quicker to hit).

Morty
2015-10-14, 02:58 AM
Creatively using your environment and having a reliable selection of options aren't mutually exclusive. Quite the contrary, really. Have clearly defined spell lists ever stopped magicians from being creative?

Using your environment is an option that should be encouraged, but treating it as a substitute for a robust combat model misses the point. A trained warrior shouldn't need to rely on their environment, unless they're facing a far superior enemy. And when they do use their surroundings, it should be in tandem with their core proficiencies.

Mind you, there's nothing wrong with a simple combat model that resolves things without much of a fuss. But that's not what D&D's combat rules have ever been.

Piedmon_Sama
2015-10-14, 03:09 AM
Let me give a less flippant reply---the version of D&D that I've always played, 3.x, does have very reasonable and good rules regarding the effects environment can have on combat. Obstacles and elevation matter, cover matters, taking a knee when firing a ranged weapon is a good idea, so on and so on. The main conflict is players not wanting to read those finnicky bits of PHB Ch. 8: Combat and the DMG where this stuff is laid out. I've got friends in my group who've played D&D for years and forget the movement penalty for moving uphill.

Now all that stuff becomes a lot less relevant as you get to higher level, as it probably should. Nonetheless it can balance things pretty well, assuming your DM chooses to incorporate it at all. A DM who likes to have his fights take place in featureless stone masonry chambers is doing it wrong, in my opinion.

Morty
2015-10-14, 04:36 AM
Two warriors having at it in the middle of a space devoid of things they can use to their advantage is pretty much the basis of a formal duel. And yet, literature and film are full of duels that can hardly be described as exchanging attacks until someone falls over... in fact, forget about literature or film, and watch a boxing or MMA match.

Ravian
2015-10-14, 10:26 PM
Early D&D simulates combat on a very abstract level. The die roll represents the result of a period of time during which the character is fighting. It is assumed the combatants are performing various maneuvers like feints and blocks and probing attacks throughout that time period, and the roll tells us whether the character was able to deliver a productive blow at some point. The die roll does not represent a single movement or swing of a weapon.

However true that is, it doesn't really help make combat on a truly mechanical level. Role-playing helps yes, but that applies to all areas of a game, not just martial combat.

You can say however much you want that about how the two fighters are bobbing and weaving with parries and feints, if all the player is doing is rolling dice the same way every time, it's still going to get boring.

I'm not saying 4e was perfect, but having a few options to choose from goes a huge way towards making things interesting, as any spellcaster will tell you.

I just don't know why people act like making combat more interesting tactically somehow means that some creative element is being lost.

NNescio
2015-10-14, 11:05 PM
{scrubbed}

(Jokes aside, European schools of swordmanship do have named moves, and the recharge mechanic is intended to abstract the fact that conditions aren't right all the time to use a particular move. Also, I love ToB.)

That said, combat between two generic Fighters at higher levels in 3.x is going to end up as rocket tag, with victory going to the one who wins initiative and manages to splat their opoonent with a charge. Anticlimatic, maybe, but you can roleplay rolling for initiative in duels as a showdown like it's done in Spaghetti Westerns or Jidai-Geki samurai films.

More complex builds using magic and other extraordinary/supernatural abilities are going to end up diferent though.

Thrudd
2015-10-15, 12:14 AM
However true that is, it doesn't really help make combat on a truly mechanical level. Role-playing helps yes, but that applies to all areas of a game, not just martial combat.

You can say however much you want that about how the two fighters are bobbing and weaving with parries and feints, if all the player is doing is rolling dice the same way every time, it's still going to get boring.

I'm not saying 4e was perfect, but having a few options to choose from goes a huge way towards making things interesting, as any spellcaster will tell you.

I just don't know why people act like making combat more interesting tactically somehow means that some creative element is being lost.

It's just a different game. Combat was abstracted, it wasn't really a tactical battle game. It was a dungeon exploration game where sometimes you had to fight things. It does help to add a few options, but the type of game it is should be kept in mind. 4e is about big elaborate set-piece fantasy battles. Basic is about hunting for treasure and surviving the dungeon. It should be rare for a fight in Basic to last more than a handful of rounds, and ten minutes of real time. So it isn't like in 4e, where you spend two hours on a single encounter. That would be really boring. Rolling a couple times and then it's over is more likely how it will go.

Mark Hall
2015-10-15, 11:21 AM
Experienced players know not to bother doing anything but charging and full-attacking because everything else is suboptimal.

Because D&D.... yeah pretty much works by 1930s western rules.

This is not true in AD&D.

In AD&D, charging was nice, but a single round. If you were within range, it was far better for a specialist or experienced fighter to move and attack, because that would let them get their full amount of attacks that round (if your rate was 3/2, and your DM did 1 then 2 attacks, it was a good option to charge first, unless you were concerned about defense... Gods help you if they have spears).

Doorhandle
2015-10-15, 06:34 PM
This is not true in AD&D.

In AD&D, charging was nice, but a single round. If you were within range, it was far better for a specialist or experienced fighter to move and attack, because that would let them get their full amount of attacks that round (if your rate was 3/2, and your DM did 1 then 2 attacks, it was a good option to charge first, unless you were concerned about defense... Gods help you if they have spears).

Same with 5e, really. You now need a feat to charge and it's universally agreed to be a waste of space. (Efficiently free spring attack too, if you have enough movement points/are a rouge. It's pretty sick.)

Talking of being more simulationist/improving combat, bringing back facing might help for melee (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/adventuring/combatFacing.htm). At the very least, it means the front lines will be constantly jockeying and 5-foot-stepping for position if there is any room at all, which is fairly realistic in my limited martial art experience. Overall, having techniques for everyone would help.

Ardantis
2015-10-15, 07:26 PM
I think 5e has done a lot to keep combat mechanics interesting, especially for guerrilla tactics.

For example, the lowly goblin can now hide as a bonus action, making combats with them absolutely terrifying and giving combat value to your high Wisdom party members.

Surprise plus initiative IS combat for some characters, and opening strong can make slogging out a win in later rounds feel worth it for the bruisers.

Yes, some classes wade in, slog it out and seal the deal, but their victory both requires and vindicates the surprise-round classes. Their part of the combat may not be flashy and full of deft maneuvers and tactics, but it can be just as exciting, especially in the context of a managed party battle.

dps
2015-10-15, 10:08 PM
DnD was originally an outgrowth of a set of miniatures wargame rules that GDW had published. So, yeah, DnD combat is an extension of what was intended to be a tactical combat simulation.

GPuzzle
2015-10-15, 10:22 PM
One thing that has to be considered is that combat has to work in tandem with the setting. There'd be very little point to 4e's big, epic fights even at level 1 with the power level of the characters in terms of fluff at the very least ever increasing to the point that ascencion to godhood is not out of the table, if it wasn't for the fact that the world is set to be Nobledark with a very, very high fantasy hint. The world is royally screwed, but it can still be saved, even if it means you'll have to go through the most epic fights. A max level 4e game is not a battle against a Lich or an evil High Priest, but rather against the Gods themselves.

On the other hand, 5e has a very "let's explore!" feel to it, but with deadly traps left and right that even a max level PC can be taken down by a goblin. 5e has a quite high letality to it, making it much like Dwarf Fortress in a way. I haven't played 5e enough to give my thoughts on it and I don't exactly like this whole concept of "even a strong PC can be taken down by something small", both as a player and as a DM. I'd much rather have an epic trajectory of the shining beacons of light in a world of darkness than an eventful death of a beloved player character - if they die, it has to be something heroic or amazing. Think Boromir's death.

In the end, different strokes for different folks.

StealthyRobot
2015-10-17, 09:17 PM
If my players constant solution to combat was "hit it with a stick until it dies", I would do something to force them to change their strategy. Maybe if no one has bludeoning weapons throw out some skeletons, or have some heavy tank like enemy resist their melee, or an enemy with a damaging aura. Players have to be creative and maybe turn their weapons around, lure the heavy enemy across a weak floor, or find a way to shut down the aura.

Now, if the players are absolutely thrilled by repeatedly hitting things with sticks and dont want much else, then give them exactly that.

Inevitability
2015-10-31, 11:19 AM
As someone who regularly plays Old School games with complete beginners, the idea that mundane combatants don't have options is bunk. Beginners will try and do a wild variety of things, whether supported by the system or not, to get an edge against adversaries.

The problem here is that if a player is trying something not supported by the system, the system clearly fails to accommodate said player's desires. At that point, you have two options: shutting those people's creativity down by enforcing the rules and only the rules, or slowly turning the system into a dice-fueled clone of Cowboys & Indians. Neither are enjoyable in my opinion.

Mr.Moron
2015-10-31, 11:31 AM
The problem here is that if a player is trying something not supported by the system, the system clearly fails to accommodate said player's desires. At that point, you have two options: shutting those people's creativity down by enforcing the rules and only the rules, or slowly turning the system into a dice-fueled clone of Cowboys & Indians. Neither are enjoyable in my opinion.

Truth is many RPGs (if not the majority), are closer to the latter than they are anything resembling D&D 3.P or even D&D generally. The idea that the system must support every action an entity in the game world might take is a very rules-heavy approach and mindset. The idea that in order to do X, you must have a rule for doing X is a mindset fueled by the fact that you have rules for doing A,A-2,A-3,B,C,D-3,D-3(A),E,F..... and so on.

A system that has fewer specific rules on the whole isn't going to be able to accommodate a broader range of possibilities without feeling inconsistent or arbitrary because everything runs on that more open framework, not just that one thing the a character is doing in the moment.

Knaight
2015-10-31, 04:12 PM
Truth is many RPGs (if not the majority), are closer to the latter than they are anything resembling D&D 3.P or even D&D generally. The idea that the system must support every action an entity in the game world might take is a very rules-heavy approach and mindset. The idea that in order to do X, you must have a rule for doing X is a mindset fueled by the fact that you have rules for doing A,A-2,A-3,B,C,D-3,D-3(A),E,F..... and so on.

A system that has fewer specific rules on the whole isn't going to be able to accommodate a broader range of possibilities without feeling inconsistent or arbitrary because everything runs on that more open framework, not just that one thing the a character is doing in the moment.

I'd consider this a bit of an oversimplification, as a lot of RPGs do cover just about every action just fine. It's just that instead of "Here's a rule for A, here's a rule for B, here's a rule for C...here's a rule for ZZI", you get "Here's a rule for situations A-Z". It's a broader rule, and it might require more thought to implement (though the trade off is that you get more practice implementing it and don't have to memorize as much, so I wouldn't characterize it as harder), but things are still covered.

Mr.Moron
2015-10-31, 04:29 PM
I'd consider this a bit of an oversimplification, as a lot of RPGs do cover just about every action just fine. It's just that instead of "Here's a rule for A, here's a rule for B, here's a rule for C...here's a rule for ZZI", you get "Here's a rule for situations A-Z". It's a broader rule, and it might require more thought to implement (though the trade off is that you get more practice implementing it and don't have to memorize as much, so I wouldn't characterize it as harder), but things are still covered.

Well yeah, it was a simplification for the sake of beverity. The D&D (3.5) approach roughly seems to be



Scratching[Dex]: Description of Scratch
Uses of Scratch:
-Scratching Belly Lint 13
-Scratching Your Butt 11
-Scratching Your Butt (Invisible)1
-Belly Scratches, Dog 16
-Belly Scratches, Cat 31
-Chalkboard, Scratching - (See Fortitude Save) 11
-Scratching While Blind 12
-Unscratched Itches 14
-Opposed Scratching 15
--While On Boat 16
-Scratching Other Intelligent Creatures 10 + varies
--Arm 5
--Leg 6
--Head 9
-Dandruff Control 15
-Social Penalties * see embarrassment table 12-2

While a more typical RPG would be:


Scratching[Dex]: Descrption of scratching
Kinds of scratching could include belly lint, scratching animals and general itches. The GM should consider the distance, disposition and general nature of the scratched when setting difficulties. Some examples might include scratching you belly lint (easy) or scratching a cat's belly (near impossible). Scratching others is harder than scratching yourself. You can't scratch what you can't reach as general rule.

Scratching Examples:

Head: Easy
Face: Very
Belly Lint: Hard
Cat: Near Impossible



These prompt a very different mindset both in first getting to the question "I try to scratch the cat's belly lint" and what the response is on the difficulty of such a thing.

Telok
2015-10-31, 05:09 PM
I actually find martial combat in the 3rd and 4th editions of D&D to be very constraining and limiting. Those editions require you to have a feat, class ability, or magic item to do anything but charge, basic attack, or full attack with any chance of success. Add in the requirement of magic weapons and other bonuses required to hit the enemies you're expected to face and it feels like the game punishes you for using anything but the abilities written down on the character sheet in the standard move/attack pattern.

I haven't gotten to play enough 5e to say anything about it but the old basic and AD&D felt more accepting of people doing things other than the move and/or class/feat/magic attack simply because they didn't penalize you for trying something that you didn't have a feat or class ability to explicitly enable it.

goto124
2015-10-31, 08:15 PM
Mr Moron: May I sig that please?

Also, may I scratch your back?