Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What Winston Churchill would have said to Gary Gygax

Battles are won by slaughter and manoeuvre. The greater the general, the more he contributes in manoeuvre, the less he demands in slaughter.

This is a famous Winston Churchill quote, which I think can be profitably applied to D&D, further to the whole combat as sport versus combat as war thing; with just a few changes in terminology, we get the maxim:

D&D is won by slaughter and manoeuvre. The greater the player, the more he contributes in manoeuvre, the less he demands in slaughter.

A good maxim to live by. Good play is about cunning and careful manipulation of resources (be they mundane or magical), and the environment, to achieve maximum success with the minimum amount of death. Avoiding combat where possible, and, when necessary, using resources and the environment to bring maximum force to bear where the enemy is weak. Using the dungeon and wilderness to your advantage, in getting the maximum amount of gold and experience you can. Carefully marshalling equipment, using it when it is needed, improvising where necessary, making good logistical choices.

It is also about bringing snacks and, preferably, beer.

9 comments:

  1. The combat vs. sport thing is very very simple, just like Churchill is saying it's just strategy vs. tactics dressed up in language that gets an idea that's been kicked around for years across in an easy to swallow way.

    What I've started to think is one thing that really promoted Combat as Sport in recent editions is that demanding a lot of slaughter has stopped being a bad thing. What's really important to promote a strategic focus is to have Pyrrhic victories be really painful so that winning by slaughter is a bad idea even if you win, which forces people to focus more on maneuver.

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    1. I think it is the shift from XP for monster kills away from treasure. That encourages slaughter more than anything else.

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    2. Oh certainly, even just having XP given out ad hoc (i.e. gain a level every two sessions) tones down the greed that drives a lot of Combat as War. A lot of it comes in from either attrition (lots of little fights are annoying, let's find a way to skip them to get the gold) or overwhelming critters (we can't be that in a fair fight, so let's cheat).

      Me = guy who wrote the Combat as War Post. I love the Churchill quote, fits perfectly...

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  2. Nice. The players in my most recent session embodied this ideal, only getting into one combat. (Though admittedly they did a lot more slaughtering than they needed to. Good loot though.)

    http://billygoes.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/polish-resistance-session-6.html

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  3. Avoiding combat where possible, and, when necessary, using resources and the environment to bring maximum force to bear where the enemy is weak. Using the dungeon and wilderness to your advantage,

    while i obviously agree that avoiding combat is smart, i have a problem with "using the dungeon to your advantage".
    sure, players do that.

    so do the monsters.

    problem is, they live there. THEY have the advantage. everything the players can do, the monsters can do too. unless the dm doesn't play the monsters at 100% they should win more often than not. (unless they were too weak to be a challenge in the first place)

    there's nothing easier than killing the group as a gm.

    try the following experiment:
    take 2 groups of players. make 1 group play normally, while the other plays the monsters. the monster group gets all the info they could possible have about their own dungeon and can use their own resources as they see fit.

    respect to any pc group who manages to overcome this. :)

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    1. Of course, but that's what separates the really good player from the rest: coming up with ways to succeed despite the advantages the monsters have.

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    2. what seperates a really good player from the rest is a permissive dm. ;)

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