Fighting Fantasy

This entry is part 21 of 42 in San Check

RPG Blog CarnivalRavyn is hosting the RPG Blog Carnival this month, and the topic is Combat Avoidance. I thought I would write about my earlier Dungeon Master experience and how combat was handled.

This entry is part B in Combat Avoidance

The core element of a gamebook is to present you with an interesting situation and let you decide what to do. Playing “The Story Game” with friends required me to adapt (I hate that I called it “The Story Game” and I would not avoid combat with myself if I had a time machine to correct this).

I was not interested in providing a list of choices. I wasn’t a book and I didn’t want to limit the players in the game. Also, it was a lot more fun feeding off of the player’s input, rather than trying to figure out the result of what they could or could not do before they even told me.

That is not to say I was playing the game blind. I had ideas about what would happen if they chose A, B, or C, but any Dungeon Master knows players like to choose D. None of the above. As a Dungeon Master, you have to roll with the punches.

You’re Doing It Right

I would attribute how I learned to Dungeon Master to Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. After all, I learned to play inadvertently through Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks*.

Once I got the BX box sets, B2 Keep on the Borderlands and X1 Isle of Dread reinforced this style of play when it came to “real” role-playing games. You present the players with a setting and let them go wild, adjudicating the results of their actions in believable ways.

When it came to the rules of combat, D&D’s abstract paradigm clicked immediately with me. It was just a matter of taking the number and translating it into what actually occurred. A 1 or 20 always deserved more flavor text, while the numbers that fell in between less so.


Huh, Combat Avoidance?

When Ravyn brought up this topic it was difficult for me to narrow down what to cover. The Delvers flee, subdue or otherwise avoid conflict when necessary. Other times they go all out on someone or something that could have been an ally, revealed information, and so forth. 

I think what is important for any rpg game, D&D or not, is that combat isn’t avoided because of the game mechanics.

Our D&D Encounters slog fest of the slowest-combat-rounds-ever was painful to bear. The creativity of the combat was shut down with power cards that tell you what you can do and how you do it, so you end up sitting there just naming the move you make.

Minus the girls, I was given odd looks when I used my “free action” to grab an ale off the table and down the cup before making some standard attack on whatever we were fighting at the time (the warlock had used some frost magic thing that covered a table in its blast radius right before my turn, so I claimed the drink was nice and cold).

This feeds into my feelings about 3e as well, with feats and skills.

Stop Picking on WotC

When we played Palladium games, I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t understand the combat mechanics. Damage was easy to grasp (although there was the missile incident I mentioned). Rather than try and decipher the poorly written rules, we just made it up.

In keeping with the theme of the carnival, no matter what system, if your players are avoiding combat your culprit might be the rules themselves. I think flexible game combat mechanics are wonderful. It allows creativity to flow from the players and encourages them to make the fight or flight decision based on immersion, survivability, character personality and the like.

I believe it adds much to the player’s total gaming experience to be free from the grid, from the confinements of can and can nots.  Their tactics may not always be successful, or sensible, but the game is always original and surprising, and more often than not, provides entertainment for everyone at the table.

Delve - San Check - TOC
[«««] PreviousNext [»»»]

  1. You know, for kids!
  2. Digger, Please!
  3. Semantic Railroads
  4. Mapping Progress
  5. Honeymoon Adventure
  6. No One Games in a Vacuum
  7. House Rules, You’re Doing It Wrong!
  8. WotC’s Poisoned Apple
  9. Oh Shit Run – An Outside Perspective
  10. Greyhawk Campaigns
  11. Nostalgia Vomit
  12. Dicing with Dinosaurs
  13. The Eye of the Dragon
  14. What Did You Do Over the Summer?
  15. It’s Like Cops and Robbers, but with Dice!
  16. Emergent Death or Why Losing Is Fun!
  17. How to Train Your Delvers (More WotC Snark)
  18. WotC’s Babel Fish
  19. More Nostalgia Vomit
  20. Fantasy Fighting
  21. Fighting Fantasy
  22. The Delvers 1985
  23. From Weird WotC to the creator of Giant Space Hamsters
  24. The Daedalus Complex
  25. There Is No Cow Level
  26. Double-decker Bologna Sandwich!
  27. It is Not a Secret Door if You Tell Me
  28. All Apologies
  29. Be the First to Solve the Mystery and Claim the Dungeon Treasure!
  30. Dungeon Treasure & Hidden Treasure
  31. You Unlock this Door with the Key of Imagination
  32. The Answer to the Mystery at The Delvers
  33. The First Keeper
  34. Sandbox Apophenia
  35. Nearly Enough Dice – Interview
  36. The State of The Delvers
  37. Vicariously Join Two Girls and Their Mom Around the Gaming Table
  38. Cassette Cover Art
  39. Bastion of the Boglings
  40. WotC Piss and the Last Boy Scout
  41. Campaign Timeline
  42. B4: The Lost City

The Delvers Podcast B-side