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RPG» Forums » General Discussion » General Role-Playing

Subject: QOTD FEB 4: What's your balance between combat and roleplaying per session? rss

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Kevin
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I'll echo the "false dichotomy" comments, but interpreting "roleplaying" to mean "non-combat":

It's all over the place. I don't try to put my thumb on the scale one way or another, but instead let the story go where it goes.

The last game I played, it was maybe 25% combat, if you go by amount of table time. The last game I ran, maybe 15%?
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Paul Unwin
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Since I mainly play by forum, I don't have "sessions" as such. I decided to look at my current game, which was started as part of last year's Play-By-Post Initiative. I'm using 4th Edition D&D.

The game started with a combat situation. It lasted for 11 days. (Pages 1-2.)
The following non-combat, consisting of a puzzle, followed by interaction and discussion lasted for 13 days. (Pages 3-5.5.)
The next combat lasted 11 days. (Pages 5.5-6.75.)
The following non-combat lasted for 15 days and consisted of decision making, exploration and a skill challenge. (Pages 6.75-8.25.)
There were then two combats (originally planned as one, but the PCs split the enemy forces) which took 14 days. (Pages 8.25-9.)
There followed a 27 day run of non-combat, consisting of a lot of interaction and decision making. (Pages 10-11.)
The next combat situation lasted 28 days, but occurred over the end-of-year holidays and arguably was more like 14 or 21 days. (Pages 11-12)
The current stint of non-combat has lasted 21 days and is a matter of days from turning into combat. (Page 13).

Total playing time: 140 days (not non-stop, of course. Weekend posts, for instance, are sparse.)

On average, my combat scenes have lasted 16 days, or 46% of the total playing time.
On average, my non-combat scenes have lasted 19 days, or 54% of the total playing time.

All that said, there's not necessarily anything to take away from all this. It's a single game, it's a play-by-forum game, it's a "teaching game" so combat and planning should both be expected to be slower than with a group that's more experienced (in terms of rules and teamwork). There are lots of other factors that increase the uncertainty as well. If I have time, I may go back through and go by post number, rather than date.

Edit: I note that this site doesn't number posts. Without a quick way to count them, I probably won't bother.

Edit: Per cjbowser's advice, I added the pages each section covered.
Total: 13.
Average number of pages for combat situations: 1.5 (~40 posts).
Average number of pages for non-combat situations: 1.75 (~44 posts).

The post percentage is almost identical to the time percentage.
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Chad Bowser
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enduran wrote:


Edit: I note that this site doesn't number posts. Without a quick way to count them, I probably won't bother.


There's 25 posts per page. You can use that to at least get a rough estimate.
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Clark Timmins
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So stop your cheap comment, 'Cause we know what we feel...
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My home group likes combat and we do quite a bit. Usually, they are pretty short but there are lots of them. We don't hardly ever do the round-after-round-after-round endless combat encounters. As we get older, less combat, but we still do a lot.

However, the group - while obviously committed to "winning" combats - has a decidedly role-playing approach to it. There's never the simple toe-to-toe swapping of blows. There's always an angle to get some tactical advantage. Even if the setup clearly will not bear out the payoff, it's still pursued. And not every character has to deal damage every round. Often, the fighters will do the combat while the other characters do tangentially related things (more appropriate to their character role).

In any case, there is no "right" answer to this question. Some folks would rather do tactical miniatures combat that roleplaying - they're not doing it wrong, they're focusing on what they like. Others won't ever draw a sword and do everything by roleplaying - they're focusing on what they like.

Anecdote:

I joined one AD&D campaign years ago, and we spent a couple sessions doing dungeon exploration without ever doing a combat (yes, it's not a typo). I began to think it a bit odd that this years-old campaign had only 2nd and 3rd level characters. Then I realized it's because they didn't loot or kill, ever. So their XP was all "award" bonuses for roleplaying. No issues with that. But when we encountered skeletons, I pulled out my sword and went to town. And they were actually shocked that I'd "just attacked without provocation". And I was like, "Uh... skeletons?" Well, our play styles were different.
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Mark Wilson
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quozl wrote:
mawilson4 wrote:
But we all more or less understand the question, no?


No.


Heh, fair enough. I took it as "combat vs. non-combat." People seem to be stuck on the OP separating combat from roleplaying, but I don't think a larger commentary was meant by it, and no one in the thread is actually saying the two are separate. The fact that it's a false dichotomy seems to be a unanimously held opinion. But I think he's just looking for a ratio or % of time that's spent in combat. The question would be framed entirely differently if it were intended to explore to what extent roleplaying and combat overlap.
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enduran wrote:
It bears repeating: Combat is not the opposite of roleplaying.

Sure. But we all know plenty of people who do play as if that were the case, right?
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True Blue Jon
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mawilson4 wrote:
quozl wrote:
mawilson4 wrote:
But we all more or less understand the question, no?


No.


Heh, fair enough. I took it as "combat vs. non-combat." People seem to be stuck on the OP separating combat from roleplaying, but I don't think a larger commentary was meant by it, and no one in the thread is actually saying the two are separate. The fact that it's a false dichotomy seems to be a unanimously held opinion. But I think he's just looking for a ratio or % of time that's spent in combat.


But what is combat? Using the combat rules? Is arguing combat? What if it is using the combat rules?
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True Blue Jon
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E Decker wrote:
enduran wrote:
It bears repeating: Combat is not the opposite of roleplaying.

Sure. But we all know plenty of people who do play as if that were the case, right?


No.
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Mark Wilson
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quozl wrote:
mawilson4 wrote:
quozl wrote:
mawilson4 wrote:
But we all more or less understand the question, no?


No.


Heh, fair enough. I took it as "combat vs. non-combat." People seem to be stuck on the OP separating combat from roleplaying, but I don't think a larger commentary was meant by it, and no one in the thread is actually saying the two are separate. The fact that it's a false dichotomy seems to be a unanimously held opinion. But I think he's just looking for a ratio or % of time that's spent in combat.


But what is combat? Using the combat rules? Is arguing combat? What if it is using the combat rules?


Thanks for your perspective, as it's not one I would have considered after reading the OP. I can't fault you for wondering where these lines are. It's not necessarily clear, as you rightly point out.

The questions you ask there are ones you can define and answer as you see fit. And yeah, they're probably different definitions than the next poster. But that's kind of the point of these questions, yeah? But unless the point of this QotD was to have a discussion over what combat is, we're being given some leeway with our responses, as ever.

Heck, even in my initial post, I alluded to the fact that I'm not really sure where the line begins and ends for "Exploration" in an RPG. So I settled for a "ballpark" answer that's a rough guess. It's a tacit acknowledgement of the more nuanced questions you bring up, while trying to stay true to what I believe the question's intent is. For others where the lines are even blurrier, the question perhaps can't be accurately answered, and that seems like it may be the case for you. Which is cool; such stark contrasts aren't always the best way to run many RPGs. But I daresay we can be forgiven some imprecision in such low-stakes discussions.
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quozl wrote:
E Decker wrote:
enduran wrote:
It bears repeating: Combat is not the opposite of roleplaying.

Sure. But we all know plenty of people who do play as if that were the case, right?


No.

You truly have never encountered anybody who treats combat as a pure board game in certain RPGs? All right, I suppose. It's hardly uncommon, though.
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True Blue Jon
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E Decker wrote:
quozl wrote:
E Decker wrote:
enduran wrote:
It bears repeating: Combat is not the opposite of roleplaying.

Sure. But we all know plenty of people who do play as if that were the case, right?


No.

You truly have never encountered anybody who treats combat as a pure board game in certain RPGs? All right, I suppose. It's hardly uncommon, though.


The people I know treat pure board games as RPGs.
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Clark Timmins
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quozl wrote:
The people I know treat pure board games as RPGs.

Ain't dat the truth?
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Mark Wilson
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quozl wrote:
The people I know treat pure board games as RPGs.


Lol, there's a QotD right there, about the other areas of life we treat like RPGs.

I'm guilty of this too. I RP my faction/character/etc. like a absolute goober in plenty of board games.
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Paul Unwin
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E Decker wrote:
enduran wrote:
It bears repeating: Combat is not the opposite of roleplaying.

Sure. But we all know plenty of people who do play as if that were the case, right?

Not really because, as you point out, a wide cross-section of people here don't see it as a dichotomy. And the reason they don't is because they don't mindlessly strategize and vie for advantage, it's those other people - or, more likely, a few other people they've encountered who were really over the top with combat to the point of being truly annoying and making combat a chore for everyone else. Because of those few people, the ones who aren't so over the top feel the need to create a dichotomy, while still actually enjoying a fair amount of combat in their games.

But, yes, I will admit that there are differences between combat and non-combat, and that things that people enjoy about non-combat often fall by the wayside in combat. But the reason for that is rarely, if ever, considered and mostly chalked up to people being "murder hobos" or "rollplayers," who are just fundamentally different. But in my experience, they're not. If you're upfront with them, and slightly alter a few of the underlying assumptions of a combat situation, even very competitive players will happily set aside their tendency to focus on the math and the dice, and focus more on what their character might plausibly do in a situation.
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Paul Unwin
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quozl wrote:
The people I know treat pure board games as RPGs.

Exactly. The most fun I ever had roleplaying was a play-by-post game of Twilight Imperium (Second Edition). The second most fun was a play-by-post game of Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel.
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Mark Wilson
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enduran wrote:
quozl wrote:
The people I know treat pure board games as RPGs.

Exactly. The most fun I ever had roleplaying was a play-by-post game of Twilight Imperium (Second Edition). The second most fun was a play-by-post game of Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel.


Funny you mention TI. There are other examples I could use, but the one that sprang to mind when I saw this was TI:4. It's basically a 4-8 hour space opera with as much in common with tactical RPGs as with many board games.
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Paul Unwin
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mawilson4 wrote:
enduran wrote:
quozl wrote:
The people I know treat pure board games as RPGs.

Exactly. The most fun I ever had roleplaying was a play-by-post game of Twilight Imperium (Second Edition). The second most fun was a play-by-post game of Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel.


Funny you mention TI. There are other examples I could use, but the one that sprang to mind when I saw this was TI:4. It's basically a 4-8 hour space opera with as much in common with tactical RPGs as with many board games.

Ironically, the Twilight Imperium RPG doesn't get great marks. (Though if I wanted to play such a game, I'd probably just try to use Fate somehow.)
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rebuscarnival wrote:
combat vs boring
Funny...I have the exact opposite perspective.

Pete (tries to avoid fights in RPGs because they bore the hell out of him)
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Paul Unwin
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quozl wrote:
But what is combat? Using the combat rules? Is arguing combat? What if it is using the combat rules?

Good point. In Fate, one has social or mental Stress that is worn down much the way physical stress is.

For that matter, is dealing with a trap or puzzle roleplaying? Maybe the wizard and thief buckle down and maybe the fighter scoffs or stands guard or (one hopes) is actively keeping back physical threats. But then we've heard of people who blithely forget their character when a puzzle hits the table.

I know that some people would look askance at the barbarian who plays dumb in most situations helping with a puzzle, since they're playing "out of character." Do people ever take the same attitude when that same barbarian is clever in combat or, for that matter, when the wizard or the peace-loving cleric being militarily tactical?
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plezercruz wrote:
rebuscarnival wrote:
combat vs boring
Funny...I have the exact opposite perspective.

Pete (tries to avoid fights in RPGs because they bore the hell out of him)

I'd be interested to know what you expect such a "fight" to look like.
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To add another perspective - my current groups are the types to roleplay in board games, but that is because we specifically selected for that trait.

I've played with GMs, and with other players, who treat combat as separate from roleplaying, and it didn't really mesh with some of us. Since one of those who treated combat differently would also disparage those of us who didn't make the absolute best tactical choice every fight, since we would play what our characters would do - even if that is cower behind a chair.

This is not to say that playstyle of treating combat different is bad (one person who happened to have it was a bit of a jerk which colored our experience - but that's an issue with him, not with treating combat as different from roleplaying) - it just didn't mesh with how I, or my husband - wanted to play RPGs.
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adularia25 wrote:
Since one of those who treated combat differently would also disparage those of us who didn't make the absolute best tactical choice every fight, since we would play what our characters would do - even if that is cower behind a chair.

It seems as thought that person is one of those who wants to "win" combat in RPGs. I imagine that for some people they want to win even if losing wouldn't matter that much, but in your games what did this player think would happen if the group "lost" due to non-optimal choices?
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enduran wrote:
adularia25 wrote:
Since one of those who treated combat differently would also disparage those of us who didn't make the absolute best tactical choice every fight, since we would play what our characters would do - even if that is cower behind a chair.

It seems as thought that person is one of those who wants to "win" combat in RPGs. I imagine that for some people they want to win even if losing wouldn't matter that much, but in your games what did this player think would happen if the group "lost" due to non-optimal choices?

I don't think it was what we'd lose so much as us not using his superior knowledge of the game system.

I mean, this is a person who when he was GMing would gloat if he won vs us players. He adored TPKs.

And he'd prefer combat to any non-combat situations.

He was the type who, if our characters spent too long roleplaying and chatting with NPCs, his character would pull out a gun and kill one, just to start a combat. I'm not kidding, that once happened in our Star Wars game...

Needless to say, there were quite a few things going on with him that made roleplaying less fun for a majority of us.
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adularia25 wrote:
He was the type who, if our characters spent too long roleplaying and chatting with NPCs, his character would pull out a gun and kill one, just to start a combat. I'm not kidding, that once happened in our Star Wars game...

Needless to say, there were quite a few things going on with him that made roleplaying less fun for a majority of us.

I have to say that I find this sort of behavior fascinating, for all that I wouldn't want to be in a game with it. I'd love to talk to this person, and see if there were some way non-combat could be adjusted to work for them. I mean, I completely understand just wanting to blow something up (as either a player or a GM) just so some excruciating non-combat situation would end, but there are non-combat situations (even ones that don't involve my character) that I wouldn't feel the need to burn to the ground.
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There may be a small combat encounter in a session, but I think it's usually a couple of sessions of non-combat, then a session of combat. That's not the definitive of my adventures, but roughly how they go.
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