Role-playing combat
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 April 2013, 7:38 am
Personally I have a very simple model of role-playing games, be they pen & paper, single-player on a computer, or massively multiplayer online: In general these games consist of a "basic repeatable unit", usually combat, which happens in minor variations over and over. And between those repeatable units of combat, there is something that chains them all together into some sort of story or world. By definition the combat part is more repetitive than the non-combat part, because even if you always fight different monsters, the player(s) will always use the same set(s) of abilities.

Of course no model is ever the absolute truth. But quite a lot of games follow this pattern of fights repeatedly happening inside a story. And for me that has consequences on how I approach combat in a pen & paper setting: I think combat is something the outcome of which is best left to a rules system and random dice rolls. I am not a huge fan of Deus Ex Machina interventions from the game master. Nor of excessive role-playing of combat action which influences the outcome.

That is not to say that in my campaign nobody can "swing from the chandelier" as an action in combat. Innovative use of terrain or abilities is very much encouraged, and can have positive modifiers on dice rolls to determine an outcome. But I sure don't want long descriptions of how the fighter is swinging his sword with a large influence on whether he hits of misses based on his description. It is because I assume that the fighter is going to swing that sword very, very often over his career that I consider role-playing that swing of the sword to be superfluous.

I am well aware that there is a risk of people just rolling dice and not describing any action in combat. But as long as this is just for combat, of which there are many, I don't really have a problem with somebody not role-playing in combat. Quite often I find there are interesting or funny situations arising just from people using their combat abilities or movement. And some people are naturally more likely to role-play what they do than others.

So what do you think about role-playing combat actions? How much of it is just fluff, and in how far should it affect the outcome of combat? Can you play without it?
Tobold's Blog

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