A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #31
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I enjoy a close battle. Not every battle, of course, but I usually play a support role and like sometimes being able to bust out those "Uh oh" skills/spells/tricks to turn things around or give a last chance. I like feeling like we won a fight due to our coordination and skill rather than just the raw superiority of our stats. This also assumes a tactically interesting fight and not ten rounds of chunking away at some hit point bag armed with a club.

    Timing is everything. Too many close fights gets exhausting and leaves you unable to get into another fight without resting or burning resources. Plus it stops being interesting if that's every fight. But for the climatic fights and boss battles and chapter closers? Bring it on. Heck, I'll even take a defeat assuming we have a chance to make it out alive. A favorite story involves us getting our butts kicked by a wizard and the half-orc using his Relentless Endurance to eat a jump out the window while I rolled an unconscious ally over a railing and slapped a "Healing Word, good luck!" on them as they went before jumping myself. Don't really tell stories about the time we got attacked by five wererats and, three rounds later, there were five dead wererats as we casually brushed some dust off our armor.

  2. - Top - End - #32
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    DrowGirl

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I find my players, who are largely unoptimized, tend to complain about mechanically difficult battles, though not quite as bad as the OP described theirs. I actually had a whole thread asking if an encounter I ran was too hard, because I couldn't tell if I made it unfair, or if the party was doing things wrong and complaining about it. I came to the conclusion that it was poorly designed, but their strategies of fighting opponents 400 feet in the air with axe-juggling and trying to find a "bendable tree" to turn into a catapult didn't help. So, between that, and a big fight against a Necromancer Revenant, I've tried to stray away from tough battles. Of course, even the two battles which were tough from a CR perspective (boss battles against a Purple Worm, an Adult Blue Dragon, and a Lich and a bunch of powerful Demons) were won pretty handily. Largely thanks to the OP magic items I gave them, haha.

    Since then, I've tried to focus more on the atmosphere of the fights than the actual mechanics. There was a huge battle late in the game, and it was 90% description, and only about 10% dice rolling.
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  3. - Top - End - #33
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    ElfWarriorGuy

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Well there's close battles and then there's close battles, aren't there? All the stuff people are saying about different groups and different circumstances is certainly true, but I think the biggest factor is the kind of difficulty and the pacing of the fight.

    The difficult fights that I enjoy are difficult not because of the toughness of the enemies, but because the fight keeps changing. New enemies come in from a different direction, new environmental hazards crop up, the enemies change up their tactics, the PCs have to fight through a series of environments rather than staying in one, or the enemies are just an obstacle to a non-combat puzzle that you have to solve mid-fight. These fights feel difficult because you have to adapt, and you feel like lots of things can happen. When you win, it's often because you figured out some trick, or risked some crazy stunt, so you feel awesome for getting through it.

    By contrast, a lot of tough fights can feel like affairs of procedure. It's pretty much determined at the outset which side is going to win, and it's just a matter of slogging through a big pile of attack rolls and hit points to find out which one; a protracted and agonizing suspense. Whatever the result, it doesn't feel like victory or defeat resulted from your actions so much as it resulted from statistics.
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  4. - Top - End - #34
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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Many people do enjoy close battles.

    What they usually don't enjoy at all are battles where they feel like they're going to lose for reasons out of their control. Even if they ultimately win.
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  5. - Top - End - #35
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    People enjoy the feeling of close-ness, among other things. They're less happy about the prospect of losing, especially since that typically means pretty dramatic consequences. The art of designing encounters in TTRPGs is making the difference between the perceived difficulty and the actual difficulty as large as possible.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    In the last episode of Fear the Boot, several of the hosts were talking about how nothing feels better than when you have what looks to be an unwinnable situation or a TPK in progress, but you manage to buckle down, pull through, and just barely scrape by.

    Lots of the gaming advice books, blogs, podcasts, and videos take it for granted that PCs love winning a close fight. Heck, most people also follow that same logic for narratives or for sports, that a close match-up is always more interesting.

    Likewise, I have heard quotes like "Players want to be like John Mclaine, they want to be the hero in the end, but they want to be struggle for it and be beat to hell in the process," or "Players want an easy victory in the moment, but when looking back on it want to to have been the toughest thing ever."

    But, is this actually true?

    My players always freak out in a close encounter, and usually just get angry and start acting out OOC, or get depressed and give up. After winning, they always bitch about how it was too hard, too stressful, too close, to costly, and dwelling on how badly it could have gone. Even years later, rather than telling stories about how they overcame impossible odds due to how awesome they are, they instead tell stories about how horribly they were screwed over and put into unfair situations.

    And, further, when I ask for advice on the forums, it seems that most people agree with them.

    For the record, I don't run an old school meat-grinder or anything of the sort. I pretty much stick to the encounter guidelines in modern DMGs (i.e. averaging four equal CR encounters each adventuring day each using up ~20% of the party's resources); we tend to have one "nail-biter" that could go either way every ~20 combats, and only about 1:10 of those actually results in the party's defeat or a PC death. Actual TPKs are all but unheard of and usually the result of something really weird going on.

    TLDR: In your experience, do players actually prefer tough battles were they struggle to pull through in the end, or do they prefer easy victories where they clearly outclass their opposition?
    Yes on both accounts. My group ended a campaign where we foolishly attacked a city by bypassing the entire plot and just went for it, and we got smoked. The ending of the battle was my character carrying the dying bodies of the entire rest of the party on her back out of the city (as a Monk I could slow fall off the nearby cliff without dying.) It was the most memorable fight of the whole campaign, where we got utterly trounced.
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  7. - Top - End - #37
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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I haven't read the whole thread. I just wanted to say that for me, it needs to feel possible to lose or else the victories seem hollow and I get bored of the game. If the outcome is a forgone conclusion, then just narrate it; why bother rolling dice at all?
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  8. - Top - End - #38
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    RedKnightGirl

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    d6 Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I think the statement that is most telling is that years later they still talk about that one scrape.

    Do they say yeah we were 9th level and found 4 goblin scouts we wiped them out in 1 round. Never drank a potion and our wizard did not cast fireball good day all around. In fact the goblins blows were useless against our armor.

    We remember that battle from 20 years ago?!
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  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I do always feel a bit weird reading these threads, as I personally could not tell you a single thing about any of the tough encounters my parties have had over the years.

    By which I mean I vaguely recall some of them happening, but I would not be able to give you any details on what actually went down in them.

    The fights (and other action scenes) I do remember are the ones where the PCs ended up getting creative. Like when they used a ceiling hook and a rope to choke out a giant, or when I distracted a powerful angel with a thrown dagger before plunging down a crevasse to escape him.

    I also remember the times players got creative to avoid battles. Like when someone used their knowledge of the campaign world and their enemy's plans to talk an ancient evil into surrendering, despite it being personally more powerful than them at the time.

    Those kinds of things stayed in my head. And while sometimes the peril of the situation encouraged these solutions, it didn't always. For me, while some level of danger and stakes are necessary to make a game interesting, they by themselves cannot produce the actual memorable parts. Those being the actions that the characters take to confront the situations in front of them. The worst that can happen for me is that a player is discouraged from taking an interesting action because the scenario is so dangerous that they must play it safe at all times.

    I'll admit I am slightly more likely to remember a tough battle than a cakewalk one, but that is not by itself a positive thing. The toughest encounters I recall where nothing of interest happened are ones I connect with frustration and a lack of moment to moment choice. Comparatively, an absolute cakewalk may not be very memorable, but at least it can also be fun in the moment as I just go to town rolling lots of damage and describing how I cut down ranks of goblins.
    Last edited by Theoboldi; 2021-07-14 at 04:13 PM.

  10. - Top - End - #40
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by KillianHawkeye View Post
    I haven't read the whole thread. I just wanted to say that for me, it needs to feel possible to lose or else the victories seem hollow and I get bored of the game. If the outcome is a forgone conclusion, then just narrate it; why bother rolling dice at all?
    Journey matters. If a fight isn't completely trivial, it can still be tactically interesting even if you're not pushed to the edge of defeat. People also like to cut lose with their abilities and feel powerful. Doing that all the time starts to feel boring, but having a fight that emphasizes how strong your character is can definitely be something people enjoy.

  11. - Top - End - #41
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Many people do enjoy close battles.

    What they usually don't enjoy at all are battles where they feel like they're going to lose for reasons out of their control. Even if they ultimately win.
    That fits me.
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  12. - Top - End - #42
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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I do not recall the difficulty of the battle, I recall the "flair" of the battle.

    For example,
    - I recall a fight where a character did a stiletto leap off the top of a building and into a ganger
    - I recall a different battle where one of the PCs out fast-drew (?) a character they had lost to several times before.
    - I recall a battle where we pulled a animated rug off a guy that sent the other character spinning like a top away
    - I recall a PC sliding down a rope from a tower into a nearby suburb as a Dragon chased behind snapping at their heels
    - I recall a foe being decapitated while the PC said, "There can be only one"
    - I recall PCs fighting a guy where they could not beat his armor, so they lit his helmet on fire. When he took it off to see what he was doing, they all attacked his head!

    That is what I recall. I do not recall if they were tough fights or easy fights, but those moments still stick out in my mind over 20+ years of RPing.
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  13. - Top - End - #43
    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    What do I / my players think of close battles? What do I / my players remember and talk about?

    Off hand? The only "close" battle(s) / campaign(s) I can remember were from the fudge GM who, halfway through the first session of a campaign, I could accurately predict how many and which PCs would still be conscious at the end of the "climactic" final fight with the BBEG, because that's what they'd think world make the best story.

    So, not a fan.

    The RPG fights I remember fondly and talk about is everything that the BDH party, who wades through most opposition like it was human, did. The running battle where my Sentient Potted Plant remembered where we parked. The Monk goddess who solo'd a Balor, and solo'd several "TPK" encounters, and later killed so many Balor that the ensuing explosions took out all their kin, nearly killing the whole party (Quertus survived inside a continent bubble), while she emerged unscathed. The monster that just listened while the party made their plans. That time my character (the party's primary DPS) unexpectedly fled (and the rest of the party didn't), making an encounter much harder than the GM had expected it would be (the group talks about that one a lot). The purple worm who died to psionics stunning it for 3d4 rounds + ride by attack, spirited charge, and a lance. The fight where the PC got melted. Armus moving to protect someone with better defenses than himself (and numerous other Armus clever tactics scenes). When the Corp shocked everyone (including the GM) with just how *legal* his grenade launcher was. When the shirtless pirate Fighter with Great Cleave declared that his favored enemy was "anything you can fit more than one of in a 5' square". The fight where the "town hero" (PC) fumbled a weapon every round, pulling out a new weapon each round, until they were down from "long sword and short sword" to fighting with "pointy stick" and "big rock". That time the archer 1-shot the Dragon. That time the archer dealt with the invisible foe. When the Cleric got hit by so many cumulative "forget the past day" effects that he no longer remembered the party. And *lots* of things that weren't fights.

    My players… talk about encounters where they used Diplomacy instead of fighting, or defeated the fight at the strategic layer. Where they stole mechs or other tech (usually from their enemies, but occasionally from their allies or from neutral 3rd parties). Where the NPC(s) were obnoxious - especially if the PCs gave them their comeuppance. Where the scene was memorable, like an army of robots climbing fences, or a skeletal dinosaur using Swallow Whole and then instantly "pooping" them back out. Where they planned and were in control of (or greatly impacted) how the fight actually played out. Puzzle monsters. Whenever they felt like they "got away with something".

    That's what *my* players talk about years later.

    Not really much correlation with "challenge" in either list, afaict.

  14. - Top - End - #44
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    What I recall tends to be the encounters that suddenly swung from easy to hard, or hard to easy.

    The two round set-up that let me declare a nat-20, no-miss, no-sr, -5 save, disentigrate on the enemy mage while the air elemental twirled all the mooks off a cliff. Grease & snatch on the one-really-big-giant's weapon, making it a pushover. The "your jump check is what? you do what with the fire staff? that put your ac at what?" that fragged half an army and put the warrior in the middle of the enemy commanders on round two. The demon dragon that accidentally paralyzed the whole party for minutes except the mage's new golem. The "level appropriate" scry-&-die on the party that TPKed us because the one character with anti-scry & no-surprise was out shopping and everyone rolled abysimal initatives. The simple kneecapping run that resulted in a couple police helicopters machine-gunning down the runner team in downtown Seattle. The "oh a demon-lord. maybe towing an unshielded ship through the warp wasn't as good of an idea as we thought" encounter.

    Those are the ones we keep talking about.
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  15. - Top - End - #45
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    Talakeal's Avatar

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    It's personally subjective, but it depends if I think the DM provided a fair fight. If I get the impression the DM stacked the deck in the bad guy's favor I'm not having fun. We still win, but I don't enjoy the victory because I was miserable playing it. This doesn't mean I think the DM was being a tyrannical killer DM, but he overdid it trying to make a tough challenge. When the bad guys are just tough monsters and/or the battlefield is unusual it can be a real blast. It's difficult to explain how a combat is stacked against us. It is subjective, and I can admit sometimes maybe I'm being the donkey about it because the other players are having fun and I'm already trusting the DM I just think he erred.

    I suppose a defining trait I can name where I think the deck was stacked is when a surprise round or round 1 is an almost TPK. Not necessarily anyone even dropped, but when even the warriors want to cry Medic! it leaves a sour taste. If it's not damage it's a Save or Suck effect where you lose the first two rounds of play doing nothing or you suffer a debilitating effect for the entire combat. I know this can sound petty and immature, but the context matters. I'm ok with the party getting hit by a mind flayer's Psionic Blast when we know we will be facing mind flayers, but when all we're doing is walking in a cavern not knowing there will be mind flayers and suddenly four appear and blast the party then we get attacked by umberhulks, I want the combat over with already.

    I have confidence the DM is not trying to kill the party on purpose. If I thought he would do that I wouldn't be playing. I enjoy the tough battles when it's a war of attrition. The tension builds. It's round 6, and the fight is still going. I don't enjoy the battles when retreat looks like a good option, and Round 1 is not even half-way done.
    I agree with you in principle, although I am not sure about the specifics.

    Fudging dice or monster stats, metagaming, pulling monsters out of nowhere, tailoring enemies to the party, etc. all rub me the wrong way regardless of whether they are in my favor or against me; but I don't think I would qualify an ambush as anything more than realistic tactics unless it was done in a really cheap way out of game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Also,this reminds me, have you given any more thought to the 5-point plan, of providing maximum transparency (among other things)?
    Yes.

    I will definitely be doing stat cards, although I am not sure when exactly I will hand them out.

    The black box text is a lot harder for me to figure out how to do.

    Speaking of which, are you planning on replying to my questions about treasure and motivation in the other thread?

    Because I really do think that, ironically, me being overly generous has inadvertently created a sense of obligation and bitterness which was the opposite of my intent, but this isn't really the best place to talk about that.
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  16. - Top - End - #46
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    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Yes, people love close battles. In just about any game "close" is much more interesting and exciting. Everyone tunes in to watch that game that is tied 12 to 12, but no one watches that 36 to zero game.

    I have found a LOT of players really do just want an easy game. Show up, don't think much and just "win". Though plenty of GMs want this too.

    I'm not one of them. I feel the whole game should be edge of your seat excitement. All battles should be close. Not so much on dice rolls, but more on actions. My game has very few easy, one sided battles. They simply never happen as I see them as pointless. I'm not going to run a combat where some 10th level players kill a group of 1st level kobolds. When such an event happens, I'll do it off game: "you kill all the kobolds".

    My default encounter is hard for many players, and often very hard or even impossible. I use tricks, traps, tactics, common sense and surprise in every encounter. A lot of players are not ready for it. A lot of players have only played in much less intense games. They are use to fights just being where the PC target the foes for a couple rounds and win the fight. When even something as simple as a goblin using a ranged disarm to knock their PCs weapon out of their hand will have them react with confusion. When the evil fire mage first has some fire snakes grapple the PCs then he blasts them with fire spells from far away, they react with horror.

    Some can't handle that type of game, and many just don't want too. But there are enough that do. And they are the players I look for. Quite often a new player might loose and have dozens of characters die over a couple weeks. And sometimes, things will just 'click' for the player: they will suddenly "get it". They will start using ricks, traps, tactics, common sense and surprise in every encounter.

    And, for me, this is the perfect encounter: two sides fully immersed and engaged and doing everything they can to succeed for their side.

    Once the players develop this real life gaming skill, they might even be able to have easy not even close encounters. But they will have earned it, and they will know the encounter was only easy as they worked to make it happen that way.

  17. - Top - End - #47
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    biggrin Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Let’s start with: Talakeal’s surreal table of circular hatred likes nothing but imposing misery on each other, so there is no circumstantially accurate answer to the deep question here.

    However, if we take the question at face value, how much people like close battles is some combination of several factors (beyond the people).

    1. How exciting is combat? If you’re in D&D or some other combat system that is just a very long winded way to do resource analysis over time with the option for gotcha-Magic-puzzle, largely dictated by decisions in build and class made several sessions (aka a real world month) then the actual execution of the battle isn’t fun, or particularly reflective of player actions “in the heat of it”. And if it’s not fun and reflective of your actions, then there is not a whole lot of value to be gained in a “close” battle. After all, the player had very little to do with it in the immediate and visceral sense. In better combat systems, it goes up…

    2. How much risk is there? Zero to Hero games, like D&D, require you to have invested a great deal of time before a “close fight” means more than a good or bad roll. It’s 14x sessions to lvl 5, and if you played that at 3x/mo, that means basically the length of an academic semester. Which means you can lose all of that in a close battle, and can only have a close battle after you’ve got a lot to lose. Many other games both allow you to be powerful enough to be tactically interesting in little (or no) time invested, so you can get close battles early and with plenty of risk to the character but very little to the player.

    3. What are the game expectations? If it’s the type of game where character death is expected, overcoming setbacks is part of gameplay, and failure is a routine event then players are mentally prepped to take on odds they might not win. If the basic premise of the game is that competent play should ROFLSTOMP all but the baddest bosses, then frequent close battles - or even a handful of 50/50s, since those odds at up - are going to feel like the GM trying to screw you over.

    4. How much player agency is there in making it close? A riff on 1 here - if the battle is mostly determined by the GM selection just such a pool of HP and spells/abilities/etc - then there’s not any feeling that the players triumphed. Just that they were at the mercy or non-mercy of the GMs scenario design skills. And if that GM had a situation he just had to have, maybe his rail road skills too. If the players really feel like zigging left instead of right as an active decision made the difference, far more psychic reward for figuring out how to win when it was close than if it’s all just flavor for the pre-arranged equations running with a dice provided Rand() function.

  18. - Top - End - #48
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    When I ran jade regent, the most memorable battles were the following:

    White dragon
    Raven
    A pair of dragon turtles
    The woman in control of the weather tower
    A arachnae with class levels accompanied with 4 shadow dancers..
    The boss of book 4.

    The dragon turtles flat out killed a pc and, when it became clear they would lose, fled underwater. They hunted down their lair after resurrecting the dead pc and resting. The turtles were still licking their wounds and had less than half health.

    The dragon should have been a tough fight, but got its ass kicked to a pair of crits.

    The raven escaped. And set a trap.
    And escaped and set a trap.
    And escaped and set a trap.
    By the time they caught that raven, they were ready to roast it alive.

    The boss of book 4 was hilarious. The party was running around with an artifact weapon. A monk successfully disarmed and stole it, getting away and presented the weapon to the boss. The boss promptly lost the ensuing ego battle, got taken over by the sword who promptly killed all his remaining underlings.

    The Arachnae was supposed to go insane and attack the party, but I rewrote him to trail the party and harass them. Since they were shapeshifters, they kept approaching the party to try and get nonexistant items from them. I just kept writing new schemes. Of course, it was always a guy and 4 women so it was always easy to tell. Became a running gag.

    The cleric in charge of the weather tower was one of the longest fights I've ever run. Everyone involved exhuasted every ability they had. No one could reach her. It took nearly 40 rounds. She was ultimately defeated by wand of magic missle and guy with sword finally catching up to her with air walk. Buffs wore off, By the end, we just wanted it to be OVER.

    Anyways, the point I am making is the reasons fights get remembered is because of a myriad of things. I have watched players remember battles where their dice rolled low so many times. Sometimes it's because something funny happens. Sometimes it's because the bastard got away.

    Yes, sometimes it's because it came down to the wire. You pulled the fight out of your ass in an all out attempt and triumphed with the skin of your teeth. But just as often it's the opposite.

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    That fits me.
    "I'm going to lose and there's nothing I can do" is rarely a good thing, even if you end up not losing.
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    One of the problems with a difficult combat is

    1) they take too long
    2) little roleplaying in combat, just dice rolling
    3) Often only a few people in the party are useful
    4) not only the combat takes a long time, the preparations can take forever as well.

    Not saying there should not be any difficult combat, but it shouldn't be too often IMHO.

  21. - Top - End - #51
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    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    ...Because I really do think that, ironically, me being overly generous has inadvertently created a sense of obligation and bitterness which was the opposite of my intent...
    The ironic thing is that you think you've been generous with your players. Based entirely on what I've seen you post, "overly generous" is possibly the last way I'd describe your GMing style or your communication with your players.

  22. - Top - End - #52
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Onos View Post
    The ironic thing is that you think you've been generous with your players. Based entirely on what I've seen you post, "overly generous" is possibly the last way I'd describe your GMing style or your communication with your players.
    Do note, I am specifically talking about how much treasure I give out, not some broader picture of my game as a whole.


    And yeah, this is the lovely thing about forums, you get crap for no matter what you do; I remember one poster telling me that I was being extremely generous by not throwing out my player 20 years ago when he carved up my mom's table with his pocket knife to "punish me for running a boring game".
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    And yeah, this is the lovely thing about forums, you get crap for no matter what you do; I remember one poster telling me that I was being extremely generous by not throwing out my player 20 years ago when he carved up my mom's table with his pocket knife to "punish me for running a boring game".
    Yes, that's how most large groups of people work, they have different opinions. So on one hand, you might get crap for whatever you do, but you also might get people supporting whatever you do.

    Personally, I think that if your description of your players is in any way accurate, the fact that you keep playing with them at all might have crossed the line between generous and masochistic.

  24. - Top - End - #54
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I not only enjoy battles that are close where we barely pull out a victory.

    I also enjoy the battles that we lose.

    Sometimes a TPK, running away, or a whole party capture makes for a great story. And the main reason we play D&D is to have fun stories.

    YMMV
    Last edited by Democratus; 2021-07-15 at 07:45 AM.

  25. - Top - End - #55
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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    I think it also matters what system you're playing, or even how the rest of your day/week went. If I had a really stressful week at work, I just want to chop things to pieces quickly, sort of letting off steam without really hurting people. But when it's been a nice week, I do enjoy close fights where you really have to think your way through. Those things also play a major role in how combats are perceived.
    And the system also matters. For instance in L5R, dying to protect the empire is something every character (not player, character) should be willing to do. In those cases, losing a character doesn't bother me, as it's build into the system. But also in other systems, if for instance you fight to protect your loved ones is different than just a bunch of unknown people.

    And the GM can think a combat will be difficult and the players walk over it, while another fight perceived by the GM as easy almost ends up a TPK due to bad (or good) luck with the dice (it has happened to me more than once in my roleplaying 'career', as player and GM).
    Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett

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    "I will not yield to evil, unless she's cute."

  26. - Top - End - #56
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    KorvinStarmast's Avatar

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordante View Post
    One of the problems with a difficult combat is

    1) they take too long
    2) little roleplaying in combat, just dice rolling
    3) Often only a few people in the party are useful
    4) not only the combat takes a long time, the preparations can take forever as well.
    Not sure why you assert point 2.
    I've seen a number of hard combats where it was the tactical choices and positioning, or use of terrain, that made a big difference. Once last year: shoving a hill giant giant and a few ogres off of a cliff/mountainside to get through a mountain pass: the encounter was right at "Deadly" and was resolved in two turns (shove/help as well as an enlarge spell being cast). In that case, among others, less dice rolling thanks to smart players. It didn't kill the giant, and only killed one ogre (the fall) but it cleared the pass (they were in a bit of a ticking clock situation).
    Long combats? Yes, more dice get rolled since more rounds and turns happen. But a good DM with a group of attentive, engaged players can keep the pace of combat going.
    (And sadly, it can also take all night to do it, seen that too).

    If you go to the the 'thread of awesome' I shared a "we were fleeing for our lives" session from an RPG called Space Quest. It was one of those cases where the danger increased as the session went on based on our decisions as players: the consequences ended up being "get out of this city/starport by any means available or be shot on sight/captured" when it started out as an innocuous "meet in a bar and try to get a mission to make dough" ...
    Last edited by KorvinStarmast; 2021-07-15 at 08:27 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malifice View Post
    (paraphrased) Rulings are not 'House Rules.' Rulings are a DM doing what DMs are supposed to do.
    Quote Originally Posted by greenstone View Post
    Agency means that they {players} control their character's actions; you control the world's reactions to the character's actions.
    Gosh, 2D8HP, you are so very correct!

  27. - Top - End - #57
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by denthor View Post
    I think the statement that is most telling is that years later they still talk about that one scrape.

    Do they say yeah we were 9th level and found 4 goblin scouts we wiped them out in 1 round. Never drank a potion and our wizard did not cast fireball good day all around. In fact the goblins blows were useless against our armor.

    We remember that battle from 20 years ago?!
    This is what my groups believe. Not just difficulty but the flair of how it gets pulled off.

    I remember a fight where the cleric was killed, my fighter was hit with a maximized touch of idiocy and was at 4 int (I was an combat expertise fighter and had a spare int item on). I was at 1/2 health when I killed he last enemy and wandered around the city hugging the bloody corpse of my friend grunting for help.

    I was a Halfling sword sage that was killed in the 3rd round of the campaign ending fight with a big archmage. Fight lasted 14 rounds or something insane. Lots of dispels, battlefield control, and summons. My pc was the only death. T'was glorious.

    Fight was a green dragon in its own lair. The GM let us fudge a rule to use wall of force over a huge spiked pit that lead into the main lair in a horizontal manner so we could charge across. It was for the cinematic At the time on of the pcs had a purple dragon knights commander's ring. That fight SUCKED. Our DM was an expert in running dragons and properly using their magical abilities and spells to handle buffs, battlefield control, and deception. No one died in that fight but the wizard and cleric were mostly tapped by the end and everyone was at 1/3 hp.



    Death isn't what makes the challenge. Die rolls and luck shouldn't be a major factor. The drain on resources to win is what makes the challenge. In most cases above the PC were a clear win and safe bet but had to fight and crawl to get there.

  28. - Top - End - #58
    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Yes.
    Cool.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I will definitely be doing stat cards, although I am not sure when exactly I will hand them out.
    "The moment they learn of the existence of the creature" seems a good answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    The black box text is a lot harder for me to figure out how to do.
    Definitely workshop it with us! I'm sure lots of Playgrounders would be glad to give their 2¢.

    Actually, workshopping it with us before giving it to your players was part of the point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Speaking of which, are you planning on replying to my questions about treasure and motivation in the other thread?

    Because I really do think that, ironically, me being overly generous has inadvertently created a sense of obligation and bitterness which was the opposite of my intent, but this isn't really the best place to talk about that.
    Planning to, yes. I've thrown away several responses that felt… wrong. Like I was missing the forest for the trees maybe.

    Senility willing, I'll try again… or give up, and post something terse, that probably only covers a small part of what I want to say.

  29. - Top - End - #59
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    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    In the last episode of Fear the Boot, several of the hosts were talking about how nothing feels better than when you have what looks to be an unwinnable situation or a TPK in progress, but you manage to buckle down, pull through, and just barely scrape by.

    Lots of the gaming advice books, blogs, podcasts, and videos take it for granted that PCs love winning a close fight. Heck, most people also follow that same logic for narratives or for sports, that a close match-up is always more interesting.

    Likewise, I have heard quotes like "Players want to be like John Mclaine, they want to be the hero in the end, but they want to be struggle for it and be beat to hell in the process," or "Players want an easy victory in the moment, but when looking back on it want to to have been the toughest thing ever."

    But, is this actually true?

    My players always freak out in a close encounter, and usually just get angry and start acting out OOC, or get depressed and give up. After winning, they always bitch about how it was too hard, too stressful, too close, to costly, and dwelling on how badly it could have gone. Even years later, rather than telling stories about how they overcame impossible odds due to how awesome they are, they instead tell stories about how horribly they were screwed over and put into unfair situations.

    And, further, when I ask for advice on the forums, it seems that most people agree with them.

    For the record, I don't run an old school meat-grinder or anything of the sort. I pretty much stick to the encounter guidelines in modern DMGs (i.e. averaging four equal CR encounters each adventuring day each using up ~20% of the party's resources); we tend to have one "nail-biter" that could go either way every ~20 combats, and only about 1:10 of those actually results in the party's defeat or a PC death. Actual TPKs are all but unheard of and usually the result of something really weird going on.

    TLDR: In your experience, do players actually prefer tough battles were they struggle to pull through in the end, or do they prefer easy victories where they clearly outclass their opposition?
    The thread has gone on a while but I'm going to respond to the OP.


    I find players enjoy "Close" Battles based on how they end, which means it's a difficult thing to shoot for.


    A "Close" Battle random encounter against some bandits or the ogres guarding the door isn't fun. It's stressful and exhausting and at the end of it you feel like all you've done is Survive, and if you expect ANOTHER pile of fights of similar difficulty, it can feel hopeless.

    Meanwhile, a "Close" battle against the Dark Sorcerer and his Dread Knights that ends with the PC's going back to town to spend their loot and rest is going to feel really good. It's going to feel like triumphing over great odds, because at the end of the fight, the stress has a cathartic release and the PC's Don't Have To Worry Anymore.

    A Close battle is a memorable one that feels like a Triumph to win, but only if it's an actual, significant Victory, after which point the resources you expended winning it become less relevant because you can rest up and restock. "Whew, we barely won that by spending everything we had!" vs "Oh no! We spent everything we had and now we Still Have more!". One feels exhilerating, one feels exhausting.


    You run 4 equal-CR encounters each day. Lets say there's a 10% chance of any of those going bad due to RNG or players not picking up on something or you miscalculating the difficulty due to other factors or what have you, turning a Reliable Win into a Close Fight. If the Fight is presented as no more significant or memorable than any of the fights they've been reliably winning, it can produce feelings of helplessness and frustration and unfairness.

    Another thing to note is that you seem pretty methodical in your encounter preparation. Percieved difficulty can be very different from ACTUAL difficulty.


    I frequently see my players being like "Wow that was tough" in a fight where one of them got low, one of them got bloodied, and two were practically untouched, because the collective party goal was "Don't let anybody go down", and they got close to failing that, and because from the other side of the screen, not knowing how hard the enemies hit or how much health they have left, only seeing your mere 50 HP instead of the 200 HP spread across a party of 4, things can feel fraught and far more dangerous than they actually are. This isn't DMing slight-of-hand, it's just the nature of the experience.

    Similarly, you the DM know what's coming up. If they expend valuable resources against the first fight, that feels Bad, since they don't know what they'll need later, and will assume the answer is "Everything".
    Last edited by BRC; 2021-07-15 at 12:00 PM.
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  30. - Top - End - #60
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    Default Re: Do people really enjoy close battles?

    Last night was a case in point. (D&D 5e).

    Very hard fight, very close to losing a PC to PC death (he was at two failed death saves, 1 success, when someone got a healing word to him). Lots of conditions imposed on players, opposing casters casting spells like fireball, darkness, hold person ...

    Some key tactical decisions made by the players made a substantial difference in the outcome.
    Dice weren't particularly cruel to either side, a few crits here and there, nothing out of the ordinary.

    As they explored after the big fight another pocket of enemies cropped up when they went down stairs - near the session's end - three of the party had single digit HP before they left the temple behind them, on fire from the fires they'd set before they headed back to town.

    To a man, the players were exultant and gave me the old "great session!" feedback.

    Do we have one of these in every session?
    No.
    Avatar by linklele. How Teleport Works
    Quote Originally Posted by Malifice View Post
    (paraphrased) Rulings are not 'House Rules.' Rulings are a DM doing what DMs are supposed to do.
    Quote Originally Posted by greenstone View Post
    Agency means that they {players} control their character's actions; you control the world's reactions to the character's actions.
    Gosh, 2D8HP, you are so very correct!

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