John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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RPGaDay2021 in August - August 3rd: Tactic

We continue on today with #RPGaDay2021 in August.

Day 3 - Tactic.

Tactics in roleplaying games are usually associated in roleplaying games, especially fantasy rpgs, with combat. This is natural, of course, since one needs solid tactical and strategic approaches to fighting goblins, orcs, etc.. The same can be said about engaging with alien creatures on a far off world or when dealing with a dogfight in space between ships, and of course, fighting some creature out of Call of Cthulhu mythos (although usually the best tactic in the latter case is to get the heck out of there!). Tactics usually take one of two forms in (fantasy) roleplaying games.

First of all, in games that don't use a tactical display and instead work through the "theatre of the mind" format, tactics tend to be a bit less meaningful, since both players and GM are having to "see" the combat situation in their heads. Sure, the GM may give the players a crudely drawn map of the game situation and environment, so that they can visualize where the player characters are in relation to the bad guys (whatever they might be), but this relies more on everyone being on the same page when it comes to imagining where the heroes and villains are in relation to one another. The players have to rely on the GM for telling them where they are in relation to the bad guys, and if one has archers on either side, the players rely on the GM to tell them ranges and the like. Tactics don't necessarily come into this theatre of the mind approach to combat, simply because it tends to be more narrative and all for the most part. These systems also don't tend to have detailed combat systems in terms of tactical manuevers and the like, though it depends on the game system and mechanics.

The second approach is that of a tactical (somewhat might argue wargame-like) combat system that uses a tactical display and offers up specific rules for handling combat and the like. Tactical combat systems such as this are rarer than they used to be, simply because it seems most game designers and players don't really want a system that has tactical combat in it, as it tends to take more time to play out a combat at the table, and requires the use of miniatures, combat grids, possibly terrain tiles and maps, and the like. When it comes down to it, rpgs that approach combat in this tactical manner tend to be more gritty, somewhat deadly, and can offer players a bewildering array of combat tactics. The biggest problem with this approach is that not all players are good at strategy and tactics, and there's a difficulty at times with players who aren't very good at tactics playing a character that is very good with tactics in combat. The games that use tactical combat rules and mechanics can lead to players suffering from action paralysis, the state of indecision about what tactic to use at any moment in the game, and can cause combat in the game to drag on. How the GM and the players deal with this I leave as an exercise for those reading this blog entry. That said, rpgs with tactical combat also encourage the players to actually have their characters work together to overcome their antagonists. And one gets to see the personality of the characters in tactical combat, as the actions the player takes are usually based on the character personality they've come up with for the game. There are other problems that arise in tactical combat rpgs, but many GMs who use a tactical combat system come up with house rules to cover situations. One rule that I've used to speed up tactical combat in my games is the "five second rule": once the players are used to the combat system, a character has five seconds to take an action when their turn comes around, or they take a Pass action.

Needless to say, every player and GM has their preference for whether they prefer theatre of the mind combat or tactical combat, or perhaps even a combination of the two. It's often said that tactical combat games conjure up the image of hex and bean counting. This is true to some extent, but the experience can be made fun by the GM and the players treating such tactical combat as fun, with a serious edge to it. When it comes down to it, however, for me personally, the fun tactics in roleplaying games and combat, whether using theatre of the mind or tactical combat, aren't just limited to spatial awareness and using a set of tactics that one might have read about or watched in a movie - it's about the use of the game environment at the moment in creative ways, the use of improvisation and adapting to the evolving game situation on the combat grid, and to put it bluntly, blagging. :)

And there you have it, my thoughts on this third day of #RPGaDay for August, 2021.

Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course. :)
Tags: #rpgaday, #rpgaday2021, gaming hut, personal, rpg hut

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