The Gassy Gnoll: Love and Hate – Combat and Munchkins (RPG Blog Carnival)

Do you wonder what a gnoll hates above all else? Probably baths. You just get a good ripe stench going and your mom or mate tells you it’s time for the yearly bath… Don’t you just hate that? Of course, secretly all gnolls like the yearly bath too. It gives them a clean slate to stink up over the next year…

But really I’m guessing you don’t care about gnoll hygiene. You’re more interested in what *this* Gassy Gnoll loves and hates in terms of gaming and adventures. After all, that’s the mission of this month’s RPG blog carnival as kicked off by Jonathan Jacobs at Nevermet Press…

I’ll come right out and admit that I have a love/hate relationship with combat. Sure, it’s a part of the balance of a hobby that spun out of wargaming. And I will reluctantly admit that combat and roleplaying must achieve some kind of balance to have an effective, well-rounded gaming session and campaign. But does it have to take so bloody long?

Ultimately that’s one of my issues with every version of Dungeons & Dragons and other rules-heavy, combat-option-laden rules systems. There was a time (30 years ago) when the idea of a battle that ran for 4-8 hours would be welcome, but that time is long past. These days it’s more about the camaraderie and the challenge of finding those key elements of a character to roleplay around. If I can do that in combat, all the better. But usually combat is played out on a map with figures, turns, and dice and gets more and more boring as time drags on…

That said, I know that the problem is usually more about the experience of the players and GM than the actual combat itself. If you have a good GM and experienced players, combat can last for 4-6 hours and work just fine (and I can have a good time). But if you have to constantly go over the rules and have players suffering from analysis paralysis with too many options, even a short combat that should only last 30-60 minutes can end up doubling or tripling the time. And I’m not perfect. Not even close. Sometimes I get a mental block about combat and I fall into the inexperienced camp of players myself.

So as much as it pains me to admit, I think 4e’s breakdown of the various actions and powers into “cards” that come along with character sheets now is an amazing way to shortcut some of that analysis paralysis problem. At least you *know* what your character can do… He has these regular attacks and these daily or encounter powers have the following caveats… Wham! You have your options clearly laid out in front of you. Pick one or two and move on.

I’m hopeful that D&D Next hangs on to that approach. It helps both new and old players keep track of what it is they’re doing when they get side-tracked with a witty quote or a piece of pizza.

Know what else I hate? Munchkins. No, I’m not talking about gnoll spawn here. I’m talking about those folks who min-max their characters and have no idea what to do when roleplaying. I’m talking about those people who want to strip bodies and combat locations of anything not nailed down so they can sell it to squeeze every last copper out of an encounter. I’m talking about those people who choose to play characters of a particular alignment even though during combat they turn into chaotic evil monsters with sadist tendencies.

I’m sure you’ve encountered one or two of these types of people in your gaming travels. If not, I applaud your good fortune.

Yes, I know I was once a munchkin myself. I’ll admit it. It was 30 years ago and I was twelve. We counted every coin, every gem, every item in one of Tiamat‘s lairs and went on huge spending sprees on the Prime Material Plane. Yes, we did that and had fun doing it. But that was three bloody decades ago and we stopped pretty quickly after that. So I know it’s possible to outgrow munchkin tendencies. I believe that everybody can change, if they want to.

But some people don’t want to change. Don’t want to accept that it’s a problem. So they happily, blindly keep moving forward having fun as munchkins…

Thankfully, none of the players in either of the groups I’m currently playing with fits this description. But I’ve dealt with them in the past. And
it wasn’t my favorite part of those gaming groups, let me tell you.

Let’s leave it there. Combat and munchkins. One I can deal with and the other I can’t.

What do you love and hate about gaming? Let’s hear about it in the comments. Or write up a post of your own and contribute back to the carnival at Nevermet Press. The more the merrier!

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