Monday, August 09, 2010

On Combat and Exploration

Many see the primary activity in D&D as combat. It is said that D&D is about "killing things and taking they're stuff." I see it differently, as my favorite activity is exploration and I see that as the primary activity. Combat is something that often happens while exploring dungeons, but is not the only activity that adventurers engage in, in fact it can often be not the best solution or even counter productive, especially when facing a superior foe.

What made me think about this is the rather awesome, but also very long, combat that occurred in the latest session of my D&D campaign. In many ways it reminded me of my experiences in playing 4th Edition wherein combat is a very significant part of the game, certainly the central aspect, and also debatably more important than in other editions of D&D. This is part of why so many dislike that version of D&D and certainly why I prefer other versions myself. Despite what some have said though, it is not because 4th edition lacks "non-combat rules". In fact with the advent of the skill challenge it can be said to have more rules for non-combat than any other version of D&D. I personally do not believe that having many rules for non-combat is necessarily even desirable. In many cases having a few simple rules will serve better, as more complex rules may in fact bog down the game.

There are many aspects of the topic of D&D as a game of exploration that I could discuss. These include the role of mapping in making exploration more interesting, how many empty rooms should be included in a good dungeon, the use of tricks and traps, and many other things. Perhaps I will discuss those in further blog entries.


  1. I think it has been said, somewhere, that dungeons are mostly empty rooms. I’m still learning how to make threatening traps in my adventures. I've got a murder mystery adventure on one of my adventure design Bunsen burners. As a fan of the rules-lite school I can do without the skills systems too. But, we fight on and explore deeper.

  2. I am right with you on this: D&D is about exploration. Combat is something that happens during exploration.

    The unit of play is the site; the encounter happens within the site, but can be handled in many different ways, including, but not limited to, not being discrete entities. I.e., encounters can and should sometimes run together!

    I find the idea that D&D is a game about fights, so that it is okay to make fights last 45+ minutes to deal with a few kobolds, to be one of the worst misunderstandings about what made the original game work that ever came down the pike.