Something I briefly talked with Murometz about the other day, combat as war vs. combat as sport and how the two approaches within a group can have a significant impact on play style and encounters.
For those unfamiliar with the two approaches let me give you an example of a specific situation to illustrate the differences: The PCs want to kill some giant bees and take their honey because magic bee honey is worth a lot of money. Different groups approach the problem in different ways.Combat as Sport:
the PCs approach the bees and engage them in combat using the terrain to their advantage, using their abilities intelligently and having good teamwork. The fighter chooses the right position to be able to cleave into the bees while staying outside the radius of the wizard’s area effect spell, the cleric keeps the wizard from going down to bee venom and the rogue sneaks up and kills the bee queen. These good tactics lead to the PCs prevailing against the bees and getting the honey. The GM congratulates them on a well-fought fight.Combat as War:
The PCs approach the bees but there’s BEES EVERYWHERE! GIANT BEES! With nasty poison saves! The PCs run for their lives since they don’t stand a chance against the bees in a fair fight. But the bees are too fast! So the party Wizard uses magic to set part of the forest on fire in order to provide enough smoke (bees hate smoke, right?) to cover their escape.
Then the PCs regroup and swear bloody vengeance against the d**n bees. They think about just burning everything as usual, but decide that that might destroy the value of the honey. So they make a plan: the bulk of the party will hide out in trees at the edge of the bee’s territory and set up piles of oil soaked brush to light if the bees some after them and some buckets of mud.
Meanwhile, the party monk will put on a couple layers of clothing, go to the owl bear den and throw rocks at it until it chases him. He’ll then run, owl bear chasing him, back to where the party is waiting where they’ll dump fresh mud on him (thick mud on thick clothes keeps bees off, right?) and the cleric will cast an anti-poison spell on him.
As soon as the owl bear engages the bees (bears love honey right?) the monk will run like hell out of the area. Hopefully the owl bear and the bees will kill each other or the owl bear will flee and lead the bees away from their nest, leaving the PCs able to easily mop up any remaining bees, take the honey and get the hell out of there. They declare that nothing could possibly go wrong as the GM grins ghoulishly.(The previous example originating from a similar discussion on EN world back in 2012 http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?317715-Very-Long-Combat-as-Sport-vs-Combat-as-War-a-Key-Difference-in-D-amp-D-Play-Styles)
For those who want more on this here's an article covering in better depth the two play styles: http://wanderinggamist.blogspot.com/2012/02/combat-as-war-vs-combat-as-sport.html
I'm just curious where others lean in their approach to combat, and if it changes depending on the rule system or setting?
Personally I've usually defaulted to a combat as war approach in most games, simply because a "fair" fight includes a "fair" chance of losing, and unless my character happens to be a paladin or other honorable sort keen on facing enemies "fairly" in some kind of duel, entering battle without taking steps to tip the scales to my/my groups advantage as far as possible just seems short sighted, especially if the cost of failure is a swarm of Tyranid over running an entire colony or other large scale loss of innocent life.