I am sure it will come as no surprise to my fellow Variants that I really enjoy the combat in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. While a good chunk of the rules for players are combat oriented, its is important to remember the title of this post. D&D is not a war game. Before you raise your torches and pitchforks, hear me out! What I mean is, while combat is a part of D&D, for some parties perhaps a major part, there are other aspects outside of combat.
A quick bit of definition – a war game is a combat only game, like RISK or Bolt Action. The only objective is to defeat your enemy and win by any means necessary.
Lets say your adventuring party is ambushed along the road by bandits. This is almost a right of passage for TTRGP parties. When the bandits approach, the party has a chance to try and talk their way out of the encounter, or can even run away if they choose to. In a War Game, the party would be forced into a combat encounter. The difference is, in a ttrpg, the party should have the option of turning something into a combat encounter. And if, like me, the party enjoys the combat of D&D or their preferred TTRPG, they probably will.
Now, it is totally possible to run a TTRPG as a war game, were every encounter is a combat encounter. The defining difference is the option of player choice. The party has the option to try and mitigate the encounter by sneaking, negotiating, retreating, or many other options. As a DM, it is important to remember to keep player choice as a concern when designing encounters.
How do you run your combat encounters? Do you like war games? If so, tell us which ones in the comments.