The question of should we run, or can we defeat every monster.
I think my answer firmly puts me in the "combat as war" camp, but also perfectly shows off one of the things that I love about RPGs. Something that keeps me coming back.
For those too lazy to follow the link, here's the question and my response:
Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? You don't NEED to run. But see questions 1 and 2 above if you don't when you should. If you're clever, though, yes, you CAN kill everything. It's up to you to figure out how in some cases.Questions 1 and 2 being about character generation and character death (for me, at 0 hit points, no "death and dying" rules).
Should every encounter be one where the players can just attack and expect to win? Absolutely not.
Should there be a way that even a single level 1 PC could destroy the toughest of dragons, giants or balrogs? Yes, there absolutely should...
...if the player is clever enough to think of one, that is.
If I throw a super tough monster in an encounter, or a force of lesser monsters that can overwhelm the PCs, it's not the time to run in and roll initiative, roll to hit, roll damage, rinse and repeat.
Running is likely the best option (surrender is also on the table, but I don't think that's often happening in most RPGs).
But just like Spider-Man, who gets whipped up on by the Hobgoblin in the first few pages of the comic, if the players can come up with some clever stratagem to defeat the overpowered foes, there should be decent odds for it to actually work.
Players need to realize, though, that even when they have that foolproof plan to lure the dragon into wasting its breath weapons on illusions, quaffing the potion of diminution that it thinks is a potion of invisibility, and then stuffing it into the bag of holding and tossing it into the bottomless pit, that plan might not be as foolproof as they would like. Things may go wrong, and likely there will be a TPK or near TPK if something does go wrong.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Think it's not worth the risk? Then stick to the orc warrens and sewers chock full of giant rats until you feel tough enough, by all means.
Again, I'm reminded of the bear cave in my Board Game Group sandbox game from 2 years ago. For a party of low level characters, two bears were a dangerous encounter, but one they could have won with more luck or the right tactics. Dave had suggested the correct tactics (going back to town for boar spears to keep the bears at bay), and if they had followed through, they could have defeated the bears without suffering the lost characters.
The stuffing the diminutive dragon into a bag of holding was something Killing Machine came up with back when we were kids.
Next time you find yourself up against a foe that you can't defeat toe to toe, try to think of some way to flood the Augean stables, keep the trolls arguing until the sun rises, go forth and bring back a shrubbery, or take off and nuke the entire site from orbit.
And as old Jack Burton says, "It's all in the [mental] reflexes."