My players kind of have a habit of, "If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, WE MUST KILL IT!"
Recently they came across a small goblin camp and one of them (who speaks goblin) verbally bluffed the goblins into thinking he was their leader coming back from a meeting or some such business. "Brilliant," I thought, "let's see where they take this"... Into an ambush it turned out.
Or in another example they learned of an enemy supply caravan heading from one town to another in a couple of days, so they ambushed it the road, rather than thinking of another option.
Now I have no problem with this whatsoever, I'm still new to DMing, not yet great at the role-play side of things in any case, running a published campaign, am running things more or less by the book, which my players don't seem to mind, and the caravan combat at least is in the book.
I guess what I'm getting at is; How do I encourage players to think outside the combat box and how do I, as the DM, give them other options without blatantly saying something like "maybe they don't want to fight"?
To hopefully make things a little more clear and to give another example, of which the PCs haven't actually come across yet.
Say the PCs are camping in the forest and whoever's on watch hears wolves howling and getting closer, whether they wake the others up or not my lead in woud be something like;
Eventually there's a rustling in the bushes nearby and you see pairs of glowing red eyes that seem to watch your movement. After a minute or two a pack of wolves stalk out from behind the bushes and into the light of your camp fire, their eyes set with ravenous hunger and their jaws dipping with saliva.
How can I open up the possibility that if the PCs offer up some of their own food supplies than the wolves would be complacent and either back off or stick around for the night in the warmth of the fire and help protect the PCs?
Not looking for answers specifically relating to that scenario but hopefully you get the idea.