On Friday the new GM who is running a game hit an important milestone. He ran his first game that had absolutely 0 combat. Yes, weapons were used, but never to shoot another character (PC or otherwise), and the game ran the entirety without a single initiative roll. So, today, I want to talk about some things to keep in mind if you're trying to do that.
The first thing you need to know is that a session without combat is a session where a lot more is going to happen RP wise. This isn't exactly a magical situation though, but combat takes a long time. Even in the most streamlined system the 30 seconds for a single fight to happen can take up as much as 1/2 the session. So, when you aren't using 1/2 the session for those 30 seconds, a lot more other stuff is able to be done. Be prepared for more plot movement in a session without combat, especially if the PCs are geared up for moving things forward.
No Combat Doesn't Mean No Conflict
The other thing to keep in mind is that conflict is still the spice that keeps things interesting. Just because combat isn't happening doesn't mean that conflict shouldn't happen. It just means you need to be more creative about it. Arguments and mental/social problems can be a good idea to have here, as they give the players something to noodle over while they are RPing and moving things along.
A Lot of Side Stuff
Counter to what I said about more stuff happens, sometimes the PCs will take these sessions as an excuse to run wild and do all sorts of random other things. Maybe, out of nowhere, the rogue will start up a drug trade, or the warrior will want to form a martial arts dojo. These things happen, and they will often come out of nowhere. Be prepared for it, some of the most awesome things in games can come from these elements.
If The Players Aren't Showing Aggression...
then don't feel a need to make combats happen to just spice things up. Sometimes people just don't want to have to deal with combats. Sometimes it can be fun to let the hair down and see how Olaf the Barbarian is when he isn't swinging his double axe through goblin warriors. Don't be afraid to let things slow down and ease the tension off, especially if your players are trying to apply the breaks. All tension all the time is bad, let there be dips and lulls.
Is there anything else you feel should be in here? Something I missed? Sound off in the comments.