Friday, April 26, 2013

Discussion: If Not Combat, What?

So when I was talking about the Golden Sky Stories Kickstarter I mentioned that one thing I liked about the game was that it didn't have an emphasis on combat. This alone makes the game rare as an RPG where the largest section in almost every core book is the section on how you handle combat and most power balancing is done around combat.

With this in mind, my question to you for today is that if we're not focusing our game around combat then what would we do? John Wick tried this with his game SexCraft where conflict is done through sex instead of fighting. It is a nifty idea, but the rules for sex (competitive sex at least) basically read like a simplified combat system. That system could just as easily be turned to duelists with rapiers as anything else and still work.

Games like L5R and World of Darkness have heavy social aspects to them, but how do you make conversation and social interaction fair in a way where someone isn't penalized for not being as witty as their friend? How do you represent all the myriad shades of gray in believing someone's story. There have been plenty of times where someone has lied to me convincingly and I've still doubted it just because I knew who they were. Is that me winning the contested roll due to situational modifiers? Or did I fail the roll - so I can't tell if they're lying - but just going on with my own opinion?

Finally, we could all take a page from movies and shows where the "action" in the show can be focused on playing a sport, baking bread, dance competitions, and a host of other things. These would need rules too. In some cases they would need rules more complex than combat, and that could ruin the magic of what makes these activities work. Still, it is an idea.

What do you think?


  1. I'd say combat boils down to the fun of "winning." Off the top of my head, there could also be social interaction (the fun of roleplaying), exploration (the fun of finding new things/places), intrigue/investigation (the fun of solving mysteries), subterfuge (the fun of deceiving/outwitting others), storytelling (the fun of participating in an interesting plot), and comedy (the fun of experiencing funny/silly situations). There's probably more.

  2. The best example of a non-combat focus I've run into in RPGs is "investigation". Character differentiation comes in with interaction skills like perhaps Charm, Intimidation, Interrogation, etc.

    The big plus for a game that requires investigation is it forces a certain amount of role-playing.

    I think Call of Cthulhu & Dark Heresy offer good examples of this. There's plenty of combat in both, but you frequently don't know who to fight until you've investigated....