My L5R game on Friday was pretty short. It wasn't really anyone's fault. Life just conspired to keep most of the players away through when we normally begin, and then the normal social time before game began took a little long. However, because of that short time something I didn't realize was needed happened in the game. We had a combat.
Looking back on the session and the game it is pretty easy and obvious to see a combat was needed. Everyone in the game is playing a combat character, and we haven't had a fight in nearly six sessions or more as the group has been tied up with more political things. More to the point though, the group had recovered and been training but their last fight had been a big battle where most of the PCs - while gaining tons of glory and fame - had been pulled out of the fight close to dead with one of their number actually dead for really reals.
With that in mind, and with about half a session to play with, I brought the group into a situation where they could be fully geared up and got into a fight. I threw a horde of zombies at them and a maho tsukai (blood magic user) as a leader. The zombies let me use a lot of bad guys so the PCs could feel good about hitting often and doing damage while I could still have attacks for threat. The maho tsukai gave a clear leader for them to look at.
So what happened? The new person in the group got to show off how he fights. The players got to see how their characters worked in a fight again. best of all, they were reminded that there are areas - useful areas - where they are bad asses (they're all about Rank 4-5 so being bad ass is deserved and expected. :) )
The fight wasn't what I had planned, but it was still good to be there. Characters got to let off some steam. Players got to feel cool. They got to fight against something that was clearly evil. It was a tension break without actually killing the mood of what else was going on.
So keep it in mind. Sessions without combat can be great. Sometimes though, you just need a combat.