Anyone run or play in campaigns with very little to no combat encounters?

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I think the sessions that are packed so full of narrative and roleplaying, you don`t have any time for combat, are the most fun there is! I have lately started running my campaign more or less like this, and the group seems happy with having only one combat encounter in the session or non at all. Anyone else do this? Is this common within the 4e system? 
As with all previous editions, my adventures usually include 60-75% of combat encounters. But I greatly encourage roleplaying during combat (roleplaying combat advice, the mood of characters in combat, exchange of words between the PCs and their enemies in a fight, the description of attacks, etc...).

I would never run a D&D session with no combat at all (neither would my players). D&D charatcers across all editions are mostly built for combat. Why would you need hit points, defenses, weapons, offensive spells etc... if it was not to battle with monsters?

Besides, I like when the players have to manage their ressources across several combats in a day. Running only one combat where all PCs would unleash all their ressources is a nonesense to me. But that is my humble point of view of course. I understand different players like different styles of play.
And a valid opinion it is! There is no problem running only one combat in a day, just up the encounter level, like they suggested in the dnd podcast. I believe that combat should be only one of many solutions  they have to solve a problem.
I already ran an combat encounter that was in fact 3 or 4 encounters in a row (with reinforcements and the like). it was quite fun actually and the players liked the thrill of it.
My present group is more like:  "Roleplay?  Let's murder-death-kill some more!"
Not really; D&D in general doesn't have good systems for non-combat stuff.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Not really; D&D in general doesn't have good systems for non-combat stuff.



What kind of system do you really need to roleplay and tell a story?
We have in average 1 fight per session (about 4 hours long) in 4e. Sometimes 2 sometimes none.
we prefer fights to be meaningful rather than fillers (no random encounters, no XP for kills).
That said I'm puzzled when I hear the best game experiences are those without any fight. if so, why bother with having a combat system? Why bother with bringing dice at all? Let's just narrate through it if  that's so much better.
in truth I think the problem is when combat comes as a disruption to the storytelling instead of being organic to it.
We have in average 1 fight per session (about 4 hours long) in 4e. Sometimes 2 sometimes none.
we prefer fights to be meaningful rather than fillers (no random encounters, no XP for kills).
That said I'm puzzled when I hear the best game experiences are those without any fight. if so, why bother with having a combat system? Why bother with bringing dice at all? Let's just narrate through it if  that's so much better.
in truth I think the problem is when combat comes as a disruption to the storytelling instead of being organic to it.



Not saying combat can`t be fun, just that I enjoy what happens between them even more! All the interaction with npc`s or between the pc`s or all the fun stuff the pc`s comes up with. Combat can be very fun too, if you roleplay and improvise and come up with fun things to do! Combat is ok if it makes sense, but it feels wrong to force the pc`s to choose one way to solve a problem, sometimes they should be alowed to find other ways to defeat a challange than to fight. And what I said was that the most fun I have is when the sessions are so packed with storytelling and rp, that we don`t have time for combat! I find exploring and roleplaying to be more fun than combat and the mechanics of the game that pulls you out of the illusion that you are a character in a living world and not a mini on a grid. But that is only my personal taste, and I can enjoy a meaningful combat encounter with rp and flavour too! I sometimes run special or interesting fights, from bar brawls to aerial combat, as skill challanges where I give the characters much of the narrative, that can be very fun!
Eh, I like a little role play. I wouldn't want to do nothing but role play though. Think of it this way: I like role playing someone who is allowed to solve his problems with violence.
Eh, I like a little role play. I wouldn't want to do nothing but role play though. Think of it this way: I like role playing someone who is allowed to solve his problems with violence.



Allowed to, of course! But it is cool to have a choice! Fight the owlbears or sneak around them, befriend them or "bribe" them with meat. Fight the bandits, bribe them with gold, join them or parley a meet with their leader or fool them into fighting amongst eachother. Fighting is a valid option, but I like it when you have other options that feels just as valid too!
Eh, I like a little role play. I wouldn't want to do nothing but role play though. Think of it this way: I like role playing someone who is allowed to solve his problems with violence.



Allowed to, of course! But it is cool to have a choice! Fight the owlbears or sneak around them, befriend them or "bribe" them with meat. Fight the bandits, bribe them with gold, join them or parley a meet with their leader or fool them into fighting amongst eachother. Fighting is a valid option, but I like it when you have other options that feels just as valid too!



Those are all great to turn a combat into a skill challenge. 
Not really; D&D in general doesn't have good systems for non-combat stuff.



What kind of system do you really need to roleplay and tell a story?


If you're good at it, none.

If not, then there are systems which encourage non-combat storytelling a lot better than D&D does, principally by having non-binary successes, and actually devoting significant resources to that part of the game.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
I'm in four different 4E campaigns currently and only rarely do any of them have more than a single combat encounter per session (I can really only think of two main ones and one of those was technically a single encounter with a death trap in between two waves of enemies and no chance to rest), but we've often had sessions with no combat or no combat to speak of... I don't consider it to be a combat when the DM's doesn't even have me roll for initiative during an honor duel against a drunken noble, but instead has me make a Charisma check to see how well I played to the crowd while I demolished him.
I'm in four different 4E campaigns currently and only rarely do any of them have more than a single combat encounter per session (I can really only think of two main ones and one of those was technically a single encounter with a death trap in between two waves of enemies and no chance to rest), but we've often had sessions with no combat or no combat to speak of... I don't consider it to be a combat when the DM's doesn't even have me roll for initiative during an honor duel against a drunken noble, but instead has me make a Charisma check to see how well I played to the crowd while I demolished him.



Nice!
one shots i run tend to be heavy on combat, but my campaigns have a good bit of rp along with combat. in one game we have had a session with no combat, but typically in my campaigns there is at least one encounter, even if it is just a skirmish.
My games tend to be a solid mixture of combat and roleplay.  That being said we do often have games where the entire session (6-8 hours) is spent without combat.  Not too long ago we had 3 sessions in a row with no combat at all.  One of my players (a new player to the game and campaign) was getting a little fidgety about it.  So I sat down and talked to her and helped build her character's persona up so she could better enter the conversations which has handily solved the problem.

All that being said I really dislike skill challenges as written.  I like skill challenges that come in phases, with changes every time someone succeeds or fails.  That means my skill challenges need to be a lot more complicated and flowchart based than the normal ones.  You dont roll 4-8 times before getting the first success/failure in the narrative, you roll maybe twice.

I hate to plug myself (especially when I haven't had time to finish editing and posting the first session) but if you want to listen I have the raw audio from one of my sessions up here:

everygrain.blogspot.com/ 
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
Show
Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
It depend on the session the non-combat/combat ratio...i have DM'd 90% combat session and up to no-combat session.  I try to have atleast 1 encounter per session atleast, thought.
My games tend to be a solid mixture of combat and roleplay.  That being said we do often have games where the entire session (6-8 hours) is spent without combat.  Not too long ago we had 3 sessions in a row with no combat at all.  One of my players (a new player to the game and campaign) was getting a little fidgety about it.  So I sat down and talked to her and helped build her character's persona up so she could better enter the conversations which has handily solved the problem.

All that being said I really dislike skill challenges as written.  I like skill challenges that come in phases, with changes every time someone succeeds or fails.  That means my skill challenges need to be a lot more complicated and flowchart based than the normal ones.  You dont roll 4-8 times before getting the first success/failure in the narrative, you roll maybe twice.

I hate to plug myself (especially when I haven't had time to finish editing and posting the first session) but if you want to listen I have the raw audio from one of my sessions up here:

everygrain.blogspot.com/ 




A solid mixture imo, is the best for everyone.  The campaign I am in presently, is mostly combat hack and slash.  I'd like a little more roleplaying.  Like any.  That said, if I were going to err to any one side, it would definitely be in favor of more combat.  My personal ideal mix is probably about 60% combat, 40% RP.  I imagine I'd quickly lose interest if I didn't get to blow things up with some regularity.

3 sessions without combat?  I'd be fidgity too.  You'd have to be a hell of a story teller for me to not end up drooling all over myself in boredom!
Most of my games have combats at most every other session, usually closer to every 3rd or 4th.  I don't like little 'war of attrition, use up resources even though we know who's going to win the fight' battles.  I like big, plot-relevant, set-piece encounters.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Not really; D&D in general doesn't have good systems for non-combat stuff.



What kind of system do you really need to roleplay and tell a story?



Bingo.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
My games tend to be a solid mixture of combat and roleplay.  That being said we do often have games where the entire session (6-8 hours) is spent without combat.  Not too long ago we had 3 sessions in a row with no combat at all.  One of my players (a new player to the game and campaign) was getting a little fidgety about it.  So I sat down and talked to her and helped build her character's persona up so she could better enter the conversations which has handily solved the problem.

All that being said I really dislike skill challenges as written.  I like skill challenges that come in phases, with changes every time someone succeeds or fails.  That means my skill challenges need to be a lot more complicated and flowchart based than the normal ones.  You dont roll 4-8 times before getting the first success/failure in the narrative, you roll maybe twice.

I hate to plug myself (especially when I haven't had time to finish editing and posting the first session) but if you want to listen I have the raw audio from one of my sessions up here:

everygrain.blogspot.com/ 




A solid mixture imo, is the best for everyone.  The campaign I am in presently, is mostly combat hack and slash.  I'd like a little more roleplaying.  Like any.  That said, if I were going to err to any one side, it would definitely be in favor of more combat.  My personal ideal mix is probably about 60% combat, 40% RP.  I imagine I'd quickly lose interest if I didn't get to blow things up with some regularity.

3 sessions without combat?  I'd be fidgity too.  You'd have to be a hell of a story teller for me to not end up drooling all over myself in boredom!



Most of the problem was the new player had a very schticky non-detailed character.  They were one dimensional and not invested in any of the story.  So they couldn't get into it.  Also, it was that person's first three sessions playing DnD.
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
Show
Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
As much as i like to roleplay,  most of my players start to crave a little if we go more than 3 hours without combat. Wink

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

It varies a lot by group and campaign, but I'd say the average for me is 1 or 2 fights per session.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
I would guess our sessions at 70/30 combat/ roleplay. It is always a balancing act when the players themselves have different expectations about what the % should be...
I have mixed feelings about 4e and combat encounters. On one hand I like how smooth it is and how many tactical choices there are, and I have never had te problem that combat lasts too long; I use a lot of minions and oponents does not always fight to the death..
The problems I have with the system is that it assumes there will be lots of combat encounters, and I think it is easy to fall into the trap of building your adventures around encounters, and not the other way around. I know I did to begin with, just after switching to 4e. The adventures were too encounter focused and it all felt more like a tactical combat game than a roleplaying game.
I know you can use the system as you like and rp like hell and focus on the story, I am trying to do that more and more, but I think it is all too easy to fall into the meta-gaming trap with all the heavy focus on combat encounters. When I introduce new players to the system, they seem to focus a little too much on their character sheets and powers in any situation, instead of thinking more about what their character would do, this happens with veteran players too.
I know it sounds like I am blaming the system here, but I actually like it a lot, it is the focus and assumptions in many of the releasd products that bothers me a bit, the mechanics actually have a lot going for them, if only a bit too focused on balance.
In my humble opinion, DND should first and foremost be a roleplaying game, focused on narrative and character interaction. Combat encounters should be fun, but not the focus of the game and the driving point of the adventure and the campaign.


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I am going to beg to differ with this. I think that this line of thought is soometimes a symptom of 4es terrible official adventures rather than its design. In reality, 4e does more than any other edition to offer alternative ways to award experience points and reward players. Between major/minor quest XP and XP for skill challenges (although i loathe skill challenges), PCs can actually level up at a steady pace without ever even pulling a sword. Sadly, 4es adventures typically play as melodramatic railroads, boring grinds filled with superflous, contrived encounters-for-the-sake-of-encounters.

It is true that 4e PCs are capable of facing multiple encounters in a day, so in that sense, the system "assumes" that there COULD be lots of encounters. However, it seems obvious that 4e provides the tools to run the game as you wish. Ultimately it is up to the individual DMs how they want to run their game. The system makes it clear that groups can gain experience simply through roleplaying a collective story, therefore the 4e system assumes that there are more ways to play than only combat-heavy games. In fact, I would argue that the 4e system does a better job rewarding PCs for activity outside of combat than prior editions did.
In my humble opinion, DND should first and foremost be a roleplaying game, focused on narrative and character interaction. Combat encounters should be fun, but not the focus of the game and the driving point of the adventure and the campaign.




In my opinion, it should be what the people at the table (DM and players) want it to be.
@ crzyhawk: I agree! It is a game, so if you are having fun, you are doing it right! But the game should press that fact even more! As I said, I am a fan of 4e and its smooth mechanics, but the system has a lot of focus on combat, look at the character sheet, so it is easy for new players to pick up that style of play from early on. As veteran players(15 years), we fell into that trap for a short period of time too, without realizing it at first. Combat can be very fun, but how the game feels now has changed, for the good and the bad. It has become a very combat focused game, and that is fine if that is the game you want to play! It can be a very versatile game, but that fact should have a stronger voice within the core books, it should have more focus in the products you buy. Now it feels like alittle side note.

@ frothsof: in essense I agree with you! I just feel the focus is a bit onetracked in general, with the focus on balance and combat focused feats and even utility powers and how it is all pressented.
I have used all the arguments you are using now, actually, to protect 4e in the past, so yes, I want to agree with all you are saying, but lately, as Next is coming out, I see it from the other side to. It is good to reflect, right?
I must say I love skill challanges though, and all you can do with them and  how you can use it for anything! I use them to give the players power of the narrative and use any skills they can make sense of in the challange, and a challange can be anything from long periods ov travel, complicated and unusual combat or improvised situations. I never use it for roleplaying, but everything else works! The structure in skill challanges as written seems way to strict though, for no appearant reason.  Why shouldn`t that be adjustable or affected by the number of party members? But I do digress
the system has a lot of focus on combat



That is because combat is the only segment of the game that needs rules.
the system has a lot of focus on combat



That is because combat is the only segment of the game that needs rules.



Rues, yes! That is in many ways true. But all the combat rules takes a lot of focus, there should be more advice on roleplaying and finding your characters voice, more about exploration and storytelling, more examples of play outside of combat, more feats and utility powers and feat that has nothing to do with combat. There should be even more than it was on improve, there should be more advice on making and running npc`s. There should at least be a little more focus on what happened between the fights and that you could build adventures without combat and they should press that combat is only one of many options a characters can take if faced with something or someone hostile. I would like there to be more focus on adventure building and less focus on encounter building. The dmg2 got it right, and so did some of the later products as well! I think dnd Next are promising more of this kind of focus. 4e has so smooth mechanics and superior combat system with lots of fun tactical options, that much of what the game is and used to be, easily can fall in the background.
It's the DMs job to make sure that doesn't happen, if that's what he and his players want.
It's the DMs job to make sure that doesn't happen, if that's what he and his players want.



Well, that much is obvious! But can you at least try to see it from my point of view?
Honestly I don't see what there is to see from your point of view.  There's nothing wrong with adding more roleplay to your game.  more roleplay can be a great addition, I don't deny it. 

I don't see where the books need to provide anything, though.  Roleplay should be free flowing, and should /not/ be constrained by rules.  Combat is what /needs/ rules to keep things working the way that it should.

So really, I just don't see what there is to see from your perspective.  The /last/ thing I would want is the books trying to tell me /how/ to roleplay, like often happened in the older editions.
Honestly I don't see what there is to see from your point of view.  There's nothing wrong with adding more roleplay to your game.  more roleplay can be a great addition, I don't deny it. 

I don't see where the books need to provide anything, though.  Roleplay should be free flowing, and should /not/ be constrained by rules.  Combat is what /needs/ rules to keep things working the way that it should.

So really, I just don't see what there is to see from your perspective.  The /last/ thing I would want is the books trying to tell me /how/ to roleplay, like often happened in the older editions.



I agree with a lot of that! And I`m not really talking about rules, but focus and suggestions and advice from veteran roleplayers and adventure builders and tips and tricks on improvising and storytelling and on writing adventures, settings, backstories, finding your characters voice, some paragraphs on reskinning and reflavouring and why you would want to houserule something and stuff like that. Toning down the combat focus a little bit, just to press the fact that combat is only one viable option to defeat a foe.
I agree with a lot of that! And I`m not really talking about rules, but focus and suggestions and advice from veteran roleplayers and adventure builders and tips and tricks on improvising and storytelling and on writing adventures, settings, backstories, finding your characters voice, some paragraphs on reskinning and reflavouring and why you would want to houserule something and stuff like that. Toning down the combat focus a little bit, just to press the fact that combat is only one viable option to defeat a foe.


The problem is that none of that will matter, at least not to returning D&D fans.  4e books have plenty of this stuff, if you actually read them instead of skipping to the rules bits.  Heck, open the DMG sometime and actually look at how much of it is about how to make adventures and campaign settings and such.  But that's what returning fans do.  They say, "I already know how to roleplay, just give me the rules already.", and skip to the rules section.  Then later, they say, "I hated this, it was all rules, were was the roleplaying stuff?"
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.

I have used all the arguments you are using now, actually, to protect 4e in the past, so yes, I want to agree with all you are saying, but lately, as Next is coming out, I see it from the other side to. It is good to reflect, right?



I'm just speaking plain facts, not opinions. 4e awards xp for minor/major quests and roleplay. There isn't any debate or emotional "argument" to it. A DM can run a combat heavy game if they want, but the system isnt forcing them to.

I agree with a lot of that! And I`m not really talking about rules, but focus and suggestions and advice from veteran roleplayers and adventure builders and tips and tricks on improvising and storytelling and on writing adventures, settings, backstories, finding your characters voice, some paragraphs on reskinning and reflavouring and why you would want to houserule something and stuff like that. Toning down the combat focus a little bit, just to press the fact that combat is only one viable option to defeat a foe.


The problem is that none of that will matter, at least not to returning D&D fans.  4e books have plenty of this stuff, if you actually read them instead of skipping to the rules bits.  Heck, open the DMG sometime and actually look at how much of it is about how to make adventures and campaign settings and such.  But that's what returning fans do.  They say, "I already know how to roleplay, just give me the rules already.", and skip to the rules section.  Then later, they say, "I hated this, it was all rules, were was the roleplaying stuff?"



I agree, and maybe I`m palying devils advocate a bit, because I actually like 4e a lot. Some times I have mixed feelings about how much "space" combat takes, but I like the system. Most of the time I am on your side of the fence in this debate. 4e is great for roleplaying, with smooth rules that makes it easy to spend a lot of time rp-ìng with less time for looking up rules. But I have to admit that most of the feats and utility powers and options that are available to players are somehow tied into combat, not all, but most. I get why, but I wish they could have a broader focus. Like rituals! Rituals are great! They provide loads of non-combat options and things to do outside of combat. All in all I like the system, but I guess I am kind of nervous that the game was turning more and more into a tactical boardgame. Thanks for listening to my ranting and helping me get back on track:p Something should be said for dnd Next, at least, I love that you can have gridless and fast combat again! But nice to have grids and tactical combat as an option too, people like different aspects of the game, so multiple options are always cool.
There are plenty of non-combat feats you can take, skill training, languages etc.  The problem is...you only get one set of feats you can use.  Thats somewhere that I think 2e did it better then 4e does, they had weapon proficiencies and non-weapon proficiencies.

Ideally, I shouldn't have to choose.  Split off the non-combat feats, and give me a pool of proficiencies that can /only/ be used for non-combat feats.  That way, I don't have to feel like I have to make a choice between combat and flavor.  I'd LOVE to have more skill trainings, and be able to learn some more languages, but I will very rarely choose that over a combat related feat.
There are plenty of non-combat feats you can take, skill training, languages etc.  The problem is...you only get one set of feats you can use.  Thats somewhere that I think 2e did it better then 4e does, they had weapon proficiencies and non-weapon proficiencies.

Ideally, I shouldn't have to choose.  Split off the non-combat feats, and give me a pool of proficiencies that can /only/ be used for non-combat feats.  That way, I don't have to feel like I have to make a choice between combat and flavor.  I'd LOVE to have more skill trainings, and be able to learn some more languages, but I will very rarely choose that over a combat related feat.



Yes, I know what you mean! I feel I might suffer for choosing rp feats or utility powers! The combat is a big part of the game and can take up a lot of time and are often presented as the key scenes and ultimate climax in premade adventures, so it is hard not to feel you should prioritize it without me or my group suffering the consequences in combat encounters.
I think the sessions that are packed so full of narrative and roleplaying, you don`t have any time for combat, are the most fun there is! I have lately started running my campaign more or less like this, and the group seems happy with having only one combat encounter in the session or non at all. Anyone else do this? Is this common within the 4e system? 

Like most RPGs, D&D has always devoted a lot of rules and PC stats to combat, but it's always possible to focus on RP & Narrative more than mechanics.  4e made a particular effort, in the Skill Challenge mechanic, to provide rules for non-combat with some structure, FWIW.

 

 

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