We ended up bypassing every combat but most of us had a blast anyway. One guy was apparently playing a chaotic evil assassin since all he did the entire session was lag behind the party, hiding in the shadows, and then garroted all of the treasure hunters except their leader simply because he wanted to kill something that session. What's sad is that he's normally one of the best roleplayers in our home group.
During his post-game rant he kept saying that he wanted to go investigate the people we heard talking to the side of the path. We all responded by asking him why he didn't say so at the time. What finally ended the rant was me pointing out that I repeatedly gave him an opening to initiate combat because whenever we got temporarily stumped on the riddle I would inevitably say something like: "Somebody should just bonk the imp on the head" (I would have done so myself except that it would have been out of character).
The only other player who wasn't totally pleased has pretty severe Asperger Syndrome and several other issues. He was actually having a great time doing too much roleplaying and making the game run long (my wife has to be at work at 10:00 every Wednesday night so the group as a whole works hard to make sure we get out of there by 8). The fact that he can be so outgoing is, I'm sure, due entirely to the fact that he has been playing trpgs and lots of other social games with us for the past eight years.
...but then came the riddle – he hates riddles and such because he finds them so frustrating (although his status as the group's expert on how to make monster knowledge checks meant he figured out the first riddle instantly). Our home group runs a different game every week, using a variety of systems, but the last time we played D&D (run by the player of that assassin) we had a puzzle to solve in the middle of combat (the big bad fully healed himself every round until we figured it out; until then we focused on taking out his buddies so we could work together to try and kill him in one round). Once again, he was the only player who didn't love it (ironically, his character had exactly what was needed, but he left the table before we figured that out). This week he was especially frustrated because his character was a satyr and he thought that should mean that his character would automatically know the answer to any riddle just because he's a satyr.
Everyone else had a great time with the riddle except when we chased a red herring for a bit and needed a few Insight rolls to get us pointed towards the right solution.
On the whole, I actually enjoy an occasional break from combat during a campaign – especially since it probably means we did a lot of roleplaying. I actually did more roleplaying Wednesday night that I did the rest of Encounters combined (I think we may have missed a dozen sessions in all), and that was wonderful as it was surprisingly. Even my HackMaster campaign has had combat-less, and nearly dice-less, sessions now and then, and the very name of the system tells you it's combat-focused (although both editions, and especially the new one, offer players small mechanical rewards for roleplaying well).
Until our Friday night group fell apart last winter, I ran a GURPS campaign that was actually entirely combat-less. It focuses entirely on DDN's three pillars (though of course I had never heard of that concept when I started the game). The few players who got to play in it have hyped it so much to the rest of our current group that I'm going to be adding it to the weekly rotation schedule as soon as everyone figures out what characters they want to play.
The game is inspired by SyFy's Warehouse 13 and Steve Jackson's Warehouse 23 (which seems like it was very likely the inspiration for the show). It is set in the late nineteenth century, and magic and psionics are real but suppressed by the governments of the world by use of an alchemical agent added to municipal water supplies; Warehouse Agents are given a dose of counter-agent once a month. I provided them with my own version of the Tesla gun from W13 as a sort of player-activated dues ex machina to avoid combat. In addition to stunning, it erases the last 30 seconds of short term memory so the target won't even remember getting shot.
Each artifact they investigate generally takes 2-3 sessions. So far they have tracked three artifacts and are clamoring for more. In all that time they haven't fired a single shot. The closest they came was when Aphrodite's Girdle made a worker at the soon-to-be-opened Moulin Rouge cabaret turned into a sex-crazed maniac determined to rape the poor girl wearing the girdle. Their alternative to shooting him (since they couldn't risk shooting the girl and causing her even more trauma) brought a bit of hilarity to a frightening situation. I couldn't convince one of the players to make an actual character – instead he just had a shtick: he was a retired sumo wrestler who liked to fall on people to subdue them. Once he gained access to magic and psionics he learned to walk on air so he could do it more easily and effectively. Do I need to paint you a picture? 8o)
The real surprise? Both of those campaigns include the aforementioned assassin player who got so upset by the lack of combat during Encounters this week...
All in all, I'm really happy with this season so far, although I'd be even happier if we still had enough players that I could run a second table instead of playing. If the game must use a module, I'm far happier behind the screen that in front of it with a GM who refuses to let us go off the rails (thankfully he no longer runs Encounters). Since the relatively green GM I'm letting take the lead this season won't be here next season (he plans to attend WoW CCG events at the FLGS on Monday nights instead), I'm happy to let him run every week since he doesn't get any other chance to GM but I do.