Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What to do when you're not in combat?

First off, I will say that I really like combats in D&D or other RPGs.  They're fun.  They're dangerous.  They're a big part of what many RPGs are about. 

Gunfights on dusty Old West frontier streets or in wretched hives of scum and villainy on your favorite planet.  Duels with rapiers in the Baron's chateau or crossing steel with plundering ogres.  Delivering a solid beat-down to a monstrosity from beyond time and space, or just from the local radioactive forbidden zone. 

They're all a lot of fun.

But that's not all I want from any RPG.  I doubt it is for most people.  So I'm gonna post this as an open question to those of you reading the blog:

As a player, what are your favorite NON-COMBAT aspects of RPGs?
As a DM/GM/Referee, how do you reward non-combat aspects of RPGs?

Please post whatever you feel here.  Any game system, any edition.  Hopefully this will serve as good idea fodder for everyone reading this.


  1. Explore, godammnit! Explore!

    It's an endless fantasy world, what will you find there?

    That's what the fantasy RPG is really all about. Screw combat. Combat's for suckers who wouldn't mind ending the exploration prematurely in favor of an early grave. :)

  2. Exploration and watching players interact with one another and the make-believe world at large in ways you didn't expect. Not really a rules thing, just the product of putting people in a room and asking them to imagine.

  3. It's exploration for me too. Seeing what's out there is a big part of the fun for me. You never know where you might find a new person/creature to gather information from or aid to help in your quest.

    Also, I personally don't have a problem with rewarding XP bonuses for non-combat situations. Some games seem to have more guidelines for this than others. Palladium's stuff for example doesn't even give out a set amount of XP for each monster if you defeat it. For combat, you get an XP reward based off of the threat level for the encounter instead. They also give some guidelines for XP rewards for stuff like clever ideas and heroic actions. It's very freeform compared to D&D and a lot of it is left up entirely to the GM. This can be either good or bad, depending on your point of view and preferences.

  4. Back in the day of my 2e prime-milieu game I gave xp for roleplaying. And yes, I subjectively increased the amount based on how well I thought they did. I never, however, listed out to the group how much anyone got for any of it. It was just another part of the total they got at the start of the next session.

    As far as how much, I pretty much stuck to the following guideline. Again, this was 2e.

    Per substantial rp - 100 to 500 pts
    Extended length + 100 to 200 (positive, not filibuster)
    Sacrifice game advantage to rp well + 100 to 200
    Revolutionary idea + 50 to 100

    That's just off the top of my head, and as best as I recall. Also, that's for a level 7-10 party. For lower or higher levels I would adjust it proportionately, so that it ended up being sort of an X% of what you need to level but without the calculation.

  5. I agree, exploration. Though I don't do anything special to reward it (no xp for exploring.) The opportunities that open up from exploration are the reward. I kind of feel like anything that wasn't direct, deadly peril doesn't really need xp, to be honest (so, surviving combats, surviving the dungeon to recover treasure.)

    PCs get xp for fighting and leveling up generally improves their fighting, that's ok by me. Doesn't mean it's the sole purpose of the game, just highlights something the character can, and should, get better at with practice in game terms.

    Exploring is just exploring, and the *players* themselves will naturally get better at it as they gain real experience (not points.)

  6. character interaction, both within the the group and with npcs. it's not called roleplaying for nothing...

    as a dm, i give out xp for any ingame-accomplishment that might warrant it, be it exploring, social interaction, smart planning, or using a characters skills in imaginative ways.

    i also give out bonus xp for staying in-character despite being handicapped by it or especially clever ideas, whatever the context might be.

    there should be some danger involved and the actions should at least be meaningful and goal-oriented. simply chatting up every npc in town to gain social xp won't work.

    i never give xp for treasure.

  7. As a player, I would say that puzzle/problem-solving and exploration are the things I enjoy most. For me, they are their own rewards, so I don’t really care what metagame incentives the GM may or may not offer.

    In my B/X games, handing out XP by-the-book has done a fine job of convincing the players to avoid fights when they can. They know that the XP they get for monsters pales in comparison to what they get from treasure. So they look for ways to get the treasure without fighting the monster. They also realize that most monsters don’t have a lot (or even no) treasure, so not every monster is worth fighting just for their stuff.

    I give XP for treasure earned from an NPC as a reward for a quest/job, which—I suppose—act as “story awards”.

    Another thing is that I’m pretty liberal about what counts as “defeating” a monster. Killing them is often not the easiest way to earn a monster’s XP value.

    I might consider other incentives, but so far this has been working well, so I haven’t bothered.

  8. Making the story as we go along.
    I rarely get that. I haven't played in so long, but for me it was thrilling to be able to tell the story of a character as it's happening in a group. The first game I played which I described elsewhere was only three people: Luis the DM, my friend Orlando playing a warrior and me playing a pre-rolled cleric. By the end I felt I owned that character. In the last battle the warrior got in trouble and my cleric (it was a female cleric if I remember right) jumped in to defend. Do I heal the warrior or do I attack? I decided to attack which went great because I rolled a hit for maximum damage the next roll (but could have been a disaster because if I missed, next turn my friend and I would be rolling to survive). That choice to fight and distract rather than to stay in the shadows, play it safe and heal, was mine to make. It was in a way a story point. The DM made it a great point that all my decisions built the character none-of this acting out of alignment I saw as a DM. (Paladins I'm looking at you...) For me building the story is the coolest non-combat part of RPG but curiously it shows up in combat too, well in good meaningful combat. I also think what you fight can be a story point. This can be challenging for the DM but it's so much more richer story-wise.

  9. Dark Rabbit - That's an excellent example of great DnD in action :)

    "For me building the story is the coolest non-combat part of RPG but curiously it shows up in combat too, well in good meaningful combat. I also think what you fight can be a story point. This can be challenging for the DM but it's so much more richer story-wise."
    I couldn't agree more! :)