Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A game without combat

So I am reading this new book and it is really good with interesting characters and a great, well developed world and background.

But there is nothing really in the way of combat.

This got me thinking.  How would you do a game based on a property that has very little in the way of combat or even conflict.

A good example (but not the book I am reading) is Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Great series of books, but not big with the "killing things and taking their stuff" though in HHGTTG there are some "Goals".  "Did I get on the right ship?" "Do I know where I am going?" "Do I have my towel?"

So what are your favorite combat-less systems?


Dennis Laffey said...

It's not a combatless system, but I did enjoy the fact that the d20 Modern system had rules for giving experience points for non-combat activities, and many of the classes had enough non-combat abilities that it was feasible to make a game BTB where no guns would be fired.

Philo Pharynx said...

The Doctor Who game puts this into the rules. People talking go off in the initative before people who want to fight.

Politically focused games often have very little combat. I've seen or heard of Vampire, Chanegling, and Legend of the Five rings being played this way. Not that these games never involve combat, but it's not as common as most games.

Anonymous said...

When we platyed a lot of GURPS, those campaigns tended to get very low-combat because we figured out that combat is very lethal and best avoided.

Black Vulmea said...

After an initial bloodletting, our Top Secret campaigns tended toward actual espionage rather than commando missions: working contacts, surveillance, and so forth.

I also ran a d20 Modern campaign involving ocean lifeguards and search-and-rescue techs; skill rolls took the place of combat.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Cool. Thanks for the tips!

faoladh said...

I think that if I were to run a combat-free (or combat-light) game, then GURPS would probably be my first choice, in part because it is capable of handling a large number of different sorts of events. The supplement GURPS Social Engineering might be of particular value to such a game.

There are a number of story games that de-emphasize combat. In Dogs in the Vineyard, for instance, conflict resolution is handled by the same mini-game regardless of whether it is combat or a debate (or wilderness survival, or gambling, or riding a recalcitrant horse, or anything at all else), so there is (theoretically) no mechanical pressure to choose violent conflict over social conflict, or vice versa. (Actually, there is a subtle pressure not to choose gunplay in DitV.)

Another direction is Paul Kidd's Lace & Steel. While it does feature combat (it is a swashbuckling fantasy game, after all), it also includes a detailed social conflict system that (again, theoretically) encourages those sorts of conflicts in the same way that violent conflict is encouraged in other games. The success of the idea is debatable, but it is an interesting experiment.

JeffStormer said...

I feel like FATE and Doctor Who's rules are probably the best I've seen for combat-lite or combatless play, personally.

WQRobb said...

I'm reading the Primeval RPG right now, based on the TV series. Basically there's a lot more emphasis on investigation and chase scenes that straight-up fighting because, as the game says quite clearly, you can get stabbed or shot by a human and still fight, but getting bitten by a T-Rex is going to kill you right out.

Spazalicious Chaos said...

Most of the White Wolf games I've played (OWOD, NWOD, Scion and Exalted) not only can be done sans-combat, but actually it is smarter to avoid fighting. What I love about White Wolf is that they do research, and they have come to the conclusion that fighting sucks and does not always end well. Therefore, they make games where dying is very easy. Thus, in many of their games avoiding combat is just common sense.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Primeval and Doctor Who both use the same system, which is easily adapted to Unisystem (Buffy, Ghosts of Albion...)

I have had a number of combatless games of *WoD as well.