View Full Version : How to make non combat events more fun?

Stone Heart
2010-06-20, 01:20 AM
I keep having problems when I try to make non combat events to make them fun. The situation we tried last time was a horse race through canyons and mountain terrain, including jumps and a lot of ride checks. I just don't know how to make such things interesting when I am DMing, can I get some advice?

Also can anyone give advice on other sorts of events? I currently have a couple things set up (a whodunit sorta situation, and a tournament but again thats fighting) but I would like more, with less necessarry combat situations. It seems like all we ever do nowadays is encounter after encounter for just tougher and tougher foes,I want to use the skills to a greater degree.

2010-06-20, 01:32 AM
As someone who loves RP Heavy Campaigns, here are some tips that I think are useful.

Non-Combat should be as much about roleplay as it is dice rolls. In fact, it should be more about roleplay. Put all of the effort into NPCs that you would into PCs. Roleplay the hell out of them. Make rolls only at key moments. A Non Combat event should not be a series of rolls. It should be a way for the PCs to show off their characters in a new way.

A whodunnit situation shouldn't just be spot, search, sense motive, investigate, Diplomacy, Repeat...'

Reward characters for their cleverness. If you're playing a game with the investigate skill, only have them use it when they're stuck.

If a PC wants to bluff to an NPC, have them actually lie. Give them a bonus based on how believable the lie is.

You don't have to be a good actor, but put as much effort into non combat situations as you do combat ones.

2010-06-20, 02:06 AM
Refuse total abstractions. Don't let any action happen without explanation.

Hiding behind your +9000 modifier is poor gameplay and no fun at all.

2010-06-20, 08:44 AM
Choose non combat events that the characters are likely to care about. Were any of them interested in horse racing before you put the race into the game? If not, then it was just a diversion. If you need to know what else their characters are interested in, demand backstory.

Alternatively you can also try to get your players interested in no combat events. I'm not so good at this when it comes to physical challenges, but NPCs are a whole 'nother story. I can make them respect or hate just about anyone. And then it's just a matter of putting them in a room together where no combat can happen.

2010-06-20, 09:05 AM
Some of the advice above applies to non-combat in the sense of social encounters -- but I think the OP meant non-combat physical encounters.

I keep having problems when I try ... a lot of ride checks.

Whenever a situation requires a lot of checks, the odds will catch up to the players and they will roll both 20's and 1's eventually. If the 20 does not resolve/end the situation, and the 1's create a serious setback, the whole effort will probably fail and the fun may evaporate from the table.

Another tricky thing with your 'a lot of ride checks' situation is that it seems like ride checks were the only way to succeed. It is always better when players are allowed more than one way to tackle a problem.

2010-06-20, 09:18 AM
I keep having problems when I try to make non combat events to make them fun. The situation we tried last time was a horse race through canyons and mountain terrain, including jumps and a lot of ride checks. I just don't know how to make such things interesting when I am DMing, can I get some advice?

Well first of the players will need an incentive to care about the horse race, and depending on level a few gp will not really cut it. Maybe the winner of the race can choose a woman from the kings harem and someone asked the heroes to get his beloved back for important information or somesuch :smallwink:
If they lose the race, or dont want to participate they can still take other actions but it would serve as an incentive quite well I think.

Second, dont let the players make a thousand rolls for ride checks, make the checks when its important, maybe 5 the whole race + jump, dex etc checks.

The most important part with which everything stands and falls would be to narrate it really well, to create the ambiance of an exciting sport event. Fudge some rolls if need be, nothing is more boring then a start finish race with a clear winner after the first minute.

Create some decisions for them to make them feel more involved and make it more then just a series of dice rolls:
"The next obstacle you face is known to be among the hardest of the whole race and even claimed some lives in the history of this track", do you slow down to take it more accurately or do you want to take it with full speed, if you take it head on you will most likely overtake the leading horse :smallbiggrin:

Morph Bark
2010-06-20, 09:23 AM
Making non-combat events more geared to what the players might like in real life would be a good idea. Furthermore, you could make non-combat events potentially lead up to combat events. For instance, have them be involved in a criminal investigation of sorts, or be told to spread the word on a mle tournament.

Just make sure that you don't put on the sunglasses too soon or too often, or the sound of facepalming will interfere with The Who's music.

2010-06-20, 09:40 AM
a series of rolls is hardly exciting in and of itself.

combat is a long, lengthy series of rolls, but generally has a certain amount of "what will happen next?" attached to it, especially if you're fighting a group of enemies with a caster or two.

D&D doesn't really have the minutiae necessary for a good horse race since horses A through G will all have the same move & run speed. what you would need to do is give the player the option to put himself in the lead:

-use magic to make his horse go faster
-use tanglefoot bags to muck up other horses
-use a lasso to pull other jockeys from their horses
-thunderstones to spook horses

or have the player try to circumvent his opponents' attempts to make him lose through magic or mundane methods and guile.

because a fair race is boring. :smallbiggrin:

2010-06-20, 10:16 AM
For a horse race, maybe have a more challenging/interesting track then just an oval. For example, a racetrack through a long underground cavern infested with dire bats and hostile earth elementals.