PDA

View Full Version : Having fun without murder.



Shinizak
2013-08-23, 12:09 PM
Hey y'all, how goes it? I was reading a few pre-published adventures the other night and quickly noticed that no matter what system was being used combat was unavoidable. I understand that combat is a big part of RPGs, but it gets quite stale some times when it becomes the ultimate fall back. Because of this I have a challenge for you all. Can you/we create a dungeon without traps or combat? Can we make a game based solely around mystery, adventure, and discovery and have it thrill the players?

Now that's not to say their can't be danger, monsters, and excitement, I just want the danger to take another form. A tight rope suspended over a chasm might be a dangerous encounter, but unlike a poison dart trap it is not there specifically to kill the party. Similarly it would be fine to have a wraith wandering the halls who's tough sicken and kill men, just as long as it's not actively trying to kill the party.

Slipperychicken
2013-08-23, 03:19 PM
Personally, I tend to simply pass over games which don't somehow involve violence. They usually fail to interest me.

Grinner
2013-08-23, 03:31 PM
Do you and your players find Myst fun?


If so, yes.
If not, no.

Winds
2013-08-23, 03:49 PM
Objectives matter. Is the group looking for a tale of swash-bulking outlaws or hunter hunters? Or maybe something more like cartographers and archeologists? In most settings, all of those groups will encounter similar dangers. If you don't want the game to be about smiting monsters it doesn't have to be. But that's something to discuss when you form a group.

Mark Hall
2013-08-23, 04:24 PM
So, a few years back, I played in a Ninjas and Superspies game where we got in a total of 1 fight and I drew my firearm in anger precisely once (and those were two different instances). It lasted several sessions, and was a ton of fun.

How do we do this? By making murder expensive. It was a modern-day game, set in the United States. Our one fight was against a wolverine, and I wound up having to fight it hand to hand (or risk shooting a teammate, who wound up in a hospital anyway, because she got mauled by a wolverine). Why did we get attacked by a wolverine? Because we were wandering around the countryside investing UFO reports.

The one time I drew my gun? A crashed UFO went down near us, and I took off down the slope, armed and ready for whatever came out (turns out it was some USAF airmen).

Why didn't we use it more? Because every time we killed someone, we were going to have to deal with consequences. In a lot of games, there aren't many consequences to killing people. D&D? Go kill those green people. Vampire? Well, there may be consequences, but only if it was someone important. Star Wars? Anyone on the other side, no problem. But when murder has consequences, then folks are less likely to engage in it.

Delwugor
2013-08-23, 04:29 PM
I am putting together an adventure using Fate Core where the party is a group of professional rescuers that have to save a group of amateur "cavers" caught in the deadliest cave in the world.

Tyndmyr
2013-08-23, 07:18 PM
I'm perfectly ok not murdering folks in many games, but it really depends on the genre. In some games, they just work great with lots of violence.

For instance, a non violent Paranoia session would just seem off.

Averis Vol
2013-08-23, 07:57 PM
It seems to me that the reason violence comes up a lot is because it's the easiest and most surefire way to start up conflict. I mean, it really should be unavoidable to keep a game action packed, as you can only get by with political bargaining with a specialised group for it or for very little; in the back of a normal gamers mind I'd assume that in a game of political intrigue they atleast expect one or two assassination attempts to pop up sooner or later, and the further away you stray from your run of the mill "downtime" activities and plot lines the more intrinsic combat becomes.

And combat doesn't always have to mean blatant murder. Self defense, (non) lethal intimidation, protection of another or country, Etc. are all uniform reasons to need to fight (though I do agree once the PC's go around Coup De Gracing every unconscious enemy things can get a little out of hand).

Just my 2 CP though; if you can enjoy 15 straight levels of political intrigue, power to you; your group is far more conservative in the bloodshed department than mine.

TheYell
2013-08-23, 08:22 PM
If you had a regular, organized and understood system for awarding XP and items without combat, then it should be welcomed by the players.

Mark Hall
2013-08-23, 09:02 PM
If you had a regular, organized and understood system for awarding XP and items without combat, then it should be welcomed by the players.

For all that it does poorly, Palladium has a system that does it pretty well.

sakuuya
2013-08-23, 11:05 PM
What about using Mouse Guard? Combat exists, but since the PCs are, y'know, mice, environmental hazards present just as big a threat as other animals. IIRC, all three sample missions presented in the core book have animal threats in them, but only one (the monster from "Trouble in Grasslake") really wants to kill it some mice; the other two are more like your wraith example, Shinizak.

erikun
2013-08-24, 12:46 AM
I will recommend the new World of Darkness for this. Specifically the actually WoD books, not the other settings like Vampire or Hunter. You sometimes can engage in violence in such situations, but trying to attack a ghost, a haunted house, or an immortal clockwork man is generally either futile or close to suicidal, and won't generally do anything.

As I understand the Dogs in the Vineyard system, the escalation system means that most encounters start as low-key situations and would only escalate to violence if the PCs decide to do so.


The biggest concern is providing conflict and character goals. Combat provides those easily: the conflict are the opponents, and the goals are to survive and/or stop them. Creating non-violent adventures means not just interesting situations, but also providing goals and some sort of conflict to overcome to achieve them.

Rondodu
2013-08-24, 04:48 AM
Hey y'all, how goes it? I was reading a few pre-published adventures the other night and quickly noticed that no matter what system was being used combat was unavoidable. I understand that combat is a big part of RPGs, but it gets quite stale some times when it becomes the ultimate fall back. Because of this I have a challenge for you all. Can you/we create a dungeon without traps or combat? Can we make a game based solely around mystery, adventure, and discovery and have it thrill the players?I tend to associate “dungeon” in RPG parlance with what we french speakers call Porte-Monstre-Trésor: Door-Monster-Treasure. I.e. you open the door, you kill the monster behind it, you loot its treasure. The you focus on the next door. Of course, you totally have a real dungeon, i.e. a underground prison. But a maze filled with treasure and monsters call for combat. So I’d avoid that altogether.

D&D, I think, is not the best system for such an adventure given that most of its rules revolves around “how to kill things” and there are classes which basically are all about that. Thus I would expect any ready-made adventure for D&D to include combat.

But once you’ve got rid of that, there are plenty of games which do not revolve around violence or hitting (un)living things.

------------

Also, hey, I’ve just discovered that our “donjon” is your “keep” and your “dungeon” is our “oubliette”. That would explain the name “Dungeons & Dragons” marginally better.

KillianHawkeye
2013-08-24, 07:30 PM
I dunno. I think in today's society, violence is the only way a lot of people can experience joy.

denthor
2013-08-24, 09:13 PM
1st level adventure.


Have an adventure going out and gathering some type of mold from a cave.

"Everybody" (common myth/rumor) is that the cave is cursed/filled with monsters.

In truth the cave is filled with Magna. People have passed out from heat exhaustion and have not returned. The PC's can find the dead bodies in the cave. Lack of water. In the back of the cave is a secret passage way. This leads to a much cooler environment and no light.

The Mold/fungus that you want them to collect will die in the light torch light is too much. Not heat. The PC's must have locked boxes that are completely enclosed so that no light gets in or they fail.

Backround story:

The town has been over run with rats thousands of them. This mold/fungus is called darkweed. Darkweed in the past has been used to lure rats including wererats (they need a saving throw to resist) away.


No combat just planning good spell use and then a way to transport the mold. Back to town.

Frozen_Feet
2013-08-24, 10:23 PM
Because of this I have a challenge for you all. Can you/we create a dungeon without traps or combat? Can we make a game based solely around mystery, adventure, and discovery and have it thrill the players?

Yes.

My players have always leaned towards "sociopathic murderhobo" schtick, yet surprisingly often they've been happy to just wander in the wilderness, explore ancient temples or build ships without fighting a thing.

Of course, the prime thing that decreases violence is to not have things that either threaten the PCs, or can be threatened by them.

My way of making these is to include lots of bewildering details, objects and obstacles that are may not be very dangerous, but still can appear so. My favorite creation of this sort was an ancient temple/tomb for a marine goddess. Okay, in truth, it did have some fights in it (three, if I recall right)... but my players visited the complex six or seven times, only fighting anything on two of those times.

So what kind of things were in the complex? A stone, covered in magical writing. A mermaid statue, that cried blue blood after the players defiled a grave. Lots of otherwise unremarkable rooms with humanoid bones in them. Mermen held in stasis. A pool connected to the sea, filled with telepathic jellyfish. A pumping mechanism and a canal system recycling water throughout the complex. A map of the surrounding islands, filled with clues of what other places to visit. A complex puzzle based on light and lenses to reveal said map. Doors that could only be opened by placing emeralds on special altars. A tiny girl, locked in a cell, whom the players found cute and promptly adopted (she was an immortal wererat, but never threatened them in any way). Reliefs telling the story of mermen and humans mingling. A demonic statue that looked like it could spring to life any moment, but never did. And the spirit of the marine goddess.

The players kept returning there because there were many relevant clues and precious information there, but also because there was a constant sense of mystery to the place. (It helped I told them the whole place glowed green under Detect Evil... certainly made them stay on their toes... hehehe...) Ultimately, the major conflict of the dungeon (caused by them defiling the graves) was solved diplomatically, with the party using aforementioned jellyfish to contact and apologize to the goddess.

I succesfully repeated this pattern with other temples later on. The lesson learned was: it doesn't matter if a location has nothing in it, as long as the players think there is something. They can spend real-life days searching every nook and canny if there's sufficient promise of reward.

kidnicky
2013-08-31, 11:23 PM
Couldn't you technically have a superhero game with no combat? I'm not really familiar with any SH games, but in something like Marvel I have to assume there's a way for Spider-Man to roll against a difficulty number for say, a runaway train (like he did in the 2nd movie,). So you could have a whole campaign where all the archvillians were in jail, and the PC heroes are just doing what superheroes are supposed to be doing in the first place. Plane crashes, sinking ships, bank robberies ( ok some combat), bridge collapses, people falling off the roof or out the window,there's a ton of stuff you could do.

That said, when you recruit players for a superhero game, most are going to want/expect WWE with eye lazers and flight. So your best bet is probably a mix of combat /non combat. Help a lost kid, Doc Ock robs a bank, bridge collapse, Venom was also trying to fix the bridge but now wants to kill Spidey, etc.

X-Men trying to help non -heroic mutants overcome predjudice could also be fun.

EDIT: Now I really want to play Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

Warlawk
2013-08-31, 11:35 PM
Just wanted to chime in after that last post. Many years ago we had a Heroes unlimited game which was extremely combat light. We did have some combat here and there, but would often go 5-6 sessions without it. I believe over the course of the campaign (18 months of weekly roleplaying IIRC) our group did not kill anyone either directly or by allowing it to happen.

It's one of our most memorable games, and one of my favorite characters.

Rosstin
2013-09-01, 12:36 AM
It's all about what your players want.

One of my favorite games was set in a crazy high-magic city (Myria) where the players were charged with finding/faking an heir to a noble house. There was a superstition in the city that killing someone would result in your own death, via the dying person staring into your eyes and annihilating your soul. Occasionally, there was still violent conflict... at one point, the players showered precious gems onto an antagonist, causing a flight of ravens to devour him. Poisoned food was also popular. But on the whole, the conflict was mystery-solving and politics.

Another recent game I ran was all about mysteries and memory, with the dead protagonists sifting their own memories to solve a technological mystery.

Player expectation. Just find players who are looking for a magical tea party rather than a hack-and-slash.

Platymus Pus
2013-09-01, 03:03 AM
Everyone would just play bards then with maxed cha.

Raum
2013-09-01, 10:41 AM
Can you/we create a dungeon without traps or combat? Can we make a game based solely around mystery, adventure, and discovery and have it thrill the players?Have you looked at the Gumshoe system? It's built around solving mysteries. There are also games built around manipulating the narrative (i.e. Wushu and Fate) which work as well at any given challenge as they do in combat.


If you had a regular, organized and understood system for awarding XP and items without combat, then it should be welcomed by the players.Good thing there are lots of systems which don't award XP for combat. :smallwink:

I'd have to double check a bunch of systems but D&D may be the only one I've played which explicitly awards XP for killing. Probably not, I just can't think of any others at the moment.

VariSami
2013-09-01, 11:28 AM
Done. In my Planescape campaign, the first few sessions were spent exploring Sigil. Most of the missions the party received required investigation instead of bashing heads in. The campaign ran, I think, from November 2012 to April 2013 and was superseded by an Eberron campaign with the same group.

During that time, there were 4 fights, I think:
1. Against a nutty Xaositect Sorcerer (Air Genasi) called Windy Windbag that had cursed a local magic trinket shop's owner's mimir to spew profanities at anyone addressing it. However, the "combat" was mostly about watching out for the Chaosman's quirks at the same time as the party interrogated him about his motives.

2. In secret after the party's rogue stepped through a portal they were investigating (he had the gate key, stolen money, with him but no one knew what the key was). The gate had already snatched a few customers from the inn it was situated in and it led to a brothel underneath Automata. As such, the brothel's owner had a few guards knock out anyone appearing on that side.

3. Against a group of Warforged sent to retrieve a "faulty" copy of their line, the Mark Gallants (a friend of sorts of the party). However, due to low combat optimization by the party, the Warforged were deemed too dangerous and they fled. They then began hatching a cunning plan to deceive the Mark Gallants, and it did not involve combat.

4. The party's cleric wanted to become a Godsman, and he was put on trial under the woadkyn shaman whose name I cannot recall from the Factol's Manifesto. One of these trials was to wrestle with the tree giant, an impossible task but resolved using the combat rules for grappling. Basically it was just about the cleric making an attempt, the Giant grabbing him by the legs and asking for the cleric to ponder the significance of what he had been taught by this trial (the fact that he was still quite low on the hierarchy of prestige and power, and that this meant he would still have a long way to forge himself).

The campaign involved a Tiefling Wizard who later dipped Bard and went Ultimate Magus/Wild Mage (or would have). She posed as a Xaositect although in reality she was a member of the Anarchists. Her player was the only one immersed in Planescape lore at the time, and he was to act as something of a guide in the beginning. The others were a Human Mulhorandi nomad cleric (Human Paragon, aiming for Divine Disciple) and a Tiefling Thayan information broker (rogue).

Unlike proposed, the only bard was a wizard with a dip. And the party worked almost perfectly for a low-combat campaign. What I liked most was the fact that the players were allowed to make less than optimal choices without backlash. For example, the cleric began practicing cooking at the inn they were bunking at (the Tiefling Wizard's adoptive family owned it, and the party later "inherited" it when the owner was exposed as an Anarchist). How many have actually devoted skill points to Profession (cook) in their games?

Rosstin
2013-09-01, 11:48 AM
Everyone would just play bards then with maxed cha.

I've never seen that happen. There are a ridiculous number of interesting noncombat builds in many games (excepting 4e).

That said, 3.5 is not the best system for a game without fighting.

TheCountAlucard
2013-09-01, 12:52 PM
While there are indeed extensive rules for resolving combat, there's more than a few Shadowrun adventures where combat is the exception, not the rule.

Many Johnsons hire runners with the express desire to avoid collateral damage, not leave bodies, et cetera. Oftentimes if combat does happen, it's short, lethal, and ends badly for the runners, possibly even blowing the mission altogether.

But I'd be lying if I said there was never a solution that got resolved by stoving someone's head in with a wrench.

Rosstin
2013-09-01, 12:53 PM
I agree, Shadowrun is great for this.

Although Shadowrun still has an implied threat of violence, and if players want violence, they WILL make it.

Mark Hall
2013-09-02, 02:07 PM
I agree, Shadowrun is great for this.

Although Shadowrun still has an implied threat of violence, and if players want violence, they WILL make it.

Almost every Shadowrun group I have played with has two characters that make ideal "dark sunglasses" play nigh impossible.

1) The troll with the axe. He's a troll, frequently a physad, sometimes cybered, who has the best damn axe money can by. He wants to use it on EVERYTHING.
2) The troll. Not 3m and horny, like the previous troll, but frequently a decker-type who is simply out to screw everyone not them over. You take pains to make sure the guard doesn't die? He takes pains to make it seem like the guard was going to flee the country. You look at ways of limiting collateral damage? He plants random command routines in the industrial robots. This isn't pink mohawk "frag the corps" kind of stuff... this is "random destruction because I can get away with it" kind of stuff.

Jack of Spades
2013-09-03, 05:40 AM
For what it's worth, the last 3.X game I played had no combat at all until the 3rd session or so, and no one was killed until several sessions later. Heck, depending on what you consider life, I'm not sure the players have actually killed anything. So, really, the system doesn't matter nearly as much as the players and/or the scenario.

But, generally, the way to make killing happen less often when designing/choosing a game tends to be to make getting hurt really suck. WoD: Mortals does okay with this, although mostly that's because if you try to kill anything as a run-of-the-mill mortal you're just as likely to get popped in the first couple of turns.

Of course, it wouldn't be my monthly GitP post without me plugging Deadlands Classic, now would it?:smallwink: Seriously though, classic Deadlands (in my opinion) strikes a great balance between making getting hurt suck and making characters capable of surviving a scrap. I had a character take a handful of buckshot to the chest and barely walk away from it, sported the wound penalty for the rest of the time I was playing as him. Which, given that I only played a week or two of his life (and he was slow to heal), makes sense.

However, the problem with making getting hurt suck is that roleplaying games tend to go for a bit more of an "arcade" feel, which is the reason we have weird conventions like the fighter who can attack with 100% efficiency no matter how many hit points he has left as long as it's more than zero. There's a lot of good reasons for doing that, bust most of them only apply in a heavily combat-centric game.

But, the easy way to make combat less of a fixture in a game is to make it unnecessary or downright useless. A good mystery can keep curious players occupied for a good long while, and then you can save the combat for the final boss fight (or applicable equivalent). And if they do murder someone in broad daylight, have the law come down on them. Getting a character thrown in jail is usually a good "This isn't a murder hobo simulator" indication.

If you had a regular, organized and understood system for awarding XP and items without combat, then it should be welcomed by the players.
My system: Oh? What? XP? Um, twelve apiece. Wait, what system are we playing? Twelve hundred then. That good? Alright, you don't appear to be throwing rocks. Twelve hundred it is.

The Fury
2013-09-04, 03:51 PM
Admittedly it takes a certain kind of player to be willing to go along with a less murder-y sort of game at all. That said, if it's clear that going full-on murder-hobo will cause more harm than good you can get some players to try other things. As obnoxious as I'm sure sharing stories from games I've played in is, I can think of notable example.

In our group's Pathfinder game we were charged with taking out a town which was founded (recently) by a cult to a evil god. Plan A was naturally to just kill everyone. When it became clear that most of the people in the town were not members of the cult and a lot of them were actually pretty decent, our party switched over to non-violent less violent options. While cult leaders and the like were still viable targets, we deliberately made efforts to minimize collateral damage. Lately our group's mostly been trying to set up a less awful system of government and build up diplomatic connections and the like.

kyoryu
2013-09-04, 04:38 PM
Without murder/death, or without combat? The two are *not* the same.

Either way, the key is conflict. Figure out what your players want, and let them figure out how to get it. Then, add other people that want other things that are mutually exclusive.

When properly framed, combat isn't about "kill the other guys" - it's about some other type of question - disarming the bomb, getting the treasure, whatever. Combat is a means to an end, and once loss is assured, generally enemies will attempt to retreat. Most battles are *not* fought until the other army is obliterated - even the term 'decimate' literally means to less 1/10 of your force. Killing is almost never a primary goal - combat is applied use of force to achieve a strategic or tactical goal.

So in a more 'open' world, that's my general strategy - give the players things they want, give them opposition, and let them go for it. Sometimes they win, and they get closer to what they want - some at least semi-persistent change happens in the world. If they lose, bad things happen - again, semi-persistent changes happen in the world.

The key is to have each conflict, combat or not, revolve around some kind of significant stakes - some kind of question that you're trying to answer, that the characters care about the answer to. And for this to really work, the question has to be *open*. It can't be guaranteed, or "no, really, you can fail *wink wink nudge nudge*" or "99.9% success". Failure should be common - it's how complications get added in, and characters get further in the hole.

This obviously doesn't work if you have players that really just want levels'n'loot, or to engage in tactical combat, or who want to be told a more linear story. But I've found it works for a large number of players.

It also helps if you have a game system that offers more robustness in non-combat areas, though it's not absolutely necessary.

tasw
2013-09-04, 11:51 PM
best adventures I've ever run were without murder. I use a few houserules though.

Arcane casters can always detect magic, including old magic just by being around it. But they only get the school of magic usually, more specific info requires skill checks.

Divine casters can detect spiritual elements, was a place touched by evil/good. I include law and chaos.

Psychics can see old ghosts and detect left over thoughts and emotions in bits and pieces.

Rolls and skills required but no feats.

My favorite adventures have been virtually or totally murder free adventures where the PC's are investigating haunted ruins. The house rules let me give them bits and pieces of the story as they go to hint and tease about the greater story that players usually never understand behind an adventure.

Jaycemonde
2013-09-05, 08:00 AM
When properly framed, combat isn't about "kill the other guys" - it's about some other type of question - disarming the bomb, getting the treasure, whatever. Combat is a means to an end, and once loss is assured, generally enemies will attempt to retreat. Most battles are *not* fought until the other army is obliterated - even the term 'decimate' literally means to less 1/10 of your force. Killing is almost never a primary goal - combat is applied use of force to achieve a strategic or tactical goal.

All my agreements. Hell, even military-grade assault weapons are designed more for making sure the other side stays in cover and your guys aren't being shot at than explicitly killing people. Even in house-to-house fighting operations, most armies and contractor/'mercenary' corps. practice strict Rules of Engagement (as with any group, it's the small minority that mess up the reputation of the rest through idiotic lapses in judgement) and more captures/arrests are made than hard kills, when the enemy forces don't just run off instead.
Also, as a personal note to Kyoryu, you are now considered an awesome person. Keep the proper definition of decimate alive.

Lost Demiurge
2013-09-05, 09:15 AM
Shadowrun. It'd have to be Shadowrun.

My players seriously LOVED being able to go Ocean's 11 on various jobs. Sure, there was fighting occasionally, but that was usually when the bad guys went after them or they slipped up or something went wrong. Hell, they usually avoided killing for most jobs, sticking with nonlethal where they could get away with it.

And y'know, it worked. We had a street sam and phys ad who weren't optimized for the regular grift, but they still had a couple of skills useful for legwork or support, or contacts to call in to help with info or setup. The team sat down and planned, and life was good.

Earthwalker
2013-09-05, 10:12 AM
I think a lot depends on the system. You can run games without combat in some systems but things like DnD combat is part of the charm.
I have run a modern day game where people played normal folks with normal jobs. The draw was each week they got a copy of a daily news paper with one story highlighted (in the beginning at least, soon multiple stories were highlighted) they then went and investigated the story and tried to work out what was going on. (was easy to write adventures for as all I had to do was buy a paper) It was pure investiagtion, of course there was some conspircy that got investigated. The whole compaign only had about 2 fights and they could have been avoided. My biggest problem after the first adventure was the players spending too much time at the beginning working out why they were being sent the paper and who was doing it. (I wanted them to find out but over time, so I had to speak with them ooc) All in all we played about 20 sessions.

I am currently Dming a pathfinder game where the start (the first levels) were non combat. Later on the players have more combat powers and want to be using them to solve problems. The first 7 levels had the group playing the role of medics in a large city. A lot of the drama was around to getting to the injured people in time. So it was more about racing around the city than fighting. Also when they got to the injured people working out what had happened.

I think in most campaigns I have run I have put at least one murder mystery into the campaign. Mysteries are always a good way to keep the players busy without needing combat. Of course there is one murder to start it off.

Psyren
2013-09-05, 10:52 AM
Extra Credits did a fun little episode on Non-Combat Gaming (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QJVGtKPjNc) and why it's so hard to really do well. Though they focus a bit more on the video game side of things, most of their game design episodes are universally applicable - "video game" is just the medium for the mechanics after all, like "board game" or "card game."

kyoryu
2013-09-05, 11:53 AM
Extra Credits did a fun little episode on Non-Combat Gaming (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QJVGtKPjNc) and why it's so hard to really do well. Though they focus a bit more on the video game side of things, most of their game design episodes are universally applicable - "video game" is just the medium for the mechanics after all, like "board game" or "card game."

Combat is super-easy to do in a video game - you can make meaningful decisions in a way that doesn't have to have any lasting impact, and you don't really have to worry about what happens if you 'fail' - you just reload your game, there's no branching storyline or greater context to impact.