Kyrinn S. Eis
tried posting a comment to my post, Variations
. That didn’t work for some reason, so she posted it to my share of Variations on Google+. Since not all of you go to G+ here is her comment in full.
Exceptions aside, I think that one can think of the D&D style games as being very character-centric, and so, the game’s primary rules focus is on the one thing that can make the character dead, namely, combat. Everything else has varying degrees of focus and page weight given to it, but the character-ending combat section is there to inform the player what it means to engage the character in combat, or even what it means for the rogue or mage to be caught without defences. One can, and in fact, the New School does, write a game focused on anything else that is important to the tone and style the designer has in mind, but when it comes to the universal language of peril and escape or even triumph, combat rules matter most. The GM and Players can be trusted to work everything else out to their satisfaction.
I can’t entirely agree with her. How an RPG is handled depends greatly on the designer and writer. Some do play at presenting their work as involving role playing, but as you read through their prose it becomes evident their minds are actually on something quite else, most often on fictional bloodshed and imaginary treasure. For the most part people tend to leave certain matters aside, with the exception of those such as Bill Stoddard, author of GURPS Fantasy and other works. Bill has other GURPS supplements available, among them guidelines on handling social encounters, which can be easily adapted to other RPGs.
To sum up, there are alternatives. Nor can I agree that fighting is the most exciting thing you could do in an RPG. Combat in an RPG is more often like a car chase in an action movie, inserted to waste time and to give the GM an opportunity to avoid thinking. In the hands of a lackluster GM it can get boring.
It really comes down to a matter of how the matter is presented, and all too many GMs are hesitant to put any effort into their performance. They get embarrassed and as a result act dull and lifeless. Adults are reserved and dignified.
And nobody ever goes nuts at a football game, either flavor.
My point it, there’s more to do in an RPG than just kill people and take their stuff. Sometimes there’s bamboozle people and take their stuff, but that can actually involve work.
Now Ms. Eis is right in that combat can be a challenge, but not all the time, and it’s not the only challenge the players can face as they play their roles. As an example, you have the Bremen Town Musicians encounter for AD&D2 — one of a deck of encounter cards for 2e. In the AD&D version four goblins take the place of the farm animals in the original story. To keep this short, the goblins have become musicians — good ones in fact, and they are now looking for people to act as their bodyguards as they roam from town looking for places to play. There is the potential for combat here, but not necessarily when the players meet the goblins, and not of the potential combats need end in combat.
It all depends on how you want to handle the situation, or any of the following situations. This type of situation applies to other encounters, and it’s very much up to you how you deal with it. But fighting needn’t be the only way to handle it, or the most exciting.
As to Kyrinn’s first point, it is my observation is that it is how we make a session of any RPG character centered. For it is the duty of the GM to focus on his players and the parts they play.