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D&D 5E [+] How can 5e best handle role playing outside of combat?

I haven’t read the whole thread but my experience is, having played almost every iteration of D&D since 1e, we never had problems dealing with social situations out of combat and earlier systems had less mechanics to deal with them than later iterations. We just rp’d them. Idk. Our characters had stats and personalities and we just played our characters.
 

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HammerMan

Legend
Sure, what does that look like though?
it looks like one person (normally the one that wants to play the charismatic one or the one that wants to play the intelligent one) decides to talk to one person.
From there others start throwing in ideas. The DM pulls stuff out his butt and makes those people have 'real' lives with good and bad things happening. In a town one player latches on to one (or best case more then one) thing the DM said in passing and that leads the group around talking to more people.
In a dungeon or adventure sight the DM has to quickly pivot if he wants this to work (like super improv because if you plan it every time you will have spent days and days planning for nothing because the PCs wont always care, although some generic pre thought helps) he has to come up with WHY things are happening...
Example: There are goblins attacking farms the PCs go to stop them... 7 out of 10 times it equals some form of roll initiative kill them take there stuff... 2 out of 10 times there is a bit more going on, but that 1 out of 10 when a player asks (and I find the newer the player the more likely they are too ask) WHY, why are the goblins a problem, what is the raids for... Now the DM can have them just be evil for evils sake, but if he thinks quick then there IS a reason, and like in town when you drop a normal person with normal problems, the PCs can choose to help end the problem... Example continued: the goblins used to have a mushroom farm underground, but the kobolds made an alliance with a baby dragon and now they have encroached on them... now PCs can still choose to end this problem with violence (lets be honest this is D&D with rare exceptions that is what they are best at) However when they find the kobolds they can talk to them too...

in the above example (although truncated) I was a PC warlord. we negotiated a peace between the town, the goblins and the kobolds trading goods and haveing a defense agreement... and the goblin shaman and kobold sororcer ended up working with the town and the baby adamantine dragon to create magical defenses... months later when we were back there because of a necromancer who was building flesh golem/mongral men super orcs the town was our best defense point... our PC (I want to say druid but maybe nature priest) ended up retireing to that town 2 years later to make it the beginning of a new kingdom.
 

Jmarso

Adventurer
One of the other challenges with low frequency combat is that with so many combat abilities, if you only run one combat a day or week, players are going to turn it into a cake-walk.

How would you resolve this? Use higher CR enemies just less often? Is there anything else you can do to make those single day fights more affecting?
I'm seriously considering going back to the 2E MM and borrowing from it to give monsters some of their teeth back.

Medusa / Basilisk? Save or be petrified on the spot- none of this "two chances" stuff.

Hit by a vampire, wraith, or wight? Lose 1d8, 1d6, or 1d4 of CON PERMANENTLY until healed by a Restoration spell or some such. Hit zero CON, you die and turn undead. (I don't like level drain, although you could go back to this just as easily.)

Run into a ghost? Piss it off, and you get to save vs fear effects or be aged 30-80 years ON THE SPOT. Plus, make a DC 10 CON save or die from the shock of the sudden aging. (In essence, dying of fright!)

Anyway, you get the idea. Monsters and effects in 5E have been nerfed to the point that much of the game has lost its 'threat.' In 2E, a vampire is no joke- even a 'weak' one will wreck your party if the DM plays it 'smart'. If 5E, their worst attack is 100% recoverable after...LONG REST!
 
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HammerMan

Legend
I'm seriously considering going back to the 2E MM and borrowing from it to give monsters some of their teeth back.

Medusa / Basilisk? Save or be petrified on the spot- none of this "two chances" stuff.

Hit by a vampire, wraith, or wight? Lose 1d8, 1d6, or 1d4 of CON PERMANENTLY until healed by a Restoration spell or some such. Hit zero CON, you die and turn undead. (I don't like level drain, although you could go back to this just as easily.)

Run into a ghost? Piss it off, and you get to save vs fear effects or be aged 30-80 years ON THE SPOT.

Anyway, you get the idea. Monsters and effects in 5E have been nerfed to the point that much of the game has lost its 'threat.' In 2E, a vampire is no joke- even a 'weak' one will wreck your party if the DM plays it 'smart'. If 5E, their worst attack is 100% recoverable after...LONG REST!
I told a player that started with us at the end of 4e beginning of 5e about the time I got hit 3 times by a Wight lost 3 levels, and as such access to 2 levels of spells... they were still 'Known' in my book but I couldn't cast them anymore... I thought she saw a ghost she turned so white. When I told her in a different campaign my wizard/thief convinced the party to steal the kings ship to save the king from the assassin, then turned around and took the GP value of the ship turned it into XP, and was like a 17th level thief/5th level wizard... when the party fighter/wizard was like 7/4... and that when we found a library of lost spells we both jumped 2 levels in wizard... and the cleric got 0xp for any of that she swore I was making it up.
 

Jmarso

Adventurer
I told a player that started with us at the end of 4e beginning of 5e about the time I got hit 3 times by a Wight lost 3 levels, and as such access to 2 levels of spells... they were still 'Known' in my book but I couldn't cast them anymore... I thought she saw a ghost she turned so white. When I told her in a different campaign my wizard/thief convinced the party to steal the kings ship to save the king from the assassin, then turned around and took the GP value of the ship turned it into XP, and was like a 17th level thief/5th level wizard... when the party fighter/wizard was like 7/4... and that when we found a library of lost spells we both jumped 2 levels in wizard... and the cleric got 0xp for any of that she swore I was making it up.
That's awesome!
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
One of the other challenges with low frequency combat is that with so many combat abilities, if you only run one combat a day or week, players are going to turn it into a cake-walk.

How would you resolve this? Use higher CR enemies just less often? Is there anything else you can do to make those single day fights more affecting?

Well, there are a couple of points here...

1) If you are setting fewer combats as an expectation for the campaign, then there should be a tendency for players to diversify abilities, rather than optimize for combat, making that adjustment easier.

2) Yeah, you just make the combat set pieces a bit bigger. Maybe you use larger CR enemies, or maybe you just more enemies overall, depending on the details of the party.
 

HammerMan

Legend
I know this is going to sound weird... but it was an idea me and my buddy Becky threw around back in 3.5 days. (so we though skill challenges from 4e might handle it, but it didn't really)

Social Combat.

wait wait wait, I know it sounds weird. but hear me out and realize this is just the roughest of ideas.

Imagine if 'calling in back up' 'convincing the king' and/or 'negotiating' (be it price or peace) all acted like combat. Each player and NPC had Hitpoints (we called them stubbornness points) and an AC (we called it reasonableness threshold) and an attack and damage (charm/intellect/something). Then you roll initiative and you wear down the king... you go around and make 'attacks' that either effect or don't (hit AC or don't) and deal damage... the NPCs make counter points that hit or miss and twiddle down your stubbornness when someone hits 0 they are out (much like combat) but here is the important part... each class gets special abilities to do things maybe a list to choose from... making it as exciting as a fight...

THe Good(making things interactive and fun and exciting)/Bad(a lot of work, alot of teaching old dogs new tricks)/Ugly(she when she presented it to her friedn found it lead to a bad social idea she called the 'Urkle wont take no for an answer' that as I understand women find SUPER problematic) of it got us to abandon it...

SOmewhere there HAS to be something between that, skill challanges and 'roll for NPC reaction' a way to do it without gutting 5e entirely...

Becky runs her games by giving background features as treasure/rewards and mixes in some OWoD background type things and merit/flaws...

in her last campaign I had a whole cult that liked me and every where I went I knew the signs to tell them I was a friend, as we got higher level just my name made them seek me out... I also had a mentor that would pop in from time to time to help, ask for help, or just teach me a new spell. I also had a library access in every kingdom on the map and few in other planes. I also had a 'guardian angel' that when I dropped and made death saves if I failed one would offer me help... and let me reroll or just heal me up...but also would ask us to stop evil. I also had a dozen individual named friends who were also adventurers and a % chance they were close enough for me to find at first, and later I could teleport to and ask for help... I ended that game as a 20th level character with 3 epic boons and had 5 not made by me or my allies magic items we found... but all those social/poltical alies... our bard had WAY more, and the Paliden/warlock had more then her.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I know this is going to sound weird... but it was an idea me and my buddy Becky threw around back in 3.5 days. (so we though skill challenges from 4e might handle it, but it didn't really)

Social Combat.

wait wait wait, I know it sounds weird.

Not really. I mean, Fate and Cortex games typically work social conflict using the exact same rules structure as physical conflict - just typically leaning on different stats and skills, but the form does not change.

There's nothing technically against doing teh same for D&D - but the spells, feats, class abilities and such aren't there.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
One of the other challenges with low frequency combat is that with so many combat abilities, if you only run one combat a day or week, players are going to turn it into a cake-walk.
If combat isn't the focus, this isn't exactly a bad thing.

Combat becomes a big setpiece of competence porn for the players to just cut loose and have fun with.

I honestly only run combats when 1) there's a reason for it or 2) the players are in the mood for violence. It's not to run down resources or give any sort of 'feel' of fear and danger.
 

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