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D&D General How often (on average) do you have D&D sessions with absolutely no combat?

How often (on average) do you have D&D sessions with absolutely no combat?

  • Never (combat every session)

    Votes: 9 9.8%
  • Almost never (maybe once per campaign)

    Votes: 17 18.5%
  • Not very often (a handful of times - mostly just before or after an adventure)

    Votes: 22 23.9%
  • More than the choice above, but less than 25% of game sessions

    Votes: 20 21.7%
  • 25% to 50% of our sessions do not have combat

    Votes: 19 20.7%
  • More than half our sessions feature no combat

    Votes: 4 4.3%
  • Almost none of our sessions feature combat

    Votes: 1 1.1%
  • Combat?

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    92

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I have been going through and re-reading my "Out of the Frying Pan" story hour from the 3E campaign I ran from 2001 to 2006 in order to compile and edit it and make it available for download for those who are interested, and in the midst of that it hit me that the very first session of that campaign had no combat whatsoever and the second one only had two small barehanded brawls. Recently, when I started up a second 5E campaign, the first two session featured no combat - and the one before that only had a combat in the first session b/c it was mostly a newbie group and I wanted a short easy combat to show them the ropes of initiative and the like.

Anyway, this got me thinking about how often I ran D&D sessions without any combat and wondering where I fit in with others. Obviously, I don't have any hard numbers because I haven't kept track. But in my current games (from what I can figure looking back), one campaign has had three combat-less sessions (out of 11) and the other has had two (out of 19 sessions).

So I did my best to create some poll choices which are meant to represent over the length of a full campaign. In my case, I'd vote "More than the choice above, but less than 25% of game sessions" considering the various campaigns I've run. I am also curious which edition you've mostly played and if you've noticed any difference in the frequency of combat over the years (either as a result of edition changes or just personal taste or some combo).

I do plan to start keeping track as I go through the story hour and for my forthcoming sessions.
 

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Democratus

Explorer
For me it depends on the edition of D&D being run and the expectations of the table.

For Old-School games (we use Old School Essentials) we can go several sessions without a combat. Lots of plotting, sneaking, stealing, mapping, etc.

For more modern editions like 4e and 5e, combat seems to be more expected. So it is a rare session that doesn't have at least one fight.
 

SirMoogle

Explorer
My current campaign is an adventure path (Tomb of Annihilation), so I'm guessing that's the reason behind the constant combat (not to mention the constant travelling across Chult). From what my DM told me, there's going to be more RPing in his upcoming homebrew campaign, so I expect the ratio of combat/non-combat sessions to be more equal.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
Actually, I guess I do it quite often if I consider the times I sit with my players to discuss downtime.

But even then, sometimes I like to mix it up by having one-encounter-days that foreshadows later threats to the party.
 

I'd phrase it as "not never". Like it's often enough that I can think of multiple specific sessions in the COVID timez, but they're a small minority of the total. 5-10% probably. Other RPGs it can be higher, though D&D isn't the fightiest RPG I've ever played - I think that would be Cyberpunk 2020, which I don't think we ever had a session where someone didn't get shot (though I know Mike Pondsmith had plenty, Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads makes that clear). Partly that was due to having a true munchkin in the party (since reformed) who would literally intentionally end social or sneaking scenes by shooting people with very large and loud handguns if he didn't feel he was "winning".

It's maybe worth noting that the shorter your sessions, the more likely it is. We rarely go much beyond 3 hours atm and sometimes it's more like 2, and that has made it so obviously more sessions have no combat than when we regularly went 6-8 hours back in the day.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Usually there's a fight, but a session or two with no combat is not uncommon. When running Vallaki in Strahd though, which is a political powder keg chapter, we had six or seven sessions with zero combat. It was fun as hell, with lots of tension in other ways that weren't related to fighting.
 



My one gaming group meets for only two hours at a time, so we frequently can go without combat during a session. My other group sometimes goes without combat during a session. There's a lot of investigation and role-playing in that campaign, too.

Another factor right now is that playing online, stuff just seems to take longer, whether that's combat or the other parts of the game. We've had sessions that are just combat, or the fight takes up half of the time we have.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
"How often (on average) do you have D&D sessions with absolutely no combat?"

It really depends on whether, and how much, Chad has been drinking before we start.

It's not that we ever plan on the fight breaking out. But you know ... if the game starts with Chad slurring, "Ima roll initiative, and y'all a bunch a no-good mothertruckers" then it's going downhill.

Pretty soon, the minis are flying, and it's just a matter of time before someone is impaled by a d4.

The lesson, as always, is don't be a Chad. And probably don't get blotto before playing.

So, maybe half the time?
 

The only times I can recall running an entire gaming session with no combat was the first adventure of a given campaign, when the PCs are just meeting up with each other and we're establishing prominent NPCs and such. Other than that, there's almost certainly going to be combat every adventure, as that's what my players expect and enjoy.

Johnathan
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
On average I'd say there's maybe one no-combat session per adventure during the adventure (a typical adventure takes 8-10 sessions, some less, a few vastly more), and usually a couple of non-combat* downtime-treasury-training-restocking sessions between adventures.

In-adventure sessions without combat usually involve either lots of exploring or lots of resting and-or lots of travel.

* - non-combat vs anything I-as-GM produce; occasional in-party combat might arise but I'm not counting that for these purposes.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I foolishly had not considered that length of session is going to be a huge influence on this, not just play-style and expectations.

My two groups have four and five hour sessions respectively - which are about all I can manage these days, but about two hours shorter than what I ran for years (and about half as often).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
"How often (on average) do you have D&D sessions with absolutely no combat?"

It really depends on whether, and how much, Chad has been drinking before we start.

It's not that we ever plan on the fight breaking out. But you know ... if the game starts with Chad slurring, "Ima roll initiative, and y'all a bunch a no-good mothertruckers" then it's going downhill.

Pretty soon, the minis are flying, and it's just a matter of time before someone is impaled by a d4.

The lesson, as always, is don't be a Chad. And probably don't get blotto before playing.
Getting blotto before or while DMing, however, can sometimes make for a much more memorable game. :)
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Probably about a third right now. I blame covid, virtual playing requires a little more prep work to get a combat going. During face-to-face play, maybe one session out of 10.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
I foolishly had not considered that length of session is going to be a huge influence on this, not just play-style and expectations.

My two groups have four and five hour sessions respectively - which are about all I can manage these days, but about two hours shorter than what I ran for years (and about half as often).
Oh yea, that’s a huge factor. Our normal sessions used to be 4 hours, but virtual sessions are maybe 2-2.5 hours.
 


TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
If I limit it to my experience in 5E, I'd say that, depending on the campaign, between 25% to 40ish% of my sessions have no combat in them.

The more action and adventure-focused campaigns always end up having at least one out of four sessions that's in town for players to shop, get rewards for their deeds, talk to characters, explore the city, etc. In more social, investigative or lighter campaigns, the players often end up spending almost half their sessions doing that.

Also, I've seen quite a few threads about the exploration pillar, but exploration and travel takes some time in my campaigns. Not full sessions, but it's not rare that we'll have a solid half-hour for travelling from point A to B, with description, choices, skill challenges, etc.
 

Mainly we just have non-combat sessions during downtime, but we are currently stuck on the caravan to Waterdeep and the rolled encounters have not included many fights. I keep reminding my players that they can seek out some action by going hunting or patrolling for bandits, but they'd rather handwave a lot of the trip. (I let them choose one action/travelling day, two actions on a rest day.)

We also rarely go over 2.5 hours, because my son has attention issues. Medication may be in his future, but we are working on other contributing factors before making that call.
 

Nebulous

Legend
yes, our sessions are short, sometimes 1.5 to 2.5 hours. But in person we didn't usually play more than 2-3 anyway. The 4 hour sessions are long gone. I get too tired for that now, unless it's a special occasion.
 

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