5E Would you play D&D if you knew there would be no combat?

Would you play D&D if there was no combat?


  • Total voters
    165

ad_hoc

Hero
Even for a session? The OP doesn't give a time frame.

You can play the game fine without endlessly murdering things. It even says so in the DMG!

. . . but I know, nobody reads the DMG.
Obviously it will be rare for all 3 pillars to be engaged in a single moment, so most of the time only 1 or 2 will be going on at any given time.

You're just twisting things around now.

No one has said that combat must be occurring at all times.
 

Ath-kethin

Explorer
Obviously it will be rare for all 3 pillars to be engaged in a single moment, so most of the time only 1 or 2 will be going on at any given time.

You're just twisting things around now.

No one has said that combat must be occurring at all times.
But that's where I'm a little confused. The OP asked about playing with no combat. My enthusiastic yes was met with an assertation that it isn't D&D if a pillar is missing.

I found that odd because the OP didn't specify a time frame for no combat. Hence my question about whether it still "counts" as D&D if there is a pillar missing for a session. And if the answer is "yes," how many sessions in a row can lack, say, exploration, before it's no longer D&D?

Understand that I absolutely believe that D&D can do and be anything, and over 25+ years I've done a lot of it - all while using settings and resources with official D&D logos on them. I'm happy to mix and match in stuff from anything from He-Man to My Little Pony to matchbox cars to accommodate different games and ideas.

After all, my copies of various DMGs have always said I could.
 

Anoth

Explorer
I will add that I am curious. I would love to play whatever he has in mind and try to be a productive player and have a good time. I like people that try to shake things up. Create some fun scenarios and see how it goes.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I will add that I am curious. I would love to play whatever he has in mind and try to be a productive player and have a good time. I like people that try to shake things up. Create some fun scenarios and see how it goes.
My experience with DMs that advertise all "RP" sessions or no or low-combat sessions is that they have no idea how to make compelling scenes in just the exploration and social interaction pillars. Most of the scenes involve ordering breakfast at the tavern, shopping, interviewing quirky, cagey NPCs, and aimless wandering about. There are no interesting stakes to be found, just endless frustration and boredom. That is not a good session of D&D in my view, even if it's a one-off thing in a regular campaign, though to each their own. Having done enough of this sort of thing in the past, I avoid it now.
 

Anoth

Explorer
My experience with DMs that advertise all "RP" sessions or no or low-combat sessions is that they have no idea how to make compelling scenes in just the exploration and social interaction pillars. Most of the scenes involve ordering breakfast at the tavern, shopping, interviewing quirky, cagey NPCs, and aimless wandering about. There are no interesting stakes to be found, just endless frustration and boredom. That is not a good session of D&D in my view, even if it's a one-off thing in a regular campaign, though to each their own. Having done enough of this sort of thing in the past, I avoid it now.
I’ve run into that alot and even in Cthulhu where combat is normally a minor but lethal part of the game. Anyone can draw a dungeon on graph paper and populate it with critters. Developing intense social and exploration can be very difficult and challenging. It takes lots of experience and training.
 

hawkeyefan

Adventurer
I certainly think that changing the fundamental expectations of play is something that can be done. It would likely take some serious effort on the group’s part, and in particular, the DM’s part.

You’d have to consider what options to even allow. A Fighter isn’t going to be all that useful in such a game; do you remove the class, or do you change it so that there’s more opportunity to contribute?

You probably want to expand on social interaction rules, like Persuasion and Deception and the like. There’s some easy ways to do that, but you’d likely want to establish them before hand. Having everything boil down to one CHA check seems a bit boring and overly simple. So do you go with skill challenges? Something else?

Skill selection is likely going to be huge in such a game, so skills by class and background may need some consideration. Backgrounds would seem to be almost more important than class, in some ways....there’s almost always some social aspect of a background.

Certain spells would become very desirable. Charm Person for example is a low level spell whose impact would go up quite a bit. You’d likely have to consider changes to it since the likelihood that the caster or his allies break it by attacking is gone. There’d be lots of potential changes like that to consider.

Much of this likely could be abdicated on the fly, but for players to have a clear understanding and make informed decisions, you’d likely have to do a good amount of it ahead of time.

Such a game might really be a lot of fun. My question is if the work I think it would take would be worth the effort compared to picking up another system and using that.

I think the answer to that would depend on exactly what you were trying to achieve....intrigue/espionage or horror/survival or what...and what decisions you went with to try and achieve it.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
But that's where I'm a little confused. The OP asked about playing with no combat. My enthusiastic yes was met with an assertation that it isn't D&D if a pillar is missing.

I found that odd because the OP didn't specify a time frame for no combat. Hence my question about whether it still "counts" as D&D if there is a pillar missing for a session. And if the answer is "yes," how many sessions in a row can lack, say, exploration, before it's no longer D&D?
Well how long is a session?

Can you dig half a hole?

What is the definition of pornography?

Some amount of time will occur between combat. That's not only okay but necessary.

Personally, my ideal is 1/3 of game time though I'm happy with anything as little as 20% or so. I wouldn't play in a game with under 10%. I don't think a game with 0% combat is 5e D&D.

Understand that I absolutely believe that D&D can do and be anything,
Then the label/name "D&D" means nothing.
 

Giltonio_Santos

Adventurer
Not as a champion fighter or barbarian berserker, but I can see pretty much every other character option in the core game playing fine in a game with no combat-related challenges.

I don't think I can agree with the general opinion going through this thread about the mechanics of D&D not supporting that kind of gameplay. Almost every 5e character is heavily defined by spell selection and could be tailored to take on exploration and social interaction challenges instead of combat ones.

That said, I think we would need a very creative DM to fulfill that satisfactorily.
 

Celebrim

Legend
My experience with DMs that advertise all "RP" sessions or no or low-combat sessions is that they have no idea how to make compelling scenes in just the exploration and social interaction pillars. Most of the scenes involve ordering breakfast at the tavern, shopping, interviewing quirky, cagey NPCs, and aimless wandering about. There are no interesting stakes to be found, just endless frustration and boredom. That is not a good session of D&D in my view, even if it's a one-off thing in a regular campaign, though to each their own. Having done enough of this sort of thing in the past, I avoid it now.
Almost certainly you were dealing with a DM that tried to improvise everything, often under the bad excuse that they are expecting the PC's to improvise everything.

You aren't for example diplomats negotiating for the surrender of the town so that a large army outside won't have to sack it, or investigators trying to discover how a man was murdered inside a locked room barred from the inside, or fleeing from a tsunami as it gobbles up a city, etc. Those are scenarios in a low combat RPG. Ordering breakfast can be a compelling scene, and I do recall one very memorable game of Chill that turned on me RPing out the act of ordering breakfast, but it was memorable only because it was part of a larger storyline. It's not story in and of itself.
 

pemerton

Legend
There's at least some combat in every RPG, even the ones focused on personal interaction or investigation.
There's no combat in Cthulhu Dark.

Our Classic Traveller game had no combat in its first two sessions, and has had other sessions without combat. But Traveller has a good range of fairly robust action resolution rules for other situations (dealing with bureaucrats; jumping from ship to ship in a vacc suit; etc).

I answered No to the poll not because I'm averse to no-combat or low-combat RPGing, but because I wouldn't use D&D for that. Most of the action resolution in D&D is focused on resolving combat, and (outside of 4e skill challenges) D&D tends to lack robust non-combat resolution frameworks.
 

pemerton

Legend
can you use an engine that is not d&d to play d&d
I think the answer to this is yes, at least for a certain understanding of D&D.

I've used Rolemaster to play games that, in their basic tropes - both PCs and setting - were D&D-like. Though the action had a different feel from D&D, because of the different resolution mechanics.

I believe that Tunnels & Trolls could be used to play a game similar to something like B2 Keep on the Borderlands, though my personal T&T experience is pretty minimal.
 
Prompted by another thread; if you were involved in a new D&D game and were aware up front it would NOT be a combat heavy game, or hardly any combat at all, but rather exploration and mystery and horror, would you still play? Assume you do not know the DM and he is not a friend, this is all 100% new.
Yes, no problem.
 

Immoralkickass

Explorer
I wanted to vote, but i can't choose between the options. You see, the PHB's rules are mostly combat because it assumes the setting is Forgotten Realms, it assumes the players are adventurers. These are the 2 big assumptions that make up the rules.

If no combat means i am playing Jon the apple picker in a world where Vecna is on the verge of world domination, then no, i would not play.

This kind of question is the same as asking 'Would you play in a 0 magic campaign?' The answer is always the same: Depends on the setting and houserules. From there, you can tell what are the assumptions of the DM.
 
Using D&D to run a non-combat game is quite simply using the wrong tool for the job. It might still be a good game depending on the skill of the participants, but the system would do very little to support the game.
This is true but I'd be okay with it personally. Half the most fun RPG experiences I've had were with arguably wrong tool games.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Almost certainly you were dealing with a DM that tried to improvise everything, often under the bad excuse that they are expecting the PC's to improvise everything.

You aren't for example diplomats negotiating for the surrender of the town so that a large army outside won't have to sack it, or investigators trying to discover how a man was murdered inside a locked room barred from the inside, or fleeing from a tsunami as it gobbles up a city, etc. Those are scenarios in a low combat RPG. Ordering breakfast can be a compelling scene, and I do recall one very memorable game of Chill that turned on me RPing out the act of ordering breakfast, but it was memorable only because it was part of a larger storyline. It's not story in and of itself.
It's often an improvising DM as you say or a DM who is under the belief that they can't make stuff happen to cause the situation to become dramatic. This is how you end up with a minute-by-minute play through of the adventurers' day, only there's no adventure. I've watched Twitch streams that do this. Not entertaining, but enlightening.

A DM who improvises everything though can, in fact, create an amazing game on the fly given improvisational skills. But few possess them in my experience and the system isn't exactly the best for that sort of play compared to other games.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It's often an improvising DM as you say or a DM who is under the belief that they can't make stuff happen to cause the situation to become dramatic. This is how you end up with a minute-by-minute play through of the adventurers' day, only there's no adventure. I've watched Twitch streams that do this. Not entertaining, but enlightening.

A DM who improvises everything though can, in fact, create an amazing game on the fly given improvisational skills. But few possess them in my experience and the system isn't exactly the best for that sort of play compared to other games.

I do very heavy RP games, it's never just "going shopping". Unless of course there's a reason to play out the shopping trip like the PC's nemesis is spreading false rumors and the PC is forced to resort to the shadier part of town to get supplies. Improv is not easy, but it's a skill you can improve on over time. I find it helps to have high level notes of organizations, conflicts, who's who along with a list of random names.

But it depends on what people enjoy. When I started up a new group I was up front about it being RP heavy, if the only thing you find fun at the table is combat then I'm probably not the right DM for you. Which is fine.

On the other hand, a game with absolutely no combat would also be ignoring half the game (even if it's only 1/4 to 1/3 the time in most sessions) and I wouldn't enjoy it.
 

Celebrim

Legend
It's often an improvising DM as you say or a DM who is under the belief that they can't make stuff happen to cause the situation to become dramatic. This is how you end up with a minute-by-minute play through of the adventurers' day, only there's no adventure. I've watched Twitch streams that do this. Not entertaining, but enlightening.
Ugh. I admit I have ran that game before, but for 5 year old players playing make believe who did not want monsters and other scary stuff harshing up their imagined play day. It's the equivalent of "The Pokey Little Puppy: The RPG".

A DM who improvises everything though can, in fact, create an amazing game on the fly given improvisational skills. But few possess them in my experience and the system isn't exactly the best for that sort of play compared to other games.
I improvise stuff in every session I play. At the same time, I'm not sure I've ever improvised anything. Yes, no amount of preparation is ever complete, and you never know what the players are going to do. Invariably you'll have to make stuff up. But even when I'm improvising, what I'm doing is actually leveraging other sorts of preparation. I'm leveraging all the reading in history I've done to create color on the fly. I'm leveraging all the past games I've ran to take bits and pieces from other games and reshaping them to fit this one. I'm leveraging the world building I've put into the setting to fill in the blank spaces in the map. I'm leveraging even say a random table to help spur my imagination. Stories and scenarios don't just leap from my head full formed like Athena arrayed for battle. They are coming as it were out of a sketch book of half-baked ideas that suddenly are now needed.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Ugh. I admit I have ran that game before, but for 5 year old players playing make believe who did not want monsters and other scary stuff harshing up their imagined play day. It's the equivalent of "The Pokey Little Puppy: The RPG".
I don't know any DM who hasn't run this sort of game including myself. But, for my part, not anymore.

I improvise stuff in every session I play. At the same time, I'm not sure I've ever improvised anything. Yes, no amount of preparation is ever complete, and you never know what the players are going to do. Invariably you'll have to make stuff up. But even when I'm improvising, what I'm doing is actually leveraging other sorts of preparation. I'm leveraging all the reading in history I've done to create color on the fly. I'm leveraging all the past games I've ran to take bits and pieces from other games and reshaping them to fit this one. I'm leveraging the world building I've put into the setting to fill in the blank spaces in the map. I'm leveraging even say a random table to help spur my imagination. Stories and scenarios don't just leap from my head full formed like Athena arrayed for battle. They are coming as it were out of a sketch book of half-baked ideas that suddenly are now needed.
I improvise too, of course. We all do. The part where I see a lot of DMs fail is when they don't know how to interject conflict into a non-combat scene such that there are now stakes that people care about and that bring the scene to life. One doesn't need a campaign where the streets run red with blood to make a dramatic game - that's just the easiest way to make it happen in D&D. Other scenes can be rife with drama if the DM knows how and when to do it. But most in my experience do not and so it's ordering breakfast, shopping, and interviewing quirky, cagey NPCs all the way down.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
can you use the engine of d&d to not play d&d
Mutants and Masterminds. So, yes. Mind you, that is a havily modified engine. But also mind that most every homebrewer modifies the engine somewhat....

can you use an engine that is not d&d to play d&d
The last time I played Old School Hack... it felt pretty much like D&D to me. So, I'd say probably yes.

what is the distinction? Are some people just using the words d&d to describe any rpg?
For the second, probably not. "D&D" is not being used as "Kleenex" here.

I think the ambiguity of language is a useful thing. There is "Playing D&D" - using a ruleset published by an appropriate copyright holder as D&D. Then there's "playing D&D", which is playing a game that has enough of the traits of D&D as to feel as if it is in the same sub-genre as D&D itself.

And, much of the issue is right in that word - sub-genre. Folks like sharp lines on their definitions, but genres aren't like that. If you have enough of the tropes (which include, but are not limited to, the published mechanics) then you're in the genre. Genres are defined by inclusion, rather than exclusion.

is asking these questions gatekeeping?
Asking questions when you don't have a presupposed answer is not gatekeeping.
 

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