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Old 03-02-2018, 08:27 AM   #1
A Ladder
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Default Non-combat encounter ideas

I have the most trouble coming up with ways to challenge/engage my party without resulting to violence. What are some good non-combat encounters that you guys have thrown at your players?

I figure some other GMs might have this same problem and thought a thread where we continually add to it might be a useful resource.

Stormcrow's golden fruit encounter was awesome. I'd like to see more like this:
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...you suddenly encounter a little old hermit guarding a golden tree whose fruits glow with a pale light, and who gives you a riddle explaining the purpose of the tree. Can you figure out the riddle? Do you try eating the fruit? Do you kill the old man? Is he really just an old man? These are the sorts of encounters players will remember...
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Old 03-02-2018, 11:11 AM   #2
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Default Re: Non-combat encounter ideas

The actual scenario was a good bit more complicated than this, but I recently had a character (with amnesia, making this way more fun) run into a woman who’d just imbibed a love potion. She was calling him “love” and “husband” and imploring him not to leave her again.

There’s certainly the seed of a non-combat DFRPG encounter there.

(Valentine’s day session)
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Old 03-02-2018, 11:45 AM   #3
mlangsdorf
 
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Default Re: Non-combat encounter ideas

Some non-combat encounters are obstacles. This is one adapted from the original Wasteland computer game:

The delvers reach a wide cross tunnel, filled with a raging river. There's a valuable treasure visible on the other side of the river, but the river itself is a no-mana zone. Swimming in the river is possible, but risks getting swept along with the current, injured, and deposited elsewhere in the dungeon.
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Old 03-02-2018, 11:49 AM   #4
ArchonShiva
 
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Default Re: Non-combat encounter ideas

I also have a few non-combat encounters appropriate to dungeon-based play which can be gleaned form my session reports.

The rescue mission was done entirely without fighting, and the Pressure Plates section is easy to drop into any dungeon. Find a map with some clutter, and make the players aware (anything from skill rolls to a plaque might do) that they can only step on tiles that already have something on them, or they will trigger (bad stuff). Feel free to make all or part of it a no-mana zone (or, more interestingly, maybe a no-Movement college zone) as needed, to keep it an interesting athletics challenge rather than a boring magical one.
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Old 03-02-2018, 12:33 PM   #5
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Default Re: Non-combat encounter ideas

GURPS Underground Adventures also offers a bunch of non-combat challenges for PCs stuck in a cavern network.

In this case, rather than removing mana outright, lacing the rock across the entire cave network with trace amounts of meteoric iron will let the wizard function, while still stopping the most boring solutions, such as Shape Earth. He can still provide light, increase DX, cast Grease to make it easier to slip through, etc.

Edit:
As a fun diversion, center a challenge around role-playing an elaborate Reasearch roll. Hunting down information about (e.g.) a monster’s vulnerability through encyclopedias with missing volumes and/or missing pages, held in private collections, etc. If uses the “town” as a dungeon, giving it a bit more life, and encourages the use of social skills, bribes, etc.
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Last edited by ArchonShiva; 03-02-2018 at 12:39 PM.
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Old 03-02-2018, 01:00 PM   #6
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Default Re: Non-combat encounter ideas

In my last fantasy campaign, one of the players' favorite "dungeons" involved no monsters or fighting. It was the leftover training facility of a long-forgotten cabal of assassins, designed to challenge the alertness, athleticism, and technical skills of would-be members, confirming their ability to spot and evade security measures, both mundane and magical. The critical path involved dealing with locked portals, secret and concealed doors, obvious obstacles (walls to climb, pits to cross, swinging blades to dodge, etc.), unobvious traps, and "tricks" that could be solved using unusual skills rather than by asking the players to think like 400-point heroes. There were also dead-ends and secondary routes, equally full of challenges.

The players liked this because it tested the characters and because it was almost completely programmatic. That group actually enjoyed riddles that tested the players, and story-heavy scenarios that relied on a lot of GM judgment, so that's what I provided most of the time. This adventure was a departure from that, which is what made it so memorable.

Honorable mention goes to an encounter I mentioned in another thread: the creepy traveling carnival. It was obviously supernatural, and the carnies were not what they appeared to be (nobody discovered what they actually were). Getting the carnival to move on and stop endangering the nearby village was the primary quest, and while the PCs could have gone on a rampage, it was clear to them that they'd have lost the fight, so they resorted to talk and game-playing to get the carnies to move along. The games were high-stakes, and while some were essentially gladiatorial and thus violent, others amounted to gambling . . . with the heroes' long-term physical, mental, and spiritual health at stake. The prizes were wonderful, of course.
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Old 03-02-2018, 09:29 PM   #7
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Default Re: Non-combat encounter ideas

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Originally Posted by ArchonShiva View Post
GURPS Underground Adventures also offers a bunch of non-combat challenges for PCs stuck in a cavern network.
That and DF: Wilderness Adventures are just treasure troves of great non-combat adventure. They smack that goal right on the nose (to inappropriately toss in a combat metaphor for no reason). Together, they'll make near any GM say "forget the dungeon; we're doing nature tonight."
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:16 PM   #8
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Default Re: Non-combat encounter ideas

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
In my last fantasy campaign, one of the players' favorite "dungeons" involved no monsters or fighting. It was the leftover training facility of a long-forgotten cabal of assassins, designed to challenge the alertness, athleticism, and technical skills of would-be members, confirming their ability to spot and evade security measures, both mundane and magical. The critical path involved dealing with locked portals, secret and concealed doors, obvious obstacles (walls to climb, pits to cross, swinging blades to dodge, etc.), unobvious traps, and "tricks" that could be solved using unusual skills rather than by asking the players to think like 400-point heroes. There were also dead-ends and secondary routes, equally full of challenges.
Probably I should put something like this in my mega dungeon
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Old 03-03-2018, 02:00 PM   #9
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Default Re: Non-combat encounter ideas

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
In my last fantasy campaign, one of the players' favorite "dungeons" involved no monsters or fighting. It was the leftover training facility of a long-forgotten cabal of assassins, designed to challenge the alertness, athleticism, and technical skills of would-be members, confirming their ability to spot and evade security measures, both mundane and magical. The critical path involved dealing with locked portals, secret and concealed doors, obvious obstacles (walls to climb, pits to cross, swinging blades to dodge, etc.), unobvious traps, and "tricks" that could be solved using unusual skills rather than by asking the players to think like 400-point heroes. There were also dead-ends and secondary routes, equally full of challenges.
A Pyramid article on this, maybe? I've always loved platform games and I've tried building an adventure around moving around a place, but I got stuck feeling it would just be a series of not very meaningful rolls.

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Originally Posted by tbone View Post
That and DF: Wilderness Adventures are just treasure troves of great non-combat adventure. They smack that goal right on the nose (to inappropriately toss in a combat metaphor for no reason). Together, they'll make near any GM say "forget the dungeon; we're doing nature tonight."
Any suggestion on how to make camping decisions something to actually think about? I love the idea of having to choose between comfort, concealment and LoS, but I couldn't create a situation where a player actually wonders which is a good decision, it turns out more like "I guess I'll take comfort and concealment".
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Old 03-04-2018, 12:09 AM   #10
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Default Re: Non-combat encounter ideas

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Any suggestion on how to make camping decisions something to actually think about? I love the idea of having to choose between comfort, concealment and LoS, but I couldn't create a situation where a player actually wonders which is a good decision, it turns out more like "I guess I'll take comfort and concealment".
Comfort means they lose less FP (or none) from poor sleep.

Concealment makes it harder to be found.

LOS means you can see enemies coming more easily (once they find you), and see wild animals before they stumble into/track you to your sleeping spot.
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