Non combat encounters : Natural hazards and contests

With Amazing Tales being a kids game I’m sometimes asked about how parents can keep combat out of it. The answer of course, is not to put any in. The challenge, is what to put there instead?

A lack of combat shouldn’t mean a lack of conflict, as I wrote last week if you’re going to have much of a story conflict is essential. But as last week’s article pointed out, the range of possible conflicts is huge.

This article isn’t about how to write the perfect mystery or an investigative scenario. It’s about having more options to go in that gaming space where you’d usually say ‘And then the bandits attack, roll initiative!’. This week it takes a look at two kinds of non combat encounters – natural hazards, and contests.


What do you do when the bridge is out and the river in flood?

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RPG Theory: Creating conflicts

A band of adventurers armed with sword and spell venture underground to kill monsters and claim treasure. That was the original dungeons and dragons concept and it’s propelled the hobby for the subsequent forty years. But games don’t have to be about violence, and, there are lots more ways to set up a good conflict.

The good news is any kind of conflict, whether it involves violence or not can be summarised in the following form

  • I want …
  • I can’t have it because …  and …
  • If I succeed… but if I fail…

The appeal of violence in role-playing games is straightforward, a fight provides the essential narrative elements in condensed form. You’ve got a conflict, you’ve got stakes, you’ve got motivation, all of it right there in the time it takes to say ‘there are five goblins in the room’. If your story isn’t going to feature violence it still needs those things. So let’s look at them one at a time.

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