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The Seer Vitz

Combat: An RPG Necessity?

I was inspired to write this article based on a comment I received one night while hosting in Games_RPG. One individual (who shall remain nameless) was using a program that created "fighting" macros. When I asked him to stop (since in the process it scrolled), he replied "Well, isn’t this a roleplaying room?" When I replied in the affirmative, he then questioned "Well, don’t you fight in roleplaying games?"

"Well, to be honest," I calmly told him, "no you don’t have to." Of course he didn’t like my answer but either way, he was scrolling and scrolling is not allowed in chat rooms anyway. But, then I sat back and thought of all the times I host in the chat room, and realized that almost 100% of the time that people are "in-character" while in chat, there is basically one fight or another. This got me to wondering whether combat is that important to RPG’s or whether this is just an abnormality.

In my opinion, combat is not an intricate part of an RPG. Some might disagree and say that it is, but I don’t see why it has to be. Conflicts can be overcome without resorting to fighting in RPG’s, so why is combat so necessary? Some people love to roll dice, and would suspect that without combat and fights that they would not be allowed to, but if you think of it, there are many non-combat situations where they can roll the dice instead. For instance, they could roll some sort of persuasion check to convince their opponent that a battle is not necessary.

After I came to the conclusion that combat is not necessary, I also realized that in online games, combat sometimes detracts from the game. Combat can greatly slow down an online game. If the action is going well, and the players are having a good time and then a situation arises where combat is necessary, the game has to switch to a more strict rule specific type, instead of a free form discussion. If this doesn’t occur, combat becomes very hard to understand or follow. But, by changing over to a strict rule system, the game slows down drastically, and the GM and players have to say more things out of character.

I am not saying that there should not be combat in online or "real-life" RPG’s, I am just saying that it is not necessary. I am also saying that it can slow down a game significantly online. When the game slows down too much, sometimes the players lose interest, and start doing other things such as checking their e-mail. (Trust me, I know, I played once online, and during combat decided to take care of other business <s>)

But the real point of this article is that if you are going to come to my chat on Tuesday nights, please don’t fight with one another. Or if you think you absolutely must (to remain in character, of course), then please do it only as a last resort. You can’t understand how much damage the poor inn has suffered because of the needless, endless fighting!

In case you are not yet aware, Seer Vitz hosts chat in the Games_RPG room from 9:00 p.m. EST. until whenever on Tuesdays. Feel free to stop by to discuss his articles, or just to have a good time. All he asks is that you try to refrain from trying to kill each other. <s>

James A. Vitz
RPG Columnist