Struggling over fighting

How much combat should be in a roleplaying game? Of course that depends upon the audience, but most games have some level of fighting in the mix. (“What do you mean you parley? Grab your gun and shoot the bad guys already!”) This is what I’m wrestling with for Triune–how much should the player-characters engage in a good scrap?

In my most recent playtest, one player remarked, “I didn’t expect to spend so much time investigating!” She’s a D&D vet, so her perspective is likely skewed towards ye olde hack-n-slash. (At least she didn’t demand XP and gold for killing a bad guy.) She wasn’t complaining per se, but if I want Triune to have some level of financial success, I need to take the market’s expectations into account. That’s why I need to examine how much combat should exist in a given session of Triune.

“But that’s up to the players!” I’m not denying that, but the structure of rules encourage certain types of gameplay. With the predominance of feats and powers related to fighting, D&D 4E encourages mini-based combat. You could run a murder mystery campaign or an adventure based mostly on social drama, but it would be damn hard since the rules inhibit such activities. (“I use Called Shot to hit on the princess!”) Even Charisma, the social attribute, can be used for fighting in the new edition.

What should Triune encourage? I wanted a Law & Order type gameplay where PCs investigate crimes and solve puzzles, but that seems to be a bit drab. Yet I don’t want PCs to be detectives from 80s movies, blasting away big-haired criminals before so much as a warrant is shown. Where is that happy mean? Does it exist? Is there a happy mode or at least a mildly amused standard deviation?

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