“But Colin! Roleplay doesn’t end when initiative begins! You can still make characterful decisions and drop action hero quips during the fight!”

Yes. Yes you can. And if you’re gaming with me, I’d appreciate it if you did. That is part of the hobby that I happen to enjoy. But if you find yourself adventuring alongside Handbook-World’s premiere diva, you know that isn’t what she’s talking about at all.

When a player like Wizard says “let’s get back to roleplay,” they don’t want to cast damaging spells or get in a few lines of dialogue between initiative passes. They want extended improvised conversations between characters, punctuated by only the most occasional of Diplomancy checks. That means roomfuls of maneuvering nobles at a costume ball. It means standing trial before a jury of giants and talking your way out of titanicide charges. It means riddling with Smaug rather than fighting him. Chances are that most players would enjoy any of these set-piece social encounters. But the problems come creeping in when one player wants every encounter to look that way.

If you’ve got one very-talky player at the table with combat monkeys, you’ve got problems. The mechanically-inclined sword swingers groan with boredom when the speechifying starts. The amateur thespian is on the phone and scrolling Reddit by the end of combat round 1. And the solution (for me anyway) has a lot to do with pacing.

Assuming a “standard game night” of four players, four hours, and dungeon fantasy, I can fit in an average of five big encounters per session. And within that setup, my rule of thumb is to include at least one combat and at least one RP encounter. I’ll admit that it’s not an especially complicated solution, but it does work for me. That’s because my goal is to serve all of my players, every time, at least a little. Even if they don’t love every moment of the session, they’ll always feel like they got at least a taste of their favorite flavor.

What about the rest of you guys though? When it comes time to balance your “I want RP” players against your “could we please kill something now?” players, how do you keep everyone entertained? For today’s discussion, tell us all about your own preferred combat/RP ratio, along with your strats to achieve it. With any luck, we’ll collectively discover the best ways to keep most folk happy most of the time. All clear? Then I’ll see you down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Thrice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.