This is a travesty of justice! How the crap is it that Brutus the Hedgehog and Sorcerer have never been in a comic together? I seriously need to put them in the same place at the same time and see what catches fire.

As fun as that would be, however, we’re not here to talk about forest fires. We’re returning to Druid Court today to talk about another very serious issue. And that’s the ways we approach our non-combat sessions.

“The courtroom drama” is one such trope, and in my experience it can go one of two ways. In the positive version, everyone is super-invested. Players are arguing passionately to clear their names, trying to exonerate a beloved NPC, or making sure a slippery villain faces justice. The stakes are clear, the evidence is tricky, and the judge might decide either way. The negative version of the trope features your barbarian and your fighter making dice towers while the bard plays a solo session with the GM.

You see, dungeons work because everyone can contribute. They offer concrete challenges to overcome, and every member of the party has access to mechanical tools that help to solve those problems. When you step away from the format of the dungeon and into a courtroom (or a mystery; or an intrigue; or a baking competition) you need some new framework to replace the familiar activity of dungeon delving.

All too often this new framework amounts to “roll simple skill checks until the problem goes away.” And if your sole contribution to a scene is, “I have a negative modifier so I won’t participate for fear of screwing up,” then you’re in for a bad time.

Therefore, I propose we spend today’s discussion talking about “the talky sessions.” How do you make sure that everyone can contribute? Is there a better subsystem than, “Watch the guy with the high Diplomancy modifier do everything?” And what is the single best talky session you’ve been a part of? Sound off with your favorite non-violent conflict resolution systems down in the comments!



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