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jendefer

Non-Combat Story Climaxes

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My group had one episode in which the goal was to encase an ally with a terminal illness in carbonite (to keep him alive until a cure could be completed). The PCs had to wine and dine Lando to clear their criminal records left over from the Jewel of Yavin. They had to do mechanical checks and medical checks to give the freezing process the best chance of not killing their ally. They had to medically and psychologically support their suffering ally during the run-up. And they had to navigate the underworld of Cloud City, making deals between shady organizations to gain access to a freezing facility that would let them try their crazy scheme. It was a satisfying adventure, and one thing that was notable about it was how little combat was involved. It got me thinking.

While combat can be exciting, there are other types of encounters that could also be a satisfying way to solve the main problem of an episode/session. I am looking for some suggestions, either things you have GM'd or ideas you have for non-combat story climaxes. Here are some examples of what I mean.

  • Locating a missing person. If they were kidnapped, then combat with the perpetrators might be considered the most likely climax. But if the person is lost, or shipwrecked, or has already made some progress in freeing themselves, then the investigation and the tracking is the focus. 
  • Winning a race. This is not necessarily a sporting event. It could be a matter of trying to beat a rival smuggling crew to a customer, and the first one to the delivery point gets paid the better rate. This could be an opportunity for using social contacts or technological skills to improve your chances.
  • Obtaining an important contact. This could be a "social combat" situation, such as winning a debate, to sway an important NPC to back the PCs' group instead of that of a rival. My group did something like this in Beyond the Rim.
  • Destroying an artifact. My PCs were commissioned to destroy the "darkness" coming from a location. While there were some skirmishes with cultists, those mostly fled, and the focus was on destroying the crystal that fueled the Dark Side vergence and getting allies to safety as the place collapsed. A similar type of thing could be done in a technological setting, with sabotaging a reactor or something like that.

So what types of non-combat climaxes have worked in your groups? Or what ideas do you have to try?

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I think your examples are great, and I agree that you don't need to follow the video game "Boss Fight" structure for every game. I think I would say a reunification of some kind is a good way to end a session and is similar to what you said about locating a missing person. I also like to have a scene where information is revealed that had remained a mystery for the session or campaign thus far. 

I also have had some endings of a session or arc where the characters identify some new goal for the first time. 

 

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Incredibly, after three years and more than 35 sessions, my players have been in combat only about a dozen times.

In part, I credit the SW/Genesys dice system, which has made frequent skill checks fun, and allowed us to satisfy the need for dice-rolling out of combat. 

The party is also well-balanced and in-tune with realities of the underworld, so when I offer alternatives to fighting, they pick them.

Climaxes in our adventures that come to mind:

- Setting charges in an Imperial archive campus to max fuse times available with timer malfunctions, barely escaping rush hour crush, and confronting the liaison to discover the employer are Rebels

- Maneuvering through 3 Hutt auctions against vastly better financed rivals, with a little horse-trading and a little subterfuge

- Means-testing a multi-point smuggling route, including one stop where the handoff ship gets impatient and jettison cargo into a gas giant's gravity well

- Smuggling an enormous, unmistakable pirate and his assassin droid companion off an asteroid station under the nose of client gangs and Empire-backed sector security

- Infiltrating a syndicate's posh, mile-high nightclub and extracting the obligation-trapped musician who got people in the door, though not before cracking the owner's office safe and cleaning it out

They love being clever and prudent, and I'm more than happy to challenge them!

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