Gamers who don’t enjoy combat

A recent question on /r/rpg caught my eye and I thought I’d write a bit more on my thoughts about it. Here’s the core:

I love the game but everyone (including myself) seems disappointed when combat happens. I try to narrate it a bunch and make it exciting with surprises and stuff but it still pails in comparison to the fun we have when we’re not in combat.

My question is, how can I…eh…reduce the length of combat while still making it seem important. I don’t want to remove combat entirely, I think it’s important my players fight monsters and the baddies. Afterall, fights are an amazing plot device. Still, it takes way to long and it feels like a necessary chore for everyone. Note that ALL of my players have expressed that they prefer non-combat scenarios.

Iconic photo of a lone man facing down four tanks in Tiananmen Square

He rolled a natural 20 on his saving throw against fear.

I feel like this isn’t so unusual. I’ve met many roleplayers who just don’t like tactical play. They want to focus on inhabiting a character, maybe throwing around some magic, solving puzzles, and interacting with people from behind a different pair of eyes.

But no one should feel guilty about this. There’s no shame that anyone should associate with enjoying (or not, as the case may be) certain play styles. Gamers who don’t like narrative and roleplay and instead prefer straight up dungeon crawls shouldn’t feel “guilty”, either. If you like vanilla ice cream more than chocolate, or just prefer carrot cake to ice cream, that doesn’t say anything about your value as a human being. No moral question arises here.

So if the group prefers other aspects of gaming like exploration and RP/social interaction, then the GM should lighten the mechanics considerably. Boil things down to a few numbers (ranged attack / melee attack / defense), roll against those things, then get back to what’s fun for everyone.

Perhaps the group should even switch away from Pathfinder (the system used by the group discussed in the initial post) to another game system that focuses on narrative, like FATE. Groups with philosophical objections to combat should consider this option, because nobody should feel compelled to engage in a pastime that runs counter to their morals for whatever reason.

Spending time on combat scenarios when you and all your players prefer something else seems like a waste of that time. And we all have finite time in life, much less for hobbies like this.