Combat isn’t Everything

in Design

When you start designing your characters, usually the first things that enter your mind, depending on whether you are starting with story or mechanics, is either their personality, or how they perform in combat.

Now, combat is a key part of a lot of RPGs. And thinking about how each character is going to fit into that part of that is a great idea. But it shouldn’t be the only skillset their characters bring to the table.

For instance, in a lot of games, you end up with a thief character.

FinalFantasyVI058…Fine, ok, Locke, Treaure  Hunter. Our treasure hunter characters tend to know a lot of skills that are used out of combat, such as the ability to open doors or lift small items off of unsuspecting marks. Some games give you minigames for this, but others just have it be an ability that is used mostly in the plot.

And either method is fine, but I feel its very important for most characters to have SOMETHING besides combat they are good at. Most people don’t just spend their entire life learning to fight, they know how to do other things.

Think about what the character’s background is.

Did they grow up as nobility? Maybe they have a very good knowledge of heraldry and etiquette.

Did they grow up in a working class home in an industrial area? Maybe they know how to fix things.

And maybe if they grew up on the street, they will get thi… I mean, Treasure Hunter skills.

Not only can thinking about this enhance the depth of your characters realism, but it can add some incredibly memorable sequences in your game as well.

Going back to Final Fantasy VI. The one section in the game where you have to go around ste…. acquiring  uniforms has always struck me as interesting. And it all revolved around what he could do that wasn’t just beating someone up.

Or what about the entire third chapter of Dragon Quest IV?


I have always loved Torneko Taloons chapter, because it was more about who he was outside of the ability to beat things up, than about what he could do in a fight. It was all just about him wanting to sell stuff and make a better life for his family through his MERCHANT, not fighting skills. And because of that, it has become one of my favorite parts of the game.

Or take the Atelier series. The whole GAME is about what the character can do outside of combat: Alchemy. We focus so much on combat in RPGs, we sometimes forget maybe that isn’t what it all has to be about.

Instead of stretching this article out though with a million examples, or how you include characters non-combat skills into the game, how about you tell me how YOU have used them in your game. Or how you plan to. Join the conversation in the comments below!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Wilczek

    I agree – combat isn’t absolutely necessary in every RPG game. If you include it (or decide not to), you have to be perfectly sure it fits the rest of the game’s mechanic.

    For example, Crudelis – my first game – is going to put player into scientist’s boots. You are the clever guy, you are the man who changes the world with the power of your mind or knowledge. So hey – combat doesn’t fit here at all. I really can’t imagine a scientist like Nicola Tesla playing around with his knife and stabbing people from time to time. In that case, even the best combat would break the immersion and feel unnatural.

    That’s why it was an easy choice for me not to use battle system. But if you follow that way, you have to be aware of multiple problems you are going to encounter. How to deal with oponents? How to create a challenging gameplay? How to give player a feeling of progress?

    There are no easy answers to that questions, but nobody said creating games is easy – even with RPG Maker 😉 But don’t be afraid of dropping features your game doesn’t really need!

    • clément Lebrun

      I will create my 2 RPG games myself.

  • Adiktuz Miko

    To me it depends on the setting of the game, for example one game I’m making is all about a small community in a secluded island where the main characters have grew up just training to be “Hunters” in order to protect the town and get revenge on the creature that murdered their parents. Since they are soooooooooooo focused on that goal, they spent their lives just training and training and training…

  • Xein

    A game gives you a gun and some ammo. What would you do? Shoot things, right? Well, that’s what I thought when I started Metal Gear Solid.
    Oh…I was so wrong.
    We have been fed with so much game involving combat that the first thing we do when we had control is to find something to whack.
    It is sad. A lot sadder when there are those that think RPG always prioritize combat.

  • clément Lebrun

    I like it with Undertale mods.