In an earlier post there was some discussion about combat..i.e. how much of it do you like to have.
I thought it would be an interesting question to spin off into its own thread.
How much combat do you tend to have in the games you GM/Play?
How much combat do you like?
Care to talk about the range of frequency of combat?
So for me, I'm playing two games at the moment. D&D and GURPS Transhuman Space.
In the D&D game we tend to have at least one combat per session, often more. Combat tends to be the high point of each session...i.e. that is what everything leads to. All of our non-combat actions inevitably lead to combat. As an example. Our party were traveling back from an adventure when we came across a war party of baddies. My character...the social one...was able to convince the war party that we were mercenaries on our way to meet up with the main baddie force. So we were able to avoid combat with that war party entirely. Some in the party were disappointed that we didn't get into the combat. So our GM engineered another encounter with another war party that just attacked us...then there was much killing. I want to point out that the rest of the players really enjoyed it. This particular group really sees combat as the place where xp comes from...as the real part of the game. They aren't hack 'n' slashers...they are thoughtful people and good gamers...but the most real part of the game for them is combat. Most of our investigations and non-combat things are aimed at bringing us into combat...we investigate and learn the location of a forming army...that we go and fight. We investigate and find the monster in the hills...that we go fight. I'm not really all that excited myself.
In the Transhuman Space game, we've played once a month for over a year (14 sessions so far)...and we've only had two combat situations. One when a player snuck out of an NPC's bed in order to search her apartment...unfortunately she woke up and attacked him--entering into combat stance. He, however, did not fight back, he talked his way out of the situation, and was able to maintain the relationship with the NPC suspect and get us the information the party needed. The other combat situation was later when we finally gave the goods on the suspect to our employers and they sent some goons to talk to her. That same player decided that he'd rather side with the suspect than our employers and ran in to save her. There was a brief non-lethal firefight. The player was tasered, but he was able to buy the suspect enough time to escape. Of course, having a firefight in a train station brings the police real quick. The goons and the party member were detained by the police, but he wasn't charged with anything. The rest of the party was very displeased at his actions--as was our employer. We're coming on a situation in our next session that will probably prove to be violent...but it is supposed to be fake violence (unless the fake gangsters turn out to be real gangsters). Despite the lack of combat, the game is really exciting. Almost every session is full of tension and consequences and high stakes...they just don't often involve violence, they involve following suspects, hacking into computers, disguises, intense RP moments, hanging out in casinos, or in the office--and when violence erupts, that violence is especially intense.
So as a player? The most exciting games I've played in have had very infrequent violence--and when violence does happen it is intense. And while I can play in games with more frequent violence, I've found that often violence is not deployed very interestingly.
As a GM? I will often start off a new campaign with a bout of violence so the players can get a feeling for the combat system...then I often show that there are consequences for violence. I tend to plan for one or two exciting combats per story arc (which can last any number of sessions)...so maybe 1 combat per 3 or 4 sessions? But since I believe in player agency, if they find a way to avoid combat, I'll go with that...if they decide to start attacking people all over the place, they can do that too, but either way there will be consequences. Of course, players in my game know that death is a real possibility if they start engaging in lethal combat. I like violence to be threatening and dangerous...dirty and harsh. I also like to mix up the power level of the antogonists. Sometimes the antagonist is far too powerful to get into a fight with. Sometimes the antagonists are much weaker than the PCs and beating them up would be completely unchallenging. Sometimes the antagonists are balanced. Sometimes violence is a bad choice, sometimes it is the only choice.