Why are combat encounters so much easier to run than non-combat encounters? Easier to imagine, design, vary, and implement. It isn’t just D&D, either — it’s easy to run combat encounters in systems that don’t support combat.

I think part of the problem exists at the level where more effort has gone into creating fighting styles and monsters to overcome than any other situation.

I think if logic, rhetoric, and philosophical debate were all as interesting to people as beating up a menagerie of fantastical monsters, there’d be as many different systems for exploiting logical fallacies as there are variant polearms.

But there’s so much precedent for fighting monsters, how do you even build up the sheer content to compete? Where’s your Monstrous Manual of truffle-hunting, or your disease menagerie for those medical dramas you want to run?

I suppose if we want to go anywhere with this, there need to be a plethora of obstacles — a book of challenges for PCs to overcome — not to mention adventures to contextualize them, your Against the Giants of sword-smithing.

What is the Keep on the Borderlands equivalent for spell research?

Then, I suppose there’s the issue that so many rules are already wrapped up in combat though — how do you make a system for anything else without adding rules bloat? How do you make psychoanalysis as easy as rolling for initiative?

One system I think that makes the rounds is the idea of “social combat,” with mental hit points standing in for willpower and arguments taking the place of weapon attacks. I wonder if perhaps it wouldn’t be a good idea to look at logic itself for rules — there are rules within rhetoric that can be examined.

How do you make the equivalent “I hit it with my axe,” remark in a courtroom scene where your opponent has a Perry Mason-like track record?

There has to be a way.