When I started designing Escape From White Cliff, I got it in my head that I wanted to make the whole thing less about combat and more about skill challenges and putting the party in situations where they would have to work together more effectively if they wanted to survive. In a good way, I mean. You know, a team-building exercise. I wanted to evoke the feel of the Half-Life series, which involves puzzles as much as combat.

And it isn’t that I don’t still want to do that. It’s just that I’ve reminded myself of my strengths. I can run combat really well. In fact, I can run Fourth Edition combat the way it’s meant to be run — furious, dramatic, and with tons of interesting, flavorful description punctuating what would otherwise seem bald and unconvincing from a narrative perspective. It’s the roleplaying game your fantasy novel could smell like.

So, I’m inserting monsters into encounters which were previously intended to be solely skill challenges. Not because I don’t think the skill challenges could stand by themselves, rather because I think they shouldn’t. Just as you shouldn’t make an entire encounter be about a solitary chair (though I’d be fascinated to see what ideas come from that), scarcely should there be an encounter without combat. In Dungeons & Dragons, anyway.