There was a question this week along the lines of did we know any games that did not have combat. There were many responses and my own suggestions were for games like Tales from the Loop, Kids on Bikes and Gumshoe systems which emphasise investigation. Another suggestion was Brindlewood Bay by Jason Cordova. [I am a big fan of Jason Cordova!]
Someone interjected that the games we were suggesting had lots of conflict, and I don’t know if it was intended as a warning that they may not be what the original enquirer was looking for. Off the top of my head I cannot imagine what a game without either combat or conflict would look like. The only video game I play is FreeCell. That has conflict because I have limited places to put cards and cards that are buried so deep in the stacks that I cannot see how I would get to them. Essentially FreeCell is a resource management card game and the conflict comes from lack of resources and too great a demand.
The closest I have ever come to a game with neither conflict nor combat is Unfinished: Waterloo. This is a solo narrative game. Your character is already dead, killed at the battle of Waterloo. You cannot move on to the ‘other side’ until you resolve how you feel about any unfinished business. The game prompts you with questions to consider. In essence what you are doing is constructing a character backstory, guided by prompts. There is no combat, but you can describe fights or duels that you fought whilst alive, but we know you survived because you died at Waterloo. You may have had a love rival or been rejected or any other of life’s great conflicts but we know you survived because you died at Waterloo.
I really liked the idea of Unfinished: <event> and used it as backstory evolution. If you change the final event to having survived, you have a very well established character concept that is ready to play in any traditional RPG in that genre.
As a game it proved a complete non-event having only been downloaded 13 times, ever. Sometimes we get things very wrong!
Mall Rat is a set of solo rules for Visigoths vs. Mall Goths. The game is basically about growing up in the 1980s in Mall culture. It does have combat, but not death. Being hurt makes you cry, it doesn’t kill you. The entire game is about conflict, but not so much about the combat.