V is for Variety
For the same reason I didn’t make every entry in this challenge a monster, I don’t make every encounter in my Dungeons and Dragons adventures a combat. A combination of combats, traps, puzzles, and character interaction/role-playing encounters makes for a more interesting game.
What can be tricky to do is determining what balance of these encounter types works best for your players. In my early games, I’ll admit things were very combat heavy, with probably 80-90% combat with some traps and puzzles, and perhaps 1% character interaction at best. While I couldn’t imagine doing that now, we had a great time playing.
When I’m planning adventures now, I’m closer to 40-50% combat, 20% interactions, 20% traps/puzzles, and 20% skill challenges. At the high side that adds up to more than 100%, but since this isn’t an exact science there’s some wiggle room in there. This kind of ratio works for me as a both player and Dungeon Master, it allows for plenty of combat, but also opportunities to develop my character through role-play.
If you’re DMing for a group that prefers to focus on character development through character interaction you can turn the numbers on their head, using 50-60% interactive encounters, while mixing up the other encounter types in a way that suits the players other strengths.
Like almost any article on gaming, this one ends with the advice that you have to customize the balance to suit both your DMing style, and your players’ gaming style. By communicating with your players you’ll get a feel for their preferences. So don’t be afraid to ask them directly for their input on which types of encounters they’re enjoying most.