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Different kinds of challenges.
I was reading a couple of posts on /r/rpg talking about logic puzzles being requested by players who wanted a small break from the usual roll dice and compare stats game and this got me thinking "What else can you do?"

As mentioned, digging up logic puzzles is always great. They usually require nothing more than pen and paper which you probably already have in front of you. An important thing to look at is how easy the puzzle is. If it's something that the average person can solve in a couple of minutes then you can use it in more urgent situations that the story hinges on. The harder puzzles that can take a good hour or so, maybe longer, leave those as branches. Don't stop the story for those. The players can come back when they have the answer. Monstrously difficult Sudoku might be a good example. Also experiment with timing the player solving it, starting with a bonus that slowly diminishes or a penalty if he takes too long.

There's always board games and card games. Have the characters bump into a gambling elf who pops open a back gammon board and lays a bag of 10 gp on the table. This is a chance to dig out those little betting games that you're good at. Fun way to let the characters spill some of that gold and loot they've picked up. Got a longer board game? I'm thinking Dungeon Petz. Let each round of Dungeon Petz be a week in your game and create a conversion for gold. That way they can transfer gold from one game to another. A very slow game of Pandemic on a smaller, custom map could be the entire drive behind your latest plot point! Don't be scared to pull other games into yours. Just always make sure how it fits in makes sense otherwise you might lose your players to the other game. Re-skinning the other game will always help.

It's very important to take into consideration what kinds of activities your players would enjoy. It's all fare and well to have a tennis match to represent wizards deflecting a spell back and forth but remember that most people didn't come to role playing day to play tennis. Announce these kinds of events in advance. Get feedback from the players first. They might even give some suggestions. Another subtler point is how you tie the two different events together. The tennis match might very well influence the game you've got going but unless your game also influences the tennis match it's going to feel very tacked on.

If you find that your game has lost it's spark and your weekly session is starting to feel more like a chore than a day of playing a game try change things around a bit. Almost any game can be role played with some imagination.


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