A form of gameplay non-linearity, mostly found in Role-Playing Games
, wherein the player can beat individual levels or subquests, or even the entire game by sticking to one of the three playing styles:
- Combat: Using in-game combat skills and battle tactics to kill every enemy in the way.
- Stealth: Actively avoiding the enemy and completing objectives from the shadows.
- Diplomacy: Using in-game social skills and Dialogue Trees to manipulate NPCs.
Compare Fighter, Mage, Thief
. Contrast Useless Useful Non-Combat Abilities
, where non-combat paths are available in theory but rendered useless by the game design.
RPG -- Western
- The Fallout series was among the first games to have offered all three paths in most quests.
- In Deus Ex (and its sequels) you have the option of sneaking past enemies or fighting them and can often bypass areas by saying the right thing to the right people.
- In Planescape: Torment, Diplomacy is king, but Combat and Stealth are also available, because your starting class is always the Fighter but you can switch to Thief later on to bypass most of the fights.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has the three playing styles mentioned above, plus Magick and Technology, which allows your character to either cast spells or build and maintain items that complement those playstyles.
- Most quests in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines offer just stealth and combat paths, but diplomatic skills earn you a lot of other nifty bonuses.
- The Elder Scrolls changes it to Combat, Magic & Stealth. Diplomacy (the Speechcraft and Mercantile skills) is rolled into Stealth.
- A Dance with Rogues usually offers all three paths, though stealth is usually preferred to combat (because you can only play as a rogue) and attempts at diplomacy more often than not lead to Sex for Services.
- One quest in Drakensang: The River of Time has you deal with a group of not-completely-evil pirates who plan to raid the local elven village. The Elves ask you to find a way to get rid of them--non-lethally if possible. Your three companions offer three solutions: kill the pirates (you get to loot all their stuff but the elves won't speak with you anymore), deceive them (the fastest and easiest way, requires a lot of charisma) and finally, negotiate with the elves (the longest but ultimately the most advantageous alternative).
- In the Hitman series, most missions/conflicts give you the options of run-and-gunning (at the risk of killing civilians), disguises (which sometimes let you access areas or talk to people whom you couldn't otherwise), or avoiding or evading conflict in the first place via stealth. However, as you are a Professional Killer, you will be expected to kill people at some point.