View Full Version : Pacifist Campaigns

01-22-2015, 10:04 AM
I have very bad news: I'm almost done reading a Dance with Dragons. Which means that my only exposure to a medieval setting in which combat is a bad thing will go on hiatus.

Have you played in or run a campaign that shuns combat? Have you seen players maintain interest when something less than death was on the line?

I can't go to D&D 5e for comfort; there are too many hit points, death saves, healing spells, hit dice, and miraculous rests. Perhaps I'll look to Zweihaender (http://grimandperilous.com/), since it's grim and perilous...

01-22-2015, 03:19 PM
I have used Buddhism in a fantasy setting that rewards experience points to resolve conflicts not using violence as an alternative. The roleplayer can however, use self defense methods, but not violence to overcome an opponent. The experience was wonderful as the interested roleplayers used the "Eight Fold Path" to live a life unusual then what most tabletop campaigns offer. For a fantasy setting, I didn't use the name "Buddhism", but called it something else that resembled the belief system. It can be done, but watch out, as I have experienced roleplayers that are violently against "pacifism" for they see it unrealistic and undoable in a game. Some even consider it a boring campaign, as violence for them is most rewarding. I think if you can provide different aspects and possibilities to open doors for roleplayers that have different personalities and ideologies of what a good campaign entails then you can get a larger crowd of players interested in what you offer on a game. I plan to have "pacifist" character choices available for those roleplayers that seek different challenges in a campaign.

Since I know you are a huge fan of the "Elderscroll" series, have you ever tried to play a game to where you avoid fighting at all costs by doing errands in the game that had nothing to do with violence? If not, try it one day! Not easy, but interesting! I have done it many times with Morrowwind, Oblivion, and now Skyrim.

01-24-2015, 10:39 AM
"(Pacifism) is unrealistic and undoable in a game." Sign of the times, huh? The question, to me, is how does the GM keep things interesting?

I've thought about a pacifist Skyrim game, but I'm not sure that it's possible. I feel like half of the quests require the death of a creature, even if it's undead or a dragon. The item-based quests might be achievable through pickpocketing, but even then, some doors don't unlock without someone dying. :(

01-24-2015, 03:13 PM
Pacifist ideals - and games - work okay until you run into that one butt-head that doesn't wanna be peaceful and WANTS to fight. It may be a TV show, but I keep thinking of Kung Fu - Cain really wanted to live a peaceful life, but kept running into bad guys that just insisted that they needed to get their battle on.

The only way I could see a pacifist game lasting past a few sessions - and really nothing more than that - is if the players were bound (geas/controlled/bound) to not kill to achieve a goal (i.e. don't kill anyone/anything until you find the Grail - if you kill, it will move yet again and will take you years to find it).

And what do you do when the bad guys are all about death? Orcs, demons, dragons... eventually diplomacy runs out.

01-25-2015, 08:39 AM
In my homebrew game I provide the possibility to live a peaceful life in a hard time. I show that one can contribute to society without having to be an adventurer killing monsters to protect a town. How?

- start with an apprenticeship and have them build to be master of a skill to eventually own a business. There are occurrences that keep a player busy if you give them the mechanics of what one has to do to stay busy in keeping a business successful. Accidents can occur, time limits to produce a product, or deliveries throughout town to certain customers.

- provide errands from guilds such as delivering information or goods.

- provide work opportunities that earn quick money for a roleplayer that doesn't involve violence such as the night watch, tavern wench, cook, shoe repairer, torch bearer, mystic seer, gypsy, scribe, etc. etc.

- have a player follow a spiritual or religious order that provides services to others in need - heal diseases, curses, etc. Have them go on a peaceful pilgrimage to attain higher status.

- have an opportunity to add politics into the game if you wish to where one can go up on status to eventually be a personal advisor for a king, or a lord of a town, or a royal messenger sent out to deliver quickly important information to keep peace of two kingdoms.

There are many ways to keep a game highly entertaining without the resort of violence. You just need a group of players that can agree to go through with it.

01-25-2015, 10:18 AM
Malruhn - good points. Some bad guys are all about death, but let's be real here: the only creatures that don't have an interest in self-preservation are undead, robots, and living things who are guarding something more valuable than life (like their kids). Don't let the thread name fool you, by the way. I'm not asking about a pacifist (anti-combat) campaign; I'm asking about campaigns that focus on non-combat.

Morashitar - I like those options. My mind immediately wonders though: how do you keep those situations engaging? Combat is (supposed to be) engaging because it's high-stakes. Delivering messages and walking to the holy land aren't necessarily engaging. Either situation becomes more engaging when you throw some bandits in, but then you're resorting to violence again.

01-25-2015, 04:21 PM
I have also asked these questions in the past. The only way I would find out is by trying to host such a game.

This is what I have learned from it so far.

1. Only host to a group that is genuinely interested in pacifism otherwise it will not work.

2. Keep the roleplayers occupied with many events at one time.

For example: When owning a business one has to remember to stock commodities to produce profitable goods. You need wool to create linen that eventually makes blankets. If you use wool and linen you can make simple peasant clothing. To get wool one has to purchase it at the market or a sheep farm that sells it. You will need a horse and wagon to deliver the goods. Maybe the wagon's wheel broke. Did the roleplayer prepare for this and have a spare? Bandits may come to steal the wool. Maybe through skilled and talented diplomacy the roleplayer can influence the bandits to spare his life by giving only half of the goods to the bandits. Here are but a few options that can keep a roleplayer's mind busy.

3. Have the roleplayer acquire a magical object (either sold or inherited, or even stolen) that stops an opponent from whatever bad deed it may do against your roleplayer's character.

For example: The huge grizzly stood on its hind legs blocking the road that Brombear was using. It then attacked, but fortunately the "Staff of Chills" shoots an ice bolt to freeze the grizzly in its place. Urging the horses to ride past, Brombear smiles knowing he has not taken a life as the ice will thaw off the beast soon. The wool he purchased and loaded onto his wagon will make it too his destination on time for his workers to continue making blankets for his business.

4. If the roleplayer doesn't want the headaches of running a business or experiencing a medieval way of how apprenticeships where practiced then have him as a an adventurer that refuses to kill. I have in my game dragonborn monks that can shapeshift into dragons. Their belief system forbids to kill, but will stop evil by holding them as prisoners. They will also transform evil opponents into good sentiment beings that can live peacefully amongst others in the future. For example: A wraith that turns into a squirrel, or a zombie that is transformed into a human that doesn't understand the meaning of violence.

Creativity, Imagination, and a lot of reading on how other pacifists managed to attain peace without violence helps make it work. Read interesting articles on John Wyclif, Waldensians, or the Cathari and how their thoughts developed on war and peace.

The goal is to keep the roleplayer's mind occupied with entertaining challenges to where violence is not on their mind each time they have a session of campaigning to do.

The question is - Are you good enough as a GM to create such environments or options to keep a roleplayer interested without the use of violence? Afterall, you are the storyteller and the world you offer is of your imagination. The trick is to get others to join your imagination and have a good time with it.

Good luck Mike if you do decide to try this route in a Modos game.

I will leave you with a quote that you well know.

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step out on the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." - Bilbo Baggins

01-28-2015, 01:36 PM
Role playing is a game, a game is a conflict. Ergo you cannot write conflict out of role playing games. If you don't have it you are writing poetry. Stories required conflict too.

Now that said conflict can be resolved various ways. Combat isn't always the best. Yes, you can design and play a game in which all conflict is social and played out without swords or spells, even D&D.

The first thing is to remove the equation conflict = combat. It is untrue. But you need conflict of some kind or you have nothing to game over.

01-29-2015, 09:54 AM
Agreed - the GM must be the proponent of non-combat options. And I think combat should have some negative outcomes too, like killing something means you can't gain information or you garner bad reputation. (Reputation rules, then?)

But Western culture is against us: video games, movies, and even some RPGs are pro-combat.

I wrote out some excitement solutions in a lost notebook: conflict is a good interest driver. To have conflict, you need opposing goals, and the uncertainty of how that opposition gets resolved creates excitement - if the stakes are high enough.

01-29-2015, 11:57 AM
Eastern culture is pretty blood soaked too.

Actions have consequences. I have always played that way. If you want a low/no combat game you neeed to offer appropriate conflicts. 40 Orcs with swords are not the deal.

You also need to offer your players a satsifying means for resolving those conflicts.

12-18-2016, 01:54 PM
DMMike are you really looking for a pacifist game or are you looking to add more non-combat interaction into your game? Stating that a game is pacifist means that there is a certain moral obligation assigned to the players against using combat, and instead it sounds like you want to change up your gaming style from kill the orcs, take the treasure, buy better equipment, and repeat. If that is so you can introduce more intrigue into your game like having your characters try and foil a serial killer in a large city or bust up a syndicate of thief's guilds or even take over a thief's guild for their own purposes. You could have your clerics start a more or less orthodox version of their religion and write up sermons and perform deeds that will attract followers. Or, if you want to get out into the wilderness offer to guide an expedition to an ancient site so a bunch of non-fighting characters can perform the fantasy equivalent of an archaeological dig at the site while the party protects them and/or negotiates access to the site from the local inhabitants.