D&D General Dealing With Monsters Nonviolently (Weaknesses, Special Bribes, etc)?

In the 4E Monster Manual 3, which introduced yetis to that edition, the lore for the creatures notes that the keen sense of smell that yetis possess also makes rotting meat utterly repulsive to them and can be enough to drive them from an area. While this bit on information about yetis is not mentioned in the 5E Monster Manual, Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes notes that kruthiks will not approach areas where they can smell a number of their kind have died, which one could possibly exploit to move kruthik corpses to places under threat from a swarm.

An idea I've had recently related to ghouls is that perhaps those ghouls who have eaten recently are able to temporarily put on a more intelligent and civilized veneer. Luring a pack of ghouls towards some living enemies could result in a battle in which the relatively more sated ghouls might be more willing to talk first instead of attacking.

Is there any other lore about dealing with monsters nonviolently that is particularly interesting? Alternatively, what ways of avoiding combat with monsters have come up in games you've run or played in?

BTW, my primary intention with this thread isn't to find ways to reduce the frequency of combat in D&D, but to have ways for a party that is low on hit points and other resources to encounter monsters and not die.
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
In a module I recently ran I made a "generic" harpy into a specific cursed woman with a way to break the curse: giving her the marriage certificate that bound her to her former husband who transformed her for her to burn (rather than just have another monster based on ugly unruly women for them to kill - though if they PCs had not figured it out, they might have still had to fight and kill her - though her post-death transformation would have been a tragic element).
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Running away is always a good way to non-violently deal with monsters.

But otherwise, hiding behind an illusionary wall, learning a few phrases of the local language before trying to impress the monsters, bribes, and most recently (taken from a Pathfinder adventure) to gain secrets of a centaur tribe, they learned of an oral precedent (oral history and law is big in our setting for the centaur tribes) where outsiders like them could be "reborn" and shed their outsider status. It was, in centaur oral history, done for a banished centaur who was given the outsider title like the PCs had, and he did a task for their shaman involving leaping inside a giant worm and cutting his way out to leave his sins symbolically in the worm. This created precedent for the PCs to do the same thing.

It was a huge pain in the ass for the PCs to take that road as it wasn't just that simple, but in the end it was a lot more satisfying than simply slaughtering the centaurs and beating the secrets out of them.
 



5e doesn't really deal with that in most stat blocks, sadly. IMO, if a monster has a weakness to something, they should also fear it. A troll should have to make a Morale check if you wound it with fire - or it should allow you to use some kind of ability to keep it at bay.

The closest thing is 'turn undead' which allows a holy person to keep an undead at bay.

Vampires: putting garlic on your door or silver filings on the threshold of your door, should keep vampires away; iron filings across the threshold of a door should keep fairies out...etc...

Literally, there is no way for the common person to defend themselves against monsters in 5e. There may be a handful of exceptions. That's just left to the DM to do the heavy lifting and flesh those things out themselves.

It's too bad there wasn't a mechanic for it in the game.
 



I feel like I remember an old 3.5 era Dragon Magazine article that had a number of charms and potions for use against various creatures. I'll have to see if I can dig that up later.

I also feel like I remember seeing an item somewhere that a swallowed creature could use to get a monster to spit them back up.
 
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ruemere

Adventurer
[...]

Is there any other lore about dealing with monsters nonviolently that is particularly interesting? Alternatively, what ways of avoiding combat with monsters have come up in games you've run or played in?

[...]
Yes, there are, you just need to invest more effort into development of encounter background.

For example (for the monsters), if an encountered party of creatures has an agenda that goes beyond hunger or defend the territory, they may be keen on avoiding combat in order to pursue that agenda.

Two simple and easy ways to go about are making/using two simple tables, and just roll prior to an otherwise typical protocol:

1. Reaction table. If in doubt, start with the classic one:

2. Agenda/activity table. Here's a link to a really elaborate one: OSE Encounter Activity Tables

Secondly, the players, the PCs, need to be made aware of encounter risks. It's not that you don't want them to fight, it's just that a hero party at the start of encounter delving should be wary of engaging potentially dangerous opponents.

Thirdly, rewards. Talking, negotiating or otherwise circumventing violence should be rewarding for characters. Help a troll, and maybe get a few helpful hints.

Then, it's important to present creatures in a way that is sympathetic or appealing. A starving/wounded mother wolf and her whining puppies, especially if it is a giant wolf, or a winter wolf, will be definitely a threatening encounter for low levels, but will probably inspire people to help.

Finally, sometimes it pays to develop or use background stuff. Ghouls in Kobold's Press Midgard settings have an underground civilization. Hags have stories to tell and families. Vampire princes are politicians and nobles.

That's it. Just don't overdo it :) *

----

* Risks of overdeveloping stuff include and are not limited to: GM's burnout, overambitious plots that bore players, not enough things to fight.
 

It occurred to me that older monster books might have some interesting details I could use, so I just briefly consulted my copy of the AD&D Monstrous Manual and found something interesting:

Shadows apparently are unwilling keepers of treasure hoards. Though they will take gold and other treasures and store them in the same secluded area, it's because the shadows want to hide them away as the riches remind them of things they valued in life.

The book doesn't say this, but based on that tidbit I'd say that it might be possible for adventurers scared of being slain by shadows to distract them by dumping some treasure just inside their territory, hide, and wait to see if the shadows take the treasure to go and put it away (at which point the adventurers run through before the shadows get back).

I imagine the Sunless Citadel playthrough I was in might not have ended in a TPK if we'd been able to do that.
 

Stormonu

Legend
5e doesn't really deal with that in most stat blocks, sadly. IMO, if a monster has a weakness to something, they should also fear it. A troll should have to make a Morale check if you wound it with fire - or it should allow you to use some kind of ability to keep it at bay.

The closest thing is 'turn undead' which allows a holy person to keep an undead at bay.

Vampires: putting garlic on your door or silver filings on the threshold of your door, should keep vampires away; iron filings across the threshold of a door should keep fairies out...etc...

Literally, there is no way for the common person to defend themselves against monsters in 5e. There may be a handful of exceptions. That's just left to the DM to do the heavy lifting and flesh those things out themselves.

It's too bad there wasn't a mechanic for it in the game.
I'm glad there's not a mechanic for most of these. There are many good and wise tactics that a reasonable DM should allow to work other than a fight to a death. But I would be against creating mechanics for them because they would quickly be abused by players - always expected to work. And there would be situations that may arise where it doesn't fit an encounter (personally, I don't see a troll being any more afraid of fire than anyone else - they just have to deal with healing from burns just like the characters would have to, unless you want to have PCs making morale checks against fire because they can't exactly heal from it either...).
 

aco175

Legend
You get what you reward. D&D gives XP for killing monsters, so players do that to gain levels. Reward your players with more XP than just killing them and you will get that. A lot will depend on you and how you play monsters. If the orcs will take prisoners and ransom them back, then your players may do the same. Maybe an adventure where the PCs assist a merchant with getting back some guards with a ransom will help cement this idea.
 

Another classic one is to pay them off: Bribes, gifts, tolls, etc.
Food is often a great choice. I've left many a horse behind to appease griffins rather than fighting them. Something to remember when traveling is spare mounts. Not only should you periodically rest horses this way, but they can make great "snackrafices."
You get what you reward. D&D gives XP for killing monsters, so players do that to gain levels. Reward your players with more XP than just killing them and you will get that. A lot will depend on you and how you play monsters. If the orcs will take prisoners and ransom them back, then your players may do the same. Maybe an adventure where the PCs assist a merchant with getting back some guards with a ransom will help cement this idea.
IIRC, you get xp for "overcoming" monsters, which doesn't necessarily mean killing. However, since killing is by far the simplest option for both DMs and players, this is the most common result. In my games, I've added xp for social encounters, exploration encounters, and completing quests (milestones) in order to reduce the reliance on combat. I initially reduced combat xp by half in order to balance this, and encourage more intelligent solutions, but this was unpopular and thus discarded.
 


Just found a good one from an old issue of Dragon Magazine. According to The Ecology of the Purple Worm, a purple worm that is sufficiently harmed will excrete a smelly substance from a gland that warns others of its kind to stay away and to mark a place as dangerous. Even young purple worms have these glands, so Underdark civilizations will sometimes locate wormlings, harvest the glands, and use this substance to deter purple worms.

This isn't exactly a completely nonviolent strategy, but killing a wormling to avoid a mature purple worm sounds a like a great boon.

Though not directly related to purple worms, the foulbranch seed from a 4E issue of Dragon Magazine is an item that a person swallowed whole by a creature can drop to induce the creature to spit it back up.

So there we go: a seed that can make a purple worm (or any monster that swallows victims whole) disgorge would-be prey, and a gland within the worms themselves that that secretes a substance repulsive to them.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Otyugh are intelligent and can be bribed with sewer trash

theres a note somewhere about Hags sneezing isnt there?
 
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Otyugh are intelligent and can be bribed with sewer trash

these a note somewhere about Hags sneezing isnt there?
I believe that's in Wild Beyond the Witchlight as a weakness for a specific hag. I think all three of the hags in the adventure have a strange weakness. IIRC, one can't see the first creature in her line of sight upon waking up, and I think another has a windup key that she doesn't need to live, but impedes her if removed from her back.

So yeah, I guess hags are a pretty good one to throw weird fairy tale logic weaknesses on.

I've already looked a bit into Wild Beyond the Witchlight, but now that you've reminded me of this aspect of the adventure I'll take some time later to look into some of the suggestions in that book.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
lets revive this thread too 1001 Monster Weaknesses (in rhyme)

Elder-Basilisk said:
One or two qualities per creature (or creature type) and preferably the same or a similar poetic form: Here's a start

1.
By fire and acid
Green trolls are slain, and
2.
Blessed crossbow bolts,
Are Rakshasa's bane
3.
From magical cold,
Flesh golems feel slow
4.
But wield no lightning
if you fear their blows
5.
From Fire, Acid, cold
have demons no fear
6.
But their flesh is weak
When cold iron is near
7.
The hellcat is hid'n
in brightest of light
8.
illumined by dark
they're soon put to flight

How many more can you come up with?
 

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