D&D 5E Escalating Conflict: a House Rule to curb the amount of death in D&D

Lyxen

Great Old One
It's a great idea, just a bit complicated for me as it tries to cover a lot of cases.

Just FYI, in both our major LARP worlds, we have implemented reasons for combatants not to kill each other, because it would suck if you could be killed in the first few minutes of a multi-day game, and resurrection should not be cheapened. So in one world (The High Kingdom, sue us, we were young when we invented it in 1986 :) ), killing someone invokes the DeathMadness, which is a force that possesses who ever actually kills and marks him visibly, so the killer becomes a pariah and is hunted by a special "life clergy". So most killers are actually NPCs, although we've had some players doing it towards the end of games, which is frowned upon except in rare cases. Anyway, the people of the world had basically developed non-lethal combat techniques and spells, although there are still a few lethal ones if needed.

In the other world (Called "Mist", sue us again ;) ), it's not that you do not die, but it's a world where religion is extremely strong, and the goddesses watch for their worshippers, reincarnating them if dead. It's an interesting view, since it allows a lot of shenanigans as to whether people are really protected by their goddess, they need to maintain places of worship, make sacrifices, defend their temples, etc. And it also allows for a much deadlier game overall, since towards the ends of the game, it is quite frequent that the protection of the various goddesses is withdrawn from the game area, which results in a scramble towards the exit points like the Dawn Trails or towards the few "Misters" who can navigate the mists where the goddesses have no influence.

Anyhoooo, I ran a few tabletop games in these worlds as well as LARP, so that we could check other aspects of the worlds, and it was OK, but the mechanism that you propose might be useful for that. I just feel that a combination of setting and rules is usually the best to solve that kind of problem.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

TheSword

Legend
In this sort of game, I imagine there would have to be some sort of Defeated condition. Enemies that are Defeated are no longer encountered, and no longer threaten the community.
I remember running a kingmaker game and all the bandits when defeated surrendered and pledged to serve the new kingdom. I remember thinking if I have them betray the PCs I’m just encouraging them to kill everyone. In the end I had one bandit betray and they became a really disliked NPC in a good way.

I think having defeated NpCs be sometimes useful and sometimes antagonistic later on in the campaign. With no way of knowing which is a powerful reason not to massacre everyone.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I remember running a kingmaker game and all the bandits when defeated surrendered and pledged to serve the new kingdom. I remember thinking if I have them betray the PCs I’m just encouraging them to kill everyone. In the end I had one bandit betray and they became a really disliked NPC in a good way.

I think having defeated NpCs be sometimes useful and sometimes antagonistic later on in the campaign. With no way of knowing which is a powerful reason not to massacre everyone.
This exactly.

Way back in High School my players would hunt down any escaped enemies, no matter how small, because I had a habit of turning them into Machiavellian villains. "Oh, that Zombie who escaped? How he's the ZOMBIE EMPEROR!!!"

Now of course I realize that if you want a game with a lower death toll, you need to communicate that with the players. Having something like the Defeated condition can help them feel secure about tying up enemies, letting enemies run away, etc. And it can also make it more clear when enemies are retreating for strategic reasons instead. "You see the troglodyte backing away, its weapon still drawn. It is retreating, but hasn't been Defeated."
 

TheSword

Legend
In Wheel of Time, an Aiel warrior if defeated when holding a weapon pledges not to touch weapons, wear white and serve their captor faithfully for a year and a day. It’s quite cool.

In other media, TV, books etc, it’s common to see NPCs survive, change sides, and come in handy later on. I’m looking at the Hound right now, the Wildlings and Jaime Lannister.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
In Wheel of Time, an Aiel warrior if defeated when holding a weapon pledges not to touch weapons, wear white and serve their captor faithfully for a year and a day. It’s quite cool.

In other media, TV, books etc, it’s common to see NPCs survive, change sides, and come in handy later on. I’m looking at the Hound right now, the Wildlings and Jaime Lannister.
True story:

In an Arcana Unearthed (Monte Cook's d20 setting) game I ran, I created three "wacky henchmen" who I wanted to show up in fights and be repeated foils for the characters.

Of course, they were slaughtered in their first encounter.

This was a seafaring game, and when the final henchman tried to jump into the ocean and swim away...

The group's witch dove in, grappled him, and turned to stone. In the player's own words, he "didn't let go until the guy drowned."

So much for wacky henchmen!
 

dave2008

Legend
This is a really interesting idea, thank you for sharing. There is a lot like about this approach, I don't see myself using it, but I really like what you've done. From one 5e hacker to another - thank you!
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
This is a really interesting idea, thank you for sharing. There is a lot like about this approach, I don't see myself using it, but I really like what you've done. From one 5e hacker to another - thank you!
Thanks! I'm taking a break from playing D&D right now (brand new baby), so coming up with hacks is my best way of "playing" the game.
 

TheSword

Legend
I think the trial stage is pretty perfect as written though perhaps inspiration would make a good reward if someone felt a short rest was too good. Not that I do.

For the combat stage I would have the enemy make a morale check when either a foe drops to 0 hp, or if half the combatants are incapacitated or bloodied. If they fail, they surrender. If they pass, it moves to the third stage. I see this as perfect for barroom brawls, breaking out of prison, or a riot in the street.

The deadly combat stage is awesome. Such a clever idea. I would have foes make morale checks every time an ally drops to 0 or when all enemies are bloodied. As otherwise numbers are likely to half every round, which might be a bit too fast.

One other thought I had, was a status effect called Alerted or something similar. A combat or perhaps just deadly combat in the area cause enemies to be Alerted for a specified amount of time. Advantage on initiative checks, intuition, perception and cannot be surprised.
 

Haiku Elvis

Explorer
I like it. It pushes combat into more of it being AN option not the option (a bit anyway). I also like the idea that enemies retreat and surrender instead of fighting to the last like fantasy terminators. Can you think of a way to reduce the moral role to a side of combat instead of individuals and have a follow up attrition role to see the number who run/surrender just to save roll traking a bit.

Although (sorry if I missed this in earlier posts) could there be a difference between fighting sentient enemies vs monsters in terms of combat vs deadly combat or can players choose to jump to the next level when they want to.
So if the party didn't really like the idea of killing all the bandits that foolishly attacked them they could just use the normal combat phase to fight them (but not going for the kill shot unless pushed into it) but if they encountered a bunch of ghouls they could jump to deadly combat and not feel bad for those goulish feelings.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I like it. It pushes combat into more of it being AN option not the option (a bit anyway). I also like the idea that enemies retreat and surrender instead of fighting to the last like fantasy terminators. Can you think of a way to reduce the moral role to a side of combat instead of individuals and have a follow up attrition role to see the number who run/surrender just to save roll traking a bit.
Love this idea!

Each enemy could have a Morale Score. I can roll at the beginning of each round. Anyone below what I roll will flee or surrender that round.
Although (sorry if I missed this in earlier posts) could there be a difference between fighting sentient enemies vs monsters in terms of combat vs deadly combat or can players choose to jump to the next level when they want to.
So if the party didn't really like the idea of killing all the bandits that foolishly attacked them they could just use the normal combat phase to fight them (but not going for the kill shot unless pushed into it) but if they encountered a bunch of ghouls they could jump to deadly combat and not feel bad for those goulish feelings.
Yeah, I think this is definitely modular. Though I suppose in a campaign using this, there will be fewer encounters that require killing.
 

teitan

Legend
I play a Lawful good paladin. We had two combat encounters, out of five possible combat encounters. One combat encounter we saw an NPC coming and we knew that we were in a race with an evil NPC party but I was able to use my persuasion skill to convince this unknown person to assist us with some Bullywugs. He became a member of our party as we entered the tomb of an adventuring party that was also thee location of a cursed sword. In there we came across a mite that rode a raccoon and I again... roleplayed through the encounter to acquire their assistance in the adventure and achieve our goal. The amount of death in D&D is directly related to the play style of the DM, firstly, and the players, secondly. Rules to mitigate this playstyle aren't necessary as the XP system is there for overcoming encounters, not killing monsters. Even a Lawful Good Paladin shouldn't go around smiting something that's evil unless it is an unredeemable evil like undead or demons. That's kind of the point of Lawful Good. Superman doesn't smite and kill everyone that disagrees with his world view, nor does Wolverine as the Paragon of Chaotic Good. That's Batman's schtick as Lawful Neutral.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I play a Lawful good paladin. We had two combat encounters, out of five possible combat encounters. One combat encounter we saw an NPC coming and we knew that we were in a race with an evil NPC party but I was able to use my persuasion skill to convince this unknown person to assist us with some Bullywugs. He became a member of our party as we entered the tomb of an adventuring party that was also thee location of a cursed sword. In there we came across a mite that rode a raccoon and I again... roleplayed through the encounter to acquire their assistance in the adventure and achieve our goal. The amount of death in D&D is directly related to the play style of the DM, firstly, and the players, secondly. Rules to mitigate this playstyle aren't necessary as the XP system is there for overcoming encounters, not killing monsters. Even a Lawful Good Paladin shouldn't go around smiting something that's evil unless it is an unredeemable evil like undead or demons. That's kind of the point of Lawful Good. Superman doesn't smite and kill everyone that disagrees with his world view, nor does Wolverine as the Paragon of Chaotic Good. That's Batman's schtick as Lawful Neutral.
This is true, and also mechanics can help tell a certain story.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top