Have you ever played a pacifist character?

religon

First Post
When that character wasn't killing, what was the basis for earning experience points? Thanks!!!

Same as other characters… treasure + party monster kills + besting other challenges + role-playing bonuses. (Except for role-playing, xp was split evenly evenly… regardless of contribution… like in the old days.)

He wasn't a pacifist, but he was hard to motivate into violence. Violence needed to align very carefully to his converted viewpoint and in the interest of the greater good. In some ways, not that different from a common paladin. He probably brandished steel in 60% to 75% of encounters, but the party was often in a tight spot other times as he encouraged both side to put down arms and discuss the matter.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
The best way I've found to play a pacifist is... not being a pacifist. This is some insane moonlogic -pun intended- but keep reading. The problem with playing a pacifist is that you are disruptive; you go out of the way to avoid combat, and that doesn't sit so well with others who see you as slacking. Most of the time they are right, because if your character still has combat potential and you are purposely avoiding to help, then you are not helping and not pulling your weight. In fact you are purposely hindering the party. Thus disruptive.

Now, the secret to this is to purposely build -yes build, I know it is a bad word, but the secret to this is actual mechanics, just roleplaying your 11th level fighter with percentile strength won't do you any favors and only harms the party- for as much combat uselessness as possible -and get as much out of combat utility as you can out of it-. Go for low bab/high Thac0, look for strength penalties, be squishy, be so bad at combat that your punches heal the rare times they actually connect. Then and only then you can be a pacifist, by not acting pacifist. Go for combat, join your comrades, you won't help much, actually not all beyond acting as a distraction and sometimes a liability, but you will be seen as actually trying and risking your neck like the others, and who knows, sometimes that frying pan could help some. The key to this is that you have to be extremely bad at combat, and in that way your maximum contribution will be so low that it won't do a difference and the others might start to tell you not to bother, then you will be a true pacifist. Of course you need to offset this by being super useful out of combat to compensate. If this is not possible play a bard with a mastercraft instrument (3e and 3.5), a lazylord or an actual pacifist cleric -with all consequences that entails, yes that includes staying stunned for most of the fight-(4e), go for lassos and nets or a custom priest (2e), or play a heart noble (5e), your party mates will love you, and your DM hate you, but you won't be disruptive*.

*Actual non-disruptiveness, party love and DM hate, not warrantied. Be prepared to make lots of puppy eyes, bribe your friends or even seduce/blackmail the DM. Moonsong and affiliates are not liable for loss of friends, games, money, jobs, reputations, limbs, pets trading cards or dice. Nor for other legal and monetary consequences.
 
Last edited:

R

RevTurkey

Guest
Yes, I recently tried to play a pacifist Gnome Bard in 5e. The subdual rules helped and it is possible to a point.

We found we had a problem with what to do with all the monsters that I had either put to sleep or knocked unconcious. What do you do with them all so that you can move on and search the next room, wander the forests etc...? you don't bind and leave them to rot because that is cruel and nasty. You can't let most of these things go because they'll just go and eat more local villagers...so...what do you do?...well, every time this came up...the rest of the group kills them and then points out that your pacifism is pointless because they always end up killing them.

I found that pacifism in D&D was a strain to play. It can be done but it is very frustrating to play. I don't think the streaming encounter traditions of the game lend themselves to playing this type of character.

Peace 😀
 

[MENTION=6693779]RevTurkey[/MENTION] I think a lot of it may come down to DM and campaign, too. If you're fighting some ancient evil that devours the souls of virgins then I doubt anyone is going to fault you for killing it. I'm pretty sure those LG deities will be lining up to give you high fives. But, if you're fighting people that turned to banditry because the local mine ran dry then nonlethal is definitely an option to consider.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I found that pacifism in D&D was a strain to play. It can be done but it is very frustrating to play. I don't think the streaming encounter traditions of the game lend themselves to playing this type of character.

It depends on how much of a jerk your DM is.

To begin with, the majority of pacifists are simply going to believe in not practicing violence toward other people. In the real world, this is a fairly straight forward category (with a few caveats we don't need to go into). In D&D, 'people' is something that has to be very rigorously defined and is going to depend on the campaign world and the particular character.

Are dragons 'people'? They are certainly intelligent, but does intelligence make them people? I would argue that while in the real world 'intelligence' is generally how many define personhood, or at least the salient fact about the group they consider persons, in D&D it's unlikely to be the most important fact in deciding whether something is a person. Undead or demons are highly unlikely to be considered persons. Rather, in D&D who or what created you probably defines your personhood in the eyes of most people.

And that means that in some campaigns you could have a 'don't kill people' or 'don't inflict violence on people' rule that almost never comes up in play because the giant rats, grey oozes, owlbears, giant spiders, ghouls, black dragons, ettercops, mephits, water wierds, mimics, flesh golems and so forth that you end up fighting don't fall under the category of persons as far as the character and indeed pretty much everyone else in the setting agrees. You only end up in edge cases like orcs or minotaurs that depend really on how the DM has conceived these creatures in his setting, which should probably should hash out with the DM before you sit down to play a 'pacifist'. Maybe your DM is like, "If it has 3 or more INT, then it is a person." In that case, you should probably just not play a pacifist, because the implications of something like a wraith or a demon being a person pretty much completely (IMO at least) preclude pacifism as a moral philosophy. In such a world, my suspicion is at no time ever would anyone ever advance the idea of the morality of pacifism. It's one thing to advance non-resistance to your fellow, peer-level, flawed beings. It's quite another thing to advance the idea of non-resistance to incarnate evil itself.

But if the DM limits 'person' to beings that are only often or usually of a particular morality, of sufficient intelligence, which are alive, which have free wills, and which are not inherently anti-life or anti-creation in their conception, then pacifism is at least a reasonable moral philosophy to explore. I would think part of making pacifism a playable concept would be having a DM that doesn't conceive of every NPC as an automaton that exists primarily to abrade hit points off of PCs, and who believes that no good deed should go unpunished because the world he believes in is one of no quarter, no mercy, and no limits. If you find yourself in a world were every single CE creature is willing to fight to the death at all times to uphold a cause, and has no end of vindictiveness toward PCs vastly superior in power to himself, then yeah - you can probably forget about useful exploration of pacifism as a concept.

And you are right, the hard part is always, "What do we do with the prisoners?" And the answer almost always has to be, "If we even used enough violence to subdue them in the first place, we let them go, with the promise they'll not interfere." And if the group can't deal with that, or the DM always has every mook trying to stab you in the back rather than saving its own pathetic skin, then again, you probably shouldn't try to play a pacifist.

One problem that I think pacifism is always going to run into in a D&D world is that evil tends to be very tangible all the time in a fantasy world. Fantasy worlds tend to be defined by ideas made flesh. So the whole idea behind pacifism that you aren't struggling against flesh, but against some underlying sinister spiritual force, stops making sense in a typical fantasy world. Even in the real world, there is a huge ethical debate regarding whether passively allowing evil to prosper and abuse to be inflicted on someone else can be regarded as good. Being willing to sacrifice yourself for the sake of not inflicting violence on someone and being kind even to your enemy is one thing. But passively standing by while someone abuses someone else tends to have consequences that don't appear to be actually loving or kind.

All that being said, I find that most nominally 'good' aligned characters are far more ruthless and bloodthirsty than I would think 'good' characters ought to be. I find they deliberately refrain from mercy when they can offer mercy, that they are treacherous when parlaying with others, and often as not murderous when they have the upper hand. I don't know whether this is because they've had former experiences with DMs that are jerks, that will allow no good deed to go unpunished even when it means utterly irrational behavior on the part of NPCs, or whether most players simply have no desire to play truly good characters. But I find 'murderhobo' to be far too applicable to characters that are often supposed to be 'good'. In terms of moral trajectory, almost every PC ends up in a downward moral spiral.

I don't quite get it, because I try hard not to be that DM. Every NPC that escapes them doesn't turn into a reoccurring villain. Self-centered NPCs generally don't want to poke the bear once they've escaped it once. Every authority figure tends to be at least somewhat competent and not motivated solely to screw PCs over. Yet I end up with throat slitting tellers of half-truths looking for legal loopholes for breaking their oaths, happily dispatching prisoners that 5 minutes before were complete strangers once the interrogation is over.
 

MythicParty

First Post
I'm actually playing a pacifist character in a homebew setting called Primordant; the players are a squad in the Army fighting against Bugbears. I based my Cleric off of a real person, Desmond Doss. So he's a pacifist but as a 'battlefield medic' with other skills he's not useless.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
When that character wasn't killing, what was the basis for earning experience points? Thanks!!!

If you "survive" an encounter, you get experience points. It is not specified by which means you have to survive or overcome the obstacle :)
that's why EXP for exploration, story development or surviving traps are a thing.

I DM'd for a player that would refrain from taking lives and would usually try diplomacy if given a chance. She dealt only nonlethal damage, would take prisoners and turn them over to the local constabulary. If the party was far from civilization, she would spare her foes if they swore an oath to not interfere. I think I had the baddies break their vow once, maybe twice, in the course of the game. When the rest of the party dealt with the betrayal, she made no move to spare them a second time. The PC was kind not stupid.

She got a long well with the party because she wasn't preachy about her ideals. If the fighter killed his opponent that was on him. But if she took someone prisoner or knocked out her opponent she expected that person to be treated kindly.

As a DM I've had a few people bring to me characters with Vow of Peace. This is something I only allow after buy in from the entire party. It's never passed a group vote.

I've toyed with the idea of a PC that is a benevolent healer. But unless it was some sort of solo campaign I don't feel that it would mesh in a game that is played cooperatively with a group. Best to leave something like that to NPCs.

My players (and I) tend to play similar characters. If they think someone can be reasoned with, they'll give it a try. We are generally not necessarily as "peaceful" as your PC, but taking prisoners for interrogation or to hand them over to the local guard station has sometimes changed the adventures for a better and more creative outcome. They often miss loot for completely diplomatic solutions though (prisoners can be looted, but conversation partners less so) and I have to find clever ways to keep them on the right monetary level.
 

Not so much a pacifist, but I've an idea for a cowardly bard that acts solely as support while trying to stay clear of the monsters. A cleric could also work as such.

In 5e, with the various assists you can do and the cantrips, I think there'd be plenty to do in combat that didn't involve drawing blood.
 


Igwilly

First Post
Honestly I don’t see why the “murder hobo” stereotype applies to PCs. In my table, killings usually (99% of the time) are justified – and therefore, not murder. Someone is either trying to kill you, trying to kill another one, trying to kill the entire world, sentenced to death by authorities, we’re in a war and they are enemy soldiers, etc. Just once, and only once, I’ve come to the situation of a cold blooded murder, and it was a tense scene. Usually, my PCs either are heroes, or end up acting like heroes for a big reward. That’s not to say there’s no combat, just that it is justified.
And honestly, this is usually the case of the electronic RPGs I play: the PCs are usually the heroes.
With that said, being a pacifist is very different from being pacific, with the former being much harder – but that depends on the definition of “pacifist”. I haven’t DM to someone who was playing a pacifist, but thinking about it, I would do it happily. D&D is not solely about combat: there’s a lot else to contribute. And there’s the possibility of a support-only character, you know. I think my current players would approve such a thing, but of course, they should discuss the matter, too.
Or maybe not. Who knows?
 

[MENTION=6801225]Igwilly[/MENTION], I think that the murder hobo term comes from the fact that some players are more focused on the mechanics and combat than anything else. Their PCs go from dungeon to dungeon killing and looting only to do it again and again. The kind of PCs that have more GP value in their clothing than the entire kingdom's treasury but don't have two coppers to rub together to afford a night at the sleaziest inn in town. The kind of PCs that cannot even remember the name of the king that sent them off on their quest in the first place and think Monty Haul is their best friend.
[MENTION=30438]Ralif Redhammer[/MENTION] I proposed a healer that suffered from hemophobia as a character. It was shot down pretty quick.
 

Hahahah, that's a gleefully contrary character concept!

Yeah, in some ways, while a murderhobo might do a lot of the things a regular PC would do, there’s little-to-nothing in them beyond kill the monster/NPC and take the stuff. Little-to-no investment in the world the DM is trying to craft, and little-to-no personality. Just a bundle of mechanics strung together.

To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating the thrill of combat and the rewards of treasure. But when that’s all a PC cares about, it makes DMing for them much less interesting, and gives me less to work with to craft interesting and involving adventures.

But, getting back to pacifism in D&D, another concept could use the Rogue-Mastermind class. The ability to use the Aid action from afar, and as a bonus action, can really be helpful. That, plus the Expertise feature, would still make for a contributing PC.

[MENTION=6801225]Igwilly[/MENTION], I think that the murder hobo term comes from the fact that some players are more focused on the mechanics and combat than anything else. Their PCs go from dungeon to dungeon killing and looting only to do it again and again. The kind of PCs that have more GP value in their clothing than the entire kingdom's treasury but don't have two coppers to rub together to afford a night at the sleaziest inn in town. The kind of PCs that cannot even remember the name of the king that sent them off on their quest in the first place and think Monty Haul is their best friend.
[MENTION=30438]Ralif Redhammer[/MENTION] I proposed a healer that suffered from hemophobia as a character. It was shot down pretty quick.
 

was

Adventurer
...I haven't run one. I have seen bard and cleric characters who were non-violent and argued against violence. In combat, these folks usually helped out by casting defensive and healing spells.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
As a side note, my first, noobish D&D character was actually a rather peaceful bard in a planescape campaign who tried to talk to *everyone* ("Greetings, dear ogre!"). Back then, my players followed good ol' Capt'n Kirk's habit of shooting first, asking questions later, so she eventually got fed up with them and started complaining about their violence. Later, our DM took a pity on me and had her actually befriend a Balor wizard who happened to save our lives more than once (ironically he had to save us because of our player's violent habits in diplomatic situations... you simply don't murder an ambassador on sight just because he's a drow and you're an elf...). Our own wizard then slowly adopted the art of diplomacy-fu, so I guess it still counts as a success story :)
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top