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Moral Dilemma: Killing and Deaths in RPGs

Victor Spieles

Explorer
So I’m about to turn 50. As I approach this new life milestone I’ve started wrestling with killing and deaths in RPGs.

I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this dilemma.

I’ve withdrawn from one Dungeons & Dragons group this year that was more combat heavy. The group’s solution was kick asses, stockpile treasure and get information later. It was guys I used to really like to game with, but I have evolved into more of a subtle role-play my character and find interesting non-combat ways of overcoming situations and solving adventures.

I also stopped DMing a Dungeons & Dragons group recently after one of the younger players had their 5th level character die. The player failed their three death saves and then had an unexpected meltdown reaction to it. I talked to the player after the game and a subsequent conversation days later. But the character’s death just put them off gaming with the group any longer. Which led to an older player in the group quitting the group over the younger players reaction to their character’s death.

Now days I prefer to run a more role-play character driven exploration and information gathering style of play. But even then most players resort to violence as their first option for dealing with monsters, villains and NPCs.

Part of the draw of RPGs is walking that dangerous balance between life and death. The thrill of staring death in the face and vanquishing a foe or faction to be celebrated as a hero.

I have played various RPGs, most heavily Dungeons & Dragons over 20 years. But it didn’t hit me until this incident the amount of killing we as RPG game masters and players do of humanoids, aliens, creatures, demons, devils, dragons, monsters and robots in various RPG games.

The incident struck a weird chord emotionally in me. I sat down and looked at all the RPGs on my bookshelves and tried to find something to run where the main solution to in-game encounters is not killing the adversary. I also did some searching on Drive Thru RPG for an RPG where exploration and out thinking adversaries is more the premise and focus of the game. It was hard to find RPG options like that.

Has anyone else experienced this dilemma?
Is it just time to put away my dice and RPG hobby?

Can you play and run Dungeons & Dragons without all the violent encounters and killing?

What fantasy and sci fi RPGs would you recommend as an alternative to the traditional slay the adversary and take their loot model?
 
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Blue Orange

Adventurer
I think D&D is very suboptimal for nonviolent games. Too much of the game system revolves around combat.

I believe FATE and Powered By The Apocalypse have more extensive non-combat-related systems. Tales from the Loop has an 80s 'kids on bikes' feel but may be too specific. Ryuutama is a 'nicer' version of D&D with non-violent options in the fantasy world.

Call of Cthulhu has monsters that are too powerful to kill but if you are sick of death it is not the best choice.

There are a large number of obscure indies that might be a good fit.
 

payn

Legend
The kicking ass and killing stuff is a staple of D&D. The rule book has hundreds of pages devoted to doing it. D&D is like the John Wick of RPGs. Its paper thin on substance with ass loads of violent deaths for thrills. That feels pretty awesome for a lot folks, but eventually some will see John Wick as the Steven Segal gimmick it is. It's all about preferences and understanding them.

I think you may enjoy exploring other RPGs for a time. I dove into Traveller initially because I wanted some non-Star Wars RPG experience. What I found was a game way more focused on unique problem solving and story telling. No longer was I fixated on getting loot and leveling. I could just explore the character and the world and soak up the immersion. It donned on me how little death occurred and I didnt really miss it at all. Was a refreshing change up.

Some time later, my group wanted to return to traditional dungeon crawl with DCC. I was very reluctant to do so because I didn't really miss it. Or so I thought. I had a blast letting loose with some old school gaming. Kicking in doors, whipping ass, and taking names was pretty fun again.

So, I'd say RPG experiences are like movies. Sometimes you might want to just grab some popcorn and shut off your brain. Other times, you might want to explore deep emotional concepts of humanity and world building. ITs also possible that Marvel is your wheel house and all you want is Whizbang man 17 to come out. You wont know until you explore the possibilities what your preferences are. I know how difficult it can be because D&D is the undisputed king of RPGs, but get out and look around you will be glad you did.
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
Has anyone else experienced this dilemma?
Is it just time to put away my dice and RPG hobby?

Can you play and run Dungeons & Dragons without all the violent encounters and killing?

What fantasy and sci fi RPGs would you recommend as an alternative to the traditional slay the adversary and take their loot model?

Don't hang up your dice just yet!

However, I would fully recommend taking some time off from D&D. I'd echo @payn 's thoughts overall, including about Traveler, but also take a look at some of the Powered by the Apocalypse games that are out there, many of which really reduce the emphasis on combat, and make combat riskier, in a sense--not necessarily that you'll get killed, but that something will go wrong--which can make it a last rather than a first resort.

Also take a look at Scum and Villainy, which is my current obsession, but I think an excellent way of de-emphasizing combat and carnage without totally eliminating it. It's a Forged in the Dark game, so its mechanics are heavily inspired by the Powered by the Apocalypse design approach, but it has some stuff that specifically address lethality (in my opinion). You play sci-fi scoundrels, but the tone is close to Firefly or Star Wars than Alien, and it's one of the only games I've seen where you can actually do stuff like "Shoot to keep their heads down" or even just try to tackle a bunch of enemies in order to give your team a chance to get away. You're often outgunned and outnumbered in the game, so the notion of just murdering your way through most challenges often doesn't make sense.

But here's the really cool thing, re: your current dilemma--depending on how you carry out a job, you might gain Heat points. Enough of those and you become wanted, and have to deal with bounty hunters, law enforcement, etc. So killing during a job is often an easy way to gain Heat. This doesn't mean your characters aren't dangerous, or that they never kill anyone. But if they murder hobo through situations--in defiance of the game's tone--they'll quickly deal with the consequences.

Plus, system-wise, the game doesn't really allow for the kind of atomized John Wick-like combat maneuvers that a lot of games do. If five guys jump you, in Scum and Villainy you don't usually make five separate sets of defense and attack rolls to deal with them. You roll once based on what you're doing (fighting them head-on, probably with little to no effect and high risk of getting hurt, or jumping onto a passing speeder to get away, still risky but more likely to actually get you out of the situation if you roll well, etc.).

So the result of all that is often more about action than violence. Or even if there is violence, it's on the same level, mechanically and narratively, as something like hacking a door to block incoming security, or using deception or a Jedi-like power to defuse the conflict.

Getting killed is also much less of a risk in Scum and Villainy than in some games, I think, but I'm already yammering too much.

That's just one, probably overly specific example of a game that de-emphasizes killing. But they're out there, and, imo, the more indie you go, and the further from D&D, the more likely you might be to find exactly what you're looking for.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this dilemma.

Yes, it is one reason I made my own sci-fi setting that is more positive and less violent. Even when playing D&D I find myself as the Rogue or Cleric, and look for the non-violent solution first. Plus, as for games, I am satisfied with a simple die roll for combat, and a few rules any more.
 

Victor Spieles

Explorer
The kicking ass and killing stuff is a staple of D&D. The rule book has hundreds of pages devoted to doing it. D&D is like the John Wick of RPGs. Its paper thin on substance with ass loads of violent deaths for thrills. That feels pretty awesome for a lot folks, but eventually some will see John Wick as the Steven Segal gimmick it is. It's all about preferences and understanding them.

I think you may enjoy exploring other RPGs for a time. I dove into Traveller initially because I wanted some non-Star Wars RPG experience. What I found was a game way more focused on unique problem solving and story telling. No longer was I fixated on getting loot and leveling. I could just explore the character and the world and soak up the immersion. It donned on me how little death occurred and I didnt really miss it at all. Was a refreshing change up.

Some time later, my group wanted to return to traditional dungeon crawl with DCC. I was very reluctant to do so because I didn't really miss it. Or so I thought. I had a blast letting loose with some old school gaming. Kicking in doors, whipping ass, and taking names was pretty fun again.

So, I'd say RPG experiences are like movies. Sometimes you might want to just grab some popcorn and shut off your brain. Other times, you might want to explore deep emotional concepts of humanity and world building. ITs also possible that Marvel is your wheel house and all you want is Whizbang man 17 to come out. You wont know until you explore the possibilities what your preferences are. I know how difficult it can be because D&D is the undisputed king of RPGs, but get out and look around you will be glad you did.
Thanks Payn. Great advice.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Yeah, D&D is so combat-centric it's harder to make it less than violent without completely obsolescing 90% of class features. It's not impossible, but it requires some serious player buy-in. It's not really the best game for that. But as others have already noted, there are lots of other games that might fit the bill, some more mainstream than others. Really, if you can imagine a form of fiction, you can probably find a game that emulates it: wrestling drama, soap opera, ghost stories, kids investigation, and on and on. The main issue you encounter would likely be lack of support for those games.

But I think in your case, a bigger issue might just be a clash of play-styles. When one player expects their PC to be plot-armored against death, while another is coming from an old school meat-grinder mentality, that's a big conflict. Likewise when one wants an RP heavy game of intrigue and investigation, while others wants to "kill 'em and take their stuff" with crunchy tactical combat.

So maybe before deciding on a new RPG or genre, it might be helpful to get the expectations aligned of everyone at the table. Without that player buy-in, the game will always be unsatisfying, no matter the set of rules you're using.
 

Victor Spieles

Explorer
Don't hang up your dice just yet!

However, I would fully recommend taking some time off from D&D. I'd echo @payn 's thoughts overall, including about Traveler, but also take a look at some of the Powered by the Apocalypse games that are out there, many of which really reduce the emphasis on combat, and make combat riskier, in a sense--not necessarily that you'll get killed, but that something will go wrong--which can make it a last rather than a first resort.

Also take a look at Scum and Villainy, which is my current obsession, but I think an excellent way of de-emphasizing combat and carnage without totally eliminating it. It's a Forged in the Dark game, so its mechanics are heavily inspired by the Powered by the Apocalypse design approach, but it has some stuff that specifically address lethality (in my opinion). You play sci-fi scoundrels, but the tone is close to Firefly or Star Wars than Alien, and it's one of the only games I've seen where you can actually do stuff like "Shoot to keep their heads down" or even just try to tackle a bunch of enemies in order to give your team a chance to get away. You're often outgunned and outnumbered in the game, so the notion of just murdering your way through most challenges often doesn't make sense.

But here's the really cool thing, re: your current dilemma--depending on how you carry out a job, you might gain Heat points. Enough of those and you become wanted, and have to deal with bounty hunters, law enforcement, etc. So killing during a job is often an easy way to gain Heat. This doesn't mean your characters aren't dangerous, or that they never kill anyone. But if they murder hobo through situations--in defiance of the game's tone--they'll quickly deal with the consequences.

Plus, system-wise, the game doesn't really allow for the kind of atomized John Wick-like combat maneuvers that a lot of games do. If five guys jump you, in Scum and Villainy you don't usually make five separate sets of defense and attack rolls to deal with them. You roll once based on what you're doing (fighting them head-on, probably with little to no effect and high risk of getting hurt, or jumping onto a passing speeder to get away, still risky but more likely to actually get you out of the situation if you roll well, etc.).

So the result of all that is often more about action than violence. Or even if there is violence, it's on the same level, mechanically and narratively, as something like hacking a door to block incoming security, or using deception or a Jedi-like power to defuse the conflict.

Getting killed is also much less of a risk in Scum and Villainy than in some games, I think, but I'm already yammering too much.

That's just one, probably overly specific example of a game that de-emphasizes killing. But they're out there, and, imo, the more indie you go, and the further from D&D, the more likely you might be to find exactly what you're looking for.
Thanks Grendel_Khan. I will definitely look into Scum and Villainy and the Powered by the Apocalypse games.
 

Victor Spieles

Explorer
Yeah, D&D is so combat-centric it's harder to make it less than violent without completely obsolescing 90% of class features. It's not impossible, but it requires some serious player buy-in. It's not really the best game for that. But as others have already noted, there are lots of other games that might fit the bill, some more mainstream than others. Really, if you can imagine a form of fiction, you can probably find a game that emulates it: wrestling drama, soap opera, ghost stories, kids investigation, and on and on. The main issue you encounter would likely be lack of support for those games.

But I think in your case, a bigger issue might just be a clash of play-styles. When one player expects their PC to be plot-armored against death, while another is coming from an old school meat-grinder mentality, that's a big conflict. Likewise when one wants an RP heavy game of intrigue and investigation, while others wants to "kill 'em and take their stuff" with crunchy tactical combat.

So maybe before deciding on a new RPG or genre, it might be helpful to get the expectations aligned of everyone at the table. Without that player buy-in, the game will always be unsatisfying, no matter the set of rules you're using.

J.Quondam I am definitely going to spend more time on finding the right mix of players and aligning on the playstyle and mindset of the RPG before running or playing in my next RPG. Thanks for the advice.​

 

MGibster

Legend
So I’m about to turn 50. As I approach this new life milestone I’ve started wrestling with killing and deaths in RPGs.

I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this dilemma.
You're not the only one. I also enjoy table top war games such as Warhammer 40k, and more than once in my life I've been a bit bemused that I enjoy playing a game based on something I find horrible in real life.

The incident struck a weird chord emotionally in me. I sat down and looked at all the RPGs on my bookshelves and tried to find something to run where the main solution to in-game encounters is killing the adversary. I also did some searching on Drive Thru RPG for an RPG where exploration and out thinking adversaries is more the premise and focus of the game. It was hard to find RPG options like that.
There are some games like that. In Vampire 5th edition, for the most part, if you get into a fight with another vampire it's not automatically a given that you're going to kill them or they'll kill you. You can get into a whole heap of trouble for killing a vampire without permission. So the system gives you some options on what to do with when you win or if you lose a particular encounter. Death isn't the only option.

But 5th edition D&D gives you the option of knocking your opponents out instead of killing them. I can't recall if that really works with spells though. So if players desire, they can keep their opponents alive instead of chopping limbs off.

Can you play and run Dungeons & Dragons without all the violent encounters and killing?

Well, you can. But I'd argue that all the violent encounters are kind of expected and D&D is built around them.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
The incident struck a weird chord emotionally in me. I sat down and looked at all the RPGs on my bookshelves and tried to find something to run where the main solution to in-game encounters is killing the adversary. I also did some searching on Drive Thru RPG for an RPG where exploration and out thinking adversaries is more the premise and focus of the game. It was hard to find RPG options like that.

Has anyone else experienced this dilemma?
Is it just time to put away my dice and RPG hobby?

Can you play and run Dungeons & Dragons without all the violent encounters and killing?

You can.

Murder as a solution to problem stems from the origin of the hobby, but it's not set in stone. As a DM, you're empowered to strike down sociopathic characters. You address several different problems.

1. The emotional link between player and character.

Where you see thrill with the danger of dying, some players aren't keen on having their character die. They invest a lot of time and effort in creating a personality for their character and playing it right in their mind, and all this effort is reduced to ashes. They don't really seek the thrill of risking death, but the thrill of escaping death. When you go see a James Bond movie, and in the first 15 minutes of the film there is a firefight, you're 100% sure that James Bond won't be shot and become a cripple forever because the bullet struck too close to the spinal chord. You know he'll barely survive and that's enough. Some players want their characters to survive, not actually risk dying. In some groups, the DM doesn't kill a character without player's approval, prefering situation where they are captured, left for dead in a dire situation and so on. Maybe it's something that should be discussed on session 0 next time.

2. The prevalence of violence and murder as a problem-solving tool in RPGs

This also, you're empowered to change, and not necessarily by dropping the D&D framework. There are a few things you'd need to establish, before deciding if changing system is the way to go. First, I think it's a good idea to narrow down the problem with violence you're encountering.

a) Make violence tolerable

Our societies don't eschew violence, they eschew illegitimate violence. There are very few people who objects to unarmed or non-lethally armed police forces performing arrests, or to the existence of military forces to protect against an invader. If you're feeling ill at ease with the "kill them and take their stuff" approach, that is either glorified or expected in many published material, you might try to create a set-up where the characters are empowered to use violence within a certain context (members of the city watch...) and made accountable. And define what your group is OK with to create the "rules of the Watch". If they aren't into torturing suspects, forbid it. If they aren't into killing, force them to deal non-lethal damage and arrest bad guys instead of killing them, or have them act in self defence, mostly by prohibiting them to INITIATE violent action.

b) Reduce the drawback of not using violence

In many settings, it's complicated to take prisonners. OK, so the Medusa has surrendered and is totally OK to serve a period of community work like cobbling for six month as a punishment... Too bad that half of the village will be turned to stone while the Medusa cobbles the main street... But killing because it's convenient isn't acceptable ; so it's your duty as a DM to reduce the situations where the logistics of not-killing are so burdening that the more expedient solutions of killing people will be prefered by characters (and players, who don't want to hear that the evil wizard performed his world-ending ritual while they were ferrying back a few goblin guards from room A3 to the city for a trial). There are solutions to lessen this burden and incentivize sparing enemies, some of which can fit thematically a setting. It's easier in a mostly settled setting than between to far-away Points of Light, but it can be done. So characters will have the opportunity to use all the cool things in their fighting kits and face the risk of death (even if they know they'll win in the end) and you won't have necessarily to change system.

(This is assuming you're invested in the system and actually want to keep it. If you're just looking for another system, then it's easier to make the choice, and changing system will emphasize the change of playstyle to your players (especially if the above advice is applicable to your new world.).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So I’m about to turn 50. As I approach this new life milestone I’ve started wrestling with killing and deaths in RPGs.

I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this dilemma.

A few years ago, when asked to run a game to introduce a couple 13-year-olds to the game, brought this up in my mind. The kids were no strangers to beating up enemies in battle - media is loaded with it. However, in their media, violence is generally used only with justification, and the bad guys do not usually explicitly die.

And while I, as an adult, have no issue with folks who want a game in which life is cheap, I, as a GM, was not going to set that precedent for 13 year olds. So, I made it very clear when bad guys were really bad, by making their actions clear, not relying on labels. And even then, the default was that humanoid opponents were "down, out of the fight" and not explicitly dead.


What fantasy and sci fi RPGs would you recommend as an alternative to the traditional slay the adversary and take their loot model?

So, there are two coming out soon that might be of interest - Avatar Legends: The Role Playing Game had one of the biggest kickstarters recently. It is built to model Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra series, so while there's lot of possible fighting, actually dying is expected to be less of an issue. This is sceduled to come out in Feburary 2022, iirc.

Also in development - Tales of Xadia, an RPG based on The Dragon Prince animated series. There is a playable set of rules and a couple of adventures out, if you want to give it a try. And the game mirrors the series in trying to make character who are not combat-oriented still be effective, and it is very, very hard for PCs to die.

As others have noted, Fate-based games are also good with non-combat resolution, or effective non-violent actions within combat. And by and large, characters are "taken out" or concede a fight, rather than necessarily killed outright.
 

Jmarso

Adventurer
So I’m about to turn 50. As I approach this new life milestone I’ve started wrestling with killing and deaths in RPGs.

I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this dilemma.

Personally, at age 53, I'm not experiencing this at all. I still love a good old 'hack n slash', 'kill monsters and take their stuff' DND campaign. For me it is entertainment, an escape, like watching an action movie or something like that. It doesn't make me feel violent IRL or want to do violence to others, and since it's a game, there's no moral line being cross in terms of actual killing, or anything like that. One thing that does concern me, and I discourage, is younger players wanting to play actively evil characters. I'm not sure why that bothers me when the other stuff doesn't, but that's how it is for me. Kind of weird.
I also stopped DMing a Dungeons & Dragons group recently after one of the younger players had their 5th level character die. The player failed their three death saves and then had an unexpected meltdown reaction to it. I talked to the player after the game and a subsequent conversation days later. But the character’s death just put them off gaming with the group any longer. Which led to an older player in the group quitting the group over the younger players reaction to their character’s death. Now I prefer to run a more role-play character driven exploration and information gathering style of play. But even then most players resort to violence as their first option for dealing with monsters, villains and NPCs.

This sort of thing needs to be addressed before starting a campaign, especially with younger players. They need to understand that it's a game, and sometimes characters die in DnD. It's never wise to get too attached to a character in DnD style RPG's, because they can go suddenly at just about any time. This is why I don't encourage deep backstories at the start of a campaign- keep it light, because there's no point in wasting the time on a deeply involved backstory for squishy first level characters. In earlier versions of the game it was smart to have your next character rolled up and ready to go, because attrition could be quite high. A kid who has trouble dealing with this at the table probably shouldn't be playing the game.
The incident struck a weird chord emotionally in me. I sat down and looked at all the RPGs on my bookshelves and tried to find something to run where the main solution to in-game encounters is not killing the adversary. I also did some searching on Drive Thru RPG for an RPG where exploration and out thinking adversaries is more the premise and focus of the game. It was hard to find RPG options like that.

If you are a Star Trek fan, a Trek game would offer all sorts of chances for non-violent resolution of adventures and puzzles. For the crew of a Federation starship, such resolutions are their stock in trade.
Is it just time to put away my dice and RPG hobby?

Nevah!
Can you play and run Dungeons & Dragons without all the violent encounters and killing?
Possibly, but it's hard. DnD evolved directly from miniature wargames and much of that is still ingrained in its DNA. Payn had a lot of good advice to offer.
 

I initially wondered why play D&D in particular?

but then our approach can change and the game with it if we try.

I cannot stomach playing evil characters anymore. So I don’t. And really my pals don’t either because we have chosen to side step step this option.

In the old days our question was good, evil or neutral when making a group.

I think the system is not ideal for combat avoidance but the biggest thing is probably finding a like minded group.

good luck and play what is uplifting! We have buckets of blood in our games but it’s in service of saving innocents and killing hags etc.

betrayal and cruelty don’t cut it for me anymore
 

Victor Spieles

Explorer
Personally, at age 53, I'm not experiencing this at all. I still love a good old 'hack n slash', 'kill monsters and take their stuff' DND campaign. For me it is entertainment, an escape, like watching an action movie or something like that. It doesn't make me feel violent IRL or want to do violence to others, and since it's a game, there's no moral line being cross in terms of actual killing, or anything like that. One thing that does concern me, and I discourage, is younger players wanting to play actively evil characters. I'm not sure why that bothers me when the other stuff doesn't, but that's how it is for me. Kind of weird.


This sort of thing needs to be addressed before starting a campaign, especially with younger players. They need to understand that it's a game, and sometimes characters die in DnD. It's never wise to get too attached to a character in DnD style RPG's, because they can go suddenly at just about any time. This is why I don't encourage deep backstories at the start of a campaign- keep it light, because there's no point in wasting the time on a deeply involved backstory for squishy first level characters. In earlier versions of the game it was smart to have your next character rolled up and ready to go, because attrition could be quite high. A kid who has trouble dealing with this at the table probably shouldn't be playing the game.


If you are a Star Trek fan, a Trek game would offer all sorts of chances for non-violent resolution of adventures and puzzles. For the crew of a Federation starship, such resolutions are their stock in trade.


Nevah!

Possibly, but it's hard. DnD evolved directly from miniature wargames and much of that is still ingrained in its DNA. Payn had a lot of good advice to offer.
Thank Jmarso. Lots of good advice in your post. Definitely going to look to other RPG options. Star Trek is one of the few RPGs I've never gotten the opportunity to play between friends and cons. Always a favorite of mine as a sci fi watcher. The older I get the more I actually enjoy Star Trek over Star Wars.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I have felt the same way since I began playing. Back in high school I used to have nightmares about being forced to kill people because they were orcs. (See? My subconscious was with the zeitgeist way before I was!)

Though I have fun with the combat part of D&D, honestly the high amount of killing is the big sour note for me. My own experience of the game would be better if the default end of a combat was "defeat" instead of "death."

There's something baked into D&D that makes monsters surrendering or running away just not as satisfying as killing them. My players will often go out of their way to hunt down a retreating foe, even if it's just one goblin or even a single crab (this happened!).

I think killing things is very foundational to D&D, but it doesn't have to be. I'd love to see more adventures, like Wild Beyond the Witchlight, that don't require killing to move the plot forward.
 

Victor Spieles

Explorer
A few years ago, when asked to run a game to introduce a couple 13-year-olds to the game, brought this up in my mind. The kids were no strangers to beating up enemies in battle - media is loaded with it. However, in their media, violence is generally used only with justification, and the bad guys do not usually explicitly die.

And while I, as an adult, have no issue with folks who want a game in which life is cheap, I, as a GM, was not going to set that precedent for 13 year olds. So, I made it very clear when bad guys were really bad, by making their actions clear, not relying on labels. And even then, the default was that humanoid opponents were "down, out of the fight" and not explicitly dead.




So, there are two coming out soon that might be of interest - Avatar Legends: The Role Playing Game had one of the biggest kickstarters recently. It is built to model Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra series, so while there's lot of possible fighting, actually dying is expected to be less of an issue. This is sceduled to come out in Feburary 2022, iirc.

Also in development - Tales of Xadia, an RPG based on The Dragon Prince animated series. There is a playable set of rules and a couple of adventures out, if you want to give it a try. And the game mirrors the series in trying to make character who are not combat-oriented still be effective, and it is very, very hard for PCs to die.

As others have noted, Fate-based games are also good with non-combat resolution, or effective non-violent actions within combat. And by and large, characters are "taken out" or concede a fight, rather than necessarily killed outright.
Umbran I think FATE based gaming may be the way forward for me. That way everyone at the table is aligned and in agreement on play style and encounter resolutions.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
D&D is 90% about fighting and killing while the rules for non combat action resolution is paper thin.
You really need to look for other system which at least gives you more options to resolve things other than fighting. Even Shadowrun offers more ways to tackle problems than D&D does.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Umbran I think FATE based gaming may be the way forward for me. That way everyone at the table is aligned and in agreement on play style and encounter resolutions.

The most fun gaming I've had in the past year and a half has been a Fate Accelerated version of Space: 1889, so I can definitely see that workign out quite well. Good luck!
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
This conversation makes me think of the Dogs in the Vineyard RPG. I've only run a handful of games, but it contains three modes of conflict which can escalate, something like social, physical, and deadly.

I know this will get a slew of "just play another RPG" replies, but it would be interesting to try and apply that kind of escalation mechanic to D&D.

In a traditional dungeon setting, fights might escalate through three phases:

Trial (using Stealth, Intimidation, or Trickery to defeat or circumvent foes, low risk of injury)

Combat (using weapons and spells, HP can be lost, but defeat isn't death)

Deadly Combat (high risk of death)

Dogs in the Vineyard has different mechanics and rules to differentiate the phases of conflict. I wonder what that could look like in D&D?
 

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