More thoughts on nonviolence in D&D

Last Saturday I posted about a new Dungeons & Dragons player’s question: Can I play as a nonviolent character? I was preparing an introductory, one-shot adventure for some new players. I ran the adventure on Monday night. In my post last Saturday I suggested that there were a few options available for a ‘nonviolent’ character, depending on what they mean by ‘violent’. This player ended up choosing a bard and was happy to assist the rest of the party in combat. (This meant creating an illusion of an attractive rocktopus, to distract a particularly threatening rocktopus.)


As I mentioned in my post last week, the four options I suggested really just call us to ask questions about what we mean by nonviolence. Are we really being nonviolent if we’re seeking to control other’s actions and attitudes. Are we really being nonviolent if we use combat to overpower others? (Not really!) The game isn’t really designed to support nonviolence. (I have been thinking about what it might be like to develop a satyagrahi class though.)

For players who hold an ethic of nonviolence (and want the characters they make to reflect this) I think there’s a benefit in playing D&D. Anyone who plays D&D has to work out to what extent they can work with others who don’t share their values. With the main group I DM for, I’ve really enjoyed seeing how this works. We’ve had a very loosely knit group playing the Tyranny of Dragons expeditions. Two of our most regular players have tended to pull the group in different directions. One has a character who’s very conscienctious, wants to avoid combat unless it’s necessary and wants to keep prisoners alive. Another character will want to kill the bartender if he gets a bit lippy.

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I think it’s more helpful seeing if we can work together with people that we don’t agree with. If you start with a harmonious party who all share the same philosophy, a successful adventure is not as great an achievement. That’s been a question that’s come up for me in real life, as I’ve worked out who I can work alongside in response to Melbourne City Council’s proposed rough-sleeping ban.

Ithink I still have a little bit more to write on this topic, so I expect I’ll return to it soon.

5 thoughts on “More thoughts on nonviolence in D&D

    1. If my players manage to neutralise a threat without combat, I still give them the combat XP.
      I know the official 5e rules also give the option of setting stages in the adventure where the characters will level up. So it doesn’t need to mean that the PCs don’t level up.

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