Author Topic: adventuring with a pacifist  (Read 521 times)

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Offline foilfodder

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adventuring with a pacifist
« on: February 05, 2024, 12:29:35 PM »
Rolemaster, Middle-Earth RPG, and H.A.R.P. systems always struck me as great opportunities for G.M.s reward players for activities other than mass slayings of enemies. Most RPGs are combat focused, particularly those written in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  Character types are combat-oriented and character advancement only happens through slaying of monsters/opponents. Epic fantasy fiction like The Lord of the Rings, Conan the Barbarian, etc are certainly strong influences and glorify combat and war. But some fantasy fiction works, such as The Hobbit or many books in the Narnia series are not dominated by combat.

When I purchased M.E.R.P. and read through character advancement and experience rewards it was something new to see rewards for skill checks/manuevers, not just combat. I have played several characters that have had pacifistic tendencies (willing to fight as last resort), but I have never had another player under a game I am running or participating as a fellow player do so. Even in a Shadowworld campaign under RMSS I participated in for two years, the party healer, a Sister of Eissa, left mounds of corpses despite the tenants of the Church of Orhan.

Has anyone had a character flourish in their gaming group like Mr. Baggins who, "valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold"?

Any true pacifist characters who have managed to stay alive in a world full of hostility without spilling the blood of even those who would do them harm?

Offline nash

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2024, 01:14:08 PM »
The problem with pacifists in most RPGs is that even if you are clean, it's a very fine line line to the fact you are helping the rest of the party commit murder.

Even healing someone leads to this sort of problem.

FWIW however; "Wild beyond the Witchlight" (not published by ICE) module is designed so you can complete the whole adventure without combat if you wish.   The results are not always the best however.

Offline MisterK

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2024, 01:26:33 PM »
I've never GMed a campaign in which no combat occurred.

But in most cases, combat was not seen as the first option, if only because it tends to leave many people dead, and
- most of the time, you miss opportunities to ask questions
- sometimes, the dead people are on your side

At the very least, characters tend to make sure they come out on top, and refrain from entering fight they can't control that way. Of course, sometimes, they don't have much of a choice.

Offline Spectre771

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2024, 04:15:33 PM »
I've never GMed a campaign in which no combat occurred.

But in most cases, combat was not seen as the first option, if only because it tends to leave many people dead, and
- most of the time, you miss opportunities to ask questions
- sometimes, the dead people are on your side

At the very least, characters tend to make sure they come out on top, and refrain from entering fight they can't control that way. Of course, sometimes, they don't have much of a choice.

I have GM'd sessions with no combat; thieves guild challenge, spying/surveillance, B&E/recovery.  But I can't say a did a full campaign without some sort of combat.  However, I do have one player who is technically a fighting class, but he always manages to stay out of combat and he's constantly doing support roles (much to the aggravation of his fellow teammates and sometimes me).

A bard and a healer could easily be pacifists.  Scholar, Sailor, Sleuth.  I'm basing all of this on RM2 professions.  I made a Burglar who did everything possible to avoid combat.  My weapon skill was poor.
If discretion is the better valor and
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let's all be heroes and run away!

Offline Barner Cobblewood

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2024, 04:19:16 PM »
BC has always avoided combat whenever possible, sticking to sneaking and light fingers as his way of supporting the good life.

Offline rdanhenry

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2024, 05:12:43 PM »
RMU has entirely taken combat out of the advancement calculus, so the mechanical incentive for choosing violence is removed. This won't force anyone to change old habits, but it does broaden the types of stories that can develop without fighting against the (game) system.
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Offline foilfodder

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2024, 12:18:37 PM »

But in most cases, combat was not seen as the first option, if only because it tends to leave many people dead, and
- most of the time, you miss opportunities to ask questions
- sometimes, the dead people are on your side

Your second point brings up what I consider a funny memory:

 The Rolemaster group I was with had a munchkin-type power gamer leading. Said munchkin made a deal with a deal with Sulthon the Dragonlord to provide our group with some muscle. We got to the meetup point and the place was crawling with lugroki. Said munchkin does not miss a beat, casting some sort of summon magic or item which wipes out the lugroki with little effort. Going through the remains of their camp we find the lugroki actual were the muscle Sulthon promised our munchkin leader.  Glad my character didn't negotiate with a Dragonlord then waste the troops. :)


Offline jdale

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2024, 01:23:07 PM »
There is a character in my current campaign who has hemophilia, is terrified of actually getting injured, and does not fight at all. He's not philosophically a pacifist, but functionally. He has significant lore and social skills, has skills for advising and directing others during combat, and makes some potions. An unusual character, wouldn't be for everyone, but it's working for the player. The closest he ever got to making an attack was using a wand that cast a stunning spell, and he didn't even like doing that.

We handle experience by GM fiat, i.e., everyone goes up a level when the GM says it's time. So that's not really an issue. But as Dan said, the RMU rules will handle such a character just fine too if you want a system.
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Offline foilfodder

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2024, 02:34:49 PM »
There is a character in my current campaign who has hemophilia, is terrified of actually getting injured, and does not fight at all. He's not philosophically a pacifist, but functionally. He has significant lore and social skills, has skills for advising and directing others during combat, and makes some potions. An unusual character, wouldn't be for everyone, but it's working for the player. The closest he ever got to making an attack was using a wand that cast a stunning spell, and he didn't even like doing that.

Sounds like although the charater has hemophilia, the player themselves might have pacifistic tendencies.  I wonder what would happen if they had to battle constructs or other non-living opponents.... Glad to hear they at least use the Stun spell eventualky.

Magic items like wands and runes offer great non-injury combat alternatives. Spectre771 mentioned the bard and healer which have good combat spells that control rather than injury.   My second Rolemaster character was Mentalist which also has plenty of good spells to take down an opponent without injury.

Offline jdale

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2024, 03:13:29 PM »
I assure you the player was an extremely murderous GM. It's a character choice. :)
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Offline PiXeL01

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2024, 02:57:29 AM »
I think it was Earthdawn or shadowrun (maybe both) that do not use a combat focused experience system. Instead the game master set a number of goals or/and milestones and once they are reached rewards are granted.
I used this system plus a RP reward system in all my games though usually I award the same amount to all players, active or not given the frequency of play and schedule complications.
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Offline foilfodder

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2024, 10:10:48 PM »
I think it was Earthdawn or shadowrun (maybe both) that do not use a combat focused experience system. Instead the game master set a number of goals or/and milestones and once they are reached rewards are granted.

Shadowrun 2nd edition still sits on my rpg shelf, the rewards were karma points which could be used to improve a characters skills and attributes, or spent to improve dice rolls.

As far as getting through a actual game session of Shadowrun as a pacifist, I'm certain a decker coukd pull off some data-thefts...any other mission type typically left a lot of bodies. "Life is cheap" was built into the game setting and my players never hestitated with lethal force,

Offline Falconer

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2024, 09:23:46 AM »
It’s funny because in 70s D&D, the awarding of experience is heavily goal-based, i.e., it’s mostly based on how much gold you gain by whatever means. In the 80s the attitude crept in (I would have guessed from RM) that this was not “realistic,” and that’s when the shift to killing-based XP became the norm (in 2nd Edition AD&D).

Offline MisterK

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2024, 11:38:27 AM »
I'm not sure it is period-specific. After all, the Basic Role Playing system awards experience on a per-skill basis, based on actual use and specific training, so you get better at what you actually do, regardless of whether it is combat-oriented or not.

I believe, on the other hand, that the level-based systems tend to have combat-focused experience, because they approximate experience with conflict resolution, and conflict resolution with combat. It is even more pronounced with class-based systems because an experience system must find a generic common ground between all classes, and the easiest common ground is combat.

Rolemaster starts in the category of systems most prone to using combat-focused experience. It reduces combat emphasis by adding extra rewards for a bunch of things and applying diminishing return (so chain-killing orcs loses its effectiveness over time), but still suffers from the generalisation that, since combat is available and is a challenging activity, it is still an efficient way to 'level up' if you survive the ordeal.

The amusing thing is, you could easily go towards a training-based and usage-based experience system since RM is also skill-based. It requires getting rid of development points and designing a mechanism that rewards skill training and/or skill usage in a non-routine situation with additional ranks, with built-in diminishing return (e.g. you need a number of "uses in non-routine situations" equal to X times the number of skill ranks you already possess to gain an additional skill rank, with every training period being rewarded with T uses, T being influenced by the quality of training, skill complexity and natural aptitude).

So I guess that, if RM still feels like an old-school action-rewarding RPG, it is because the class/level aspect of the system is considered more significant than the skill aspect. In other words, that players still use it as a "more realistic D&D" instead of using it as a "Runequest with character templates".

Offline rdanhenry

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Re: adventuring with a pacifist
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2024, 01:43:25 PM »
Rolemaster starts in the category of systems most prone to using combat-focused experience. It reduces combat emphasis by adding extra rewards for a bunch of things and applying diminishing return (so chain-killing orcs loses its effectiveness over time), but still suffers from the generalisation that, since combat is available and is a challenging activity, it is still an efficient way to 'level up' if you survive the ordeal.

Maybe even more efficient if you *don't* survive, if you can get resurrected. You get good experience for dying in the old RM experience system.
Rolemaster: When you absolutely, positively need to have a chance of tripping over an imaginary dead turtle.