D&D Ideas — Peace
Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is peace, which we discussed in our weekly live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST on Nerdarchy Live to talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of peace in Argument the two sides of an ettin find themselves in conflict thanks to a peculiar magic item and clever adventurers can use this to their advantage to find a peaceful resolution with the rampaging giant. An ettin argues with itself after attacking a merchant caravan along with 54 other dynamic scenarios in Out of the Box. Find out more about it here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy plus snag a FREE GIFT by signing up here.
Fear what you can’t see from the week that was! More to darkvision than just sight, making a case against ability scores, checking out best ranked feats and so much more plus new live chats with creative folks and industry pros and live game play rounds out this week’s Nerdy News. Check it out here. While you’re catching up from last week over there you might want to scroll down to discover an exclusive offer for our Nerdarchy Metal Dice Set. We created an exclusive offer to make it easier for you to add a set of these awesome dice to your collection with $25 savings. Check it out here.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
Nerditor Doug suggested War & Peace as topics for our weekly live chats and follow up newsletters. I instantly knew peace was going to be tough. Playing tabletop roleplaying games and telling stories is about compelling narratives. This usually requires some kind tension or drama. How do you make peace the crux of a story in a fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons game? During the weekly live chat I explored two ideas.
Conflict Through Peace
My first idea is for a villain who enforces peace upon a village, town, city or sovereignty. At first glance the ending of war and strife is a good thing but what if there is a cost?
- What cost would be too great to pay for peace?
- Is it worth your freedom?
- Would you give up your free will to have peace?
What if it’s worse and even more nefarious than usurping of free will? A villain or monster masquerading as a beneficial figure might take over by pacifying everyone and it doesn’t end there. This villain harvests life essence or souls, or experiments on the citizens secretly. Maybe it’s a place the characters have visited before. People they met previously now act strangely or perhaps even went missing.
My second idea is a nice little detail to add to 5E D&D campaigns and worlds. Civilized and metropolitan areas require Peace Binds before people can enter through the city gates. This could also be a way to facilitate lightening characters’ coin purses. Essentially it’s a tax on higher echelons of society and of course adventurers. Anything bigger than a dagger requires Peace Binding in the town.
The guards at the gate are the ones to do the binding. More exotic weapons must be bound with a special harness or left with the guards. You could even have special permits to allow individuals to carry weapons in town. Obviously the guards are allowed to carry weapons.
Occasionally the watch or town guard hires specialists like adventurers to do jobs and grants these permits. Another way is being hired by someone of extreme influence or perhaps a city with a rat catcher guild allows those individual citizens to open carry weapons within the city walls because they defend the city from dangers from below.
The idea of being able to bribe or pay for false Peace Binds and forged permits could lead to more adventures and brings up more questions.
- Does anyone oversee false Peace Binds and forged permits?
- Do these overseers belong to organized crime or are they independent?
Maybe the thieves guild runs operations involving these illicit activities and the guards are on the take. Perhaps the first time characters encounter a false bind is during a tavern brawl where someone draws their sword but shouldn’t be able to do so. Another example is an NPC the characters are friends with getting killed by someone wielding a sword with a Peace Bind on it. The adventurers are now investigating the false Peace Bind and forged permit industry in the city.
Peace Bind Costs
- Peace Binds. 1 sp or 1 cp
- Peace Harness. 5 sp or 1cp
- False Peace Binds. 1-10 gp or 2-20 gp
- Forged Carry Permit. 50 gp
Peace Bind Tax
Fines for being caught without peace bind:
- 1st Offense. 1 gp
- 2nd Offense. 3 gp
- 3rd Offense. 5 gp
From Ted’s Head
When it comes to peace it can be rough. In a game like 5E D&D where combat is a third of the game seeking a peaceful resolution can be a difficult challenge. My plan is to look at the rules and classes to see how you can make an effective character even if you have made a choice to be non-violent.
First with your actions, while I know Nerdarchist Dave is against it, the Help action allows characters to help out mechanically and avoids them actually making an attack. Using magic items, potions and equipment like nets can be incredibly helpful. Also you cannot avoid taking the Dodge action. It is not very exciting but if you have nothing else to do this might just allow you to soak up some attacks that might otherwise hit you.
- Artificer. I have always seen the artificer as an excellent support character though they are diverse enough to fill certain roles if you build them just right. In order to make a peaceful artificer I would focus on magic items and infusions to make supportive items for the party. Focus on healing and support magic. For the Artificer Specialist I recommend Alchemist. They have the most support features, unless you are willing to bend the rules of the pacifist. Sure, you won’t harm others but your Steel Defender can. In this case the Battle Smith is super tanky and you can use your bonus action to command the Steel Defender to attack, but I think this does stretch the peace line pretty thin.
- Barbarian. The barbarian is probably the worst class to attempt as a peaceful character. Everything about the class just screams — sometimes literally — about combat. If you want me to flex my mental muscles I would say you rage to gain advantage on Strength checks and use your actions to grapple and restrain foes so they submit to your power. Again using nets and rope to secure foes stops you from injuring opponents. Both the Zealot and Ancestral Guardian have some cool features that might help in this mission.
- Bard. The bard is a super class when it comes to looking for ways to injure your foes. If you are looking to be the best at talking your way out of a fight the College of Eloquence is the best in 5E D&D. Combine these features with amazing support and healing spells and Bardic Inspiration and the bard is probably the easiest class to make be a pacifist.
- Cleric. After the bard I propose the next easiest class to be into peace would be the cleric. They make excellent healers (not the best though!), they get some amazing defensive spells as well as great class features. If you want to be a pacifist I would look at Life Domain to focus on healing or the Peace Domain.
- Druid. I feel third place for peaceful characters goes to the druid. These characters rock the exploration pillar with spells, skills and class features. Circle of the Land for whichever terrain you would be in most stands out among the Druid Circles. In combat you could use your spells to heal and buff your companions and debuff or restrain enemies.
- Fighter. Here again we enter into the realm of martial combat and yet again need to get creative. Fighters are the best at, well, fighting. If you can’t harm another how on earth are you going to be useful in a fight if you cannot fight? This bit of advice works for all martial characters but I feel it is the most appropriate here. Any Martial Archetype applies but I’ll cite the Champion and the Battle Master as the peaceful ones. When it comes to combat they could fight defensively. An aggressive defense forces attackers to strike the wall, ground or other obstruction and potentially injure themselves. This truly requires buy in from the Dungeon Master and even the other players at the table but this could allow you to use fun tactics and get creative as to how you make your opponent hurt themselves. [NERDITOR’S NOTE: You could also simply reflavor your weapon attacks as techniques resulting in those outcomes too!]
- Monk. All the creative options of fighting mentioned for fighters apply here. Way of Shadow would make you more roguelike and you could act as a scout and not be there.
- Paladin. All the creative options of fighting mentioned for fighters apply here. For paladins it is even harder than fighters as you need to use Divine Smite to feel like the paladin your teammates expect you to be. If you can refrain from using Divine Smite your paladin spells — including cantrips! — can be used more for healing, buffing and goading of enemies to attack you. You can still tank but no striking for you. I would go Oath of the Ancients as your Sacred Oath as the fey powers give you some fun options to play with or the Oath of Redemption that requires using violence only as a last resort.
- Ranger. All the creative options of fighting mentioned for fighters apply here. Again with the ranger we can look to be a bit creative. Restraining traps can be useful if you have time to set up an ambush. In addition if you follow the Beast Master Ranger Archetype you can be a pacifist, but your Ranger’s Companion might not feel the same way, similar to the Battle Smith artificer and their Steel Defender. This is not recommended but is a creative way to look at the issue.
- Rogue. All the creative options of fighting mentioned for fighters apply here. Rogue is another class like paladin designed to be a damage dealer. Rogues are a strikers for sure but if you are aware like the ranger, restraining traps are your best bet.If you are going with a peaceful build then rogue should be off your list. If you force me to make a choice for best Roguish Archetype to play a peaceful character I would say Scout if you are spending more time in the wilderness or Thief if you are playing a more urban game.
- Sorcerer. Sorcerers are blasters. You are designed to throw out elemental damage but you do not have to use your powers for damage. Of all spellcasters sorcerers are the most flexible so it is possible to use your magic in creative ways. It will take some ingenuity to pull off but again focus on spells to incapacitate, restrain or charm. For Sorcerous Origins for this type of character I would lean towards Aberrant Mind or Shadow Magic.
- Warlock. Sadly another poor example of a peaceful character. With limited cantrip selection and very few spell slots I see the warlock as the least useful or at least as hard to pull off as the rogue or paladin in using class features and still being peaceful and non-violent. Looking at the cool powers of the warlock I would suggest either The Archfey or The Undying Otherworldly Patron. These offer some non-damage dealing features that are a little helpful.
- Wizard. See all the notes about spell choices for sorcerers. Wizards have a much larger spell selection than sorcerers. Being ritual casters as well makes them even more useful out of combat. In combat if you focus on enchantment and illusion spells you will not be doing damage as you manipulate and charm your enemies out of the fight.
All right, I know this was a lot. But I hope it achieves a new line of thought for making characters and gives you some inspiration to try something new.
From the Nerditor’s desk
If I’m honest I was shocked to hear both Nerdarchists Dave and Ted express how rough this topic was to consider in the context of 5E D&D. My idea, which I tried to express during the live chat, has more to do with peace than being peaceful and certainly nothing to do with pacifism. In the context with the paired topic of war the idea of peace is a counterbalance — a state in which there is no armed conflict between factions.
With this in mind what I think would make a really awesome 5E D&D campaign is a team of specialists who do the most important kind of quest — working to achieve Positive Peace. This concept was echoed in the live chat by a college professor so I really felt like I was onto something.
Positive Peace means a more lasting peace built on sustainable investments in economic development and institutions along with societal attitudes fostering peace. (By contrast there is Negative Peace, meaning simply a lack of war.) In other words it’s though tremendously challenging work that peace is ever maintained because leaving people to their own devices naturally leads to violence and war. Let’s face it — humans are aggressive and humanoids plus all the monsters of the 5E D&D multiverse reflect this and in many ways amplify it greatly.
The most important thing to keep in mind going forward with this concept is peace does not equal pacifism. In the quest to establish and maintain peace the goal is prevented armed conflict between societal factions and this almost certainly involves circumstances where avoiding violence — the combat pillar of 5E D&D — is not possible. For a party of adventurers the situation is not dissimilar from real world peace makers in the sense there’s many more people for whom war is the desired outcome and keeping a lid on these machinations probably involves scenarios where key creatures are gonna get hurt.
A 5E D&D campaign focused on a team of special operatives working to prevent wars from being waged can develop along the same lines as any traditional adventures but with the added emphasis on decision making along the way. These decisions made by the team can have far reaching impact on huge numbers of people so the pressure is definitely on and the results of failure affect more than just the adventuring party — perhaps not even affecting them directly but instead indirectly on the world around them.
*Featured image — A classic D&D magic item updated for 5E drastically alters an ettin pillager’s circumstances in Argument, one of 55 dynamic encounters ready to drop into your game in Out of the Box. [Illustration by Kim Van Deun]