In the 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons Wild Beyond the Witchlight, the book recommends that this module can be run without engaging in combat resulting in bloodshed. I’ve heard on the world wide web that this has caused a little stir since most of D&D’s history, character features and plots involve mostly combat.
May I suggest that yes, you can run any D&D game without ever engaging in combat, but you cannot play any game without risk and reward. Every story must have conflict (read more about that here in An Easy to Use Method for Storytelling)
Pay attention now, how you can modify the rules to play a non-combat game that still involves risk and reward.
Inform your players of the following changes in the game mechanics.
- Charisma modifier plus 10 will equal the new Armor Class.
- Hit points will stay the same based on Constitution.
- Fey Touch Points
As usual, encounters will begin non hostile unless a player character engages in hostility. Instead of drawing a weapon, this can include the following and can be done on purpose, or by accident.
- Insulting someone
- Declining an invitation
- Failing to acknowledge someone important
- Body noises
While not engaging in bloodshed combat, have the players roll initiative as soon as the hostile action occurs. Keep in mind that this may only occur when the players perform the hostility. Give them a chance to recover their insult during initiative to resolve the encounter. The NPC who is insulted will perform the following actions to provide risk.
- Sleep Forever
- Banishment into a Mushroom
- Fear into Paralyzation
- Charm into Hilarity
- Transform into a Toad
To make an attack, the NPC will make a Charisma check with proficiency. The DC will equal the PC’s new armor class based on charisma. If the check is successful, the NPC will roll 1d8 + charisma modifier of dice multiplied by the average party level. The PC will take damage according to that number. If the PC drops to zero, the NPC will use one of the five choices above to permanently retire the PC into the fey wild.
What do the PCs do for initiative then?
During initiative, the PCs will use their features, spells, and proficiencies to repair the situation, or flee. The DC for resolving the encounter equals the Charisma modifier plus 10 of the NPC hostile and must succeed a number of times equal to the party number total minus 1 PC. So, in a party of 5, 4 successful checks would need to be made to abate the insult.
The party dines with a large butterfly discussing politics. Unaware, the barbarian lets out a belch, insulting the host. The host is insulted and decides to frighten the PC. Roll initiative. Each PC including the barbarian takes a turn to resolve or flee the encounter. If this is successful before the host acts, the encounter and threat is resolved. If the host takes a turn, they roll a charisma check, and if successful against the barbarian’s new charisma based armor class, then the host rolls damage. The party level is 3, so the host rolls 3d8+charisma. If the host reduces the barbarian to zero hit points, the barbarian suffers 1 fey touched point and takes frightened condition. If any PC takes 3 points of fey touched, the PC is retired as a permanent wanderer of the fey wild. If the barbarian is not reduced to 0 HP, repeat initiative until the encounter is resolved.
The risk of course, is retiring the PC. The reward can be described as reconciliation. If the PCs resolve the encounter, have them gain a magic item, piece of advice, and of course, a friendship with this NPC that was once insulted.
This is not playtest material, an requires some improvisation on the dungeon master’s part. Use with caution. Use with Creativity!
And if you see a wandering soul in the land of dreams and fairies, take heed their warnings.
May your story continue!