Lotus Dimension is a tabletop RPG that just wrapped up it’s Kickstarter and was quite successful. What makes it a bit of a stand out is that it’s billed as a pacifist RPG.

I love the idea, and I’m going to bet that it fails, and I’m hoping that’s a bet that I lose.

Here’s why I want to be wrong: sometimes I’m tired of tabletop RPGs solving most, if not all, of the character problems through violence.

Here’s why I think it’ll fail though:

  1. I’ve playtested two games that billed themselves as the same thing, one of which had no mechanical way of inflicting physical violence. Both were awkward to play. Hopefully the awkward mechanics and strange gameplay is something that’s been worked out of Lotus Dimension.
  2. For people who actually want a pacifist game, all systems that I’m familiar with can be played without violence. I know I just wrote about how sometimes I’m tired of it, but let me address why I’ve never run a pacifist game in #3. Modern Dungeons & Dragons has tons of skills and spells that can be used to navigate the existing game socially or through subterfuge and stealth or court politics. Savage Worlds? Same thing. Great combat system that you don’t have to use. Apocalypse World variants also can be played with or without violence. The difference is that it’s a tough sell to the table.
  3. Violent solutions to in game problems are easy to write and easy to play. I’ll say it and include myself in the generalization: writing a scenario in which violence is mandatory is the pop music of GMing. It’s easy to write, it’s easy to play, and it’s a crowd pleaser.

One of the most interesting games that has a take on violence, in my opinion so far, is Dogs in the Vineyard. Violence is costly, escalation has to be done carefully, because it’s a one way trip from being angry to someone going out the door feet first.

Having written all of that, I’d really like to think of how I’d run a game that keeps the players interested and either carries an enormous cost to the players to participate in violence or forbids it entirely. It’s a writing challenge.

(via Boing Boing)