Kickstarting Lotus Dimension, a pacifist RPG

Lotus Dimension is a tabletop, D&D-style role-playing game in which characters advance through nonviolent means -- a game that incorporates "amazing sci-fi and fantasy storytelling while also incorporating principles of nonviolence inspired by peaceful protests, historical leaders and the tenets of peaceful philosophical practices."

The creator, Scott Wayne Indiana, has already created and playtested a basic rulebook and has fully funded his $15,000 kickstarter to develop more advanced rules. $25 gets you a full ruleset.

One player acts as a guru guide, leading the other players through each quest. (The first quest, included in the Starter Set, is called "Liberation in the Zeppelins.") Players brainstorm together to solve problems, evade or defeat monsters or villains, overcome obstacles, deploy magic, obtain treasure and other rewards, free prisoners and find the way forward -- all while causing the least harm possible.

Which can be super tricky. How do you escape imprisonment or confront a threat without using swords or spells that cause harm? How do you defeat an opponent to overcome obstacles and win treasure if your strategy has to consider your opponent's desires, safety and well-being as well as those of yourself and your own team?

Through the challenges of each quest, players build their characters' inner strength, mindfulness and wisdom to advance to new levels.

Lotus Dimension - A New Game [Scott Wayne Indiana/Kickstarter]

Notable Replies

  1. Can't they start it without the kicking?

  2. stand says:

    This is intriguing though I'm a bit skeptical that you could make it fun enough (this coming from an IRL pacifist). What percentage of gamers are just in there to kick ass or blow off steam? From watching the video he seems to imply that you must resolve all conflicts with non-violence. If true, I think this is wrong. Violence should be allowed but it should have consequences. This is where traditional RPCs usually lack sophistication. The costs associated with in-game violence tend to be zero-sum; they die or you do.

    I think the most interesting aspect would be the exploration of the trade-offs associated with the decision to use violence. It's generally not zero-sum. Mowing down an encampment of orcs might get you the treasure but could it cause more problems for you down the road because it sows resentment in the survivors/witnesses? On the other hand, what if you try to reach out to them and they kill one of your party? How should you respond?

  3. mellon says:

    Finally, I can actually be the serenest!

    (Remember, kids: it's a competition!)

  4. I've actually led a pacifist RPG! In Pathfinder, of all things! See, the players were a police force (of sorts[1]) and each case (which I made up to be an episode of a show, complete with credits and all that) had stated goals one of which was zero casualties[2]. As a result, one case I can recall had exactly one attack roll rolled and that was against an inanimate object.

    The players are generally quite fond of a good dungeon crawl but they enjoyed this, especially, I think, because they were armed (heavily, too) but had cause to exercise restraint. It was a fun challenge and the campaign is still fondly remembered.

    [1] There was a definite X-files vibe to the proceedings.
    [2] Which was in-character for the not particularly nice regime they were working for for tedious political reasons.

    D&D 3.5e actually had pacifism as a rule: The Book of Exalted Deeds had oaths you could take which compelled you to certain conduct but gave rewards in turn. I believe pacifism was one of them.

    Even mainstream games can be played quite flexibly and even if you keep to the D&D school (of what are, latterly, essentially miniatures wargames) you can explore non-standard modes of play. Pacifism is completely compatible with roleplaying. And if you choose more experimental games this only becomes easier. Spirit of the Century offers a modeling of social conflict using a similar ruleset to its combat which means you can absolutely have games where the big fight at the end is actually a masked ball the end boss is the dowager duchess and her odious political views. And you don't need to do any serious adapting to the rules since the players already can make non-combat characters with considerable ease.

    As for they die/you die... I think I disagree. I mean, first of course, there's weird experimental stuff like Dogs in the Vineyard which is explicitly built to avoid this sort of thing by using this weird poker-bid based conflict resolution system. But secondly, even as hoary a system as AD&D 2nd edition features morale scores for most monsters (certain undead and golems never lost morale, of course, because they were mindless) and fights were, if played correctly, not to the death but to the running away. Players, too, often had to leg it since AD&D was comically unforgiving.

    And lastly, the idea of violence having consequences, that, too, is a very common thing. Played straight, murder, even in self defense, is supposed to ding your sanity meter in Call of Cthulhu, and in Unknown Armies responding with violence is the absolute worst thing you can do.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that pacifism in tabletop gaming is possible, has been done before, and games that take violence semi-seriously (they are games after all) do exist. And it can be fun, too. I will admit, looking at the above I feel a bit... cold, since it strikes me as preachy. I much prefer the Unknown Armies approach where violence exists is absolutely effective and is as terrible an idea as it is in reality. That said, Unknown Armies is, on occasion, a very grim experience.

    (And yes, I am a nerd. :slight_smile: )

  5. You'll be pulling glitter and golden ginseng out of your neck and ankles for weeks. If you admit you've hit rock bottom you drop 3D20 gold and an assortment of items including body parts that reasons will be revealed for one's not needing?

    Nice parallel with the recent Starship Sofa where they train the new munitions. (Story is the same Effie Seiberg also seen in Analog, its cohort to be seen in Lightspeed 'Women Destroy Science Fiction!' (what does it drop?) and Galaxy's Edge.)

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