Non-Lethal D&D Part 2: Consequences

A while ago I wrote a little about non-lethal D&D, reinterpreting hit points as morale rather than meat. I thought through some of the consequences of this change, and I think it’s a great idea, especially for games with younger players, or those who don’t want a lot of the killing that comes with D&D (but don’t want to play a different game, of course).

I had some more thoughts on non-lethal D&D, about consequences of falling to 0 hit points. I actually would love more rules for different kinds of conflicts – fighting to capture, or fighting to drive away – that games like Mouse Guard handle so well. But we’re going with D&D’s system, which assumes that a fight goes until one side runs out of hit points. In our case, that means one side runs out of morale, or willingness to continue fighting. I can see three possible consequences of this: collapse to the ground, flee in terror, or surrender. Simple enough, but here are a few mechanics to go with each.

Collapse to the Ground

You fall prone and drop any weapon or shield you were holding, unable to continue. You can still defend yourself, and are assumed to take the Dodge action each round, so any attacks against you suffer disadvantage (and are clearly evil, to be blunt). Either you are utterly exhausted, or paralyzed with fear, full of abject despair. If given the chance, you can still choose to flee or surrender.

Flee in Terror

You throw down anything in your hands, as it might slow you down, and shed any gear you can easily shed. You move and take the Dash action away from danger each round until you are safe. At your discretion, you can also Dodge or Disengage if those actions seem most likely to keep you alive. You might hold onto a shield to deflect any incoming attacks, but fleeing is your priority.


You throw anything in your hands to the ground, raise your hands, and throw yourself on the mercy of your attackers. If they sought to capture you, you are captured. You are unable to take the Attack action, though you can still choose to flee if your surrender is not accepted, but surrender is much more interesting than being killed, so a DM should err on the side of NPCs and monsters accepting surrender.

Am I forgetting something important? Is there anything you would add?

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