Pacifist character? Possible?

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How would you guys go about making a pacifist character in 4e? I was thinking through the implications and wanted to get some input. Cheers!
Well this is a ordinary houserule for us anyways but would benefit pacifist characters as well. We allow Players to separate the different components of a Power. So the Attack then Effect powers could be just an Attack or just an Effect. So in this case a pacifist character would use just the Effect element.

Also, how pacifist is pacifist? Would it be fun simply disarming a opponent or knocking them unconscious. Since instead of killing them you could state that the whole fight as your wearing down HP has been you trying to disarm the opponent or knock him unconscious till it finally happens.
Are we a true pacifist or a "might fuzzy on kneecaps" pacifist?


If the former... you're screwed. You wouldn't be able to do anything to remotely harm anything. Don't even bother.


If you're the latter... well, as long as they aren't dead in the end it's all good, right? You always have the option of knocking something out rather than killing it. And you wouldn't worry about destroying constructs or undead, after all they're not alive.
Regardless of edition, D&D is a combat heavy game where adventurers fight creatures that will give no quarter in the face of mercy, compassion, honor, or good sportsmanship. Depending on which brand and extent of pacifism you subscribe to, such thinking can make you a liability in a profession that already has a high turnover rate. Someone who flat-out refuses to engage in combat simply shouldn't be an adventurer.

For example, my characters typically adopt the stance of "diplomacy first", in which they give their opposition, when doing so would not be entirely unwise, the opportunity to settle things in a non-violent manner. Screw up that chance though, and you'll likely find yourself turned into a pile of char.

That said, I can think of four easy ways to pursue the path of non-violence.

1) Beef up your verbal skills with training and Skill Focus. Diplomacy, Bluff, and Intimidate are great ways of ending an encounter before it even begins. And worth noting, depending on the type of creatures you have to deal with, Intimidate can be just as, or even more useful, than Intimidate. Some creatures simply won't respond well to a light-handed approach, but will grant respect to better to a well-placed Intimidate check. See the Gnoll article from Dragon for an example of this.

2) 4e makes it really easy to remain effective in combat without having to kill your opponent. Anytime you bring a foe's HP to 0, you can choose to knock them unconscious instead of killing them (PH;295). There's no checks, penalties, or nonleathal damage involved. Just make sure you have a way of dealing with your foes before they wake up.

3) While all 4e classes tend to be effective in combat, some are a tad less combat-oriented than others. Controllers and Leaders are good choices for pacifists as their abilities tend to focus more on aiding or impeding rather than direct confrontation. Also consider bulking up on rituals to add additional non-combat, out-of-the-box solutions to your arsenal.

4) Being a creative player. A commitment to non-violence in a violent world requires creative solutions. You might have do an extra bit of investigation or roleplaying to uncover those solutions, but a cooperative DM can help you there.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
You wouldn't be able to do anything to remotely harm anything. Don't even bother.

That of course is the point of pacifism!

I was thinking about a Mahatma Gandhi type pacifist, perhaps a cleric or some such. There of course is the option to do a Steven Seagal type pacifist, who is really well trained in martial stuff, but seldom uses it unless the situation is really desperate. I think it would take a commitment on the part of the DM to help make it work tho, giving some different options to the characters.

The other thing would be whether the person was a pacifist in all aspects, or only to living creatures, or sentient creatures (so undead, dire bugs and aberrations might be appropriate targets of violence, etc.).
That of course is the point of pacifism!

there of course is the option to do a Steven Seagal type pacifist, who is really well trained in martial stuff, but seldom uses it

Steven Seagal rarely uses his martial arts? I thought he was like a minor avatar of Chuck Norris, without the beard.
Steven Seagal rarely uses his martial arts? I thought he was like a minor avatar of Chuck Norris, without the beard.

Basically. In one of his movies he finger flicks a guy 15 ft across a room into a wall.

You may wish to try a different game. DnD is basically a combat game (especially in 4e), and if you're in it to RP a pacifist, you may want to look for a system that better suits it (most healing powers involve beating an enemy to a bloody pulp to heal yourself or allies).
Sure you wouldn't rather play 3.5?

I mean, it's like comparing a salad bar to a turnip, regarding pacifist characters.
You might have to play a devoted Cleric and stock up on as many nonharmful dailies and encounters as possible. I think that might be the only class where it would be possible. You could pick Cause Fear and Beacon of Hope for your lvl 1 powers and be on a good start.
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Steven Seagal rarely uses his martial arts? I thought he was like a minor avatar of Chuck Norris, without the beard.

An insult to Chuck Norris' beard, to say the least, but I was referring more to some of the characters of Steven Seagal, the white Buddhist types who will only use violence in defense and then who go on a rampage, etc.

I was thinking the devoted cleric would be the way to go. It's always possible to do a character who has those violent, beat-'em-to-a-pulp powers (that heal, of course) and not use them. That would be interesting to play, at the very least. And I'm not set on playing a pacifist, just wanted to see if you guys thought it was possible.
An insult to Chuck Norris' beard, to say the least, but I was referring more to some of the characters of Steven Seagal, the white Buddhist types who will only use violence in defense and then who go on a rampage, etc.

I was thinking the devoted cleric would be the way to go. It's always possible to do a character who has those violent, beat-'em-to-a-pulp powers (that heal, of course) and not use them. That would be interesting to play, at the very least. And I'm not set on playing a pacifist, just wanted to see if you guys thought it was possible.

About being a pacifist healer: I had a concept I toyed with in 3.5e where the character was the Healer class and couldn't (by nature of a curse) cause direct harm on others. Instead she found the most bloodthirst corsairs she could and let them make use of her services. She was by no means a pacifist. A pacifist is someone that uses non-violent methods to achieve their ends. Someone that aids and abbets those that slaughter things for a living are at best "technical pacifists" (like my 3.5e healer) and at worst gross hypocrites.

There is nothing passive about support. A missile technician on a ballistic missile submarine only maintains the missiles, he doesn't fire them. But everyone agrees that the technician is a combatant.
Did the contractors on the second Death Star really deserve to be blown away?
It's alright. Luke, the epic-tier Swordmage (+5 radiant weapon) got them all out in the shuttle, all 48,000 of them.
How would you guys go about making a pacifist character in 4e? I was thinking through the implications and wanted to get some input. Cheers!

Pacifist meaning 'doesn't like to fight' is easy. That's just RP.

Pacifist meaning 'will never fight, regardless of the provocation' is also easy. That's an NPC, not a heroic adventurer.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Did the contractors on the second Death Star really deserve to be blown away?

Of everyone on the (technically third) Death Star the contractors deserved to die most of all (assuming they're like real life military contractors that is).
Yeah, taking a contract to build a weapon that BLOWS UP PLANETS means you pretty much deserve anything you get.
Any attack that reduces someone to 0 hp can be used to knock them out instead of kill them( thats in the phb, but i dont have mine on my so i cant give you a page ref). maybe this is a solution. it allows you to still be involved in combat and use all the funky powers but you dont actually kill anyone.
Rituals as powers would be an interesting way to go. Trade your attack powers for different rituals, and then use leveling up as an opportunity to gain new rituals.
Go for a cleric and multiclass into artificer or wizard (or bard if we get a playtest). Go for pacifist sounding cleric powers, paragon multiclass so that any powers that you cant find a good pacifist solution for can be replaced with a pacifist sounding power from your second class. Focus on damage that is not harmful like the illusionist wizard powers from dragon magazine. they deal psychic damage and you can fluff it like this: Your not actually hurting them, you're overloading thier minds until they naturally shut down. Boom easy justification and with the 0 hp knockout, no blood on you're hands.

Proably works better with a group that will go along with it (kinda wierd that your gnoll buddy is drinking blood while you put you're enemy into a nice sleep.) I suggest 3-4 party members with the same goal all using different combos of buffing and non actually or permanantly harmful damage dealing classes.

As for weapons go for unarmed because punches (change to pressure points) don't leave permanant damage like fire or steel.

And a solution for what to do with the incapacitated. It won't work all the time but using Mordenkainen's Mansion ( wizard utility 22) to throw unconsious bad guys in is useful. they are out of the way for 8 hours, you can designate them entrance and then change it so they can't get out early, and they automaticlly pop back afterwards. they even get room and board so they can lick thier wounds. combine that with traditional restraints, cantrips, illusion magic, portals to the county jail and any number of other creative solutions and voila you have a pacifist PC.
Something that's pretty important to figure out is "Why would this pacifist hang out with, condone the actions of, and even assist a bunch of non-pacifist rogues, fighters, wizards, and the like?" That is to say, after a full day's worth of fights where the fighter bludgeoned 7 kobolds to death, the rogue gutted 9 more, and the warlock set a handful of them on fire, and the pacifist just stood around and watched it all happen, what's their justification for even hanging around this party in the first place?
hey der,

I play a cleric of Kord. She is a dwarf and married to the paladin in the party. At 4th level she retrained her DWT because I am an idiot (she was toting a halberd and getting reach AoO like in 3.X, which was changed), and she is Wis/Cha and couldn't hit anything anyways with a basic attack. Basically, she critted one time with a halberd on a basic attack and didn't use either of her rays, and you know what? One teammate was conditionned, and the other was her husband who could have used the +2 from the other ray against his enemy.

This forced me to rethink weapon training for her, and even weapons in general. Now she uses the force of her god to harm her enemies, and that divine inheritance is RP to be certain, but in her mind (or my deranged lunacy) putting away the weapons of man, and using the weapons of god, given through Divine Power, is a more pacifist approach.

So she wades through battle with a smile and no weapons, using her holy symbol and rays. She plays a pacifist in town. Basically she is as pacifist as Dr. Who, who might in cases have to slay something, but always regrets it, and often tries to find a way to solve the crisis through other means.

not a total pacifist, but as good as it gets in a tactical dunegon fighting game.

Note: The dwarven pally husband does not share this philosophy, and both worship Kord as they are kinda hill dwarf barbarians...

also, pacifism doesn't have to be total, it can be focused on one aspect (like a hunter that won't harm bears, wolves, or humans ;) but will take our any Orcs he comes across)
Kord seems an unlikely Patron for a pacifist, given that the god himself actually gets into regular fistfights, hunts evil dragons for sport, and sponsors Battle Royales in the afterlife.

I guess his saving grace is that he's not a particularly demanding diety, so as long as you're being a strong pacifist, you're alright. Interesting Idea.
Yeah, this is going to vary wildly based on what you're willing to consider 'pacifist'. The simplest choices are the leaders; with Commander's Strike and Heavy Blade Opportunity, it could be an interesting exercise to play a Warlord whose blade never draws blood. Obviously, this gets more tricky when you get into the realm of encounters and dailies, but it might be possible.

Another option I can think of is to bestow any and all Cleric damage as a 'blessing' upon an ally's next attack. For example, successfully hitting an enemy with Sacred Flame would grant an ally temporary hitpoints and deal its damage on that ally's next attack against the target, whether the ally's own attack hits or misses. It's a little round-about, and it delays all of the cleric's damage by at least one round, but it'd allow the Cleric to be a technical pacifist.

The only other idea I have is that a caster character isn't personally in control of the destructive power on zir character sheet. A Warlock might be host to a demon which viciously defends zir from aggressors, for example. No matter how desperately the Warlock tries to resort to a peaceful solution ("Don't make him angry! You wouldn't like me when he's angry."), the demon will still lay the smackdown.
(I employ zie/zie/zir as a gender-neutral counterpart to he/him/his. Just a heads-up.) Essentials definitely isn't for me as a player, and I feel that its design and implementation bear serious flaws which fill me with concern for the future of D&D, but I've come to the conclusion that it isn't going to destroy the game that I want to play. Indeed, I think that I could probably run a game for players using Essentials characters without it being much of a problem at all. Time will tell, I suppose.
AD&D Oriental adventures had a pacifist cleric character. It gained XP through healing rather than fighting. I am not sure it translates well to the current editions. Even when released it was near impossible to play in a combat party, especially one set in the regular campaign settings.

Perhaps as a pacifist, the character could be set up as suggested above, to avoid killing sentient beings? My preference would be more a druid type that refused to destroy natural woodland creatures. That way the character would still relate to the combat environment with the party on all but a few occasions. Evil and monstrous creatures could still be vigorously pursued while some of the woodland encounters could offer opportunities for roleplay, especially if the character could use "diplomacy" on animals. Of course the diplomacy taken would be useless in relation to other creatures to keep game balance.
I was always interested in trying out the Apostle of Peace prestige class from Book of Exalted Deeds in 3rd edition precisely because of the gameplay challenge it would pose in such a combat-oriented game. It kind of forces you to find more creative solutions to problems. I thought that would be fun to try, but I never got the chance to play one.

4E seems more difficult to do pacifism since most of your powers do some amount of damage. Even the cleric powers are mostly attacks, and the healing apparently gushes out of your enemy's open wound. The only idea I could think of was trying to create a new class from scratch. Although I do like the idea of separating damage and effect. I'll have to think about trying that out.

As far as roleplaying it goes, having your character aiding a party full of people killing everything in sight does pose a bit of a problem. But you could still work with it. Maybe your pacifist is trying to convince the other party members of the merits of a nonviolent approach. Maybe he's the older, more mature member of the party who decides that if the kids are going to insist on fighting, somebody should be there to keep them from getting themselves killed. There's definitely some room to work there.

I think the most important thing is to talk to your DM about what you have in mind for your character. A good DM can really plan encounters around the characters' strengths.
D&D (no matter the edition, don't kid yourselves) doesn't have room for pacifists. I'm not saying the rules don't support them, and that everything must be solved with violence, but Dungeons & Dragons is a game about adventurers who purposefully leave a life of farming/crafting/scribing/whatever and go out, find things to kill, and take their stuff. These aren't well adjusted, completely sane people- these are the Cortez's and Pizarro's of the D&D world. Why would a pacifist go on a trip with Cortez? The outcome is invariably violence, and as diplomatic as the pacifist may be, that's where it will end.
That said, a PC can certainly very reasonably be peaceful and prefer the diplomatic route, but I can't imagine any pacifist standing by while the rest of the party waded through a river of kobold corpses.

Co-author on AoA 2-3 and 4-1.

I dunno, one that had been stabbed by a kobold might be sorely tempted.

I tend to agree, but there are all different forms of pacifism, not only the kind that sees anyone engaged in combat as misguided.
OP:

Yes, it is possible to be a pacifist character. No, it is not easy. You may end up destroying the fun for everybody else in the room if you get too into the pacifism. This will be the end of your campaign, but not necessarily of theirs.

As discussed above, I like the ideas of: 0 HP = knockout (bring handcuffs), optimizing with non-injurious powers, and being a cleric - maybe of Ilmater.

There are several types of pacifist.

One, the Mahatma Ghandi type, has a strong touch of the divine in him and an overriding goal. This is also an NPC.

Another type is the Vietnam protestor. These are not actually pacifists but social rebels who want to be as different as possible from normal people. They take their position based on what will offend and insult other people the most. They may actually desire the bad results other see coming from the opponent's ascendency. This type will destroy a gaming group faster than anything else.

Another type of pacifist is the social elite. He believes that if he and a few of his upper-class friends can talk to the opposing (and also upper-class) leader, class ties will trump the issue du jour, resulting in a peaceful solution. You load up on the Charisma skills and use skill checks to get the other fellow to change his mind. (Note that some monster races will not play along.) In the worst case, though, you get to be Neville Chamberlain going to Munich to negotiate with Hitler. However, the type is playable - you have to be able to step aside after doing your best and failing, and the other players have to be patient with you.

Another type is the retired soldier. This character has been through all the mud and the blood and the suffering and now believes to the very core of his being that violence is the LAST resort. He knows, though, that sometimes there is no other working option. When he does come out to fight, he will try to destroy the enemy quickly and thoroughly; he willnot leave this for his children to have to deal with. This is the most playable PC pacifist, in my opinion.

So I guess the thing for you is, do you want to try out this character concept even if it wrecks the game? Except for well-played type 3 and 4, I see more problems ahead than benefits.

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One question you want to answer when making a pacifist character is:

"Why is this character an adventurer?"

If forced by circumstance, perhaps he is the reluctant adventurer who takes pain to avoid, and then to atone for, violent acts. Look at the TV show Kung Fu for a perfectly playable character that would certainly fall under the category of pacifist.
"At a certain point, one simply has to accept that some folks will see what they want to see..." Dragon 387
Pacifist characters are easy. Play a ranger with a beast companion. Didn't say that the beast had to be a pacifist as well. Or, play a warlord and load up on powers that allow allies to move and attack and there is an at will that lets allies make a basic attack instead of your character attacking. It can be done, just not likely to be very good at adventuring.
It was 3e, but we had a pacifist vegan player who was playing a pacifist vegan druid. It actually made for some really fun and hilarious gameplay moments. He would run out into the middle of a battle with troglodytes and call for a halt to the violence (I would've let it work if they'd spoken Common). He carried a dead goblin around for weeks, eventually giving it to some giant owls who *ahem* promised to take it to a nearby temple to have it resurrected. When disguised as a sparrow, he dropped into a lake and slept there for a whole day to avoid confronting th hungry eagle following him. I actually miss that character...
Pacifist characters are easy. Play a ranger with a beast companion. Didn't say that the beast had to be a pacifist as well.

Haha, I could see that being roleplayed in a very amusing fashion. "Don't worry, Sparky's really just very friendly, he won't bit- Oh, oh dear. Bad dog, Sparky! No! Stop biting him in the face! Bad Sparky, now our guest is dead. I know one dog that's not getting any supper tonight unless he learns to behave!"
The answer, as many have pointed out, is simple: You generally can't.

By sheer definition, you can't really play a pacifistic character in D&D. At best, you can play a conscientious objector, a person who doesn't believe in violence but does believe in supporting their comrades. At worse, you can play a hypocrite, a person who espouses their non-belief in violence while aiding and abetting people who murder and steal for a living.

Now, in theory you could play a pacifist, someone who attempts to stop violence at all cost in which case you're generally going to be viewed in one of two lights by the party. A joke who's scoffed at for their ineffectivenes, or an obstructive jerk and party ball-and-chain.
Haha, I could see that being roleplayed in a very amusing fashion. "Don't worry, Sparky's really just very friendly, he won't bit- Oh, oh dear. Bad dog, Sparky! No! Stop biting him in the face! Bad Sparky, now our guest is dead. I know one dog that's not getting any supper tonight unless he learns to behave!"

That's pretty funny. Poor Sparky.

Now, in theory you could play a pacifist, someone who attempts to stop violence at all cost in which case you're generally going to be viewed in one of two lights by the party. A joke who's scoffed at for their ineffectivenes, or an obstructive jerk and party ball-and-chain.

No there is a third light. It's yellow, most people ignore it, kinda like driving. This light is the seen as a sacrifice to the dragon while the rest of the party runs away. The pacifist takes one for the team and the rest of the party 'mourns' him after they comeback more powerful and slay the dragon and go through the hoard. A pacifist will always buy you at least one round to escape from the orcish horde. You don't have to out run the orcish horde, you just have to outrun the pacifist. Maybe someone should come up with a pacifist character class. A bunch of, not attacks-- but convincing arguments to suspend the need for useless bloodshed. Maybe the class can start a skill challenge with the BBEG and if he's successful gets him to see the light. Really it'd only have to be a 5 level class at most because any character that takes this class isn't going to survive very long, but it could be interesting.
Pacifist =/= person who never directly attacks others in my opinion.
There is nothing pacifistic in character who orders his ally/beast to slaughter at will.
Pacifist =/= person who never directly attacks others in my opinion.
There is nothing pacifistic in character who orders his ally/beast to slaughter at will.

Well if you read NthDegree256's roleplay example, the 'pacifist' isn't doing any ordering at all. In fact he isn't in any form of control.
I think people here are viewing "pacifist" like they view "chaotic neutral". In other words, "pacifist" is not "peaceful stupid". Pacifists will do whatever they can to avoid violence, not because they're cowards but because they recognize the negative spiral of violent actions.

Even though our pacifist was sort of a buffoon, we were running a pretty loose, funny campaign. However, I can see some really cool campaign adventures coming from having a pacifist in the party. Maybe he or she is a diplomat or a priest or a merchant travelling through dangerous lands. What does a pacifist do when everything and everyone they love is threatened by violence? To they cave in and find themselves a hypocrite? Or do they stick to their, uh, "guns" and go down not fighting? Either way they shouldn't be punished. If there's a pacifist in the group then maybe here should be ways to negotiate or avoid combat some of the time.

Why does he or she hang out with a bunch of violent types? Well, like we said, this is a barbaric and lawless world. You've got to protect yourself. As my real-life vegan pacifist friend said when I teasingly asked him if he was going to stop taking medicine because it would kill the flu in his system, "Well, if it's them or me, of course I'm going to pick me." You're not just going to lie in the road and let the ghouls have you if you've got a choice.

You'd have to have a pretty mature group of players and a mature DM to pull it off, but I think it'd be great. Maybe they're not pacifists, exactly, but Luke not trying to strike down the Emporer was a great dramatic moment, and Batman never kills anyone. Granted, if you're going to immolate yourself in front of the BBEG's fortress in protest it's going to be a short game, but... hey, whatever floats your boat.

One evil party member can ruin a game if he's in the wrong party, and one pacifist could do the same. But played smartly it could work really well.
Grimbot, I do actually completely agree with what your saying. It's just more fun to go off about the 'peaceful stupid' character. The problem is, is D&D the best medium for a character such as this? D&D is a combat resolution game first and foremost. 4e has made strides to add in non combat mechanics such as the skill challenge, and you can make a character that is really good at such, but it is a minor aspect I think of most D&D games. Strangely though, as much as I consider D&D a combat game, it also holds the greatest example of a computer roleplaying game where you can play a pacifistic character, or at least one who doesn't solve his problems with violence first and foremost. Planescape: Torment. This is a 2e D&D Computer RPG where they main character can be built to defeat, I'll say 90% of all the 'encounters' in the game without violence. I've done this, and it is extremely rewarding. In fact it is the only RPG video game that I will routinely go back and play. But, the mass market didn't catch on with it, and games like baldur's gate 1 & 2, Neverwinter nights became better sellers and they solve all their fights through violence. That is what the majority seem to crave.

It does all boil down to who plays the game. I know this may offend some, but I think most groups can't pull off such a thing. While yes there are some, who can, I think MOST cannot. I, would be almost willing to bet, that most people that decide to play the 'pacifist' are doing so to be disruptive to the game, more than any goal of trying to be a better roleplayer. Certainly you can play a character the doesn't kill, like the Batman. However Batman will beat the bloody snot out of you with absolutely no remorse.
Have you ever tried to win a fight against someone who was far, far stronger than you without using lethal force? Its really hard. While you're pulling punches and trying not to take advantage of potentially crippling openings, you're getting the crap beaten out of you.

If you want to be a pacifist, all you have to do is avoid violence as much as you possibly can, and never take a killing blow when you reduce enemies to 0 HP. Ask that your allies do the same. But truthfully, pacifism in a dangerous medieval fantasy world is tantamount to suicide, and is likely to make you near-useless to your party. But do whats fun; if your partys cool with it, then go ahead.

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Forget cleric, try looking at Wizard. With a plethora of spells that have no damage dealing effects and plenty of spells that have secondary effects you could with only a little bit of tweaking make a character that never or at least rarely deals damage. In particular, look at the Dragon article for Illusion powers. I would also argue that Psychic damage could be described as not really damage, but making them believe they are hurt and putting them down to 0 hp is shocking their system into unconsciousness.

Going through Heroic Tier, here would be my power selection choices:

At Will
- Illusionary Ambush
- Thunderwave (push only, trade damage for prone?)
E1
- Grasping Shadows
D1
- Sleep
- Phantom Chasm
U2
- Shield
- Phantasmal Terrain
E3
- Maze of Mirrors
D5
- Web
- Phantom Chasm
U6
- Wall of Fog
- Dispel Magic
E7
- Enemies Abound
D9
- Wall of Fire
- Ice Storm (trade damage for prone?)

U10
- Illusory Wall
- Blur
How would you guys go about making a pacifist character in 4e? I was thinking through the implications and wanted to get some input. Cheers!

The same as the implications in real life:

You'll be walked all over by those who are more cruel than you.

Total nonviolence doesn't work. It's illogical and may even be immoral to refuse to be violent.

If you want to play out the pacifist, then do it. And pay attention when the game tells you to draw your sword or die. Don't hope for the rules to change just for you.

Now, if you want to avoid killing, I just want to point out that the rules say that you can always knock a creature unconscious rather than kill it (unless it can't be unconscious, I guess). See PHB p.295, Death And Dying.

Make sure to tell your DM (and possibly the other players) your nonviolent style. Some may not have the patience (or simply not the ability) to run a game that would entertain your intentions at all (i.e., every combat encounter is to the death).
And don't play a defender or a striker.