Some years back, a gnomish rogue called Noor the Pacifist attracted some attention by attempting to advance as far as possible in World of Warcraft without killing anything — not even indirectly, by joining in a party and sharing experience from kills. This endeavor seems to have been done in the same spirit as conduct challenges in Nethack, only much more visibly. People make attempts at memorable characters all the time, and some become well-known within their communities, but Noor is the only player character who’s ever really stood out for me. The simple act of resistance, of refusing to go where the rules of the game lead, is a lot more striking here than it would be in most games, because the story of WoW is so very much a story of war — moreso even than most combat-based CRPGs, possibly even moreso than some wargames.
But Noor wasn’t the first attempt at pacifism by that player, nor the last. And in fact other people are trying it out now, because, as with many aspects of the game, the changes in Cataclysm have made it easier.
There have always been sources of combat-free XP. You get a certain amount just for exploring regions for the first time. There are various quests that don’t require combat: quests to fetch items, deliver messages, gather herbs, etc. (I suppose you could argue that a pacifist shouldn’t be doing espionage missions that lead directly to battles, but I don’t think this bothers the pacifist players much.) But there’s a finite number of regions to explore and quests to do — especially considering that a pacifist will be simply locked out of large sections of the quest tree.
As of Cataclysm, you can gain XP from ordinary, non-quest-based mining and herb-gathering. This drops with your character level, though, just like fighting monsters or doing quests below your level. But there’s an even bigger gain: the new daily cooking and fishing quests in Orgrimmar. These give a substantial wodge of XP, and, unless my eyes deceive me, it scales with your level. A pacifist couldn’t do both quests every day — at least one of the cooking quests involves killing pigs — but between them, they seem to get you about 10% of the way to the next level.
Of course, you’re going to level slower that way. But are you going to level slower than me? I’ve been taking the scenic route through the game for a while now, pursuing quests for the sake of pursuing quests, even when they yield no XP whatever. A limited-conduct run wouldn’t be significantly slower than this, and would yield a better story and bragging rights afterward. Maybe I should try to figure out some other obscure and difficult limitation. But I get the impression that people have pretty much already rung all the changes on that.