Dragon 396 - Unearthed Arcana: Fight or Flight?

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DnDi_Large.pngDragon 396
Unearthed Arcana: Fight or Flight?

By Richard Baker

Not every offer to parlay is rejected, and not every fight is someone's last.

Talk about this Article here.

I really liked the article and how to introduce Encounter Check Status. Sure enemies could Attempt To Flee before and Offer to Parlay or Demand to Surrender, but having it turn into a Skill Challenge while they get pursued using Athletics or Diplomacy to talk them into surrender takes a fun twist in a concrete manner.

I'll add this to my Toolbox. It fits in the Unearthed Arcana line of articles very well.
A good reminder too that not all encounter need to end in blood bath.

Cookie Mr. Baker.
I like it, though I might call for diplomacy checks or intimidate checks from the party if they want to call for parley or demand a surrender (possibly replacing the usual surrender rules for the intimidate skill).  Or an appropriate knowledge check if trying to break off combat with a non-intelligent creature (dungeoneering check - toss some meat next to the gibbering mouther, it might go after the easier prey!  Or a nature check to calm a raging animal or the like).

In any event, yeah, I really like this.  It will totally see use in my games.
Excellent article, and I'm very glad this is Dragon and not Dungeon magazine. This is the kind of info many new players need to read. Too often when I play with new players they assume that every fight is a fight to the death or flat out retreat. I suspect this comes from the influence of video games where those are really your only options. The idea of stopping a battle to parlay with the enemy is something that many players don't ever think about. In my experience, these situations create some of the most memorable encounters that have the possibility to really shake up a campaign.

I've just emailed all my players with a link to this article and recommend they read it. Well done Mr. Baker, thanks.
Good point, Style75, I had not realized this was Dragon instead of Dungeon. The article is written for DMs, but you are right that there is utility in it being presented to players. You need your players "in on it" to be able to use the options effectively.

Overall, I am really impressed with this month's offerings. This article was really useful and I liked that the author had the space to explore the topic in depth. By going longer it presented more options for a DM and provided more examples. I think many DMs will benefit from this article. In a lot of way, it resembles the outside-the-box thinking many good bloggers are employing, and I want more of that from WotC.

That it came from Rich Baker is no surprise. Fantastic.

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Great article.  I'm going to give this a try in my Dark Sun campaign this weekend.  The Dark Sun monsters deal a lot of damage.  So far every encounter has been a fight to the death, forcing me as DM to pull a punch here or there to prevent a TPK.  It seems more interesting to keep attacking full strength and remind the PCs that they could flee at the end of a round.

Fantastik article! One of the best for sure in a long time. I will certainly use this option in my campaigns.  Plus I'll convert it to 3.5, because it can be used in either game effectively. More importantly, my monster will benifit from this process as well. Its so good, I think it should become a CORE rule.
I have to agree with everyone else, great article.  My only complaint... it's "Unearthed Arcana" and not core.  This deserves to be core imo.
I have to agree with everyone else, great article.  My only complaint... it's "Unearthed Arcana" and not core.  This deserves to be core imo.

It is not really a game rule IMO. It is more about how to run your game than adding a new rules game mechanic to the game. It suggests adding a decision moment at the end of a round which you could always have done, and use skill challenge mechanics to check success or failure as opposed to moving the miniatures around on the battlemap. The reason I really like the article is exactly because of the fact that it does not include new game rules ;) Anyway, you can certainly use it for example in an organized game play like LFR without much of a problem.

I think this should be core.

I am definately gonig to be using this for my games.

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

I have to agree with everyone else, great article.  My only complaint... it's "Unearthed Arcana" and not core.  This deserves to be core imo.



Keeping it in Unearthed Arcana makes it easier to treat as an optional rule. If you go ahead and declare it core, some DMs will be caught off guard when, several rounds into combat, players declare they are moving into 'chase scene mode' and demand Bluff/Intimidate/Acrobatics checks to break off from combat without Opportunity Attacks.

Personally, I like the rules, and plan on trying them out. But I think Unearthed Arcana is the perfect place for this sort of thing - I just don't see any benefit from making it a core rule, rather than keeping it as an optional one.
I have to agree with everyone else, great article.  My only complaint... it's "Unearthed Arcana" and not core.  This deserves to be core imo.



Keeping it in Unearthed Arcana makes it easier to treat as an optional rule. If you go ahead and declare it core, some DMs will be caught off guard when, several rounds into combat, players declare they are moving into 'chase scene mode' and demand Bluff/Intimidate/Acrobatics checks to break off from combat without Opportunity Attacks.

Personally, I like the rules, and plan on trying them out. But I think Unearthed Arcana is the perfect place for this sort of thing - I just don't see any benefit from making it a core rule, rather than keeping it as an optional one.



Agreed.

I particularly liked the chase rules (although i will still look into Paizos Chase Deck when it comes out), and would like to incorporate them into the campaign im DMing; already sent a rules discussion to the group.

This is great! Its important to bring noncombat options into D&D. The Encounter Status phase at the end of each round, during the Combat Sequence, is a simple and powerful mechanic.

By the way, this is a great mechanic for other combat-related events. Coincidentally, the Amethyst setting uses this same mechanic to determine when and if the presence of magic causes any of the hi-tech weapons to shortcircuit as a kind of witchy poltergeist effect.

You could also use the Encounter Status phase to see if any cursed weapons kick in any negative effects. Or whatever. All around, this is a great mechanic for all kinds of combat scene effects.

This is a brilliant way to smoothly integrate skill checks into the combat sequence, as it makes group skill challenges possible. Diplomacy and Intimidate seem especially important for when calling for Parley or Intimidate checks, and the possibility of a skill challenge to do this is awesome too.


I agree with the others above. This Combat Status phase must become core. At the same, I feel strongly, it belongs in Unearthed Arcana, at first. This is the appropriate venue to introduce experimental game-changing mechanics. As it proves popular it should probably become core, and in the meantime can benefit from feedback for tweaking to cover all the gaming implications that people come across while playtesting it in their own games.

Good stuff.

Incidentally, this simple Combat Status mechanic is awesome for modern campaign settings. In the modern world, urban areas normally make violence an unappealing option because of legal consequences. So, switching to other strategies to resolve encounters nonviolently is important for flavor.

I'm going to put forth a contrary view from what I've seen here.  Our DM mentioned the article a few weeks before springing it on us in two battles we wanted to "win".  (worth noting that the escapers were the same in each encounter, and both pursuits failed)

The first problem is when the retreat begins.  In our case, we clearly had the bad guys on the rocks and were close to defeating them.  All of a sudden, they got away, in spite of our initiative giving us attacks before their next actions.  My runepriest's abilities to immobilize the enemy were useless, as were the other 5 players abilities.

The second problem is using overland movement rules.  Pursuit should not be at the pace of the slowest party member.  I've never heard of pursuers waiting for their slowest person while they chase someone.  Perhaps if this were truely an overland pursuit over a more significant time, but at the end of an encounter folks are going to give pursuit at top speed if they believe they have the advantage and  can catch someone.

A third potential problem is rewards or lack of rewards for the pursuers.  If the enemy escapes, do pursuers still get full experience for the encounter?  Except for their fallen comrades, pursuers don't get any loot from the escapers, which typically would include the highest level/best equipped opponent.

Ultimately, the use of these options took me as a player out of the game as my characters abilities, powers, feats all were useless in spite of their utility in preventing movement.  I felt like a spectator instead of a participator.  (yes, in each case I rolled successful checks only to have other party members roll poorly)

I understand the need for simplicity in the rules, however I think this is an area where a little more complexity makes the adventure more 'realistic'.  I'm not saying rules trump story, or story trumps rules, but it should be explainable in a way that lets the players feel like their characters weren't just screwed.

I'm curious if any other players have had their DM use this option, and how they felt about it as the failing pursuer.

 I'd also be interested in any thoughts/comments on the issues I've identified.
The first problem is when the retreat begins.  In our case, we clearly had the bad guys on the rocks and were close to defeating them.  All of a sudden, they got away, in spite of our initiative giving us attacks before their next actions.  My runepriest's abilities to immobilize the enemy were useless, as were the other 5 players abilities.

Just because an article does not mention a very specific situation, I feel that the author assumed that the creatures can actually flee. Why state the obvious? Allowing immobilized enemies to break off the fight seems to be a DM too eager to get the enemies away. Besides, as in any skill challenge a DM should apply the use of attack powers fairly.

The second problem is using overland movement rules.  Pursuit should not be at the pace of the slowest party member.  I've never heard of pursuers waiting for their slowest person while they chase someone.  Perhaps if this were truely an overland pursuit over a more significant time, but at the end of an encounter folks are going to give pursuit at top speed if they believe they have the advantage and  can catch someone.

Maybe... the fact is though that if you follow the initiative mode it is virtually impossible to escape. The difference in speed is just not big enough. In movies and stories though people get away all the time and these rules are a way to simulate that effect. 

Furthermore, the article assumes the PCs wait for each other. If they don't than a DM should adjucate, but there is an inherent risk in that the fast PCs meet the fleeing monsters without the slow members of the group. Since the chase is not in rounds anymore and can take minutes the group might end up facing too tough an opponents. I know my players never allow them selves to split up in these circumstances for more than a round or two.

A third potential problem is rewards or lack of rewards for the pursuers.  If the enemy escapes, do pursuers still get full experience for the encounter?  Except for their fallen comrades, pursuers don't get any loot from the escapers, which typically would include the highest level/best equipped opponent.

Huh? You worry about rewards? Seems to me like you have a trust issue with your DM. First of all, there is no doubt that you get full XP since you defeated the opponents. Secondly, gold is something the DM has to keep an eye on for balance, and whether or not you get enough is something he can and should deal with through the design of his encounters. If you don't trust your DM to do so properly you have bigger problems than enemies getting away...

Ultimately, the use of these options took me as a player out of the game as my characters abilities, powers, feats all were useless in spite of their utility in preventing movement.  I felt like a spectator instead of a participator.  (yes, in each case I rolled successful checks only to have other party members roll poorly)

I understand the need for simplicity in the rules, however I think this is an area where a little more complexity makes the adventure more 'realistic'.  I'm not saying rules trump story, or story trumps rules, but it should be explainable in a way that lets the players feel like their characters weren't just screwed.

I'm curious if any other players have had their DM use this option, and how they felt about it as the failing pursuer.

If this had been my table, and one individual would have been so intent on catching the opponents, that he would rush ahead regardless of his friends getting behind a lot, I would let him. Whether that character would have fared very well for several rounds against a group of fleeing opponents would have dependend on the circumstances. Mind you, I would definitely have allowed immobilize attacks to prevent individual opponents from fleeing.
Thanks for the response Madfox.  

I find one of your arguments interesting:

"In movies and stories though people get away all the time and these rules are a way to simulate that effect. "

While we are enacting a dramatic scenario, Dungeons and Dragons isn't on a linear path with a predetermined conclusion that movies and stories are.  If it were, we should drop our dice and just write out how the story unfolds.  I don't believe that it should always be possible to escape.  If your players run into a Dragon's cavern, they should get eaten (assuming all the necessary assumptions to have made this a stupid choice and DM warnings, etc).  There will be times when the party is outmatched, and I think a rule like this could help, but needs some balance tweaking.

I proposed the following adjustment to our group:


1.  Someone decides to run.  At the start of their turn they announce it as their characters intended 'action'.

2.  The character/monster/whatever is required to make a double move away from battle (or other 'escapism' type action such as teleporting).

3.  If the escapee is not hindered by the time their next turn comes, they "escape" and the rules from the article come into effect for pursuit.

 
I think this brings the article's rules more into alignment with the existing order of play without what I call the "poof" effect of combat ending.  If the party has decided to run as a group, they can take this "flee" action on their turn based on initiative.

I would appreciate yours or others further thoughts on this proposal. 
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