Termination with extreme prejudice

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I wasn't the DM in this scenario, but I've seen it play out at many a table (including my own, when I DM).

During a fight with an enemy, the DM declares the enemy is trying to escape.  The players, fearing the menace the enemy would have in the future (either by harming innocents or simply attacking them again, later), pulls out all the stops to try and prevent it's escape.

The DM might simply be trying to end an encounter early.  Maybe he realized the enemy was too powerful.  Or maybe he wants to protect a resource that he wishes to use again later.

No matter how reasonable his motives, the players refuse to accept the creature's escape.

I've seen DM's become very frustrated, and try to employ all manner of tactics to foil the players.

I've been on both sides of this fence, as a player and a DM, and it occured to me I don't fully understand what causes the reactions, both on the players "what?  It's fleeing?  Kill it!  Kill it NOW!" (and not taking "no" for an answer), and on the DM (what?  No, come on, it's just trying to flee!).

It's rare in many games for monsters to quit the field of battle in the first place, most fight to the last hit point.  I've complained about this as a player, but when one DOES try to flee, more often than not, I refuse to give quarter.  I'm far from alone here.

Not really much of a question, other than, why do you suppose this is, and what should (if anything) be done about it?                   
"You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies." -The Doctor, Remembrance of the Daleks

Not a universal rule; but in my experience when something escapes, it usually either returns with its friends or ambushes us down the road.


I believe for the majority of people who have played awhile have seen or heard something like this happening and their natural instinct when they hear something is going to flee is to focus fire on it.


All I know is if the DM says something is trying to run away, all I hear is “Kill it, Kill it now!”


Also as DM I have tried this tactic as well; so I understand the odd middle ground, I want the creature gone so we can move forward, but I know that in saying it’s trying to run I’m actually prolonging combat in some cases (A small encounter once turned into a chase through the woods for a single goblin raider, the chase lasted two days due to Very, Very bad rolls on the parties part, and complete refusal to let the single goblin go)

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I have bad guys try to escape all the time. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don't. The trick is I don't hinge any story on someone escaping. I've had the PCs kill very important villains before, but it doesn't disrupt the game. It can take a lot to suddenly let a bad guy die, especially if you did have ideas for them down the road. But there are always others who step into those roles and the machine keeps turning.

It is a poor villain who places the success of all of their plans on themselves.

Also, I do usually designated (for myself) one or two people on the battlefield as leaders. If they fall, there is little motivation for the remaining baddies to fight to the death, and they will attempt to flee.
It's a simple matter of communicating to the players your intention with the fleeing enemy's action. This is another example of how metagame information can build a scene and something many DMs overlook as an option (mostly due to reasons of "immersion" in my experience). As DM, you're either trying to  escalate the scene or de-escalate it by having the enemy flee. Communicate this directly either in-character or out-of-character. 

Escalation: "The villain, Titivullis Rex, frantically fishes through his robe to find a set of keys. His eyes dart to the door to the south where you know or suspect there to be reinforcements. He runs toward it, fumbling for the right key to unlock the door and call in support. If you don't stop him, things will get more complicated. What do you do?"

De-Escalation: "The villain, Gall, knows he can't win this fight and his motivations do not include dying on your swords - he must either escape, parlay, or surrender to you. You can choose to let him flee and you won't hear from him (at least for the rest of this scenario). You can also attempt to get him to parlay or surrender, but this may require skill checks. Or suggest your own ideas, naturally. In any case, the tension in this scene is resolved one way or another as you have won the conflict. What do you do?"

Both of these actually came up in our game last night. In the former, things got escalated because now it became a race to stop him from opening a door, which created fun tension given the way the terrain was laid out and the fact that lemures were trying to slow the PCs down even as they were trying to slow down Titivullis Rex. Killing Titivullis wasn't really going to be possible before he could open a door so it became an alternative objective to accomplish which makes combats fun and complex. In the latter where things were going to de-escalate, the PC tiefling bard made a deal with Gall (also a tiefling) to determine the outcome with a hand of blackjack: If the bard won, Gall would allow the party's blackguard to arrest him; if Gall won, the PCs would surrender and the bard would give up his soul to Dispater. One Bluff check and the clever use of a Mountebank's Deck later (the PC was able to deal the cards that would allow him to win) and Gall was clapped in irons...

So, just be clear about what the enemy's fleeing is supposed to accomplish and what it means for the characters. If you're not clear, you can safely assume the PCs will seek and destroy unless they're badly hurt and can't risk the chase (and even then...). I therefore advise letting the players know the stakes so they can make an informed decision.
It happens because in D&D it's considered, at best, suboptimal play or, at worst, downright stupidity to let the DM's plans come to fruition. If the DM wants to do something, it's assumed to be to the PCs' detriment, and so it should be stopped. Some players think this because they think that the game is DM vs. players and so they're just doing what they'd do in any other game, as much as they'd block someone's attempt to play on a Triple Letter Score, or try to lock down a troublesome bishop.

Some players think this because some DMs think the game is DM vs. players (meaning they must try to foil every player advantage). Those players wind up in the same position as the others because they get trained by their DM not to leave themselves open to any sort of failure, lest the DM grind the game to a halt and blame it on the players ("Well, you shouldn't have let them get away.")

DMs can try to avoid this issue by being up front with the players about what failure means. If the point is to stop the monsters from escaping, tell them this and tell them exactly what the effect of that will be. If the point is to end the battle quickly, tell them that. If the point of an encounter with a particular creature is not to kill it, tell the players that, and what the alternate win conditions are. I told my players that they weren't going to accomplish the goal that their characters would see as the win condition, and that the win and loss conditions were actually something else. If they hadn't been interested in that, I would have tried a different approach.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

 


It happens because in D&D it's considered, at best, suboptimal play or, at worst, downright stupidity to let the DM's plans come to fruition. If the DM wants to do something, it's assumed to be to the PCs' detriment, and so it should be stopped. Some players think this because they think that the game is DM vs. players and so they're just doing what they'd do in any other game, as much as they'd block someone's attempt to play on a Triple Letter Score, or try to lock down a troublesome bishop.

Some players think this because some DMs think the game is DM vs. players (meaning they must try to foil every player advantage). Those players wind up in the same position as the others because they get trained by their DM not to leave themselves open to any sort of failure, lest the DM grind the game to a halt and blame it on the players ("Well, you shouldn't have let them get away.")

 



This was one of the biggest problems with my old group, took a long time to change that mentality.  DM vs Players is about the worst kind of attitude to bring to the table and prevents a lot of enjoyment from being had, creates a lot of frustration, etc. 

That said I don't think every monster should fight to the death just because the PC's will give chase.  A two day ordeal of mercilessly hunting down some poor goblin raider creates a lot of opportunity for interesting encounters and roleplay.  Likely the Goblin is running to something, not just away from the PC's, it could be a Goblin camp, base, settlement, etc.  Not to mention all the stuff the PC's could run into two days from the beaten path.  Could also be a good opportunity for good aligned characters to do a little reflecting on their values, lol.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
DMs can try to avoid this issue by being up front with the players about what failure means. If the point is to stop the monsters from escaping, tell them this and tell them exactly what the effect of that will be. If the point is to end the battle quickly, tell them that. If the point of an encounter with a particular creature is not to kill it, tell the players that, and what the alternate win conditions are.



Right, transparency is key to getting past this very common D&D problem. A lot of DMs in my experience struggle with knowing when and how to end a scene and move on. Other games have specific mechanics for the GM calling an end to a given scene and moving on, such as The Watcher in Marvel Heroic RPG spending dice from the Doom Pool. In D&D, it's basically by consent of everyone involved with some additional weight generally given to the players. It becomes an issue when the DM both believes in the "sanctity of immersion" and won't talk meta, but also can't effectively communicate to the players in-character that "We're done here." Then the next 20 minutes is spent trying to get the fleeing villain or that one last goblin archer or whatever. It's a big waste of time and comes with the risk of being frustrating for everyone at the table.

The solution really is just to pause and impart the necessary metagame information for the benefit of the game's pacing. If you're feeling particularly collaborative, you can even ask the players how the villain gets away and what trouble he may cause for them down the road in some other adventure. This last bit comes with player buy-in for future nefariousness already included.
DMs can try to avoid this issue by being up front with the players about what failure means. If the point is to stop the monsters from escaping, tell them this and tell them exactly what the effect of that will be. If the point is to end the battle quickly, tell them that. If the point of an encounter with a particular creature is not to kill it, tell the players that, and what the alternate win conditions are. I told my players that they weren't going to accomplish the goal that their characters would see as the win condition, and that the win and loss conditions were actually something else. If they hadn't been interested in that, I would have tried a different approach.



this is what I did to allow for the possibility of shortening combat in my last campaign, I made it clear they were operating within the city limits, the paperwork for killing enemies would annoy the guard captain, they could and should use non-lethal force etc., and they bought into the setup so when a group of enemies tried to give up and withdraw, they let them go, captured 1 or 2 of them, and then told the city guards to round up the rest, as you put it, the point was to preserve law and order and function within the city rules rather than slaughter everyone to the last man and having the toughest enemy thug give up the fight and withdraw showed them they were satisfying the established win condition in a sense

so I agree, the best way to allow this sort of behavior is to establish a scenario where this is possible, because, as has been mentioned, the default scenario tends toward "anything goes"

it probably helped that the players agreed with my sentiment for wanting to end the battle a little quicker since we were running about 30 minutes past where we usually stop, but the setup at least helped get us all on the same page
DMs can try to avoid this issue by being up front with the players about what failure means. If the point is to stop the monsters from escaping, tell them this and tell them exactly what the effect of that will be. If the point is to end the battle quickly, tell them that. If the point of an encounter with a particular creature is not to kill it, tell the players that, and what the alternate win conditions are. I told my players that they weren't going to accomplish the goal that their characters would see as the win condition, and that the win and loss conditions were actually something else. If they hadn't been interested in that, I would have tried a different approach.

this is what I did to allow for the possibility of shortening combat in my last campaign, I made it clear they were operating within the city limits, the paperwork for killing enemies would annoy the guard captain, they could and should use non-lethal force etc., and they bought into the setup so when a group of enemies tried to give up and withdraw, they let them go, captured 1 or 2 of them, and then told the city guards to round up the rest, as you put it, the point was to preserve law and order and function within the city rules rather than slaughter everyone to the last man and having the toughest enemy thug give up the fight and withdraw showed them they were satisfying the established win condition in a sense

so I agree, the best way to allow this sort of behavior is to establish a scenario where this is possible, because, as has been mentioned, the default scenario tends toward "anything goes"

it probably helped that the players agreed with my sentiment for wanting to end the battle a little quicker since we were running about 30 minutes past where we usually stop, but the setup at least helped get us all on the same page

Some of us call this "buy-in." If you get player buy-in, almost anything is possible.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

yea, players generally assume that when a DM give a name to an NPC or monster, then that is automatically important...just like when a DM announces that the guy is running away...they are making an assumption. An easy way to help defer this is early on in the campaign reward them for letting certain mobs go...and make it comedic...

ex: A kobold or goblin flees battle...then later on, the party comes across the same guy (who is with his buddies, talking smack about the party and how awesome he is)...then he sees the party, freaks out and runs off...perhaps a few (or all) of his buddies join him in running away... the party is awarded xp as normal for that encounter despite not having to fight a single thing...they realize quickly that you aren't out there to screw them, so next time something tries to run away they don't immeidately think to 'kill it!'
No matter how reasonable the DM's motives, if she doesn't let the players in on what those motives are, they have no way of telling if this monster is fleeing to save its own skin, because the DM wants to expedite combat, or because the monster needs a chance to regroup and cause trouble down the line.  If the players don't want this information -- mine don't for instance -- or if the DM is unwilling to provide it, there are a number of "tells" that a DM can employ, but they're not fool-proof.  I've had goblin archers hide the first round of combat and not surface again except to run off.  The PCs didn't pay any heed to it, as there was no cover it could blow, etc.  On the other hand, when named monsters are shouting threats from horseback, there's a pretty good chance that someone will be back in act III.  

If a baddie is trying to escape, though, the players have every right to try to hack it down before it can, and DMs need not get upset about that.  I truly believe that you can't put a monster stat-blocked out in an encounter and then be surprised when it gets killed. 
The players respond to the style of the DM.

If, whenever something escapes, it invariably summons reinforcements, sets off alarms, or otherwise causes more trouble later than it does now, it's only logical that the players will bust their humps trying to kill it.

If, whenever something escapes, it ceases to become a game issue because it runs off to hide and never becomes an issue again, then the players will be more likely to exert less effort in letting it escape.

I think it boils down to the Kill=XP concept. If you give XP/Rewards for killing stuff, you shouldn't be suprised if people try to kill everything to make sure they get all the rewards. 


I've found that once you get a group to believe you that you really will give the same XP for sneaking past a sleeping dragon as they get for killing it (Maybe more if it wasn't actually a threat in the first place) they stop being quite so "Kill happy".


It also doesn't hurt that DND puts a pretty heavy emphasis on the hack/slash aspect and much less on the social encounters/exploration encounters. If I've got rules for swording thats what I'll do.

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I think it boils down to the Kill=XP concept. If you give XP/Rewards for killing stuff, you shouldn't be suprised if people try to kill everything to make sure they get all the rewards.




That, too.

Another reason why I don't give out experience points any more.

I think it boils down to the Kill=XP concept. If you give XP/Rewards for killing stuff, you shouldn't be suprised if people try to kill everything to make sure they get all the rewards.




That, too.

Another reason why I don't give out experience points any more.



I don't tell my players how many hit points they have, what their experience is, what any given DC are, or what they need to hit or save.  I prefer to describe it all in fantasy based terms-how close you were to being hit, how painful/bloody/gory the hit was, how you feel in terms of health, etc.

It may seem like a small change but I think it has helped me goad my players into roleplay based combat, and not dice based combat.  I also have them roll damage with their attacks and to do so prior to their turn if possible so combat is expedited and more focused on their action then rolling and adding. 

Simple stuff but I think it keeps the pacing better.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
I don't tell my players how many hit points they have, what their experience is, what any given DC are, or what they need to hit or save.  I prefer to describe it all in fantasy based terms-how close you were to being hit, how painful/bloody/gory the hit was, how you feel in terms of health, etc.

It may seem like a small change but I think it has helped me goad my players into roleplay based combat, and not dice based combat.  I also have them roll damage with their attacks and to do so prior to their turn if possible so combat is expedited and more focused on their action then rolling and adding. 

Simple stuff but I think it keeps the pacing better.

Interestingly, I tell them defenses, DCs, HP (the enemies; they know their own), etc. for the same reason. That, and because there's no actual connection between how a character feels and how many HP they have. They can be the picture of health at one HP, or a bloody mess at full HP.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

"I think it boils down to the Kill=XP concept. If you give XP/Rewards for killing stuff, you shouldn't be surprised if people try to kill everything to make sure they get all the rewards."

Agreed.  That is why I award full XP to my players if they make a baddie run whether they slay it or not.  In my eyes, they have defeated it and deserve the rewards.

The fact they get XP, and possibly twice or more, from the same villain sates them on the idea they didn't get the loot from the villain-- this time.
"I think it boils down to the Kill=XP concept. If you give XP/Rewards for killing stuff, you shouldn't be surprised if people try to kill everything to make sure they get all the rewards."

Agreed.  That is why I award full XP to my players if they make a baddie run whether they slay it or not.  In my eyes, they have defeated it and deserve the rewards.

The fact they get XP, and possibly twice or more, from the same villain sates them on the idea they didn't get the loot from the villain-- this time.



I make it even simpler. I give them XP at the end of a session, because they like to hear the number, but I never tell them what it was from. It could've been for completing an encounter, or for killing monsters, or successfully resolving a conflict in a creative way. They don't need to know those details. All they want is "I'm 200 XP away from leveling! Yay!"

I think it boils down to the Kill=XP concept. If you give XP/Rewards for killing stuff, you shouldn't be suprised if people try to kill everything to make sure they get all the rewards.




That, too.

Another reason why I don't give out experience points any more.



I am with this guy I don't give out experience points I simply tell my players when they level up when I feel like they have earned it. Back on topic here are the top 5 reasons I see for the "Kill it before it gets away!" additude.

1. Kill=XP 
2. DM vs PC mentality
3. I'll be back (Arnald Voice)
4. Goal=Kill everything, insted of something more interesting.
5. Players not understanding why they are running in the first place.  

Most of these have already been talked about pretty throughly so I am only going to cover them beifly

1. Let the players know that they XP for over coming an ecounter or completing the quest not by killing things.       
2. Don't compete with the players and reward them for letting things go by making things more interesting or fun when they do. Maybe that Kobold they let go comes back later and gives them his life's savings (13 silver) for letting him live.
3. If you have an idea for a reacuring villan do have a whole grocery list of things to do in your campaign then make henchman that he has for each of those things. Or if they do kill the "main villan" make another "Main Villan" and say that the old "Main Villan" was just his pawn. The player's will get a sence that whether the let the villan go or not someone else is going to be continuing the work he was going to be doing if he dies.
4. Make the mission goals more interesting or time sensitive if they have to make it do the keep at Gilter Wind Bluff before midnight or something bad is going to happen they aren't going to chase a handful of goblins because they got bigger fish to fry.
5. If you are big on emersion and don't want to simply tell the players "Hey this fight is taking too long so these guys are going to run away" then have them yell out in character what they are going to do a goblin running away and yelling "I go find Rugbar! Rugbar kill nasty human!" sends a very differant message than one yelling "Goobber no want to die! Goobber want live!" It lets the players know in character why they are fleeing from the battle and whether they are worth pursuing.
they level up when I feel like they have earned it.



Nothing against you, but that phrase makes me shudder. It is so arbitrary and so against the nature of the game that it curdles my milk. Leveling according to the arbitrary whims of the DM feels far too wishy-washy and contrary to the nature of player efforts controlling the game.

As for the topic at hand, I never have an issue with monsters I want to get away not getting away...simply because why should the DM give even half a damn whether or not a monster escapes? The only answer I can come up with is because the DM needs to maintain "my precious plot"...and so has to invoke every tactic possible to try and make that happen regardless of what the PCs do.

On the flipside, whether or not the PCs do this is dependent on the character themselves in my games. Some let monsters flee without issue...some try to keep foes from escaping...though, in general, it can depend greatly on the circumstances.

Also, do not believe the fairy tales about desiring XP or whatnot, when it comes to the VICIOUSNESS with which players will try to kill the fleeing "story important" NPC...it has nothing to do with that psychologically. It is, instead, all about them trying to have an impact on the game itself by doing something contrary to the script the DM already has in place. Players rebel against the script either conciously or subconciously all the time because the game is supposed to be about them and about the choices they make...if that choice is reduced or eliminated, they will act out against it and try and regain some form of control by hook or by crook. This is when we see players "act out" and do "crazy" things...because they are desperately trying to go off script. They're trying to exercise some agency in the game because they're being denied it.

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Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Isn't it normal for heroes to pursue bad guys trying to escape?  Does Superman go "oh, look, Lex Luthor is trying to escape.  I'm just going to sit on my nuts and let him" without so much as making an effort to try to stop him?

The players are just doing what is logical and reasonable, and what any logical or reasonable character would try to do.  If the DM is getting upset, that's his own damn fault for trying to railroad the plot and for putting something in front of players that he isn't okay with being killed.
DM advice: 1. Do a Session Zero. 2. Start With Action. 3. Always say "Yes" to player ideas. 4. Don't build railroads. 5. Make success, failure, and middling rolls interesting. Player advice: 1. Don't be a dick. 2. Build off each other, don't block each other. 3. You're supposed to be a badass. Act like it. Take risks. My poorly updated blog: http://engineeredfun.wordpress.com/
Isn't it normal for heroes to pursue bad guys trying to escape?  Does Superman go "oh, look, Lex Luthor is trying to escape.  I'm just going to sit on my nuts and let him" without so much as making an effort to try to stop him?

The players are just doing what is logical and reasonable, and what any logical or reasonable character would try to do.  If the DM is getting upset, that's his own damn fault for trying to railroad the plot and for putting something in front of players that he isn't okay with being killed.



Superman isn't killing every bank robber he comes across. Also, villains escaping is a staple of comic books, so really that line of reasoning doesn't work.

they level up when I feel like they have earned it.



Nothing against you, but that phrase makes me shudder. It is so arbitrary and so against the nature of the game that it curdles my milk. Leveling according to the arbitrary whims of the DM feels far too wishy-washy and contrary to the nature of player efforts controlling the game.


I am not saying I agree with TheKazz's methods, but the leveling process TheKazz uses does not have to be "arbitrary."  As the DM, one could track XP derived from encounters and sessions and simply withhold that information from the players.  And when the "hidden" XP breeches the leveling point, the DM states, "OK time to level up."

 

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Are you really "entitled to your opinion"?
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The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
If the DM is getting upset, that's his own damn fault for trying to railroad the plot and for putting something in front of players that he isn't okay with being killed.



While I think it's common for some DMs to want their plot-relevant monsters and villains to get away so they can be recurring, this needn't be the motivation. For my part (since I don't use plots), a de-escalation is usually me saying, "Hey, guys, you've won this already. Do you really want to spend 20 minutes of valuable session time following the mechanics to their logical conclusion or shall we keep moving forward?" And of course, if the players really want a given thing dead (e.g. the dwarf paladin who cannot suffer a goblin to live) and there's no doubt it will happen if we play it out, I'm happy to just say the thing is dead already and move on (or ask the players to narrate it).

I'll reiterate that I think the DM needs to make his intentions clear, out-of-character if needs be. Even if you're a DM who writes plots, just say you want the villain to get away for cool reasons to be revealed later and ask your players if they are okay with that. If they're not, then don't force the issue and let your villain buy the farm. Likely your plot wasn't of interest to them anyway.
Superman isn't killing every bank robber he comes across. Also, villains escaping is a staple of comic books, so really that line of reasoning doesn't work.



But heroes generally at least try to catch the villain.  Sure, sometimes (okay, most of the time) it doesn't work out, but unless there is something more pressing (oh no, the damsel in distress is still chained to the unnecessarily-slow killing machine!) they generally at least make an effort to pursue escaping bad guys rather than dust their hands off, say "job well done" and go for a coffee break.
DM advice: 1. Do a Session Zero. 2. Start With Action. 3. Always say "Yes" to player ideas. 4. Don't build railroads. 5. Make success, failure, and middling rolls interesting. Player advice: 1. Don't be a dick. 2. Build off each other, don't block each other. 3. You're supposed to be a badass. Act like it. Take risks. My poorly updated blog: http://engineeredfun.wordpress.com/
Isn't it normal for heroes to pursue bad guys trying to escape?  Does Superman go "oh, look, Lex Luthor is trying to escape.  I'm just going to sit on my nuts and let him" without so much as making an effort to try to stop him?

No, but he would let Luthor's thugs drop their guns and run. Not that it would take him any time to just freeze them in place, or whatever, assuming Superman remembers he can do that.

Anyway, stories can gloss over the details. I don't need to know how Superman tracks down and finally captures Luthor after foiling his plan. That would be a waste of screentime, because it's a foregone conclusion. What we're talking about here is a foregone conclusion: the PCs have turned the tide of the battle and are clearly going to win. They're not even going to lose any more resources. Why not let the monster run and get on with the game?

The players are just doing what is logical and reasonable, and what any logical or reasonable character would try to do.  If the DM is getting upset, that's his own damn fault for trying to railroad the plot and for putting something in front of players that he isn't okay with being killed.

I agree that if the DM hasn't gotten player buy-in with the enemy escaping rather than being killed, then they shouldn't be surprised to see the characters want to kill the enemies. If we're talking about a typical battle that has simply run its course, and the players can't stomach the monsters escaping, then it really shouldn't be any skin off the DM's nose to just say the creatures go down fighting and get on with the game.

I advise some caution with this, though. Just because a battle has gone long doesn't mean the players aren't having fun, or that they aren't powering through the boredom to get to the end. Some class features trigger when enemies reach 0 HP, so the players might be excited for that event. The warlock in our group got a little miffed when I kept having the enemies run away so we could end the combat.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Superman isn't killing every bank robber he comes across. Also, villains escaping is a staple of comic books, so really that line of reasoning doesn't work.



But heroes generally at least try to catch the villain.  Sure, sometimes (okay, most of the time) it doesn't work out, but unless there is something more pressing (oh no, the damsel in distress is still chained to the unnecessarily-slow killing machine!) they generally at least make an effort to pursue escaping bad guys rather than dust their hands off, say "job well done" and go for a coffee break.




And I agree with you. But in those situations you have a writer deciding that Superman thinks the damsel in distress is worth more than catching the villain. In a game, the players are just as likely to ignore that and pursue the bad guy. You can set it up so they face a choice, but unless you are going to hit them with the plot stick, they are just as likely to choose to ignore being heroes and instead continue the fight.

That's not a failure of the DM, that's the nature of it being a game.
Isn't it normal for heroes to pursue bad guys trying to escape?  Does Superman go "oh, look, Lex Luthor is trying to escape.  I'm just going to sit on my nuts and let him" without so much as making an effort to try to stop him?

No, but he would let Luthor's thugs drop their guns and run. Not that it would take him any time to just freeze them in place, or whatever, assuming Superman remembers he can do that.

Anyway, stories can gloss over the details. I don't need to know how Superman tracks down and finally captures Luthor after foiling his plan. That would be a waste of screentime, because it's a foregone conclusion. What we're talking about here is a foregone conclusion: the PCs have turned the tide of the battle and are clearly going to win. They're not even going to lose any more resources. Why not let the monster run and get on with the game?



Don't get me wrong, I'm all for calling encounters when the outcome is clear and moving on.  If there's just mooks left and no real threat to the PCs, I'm happy to just call it and have the mooks die or surrender or run or whatever.

The thing is, while the PCs victory may be a foregone conclusion, the conditions of that victory might not be.  If the mooks are running off to raise an alarm, or the BBEG is trying to escape, then we have a situation where there are multiple possible outcomes (alarm raised or not, BBEG escaped or not), with both PC success and failure being interesting and having implications down the road.  In that situation, unless everyone is on board with calling it, might as well let the mechanics decide.
DM advice: 1. Do a Session Zero. 2. Start With Action. 3. Always say "Yes" to player ideas. 4. Don't build railroads. 5. Make success, failure, and middling rolls interesting. Player advice: 1. Don't be a dick. 2. Build off each other, don't block each other. 3. You're supposed to be a badass. Act like it. Take risks. My poorly updated blog: http://engineeredfun.wordpress.com/
The thing is, while the PCs victory may be a foregone conclusion, the conditions of that victory might not be.  If the mooks are running off to raise an alarm, or the BBEG is trying to escape, then we have a situation where there are multiple possible outcomes (alarm raised or not, BBEG escaped or not), with both PC success and failure being interesting and having implications down the road.  In that situation, unless everyone is on board, might as well let the mechanics decide.



Yes, this is what I'd call an Escalation. It's meant to up the ante (stakes) of the encounter rather than de-escalate it and bring it to its foregone conclusion. It may be that many players simply assume the flight of an enemy is by default an escalation when many DMs are instead trying to de-escalate. Transparency here is what makes the difference.
In that situation, unless everyone is on board with calling it, might as well let the mechanics decide.

True, though they don't have to be the full drawn-out combat mechanics. A group might not know what the most interesting outcome would be, but definitely might know that an encounter has gone on long enough.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

True, though they don't have to be the full drawn-out combat mechanics. A group might not know what the most interesting outcome would be, but definitely might know that an encounter has gone on long enough.



It's that fine line between a combat and a grind. I've discussed this before with players. The issue is often that one or more think it's a grind and the rest don't, so if there's no consensus to end it, what does one do? Some players really do want to take it to the last hit point (like your warlock). I'm inclined to hand out whatever bennies they believe they'd otherwise be entitled to if we can just call it. Whether you end with one surge or two surges down matters very little to me if we just ate up 20 minutes of valuable session time to figure that out. In my view, anyway.
If an NPC is clearly doomed and the fight has gone on for quite some time I might just deduct 90-95% of the NPC's hit points and reduce their saves and AC for a few rounds to allow the PC's to finish them off without the sudden and jarring 'I'm just going to call the fight here' end to a battle.'-or however you might say it. 

Sure it could just be a minor interruption in the flow of the game, and maybe I'm being biased, just seems like its a very non-heroic way to end a battle with the PC's winning, like sucking the wind out of the sails right at the end of the race.

It is certainly one of those arbitrary judgement calls either way though.  A chase through a hostile environment could be an interesting departure from the game and shouldn't necessarily be avoided, even if they are just chasing a wounded goblin raider with no real name.  As I said before, A goblin fleeing from something is just as likely running to something else, and that creates both tension and the possiblity of interesting gameplay.  All sorts of interesting things could happen during an extended encounter like that. 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
If an NPC is clearly doomed and the fight has gone on for quite some time I might just deduct 90-95% of the NPC's hit points and reduce their saves and AC for a few rounds to allow the PC's to finish them off without the sudden and jarring 'I'm just going to call the fight here' end to a battle.'-or however you might say it. 

Sure it could just be a minor interruption in the flow of the game, and maybe I'm being biased, just seems like its a very non-heroic way to end a battle with the PC's winning, like sucking the wind out of the sails right at the end of the race.



It needn't be sudden, jarring, or unheroic to resolve the encounter narratively (or my preference, collaboratively so) when it has gone on too long and the outcome is foregone. Though I understand you go so far as to not even discuss hit points with your players, so perhaps breaking character for a moment in an effort to improve pacing would be a bridge too far.

It is certainly one of those arbitrary judgement calls either way though.  A chase through a hostile environment could be an interesting departure from the game and shouldn't necessarily be avoided, even if they are just chasing a wounded goblin raider with no real name.  As I said before, A goblin fleeing from something is just as likely running to something else, and that creates both tension and the possiblity of interesting gameplay.  All sorts of interesting things could happen during an extended encounter like that. 



I generally don't like to risk valuable session time on "could's" or "hope's" like that. Pacing, in my view, is paramount. If a player suggested collaboratively that the scene transitions to a chase that would lead to something they find interesting, I'd be receptive to it, however.
Sure it could just be a minor interruption in the flow of the game, and maybe I'm being biased, just seems like its a very non-heroic way to end a battle with the PC's winning, like sucking the wind out of the sails right at the end of the race.

I tend to find it very non-heroic for PCs to have to hunt down the very last orc who no longer has any chance of affecting the party much, let alone killing them. I think that's precisely why older editions had built in morale checks: to end fights before they just became pathetic for the monsters. Of course, those rules don't work if the PCs will just give chase, which they usually will.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Isn't it normal for heroes to pursue bad guys trying to escape?

Not always, no.
Does Superman go "oh, look, Lex Luthor is trying to escape.  I'm just going to sit on my nuts and let him" without so much as making an effort to try to stop him?

If young Jimmy Olson is still in that death trap that Luthor set up... YES.  Superman lets Luthor just escape.  "I'll track him down soon enough Lois. Don't you worry."  Doesn't matter if Luthor is captured now or later anyway.  in another couple dozen issues he'll have escaped and have yet another scheme cooked up.

D&D and forms of fiction like books, comics, and movies share many elements but not everything translates directly from one form to another.  In comics it is acceptible to a reader that a classic villain repeatedly escapes, his supposedly dead body is not to be found, etc.    In D&D expectations are much different as has been noted.  Big villains WILL come back - and when they do there is a very real chance of PC death because PC's do not have Plot Immunity like the heroes of a comic book.  That is powerful motivation to ensure their immediate defeat at all costs.  The Villain-of-the-day can still be going just over the hill or just down the hall for reinforcements.  Even if they weren't specifically written to be there the DM can simply decide that they are there.  Villains can escape with valuable treasure.  Villains can lead PC's to further adventures if chased.    Are you going to tell me that your PC rangers DON'T try to track everything they encounter back to a lair - because the rules clearly lay out that it's the lairs that hold the real treasure?

The players are just doing what is logical and reasonable, and what any logical or reasonable character would try to do.

See the upthread example of PC's chasing a lone, fleeing goblin for days.  That is not logical nor reasonable.  But the question does arise how much fun they're having in the chase vs. whatever it was they were in the process of doing before the chase started.

If the DM is getting upset, that's his own damn fault for trying to railroad the plot and for putting something in front of players that he isn't okay with being killed.

That isn't the only reason opponents run away and therefore if the DM is upset that the players have fixated on an event that is fully intended to be UTTERLY insignificant that's not a matter of the DM railroading anything.  Simply refusing to give up and let the players kill the insignificant escapee is not the issue.  The issue is - are opponents of the PC's EVER allowed to escape?  Are the PC's ever allowed to escape - and more importantly do they ever try or do they fight to the death just as so many monsters seem to do?

These are issues which can't necessarily be answered by in-game play.  They are better answered by direct communication with the players.  "Guys, you can just let this goblin go.  I promise he's not escaping with treasure, he's not fetching reiforcements, he's not a recurring villain, he's certainly not worth the effort.  I need you to explain to me why it is so vital that you kill him or I WILL declare arbitrarily that he successfully escapes and will not allow your PC's to pointlessly pursue it.  Certainly there are potential issues of alignments and bloodthirsty, ruthless behavior if you keep this up." 

Old School: It ain't what you play - it's how you play it.

My 1E Project: http://home.earthlink.net/~duanevp/dnd/Building%20D&D/buildingdnd.htm

"Who says I can't?" "The man in the funny hat..."

 
If an NPC is clearly doomed and the fight has gone on for quite some time I might just deduct 90-95% of the NPC's hit points and reduce their saves and AC for a few rounds to allow the PC's to finish them off without the sudden and jarring 'I'm just going to call the fight here' end to a battle.'-or however you might say it. 

Sure it could just be a minor interruption in the flow of the game, and maybe I'm being biased, just seems like its a very non-heroic way to end a battle with the PC's winning, like sucking the wind out of the sails right at the end of the race. 





It needn't be sudden, jarring, or unheroic to resolve the encounter narratively (or my preference, collaboratively so) when it has gone on too long and the outcome is foregone. Though I understand you go so far as to not even discuss hit points with your players, so perhaps breaking character for a moment in an effort to improve pacing would be a bridge too far.



Pretty much what I do, narratively resolving it without taking the unnecessary step of declaring the ecnounter over, not sure if you do that, but I don't-again because I have discussed it with my players and they have bought in with certain expectations.  Most of this I account for in my encounter design, and I also get the impression that long running encounters is more of an issue in 4e than it is in Pathfinder or 3.5, I take pacing or flow into account in encounter design so that this really isn't an issue I ever have to confront.  Most of that can be prevented pretty easily.

To clarify, not discussing HP, AC, saves etc was a collaborative decision made between me and my players who all agree they like it better this way-we actually have full consensus on this point.  They focus more on the narrative and less on the numbers this way, and after having done it for about four months we took a vote and reaffirmed our full consensus on this matter.

So this does not impact my pacing of the game.




It is certainly one of those arbitrary judgement calls either way though.  A chase through a hostile environment could be an interesting departure from the game and shouldn't necessarily be avoided, even if they are just chasing a wounded goblin raider with no real name.  As I said before, A goblin fleeing from something is just as likely running to something else, and that creates both tension and the possiblity of interesting gameplay.  All sorts of interesting things could happen during an extended encounter like that. 



I generally don't like to risk valuable session time on "could's" or "hope's" like that. Pacing, in my view, is paramount. If a player suggested collaboratively that the scene transitions to a chase that would lead to something they find interesting, I'd be receptive to it, however.



Completely understandable, go where the players want to go.  In many cases my players would want to follow the goblin through the woods- and would happily leave it to me to create interesting stuff along the way-and my players are generally very charitable and can make almost anything interesting and fun so we don't worry a lot about 'valuable session time'. 

That said I have recently started DMing for a new group that has never done any sort of improv or collaborative play before, and while my games may not have quite the collaborative feel yours do I enjoy getting the deer in headlights look everytime I ask one of them a question.  They are getting quicker on the response though.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
These are issues which can't necessarily be answered by in-game play.  They are better answered by direct communication with the players.  "Guys, you can just let this goblin go.  I promise he's not escaping with treasure, he's not fetching reiforcements, he's not a recurring villain, he's certainly not worth the effort.

Agreed.

  I need you to explain to me why it is so vital that you kill him or I WILL declare arbitrarily that he successfully escapes and will not allow your PC's to pointlessly pursue it.  Certainly there are potential issues of alignments and bloodthirsty, ruthless behavior if you keep this up."

I can't agree with this. I have no doubt that a DM without a stake in having the creature escape could help the players rationalize killing the monsters and still be within the bounds of their alignment and personalities.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I can't agree with this. I have no doubt that a DM without a stake in having the creature escape could help the players rationalize killing the monsters and still be within the bounds of their alignment and personalities.



Same here. I'm sure this is why so many object to alignment as well - when it's used as a threat to coerce particular behaviors. If the players are dead-set on killing the goblins to the last man, just ask the guy with the coolest ranged attack narrate how he takes the poor bugger out despite its head start and all the trees in the way. Done, move on.
Isn't it normal for heroes to pursue bad guys trying to escape?

Not always, no.



Not always, but generally, yes, unless there is a more pressing concern.

Does Superman go "oh, look, Lex Luthor is trying to escape.  I'm just going to sit on my nuts and let him" without so much as making an effort to try to stop him?

If young Jimmy Olson is still in that death trap that Luthor set up... YES.  Superman lets Luthor just escape.  "I'll track him down soon enough Lois. Don't you worry."  Doesn't matter if Luthor is captured now or later anyway.  in another couple dozen issues he'll have escaped and have yet another scheme cooked up.

D&D and forms of fiction like books, comics, and movies share many elements but not everything translates directly from one form to another.  In comics it is acceptible to a reader that a classic villain repeatedly escapes, his supposedly dead body is not to be found, etc.    In D&D expectations are much different as has been noted.  Big villains WILL come back - and when they do there is a very real chance of PC death because PC's do not have Plot Immunity like the heroes of a comic book.  That is powerful motivation to ensure their immediate defeat at all costs.  The Villain-of-the-day can still be going just over the hill or just down the hall for reinforcements.  Even if they weren't specifically written to be there the DM can simply decide that they are there.  Villains can escape with valuable treasure.  Villains can lead PC's to further adventures if chased.    Are you going to tell me that your PC rangers DON'T try to track everything they encounter back to a lair - because the rules clearly lay out that it's the lairs that hold the real treasure?



I'm just suggesting that, in the absence of more pressing concerns (like a death trap), it's generally normal behaviour for players AND their characters to want to mop up and take out important bad guys.  Ragnar the fighter isn't going to take a coffee break while the evil Orc chief who killed his brother saunters off.  DMs shouldn't get upset when their players do normal things.

The players are just doing what is logical and reasonable, and what any logical or reasonable character would try to do.

See the upthread example of PC's chasing a lone, fleeing goblin for days.  That is not logical nor reasonable.  But the question does arise how much fun they're having in the chase vs. whatever it was they were in the process of doing before the chase started.



If there is nothing more pressing, then why not?  If the PCs find chasing a lone, fleeing goblin for days more interesting and rewarding than whatever they were doing before, why not give them what they want?

If the DM is getting upset, that's his own damn fault for trying to railroad the plot and for putting something in front of players that he isn't okay with being killed.

That isn't the only reason opponents run away and therefore if the DM is upset that the players have fixated on an event that is fully intended to be UTTERLY insignificant that's not a matter of the DM railroading anything.  Simply refusing to give up and let the players kill the insignificant escapee is not the issue.



If the person trying to escape is so insignificant, why can't the DM say "After a short chase, you catch/kill the goblin.  What do you do next?"  Or settle it with a quick skill check.  Fixation over, problem solved, move on.

The issue is - are opponents of the PC's EVER allowed to escape?



That's really up to the PCs if they want to pursue fleeing bad guys, and up to the dice if they are successful, is it not?

Are the PC's ever allowed to escape - and more importantly do they ever try or do they fight to the death just as so many monsters seem to do?



That's also up to the PCs.  If they want to escape, they can try.  If they want to fight to the death, they can try that as well.  I've done both.

These are issues which can't necessarily be answered by in-game play.  They are better answered by direct communication with the players.  "Guys, you can just let this goblin go.  I promise he's not escaping with treasure, he's not fetching reiforcements, he's not a recurring villain, he's certainly not worth the effort.  I need you to explain to me why it is so vital that you kill him or I WILL declare arbitrarily that he successfully escapes and will not allow your PC's to pointlessly pursue it.  Certainly there are potential issues of alignments and bloodthirsty, ruthless behavior if you keep this up." 



I wouldn't want to play in a game where I'm blocked by the DM like this.
DM advice: 1. Do a Session Zero. 2. Start With Action. 3. Always say "Yes" to player ideas. 4. Don't build railroads. 5. Make success, failure, and middling rolls interesting. Player advice: 1. Don't be a dick. 2. Build off each other, don't block each other. 3. You're supposed to be a badass. Act like it. Take risks. My poorly updated blog: http://engineeredfun.wordpress.com/
I can't agree with this. I have no doubt that a DM without a stake in having the creature escape could help the players rationalize killing the monsters and still be within the bounds of their alignment and personalities.



Same here. I'm sure this is why so many object to alignment as well - when it's used as a threat to coerce particular behaviors. If the players are dead-set on killing the goblins to the last man, just ask the guy with the coolest ranged attack narrate how he takes the poor bugger out despite its head start and all the trees in the way. Done, move on.



I definitely agree here.  Not all methods used to maintain flow are positive measures.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
Pretty much what I do, narratively resolving it without taking the unnecessary step of declaring the ecnounter over, not sure if you do that, but I don't-again because I have discussed it with my players and they have bought in with certain expectations.



I find it's better to think of things more as "scenes" than "encounters." When the tension of a scene is resolved, the scene is done. Move on to a new scene, perhaps a transition scene to flesh out the characters a bit post-battle. So really, it's just a matter of asking, "I think this scene is coming to a close, how does it end?"

Most of this I account for in my encounter design, and I also get the impression that long running encounters is more of an issue in 4e than it is in Pathfinder or 3.5, I take pacing or flow into account in encounter design so that this really isn't an issue I ever have to confront.  Most of that can be prevented pretty easily.



Perhaps ironically, many people "complain" about encounter length, but then don't do the things necessary to allow encounters to end quickly, such as letting a routed enemy go.

I don't really notice any difference in length between 3.X and 4e encounters really, depending on the group. Sometimes even a Dungeon World combat scene can run an hour or more if it's particularly complex.