Encounter where heroes are running away

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I am looking for some advice on an encounter I am working on.

My plan is for the players to have a running battle with some bandits that are chasing them. (think Temple Run).  The idea is that they need to keep moving or else they risk being captured.  While the mob chases and tries to catch up, there are a few bandits that are closer and engage with the heroes while on the run.

I plan on running this kind of like Castle Panic.  Each round, the trailing group of bandits advances 2 squares.  If they catch up to a hero, that character is captured.  As a result, the heroes need to use some of their movement to stay ahead of the mob, while also fighting the bandits that are with them.  If a hero is knocked down, they need to get up before the mob reaches them.

Any thoughts on how moving encounters like this work?  Are there any rules I should consider?


Thanks

 
2 squares seems a bit too low. Any character worth their salt would get away within 2-4 rounds and the mob wouldn't advance worth anything close to them by the time they do. Instead, make the movement of the mob 6, and use a bit of difficult terrain here and there to get the heroes to try other things instead of just running. The encounter will seem more threatening, and will be much more interesting if the danger can be over come, but is not too easy. Don't overuse the slowed or immobilized conditions, as they would make it difficult to escape rather than challenging.

Also, be aware of flight and other modes of transportation. Don't disallow such tactics, but be sure to adjust for the possibility that some of the adventurers might try to escape the mob's reach in other ways and throw a threat against them that has the potential to hinder their progression towards the goal.

Hope this helps. Happy Gaming
Too answer your question, they cover moving combat in one of the 4e DM handbooks, but it's not exactly what you want. The context used for that was an airship being chased by some types of flying enemies, and the suggestion was to just leave the centerpiece where it was, and adjust the enemies by the difference in speeds.

So, I suppose a good parallel for that in your case would be to have the bandits that are advancing at one edge of the map, and move all the other units two squares (or however much you decide) closer each round.
1. Create right circumstance and condition that will bring about a predictable response of the players; run for their lives, try get from point A to B, and not stand ground & fight. Thats your 1st and only real challenge, without railroading them to participate in something they may not want. Even being captured shouldnt be black & white...like if npc catch up to you you are auto captured. That may seem like bs to players.

Rest is just npc positions, encounter lay out, mechanical issues with fight & move actions every round.

How I would do it is give the pirates a specific tool and attack skill, a hook with rope attack perhaps that grapples target when hit (dex vs ref) hit 1d6 dmg & target is grappled and immobilized. More ropes on pc more difficult to get out etc.. and have lot of them, also fighter types attacking pc etc etc.
You want the players to quickly realize and decide, their best option is to run while helping comrades who get caught, cutting the ropes on them etc, fight off attackers and keep moving to Point B.. at which time its a success when team gets there.
Create the layout so as to make this scene a roller coaster ride.

My input.
Any encounter only works because the players want it to work. Make sure first of all that the players are interested in this kind of idea, and not in avoiding or short-circuiting it. That's the heavy lifting, because if they're onboard they'll help you make it work.

I did something a bit like this. I recommend using minis/markers and sketches to show relative distances, but to keep it abstract. Instead of the bandits advancing a square, have them advance a "zone," where characters in one zone can interact with each other in melee, characters a zone apart can interact with each other at range, and characters two zones apart generally can't interact (too far away, around several corners, blocked by cover, or whatever). If a character uses a move action, they can change zones. A slowed or immobilized character obviously can't change zones.

I highly recommend against capture as the failure mode. Players hate capture even more than death, because at least in death they can make a new character. Capture means their actions and options will be restricted. Find a different failure mode, if possible. If you talk to your players, you might get them bought into the idea of being captured, but otherwise it will be boring for everyone.

Good luck.

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

If you do procede with the plan to capture players, offer them a chance to be freed/free themselves, and escape.

If less than half the party got captured the rest could climb the rooftops on their way back and lay an ambush, dropping improvised projectiles and smokebombs, cutting a clothesline and swinging from side to side while slashing the bandits etc.

For those who do get captured maybe sufficient strength or thievery skill will allow to free themselves from their bindings, push a couple bandits into a market stand and throw coins in the air to draw in a bunch of beggars.

Tricks like the above could ofcourse be used in the initial "run from the mob" encounter, make sure you are descriptive of the area so they can get creative.
I will have to think of some alternatives to capture.  It seemed like the logical failure condition, but maybe there is something else that will be more interesting.

I will also make sure I describe the area very clearly so that they have some options about how to move about.  Once they are moving, I do want the characters to have as much control as possible.

You've given me some things to think about as I tweak this one.


Thanks 
Any encounter only works because the players want it to work. Make sure first of all that the players are interested in this kind of idea, and not in avoiding or short-circuiting it. That's the heavy lifting, because if they're onboard they'll help you make it work.



This.

It also sounds like a skill challenge to me. Frame the scene, the goal of the scene, what success and failure look like, then start throwing complications at the PCs and ask what they do. Some of those complications might suggest tactical combat, if the players are interested in resolving the complication that way. Eight, ten, or twelve successes before three failures for four, five, or six PCs respectively. I also recommend considering something other than capture as a failure condition. Check with your players to make sure they're okay with it; sometimes a "logical" failure condition isn't very fun and in a fantasy world limited only by our imagination, "logic" should probably take a hike anyway.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Since you have DDI look at Cross-City Race adventure, where you are going through different zones in the city. It is a good mix of skill challenge with a few quick combat encounters tossed in.

www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/d...
I will have to think of some alternatives to capture.  It seemed like the logical failure condition, but maybe there is something else that will be more interesting.

This is a very important sentence. An interesting outcome that is plausible is almost always better than an absolutely logical outcome that is boring.

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

@merb101
That article looks like it would be really good for what I am looking for.  Unfortunately something is not working with my Insider account.  It seems to log me out everytime I click the download button and then tells me I do not have the necessary entitlement.  I have sent a note to support.  Hopefully that resolves quickly.  Thank you for the link.

A couple people posted about skill challenges.  I am still not sold on those.  It always seems too much like forcing the game mechanics into the game itself.  My mindset is that if the characters need to do X, then I really do not care how many steps or checks it takes to get it done as long as they solve the problem in a realistic manner.  I like the idea of documenting some options and what different checks will get you, but the x successes before y failures is still weird to me.  I just have not gotten my head around it yet.

Anyway, that is a separate topic that I know has been discussed at length in other threads. 
So have you rejected a skill challenge for this particular scenario? Or would you like some advice on how to design and implement it?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
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@merb101
That article looks like it would be really good for what I am looking for.  Unfortunately something is not working with my Insider account.  It seems to log me out everytime I click the download button and then tells me I do not have the necessary entitlement.  I have sent a note to support.  Hopefully that resolves quickly.  Thank you for the link.

A couple people posted about skill challenges.  I am still not sold on those.  It always seems too much like forcing the game mechanics into the game itself.  My mindset is that if the characters need to do X, then I really do not care how many steps or checks it takes to get it done as long as they solve the problem in a realistic manner.  I like the idea of documenting some options and what different checks will get you, but the x successes before y failures is still weird to me.  I just have not gotten my head around it yet.

Anyway, that is a separate topic that I know has been discussed at length in other threads. 



One of the tricks to skill challenges is not announcing its a skill challenge and not making it just a series of dice rolls. Skill challenges are a great way to roleplay while still using a mechanic to track progress. So have the players describe themselves running through the area, you can offer some challenges (walls to climb, crevaces to negotiate) which would trigger a skill roll. A player asking if they have knowledge of an area which might help them move faster or elude capture would trigger a roll. Success helps them move ahead, negotiate a particular roadblock or throw someone off of their trail. A failure never means they fail, it just adds some stress/complication/pressure, like "Oh, you didn't get over that wall as quickly as you'd hoped. You hear the cries of the pursuing (whatevers) grow louder as you dart down (wherever)."

So don't think of the skill challenge as the challenge, think of it as a pacing mechanic. That's part of why failure should be just as interesting as success.
My mindset is that if the characters need to do X, then I really do not care how many steps or checks it takes to get it done as long as they solve the problem in a realistic manner.

Not everything about a challenge is entirely in the control of the characters. Time pressure, environmental effects and other people are moving the situation to a conclusion no matter what the characters are doing. That's what's happening here.

I don't think a skill challenge is necessarily the right mechanic for this, but there could be elements of it involved.

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

Or let faillure include a different succes.
Let's say a player wishes to jump up a building via a fruit stand, he rolls a 1 and crashes through the stand before stumbling onwards.
With all the fruit dispersed on the ground the pursuers trip all over eachother.
I am not opposed to doing a skill challenge.   I just didn't want the thread turning into a discussion about the pros and cons of skill challenges.  Smile 

I've not mastered creating skill challenges yet so they always feel forced.  Also, I should add that the gaming group that I DM for is kids (about 9 years old) so they can sometimes have trouble thinking outside of the box for solutions.  I need to find ways to encourage them to use skills other than perception, athletics, and thievery.  That is on me to provide the right clues to some options without steering them in a particular direction.





 
I am not opposed to doing a skill challenge.   I just didn't want the thread turning into a discussion about the pros and cons of skill challenges.   

I've not mastered creating skill challenges yet so they always feel forced.  Also, I should add that the gaming group that I DM for is kids (about 9 years old) so they can sometimes have trouble thinking outside of the box for solutions.  I need to find ways to encourage them to use skills other than perception, athletics, and thievery.  That is on me to provide the right clues to some options without steering them in a particular direction.





 



In that case, my suggestion is either have a couple of set-piece fights (specific locations) to throw at them, kinda glossing over the actual chase part, or just on your own, without following the skill challenges rules, have a few specific challenges for them to roll on. In both of those cases, have success or failure still deliver them to the correct place. So A leads to B leads to C, regardless of what they do at each location, but success or failure should change that Encounter C accordingly, maybe with a surprise round or a terrain effect or even where they start on the map.

Also, this might be a great time for you to have a couple of other skills showcased. For example, say "As you dart through the tunnel, you dimly remember a history lesson your mentor gave you... something about a secret passage, perhaps?"





I am not opposed to doing a skill challenge.   I just didn't want the thread turning into a discussion about the pros and cons of skill challenges.   

I've not mastered creating skill challenges yet so they always feel forced.  Also, I should add that the gaming group that I DM for is kids (about 9 years old) so they can sometimes have trouble thinking outside of the box for solutions.  I need to find ways to encourage them to use skills other than perception, athletics, and thievery.  That is on me to provide the right clues to some options without steering them in a particular direction.


Aha, well at least you'll be spared the usual childish responses us grownups dish out.
I am not opposed to doing a skill challenge.   I just didn't want the thread turning into a discussion about the pros and cons of skill challenges.   

I've not mastered creating skill challenges yet so they always feel forced.  Also, I should add that the gaming group that I DM for is kids (about 9 years old) so they can sometimes have trouble thinking outside of the box for solutions.  I need to find ways to encourage them to use skills other than perception, athletics, and thievery.  That is on me to provide the right clues to some options without steering them in a particular direction. 



In that case, I'll build the skill challenge for you later. It shouldn't take me long and will be enough material to run a whole session. It will address your concerns about skills challenges and provide you a platform for engaging the wee ones.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Iserith, can you post the whole skill challenge in the thread rather than just a PM, you know I'm really interested in how to make these work better.
Iserith, can you post the whole skill challenge in the thread rather than just a PM, you know I'm really interested in how to make these work better.



Sure. It's on my list of a bazillion things to do tonight!

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

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Apologies - I'm not familiar with Temple Run or Castle Panic. So you may have to tweak what I suggest to hit those notes.

TEMPLE RUN!


12 successes before 3 failures

Cold Open: "There they are!" shouts the bandit leader, his scaly, prehensile tail betraying his diabolical heritage. "After them!" The bandits give chase to take back what you've stolen and what they rightfully stole first - The Jewel of Fate! The odds are stacked against you and you've no time to lose. Escape this villainous hive and you've got yourselves a priceless relic. Hesitate, stumble, or flinch, and be captured* by Hex Arcana's bloodthirsty toughs and cast into the Iron City of Dis! 

* I encourage you to think of a failure condition other than capture. You'll certainly want to make sure that the players are willing to play for those stakes.

Complications: Narrow Precipice, Dangerous Runes, Race to the Door, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Potential Ally, Mazelike Corridors, Intense Physical Exertion, Poison Gas-Filled Hallway, Potentially Useful Pictograms, Gang of Toughs, Predictable Patterns, Release the Hounds, Lost the Way, Undead Servitors, Sleeping Beast, Useful Rumors, Trap-Filled Corridor.

And there's the skill challenge ready to go. (If you're good at improvising, that's a whole session's worth of play.)

How to Run It:

1. Read the cold open with gusto. Explain the mechanics briefly, including the DC's by level. It would be helpful to write this down on the battle map or on some paper so people can see it. Ask for buy-in. Once you have it, ask questions that give the players the opportunity to establish potential complications ("I have some ideas as to what kinds of complications you could encounter here. What kinds of bad things does your character think he/she might encounter in this cursed place?") and to tie aspects of their character to aspects of the challenge ("What dispicable things have you heard about Hex Arcana?").

2. Start the scene. Choose or roll for a complication above. Use those little ideas plus the current context of what's going on to frame the scene and stakes. Say you rolled "Race to the Door." In context, that might be something like this: "After escaping from Hex Arcana's sight, you find yourself being pursued by a motley gang of bandits screaming for your blood. Ahead, a grinding stone wall is slowly dropping down from the ceiling, threatening to stop you cold and backing you up against a wall. What do you do?" I prefer a volunteer step forward to offer to take the spotlight, but you can go in initiative if you like or make it a group check.

3. When a plan of action is stated, ask, "What else do you see around you that may be of help in this situation?" Tell them they have an option, if they like, to take a +2 bonus to their roll if they establish something that doesn't contradict existing fiction. It can be concrete ("my new running shoes") or abstract ("the fact that I run obstacle courses at the Academy"). Whatever it is, it doesn't require your approval. It exists now - make a note of it - and they get the bonus.

4. After the asset is established, ask whether one of their friends is helping. Try to put this in terms that reflects a bond or the like or encourages the player to express thoughts about another character e.g. "Who among your friends here is a better runner than you - even if you don't want to admit it? Could he or she give you a boost here?" This is basically you prompting if someone wants to Aid Another, but in a way that establishes more fiction and explores the characters' relationships.

** Note that if you're always using the same basic format to run the skill challenge, you won't have to prompt the players as much for these things. They'll tend do it on their own.**

5. Once the asset and Aid Another (if any) are resolved, ask what skill the player think applies to his plan of action by saying, "Sounds like you're making an Athletics check?" If the player agrees, he makes the roll with the applicable bonuses. If the player wants to use another skill, let him with as much justification as he cares to give. Justification is the creation of fiction. If the player is acting in good faith, it will fit the scene.

6. If he hits the high DC for his level, it's an unfettered success! The character does what he set out to do (earns a success in skill challenge, too), in this case, leading his companions through the wall just before it drops down behind them in the face of their pursuers. Phew! If he hits the medium DC for his level, it's a middling success - he and his companions get through to the other side (earns a success in skill challenge, too), but there's a cost or setback. Perhaps the additional exertion gives the next person a -2 to their roll. Or someone gets their backpack smashed under the wall. It will be obvious in context and, as always, make sure it's something the players can live with. If he rolls under the middling DC, he may or may not achieve what he set out to do and consequences ensue (in addition to counting as a failure for the skill challenge). Perhaps half the party is now separated from the other half. Or they lose some healing surges. Or take a bigger penalty forward to the next roll. It will make sense in context - and make sure it's an interesting failure to the players.

7. Choose or roll a new complication. (Or add some new complications if you're inspired by the scene.) Explain or collaborate on how it connects to the previous scene. And repeat steps 2 through 7 until they've succeeded or failed the skill challenge. Note that if the scene suggests a possible tactical combat, and the players just want to knock some dicks into the dirt, draw up the map, get out the minis, and throw down! A success in that fight (however you define success for the scene) counts as a success for the skill challenge.

And that's it! Let me know if you have any questions.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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This is excellent.  

The complications are something that I was missing when I would try to come up with challenges.  For me it was always, "Get into the tower" or something like that and I struggled to come up with 6 different things that they needed to do to make it work.  The complications solve that problem.  Each complication is really its own individual skill challenge.  I am not trying to come up with skill challenges that need 6 steps to complete, I just need a task that is broad enough where I can throw complications at them.

I need to give some thought to the asset and aiding another.  But once I know my complications, it should be easier for me to think about what might help in that situation.   I can provide some guidance if it is not coming to them.

This is great.  I really appreciate you taking the time to put this together.  
The complications solve that problem.



Complications solving a problem? We're through the looking glass here, people...

Glad you found it helpful.

I need to give some thought to the asset and aiding another.  But once I know my complications, it should be easier for me to think about what might help in that situation.   I can provide some guidance if it is not coming to them.



Think of them this way: They're options your player can take. They don't have to and if they stumble when you ask, offer some suggestions so they get an idea of how it works and tell them that nothing they say is wrong as long it doesn't contradict something someone else has said before. Don't linger on it too long and skip it if it makes things drag. They'll likely be able to make the medium DC anyway.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

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While you likely could detail each complication as a skill challenge in itself, I would advice against it ;) As you yourself concluded, one of the bigger weaknesses of the skill challenge as written in the DMGs is that there appears to be a set number of checks required for success regardless of the flow of the story. If you treat solving a complication, regardless of how many checks you need in the end, as one success (or failure) though you avoid that problem. After all, the complications feel much more natural to the challenge then a set of checks and are not nearly as prone to unexpected player actions avoiding them completely (and if they do, you can simply count them as an automatic success).

I would also add that you probably should also divide the complications into two sets. One set happens when the PCs fail at something, just to make failing an individual scene a bit more interesting then a simple step towards failing the skill challenge. One set is something guaranteed to happen to add flavor to the challenge. The few times I run a challenge like this though, I also drew a schematic map of the area. I assigned specific complications to specific areas, and then showed a player version of that map to the players. Based on a few lore checks I then provided some clues to the players on what kind of complications they might come across in what area. My players like to plan a bit, and it gives them some meaningful choice. For example, early on in the current campaign the PCs kidnapped/liberated a kid. They could flee through the city, or steal a rowboat and escape over the bay, and even within the city there were different paths through different districts. They took their characters into account, the type of complications they expected and picked the path most to their liking.

Combat is also a potential complication btw. I have had the PCs face one or two normal opponents, or a handful of minions, and let the number of rounds needed to deal with them determine whether the complication was successfull resolved. Just make sure though that your players are not the type that want to kill everything, or they might forget what is going on ;)
I like the idea of the chase failure resulting in the PCs loosing an item to the other group. It's like Indy darting under the dropping stone door, only this time he doesn't manage to grab his hat before it closes. And "hat" gets replaced with "key" or something else.

Now the PCs have to go after the thing they've lost, pursuing the people they just tried to elude.