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Author Topic: How do you handle retreat?  (Read 827 times)

Ratman_tf

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How do you handle retreat?
« on: February 23, 2021, 05:01:28 PM »
In my experience, it tends to be all or nothing. Few times will the party leave a downed party member behind, and retrieving a downed party member contributes to the death spiral they're already dealing with. So retreat tends to be all or nothing, and usually at the start of an encounter when the character all have a chance of getting away sucessfully.

So, how do you handle retreat? Do you?
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HappyDaze

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2021, 05:09:27 PM »
It depends on if we're just talking about running on foot through a dungeon, or if it's something else. For the former, running is usually a pain in the ass for numerous reasons. However, teleporting out (in fantasy or Star Trek) is an option, and some games specifically have chase (pursuit/evasion) systems in them making it far more interesting than stop-and-go turn-based movement on a squared-off grid.

S'mon

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2021, 05:57:33 PM »
It depends on if we're just talking about running on foot through a dungeon, or if it's something else. For the former, running is usually a pain in the ass for numerous reasons. However, teleporting out (in fantasy or Star Trek) is an option, and some games specifically have chase (pursuit/evasion) systems in them making it far more interesting than stop-and-go turn-based movement on a squared-off grid.

I generally do it that once you're off the grid you're out of turn-based combat. That usually means you escape - especially if there are guys on your side still fighting. It pays to be the first to run!

If there's a pursuit I'll usually do some opposed checks; in 5e Athletics is likely. Losers on the fleeing side get caught, winners get away.
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Steven Mitchell

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2021, 05:59:52 PM »
I used a simplified initiative where it is roughly half the characters, then the monsters, then the other half of the characters.  If a party member calls for a retreat in a way that the party can notice, then I let them start as a group.  Much easier to manage that way.  They've got to break contact somehow, which is more of a party thing than individual characters.

I run a game such that if the party doesn't retreat at times, even mid-fight, they'll be dead.

Slipshot762

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2021, 07:33:26 PM »
I'm using D6 so I just copy-pasta the star wars D6 chase mess; rolls to negotiate terrain at high speed can open distance or allow pursuers to catch up and re-engage.

Lunamancer

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2021, 07:42:53 PM »
Nothing really to it. But if the PCs aren't all faster than the enemies, they'll have to figure a way to stop or slow the pursuers. One of those old Gygaxian dungeon areas with a corridor of many doors, or many small connected rooms, which allow the retreating party to get out of the sight of the pursuers. But a dropping something of value to the enemies hoping they will break off pursuit is an easy go-to. The point is, it's what the players do that make the chases interesting.

Omega

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2021, 08:31:19 PM »
Over the decades I've seen all sorts of approaches from players.

Some just abandon ship and run. And to hell with the hindmost.

Some so a stepped retreat, getting the worst out first while those still able cover for them.

Some bolt at the start if it looks bad or they are already dinged up enough that running now is better than sticking around and finding out if they can handle it or not,

Then theres the scattershot retreat where one runs, then another, and another and another. About always gradated by level of stubborness to retreat or just determination to punch through, or even seeing no way to flee at that point and they go down fighting or somehow survive.

Even seen where some of the group fell back just enough to slug down a potion or to get to cover and plink away at range while others acted as delaying action or distraction.

Recently was in a Champions game playing a rather tough little character and one by one the others bailed will there was just me and another fellow plugging away. Then he gave up and bailed too leaving me. And so I said what the hell and continued on. Partially out of spite, partially to see how far I'd get. Surprisingly made it through the remaining plethora of henchmen to the villain and after a gruelling slug fest actually won.


Zalman

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2021, 10:28:38 AM »
No special rules for retreat: characters can use an action to move their speed, that's it. A character can chose to move twice their speed in that action ("running"), and are easier to hit for one round if they do.

Of course, an enemy can simply use their own initial action to close that distance before attacking again, emulating the classic "give-ground-while-attacking" motif.

I don't allow moving past enemy combatants however, so unless there's room to go around -- and a good reason to do so -- a monster engaged with a non-retreating character won't be pursuing a retreating character. In other words, "I'll hold it off while you escape!" works in my game.

If everyone turns tail and runs away at top speed, the enemy can only attack them if they can catch them -- i.e. if it can cover the distance retreated and still attack. If it does so, it can attack the slowest party member with significant advantage, according to the running rule.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2021, 10:31:52 AM by Zalman »
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HappyDaze

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2021, 05:11:44 PM »
If everyone turns tail and runs away at top speed, the enemy can only attack them if they can catch them -- i.e. if it can cover the distance retreated and still attack. If it does so, it can attack the slowest party member with significant advantage, according to the running rule.
And if they have the same movement rate, then it's effectively a running stalemate unless/until the rules say someone is too fatigued to continue to run. Some rulesets may cover this, but many of them that do, do so very poorly.

Sable Wyvern

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2021, 04:43:36 AM »
 I fondly remember the one and only time I witnessed an honest-to-god actual rout of PCs.

It was decades ago, so I don't recall all the specific details, but the game was Rolemaster, and the party had encountered some kind of incorporeal undead, which it became clear they could not defeat. The only open avenue of escape was up some stairs. As everyone was moving at pace, I had them make manoeuvre rolls to confirm what actual speed they were moving at. Then, when faster people were stuck behind slower ones, I asked whether they were pushing past ... as soon as one was, they all were. Someone fell down. Did anyone stop to help? Nope, we're just carrying on over the top of them, because if we stop we die. I don't know if more than one PC ended up dying, but I definitely remember the chaos and the every man, woman, dwarf and elf for themselves attitude that just emerged naturally.

I don't think I've ever seen anything else quite like it.

I have had a small number of heroic last stands, where one or more characters give their lives so the rest of the group can escape. One was a lone character holding back a dragon, also Rolemaster, back in my high school days.

More recently, playing Hackmaster, the PCs bit off more than they could chew, and by the time they realised how dire the situation was, it was far too late for any kind of orderly withdrawal. However, one or two PCs and a henchman did what needed to be done and, with a bit of luck, careful positioning and valiant selflessness, they were able to enable the rest of the group to escape, laying down their lives in the process.

More recently again, and back to Rolemaster, the PCs took on a demon that greatly outclassed them. They had managed to reduce the demon's minions down to the point they were manageable (and where victory seemed within the realms of possibility). When the enemy reinforcements arrived, the PCs were just barely able to disengage and escape before they were overrun.

I do agree, though, that usually, orderly retreats are next to impossible unless they're done immediately.

Steven Mitchell

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2021, 07:58:33 AM »
In my early Killer GM phase, we never saw the one person sacrifice themselves so the group could escape.  We did often see one person escapes while the rest of the party sacrifices themselves to make it happen.  Though they usually played it in character, there was definitely an OOC component of dark humor to it as well.  The reasoning went that if no one escaped, then all the XP and valuable treasure they had found was gone.  One character escaping was probably going to level and be close to another one and have a lot of money to recruit henchman and arm the next party.  With a distinct mission to go avenge the previous defeat and get the rest of the treasure probably still laying there.

Depending on their chances, it was usually the cleric or wizard chosen to run.  Starting over with a 3rd or 4th level spell caster in a 1st level party is not nearly so difficult.  It was also seen as one of the perks of playing such a character. :D

Opaopajr

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2021, 05:25:35 PM »
Since I use personal judgment about NPC motivations, along with Reaction and Morale Rolls, Retreat has a wide range of success in my games.

Animals usually are motivated by survival, be it food or flee.
Sapient creatures (i.e. humanoids) are usually motivated by cultural ethos mixed with survival and exploitation, so they are the ones I most rely on Reaction Rolls, etc. Parley, bribery, threats, and all sorts of fun stuff can then hit the table.
Alien/Planar creatures are motivated by tech needs/planar ethos, which allows wider range in random table rolls to surprise everyone including me the GM.

Thus hunting down PCs like Spec Op Terminators is usually an unusual course of action in my games. So when elite morale spec op death squads do appear -- like undead hordes, the possessed, or robots -- it makes their threat all the more meaningful. There are so many more meaningful choices appear when you allow for GM judgment and random tables to set up more flexible contexts!

edit: I have had orderly withdrawal retreats in my game, pretty common actually. I allow it if they can use their higher AC members take the front, use terrain and distance to minimize being surrounded, and allow the back rows to haul out the injured faster. And since I allow employment of fighter hirelings and play them with a considerably combat-aware "AI," this has even ended up being lynchpin saviors in a few orderly withdrawals. Those retreats often ended up more memorably epic than modern "I explode with Awesome Powah!" set piece battles they've won.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2021, 05:35:55 PM by Opaopajr »
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mAcular Chaotic

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2021, 07:24:27 PM »
Retreat in D&D seems hard, mechanically, especially from 3E and on.

You have to do it turn by turn, and most of the time the bad guys move JUST as fast as the PCs, so it just ends up in a never ending stalemate of "i dash" "ok it dashes after you" which turns into tedium.

I want to add retreat as a viable -- and fun -- option to my games, but faced with that, I'm not sure how.

There's the idea of making it so it's a groupwide decision to retreat, which shifts into a chase mode -- but that brings its own problems. Do the players have to decide turn by turn? Does everyone decide out of character or in character? What if only some want to run and not others, are we going to have to run a combat AND a chase simultaneously now?
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Opaopajr

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2021, 11:37:28 PM »
In 2e you have Chase rules for increasing your speed as cumulative STR & CON checks, up to 5x your MV. Due to those cumulative checks it CANNOT remain an endless stalemate. It seems involved, and it is, but in practice it manages well juggling various elements of the chaos of battle. So orderly retreats and full on chases can simultaneously occur without much issue.

It's like the Punch & Wrestling tables. They seem chaotic and complex, but in reality it is a separate sub-system that cleanly operates and then gets out of the way. These are just some of the virtues TSR D&D adds to my games and why I prefer remaining with it.

That said, since the sub-systems are separate (discrete) it takes little to incorporate it to your own table.

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mAcular Chaotic

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Re: How do you handle retreat?
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2021, 12:18:00 AM »
:0

What's the STR/CON checks for how 2e handles it? If there's a way to do it in 5e without it turning into a slog then I'm game.

I thought OD&D was the one that mainly did retreats, where you run blindly through different hallways and might be doomed.
Battle doesn't need a purpose; the battle is its own purpose. You don't ask why a plague spreads or a field burns. Don't ask why I fight.