Run Away! Run Away!


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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I've seen retreat a lot, especially in my King Maker game I ran. As GM I don't always have the enemy chase the players. Sometimes it happens but it's not all that common.


Suddenly, Acrobatics seems like a nice skill to invest some ranks into. :)


Ansel Krulwich wrote:
Suddenly, Acrobatics seems like a nice skill to invest some ranks into. :)

Tumbling is nice. Mobility is nice too. If I'm playing an armored beefcake and things are going south, I'll try to get between my allies and the big bad dude with reach and bull rush the bad guy back so he can't reach my allies. Granted, I may not make it out, but I have a better shot at it than my allies.


Odraude wrote:


Tumbling is nice. Mobility is nice too. If I'm playing an armored beefcake and things are going south, I'll try to get between my allies and the big bad dude with reach and bull rush the bad guy back so he can't reach my allies. Granted, I may not make it out, but I have a better shot at it than my allies.

We don't get much use out of Mobility in my group(s); we tend instead to do Field Marshal Montgomery-style set piece battles where the armored beefcake takes his strongpoint and watches waves of bad guys break over him. The trick, of course, is making sure that there's a nice, safe paddle pool lagoon behind him where the squishies can swim. (I'm sorry, I just pushed the metaphor way too hard, didn't I?)

But this works as well. The meta-lesson, of course, is that retreat isn't that tactically demanding if you are foresighted enough to see a possibility of not winning every encounter. That doesn't seem an unreasonable level of precognizance to me.


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We did a certain room in the RotRL-Path last time and got *really* nailed. Incorporeal Undead and I was without magic weapon (gunslinger). Having low strength I was downed in one round (+surprise round), no chance. Ingame I didn't even know they are immune to my attacks. My mates didn't want to run for fear of leaving me down there... So the sorcerer got killed also.

Sometimes you get surprised and cannot run, even if you want to.


Well... this:

Turin the Mad wrote:

Terrain is the primary determinant of one's ability to flee.

We use 3D terrain features on our table, so perhaps it is easier for us, but one must resist the notion that retreat is a simple, linear exiting of a battlefield. When you think of it only in those terms, you can fool yourself into believing that ANY scenario is a retreat-and-die scenario.

But when you are very aware of your character's surroundings, you find you have a more cinematic mind for retreat. And that is what you need to do: you need to treat retreating cinematically, as you would see it in a movie.

The most recent retreat in our game was two or three sessions ago. The party, consisting of three of the PCs (two others were separated from the group for roleplaying reasons), and a handful of NPCs, were back-tracking some weird aberrations through the woods to their point of origin. On the way, they suffered some damage. Finally, they came upon the skeleton of an old cabin. Suddenly, up through the floor came a Huge aberration flesh-thingy. It immediately got hold of an NPC, which it killed in one amazing critical hit-fueled moment. This creature also had a fear effect of a sort on it. When the other NPCs subsequently began to flee, two of the players decided this was not something they wanted to face without greater numbers, and they also fled. One PC tried to act brave for a moment, but he also decided to flee on the next round.

Now, you have to imagine the setting. This creature is coming up through floorboards from a cellar area. It has many running targets to choose from. It is currently occupied with eating one of them. There are trees everywhere. Some of the characters are running down a path, some through the trees. Animals are running willy-nilly. It's total chaos. The creature has to choose a target. It has to have the ability to sense targets around trees, in the bushes, etc. It is likely being attacked at intervals. Most of the characters know their way back to the road, where there are other soldiers milling about (and another PC with two henchmen waiting to join in the fray).

In our case, the PCs made it back to the road, and ran into a house, where they were able to hold up and fight from a more fortified position. Three henchmen were lost, one PC was reduced to zero hit points, and one was temporarily rendered insane. But because they made the right decision to retreat to a fortified area, they were able to out-strategize the thing, and eventually defeated it (it involved burning the house down, but you gotta do what you gotta do). Overall, a GREAT session, highly cinematic, and only survivable through the very wise decision to cut out to a better location.


Orfamay Quest wrote:


Hang on. If I leave, I will create an opportunity for the BBEG to hit me. Instead, I will... what? If leaving creates a possible opportunity to be attacked, not-leaving also creates a possible opportunity to be attacked!

Exactly. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, that's the entire point of what I'm trying to bring up. You can either make a full attack and just maybe get a lucky critical and do enough damage to bring down the enemy, or you can try to run and lose for sure.

If I'm playing a game of poker for my life and I have the option of trying to draw an inside straight or folding and losing for sure, I try to draw the inside straight.


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Ascalaphus wrote:
I'm not trying to say you shouldn't run. I'm trying to explain why running requires more advanced tactics than normal combat. It requires more player experience and more rule knowledge to know the tricks that will let you get away with it.

This isn't true. It takes no more thought about exit-strategies than it does about PC tactics, favourite weapons, or character design.

It's just less FUN to plan how you will run away than the alternative, winning the fight, so people have a tendency not to bother. The point of throwing a big-bad at the party is to show them that they should.

awp832 wrote:
Brian Bachman wrote:
creatures with 15' reach AND Combat Relexes aren't that common.
All it takes is 10' reach to make withdrawl a non-option, as you will not be able to not provoke an AoO as you leave their threatened area. Combat reflexes is icing on the cake.

IF the foe has reach, IF the creature in question only attacks once per turn, IF it hasn't used it's AoO's yet that round, IF you weren't fighting it with a reach weapon and IF you don't have one of several options for making AoOs less effective than normal attacks...yeah, that's true - but that's a lot of IFs in there.

On the other hand, when {number of normal attacks} > {number of AoOs you may take} then running is smarter than sticking around. Even if there is parity here, if your attacks are ineffective then running beats standing there until the enemy kills you - if you successfully get away, at least you stop taking damage for no return.

Jeremias wrote:
Sometimes you get surprised and cannot run, even if you want to.

This does happen. However, think about how special forces around the world plan a mission:

1) What do we want to achieve?
2) How do we plan to achieve it?
3) What's our exit strategy if it all goes pear-shaped?

Veteran soldiers are the ones that paid attention to #3.

Sometimes planning in advance what you will do in such a situation is a good idea, even if it's: "Guys, if it goes pear-shaped and we have a man down we can't rescue against a foe we cannot fight, lets agree that it's better for the survivors to cut and run and try for resurrection another day, OK?"

Orfamay Quest wrote:
But this works as well. The meta-lesson, of course, is that retreat isn't that tactically demanding if you are foresighted enough to see a possibility of not winning every encounter. That doesn't seem an unreasonable level of precognizance to me.

Exactly.

You HOPE for the best outcome, but you PREPARE for the worst!


awp832 wrote:

Exactly. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, that's the entire point of what I'm trying to bring up. You can either make a full attack and just maybe get a lucky critical and do enough damage to bring down the enemy, or you can try to run and lose for sure.

If I'm playing a game of poker for my life and I have the option of trying to draw an inside straight or folding and losing for sure, I try to draw the inside straight.

I think I'd love to play poker with you.

You're doing the odds wrong. If you're in any sensible combat, especially one that you're losing, the odds of you scoring a "lucky critical" are less than 10%; the chance of taking an additional hit are four or five times greater. Furthermore, if you can disengage you have a chance of escaping next round, but if you stay, you are guaranteed not to move and almost certainly going to be faced with the same dilemma next round, only with even fewer hit points.

To continue the poker metaphor, you're not just drawing to the inside straight. You're raising on an inside straight, making the stakes higher while chasing what you know to be a bad bet.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
awp832 wrote:
Exactly. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, that's the entire point of what I'm trying to bring up. You can either make a full attack and just maybe get a lucky critical and do enough damage to bring down the enemy, or you can try to run and lose for sure.

If you've let yourself get to or been forced to the point where one more hit will drop you, and you're hoping for the crit to drop him, you're better off hoping for a high combat maneuver check to trip or disarm him so you can run while he either cannot hit you or cannot immediately chase you.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
awp832 wrote:
Exactly. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, that's the entire point of what I'm trying to bring up. You can either make a full attack and just maybe get a lucky critical and do enough damage to bring down the enemy, or you can try to run and lose for sure.
If you've let yourself get to or been forced to the point where one more hit will drop you, and you're hoping for the crit to drop him, you're better off hoping for a high combat maneuver check to trip or disarm him so you can run while he either cannot hit you or cannot immediately chase you.

That's my read, too. Apparently the difficulty is not In retreating, but in knowing when to start while there's still time (and hit points) to pull it off.


There are obviously situations where a retreat will be impossible or very difficult to achieve. That doesn't mean a retreat is always that difficult. The key then, is not just knowing how to retreat, but also when to commit to the retreat. Incidentally, it's also important to know when NOT to retreat; some times the best option really is to stand and fight :)


Lets say someone breaks into your home and you wake up. After a brief melee the intruder retreats. How far away from your home are you willing to pursue?


That's definitely also something that makes a retreat less difficult than many realize. Monsters will rarely pursue far away from their lair, and NPCs will also often prefer to remain in surroundings they know than be drawn away (possibly into a pre-planned ambush, for all they know).

Then again, there are those who won't stop until they catch the intruder.


Sometimes a tactical retreat is a good move even when a fight is fairly winnable as is. You might want to:
Separate the fast moving types from the slower ones (the classic for this is Scipio's tactic for separating the war elephants from their infantry support) or
disrupt a prepared advantageous position (e.g., the foes in the room have overturned tables and established cover and maybe set spears against your charge) or
Move the engagement to a location more advantageous to you or lure them into a trap or ambush.

Remember, just as a GM can train PCs, so too can PCs train a GM. If he always recklessly pursues you when you run, you can run a few times when doing so isn't objectively necessary and give his minions a seriously bloody nose with a preplanned ambush.


Orfamay Quest wrote:


Lots of good stuff, but particularly the point about breaking discipline.

Fully agree. When players play their characters as individuals, trying to optimize what each individual can do in each round, that discipline fails miserably and the characters are more at risk. someitmes you have to do what is bets for the team not for your individual character, such as focusing attacks on particular enemies ratehr than shotgunning them out, and making sure melee brutes have no clear path to charge a spellcaster. If all someone is out for is the maximum glory that they can earn and the maximum damage they can do each round, they are failing in their responsibilities to the team.

So, yeah, for that guy, who has charge across the entire room to score a kill and now is surrounded and has no path to the exit, retreat is no longer an option. Or rather it is an option that he rejected consciously or subconsciously when he charged in.


awp832 wrote:
Brian Bachman wrote:
creatures with 15' reach AND Combat Relexes aren't that common.

All it takes is 10' reach to make withdrawl a non-option, as you will not be able to not provoke an AoO as you leave their threatened area. Combat reflexes is icing on the cake.

I definitely disagree that if you are down to the point where 1 more hit takes you out that you got there because of player error. Two sessions ago my character went from having max HP + temporary hp on his initiative to dead before he got another turn. He got nailed by 2 AoEs and then criticaled. Retreat was never an option for me.

We disagree, then. I think if you have gotten to the pint that one normal hit will kill you, then you've stayed too long.

That said, crits happen, and failed saves happen, so sometimes your attempt to disengage fails. That doesn't mean it was the wrong move, though.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
awp832 wrote:
Exactly. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, that's the entire point of what I'm trying to bring up. You can either make a full attack and just maybe get a lucky critical and do enough damage to bring down the enemy, or you can try to run and lose for sure.
If you've let yourself get to or been forced to the point where one more hit will drop you, and you're hoping for the crit to drop him, you're better off hoping for a high combat maneuver check to trip or disarm him so you can run while he either cannot hit you or cannot immediately chase you.

Now that is sound tactical thinking. I think you've done this before.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
awp832 wrote:

Exactly. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, that's the entire point of what I'm trying to bring up. You can either make a full attack and just maybe get a lucky critical and do enough damage to bring down the enemy, or you can try to run and lose for sure.

If I'm playing a game of poker for my life and I have the option of trying to draw an inside straight or folding and losing for sure, I try to draw the inside straight.

I think I'd love to play poker with you.

You're doing the odds wrong. If you're in any sensible combat, especially one that you're losing, the odds of you scoring a "lucky critical" are less than 10%; the chance of taking an additional hit are four or five times greater. Furthermore, if you can disengage you have a chance of escaping next round, but if you stay, you are guaranteed not to move and almost certainly going to be faced with the same dilemma next round, only with even fewer hit points.

To continue the poker metaphor, you're not just drawing to the inside straight. You're raising on an inside straight, making the stakes higher while chasing what you know to be a bad bet.

Hey, I saw the patsy first. If anyone's playing poker with him, I am.

To continue the poker metaphor, the mistake was in betting your life on that inside straight to begin with. Converting to PF, it was in putting your character in an untenable position. That said, everyone makes tactical mistakes occasionally or sometimes just gets unlucky. Then you have to either get creative with your tactics, as TOZ suggests, or call for an assist from a buddy, like holding action until someone else can cover your retreat with a timely spell or a physical intervention, and then fleeing.

In pure poker terms, by the way, raising on an inside straight is actually better than calling. You have to raise big, though, as it is essentially a bluff. You really don't want to be called, because barring a lucky draw, you have a losing hand. Bluffing in the poker sense doesn't translate all that well to the PF world. Although now that I think about it...


1st level you see a fire breathing dragon destroying a town you are likely to run away, at 5th level you wonder how much damage that breath weapon will do before you charge into the fray.

Liberty's Edge

Just wondering - how many people fail to go into total defense when they attempt a retreat?

Liberty's Edge

AnnoyingOrange wrote:
1st level you see a fire breathing dragon destroying a town you are likely to run away, at 5th level you wonder how much damage that breath weapon will do before you charge into the fray.

Ummm...how big of a dragon?

If it's bigger than me, and I'm not with an amazingly competent group...at fifth level, he can have the town. :p


It's not even drawing to an inside straight. It's drawing to a bunch of blank cards. Your hand is your opponent's hitpoints and you shouldn't know what those are unless you're looking at the GM's notes.

If you run you probably die now. If you attack maybe he dies after your first iterative with no crits needed. Maybe he's actually down to single digit hitpoints. Maybe if you don't manage to kill him before his next turn the cleric does. Or maybe he finally flubs a save and you get to coup de grace him next round.

If the GM is estimating difficulty correctly for a "close fight" the enemy should be getting close to dead about the time it's getting close to killing a player.

Liberty's Edge

Atarlost wrote:

It's not even drawing to an inside straight. It's drawing to a bunch of blank cards. Your hand is your opponent's hitpoints and you shouldn't know what those are unless you're looking at the GM's notes.

If you run you probably die now. If you attack maybe he dies after your first iterative with no crits needed. Maybe he's actually down to single digit hitpoints. Maybe if you don't manage to kill him before his next turn the cleric does. Or maybe he finally flubs a save and you get to coup de grace him next round.

If the GM is estimating difficulty correctly for a "close fight" the enemy should be getting close to dead about the time it's getting close to killing a player.

Well, that makes some assumptions.

How do you know the GM estimated the difficulty for a close fight to begin with? Is it possible that that NPC was supposed to be tougher? Secondly, you also assume that all the rolls have been average. Sometimes, they aren't. Sometimes, that orc with a greataxe gets a critical.


EldonG wrote:
Atarlost wrote:

It's not even drawing to an inside straight. It's drawing to a bunch of blank cards. Your hand is your opponent's hitpoints and you shouldn't know what those are unless you're looking at the GM's notes.

If you run you probably die now. If you attack maybe he dies after your first iterative with no crits needed. Maybe he's actually down to single digit hitpoints. Maybe if you don't manage to kill him before his next turn the cleric does. Or maybe he finally flubs a save and you get to coup de grace him next round.

If the GM is estimating difficulty correctly for a "close fight" the enemy should be getting close to dead about the time it's getting close to killing a player.

Well, that makes some assumptions.

How do you know the GM estimated the difficulty for a close fight to begin with? Is it possible that that NPC was supposed to be tougher? Secondly, you also assume that all the rolls have been average. Sometimes, they aren't. Sometimes, that orc with a greataxe gets a critical.

Yea, I hear you, this minotaur was not all that tough for the party but a crit with his great axe turned the human rogue into a halfling before long. (they went cheap and chose to reincarnate instead of raising her)

Liberty's Edge

AnnoyingOrange wrote:
EldonG wrote:
Atarlost wrote:

It's not even drawing to an inside straight. It's drawing to a bunch of blank cards. Your hand is your opponent's hitpoints and you shouldn't know what those are unless you're looking at the GM's notes.

If you run you probably die now. If you attack maybe he dies after your first iterative with no crits needed. Maybe he's actually down to single digit hitpoints. Maybe if you don't manage to kill him before his next turn the cleric does. Or maybe he finally flubs a save and you get to coup de grace him next round.

If the GM is estimating difficulty correctly for a "close fight" the enemy should be getting close to dead about the time it's getting close to killing a player.

Well, that makes some assumptions.

How do you know the GM estimated the difficulty for a close fight to begin with? Is it possible that that NPC was supposed to be tougher? Secondly, you also assume that all the rolls have been average. Sometimes, they aren't. Sometimes, that orc with a greataxe gets a critical.

Yea, I hear you, this minotaur was not all that tough for the party but a crit with his great axe turned the human rogue into a halfling before long. (they went cheap and chose to reincarnate instead of raising her)

LOL!

I like your phrasing. :)


Atarlost wrote:

It's not even drawing to an inside straight. It's drawing to a bunch of blank cards. Your hand is your opponent's hitpoints and you shouldn't know what those are unless you're looking at the GM's notes.

If you run you probably die now. If you attack maybe he dies after your first iterative with no crits needed. Maybe he's actually down to single digit hitpoints. Maybe if you don't manage to kill him before his next turn the cleric does. Or maybe he finally flubs a save and you get to coup de grace him next round.

If the GM is estimating difficulty correctly for a "close fight" the enemy should be getting close to dead about the time it's getting close to killing a player.

Not a valid analogy. In poker, you never know what your opponents cards are. You only know your own. In this case, your hand looks like a loser. Your opponent's hand might be just as bad as yours, but do you want to bet on that? I don't.

Making the assumption that the encounter must be balanced and therefore your opponent should be just about to fall because you are is a dangerous bit of metagaming that I wouldn't advise.

All that said, when I GM I regularly give hints to players to let them know if their opponent seems likely to fall soon. "He's wobbling after that last hit", or "He laughs off that feeble blow and attacks with undiminished fury." I'm sure many other GMs do the same to help their players make smart tactical decisions about whether to run or fight.

Liberty's Edge

Brian Bachman wrote:
Atarlost wrote:

It's not even drawing to an inside straight. It's drawing to a bunch of blank cards. Your hand is your opponent's hitpoints and you shouldn't know what those are unless you're looking at the GM's notes.

If you run you probably die now. If you attack maybe he dies after your first iterative with no crits needed. Maybe he's actually down to single digit hitpoints. Maybe if you don't manage to kill him before his next turn the cleric does. Or maybe he finally flubs a save and you get to coup de grace him next round.

If the GM is estimating difficulty correctly for a "close fight" the enemy should be getting close to dead about the time it's getting close to killing a player.

Not a valid analogy. In poker, you never know what your opponents cards are. You only know your own. In this case, your hand looks like a loser. Your opponent's hand might be just as bad as yours, but do you want to bet on that? I don't.

Making the assumption that the encounter must be balanced and therefore your opponent should be just about to fall because you are is a dangerous bit of metagaming that I wouldn't advise.

All that said, when I GM I regularly give hints to players to let them know if their opponent seems likely to fall soon. "He's wobbling after that last hit", or "He laughs off that feeble blow and attacks with undiminished fury." I'm sure many other GMs do the same to help their players make smart tactical decisions about whether to run or fight.

Absolutely. A man who is badly injured doesn't look the same as the guy who can write it off as a flesh wound.


Brian Bachman wrote:
Not a valid analogy. In poker, you never know what your opponents cards are. You only know your own. In this case, your hand looks like a loser. Your opponent's hand might be just as bad as yours, but do you want to bet on that? I don't.

I'm no poker expert, but I think your hand is the one you can effect. The one where you take some of the cards and pass them to the dealer and get different cards in return.

You can't change your hitpoints. Unless you're a Paladin or a cleric with a really good cast defensively check. The hitpoints you can change are your opponent's. You don't know what he has, but you know they're a lot worse than when you started the fight.

If your party is appropriately optimized and your GM is using CRs appropriate to your APL (or your unoptimized or overoptimized and the GM is adjusting appropriately) and you're near dead without a low probability crit or similar bad luck your opponent should be within one round of average attacks of going down. If it's a multi-opponent encounter and the CR system is being used Or this is an epic boss and will be on its last legs after dropping you and your friends can afford a raise dead before the next adventure. Close fights that the PCs ultimately win are exactly what the CR system is designed to facilitate.


To continue the "drawing-to-an-inside-straight" analogy: Some times you do that, and succeed, but you're still losing horribly to your opponent's flush or higher straight :)

(ie: perhaps you actually get that lucky crit, but the opponent still survives and gets a full attack where the second/third hit kills you instead of just a single AoO)

Liberty's Edge

Atarlost wrote:
Brian Bachman wrote:
Not a valid analogy. In poker, you never know what your opponents cards are. You only know your own. In this case, your hand looks like a loser. Your opponent's hand might be just as bad as yours, but do you want to bet on that? I don't.

I'm no poker expert, but I think your hand is the one you can effect. The one where you take some of the cards and pass them to the dealer and get different cards in return.

You can't change your hitpoints. Unless you're a Paladin or a cleric with a really good cast defensively check. The hitpoints you can change are your opponent's. You don't know what he has, but you know they're a lot worse than when you started the fight.

If your party is appropriately optimized and your GM is using CRs appropriate to your APL (or your unoptimized or overoptimized and the GM is adjusting appropriately) and you're near dead without a low probability crit or similar bad luck your opponent should be within one round of average attacks of going down. If it's a multi-opponent encounter and the CR system is being used Or this is an epic boss and will be on its last legs after dropping you and your friends can afford a raise dead before the next adventure. Close fights that the PCs ultimately win are exactly what the CR system is designed to facilitate.

...and in every AP...or module...there are characters that are not of the party's power level. You can fight them. That's on you.

If you roll into town, get the clues wrong...and decide that the level 11 sheriff is the bad guy that needs to go down, when you're 5th level, that's on you.

Heck, he might even be the guy that needs to go down...but that's not specifically bad scenario design...maybe you weren't supposed to fight him...yet. I've seen a party jump the gun, more times than once.

If you ever play in a sandbox game, you don't even have that metagaming you seem to like so much in your favor.


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Atarlost wrote:


If your party is appropriately optimized and your GM is using CRs appropriate to your APL (or your unoptimized or overoptimized and the GM is adjusting appropriately) and you're near dead without a low probability crit or similar bad luck your opponent should be within one round of average attacks of going down. If it's a multi-opponent encounter and the CR system is being used Or this is an epic boss and will be on its last legs after dropping you and your friends can afford a raise dead before the next adventure. Close fights that the PCs ultimately win are exactly what the CR system is designed to facilitate.

There's a lot wrong with this analysis, starting with the fact that not all GMs use CRs appropriate to a particular level (especially in a sandbox or open-ended environment). Even if they do, the guidelines specifically state that a party should be able to defeat a monster of CR if they use appropriate tactics, which of course include retreating, regrouping, rebuffing, and trying again with a situation-optimized load. The same guidelines also suggest a mix of challenge ratings, including some that are above the party's level. (Personally, I think this makes sense precisely to mix things up and keep them interesting.)

But beyond that,... combat is a lot more swingy than you seem to imagine. If you're one round from being killed (and the BBEG isn't dead yet), the chances are almost equal that the BBEG is one round, two rounds, or three rounds away, and there's a fair sporting chance that he's four or more rounds from being killed. In the long run, on average, the BBEG is close to dead --- but that's an average over many hypothetical fights including the ones that you took no damage at all. Once we've established that this isn't a fight that you're winning, the odds are that this particular fight is one that you're losing, and you should react accordingly....


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Atarlost wrote:


If your party is appropriately optimized and your GM is using CRs appropriate to your APL (or your unoptimized or overoptimized and the GM is adjusting appropriately) and you're near dead without a low probability crit or similar bad luck your opponent should be within one round of average attacks of going down. If it's a multi-opponent encounter and the CR system is being used Or this is an epic boss and will be on its last legs after dropping you and your friends can afford a raise dead before the next adventure. Close fights that the PCs ultimately win are exactly what the CR system is designed to facilitate.

There's a lot wrong with this analysis, starting with the fact that not all GMs use CRs appropriate to a particular level (especially in a sandbox or open-ended environment). Even if they do, the guidelines specifically state that a party should be able to defeat a monster of CR if they use appropriate tactics, which of course include retreating, regrouping, rebuffing, and trying again with a situation-optimized load. The same guidelines also suggest a mix of challenge ratings, including some that are above the party's level. (Personally, I think this makes sense precisely to mix things up and keep them interesting.)

But beyond that,... combat is a lot more swingy than you seem to imagine. If you're one round from being killed (and the BBEG isn't dead yet), the chances are almost equal that the BBEG is one round, two rounds, or three rounds away, and there's a fair sporting chance that he's four or more rounds from being killed. In the long run, on average, the BBEG is close to dead --- but that's an average over many hypothetical fights including the ones that you took no damage at all. Once we've established that this isn't a fight that you're winning, the odds are that this particular fight is one that you're losing, and you should react accordingly....

Couldn't have said it better myself. Trusting completely to math and averages in games where outcomes are determined by the roll of a 20-sided die is questionable, in my opinion. Back to the old axiom: anticipate success, but plan for failure. If you fail to do the latter, you are going to have a lot more characters die than you need to.


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Brian Bachman wrote:
Back to the old axiom: anticipate success, but plan for failure. If you fail to do the latter, you are going to have a lot more characters die than you need to.

There are old adventurers, and there are bold adventurers,....


Orfamay Quest wrote:
That's my read, too. Apparently the difficulty is not In retreating, but in knowing when to start while there's still time (and hit points) to pull it off.

Absolutely.

EWHM wrote:

Sometimes a tactical retreat is a good move even when a fight is fairly winnable as is. You might want to:

Separate the fast moving types from the slower ones (the classic for this is Scipio's tactic for separating the war elephants from their infantry support) or
disrupt a prepared advantageous position (e.g., the foes in the room have overturned tables and established cover and maybe set spears against your charge) or
Move the engagement to a location more advantageous to you or lure them into a trap or ambush.

Done all of these in my time, and they all work!

Brian Bachman wrote:
In pure poker terms, by the way, raising on an inside straight is actually better than calling. You have to raise big, though, as it is essentially a bluff. You really don't want to be called, because barring a lucky draw,...

Bluffing can work like this. You can sometimes pull it off by not yielding until the foe loses enough hit points to THINK you are winning the fight, and he breaks. It's not a tactic to rely on unless you don;t have much choice, though.

EldonG wrote:
Just wondering - how many people fail to go into total defense when they attempt a retreat?

Total defence is a full round action, you can't combine it with full withdrawal which is also a full round action.

Atarlost wrote:
If you run you probably die now. If you attack maybe he dies after your first iterative with no crits needed. Maybe he's actually down to single digit hitpoints. Maybe if you don't manage to kill him before his next turn the cleric does. Or maybe he finally flubs a save and you get to coup de grace him next round.

Or maybe he doesn't. As Orfomay says, "the difficulty is not In retreating, but in knowing when to start".

Plus, your assessment of the odds is not very good: if you probably die when he AoO's you, then in most circumstances you will definitely die if he gets to full-attack you. So for you to stick it out you have to believe that your next attacks have a better chance of taking him down than of your surviving his AoO for it to be a good idea. So how have you done so far? Have you inflicted massive damage each round, or are you struggling to even hit? If you have not done well (which is kind of the premise of the situation, that you are badly over-matched), then it's time to run.

Of course it all depends on what the rest of the party are doing: if they are all in the same state, then running is the best option for some of you getting out alive. If they are doing well, sticking around can be a better idea because even if you don't take your man down, one of them might finish him.


Atarlost wrote:
I'm no poker expert, but I think your hand is the one you can effect.

Only in draw poker. In straight, stud, or flop poker, you can't change your cards.


see wrote:
Atarlost wrote:
I'm no poker expert, but I think your hand is the one you can effect.
Only in draw poker. In straight, stud, or flop poker, you can't change your cards.

I would think that drawing to an inside straight is an action only possible in draw poker so that's assumed in the analogy.

Liberty's Edge

Sometimes, the heroic thing to do is to call for the retreat, and specifically stay behind, knowing you're gonna bite it...fight defensively, and hope to survive long enough to allow your allies to escape...if they're smart enough to make use of your heroic sacrifice. I've seen parties refuse to...*grumble*.

Sovereign Court

I still think more people know how to attack than know how to retreat. Maybe there's a niche here for a netbook/handbook for players on "how to get away"?

Liberty's Edge

Ascalaphus wrote:
I still think more people know how to attack than know how to retreat. Maybe there's a niche here for a netbook/handbook for players on "how to get away"?

I do believe there is. :)


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voska66 wrote:
I've seen retreat a lot, especially in my King Maker game I ran. As GM I don't always have the enemy chase the players. Sometimes it happens but it's not all that common.

Kingmaker has gone a long way in breaking our group's habit of never falling back. In the early days of the campaign, we ran a lot. Then we got stronger and we started falling back into bad habits. However, last session we had to run again. :)

We were out exploring hexes near a potentially rival kingdom. We had just finished breakfast and between the time dismissed the secure shelter and the time to summon the phantom chariot (we explore in style and comfort), an adult black Dragon lands and demands all of our magic items in exchange for our lives.

We decide we can take it and combat begins. Fighter moves in, cleric moves in, mage starts casting resist energy on people. Fighter takes a chunk out of the dragon, the dragon returns the assault, looks like we're going to win when the second one lands and breathes on the fighter and the mage. Mage goes down. Fighter is hit hard. Shadow of a third dragon crosses the clearing and we realize that we are in a "tactically inferior" position. Cleric heals the mage to consciousness, cleric and fighter dog pile on the mage and he teleports the party back to his quarters in the capitol city.

I always keep a teleport spell readied. A tactical withdrawal is always easier to achieve when you plan for the possibility.


awp832 wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:


Hang on. If I leave, I will create an opportunity for the BBEG to hit me. Instead, I will... what? If leaving creates a possible opportunity to be attacked, not-leaving also creates a possible opportunity to be attacked!

Exactly. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, that's the entire point of what I'm trying to bring up. You can either make a full attack and just maybe get a lucky critical and do enough damage to bring down the enemy, or you can try to run and lose for sure.

If I'm playing a game of poker for my life and I have the option of trying to draw an inside straight or folding and losing for sure, I try to draw the inside straight.

What would superman do?

Superman

Frankly, I agree. The rules really go out of their way to make it difficult to run away. The monsters are faster then you, they have range, Surprise rounds limit the 'prepping the battlefield',If your infiltrating the Orc's stronghold... THEY have set the traps and obstacles.. AoO that tear you up... Not to mention the magic and other obstacles.

As a rule, adventurers are the one that are on the quest. If they're on the rescue mission, running means the hostages are killed... If they are defending a village, retreat means the village dies...

Also, Pathfinder deals in MASSIVE amounts of damage...

Just last night, My paladin was fighting some kind of evil tree. 15'-20' reach, and it did 23 points of damage to me in one hit. I smited it back for about 28... My AC helped save my life, because at level 6, I only have about 54 hp... I could NOT have survived another hit like that, and it got multiple attacks around...

At what point was the right time to run? Before the first round took place? After I was half dead in that first round, but still had more HP then the rest of the squish party?

We beat the thing in 2 more rounds, but that battle could have EASILY gone a different way.


I forget who said it up-thread, but running away is all about timing, pure and simple. Yes, monsters are faster than you and they have range/reach/traps, but if you have a higher initiative you can pour on some speed of your own, employ spells, etc.

But Phantom illustrates the key point: WHEN to run.

I've had TPKs occur by accident in my games in just 2 rounds. I've also had stubborn PCs hang in even when the monster literally tells them to run as a full round action. On the flip I've been involved in a game where my GM wanted SOMEONE to die and so running did nothing. 2 examples:

Running away well
My PCs came to a hall with a ghost in it, though they failed to detect it's presence. It manifested and wailed, forcing the NPC monk and the cleric's animal companion to start fleeing in fear. The oracle, thinking quickly, throws a spell on the fighter so that his attacks will hit incorporeals and battle ensues.

The party did poorly in the first round and the ghost used it's touch attack, half-killing the cleric. At this point, the party chose the better part of valor. The ghost (as planned in the adventure I wrote) spent an entire round struggling with a force seeming to control it, giving them a chance to exit gracefully. Unfortunately someone had to grab the NPC and the animal companion was abandoned. This delay opened up a 3rd round of combat that nearly killed the cleric from another touch attack but as they left the dungeon they watched as the ghost de-materialized and re-appeared back where it started and knew they were safe for the moment.

Had they been stubborn and waited the creature would surely have killed the cleric and potentially the wizard before the fight was over. The decision to flee after only a surprise round and a single damaging attack was IMO tactically sound.

Running away poorly
This is not so much poor tactics as it is poor GMing. I was a player years ago and we happened upon a xvart's lair. My character was grappled, dragged into a cave, and the party came in after me. Battle ensued and we fled down a slanting drop-shaft. Several more encounters left us battered and bloody and captured. In the end we broke free of our captors and ascended back to the surface, but just barely. All of us at 1HP save the cleric who was dying in our hands, we fled into the nearby forest as night was falling with no gear, supplies or anything.

We still had hours left in the game session, so after the GM said we'd gotten well into the trees I began describing in character how I would build a survival shelter (I'd done this in real life so I put some detail in hoping it would improve our chances). I used a spell that further enveloped the shelter in a magical wall of wood. I then completed the shelter with heaps of leaves, brush and debris in hopes of camoflauging it. It was dark when I finished but I figured we were ok.

The xvarts found us mere moments later. A brief skirmish ensued; the cleric died, the rogue as well, and the fighter and I managed to survive and drive the creatures back. The fighter'd built a fire while I was making shelter, and now a ring of flames encircled our area. Later on this nearly got us killed by vengeful druids, but I won't bore you with that. The point was; we spent the entire session running, but the GM (as I said earlier) just simply had it in his mind that someone was going to die. But when I asked him about it at the time he was very matter of fact: "you covered your camp just fine, but no one did anything to cover your tracks, so they followed you and attacked."

The Exchange

I'm not sure I agree that the rules favor combat. You'll note that most of the really heavy-duty, combat-dominating feats, spells and class abilities start appearing at upper levels, whereas almost all the options for getting away are available right from Level 1. (Which is, let's be honest, the point at which they are most often used!) The sheer page-count of combat rules isn't necessarily because PF assumes combat is inevitable and winnable every time: it's just that it takes a lot fewer words to detail the outcomes of flight (or negotiation) than it does for the outcome of battle.

Among other options that I see as useful for getting away are the skills Acrobatics and Stealth (and, under certain conditions, Climb and Swim); the feats Fleet, Nimble Moves, Silent Spell and Improved Initiative; and a large number of spells (most, aside from obscuring mist, being arcane ones).

One that I've found many overlook in covering retreats is silent image. Dodge round a corner, create a silent image of the party standing ready for battle, and you and your friends can keep running while your enemies waste a few seconds discovering that it was an illusion. Alternately, now that a series of spells that really does create pits exists, silent image can emulate even the very high-level ones, and it's a rare (or unusually spell-wise) foe that will attempt to "disbelieve" a hungry pit.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
Hmm, the orcs with class levels is a player conditioning thing. Some of us remember editions where monsters didn't normally have class levels, and the conditioning sticks, sometimes to our detriment :P

Yeah, I remember a game a LONG time ago when a friend of mine told a band of ogres to "shut up, you're only 4d+1 hit die monsters." That encounter did not end well. I think the options for the "Dungeon Master" to make more powerful monsters was always there, but not as commonly used as it is today.

How does a monster get +1 Con bonus when it has 4HD, I forget how 2E worked. I do remember that it was saying 4 HD + 1 Con after reading the monster manual.

The Exchange

In those ancient times, monsters didn't have a Con score. The lucky ones got a few hp to add to their base HD: that was all.

It was most primitive.


Dabbler wrote:
Total defence is a full round action, you can't combine it with full withdrawal which is also a full round action.

I know this is a bit late but in Pathfinder Total Defense is a standard action. Still can't be combined with a Withdrawal, but giving yourself +4 AC and then walking away might be your best chance to survive when trying to move away from an opponent with reach, and by drawing an AoO you might stop it getting one on any of your allies.


Starbuck_II wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:


Yeah, I remember a game a LONG time ago when a friend of mine told a band of ogres to "shut up, you're only 4d+1 hit die monsters." That encounter did not end well. I think the options for the "Dungeon Master" to make more powerful monsters was always there, but not as commonly used as it is today.

How does a monster get +1 Con bonus when it has 4HD, I forget how 2E worked. I do remember that it was saying 4 HD + 1 Con after reading the monster manual.

I think this was first edition AD&D, actually. Monsters had a certain amount of (8-sided) dice and then bonus hit points atop that, and then added constitution modifiers if the DM saw fit.

Finding a bootleg copy of the old first edition monster manual is a fairly simple task for your browser. It's the one that looks like this.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Dabbler wrote:
Total defence is a full round action, you can't combine it with full withdrawal which is also a full round action.
I know this is a bit late but in Pathfinder Total Defense is a standard action. Still can't be combined with a Withdrawal, but giving yourself +4 AC and then walking away might be your best chance to survive when trying to move away from an opponent with reach, and by drawing an AoO you might stop it getting one on any of your allies.

Yeah, I later looked it up and realised I blew it. If you have Mobility as well, you can stack it up to +8, more with Combat Expertise.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Keep your slowest characters in the front. Make sure they have good AC (this usually correlates with slow movement speed anyway). As of 4th to 5th level, haste is viable, and expeditious retreat (though that's one person only). Have the wizard in back and ready to book it the instant battle turns sour, and have the heavies stay back to sponge up damage while the cleric runs slightly ahead and keeps them alive. Know when to fold 'em.

In that vein, since this can be a tad difficult to anticipate, I tend to have spells and magic items, or even abilities, that are based around manuevaribility. Fly is just as useful in combat as in getting away from combat. Increasing your move speed by dipping into barbarian or monk not only makes you master of the battlefield, but also allows you to retreat. As for the halflings and the gnomes and ratfolk and what-not...so long as they aren't too fat the party fighter can chuck 'em over their shoulder like a sack of potatoes and egress.

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