Run Away! Run Away!


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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One of the things that always pops up in the eternal battle between HARDCORE GAMISTS and Fluffy Bunny Narrativists is the Gamist assertion that "Good players know when to run away!"

It seems to me that, in 3.5/Pathfinder, retreat is a fairly crap option. I really don't see a lot of situations where the party can actually say, "Oh, this isn't going well. Time to dash."

As a caveat, I will say that I played a Cleric who got his behind royally kicked by a Colossal Scorpion. Clearly a round away from death and being crushed in it's massive claw, I made a nearly impossible Concentration check and cast Plane Shift to a plane saturated with Positive Energy so I could heal. However, I wouldn't say this is a typical situation, and it's limited to spellcasters. This also wasn't a full party retreat. We killed the monster.

However, let's look at the sort of situations a party might try to run from.

At low levels, you don't have the hit point pool needed to say, "Oh, this fight isn't going well." You just start dropping.

Non-magical characters who wear armor (or are short) will find themselves unable to outpace nearly every enemy.

A party unprepared for incorporeals might want to run away, but how do you run from something that flies faster you than you run and can go through walls?

Many enemies, in addition to being faster than the party, never get tired.

It seems like the option to retreat gets presented in a mechanically agnostic fashion, like the "(F)ight, (T)alk, (R)etreat" of old AD&D Gold Box computer games.

Has retreat come up in your games? How was it handled? Did it work? Rules-wise, should it have worked?


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

A time-honored tradition is that you need only be faster than the slowest fellow PC, or at least have the ability to hamstring a fellow PC in your wake... ;)

Many critters are not much smarter than a lamp post. Decoys help!

EDIT: We borrowed the "bloodied" condition from 4e (below half hp). I use a line from a horror movie to indicate something or someone is very close to keeling over ("I'm feeling a little woozy here!!").

There is good reason that the 1st level sor/wiz spell that adds a 30ft enhancement bonus to speed is called expeditious retreat ...


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Obviously, retreat is never an option. After all, that would be cowardly, and not good, and not in keeping with my code. RETREAT JUST ISN'T HOW PALADINS DO THINGS.

ONWARD, VALIANT COMPANIONS!
*Charges off to fight the overwhelming demon horde*


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Pathfinder doesn't make it hard to run away. Players choose to make characters that can't run away.

I routinely have first level characters with speed scores of 40' or who have a spell like Obscuring Mist or Expeditious Retreat memorized so that they can escape. If I feel like I need to cast it to have a chance at winning the fight, I flee to fight another day.

If you make a dwarf with a speed of 20', it is not the GM's fault.

Liberty's Edge

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Cranefist wrote:

Pathfinder doesn't make it hard to run away. Players choose to make characters that can't run away.

I routinely have first level characters with speed scores of 40' or who have a spell like Obscuring Mist or Expeditious Retreat memorized so that they can escape. If I feel like I need to cast it to have a chance at winning the fight, I flee to fight another day.

If you make a dwarf with a speed of 20', it is not the GM's fault.

Player: But how was I supposed to escape from a herd of stampeding wildabeasts?

GM: It's not my fault you didn't play a monk with the Fleet feat.


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Gnoll Bard wrote:
Cranefist wrote:

Pathfinder doesn't make it hard to run away. Players choose to make characters that can't run away.

I routinely have first level characters with speed scores of 40' or who have a spell like Obscuring Mist or Expeditious Retreat memorized so that they can escape. If I feel like I need to cast it to have a chance at winning the fight, I flee to fight another day.

If you make a dwarf with a speed of 20', it is not the GM's fault.

Player: But how was I supposed to escape from a herd of stampeding wildabeasts?

GM: It's not my fault you didn't play a monk with the Fleet feat.

Player: Will we ever need to be able to run away?

GM: Probably. Can't win them all.

Player: I don't care. I'm making a dwarf fighter with no Fleet, no Run, no horse and no spells.

GM: What's your back up?


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Hey guys, stop playing this on the GM. Be thankful you're not playing old-school.

Player: I run away.

GM: Oh, too bad! The room eats you.

Player: But my Reflex--

GM: Doesn't matter. Now you know the drill: roll 3d6 six times, in order...

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
GM Armadillephant wrote:

GM: Oh, too bad! The room eats you.

Hahaha, I'll have to remember that line.

Grand Lodge

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Everyone puts their hand on the face of the caster with Dimension Door, there's a flash of smoke and then you're safe!

Right?


I wonder what people think equipment list items like caltrops are there for. I mean, now we've even got stuff like tanglefoot bags and shard gel . . .

Yes, it's hard to run away if you have made no preparations (in chargen, equipment, spell selection, et cetera), and you don't do it before battle has been joined based on a scout report, and nobody's willing to stay behind to cover the retreat.


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Cranefist wrote:

...Player: Will we ever need to be able to run away?

GM: Probably. Can't win them all.

Player: I don't care. I'm making a dwarf fighter with no Fleet, no Run, no horse and no spells.

GM: What's your back up?

I don't see what's stopping the dwarf from running away properly here. The Fleet/ Run feats are character investment as are spells like Expeditious Retreat. They are not requirements. Those characters spent resources on running so they should be better at it but that doesn't make normal characters bad at it. Or, to put it a different way, how would non-adventuring dwarves run away? They'd take full round Run actions (for which the feat is nice, but not necessary) every turn. You can run for a number of rounds equal to your CON score before needing to make checks- and dwarves have a racial CON bonus. If the dwarf really wants to get away, in the long run the dwarf will get away.

And that's just the rollplay side of it. If the player wants to run, the GM shouldn't just slap their hand and say "Bad player! Go sit in the corner and roll 3d6 in order!" The GM should tweak the scenario so that the player has at least a chance of succeeding. In the OP's example of untiring incorporeal pursuers, maybe there will just happen to be something along the way which can distract them- hint hint. It may not be a big chance of success, but no chance at all is just railroading and encourages the "never run away" attitude the OP is worried about. Why should I, as a player, waste time trying to run away when the GM is just going to railroad me into an early grave?


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One of the problems with retreating is that most combats in Pathfinder last between 2-4 rounds maximum. By the time the party realizes they've bit off more than they can chew, they're probably down two party members, and the survivors are looking at eating lethal Attacks of Opportunity if they retreat. On the average, a party will have one, at most two rounds to realize they should flee, and often by that time they're trapped. I've been in PFS games where the party went from six up characters to two conscious characters in one round. In a game like that, retreat is problematic at best.


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Only one needs to flee to avoid the TPK. grins

"He who rolled lowest initiative flees first." ;)


Whenever I been up against the fluffy bunny narrative the response has been Run Away! Run Away! unless the GM has provided a Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

That said, the OP makes the excellent point that often retreat is not an option for all members of the party, in which case the party should decide whether or not to leave the slow behind. The party should also beware the wrath of the dwarf paladin who go left behind because he was too slow but still managed to survive and then deliberately fell so he could hunt down his ex-companions as an anti-paladin (I was a wee bit miffed, unfortunately the GM forced me to re-roll and ran my char as an NPC).


Sometimes retreat is not an option. Far, far more often it actually is.


I had a DM recently present us with a fight that he expected us to flee from. It was against a vampire as a level 2 party of a monk, cleric, sorcerer and rogue (he was way beyond our league, to say the least). Retreat would have been a fantastic option, except we were on a glass floor which prevented the cleric from moving, unless I (the monk) were carrying him. Then the vampire feared everyone except for me and the cleric. I ended up just punching him until he decided to go so that I could save the cleric's life. It only worked once I pointed out to the DM how our characters had no real way to escape from the situation.


Whether retreat is a viable option depends on both the players and how they have prepared for contingencies, and on the GM and how he plays adversaries and the campaign in general.

Some campaigns are such (Kingmaker is a good example) that the players will inevitably run into things they cannot defeat in battle. That can be a shock and lead to TPKs if players are overconfident that the GM will never throw anything at them that they cannot defeat. So if it is such a campaign in which not everything encountered is tailored to be manageable for the party, the GM needs to let people know ahead of time.

If the GM does let them know that, then it is incumbent on the players to plan accoridngly, and leave themselves escape routes either through proper preparation of spells and items, good tactical planning or even character creation.

As for the GM, my belief is that different types of adversaries should be treated in different ways. Not every fight is a no-holds barred death match where one side or the other is going home in a bag. Many creatures, particularly if they are wounded, will be more than happy to just drive the party out of their lair and lick their own wounds. Intelligent opponents will think carefully about whether pursuit is worth the risk, and may be leery of being drawn into a trap. And of course, all sorts of opponents will try to escape themselves rather than fight to the death when clearly outmatched.

As GM, I personally have lots of opponents, in the very first round, decide the odds are not in their favor and bug out to come back again when they can reverse the balance of power (or think they can). If they are intelligent, then they probably already have escape routes and contingencies (not just the spell) arranged for when things start to go south. I would expect PCs to do the same. As they say, anticipate success, but plan for failure.


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I usually try to have a contingency plan ready for running away. The best I've seen however went to our party monk a tetori who had grab and rhino's charge. He really liked to charge and burn ki to grapple spellcasters. He had ready to charge the next person who cast a spell believing the enemy wizard would cast shortly after his turn the wizard died on the next turn from the paladin followed by every one but the monk and sorcerer failing a save against a contingent wail of the banshee. The wizard goes to cast teleport the monk looks up " what about my readied action".


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Arturick wrote:
It seems to me that, in 3.5/Pathfinder, retreat is a fairly crap option. I really don't see a lot of situations where the party can actually say, "Oh, this isn't going well. Time to dash."

I've run into a few. It all depends on whether the party is prepared for the option of retreat. Caltrops and other devices that can hinder pursuit are a godsend and slow down those that follow the party.

Further, retreat can be used to draw out a numerous foe into manageable chunks the party can deal with.

Arturick wrote:

However, let's look at the sort of situations a party might try to run from.

At low levels, you don't have the hit point pool needed to say, "Oh, this fight isn't going well." You just start dropping.

At first level, the question is not "when do you run" as much as it is "when do you avoid the encounter entirely or rely on negotiation to carry you through."

Arturick wrote:
Non-magical characters who wear armor (or are short) will find themselves unable to outpace nearly every enemy.

...unless they take precautions and/or use terrain.

Remember:


  • Full withdrawal does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
  • If you have no more than a double-move clear to move in any direction, you can get out of sight from the enemy no matter what they do.
  • Spells like obscuring mist can provide cover, areas of caltrops, place tanglefoot bags etc. can slow down or deter pursuit.
  • Areas of cover like forest or tunnels can foil flying foes.
  • Having one fast character flee ahead of the rest can give you a man ahead preparing traps and tricks to deter any that follow you.
  • Hiding is a valid tactic when out of sight.

Arturick wrote:
A party unprepared for incorporeals might want to run away, but how do you run from something that flies faster you than you run and can go through walls?

Most such creatures are bound to a certain area, you just have to get out of the area to end the pursuit. Flying creatures can be foiled by overhead cover, and as I mention above, hiding is a perfectly valid tactic.

Arturick wrote:
Many enemies, in addition to being faster than the party, never get tired.

Again, you don't have to out distance them, just get far enough away that you can hang a left at Albuquerque and let them go straight on. Also, not all foes you are engaged with can move at the same speed. Those that catch up with you first have just placed themselves away from the support of the slower ones and are easier to deal with.

Arturick wrote:
It seems like the option to retreat gets presented in a mechanically agnostic fashion, like the "(F)ight, (T)alk, (R)etreat" of old AD&D Gold Box computer games.

It's there, you just have to use intelligently. I will add that retreat is the one thing the monk is good at across the board.

Party Leader: "We won't win this one, we need to run. Monk?"
Monk: "I'm on it!" [monk exits at high speed]
Party Leader: "On my mark, follow him! Run Away!"
Enemy: "Hur Hur! We run as fast as puny adventurers!"
[Party run around corner with foe in hot pursuit. Monk hauls on rope he stretched across the path and holds it as the enemy go down like dominoes.]
Enemy: "We crush you monk!"
Monk: "And for my next impression, Jesse Owen!"

Arturick wrote:
Has retreat come up in your games? How was it handled? Did it work? Rules-wise, should it have worked?

Yes, from both sides of the screen.

Player-wise, I was playing a monk (I like frustration) when we encountered a flesh-golem at 3rd-4th level. My monk got it to chase him into the tunnels we were in while the rest of the party exited post-haste. The monk then tumbled past the golem and ran like hell once they were clear. Sometimes you only need ONE character that can run away fast to achieve a successful retreat.

DM-wise, I am always thinking of ways for the enemy to break off and retreat if they are low on hit points. Last one, I had a foe I wanted to be a recurrent enemy and I wanted to ensure her escape. She had many options - the ability to disguise herself, a called weapon, and a potion of invisibility. In the event of things, she played dead and drank her potion when the party were treating their own wounds.


Arturick wrote:
Has retreat come up in your games? How was it handled? Did it work? Rules-wise, should it have worked?

It came up in my PBP game about a week ago, and worked due to favorable terrain (the enemies were inside a building, so the group which had barely been able to get a foot inside left the building and closed the door) and smart play (the oracle cast telekinesis to make it difficult for the enemies to open the door).

The group spent the minute of telekinesis-respite to heal and buff, and are currently hard at work back inside.

Enemies have attempted retreat a few times, but so far have not been successful. The synthesist's scent has been instrumental at preventing the retreat in both cases; they would otherwise likely have succeeded.


I'm really weirded out by the OP. Retreat is a gamist thing? Whut? You mean narrativists never play characters with the wis or the int to know when they're losing, or only play characters that would die rather than retreat? Seriously, whut?
I've honestly never seen that argument.


VM mercenario wrote:

I'm really weirded out by the OP. Retreat is a gamist thing? Whut? You mean narrativists never play characters with the wis or the int to know when they're losing, or only play characters that would die rather than retreat? Seriously, whut?

I've honestly never seen that argument.

Nor me, to be honest. Besides, what about the gamist narratavists? It's like the power-gamer vs role-player fallacy: I've seen some pretty weak power gamers and some appalling role-players when that was what they set out to do. I just took it to mean some players don't know when to retreat, and left it at that.


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Dabbler wrote:
VM mercenario wrote:

I'm really weirded out by the OP. Retreat is a gamist thing? Whut? You mean narrativists never play characters with the wis or the int to know when they're losing, or only play characters that would die rather than retreat? Seriously, whut?

I've honestly never seen that argument.
Nor me, to be honest. Besides, what about the gamist narratavists? It's like the power-gamer vs role-player fallacy: I've seen some pretty weak power gamers and some appalling role-players when that was what they set out to do. I just took it to mean some players don't know when to retreat, and left it at that.

Yeah, I just couldn't get past that arbitrary division.

Onto the real question: Retreat is a viable strategy. If the enemy is capable of running down the party, that is when a tank shines, staying behind to cover the retreat of the rest of the party.
From a narrativist/roleplayer point it's awesome and very heroic. From a gamist rollplayer point is only logical that the guy with more chance of surviving stays behind to buy time while the ohers finish the mission or ready a counterattack.
I've done it myself, when I was playing a barbarian. Our group was almost out of resources after a couple of tough fights so we decided to camp for the night, but we were attacked by a vampire samurai in the middle of the night. Our fault really, for staying inside the ghost town. The vampire had minions and managed to dominate the fighter before our sorcerer started throwing Protection from Evil on everybody. Had to grapple the fighter while he got his does of Protection. We managed to take down the minions but the vampire was still at full power. So we decided to run and come back in the morning to burn his coffin with him inside. But of course the vampire wouldn't just let us go, so I stayed there to hold him off while the party ran for the hills, the sorcerer gave me used his last fly scroll on me so when everybody else was far enough away I culd take to the sky. The vampire still flew ater me in mist form until the spell ended. Luckily it was finally almost dawn and the vampire had to retreat before the sunrise. To this day, one of the most awesome moments for that barbarian. And that barbarian had lots of awesome moments.


Cranefist wrote:

Pathfinder doesn't make it hard to run away. Players choose to make characters that can't run away.

I routinely have first level characters with speed scores of 40' or who have a spell like Obscuring Mist or Expeditious Retreat memorized so that they can escape. If I feel like I need to cast it to have a chance at winning the fight, I flee to fight another day.

If you make a dwarf with a speed of 20', it is not the GM's fault.

What you do is hose over the enemy so they are slowed down, and pick up the damned dwarf, then run like mad.

Actually campers, I make it a point to tell all my players to buy a potion of Invisibility and keep it on them at all times. At 300gp, it makes an excellent escape hatch. Of course, my villains know that, too.

Dwarves do not have to blow feats on their speed, not if they don't want to. Most PC's are limited to 20ft anyway just because of their armor. Note what medium and heavy armor does to speed per round, hey?

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Most of the time my characters want to run away but refuse to leave comrades behind. :/


Cranefist wrote:
Pathfinder doesn't make it hard to run away. Players choose to make characters that can't run away.

This. I'd add to this that players choose to put their characters in situations that make it difficult to run away. Leave yourself an escape route.

Take advantage of cover and concealment, being prepared to make it if necessary (smokesticks are very cheap). If you're not sure what's in the next room, send one person in to check it out, ideally someone with a high speed. Use ranged weapons and let the BBEG come to you. Drop a bag of marbles behind you as you flee, or a sack of silver, or some Purina monster chow.

If there are six orcs in the room and your dwarven cleric's reaction is to scream and charge,... well, yes, he's going to have a hard time getting out if it turns out that those orcs all have lots of class levels. But I have a hard time pinning that on the rule system or the nefarious game master.

Sovereign Court

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

That said, if so far in the campaign orcs didn't have class levels, and this time they do, that's a forgiveable mistake.

OTOH, I've played in a lot of parties where the orcs had superior numbers and where we did a lot of hit and run; trying to either kill all orcs so they couldn't get reinforcements, or do smash and grab and get out before those reinforcements arrived.


Some groups run. Some don't. It's a game. No matter how involved you get, everyone knows its a game at treats it as such in some regard. Whether it is assuming the DM will not give you an encounter you cannot beat or simply failing to react to the fact their character would fear death (or at least recognize it as a possibility). Some people recognize retreat as a "tactical" option. Some people see combat as some silly little thing that gets in the way of their role playing. You just have to know your group.


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.

Quote:


That said, if so far in the campaign orcs didn't have class levels, and this time they do, that's a forgiveable mistake.

Absolutely. But we also both acknowledge that player overconfidence and underestimating the enemy are tactical mistakes, not flaws in the game.


Actually OP, retreat is not something revolving around novices vs. hardcore gamers or what not, it is something that revolves around tactics.
I have seen people in their very first session of ever playing an RPG make a tactically sound decision as to whether or not to run. Similarly, I have seen veterans size up their options, and then pick up their wizard skirts and head for the hills.
On the flip side, I've seen both noobs and veterans be slaughtered because they either A: refused to retreat, or B: failed to provide for an escape option.

I would say that retreat is actually among the most powerful options in the game. It all depends on how the monsters are roleplayed, how the GM rules such events, and how good the PCs are at tactical retreat though.

Shadow Lodge

Played a game once where the big end battle ended up splitting our whole party across one big map. By the end it was me in a 1v3 with three paths to go down to get to other party members, but the logistics of trying to get down there, get the wand of cure out, heal someone and get out of there wasn't going to work with them in pursuit.

It was a case of retreat, or die with the others.

Liberty's Edge

I agree with the OP that, in my experience, an efficient retreat with average PCs (ie not built specifically to retreat) requires GM's fiat.

The RAW makes it far more efficient to keep on fighting in the hope of landing a killing critical than retreating.

Too bad that many GMs want players to play smart (or "old-skool style") by meeting an enemy they just cannot beat and then retreat.

And those same GMs, ignoring the fact that the RAW push the players to keep on fighting, will lay the blame on the players and come to the board whining about nowadays' entitled players who were spoiled by too easy videogames ...


My group has a saying that a well organized retreat is one of the most difficult feats to pull off in Pathfinder. Aside from the mechanical here are things that make running difficult.

1. Tendency to play good PCs. Many groups have a paladin or a good aligned cleric. Even when not specifically prohibited from retreat, often times a character will feel that they would sacrifice themselves in order to destroy evil. If they're fighting a bear this isn't really a problem, but a Cleric of Sarenrae probably doesn't want to run from a Lich, even if they're losing.

2. Party Kinship. If you're the cleric's friend, you're not just going to leave him by himself there to die against that lich are you? You've got to stay there and give it your all.

3. Mentality: DMs rarely if ever send thier pcs up against something they have no chance to defeat, like 7+ crs above them. This makes PCs feel that if they play their cards right, they ought to win the battle.

Mechanically:

1. Retreat is difficult to pull off, especially when one character is already down. You either leave them to die, which seems not a very good thing to do (see tendency to play Good aligned PCs) or you try to conjure an elaborate plan to save them. Often this results in more of the party getting killed. Unfortunately, if none of your characters are down, probably you're not going to retreat anyway.

2. Attacks of Opportunity will kill you. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a tight spot, I know one more round of attack and my character is dead... but how can I run? Unless I've maxed acrobatics and am in light armor, one hit from an AoO will kill my character. Running is not an option, especially vs monsters with reach and/or combat reflexes.

3. Leaving players to die. Even if many players safely retreat, the guy who is unlucky enough to have the wrong initiative count will find himself facing the monster mano-a-mano with all of his allies gone. This character is almost certainly dead.

All of these things make retreat practically impossible without the use of spellcasting, IMO.


The black raven wrote:
I agree with the OP that, in my experience, an efficient retreat with average PCs (ie not built specifically to retreat) requires GM's fiat.

I disagree - I've pulled it off easily in the past, and without characters designed to do so. You do not have to be "built specifically to retreat" to have the option of retreating - but then that depends on what you view as "average PCs" because in my experience there are very few PCs that are "average".

Do most players equip with the idea of running away in mind? Probably not, myself included. Does that mean that the option does not exist in every circumstance? No, though there will be some in which it doesn't. To retreat depends on the circumstances and what tactical decisions you have taken with them.

The black raven wrote:
The RAW makes it far more efficient to keep on fighting in the hope of landing a killing critical than retreating.

If you are over-matched, it's usually pretty obvious and relying on a 'lucky hit' is about the dumbest thing a player can do. The RAW does not "encourage" this, overly optimistic expectations do. I won't deny it has happened now and again, but frankly I have found the mathematics of the RAW tell you pretty early on which way a fight is going to go, and only a fool relies on a lucky hit to end it.

The black raven wrote:
Too bad that many GMs want players to play smart (or "old-skool style") by meeting an enemy they just cannot beat and then retreat.

Been there, done that, and it works unless one player has got it into his head that he can win the unwinable fight. Then that player learns by his character dying - been there and done that, too!

The black raven wrote:
And those same GMs, ignoring the fact that the RAW push the players to keep on fighting, will lay the blame on the players and come to the board whining about nowadays' entitled players who were spoiled by too easy videogames ...

The RAW does NOT push players to stick around and hope for a lucky hit, just as casinos do not encourage gamblers to throw good money after bad hoping that by playing the odds a thousand times they can get a one-in-a-million result. That's just wishful thinking that they can beat the odds in action.

Bad decisions on the player's part are the player's responsibility.

If you are fighting a much tougher enemy than you, the mathematics clearly say it will be the most likely winner, that's the RAW. Sure, the RAW allows for critical hits - what of them? They are as likely for the enemy as for you. What enables the party to win are teamwork and superior tactical decisions, and that includes retreating.


Running is good, both for retreating and closing in distance. I've had to use it a couple of times on my bard to get close enough to the battle in our game. Remember, it's a full-round action, it must be in a straight line, and you lose your Dexterity bonus to AC when you do it. Still, very good for a dwarf to withdraw, then run if necessary.


I have to address this...

awp832 wrote:
1. Retreat is difficult to pull off, especially when one character is already down. You either leave them to die, which seems not a very good thing to do (see tendency to play Good aligned PCs) or you try to conjure an elaborate plan to save them. Often this results in more of the party getting killed. Unfortunately, if none of your characters are down, probably you're not going to retreat anyway.

Retreat is rarely difficult to pull off in my experience. If a character is down, you chose the wrong moment to retreat, but you still have options: somebody grabs the downed character while the rest cover him, you heal the downed one then run, or you draw the enemy away from the downed character with the hope of doubling back later. All valid tactics, all performable depending on the circumstances.

awp832 wrote:
2. Attacks of Opportunity will kill you. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a tight spot, I know one more round of attack and my character is dead... but how can I run? Unless I've maxed acrobatics and am in light armor, one hit from an AoO will kill my character. Running is not an option, especially vs monsters with reach and/or combat reflexes.

Full withdrawal action does not provoke AoOs. Period. A lot of people forget this...

awp832 wrote:
3. Leaving players to die. Even if many players safely retreat, the guy who is unlucky enough to have the wrong initiative count will find himself facing the monster mano-a-mano with all of his allies gone. This character is almost certainly dead.

That's why you have to do it tactically in a phased withdrawal, not "every man for himself" style. Strongest grabs the fallen, Toughest covers the rest of the party, Fastest leads the way and sets up delaying tactics to slow the enemy (or hangs back until last to ensure the slowest gets a head-start).

Sovereign Court

I think that retreat is just a lot harder to pull off in terms of player/tactical skill.

1) You may need special gear (caltrops) and/or spells (obscuring mist, silent image to divert enemies) to assist you.

2) You need to coordinate PC actions so noone gets left behind in a lethal position; sequence of actions can be very important in extracting the party from a melee

3) Movement speed is an issue; you do need to pay some attention to this during CharGen/equipment selection

4) If enemies continue pursuing/tracking you, do you have a long-term plan to shake them off or ambush them? If you can't rest to regain spells because the enemy's too close on your tail that's a problem.

All of these problems can be solved, but they're difficult challenges and require all players to understand the game plan.

"Stand and fight" isn't necessarily a sound plan, but it's much easier to figure out.


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awp832 wrote:

2. Attacks of Opportunity will kill you. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a tight spot, I know one more round of attack and my character is dead... but how can I run? Unless I've maxed acrobatics and am in light armor, one hit from an AoO will kill my character. Running is not an option, especially vs monsters with reach and/or combat reflexes.
Full withdrawal action does not provoke AoOs. Period. A lot of people forget this...

This is not actually true. Full withdrawl means you don't provoke for the first five feet. If a monster has reach, they can still kill you with an AoO.


awp832 is correct. Although something a player taught me to do against creatures with reach is to have an ally (preferably a meat shield) stand between the enemy with reach and the retreating ally. The retreating ally is considered to have soft cover against the enemy with reach, since reach weapons are treated as ranged weapons in relation to cover. And because he has cover, that means that the retreating ally can book it without provoking because you cannot make an attack of opportunity against someone that has cover against you. So it's pretty helpful.

The cover rules can be seen here.

Addendum: This gets harder to pull off the larger the enemy is, since large+ creatures can pick any square in their body to be the source of an attack. Huge and bigger monster get more squares and thus, more chances to hit around your stonewalled meat shield.


The black raven wrote:

I agree with the OP that, in my experience, an efficient retreat with average PCs (ie not built specifically to retreat) requires GM's fiat.

The RAW makes it far more efficient to keep on fighting in the hope of landing a killing critical than retreating.

Too bad that many GMs want players to play smart (or "old-skool style") by meeting an enemy they just cannot beat and then retreat.

And those same GMs, ignoring the fact that the RAW push the players to keep on fighting, will lay the blame on the players and come to the board whining about nowadays' entitled players who were spoiled by too easy videogames ...

Would you like to play poker with me sometime?

Because what you are proposing, staying in a fight you are losing hoping to get a lucky critical to turn the tide, has an equivalent in poker. It's called drawing to an inside straight, and is a good way to lose a lot of money.

Following these tactics in PF is a good way to lose a lot of characters.

But, hey, if you insist it's smart, the poker invitation is open. I could use some more money for my daughters' college funds.


awp832 wrote:
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awp832 wrote:

2. Attacks of Opportunity will kill you. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a tight spot, I know one more round of attack and my character is dead... but how can I run? Unless I've maxed acrobatics and am in light armor, one hit from an AoO will kill my character. Running is not an option, especially vs monsters with reach and/or combat reflexes.
Full withdrawal action does not provoke AoOs. Period. A lot of people forget this...
This is not actually true. Full withdrawl means you don't provoke for the first five feet. If a monster has reach, they can still kill you with an AoO.

Agreed, or at least that is the way I play it. However, all that really means is you waited too long to retreat. If you can't absorb one AoO, you should have been gone before that. And creatures with 15' reach AND Combat Relexes aren't that common. Against those few edge cases, I agree that retreat becomes a pretty poor option.


Ascalaphus wrote:

I think that retreat is just a lot harder to pull off in terms of player/tactical skill.

1) You may need special gear (caltrops) and/or spells (obscuring mist, silent image to divert enemies) to assist you.

Marbles cost 1sp for a two pound bag; your fighter should be able to carry a dozen of them.

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2) You need to coordinate PC actions so noone gets left behind in a lethal position; sequence of actions can be very important in extracting the party from a melee

You should have been coordinating PC actions from the start of the fight; otherwise your rogue can't flank, and your mage is AoE blasting your cleric.

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3) Movement speed is an issue; you do need to pay some attention to this during CharGen/equipment selection

As I said, a bag of marbles is 2sp.

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4) If enemies continue pursuing/tracking you, do you have a long-term plan to shake them off or ambush them? If you can't rest to regain spells because the enemy's too close on your tail that's a problem.

That's only a problem if you already messed up the first three points.

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All of these problems can be solved, but they're difficult challenges and require all players to understand the game plan.

I'm sorry, but I don't consider any of these to be difficult challenges.

At most tables, if the fighter doesn't bring along any missile weapons, it's considered borderline malpractice. If no one brings any missile weapons, that's considered to be "suicide by goblin." Everyone understands, or should understand, that, no matter how greatsword-happy you are, there are some times you you just need to kill someone from a distance of 15 feet or more.

I've never seen a party that forgot at least one coil of rope. Again, everyone understands that there are just some times you need to climb something or tie it up.

Everyone should also understand that there are some times that you need to run away.

Liberty's Edge

The retreat isn't always the easiest thing to do...but there have been times when I've made the sacrifice...calling out 'Run!' to my fellow party members as I engaged what I could, in a doomed fight to the death.

I even did it with an evil assassin once, having another PC D-Door me behind the bigbad of the *army* of elves advancing across the open plain toward us as they readied bows...I had the paladin promise that he'd come back and get me rezzed!

He did, too...just about drove him crazy. :p


Brian Bachman wrote:
Creatures with 15' reach AND Combat Relexes aren't that common. Against those few edge cases, I agree that retreat becomes a pretty poor option.

I'd suggest that, against those few edge cases, the poor option is actually combat, especially melee combat. If you kick in the door and are greeted by such a creature, bows are pretty sound. And so is shutting the door and getting out before you get into his threat range.

Liberty's Edge

Incidentally...many times now, people have questioned my assassin's act there as being a heroic and good act...but: We were dead if nobody did anything...the bigbad elf was my target (I had had no good chance to attempt the kill previously) and I knew my employer was not going to be happy about leaving him alive (I failed to kill him, but it was a shot in the dark...better still, when the paladin came back...HE finished my mission, without ever knowing it!)...and it was just so delicious...the paladin had a holy relic he HAD to return...but still had to atone for leaving a party member behind...he never lived it down. :D

I seriously tempted fate, but fate had already doomed us, so...*shrug*. :)

Sovereign Court

Orfamay Quest wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:

I think that retreat is just a lot harder to pull off in terms of player/tactical skill.

1) You may need special gear (caltrops) and/or spells (obscuring mist, silent image to divert enemies) to assist you.

Marbles cost 1sp for a two pound bag; your fighter should be able to carry a dozen of them.

Yes, and a player who didn't realize he needed those marbles is in trouble. My point is what while the gear exists, many people don't know what it's for, or how to use it well. It's less obvious than needing a weapon or armor.

Orfamay Quest wrote:


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2) You need to coordinate PC actions so noone gets left behind in a lethal position; sequence of actions can be very important in extracting the party from a melee

You should have been coordinating PC actions from the start of the fight; otherwise your rogue can't flank, and your mage is AoE blasting your cleric.

And I think that attack coordination is actually much easier than escape coordination. A few simple tactics (flank, block enemy lanes towards the wizard) make a huge difference. Also, it gets lots of practice.

Escaping is trickier. If you mess up the sequence of running away, the fighters are all gone while the enemies get to surround the wizard and cut off his escape route because his turn hasn't come up yet. Plus there may be unconscious party members to deal with. Also, chances are good that the PC that's deepest within enemy lines is the one most hurt.

It's a more difficult tactical puzzle.

Orfamay Quest wrote:


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3) Movement speed is an issue; you do need to pay some attention to this during CharGen/equipment selection

As I said, a bag of marbles is 2sp.

I meant that you need to pay attention to your own speed; for example lots of fighter archetypes trade out Armor Training, and players may not be aware how much they'll need that speed for escaping.

Also, one bag of marbles covers only one square. Pulling out a bag of marbles takes an action; I'll grant that dropping it is free. Still takes some time to obstruct only one square, which is not enough unless the dungeon has 5ft wide tunnels.

Orfamay Quest wrote:


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4) If enemies continue pursuing/tracking you, do you have a long-term plan to shake them off or ambush them? If you can't rest to regain spells because the enemy's too close on your tail that's a problem.

That's only a problem if you already messed up the first three points.

Well, that's a comfort if you face an enemy with a speed above 20 that isn't stopped by marbles, like flying critters or incorporeal undead.

Orfamay Quest wrote:


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All of these problems can be solved, but they're difficult challenges and require all players to understand the game plan.

I'm sorry, but I don't consider any of these to be difficult challenges.

At most tables, if the fighter doesn't bring along any missile weapons, it's considered borderline malpractice. If no one brings any missile weapons, that's considered to be "suicide by goblin." Everyone understands, or should understand, that, no matter how greatsword-happy you are, there are some times you you just need to kill someone from a distance of 15 feet or more.

I've never seen a party that forgot at least one coil of rope. Again, everyone understands that there are just some times you need to climb something or tie it up.

Everyone should also understand that there are some times that you need to run away.

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.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Marbles are also useless on soft ground. Works great for stone floors, mud bogs not so much.


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Ascalaphus wrote:


And I think that attack coordination is actually much easier than escape coordination. A few simple tactics (flank, block enemy lanes towards the wizard) make a huge difference. Also, it gets lots of practice.

Escaping is trickier. If you mess up the sequence of running away, the fighters are all gone while the enemies get to surround the wizard and cut off his escape route because his turn hasn't come up yet. Plus there may be unconscious party members to deal with. Also, chances are good that the PC that's deepest within enemy lines is the one most hurt.

It's a more difficult tactical puzzle.

Well, again, I disagree. Your mileage may vary, but....

There are a few simple rules that most players intuitively grasp for attack coordination. The blasters hit baddies at range, ideally before combat really starts (when they're still grouped), while the tin cans in heavy armor form a line between the bad guys and the clothies. The skirmishers are typically free to move into the best tactical position, but the shield wall stays where it is, precisely because the squishies are relying on it for much of their protection.

Anyone who's played gridiron football understands this, and any football coach will happily draw you the X's and O's to tell you about it.

But escape coordination is just as easy and obvious. Number one, of course, is to keep a line of escape open. If you get drawn away from the door (or whatever) and cut off, you've lost the option to retreat. Number two is simply to keep the shield wall in between the bad guys and the clothies, a rule you should already be following.

Most TPK's happen for one of three reasons. One is that the encounter is simply too powerful and the group shouldn't have taken in on at all, and essentially gets LOLStomped. That's sometimes bad adventure design, but just as often it's bad intelligence on the part of the players -- you should always ask yourselves "do we really want to fight this?"

Secondly, the party gets outmaneuvered and cut off from a retreat. If the BBEG casts a wall of stone covering the entrance to the room, he's setting up for a total wipeout.

Thirdly -- and in my experience the most common -- is that the party breaks discipline. A fighter-type sees an opportunity for a tactically advantageous step, takes it, and opens a gap in the wall. A skirmisher stretches it and steps into a group of one-too-many opponents. A clothie decides that Acid Splash isn't an effective enough combat tactic and decides to step in and "help" by providing a flanking bonus. But none of that is the fault of the game master or the game system.

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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.

Nothing above is an "advanced tactic." There's no rule knowledge behind the idea that you should always leave yourself an avenue of retreat, or that you should keep the shield wall intact. All that is necessary is awareness that retreat is an available tactical option, and an option that should be preserved in case it becomes necessary.


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.


awp832 wrote:


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.

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!

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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.

Well, that sounds to me like he did something inadvisable in getting himself into an area where he was at threat from multiple attackers at once.

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