Sooner or later, every party hits an encounter from which the characters probably should flee, but even experienced players have a hard time breaking off a battle in most Dungeons & Dragons games. Sometimes it’s a matter of poor play or bad coordination, but in most cases the culprit is the initiative system—every now and then the heroes are trapped and destroyed by the initiative cycle. Demands for surrender or offers of parlay can also come up short. Many fights should go down to the last character (or monster) standing, but some situations call for alternatives beyond victory or death.This article presents a few simple rule variants to help characters and monsters break out of combat once it has started.
When one side in a fight decides to break off, enemies have the choice to pursue or to let the group go. Many monsters and villains are bloodthirsty sorts who eagerly chase after beaten foes. However, choosing to pursue isn’t always a given. Territorial monsters might be content with driving away intruders, and disciplined monsters guarding a specific spot might be reluctant to abandon their posts. Intelligent monsters might suspect a ruse or an ambush, and thus allow beaten enemies to retreat rather than chase them into unknown ground. The Dungeon Master decides whether monsters give chase or not; the players make the same choice for their characters when it’s the monsters that run.
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About the Author
Richard Baker is an award-winning game designer who has written numerous adventures and supplements, including Manual of the Planes, the Dark Sun Campaign Setting, and the D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game. He’s a New York Times bestselling author of Forgotten Realms novels such as Condemnation, the Last Mythal trilogy, and the Blades of the Moonsea series. Rich is currently the Design Manager for the Dungeons & Dragons game at Wizards of the Coast.