Retreating Tactics

Run away!- King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail


There comes a time in any adventures life where he has to learn to RUN LIKE HELL!!!! We also run into this as Dungeon Masters when our armies fail their moral checks. Now, the DMG and the PHB are not kind to those who choose to retreat, it states that anybody who runs away will have an Armor Class Rating of 10, which is rather stupid if you ask me. Every time when I realized that I was in over my head, it was far too late, and I lost a lot of good characters this way, so today, we’ll be discussing the FINE ART OF RUNNING AWAY!!!

Is this good for my campaign?

I honestly don’t see how it can be any worse then the system that is in play now? As long as we use logic, and properly understand this tactic, then I’ll except any argument of why you think that it shouldn’t work.

I run away.

To all you players out there, DON’T SAY THIS!!! Not ever! If you simply run away, then you’ll be screwed. There are things that can make a character run away. FEAR!!!! Some monsters radiate and aura of fear, and a failed check results in high-tailing it out of there. Some spells, such as Cause Fear will also force you to run, but there are some instances where a DM can force a player to make a Fear/Horror Check if he feels that you aren’t roleplaying your character well enough.

Running away is a tactic of last resort, it may cause you to drop whatever you are carrying, and run like hell away from whatever is scaring you, and perhaps right out of the pan and into the fire. Besides all of this bad stuff, you also have an AC of 10 until you have put enough distance between you and it.

I Retreat!

A retreat is organized! And it should all be done at once. A single fighter leaving the front to seek a cleric or drink a potion is withdrawing, and hopefully a comrade will protect him while he is performing this action. A retreat on the other hand is an entire party or group admitting defeat but attempting to escape.

A retreat does require a few conditions to be successful.

You have to be able to outrun your enemy
Foil the enemies long-range attacks
Elude any long-term pursuits

Outrunning the Enemy

We aren’t going to be giving the enemy our backs, weaker comrades can run like hell, but strong allies will be covering for them. The best way to do this is on horseback. As long as you’ve got a greater movement rate then the enemy does, then this is easy.

Foiling Long Range Attacks

Long range attacks are usually arrows or magic. This can be accomplished by firing arrows and forcing long-range attackers to take cover, or using spells to foil their attacks. One can also simply depend on one’s armor to function as it is suppose to! A retreating party is not running, they do gain all bonus’s for high Dex, as well as keep their base Armor Class. This is a tactic!

Eluding Pursuit

A nice word for hiding. Fleeing to a city or woods and hankering down until the enemy gives up, or you are ready to reinitiate battle.


Of course, depending on the enemy, retreating can be easy. If the battle is about protecting something, then by leaving whatever it was that you were protecting should end the battle.

Using the Retreat as a cover

Sometimes, you can fake a retreat and bait the enemy into going to a different area or terrain that would give you an upper hand. If you had time to prepare an area before the enemy arrived to try and take it from you, then you could set up traps which the pursuing enemy might fall for! A good retreat can actually turn the tide of a battle. This just doesn’t cover PC tactics, but NPC tactics as well. Goblins can be smart little devils, they know that they can’t retreat from humans, however they can move the battle to an area that would give them an upper hand.

Retreats and Experience Points

Launching a retreat does take time and planning, and if pulled off successfully, should be rewarded with XP. We DM’s don’t just want to reward players for violence, if they force a retreat and allow the enemy to escape with their lives, they won the battle and should be rewarded for that with the same amount of XP that they’d normally have gotten by killing all of them. . . Well, unless of course a rout was exactly what their goal should have been. If an evil army of Trolls retreat to a town where they can lock it up and start munching on NPC’s . . . well, this is clearly a tactical error on the PC’s part and they have lost that battle.

Final Words

Retreating is a fine art, and it has to be handled on an individual basis. A failed Moral check for elite troops will result in a retreat, not running. Depending on how badly a Moral check is failed determines how effective their retreat should be as well. Intelligent leaders (INT/WIS 8) will first study a battle field and create a backup plan for if they lose, PC’s should get the hint on their own. If you don’t use miniatures and a player asks to see your battle map, you should have one printed just for them (without all of your nasty secrets on it) Through this map, they can plan their getaway incase the battle doesn’t go their way. Once this is in place, that is there plan, and it should stay that way, depending on an enemies intelligence and wisdom to be able to easily see through it.

Even many animals with Int of 2-3 have a true and tested route of escape in their own domain, and an experienced hunter can lead its prey to follow an exact path that goes to its killing ground, so remember to really push intelligent creatures to use strategy. Even low intelligence rated monsters have a few good tricks up their sleeves, yes they will use this tactic over and over so that once a PC has seen it, they will know what to look for, but anything with INT of 8 is going to be able to be an excellent tactician.

1 comments:

trollsmyth said...

Good article.

Don't forget tempting the enemy to stop chasing you. Many an adventurer has been saved by dropping food (for less intelligent enemies) or gold as they retreated, to distract pursuit.

- Brian

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