View Full Version : Dividing an encounter (with a wyvern!)

2010-11-01, 06:36 AM

In D&D*, as soon as the group has engaged in close combat with an opponent, the encounter usually lasts until one side is dead. Sometimes the characters, or the villains retreat, but that is, as far as I can tell, mostly a matter of the DM allowing it, not a "natural" step within the game.

Now I thought it might be interesting to have an encounter that procceds in a more dramatic way, in this case a fight agains a big wyvern. I'd like to have the beast retreat once or twice during the battle in order to engage the heroes again in another part of it's lair. You know, a real dragon would do that in a movie. :smallwink:

But, how could this be realized?

According to my experience, withdrawing or retreating in general, most often means 'getting shot into the back'. Is there any way to allow a mostly save retreat? And how do you prevent the characters from constantly keeping the same distance to a foe (wyvern or otherwise) by using normal rules of movement? E.g.: Bandit is near Ranger, Bandit withdraws - Ranger charges; distance stays the same and bandit suffered a new attack.

Also, for some reason the wyvern is rather slow on foot (only 20 ft.). So it probably should have enough space to fly away from the PCs and deeper into it's lair. How much space would a large, or huge wyvern reasonably need to fly?

*that is: according to my experience

2010-11-01, 06:58 AM
Not sure what version you are referring to, but in 4e you can use a controller power to establish a 'DMZ' (area of effect) which then allows both parties to retreat or fall back to a new defensive position.

2010-11-01, 07:03 AM
I'm referring to D&D 3.5/Pathfinder

2010-11-01, 10:25 AM
Withdraw is a move action where if you do nothing but move in a round, your first square is not considered threatened for purposes of provoking AoO's, so getting out of melee shouldnt be a problem unless the PC's have reach.

Unless the PC's can fly, they wouldnt be able to keep up making single moves and attacking while the monster is taking double moves and/or using "run".

The trick is to make sure your monster is fleeing before it's HP are so low that a few ranged attacks are still going to drop it.

This is all if you want to have perfect mechanical reasons for everything that happens.

As a DM, I would simply say that once the wyvern takes X dmg, it flees. Any further damage it takes will end up healed before the next encounter.

You did mention lair though, so I dont know how you would do something like that in a cave system without traps and/or levels that would cut off pursuit. That kind of tactic while making sense for a dragon seems a bit beyond the Int 6 wyvern.

And unless the wyvern knows how to use potions or has some clerics serving it, the breaks between the encounters would have to be a long time for it to recover.

2010-11-01, 10:36 AM
In 3.5, line of effect and line of sight are a big deal. So, a few key ways to make withdrawing from combat more survive-able:

Outdoors: Terrain (dense forest canopy (be ready to explain how it gets through it), steep canyons, bogs, wild magic areas with teleportation
Weather: fog, volcanic smoke, all make retreating much easier
Underground: shifting wall traps, vertical mazes or twisting chimney tunnels
Distractions: imperiled friends, incipient natural disasters and mobs of mooks rushing to aid the wyvern are all tried and true ways to discourage pursuit.

2010-11-01, 11:17 AM
It has 60' fly speed, with poor maneuverability. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/movement.htm#movingInThreeDimensions)

This grants it a maximum turning angle of 45 degrees per move action, which eats 5' of move- due to rule abstractions (and the fact that your Wyvern is trying to run away), this covers the "minimum forward speed" and "turning radius" bits.

It can also go up-or-down, at a 45 degree angle, respectively "counting as" double or half movement for the up or down parts. (blah blah pythagorean

I imagine it would not be easy to have a cave designed so you can twist & turn to fly away. But... He can twist & turn, while flying down, in the dark, double-moving. This gives him a little more speed, and means that (probably) only a few party members will be ready to pursue the first time. Gives him at least a round's head start.

Dusk Eclipse
2010-11-01, 11:46 AM
There is also a feat that improves maneverability (sp?)... I think in RotW

2010-11-01, 12:02 PM
The improved speed feat from draconomicon is worth a look. +20ft. fly and +10ft. ground, requires dragon type and str 13

If the creature in question is smart (a standard wyvern is not) give it ranks in use magic device and some scrolls of dimension door, if the players beat it, they get cool loot, and if they are to slow the creature can teleport where it has a stash of healing and return full of vigor.

How optimized are the players? this encounter is easy to manage if there are monks, sword and board fighters and longbow rangers and maybe a healbot.

Not so easy if there is a crusader\cleric\ruby vindicator, a rough\(non-evil)assassin\swordsage\jade phoenix mage, and a bloody archivist.

2010-11-01, 03:23 PM
Thanks for the replies!

My group is not optimized. The withdrawals aren not necessarily meant to give the wyvern a tactical advantage, they are simply supposed to make the encounter more unusual. I was figuring it would be some kind of beastly cunning rather than cleverness on the part of the wyvern...

Making the lair maze-like with a bunch of 'Y'-tunnels sounds like a good idea.

Weasel of Doom
2010-11-01, 04:08 PM
If it's in a natural cave system (or i guess a manufactured one could work) how about having part of the fight occurs next to a ledge or cliff above a much much deeper part of the cave system.

That way when it makes its withdraw move, it dives off the edge. The downward movement will counter its poor manuverability a bit and also mean that it'll be cut off from LoS until the pcs move to the edge of the cliff, but by then it should be too far into the darkness of the cave for them to see it.

If there's a goal in the cave and they have to travel along the edge of the cliff to get it then they can make listen checks to hear the wyvern flapping around in the darkness, maybe even try and pinpoint its location. Eventually it could fly above the pcs and do some sort of diving charge where it trys to sweep the pcs off the edge.

A waterfall might conceal the noise of the wyvern a bit otherwise I think it would be too easy to work out the and it wouldn't be a surprise when it dived on them from above.

This cavern would be fantastically big though because it would need space for the wyvern to fly out of range of the pcs lights above, below and to the side as well as needing space to move.

If you didn't want to throw that big a cavern into the cave system maybe just a big sinkhole in the middle of one of the caves which the party has to tactically fight around. When the wyvern wants to retreat, just have it withdraw to the sinkhole and dive into the darkness.

You could also give it the snatch feat so it could carry a pc with it when it flies off. And remember this might give time for the pcs to have to save from the secondary poison damage.