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Bannan_mantis
2019-06-03, 09:44 AM
recently I've run a few encounters for players that were all basically meant to be ones that were put there to make them realise how strong/powerful the enemy they're facing is and then run away...it's the running away part I'm having trouble with.

My players keep fighting, even if I say the attacks barely do anything and the damage they take is very high. Even when it's in a do or die situation instead of running they just keep fighting no matter what. It's not character ideals or anything, a lot of characters who are tactical geniuses or run when they're in a bad situation just keep fighting.

Now I ask how do you tell your players that basically "this guy is way to powerful for you, you shouldn't keep fighting him." The enemy just being more powerful than them isn't working so I'd like extra ideas.

Koo Rehtorb
2019-06-03, 09:50 AM
I don't think it's your responsibility to do that.

Keltest
2019-06-03, 09:54 AM
Is this a sandbox game or more of a story driven game where they do things Because The Plot Said So? If its the former, just kill them the next time they try and take a lethal fight they have no chance of beating. Repeat as necessary until they decide to do something else. They'll figure it out eventually.

If its the latter, make the hazards environmental or otherwise give them something to worry about beyond faffing around with these encounters. If the castle is falling apart, theyre darn well going to be more worried about leaving than trying to win a glory fight. Likewise, if the princess is going to be executed or something within a certain time frame, theyre incentivized to avoid difficult and time consuming encounters.

You could, of course, also just stop giving them hopeless encounters. Just a thought.

Kardwill
2019-06-03, 09:59 AM
I assume you're not playing a system where a party defeat can be interpreted as "captured/routed/incapacitated" ? (like Fate, Mouse Guard, etc...)

A way to have the players witness the danger they're getting into could be the "sacrificial victims". Have them play a bunch of pre-generated characters around the same power level as their PCs (the scouts, another party that beat them to the dungeon...) and play the fight honestly. And THEN have the PCs find the grisly remains of the "scouts" and have them draw the right conclusion about their chance to get out of there alive.

(That technique can be pretty useful for horror games when you want the players to witness the danger of their situation without decimating the party at the beginning of the game)


Problem is that many games have very poor rules for routs and fleeing, especially when combined to initiative. The near certainty they'll get backstabbed kinda trains the players to never flee.

Kardwill
2019-06-03, 10:03 AM
If its the latter, make the hazards environmental or otherwise give them something to worry about beyond faffing around with these encounters. If the castle is falling apart, theyre darn well going to be more worried about leaving than trying to win a glory fight. Likewise, if the princess is going to be executed or something within a certain time frame, theyre incentivized to avoid difficult and time consuming encounters.


A fight that is not simply about kinning or be killed (having objectives that can be attained beyond "kill or TPK") could be nice for an asymetrical encounter, you're right. It can allow the players to net a "victory" or a "defeat" without having one of the parties completely slaughtered.

Well, to be fair, it's also always a good idea for symetrical encounters, too. "Kill or be killed" is boring. ^^
"Evacuate the princess while the Royal Guard is holding back the bad guys" or "get to the magic portal first" sounds more fun

KillianHawkeye
2019-06-03, 10:26 AM
I don't think it's your responsibility to do that.

I agree.

Players in my group don't even consider retreat until at least one party member has gone down, and unless you're low level that seems to be the right amount of caution. I guess being ridiculously outnumbered by forces that we know are not weaklings would do it, too.

Otherwise, players won't learn that they aren't invincible unless they get killed or have their backsides handed to them, and a DM has to be willing to let that happen.

MrSandman
2019-06-03, 10:39 AM
One thing that confuses me: You say that you've put your players in several "do or die" situations against enemies that are more powerful than them and that, although you'd like them to run away, they just keep fighting. Haven't their characters died yet?

DMThac0
2019-06-03, 10:46 AM
I have been pleasantly impressed by my party on my Saturday games for the exact reason you're asking about. There have been three fights that have occurred where the players have chosen to avoid combat or run from combat. Each of those situations had a few things about them that make the players' decisions easier to make.

Situation 1: The players were in a contest against another group of NPCs. One of the rules of this contest is that they had a magical insignia on their persons which would lose a mark each time they were hit by a combat attack. It is very much similar to video games where getting hit you lose a heart and when the hearts are gone you're dead. One of the players had been hit and lost a mark, one of the opponents was overwhelmed and lost all their marks, the NPC vanished when the third mark faded. Later the group ran into an Ettin, the group could have easily defeated the Ettin, but they had no way to gauge this, so they chose to avoid the conflict and hide while the Ettin wandered past them.

Situation 2: The party was very obviously overwhelmed by their opponents. The party was level 6 and had been engaged by three level 10 Druids. The fight was definitively going the wrong way, they were not going to be able to beat the opponents. A few of the players chose to aid one of their party in escaping with the plot item that they were protecting. Sacrificing themselves so that this player could run off and keep the bad guys from getting the item. This fight was set up so that the defeated players were captured, the choice to run away made the scenario shift in direction drastically. I had to re-write a lot of the plot line since they didn't stand and fight like most players are wont to do.

Situation 3: The party had very handily wiped out a Hydra, in 3 rounds they downed this thing, it was fantastic...and annoying. There was a Kua-Toa Archpriest present which made things a little trickier, they were also on the shores of a very large lake. A Giant Crocodile and Giant Crab joined the fight, the crab was dead almost immediately. As the Kua-Toa felt threatened, it summoned a Water Elemental which started to harass the party while the Kua-Toa slipped away into the lake to cast from what it felt was relative safety. The fight went well for the party until the Kua-Toa created a whirlpool that exposed a Krake Spawn. When the Krake Spawn started to attack, the party realized they'd expended too many resources in the fight so far and decided a retreat was necessary.

---

In each of those situations there were many factors that helped the players realize that combat was dangerous and could result in a well defined defeat. I have talked with my players on many occasions about the fact that retreat, surrender, and negotiation are very valid and tactical responses to combat. I do not punish them for running away, instead give them a fair chance to run, usually dropping into chase mechanics rather than maintaining combat. They gain XP in relation to how well they did in combat, even if they retreat, usually 50% or more. Everything I can do to make them feel like retreat is not a failure, simply a tactical choice when everything goes south.

I supplement that with how the creatures of my world work in combat too. My creatures will run, hide, surrender, barter, and do anything possible to avoid death. For the more basic creatures, the ones that rely on instinct rather than intellect, they'll usually fight until they're badly hurt then try to run. For the more intellectual creatures, they may run at the first sign of danger, realizing they're not capable of winning. Other creatures will fight to the death because they're given no choice, they're blood-thirsty, or they're too arrogant to realize defeat. The biggest thing is, they are acting like a creature would in real life, showing the players that their ability to run is validated. Startle a rat and it runs, back a rat into a corner and it will fight to the death.

Man_Over_Game
2019-06-03, 10:48 AM
One thing that confuses me: You say that you've put your players in several "do or die" situations against enemies that are more powerful than them and that, although you'd like them to run away, they just keep fighting. Haven't their characters died yet?

Agreed on this. People should always be allowed to learn from their mistakes, but they first have to learn what a mistake is. Death, followed by a "freebie" revive (like from a Cleric they were saving, or something) would be a good enough warning.

There are a couple ways you could implement fear into the players, rather than the characters:


A literal fear aura. The magnitude of the threat reduces the combat prowess of those near it. Being near that dragon is literally making your character shake in their boots.
A hope-destroying first turn. Turn one, a hit to the Fighter takes out 1/3 of his HP. As they continue to fight, simply increase the quantity of their attacks, so that the players know exactly what's going to happen if things continue in this manner.
An obvious tactical disadvantage. Maybe the enemy cursed you. Maybe they landed a critical hit right off the bat and crippled the mage. For one reason or another, the players know that they are fighting an uphill battle.


Lastly, make sure that they understand that escape IS an option. Maybe that means dangling safety in front of them, or having an NPC literally say "I can get us out of here, get close to me". Players often don't run away, because they don't realize that they can.

If all of these methods fail, then the last option is to kill the players outright. They might complain, that you railroaded them into a Rocks Fall scenario, so make sure to cover your bases and list off the various options you provided for their escape. At some point, the blame has to be put on them.

Gallowglass
2019-06-03, 10:50 AM
recently I've run a few encounters for players that were all basically meant to be ones that were put there to make them realise how strong/powerful the enemy they're facing is and then run away...it's the running away part I'm having trouble with.

My players keep fighting, even if I say the attacks barely do anything and the damage they take is very high. Even when it's in a do or die situation instead of running they just keep fighting no matter what. It's not character ideals or anything, a lot of characters who are tactical geniuses or run when they're in a bad situation just keep fighting.

Now I ask how do you tell your players that basically "this guy is way to powerful for you, you shouldn't keep fighting him." The enemy just being more powerful than them isn't working so I'd like extra ideas.

Perhaps you have players who don't want to be characters in your novel.

No, I'm being serious.

You have a story you want to tell. They want to play a game.

They may be players who prefer to be given level appropriate challenges that, while challenging, are not meant to be non-overcome-able. They assume "there must be a way for us to win this, we just haven't found the trick yet."

Whereas you are "writing a long term story" with them as the "stars" and want to give them a storyline of "no win situation that must be fled until a new power can be found or a non-violent solution can be figured out"

Here's the deal. If this keeps happening over and over your players are telling you "We don't want to play in that story."

So talk to them and see if they even like your game. And if you are ONE DM that they are FIVE players, maybe give in and run the kind of game they want rather than the one you want to run.

Man_Over_Game
2019-06-03, 11:04 AM
Perhaps you have players who don't want to be characters in your novel.

No, I'm being serious.

You have a story you want to tell. They want to play a game.

They may be players who prefer to be given level appropriate challenges that, while challenging, are not meant to be non-overcome-able. They assume "there must be a way for us to win this, we just haven't found the trick yet."

Whereas you are "writing a long term story" with them as the "stars" and want to give them a storyline of "no win situation that must be fled until a new power can be found or a non-violent solution can be figured out"

Here's the deal. If this keeps happening over and over your players are telling you "We don't want to play in that story."

So talk to them and see if they even like your game. And if you are ONE DM that they are FIVE players, maybe give in and run the kind of game they want rather than the one you want to run.

So what's the solution if level 1 players want to take on a lich?

Do you scale down the lich? If so, what do you do with all of the other level 1 threats (like wolves or bandits)?

I do agree that the DM should rarely throw those enemies at the players, as it really only leaves the players one optimal solution. However, that's not always realistic, and sometimes it can even be a good narrative tool.

Take, for example, the Curse of Strahd module for 5th edition DnD. It's probably the most popular module in the most popular edition of the most popular TTRPG in the world right now. And yet, the entire module is about trying to stop an enemy that shows up randomly throughout the campaign to torture and antagonize you. You know you cannot stop him, and he loves to remind you of that. On top of that, there is a fog that kills you, and prevents you from ever leaving the demiplane. Railroading can be done right, but there are definitely bad examples of it (Looking at you, Hoard of the Dragon Queen).

So can it be done? Yes. Should it be done? Maybe, but only if it's implemented well.

JeenLeen
2019-06-03, 11:23 AM
Now I ask how do you tell your players that basically "this guy is way to powerful for you, you shouldn't keep fighting him." The enemy just being more powerful than them isn't working so I'd like extra ideas.

Out-of-character, tell the players that some enemies are too powerful and the best tactic is to run. I feel like adding "especially if it's a fight they got themselves into," but if you want to play that sometimes they are attacked by way-stronger enemies, I can see that as an acceptable playstyle. Just know make sure your players are aware.

In most RPGs, it is a given that the PCs will fight baddies and that victory is possible. D&D moreso than most. The players have an assumption or expectation that victory is possible; it might not occur to them that it is not. Thus the need for out-of-character conversation. (I remember when my group switched from D&D to World of Darkness. It never occurred to us that we shouldn't use lethal force against some gangsters who attacked us, since we were still thinking in a D&D paradigm.)

Gallowglass
2019-06-03, 12:10 PM
So what's the solution if level 1 players want to take on a lich?


Interestingly enough I have an answer for that!

I played in a game with a new (to me) DM. We started at 1st level in a city in Faerun and we were hired to explore an abandoned mansion by a city official who lied to us about his interest in the mansion.

While exploring the mansion, we discovered a bunch of interesting things about the mansion and about its prior owner. We discovered that the last owner was a mad alchemist who made a bunch of low level flesh golems (broken ones), many of whom were still in the mansion and we found out that he killed his own daughter to remake her as a broken one. Her ghost/spirit was still haunting the place. We eventually figured out that the city official -was- the mad alchemist responsible for all of this. And he wanted us to destroy a special seal that was what kept him from retaking his mansion. And the only way to let the ghost rest was for him to face his punishment at the hand of his creations.

So, we dutifully lured him back to the mansion, thinking we'd be able to... you know... actually succeed at the apparent goal given to us.

Once we got him back and he fell into our "trap" we found out he was a 20th level lich who promptly killed us all, took out the broken ones and cleared the map. Oh yeah? that "seal" had no apparent effect on him at all after we'd gone to the effort to try and fool him into thinking it was gone and thought it would do what it was stated to do.

Then raised us up and gloated and sent us on our way.

----

So where did we go wrong? Although there was plenty of evidence that the evil bad guy had some levels on us, we were LED to believe that there was a way for us to deal with him. I guess we should have said "oh well, sorry girl ghost, maybe we'll be back in a couple years when we are 15th level" But we had no idea how powerful he was. There was no evidence we missed, no secrets we failed to uncover.

There was no way for us to win this other than, not to play. We tried to find out from the DM what they intended and there was no real answer. We did what the story asked us to do.

I would argue that its perfectly okay to introduce impossible to beat bad guys as long as you make it clear what their power level is and make it clear that the PCs are supposed to wait and level up before they take on this enemy.

But its not okay to throw them at them with insufficient information then not expect the PCs to be irritated by it.

As a player, I don't want you to throw 20th level liches at me at 1st level. If you do that, well, you suck at story-crafting. Why are you doing that? What possible purpose does it serve?

There are plenty of ways to build stories and challenge us that don't involve throwing epic level foes that we have no ability to deal with or any chance against if we end up forced into action.

I'm not saying "only even give us challenges we can win" but there's a big difference between survivable and ludicrous. a 20th level lich enemy at 1st level is ludicrous.

The players didn't show up at the table and demand "We want to go find a 20th level lich!". You put it there. For no viable reason.

Aotrs Commander
2019-06-03, 12:16 PM
So talk to them and see if they even like your game. And if you are ONE DM that they are FIVE players, maybe give in and run the kind of game they want rather than the one you want to run.

Unless you don't want to run that sort of game, in which case you should probably offer one of the other players the DM's screen (metaphorically).

If none of them is interested in DMing at that point, and they don't want to play the game you want to run, and you don't want to run the game they want to play (or think they want to play, in some cases), then you need to have a group discussion on whether if you are the only one that is prepared to DM, whether or not they'd rather meet you half-way at least or not have a game at all.




Myself, I fing having a jolly old laugh as tsking with amusement as thier attacks bounce off (and perhaps stating how trivally their attacks are effecting the thing) usually helps. A good DM, like a good supervillain, is all about presentation, and there is a lot to be said for carrying that through even when you are not actively playing a character. KOing a couple of characters helps, and it's always worth remembering if they have a discussion about "what should we do?" you can always smirk and say "you could always run away?" (You should - REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT YOU MEAN IT - always pretend to be gunning for the characters when you're behind the screen.)

Remember to suggest to the players (outside of the game, i.e. before ot after the session) that retreating is an option they should remember sometimes.

Ultimately, though, if your players don't listen to warnings and have gotten convinced you won't kill their characters (the warning sign is if they will say this to your face), you might have to seriously consider setting up an encounter that they really, really, really obviously can't win (multiple dragons backed up by liches and a small army or something) and they still don't get the message, then calling their bluff. This ought to be a last resort, though, if for some reason the above doesn't work first.

Quertus
2019-06-03, 12:51 PM
The GM gets to control everything else - the one thing that the players get to do is control the PCs. Sounds like you're upset about that. Have you considered just writing single author fiction?

OK, now that that extreme stance is out of the way (color blue to taste), let's look at your problem. You are presenting a scenario - intended to a) telegraph the opponents' strength; and b) produce a "flee" response.

-----

A

So, most people would agree that "A" is your good. In fact, some Playgrounders scream bloody murder when the GM doesn't adequately telegraph the exact threat posed by a challenge. I'm not with them, but I won't fault you for trying. Question is, did you succeed? We'll go into more detail about that in a minute, but first…

-----

B

See, wanting a particular response out of your players is bad. It's bad form, it's unlikely to work, it's where people start nudging you towards single author fiction, where you don't have to worry about other people messing up your story.

I mean, I get it. This thing is scary dangerous, no danger person would stand there and fight it. Thing is, no same person would do a lot of the things that your standard PC is expected to do.

-----

So, why aren't the PCs responding like you'd expect? Are you not communicating the threat? Or is there a game style mismatch? If the latter, is it because they *believe* you are running a different style, or because they *want* you to run a different style?

I was going to say a lot more, but, well, that's the cliffs notes version.

Pleh
2019-06-03, 01:28 PM
Perhaps you have players who don't want to be characters in your novel.

No, I'm being serious.

You have a story you want to tell. They want to play a game.

They may be players who prefer to be given level appropriate challenges that, while challenging, are not meant to be non-overcome-able. They assume "there must be a way for us to win this, we just haven't found the trick yet."

Whereas you are "writing a long term story" with them as the "stars" and want to give them a storyline of "no win situation that must be fled until a new power can be found or a non-violent solution can be figured out"

Here's the deal. If this keeps happening over and over your players are telling you "We don't want to play in that story."

So talk to them and see if they even like your game. And if you are ONE DM that they are FIVE players, maybe give in and run the kind of game they want rather than the one you want to run.

You presume too much, perhaps.

I ran a very successful and fun encounter once (in SWSE) where the party was chased by a mutant rancor. The trick was first telling them out of game that this was an unfair challenge and that the encounter was meant to be a retreat rather than a fight. Once they were on board, running through the halls made for quite the memorable encounter, with the Rancor's hands tearing through walls trying to grab them (they could fight back against a single hand the Rancor couldn't see as more of a level appropriate challenge). Unexpectedly, they did eventually kill the beast as well, after kiting it into a small space it couldn't move through effectively and one of the PCs it had swallowed managed to disrupt some of its internal cybernetics mutation tanks that they found inside its stomach.

Point being, running away doesn't have to mean quitting or defeat in the adventure. It's unusual enough that you DO need to communicate the game clearly (against this threat, you need to use nonconventional tactics to gain advantage), but if players are whining that they don't want to play the game you've prepared, maybe one of the other players would like to do the work of preparing the game?

Kaptin Keen
2019-06-03, 01:52 PM
Players - generally - don't run. If you want them to run, tell them they cannot win. Or tell them that they run. It's railroading either way, but at least if you do it right, it will work.

Jakinbandw
2019-06-03, 02:05 PM
Honestly in DnD at least running away is hard. You take opportunity attacks, and even when you run most monsters are faster than you, and even if that isn't the case a ranged attack needs multiple rounds of running before you get out of range. Running also allows spell caster to cast without risk of interruption.

If you want to have players run, you have to either explicitly tell them it is an option, or have a strong monster that it is obvious they can escape from. Say a small cave nearby when a dragon attacks them. Also bring it up during combat to remind them it exists. Maybe have someone or something else flee into the cave for example.

Faily
2019-06-03, 02:44 PM
Having been playing in a Broken Lands (Mystara) short campaign lately, with the GM trying to get us to learn the same lesson as well, I think my take on it is: Make running away seem like a viable option. If the enemy has higher movement speed than the party, then it's not viable to run away most of the time. If there's no safe getaway, then chances are that they will make a heroic last stand to see if the dice-gods will be with them than to consider running away.

Most of the time when the GM has expected us to learn to run away, the situations have often not allowed for a successful retreat.


Though I should also put in the disclaimer that there are some hindrances from the player-side to make escape viable. One player is playing with us over voice-chat (since he lives a long distance away) and thus he just tends to default to "can I stab it" in tactics. The two currently playing casters couldn't navigate their way out of a straight hallway most of the time, and very rarely prepare for escape options (such as spells that would hinder the opponent from catching up to us; Web, Obscuring Mist, Grease, etc), despite having had several situations where we've asked if they can cast any of those options and responded with "I didn't prepare it today". Learning experience is often a slow thing there.

Reversefigure4
2019-06-03, 05:50 PM
Out-of-character, tell the players that some enemies are too powerful and the best tactic is to run.

And in-character, knowledge checks work as a signifier to the character.

"Your DC20 Knowledge: Arcana check tells you that this foe is heavily resistant to all your spells and weapons. You think you are terribly outmatched, and retreat is the best option."

When the players throw themselves into the fray anyway, clarify with them. "Your character thinks they are outmatched and will be obliterated. Do they want to fight anyway?" If they do, well, you can't take that agency away... and that's about the point where they die.

Secondly, having a concession mechanic of some kind is very useful. In DnD and similar initiative and grid movement games, running away is often both hard and boring. You slowly move back 60ft every round, while the enemy chases you 45ft, until the GM agrees you are out of the combat and have successfully run away. This might take 20 rounds and 30 minutes of real time at the table for the whole party to retreat.

Instead, I've used negotiating out of character. This can be pretty easily applied to any system, and shorthands the tedious and difficult nature of the retreat. The players debate amongst themselves whether they want to flee or not, and then I as the GM negotiate options and costs with them.

"You can flee, but since it's a big wide open field, it'll get 3 attacks off with it's longbow before you're out of range entirely."
"He's much faster than you, so you'll need to distract him in some way. Cast a Wall of Fire, and I'll say you escape successfully."
"You can get away, but you'll need to drop the MacGuffin and the baddies pick it up. You'll need to get it back from them later."
"You dropped your sword on the other side of the battlefield, and you'll need to leave it to escape successfullly."
"Your NPC buddy will fall behind and get captured."

Once you've come to an agreement, play it out quickly.

KineticDiplomat
2019-06-03, 06:36 PM
I tend to think player attitudes towards danger and the appropriate reactions have a lot to do with the inherent culture of the system and expectations of the table.

D&D is particularly ill-suited because it’s entire pathos is that at a level appropriate build and pace, you will Save the World. If your opening story is “raiders attack and slaughter your village” then by god the expectation is that the plucky heroes will kill several raiders, lose a token NPC, and perhaps watch the wise instructor duel with the eventual big bad in the distance before he escapes. They don’t expect to be shot down by bowmen as they leave their flaming hall. They don’t think that their surviving barely-trained-bumpkins whose greatest martial success was winning the May fair will be hacked down off handedly by men who, frankly, kill for a living.

It’s not that those are unreasonable outcomes. They are, without the inherent structure of D&D, entirely expected outcomes. We wouldn’t blink twice about hearing how the students of the local wizards guild were cut to ribbons while trying to make small balls of light with their fingers. But once it is PCs, then system encourages us to think it is another chapter in their heroic story, and therefore they should be able to win.

And if the story so far has been a slowly rolling forward string on increasingly nasty monsters in even-ish fights followed by plot progression driven by fighting, they aren’t going to suddenly realize this is the monster they should not fight.

It’s just not D&Ds DNA. Oh, the system allows it. The right players, forewarned and forearmed about the nature of campaign can adjust to it, but the default setting is that you will not meet hideous death for following the plot arc and trying to punch your way through it.

————

Which is all a really long way of saying if it’s D&D you’re playing, there is no reasonable expectation that a player will run or even consider an option other than glorious battle. Not unless you make it a campaign that explicitly doesn’t follow the D&D meat and potatoes of increasingly epic level-appropriate challenges culminating in final victory.

D+1
2019-06-03, 07:40 PM
I don't think it's your responsibility to do that.
Absolutely. A good TPK is always preferred. :)

Inchhighguy
2019-06-03, 09:22 PM
Now I ask how do you tell your players that basically "this guy is way to powerful for you, you shouldn't keep fighting him." The enemy just being more powerful than them isn't working so I'd like extra ideas.

In general, ''tough" foes won't even bother fighting the characters. They will just laugh and knock the characters down. You can have endless fun with just knock outs and trips and such......but it gets even more fun when a foe can toss out a curse or polymorph or teleport or any such magic.

Also, the tough guys might not even fight...just give them a defense or get away or all the magic ways to do such things.

Of course, you can also run a The Dice Will Fall Where They May type game full of endless, random, maingless Character Death. So IF the players have characetrs that take such actions...just kill the characters. It might take some players several characetrs to ''get it", but they should come around evelntualy.

DM-"The demigod of Dragon kind steps on your first level attacking barbarian Jog-Dar the Twenthy Seventh is dead."

Player-"ok...um, Jog-Dar the Twenthy Eighth..will NOT attack that dragon.."

Mordaedil
2019-06-04, 05:20 AM
I don't recommend doing the thing I did, buuut I might as well recap it. I was running a game for a party consisting only of wizards and the idea was that they were a class trying to recover one of their lost class mates from the plane of shadow. They were level 1. They were not completely aware that they had entered another plane, but while I dropped hints, none of the players had made any statements trying to guess at their environment, so I didn't ask for a roll.

As they stepped into the streets, I had them do a spot roll and one of them thought he saw their class mate wandering the streets, so they ran up to her and slapped her on the shoulder turning her around. Well, turned out it was a shadow in the form of their class mate. And all of a sudden a bunch of shadows around them looked upon them and they all took the form of them in turn.

Shadows. Versus level 1 wizards. I don't really recommend doing this. And I went into this well aware of this being a nasty encounter, I decided to establish rules for the fight.

The shadows would discriminate their targets and only pick their counterpart. They would ignore attacks of opportunity against anyone else. If the players ran, they would give up upon losing sight of them, so even entering a building would end the fight for them.

It took them a while, but none of my players fell, albeit they lost a fair bit of their strength score. One of their classmates that I controlled died due to a stupid risk I made him do, but they dispatched his shadow, so I allowed them to "get away" with that.

They also refuse to play D&D with me now on account of them being too scared. They think I should run Call of Cthulhu though, maybe there is something to that.

How do you make your players run? Drain them.

MeimuHakurei
2019-06-04, 05:58 AM
I'll be totally blunt here: "Strong monster the party is meant to escape from" is rare in cinema, nearly unheard of in video games (unwinnable bosses in those games are usually getting whopped and then some deus ex machina lets the player party get away) and only works in a tabletop if it's exactly what the players ask for. I do not mind discretion or looking for ways to tip the scales outside of combat - but what I'm seeing here is DMs finding glee in making unwinnable fights that teach players that dealing with a monster through combat shouldn't even be considered an option.

That said, 3.PF actually has a slight edge over 5e in terms of making players run away because the stronger fear effects (including Frightful Presence) directly force players to flee. So that's a way to do this, even though it can also affect appropriately-levelled encounters.

Finally, consider this: A big and common complaint about bad JRPGs is completely overstatted bosses where you're expected to parkour the dungeon back and forth to grind on monsters and have the levels to pull this off. Is this the game experience you're looking for? Then by all means, throw overpowered monsters at your players as you please.

Tanarii
2019-06-04, 08:07 AM
I don't think it's your responsibility to do that.
It's a good idea to tell players you don't ensure that they'll face fair fights in your character creation doc or in session zero, verbally at the beginning of the first session, and periodically before sessions begin.

Partially because many modern games have trained players to believe that the game will be set up to give them a solid chance to win any encounter they face.

Partially because many DMs have trained players to believe that character death and TPKs are bad, because story, m'kay?

And lastly because they can't see their characters. It's all abstract and in the imagination. It's hard to feel in danger.



Problem is that many games have very poor rules for routs and fleeing, especially when combined to initiative. The near certainty they'll get backstabbed kinda trains the players to never flee.
Yep. It's a big problem, especially in most editions of D&D. Even if you recognize you're outmatched immediately, if you want to escape you basically need a higher movement, magic, or DM handwavium. There's a reason the technique used to be "distract the enemy into giving up" by dropping food or treasure behind you as you flee.

Lorsa
2019-06-04, 09:00 AM
I think this article might actually offer some insights hidden inside the overuse of words:

https://theangrygm.com/ask-angry-run-away/

jjordan
2019-06-04, 09:21 AM
Video game thinking. Players can't reach the Boss unless they have proven capable of overcoming lesser obstacles. Any creature you can reach you can, in theory, kill if you just find 'the trick'. In the relatively rare cases that don't work along this line players learn that specific creatures can't be killed by dying and respawning multiple times.

I don't like the idea of putting unwinnable encounters in their path. I'm 100% behind the idea of there being unwinnable encounters. The difference is that they were led to the former by the DM and expected to run away. I call that railroading. And I'm saying that mostly without any pejorative connotations. Nothing wrong with a pre-defined story arc if that's what everyone is on board for. In the second case the players had the option of forcing the encounter at that time and chose to do so. I would feel mild regret at their deaths but would move on.

It sounds like your players aren't on board for the story arc. Have you talked to them about this? Have you explicitly said that not all encounters are winnable?

To specifically address your question with some suggestions:
-Dust a character. In the first round of combat have the creatures go nova on a single character (the most apparent threat) and absolutely destroy it. Character is down and dead? Monsters have more attacks? They murder the body until there is nothing left to attack; it's dust, a smear on the wall.
-End the encounter. Give your boss encounters some means of ending the encounter dismissively. Bah. Walls or doors. Teleportation. Deception (e.g. a sudden call for urgent help elsewhere that turns out to be fake).
-Give the players a reason to leave other than fleeing for their lives. E.G. a victim to get out of there, important information that must be returned to the authorities, a sudden call for urgent help from elsewhere

Ornithologist
2019-06-04, 12:21 PM
My favorite scenario regarding showing off a major antagonist in regards to power level, is to have the villian completing a task or aquiring something around the party. Most villians don't need to murder all the witnesses, more so during games in a dungeon or out side of any towns. The villain can waltz in, overpower the party as needed to complete the objective and leave. Maybe butcher the guardian they were fighting? (Actually, think of the Fryon fight that introduced Xykon to Roy's Dad. Thats a pretty good set up too, if not quite like I set up.)

Or you could have a room or two of a total grisley murder scenes before the place where they meet him as he is in the middle of grisley murder scene number 3, where hs is murdering something the players klnow is more powerful than they can deal with. And he is taking no damage.

Your cleric gets several omens to not fight the thing coming up soon? (Durkon vs Miko)

OOC knowledge that this is the introduction of the main villan before hand, and they should have fun with it themselves so they can RP a bit playing up their characters side of it? (I think this is the least elegant way of doing this kind of thing, but it depends on the group. Some groups have I have run with have done several scenarios with some preknowledge of the outcome, and some would just fall apart with that same amount of it.) On a related note, look up Fiasco for an RPG session. You can start a given scene either knowing how the story starts or wether or not you your character comes out with a success or failure. Lots of people new to it focus on getting their characters successes, even though the point of the game is explore the story of how everyone failes horribly.

Mordaedil
2019-06-05, 01:11 AM
nearly unheard of in video games (unwinnable bosses in those games are usually getting whopped and then some deus ex machina lets the player party get away)
Literally the first boss in Dark Souls (well, without using black firebombs anyway).

Telok
2019-06-05, 01:42 AM
1. Use a system that isn't focused on physical combat to the point where significant numbers of characters can only do things outside of that with high rolls of the dice.

2. Use a system that directly and mechanically rewards stuff other than combat.

3. Use a system that doesn't have max speeds the characters can't exceed, monsters faster than the characters. A system where doing anything useful to slow down the monsters requires both moving less and rolling high on the dice punishes the players for trying to flee.

4. Use a system that isn't locked into battle mat based, arena style movement and positioning. Battle mats cause you to treat the edges of the map like impassable walls.

Kurald Galain
2019-06-05, 03:02 AM
If running isn't viable because of movement rate, give the party a bunch of potions of Invisibility; that's a pretty good escape card. At higher levels, suggest that the casters carry a scroll of Dimdoor / Teleport / Word of Recall.

Alternatively, suggest that the PCs use bluff or diplomacy to make the bad guy spare them. Not all bad guys want everybody dead; perhaps they just want money, or information, or to imprison you and gloat, or whatnot. If one PC escapes and the rest are imprisoned, that makes for a solid escape/rescue scenario right there.

Zakhara
2019-06-10, 11:11 PM
1.) Does you party know not every battle is meant to be doable?
2.) Does your party know the relative strength of their adversary?
3.) Does your party know there are alternatives to combat (if they exist)?
4.) Does the party have a real chance of dying here?

If "no" to any of these, you're putting yourself in a hard place. It's very hard to train a sense of risk-aversion overnight.

Normally I would advise letting them get in over their heads and die. But by the sounds of it, you need a very specific set of events to occur, one of which is their assured survival. That's hard to do without transparently stacking the deck against them and damaging suspension of disbelief (and player agency, to a degree).

My advice would be to make the party a secondary target. I feel like an enemy strong enough to win yet stops short is a near-impossible sell. Whereas if the party is there, as collateral damage, they can bear witness to the threat without raising the question of the enemy not finishing their plate.

Kane0
2019-06-10, 11:48 PM
More information please! What system are you playing, how long have these people been playing (in general and this game), has this happened before, etc

Edit: Oh and yes, often I will simply say "You don't think you could take this in a fight" as soon as a suitably powerful creature demonstrates said power. Assessing threats is part of the job for an adventurer.

MoiMagnus
2019-06-11, 07:25 AM
I don't think it's your responsibility to do that.

It is.

Or at least, it might. The main reason why I've seen player not run away is because they deeply trust the DM not to put an impossible fight.
The last thing you want as a DM is to break trust, so it is your responsibility to make sure they understand they should not take winnable fight as granted BEFORE punishing them for doing so. Otherwise, that's betraying trust, and the players will consider you as a jerk rather than thinking "we should have run away".

Then, once you've made clear you do not guaranty every fight to be winnable, which a lot of DM make at session 0, it is indeed no longer your responsibility.
(Well, since you should try to have a DMing style that please both you and your players, checking if your DMing style is adequate to your group is a continuous responsibility, but that's another subject)

Lord of Shadows
2019-06-11, 09:55 AM
Now I ask how do you tell your players that basically "this guy is way to powerful for you, you shouldn't keep fighting him." The enemy just being more powerful than them isn't working so I'd like extra ideas.

It's a little late now, but perhaps in the lead-up to encountering the powerful baddie, the party kept hearing how impossible he was to defeat. And hearing this more than once, and in the context of more powerful parties encountering him. This, along with an occasional story of a harrowing escape, seemingly allowed by the bad guy only to increase his reputation as "impossible to defeat."


We started at 1st level ... and we were hired to explore an abandoned mansion by a city official who lied to us about his interest in the mansion.

While exploring the mansion, we discovered a bunch of interesting things about the mansion and about its prior owner. We discovered that the last owner was a mad alchemist who made a bunch of low level flesh golems (broken ones), many of whom were still in the mansion and we found out that he killed his own daughter to remake her as a broken one. Her ghost/spirit was still haunting the place. We eventually figured out that the city official -was- the mad alchemist responsible for all of this. And he wanted us to destroy a special seal that was what kept him from retaking his mansion. And the only way to let the ghost rest was for him to face his punishment at the hand of his creations.

So, we dutifully lured him back to the mansion, thinking we'd be able to... you know... actually succeed at the apparent goal given to us.

Once we got him back and he fell into our "trap" we found out he was a 20th level lich who promptly killed us all, took out the broken ones and cleared the map. Oh yeah? that "seal" had no apparent effect on him at all after we'd gone to the effort to try and fool him into thinking it was gone and thought it would do what it was stated to do.

Then raised us up and gloated and sent us on our way.

This would have been soooo epic if it had actually worked. Or, even better, if it had seemed to fail, and then suddenly worked somehow. Outsmarting the BBEG at his own game is priceless. In another universe, for example, some powerful good creature was watching this unfold, and stepped in at the end using the seal to defeat the Lich, succeeding only because your party brought him to it. Unfortunately, your DM did not run it that way...

King of Nowhere
2019-06-11, 12:07 PM
It's important to also consider why the party is fighting insurmontable odds. If the DM throws strong enemies one after the other for no reason beyond proving a point, the players will feel betrayed.

In my campaign i established crafty, resourceful enemies, and they manage to get the drop on the party every once in a while. I remember two instances where the party had an ambush turned on them because they enlisted the help of npcs who secretly had an interest in seeing them fail.
Even though i cpuld not reveal it straight away, when the party ambushed their foe and in that very round a couple dozen high level foes teleported to join the fray, the party understands they have been outsmarted somehow. They realize the current plan has failed and they may be forced to escape.
Which also makes for a good story. Especially when, after the mysteries are discovered, i can reveal what actually went on.
And it feels better winning after the enemy gives you real troubles. It makes for a strong villain, which is more satisfying to eventually defeat. If the boss is a pushover, it feels unsatisfying.
The players know that if they have a good plan, i give them a good shot at it. My enemies are crafty and prepared, but within reasonable limits. If their plan has flaws, or if they let it leak to the wrong people, the enemies may be able to exploit it. And then it's still a toss up. Damn hard to predict the exact difficulty of a fight at high level.

So, maybw you could ensure that they know why they are being outpowered when it happens.

Lord of Shadows
2019-06-11, 01:04 PM
And it feels better winning after the enemy gives you real troubles. It makes for a strong villain, which is more satisfying to eventually defeat. If the boss is a pushover, it feels unsatisfying.

This is good advice..


So, maybe you could ensure that they know why they are being outpowered when it happens.

One way of doing this is to use the party's encounter with the powerful enemy to introduce an equally powerful foe of the enemy who pops in unexpectedly and attacks, using the party as a sort of diversion. Also a DM sort of way to "save" the party. The BBEG could be driven off, and the party could possibly gain some valuable intel from this new "enemy of their enemy," intel that could help them realize this foe is way over their ability to handle. Because, of course, the friendly help was just by chance this time and will not always happen. This enemy of their enemy could be anyone - even someone the party thought was their enemy (and maybe really is... the "onions have many layers" theory).

Resileaf
2019-06-11, 03:13 PM
I think players think they need to fight because if they try to run, they'll just die. After all, if this enemy is strong enough to beat then, why would he not be fast enough to catch up to them (or even worse, if the enemy isn't actually fast enough to catch up to them, your players are definitely going to want to use ranged tactics to whittle him down)? Or if you expect your players to surrender, they might not believe that they are likely to survive being this person's prisonners.

Damage indicators are not enough, you have to also make it clear that they can leave the battle without dying. Otherwise, players will take the option to go out in a blaze of glory any time.

Mark Hall
2019-06-11, 03:27 PM
Easiest? Casual murder of an NPC that the players know the stats of. If BBEG casually kills Mirt, the 3rd level fighter, they know that he can do significant damage.

Psyren
2019-06-11, 03:30 PM
I don't think it's your responsibility to do that.

This. Just kill them.

Note that this doesn't actually mean you have to KILL them.

You can have them "black out" and then wake up somewhere, missing some or all of their equipment and on the verge of death. In the BBEG's dungeons for example, or outside the cave they were in, or at the creepy old witch's nearby hut (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVzSZT7P1SU), or at the Plucky Freedom Fighter's HQ. Just because they hit -10 or whatever in combat doesn't mean you have to immediately make them reroll, but it might be enough to teach them some caution. Your job as GM is to give them a sense of danger/trepidation, the choice to follow through on that all the way is up to you.

Psikerlord
2019-06-11, 07:04 PM
recently I've run a few encounters for players that were all basically meant to be ones that were put there to make them realise how strong/powerful the enemy they're facing is and then run away...it's the running away part I'm having trouble with.

My players keep fighting, even if I say the attacks barely do anything and the damage they take is very high. Even when it's in a do or die situation instead of running they just keep fighting no matter what. It's not character ideals or anything, a lot of characters who are tactical geniuses or run when they're in a bad situation just keep fighting.

Now I ask how do you tell your players that basically "this guy is way to powerful for you, you shouldn't keep fighting him." The enemy just being more powerful than them isn't working so I'd like extra ideas.

I think the best thing is to introduce a formal "Party Retreat" rule (with a cost) and emphasize this rule exists. Then next time, if they dont flee when they probably should, just keep the dice rolling in the open until they either miraculously win or it's a TPK. Next campaign they'll start retreating. Short term pain but long term gain.

Kane0
2019-06-11, 07:33 PM
In the case of 5e, remember the Chase rules exist.

KineticDiplomat
2019-06-11, 07:43 PM
Don't play D&D.

Really. The mechanics, theme, and player-culture of D&D are centered on killing increasingly challenging creatures as PCs increasingly grow in power. The non-combat rules, especially any non-dungeoning one, are...well, lets just say they are clearly secondary efforts. The story starts small, characters start small, and eventually they grow big by killing. You kill your way up the chain of awesome, and in doing so expose increasing epic-in-scale plot points or adventures while you progress from bit mercenary/charlatan/whatever to demigod.

I mean, you don't have to run a table like that, but it's pretty much what you think when you hear "D&D." Which means the basic assumption is that the game is a medium to bounce from encounter to encounter, slowly getting better at killing things, and that they will be handed an appropriate mathematically solvable outcome. So when players play D&D, they act like the thought is that every fight is there to be won unless there are BIG, DRAMATIC, WARNING SIGNS. And even those may just be interpreted as "oh, that's a boss fight. We should make sure we bring enough spells."

So, if you want players to not act like suicidal glory hounds, ****-sure in their near immortality, don't play D&D.

If the story you want to tell is one of clever weighing of the odds, tactical maneuvering, and choice use of violence towards certain ends, don't play D&D.

If you want treason, intrigue, and political cunning to create no-win fights, don't play D&D.

If you want the fights to revolve around player skill at managing the fight and not their character optimization, don't play D&D.

If, and only if, you want to play some version of Boy becomes Boy-Of-Destiny through appropriately resolvable eno****ers, should you first look to D&D. For any other story, any other playstyle, there is a way better system somewhere.

Kane0
2019-06-11, 09:08 PM
@KineticDiplomat Is that a Combat-As-Sport thing or a D&D-the-gateway-RPG thing?

King of Nowhere
2019-06-11, 09:46 PM
Don't play D&D.

Really. The mechanics, theme, and player-culture of D&D are centered on killing increasingly challenging creatures as PCs increasingly grow in power.

So, if you want players to not act like suicidal glory hounds, ****-sure in their near immortality, don't play D&D.


that's way too extreme. i've never seen a player with such expectations. those that do have those expectations will still recognize when a fight is going downhill. even if they are sure of their immortality, as soon as they die once they realize this is a table where it can happen.

i don't know what kind of morons lurk out there, that people can consider them as normal

Pleh
2019-06-11, 10:16 PM
I think this is mostly a question of managing expectations. If the players decide to flee because they expect it to be the most viable option, maybe it's better to switch to Chase Rules than use the combat rules to punish them just because it's most optimal for the NPCs.

Likewise, if you mean for them to retreat and they don't see a justification, or they suspect that combat rules make that choice untenable, no need to railroad them into running away. That's when the, "kill them" advice comes into play. They dug their heels in on a fight that they couldn't handle.

The main thing to me is to make sure you're not getting adversarial about it. If you're killing them, it's just because they stick it oit when they should have fallen back. If they're rabbitting, they've already accepted a loss, there's no reason to kick them while they're down unless they actually fall into an ambush. Sure, most monsters could easily outrun the heroes, but it's not guaranteed that they would try. Monsters aren't always fighting because they're hungry. Sometimes they're just territorial and won't pursue the threat far past their jurisdiction (and they might be less interested in forcing the heroes to stop running and more interested in making sure the heroes will think twice about coming back again).

Tanarii
2019-06-11, 10:34 PM
Sure, most monsters could easily outrun the heroes, but it's not guaranteed that they would try. Monsters aren't always fighting because they're hungry. Sometimes they're just territorial and won't pursue the threat far past their jurisdiction (and they might be less interested in forcing the heroes to stop running and more interested in making sure the heroes will think twice about coming back again).
Besides, as players often learn, blindly pursuing enemies to try and run them down and kill them often leads you into a situation that gets you killed.

Depending on the game situation, player char ayers often have it worst in that regard, since they often don't have allies nearby and are in the enemy habitat. But even then it's often possible
to lead the enemy towards another threat.

If the enemy is more powerful than you, faster and has more endurance than you, has no danger from pursuing you, and has motivation to pursue you ... likely you should have looked before you leaped into combat. In spite of direct DM warnings that their campaign will be like that, many players need to learn that lesson the hard way.

Pleh
2019-06-12, 04:41 AM
In spite of direct DM warnings that their campaign will be like that, many players need to learn that lesson the hard way.

Hm. I agree up to a point. Players that treat it like a game and aren't seriously invested in the outcome can take what they have coming to them. They'll either snap out of it, or settle into a light hearted, beer and pretzel playstyle where they just expect to routinely roll out new characters and no lesson really gets learned (and that's just a valid way to play). For players who are already invested and are sincerely doing their best, I'd avoid letting the system throw its full weight to bear on them. That's where I'd use Psyren's advice about "death lite" where instead of actual death, they wake up in prison (or similar, etc).

If they're not invested, let the chips fall. If they really care and just made a tactical blunder, remember that failure doesn't have to mean rolling a new character and starting over.

Zakhara
2019-06-12, 05:49 AM
Don't play D&D.

For this thread, I would amend this to "don't play D&D 3e and on." The old-school game is perfectly adept at teaching short, sharp lessons. But even that's beside the point, as OP isn't asking for a different game.

Pauly
2019-06-12, 09:45 AM
Some things. RPGs generally, and D&D in particular make the mechanics of running away very difficult.

In reality running away is much more viable than portrayed in D&D, and much easier to achieve.

So if you want to home brew some “free” mechanics first. Then the players should see that it is a viable course.
What I would suggest (I haven’t played D&D for a long time so the mechanics may have changed)

Declaring “flee”.
1) The character triggers no Attack of Opportunity for moving from adjacent squares from an opponent.
2) the character moves at double rate.
3) after declaring that he/she is fleeing the character must continue fleeing until they exit the map/combat area. Each turn they must move towards their nearest safe exit.
4) a fleeing character may not attack or cast offensive/damaging spells. A fleeing character may, at the DM’s discretion may cast defensive skills that will delay pursuit such as grease or web.
5) the fleeing character is more difficult to hit and there is a -5 modifier applied to any attempts to hit a fleeing character.

Having a home brew like this makes fleeing a mechanically sound and sensible thing to do. And if the party overmatches opponents who then successfully flee it shows them that they can do it too.

Psyren
2019-06-12, 10:54 AM
For this thread, I would amend this to "don't play D&D 3e and on." The old-school game is perfectly adept at teaching short, sharp lessons. But even that's beside the point, as OP isn't asking for a different game.

That's because old-school D&D was a lot less focused on building character concepts. You could show up at a table with 5-10 character sheets and expect to burn through them all due to arbitrary deaths simply because making them took a lot less time, most of them probably had bad stats anyway, and you had no incentive to be particularly attached to any of them.

But fear of death doesn't have to mean threatening rerolls either.

Mark Hall
2019-06-12, 11:38 AM
That's because old-school D&D was a lot less focused on building character concepts. You could show up at a table with 5-10 character sheets and expect to burn through them all due to arbitrary deaths simply because making them took a lot less time, most of them probably had bad stats anyway, and you had no incentive to be particularly attached to any of them.

But fear of death doesn't have to mean threatening rerolls either.

I'd also say that it's because, in AD&D, there wasn't really such a thing as a "build"... who you were at XP 0 almost always defined what you'd be like at XP 1,000,000 (the two exceptions being 1e bards and human dual-class... though I've never heard of someone accidentally dual-classing; it's almost always planned from the start). If you start as a fighter/mage, you'll remain a fighter/mage, outside of weird circumstances (or reincarnation).

This changed with PO: S&P and S&M, of course, where you could build all sorts of things on the framework, and build in interesting ways... but that was an Option, and it was not, IME, well-embraced by the community as a standard assumption.

Pex
2019-06-12, 11:51 AM
So what's the solution if level 1 players want to take on a lich?

Do you scale down the lich? If so, what do you do with all of the other level 1 threats (like wolves or bandits)?

I do agree that the DM should rarely throw those enemies at the players, as it really only leaves the players one optimal solution. However, that's not always realistic, and sometimes it can even be a good narrative tool.

Take, for example, the Curse of Strahd module for 5th edition DnD. It's probably the most popular module in the most popular edition of the most popular TTRPG in the world right now. And yet, the entire module is about trying to stop an enemy that shows up randomly throughout the campaign to torture and antagonize you. You know you cannot stop him, and he loves to remind you of that. On top of that, there is a fog that kills you, and prevents you from ever leaving the demiplane. Railroading can be done right, but there are definitely bad examples of it (Looking at you, Hoard of the Dragon Queen).

So can it be done? Yes. Should it be done? Maybe, but only if it's implemented well.

It's a matter of perspective and experience. When a 1st level party meats a lich it's not supposed to be a combat encounter. The lich wants to talk. There is no TPK threat. Only inexperienced and/or stupid players attack. When 15th level characters meet a lich, the answer is not so clear. Circumstances matter. It might be just an introduction to the true BBEG of the campaign. The party will fight him, just not yet. Maybe it is supposed to be the BBEG fight.

However, when the 5th level party enters a village and are told not to go through the mountain pass because no one ever returns from there, it's not the players' fault when they take that as a plot hook to investigate the mountain pass only to be TPKed by a beholder.

King of Nowhere
2019-06-12, 01:15 PM
there's actually plenty of ways to escape. at low levels, fog and invisibility, grease and web. once you have access to teleportation, escaping is trivial. If the party doesn't have any of those, not even a scroll saved for an emergency, then it's really their fault. Can't say "but the system does not support escaping", because it does.

Even in the worst scenario, where there is no escape magic and the monster is faster than anyone, you can have everyone run in a different direction; instead of a tpk, one single character will die. And then you can resurrect him for 5000 gp, which is available even to low level parties.

Mark Hall
2019-06-12, 01:24 PM
"Some men... you just can't reach. Which is why we get what we got last week. Which is the way [they] want it. Well, [they] get it. Now, I don't like this any more than you do."

KineticDiplomat
2019-06-12, 02:02 PM
Regarding the not-playing of D&D and people's responses:

It is true that the author did not ask for another system, yet none the less it may be his best answer. Here's why. If you look at the most common GM questions, you are going to find a substantial number that sound like one of the below.

"Why won't my players run away? I mean, this is clearly absurd for them, what do I need to do to not TPK them?"

"Why are my players all murderhobos? Can I stop them from being murderhobos? How?"

"Why are my players only interested in what the next encounter is, and are busily ignoring my world/plot/characters/factions/politics/setting/etc.?"

To which we get two basic responses; "Bash their faces in, that'll teach'em" and "well, what makes you think your players want to play that kind of game? Huh? Are you a <<Drumrolllllllll>> BAD AND RAILROADING/FICTION-WRITING DM?!"

Neither of which is an all that fair solution. The players, because they are playing D&D, are both mechanically and culturally inclined to believe that the game is mostly a series of winnable encounters, strung together by a plot. Unless they go off plot, in which case, they still expect to find a series of winnable encounters. The encounters are the meat of it. If they get their faces bashed in, particularly for no apparent reason other than wandering into the wrong alley so to speak, they are shocked - this is not how the world works! There may be dedicated roleplayers, smooth talkers, and problem solvers but the lowest common denominator of a D&D game is that there are going to be a series of party fights that you are expected to win to make the plot go forward, which in turn makes more winnable party fights. When that doesn't happen, cue discord. And if that is what the players want/expect with all their soul, well, it would be foolish to force something else on them.

But, the GM is also a player. He wants to have his fun, and presumably pours a lot of time and effort into the game. Oddly enough, he wants to do more than craft level-appropriate encounters for the PCs to kill tonight. He wants a game with a cool setting which influences the very nature of the game, or political infighting, or just "sensible adventuring." If he can't get any of the things he wants because his players are busy being suicidal murder-hobos who ignore everything else and never run, his fun stops. I's not the world he wants to be a part of, its not the game he wants to run. But he clearly wants to Play a Game and not Write a Book, because here he is asking how to be a better GM and solve those problems. So that he isn't writing a blog post. If his desires to run something other than continuous face-punching and the player's desires to continuously facepunch are not reconciled, eventually the GM quits and the game dies. He, after all, is not obligated to be a joyless encounter running sweatshop worker.

Now, there a loads of systems where at least part of what the GM wants is present. They not only thematically reinforce these ideas, but mechanically help keep everyone happy. They are systems where, if you want a low magic world, you don't have to make grudging concessions to the one guy who really wants to be a cleric and then you see everyone else get involved in a magic arms race - because if you can't punch faces hard enough, you're a bit crap in a D&D setting - and all of a sudden the entire setting, the reason the GM was interested to begin with, has been reduced to the same old string of D&D encounters. There are settings where if the High Threat Response Team shows up to your heist, the mechanical implication is that it is now very much time to GTFO, not see if this is a small boss fight. There are systems that are good at swordfighting, at pirating, at running an empire or having a debate, that are good at handling the supernatural, or encouraging roleplay, at virtually anything beyond the "string of D&D encounters you're expected to win." They just aren't D&D.

And in those systems the players can still be powerful, and interesting, and solve problems, and have cool dude moments, and feel good about themselves, and contribute to the plot, and all of the other things. They are just mechanically and thematically discouraged form being endless repetions of unthinking murder-hobos.

So we have a few options:


1) Try to incorporate things D&D is not, and is in fact mechanically discouraged from being, into D&D campaigns. And, often as not, failing at it because of the mechanical disconnect.

2) Run a campaign in a non D&D system, one which perhaps better reflects what ALL of the group - including the GM, who is not emotionless slave labor - wants.

3) Realize that there is no compromise, the palyers want to be unthinking murder-hobos and the GM wants a different style of game. Much like breaking a relationship,I would say it is better to pull the trigger cleanly than let it devolve into misery for the sake of having one.

Tanarii
2019-06-12, 02:48 PM
If they're not invested, let the chips fall. If they really care and just made a tactical blunder, remember that failure doesn't have to mean rolling a new character and starting over.
Agreed. You don't change the way you run a series of adventure arcs (commonly misnamed a campaign) for a specific party that is in the middle of it. It needs to be explicit when characters are made.

It's too late for the OP. He needs to wait for the inevitable reroll and change up her style then, not try to force a change because plot points "require" it.

King of Nowhere
2019-06-12, 08:14 PM
Regarding the not-playing of D&D and people's responses:

It is true that the author did not ask for another system, yet none the less it may be his best answer. Here's why. If you look at the most common GM questions, you are going to find a substantial number that sound like one of the below.

"Why won't my players run away? I mean, this is clearly absurd for them, what do I need to do to not TPK them?"

"Why are my players all murderhobos? Can I stop them from being murderhobos? How?"

"Why are my players only interested in what the next encounter is, and are busily ignoring my world/plot/characters/factions/politics/setting/etc.?"


those are common gm questions, but at the same time the fact that they are posted often does not mean that those problems are common. Only that they are more common than others. that's because people without problems don't post. I'm sure there's a specific kind of bias with a name for it, but can't find it.
In my experience, new players are unlikely to have those issues; being new, they come with no special expectations.
Old players have been at many different tables, so they know expectations can vary a lot, so they are receptive and do not have those issues.

What remains are not-completely-new players who only had experience at one or two tables, and may carry lots of expectations because they think everyone does it that way.
And toxic players, who are too dumb or too selfish to adapt to any table.

Not-completely-new players can be guided, most of the times. the first step is realizing the expectations they carry from the previous table are not necessarily true here.
Toxic players will be toxic no matter what. If they are young and new, there's a chance they may learn, or they may grow up and mature by themselves; otherwise, it's just better to stop inviting them.

I may also add players who are only interested in a specific kind of gaming. those are not toxic, but still it's better to not have them if you want to run a different game.

Now, regarding other system, there are certainly a lot of those, but only a few players can know them. If every DM uses a different system because it fits something he wants, then virtually every new player at a table will have to learn a system from scratch. that's too big a barrier for entrance, imo. And different systems also have plenty of issues. We know the issues of D&D better just because we are more practiced at it. And in all those systems, murderhobos will still go murderhobo unless the DM discourages them.

On the other hand, a great advantage of D&D is that it can be modded. You can vastly change the kind of stories and settings and powers you have, just by removing some content and adding a few houserules. And it is vastly easier for a new player to learn "we are playing a world where arcane magic is only innate, there are no wizards, no arcane scrolls, only sorcerors" than it is to learn a new system. It is also easier for the player to judge if he's going to like the new system or not.

ultimately, perhaps the strongest argument is this: if the players are expecting to never have to flee, the problem is player expectations. Thus this problem must be fixed by acting on player expectations. Changing the system will not change player expectations.
And maybe the new system will have great rules for escaping combat, but it won't matter if the players don't know them because they are in a new system with which they are not familiar. On the other hand, if those rules are that good, you may just want to adapt them to D&D.

Mechalich
2019-06-12, 08:38 PM
ultimately, perhaps the strongest argument is this: if the players are expecting to never have to flee, the problem is player expectations. Thus this problem must be fixed by acting on player expectations. Changing the system will not change player expectations.
And maybe the new system will have great rules for escaping combat, but it won't matter if the players don't know them because they are in a new system with which they are not familiar. On the other hand, if those rules are that good, you may just want to adapt them to D&D.

I do want to say that the expectation by players that running away is rarely a good idea is, actually, players being smart in most cases. Running away, in small group combat, is generally a very bad idea that is almost certain to result in something horrible happening to at least a significant portion of the group (running away in mass combat is different, because that's all about individual survivability versus the group). In a modern setting where there are high-powered ranged weapons, running the way is often an even worse option because it means giving your enemies free shots.

Historically, in small group engagements you ran away first, and they only chose to fight when that effort had failed, and if you were losing the subsequent fight you surrendered and took your chances thereafter. The calculus was generally that surrendering to someone who had every right to execute you at their whim was still a better choice than trying to flee most of the time. In a fantasy setting, wherein characters fight a lot of things that are totally incapable of even acknowledging a surrender much less honoring one, this option atrophies, and players simply fall back on fighting to the death and hoping.

Rather than trying to force the players to learn to flee, I think it would actually make more sense to try to train the players to surrender instead. Especially because scattering to the four winds inherently splits the party, while being captured keeps them together. In the case of truly overpowering encounters, you can have the aggressor, assuming they're intelligent, utilize non-lethal force to subdue the party (D&D, unfortunately, has mechanical issues in this area) and capture them that way. After all, an enemy that truly does possess 'overwhelming' superiority really ought to be able to capture the PCs without killing them.

jjordan
2019-06-13, 09:54 AM
So we have a few options:


1) Try to incorporate things D&D is not, and is in fact mechanically discouraged from being, into D&D campaigns. And, often as not, failing at it because of the mechanical disconnect.

2) Run a campaign in a non D&D system, one which perhaps better reflects what ALL of the group - including the GM, who is not emotionless slave labor - wants.

3) Realize that there is no compromise, the palyers want to be unthinking murder-hobos and the GM wants a different style of game. Much like breaking a relationship,I would say it is better to pull the trigger cleanly than let it devolve into misery for the sake of having one.

OR

1) Encourage healthy discussion among the group to determine participant desires and come to an agreement about how to proceed or break up the group. And, as you point out, just as with any relationship sometimes the best solution is pulling the trigger and making a clean break.

2) Recognize that different desires produce different styles of play and put some effort into learning how to recognize those desires and which game styles best suit them.

3) Discuss alternate mechanics that support styles of play other than the D&D default video-game-mode that encourages murder-hoboing. E.G. Awarding experience for recognizing the big bad guy was too much and successfully escaping. Or for non-violent conflict resolution.

georgie_leech
2019-06-13, 11:36 AM
Rather than trying to force the players to learn to flee, I think it would actually make more sense to try to train the players to surrender instead. Especially because scattering to the four winds inherently splits the party, while being captured keeps them together. In the case of truly overpowering encounters, you can have the aggressor, assuming they're intelligent, utilize non-lethal force to subdue the party (D&D, unfortunately, has mechanical issues in this area) and capture them that way. After all, an enemy that truly does possess 'overwhelming' superiority really ought to be able to capture the PCs without killing them.

5e doesn't, actually. Unless you're using a Save or Die or something, you can just choose to knock out someone instead of killing them outright.

Tanarii
2019-06-13, 12:39 PM
5e also has a chase scene mechanics. Those remove OAs, emphasize the need to Dash or fall behind, and put a limit on the Dash action. otoh they aren't going to help much if your enemy has a clear shot at you in the open and enough range to take advantage of it. Or much higher movement, the endurance to keep up, and no reason to stop chasing you. But in those circumstances you should be screwed and incentivized to surrender.

BECMI had an evasion mechanic, because older editions of D&D didn't assume you could win every encounter, and fleeing rules were critical.

icefractal
2019-06-13, 03:39 PM
If you thought getting players to flee was hard, getting them to surrender is a whole level worse.

Most players are fine with fleeing IF:
1) They know it's even possible.
2) It doesn't just mean sacrificing the slower party members.
3) It doesn't lead to a total failure state where they might as well have gone down fighting. As "the BBEG is going to end the world" type of plots tend to imply.

But being captive? Most players hate that, to the extent they'd rather take the chance on a TPK. After all, their new characters would be free.

You can argue that it's part of books and movies, that they *should* like it ... doesn't matter, most people won't. So use it *very* sparingly, IMO.

Tanarii
2019-06-13, 03:58 PM
2) It doesn't just mean sacrificing the slower party members.
Except in Call of the Cthulu.

KineticDiplomat
2019-06-13, 06:19 PM
@KoN: The bias you're looking for is known as the availability heuristic - in short, we tend to over value that data which is available, regardless of the likely presence of far greater quantities of unavailable or undisplayed data. While that exists, it is irrelevant to this conversation in of that the question the original poster is asking, specifically, is how to deal with a D&D problem. We are not trying to prove that D&D is a bug-ridden hellhole of a system, or that every D&D game is fundamentally doomed, merely that of the problems it has this one is more common than others. Which then, without fallacy, warrants examining what in the system makes this problem more likely to pop up than say, "there is not enough murder-hobo action in D&D, how do I make more of it?." And if it appears that the system itself is a cause for a problem that is making the GM unhappy, then it makes sense to consider switching systems to one that is stronger in the area in question. For this thread's purposes, "thematically, mechanically, and culturally making it more likely players won't charge headlong into a fight with a solidly rooted expectation they should not realistically have (for, you know, the reality of sorcerer tieflings and barbarians who literally can be shot in the chest more times if they kill enough orcs)."


@JJordan: Regrettably, while those are indeed mature and available options, they are fighting up hill - and generally fall into at best a poor compromise, and at worst my first issue. Lets explore how this can go:


You have a mature and socially adept conversation with the group (a mildy optimistic assumption). You conclude that you want to include non-D&D "murder hobo series of level appropriate encounters" facets in your play style. Espionage, politics, less magic, more freeform magic, being wary of short and deadly surprises, or whatnot. At best, the GM manages to work these all in and the players keep it in mind. But it is working counter to the game-system. What D&D wants to do, what it's spells and classes and levels and GM advice in the back pages and so on all want to do, is put you back into a series of winnable level appropriate encounters. It's splats are balanced to it, its modules written with that in mind, it's online communities talk about min-maxing versus that concept. You are fighting against the system to get what you want because it is not what the system wants; without vigilance, the mechanics will draw a only mildly motivated player back to ground zero. Where our GM is unhappy.

Alternatively, if all your players agree they want one of those things that core D&D is basically not good at; then you should consider playing a system that is good at it. If everyone wants a little bit of this and a little bit of that, the game eventually reverts to its lowest common denominator - which in D&D is a bunch of level appropriate encounters you are supposed to win. Running away, weighing your odds, having an insurance policy - these are not things D&D is good at it. It CAN do them, just not naturally and well. Michael Jordan playing baseball if you will.

Perhaps you consider modding the mechanics to create "not D&D." At this point, why not just use professionally developed mechanics from any number of not D&Ds? It's not as if it is 1970 and this is the only option. You can buy the average PDF for less than most video games, and without 3,000+ pages of supplements and splats, the core of most systems can be shaken down in a session or two.


Or, determined to stick your D&D guns, you shift the mechanics. Now you have two issues. First, the game was built with those systems in mind. So you will have to deal with cascading effects, adjusting, tweaking, getting further and further away from core D&D. At which point, you know...there are people who have built, playtested, and thought through the issues in any one of the thousands of not D&Ds. Or players will back-hack the effects because the game rewards them for doing so, negating the intent to begin with.

Pex
2019-06-13, 06:40 PM
If you thought getting players to flee was hard, getting them to surrender is a whole level worse.

Most players are fine with fleeing IF:
1) They know it's even possible.
2) It doesn't just mean sacrificing the slower party members.
3) It doesn't lead to a total failure state where they might as well have gone down fighting. As "the BBEG is going to end the world" type of plots tend to imply.

But being captive? Most players hate that, to the extent they'd rather take the chance on a TPK. After all, their new characters would be free.

You can argue that it's part of books and movies, that they *should* like it ... doesn't matter, most people won't. So use it *very* sparingly, IMO.

Indeed. For most players they'll be sad when a character dies, but don't you dare TAKE THEIR STUFF! If you have to take their stuff for whatever reason you better let them get it back within a real world hour. It's not rational but often true.

Lord of Shadows
2019-06-13, 08:44 PM
What I would suggest (I haven’t played D&D for a long time so the mechanics may have changed)

Declaring “flee”.
1) The character triggers no Attack of Opportunity for moving from adjacent squares from an opponent.
2) the character moves at double rate.
3) after declaring that he/she is fleeing the character must continue fleeing until they exit the map/combat area. Each turn they must move towards their nearest safe exit.
4) a fleeing character may not attack or cast offensive/damaging spells. A fleeing character may, at the DM’s discretion may cast defensive skills that will delay pursuit such as grease or web.
5) the fleeing character is more difficult to hit and there is a -5 modifier applied to any attempts to hit a fleeing character.

Having a home brew like this makes fleeing a mechanically sound and sensible thing to do. And if the party overmatches opponents who then successfully flee it shows them that they can do it too.

Hmmmm... good stuff there. A little light editing might help.

Actions in Combat (House Ruled)

Declaring the Flee Encounter action

Any single character, or party acting together, may declare the Flee Encounter action.

1) After declaring the Flee Encounter action, characters trigger no Attack of Opportunity for moving away from threatened squares.
2) After declaring the Flee Encounter action, characters move at double their normal movement rate.
3) After declaring the Flee Encounter action, characters must continue fleeing until they exit the map/combat area. Each turn they must move away from the threat they are fleeing.
4) After declaring the Flee Encounter action, a character may not attack or cast offensive/damaging spells. A fleeing character may, at the DM’s discretion, cast defensive spells that will delay pursuit such as grease, web and obscuring mist. Travel spells such as dimension door, teleport, and plane shift may also be used to aid in fleeing the encounter.
5) Declaring the Flee Encounter action grants a -5 modifier to any attempts to hit a fleeing character by targeting a spell or weapon. Area of effect spells are unaffected but may still miss completely if movement is not taken into consideration.

antiochcow
2019-06-15, 02:14 AM
Now I ask how do you tell your players that basically "this guy is way to powerful for you, you shouldn't keep fighting him." The enemy just being more powerful than them isn't working so I'd like extra ideas.

Oh I don't. They learned the hard way that there are many things that are beyond (or nearly beyond) their ability to deal with directly. Now they act and react in what I'd say a more realistic manner, approaching the unknown with caution, observing, trying to talk it out, bribing, preparing traps, and if things aren't looking good will run and hide. Sometimes they've run from things that they actually could have killed, which I think is also fine.

They know I'm not using level appropriate encounters or really considering their abilities at all (as in, if they have fire magic they might run into things that fire just won't work on). Some monsters are very hard to hurt, others are completely immune to everything they've got. it goes both ways, however, and some are also easily thwarted by their abilities.

This has led to them surprising me on a number of occasions, defeating monsters I didn't think they could, or defeating them in unconventional ways in order to ensure their survival (such as by bringing a monster into a room with another, sealing it shut, and waiting to pick off the survivor).

Bohandas
2019-06-22, 01:39 AM
Be really overy and play a clip of either Obiwan saying "Run Luke, run" in Star Wars or Galdalf saying "Fly you fools" in Lord of the Rings

DeTess
2019-06-22, 05:40 AM
I think the most effective ways to get this done is to tell the players very clearly before the game starts that the world is not level-scaled and that there will be threats that they can't take and that they will be expected (and allowed) to flee from those.

Then, to reinforce that notion, throw something at them fairly early on that has a breath weapon just weak enough to not one-hit-kill any of the people in the party unless you roll really well, and leave a clear route of escape. After that, the players should have gotten the message and will be evaluating most encounters far more carefully.

The downside of this method is that the players might at times decide to avoid encounters that where planned for them to take on and win from, so make sure you're flexible enough to deal with that.