Planning for Defeat

Posted in EpicTable Blog on January 23, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Your heroes have scattered the villanous kobolds that ambushed them. Great. But where will they go? This article presents a technique for planning the monsters’ escape.

Not every encounter is a fight to the death. Adversaries with a strong sense of self-preservation may flee. You don’t have to be a kobold to see the value in a calculated retreat. Even powerful, courageous adversaries won’t throw their lives away needlessly.

Published modules sometimes instruct you on what adversaries do when they don’t fight to the death. Often though, the author hasn’t provided any guidance, and to the unprepared GM, this presents a problem. For starters, you have to decide which way they retreat. You can’t pick an escape route at random and have the kobolds run headlong from the adventurers into the lair of the giant, kobold-eating cavebear. Nor are they very likely to flee to the 10×10 room with no other exits.

The good news is that with just a few minutes’ planning, you can conduct a more realistic retreat and learn a few things about your monsters’ environment that will bring added depth to your game.

Create a Monsters’ Flight Plan

When you prepare to run an adventure, create a “Flight Plan” on which you can record some key information about each encounter that could result in a fleeing adversary. If you haven’t had a chance to prepare, all is not lost. You’re still better off doing this than not—even if the player characters are bashing open the door as you do so.

Your Flight Plan will look something like this.

Encounter (number or map key and name) Creatures (number and type) Flee where? Tactics
A3: Kobold Kitchen 3 kobolds,
kobold chef
B8: Great Ulfa’s lair, or A5: The Warrens Normal kobolds will run back to The Warrens to raise the alarm. The chef will sneak into Great Ulfa’s lair hoping the characters will blunder into him.
A4: Shaman’s Cave orc shaman A12->B2->out flees the kobold lair entirely


Fleeing on a (Time) Budget

I know, you hate prepping. You don’t have time, and I’ve just suggested that you take on another chore. But, really, it doesn’t take a lot of time. You can fill out the Flight Plan as you read through the adventure. Don’t agonize over it, just jot down something plausible. You may find that as you go, it gets easier, one idea plays off another.

Are you one of those GMs that doesn’t even read through the adventure? Scan for exits as the characters kick in the door or when things start to go badly for the monster. Look down the hallway a bit and figure out where they’re going to run. Ten seconds’ forethought is better than none.

Next time: Recipe for Retreat

This article talked about recording your plans for where your monsters will flee. In the next article, I’ll discuss how to decide where they flee.

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