D&D 5E How to switch from combat to chase

Li Shenron

Legend
Whether you use the DMG chase rules, or your own version of them, how do you exactly switch from the turn-based combat initiative sequence to the simultaneous movements during a chase?

The obvious scenario is one or more combatants (or even a whole side) decides to break off and run away, while their opponents want to keep fighting and decide to start a chase. When and how do you make the switch?

Both the DMG chase rules and all the variants I've seen assume a starting distance between the runaways and the pursuers, and the way for the pursuers to "win" the chase is to reduce the distance to zero. This obviously means that you cannot switch from combat to chase unless the distance is already more than zero. But none of the rules I've seen tells you how to set this distance if the chase starts from combat, or when you're supposed to stop resolving movement by the sequential turns of the individuals.

If there was only one fugitive, then one simple way could be to allow the fugitive to take its own (last) combat turn and starts moving away (depending on its choice of action + move, it may cause an OA or not, and it will set the starting distance accordingly), and let the fugitive itself triggers a chase*, and immediately everyone switches to chase rules.

*obviously, the DM decides if the circumstances allow for it

But what if a whole party wants to run away from battle together? Would you handle this as long as possible within combat rules, for example by having all of them (except maybe the last) use the Ready action to coordinate before triggering a chase? Or would you rather use some simpler blanket rule (such as "everyone triggers an OA no matter what, and stop tracking individual positions straight away")?
 

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Lyxen

Great Old One
Any and all of these depending on circumstances. As you point out, there are a lot of different situations and, although some people don't like it because they feel they need more complete rules, it's for me a huge strength of 5e that it recognizes that an open game can present all these situations with infinite variations and more, and that a DM needs to rely on local rulings to get the best story/result out in terms of experience for his players.

That being said, I almost never use the chase rules, because using theater of the mind means that there is no difference between a static combat and a chase, it's still according to the same initiative, which allows me include bits of chase in combat and the other way around with no hiccup. I did that recently when the party tried to escape the portal town of Darkspine after a ritual performed in the middle of a Demon Army while two Devil armies where attacking and the much smaller army of the PCs was trying to rescue them by assaulting a section of the defenses, and devil assassins where targeting someone who was in the middle of the party (and various members of the party playing both sides here), while a mage and an arcanaloth where trying to steal the artefact at the centre of the ritual. There was no map, just PCs trying to flee and defend themselves all over the place, some being airborne, others not, etc. and for me that is the only way I could have run such a complex and chaotic scene, no map could ever have captured it.

The good point of the rules are the complications, for me, always nice to have ideas, but the important thing is to keep things fluid, and to keep the initiative rolling so that players don't get bored or don't get their turn skipped. Even if they are not directly part of the chase at a given moment (see my example above, some where faster and flying, or were not directly attacked by one of the various forces), they can still prepare, watch for events or run interference.

Hope that helps...
 

When the enemies retreat, it's pretty easy since they largely go on the same initiative, but otherwise works about the same. If a retreat is called, everyone on the retreating side must take the Dash action, taking any attacks of opportunity necessary. Unless someone is significantly separated, I allow 1 round of actions before ending combat. If someone's trapped (or chooses to stay behind), anyone who wants to chase has to take the Dash action to leave the combat.
 

aco175

Legend
Most of the PCs end up shooting at the fleeing monsters since a bow has a range of hundreds of feet. I also have monsters flee on one round and if the PCs do nothing, the monster now escapes the next and cannot be found.

The PCs hardly flee. Last time they tried nobody wanted to be first and kept trying to use their action to help and then the fighters turn came back around and he was still trying to keep the big bad occupied and still nobody fled thinking to help the fighter.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
The PCs hardly flee. Last time they tried nobody wanted to be first and kept trying to use their action to help and then the fighters turn came back around and he was still trying to keep the big bad occupied and still nobody fled thinking to help the fighter.

I basically spent 2 years around 2003 teaching the players at our tables the value of flight, and it worked great. Now the people at our tables go into combat cautiously, after consideration of other alternatives, don't hesitate to plan for retreat, and certainly don't hesitate to flee, see my example above. We think it makes for a much more rich and open game, and we have many more chases and retreats and fluid situations, I did not have far to check back in time to find the example above.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
That being said, I almost never use the chase rules, because using theater of the mind means that there is no difference between a static combat and a chase, it's still according to the same initiative, which allows me include bits of chase in combat and the other way around with no hiccup.

Ah yes, I can imagine that in TotM you generally don't measure distances and positions precisely so it would be easier.

I go gridless but still take distance and positions into account so how to switch to simultaneous movement is not easy.

When the enemies retreat, it's pretty easy since they largely go on the same initiative, but otherwise works about the same. If a retreat is called, everyone on the retreating side must take the Dash action, taking any attacks of opportunity necessary. Unless someone is significantly separated, I allow 1 round of actions before ending combat. If someone's trapped (or chooses to stay behind), anyone who wants to chase has to take the Dash action to leave the combat.
Ok! So basically there is a sort of one round of transition during which everyone who wants to runaway OR pursue takes the Dash action (and I suppose they might also use their bonus action) while the others can take a regular turn but won't be allowed to join the chase. And after this transition round, you stop counting movements on the map and switch to simply tracking the distance as per the chase rules. Did I understand correctly?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The point at which I switch scenes is the point at which the dramatic question changes. In a fight, the question is probably something like “will the characters survive?” or something related to each party’s goals in the combat. But, once the more pertinent question becomes “will [the fleeing party] escape?” or whatever, that’s when we switch from combat scene to chase scene. Though, I would run a chase more like a skill challenge than like the DMG chase rules.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
You'll note that in combat, Dash is a fixed amount of extra speed. Who outruns who is a matter of whose speed is higher.

In the chase rules, people make athletics checks to close distances/generate distances.

So we can add a rule to make it more continuous:

Run Action: You can only Run if you took the Dash or Run Action last turn. The Run action increases your movement speed like the Dash action, but you can also attempt to push further. Make a Strength(Athletics) check and add that many feet to your movement speed.

Repeated running or dashing can cause fatigue or exhaustion.

So now, you "start" a chase by dashing out of combat. The next turn they start running, and unless you move much faster than them they'll start to open up the distance.

This folds the Strength(Athletics) check into initiative-based movement without disrupting standard combat by adding it.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Ah yes, I can imagine that in TotM you generally don't measure distances and positions precisely so it would be easier.
I go gridless but still take distance and positions into account so how to switch to simultaneous movement is not easy.

The thing is that, for me, you can only switch to simultaneous movement if there is one full movement between the parties, otherwise, there are too many factors like spells or abilities who can close the gap, so with that difference, it's not often that that switch can occur.

Ok! So basically there is a sort of one round of transition during which everyone who wants to runaway OR pursue takes the Dash action (and I suppose they might also use their bonus action) while the others can take a regular turn but won't be allowed to join the chase. And after this transition round, you stop counting movements on the map and switch to simply tracking the distance as per the chase rules. Did I understand correctly?

Not necessarily, in my example, characters started to run in various directions at different moment, some were pursued, others where not, so it simply could not be organised simply like that. I just had people making normal declarations and running away when they wanted, if some went beyond one possible move from the adversary, and they were chased, I could go to the chase rules if they were actually chased, otherwise I could just drop it.

The thing is that it's not that easy to describe, since I'm not using global rules, just local rulings depending on each character's situation, as per my introduction to the original post.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
My answer: as soon as one creature announces that they're making a run for it.

Something like "On your turn, you can take an action to remove yourself from combat". Then, on their turn, other characters/creatures can decide to either 1) stay in combat or 2) initiate a chase, at which point they too are removed from combat.

Out of combat, I tend to ignore range and and speed and switch from tactical to cinematic. I also assume that the fleeting creature will duck and take cover as much as possible, and therefore ranged attacks are made with disadvantage and the fleeting creature has advantage against Dex-save spells. There's a bit more to it, but the basic idea is that a creature can decide on their turn that they have enough and retreat, be they PCs or antagonists. Whether someone tries to pursue is up to them.

Once they prey has been caught up, it can surrender or another combat ensues with a new initiative. Usually, this combat can no longer be avoided.
 


My answer: as soon as one creature announces that they're making a run for it.

Something like "On your turn, you can take an action to remove yourself from combat". Then, on their turn, other characters/creatures can decide to either 1) stay in combat or 2) initiate a chase, at which point they too are removed from combat.
I'm uncomfortable with this. So in one round creatures go from being in range, around 0-50 feet and suddenly they are magically out or range? I've got players with 600ft range. For me, it's not fair to them to suddenly have to start chasing their targets, when they really should have several more rounds to attack the fleeing enemy.
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I find it interesting that a couple of people have mentioned bows or spells with very long ranges. That may be the case in ideal conditions, but in my experience unless the combat is happening in a very large open field, it is fairly easy in a dungeon, forest, swamp, urban environment, etc - to get far enough away, around a a corner, through some thick brush, just over a rise, etc to be technically within range but out of line of sight without really be "hiding," thus 90% of the time severely limiting very long range combat like that (or course there are other times when PCs or enemies have higher ground and a better vantage to get some use of out of those long ranges).

As for the question at hand, it really is ad hoc for me, because it depends on things like how many enemies decide to turn and run, are they all doing it at once in response to a command or combat event, or are they doing it as their individual morale breaks becomes a cascade? I guess I should also note that I prefer to roll separate initiative for each monster or group of monsters. So assuming there is no immediate combat to resolve and one or more of the enemies are fleeing, I might just move to theater of the mind and keep it in rounds that just move a lot faster because most turns all people are doing is moving. Eventually, the foes either get far enough away or out of sight to hide or be unreachable in some other way or they are caught and combat resumes OR they surrender. Of course, other possibilities exist like, you don't catch them but you observe them from a distance crawl down a sewer grate or disappear into warehouse, etc. . . and then action shifts again.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
I'm uncomfortable with this. So in one round creatures go from being in range, around 0-50 feet and suddenly they are magically out or range? I've got players with 600ft range. For me, it's not fair to them to suddenly have to start chasing their targets, when they really should have several more rounds to attack the fleeing enemy.
Ultimately it's mostly a question of whether you want to introduce retreat as a valid combat option or not. As for range, I'd tend to adjudicate based on the terrain, and give chase benefits to feats or features that increase accuracy and range. Otherwise in most combat situation, I's a good assumption that someone could lose line-of-sight after 100 feet.

What I want to avoid is a situation where "creature A dashes for 60 feet, creating an attack of opportunity from creature B. Then creature B moves within 5 feet of creature A. Next round, creature A dashes for 60 feet, creating an attack of opportunity from creature B. Then creature B moves within 5 feet of creature A, etc" giving creature B an infinite number of attacks of opportunity against creature A who cannot ever get out of reach short of having a greater speed.

or

"creature A dashes for 60 feet. Then creature B moves 30 feet closer, reducing the gap to 30 feet, and makes a (full round worth of) ranged attack/spell. Next round, creature A dashes another 60 feet Then creature B moves 30 feet closer, reducing the gap to 60 feet, and makes a (full round worth of) ranged attack/spell, etc" giving creature B anywhere from 10 to 20 rounds worth of attacks before creature A is out of range.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
What I want to avoid is a situation where "creature A dashes for 60 feet, creating an attack of opportunity from creature B. Then creature B moves within 5 feet of creature A. Next round, creature A dashes for 60 feet, creating an attack of opportunity from creature B. Then creature B moves within 5 feet of creature A, etc" giving creature B an infinite number of attacks of opportunity against creature A who cannot ever get out of reach short of having a greater speed.

or

"creature A dashes for 60 feet. Then creature B moves 30 feet closer, reducing the gap to 30 feet, and makes a (full round worth of) ranged attack/spell. Next round, creature A dashes another 60 feet Then creature B moves 30 feet closer, reducing the gap to 60 feet, and makes a (full round worth of) ranged attack/spell, etc" giving creature B anywhere from 10 to 20 rounds worth of attacks before creature A is out of range.
In the first case, adding some variability to speed and/or a run action can help shut it down.

In the second case, creature A should be dead unless they can find cover.

Another run at the run action:
Run: You can take the Run action on a turn after you took the Dash or Run action.

When you Run, you first roll Strength(Athletics) and add that to your speed. Then you gain the benefits of the Dash action. Finally, you have disadvantage on opportunity attacks until the end of your next turn.

---

Now, A dashes 60 feet, provokes an OA. B dashes and closes the distance.

Now A runs. It gets 1 more OA, but now gains an extra set of distance.

B can now open up the distance. If A keeps pace while also Running, the OAs will be at disadvantage.

Now, it takes effort to get away here. All things being equal, B is screwed, because A can keep up. But fleeing combat is dangerous; you usually have to leave someone behind to delay your foes to buy time.

If fleeing combat wasn't dangerous or hard, then you couldn't ever kill a foe with weapons unless they held their ground. They'd just walk away.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I've played around with a few ways of handling chases and my most recent iteration abstracts it a bit into the following. I play on the grid for combats, notably. We don't use initiative for chases.

Capture.JPG


The Chase Begins
If a creature leaves the area shown by the map and another creature pursues, move to the Chase screen. The quarry is placed in Zone H. The hunter is placed in Zone C.

If the quarry has a faster speed than the hunter, the quarry can automatically escape if they so choose.

Fly, You Fools!
The quarry goes first, moving from its current zone to the next one, but not before encountering a random wilderness complication that may impede progress.

The hunter goes next, moving from its current zone to the next one, encountering the same complication.

A Complication Ensues
The DM presents the complication. The hunter and quarry must describe how it is dealing with the complication and make any relevant ability checks if necessary. If there is more than one hunter or quarry, the creature dealing with the complication cannot have already dealt with a complication (unless all hunters or quarry have done so already). Failing by 5 or more can sometimes carry additional consequences.

Hide!
If the quarry was successful in dealing with the complication, the quarry may attempt to hide, making a Dexterity (Stealth) check against the hunter's passive Perception score. If the hunter failed at dealing with the complication when moving into the current zone, this check is made at advantage.

If the attempt to hide is successful, the quarry escapes and is safely away from the hunter, but cannot help other quarry. If the attempt to hide is not successful, the chase continues (repeat, starting at Fly, You Fools!).

No Place Left to Run
If the quarry fails to hide in or before Section E, the hunter catches up to them and an encounter follows, starting at a range of 1d3 x 30 feet.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
A chase begins when someone, player or DM, declares an action to pursue a creature that is moving away. Whatever distance away from the pursuer the fleeing creature is when pursuit begins is the starting distance.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
In the first case, adding some variability to speed and/or a run action can help shut it down.

In the second case, creature A should be dead unless they can find cover.

Another run at the run action:
Run: You can take the Run action on a turn after you took the Dash or Run action.

When you Run, you first roll Strength(Athletics) and add that to your speed. Then you gain the benefits of the Dash action. Finally, you have disadvantage on opportunity attacks until the end of your next turn.

---

Now, A dashes 60 feet, provokes an OA. B dashes and closes the distance.

Now A runs. It gets 1 more OA, but now gains an extra set of distance.

B can now open up the distance. If A keeps pace while also Running, the OAs will be at disadvantage.

Now, it takes effort to get away here. All things being equal, B is screwed, because A can keep up. But fleeing combat is dangerous; you usually have to leave someone behind to delay your foes to buy time.

If fleeing combat wasn't dangerous or hard, then you couldn't ever kill a foe with weapons unless they held their ground. They'd just walk away.
The desired style counts for a lot.

In my experience, the "move, then OA, then move, then OA etc" tends to drag on and make combat unnecessarily long for a fight that - in effect - is already over. We are only playing a loosely tactical game. If we were playing more hardcore tactical D&D, we would likely do it different.

As for retreating monsters/enemies; that's OK if they flee; they have been defeated. 90% of the time, the player's purpose has been fulfilled and not all combats end-up being a fight-to-the death. As a bonus, the body trail left by the players is made a bit more reasonable.

And even if they announce a retreat, players would often win the chase unless the opponent could fly or had enough speed to warrant advantage or impose disadvantage. A fleeting creature is hardly simply walking away. So in then end, few enemies that the PC really wanted to kill managed to run away. And you know, they'd get them eventually. All it did was saving precious time at the table.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I'm uncomfortable with this. So in one round creatures go from being in range, around 0-50 feet and suddenly they are magically out or range? I've got players with 600ft range. For me, it's not fair to them to suddenly have to start chasing their targets, when they really should have several more rounds to attack the fleeing enemy.
You are in fact able to choose to attack/cast instead of dash, when pursuing someone. In that case you are trying to stop them in a different way, but if you miss their distance from you increases and thus their chance of not being targettable next round and closer to escape. Indeed even those escaping can choose to shoot the pursuers if they think they have a reason to do so.
 

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