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D&D 5E Melee combat on the run

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I imagine this has been discussed before, so apologies in advance.

I had an interesting situation come up tonight which surprisingly hasn’t happened before in my game. A combat had been going on for a while and eventually the monster decided to make a break for it. It ran off, provoking opportunity attacks in the process, and a couple of melee PCs gave chase and attacked it when the caught up. The creature was trying to escape so it wasn’t going to stop and fight them off it kept running on its turn and when it came to the PC’s turn they asked how close to the monster they were. I said that they were running after the creature so would be right by it (that’s how it was playing out in my head at least, because the creature continuing to move hadn’t triggered fresh opportunity attacks because the melee was “on the run”). The player naturally protested because they said they hadn’t said they’d moved, but then the creature would have moved out of melee provoking more opportunity attacks. So I said fine, the monster is now 40 ft away what do you want to do? They chose to hold their action.

It all was a bit unpleasant, which was sad as the combat had been exciting and fast paced till that point (and the monster was about to die on the next strike which is why it I thought the PC would want to be in melee range...)

So what would have been a smarter way to handle that?
 

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(...)

So what would have been a smarter way to handle that?

You are right, movements on the battlefield works as long as all participants want to stay on the battlefield. It breaks down when it becomes a chase for reasons you mentioned. But that's the trick; it's not combat anymore, it's a chase.

As a rule of thumb, when someone says "I quit!" and someone else says "No you don't!", drop the combat rules. They don't apply anymore. I think the DMG has rules for a chase. I like to have a series of opposed checks. If the hunters catch up to their quarry, roll initiative and start a new fight. Likely, the players will have one shot at it before the creatures disappears once more. It's tedious in one way or another, depending how obstinated your players are.
 



robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I think it was confusing because the creature really had not much left to give, so the chase was really over before it started. It was also confusing because another PC tried to get in its way (and was grappled for his trouble) so it sort of felt like combat was still progressing.

Anyway, it was disappointing because the moment was lost and the climax dampened because of a silly debate about positioning.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
For me, it depends on the situation. If the enemy is fleeing because combat is a foregone conclusion and I just want it to end, then sometimes I'll let the players decide what happens to the last few monsters. "They throw down their weapons and surrender. What do you do with them?"

For beasts, that's not really an option -- they're always going to run if they get too low on health -- so I'll have them die on the next attack, even if the damage isn't ordinarily enough to kill them. Just so everyone doesn't waste their time trying to chase it down and finish it off for no purpose (I have had players do this even when there was clearly nothing to be gained (in story-based XP games, for example, against monsters that clearly had no treasure)).

If an enemy's escape actually matters -- as in cases where the enemy is trying to warn reinforcements -- then I'll do everything by the book. In which case, yeah, everyone moves on their own turn, and the fleeing enemy suffers attacks of opportunity on every round they don't disengage.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Agree with others - Chase rules in the DMG. They aren't great, but they are good enough and provide a framework for tweaking it on your own. Notably, nobody gets OAs in the Chase rules and that seems like this was one of the objections from your players. I can't actually tell because I've read your description several times and can't discern it exactly.
 

I think it was confusing because the creature really had not much left to give, so the chase was really over before it started. It was also confusing because another PC tried to get in its way (and was grappled for his trouble) so it sort of felt like combat was still progressing.

Anyway, it was disappointing because the moment was lost and the climax dampened because of a silly debate about positioning.
We know the feeling.

And then you go to bed and you're like "arrrg, I should have thought of this!"
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
Agree with others - Chase rules in the DMG. They aren't great, but they are good enough and provide a framework for tweaking it on your own. Notably, nobody gets OAs in the Chase rules and that seems like this was one of the objections from your players. I can't actually tell because I've read your description several times and can't discern it exactly.
As long as the results of the chase have consequences, of course. If this is just some mook that the party will never see or hear from again, with no significant treasure, then why bother? Just give them the win. "Yeah, the poor little bugger's too slow for you. He's dead before he even reaches the trees."
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
As long as the results of the chase have consequences, of course. If this is just some mook that the party will never see or hear from again, with no significant treasure, then why bother? Just give them the win. "Yeah, the poor little bugger's too slow for you. He's dead before he even reaches the trees."
This mook was a Tarrasque! :D
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
As long as the results of the chase have consequences, of course. If this is just some mook that the party will never see or hear from again, with no significant treasure, then why bother? Just give them the win. "Yeah, the poor little bugger's too slow for you. He's dead before he even reaches the trees."

I don't give the players anything. They earn it.

The way I typically handle chases is that if the PC or NPC/monster moves "off the map," then they dump into Chase mode if anyone pursues. Then we resolve things from there. Everyone knows what to expect this way and what to do if they want to run away or give chase.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Agree with others - Chase rules in the DMG. They aren't great, but they are good enough and provide a framework for tweaking it on your own. Notably, nobody gets OAs in the Chase rules and that seems like this was one of the objections from your players. I can't actually tell because I've read your description several times and can't discern it exactly.
Yeah, it was confusing because it was theater of the mind and in that moment my mind and the player’s mind were out of sync,
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
This mook was a Tarrasque! :D
Yeesh. Then I can see why they wouldn't want to let it escape.

This does raise another question, though. How was your party able to keep up with a Tarrasque?

(And why do Tarrasques only have 40 ft. of movement? That seems ridiculously slow for something that large.)
 

Mort

Legend
I imagine this has been discussed before, so apologies in advance.

I had an interesting situation come up tonight which surprisingly hasn’t happened before in my game. A combat had been going on for a while and eventually the monster decided to make a break for it. It ran off, provoking opportunity attacks in the process, and a couple of melee PCs gave chase and attacked it when the caught up. The creature was trying to escape so it wasn’t going to stop and fight them off it kept running on its turn and when it came to the PC’s turn they asked how close to the monster they were. I said that they were running after the creature so would be right by it (that’s how it was playing out in my head at least, because the creature continuing to move hadn’t triggered fresh opportunity attacks because the melee was “on the run”). The player naturally protested because they said they hadn’t said they’d moved, but then the creature would have moved out of melee provoking more opportunity attacks. So I said fine, the monster is now 40 ft away what do you want to do? They chose to hold their action.

It all was a bit unpleasant, which was sad as the combat had been exciting and fast paced till that point (and the monster was about to die on the next strike which is why it I thought the PC would want to be in melee range...)

So what would have been a smarter way to handle that?

Quick question - If the monster decided to run for it, why didn't it disengage and not provoke opportunity attacks? Was it just a matter of you wanting it to attack first, due to its nature?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yeah, it was confusing because it was theater of the mind and in that moment my mind and the player’s mind were out of sync,

Yeah, a common problem of theater of the mind. It helps if the DM very stringently sticks to the play loop which would involve re-describing the environment as it currently stands at the start of every single turn. I do that even though I use maps almost all the time, but it's particularly important with theater of the mind. It allows for any misunderstandings to be resolved right away before it gets to a critical moment.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
It wasn’t really a chase because the monster couldn’t out run the PCs so they could keep up with it and harry it while it was trying to futilely escape with its last few HP. I probably should have ended it earlier but I was waiting for a good moment. Fortunately it happened right after as the weakest PC made a lucky killing shot with their bow.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Quick question - If the monster decided to run for it, why didn't it disengage and not provoke opportunity attacks? Was it just a matter of you wanting it to attack first, due to its nature?
The creature had made a last round of attacks (5 attacks!) and then decided to make a break for it when it didn’t get TPK it was looking for.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
I don't give the players anything. They earn it.

The way I typically handle chases is that if the PC or NPC/monster moves "off the map," then they dump into Chase mode if anyone pursues. Then we resolve things from there. Everyone knows what to expect this way and what to do if they want to run away or give chase.
But if there's nothing to be lost or gained, why draw it out? At most, flip a coin. Heads, the creature escapes; tails, the party kills it. Voila! Pointless chase scene resolved in seconds instead of minutes.
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Yeesh. Then I can see why they wouldn't want to let it escape.

This does raise another question, though. How was your party able to keep up with a Tarrasque?

(And why do Tarrasques only have 40 ft. of movement? That seems ridiculously slow for something that large.)
Hasted and high level. And I see it as a lumbering beast rather than a sprinter.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
But if there's nothing to be lost or gained, why draw it out? At most, flip a coin. Heads, the creature escapes. Tails, the party kills it. Pointless chase resolved in seconds instead of minutes.

I don't share your assumption that it's pointless or that there's nothing to be lost or gained. Also, what's being drawn out? If the players want to chase, that's on them. They could choose not to. The only thing that's up to me is to say the monster is fleeing.
 

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