D&D 5E Skirmishers

So with the multi 'vs vecna' threads and the fact that I have read through curse of strahds final ideas along with like 100 different 'advice' on both I have really been thinking about engage disengage monsters (aka skirmishers for short).

Now I don't want to get bogged down in CR talk (I dislike the CR system but that is a different discussion) or one adventure/mod/monster in particular (even though I just brought up 2 examples.


But I ask... how much fun is it for players if you as the DM have set up a monster (maybe a boss like above examples but it doesn't have to be) that can engage, fight for a round or two, then pull back to a safe location? Does it make it less fair if it has a way to heal or regen?

now this is 2 different types of sceneros... if it is using resources and getting weaker it is still just a game of attrition... BUT if it can regenerate without cost, it could turn VERY 1 sided.

Does anyone have experence with NPC/Monsters running this way?
 

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Vaalingrade

Legend
In playtest in my system, one of the things the players ABSOLUTELY could not stand for was monsters that healed.

Incremental regeneration on one or two creatures was okay, but if something could take a full second wind and get back a good chunk, or was constantly healing up other monsters, the reaction was clear. They felt like if the monsters were going to have more HP, they should just start with it instead of in their words 'just keeping on extending the fight'. Which is also telling as they were fine with long fights, just not subverting their expectations when they had something on the ropes and that got pulled away from them.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Like many things, its all about frequency. Once in a while, yeah can be great, used commonly it becomes quite annoying. In terms of monsters, the vampire is your classic skirmisher, high Hp regen, has a legendary action to let it move without provoking OAs, and lots of other escape options. Vampires are terrifying if you play them right.

What I find is, PCs HATE HATE HATE monsters that get away. That monster will instantly become their number 1 most hated enemy. But man will they cheer when they finally defeat it. Again great to do once in a blue moon, just don't do it often.

Now one major factor for your group, do they have chill touch? If they do....regen becomes a LOT weaker.
 

What I find is, PCs HATE HATE HATE monsters that get away. That monster will instantly become their number 1 most hated enemy. But man will they cheer when they finally defeat it. Again great to do once in a blue moon, just don't do it often.
I made the mistake of making unkillable mooks once... I have never seen a party as mad as when I said "You can KO them, but they will get back up in 1d4 hours..."
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Certain monsters absolutely should run away and heal, then come back later. And if my players ever complained about it, I'd tell them to get over themselves.

As @Stalker0 says... it's all about frequency. I don't have every monster heal, just like I don't have every monster cast spells. Or every monster have Pack Tactics. Or every monster fly. Every encounter is different and is a new thing the group has to puzzle through to defeat.

If Strahd discovers that he is unable to regenerate because a member of the party wields the Sun Blade and it's attacks are shutting down his ability to recover... then damn straight he is going to fly away to heal later. And it's up to the group to figure out how to stop that from happening next time.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I made the mistake of making unkillable mooks once... I have never seen a party as mad as when I said "You can KO them, but they will get back up in 1d4 hours..."
I remember back in AD&D 2nd having Skeletons that would reform from the bones and dust in a few rounds. Players realized that if they trapped the forming cyclone of bonus in a cauldron it was unable to form properly. Turned them into puzzle monsters, which is not something I have a problem with.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
In a D&D like game where retreating is so hard plus there are expectations that a fight is a valid way to overcome a challenge, having a foe retreat (read: cheat to player feelings because they can't) means "robbing them of their victory". In D&D if the fight was framed from the beginning as "force away the guardian so we can stop the ritual/free the prisoners/alternate win condition" I don't think it would be nearly so bad. And other game systems don't always have the same tightly coupled expectations of "slay foe=win" and might be already fine.
 

James Gasik

Legend
I made the mistake of making unkillable mooks once... I have never seen a party as mad as when I said "You can KO them, but they will get back up in 1d4 hours..."
I did the same thing once. There were these cursed undead soldiers that were left guarding an area the party came across. I explained that, even if they killed them, they would revive eventually due to their curse.

Their response? "Oh we can't fight these things, they'll just get back up and keep fighting!"

No matter how many times I said the process would take days or weeks, they kept repeating that talking point. The whole point was to find a weapon that could permanently kill them, but the party just refused and went on to do other things.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I would look at it from the XP generation side.

In a given 4-hour session, players may have an expectation of how much progress they make toward leveling on average. Any given battle in that session is going to take a certain amount of time. If the battle resolves with no XP rewarded - as with an in-and-out skirmisher - then it stands to reason the pace of advancement is going to take a hit. That might not be much in a single session, but if it happens more than once in a session or a few times over many sessions, it could start to sting in terms of advancement.

Night hags and succubi are like this. They work best if they hit and run and wear the party down over time. That can be tiresome when you're just taking the beats for no reward. Thus, I say it's best to read the room when using these types of creatures or tactics.
 

I remember back in AD&D 2nd having Skeletons that would reform from the bones and dust in a few rounds. Players realized that if they trapped the forming cyclone of bonus in a cauldron it was unable to form properly. Turned them into puzzle monsters, which is not something I have a problem with.
I did the same thing once. There were these cursed undead soldiers that were left guarding an area the party came across. I explained that, even if they killed them, they would revive eventually due to their curse.

Their response? "Oh we can't fight these things, they'll just get back up and keep fighting!"

No matter how many times I said the process would take days or weeks, they kept repeating that talking point. The whole point was to find a weapon that could permanently kill them, but the party just refused and went on to do other things.
in my case it waas 'living undead soldiers' that would regen over hours.. still gave xp and counted as beat, jsut the same ones would get up an hour or so later....
 


DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
But I ask... how much fun is it for players if you as the DM have set up a monster (maybe a boss like above examples but it doesn't have to be) that can engage, fight for a round or two, then pull back to a safe location? Does it make it less fair if it has a way to heal or regen?

now this is 2 different types of sceneros... if it is using resources and getting weaker it is still just a game of attrition... BUT if it can regenerate without cost, it could turn VERY 1 sided.

Does anyone have experence with NPC/Monsters running this way?
This is very interesting.

In running the Vecna battles, his ability to regen 80 hp per round is HUGE, but can be easily countered in battle via chill touch and other spells. However, if he gets away for just a few rounds, he could potentially be back at full strength in very little time.

Other regenerating creatures can do the same, but might take longer.

Meanwhile, the PCs have to use (limited) resources to "heal up" during those rounds of reprieve.

But, IMO, this is a feature of such monsters that is supposed to make them scary and difficult to deal with. How does the party stop them from retreating to safety and then re-engaging at full strength again? To my mind, that is part of the challenge the PCs face. Can it be frustrating? Oh, yes, but that is the very point of such features.

Now, should they be unlimited in use? I guess depends on what you want for the monster. My personal preference would be for creatures to be limited to a maximum full hp restore and then no more until a long rest.

This way, if the PCs are winning but struggling, the monster can disengage and heal up, come back for "round 2" so to say while the PCs are still (relatively) weaker. IF the PCs are winning but not struggling (and still "strong") the monster might disengage simply to "fight another day".
 

James Gasik

Legend
I'm surprised to see anyone even having chill touch, to be honest. Monsters that heal aren't exactly common, are they? I've only played to level 12, but I've seen lots of fights that hinge on some resistance or immunity a monster has, but none that hinge on preventing the monster from healing.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
I'm surprised to see anyone even having chill touch, to be honest. Monsters that heal aren't exactly common, are they?
No, they aren't. IME vampires are the chief ones. But, Chill Touch is useful against undead in general, anyway.

It certainly isn't the most common damage cantrip I've seen taken, but can be exceedingly effective when needed!
 

I'm surprised to see anyone even having chill touch, to be honest. Monsters that heal aren't exactly common, are they? I've only played to level 12, but I've seen lots of fights that hinge on some resistance or immunity a monster has, but none that hinge on preventing the monster from healing.
chill touch isn't the most common spell but far from the least common I have seen
 



Huh, ok. I'm used to seeing firebolt or occasionally ray of frost.
Firebolt and Toll the Dead (and Eldritch Blast of course) are the most common IME. Chill Touch is only for specific builds typically for my group.
I think Eldritch blast is the most common (maybe equal to the next 3 added togather) then firebolt toll the dead and Mockery. However I have only seen 2 casters have ray of frost and 1 of them bearly used.

Chill touch is in the 5th or 6th most common...
 

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