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5E Villains that are supposed to escape

Are there actually any 5e modules that do this?
All of them hundreds of times?

Well... so far I finished DMing Lost Mine of Phandelver and have an ongoing Princes of the Apocalypse campaign and I think pretty much every 5th encounter has a sentence about some creature escaping when a condition is met (usually "losing the battle" or "left alone").

But I handle it like how most others here do, just stick to the rules and let the creature die.

I was just wondering because often players miss out on even seeing half the creatures abilities, because they have this habit of keeping everything grappled and even if the creature has say the ability to move through walls, that doesn't help it when its speed is 0. Of course I could change the ability to "It can move through walls and is immune to the grappled condition" in preparation, but still feels like cheating to me. Then the module should have thought of it.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Of course I could change the ability to "It can move through walls and is immune to the grappled condition" in preparation,
IDK. walls are typically made of stone, their not nearly as dense as some PCs can be...
;P
but still feels like cheating to me. Then the module should have thought of it.
But, seriously, go right ahead. If a creature can become non-corporeal or something, it could slip right through the grapplers' fingers. Not out of line at all to add something like that, or just rule it on the spot.

The game, itself doesn't think of everything, and, while a module is meant to do a lot of prep work for you, you ate still going to need to make rulings in play. As a matter of fact, it's possible that you have already made some rulings that your players have taken as encouraging the frequent use of grappling...

So go ahead and rule in favor of monsters getting a chance to show their stuff before the combat ends.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
All of them hundreds of times?

Well... so far I finished DMing Lost Mine of Phandelver and have an ongoing Princes of the Apocalypse campaign and I think pretty much every 5th encounter has a sentence about some creature escaping when a condition is met (usually "losing the battle" or "left alone").

But I handle it like how most others here do, just stick to the rules and let the creature die.

I was just wondering because often players miss out on even seeing half the creatures abilities, because they have this habit of keeping everything grappled and even if the creature has say the ability to move through walls, that doesn't help it when its speed is 0. Of course I could change the ability to "It can move through walls and is immune to the grappled condition" in preparation, but still feels like cheating to me. Then the module should have thought of it.
If a module says something about a creature escaping (because it's losing or is left alone), that doesn't mean it needs to succeed - rather that it's motivation is to get the hell out of Dodge to survive another day. If it fails... well, things happen.

There are some games and genres where escaping makes great sense, but there's usually a reason. Take a superhero game, for example, villains escape all the time and will often have some kind of power or gadget to allow it. Some superhero RPGs even encourage the GM to break the rules, but with player compensation. Mutants and Masterminds, for example, has GMs giving the players hero points in compensation for defeats, complications, and escaping villains. The GM gets to stir things up, but the players get something that will help them win in the end.
 

jayoungr

Explorer
To specifically address the last part of the OP, about losing out on a fun pursuit scene: in my experience, players won't find the pursuit fun if they feel like they've been forced into it. Better just to save it for a potential future use, like maybe sometime when a bad guy gets away unexpectedly and you need follow-up on short notice.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
There are some games and genres where escaping makes great sense, but there's usually a reason. Take a superhero game, for example, villains escape all the time and will often have some kind of power or gadget to allow it. Some superhero RPGs even encourage the GM to break the rules, but with player compensation. Mutants and Masterminds, for example, has GMs giving the players hero points in compensation for defeats, complications, and escaping villains. The GM gets to stir things up, but the players get something that will help them win in the end.
It helps that Superhero genre conventions include stuff like Doctor Doom actually being a Doombot - Damn you Richards!
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
One thing that did give me problems, though: Arauthator is supposed to flee the fight and his lair when he reaches 10% original HP. My PCs (7 of them, IIRC) bowshot him out of the air dead and he crashed in a heap by the slush-filled escape hatch. Is there a guide/formula somewhere as to how many HP - a %age or a total - at which point an NPC should flee, so he actually does make it out of the scenario?
Haven't you ever played Final Fantasy? Once an enemy flees, combat is over. There aren't any bow shots, no magic missiles, no point; the opponent is just gone.

Which is really lame from a player's perspective, but it seems like the intent of a designer who writes "flees at 10% original HP."

As for a formula, just record all the damage dealt in one or two rounds. You'll need at least that amount of HP to escape in the last round.
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
In my experience, bad guys that escape have to begin escaping earlier in the combat. Waiting for 50% hp or less is cutting it too close. In my games, foes that flee to escape do it after they fight for a round and tell their minions, “get’em boys” like the villains in the original Batman television series.
 

The Glen

Explorer
Go with Bargle the Infamous, the classic rat bastard from the old days. He's not just weaseling his way out, he's just crazy prepared. The fact that he doesn't fight when the party gets close and just runs away through a contrived yet rather plausible method is one of the reasons he's still hated after decades of play. He's a dirty coward, and he's proud of that fact.
 
If you really need a villain to get away, then just have them escape. The PCs may not even know the method they used, and not all magical effects are listed in the spell list. But most of the time, especially in modules, it's more fun to have them play by the book and see if the players can stop their escape. You can always have someone take over their role in a future encounter.

If I really want them to get away I'll give them something such as misty step, ability to polymorph or turn ethereal, etc. For example, a well prepared vampire can be very difficult to kill if you're in their home turf. Hurt them enough? They turn into gaseous form and disappear into vents that are scattered around their lair.
Just a note that a druid can hard stop that plan with moonbeam (2nd level spell) and someone who can grapple - if you hold the vampire in a moonbeam, he can't move and can't change forms to get out of the grapple. Add in some counterspell fun and even a spellcaster vampire has a hard time escaping.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
If you really need a villain to get away, then just have them escape. The PCs may not even know the method they used, and not all magical effects are listed in the spell list. But most of the time, especially in modules, it's more fun to have them play by the book and see if the players can stop their escape. You can always have someone take over their role in a future encounter.



Just a note that a druid can hard stop that plan with moonbeam (2nd level spell) and someone who can grapple - if you hold the vampire in a moonbeam, he can't move and can't change forms to get out of the grapple. Add in some counterspell fun and even a spellcaster vampire has a hard time escaping.

Which is why my vampire will be a sorcerer with subtle spell and misty step. ;)

In all honesty, if the party thinks ahead enough they can stop the vampire from getting away, I never have a predetermined outcome. I make make it difficult to stop the bad guy from getting away, but if the party can stop them more power to them. If the vampire is integral to the plot, either another threat will arise or it turns out that they were just a lackey and you still need to face the real threat.

In a game I had past weekend the party almost stopped the guy with the McGuffin. Had they succeeded I would have just adjusted what happened next and done some improv. It's one of the reasons I like playing D&D with a human DM instead of a video game.
 

coolAlias

Explorer
Personally, I'd have the villain have a means of escape if he's the type to not go into a fight without a way out. If nothing else, a Ring of Spell Storing with Dimension Door in it would work, or something similar, if he can't cast the spell himself. Make it obvious how he escaped, though, and make it within the rules, so the players know you're not just handwaving his escape.
I may be late to the party (i.e. only read first page of thread so far), but if you go this route, you should always be prepared for your PCs to not only still defeat the villain, but now also have a Ring of Spell Storing.

A guideline I believe I read in 2e AD&D's Complete Book of Villains (excellent book for any edition, btw) is if you want your villain to live, don't have them fight.

Instead, have them counter the players as much as possible out of combat, for example by using their influence to impose bureaucratic pressures such as being denied permission to do {x} by the local magistrate, or by interfering with the people the PCs rely on for supplies / training / etc.

If combat is inevitable, the villain doesn't fight - his henchmen do. The villain is already high-tailing it out of there because it's not worth the risk. Preferably they're gone before the PCs even get there - villains typically keep tabs on the whereabouts and doings of dangerous enemies, and there isn't anything more dangerous to a villain than a PC.

When the PCs do finally catch the villain, they should still have an escape plan - lackeys to run interference, secret passages to escape through, etc., but the villain's fate at this point is up to the roll of the dice and player decisions, vs. what the story as written thinks it requires.
 
If combat is inevitable, the villain doesn't fight - his henchmen do. The villain is already high-tailing it out of there because it's not worth the risk.
This is also a good time to throw in some trash talking from the bad guy. *bored sigh* "Deal with this rabble, I have better things to do" can hit some players/characters in exactly the right place to motivate them to track him down later.
 

jgsugden

Explorer
Stop. Let him die.

DMs should plan in advance and set up mechanisms to help someone escape if you'd like them to escape. However, the DM should be prepared should the players outsmart the DM and take out the villian.

You're telling a story WITH the players, not TO the players. They get to contribute. They get to make meaningful changes to the story. If they earn it, they get it.

Might this disrupt your long term plans? YES. Might it make it impossible to tell the story you planned out. MAYBE. But it doesn't mean that you're failing. It means that you need to adapt and perform. If they cut off a story at the start, move on to a different story. If the story can continue with changes, make those changes and go on. How does the BBEG react when their liutenant is killed by fledgling PCs? How does a lieutenant react when those fledgling PCs kill his boss? There are often still ways to continue.
 

Imaculata

Explorer
Might this disrupt your long term plans? YES. Might it make it impossible to tell the story you planned out. MAYBE. But it doesn't mean that you're failing. It means that you need to adapt and perform. If they cut off a story at the start, move on to a different story. If the story can continue with changes, make those changes and go on. How does the BBEG react when their liutenant is killed by fledgling PCs? How does a lieutenant react when those fledgling PCs kill his boss? There are often still ways to continue.
I make sure my plot can continue without the big bad. Sometimes by having multiple villains.

My players recently killed off the leader of an evil cult of wizards, which I did not expect. But the other heads of the cult still escaped, so this is actually an interesting situation. Who will now take leadership of the cult, and how do the other members feel about that? Will one of the cult members perhaps betray them, and work with the players to bring about their downfall?

It also helps that I have plenty of other villains in my campaign, and this cult never was the main threat. They are disposable villains.
 
Contrived "he gets away no matter what" stuff is great for a novel, but D&D is a game.
Well, in a novel we don't know if it's "no matter what". We just know that, on this occasion, the villain got away.

I think the difference between a novel and D&D or similar RPG is not "no matter what", but rather the different mode of authorship: in a novel there is (typically) one author who decides what happens in the fiction; whereas in D&D or a RPG we normally work that out via action resolution mechanics. (Cue [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION] to say that 5e D&D has not such mechanics other than GM decides, including maybe deciding to call for a check or similar.)

If the villain is supposed to escape but the players are too smart (or lucky) for the published module to work, then you need to figure out a way to make it work for the story (if you're planning on using the villain again). This doesn't mean you need to cheat, just come up with a solution that's logically consistent for your world. If the PCs capture him and turn him over to the authorities, they eventually learn that he has escaped. If they kill him, one of his associates/followers/admirers has him resurrected. If that's not possible, then one of his apprentices/family members/love interests takes his place as antagonist and now has an added reason to hate the PCs.
I tend to feel that this sort of thing doesn't really honour the outcome of the players' action declarations and resolution. What's the point - as players of the game - of having our PCs fight and defeat the villain if it makes no real difference to the shape of the unfolding fiction?

plan for what to do if the BBEG doesn't escape. How will your story continue? Have clues that replace the chase scene, or other lieutenants that step into the BBEG's place. In the latter case don't just have BBEG MII, actually make it something different, as though the PC's actions had an effect. eg the BBE organisation splits into two factions, each under a lesser lieutenant. An all out attack against one will bring them both together or if the PC's are careful they can use subterfuge to play them off against each other.
In defeating the villain the players have scored a victory. So I think the subsequent events, as established by the GM, should honour that victory. So I agree that the PCs' actions should have an effect but I think, further, that that effect should be one that counts as a genuine victory for the players.

That doesn't have to mean that the campaign comes to an end; but at least the current arc has definitely turned the PCs' way.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
whereas in D&D or a RPG we normally work that out via action resolution mechanics. (Cue [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION] to say that 5e D&D has not such mechanics other than GM decides, including maybe deciding to call for a check or similar.)
There's no contradiction there: the resolution mechanics of 5e just require DM judgement of success/failure/uncertainty, up front.

I tend to feel that this sort of thing doesn't really honour the outcome of the players' action declarations and resolution. What's the point - as players of the game - of having our PCs fight and defeat the villain if it makes no real difference to the shape of the unfolding fiction?
This is really the same as in the novel. There's no real difference, because there was only the one version of the scenario played through. Hypothetically, if they'd done something else, it could have turned out differently - possibly even worse. In running a game like D&D (the classic version and 5e in particular), the DM is empowered to take more of an authorship role, and that includes using devices comparable to 'author force.'

In defeating the villain the players have scored a victory. So I think the subsequent events, as established by the GM, should honour that victory.
And a fleeing, pissed off villain, with his fiendish plans in ruin, swearing to "get you next time!" Does just that. I mean, it wouldn't be a cliché if it hadn't entertained a lot of people for a long time.
 
a fleeing, pissed off villain, with his fiendish plans in ruin, swearing to "get you next time!" Does just that. I mean, it wouldn't be a cliché if it hadn't entertained a lot of people for a long time.
When I referred to honouring the players' victory, I had in mind more than just entertaining them in the moment. After all, a deft narration of PC failure could be equally entertaining in the moment.

This is really the same as in the novel. There's no real difference, because there was only the one version of the scenario played through. Hypothetically, if they'd done something else, it could have turned out differently - possibly even worse. In running a game like D&D (the classic version and 5e in particular), the DM is empowered to take more of an authorship role, and that includes using devices comparable to 'author force.'
At a certain point, though, this does raise the question: what exactly is the role/function of the players?
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
I tend to feel that this sort of thing doesn't really honour the outcome of the players' action declarations and resolution. What's the point - as players of the game - of having our PCs fight and defeat the villain if it makes no real difference to the shape of the unfolding fiction?

In defeating the villain the players have scored a victory. So I think the subsequent events, as established by the GM, should honour that victory. So I agree that the PCs' actions should have an effect but I think, further, that that effect should be one that counts as a genuine victory for the players.
What do we call it when the GM subordinates the players' decision-points and/or the resolution mechanics' attendant outcomes to said GM's preconceived metaplot?

And that's fine. But call it what it is. In fact, if you and your players are looking for that play experience, then being honest about what it is, openly analyzing the machinery of it, and getting better at deploying it should be a thing.

But be open about the implications upon play...and be aware that you need to embrace them for this to work.
 

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