Unearthed Arcana: Fight or Flight

For the less blood-thirsty groups, this article provides some basic advice on how to resolve encounters using methods other than thorough decimation. It starts out by adding an extra step to the turn sequence, allowing each side to determine if it wants to keep fighting, negotiate, run, or give up. There's no rules or checks involved, with the Dungeon Master just making a choice based on factors such as the opponents, location, and condition of everyone involved. Really, a lot of it is just common sense that most capable DMs are privvy to: cowardly monsters tend to run when blatantly outmatched, undead and constructs tend to fight to the death, and animals probably flee when bloodied--or retreat if they manage to snag a meal.

Honestly, I'm kind of glad that there isn't a hard morale system. I've had annoying players try to abuse Intimidate in the past (and Diplomacy in 3rd Edition), and while my group wouldn't necessarily try to exploit the rules, I'm sure there are groups with one or more players that would. That's not to say that there isn't any crunch. There's a pair of skill challenges that help determine if a party successfully retreats from an encounter, and if they can shake pursuing opponents should they fail. The first relies on whatever skill you think is appropriate (and your DM agrees on), with the DC based on how close you are to a monster when you try to book it.  The second has each player make Acrobatics, Athletics, or Endurance checks, with DCs based on opposed Speed.

I really like the skill challenges, and will probably even use the "Encounter Status Check" in some capacity or other. Normally I play monster morale by ear, with cowardly monsters--and even those with some sense--legging it when it's obvious that they're losing. Non-intelligent monsters like undead or constructs, as well as those being compelled or particularly fanatic (such as angels or trained animals), usually fight until they're slain. Since I still give players full XP for monsters that flee this has the added benefits of rewarding the heroes for their mercy not wasting time chasing every last straggler down, as well as ending fights that the heroes have obviously won.

Not a bad article, especially for players/groups that have become jaded to mindlessly slaughtering their foes because their hit points are the path of least resistance.

1 comment:

  1. While I agree with you that a "hard" morale system would probably be a mistake, I do wish there was an optional morale system built into the game. I think it would go a long way towards fixing the "grind" problem if monsters started to flee as the fight went against them. I recently found a nice quick morale system from the Diceofdoom blog. I'm going to try it out in my next campaign.

    I like the idea of a skill challenge to flee from combat, too. As it stands, I don't see too many players ever fleeing from combat, even in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. I also think it's a cool idea to have this sort of situational skill challenge.


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