Over at Paul’s Blog my almost homonym blogs about evading combat. As in ACH! HANS, RUN, IT’S THE LHURGHOYF!
Image somewhat related. Yes, I play Magic, I like it.
Back to evasion… I distinguish evasion in three types, depending on the relation between the evasion itself and the encounter to be evaded:
- no engaging whatsoever: when a group notices another group first and manages to be completely unnoticed and to put enough distance between them to make engage impractical or improbable. The best evasion type ever and, in my opinion, the best way to win any encounter with possibly hostile creatures. Crucial to this is noticing that other people are around without being noticed. In the Metzner expert set, thieves and hobbits are good at this, as are elves and dwarves at night against someone that doesn’t see in the dark are good too. Spells like levitation, invisibility, fly and silence can help a lot. The reverse situation is horrible: if you wander in the dark with a light source you’re going to be spotted first.
- backing off/leaving combat: d20 fails at this, as usually it’s enough for the pursuers to charge the evaders to start combat again, as if nothing happened. The case is covered in B/X and BECMI, having a specific rule for this case in the DM section. This might happen because the evaders realize they’re going to succumb or because they have other priorities. The critic part is to find a way to top the engagement long enough to gain some distance: spells such as hold portal, wizard lock, web, wall of fog can be really helpful at lower levels, as can a clever use of caltrops, nets, oil flasks, frisian horses, castles or other fortification of the non-portable kind. Yes, fortified defenders have to run away too at times 🙂
- running away: an hostile opponent is met, one side RUNS FOR HIS LIFE. It’s possible to flee after combat started (see previous case) or without any combat. Having no burden such as armour helps here, as any kind of help as per above. Spells such as levitation and all the above can really help. It’s also possible to do something smart, such as dropping some food or money (B/X and BECMI mention this too), try to hide and, my favourite, use the location and the chase to gain some upper hand. Such as hiding in a dark side niche while the “obvious” escape route has been made slippery with some lantern oil. Lantern oil that later will be set on fire while slipped pursuers, busy with regaining footing and unit coherency, are shot at with arrows, spells, swearing and so on. Or if there is a difference in number, fighting in a choke point (for the outnumbered escapers) or immediately after (for the outnumbering escapers) can flip the battle. Or will simply deter the pursuer enough to save the day. A pint or two of oil on fire in a dungeon corrider can be enough to dissuade pursuers 🙂
I actually lied. My favourite way to slow down pursuers is to cast delayed blast fireball and drop the shiny gem so that the greedy pursuer will pick it up.