Player Advice: Run Away! Run Away!

Amid the screams of pain and the clamour of battle it becomes clear our heroes cannot win this fight. With their resources running low and injuries mounting the party face a stark choice: retreat or die.


Sometimes things just go wrong. Sometimes, the party are outmatched or low on resources and a “tactical retreat” or “regrouping manoeuvre” is necessary. Most groups, however, don’t seem to ever make plans for running away. That’s a silly, and potentially deadly, mistake to make.

  • Go Decisively: When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. In my campaign, often the players discuss retreating for several rounds before actually getting around to it. That’s extra time spent in a fight you are already planning to leave which means your enemy has more chances to kill you.
  • Treasure: If you are fighting intelligent foes (such as goblins, orcs or bandits) throwing some minor treasure behind you is a great idea. Your foes will no doubt stop to pick it up, giving you time to escape. Keep a pouch of coins at  hand for just such an eventuality. It’s not like you are losing the treasure anyway – you’ll be back later to wrest it from their cold, dead hands!
  • Food: If you are fighting non-intelligent foes (wolves, vermin and so on) throwing food behind you is a great tactic to aid your escape. The food may just distract them along enough for you to get away. And let’s face it, rations are cheap. You can buy more.
  • Magic: Keeping back a spell, scroll or other magic item to aid your escape is always a great idea. Blocking a corridor (once you’ve fled down it) with a web spell is going to dramatically slow down pursuit. Even spells like obscuring mist, fog cloud or almost any half-way believable illusion can obscure enemies’ vision. This makes it easy to hide or dodge pursuit. They also stop your enemies effectively targeting you with missile fire. That’s kind of handy. Being shot in the back while running away is embarrassing!
  • Mundane Equipment: Bags of caltrops, handfuls of marbles or smashed flasks of oil can all slow down and hinder pursuit. Scatter them on the ground behind you as you flee.
  • Rally Point: When you are running away, it’s always a great idea to know where you are going. In the chaos of retreat, you  might lose track of your friends or get separated. Knowing where they’ll be is far preferable to wandering around the dungeon or wilderness on your own.

Help Fellow Gamers!

Are you good at running away? Do you have some tried and tested tactics for retreating that I haven’t mentioned here? If you do, please leave a note in the comments below and help gamers everywhere “be heroic elsewhere.”


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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

10 thoughts on “Player Advice: Run Away! Run Away!”

  1. Also: Use the traps you are aware of! The pursuers might be tricked by their own devices or they don’t know they exists!

    Priceless when this works!

  2. When outside, in the proper terrain, being mounted makes retreat much easier. You can even turn it into a fighting retreat with missile weapons and the like.

  3. Whatever you do, don’t scatter, and don’t make it a rout. If possible, make the enemy pay for every inch. Caltrops, alchemist’s fire +grease spell, arrows, even a surprise fireball or other spell can do wonders to dissuade your foes from pursuit.

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