Once an encounter occurs, there is no set sequence for what happens next. It
all depends on just what your characters have encountered and what they choose
to do. That's the excitement of a role-playing game--once you meet something,
almost anything could happen. There are some fairly common results of encounters,
Evasion: Sometimes all you want is for your characters to avoid, escape, or otherwise
get away from whatever it is you've met. Usually this is because you realize
your group is seriously outmatched. Perhaps returning badly hurt from an
adventure, your group spots a red dragon soaring overhead. You know it can turn your
party to toast if it wants. Rather than take that risk, your group hides, waiting
for it to pass. Or, topping a ridge, you see the army of Frazznargth the
Impious, a noted warlord. There are 5,000 of them and six of you. Retreat seems like
the better part of valor, so you turn your horses and ride.
Sometimes you want to avoid an encounter simply because it will take too much
time. While riding with an urgent message for his lord, your character rides
into a group of wandering pilgrims. Paying them no mind, he lashes his horse and
Evading or avoiding an encounter is not always successful. Some monsters
pursue; others do not. In the examples above, Frazznargth the Impious (being a
prudent commander) orders a mounted patrol to chase the characters and bring them in
for questioning. The pilgrims, on the other hand, shout a few oaths as your
galloping horse splashes mud on them and then continue on their way. Your
character's success at evading capture will depend on movement rates, determination of
pursuit, terrain, and just a little luck. Sometimes when he really should be
caught, your character gets lucky. At other times, well, he just has to stand
Talk: Your character doesn't run from encounters all the time, and attacking
everything you meet eventually leads to problems. Sometimes the best thing to do is
talk, whether it's casual conversation, hardball negotiation, jovial
rumor-swapping, or intimidating threats. In fact, talking is often better than fighting. To
solve the problems your DM has created for your character, you need
information. Asking the right questions, developing contacts, and putting out the word
are all useful ways to use an encounter. Not everything you meet, human or
otherwise, is out to kill your character. Help often appears in the most surprising
forms. Thus it often pays to take the time to talk to creatures.
Fight: Of course, there are times when you don't want to or can't run away. (Running
all the time is not that heroic.) And there are times when you know talking is
not a good idea. Sooner or later, your character will have to fight. The real
trick is knowing when to fight and when to talk or run. If you attack every
creature you meet, the first thing that will happen is that nobody will want to
meet with your character. Your character will also manage to kill or chase off
everyone who might want to help him. Finally, sooner or later your DM is going to
get tired of this and send an incredibly powerful group of monsters after your
character. Given the fact that you've been killing everything in sight, he's
justified in doing this.
So it is important always to know who you are attacking and why. As with the
best police in the world today, the trick is to figure out who are the bad guys
and who are the good guys. Make mistakes and you pay. You may kill an NPC who
has a vital clue, or unintentionally anger a baron far more powerful than
yourself. NPCs will be reluctant to associate with your character, and the law will
find fewer and fewer reasons to protect him. It is always best to look on combat
as a last resort.
Wait: Sometimes when you encounter another group, you don't know what you should do.
You don't want to attack them in case they are friendly, but you don't want to
say anything to provoke them. What you can do is wait and see how they react.
Waiting is a perfectly sensible option. However, there is the risk that in
waiting, you lose the advantage should the other side suddenly decide to attack.
Waiting for a reaction so that you can decide what to do causes a +1 penalty to
the first initiative roll for your group, if the other side attacks.
Of course, in any given encounter, there may be many other options open to
your character. The only limit is your imagination (and common sense). Charging a
band of orcs to break through their lines and flee may work. Talking them down
with an elaborate bluff about the army coming up behind you might scare them
off. Clever use of spells could end the encounter in sudden and unexpected ways.
The point is, this is a role-playing game and the options are as varied as you
wish to make them.
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