Encounter Options

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, however.

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 gallops past.

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 his ground.

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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