Your players all have ranged options. Few of them are ranged battle masters, with sharpshooter feat. The eight enemies are falling down and the last four are down to their 40% hp on the second turn, and see that they can not possibly survive the fight. You decide to play them a normal human and you faithfully describe their fight or flight instincts, and they turn to flee…. the last of them barely walks 60 feet, and drops dead. The party killed them all in one turn, taking zero damage except loss of few arrows. The combat was designed to be Deadly, and thus by making half the enemies flee it became Moderate because the last four did no damage to the party, and had no hopes to escape
"LOL stupid human tried to run, kek, arrows go burrrr…", players congratulate each other.
And then you are left with few choices. Do you play enemies as suicidal videogame drones and do full difficulty as based on the encounter design, or you play them as humans who have the instinct to flee but cannot, ever, succeed to flee because the rules of ranged combat superiority are so stacked against them.
It gets a bit more complicated when the enemy is not a minion dolt, but a powerful enemy.
The enemy BBEG is down to 40% of health. He has one last spell that will decimate the party, maybe drop several of them. His instincts say he wants to live, and 40% health may not be enough to keep him alive for one turn to do that last big spell. But the metaphysics of 5E tell him he cannot escape, as turning back for one turn will do just as much damage to him as he can do if he faced the party. So he takes the risk. The party fails to kill him in one turn, and he TPKs 4 of 5 players. His chances of survival on the next turn may be slim, but he is doing the optimal thing despite his instincts screaming to run away.
Because 5E punishes failures and losers and rewards those who fight to the death (as most players fight to the death, as making a new character is 5 minutes of dice rolls).
How can any DM hope to add humanity and reward realistic behavior, and bring that morale that typically is not punished by game rules in the real world? People would not try to escape if they did not know they had a slim chance to do that. How come in 5E escaping is actively discouraged in every step of the game rules, and unless the environment is designed to allow escape, and the health pool is faked to allow escape (making a minion have 2x health just so it tries to run away at 1x health and have a slim chance to escape, barely for story reasons) players quickly learn that you never turn back to the enemy, even to the death, and only the losers (or the enemy DM wants to remove to make encounters easier) stop doing damage to save their imaginary lives.
I wish there was a solution to make sure 5E allowed both enemies and players to have chance to run away, if only to keep the semblance of humanity in an inhumane ruleset.
- How do you handle a party who don’t know when to quit?
- Teaching Combat Creativity – Why I love the first encounter in Lost Mines of Phandelver
- The “Flanking” Problem, and My Solution
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "Fellow DMs, would you roleplay an NPC attempting to flee if 5E makes chances of fleeing impossibly low?" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
- The Death of a Hero.
- Consulting other DMs
- Crafting an NPC that is a Vampire By Choice, for the Greater Good
- Breaking Anti-Magic Laws: Are my Consequences too Severe? Tips appreciated!
- “I told you to take the wizard’s staff!”. Passive Insight, cooperation, and spellcasting during negotiations and high-stakes social encounters in D&D
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