Brave Sir Robin ran away.
Bravely ran away, away!
When danger reared its ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat,
Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin!
He is packing it in and packing it up
And sneaking away and buggering off
And chickening out and pissing off home,
Yes, bravely he is throwing in the sponge...
The Ballad of Brave Sir Robin (Monty Python: The Holy Grail)
So when is a good time to beat a hasty retreat in combat? Knowing when to retreat (IMHO) is closely liked to being able to identify clear tactical objectives when battle commences. When those objectives clearly can't be met it's time to rethink or retreat.
I was going to write a scholarly post about battlefield decision making in RPG’s. I could have discussed the need to keep a close eye on the groups resources and recognise the point at which they become inadequate to the battle. I could have discussed key indicators of imminent defeat such as when 50% of the group are down or out of a fight. Or I could have mentioned that any battle in which a one or two rounds go past without the group causing any damage is a major indicator of imminent failure.
Instead I asked for some ideas from my gaming group and got the following suggestions:
- When the DM can't keep the grin off his face when he says "roll for initiative"
- When the GM starts looking more worried than the players
- When your PC is the only one left standing - and you're holding the loot.
- When the first Kobold has taken 56 points of damage and still doesn't look worried
- When you realise you actually missed on the last attack, you tell the DM so he can undo the damage you caused and he says "don't worry, it doesn't make much difference"
- When you defeat your enemy only to find reinforcements chatting amongst themselves in the wings.
- When the only spell component you have left is half a bayleaf and some navel fluff.
- When you realise there are more enemies facing you than arrows in your quarrel.
- When the PC guarding your flank goes "arrgh...thump"
Been there. Done them all. Rolled a new PC!