Something that came up in my last game that I wanted to get some advice on is chasing rules. The situation was that there was a half-orc cleric/assassin who had held several party members with hold person spells, and then cast sanctuary on himself to try to slip past the others to grab a spear. This all took place in a large dungeon room (about 80' x 30') so there was plenty of space to move around. The players who had characters who were not held and made their saves against the sanctuary spell effect argued that they should get +4 to hit attack bonuses for attacking from behind and a bonus 'attack of opportunity' every time the half-orc left melee (i.e. each round where their miniatures based his). I ruled it a bit differently, and let them each have a +2 to hit since the half-orc wasn't defending himself but also wasn't necessarily exposing his back -- just trying to avoid them -- and I also didn't give them the bonus 'attack of opportunity' each round since it wasn't so much a melee as a chase. They were getting quite vocal in their objections, but I did not back down. How do you guys adjudicate these sort of 'chase' situations?
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2021 16:22:32 GMT -5 by GRWelsh
Post by geneweigel on Aug 24, 2021 17:04:11 GMT -5
From the DMG page 68:
Procedure For Determination Of Evasion Underground: If it is discovered that a pursuit situation exists, and the player-party elects to evade rather than confront pursuers, then record the relative speeds of pursued and pursuer. Move the pursued party as many l o ' s of feet as their slowest member is able to travel, and likewise move the pursuing party as many 10's of feet as its fastest member can travel, noting positions of slower members, if any, as well. This movement is accomplished on the map, of course. Three such movement phases are (for game purposes) equal to 1 round. At the end of any movement portion where any number of the pursued party is within 10' or less of any number of the pursuing party, confrontation must take place between the concerned members of the parties. (At this point the remainder, if any, of the pursued party may elect to stop flight or continue evasion attempts as they wish.) Also, at the end of each movement portion it is necessary to check the 3 SEPARATE PURSUIT CASES and any PURSUIT MODIFIERS to see if the pursued party has succeeded in evading the pursuers. Keep track not only of the route of flight, but also of the amount of game time so spent, as some pursuit will automatically cease after a set period without confrontation.
+4 is only for stunned, motionless, etc. situations. A rear attack gives a +2 bonus, and no dex or shield protection. A rear flank attack just negates dex and shield protection. This is probably what I would have went with. It wasn't a true attack from the rear and the half-orc was making some effort to avoid the PCs.
What about the free attack when (a) someone flees from melee, or (b) in an ongoing chase? From the DMG p. 70: "At such time as any creature decides, it can break off the engagement and flee the melee. To do so, however, allows the opponent a free attack or attack routine. This attack is calculated as if it were a rear attack upon a stunned opponent [+4]. When this attack is completed the retiring/fleeing party may move away at full movement rate, and unless the opponent pursues and is able to move at a higher rate of speed, the melee is ended and the situation becomes one of encounter avoidance." My interpretation of this, along with what Gene quoted, is if the pursuer can catch up with -- or intercept -- the pursued, then that makes it a melee. Do you guys agree with this? Does that mean with two creatures with the same movement rate, one would never be able to get away from the other? If this is so, then I need to pay closer attention to the movement rate rules, because those in plate mail are not moving as fast as those in leather armor. Perhaps initiative should play a role as well (i.e. a chance to run past someone before they get a chance to attack and/or a chance to outrun someone with a similar movement rate?).
My interpretation has always been if two creatures are in melee and one turns his back and flees (exposing his back), the other gets free attack at +4. But if they were never in melee to begin with but one is chasing the other, if the pursuer can catch up he gets to attack at +2 with no consideration for shield or dexterity for the pursued -- but no free attack because it is not a proper melee. But after rereading the rules perhaps my interpretation is incorrect. In the purely abstract rules one could interpret that creatures are either in melee or not. But, that doesn't cover all of the nuances of various situations as I imagine them -- the gray areas; hence, my rulings based on particular situations.
Was the half-orc ever in melee with the party? The breaking off from melee rules wouldn't apply if the NPC was trying to avoid the party before he was ever engaged. The line in the same section on p. 70 you referenced stating "unless the opponent pursues and is able to move at a higher rate of speed, the melee is ended". I think. this is key. Just keeping up wouldn't mean the parties were in melee. There really isn't anything in the rules that covers attacks in a pursuit situation where both parties are moving at the same speed. I would give one attack each round with the rear attack bonuses.
In this case, first round would depend on whether the half-orc started in melee with the party. If he was, then he breaking off from melee rules would apply that round. Any round after that would depend on whether or not the half-orc had any head start on the party. If he was already out of melee distance, and nobody was faster, I wouldn't give them any attacks, they would just stay at that distance. If they started in melee distance and decided to pursue I would give one rear attack per pursuer in the front rank per round pursuit was maintained.
The situation was a bit odd. The half-orc was never in melee with the party. While they were in combat with some monster skeletons in a large hall, the half-orc cast two hold person spells from the darkness behind them, and then threw two darts with sleep poison on them. Since the remaining party members were still in melee with the skeletons, the half-orc thought he would take his chances to try to cast a sanctuary to slip past and get the magic spear. The complication was that the party killed all of the skeletons in the same round the half-orc moved up to where they were. The four party characters all announced intent to attack him before initiative was rolled. I decided the half-orc's intent was to not engage them in melee but to try to slip past, grab the spear, and then slip out. Only the party members who saved versus the sanctuary could attack the half-orc. The others lost track of him per the spell. The half-orc never did engage in melee, and was hoping the sanctuary spell would get him out of the situation. He wasn't attacking but was actively trying to avoid them, ducking, dodging, etc. while trying to run past.
Do you guys require the sanctuary effect to be saved against every round someone tries to target the cleric, or only once?
I only have the sanctuary save rolled once. It really seems like a situation not completely covered by the rules, i.e. a DM call. I think if the half-orc moved to within 10' of party members that could attack him, and started the next round within 10' of them, he was in melee whether he wanted to be or not, and I would have given the breaking off from melee bonus on that round only. On the rounds after that I would move to the pursuit rules and give the rear attack bonuses for any PCs that could keep up.
Good points. I could have done a better job tracking the half-orc's movement rate and being more precise about where he ended up at the end of the round. Going forward, I'll be more precise as that can settle a lot of these issues I've been talking about.
Last Edit: Aug 27, 2021 10:47:03 GMT -5 by GRWelsh
Other gray areas are when a thief picks someone's pocket and then tries to run away, or someone trying to run past someone who wants to hit or grab them.
Generally, any round you start within 10' of an opponent that wants to hit you means you are in melee, IMO. In the thief situation, is this assuming the thief was caught in the act? That would be melee. The running past case, if the runner was beyond 10' at the start, it wouldn't be melee, but the opponent would still have some opportunity to hit or stop the runner. I would base that attack on the specifics of the situation: size/strength differences, amount of space to move in, etc. There are a lot of variables. It could be anything from the runner having almost no chance of getting by to the opponent having almost no chance of stopping him.