This is yet another post inspired by one of Jeffro's posts. This time, I'm musing on rules to allow fleeing. Jeffro bashed Gamma World 3rd edition - which I've never seen, read, or played, having gotten off that ride after the 2nd edition boxed set - for a rule that encouraged GMs to let low-level guys flee more easily. But me, I kind of like how a rule like that might work out.
So what if you could always flee?
I like the concept of a rule that makes it easier to escape from the bad guys when you're lowly newcomers. It a kind of genre switch, in a way, but limited in use. You're saying, for a while, the world is after you but the fates intervene.
I am curious how a rule that allowed low-level, or starting, or otherwise very weak groups to automatically succeed in fleeing from more powerful foes. The rule would apply for a specific amount of time, specific amount of earned XP, or specific levels, and would work as long as the PCs did not engage the NPCs in a confrontation. In other words, if you decide to flee before the fight, you get lucky and get out.
Some effects I could see happening from this kind of rule
- fleeing is a real option, because it always works. It's never "but you fail to get away." You just do, so you're not choosing a chance at victory vs. certainty of escape, and weighing the odds. It's 100% certainty of success, so if you stick it out and fight you passed up definitely getting away. You'd get less chicken with the GM, and less people thinking "Fleeing still results in death sometimes, so I may as well fight."
- players take more risk interacting with the world, because they have a way out for their PCs and know it works.
- there is an even larger premium on information gathering, because the "fleeing always works" is revoked once you engage with them. So you have a real incentive to learn more information, because of that certainty of choice.
- On the flipside, players might get to blase about running away, and either get too risk-averse (run from everything while we still can) or too risk-happy (we can always run.)
- It can also skew behavior in that you don't learn how the "fleeing" mechanics work at an early stage. This might be a problem if you have mechanical rules for fleeing (like in AD&D), less so in a game where the GM is just deciding based on the situation if you get away or not, or in a game where your ability to get away is plain the PCs, too (you won't get away from the cheetah normally, or you'll always get away from the slugbeasts because they are slow.)
You can even optionally extend this kind of rule to any level, or limit it by numbers ("only if outnumbered"), or limit it by types ("doesn't work against flying creatures or hunter-killer robots") or situations ("not in totally open terrain" or "not when fatigued") or something of that sort. But just as a broad genre switch, if you have some freedom to explore around and know you can run instead of fighting with a certainty of getting away, that does pose a real option. Do you fight, talk, or run? Running gains you little, but hey, it will work . . .
I don't see an issue with players using this as some kind of clever weapon to explore exceedingly dangerous areas or provoke biker gangs or whatever, because it's a tabletop RPG rule and there is a GM. The GM can simply declare it doesn't apply because of perceived abuse and that's that, so it doesn't need to be written so airtight that it survives contact with rules lawyers. Nothing really does, so I don't write rules for them.
I haven't tried this, but it would be nice to see what "emergent behavior" - to quote Doug's favorite concept (aside from the GURPS Speed/Range Table) - comes out of this kind of rule. Do they flee more, flee less, or make choices unforeseen? Hmm . . .