Fleeing from Kill/Capture

This comes from a discussion I had with one of my players earlier, and a judgement call I made during one of our sessions. It’s fairly untested, and I’m sure it wrecks something or other, but I thought I’d post it here and let you pick it apart.

Basically, one of the things that bothers my players is that you can’t run from combat in Torchbearer unless you do so right away. If you go for the Kill, you HAVE to ride it out. It’s in the mechanics, sure, but it feels very heavy-handed. However, if you’re allowed to simply flee combat, the system definitely comes apart. So, I improvised this compromise, which I’m now mulling over:

You can switch Conflict Type from Kill or Capture (we reasoned not Drive Off, since losing it essentially means being forced to flee, but maybe it could be included) to Flee between Rounds (not Actions). Follow the procedure below:

  1. One of the characters must spend a Check to initiate the rout. That character becomes the Conflict Captain for the ensuing Flee conflict.
  2. The GM applies a Twist or Conditions to the Characters as per the Killing is my Business list OR as per Suggested Conflict Compromises based upon the current Disposition of the characters (for example, if the current conflict is a Kill Conflict and they are at half disposition, they may all become Injured and Exhausted). This should NOT kill uninjured characters, but may have serious effects on the coming Flee conflict.
  3. Initiate a new Flee conflict.

Granted, this means running is a bad prospect in most situations, but it makes sense primarily against creatures which are easy to flee from but hard hitters, which in turn makes sense to me as a GM.


What am I missing here? How does this break the game, where are the pitfalls? Can it be abused? I hardly think this will mean characters become cavalier about Kill conflicts against dangerous monsters, since you can still easily all die in just a single Action or two.

If you win but with a compromise you could decide that you fled the battle instead of outright killing your enemies and taking injuries or deaths on your side. That’s how you flee.

Being able to back out of a kill conflict is lame. You go into it with one likely outcome: “…and they all died.” That’s a foregone conclusion. Who “they” is becomes the crux of the game.

As I read it, that seems like a fairly reasonable solution. The side that flees gets nothing out of the fight. If it’s a kill, the side that caused the rout comes out completely untouched while the side that routs suffers the weight of their loses so far. I wouldn’t even have asked for a check, but I think it’s a nice touch.

Now the reason that’s not reasonable is because a Kill conflict is specifically designed to be bloody on both sides. One side getting out of it clean doesn’t make sense unless they were really mopping the floor with the opposition.

The other thing to keep in mind is that a rout is built into the Kill rules. I believe one of the options for compromise is that the losers get away, but in abysmal condition. Basically, if you want to flee without getting slaughtered you have to fight the enemy back well enough to make an escape route for yourself. Which makes sense. If you get into a bloody to-the-death scrap, it’s unlikely you’re getting out of it without somebody ending up dead or at least injured. So in that sense, it isn’t necessary to flee a Kill conflict, either mechanically or narrative, fleeing can be built into the narrative outcome of the fight. After all, disposition is a fairly open ended thing. It’s not like HP, dropping to 0 doesn’t mean you’re unconscious or dead, it means you’re out of the fight for some reason. Maybe you’re afraid, maybe you’re winded. You don’t get back in the fight with magical healing, you get back in when you have a chance to take a breather. That means the GM and players have a lot of flexibility with how they describe what is going down. When the Kill conflict looks hopeless and it’s about survival, maybe your tactics change to just trying to get the best compromise. That’s you trying to flee.

Here’s an alternative I’ve been knocking around for a few months. Haven’t playtested it at all:
Optional Rule: Advance to the Rear!

Between rounds in a kill conflict, any character that still has disposition may choose to flee, so long as at least one character with disposition remains to continue fighting. Any hit points that were in the possession of the fleeing characters are immediately lost by their team and cannot be regained unless the fleeing characters decide to return to the fight before it ends. If the opposing team wins the kill conflict (slaying the last defender), immediately start a flee conflict. The fleeing characters gain +1s to the disposition roll for each action by which the kill conflict continued after they fled. They suffer -1s to disposition for any hit points they lost during the kill conflict before fleeing.

Characters that return to a conflict after fleeing do so with zero disposition. Their disposition must be regained via Defend actions.

I’ve also played around a bit with a Surrender rule.

Optional Rule: I Surrender!

If you’re in a kill conflict and still have disposition but feel that the conflict is going against you, you may offer your surrender to your opponent. If your opponent accepts, you get no compromise, but they capture you rather than kill you. In addition, you owe them a compromise based on the amount of disposition you lost before your surrender.

And when you just really, really want to run.
Optional Rule: Rout! (or, I Don’t Need to Be Faster than the Bear…)Sometimes you realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew and you just want out of a kill conflict. At any point during a kill conflict, a whole group may choose to rout. If they do, their opponent gets one last independent Attack. Any member of the opponent’s team may lead the Attack, even if the character in question just took an action. The attacker may choose any member of the routing team as a target. After the results of the roll have been determined, any characters on the routing team that have zero disposition are subject to the Killing Is My Business rules with a compromise based on the opponent’s current disposition.

The survivors immediately enter a flee conflict, unless the opposing team opts not to pursue.


Sorry for the necro, but I really wanted to know whether these rules had ever been playtested? The first one seems really good on paper, especially since it keeps a “In a kill conflict, someone is dying, no matter what” condition in play. Which sounds very Torchbearer