Player characters really don’t like to run from a fight. I’ve spent a good chunk of this morning reading and preparing to Gamemaster an adventure for The Mutant Epoch RPG by Outland Arts, and I’ve come to a section of the adventure that promises some trouble.
This particular encounter pits the adventuring team against a creature way beyond their ability to fight and win. The creature, a Waste Stalker, has been placed here specifically to chase the party towards the next segment of the adventure. There’s also a clue available to them that they’re being watched by unseen eyes.
Unfortunately, in my experience as a Gamemaster over the last 30 some-odd years, I’ve learned that players will almost never run from a fight until after half the party is lying dead on the floor. This usually leads to a running fight that leaves them in dire straits; the Cleric is out of healing spells, the Fighter is almost out of hit points, and everyone else is dead or dying.
So what to do? I don’t want to just throw out the encounter. I don’t want to “take it easy” on them, but I also don’t want them to be splattered across the terrain. It’d be easy enough to find a way to lead them towards the next phase of the adventure without the monster, but that’s not satisfying either.
Why do they always do that? Why are adventurers always convinced they’re unstoppable? Is it because they don’t feel like they have something to lose? Are they disconnected from their characters? Maybe my game is shallow. Maybe the key to all this isn’t the adventure, isn’t the players, isn’t the adventure, isn’t (in this case) the Waste Stalker, or any of that.
Getting the players more connected to the story, and to their characters might be the first thing I really need to focus on. Being connected means they’ll value their characters and their place in the story more, and that hopefully will lead to a much better game all around, and hopefully to a disappointed Waste Stalker.