Sometimes you just need to have the bad guy get away. You might need to make them a recurring enemy, you might need to keep them alive for some other plot reason, or maybe you aren’t ready for them to go away yet. For whatever reason you need to do it, here are 5 of the many ways to make it happen.
- Teleportation – Any good enemy that needs to make a get away should have some ability to teleport. It is the easiest and safest way to get the enemy away once they need to hit the escape button.
- Evac Party – All BBEGs stand on the shoulders of their minions, and often throw them in the way of danger. A tried and true method, having a squad of goons or other creatures to occupy the party while they make their escape can be effective … if the enemy isn’t seen running and the party decides to attack him and him only to prevent the escape.
- Doppleganger/Hologram/Robot Double – You fools, you only got their stunt doubles! Stand-ins make it easy to allow for the victory scenario, but preserve the villain for future use.
- Secret Passages/Room Of Mirrors – If the enemy has control of the area where they are fighting, they might just have made an escape route for themselves. It should be full of confusing passages, mirrors, traps, etc. to hinder forward progress.
- Masks – If the enemy always wears a mask, they can easily substitute in a fall guy or go for the “madrox” play and leave lots of duplicates around. Plus, a mask adds an air of mystery to an enemy. You know their villain persona, but are they one of the NPCs you’ve been talking to. Are they a trusted ally? The vizier? Is it an enemy that operates as a group?
Ok, this is definitely not a full list of ways to facilitate enemy escape. There are many many more out there, and you can always find new ones by watching TV shows, cheesy action movies, etc. So let me throw in some additional info and give you five ways to use this technique without making it seem incredibly cheesy.
- Drop Hints About It Beforehand So The Players Don’t Feel Cheated – Program the escape ability in beforehand as a known ability, so it doesn’t feel so forced. If the enemy can teleport make that known up front. Have their first encounter be porting in, or make it known that they have many secret passages in their lair. This lets the players buy into the escape scenario up front. They, of course, might try to stop it, but that doesn’t mean they will be able to.
- Don’t Worry About The Players Feeling Cheated – Feeling cheated will make them wrathful and looking for the next encounter. This is a somewhat dangerous tactic, but it can really heighten the feeling at the table. I remember an adventure where someone we where chasing turned into mist and floated away despite everything we tried. The powers were programmed into the enemy, part of a published adventure, and it was 100% legal withotu any GM fudging, but it pissed us off nonetheless. When we reencountered that enemy and he couldn’t get away, it was a good day and a satisfying beat down.
- Have The Superior Save The Inferior – If the enemy is a sub BBEG, and the BBEG is uber (god, techno being, access to great magic, tech, or resources, etc.) then the BBEG, or something he controls, can always swoop in and save the sub BBEG. It will engender the cheated feeling in the players but it will also point out the power of the final enemy that has to be overcome.
- Keep It Legal – Sometimes you can’t help but have the players feel cheated by an enemy escaping, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel guilty about pulling a fast one on them. That is, if you keep everything about the enemy legal by the game system. There are often many options provided within a game system, and sometimes the escaping enemies really are that paranoid that they have a couple of backup plans. If you can explain how they got away, or drop a few hints as to what powers or items were used to the players it can turn the anger where it needs to be, on the enemy and not the GM.
- Make The Win Scenario Capture, Not Death – There is always possibility for escape later. Superheroes don’t kill bad guys, they just beat them down. Law enforcement might want the BBEG for trail. The BBEG might have the only secret to curing some plague. If the PCS have to capture, not kill, then they will still feel victory even though the BBEG is still there. When handed off later, the BBEG can make his grand escape.
Is an escaping enemy something you use in your games? It seems to me that it is a fairly solid tactic, if done right, to introduce a BBEG and build some real tension between them and the players. What other tactics do you use to do this? What other escape scenarios have you used in your games?