In 4th edition D&D, each character has a “speed” value which is the number of squares he can move in a normal move action. Most of the PHB races fall into speeds of 5 or 6, which means the average character can cover 5 to 6 squares per round. When stacked up against the defaul spell range of 10 squares, we can expect the heroes to take damage without a chance to retaliate for at least one turn, unless they can get close to the bad guys quicker.
There are two mundane ways to increase a character’s speed on a round by round basis: (1) double move and (2) run. The double move means you give up a standard action for a second move action–in essence, foregoing an attack for extra movement. This is not so bad if it’s important to move some defenders or strikers up to a bad guy to either pin them in place, provide flanking, or secure an attack of opportunity. A double move can effectively combined with an action point to get two moves and an attack.
Running is a much tricker proposal. A run gives a +2 to speed, which when considered by itself isn’t that exciting. Moving the average range from 5-6 to 7-8 doesn’t help much when you want to go 10 squares, but could make a difference if you need just one extra square or two. The other advantage is that it does not require an extra action, so you can run and attack or do a double run. However there is a heavy cost for this, and in my experience it is rarely worth it. Once you start running, you take a -5 to attacks and grant combat advantage until your next turn. Combat advantage is not so bad, but a -5 to hit is a serious penalty, especially if the purpose of running is to get up close to an enemy.
If that’s the case, when is running worthwhile? Two scenarios where running can make a lot of sense, is (a) running away. You’re probably doing a double run in this case and not going to attack making the extra 4 squares a big deal. And (b) when there is a time consideration, such as when there is 6 seconds left on the Doomsday Clock, and it can be stopped with a simple arcana check, and your hero is standing 7 squares away.
I thought of one cool scenario that combines those two elements. Your PC is one side of a crumbling bridge and safety is one the other side. For extra tension, add monsters shooting at him while he’s exposed on the bridge. Perhaps the hero should make one final Athletics check on the last round to jump to safety. Just make sure there’s a good backup plan if he misses 🙂
To the other players out there, have you found the run action useful? When has it payed to take the -5 to hit in exchange for just two extra squares?