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Chapter 3: Subsystems / Chases

Building a Chase

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 156
When building a chase, first build your obstacles and then decide how far ahead the pursued character or characters begin and at what pace the NPCs will move. Having the NPCs clear one obstacle per round is a good rule of thumb, but it could vary depending on the situation, and should especially be slower against obstacles that require more than 1 Chase Point per character to overcome.

Select or build obstacles highlighting a variety of different skills and other options so everyone in the party has a moment to shine. When choosing what skills can bypass a given obstacle, ensure a variety of approaches can work. If you’ve already decided that an obstacle uses Stealth, selecting Thievery as the other option doesn’t really offer opportunities for different types of characters, since those who are good at Thievery are very likely the same ones who are good at Stealth. On the other hand, offering Athletics as an alternative gives a champion who’s terrible at Stealth a way to help. The group can help cover for a character who is less capable at a particular obstacle, but it’s more fun for players to present substantially different options for each obstacle.

Use the following guidelines to determine how many obstacles you need for your chase. These numbers assume that the pursued party can reach a certain location to end the chase (as described in Ending Chases). If there’s no such escape, you might need more obstacles.

Short: 6 obstacles, about 10–20 minutes of game time

Medium: 8 obstacles, about 15–25 minutes of game time

Long: 10 obstacles, about 20–30 minutes of game time

Setting Obstacle DCs

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 157
When you set the DCs for an obstacle, you’ll typically be using simple DCs. Use a proficiency rank that’s generally appropriate for the PCs’ level if you want the obstacle to be a significant one. As noted earlier, you’ll typically want to select a couple different ways the group can get past an obstacle. At least one check should be have an easy or very easy adjustment, while the other check should have a standard or hard DC. In some cases you might use something other than a simple DC; for example, if a specific NPC has put up a magical barrier, you would use their spell DC. This might result in some pretty tough DCs or even impassable obstacles, so use this carefully!

If a PC improvises a different way to get around an obstacle from what you planned, set the DC just like you would normally when picking a DC on the fly. Don’t worry about adjusting the DC of the check to be easy or very easy, because the PC is likely to be good at the skill they’ve chosen to use.

Shortcuts and Split Paths

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 157
You might want to build a chase with multiple paths that split and rejoin so you can have a shortcut (with easier DCs or fewer obstacles) or paths that appeal to different types of characters. For instance, one obstacle might allow a PC who critically succeeds at a Perception check to find a faster path along a canal, without the obstacles of a busy street. This can be fun, but can also split up the group. Familiarize yourself with the Solo Chases sidebar above to make similar adjustments for a divided group.

Ending Chases

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 157
Once you have the obstacles, decide the end conditions. Chases often end when the pursuer reaches the same obstacle as the pursued, leading to a combat encounter or other scene. However, it’s less clear when to end a chase otherwise. It’s typically best to have an obstacle that ends the chase with the pursued character getting away, as long as they overcome the obstacle before being captured. This is usually better than ending the chase after a certain number of rounds, because reaching a hideaway makes more narrative sense and because you might not be able to predict how far the pursued characters move in those rounds, making you run out of obstacles. You can also end the chase in favor of the pursued characters if they ever get a certain number of obstacles ahead of the pursuers (typically three), as the pursuers simply lose the trail. You should still have an end point to the chase, though, in case that never happens.

Types of Chases

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 157
  • Chase Down: The PCs pursue adversaries. The PCs go second in initiative since they’re the pursuers. Start the enemies one obstacle ahead of the PCs (or at the same location for a short chase), and end the chase if the PCs catch up to the enemies, or if the enemies reach a certain location that represents their safety or escape.
  • Run Away: The PCs attempt to escape. They’ll go first in initiative since they’re being pursued. It’s usually best to start them one obstacle ahead of their foes and end the chase if they reach a certain location or are three obstacles ahead of their foes at the end of a round.
  • Beat the Clock: The PCs try to get through all the obstacles before a certain number of rounds passes, such as if the PCs are trying to outrun a natural disaster or race in a timed challenge. The number of obstacles should usually be equal to the number of rounds.
  • Competitive Chase: The PCs and their adversaries are both chasing the same thing or trying to reach the same location, and whoever gets there first wins. This works like chase down, except that either party could win. Because there is more than one set of pursuers, you might have the PCs and their competitors roll initiative to see who goes first each round (while still moving all NPCs at a steady rate.)