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Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 3: Subsystems


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
A villain on the run steals a carriage and sends the characters on a chase through the city, or the characters find an ancient airship and decide to take it for a spin. Whatever the case, if vehicles are common throughout your world, they’re likely to come up in your game.

This section provides the tools you’ll need when that happens. Vehicles can play many roles in a game. They might simply be the means by which the party travels from one location to another, determining only the Price to be paid for passage. But a caravan wagon that gets attacked becomes part of an encounter. In a pirate campaign, the ship is both the party’s home and its primary weapon.

The majority of the rules in this section are for using vehicles in encounters, but vehicles are also useful during exploration and even downtime play.

Vehicle Basics

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
Ultimately, vehicles are objects. They have object immunities (Core Rulebook 273), and they can’t act. In addition to the statistics most objects have, vehicles have several additional statistics and abilities. Vehicles have a size like any object, but their spaces are more specifically defined. Vehicles also have specialized movement rules.

Size, Space, and Capacity

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
Vehicles have size traits, but they don’t occupy the same spaces that most creatures use. Instead, each vehicle has specific dimensions provided in its stat block.

Most vehicles are Large or larger, and many vehicles are made for the purpose of carrying cargo. Unless stated otherwise, the amount of cargo a vehicle can carry depends on its size, terrain, and propulsion. A draft horse or similar creature can usually pull around 100 Bulk of goods consistently throughout the day, so pulled vehicles can typically hold 100 Bulk per Large creature pulling. Water vehicles, such as ships, have limits that are more based on volume than weight; a ship can hold upwards of 1,000 Bulk. Flying vehicles can typically hold only 1/10 the Bulk of a water vehicle and still remain airborne.

Movement and Heading

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
A vehicle’s movement type is determined by the vehicle itself, while its movement each round is based on the pilot’s actions. Vehicles trigger reactions when they move, just like a creature does, as do the actions of the pilot and any passengers.

Creatures can rotate and turn freely, so when you play a creature, you usually don’t need to keep track of which way it’s facing. However, vehicles can’t turn on a dime, so when controlling a vehicle, you need to keep track of which direction it’s facing. This is called the vehicle’s heading.

When a vehicle moves, it must move in the direction of its heading—it can’t move backwards or sideways, though it can turn gradually as it moves forward. Most vehicles can turn up to 90 degrees for every vehicle length they move forward. For example, a 10-foot-long carriage could turn left in only 10 feet. A 100-foot-long warship, however, would need 100 feet to make the same turn; given the warship’s 30-foot Speed, turning typically requires several actions’ worth of movement.

Some rules specify that a vehicle must move in a straight line. This line is measured from the center of the vehicle’s front edge, and it can skew up to 45 degrees from the vehicle’s current heading.

When using a vehicle in exploration mode, the vehicle’s Speed determines its travel speed just like a creature (for more information, see Table 9–2: Travel Speed on page 479 of the Core Rulebook). No Drive actions or piloting checks are necessary to pilot a vehicle at these speeds.


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
Vehicles typically travel over land, on water, or through the air, and their Speeds indicate their terrain and movement types. But vehicles also have a form of propulsion—the way in which their movement is powered—and this propulsion often has additional considerations.

There are five main types of propulsion: alchemical, magical, pulled, rowed, and wind. A vehicle can have more than one means of propulsion, though it usually uses only one type of propulsion at a time. For instance, a galley has both the rowed and the wind propulsion traits, meaning it can sail when the winds are favorable, but the crew can also lower the sails and row the ship when necessary. The vehicle’s means of propulsion informs the skills a pilot can use for piloting checks (page 175), and some means of propulsion have additional rules.


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
Powered by the reactions of alchemical reagents, controlled internal combustion, lighter-than-air gases, or steam, vehicles with alchemical propulsion tend to be powerful but have the potential to be wildly unpredictable. Alchemical vehicles can often be piloted using the Crafting skill.


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
Magically propelled vehicles are powered by spells, magic items, or an entirely magical engine. A magical propulsion system can be targeted with counteracting effects like dispel magic, using the vehicle’s level and a standard DC for that level for the counteract check. A creature can use Arcana, Nature, Occultism, or Religion (depending on the type of magic) for a magical vehicle’s piloting checks.


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
This method of propulsion is perhaps the most common, wherein a wheeled conveyance (such as a carriage or wagon) is pulled by one or more creatures. The Speed of the vehicle can never exceed that of the slowest creature pulling the vehicle. The creatures pulling the vehicle don’t act on their own; they instead act as part of the vehicle’s actions, and their movement as part of those actions triggers reactions just as it does for the vehicle itself and its pilot.

When a pulled vehicle takes collision damage, so do the creatures pulling that vehicle (though they can typically attempt the basic Reflex saving throw to mitigate that damage). The death of one or more pulling creatures might damage or slow the vehicle, and it might cause the pilot to lose control.

For a vehicle pulled by an animal or similarly unintelligent creature, a pilot can use Nature for piloting checks; for sapient pulling creatures, the pilot can instead use Diplomacy or Intimidation for piloting checks.


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
These vehicles are propelled by the power of creatures rowing the vehicle from within. The creatures rowing the vehicle act only as part of the vehicle’s actions, and their movement as part of those actions triggers reactions just as it does for the vehicle itself and its pilot (though rowers often have some degree of cover).

When a rowed vehicle takes collision damage, so do the creatures rowing that vehicle (though they can typically attempt the basic Reflex saving throw to mitigate that damage). The death of one or more creatures might cause the vehicle to go out of control or slow the vehicle, but usually doesn’t damage the vehicle.

A pilot on a vehicle rowed by other people can use Diplomacy or Intimidation for piloting checks.


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
Wind-propelled vehicles require some form of air movement to power them, and adverse wind conditions can cause them to stall or even go out of control. Wind vehicles that rely on cloth sails typically have weakness to fire. Pilots of wind-powered vehicles can use Nature for piloting checks.

Piloting a Vehicle

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
In encounter mode, a vehicle moves on its pilot’s turn, and the pilot must use their actions to control it. A vehicle can take part in only 1 move action each round, even if multiple creatures Take Control as pilots on the same round.

Vehicle Momentum

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
A vehicle in motion builds up momentum that keeps it in motion. Each round, if the vehicle has moved in the previous round, the pilot must either use another move action or Stop the vehicle. If the pilot does neither of these things on their turn (even if the pilot Delays), the vehicle continues to move and becomes uncontrolled, as described in Uncontrolled Vehicles on page 176.

Piloting Checks

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
Many actions related to vehicles call for the pilot to attempt a piloting check. The skills a pilot can use for a piloting check are listed in the vehicle’s stat block, but most vehicles use Driving Lore or Piloting Lore along with others determined by their propulsion. The creature piloting a vehicle when an encounter begins can usually roll an appropriate piloting skill for that vehicle for initiative.

The GM sets the DC of the piloting check using a standard DC for the vehicle’s level, with adjustments based on the circumstances. Generally speaking, an action that would move a vehicle through difficult terrain increases the DC to a hard DC for its level, and moving through greater difficult terrain increases the DC to incredibly hard. Other factors, such as turbulent winds for a wind-powered vehicle, monsters threatening the creatures pulling a pulled vehicle, or rough seas for a water-based vehicle could all increase the DC of a vehicle’s piloting checks.

Piloting Actions

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
Characters use the actions listed below to move and interact with vehicles. The effects of the reckless trait appear on page 176.

Board Single Action

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
Requirements You are adjacent to a point of entry on the vehicle you are attempting to board.
You board a vehicle through an open top, a door, a portal, or a hatch; if you’re already on board, you can instead use this action to disembark into an empty space adjacent to the vehicle’s point of entry. Using this action while the vehicle is in motion is challenging, requiring a successful Acrobatics or Athletics check with a DC equal to the vehicle’s AC.


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
Requirements You are piloting a vehicle.
You pilot your vehicle to move. Decide how many actions you intend to spend before you begin Driving. The effects depend on the number of actions you spend. You can’t Drive through spaces occupied by creatures, even if they are allies.

Single ActionSingle Action Attempt a piloting check. On a success, the vehicle moves up to its Speed and can turn normally. On a failure, the vehicle moves its Speed in a straight line. On a critical failure, the vehicle moves its Speed in a straight line and becomes uncontrolled.

Two ActionsTwo Actions(reckless) The vehicle moves up to twice its Speed in a straight line at the vehicle’s current heading.

Three ActionsThree Actions (reckless) You take a –5 penalty on your piloting check to maintain control of the vehicle. The vehicle moves up to three times its Speed in a straight line at the vehicle’s current heading.

Run Over Three Actions

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 176
Requirements You are piloting a vehicle.
You try to run over creatures with your vehicle, possibly also ramming one larger creature or object. If you maintain control of your vehicle, the vehicle moves up to twice its Speed in a straight line at the vehicle’s current heading. You attempt to run over any creatures in your path two sizes smaller than the vehicle or smaller, and you can attempt to ram one target creature or object in your path one size smaller than the vehicle or larger.

Each creature in your path, including a rammed target, takes the vehicle’s collision damage (basic Reflex save at vehicle’s collision DC). If the rammed target is a vehicle, its pilot can attempt a piloting check in place of this Reflex save, with the same results. If the target of your ram takes damage, you and your vehicle each take collision damage (no save) and your movement ends.

Stop Single Action

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 176
Requirements You are piloting a vehicle in motion.
You bring the vehicle to a stop.

Take Control Single Action

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 176
Requirements You are aboard the vehicle and adjacent to its controls.
You grab the reins, the wheel, or some other mechanism to control the vehicle. Attempt a piloting check; on a success, you become the vehicle’s pilot, or regain control of the vehicle if it was uncontrolled. Some vehicles have complicated controls that cause this action to become a multi-action activity.

Reckless Piloting

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
Actions that have the reckless trait push the pilot and the vehicle beyond the normal parameters for safe operation, and the pilot risks losing control of the vehicle. When performing a reckless action, the pilot must first attempt an appropriate piloting check to keep control of the vehicle, with the following effects. Resolve this piloting check before resolving the action itself.
Success The action occurs as described.
Failure The vehicle moves its Speed in a straight line along its most recent heading, drifting up to 45 degrees at the GM’s discretion, and becomes uncontrolled.

Uncontrolled Vehicles

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
Some situations can cause a pilot to lose control of their vehicle. Most commonly, this is due to a failed piloting check for a reckless action, but it can also occur if a round passes without a pilot using a move action to control the vehicle or Stopping the vehicle. A vehicle can also become uncontrolled if the pilot becomes unable to act during a move action to control the vehicle. For example, if a vehicle’s movement triggers an Attack of Opportunity that knocks the pilot unconscious or paralyzes them, the vehicle becomes uncontrolled.

An uncontrolled vehicle continues to move each round at its most recent pilot’s initiative position. The distance it moves each round is 10 feet less than on the previous round, always in a straight line at its current heading until it crashes or it comes to a stop. At your discretion, it could slow down more if it’s on uneven terrain, difficult terrain, on an upward slope, or facing adverse wind conditions; by the same token, it could stay at the same speed or even accelerate if it’s on a downward slope or being pushed by strong winds.

An uncontrolled vehicle in motion interacts with obstacles, other vehicles, and creatures using the effects of the Run Over action, except that the distance it moves is dictated by the factors above instead of the Speed specified in that action.

Vehicles in Combat

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
Whether driving a chariot in an arena or fighting off a boarding party, characters sometimes attack from a vehicle or target other creatures aboard a vehicle. Attacks made while on a vehicle that has moved within the last round take a –2 penalty, or a –4 penalty if the vehicle is uncontrolled or any action in the last round had the reckless trait.

While on a vehicle, a character might have cover from certain angles of attack. A vehicle with sides but no top, such as a chariot or a keelboat, usually provides lesser cover, or standard cover from an attacker on the ground. An enclosed vehicle, such as a carriage, provides greater cover or may prevent attacks entirely. Breaking the vehicle can reduce the cover it provides.

Some vehicles have special mounted weapons that can be used by the pilot or passengers. These are typically ranged weapons, such as a crossbow, and use the same rules as any other weapon, save that they might be able to target only creatures in a certain range or direction.

Broken Vehicles

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
When a vehicle is broken, it becomes harder to use. It takes a –2 penalty to its AC, saves, and collision DC, and the DC of all piloting checks related to the vehicle increase by 5. The broken vehicle’s Speeds are halved.

A vehicle reduced to 0 HP is destroyed, like any other item. If the vehicle is in water when it’s destroyed, it sinks; if it is flying, it falls and everyone aboard takes falling damage. A pulled or rowed vehicle that becomes wrecked, regardless of which method of propulsion it’s using at the time, deals its collision damage (no saving throw) to the creatures pulling or rowing it, and the creatures may have to be physically freed from the wreckage.

Vehicle Statistics

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
Vehicles can be as simple as a farmer’s cart, or as large and complex as an airship. Whatever the size or complexity of a vehicle, it uses the following stat block format.

Vehicle Name Vehicle [Level]

Size Other Traits
Price This entry lists the vehicle’s Price. This does not include creatures for pulling a vehicle, materials needed to power the vehicle, or the cost of rowers.

Space This entry gives the vehicle’s dimensions, not including any creatures pulling the vehicle.
Crew The crew members required to operate the vehicle; Passengers the number of passengers the vehicle is typically configured to carry, if any.
Piloting Check This entry lists the skills that can be used for piloting checks while operating the vehicle. Some skills may increase the DC; these list the DC adjustment in parentheses following the skill name.

AC The vehicle’s AC; Saving Throws The vehicle’s saves (typically only Fortitude). If a vehicle needs to attempt a saving throw that isn’t listed, the pilot attempts a piloting check at the same DC instead.
Hardness The vehicle’s hardness, HP The vehicle’s Hit Points, with its Broken Threshold in parenthesis; Immunities The vehicle’s immunities; Weaknesses The vehicle’s weaknesses, if any; Resistances The vehicle’s resistances, if any.

Speed The vehicle’s Speeds, each followed by the propulsion type for that Speed in parentheses. A pulled vehicle indicates the number and size of the pulling creatures.
Collision The vehicle’s collision damage and the DC for saving throws to mitigate that damage. Unless otherwise stated, collisions deal bludgeoning damage. If the vehicle has any other form of attack, like mounted weaponry, they appear in their own entries below this one.
Special Abilities Any abilities unique to the vehicle are listed at the end of the stat block.