On Chases

Posted: 4 September 2012 in Toolbox
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Role, Rules, and Rolls posted a “Simple Chase Rule” a couple weeks ago, where a character can forgo their normal movement rate for a turn in order to roll for a random movement rate.  In D&D/Pathfinder terms, a character who moves 30′ in a round can move 10d6′ instead (or I guess you could simplify it to 6-spaces and 2d6-spaces if you cared to).  This gives a range of 10′ to 60′ (with an average of 35′) which is a huge range to represent bursts of speed or mishaps/stumbling.

Right off, I like the idea that Roger is going for here: with static movement rates, you can determine the results of a chase before anyone moves anywhere; the faster party wins, or in the case of matched rates whoever can outlast the other.  That’s rather dull, and adding in a roll shakes it up a bit.

That being said, I’m not sure it actually works, at least not in D&D and not with characters or groups who have different speeds.  For example, a human can move 30′ or average 35′ (at the risk of moving only 10′ in a turn).  A kobold can move 20′ or average 23′ (rolling 6d6+2), hoping to get as much as 38′ at the risk of only going 8′.  Assuming a Human is running from a Kobold and chooses to NOT random-roll the chase, he will move away at a steady 30′ pace.  If the kobold doesn’t random-roll the human will pull away at a relative 10′ per turn and the kobold has no chance to catch up.  If the kobold DOES random-roll, he will average a speed of 23′ and the human will pull away at a relative 7′ per turn, and the kobold has no chance to catch up.  Only early on, <i><b>if</b></i> the human and kobold are within 10′ of each other, does the kobold have a chance of catching the faster human, and then only if the koblod gets a particularly good roll and the human doesn’t put any special effort in to running.

Of course, this is all moot given that D&D/Pathfinder has a full-round “Run” action, where the character throws caution to the wind (granting combat advantage) and moves at a rate of 4x their normal speed (120′ instead of 30′).  Combining these would give something silly like 40d6′ (between 40′ and 240′ depending on the whims of the dice) and it breaks down from there.

  1. You’re right that this gets hard to roll for in certain circumstances, but I still think it’s a worthwhile system to consider for the same reason that D&D has you roll for combat. Just because the averages fall at a certain number, you can still be lucky or unlucky for this round or this encounter. It leaves an element of chance that spices things up a bit. The outcome is no longer a foregone conclusion.

    • Jack says:

      Let me clarify: as a mandatory system, this could be interesting. Maybe. But I don’t think adding it in as an option make any sense because there’s very little incentive to use it. Yes, maybe I’ll get lucky this time and get a huge burst of speed (moving up to double my speed), but it’s just as likely that I’ll get unlucky and stumble (and spend an action to move at 1/3 my speed). Or I can opt out and just move my speed. The benefits don’t seem to out weigh the risk, and there’s a sure-thing option that puts me right around the expected average of the risky action anyways.

      • Yes, I guess I hadn’t considered the fact that they made it an optional system. That does seam pretty silly. It would still be worth trying if you’re chasing an enemy that has a speed equal to or greater than yours, but then you’re dealing with a double standard of a system that you’ll only choose to use when it could benefit you. I think it would be a very nice mandatory system, though. I’ve always though chases should have an element of chance to them.

        • Jack says:

          I agree that chases should have some amount of chance to them — or, probably more appropriately, some way for the competitors to affect the results in a meaningful way. If I’m faster than you, just running isn’t going to win the race, but maybe taking a short cut (head him off at the pass) or some kind of interference (shooting at you to make you stumble, creating some kind of obstacle or collision in your path) might. When it comes down to it a robust chase system would have to be a robust chase system, that is a full system in itself with options and mechanics and outcomes, rather than a hitch on the side of some other structure.

          Of course, unless that’s a meaningful component to your game, it’s probably an unnecessary addition. If you’re playing gangsters in high speed chases, or cultists ducking through crowded Asian streets, then this kind of system could make sense. If you’re only ever going to have your knights running from goblins on empty plains, probably less so. You’d also have to consider the transition from one structure to the next — how does a chase break out, and how does a chase end, and what happens when the chase ends? The Alexandrian has a post about the smooth transition from hexcrawl to dungeoncrawl to combat and back out again; something similar would have to be considered for chases, I think.

          • What you say makes sense for a game in which chases play a major role, but I do feel like this system would add something to even a standard D&D game. Currently in a standard game the options seem to be not allowing chases (ie, if your enemy leaves combat, they’ve successfully escaped), or having all chases be a foregone conclusion. This seems like an easily implemented system that would give more dimension to chases without being as complex as a more robust system would be.

            • Jack says:

              That’s probably true, if the chase mechanism were mandatory for escaping combat or what have you. I think I would find the transition awkward at best (your character effortlessly and reliably moves at a given speed, unless the speed with which he moves matters), but if that’s not a problem for your group I won’t tell you to not use the tool.

              • Hmm… Incorporating variable speed into encounters could be really interesting. Actually I think that would be really fun to try sometime. It would certainly change the dynamics of an encounter.

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