Life In The Big City – Chase Rules

My Reavers on the Seas of Fate campaign is well underway and the PCs are all over the mean streets of Riddleport.  There’s some common scenarios that come up in urban adventures that I wanted to streamline; here’s my current efforts for your edification and comment!  They’re Pathfinder based but very easily adapted to anything d20-ish.  First, we have chase rules!

Chase Rules

Exciting chase scenes, the staple of action movies everywhere, are very hard by default in D&D because though every other part of the rules has variance built in – from stats to skills to damage – movement has always been completely static.  “30 feet a round whether you need it or not!”

I got Adamant Entertainment’s Tome of Secrets for Pathfinder when it came out, and it has chase rules, but those rules are like a lot of chase rules I’ve seen in RPGs over time – way too complicated.  They’re 40 damn pages of specific maneuvers and all.  The entire Combat chapter in the Pathfinder RPG is only 25 pages.  I wanted something that could be run without everyone having to do homework; in my opinion if a new bolt-on special case ruleset is more than about 2 pages then “you’re doing it wrong.”

So here’s what I came up with.  It was hard to balance it out but after a couple playtest chases in the real campaign I think they are pretty light and easy to use, fair, and keep the PCs engaged.

The Movement Check

A character’s Move check is +2 per 5′ of base speed.  For an unencumbered human that moves 30′, that’s +12.  In a self-powered race like a footrace, you can add your STR bonus to this in a given round but then have to make a DC 15 Fort save to not become fatigued from the exertion.   Use this same formula for other movement types (riding, swimming) because it takes differing speeds into account well.  (as a bonus, this means you can have a chase where various participants are using different modes of movement).

The Chase Track

Rather than keeping up with specific distances, a chase has distance represented by an arbitrary condition track.  It’s defined relative to whoever’s in the lead, and has six levels –

  1. Close Contact – within melee range of leader.  Subject to all obstacles the leader has to deal with.
  2. Point Blank – close range (all those “within 30 feet” powers proc here).  Take leader’s obstacles or take an alternate path at DC 20.
  3. Short – Take leader’s obstacles or an alternate path at DC 15.  -2 on ranged attacks.
  4. Medium – From this far back, it’s usually easy to avoid obstacles.  -4 on ranged attacks.
  5. Long – -6 on ranged attacks.
  6. Lost – you done lost ’em.   If you have allies still in the chase and you can still run (not fatigued or just giving up) you can run after them sufficiently to at least arrive on the scene once it’s all over, but you can’t get back into the actual chase.

For each 5 points by which you beat the leader’s movement check,  you close by one category on the track; similarly you slip back by one for each 5 points by which you miss their check.

Chase participants start at a chase level that makes sense – if they are right there with the leader and take off after them when they take off, they can start at point blank.  If they’re a round of movement away, or pause to shoot or take another action before they get going, start them at medium range.


In a chase, there’s a bunch of different kinds of obstacles and complications that can come up.  Here’s a sample but not comprehensive list.  In general the checks to pass these obstacles are DC 15.  If you fail the check, you drop back one level on the chase track; if you miss by 5 you take 1d6 nonlethal damage from a collision or similar mishap.  This is an urban specific list.  In a crowded urban environment, each round has a 1 in 3 chance of bringing a mandatory obstacle, or the leader can deliberately head towards obstacles as desired.  Roll 1d8 for what type, or choose one:

  1. Simple (Acrobatics, attack an object) – barrels, gate, street vendor’s blanket, etc.
  2. Barrier (Acrobatics) – fruit cart, unexpected turn
  3. Wall (Climb) – traditional “end of alley” wall, fence
  4. Gap (Acrobatics/Jump) – ditch, open manhole, pit
  5. Traffic (Acrobatics/Overrun) – pedestrians, mule team, orc pirates
  6. Squeeze (Escape Artist) – crawlspace, hole in wall
  7. Water (Swim) – river, wharf, pool, fountain
  8. Terrain (Acrobatics) – gravel, mud bank, slick cobblestones

Chase participants farther back on the chase track can choose whether or not to hit the same obstacle.  Chasers in close contact have to negotiate the same obstacles as the leader.  Chasers in point blank can take the obstacle or make an alternate check at DC 20 to avoid it – for example, “I can’t swim, I’m going to run around the reflecting pool instead.”  Chasers at short range can take the obstacle or an alternate check at DC 15.  Chasers farther back can generally avoid routine obstacles, but the DM can require them if it’s logically necessary (the leader swam across the river, for example).

You’d choose different obstacles and skills for other kinds of chase – a horseback chase would use Ride instead of Acrobatics, and a chase in the country would have trees and hedges instead of crates and alleys.


Anyone in close contact with the leader can conduct melee attacks on them.  Whoever wins initiative gets to determine if attacks or Movement checks happen first.

A character can take a missile attack but automatically drops back one level on the chase track when they do.

If the chase goes a number of rounds equal to anyone’s CON score they have to make DC 20 Fort saves each round or become fatigued, and effectively drop out.

Chase Playtest

Our PCs ranged from halflings and humans in encumbering armor (Move +8) to barbarians and monks (Move +16).

In their first chase, they went after the Splithog Pauper, a skilled rogue.  He had a normal Move (+12) but high Acrobatics, Climb, and Escape Artist checks.

The chase was pretty long.  Everyone managed to stay in the chase; as the slower guys dropped back they benefitted from not having to negotiate as many obstacles.  The Pauper wasn’t rolling well on his movement checks and deliberately hit a lot of obstacles to try to shake the faster guys – the barbarian stayed with him, but he managed to push the rest of them back with this tactic. The cleric was the only one with a ranged attack; he shot an icicle at him a couple times but to limited effect.

There was a cool obstacle moment that everyone thought was very “parkour,” where the Pauper ran and dash vaulted through a fruit stand; one PC followed through the gap with his own leap but the next didn’t quite make it and busted, spraying fruit everywhere.  The barbarian caught up with him legitimately and was stabbing him with his boarding pike (after a pretty bad string of misses he finally was connecting); the cleric used an Infamy Point to find a shortcut to head him off and gave him a good clotheslining; at that point we dropped out of chase mode and the two PCs cut him down before he could maneuver away from them.

The next chase was interestingly different.  This was the party trying to follow a guy through the tenements, but he spotted them and ran.  He was just a level 1 expert, nothing special, but he rolled really well and lost most of the party except for the tracker (the rest of the party was staying an increment behind the tracker to avoid detection).  But the fleeing guy totally sucked at obstacles, and after a couple slowed him, the tracker got into close contact and dragged him to the ground for a good cuffing and stuffing.

In the end these rules rewarded faster Speeds and higher relevant skills without being overwhelming – in an earlier draft I was using the Acrobatics skill as the Movement check but it made that skill too much of a “whoever has it wins and whoever doesn’t loses” power.   The quarries had a good chance to get away in both situations but after a good hard run they got them.  The chases were long enough they were interesting but went quickly enough and were dynamic enough that they held interest.

These rules work well for a “one on many” chase; it’s not clear how they’d work for a complex many-on-many chase (e.g. horde of zombies vs. party of PCs).


33 responses to “Life In The Big City – Chase Rules

  1. Nice and slick. You would mind making these OGL content? Better yet, you would be interested in doing freelance work for LPJ Design? Let me know!!!

  2. Oh, sure, I declare them OGL in their entirety, though they probably need another iteration on them before they’re solid. This is intended more as an RFC on a first draft.

    I’ll ping you offline on the freelancing thing! Thanks for taking an interest!

  3. Let’s see, some addendum thoughts from speaking with one of my players.

    Group chases. How do you do e.g. “five guys chased by five other guys?” If those being chased split up, it’s basically a bunch of separate chases. If they stay loosely together, then run as normal but keep in mind relative distances, so someone in “Medium” can attack someone in “Medium.” Or, a chased (or chasing) group can choose to stay together in a clump, taking the slowest person’s movement check but benefitting from being more difficult to pick off and also perhaps doing Aid Anothers on obstacles.

    Have a range “in front of” close contact where someone fast can get to if they want to “head off” the leader. Also useful for setting up combat maneuvers like bull rushes that should probably be mentioned in these rules.

    Handling stealth – what if the leader wants to try to hide? Either for “getting away” purposes or for “sneak attack that guy when he comes over that wall after me” purposes? And to what degree can the leader choose obstacles to inflict on the chase to try to trip up pursuers?

    Is it worth coming up with a “how far they’re going per round” kind of estimate for chases that are actually going somewhere?

    Make sure and apply armor check/encumbrance penalties to those checks to overcome obstacles!

  4. I hope you don’t mind but I copied these rules onto under the Custom Content section. I included links back here for the playtest results and made sure to credit you. If you’d prefer I remove it please just let me know!


  5. DM_aka_Dudemeister

    Just gotta say. I used these rules twice in my Kingmaker game.

    Once because my players gave chase to an injured Tatzlwyrm.

    Once because one of their mounts ran away (spooked by wolves).

    I had to make some assumptions though. Trying to piece it together step by step:

    Step 1 – Runner makes first Movement Check (Surprise Round)
    Step 2 – Roll Initiative and determine relative distance on the track.
    Step 3 – Initiative Winner Chooses to make a Movement Check or Standard Action first.
    IF Standard Action first THEN make movement check
    IF Movement first THEN change position on movement track THEN make obstacle check THEN ATTACK
    Step 4 – Next Person repeats Step 3.

    (Does that sound right to you?)

    The other thing I did, if a player beat the leader’s movement check I moved them up the track for every 5 points they beat it by (beating by 10 would be two shifts up for example).

    Finally, if a player beats the leader’s movement check by 5 or more when in Close Contact (or 10 or more when Point Blank) then they can “Cut Off” the leader. The leader needs to either make an Acrobatics or CMB check vs the defender’s CMD. If they fail then everyone behind the leader moves up another step up the track, and the defender may take a standard action (like a Combat Maneuver or
    attack). I needed a way to end a chase without knocking out the chasee.

    In any case – Love the rules, my players really enjoyed chase scenes. A PDF product with a bunch of sample obstacles (for Urban, Forest, Aquatic, Desert, Cold, Swamp and Plains) would be worth a pretty penny or two.

    If only I could convince my PCs to RUN occasionally (seriously 10 wolves and still they choose to stand and fight? Madness. But their dice were hot and mine were cold).

    • Great, I’m glad you’re enjoying them! Let’s see… By the way, you may see a variation on these rules for ship combat coming out somewhere soon. (Even I am not 100% sure.)

      1. Yes, you can move up or down on the track more than 1 level; 1 per 5 you beat/lose by.

      2. A cutoff is good (actually happened in my first chase, although the PC just spent an Infamy Point to make it happen instead of it being part of the chase rules). Although you can effect it just by someone that catches up with the leader making a grapple check to tackle ’em (or trip, or whatever). To “block” them, perhaps just if you’re in contact with the leader, use Overrun and your margin of success comes off their Movement check. I tried to not go down the complicated path of “here’s specific maneuvers not part of the normal rules.”

      3. Yes, that sequence sounds right.

      One of the fuzzy areas is who gets standard actions and what they cost you. I played with “if you do anything other than move, you take a 50% penalty to your Movement check” (basically making a single move instead of a double). This meant people could still kinda run along and shoot arrows, or the guy closing with the leader can dive at them and try a grapple, but if they miss they might get left in the dust.

  6. Love me them Chase rules
    Easy to understand, easy to implement and quite exciting!

    Is there a chance we’ll see them in a PDF any time soon ? Maybe even in an updated version? wink wink 🙂

    • Yeah, I keep hoping to get time to update all the various rules I’ve tampered with into more-playtested, PDF form and post them. Hopefully soon, but not within the next week that’s for sure!

      • I see you have some rules list but no links and was wondering when the PDF was coming out or if you have it in any other format I see a lot of other people are interested as well. I read over the chase rules and they are awesome. I am excited to see the updated version.
        Chase Rules
        Mass Combat Rules
        Firearm and Cannon Rules

        • I pledge to do it sometime soon-ish. I was just looking back at that myself, and feeling bad that I hadn’t PDFed them up a little more; I was sharing the mass combat rules with and thought “Man I need to do a cleanup rev on them…”

          • Painmerchant

            I very excited to hear that you are not giving up. I you need any help or need any ideas I be glad to help with any input I can give. I hope to hear from you soon. Happy Easter if you celebrate it if not have a good weekend.

  7. I saw that a few people have posted about your rules. I see it has been awhile since the last posts where made and I was curious if theirs been any progress on the rules. Thanks Billio

    • I’ve been still using them in my campaign; let me see about writing down the improvement’s we’ve made. We’re also using a variation on them for naval battles!

      • Sweet. Sounds like a plan

      • Hay I know you are probally busy with your game but you said that you might write down your new improvements. I am going to be starting my new campaign in a week and would love to use your chase rules. So if you have some time to post the new rules that would be awesome. Thanks

      • Hay, I see that you might update the chase rules soon. I am very interested in the improvements you made. I hope you post them soon. I plan on having a huge chase scene with some wagons in my campaign and would love to see what the new improvements are and use them. Thanks, PM

      • Hay I have not seen any post here on this subject from you in a while and was wondering if you had anytime to post the improvements to the chase rules. Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.

  8. Love the venger pic btw

  9. Pingback: Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Two, Twelfth Session | Geek Related

  10. I’m thinking of using these rules in a forest chase. Here’s how I’d update the city obstacle table by mxyzplk to apply to forests. Note: these have not been play-tested:

    Table A: Forest Obstacles (Forest Floor) – d8
    1. Simple (Acrobatics, attack an object) – fallen branches, small rocks, abandoned tents, shrubs
    2. Barrier (Acrobatics) – large rocks, small fallen trees
    3. Climb – large fallen tree, cliffs, or trees (leading chase to Table B: Tree Branches)
    4. Gap (Acrobatics/Jump) – pit, jump across large rocks, narrow canyon
    5. Traffic (Acrobatics/Overrun) – herd of animals, wood elves
    6. Squeeze (Escape Artist) – hollow fallen tree, crack between rocks, narrow cave
    7. Water (Swim) – river, stream, ford
    8. Terrain (Acrobatics) – gravel, mud bank, slick moss-covered ground

    Table B: Forest Obstacles (Tree Branches) – d6
    1. Climb – trees (leading to Table A: Forest Floor)
    2. Gap (Acrobatics/Jump) – tree branch to tree branch
    3. Traffic (Acrobatics/Overrun) – tree dwelling animals such as monkeys, wood elves, etc
    4. Squeeze (Escape Artist) – hollow in trees
    5. Terrain (Acrobatics) – slick moss on trees
    6. Re-roll

    For Table B, failure by 5 on all but Squeeze means falling to Forest Floor, taking damage, and continuing chase on Table A.

  11. Cool! I see there are “chase cards” somewhat like this from Paizo and LPJ Games too, if you want a large semi-expensive set of different obstacles and whatnot.

    • I think we all can agree that Paizo and LPJ Games have put out some awesome chase cards, but those that have visited and commented on this post here think that mxyzplk is on to something. I can only speak for myself but I would love to see a PDF or Word Doc from mxyzplk with all His/Her ideas and changes. You got something here mxyzplk and I think you need to move foreword with it and get it out their in the gaming world.

    • You’re right. LPJ has forest and urban chase cards. But $4 doesn’t seem semi-expensive to me. Unless you think anything higher than free is semi-expensive. :). Unfortunately, doesn’t show any samples.

      • $4 plus printing them yourself. The Paizo ones are $11-$12 IIRC. More expensive than free, certainly.

        • I bought the cards from Paizo last night (forest and urban), $2 each. They are a bunch of cards with pictures and skill checks; e.g., “Winding Front Stairway”, Climb DC 20 -OR- Knowledge (Engineering) DC 15. Unfortunately there are no associated rules. I think I’ll try your rules but instead of your obstacle table, we’ll draw a cards. I’ll let you know if I ever get a chance to use them and how it worked out.

  12. Pingback: Pathfinder: Alternate Chase Rules | Daddy DM

  13. I plan to use your chase rules for this weekend’s session with my group. One question still haunts me. You wrote: “Take leader’s obstacles or take an alternate path at DC 20.” – What kind of DC did you think of here? Perception? Or something different?

    • Oh, just any of the checks. Acrobatics instead of Swim, or the like – somewhat constrained by whatever makes sense at the time (no Climb if you’re in a field). The point of that clause is to let the PC choose an alternate path that might be “harder” but play to their skills more. So it’s not a check to find a path, it’s assumed they can (again, short of GM fiat – if the chasee is swimming out to sea then there’s no alternates) just to navigate it.

  14. I’m converting the chase rules to Fudge and was hoping to get some clarification. Do the players make a Movement check every turn, even on turns that have an obstacle? So if the leader vaults over a fruit stand, does he also make a movement check that turn? Would it be before or after the obstacle?

    • Hey man. Movement checks every turn. Do the movement checks first and then the obstacle checks – they can gain on the guy and almost be to him until wham the fruit cart knocks them back.

  15. Pingback: Updated Chase Rules RFC | Geek Related

  16. OK all, I’ve updated and PDFed the chase rules, would love comments and then in two weeks I’ll consider them finished!

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