Perseus fleeing the gorgons

Perseus fleeing the gorgons (source)

How do you handle pursuit? Most of the official answers are either tedious or uninteresting (such as comparing movement rates directly). It seems like situations that are both uncertain and dangerous (like combat, or running away from a giant tentacle horror) deserve to incorporate some randomness. Knowing that your “movement 6” plate armored fighter will never be able to outrun anything is boring, and also causes perverse decision-making (any kind of certainty is rarely good for maintaining tension).

Most proposals I have read on the web to address this are a bit too complicated. I like this one by Roger, and also have thought about converting the movement tiers to d6 rolls (so movement 6 would end up being 2d6, which has an expected value of 7). But then his system gets into obstacle penalties and lines of sight, and I end up feeling lost. Or this one from Talysman, which breaks the chase down into segments, and modifies the standard movement rates by situation rolls in order to introduce some variation. I like both of these systems, actually, but perhaps a compromise between multi-turn chases and just comparing static movement rates would work best at the table.

Some form of direct roll-off would probably work best. Those fleeing roll some dice based on their movement, those pursuing roll some dice based on their movement, and the higher total wins. Easy to remember, obstacles and hindrances can be handled ad-hoc. Okay, so which dice then? The spread between 1d6 for movement 3 and 4d6 for movement 12 is just too much. I like there to be some effect of armor or encumbrance on chases, but those numbers just don’t feel natural, either from the perspective of what will make for interesting tension in the game or from reasoning about how armor “should” affect movement.

Perhaps we can borrow the d6 “dice chain” from OD&D? That is, 1d6, 1d6+1, 2d6, 2d6+1, and so forth. Then reorganize the chain slightly, so that the three different armor types don’t differ by that much, but still do affect the outcome meaningfully.

Encumbrance Traditional Dice Chain
unarmored 12 2d6 +2
leather armored 9 2d6 +1
metal armored 6 2d6
metal armored
and carrying treasure
3 1d6

Traditional encumbrance and movement numbers are taken from the Moldvay Basic rules, page B20 (though Moldvay includes equivalent coin values as well, for bean counters). When you reorganize the chain though, it starts to feel less intuitive, so while I think this would work, I’m not totally satisfied. Also, I would probably modify Moldvay’s categories so that the progression was unarmored/light, medium, heavy (rather than unarmored, light, medium/heavy).

Here is another proposal. Unencumbered movement is 3d6 (expected value: 10.5). Subtract armor type (for example, heavy armor is -3) and any other encumbrance penalties. This makes the expected values of the movement by different armor types 10.5 (unencumbered), 9.5 (light/leather), 8.5 (medium/chain), 7.5 (heavy/plate). This seems to be a more reasonable spread than 12, 9, 6. Fast monsters would roll 4d6 for pursuit, slow monsters would roll 2d6. Very easy to remember, and supports the goal of adding tension to chases without complexity.

Using an entirely new system for resolving chases does give me pause, but none of the existing systems seems to work well. 3d6 gives a good distribution, and also plugs into numbers from other parts of the game (armor levels as 1 through 3, encumbrance penalties) in a way that makes sense, so I think the new die roll is justified. And since when has D&D ever been afraid of multiple resolution systems, anyways?

This movement scheme could also be applied to dungeon exploration mode. Traditionally, exploration rates are static, and based upon encumbrance. Instead, what if players rolled to move during the exploration context as well? The random encounter check could even be incorporated into this roll. One of the movement dice could be a different color. I don’t think this would work well in a videoconference game, but it might be good for an in-person session.

Postscript: Potential scheme for the 2d6 fantasy game: 2d6 +strength -armor (strength is probably a somewhat reasonable proxy for speed).

4 thoughts on “Chases

  1. Jason Juta

    You could also use your 3d6 spectrum system. Something like 2, you’re caught, 3-5, pursuer gains ground, 9-11 you gain ground, 12, you escape. Modifiers depend on movement rate and encumbrance. Just off the top of my head.

    1. Brendan Post author


      Not a bad idea, though it seems like it might require a lot of iterations to resolve a chase, as there is only around a 3% chance of rolling a 2 on 2d6 (though the modifier structure could help here). An interesting aspect of this is also that it would be a single roll rather than a roll-off, which, like Dungeon World, might allow keeping all the rolling in the players’ court.

  2. Jesse

    I think it’s Nights Black Agents that has a chase system whereby the “pursued”, or person being chased, has the privilege of setting the difficulty of the challenge rating both parties try to exceed. The amount by which the parties exceed the challenge (or fail to do so) is compared, and that tells the GM whether the pursuer gains or loses ground. Each turn the pursued has the option to keep the challenge rating of the chase at the same level, lower it, or raise it (raising the difficulty is represented in the fiction by trying to run faster, jump a ramp, dodge around something, etc.; see any James Bond film for examples).

    The chase is tracked on a short scale, say 1-10. The pursued starts at 7, the pursuer at 3. A mild relative success by the pursuer will shrink the space between them by one point, and a major relative success by more points. If the pursued gets a certain number of points away, say 5, he escapes.

    This is cool because it’s a way to involve choice, obviously, which as gamers we all want more of.

    1. Brendan Post author


      That sounds like it might take quite a while to resolve a single chase. I can see how that would be good for an international espionage game like Night’s Black Agents, but in D&D most of the time what I want to know is just if the monster is able to catch any of the fleeing PCs.

      Thanks for bringing it to my attention anyways, as I can add this to my list of reasons to check out this game at some point. The structure of the system (almost a stakes setting mechanic) seems interesting.


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