(See Part I at http://misdirectedmark.com/the-chase-part-i-see-the-party-run/)
You’ve escaped from New York, the boulder chasing you down the trap infested hall was easy to avoid, and even if agents can jump into any body in the matrix they can’t catch you. You’re a leaf on the wind, the running man, and John Connor all rolled into one. Even if your not you can create scenes for your players so they feel like they are. That’s awesome but it’s only one side of the chase. What do you do when the rolls are reversed? What happens when you’re players are running down someone and how do you make it happen with style.
In chases we have the runner and the chaser. The Chasers are now the players but things won’t change to much. There will still be goals for each side, there will still be complications but the implementation is a little different.
As a chaser the basic goal is catching the runner before he accomplishes his goal. Keep in mind the runners goal could be anything: escaping the chaser, assassinating someone before the chaser stops him, hitting the big red button, alerting the rest of the base to the chasers presence, or any other goal you can imagine.
He looks in on Eleita sleeping in her bed from outside the Inn’s second story window. He lifts the latch with his thin blade, opens the window, and steps in. The only sounds come from the bar downstairs. Standing over the pale beauty he lifts his blade. Feet come pounding up the stairs, Eleita’s eyes open, the blade descends.
There’s a scream from within the room as Kir bashes in the door. Eleita is lying in her bed with a long thin blade jutting from her right shoulder. A man stands over her in a white cloak, takes one look at Kir and the others behind him and leaps out the window. Kir and the others follow.
The above is the set up to the chase. I ran this adventure a while ago and knew my party well enough to assume they would chase the assassin. How could I assume this? Motivation. This particular group has very tight character connections so attacking one of them is like attacking all of them. I also knew a single blow wouldn’t hurt Eleita enough to take her out so she can participate if she wants. The point is you need to know your group and how to motivate them into starting a chase.
The man in the white cloak runs down the rain slicked cobble stone street and around the corner of a building. As Kir turns the corner followed by his companions the man in the white cloak runs by a wagon full of barrels and slashes the restraining ropes, spilling two dozen barrels into the street. The group leaps, dodges, and bashes their way through them but Adoy is barreled over and falls behind a bit.
When I set up a scene where the players are chasing I change from a time line of events to a series of challenges the players need to overcome in order to catch the runner. The above example is just the first of eight different challenges the players had to overcome. The trick to making these interesting is having consequences for failure and, if possible, boons for success. In this particular example there were no boons for success but a consequence was falling farther behind in the chase. Falling farther behind made a difference for a challenge later in the chase. I like making the early challenges effect later game play. I enjoy mechanics assisting in the creation of story.
Kir leaps from one roof top to the next. He takes a quick glance over his shoulder as he lands on the same rooftop as the man in the white cloak. Elieta and Adoy just reached the roof of the building he and the white cloaked man climbed onto three rooftops ago. When he looks forward the white cloaked man isn’t running away but towards Kir with two long razor blades in each hand. “Uh oh” are the only words Kir can say before the dance of blade and fist starts.
Remember when I said I like early challenges to effect the story. This is what I’m talking about. Kir’s a monk and managed over come the previous challenges better than the others. I like throwing a curve ball sometimes. This is one of those cases. I planned on having the white cloaked man turn and fight whoever managed to keep up with him here, but only for a bit. Kir kept up so now he has to deal with the white cloaked man alone. Since the white cloaked man is a tough challenge for the whole party Kir just trying to survive until the others can catch up. A couple of rounds of fighting and the white cloaked man continues running. By having the white cloaked man stop and fight in the middle of the chase for a moment I’m trying to accomplish a few things. I change the pace of the chase, show the runner isn’t above fighting, give the players an idea of the runners ability, and create an encounter where previous challenges effect later ones.
The white cloaked man ducks into a fenced in construction storage area filled with lumber. Kir and company follow him but the white cloaked man has created enough separation to give him a chance to hide. Elieta peers to the right and glances a flash of white behind a pile of lumber. “There” she yells and moves before the others just in time to get out of the way as the pile of lumber topples over on the party.
Once I got to the storage yard I had a decision point. I had to decide if the white cloaked man should stay and fight them here or run away to fight another day. The series of challenges are my barometer for the white cloaked man’s decision. If the group succeeded at more challenges than failed he would stay and fight believing he couldn’t get away from them. If they failed more he would get away to assassinate another day.
Elieta gets away from the toppling pile of wood but her friends do not. as the man in white vault over a fence. She takes a step towards him, stops, and turns to help her friends. When she finally unburies Kir and company Kir asks her, “Why didn’t you go after him?”
Elieta shrugs, “I thought I should help you guys. Besides, I saw what he did when you went one on one. I’m not as dumb as you.”
Kir laughs and shakes his head.
“Got me there.” He ponders for a moment, “I wonder who he was?”
Elieta looks towards the fence “I’m sure we’ll find out sooner or later.” then looks at Kir, “Lets get out of here and grab a drink.”
They failed more than they succeeded so the white cloaked man got away. I feel it’s important to have consequences for failure. Without the possibility of failure their isn’t a challenge and the more ways you can find to give your players the possibility of failure without killing them the more interesting you can make your game.
Next time someone decides to run make it awesome. Create those scenes from the movies and stories you love and experiment. People are thinking of new and innovative ways to create chases all the time. If you want some other places to look for inspiration for chase mechanics check out the Pathfinder chase mechanics at http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/chases , or get the new Savage Rules Deluxe edition which has new chase rules. You can pick the PDF up at http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=92743 . Both have some excellent idea’s for building chases.
Chris “The Light” Sniezak