Nov 13, 2017

Posted by in RPG | 1 Comment

How do you handle chase scenes?

A chase in a movie is always a dramatic thing. In most RPGs with a war game basis, this is often way less dramatic. The reason for this is the fixed speed of characters. Most characters of the same size will have the same speed. So, there’s no catching up, if you don’t add something on top.

Paizo has chase mechanic, that splits a chase into segments or scenes that add obstacles you have to overcome by skill checks. I listened to an explanation of that in episode 58 of “Cannon Fodder”, the behind the scenes look at the awesome “Glass Cannon” Pathfinder podcast.

Other options I have seen so far are giving characters are speed boost based on other attributes like Strength or Dexterity they can use as long as they beat a Constitution check equal to 10+number of rounds using the speed boost. But this can lead to problems during the combat phases, where getting to the right spot fast can have dramatic influence on the outcome of a fight.

Same applies to house rules that give an extra 5 feet of movement every 4 or 5 points above ten in either Strength or Dexterity, or the lower of the two. They often also decrease the movement for every two points below 10 by 5 feet per round. And while that makes some stuff (combat and chase scenes) more interesting, it also slows the group down out of combat.

One more option is to add a skill (often running) to the game, that gives you an extra 5 feet of movement for every 4 skill points you invest in this skill. This skill is most often based on Strength or Dexterity and a few base it on Constitution. I kinda like the idea of basing it on CON, mainly because it gives that stat another reason to be in the game, besides allowing you to take a few more hits before falling down.

From all these options, the skill variant is the one that I like the most (so far).

Running is a skill. It can be practiced. So it does make sense. On the other hand, are skill points something that can be a really limited resource for some characters. And bonus skill points are based on Intelligence, which feels a bit off when you look at the more physical skills. Keeping track of physical and mental skill points is a possible solution here (you could base physical skill points of Constitution) but this opens a balancing can of worms. Bonus skill points based off a physical attribute that can only be used for physical skills (those based of Strength, Dexterity and Constitution) could give the Fighters some needed skill points for their area of expertise. A Paladin might now be able to invest their few “normal” skill points in Knowledge(Nobility) and Knowledge(Religion) since they can now use the bonus skill points to practice swimming, climbing and running.

Small note here: Am I the only one that you can learn swimming or climbing in the common room of a tavern, but need to be able to actually fly to invest skill points in Fly? And yes, I understand the game mechanic reason behind it. Still, when you take a look at the physical skills, it is still kinda odd.

Anyway: How do you handle chase scenes? Completely different mechanic? One of these house rules? A completely different house rule? Avoiding it all together?

Tell me what you think, I’d really like to add some new tricks to my GMing arsenal.


  1. One of the big problems I had with 3.5 and even pathfinder to this day is skill bloat so I’m not sure I’d add another skill for running. I do understand the real world logic behind doing so but the games already have enough to juggle IMO. There is also an athletics check in Starfinder and in Pathfinder your could probably do some combination of opposed constitution checks.

    Basically what I’m saying I’d do is try and work it into the rule set and skill checks already given, adding things just seems like more work for the players and the DM. Now if I were to design a new system all together that might be different.

    In one of his videos (link at the bottom of this comment) Matt Colville goes over one of the few good things about D&d 4th ed. and uses a chase scene as an example. I really like the idea of taking chase scenes to skill checks and let the players decide how to go about solving the problem.

    At the end of the day though, I believe that chases are just not something the system handles very well and everyone probably has their own homebrew method that works best for themselves and their group and that is what I feel is most important.

    Great write up as always, gives a lot of interesting ideas on how to solve the issue.

    Matt’s Video –

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