Skip to content

Pathfinder: Alternate Chase Rules

March 7, 2014

bear chaseSo I have two major NPCs trying to flee from the group next session. The party has no real way to catch up to them – everyone has the same movement speed – so normally I would just use DM fiat to say that they escaped (or did not escape). However, I was aware that Paizo published some chase rules, so I thought I would give those a test-run.

However, I was underwhelmed by Paizo’s effort, which reminded me of an opposed 4e D&D skill challenge. And I say that as someone who would rather be playing 4e D&D instead of Pathfinder. There’s no real tactics involved – at each obstacle, you pick the one you have the best chance of overcoming, or try for both if your bonuses are good enough (which doesn’t even make sense within the game world – how do you tackle two concurrent obstacles?). And choices made in one round have no influence on future rounds, despite what your obstacle of choice may say about how the game fiction evolves.

ChasesA quick internet search confirmed that I was not alone in my opinion. What was amusing to me, as a one-time edition warrior, is that all of the advice in that discussion for making PF chase scenes work, and “not feel like D&D 4e skill challenges,” is almost the exact same advice one would receive for making 4e D&D skill challenges work. But I digress…

Luckily I came across this blog post, which sketches out an apparently play-tested alternate chase system for Pathfinder. The proposed rules are not quite a coherent whole, though, although the author elaborates a bit in the comments. Using all of that, and adding some of my own tweaks, I put together a more complete system for running chases. I give a big thanks to “the Geek” and his blog for providing much of the groundwork.

The formatting didn’t come through quite right, so I uploaded the MS Word file here.

Chase Rules

The Numbers

Movement Bonus: +2 per 5’ of speed

Example bonuses:

  • 15 ft. (encumbered short people): +6
  • 20 ft. (short people, short barbarians in armor, encumbered tall people): +8
  • 30 ft. (tall people, short barbarians, tall barbarians in armor, ponies): +12
  • 40 ft. (tall barbarians, monks): +16
  • 50 ft. (horses, monks): +20
  • 60 ft. (magically-enhanced tall people, monks): +24

Endurance Score: Constitution score divided by 2, or divided by 3 in severe weather conditions (unless the character is protected against such conditions)

Fatigue Check: Fortitude save, DC 15 + 1 per previous fatigue check

Player Options

Endurance: the characters gets a +4 bonus to Fatigue Checks.

Run: the character gets a +4 bonus to their Movement Bonus.

Mounts: use the mount’s Movement Bonus, Endurance Score, and Fortitude saves for Fatigue Checks. Don’t forget to modify for feats – most horses have Endurance and Run, for example, making them very well-suited for chases in open areas.

When it comes to obstacles, the character can roll their Ride check, or the mount’s relevant skill check, whichever is lower. There may be some obstacles that the mount cannot overcome (a horse making Climb checks, for example), in which case the character will have to dismount or find an alternate route.

The Round

  1. Determine leader. This is usually the target of the chase.
  2. Establish other characters’ positions relative to the leader:
    1. Close Contact – melee range. Must overcome leader’s obstacle, if any.
    2. Point Blank – 30’ range. Can attempt leader’s obstacle or take alternate route at +5 obstacle’s highest DC.
    3. Short – ranged attacks take -2 penalty. LOS maybe questionable. Can attempt leader’s obstacle or take alternate route at obstacle’s highest DC.
    4. Medium – ranged attacks take -4 penalty. LOS questionable. Can avoid obstacles.
    5. Long – ranged attacks take -6 penalty. LOS very questionable. Can avoid obstacles.
    6. No Chance – out of the chase.
  3. Roll initiative.
  4. Determine obstacle in front of the leader.
    1. Not all rounds should have an obstacle. Set a % chance or decide for yourself each round.
    2. There should be a variety of obstacles, that can be bypassed with different skills and/or actions. Draw up a table for the environment and roll or choose each obstacle.
    3. Obstacle DCs should be around 15, although more exotic (i.e. higher-level) environments might have higher DCs.
  5. Declare actions. This determines your movement bonus for the round.
    1. Top Speed: normal movement bonus.
    2. Desperate Push: add your Strength modifier (minimum +1) to your normal movement bonus. At the end of the round, you have to make a fatigue check.
    3. Standard or Move action: half of your normal movement bonus.
    4. Full round of actions: you have a movement bonus of +0, and cannot gain ground during Step 9. Since position is relative, it’s still important to roll.
  6. Resolve actions. Those characters that declared an action can now take them, in initiative order.
    1. Keep in mind the characters’ range to each other and possible LOS issues.
    2. If an action knocks out or immobilizes a character or gets fatigued or exhausted, that character is out of the race. If that happens to the leader, the race is over.
  7. Resolve obstacles. The leader and those close to him/her will need to roll a check to bypass any obstacles in their path. Roll in order of position, leader first.
    1. If the check succeeds, the obstacle is bypassed successfully.
    2. If the leader fails his/her check, everyone else moves up 1 position (even if they took a full round of actions). The obstacle is bypassed but it slowed the leader down.
    3. If a pursuer fails his/her check, they move back 1 position.
    4. If anyone fails a check by 5 or more, they take 1d6 points of non-lethal damage (or perhaps more, depending on the situation) from some mishap.
  8. Resolve movement. Everyone rolls a d20 and adds their total movement bonus from Step 5. The leader rolls first, and his/her total sets the DC for everyone else.
    1. A pursuer can move up 1 position for every 5 points their total beats the leader’s, unless they took a full round of actions.
    2. A pursuer must move back 1 position for every 5 points that their total is less than the leader’s.
  9. Check for fatigue.
    1. If anyone used the Desperate Push action, they must make a fatigue check.
    2. Subtract 1 from everyone’s Endurance score. If anyone is at 0, they must make a fatigue check.
    3. If anyone fails a fatigue check, they gain the fatigued condition.
    4. If anyone is fatigued or exhausted, whether from a fatigue check or some other source, they must drop out of the race.
  10. Go to step 4 and repeat until the leader loses everyone, or the leader is caught.

Example Obstacles


Chance of Obstacle each round 55%
Roll (d12) Obstacle Type Overcome With… Obstacle DC Examples
1-2 Low Barrier Acrobatics/Jump 12 Fallen tree, large rocks, ruins, small hill
3 High Barrier ClimbAcrobatics/Jump 1520 Cliff, fallen rocks, ruins
4-6 Gap Acrobatics/Jump 10+1d10 Crevice, chasm, creek, sudden drop
7-8 Steep Incline/Decline Acrobatics 15 Steep hill
9 Tight Fit Escape Artist 20 Fallen rocks, narrow chasm
10 Narrow Ledge Acrobatics 10 Natural bridge, rope bridge, tree bridge
11 Water Swim 101 River, lake
12 Predator PerceptionKnow (nature)Survival 222018 Carnivorous animal or plant

1 Add 5 to the Swim DC if the water is rough.


Chance of Obstacle each round 65%
Roll (d8) Obstacle Type Overcome With… Obstacle DC Examples
1-4 Barrier Swim 151 Crashed boat, dam, debris, hanging tree, rocks
5-6 Strong Current Swim 151
7 Waterfall Swim 201
8 Predator PerceptionKnow (nature)Survival 222018 Carnivorous animal or plant

1 Add 5 to Swim DCs if the water is rough.

Example of Play

Edgar the ex-paladin is trying to run away from Andy the archer, Bobara the barbarian and Wally the wizard. They were engaged in combat when Edgar took off running. Since there was already an initiative order in place, we can use that, or roll anew. In any case, the order is: Andy, Edgar, Wally, Bobara. Edgar is the leader/target.

The DM places Bobara at Point-Blank range and Andy & Wally at Short range. Because they are chasing Edgar through winding valleys & canyons, the DM rules that Andy, Bobara, and Wally only have LOS to Edgar 50% of the time at Point-Blank range, 25% at Short range, and no chance at longer ranges. Having the high ground will improve those chances.

First, the DM will check to see if there are any obstacles immediately barring Edgar’s path. He rolls a 50 on d100, and then rolls an 8 on 1d12. There’s a steep decline ahead of the leader.

Now actions are declared. Edgar is low on hit points and really needs to gain some distance on the others, so he will attempt a Desperate Push (total move bonus: +16). Andy wants to climb up to higher ground so that he can shoot his bow, which the DM rules is a full-round action (total move bonus: +0; can’t gain). The mighty Bobara, trusting in his Strength and his Fortitude save, will also try for a Desperate Push (total move bonus: +19). Wally will use his bonded sword to recall and cast expeditious retreat, a standard action, and will then move (total move bonus: +24 / 2, or +12).

Now actions are resolved. The DM calls for a DC 15 Acrobatics check for Andy to run up the hillside to higher ground, which he easily succeeds. Wally casts his spell.

Next we check if the characters can clear the obstacles in their path. Edgar is in the lead, so he will attempt to run down the hillside at full speed, which requires a DC 15 Acrobatics check. His total is a 14, which means that he gets tripped up but doesn’t fall. Everyone else moves up 1 position (including Andy). This puts Bobara at Close range, and Andy & Wally at Point-Blank range.

Bobara has no ranks in Acrobatics, so he asks the DM if there is an alternate route (which would have a DC of the leader’s obstacle +5, or 20). The DM looks at the Hills obstacle table and declares that the barbarian can climb down a sheer cliff to reach the bottom of the hillside. Bobara’s Climb result is a 14, which is 6 less than he needed. He makes it down the cliff-face, but falls part of the way. He loses a position, putting him back at Point-Blank, and takes 6 (1d6) points of non-lethal damage.

Wally and Andy both have good Acrobatics checks, so they take the main path (or a similar path, in Andy’s case, since he’s up above). They both pass their Acrobatics checks, and maintain their current positions.

Next we roll for movement. Edgar’s roll sets the target DC for everyone else. With his +16 bonus, he gets a 34! Wow. But Bobara has a +19 bonus, and he gets a total of 30 – he does not gain or lose ground, as he is within 5 points of Edgar’s roll. Wally took an action, so only has a +12 bonus (with his spell, he will have a +24 bonus at full speed), and gets an 18. This means he drops back 3 places, to Long range, which is discouraging, but the wizard figures that he will rapidly regain ground in future rounds. Andy spent his round getting into position, and thus has no bonus. Luckily, he rolls a 16, and only drops back 3 places to Long range. Hopefully he can get off a shot after spending a round catching up.

Since both Edgar and Bobara took Desperate Push actions this round, they both need to make DC 15 Fortitude saves. They both easily pass, but their next fatigue checks will be DC 16. Also, if the chase should last longer than Bobara’s rage, he will become fatigued and have to drop out. And finally, since this is only round 1, no one has to make a Fortitude save for running out of Endurance.

After round 1, final positions are: Bobara – Point-Blank (no change), Wally – Long (lost 2 spots), Andy – Long (lost 2 spots). Edgar has a good chance of leaving Andy in the dust, but Wally’s magically-enhanced speed is going to be a problem for him!


From → D&D, Gaming

  1. Reblogged this on Jari65 Blog.

  2. Nice! mxyzplk from Geek Related here, glad you like the system and happy someone had time to expand on it… I get them good enough for my game and then they languish! I still like and use the rules; I wrote them way before the Pathfinder ones in the GMG (mine: 2009, theirs: 2010) but I still use mine; as you note theirs seem too – artifical.

    My biggest takeaway from doing it is the huge loss to the game it is that every single other thing you do is rolled with a modifier, but speed is always absolutely constant. What a missed opportunity!

    I like your cleanup and expansion, good work.

    • Thank you for coming up with your chase rules! What I really like is that there are actual choices – do you take the risk of adding your Strength bonus? Do you follow the leader, or try to go around? Do you possibly lose position so that you can make an attack or cast a spell? The only real negative I’ve discovered is Pathfinder’s fault – Acrobatics is used for just about everything that’s not specifically covered by Climb or Swim, making it probably the most important skill for a chase. Jumping, moving over rough terrain, balancing… you really have to work to come up with obstacles that can be overcome with other skills.

      But anyway, I’m really looking forward to seeing how they will work out in our next session.

      And I have to agree about the static movement bit. A holdover from the old days, but it would be interesting if movement speeds had some variance to them.

      • Thanks man. I still use these rules a lot, and the fact that they work for all the various movement modes is really helpful – in my pirate game, a mix of people swimming, flying, running, sailing a boat, etc. comes up a lot and it integrates them nicely.

        I agree on the Acrobatics thing, I wish they had done the Athletics/Acrobatics split a lot of games do. However, one thing I do is to be very generous with use of Climb – a lot of parkour moves are less “nimble dodge” and more “haul myself up and over that thing”, which gives STR-based characters a little more to do to stay in the chase. Also I allow alternate skill use at a +5 DC if it makes sense, so even Knowledge: Local can come in handy in a chase (though not overwhelming the actual fast, nimble folks necessarily – everyone shouldn’t be the same amount of good at everything!).

  3. Pinkius permalink

    What a coincidence

  4. Added some notes for characters having the Endurance and Run feats, and using mounts. If there are any other feats that could be relevant to chases, please let me know.

  5. Lee permalink

    Cheers, I love this and will be using it at my next game. Instead of subdual damage I might try something whereby the Player’s Con takes damage, or more likely the Fatigue DC gets higher. My players are at that level where they can ignore small amounts of damage, but if they’re getting tired the race could be lost. Thanks again!

  6. Hey all! I’ve updated my chase rules into a more full featured PDF. I’d love comments, then I’ll make a final version in a couple weeks.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Kingmaker: Stolen Land, Session 13 | Daddy DM
  2. Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red, Session 23 | Daddy DM
  3. Updated Chase Rules RFC | Geek Related

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: