Saturday, March 10, 2012

Interlude--The Chase

Today's post is something of an homage to the old 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide and its city encounter tables, which seemed to cover any possible event that could take place in town. Detailed below are random tables to use during a chase, scenarios such as those at the start of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides or Cutthroat Island.


Interlude: The Chase
When one thinks of swashbuckling adventure, it's natural that the first images which come to mind are aboard ships, with characters swarming across the decks, swinging from the rigging and doing similar things. Another exciting element of such games can happen back in port, however—a thrilling chase through the streets or across the rooftops of town.

This situation can arise for numerous reasons. In the middle of a combat, the heroes could find themselves overwhelmed and be forced to flee. On the flip side of the coin, the enemy might be forced to run for it, requiring the PC's to pursue if they wish to acquire information or other valuables. It an also be an effective introduction to a storyline, as the heroes become aware of a chase and must join in to learn just what is happening.

Whatever the case, the following tables provide a quick and easy means for the GM to adjudicate such pursuits. There are two tables of possible hazards and obstacles—one for in the street, and one for across the rooftops—along with guidelines for determining the size and shape of various buildings.

Typical Width of Roof
(2d4+2) x 5 feet, or 4d4 x 5 feet
At the same time, there is a fifty percent chance that the rooftop has another notable feature; roll on the table below if one is indicated.

Hazards and Obstacles—Rooftop (Roll 1d12)

1. Rotted Rooftop
The timbers and covering here are soaked with water and badly rotten. A DC 15 Search or Spot check allows a character to notice them, and a DC 15 Reflex save can avoid them. Failure means that the character suffers 1d6 falling damage, and suffers the equivalent of an attack with a spear (+5 to hit and 1d6+2 damage). What is more, this development leaves the character stranded in the upper level of the building.

2. Sloping Rooftop
The pitch of this roof is more difficult, counting as difficult terrain. This requires characters to move at half speed, unless they succeed at DC 15 Tumble checks. Those who fail may attempt a DC 15 Reflex save to catch themselves (losing any further actions in the round), or fall off of the roof to the ground below.

3. Flock of Pigeons
Unless they're noticed (DC 10 check), these birds explode into the air when disturbed. Although they do not present any real physical threat, the surprise does force characters to make a DC 10 Will save or lose an action because of the interruption.

4. Balcony
This occurrence only happens if the building in question is more than one story in height. On the level below the roof is a balcony that juts over the street; it provides an opportunity to reach the street, or even perhaps to hide.

5. Sign
This also juts out from a building, on the second level. It can again provide an opportunity to reach the street, among other things.

6. Clothesline
This rope runs between two buildings, with garments hanging from it. Characters could use it like a tightrope (DC 20 Balance check for every fifteen feet of distance), or could cut it free and swing on it like a rope.

7. Awning
The greatest benefit of this canopy, stretched across an entry, is that it can cushion a fall. Characters who can leap into it (DC 10 Jump check) treat the fall as only half as far as it would otherwise be, and take only subdual damage from the impact.

8. Sleeping Cat
This disturbed kitty acts in much the same way as the pigeons, above. Enterprising characters, however, might figure out a way to use it as a weapon against their pursuers.

9. Carriage/Cart/Wagon
A wagon passes in the street below; roll on the appropriate table to determine its contents. This could be a chance to cushion a fall, or perhaps acquire a means of escaping from pursuit.

10. Loose Tiles
The clay tiles of this elaborate rooftop have come loose, acting like a trap. It takes a DC 15 Perception check to notice them; failing that, a DC 15 Reflex save allows someone to navigate the hazard and continue forward. Another failure means that the character slips and falls from the rooftop.

11. Alley or Street
Roll to determine the distance between this building and the next. The distance between buildings is normally five feet. If there is an alley or a street, however, the distance is 1d4 x 5 feet.

12. Trapdoor
There is a fifty percent chance that the trapdoor is locked. If it is not, or if it is opened (DC 20 Open Locks to disable; otherwise, hardness 10 and 10 hit points), roll on the table below to determine what kind of building it accesses.

Types of Buildings (Roll 1d6)
1. Church—Use the building from “An Ill Wind Blows”
2. Private Home (Fancy)—Use the building from “Out of the Darkness”
3. Private Home (Simple)—Use the building from “The Message”
4. Stable—Use the building from “Reprisal”
5. Tavern—Use the building from “The Mermaid's Tale”
6. Warehouse—Use the building from “An Ill Wind Blows”

Carriage/Cart/Wagon Contents (Roll 1d6)
1. Hay or Straw
2. Baskets of Fruits and/or Vegetables
3. Manure
4. Crates or Barrels
5. Passengers (Carriage)
6. Nothing

Hazards and Obstacles—Street (Roll 1d8)

1. Crowd
These people might be gathered to watch an entertainer, a street preacher or a hanging. Whatever the case, they pack the street and force characters to make a DC 15 Tumble check to move at a double move (limited by conditions to a double move), or be forced to move only at half speed.

2. Carriage/Cart/Wagon (Slow)
This horse-drawn conveyance comes rumbling along, right into the middle of the path. Jumping over it requires a DC 15 check, while sliding under it requires a DC 10 Tumble check. Failing the prior causes 1d6 points of damage and ends the character's movement, while failing the latter causes 2d6 damage, ends movement and leaves the unfortunate person lying prone in the middle of the street.

3. Carriage/Cart/Wagon (Fast)
This hazard functions in the same manner as the previous one, except that the Tumble chek DC is increased to 15.

4. Dead End
The road ends abruptly here, due to a building, a low wall or something else blocking the path. The height of the obstruction is (1d4+1) x 5 feet.

5. Squad of Soldiers
Here a group of the government's own stumbles into the area, and is no doubt surprised to be caught in the middle of a chase. (Refer to the end of “Into the Shadows” for stats.) How they respond depends on the characters' actions, perhaps including a Bluff effort or a little Diplomacy.

6. Drinking Pirate
Sometimes a person just wants to cut loose a little bit. This pirate has a barrel of wine, cups to share and two loaded pistols for anyone who refuses to drink a toast. (Use the “Tough Pirate” stats from the article about the Sign of the Boar's Head for him.) He doesn't take kindly to refusal of his offer.

7. Familiar Place
The fleeing character happens to stumble upon a previously visited place, be it a tavern, a shop or some other location. This could provide a chance to turn the tables on an NPC, or perhaps to embroil an associate in the pursuit.

8. Market
Here the street opens up into a broad square, one filled with stalls of people selling foodstuffs and other goods. The possible developments that could take place here are myriad, especially for those who are clever enough to exploit them.


  1. Very nice! I can make good use of this in my Freeport campaign--particularly since one of the nonhuman characters has a high racial bonus to Climb and prefers fighting from higher ground. We've already had one rooftop chase, and are sure to have more...