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5e Chases

Dash points

Whether you’re pursuing or escaping, you start with 3 [constitution modifier] dash points. (For example if you have +2 con you start with 5 dash points. If you’ve had a rest since the last dash.)

Overspending dash points

If you’re out of dash points you can still keep on spendin’! Make a DC 10 con check (yes, check – doesn’t count as save) or get a level of temporary exhaustion (on top of any normal exhaustion you may already have). These temp levels clear out on a short rest. If you get exhaustion level 5 you can’t run no more!

Escape points

Pursuers have one pool of escape points per escaper they’re pursuing. This starts at 0 if the chase started in a mêlée, or at the same number as the current volley round (i.e. 1 if it started in the last volley round.)

Escaping

Speed check, attacks, then hide.

  1. Escaper checks speed vs every pursuer. (This might eat up some actions.)
  2. Everyone do attacks and other normal turn stuff. (To the extent they have actions left.)
  3. Escaper tries to hide. (This doesn’t cost actions.)
  4. If not hidden from everyone yet, GOTO 1.

Speed

Compare the escaper’s speed to each of the pursuers speeds. (Finally getting some payoff from keeping your encumbrance low!)

Anyone may spend their main action and a dash point to add their speed once more.

If you have Step of the Wind, Cunning Action or similar, you may also spend your bonus action and a dash point to do so. (You can do bonus and main, just bonus, just main, or neither.)

Each pursuer that an escaper beats in this way get one escape point from the escaper.

If the pursuer’s speed is strictly higher than the escapers plus thirty, the pursuer gets rid an escape point from that escaper. It can’t go below zero.

(Note to DM: If the chase is in a mapped out area, such as a dungeon, here is your chance to record the participants specific positions, if they are in certain rooms etc.)

Attacks

You can do attacks, subdue, grapple, spells etc as long as you have the actions left to do so. In the normal initiative order (hope you brought your torch, baby!). That’s how you catch ‘em!

If your target has any escape points from you, or you from them, you can only do ranged attacks (as if it were a volley round with that number).

Hide

Each escaper makes one stealth roll and compares it to the passive perception of each pursuer that have at least one escape point from them. If the stealth roll succeeds vs a pursuer, that escaper has gotten away from that pursuer. The pursuer can’t do anything to that escaper unless someone else catches or subdues the escaper.

(This hiding roll can have adv or disadv as per usual, see DMG p 253 for ideas.)

If the escaper gets away from everyone well then they’ve won the chase congrats!

Complications

If you’re in an area where there is a complications table (usually there isn’t), then here’s where everyone rolls on it, in init order (so bring lights folks!) because it happens to the next person. (DMG p 253.)

Design notes

I was floored by the starship fight rules in Stars Without Number 2e (they are pure genius, and if I ever run SWN 2 I want to use those rules RAW) and wanted to design similar chase rules for our heavily houseruled 5e game. I started out with something a lot more similar to SWN 2 with ability checks added to your speed score etc (that’s brilliant to me). But in the end the only thing I used were the name escape points themselves and everything else ended up pretty much exactly isomporphic to the DMG, to the point where I’m ashamed to even post this! It’s like I only kept 1% of SWN and 99% of DMG.

So what’s the point, then?

Chases are inherently vector space and that means they have been a mother to run! Six participants means 15 relationships to track and if one changes, everyone changes via complicated trigonometry equations in 2d or 3d space. Plopping them down on a cartesian grid obv helps and then you “only” need to do polar transformations everytime someone moves.

In SWN 2, a lot of cool things happen in space including evasive maneuvers, dodging, escaping, pursuing, multiple pursuers, multiple quarries etc. All with almost no explicitly spatial mechanics. Except for the idea of escape points which is a perfect abstraction for a vector. So unintrusive, only matters if there actually is a chase (i.e. no Diaspora plopping everyone down on a vector for nothing if all they’re gonna do is sit still and shot web). And, since the escaper tries to escape from every enemy at once all the vectors are kept up to date. In SWN, specific pursuers can spend actions to tick down that vector which is, again, a perfect abstraction. In my 5e-based concoction, that wouldn’t make sense because it’d be burning the candle from both ends. (Spend actions to not be escaped from, and then also spend actions to pursue further…?) So I put in the “it ticks down if it fails by more than 30” rule instead.

So what I gain from this is… no more trigonometry equations, or even if every participant is running in a straight line, no more “ok, you’re 30 ahead, but they’re 15 ahead, and you’re 20 behind, but you on the other hand are 40 behind” soul-crushing book-keeping! Instead each participants keep track of their own escape point pools; that’s not overly hard to do for my monsters either.