Last night in our online swords & sorcery RPG Serpents Fall (link to actual play video of the session here) part of the session involved chasing a suspected poisoner over the rooftops of a faux-medieval (i.e. not strictly historically accurate) castle; i've been wanting to incorporate a couple of dramatic chases into the game once we were all a little familiar with the basic rules and decided that session 6 seemed an appropriate time. The rules that I decided to use are from the Fate Toolkit (video review here) and they are also available online on the Fate System Reference Document website:
Essentially the chase is represented by a stress tracker with a marker partway along it, when the marker reaches one end (in the case of my game ten) the player group have managed to catch the person/s that they are pursuing, if it reaches the other end of scale (in the case of my game zero) then their quarry has escaped them. The length of the stress tracker determines the likely amount of time that the chase will take and the position of the marker on the tracker determines how much of a head start their quarry had (the nearer to the start the marker is, the harder their opponent will be to catch, the nearer to the end of the tracker the marker is then the harder it is for their opponent to escape).
One of player party (this is down to the player group bit is generally the person with the highest relevant skill/approach) makes a roll relevant to the chase, as do their opponent:
- If you fail, your opponent has the choice to either create a boost that works against you, or to move the stress track one check in their direction.
- If you tie, you may choose to move the stress track one check in your direction, but if you do so, your opponent gains a +1 on their next roll.
- If you succeed, you move the stress track one check in your direction.
- If you succeed with style, you get to move the stress track two checks in your direction, or one check and you gain a boost that you can use against your opponent on your next roll.
This repeats until either the players have caught their quarry or their opponent manages to escape; the GM will describe different circumstances in the chase, requiring different rolls to give different players a chance to shine and to keep the chase interesting.
Although the chase mechanics are designed to work with Fate Core (referencing the skill mechanics of the Fate Core build) it works fine with the Fate Accelerated build of the system by simply replacing the skill rolls with Approach rolls.
Of course a lot of the atmosphere and pace of a chase does rely on the players and the GM keeping the narrative going and not agonising too much over the decisions that they have made.
So how did I run the chase?
Well first of all I looked at the people who were liable to participating in the chase and what Approaches their characters possessed, I then jotted down a few potential situations that could arise during the chase that would require certain rolls; all of these were written on an index card for easy reference during the session and I include a few examples below (along with the Approaches that were rolled against):
- Sprinting across a rooftop - Quick
- Opponent knocks a load of barrels in their way - Clever (to plot a course through the tumbling barrels without slowing down or tripping)
- Opponent slams/locks a door infront of them - Forcefully (to smash through it)
- The quarry leaps onto a horse and begins to ride away - Flashy
- Leaping a moat - Quick
- Attempting to lose the players through a twisting maze of side-streets - Clever
So how did it run?
Because the chase is, if boiled down to absolute basics, a series of rolls and basic decisions made by the player characters it needs to not drag on for too long or allow the players time to agonise over the decisions that they are called to make; chases are supposed to be quick, rapid-fire scenes that whiz past in a blur of motion, frantic shouting and overcoming of obstacles. I think that if ran more slowly or if the chase went on too long then it would become a tedious exercise in dice-rolling, the suggestion of a ten space stress tracker given in the Fate Toolkit was about ideal for the game I ran; the tracker started halfway, but the player group clearly had an advantage since they were picking the highest scores from a group of them whereas their (single) quarry only had her own scores, that's fine though, it kept the chase brisk and, of course, the player characters are the heroes of my game.
All of the players commented at the end of the session how much they enjoyed the chase scene and have asked for more scenes like that in the future; having some pre-prepared obstacles and rolls noted down definitely helped run the chase without any unnecessary halting or interruptions (although I did drop a couple of improvised ones in there) and I think that i'm going to attempt to come up with an index card or two full of 'general chase actions' that I can have on standby in future when chases take place. With this list of standard actions I can then use actions/rolls specific to the chase in question but will have a useful list of fallbacks should the chase go on a bit longer than anticipated.
I think the chase mechanics work excellently as long as the GM remembers to keep it moving at a brisk pace and not let the players get too bogged down in thinking about who is going to make the dice-rolls; it worked really well for my players, who really got into the spirit of the chase and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it as a result.