5e Chases

edited March 2019 in Make Stuff!

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.)


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.


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 of 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.)


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).


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!


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.


  • edited March 2019
    Never mind as I was brushing my teeth I came up with something better! But I don't have time to write it up RN!

    Edit Uh or I'm not sure, the new idea has some definite cons! will have to think

    Edit again Still thinking but will probably go with the original idea as outlined above
  • Isn't the encounter point what matters ? What I need to know is : what pursuer will catch up with what pursuee first. And maybe : where. Then the decision kicks in. For this, I need to know speed only. One axis.
  • edited March 2019
    DeReel, that is all well and good when there are only two participants, a pursuer and a pursuee. In practice there are all kinds of people flailing around!

    So that's another thing that's unique to this rule set compared to both 5e DMG RAW and to SWN 2e: the "speed comparison" step that's shared among all participants before the takings&actions&flailing around part. Normally I hate phase modal rules like that so IDK why I went there T_T
  • edited March 2019
    I get it. It's a battlefield chase, not a Bullit sort of chase. My model was Horaces and Curiaces.
  • '68 Mustang♥
  • Yeah, this is interesting. Makes me wonder what my own chase rules were in an old dungeon crawl game I wrote... I'll have to look them up!
  • Interesting. If I'm reading your rules correctly, it's exactly the same system, except that I don't have a "hide check" (the escape roll handles that), there are no movements rates (just a "Quick" score), and you're not limited to gaining or losing one "escape point" per turn (an unusually lucky roll could reverse your advantage).

    Note that this game uses dice pools, and typically a "hit" on any roll translates into a bonus die to a followup roll. Most rolls only result in one or two "hits" - three or more "hits" are extremely rare.

    When one or more characters are trying to run away from one or more other character (or monsters, or a trap, etc), everyone rolls their Quick score. If the pursuer wins, they have caught up to anyone whose roll they beat, which means they can now try to attack or tackle any of those poor souls. If the one running away wins, they've gained distance: each hit becomes a bonus die on the next roll. A success worth four hits means they've escaped for good.

    For example, imagine five adventurers running away from a roaring giant (or maybe even a rolling boulder that threatens to crush them, Indiana Jones style!). All five players roll their Quick scores. The GM rolls the giant's Quick score. If the GM's roll beats any of the players' rolls, those adventurers have been too slow, and are now within the giant's reach. Players who beat the giant are gaining distance, and will therefore roll with a bonus next round. Adventurers belonging to players who rolled four or more hits are out of sight for good.
  • So what's weird about 5e's system compared to yours, Paul, is that you don't roll your speed, you just have it as a static number. And you can spend a resource to double it (and Monk and Rogue and Expeditious retreat can triple it). In the orig SWN you do roll a skill (and add your speed to that) and, I kinda like that. I don't want to stray too far from 5e but I'm def itching play SWN 2 RAW.

    Now that I have a li'l bit more time I can outline what the "new" idea was and why I'm not going with it.

    Instead of gaining (or maybe losing) 1 escape point, in the new idea escape points are devalued af. If escaper has speed 50 and pursuer has speed 40, the 10 escape points are inflicted on pursuer. Then next turn if escaper has speed 50 and pursuer has speed 55, the pursuer can shed 5 of those escape points. Instead of needing at least one escape point to roll hide, you need at least 31.

    Pro: you don't need to retranslate your weapon&spell ranges, you can just use them straight up. They have 83 escape points on you? (or vice versa?) You need a range 83' (or more) weapon to zap 'em.

    Con: One con is that I would have to tear up my "volley rounds" stuff to work similarly (instead of turns ticking down one by one, it'd be… back to some sorta semi-abstracted "closing in" number based on feet speed of fastest-participant-that-wants-to-close-in on each side), but I'd be willing to do that, but the bigger con is that I liked how the scaling of escape points to 1 per round abstracted away (see, dissociation doing good work♥) any need for coherent polar coordinates, trigonometry etc.


    The topmost diagram is vague and abstracted, which is a cost, sure, but it's fine compared to the second one which is UNACCEPTABLLEEEEE. The distances gained are obviously not literally 15 and 5 respectively. ← three adverbs in an eleven word sentence, pretty good

    This is a problem that plopping everyone down on in cartesian space (for example via maps & minis) solved and I'm committed af to not use that solution, hence solutions like these SWN-derived "escape points". Again, absolutely genius design by Crawford.

    So, I'm pretty happy w/ the way it turned out in the OP of this thread and ended up not going with this new idea. So this post was a bit of a thought experiment gaiden.
  • On the other hand, a minor but impactful change that I do want to consider seriously is to make it so that instead of escaper making one roll vs every pursuer, the pursuers roll separately.

    The way it is now is closer to the DMG's system but, like many of the less visited corners of the DMG, it's pretty messed up because it'll lead to the cleric or druid always being the last ones to lose track of the quarry. CoDzilla beats ranger!‽?!?!‽!?! IK it says that the quarry rolls with disad if one of the pursuer is proficient in survival but the victory still goes to the… cleric?! Every single time? Kinda makes it less fun to participate in chases when we all know that Laratha is gonna be the one that catches that flyover ball. Every time.
  • edited March 2019
    Consider maybe this is not a chase procedure problem, in which case, you don't need to fix it with a chase rule.
  • Pursuit/escape has been the one missing link in my move to a focus on predicate space & non-space and SWN uses (with the one exception of the escape/pursue "escape points") entirely non-space but feels so spatial. Its adding speed to AC for evasive maneuvers is another stroke of genius.
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