Fantastic Features to Spice up a Chase

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    Fantastic Features to Spice up a Chase

    Recently listening to a podcast on critical hits about skill challenges, I was given a lightbulb above my head when I heard the interviewee mention an example of a boring skill challenge - crossing a rickety bridge, vs. its more fantastical counterpart - same said bridge is on fire and thePCs are being chased by trolls.

    In my upcoming session on Sunday it is very likely that my PCs will engage in a skill challenge with the Narrows Twins - two tiefling villains that I augmented from the lady of the shadows adventure in the FR campaign guide. As it happens, most likely they will say the wrong thing when they approach these twins at a local crossroads - an area where caravaners and merchants set up camp and stands to solicit their wares to travelers. And then , a chase will ensue, both twins running in opposite directions forcing the party members to decide which one they will chase.

    So here's my question - what sort of fantastic elements could I add to the setting that would add spice to the SC and also allow for more varied skills to be used to catch these guys?

    Any and all suggestions welcome. Thanks.


  • #2
    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)

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    Fantastic elements is kinda tricky, since the setting you've described is so mundane. We need to have the chases lead the party through fantastic areas, I guess.

    Okay, so it's a crossroads, big market going on, etc.

    One thing -- help your players a little by making it clear right from the outset that the two chases will have very different flavors -- so have one take off into the wilderness, and the other tear off through the market.

    Twin A flips a basket of grain to give himself a moment to disappear into the crowd, and he starts zipping through the packed market. PCs trying to keep up might use acrobatics (dodge through), intimidate(get the hell out of my way), or insight (he'll probably try to lead pursuit through that smelly cheese stall, I can try to cut him off there).

    Twin B sets off at a dead run for nearby woods, quickly trying to use his ahtletic ability and the cover provided by the underbrush to lose the PCs. PCs will initially use Athletics (just running hard), perception (to keep an eye on him) and nature (knowing/guessing the lay of the land) to try to keep up

    The two chases move into more interesting terrain from there.

    Twin A, cutting through the crowd, is cut off from a quick escape by PC action and ducks into a big tentpole shrine -- think revivalist tent D&D style. There is a service going on, chants being sung -- maybe it's a wedding ceremony. When the PCs duck into the tent, they have lost sight of the twin, who has donned the robe of one of the many participants in the ceremony. Spend some time talking about the magical binding ritual (after all, a wedding ceremony in a magical world would have some pretty wild special effects, I'm sure). They can try to move through the participants subtly (using Stealth to avoid notice, perception to try to spot the twin, and maybe religion to try to spot a participant who looks out of place). Should the PCs decide to make a scene, forgoing stealth and waving weapons around, the whole tent full of faithful and family tries to wrestle and subdue the PCs -- they must succeed on athletics or acrobatics checks to squirm out of the grasp of the crowd and continue their pursuit. Once spotted or reverlaed, the twin cuts his way through the back of the tent and is on to the next stage.

    Twin B, on the other hand, leads the PCs through the woods and through the territory of a nymph that has a bargain with the twins. As they continue their pursuit, they burst into a clearing where a buxom nymph tries to lure one or more of them into a tryst, forgetting the chase. Each PC in the chase is subject to an attack against will -- those that are hit are drawn into the Nymph's embrace. Those that avoid that attack can make heal/intimidate/arcana checks to try to break an ally out of the tryst, or they can continue the pursuit and leave the ally behind (effectively dropping them out of the chase).

    Third stage, the twins need to circle back towards an agreed-upon meeting place -- they're not leaving each other in the lurch, after all. As it turns out, the two are taking circuitous routes to the same location -- a nearby inn where their horses are stabled.

    Twin A dashes into the main entrance of the inn, causing another flurry of spilled drinks and angry patrons to get in the PC's way.

    Twin B vaults the corral fence and races into the stable from the back. Maybe there are some monstrous/interesting mounts and other animals to contend with in the corral. bad tempered lizards and so on.

    Then the two ride off together -- PCs can try to hire horses and continue the pursuit.


  • #3
    wow - what a great response. Thanks RG.

    I love the tent with ritualistic ceremonies for the wedding. I'm thinking since its a relatively provincial area, there could be some con-artist who does low-cost marriages (think Vegas) who gets totally PISSED when the PCs disrupt his already borderline operation. Great opportunity to introduce some new NPCs as well.

    The nymph idea is great. I finally have a reason to introduce a seductive naked fey creature. I've been waiting for that opportunity, my group will love it.
    A question for any reading - why would two tieflings part of a thieves organization have a bond with a nymph of this sort? I'm sure I can come up with something but if there's any more ideas out there...

    And I absolutely love the idea that they circle back around to an established meeting place...and I'm thinking since its the Lady of the Shadows gang that they are part of, they should have some sort of shadow or shade based mount, any suggestions?

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    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)

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    The arrangement with the Nymph need not be incredibly friendly -- perhaps they're holding something over her. It might, however, be more interesting if she's actually in love with one of the twins. She's been tricked into drinking some sort of love potion and is loopy for the twin who runs through the forest and gets her to try to delay the pursuit. She loathes his brother, though.

    I'd be careful with the con artist thing -- it's workable, but is it a confusing subplot that you don't need to worry about in a scene that's supposed to be a frenetic chase?

    For shadow-based mounts, you might aswell go for Nightmares (they're in the compendium). Maybe they have potions or something that will turn their ordinary horses into Nightmares temporarily, so the normal-looking horses suddenly turn all black and evil and flamy and can teleport themselves and their riders out of a tight spot.


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    Defender (Lvl 8)

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    I have run a great chase like this a while ago, it was really fun and a bit deadly. The idea was that two villains split up, both were particularly nasty elite monsters. There were six PCs, if three or more PCs were attacking a villain the villain would run and try and do things so that it lost 1 or 2 of the pursuers. If the villain was fighting one person they would try and kill them, if faced with two, they would use their very nasty recharge powers, then disengage and flee. Rinse and repeat.

    The idea was to make a series of very hard challenges, if a PC failed, then the PC that did succeeded might find themselves fighting a powerful foe one on one for a while, until the other guys caught up.

    I had 8 different maps available and cut the fights up into scenes. All of this was pre-prepared, so as not to make too much work on myself. The villains were very very good shifting and getting away from the PCs, but they could only use that ability now and then. So they fought for a couple of turns before getting the option to run away again.

    Some of the scenes included:
    - A fight on the back of speeding wagons
    - A fight on the top of a castle wall. Since the PCs did badly on the proceeding challenge, they had to scale the wall while the bad guy stood at the top taking OAs on them, or let him go.
    - They did well on one challenge, so in the outdoor scene they caught the bad guy in the middle of a stream, giving them longer to pound on him before he could get away.
    - The rooftop of a crumbling cathedral during a thunderstorm.
    - The middle of a gangland brawl which had nothing to do with either the PCs of the villain.

    Some of the complications included:
    - Getting the wagon to chase the guy, nature skills, athletics, diplomacy etc to get the wagoneers to help, intimidate to carjack the wagon etc.
    - One of the bad guys stabbed (non-fatally) a random pregnant lady on the way past. The PCs had to delay to use healing skill to save her. This was great as it separated the party with the knight stopping to take care of her and the thief charging on ended up having to fight the guy for a few turns alone.
    - A bad guy lit an old peoples home on fire as he ran past. A quick stop to rally the townsfolk was very successful and they hardly lose any time at all, thanks to the Skald.
    - Streetwise/Stealth to avoid the gangs that the guy has just run through in the city.
    - Nature/Perception to track the guy when they lost him outdoors
    - Auto successes were available in some instances if they split up to search. This led to an interesting situation where only one PC finds the bad guy and has to try to delay him and not die while his friends arrive.

    The whole thing turned a relatively easy fight into being really deadly indeed. The poor bard and thief who were good at skill challenges were always the first to close with the guy, but were often left standing alone against a very nasty fight for a few turns each. Only a critical success from the paladin led to him stopping the bad guy from doing a coup de grace on the thief before anyone could arrive to stop him.

    I recommend giving it a go, chase scenes mixed with combat are very fun. I really like the challenge that facing an enemy alone brings and the sense of triumph that comes with beating him down 3v1 when you succeed in the skill challenges.

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    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)

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    I did a race/chase sequence in game some time ago- I think there's a dungeon module called a race through town- or some such.

    Anyway my chase included-
    Stealing rowboats and crossing the river, or else swinging from ships rigging to do the same- tarzan-like.
    Chased over rooftops- of foundaries (hot) or nasty (with rats et al).
    A bridge with a horse and cart blocking the way- kill or coax out the animal to get past.
    A marketplace chase in which failures lead to PCs mistakenly buying things from an ongoing auction, or being targeted by pickpockets, or holy men etc.
    Chase through the slums complete with beggars, thieves and the inebraited.


    A lot of fun.

    Cheers PDR
    Check out my 4E Campaign- HARD CORE a final attempt to play through the WOTC core modules- obviously we've made a few changes along the way.

    Or else there's my Let's Play scenarios, a bunch of one-off games, mostly, you'd best go check out the list.

    Let's Play series also available, all in one place, at Obsidian Portal.

  • #7
    Thanks all - very good ideas across the board. I've mixed and matched what fits for my current campaign and just finished sketching out the skill challenge. I'll let you guys know how it went once I run it.

    A great way that I've found to organize skill challenges is by description of action, skill and DC, and outcome (+ or - ) . Create a table in word with three columns and however many rows there are relating to the number of successes required to win the challenge. Then in each row fill in the details for each of the three columns and you'll have a linear approach to it with some pre-written flavor text.

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    Lama (Lvl 13)

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    I would organise a Skill Challenge like this with branching tree type map.

    Of course it splits into two right from the beginning as there are two distinctly different directions to take from the word go. Eg. Thief 1 goes through market towards the cemetary and then out over the walls into a smuggler's marsh; Thief 2 goes over the roof tops to a warehouse and then makes for a sewer entrance nearby/inside.

    I would then have an 'event' at each of the branches occur right off the bat.

    Eg, Thief 1 opens the cages of an exotic animal bazaar in the market as he rushes through them.
    Thief 2 sets fire to the roof as he crosses it.

    From these events I would have a number of branches extend out in new directions each one representing a possible way that I could imagine different skills could be used to deal with/avoid or neutralise the event.

    From these branches I would have new branches extend out, one representing what might happen if PCs fail or if they succeed, degree of success will also send PCs down different branches. Some options might go to the same 'consequence'.

    Dealing with an event successfully would represent 1 success in the challenge.
    Failure should provoke a dilema/drama/conflict that needs to be resolved before they can progress with the challenge.

    Then add in a new event that occurs after that, with options and consequences. If they failed and lost the thief for example, this might mean they need to actually find the trail again first etc.

    I pour a lot of time into skill challenges and make a big massive map/web of paths that help guide my improvisation and mark a rhythm to the challenge with the constant introduction of challenges and setbacks that force the PCs to re-evaluate tactics or the direction they are headed.

    It makes things way less stale than just setting yourself a target of successful rolls the PCs need to 'win' and wait for them to come up with elaborate ways that their highest skill can be applied to eke out a success. Also, while it's fine to improvise (if you can), it can be enormously easier to improvise if you are prepared. Hehe. Sounds contradictory, but it's true.

    I use a lot of group checks to avoid this tendency. Eg If it is a shaky burning bridge that the PCs have to get across or a burning rooftop, every single PC has to get across/past the obstacle somehow. The fighter doesn't just make an athletics check and succeed, so the whole group gets past it. Err ... no. The others have to get past as well.

    What I do allow is for the athletic fighter to take up the role of leader to get past that obstacle and show the others the way. If he makes a hard DC then he lowers the DC for his allies to get past as they follow his lead. If a 'leader' fails however then it gets harder for everyone else, not to mention the leader is probably dangling off somewhere very dangerously and is going to need help! Depending on the circumstances 3/5 success might mean neither success or failure (however the 2 that failed are probably in need of help! Though not affecting the overall result of the challenge the minor failures still lead to a complication in the situation that needs resolving immediately before they can progress as a group) and will have a certain outcome; 4/5 will mean success, however the 1 who failed will as ever need to resolve whatever I decided happened when they failed. 2/5 will mean a failure and the group is going to be in hot water and have to face a major dilemma before they can progress, even though it may mean only 1 failure in the skill challenge.

    As failure is more likely with the way of handling challenges I describe, I do build in 'recovery' mechanisms into the challenges. eg. successfully leading a skill check gives the leaders the ability to 'save' characters that fail after them, allowing a reroll at the cost of a HSurge for example.

    Another way I deal with it is to build in mini 3/3 challenges into the main challenge at certain points. So when things go pear shaped a situation arises that needs 3 successes before 3 failures to resolve the situation.

    Anyway, I'm not sure I have communicated what I mean very clearly, so I don't know how useful you might find it. Hopefully you can glean something from my ramblings, as my experience with skill challenges is overwhelmingly positive.
    'I am a predator...the predator improves the race...I kill but not out of hate.'
    Frank Herbert: Emperor God of Dune

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