D&D Chase Sequences

Voiced by Amazon Polly

Last night, I ran one of the DDAL modules for Season 9. Season 9 introduced war wagons and has a very heavy Fury Road vibe to it with a lot of car chases. Tomb of Annihilation tried to do this as well with dinosaur races– those worked a little better, especially when they focused on the race, rather than adding combat into the mix.

As a result, these modules often feature a chase sequence, and this module does as well. In fact, it has a “45 minute” chase sequence that kicks off the adventure.

This chase sequence was chase+combat, took 3 hours, and nearly killed one of the PCs.

First, the chase starts out when the pursuers are 60 feet away from the party. The war machines have a move of 60′ (this is not statted, but implied by “taking the Dash action to move an additional 60 feet each turn….”) so the chase effectively starts when the chase is over and the pursuers have all but reached the party.

The party, meanwhile, has a movement rate of 40 and can Dash for an extra 40. So for the first 5 rounds, the PCs can get about 20 feet away, IF the war machine doesn’t dash.

If the party is underpowered, they also has an option to deploy some countermeasures, but these barely came into play because it costs an action to use any of them.

It is unclear whose action is required for the war machines to Dash. I said it was the driver’s, which left a gunner and a meleeist. The meleeist can leap onto the party’s cart once they’re adjacent to the party– which, as mentioned, pretty much happens in Round 1.

From then on, the enemies don’t need to do much to stay within firing range and keep shooting at the PCs while their boarding party rips them to shreds.

Here is the main problem with the chase rules in D&D: “On their turn, each participant rolls a d10 and consults the table to see if a complication arises at the end of their turn. If so, it affects the next participant in initiative order.”

OK, so I ran that part slightly wrong, but not in a significant way– I had it affect the current participant.

The problem is, there’s a table with 10 options. There are 6 war machines, 3 party members, and a party wagon. If I give the driver of the PCs’ wagon an initiative turn and the NPC they’re escorting, that means I have 11 initiative actions each turn (assuming I don’t give separate initiative to *each* monster on each war machine).

In the course of the 8-round chase, that’s 88 dice rolls of d10s. Any given number will come up 8 times. Most of the options were things like “moves at half speed” or “has 10′ of difficult terrain.” However, one of them was “Fireball! Dc 15 Dex save or take 8d6 damage.” LOL Wut?!

This means there were about 8 fireballs and many of them went to the PCs. Granted, a couple of the fireballs wiped out the enemies as well, but… it was not a good time.

And that’s on top of the slow grind of combat that is D&D normally. Did I impose disadvantage for fighting on top of a racing wagon? Disadvantage slows things down, so I absolutely did NOT do that!

3 hours later, here’s what I’d change:

Start the chase sequence where the enemies will need at least 1-2 rounds to close in on the party’s vehicle. During this time, the PCs can prep, ready the countermeasures, etc.

Simplify initiative! Each war wagon has an initiative– and all of their passengers share that initiative. In the module, pairs of war wagons had the same initiative, which makes sense if the first wagon’s complication role hits the next wagon’s.

The driver of the war machines can only do one thing– drive. His action is spend on driving, and there is no Dash for the war machines– they are already going as fast as they can. This gives the party wagon an opportunity to get away, as they might be able to outrun the war machines early, because on round 5, the animal-drawn wagon tires out and can no longer Dash, giving the war machines a chance to catch up.

Roll for chase complications for the drivers only.

Skip all of this entirely and turn the chase into an exciting montage. Don’t use the chase complication table except as a suggestion for things the DM can bring into the montage. You’d get through the chase in 15 breathless minutes and everyone would feel like they’d actually been in a fast-paced chase instead of a 3 hour game playing 2 rounds of Car Wars.

I realize these might be explained better in another module, and therefore maybe I’m restating the obvious. But this is a standalone module, and the DMG’s chase rules are no better.