I wanted to try an extended chase skill challenge for my group. I wanted to try and mimic an extended chase scene in a city with city guards in hot pursuit of the players. It would be something based on skill checks, and avoid a protracted fight but still offer some danger. I looked over the traditional framework for skill challenges and found it lacking.
I ended up using a sort of flow chart. Each player would occupy a spot on the flow chart, with each section being set environments that required different skill checks. Each spot would offer a few choices on avenues to run to next. If they succeeded they would gain some distance from their pursuers. If they failed, they would lose ground with their attackers closing in.
Each turn if the players were a certain distance they would be attacked with either a ranged or melee strike. If hit, they would lose a healing surge. Additionally, every few turns I would require an endurance check. Again, with a failure they would lose a healing surge. When they lose all their healing surges, they were considered caught by their pursuers. If they managed to gain enough distance, they would escape.
It worked pretty well, but I had a few tweaks to make and I’ll offer some tips:
Three groups at most – Originally I had planned each party member to run off in their own direction. I soon found that 2-3 groups work best. I would have each group of players move through enough locations until they made their endurance check. Then I would move on to the other group to keep things moving. You can have each player run in their own direction, but I found things tended to drag for the other players while they waited for their turn.
Have one player make a check – If breaking the party up, have them work as a group. One player makes the check with others assisting. Failure affects them all. As potential attacks are resolved individually (I made a single attack and compared it to each of their AC defenses), they would each suffer healing surge hits separately any ways.
Keep 6 distance markers the goal – Originally 8 distance makers was my minimum, but after some play I found things going on a bit too long to get to that goal. Even with 6 distance markers, it can be a challenge. You may want to keep it closer to 5 or 6 if needed.
Keep needed DCs and skills hidden – When players move into an area, describe the location and let them offer a solution to how they’re going to navigate that section of the city. I tended to offer a few general suggestions if needed, but typically I let the players tell me what they wanted to do. If you just tell them the types of checks they need to make, it really becomes a less interactive challenge.
Be descriptive – I tried to give some different descriptions to the areas they were in and the potential routes available. I found my players came up with some interesting ideas as they made their way through the challenge. If you simply read off each area as a list of skill check options, you will get a boring challenge.
So my bustling room would be comes a dank crowded tavern, with several strong peasants taking a draught of ale after working the fields. When one of the players decided to throw a handful of silver in the air and yell out, ‘Grab some coin if you want another tankard!’, the resulting chaos made was something I’d definitely consider a diplomacy check. Without that ample description I’d likely never hear the player try something like that.
Use lots of modifiers If players come up with some interesting ideas, offer to give them bonuses to their checks. I ended up liberally throwing around +2 to skill rolls when my players came up with interesting ideas. Don’t stick to the listed DCs either. If you describe a situation and a player comes up with something that would make it trivial, alter the DC.
Be flexible The most important part is to keep things flexible and alter the flow if needed. Sometimes players will come up with some very good ideas. Sometimes they will fall into a pattern on the chart. So feel free to shake things up and cut off choices, or allow them to go against the chart flow and take different routes. Keep this in mind for skill checks too. If they come up with a skill use that would be more appropriate, then let them make the check with that skill.
One of my players was having difficulty continually making endurance checks. For one bustling room, I described a narrow shop filled with silks and a few noblewomen browsing the wares. A set of stairs led up to a second floor. Immediately my player thought up an idea to tell the shopkeeper and the noblewomen she was to be sent away from her family in an arranged marriage. She decided to run and her would-be husband’s men were following her. She pleaded to the shopkeeper to let her go up to the upper floor and get a moment’s rest before she fled elsewhere.
I allowed her a bluff check (with a bonus for a great idea). She was successful and I then said she could get bonus on her next endurance check, as her ruse allowed her some time to catch her breath. This was something completely off the track for an endurance check, but I liked her thinking and wanted to reward it. So keep things flexible and allow your players to be creative.
Not everyone has to make it Actually it can end with some players getting caught and others getting away. Be prepared for this. I actually found it an opportunity to plan out a small side adventure where the escaped players would have to try and release their captured friends.
It’s also possible that captured players could get a final chance at escaping by playing out a small encounter in a narrow alleyway. If they are victorious in the combat, they make their escape (catching up to the other party members that slipped away). So don’t be afraid to let some of the players fail the challenge. It’ll lay the foundation for another exciting adventure.