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Pursuit

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 142
Hunting down your enemies across hill and dale is a classic fantasy trope, and a deeply satisfying part of many books and films, yet difficult to simulate using only the Pathfinder RPG combat rules. Though chase rules appear in the Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide, those are specifically designed to cover fast-paced action chases— once the journey is measured in hours rather than seconds, endurance and strategy quickly outweigh fast reflexes and quick thinking. Only by using careful tracking and cunning tricks can pursuers catch up to their quarries. The pursuit system presented below integrates these crucial elements into a structure that simulates a longer pursuit in a manner that’s both fun and easy to manage.

There are two main types of pursuits. In a direct pursuit, the pursuers are following another group’s trail wherever it may lead, with the express goal of catching up to their quarries. In this type of pursuit, the pursuers don’t know where the quarries will go—they’re forced to follow the trail that their prey left behind. By contrast, in a race, both sides know the destination, and the pursuers simply want to get there first, perhaps to catch their quarries or prevent them from acquiring something at the destination.

The Core Mechanic

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 142
In a pursuit, each group travels along a series of terrain tiles. Each group must complete a certain amount of progress to complete a tile and move on. This amount is listed in the terrain tile for that type of terrain. One terrain tile is roughly 12 miles across (see Terrain Tiles for more information).

The quarries always start out ahead of the pursuers by an amount established by the GM. In a direct pursuit, if the pursuers ever share the same terrain tile with the quarries and have made an equal or greater amount of progress on that tile, they have caught up to the quarries. In a race, whoever reaches the destination tile first wins the race, and the groups can continue with their goals from there.

Personal Progress: To determine the amount of progress that each group makes during a 1-hour pursuit phase, first calculate the progress each party member could potentially make. This is roughly based on the number of miles the character could travel per hour when using overland movement if the tile were devoid of obstacles and rough terrain. Each party member’s personal progress is equal to her base land speed divided by 10 (typically 3 for a human or 2 for a dwarf, for instance). Temporary effects that boost movement speed count only if they last for the entire 1-hour pursuit phase (like longstrider or overland flight, but not fly).

Group Progress: The group’s progress is equal to the lowest personal progress in the party. Tactics and advantages, as explained later, can give characters ways to improve the speed of the whole group.

Building a Pursuit

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 142
Once the GM knows the progress numbers for both the pursuers and quarries, she is ready to construct the overall structure of the pursuit. Building a pursuit is fairly simple, but the process depends on the type of pursuit (and for direct pursuits, whether the PCs are the pursuers or the quarries).

When running a pursuit, it helps to have a visual aid of the area where the pursuit takes place. If the GM is using a published adventure or otherwise has access to a nice-looking map of the region, it might be interesting to have a map big enough for miniatures or tokens to sit on each tile. The GM can then draw in the tiles, providing a bit of a game board to help the players visualize the pursuit.

Running a Pursuit

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 143
Pursuits proceed in 1-hour pursuit phases, during which each group (or the group that is moving, if one group is resting) makes progress toward completing its current terrain tile. The group can potentially attempt to use tactics or gain an advantage to outthink or outperform the enemy.

Each day of pursuit consists of eight 1-hour pursuit phases. Pursuits take place over a long period of time and cover plenty of ground, so pursuers and quarries might encounter terrain tile denizens or environmental hazards along the way. Consider using these encounters to provide spikes of tension and to control the pursuit’s pacing.

Terrain Tiles

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 143
The following are some of the most common types of terrain tiles a group might encounter during a pursuit. One terrain tile is roughly 12 miles across (the same size as hexes from Ultimate Campaign’s exploration system), though pursuit is abstracted enough that the size can vary. Especially large tracts of one terrain type should consist of multiple tiles. The GM might want to customize these options and create terrain tiles appropriate for the situation. For instance, if the PCs use aerial tracks to pursue foes through the clouds, the GM should create a sky terrain tile.

Each terrain tile’s stat block lists the amount of progress a group needs to make to pass off of that tile and onto the next one, followed by the typical type of ground and the base Survival DC in parentheses, plus the maximum number of advantages a group can employ on that type of tile. This limit resets when the group enters a new 1-hour pursuit phase. The number of advantages is smaller the easier the terrain is to navigate, as there’s not many tricks that can speed up travel along a road, for instance, without using a vehicle or magical means of conveyance.

Inclement Weather

Bad weather, especially precipitation, can affect both the progress a group makes and the DCs of Survival checks required during pursuits.

Progress: Heavy precipitation, strong winds, and other environmental factors might impede a group’s progress. For brief storms lasting one or two pursuit phases, reduce the group’s progress by 1 in each pursuit phase. If an entire terrain tile has particularly nasty weather (like a high mountain plagued by winds or a jungle during a monsoon), instead add between 4 and 8 to the tile’s progress to complete, depending on the weather’s severity. Increase the tile’s number of maximum advantages by 1 so the travelers have the opportunity to find a way to overcome the nasty weather.

Tracking: If there is rain during a direct pursuit, increase the DC of the Survival check by 1 for every pursuit phase that it rained. If it snowed, increase the DC by 10 instead. To track the duration of the precipitation during a direct pursuit, mark down the tile where the quarries are and the amount of progress they have made when the precipitation begins, then mark down the progress they had made when the precipitation ends. When the pursuers are on that tile and have made an amount of progress equal to or greater than the lower progress value, use the increased Survival DCs. After the pursuers have passed the higher progress value, the Survival DCs return to normal. If the precipitation occurs before the quarries entered an area, the Survival DCs to follow the trail might be reduced since the ground becomes very soft mud or covered in snow.

Cold

Progress to Complete 12
Ground soft (DC 10) or very soft (DC 5); Maximum Advantages 2

Cold terrain includes tundras, glaciers, and the like. The rules for environmental cold dangers apply in most cases, potentially affecting both groups.

Desert

Progress to Complete 16
Ground very soft (DC 5), soft (DC 10), or firm (DC 15); Maximum Advantages 3

Desert terrain includes warm and sandy areas. The rules for environmental heat dangers apply in most cases, potentially affecting both groups.

Forest

Progress to Complete 16
Ground firm (DC 15); Maximum Advantages 3

Forest terrain includes both deciduous and coniferous forests, but not dense jungles or rain forests.

Hill

Progress to Complete 16
Ground firm (DC 15); Maximum Advantages 3

Hilly terrain includes areas with plenty of uphill and downhill travel, but not mountains.

Jungle

Progress to Complete 32
Ground firm (DC 15); Maximum Advantages 8

Jungle terrain is denser than forest terrain, and it also includes rain forests. Jungle terrain is particularly slow going, but there is ample opportunity to gain an advantage over pursuers or quarries.

Mountain

Progress to Complete 24
Ground firm (DC 15) or hard (DC 20); Maximum Advantages 6

Mountainous terrain contains areas that require climbing, as well as the potential for steep cliffs and precipitous drops. If the need to climb is especially ubiquitous or if the characters are climbing above the timber line (use the rules for cold dangers), a mountain tile can have more maximum advantages and take more progress in order to complete.

Plain

Progress to Complete 8
Ground firm (DC 15); Maximum Advantages 0

The plains terrain is a basic terrain type with no particular hindrances or advantages, and often represents a tame, flat grassland that isn’t difficult to travel across. A wild and overgrown savannah tile can easily have more maximum advantages and take more progress to complete. The statistics for a plain tile also suit many other types of readily navigable ground.

Planar

Progress to Complete varies
Ground varies; Maximum Advantages varies

Planes vary so wildly in their nature that it would be impossible to create a listing that covers them all in any meaningful way. Sometimes, an area on the planes can be simulated by using another sort of terrain tile. On other planes, tracking becomes nearly impossible. On planes with truly strange or exotic features, such as highly morphic planes, it’s appropriate to offer plenty of know the terrain advantages and other advantages involving the plane’s nature (such as an advantage using the Fly skill to understand and control subjective gravity).

Road

Progress to Complete 8
Ground firm (DC 15) or hard (DC 20); Maximum Advantages 0

A dirt or cobblestone road can let a group move quickly without leaving as clear a trail as they would in unworked terrain. However, traveling on a road makes it more likely they’ll be seen. The gather information tactic can make it easier to track road travelers. Old, unused, and overgrown roads are treated like plains.

Swamp

Progress to Complete 16
Ground very soft (DC 5) or soft (DC 10); Maximum Advantages 3

Swampy terrain includes bogs, marshes, and fens, as well as any other sort of wetlands. A swamp tile with a significant number of deep areas, quicksand, or more can easily have more maximum advantages and take more progress to complete.

Underground

Progress to Complete 12
Ground hard (DC 20); Maximum Advantages 2

Underground terrain includes caverns and dungeons. While the ground is hard—making it one of the most difficult terrains through which to track prey—the lack of rain or snow can make it much easier for pursuers to catch up to their quarries. While the typical underground tile only offers a small number of obstacles and hindrances, an underground tile with extremely narrow tunnels, yawning chasms, treacherous dips and climbs, or other sorts of features can easily have more maximum advantages and take more progress to complete.

Underwater

Progress to Complete varies
Ground varies; Maximum Advantages varies

Underwater pursuits also require more planning than other types. Because travel speeds can very wildly, a pursuit might end up being trivial if one side has members with swim speeds and the other doesn’t. Typically, if so much of the pursuit occurs underwater that it takes up an entire terrain tile or more, and both groups are on equal footing in terms of their ability to move underwater, it’s best to find an analog among the other terrain tiles and use that instead. For instance, traversing an underwater garden might work like a jungle, traversing open stretches of water might work like a plain, and swimming under an iceberg might be cold terrain or a mountain (and could use the rules for cold dangers). This also assumes the groups can breathe underwater for enough pursuit phases to traverse an underwater tile.

Urban

Progress to Complete 16
Ground firm (DC 15) or hard (DC 20); Maximum Advantages 3

In theory, urban terrain covers settlements from a thorp to a metropolis, but for an entire terrain tile to count as urban, it must be a large enough city to warrant a tile (though smaller settlements might certainly appear on another terrain’s tile, thus opening up different tactics or advantages). Tracking through an urban environment can be extremely challenging, given the sheer number of creatures present, but that also makes the gather information tactic more effective. Despite the relative ease of moving through a city, an urban tile takes longer to navigate because of the difficulty of tracking creatures through a heavily populated environment.

Water

Progress to Complete 16
Ground hard (DC 20, see text); Maximum Advantages 3

A lake or an area with many rivers counts as a water tile. Because such a tile contains little ground, Survival checks to track involve following wakes or looking for refuse quarries left behind, functioning the same as hard ground. Rapids might cause a water tile to take more progress to complete, and water features with currents typically have more maximum advantages. A group traveling on water usually needs a boat or raft, and uses the speed of that vessel. Swimmers must attempt a DC 20 Swim check for each 1-hour pursuit phase or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage (See the <%SKILLS&Swim">Swim skill for more information). The special movement tactic allows a creature with a swim speed to traverse water rapidly.

Pursuit Advantages

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 145
During each 1-hour pursuit phase, any member of a group who is not spending that phase tracking can attempt to gain an advantage, and a group can gain up to the maximum number of advantages allowed by the terrain tile. The sample advantages listed below mention the terrain types most likely to allow them, but the advantages available for any given tile—and even hour-by-hour across the same tile—can vary significantly. The GM chooses which ones apply at any given time in a way that adds flavor to the pursuit’s current location in the same way that the chase rules in Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide have a set of options available at each location in a chase.

Advantage Bonus: If a character succeeds at gaining an advantage, the group’s progress increases by 1 for that pursuit phase, unless otherwise specified. Attempting and failing to gain an advantage reduces that character’s personal progress by 1, unless otherwise specified, due to the effort they expend. If that person had a higher speed than the slowest member, this might not slow the group as a whole. Each of the sample advantages list an appropriate skill.

Failing a check to gain an advantage by 5 or more reduces the entire group’s progress by 1, unless otherwise specified, as the character made such a large error that it hindered all of his allies. The increase or reduction to progress applies after any multiplication or division due to tracking, hustling, and the like. Because advantages represent more than just speed—finding shortcuts, for example—they can cause the group to make more progress than the fastest person’s personal progress.

Checks attempted to gain an advantage represent an entire hour’s worth of checks, so temporary modifiers that don’t last the entire time cannot be applied. These skills can’t be rerolled by an effect that would reroll a single check, and the character can’t take 10 or 20.

Pursuit Tactics

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 146
Tactics are the key to shaking a tenacious pursuer or capturing an elusive quarry. The following tactics present many of the most basic methods for doing so, but if the PCs come up with a new tactic, the GM should use these examples as guidelines. Tactics can affect a single character, multiple characters, or the whole group. There is no limit to how many tactics a character or group can use, but common sense prevents using two contradictory tactics. Characters and groups decide which tactics they are using for each 1-hour pursuit phase, though some last for multiple phases or until the characters using them decide to stop. Some tactics require the group to be either the pursuers or the quarries, and can’t be used in races.

Damage, Fatigue, and Exhaustion

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 147
Damage taken during a pursuit follows all the normal rules for damage. A healer can use the recovery tactic to take a break and cast healing spells (or spells that remove afflictions or conditions, for that matter).

The forced march and hustle tactics cause nonlethal damage, and can cause characters to become fatigued (or exhausted if they were already fatigued). This nonlethal damage goes away at a rate of 1 per hour, as normal, and a character can use the recovery tactic to remove more. However, a character who is fatigued or exhausted takes any penalties that apply before the nonlethal damage is healed and the conditions removed.

The following penalties apply to characters who become fatigued or exhausted.

Fatigued: A fatigued character reduces her personal progress by 1. This reduction applies before any multiplication or division due to the character tracking, hustling, or performing similar activities.

Exhausted: An exhausted character halves her personal progress. This stacks with tactics that halve her progress, leaving her at 1/4 of her normal personal progress, or tactics that double her progress, leaving her at her normal personal progress. A character that becomes fatigued by a tactic while already exhausted falls unconscious.

Unconscious: An unconscious character has a personal progress of 0, and can’t increase it as long as she remains unconscious. As with fatigue and exhaustion, the character must take this penalty for the entire phase in which she recovers from unconsciousness.