Wednesday 8 April 2015

Snakes and Ladders: Nature's Pursuit Mechanic

This is a simple one, but so good.

Behold, the game board of OS&L (That's Original Snakes and Ladders to you plebs).

Basic idea:
- It's Snakes and Ladders, everyone knows this game.
- Your encumbrance dictates the die you roll.

That's it!

Die Sizes
Going by LotFP's 5 encumbrance tiers:
1d12 - Unencumbered
1d10 - Lightly Encumbered
1d8 - Heavily Encumbered
1d6 - Severely Encumbered
1d4 - Overencumbered

Just eyeball monster based on their movement speed.
Zombies pursue at d4, Wolves pursue on a d12.
Spiders pursue on a d30 or something. They're faster than speed.

In general you don't have to outrun the bear, just the other guy.

Other issues (You know how your game works and can work it out as you go along, but here's what I've been doing)

- Each square equates to about 10' of movement. If it's a dungeon, give the old "left or right?!" whenever people run far enough to reach an intersection/door. It's generally assumed that people are fleeing (and pursuing) towards the most obvious exit point. Also useful when it comes to ranged weapons.
- Fleeing people roll first, then pursuers. Animalistic pursuers fall upon the first person in their path, more intelligent pursuers might leave one of their number to tie up prey and keep chasing.
- People can run in either direction. This might come in handy if they're running back to save a friend.
- If you roll low/high or hit a snake/ladder, feel free to invent why that happened. "I tripped on a tree root!" or "I scampered up a tree!" are opposing examples.

Unexpected but welcome effects of using Snakes and Ladders to model pursuit

- Everything is fucking chaos in the first round of pursuit. Things start to even out once the laws of averages begin to assert themselves and people get into a rhythm.
- Everyone understands what's going on, even newbies.
- People can evade via snakes and head back towards the starting point, splitting the party in a way that feels natural.
- Big groups are less likely to escape easily than small groups. Some idiot is going to roll a 1 as they try to escape, and suddenly everyone else is wondering whether they should run back to help.


  1. Ladders,and snakes. One gives, the other takes.

  2. That is a great idea, im using it, immediately understandable... and fun!

  3. First of all, GREAT idea. I've been browsing alternate chase rules for the last while and this simple method really jumped out at me. I want to use this.

    So, each square is 10 feet. Does landing on a ladder means you become the Flash for a few moments? Say you take a shortcut from square 8 to 26. Does this mean you zoom 180 feet deeper into the dungeon??? Or say you slide down a snake from square 44 to square 22. Wow, you've teleported 220 feet backwards! It just seems wrong to me. Also, you mentioned ranged weapon attacks... how does initiative and combat fit into this exactly?

    1. Hey man, great question!
      The idea got a big upgrade last year when David Black got a hold of the idea.
      My current version is here:

      I need to do a post on it, but the main thing is that distances are abstract to solve the issue you mention here. I treat each roll on the table as "you reach a decision point, which way?".
      So in a dungeon, you'll essentially run far enough for me to go "ok, straight on or left?!".

      By the time the group is caught or reach the end, they may have gotten themselves lost.

    2. Hey that new version looks great!

      This still leaves the question though - when the party runs into a "snake", or in this case an upside down sword I assume, do they physically go backwards? Like, do they turn around?

      I'm overthinking this, aren't I?

      Either way I like what I see, especially those "complication" squares.

    3. The key thing is that this is now much more abstract, so maybe landing on a snake means they've met a complication or somebody fell over and the others had to turn back because the monster is RIGHT THERE LET'S GO.

      Similarly, going up a snake means they've done something like throw some barrels in the way of their pursuers or ducked down a side alley or hidden as the pursuers went past.

      Hell, maybe it's some scooby doo shit and they run through a door only to run straight into the bad guy! Run awaaaay!

      The 10' per square thing did make it a bit silly, so now it's more a measure of how close the groups are in a more loosey goosey make-up-a-reason-why narrative sense.

    4. Also there's an update here -
      Similar idea though!