Tuesday 23 May 2017

FLEE!!! Snakes & Ladders chase mechanics

Some time ago I posted that Snakes & Ladders is the superior way of conducting a chase sequence in D&D.
Some time later, I was at an OSR game day and people agreed!

And so David Black made this doozy of a thing -

So much improvement! Find it here.

This is, of course, the tits. Some slightly different rules for my game though, as follows.


- Pursuers go last.
- Each group rolls 1d6+Speed Die of the slowest member of the group and moves that many spaces.
- Movement can be forwards or backwards.
- Distance is abstract, after each roll the DM will yell a choice at the Pursued. If they don’t answer before the Pursuer’s dice hit the table, they choose a route at random.
- Groups can split up into smaller groups at will. Doing so must be decided before the group's pursuit roll, and groups cannot rejoin until the chase is over.

Speed Dice
- Speed Dice are based on encumbrance:
  - Unencumbered - 1d10
  - Lightly Encumbered - 1d8
  - Heavily Encumbered - 1d6
  - Severely Encumbered - 1d4
  - Over Encumbered - 0

- If Pursuers catch up to the Pursued or get to the end, the chase is over and the Pursuers automatically win initiative.
- If the Pursued get to the end, they've lost their pursuers!

My alterations are pretty ghetto, but laminated to the back of the Marching Order sheet so you can flip it!

Additional Notes:

It's pretty much perfect.
Easily grasped, unpredictable, exciting, it's everything you need a chase to be.
Plus it's abstract, so you can use it for anything from dungeon chases to horseback races.

In my game, this is basically the only thing that encumbrance really matters for. I tend to just eyeball encounter roll frequency, and combat movement speeds are boooooring as fuuuuuck.
Armour is a tradeoff between protection and escape speed. Treasure is a tradeoff between money/exp earnings and escape speed. Having lots of stuff just-in-case is a tradeoff between preparedness and escape speed.
It all boils down to whether you'll be able to run away.

Ending each roll with a LEFT OR RIGHT?! or STRAIGHT OR DOOR?! is fun because it means the party's likely to get lost if they're not used to the place.
I have them flip their maps when a chase begins to make it harder. Keep up the pressure.
I mark which choice they took on a secret sheet, that way after the chase ends I can go through the dungeon map and see where they ended up. Hopefully in the lair of another monster!
The thing with splitting into smaller units means fast guys can leave slow guys behind if they want. If you've got one guy loaded up with Plate and Shield and Greatsword, you can leave him behind to fight off the monsters while everyone else escapes!
Groups can't reform until the chase is over, so if you run off on your own you've got a better chance of escaping but you'll be alone if you end up getting caught.
This is also good for when people have to flee in two different directions. Good luck finding each other now, kids!

Oh and finally, squares 20 and 21 on the table are "Quickly!" and "Slow going!".
I have these change the base d6 pursuit die to d8 and d4 respectively.


  1. This is great! Would you consider writing a dungeon/wilderness/City specific table with fun random events for the chase, or is that against the whole mantra of simplicity?

    1. That's a neat idea! It does go against simplicity a bit, but not in a bad way.
      I think 5e's got some random chase happenings tables, you could probably use those.

  2. Do the choices correlate to the map, as in do you yell LEFT or RIGHT if the next intersection presents those alternatives, or are the choices random? And what do you do if the charachters pass through a room with an encounter? I mean, even if the hobos are running from the pack of angered half-goblins, they would probably notice if the ran through a cyberdragons enourmous hoard, with easily startled dragon present?

    1. Yea they correlate to the map, so if the hobos are running down a corridor that ends in a T-intersection, you yell RIGHT OR LEFT!? and they have to decide.

      This is all pretty loosey-goosey and abstract, so do what feels right.

      Personally if they ran through a room with an encounter, I'd probably say "there's a fucking cyberdragon on an enormous hoard here! Do you want to keep running?!"
      If they stop running, their pursuers catch up in the cyberdragon room. Otherwise you might have to add the cyberdragon as another pursuing group!

  3. Love the system! It seems even better with your take on the rules. I'm looking forward to try it out at my next game!

    I have edited the pdf with your alternate rules (reworded a bit to make them as compact as possible) See link below, if you'd like to replace the hand-written one.

    1. Dude I'm so sorry this comment got lost in the comments! This is amazing!

  4. Have you ever read the original TSR Indiana Jones Game? The flowchart maneuvers are very similar to what you have here, but yours is a bit more abstract. http://thoulsparadise.blogspot.com/2016/06/chases-in-adventures-of-indiana-jones.html

  5. I really, really love this and will use it for my hacked lotfp campaign. However, the values probably need to be changed because I ran some tests and this often makes more encumbered groups better at fleeing! The culprits are the "ladders" which seem to be situated at values that are reached easier when adding lower-valued dice. For instance d6+d6 will more often result in a 7 than d6+d8 will, resulting in the former getting way ahead because of the "ladder".
    My tests didn't take into account any of the other modifiers and only used forward movement but it seems that on average:
    - unencumbered loses to lightly encumbered, but beats heavily and severely encumbered
    - lightly encumbered loses to heavily encumbered, but beats unencumbered and severely encumbered
    - heavily encumbered loses to severely encumbered, but beats lightly encumbered

    So you generally lose to the next weight class because the ability to jump "ladders" offsets the slightly higher average rolls, but you beat the higher weight classes because of much higher average rolls.

    1. Wow, good analysis!
      What do you think the solution is? Would it work better if it was just straight Speed Die, ie. losing the base 1d6?

  6. I just tried some stuff out before realizing I had made an embarrassing error. Anyways, no solution is needed because the mechanic works out great! Sorry for the lengthy erroneous post, you can delete it if you want.

    I also like how the mechanic easily handles stuff like caltrops or ball bearings to use against pursuers (e.g. save or skip next roll/d2 damage).

    1. No worries man! I hadn't even looked at it that way, so it was an interesting point!

  7. I just discovered this post. The link to the original file seems broken. Is there any chance of another link or a download? Thanks!

    1. Weird! I've reuploaded and updated the links, does this work?

    2. Yes! Thank you so much. I can't wait to try these with my group.

    3. Brilliant! There was a Google drive update a few years ago that broke every link, so do let me know if you find anything else!
      Also let me know how it goes, I dropped the base d6 eventually