In this new series of post, I will post on a number of game-related topics with an eye to fix, tweak or change what is there now. Why I think they is an issue and - usually - try to come up with a way to fix it, keeping as close to the original rules as possible.
Without further ado, the first installment: Chases.
Chase Scenes... Usually one of the high points of any movie. I cannot help but think of "Bullit" when I think of chases. Those 3-lane wide cars going across San Francisco... Nice
But unfold the sheet with the boxes upon it and your table groans in despair and disgust. I won't mention the epithets they sling in your general direction. Just the mere mention of using these rules turns away most Pathfinder players. They eyes glaze over and groans echo from around the table as everyone pulls out their d20 for a string of mindless dice rolling.
It's been my experience.
The rules themselves aren't so bad. They are simple and short yes, but they are not BAD. Perhaps this shortness might be attributed to a need to fit them into the page count (the Gamemastery Guide is so full of so many things, there had to be something cut out somewhere).
But you know me, I'm not one to run a long string of boring dice rolling. They bore me. And when things bore me, I change them. This blog post covers
So the question is "How to fix it without throwing everything out?" Because I think the system is not broken. Badly presented perhaps? Therefore I set myself a-task of finding a way to make these encounters fun, and to reward creativity above all else.
What I want to do (my goals)
First, let's examine the rules as they are presented in Paizo's Gamemastery Guide. Everything is part of the PRD, so they are here.
Then let's see what I want to do with these rules:
1 - Allow the players to use their creativity to defeat the challenge. This could include the PCs casting spells, using tools and equipment.
2 - Make the encounter exciting. There is nothing worse than sitting there and having to make a Strength check or a Climb check with your wizard.
3 - The skills to use should be varied.
4 - The fun focus must be on the players, rather than simplicity of writing.
Here is what I want to avoid:
1 - "I cast fly, I win" The whole chase should not be resolvable with a single spell or ability. That a spell bypasses an obstacle is fine and acceptable.
2 - Try to keep to the current rules as much as possible.
3 - The DCs should scale based on APL, making things more difficult.
How to do it?
Let's start by what Paizo presents us as a base for the scene. (Image linked from Paizo.com).
My first problem is the creation and presentation of the chase. Quite simply: it's too short. Players need a short description of what is happening, where they are, to be able to be creative. Next, for a player to deduce some of the skills he can use, this is also insufficient. Looking at the chase scene above, here is one way such a challenge was presented to me.
In-game example You are running across the rooftops to find the Bad Guy. You can run across the cluttered roof top with an Acrobatics checks or look for the secret handholds with Perception. Scenes like these... Well they create an automatic JP-wait-for-the-end-begging-for-death... I have no desire to keep going, I was once tempted to call out "can we just fail and keep going?"
So how to make it interesting to play?
Rather that a board-game style box with a few words, skills and a DC, how about changing it to the following.
Each box contains a rough description of the obstacle "Chimney-filled Rooftops". The GM, in turn would have a short paragraph describing the obstacle.
Ahead of you is a veritable maze of chimneys of various heights. A smokey haze blankets the area. The occasional iron ring on a chimney leads you to believe there might be more. There, players now know they can try to run around/on the chimneys or look for wrungs of the secret handholds.
I guess the most difficult part is to keep the text short and convey some basic ideas with it. THAT is a problem beyond this post.
Dealing with flying/teleporting PCs
A common problem in the work of Pathfinder... The solution to this one is not trivial and the GM-fiat of "no fly, no teleport" really hobbles creativity. That said, play usage of such methods does one thing: expends resources, which as a GM, is usually a good thing.
Using the above-image from Paizo, let's use assume the PCs are chasing a villain (who starts at the steeply sloped roof or box 2). A flying PC would appenrently immediately gain an advantage as he could avoid the chimneys, then fly 60ft. over the roofs to the target. Encounter over.
It should not be so easy. Although the scene seems to be straight forward, there are a number of things in the way, the flyer should be forced to use the Fly skill to navigate the obstacles. You will get the +6 for your speed.
"But JP, my wizard flies 100ft. into the air, well over those obstacles!" Congratulations, you now have to make Perception check to spot your target. I'll be nice I won't count the diagonals, so that's a -10 for distance... The bad guy is very unlikely running in a straight line, waiting for you sprint straight to his square... Or have the wizard catch up to the bag guy... Then face him alone while the rest of the party trickles in...
The goal is make an encounter out of it. Of course some of the challenges should be fairly simple for a flyer: Box 2 should make a straight path.
Let's be honest here. A party of level 5+ faced with a DC 10 Perception check is wasting your time. The party has that handled. I'm a strong believer in the level-scaling scale. Therefore running a chase for a party of lvl 1s and lvl 5s should not have the same DCs. The level 5s would run into more obstacles along the way (represented by a higher DC rather than more obstacles). The thing is, the high-level crowd is likely to have more resources to defeat the obstacle as well. So having some higher DCs does not necessarily make for an tougher time.
Adjudicating the level-bonus is not trivial. I would be tempted to use Base DC+APL for skills that can be done untrained and Base DC+ half APL for trained-only skills.
A big one. There should be a better mechanism for players to help each other than the usual rules in the PFRPG.
For example, one infamous chase in a Pathfinder Society adventure has a DC 12 Disable Device and a DC 20 Climb check in the same box (I think it's Climb). Most PCs who get to that box simply get stuck there and stop. Personally, I chose to run from the previous box to avoid those 2 (my paladin has neither). We all looked at the board and groaned in pain at that box. It did swallow two of our party...
Perhaps I'm stating an unsaid rule, but should one of the party - in this case the rogue - come and open the lock, then it should be open for all coming after. Which introduces a new complexity: removable obstacles. The first person to defeat that obstacle makes it a "non-obstacle" for those coming after him.
To recap what I have (TLDR):
1 - Add a short boxed text to let the PCs know some of the things they can do.
2 - Write the encounters so someone who flies or teleports does not automatically win.
3 - The difficulties should scale with the party.
4 - Some of the obstacles should be "removable".
Entry Format Proposal
|The Chimney Maze|
|Ahead of you is a veritable maze of chimneys of various heights. A smokey haze blankets the area. The occasional iron ring on a chimney leads you to believe there might be more.|
Obstacles Cluttered Rooftops (Acrobatics DC 10+APL; permanent)
Cluttered Rooftops (Fly DC 10+APL; Flying)
Secret Handholds (Perception DC 20+APL; Removable)
What do you think?