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Fate System Toolkit

Special Circumstances


In any adventure story, you’re going to have a big chase scene eventually. This is an adventure trope and Fate Core is aimed at the adventure genre. What you want is to make a chase exciting. It’s no fun—and it drains out a lot of the drama—to have a single roll determine who escapes. There are a couple of different ways to approach this type of action.

Using just the standard rules, you can simulate a chase as a challenge. For a basic chase that you don’t want to spend a lot of time resolving, this is perfectly adequate. Set some obstacles for the rolls the players need to make and let them resolve those obstacles. If they succeed in enough rolls, they either escape or, if they are pursuing, catch their quarry. Simple, but not too interesting.

If there is more active opposition, the contest rules are the next option and can work quite well. There is a bit of tension here, and the way to set this up so that every player character doesn’t need to make rolls individually is to frame the contest as occurring between two teams. The first team to achieve their three victories wins. If it’s the fleeing group, they get away, and if it’s the chasing group, they catch up, bringing whatever consequences that implies. Getting caught often triggers a conflict.

The contest rules work fine, but three victories is often pretty easy to achieve if you’ve got a reasonably sized group of characters, and sometimes you want some more drama in your chase scene. Here’s an alternative method, called the chase track. It’s a hybrid of the contest and conflict rules.

To start, set up a stress track for the chase. This is your timer for the scene. The fleeing party is trying to empty the stress track, while the pursuers are trying to fill it. The length of the stress track determines how long the scene lasts, and where you start on the track sets the difficulty of the escape.

You first need to decide how long you want your chase scene to go on. If you are looking for an average-length scene, a stress track of 10 should be the baseline. If you want to go less than 10, you should probably make the chase a regular contest. If you want the chase to be longer or more involved, add more stress. A 14-stress chase scene is a major event in the session, and an 18 or 20 stress scene could be the main focus of a whole session of play. You probably don’t want to go longer than that, or you risk your chase scene stretching out so far that your players get bored.

Setting how many stress boxes are already checked off determines how close the pursuers are to catching the fleeing group. Usually you are going to want the stress to start right in the middle (5 on a 10-stress track). You can make it harder for the fleeing party to escape by setting the stress closer to the top of the range, like 7 stress on a 10-stress track. By the same token, you can make the escape easier by setting the starting stress at a lower level. It’s probably best to avoid this, unless the player characters are the pursuing party. If the chase is less complicated, just use a challenge or contest instead of the chase stress track.

Once you’ve got your stress track set, determine who gets to go first. This can be a judgment call, or it can be based on which individual character on each side has the highest relevant skill. Each side will take turns, so who starts has a slight advantage, but that’s about it.

In turn, each side makes skill rolls to attempt to increase or diminish the stress track. This is an overcome action, and it can be opposed by either a passive defense or, more likely, by an active opposition from the other side in the chase. These actions can be all sorts of things, and it’s most exciting if they are varied and inventive. Drive rolls for vehicular chases should describe how the character is dodging through barriers or oncoming traffic, for example, and Athletics for foot chases would be about how the characters climb up on to the rooftops and parkour across dangerous hazards. A variety of other skills can come into play for different sorts of actions. You can use Deceive to fake out your opponent, Fight to knock someone down, Notice to spot hazards and avoid them while allowing your opponent to get entangled, Physique to knock obstacles into your opponent’s way. If a player comes up with a good action for just about any skill, you should allow it.

When making your roll, the outcome determines what happens to the chase stress track.

  • If you fail, your opponent has the choice to either create a boost that works against you, or to move the stress track one check in their direction.
  • If you tie, you may choose to move the stress track one check in your direction, but if you do so, your opponent gains a +1 on their next roll.
  • If you succeed, you move the stress track one check in your direction.
  • If you succeed with style, you get to move the stress track two checks in your direction, or one check and you gain a boost that you can use against your opponent on your next roll.

Each side takes turns making moves and rolling against their skills. Make sure each of the player characters gets a chance to contribute to the escape attempt. Sometimes the rolls will go really well or really poorly and you won’t get to everyone, but that’s okay. Keep the tension up with good descriptions, going into detail about each move and its results. When one side or the other has either eliminated or filled the stress track, the chase is over. Someone has either been caught or escaped.