Welcome back to the second article about how I run a chase in HeroQuest 2.
Today I am looking at the process of actually running the chase. This is my most detailed article about the mechanics of HeroQuest 2. Please treat the length of these articles as a reflection of my long-winded, methodical explanation and not as a consequence of the complexity of the HeroQuest 2 mechanics.
So, on with the chase.
Pursuit in HeroQuest
I run all chases in HeroQuest as Extended Contests. However, the mechanics of each chase vary according to whether the Heroes are the pursuers or the quarry. For the moment, I shall focus on the simpler situation where the Heroes are chasing a quarry.
In this situation, each Hero will accumulate the Resolution Points (RP) arising from a Defeat when rolling against the obstacles represented by the Chase Cards. A Hero is out of the chase when they reach five or more RP.
Plus, the Hero leading the chase, and ONLY that Hero, inflicts their Victory RP on the quarry. When there are two or more Heroes at the front of the chase, then it is the most successful Hero who inflicts their RP on the quarry. Once the quarry has accrued five or more RP, then they have been caught by the leading Hero.
The GM and the Quarry
I begin each round by laying down a blank Chase Card at the front of the line, and moving the quarry automatically one card forward. I do not want to roll for the GM-controlled quarry against the GM-controlled obstacles on the cards. Having the GM roll a contest that does not involve the Players is a waste of everyone’s time.
Instead, it is better to heighten the tension of the chase and always assume that the Quarry keeps moving. I want the Players to use their wits to win the chase, not benefit from some external event. Perhaps this is not entirely accurate, but my approach keeps the focus of the game on the Players, and feels more like the chases seen in films.
Running the Chase as Pursuers
So, the Chase is set up, with appropriate markers, and the required number of Chase cards between the Heroes and their quarry. I have explained to the Players how the RP will be assigned for the duration of this chase. Then it is time to begin the pursuit.
Each Hero needs to individually roll against the obstacle on the Chase Card immediately ahead of them. The success, or failure of this roll determines whether the Hero overcomes the obstacle and passes on to the next one. To allow every Hero a chance to shine, they each roll to overcome every obstacle.
The Hero markers are then moved according to how the individual performed against their current obstacle. As the chase progresses, the Heroes will slowly spread out over the route of the chase, as they meet with varying levels of success. The narrative for each Player will also reflect their progress. Plus, a fresh card is added to the front of the chase each round, and the quarry moved one step further along the track of the chase.
If a Hero fails to overcome an obstacle, then they suffer RP as normal in an Extended Contest. Reach five RP, and the Hero is out of the chase, either through exhaustion, lack of will or some story-related reason suggested by their current Chase Card obstacle.
In the case of the quarry, however, only the leading Hero in the chase can inflict RP on them. The trailing Heroes are effectively only rolling to overcome the environment and move forward along the path of Chase Cards.
If the quarry has suffered five RP, then they have been caught, and the chase is over.
Being Chased in HeroQuest
When it is the Heroes that are being pursued, then I apply the mechanics of HeroQuest a little differently. Now the Heroes accumulate their Victory RP, and will escape the chase at five or more RP. This is the opposite of the standard process, but it does reflect the process of being chased, in the sense of trying to obtain a goal, namely to escape the pursuers.
Also, the slowest Hero at the back of the chase, and ONLY that Hero, awards their Defeat RP to the pursuers. When there are two or more Heroes at the back of the chase, then it is the least successful Hero who adds their RP to the pursuers.
Once the pursuers have accrued five or more RP, then they have caught the trailing Hero. At this point, the pursuers may want to continue the chase after any Heroes who have yet to escape. If so, then subtract five RP from the pursuer’s total, and continue. This would leave a new Hero at the back to potentially add to the pursuer’s total.
Running the Chase as Quarry
If it is the Heroes that are being chased, then the initial set-up is broadly the same, only with the direction of the chase reversed. At the start of every round after the first, a new Chase Card will be added ahead of any Heroes who have passed the last obstacle card already placed down.
Once again, each Hero needs to individually roll against the obstacle on the Chase Card immediately ahead of them. As always, the success, or failure of this roll determines whether the Hero overcomes the obstacle and passes on to the next one. A Hero accumulates their Victory RP, and will escape the chase entirely. Finally, the Hero markers are moved and the narrative for each Player will also reflect their progress.
If a Hero fails to overcome an obstacle, then they do not move forward, but will not suffer RP as normal in an Extended Contest. It is only the rearmost Heroes who awards RP to the pursuers when the Hero fails to overcome an obstacle. This means that the pursuers are closing in on them. The leading Heroes are effectively only rolling to overcome the environment and move forward along the path of Chase Cards.
Ending the Chase
Each participant is out of the Chase once they reach five RP. The only exception to this is when the Heroes are being chased, as explained above. Here, the pursuers capture the rearmost Hero when they have accrued five RP, and may then continue the chase after the next rearmost Hero. There are only two outcomes for the quarry in a chase; escape or capture.
If the quarry escapes the Heroes, then the Heroes have failed and may take Lingering Penalties. Plus, the narrative will reflect their inability to catch the deer, or reclaim their money from the pickpocket. Likewise, if the Heroes escape their pursuers, then there can be Lingering Bonuses awarded. Of course, these pursuers may return in a later part of the story to plague the Heroes once more.
Catching the Quarry
However, it is the capture outcome that usually creates more interest at the table. Depending upon the situation, there may or may not be a combat at this point. As ever in HeroQuest 2, a lot depends upon the desires of the Players and the energy level at the table.
If the Heroes have caught their quarry in a hunt, then I would probably end the chase entirely and announce a successful hunt. Except where they had been hunting a particularly vicious animal, in which case the Heroes would need to fight. Likewise, if the Heroes had caught a thief, or some fleeing warriors, then I would probably just narrate the outcome.
On the other hand, this chase could had been part of the climax of a plot. For example, where the lead Hero had now cornered the fleeing villain. In this case I would insist on a fight, with the remaining Heroes trailing in as they gradually overcame the intervening obstacles. Such an extended chase and fight sequence would make for an interesting climactic encounter where the stakes are high.
On being caught
If the chase ends with a Hero being caught, then once more the decision to run a combat will depend upon the needs of the plot, the desires of the Players and the energy levels at the table. As I would prefer not to chain together Extended Contests, then I usually narrate the outcome, namely that the Hero has been captured by the Queen’s Guards, or whoever. The chase itself represented the Hero’s attempts to evade capture, and they have failed.
This would be different if one Hero wanted to make a heroic last stand against the pursuers, in the style of Gandalf at the Bridge of Kazad-dum. In this case I would make an exception, as it would make such a tense encounter.
Can the lone Hero buy enough time for the rest of the Heroes to escape? The consequences of Defeat in this case would be severe. Yet, the heroic last stand is such a classic plot device that I would want to play out the full drama of one Hero’s self-sacrifice for the sake of the rest of the Heroband.
There we are, the steps that I use to run a chase in HeroQuest 2. This really did end up as much wordier than I had anticipated. Despite the rules-lite style of HeroQuest, there are still a lot of steps in the process. Trying to explain these steps clearly took me far more words than I would actually use at the table.
But, I hope that it was worth the effort. Please use the comments to share how you run a chase in a narrative game.
Something for the Weekend next week, the April RPG Blog Alliance Carnival