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D&D 5E – Quick Reference – Chase Rules


Quick Reference – Chase Rules

Nobody told me that the new Dungeon Master’s Guide was going to contain rules for conducting chases. Hurray! These are good, fast and easy rules. You should use them. This is my interpretation of those rules along with my house rules and some Chase Complications tables.

My house rules are shown in blue. I find that using miniature figures helps when running a chase, so the following rules assume that you are using figures on a grid. Standard combat rules apply except as noted below. Characters that pause to take an action, other than Dash, move a distance equal to their move rate. Most characters use the Dash action and move a distance equal to twice their move rate.

  1. Setup. Determine where everyone involved in the chase is located. The only thing that matters is how far apart everyone is. Place the lead quarry first, then place the others at the appropriate distance behind him. If their locations aren’t pre-determined based on the encounter, you can randomly set the distance from the lead pursuer to the closest quarry at the speed factor of the fastest creature + 5x(1d6) feet.
  2. Determine Initiative. Set initiative order based on position. The lead character is assigned the highest initiative, followed by the others in order of their distance behind him. This initiative order may change from round to round as creatures pass each other. Ties go to the one with the highest dexterity score.
  3. Track Movement. After the lead quarry determines his total move distance – write that distance down so it can be referenced by all players. Don’t move that figure. On each participant’s turn, compare the distance he moved to that of the lead quarry. If they are the same, the distance between them remains the same, so his figure doesn’t move. If he moved farther than the lead quarry, subtract the lead quarry’s move from his and move his figure forward by that amount. If the lead quarry moved farther than he did, subtract his move distance from the lead quarry’s and move his figure back by this amount.
  4. No Opportunity Attacks. No one involved directly in the chase can use an opportunity attack against anyone else in the chase.
  5. Track Exhaustion. You can use the Dash action a number of times equal to 3+ your Constitution modifier. For each Dash action after that you must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution check or take one level of exhaustion. Your speed becomes 0 when you reach level 5.
  6. Pursuer Overtakes Quarry.
    1. Attack. If a pursuer is able to move into a quarry’s space, he may instead use a bonus action to perform a single melee attack against the quarry when he is within reach. The attack is made at a disadvantage. Note that the pursuer cannot use this option if he can only move within reach, but could not overtake the quarry if he chose to.
    2. Overtake. A pursuer overtakes a quarry when he moves into its space. He can then use a bonus action to attempt to grapple the creature. Normal grapple rules apply. If successful, both pursuer and quarry are stopped. Rather than grapple, the pursuer may attempt to trip, push over or tackle the quarry. The pursuer has advantage on the attack. As an optional rule, an attack that fails by 5 or more results in the pursuer falling prone.
  7. Quarry Escapes. The quarry can attempt to escape if it is out of sight for all of the pursuers. He makes a Dexterity (Stealth) check and must beat the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the pursuers.
  8. Complications. Roll 1d20 at the end of your turn and compare that roll to the appropriate Chase Complications table. The complication is not applied to your character, but rather to the next character in initiative order. You can spend an inspiration point to negate the complication you rolled or one that effects you. Rather than rolling on the table, the DM may allow a quarry to impose a condition on a pursuer to slow him down. It might be one listed on the table, or one of his own creation. Another option to using a table would be for the DM to declare conditions based on his map or the terrain and the path the quarry takes.

Prone. A complication may leave you prone. To get up from prone you subtract the distance represented by half your move rate from your total move distance.

Difficult Terrain. Each foot of difficult terrain uses two feet of your move rate. So if you cross five or ten feet of difficult terrain you can simply subtract five or ten feet from your total distance traveled.

Complication Tables. The following are Complication Tables that I have created for different terrain types. The first table is a generic complications table that can be used in a pinch, when you just need to run a chase quickly. The tables that follow that one list a complication type for each situation. Look up the type in the generic complication table.

 Generic Chase Complications

1d20 Type Complication Examples
1 Hazard Make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw to navigate the impediment. On a failed save, you fall 1d4 x 5 feet, taking 1d6 bludgeoning damage per 10 feet fallen as normal, and land prone. Hole, crevice, trap, unseen obstacle, steep incline, heavily broken ground, the path skirts a quicksand pit, log bridge crossing a stream, running on rooftops, slippery floors, jump through window
2 Cramped space Make a DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to get through this space. On a failed check, the obstacle counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain. street, market, public building, alleyway, shoppers, stationary crowd
3 Poor visibility Make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, you are blinded until the end of your turn. While blinded in this way, your speed is halved. blind corner, woods, dense brush or busy area
4 Barrier Make a DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to get past the obstacle. On a failed check you fall prone. wall, fence, cliff, thick hedges, tall fences, building, river, canyon or swamp
5 Impediment Make a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (your choice) to get past the impediment. On a failed check, the obstacle counts as 5 feet of difficult terrain. Tree branch, fallen log, chicken coop or vegetable cart, trail suddenly drops off, flock of birds
6 Crowd Make a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (your choice) to make your way through the crowd unimpeded. On a failed check, the crowd counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain. fleeing (or angry) peasants, a funeral procession, people leaving a performance, a moving crowd
7 Entanglement Make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to avoid it. On a failed save, you are caught as if in a net and restrained. See chapter 5 “Equipment,” of the Player’s Handbook for rules on escaping a net. Clotheslines, curtains, banners, drying pots, chimes, hanging meat, vines
8 Animal herd Make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, you are knocked about and take 1d4 bludgeoning damage and 1d4 piercing damage. Must pass through a herd of animals. Camels, Donkeys, Horses, Cows, etc.
9 Uneven Ground Make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to navigate the area. On a failed check, the ground counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain. Any stairs of 4 or more steps (less than 4 steps is considered an “impediment”), river bank, hill, 5 feet or more change in elevation in 10 feet of horizontal movement.
10 Obstacles Make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) or Intelligence check (your choice) to past. On a failed check, the maze counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain. Tables, chairs, pews, benches, carts, crates, field of boulders, field of giant mushrooms.
11-20 No Complication


Complications by terrain type

The headings are:
1d20      results of your d20 roll
Complication     This is what causes the obstruction.
Type      This refers to the Generic Chase Complications above.

Aerial Complications

Complications are easier to avoid when you are flying, checks are made with advantage.

1d20 Complication Type
1 Flock of birds Impediment
2 Tower Hazard
3 Storm clouds Barrier
4 Updraft Impediment
5 Smoke Poor visibility
6 Turbulence Cramped space
7 Smokestack Hazard
8 Ship mast Hazard
9 Dust Poor visibility
10 Ice buildup Entanglement
11-20 No Complication

Artic Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Crevice Hazard
2 Snow drifts Cramped space
3 Blowing snow Poor visibility
4 Ice cliff Barrier
5 Chunks of broken ice Impediment
6 Herd of walrus Animal herd
7 Snow bank Uneven Ground
8 Field of Ice boulders Obstacles
9 Ice bridge over river Hazard
10 Pond covered by thin ice Hazard
11-20 No Complication

Beach Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Tidal pool Impediment
2 Crevice Hazard
3 River Barrier
4 Flock of birds Impediment
5 Fishing nets Entanglement
6 Sand hill Uneven Ground
7 Lobster traps Obstacles
8 Pier Hazard
9 Driftwood Impediment
10 Sea turtles Animal herd
11-20 No Complication

Cave Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Crevice Hazard
2 Narrow passage Cramped space
3 Bats Impediment
4 Floor slopes up or down Uneven Ground
5 Giant mushrooms Obstacles
6 Roots across passage Entanglement
7 Stalagmites Impediment
8 Wet floor Hazard
9 Ruble covered floor Impediment
10 Lava crossing Barrier
11-20 No Complication

Church Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Curtains across path Entanglement
2 Stairway Uneven Ground
3 Pews Obstacles
4 Narrow hallway Cramped space
5 Highly polished floor Hazard
6 Smoke filled room Poor visibility
7 Chimes across path Entanglement
8 Railing across path Hazard
9 Balcony to climb Barrier
10 Loose rugs on floor Impediment
11-20 No Complication

City Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Alleyway Cramped space
2 Bridge Hazard
3 Crowd Crowd
4 Dangling Things Entanglement
5 Market Cramped space
6 Fence or wall across path Barrier
7 Garden Impediment
8 Large Animals Animal herd
9 Rooftop Hazard
10 Stables Impediment
11-20 No Complication

Desert Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Dunes Uneven Ground
2 Oasis Impediment
3 Quicksand Hazard
4 River bed Impediment
5 Whirlwind Impediment
6 Cliff Barrier
7 Steep grade Uneven Ground
8 Cactus patch Impediment
9 Rocky Ground Obstacles
10 Crevice Hazard
11-20 No Complication

 Dungeon Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Pit Hazard
2 Stairs up Uneven Ground
3 Stairs down Uneven Ground
4 Coffins Obstacles
5 Rubble Impediment
6 Columns or Statues Cramped space
7 Slime covered floor Hazard
8 Natural cavern Impediment
9 Torture chamber Impediment
10 Chains across path Entanglement
11-20 No Complication

 Forest Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Log bridge crossing a stream Hazard
2 Heavily forested Cramped space
3 Dense brush Poor visibility
4 Thick hedges Barrier
5 Fallen tree Impediment
6 Vines across path Entanglement
7 The trail suddenly drops off Impediment
8 Panicked monkeys Impediment
9 2′ tall ferns obscuring path Hazard
10 Thorn bushes Impediment
11-20 No Complication

Graveyard Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Open grave Hazard
2 Low fence Hazard
3 High fence Barrier
4 Loose dirt Impediment
5 Tombstones Cramped space
6 Crypt Impediment
7 Coffin Impediment
8 Funeral Coach Impediment
9 Funeral procession Crowd
10 Vine covered graves Entanglement
11-20 No Complication

Indoor Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Narrow hallway Cramped space
2 Stairs Uneven Ground
3 Dining or sales area Obstacles
4 Curtains or beads across path Entanglement
5 Littered floor Impediment
6 Jump off balcony Hazard
7 Jump through window Hazard
8 Kitchen Impediment
9 Slippery floors Hazard
10 Hole in floor Hazard
11-20 No Complication

Mountain Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Crevice Hazard
2 Steep incline Hazard
3 Path narrows Cramped space
4 Blind Corner Poor visibility
5 Cliff Barrier
6 Flock of birds Impediment
7 Vines crossing path Entanglement
8 Mountain goats Animal herd
9 Field of boulders Obstacles
10 Log bridge across chasm Hazard
11-20 No Complication

Ocean Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Coral maze Hazard
2 School of dolphins Animal herd
3 Kelp beds Entanglement
4 Narrow strait Cramped space
5 Precipitation Poor visibility
6 Reef Hazard
7 Swell Uneven Ground
8 Flotsam Impediment
9 Fishing nets Entanglement
10 School of sea turtles Obstacles
11-20 No Complication

Swamp Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Quicksand Hazard
2 Thick Vegetation Cramped space
3 Muck & Mire Impediment
4 Insect swarm Poor visibility
5 Shallow water Hazard
6 Deep Water Barrier
7 Vines crossing path Entanglement
8 Lots of alligators Animal herd
9 Slick, algae covered ground Hazard
10 Fallen logs Impediment
11-20 No Complication


D&D 5e – Chase rules

Optional House Rules for D&D 5e


[Check out this newer post on this subject: D&D 5E – Quick Reference – Chase Rules.]

A couple of years ago I published chase rules for D&D v3.5. You can download them here.
With the release of the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, those rules seem rather heavy. You can still use them if your campaign will have a lot of chases. However, in keeping with the slimmed down rules of 5e, I am proposing a simple house rule for chases. The description below is in terms of a PC character chasing a fleeing foe. Keep in mind that the same rules apply when the PC is the one fleeing.

What if your opponent tries to run away?

Most of the time the standard rules for combat work just fine. A chase may occur when one or more opponent turns and runs away. In game terms, he uses the Dash action to spend his entire turn moving away from combat as quickly as possible. If he starts his turn within 5 feet of you, or passes within 5 feet of you, you can use your Reaction to make an opportunity attack.

What if you want to chase him?

It all depends on how far away you are from him at the beginning of your turn. Compare this distance to your characters speed. There are three possible results.

1) You can use your Move to get within 5 feet of him.

  • You can attack him and combat continues.

2) You can catch up to him by using your Dash action.

[If you have enough speed to pass him you may do that, but if you come within 5 feet of him as you pass, he gets to use his Reaction to make an opportunity attack against you, so you will typically want to stop when you get within 5 feet.]
  • You stop within 5 feet of him.
  • If he continues to run away you can use your Reaction to attack him. [If you speed is the same or greater than his, this can repeat each round. This is not a good strategy for your opponent, unless he can reach shelter or he is leading you into an ambush.]
  • Or he may choose to turn and fight on his turn.

3) You cannot get to within 5 feet of him using your Dash action.

  • If your speed is greater than his, you should catch up with him in a few rounds.
  • If your speed is less than his, and you have no way to increase your speed, he will get farther away each round. You may as well attempt to shoot him with ranged weapons until he is out of range.
  • If your speed is the same as his, he will stay the same distance away from you forever. You move closer on your turn, he moves away on his. This is where a house rule is needed.

House Rule #1

A chase is not a race. There are multiple factors that could enable a creature to catch up to another one that has the same speed. Even a lucky slower creature should have a chance. Here is my house rule:

At the end of a turn where you have used a Dash action to advance toward an opponent that is fleeing, you may call for a Strength (Athletics) contest between the two characters. If you win the contest, you move an additional 5 feet toward your opponent. If you lose the contest, you move back 5 feet.

House Rule #2

Characters can’t continue running at top speed forever.  For extended chases:

After 5 rounds of continuous running, a character must make a [DC 15] Constitution save or suffer one level of exhaustion. Each additional round of continuous running requires another save at an additional +2 to the DC.

The DM may rule that certain creatures are immune to this exhaustion effect, or that they can run for longer periods before requiring this check.

Chase Rules

Optional rules for D&D v3.5

 Why do we need more rules? What is wrong with just using the rules as printed?

Problems with using standard Dungeons and Dragons rules for a chase:

1)     The move rules are written for use in combat, and are excellent for that, but chases are resolved as if they were races. As anyone knows who has ever watched an action movie with an exciting chase scene, a chase is not a race. Being quick, clever and daring (along with a good portion of luck) can result in a slower person getting away form a faster pursuer, or a slower pursuer catching someone faster.

2)    On page 20 of the DMG “Evasion and Pursuit” says in round-by-round movement it is imposable for a slower character to catch a faster character. If they have the same speed, let them make an opposed Dexterity check to see who wins. And for long chases, have everybody make Dexterity checks to see who can keep up the pace the longest. This is workable but it replaces what could be an exciting chase into a single role of the dice. If combat was handled like this, everyone would roil one d20, add any ability or circumstance modifiers, and the fight would be over.  This would “work” but wouldn’t be much fun.

3)    Each character moves during his or her turn during a combat round. Even though this works just fine for combat, for a chase it can result in awkward situations. For example, your character could be chasing another with the same speed, each round on your turn you would move up close to him and then on his turn your opponent would pull away from you. If you are chasing someone and you are both running at the same speed, shouldn’t you stay the same distance apart for the whole round?

4)    Actions and moves are handled separately. There are very few actions that can be performed while moving. As we all know, during a chase, you don’t normally stop to do other things. Practically everything you do is done while you are running.

What these new rules attempt to do:

Only one thing. Make chases fun! To do this:

1)     It must be simple. The new rules are kept to a minimum.

2)    It must still be D&D.  A chase is basically a special combat situation. All standard combat rules still function normally during a chase except where specifically noted otherwise. Most importantly, your character isn’t limited to what he can attempt to do.

3)    It must work for any number of characters chasing any number of other characters. The PCs can be chasing others or be chased by others and each PC determines his own actions.

4)    It must work equally well for characters on foot, mounted, fling or driving a vehicle. Everyone on a vehicle is involved in the chase, but there will typically only be one character driving or controlling the vehicle. The mode of travel can even change during the chase. For example, someone might jump onto or off or his horse, or he might swim across a lake or climb a wall.

5)    There must be a way for the slower person to win. The distance you move each round can’t be just a static distance based on your characters speed rate. There will be a roil of a 20 sided die that each character involved in the chase makes that will modify his distance traveled. And it will be adjusted by various factors such as terrain, obstacles, abilities and actions taken during the round.

Download a free copy of these chase rules here: Chase Rules