(image credit: Josh Eiten)
So, way back when, I wrote my first homebrew adventure set in Faerûn after the events of the Lost Mine of Phandelver starter adventure. My group had split into two because it was so large, and I was best fit to DM for my half. So, since I didn’t have any other D&D adventure books at the time, I wrote my own story for the heroes to uncover and follow.
Note, please, that this was my first time writing an adventure, so it’s pretty amateurish and parts of it were really railroady – I felt. But, it seemed to work out, because my players enjoyed it, and they still talk about it today. Yay, me!
Anyway, in this story, a mysterious figure appears in Neverwinter during a big, public festival, and uses powerful dark magic to instantly kill a huge group of festival-goers in front of the heroes – then the figure disappears.
Upon investigating around town – and being mistaken for the guilty party by the Neverwinter guard – the heroes discover that the perpetrator was actually an evil sorcerer long thought dead named Recken. The heroes are tasked with finding Recken and making sure he’s dead this time.
On their way to Port Llast, I wrote in a set of ruins for the heroes to pass through on the road. Here, Recken lay in wait to ambush them with magic. The encounter was interesting because of the unique terrain the ruins had to offer – and Recken, himself, was holed up in a tall tower and couldn’t be targeted very well. Finally, Recken abandons his post and makes a run for Port Llast, which is nearby.
It was up to the players if they wanted to give chase or not. They did. So I created a chase!
To be honest, I still don’t know the “official” chase rules for D&D. Aside from this homebrew scenario, it’s never come up. So I haven’t bothered. Yeah, I’m that kind of DM. I look up what I need to know. So, I created my own rules that were based on a grid system that I stumbled across online.
First, I’ll explain the rules and the mechanics of how I ran this grid. It reads like a book, left-to-right, top-to-bottom. So, square A4 wraps around to square A5. Each square is 30 feet for the purposes of speed and ranged/spell attacks.
In order to move through the grid, players must make a Dexterity Saving Throw (this because they’re full-pelt running and that takes no small amount of coordination). If the character’s speed is higher than 30, they have advantage on the roll. If it’s lower than 30, they have disadvantage. I gave no special results for critical successes or failures (although, in hindsight, a critical failure should have resulted in a trip-and-fall).
With a Dex Save result of 14 or lower, the character moves 1 space. With a result of 15 to 20, they move 2 spaces. With a result of 21 or higher, they move 3 spaces.
Now onto the events on the chart.
Player characters start on A0, in the ruins where they saw Recken running away. Recken, having a head-start, begins on A3 (hence the **). Recken acts on Initiative 20 (but, originally, I had it so that he goes at the top of Initiative, regardless of scores).
Every event listed on the graph is one of Recken’s actions against the characters, and they occur when a character begins their turn in that square. So, on Ilyana’s turn, for example, she lands on A2. At the start of her next turn, Recken turns back and fires off a spell called “Death Bolt” at her.
“Death Bolt” is a custom spell I created for Recken. It was a larger version of this spell that he used in Neverwinter to kill all those bystanders. It’s a bolt of dark energy against which the character must make a Dexterity Saving Throw with a DC of 10, or take 2d6 necrotic damage, or half on a successful save.
If a character begins their turn on A5, they spring an “Entangle” spell that was cast and delayed. All characters starting in this space must make a Strength Saving Throw or be restrained. All characters entering this space must also make Strength Saving Throws or be restrained. At the beginning of the next turn, they may make the regular Strength check to free themselves and then continue the chase immediately. Characters that wish to go around the 20-foot-square space will effectively “lose a turn.”
On all the “Ranged Attack” squares, Recken will fire a crossbow at characters starting their turns there.
Square A9 has a pre-loaded “Fear” spell on it. Since I was taking over DMing for a game in which I was playing, I was also DM-PCing my character…who fell victim to this square and went running the other way, screaming.
A10 has “Hold Person,” pretty self-explanatory.
And A13…”Major Image.” Hahaha, my players – especially Mark – still talk about this to this day. This became a running joke in the campaign, which was awesome. Most of the characters had caught up together at this point, and so several of them were present on A13 when the Major Image of a giant white Worm burst out of the ground and started attacking. It was never meant to pose any actual threat to the adventurers, just frighten them enough to buy Recken time to slip into Port Llast.
When Mark’s character – a really intellectually handicapped half-orc – swung his axe at the Major Image of the Worm, it went right through of course…and the Worm became semi-transparent. Thus began the legacy of…”the ghost worm.” Mark’s character, being severely unintelligent, thought they had encountered the ghost of a worm, and thus asked nearly every NPC and PC he ran across if they’ve ever seen a ghost worm before, and would tell of the time he bravely faced one and defeated it. Of course, none of these people had ever heard of a ghost worm. Haha, I miss those days.
If Recken ever reached A14, Port Llast’s east gate, he would fire off a spell that would destroy the gate and cause it to collapse in a heap of rubble as he ran inside, blocking the adventurers from entering the city immediately. This also caused the other gates of the city to close, as they didn’t want enemies taking the port and attacking. So the characters would have to find the other gates to the city and attempt to talk or force their way inside – giving Recken plenty of time to disappear and work on his plan.
For catching Recken, there were options. If the characters wish to attack him while chasing – they had to stop and spend their action to do so (instead of making the Dex Save to keep running forward). If they wanted to attack while running, the attack is made at disadvantage. If a character doing this fails the save, they trip, fall, and remain in that space for a turn, using their next action to stand up.
If a character begins their turn in the same space as Recken, they both roll Initiative and go into combat. Recken, wanting to get away, will cast “Hold Person” on his turn, and continue running, using his combat movement to move forward on the track (which returns him to the Dex Save process of the custom chase rules).
If 2 or more Adventurers, not including the whole party, ever start their turn in the same track space as Recken, all will roll Initiative and engage for two rounds, at the end of which, on Recken’s turn, Recken will cast “Invisibility” on himself and run. This allows more Adventurers to catch up.
If the whole party starts their turn in the same space as Recken, then he’s been caught. Everyone rolls Initiative and combat begins. He’s too outnumbered to try and run, so he will stand his ground and fight. I also wrote down that, at the start of this particular combat scenario, the DM rolls a d4 to determine how many spell slots Recken has left (but I would likely increase that to a d6 now), based on the events of the chase.
And that’s what I wrote for my chase sequence. It was pretty fun to run, and the players seemed to enjoy it. They still remember it, and Mark still talks about his ghost worm (even OOCly slipping a mention of it into our current Curse of Strahd campaign), and that makes me happy. I’m glad that they had a good time with it.
How have you handled chase sequences, if you differed from the official rules? What memorable, custom mechanics have you used in your adventures that your players still talk about? Have you ever seen a ghost worm?
Until next time – Well Met!