I followed the principles laid out in my recent post about getting car chases into tabletop rpgs and ended up with this mildly-playtested rules system. It’s almost MOSAIC Strict but it’s totally not – it’s meant to bolt onto a ruleset I’ve been mashing together lately.
A good fight scene isn’t just spectacle; it reveals something about the characters. Good car chases also need to do this. Show the characters’ desperation or determination (French Connection), show what lines they cross (The Corruptor), show their cunning (The Driver). Unlike so many fight scenes, a chase can also be an exciting conflict that need not end in one party’s death. The villain can crash only to leave behind an empty wreck (Ronin). The heroes can lose without being captured or killed (The Seven-Ups).
- Describe the initial moment the scene becomes a chase. Someone spots a tail. A fleeing villain carjacks a bystander’s car. The cops show up.
- Positioning Roll: Each driver rolls, each building a Momentum pool for the chase equal to their successes. Describe the swerving and speeding. Spend Momentum to:
- Roll an additional d6 after any roll result. Rolling Momentum never generates additional Threat.
- Cancel Threat, 1 for 1. You have to already have the momentum in order to do this.
- Chase Cards: Draw 2 cards from a deck of standard playing cards and place them face-up. The card color and value supply the speed and terrain:
- Speed is the minimum number of successes each driver must roll to stay in the chase. Divide the card value by 3 to get its speed value, rounding up.
- Black cards are straights, granting advantage to the faster vehicle.
- Red cards involve cornering, granting advantage to the vehicle with better handling.
- Face cards allow both drivers to choose their own speed value.
- Jokers work like face cards, but the runner may also give advantage to either speed or handling.
- Currently, advantage equates to a bonus die.
- Pursuit Roll: Each driver chooses a card and describes their driving. They roll and attempt to meet or beat the speed value.
- Drivers who fail to meet the speed value of their card use their total successes as their speed instead. If they failed and rolled one or more Threat, they lose control.
- If the runner’s speed is higher, they pull ahead. If they can pull ahead a second time, they outrun their pursuers.
- If the hunter’s speed is higher, they catch up to a runner that’s pulled ahead or the chase goes Head to Head if that’s not the case.
- Additional successes generate Momentum 1 for 1.
- If the runner and at least one hunter are still in the chase, go to step 3 and draw new chase cards.
- Missed by 1: You’re out of control, slipping, squealing, and skidding. Nothing bad happens this round, but next round if you roll Threat or miss your pursuit roll you’ll go straight to Damaged (or beyond).
- Missed by 2: Your vehicle is damaged. You don’t have advantage in speed or handling anymore. Get damaged again and you crash.
- Missed by 3 or more: Crash! Your vehicle is destroyed.
Head to Head
The hunter overtakes the runner and tries to force them off the road. Both drivers roll opposed, with advantage going to the larger/heavier/tougher vehicle. The driver with fewer successes loses control equal to the margin of failure (if the runner loses by 2, their vehicle is damaged for example). Threat adds to their existing loss of control 1 for 1, potentially turning a sideswipe into a fatal crash. If the winning driver rolls Threat, they lose control equal to their rolled Threat as well. If the hunter wins, roll another round of Head to Head. If the runner wins, go to step 3 and lay out new chase cards. Additional runner successes increase Momentum 1 for 1.
Drivers secretly bid speed/difficulty, reveal and roll. Whoever bid highest speed and succeeds wins. On tied speeds, the highest roll wins by a nose. Failure with threat can mean a crash, otherwise you just lose. If everyone fails, the driver who failed least and didn’t crash wins.
For a longer (and possibly dirtier) race, all drivers are the runner. The positioning roll sets who takes an early lead. In Head to Head, whichever driver wins may take the lead, becoming the new runner. Run the race for N turns/cards.
If there are a lot of NPC racers, you can disclaim decisions by rolling a cool/nerves/willpower type trait and use that as their bidded speed.
You’ll never get the speed of a car chase at the table, but I’m trying to represent that sense of pushing your luck and going as fast as you dare. The runner wants to choose a card that’s right at the edge of their perceived ability, and the hunters have to follow them or lose. You could expand the chase cards into a whole custom deck and introduce bespoke obstacles, make the speed values more varied and easier to read, have the cards act as prompts for action, and so on.