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The Chase

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue.

Oeksoungkurr threw the air/raft into a sharp turn and gunned the engine, jerking us around in our seats like rag dolls. My head bounced off the side screen, and over the turbine’s whine I heard a long string of Bilanidin curses from the general direction of the back seat: a picturesque litany of Oek’s alleged congenital defects, going on and on and on without change of pitch or inflection, interspersed with threats of boiling her alive, blending, fermenting and distilling her sorry inedible carcass into something fit for growing yeast on. Vilani cuisine must be quite an experience. If Oek understood a word at all, she took no notice, staring straight ahead and working the controls with child-like glee.

I shook my head to clear it, and was rewarded with a stab of pain. The aftermath of the Ghalgun interrogator’s truth drug and Oek’s creative way of driving appeared to be having a lively pillow fight in my inner ear. I risked a glance and saw the Ghalgun grav sled bank into a graceful curve, following us briskly down the intersection. It was a military model with ugly blocky turbine cowlings, built to be a good deal faster and more stable than our aging little raft.

“They’re gaining, Oek,” Shedugamakii said, her voice tight with concentration.

The Vargr girl grunted noncommittally. “Must be good one pilot, but won’t last.” She sent the air/raft screaming around another corner, down a warren of tunnels and back out into the light. Building blocks flashed past too quickly to read their numbers. The sled followed without hesitation.

“I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the rescue, M’lady, but where are we going?” I ventured.

“Port,” Shedu clipped, watching intently as the Ghalguns’ sled jinked through one tight turn after the other. It was much closer now, and I could see the man next to the driver levelling a laser carbine at us. “That won’t shake them, Miss Oeksoungkurr.”

“Oek know. But ahead will.”


“This,” Oeksoungkurr said, grinning widely with her tongue lolling. And then the raft was grazing the top of a fence gate, striking sparks off the metal, and heading straight towards a maze of pressure pallets and containers. The area was a huge sprawling cargo compound serving the spaceport, row upon row of crated goods and corrugated metal. The gaps between the containers were impossibly narrow. My stomach did a discreet little somersault, and suddenly I was glad nobody had deigned to feed me back in the Ghalgun cell: I had no lunch to lose. The tangle of haphazardly stacked crates came closer with appalling speed.

“Please tell me you’re not serious.”

Oek was still grinning. “Up to now was cub play. Now show adult fly. They insane if they follow us in there.”

I pressed my eyes firmly shut. In the back seat, Shedu was cursing again.

The following house rule can be used to spice up any situation in which the PCs find themselves trying to evade someone who is following them: weaving their car through dense traffic, diving their ship into an asteroid field, or covering their digital tracks against a security hacker while tampering with a computer system. Or, it may be used when the PCs are the pursuers. It is also possible to simulate “pursuits” of a more metaphorical nature, such as evading pressing questions by an inquisitor.

The mechanism is based on the skill system of Mongoose Traveller but uses the Universal Task Profile (UTP) first published in Traveller’s Digest by Joe D. Fugate and Gary Thomas (Digest Group Publications) for classic Traveller. For those not familiar with the UTP, the main difference to a standard skill check in Mongoose Traveller is that a failed check forces a second roll of 2D discounting any but superficial damage (if the task is deemed SAFE), 2D (for a standard task) or 3D (if the task is DANGEROUS). This second roll determines whether the character who attempted the task is injured (suffers a mishap) or has to take a test of will in order to be able to attempt the task again next turn:


Failure Effect


try again immediately


failed attempt, repeat next round


Test of Will (DET Check)


Light mishap (2D on damage table)


Severe mishap (3D on damage table)

A Test of Will (TOW, “check determination” or “DET check” in the UTP) is a DIFFICULT task, modified by Intelligence and Endurance (representing willpower and physical stamina). If the test is failed, the character must give up on the attempted task due to fatigue or frustration. If the TOW is passed, xe may make another attempt at the original task in the next round.

If a mishap occurs, the damage is rolled for with 2D or 3D, depending on the severity of the mishap:


Mishap Damage


try task again immediately


superficial damage (1D)


minor damage (2D)


major damage (3D)


destroyed (4D)

The Sliding Scale of Success

First of all, the Referee must decide on the number of successes necessary to win the contest. In a straight-out chase, range bands may be used, with one success equaling a range band; in other contests, simply state a number of steps necessary for a win.

Neither exact timescale nor exact ranges are terribly important; a chase in space to one of the outer planets in the system may cover light-minutes and may take hours for a single round to conclude, while a round in a high-speed chase down a crowded highway may be measured in fractions of a second, and vehicles may gain only a few meters on each other with a successful roll.

Defining the Chase

The hunted chooses the trail, the hunter follows.

The party being chased may suggest or be given several choices by the Referee, each demanding different skills from both the hunted and the hunters. The Referee determines the skills necessary for the maneuver. Examples are:

Fleeing on foot
Fleeing in a vehicle

Other situations

Note that “pursuit” in these cases may be strictly metaphorical


If at all possible, the Referee should generate variety to make the chase more interesting. A good chase on foot, for example, may lead the characters across roofs, through a maze of service shafts, a bustling market, a public park, and across a loading area, with plenty of opportunities to play out scenes and use different skills.

A party fleeing or pursuing together uses the group’s lowest level in the particular skill and the group’s lowest stat modifier. If one member of the group has no knowledge of the necessary skill at all, reduce xir penalty for being unskilled by the highest skill level in the group (as if the group had Jack-of-all-trades at the same skill level).

The party being chased selects one of the options available, and then may assign themselves a difficulty level for their dice roll. They may choose any of the levels from SIMPLE to FORMIDABLE. This represents the level of risk they are willing to take to make things hard for their pursuers.

The pursuers must make their roll(s) at the same difficulty level. They may willingly raise their difficulty by ONE level (from SIMPLE to EASY or from AVERAGE to DIFFICULT, for example) to represent an extra effort.

Depending on both parties’ rolls, the following may happen:


Two Ine Givar terrorists are on the run, chased by two Imperial agents. The referee rules that the terrorists are three steps ahead of the agents (each step about a hundred meters), and will need to gain two more steps to shake off their pursuers. The Imperials, on the other hand, need to gain the aforementioned three steps on the terrorists to get within range to use their stun guns.

The Ine Givar have to cross a large public plaza to get to the Old Quarter and its maze of alleys. They try to lose themselves in the crowd (Stealth + INT). One of the terrorists (Alphin) has the Stealth skill at 2 but a -1 INT stat modifier, the other (Bruice) is unskilled in Stealth but has +2 in Intelligence. Alphin has the lower stat mod of -1, so this will be used. Bruice has no Stealth skill at all and would get a -3 penalty for being unskilled, but this is lowered to -1 because of Alphin’s Stealth-2 skill. The total modifier for the Ine Givar is -2.

The Imperial agents both have Recon-1, and their INT modifiers are +1 (Celine) and 0 (Devon). Their total modifier is +1 (Recon-1 + lower INT modifier of 0). They could split and roll separately, in which case Celine would have a modifier of +2 and Devon a modifier of +1.

The Ine Givar try to lose themselves in the crowded plaza. Mindful of Bruice’s lack of experience, Alphin sets the difficulty at AVERAGE – he rightly assumes that Bruice would not be able to follow him through the sort of complex maneuvers he would pull if he were alone. Celine and Devon pursue together, and decide to raise their own difficulty to DIFFICULT – increasing their pace and trusting in their honed instincts not to lose their quarries. The terrorists make their roll, but the agents as well. Since they raised, the agents decrease the distance by one step, from three to two.

As they notice the hated Imperials getting closer, the next round sees the Ine Givar shinnying up a set of cables and leading their pursuers in a chase across the roofs of the Old Quarter. The skill roll is Athletics/dexterity and DEX. Both parties fail their rolls. The terrorists roll an 8 and need a TOW: their nerve holds, and they continue running. The Imperials roll an 11: a mishap. The Referee rules that Devon falls and sprains his wrist (LIGHT damage; 1D), which also means the range increases by one.


The Referee may assign modifiers to each party’s rolls as xe sees fit. If one party is familiar with a maze and the other isn’t, they might get a positive modifier. An injured person is handicapped by the wound and may get a negative modifier when sprinting after someone. If the characters are pursued by an animal (or alien) that can run faster than a human or is nimbler, the animal gets a positive modifier.

Vehicles have their own modifiers. Where the contest is basically one of speed (chasing a gravbike down an empty motorway or a ship through empty space), the faster vehicle gets a positive modifier equal to the difference in speed bands (or sublight drive thrust).

If there are obstacles in the way (diving into an asteroid field, turning corners or driving through rough terrain), add the vehicles’ respective Agility modifier, or in the case of a spaceship, subtract -1 for each 100 tons of difference from the roll of the ship with the higher displacement. In addition, the difference in thrust may be used as a modifier, at the Referee´s discretion (because more powerful drives might conceivably allow a ship to turn and maneuver more nimbly).

Tests of Will

TOWs for single characters are taken as usual. TOWs for a group are taken with the lowest modifiers of the respective stats in the group. If one of the characters in the group has the Leadership skill, the skill level may be added to the roll. This represents the group’s leader encouraging and motivating members who are flagging, and generally co-ordinating group movement.


The terrorists just failed their test, and the second roll indicates a TOW. Bruice has an INT modifier of 0 and an END modifier of +2. Alphin has an INT mod of +1 and an END mod of 0, so the Ine Givar would roll at +0 (the lower each of both modifiers). However, Alphin has Leadership-2, so their final modifier is +2.

Note that a passed TOW (unlike in the original Universal Task Profile) does not mean a repeat of the task attempt but just the ability to carry on with the chase.

Splitting up

Either or both teams may split up at the beginning of a round. If the pursued split up, the pursuers must choose which one to follow, or split up as well—in which case two separate chases must be rolled out.

If the pursuers split but the pursued stay together, each pursuer or team of pursuers rolls separately. This may result in each pursuer being a different number of steps away from the quarry.


The Ine Givar dive into the sewage tunnels, trying to shake the Imperials. Devon is impaired by his sprained wrist (the referee judges it to be a -2 penalty to all actions requiring climbing), and Celine decides to split the party and pursue independently. At the beginning of the round the agents are both three steps behind the terrorists. The Ine Givar choose AVERAGE and make their roll (Navigation + INT), Celine, with Navigation-2, raises to DIFFICULT and makes her roll, gaining one step on the terrorists. Devon, without Navigation skill, does not raise, but fails his roll regardless. He rolls 6 and makes his subsequent TOW (continuing the chase), but is now four steps behind while Celine is slowly closing the distance (still 2 steps behind, but gaining).

Ending the chase

The pursuit ends when the pursuing party falls behind the number of steps that the Referee decided on at the start of the chase, meaning that the distance becomes too great for the pursuers to see or recognise their quarry—a spaceship moves out of sensor range, a person on foot gets lost in the crowd, a squad of soldiers loses itself in the thick jungle, a vehicle turns one corner too many and cannot be found again. In any case, the quarry got away. With the more metaphorical pursuits, the pursued succeeds in what xe attempted to achieve: a horse finally shakes off its rider, or the plainclothesman, after several hours of grueling interrogation, is finally convinced of the suspect’s innocence.

The same result happens when the pursuers fail a TOW, meaning their resolve fails and they break off the chase.

The quarry is caught if the pursuing party gains the number of steps on them decided by the Referee, or when the quarry fails a TOW (unless the pursuers failed their TOW at the same time). “Caught” usually means that the pursuers get into range to use their weapons, but at the Referee’s discretion may also mean the quarry hit a dead end and has no choice but to surrender or fight their way free. In metaphorical pursuit, the “pursuer” finally gets whatever xe wanted: the Zhodani agent successfully pries the necessary information from the character’s mind, or the computer security specialist finally learns the identity code of the person who intruded the system after sifting through a host of data decoys.

In a “real” chase, the quarry has the option to stand and fight at any point if they choose. If the terrain allows (and depending on the nature of the chase), they may try to hide and lay an ambush for their pursuers. In this case, roll opposed Stealth + INT against Recon + INT to see if the ambush is successful, in which case the pursued gain surprise in the first round of combat. If the pursuers win the roll, they may roll Stealth + INT against Recon + INT of the pursued to outflank them – in which case they gain surprise.


The Ine Givar notice that Devon is lagging behind. Deciding that their chances are much improved against a single agent, they turn a sharp corner, stop and draw their knives in an attempt to ambush Celine. They lose the opposed Stealth vs. Recon roll: Celine notices a shadow around the corner, stops short and decides to outflank the terrorists. She wins the next opposed roll (her Stealth vs. their Recon), turns two corners and comes upon the unsuspecting terrorists from behind. Two light taps on her stun gun’s trigger, and the Ine Givar drop to the ground, unconscious.

Advancing cautiously, Celine kicks the knives away from the prostrate terrorists’ hands and is busy cuffing them to a drainage pipe when Devon finally turns up, still nursing his sprained wrist, to provide belated cover for his partner.

The Bout

A variety of the same house rule may also be employed in any situation where two characters are facing off but where success is gradual rather than immediate, and may still be reversed at any point by a big enough effort by the losing side: a bout of arm wrestling, grueling trade negotiations or a game of chess, for example.

One side takes the initiative. This may be the side that initiated the bout, the side with the highest overall modifier, or the side that acts most forceful in the initial stage, depending on the Referee’s decision. This side becomes the “pursued” while the other side is the “pursuer”.


Eneri, an inveterate gambler, is in the middle of a game of sekhoma with Feena, a smuggler. They set the “steps” at winning or losing a hundred credits each. The cards are dealt. Feena gets to place the first card, so she becomes the “pursued” (wins the initiative). She decides to start hard and fast with a VERY DIFFICULT, Gambling, INT (SAFE) gambit; Eneri will have to match or exceed that difficulty.

Changing initiative

The bout is run like a regular chase, with two differences:

  1. If the “pursuer” raises xir difficulty and succeeds in xir roll, xe has snatched the initiative and becomes the “pursued” in the next round.
  2. Only the “pursued” may gain a step; if the result indicates that the “pursuer” gains a step on the “pursued”, nothing happens.

Made cautious by Feena’s confident demeanour, Eneri does not raise the difficulty, instead concentrating on foiling Feena’s gambit. Feena is successful, Eneri’s roll is a failure, and he loses 100 credits to her. The next round, Feena again sets the difficulty at VERY DIFFICULT. She fails, and Eneri makes his roll this time—still, since he is the “pursuer”, he does not gain his credits back.

Somewhat daunted, Feena settles for DIFFICULT in the next round; Eneri decides to take a risk and try to break her winning streak—he raises to VERY DIFFICULT. Both make their rolls, so no one gains a step, but because he raised his difficulty the initiative will shift to Eneri at the start of the next round.

Realising that he has met his match at straight gambling, Eneri tries to distract Feena from the cards and disrupt her concentration. He starts talking rapidly, rolling VERY DIFFICULT, Persuade, SOC (SAFE). Feena does not raise, so she also rolls VERY DIFFICULT, Carouse, INT (SAFE). Eneri makes his roll, Feena botches and must take a Test of Will, which she also fails. Eneri wins his money back with a broad grin, and an exasperated Feena declines another round, resolving never to play cards again with that glib son of a space bitch.