View Full Version : Racing/Chasing mechanic for vehicular contest

2019-03-09, 12:50 PM
Last night, during a session of Star Wars Saga Edition, I ran an important Race event for my players. Two participated, the other player opted to act as one of the other player's sponsors and so he got to sit in the VIP audience booth (like Loki in Thor: Ragnarok). Sponsor character got to help with the race by investigating the other sponsors to try to figure out if, how, and where the other racers might be planning to cheat, but that's a bonus to the main mechanism I created for the race itself.

Honestly, the core mechanic could apply to any RPG system that involves vehicular or mounted racing and/or chasing, if you make a few modifications. I just had never seen this mechanic in a rulebook and I thought it might be useful to somebody out there. Cheers if you like it.

I really wanted to avoid the race becoming nothing more than a Skill Challenge where the Pilot characters do nothing more than listen to me describe the race and roll Pilot Checks when I call for them. I wanted it to be tactical, so I turned the race into a turn based strategy similar to combat.

At the start, I ordered the racers (both the PCs and NPCs) according to their local popularity and racing prestige. I had about 6 or so named NPC competitors who had prestige and then about 12 racers that had no name or prestige (the nameless nobodies get to fill the role of being the pack of last place competitors that the racers want to avoid getting tangled up in).

I repurposed an old map from the N64 podracing game to use for my race track and broke the map up into segments as if they were turns in an encounter. At the start, all pilots roll Pilot checks to see if they get that Mario Kart starting boost to get an early lead against the racers nearest to them (or if they roll really low, they stall out and lose several places in their position).

Now we come to the mechanic.

On each straight and open stretch of race track, each racer (from First to Last Position) gets to take an Action, though Round is resolved in Two Phases: Speed and Steering. Available actions are Boost, Brake, Push for Position, Cheat, and Stunt.

During the First Phase: Speed, every racer decides if they want to Boost or Brake (both consume your action for that Stretch). Any racer that decides to Boost makes a Mechanics Check (or equivalent if you're adapting to a different system/setting) against a Static DC of Medium difficulty. Failing the Mechanics check deals a small amount of damage to their vehicle (I used 3d10 for SWSE starships, bypassing DR and SR). If they succeed on the check, they gain 1 Pip of Speed Boost and they move up in Position as if they had Pushed for Position (enemy racers can mitigate this advantage by Boosting or Pushing for Position, and if both succeed, I rule they are neck and neck fighting for the lead). However, every Pip of Speed Boost a Racer has increases the Difficulty of further Boosting the Engines as well as any Pilot Checks made to take sharp turns.

Choosing to Brake removes some or all of the Racer's Pips of Speed Boost (Racer's choice). It requires no checks, but it does consume your action for that stretch of Race Track.

After every racer that chooses to Boost or Brake have taken their actions, the second phase begins: Steering. During this phase, any racers who haven't used their action in the Speed Phase may use their action to either Push for Position, Cheat by attacking the other racers, or perform a Stunt Maneuver.

Pushing for Position just means making an Opposed Pilot Check with the racer directly in front of you. I was largely playing it by ear how to interpret what the results meant, but my basic idea is that it depends on how far apart the two racers were at the start of the round, how many Pips of Speed Boost they each had, and how far apart their opposed skill check results were from each other. Generally, results tend to be that the Racer making the Push either gets ahead, makes no progress, or comes Neck and Neck if it's too close to call. Things have to be rather surprisingly good or bad to have an exceptionally different outcome (like fumbles or critical successes), but I don't shy away from the cinematic when the dice and setup are calling for it. Racing on Malastare is very fast and very dangerous.

If the Racer chooses to Cheat (and I was open with the players that certain portions of the track are better suited to this action, as most of the track is being viewed by an audience who have put large financial investment into the outcome), they simply make an Attack Roll as if it were a Melee Attack. If they are successful, they deal minor damage to the enemy racer and Push their Position ahead of the target OR they can choose to force their target to reroll their next Pilot check (which is a minor inconvenience if their next check is to Push for Position, and possibly deadly if it's against a Track Hazard). If they fail, they fall behind the target and deal no damage (except maybe to their own ego).

Performing a Stunt is a Catch-All term just meaning that the players are encouraged to be creative with their tactics (one of my players chucked a grenade behind himself to stun an enemy racer that was following him). Any action they want to take other than the ones I've outlined can generally be described as pulling a Stunt.

So Long Stretches are the places where players get to be tactical. I'd recommend having stretches giving racers 1-3 Actions before setting up a Turn or Hazard. The DC of a Pilot Check to make a Turn is based on its severity. I'd generally keep it pretty low unless the race track is infamous for killing racers, most pilots that get into this business know how to take a turn at great speed and if Boosting through every turn is suicide, then there isn't much room for tactical decisions. I'd start most turns at Easy or Moderate difficulty with only 1 or 2 severe Turns on the track, so players can decide when they want to risk the Boost and when they want to play it safe and watch their rivals risk the turn at speed.

The important thing about Hazards and Turns is that they are more difficult to traverse if you have Pips of Speed Boost, and failing them always deals damage (scaled with your Pips of Speed Boost), reduces your Pips of Speed Boost (GM's discretion), and in most cases will cause you to Drop in your Race Position (unless your lead was already exceptionally large). Failing a turn by a small amount likely drops you only behind they people who were already vying for your position, but a failing the check by a large amount can mean dropping behind the position of every other rider behind you that made their check for the turn (until you are neck and neck with the next rider who failed their check or until you are stuck in the Pack of Nameless NPCs).

The other thing to mention are Shortcuts. Shortcuts are always optional, so they imply raising the stakes on the Risk vs Reward. You raise the difficulty of the Pilot Check for the turn and failing a Shortcut Turn by a large number on the skill check can mean not only missing the opportunity to use and/or benefit from the Shortcut, but even Dropping in Race Position just like if you had missed a Turn, as described above. However, successfully navigating a Shortcut likewise Pushes your Position, based largely on how the map is designed (some shortcuts negate substantial portions of race track, while others would just move you slightly further ahead of where you would have been).

Some Shortcuts also require Perception to notice, even if you were aware of them ahead of time. If you don't make the Perception check, you don't have much opportunity to use the Shortcut.

Hazards are like Turns, except you often don't receive much advance warning. You make a Pilot Check modified by your Pips of Speed Boost, except these events deal more aggressive damage to your vehicle. Hazards will also sometimes require Perception Checks, but I'd rarely make it so failing the Perception check means you don't get to try to evade with a Pilot check. The Perception Check only modifies how difficult your Pilot check is (unless it's intended to be a deadly and somewhat unfair threat).

From there, I just started having fun giving about half the NPC racers some kind of underhanded trick to use in the race, both so the players had something to investigate (more in the traditional TTRPG style) in the days leading up to the race and to spice up the race somewhat when the enemy racers did something unexpected. Examples included one racer having a Prototype Nitro Boost that allowed a Racer to gain Double Speed Boost Pips while taking the Boost Action (they caught that one and stole the tech for themselves, which couldn't be reported stolen because that would be admitting to cheating), racers forming off the record alliances in back alleys, using Cloaking technology to appear to get lost in the Nameless NPC pack at the back only to start climbing the race positions while invisible, and rigging enemy vehicles to break down or explode at particular parts of the race.