Tag: Fickle RPG

Tips on chase scenes in RPGs

Car chases, and even foot chases, can be tough to represent well in RPGs. There’s tons of forum questions and articles about what system does it best, tips and strategies, and so on. Generally you don’t want to be bogged down with slow rules that break the pacing or mean you’re planning and resolving a 2 second snap character decision in 5+ minutes of real time. You also don’t want to have to track exact distances between everyone involved unless that really adds something to the chase (which I don’t think it does).

See the previous post about the Fast & Furious setting for some background.

For the first one-off I got the inkling of an idea on how to best handle chases. And by the second one-off I had refined and tested that idea and found it worked very well. Basically the Storyteller needs to track and inform the players of the order of cars, so that if a player says “is Li Fang in front or behind me?” you can know the answer right away. Distance is either “you can interact with them”, or “far away”. But the latter rarely came up, because the scene would transition to the “up close and ready to interact” phase with a few words of summary.

And now the magic part: the acting entity sets the pace and describes the obstacle. More or less take turns throwing obstacles into the chase. This helps share the onus of making the chase interesting between the Storyteller and the players. If the player in the Toyota Supra is acting, they might say “We see a semi-truck coming towards us carrying a huge load of lumber, and as they slam on the brakes the trailer starts to jack knife”. If the villain Li Fang on her motorcycle is acting the Storyteller might say that she’s taken the chase down an off ramp and through a series of red lights at busy intersections. And maybe next the player says that after negotiating the red lights they see an old homeless person with a shopping cart full of cans crossing the middle of the road.

The key idea here is to almost always have something specific happening that everyone reacts to, instead of just “we’re on a vaguely defined freeway, going fast, with some generic cars all around. I guess I try to sideswipe the other car.” You don’t want the only real option to be a repetitive “I ram the other car”. Instead the players and Storyteller are now having to think of how the characters would react: would they speed up to run the red lights, would they try a shortcut down an alley, would they tentatively stop before each intersection, would they call in on the radio for an aerial view, or whatever. There is an immediate, looming problem that needs an immediate solution beyond just “eventually I want to catch the bad guy and ram them off the road”. And since we’re in the Fast & Furious universe and have access to the Exploit Coin, the answer could be “I swerve my car to the side so that it flips over the first rolling log, catapults me through the shower of the rest, and I land on top of the enemy car”.

This is where the General Driving Incidents header in the Fast & Furious setting document comes in handy. It’s a ready list of ideas and curveballs the Storyteller can throw into the chase or suggest to the players. Chasing on a dirt road in Griffith Park is fun. When there’s a rock slide or fallen tree ahead, that increases the danger and boosts the fun.

EDIT: In addition I compiled an even bigger list of driving encounters and hazards you can view here.

The other upside of this approach is it helps solidify details of the area. I’ve only briefly been to Los Angeles, and certainly never had a car chase there. But anyone can conjure up stereotypical scenes of LA: palm trees, huge clogged freeways, empty storm drains, Venice Beach, movie studio lots, etc. And in a chase you want to move from interesting location to interesting location, without much of a focus on plain, forgettable side streets or stretches of highway. Part of the acting person describing the situation is they can move the location forward.

In the one-off we started around Chinatown in LA, but pretty much skipped over about 10 miles of road so that the next area of interest was Griffith Park. Then we brought the scale back in for some freeway incidents, followed by a finale through the Warner Bros. Studios.

This route wasn’t hugely planned, it was more organically decided when the acting player shifted the action from one place to another. We did want to follow a realistic route, and not jump too far ahead (like we wouldn’t instantly go 100 miles west to Santa Barbara). But we also didn’t want to feel stuck or tied to an uninteresting area without much detail. The best analogy is a chase scene in a movie: you only see the decision points and unique places, you rarely see the cars maintaining their order and speed on an unremarkable side street.

And of course the original idea is not a hard and fast rule and requires some arbitration on when the best time to add a new obstacle is. But that’s why we’re playing a tabletop RPG and not a computer game: so we can adjust on the fly. Sometimes it makes sense that every player gets a chance to have a turn and interact with the scene detail before changing it. Other times a drastic setback to a player or enemy can change the pacing (no sense in the villain taking a side road if they just careened into a median).

I think this idea and strategy could be applied to other systems and other chases with great success. Anyway drive safe out there.

Fast and Furious setting

I ran some Fickle RPG recently with two one-offs in a Fast & Furious setting. If you don’t know the Fast & Furious movies you must not get out much, but just in case here is the movie series listing. Today I’m going to talk about that setting, some of the mechanical changes we used, a summary of how both sessions went, and in more detail in a separate post some ideas on car chases in general and tips to get them working in Fickle RPG.

When I set out to plan the one-off I aimed more for the earlier Fast & Furious movies, so it’s less about a high tech, organize team pulling off a Bourne style heist with extremely over the top shenanigans, and more some street racers getting involved in minor crime with just a few over the top shenanigans.

Continue reading “Fast and Furious setting”

Star Wars and Fallout for Fickle RPG

Two fun settings for Fickle RPG for you today! They both have a custom character sheet, and I think the Fallout one might be the best I’ve done so far. The fonts and Vault Boy imagery really pop.

Here’s how the sheets look:

Setting Downloads

As for the settings, I ran a 4-5 session mini-campaign for Star Wars. Lots of planet hopping, and a nice payoff in the end. For Fallout I’m mostly used to Fallout 1 & 2, and my friends are more familiar with Fallout 3 & 4, so we did sort of a mix. That setting was used for a one-off, which went really well and I think captured lots of Fallout-y things.

Also they had some of the better Luck Dice re-themes: Force Dice for Star Wars (naturally), and VATS Dice for Fallout.

Anyway here are the setting notes, including the custom character sheets:

I’ve also updated the main Fickle RPG page to keep these settings organized and make it a bit easier for new players to use existing materials and sheets.

Quick follow up release: Fickle RPG v0.7

Choo choo, chugging along…
Mostly integrating feedback from a few online forums, here is Fickle RPG v0.7. Some minor changes, clean up, and formatting improvements. Nothing fancy, and not much fan fare, but I want to keep the online version up to date with my local copy.

The intent now is to do a bit of blind playtesting, let the game sit for a month or two, then release v1.0!

EDIT: v1.0 is finally done…definitely wasn’t just a “month or two” later haha. Always grab the latest rules from the Fickle RPG page

Fickle RPG v0.6 and the road forward

Today is a great day, as it’s release day! Specifically a new version of Fickle RPG. In theory I have finalized all the decisions from playtesting and brainstorming. Which means this v0.6 set of rules could become v1.0, with an art replacement and final read over for typos or mistakes.

So first of all grab the Fickle RPG v0.6 PDF and take a look!

What changed? Lots! If you’ve been following the development you know I’ve had a few ideas around player elimination on defeat, the idea of Karma/Luck/Fortune dice, renaming some elements (like Fate Coin), etc. After much playtesting and consideration I have locked down a lot of those elements with solutions I’m quite happy with.


  1. Art!: Yep, art is in, some of which you can see scattered around this post. Thanks to 4-5 hours of looking through http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/ that task is finally done. In addition I removed the zombie-specific tentacle images and went with a more generic “leaf” look to the pages and sheet.
  2. Luck Dice: Each person gets a Luck Dice when assembling their dice pool, and it’s normally a different size or color to distinguish. The Luck Dice can be allocated as normal to Fickle or Flat, and provide a more powerful version of either effect. If Fickle the Difficulty of just that Luck Dice is reduced by 1 (ie: Hard to Normal). If Flat it counts as 2 Successes instead of just 1.
    What this means is another great, meaningful, interesting decision has been added to the act of resolution. And because the overall dice pool sizes were reduced by 1 to accommodate (for example starting Attribute is now 3 instead of 4), a few annoying rules could be streamlined, such as total Stamina now being Attr+Attr instead of the awkward Attr+Attr-2. In addition NOT getting your Luck Dice makes a great punishment for players who are starting to be Defeated. All in all a fun, polished idea of the Karma Dice shared/common pool idea.
  3. Broken/Crushed/Defeated: Previously if a player was reduced to 0 Stamina in any Category they were Defeated and couldn’t participate. This wasn’t a ton of fun if it happened early on in a scene. So now there are 3 “stages” to Defeat: Broken, Crushed, Defeated. There are also cool new “Stamina Cards” to track and remember these stages per player. How it works is when a single Category is reduced to 0 Stamina, the player is Broken. They cannot use their Luck Dice, and cannot apply effects when Reacting (such as reducing enemy Stamina). BUT they can still otherwise act. And if everyone in the party is Broken, then the party wipes and loses the scene. Otherwise if a player gets 0 Stamina in TWO Categories they become Crushed. They suffer the cumulative effects of Broken, and also either lose the benefit of a Skill OR take a new -1 Skill (as an injury) for the rest of the session. And finally if they have 0 Stamina in all 3 Categories they are Defeated and only THEN can’t act. Stamina recovery after a scene is different too now, as you only recover 1 Stamina if you were Defeated, otherwise you don’t get any back.
  4. Skill Weakness: Now as part of generation you have to take a -1 Skill weakness, which should add even more flavor to characters.
  5. Game Session Example: Lengthy excerpt demonstrating a bit of a high fantasy session, which is nicely formatted and gives a good idea of the gameplay.
  6. Roll Testing: I wrote a simple software application to do every combination of Fickle/Flat/Luck to ensure there wasn’t a best path or approach to allocating. Some interesting results, and I’m quite happy with the spread.
  7. Defensive Reactions: I had an a-ha moment around these. The idea is if you wanted to React defensively, where you don’t try to do Stamina damage back, you don’t really get an advantage from that. When really the rules already covered that case, just no explicitly. Because the Difficulty of a check is based on the number of effects you apply, and since defensive Reactions are applying NOTHING, that means they should be 1 Difficulty easier, aka Easy 4+. So I didn’t even need to make a special corner case rule, I just had to state that fact. So happy with how easy that was.
  8. Exploit Coin: I renamed the Fate Coin to “Exploit Coin”, which makes for the also fun rename of “Tempt Fate” to “Exploiting”. I like the double meaning of heroic style exploit, and also the idea of exploiting the rules or a loophole. This was done to avoid the Fickle/Flat/Fate alliteration. But let me tell you I almost went the other way and committed fully to silly naming with Fickle/Flat/Fate/Fortune (instead of Luck Dice).

What’s Next?

Now I’m gonna post the rules a few places online to get feedback (hello to anyone who reached this post from a website!) Then I have a Star Wars mini-campaign to wrap up, a few one-offs to run (maybe Fallout, maybe Mass Effect). Then I want to get a non-placeholder piece of art for the game overview, basically of a game in progress at my home table. Then if I’m happy with everything I’m going to make the character sheet PDF a fillable form. I’m also going to add the game to https://rpggeek.com/ and maybe a few other places (like darkshire.net, and maybe DriveThruRPG). Then if I’m happy with everything I’ll make the game v1.0 in a month or two. Which means all in all Fickle RPG will have taken less than a year from the first rule I wrote for the game. Not a bad turn around! After that I’ll likely take a break, let the creative juices bubble, and come back to one of my many other projects (maybe Echo Death).

In the meantime enjoy the new version, I know I have been!