I have seen the tracking rules based on the survival skill and something bothers me: you take a -20 penalty to track a target at twice your speed (a.k.a hustle speed a.k.a a fleeing runaway speed on a long distance chase).

So how can you build an NPC who is good at catching his quarry? Any race, class, skills and feats are allowed as well as help from a dog, mount and other NPCs. The NPC must still be able to capture/kill his target. We assume the runaway has only the clothes on his back and a few hours head start. This could use the Survival skill or other means.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you interested in abilities that improve the Survival skill check or alternate methods of tracking that do not involve the Survival skill? \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jun 13 '18 at 17:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Both the objective is for an NPC, who can have class levels, to catch an runaway \$\endgroup\$ – Anonyme Jun 13 '18 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ how high level are you willing to make the NPC? \$\endgroup\$ – jneko Jun 13 '18 at 18:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ This needs to include how much of a head start the quarry has—as it stands, this is probably too broad. For example, if the quarry has, like, a three month head start, then it's probably time for magic, but if the quarry just left right now, the pursuer can probably just pepper the quarry with arrows from here until it falls down and, hey, mission accomplished. :-) Add to the question a window, and folks can help with the problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 13 '18 at 19:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think with a level range this is reopenable. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jun 14 '18 at 11:42

Using Survival

The Survival skill can be used without much issue. You require to make a single check, and if your quarry is moving at twice their speed, or even normal speed, they are not taking the necessary procedures to hide their track (ie: Stealth, which reduces your movement by half), and can be followed for as long as you want without making additional checks once you have found their track.

An animal companion with the Tracker archetype can move their normal speed at no penalty (at 6th level), and twice their speed with a -10 penalty when tracking by scent. A common dog has a Survival bonus of +8, meaning that they are a cheap solution and you could have many of them helping each other (see Aid Another) for a total of +8, plus +2 per additional dog.

If the dogs get a fresh trail, the DC for their Survival check is only 10, +2 per additional hour since the trail was made. So even if they are hiding their tracks (+5 to the DC and move at half speed), the dogs can casually Take-10 to keep tracking their quarry.

Keep in mind that a creature cannot normally move at twice their movement speed for long distances without becoming fatigued, and eventually exhausted. They can move twice their movement speed for an hour by hustling without getting fatigued, but once they hustle for another hour, they become fatigued, and if they do so again, they become exhausted. Once exhausted, they are done for, as the penalties will be enough to make them move at half their speed from now on. Which will make it even harder to hide their tracks, as using stealth will make them move at 1/4 their speed.

The nonlethal damage caused by forcing a march will prevent the character from recovering those conditions until the damage is healed.

In other words, unless they take a standard pace, they are bound to get tired and be forced to rest, so you will eventually find them. If they stop and try to hide their tracks, then you have time to get closer. But if you got a high enough bonus on your check, you will find their track again and keep pursuit. Slowly but certain.

If your goal is to have a high enough bonus so you can always track whoever you want, a ranger is probably the best option, considering that they gain a flat +1 bonus per 1/2 level, an increasing Favoured Enemy bonus, and another bonus if this pursuit is on their favoured terrain. So, at 3rd level we are looking at +5 bonus on top of whatever skill ranks, traits, feats or ability score you got.

At higher levels, this ceases to be a problem, as you have abilities like Swift Tracker (8th for rangers, 11th for slayers). But at levels that high, characters have non-mundane ways to make themselves harder to track (haste, fly, blink, planeshift, teleport, etc), from magical abilities or magic items.

You are describing a Pursuit

However. There are (better, personally) optional rules for long distance Pursuits in the Ultimate Intrigue, which basically divides the pursuit into 1-hour long phases where the pursuers must make survival checks and compare their results with their quarry's total movement in that 1-hour period.

A quarry can take the Obscure Trail tactic to attempt to make the pursuers lose your track:

Obscure Trail: Mark the terrain tile where a character starts and stops using this tactic. A character using this tactic reduces her progress by half in order to increase the DC to track her group by 5 throughout the marked section. This tactic requires the group to be quarries.

While the pursuers have the option to Fast Track:

Fast Track: A character using this tactic does not reduce her progress by half while tracking. However, she takes a –5 penalty on the Survival check to track. Abilities such as the ranger’s master hunter class feature negate this penalty.

So, using this optional rule, each group is trying to get advantage over the other while crossing a 12-mile long terrain, which works better than simply comparing movement speeds as if they were all walking in a straight line.

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Oddly, the scent ability turns out to not be useful here:

A creature with the scent ability can follow tracks by smell, making a Wisdom (or Survival) check to find or follow a track. The typical DC for a fresh trail is 10 (no matter what kind of surface holds the scent). This DC increases or decreases depending on how strong the quarry’s odor is, the number of creatures, and the age of the trail. For each hour that the trail is cold, the DC increases by 2. The ability otherwise follows the rules for the Survival skill. Creatures tracking by scent ignore the effects of surface conditions and poor visibility.

But, like most problems in Pathfinder, this can be solved with magic.

Specifically, the first-level spell deadeye's lore says:

You gain a +4 sacred bonus on all Survival checks for the duration of the spell, and you do not have to move at half your speed while traveling through the wilderness or while tracking.

This spell is available to a variety of classes including rangers.

If the target has recently been within a mile of your current location, you could also use the second-level spell commune with birds:

You utter a question in the form of a low-pitched bird call that can be heard up to a mile away, and can understand the responses given by birds in the area. Over the next 10 minutes, the birds reply as if you had asked them the question using speak with animals

Higher-level useful spells include the fourth-level spell locate creature (unfortunately its range is not as good) and the eighth-level spell discern location.

Another idea would be to play a druid, which could shapeshift into an eagle and follow its prey from the air.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There is no mundane way ? \$\endgroup\$ – Anonyme Jun 13 '18 at 17:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Anonyme Are you only interested in mundane ways? Because the question didn't say anything about excluding magic. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Jun 13 '18 at 20:20

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