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I am running a D&D 5e Star Wars campaign. The characters received a prophecy that told them the only way to prevent galaxy-ending destruction was to kill the Sith Lord, and that it must be done within the month.

Each adventure, and session, takes about 4 days on average in-game.

I would like to have it come down to the wire time-wise to help with an epic boss battle. However, the player's are frustrated by seeming to run around in circles hunting the Sith and not getting anywhere.

How can I still make the chase take a month, but keep players invested and interested, as well as happy?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I assume, since you're calling this a chase, that the Sith Lord is basically just running away from the party and the party is having to follow the Sith Lord around until they can catch up? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jan 9 at 22:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ they track him down somewhere, he escapes, they have to track him down again. wherever he is prevents challenges to get there. \$\endgroup\$ – Evoker of Mulmaster Jan 9 at 22:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm gonna take the chance to remind everyone to keep answers in answers, to make sure those are comprehensive and solid, and to back them up. Answers should draw upon experience in constructing and running chase campaigns, ideally in the Star Wars setting for D&D 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jan 9 at 23:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since when is star wars d&d 5e? \$\endgroup\$ – Eternallord66 Jan 9 at 23:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be useful to explain/link what ruleset you are using to make D&D 5e Star Wars a thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jan 9 at 23:27
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Montage some of the less important moments.

I've had some experience with long travel moments through dangerous territories in my games where originally I was having the players play out the encounters. However, after about 2-3 sessions I realised that these encounters, or fluff, were taking up way too much time and the players weren't enjoying it.

What I ended up doing was narrating these encounters, or their travel in general, rather than have it play out in game. This saved much more time, allowed the players to actually reach their destinations and begin to play out the actual relevant story parts.

Instead of having them roll to find the Sith, walk there, roll attacks as he flees, and then have them watch as he runs, narrate parts of it instead. An example of this could be:

Over the course of the next week you guys manage to locate the Sith lord again on Korriban. You carefully tracked him to his hideout there only managing to catch a glimpse of him boarding his ship and escaping.

Depending on how much the players enjoy this type of game, you may even want to reduce this chase scene down even more by narrating something like this:

After chasing the Sith lord for 2 weeks, from planet to planet, the Sith always just managed to escape even when it seemed that you have succeeded in cornering them. Finally (at the end of that month long period) you have managed to track them to ...

From here have the players play out the final showdown with your Sith lord BBEG.


Allow the players to play out these scenarios, but if it is possible for them to capture them now, allow it to happen.

I am a fan of allowing the players to decide the story. By setting a hard month time period where the players are unable to capture their enemy, as every time they escape because plot armour, is not fun for all players. Some players may enjoy being more immersed in the story, though some players may prefer to only be guided by the story.

One option is to allow your players to play out these encounters, but reward them if they come up with a good plan or succeed in capturing the Sith before your month time period is up. If you really want it to come down to the wire, I would go with my first option. Otherwise if you are okay with allowing your story to change, let the characters succeed if that is how it plays out.

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Introduce some tangible measure of progress that doesn't keep getting snatched away from them

It's understandable that your players would be frustrated by this situation - they have one objective, which is to defeat this Sith Lord, and every time they actually manage to get close to him, he escapes and they're back to square one with nothing to show for their efforts. That's pretty demoralising, because it feels like they're achieving nothing and they aren't. However, if in the process of chasing down their foe, they are also achieving some other tangible objective which doesn't get walked back, it won't be nearly so frustrating.

For instance, if they know the Sith Lord has established 5 secret bases, and by tracking him down they're also locating and destroying his bases/projects, there's still a sense of progress. Even if he manages to get away again, what was once 5 bases is now 4, and the enemy has one less place to hide, and his secret weapon has been destroyed, etc. Then the feeling becomes one of whittling down the opponent until they finally pin him down and can defeat him once and for all, rather than the feeling of constantly playing catch-up.

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Make it more about the hunt, as opposed to a chase. Although those 2 terms are similar the difference is subtle. In the hunt the players are narrowing down their enemy's options, circling closer and closer to the place they know their quarry must be.

To borrow a line from Serenity:

"If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to"

The mini adventures over the month could all be about stripping away the Sith's resources, killing his allies, creating a situation in which the player's know where the Sith will be, when and with what goal in mind.

Each step along the way they get a tangible sense of accomplishing something, probably with other benefits beyond just moving towards their final objective.

Finally, at last, the trap is sprung and the final battle begins.

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Adapt 4e-Style Extended Skill Challenge Mechanics

This pre-supposes familiarity with 4e skill challenges, but they are simple enough in concept and execution that they can be readily extended to 5e. The basic idea is that a complicated but non-combat scenario is modeled by a sequence or a collection of skill checks, each skill check contributing to (or detracting from) the overall success of the group.

I have run extremely satisfying (for both myself as GM, and the players based on immediate feedback.) I don't know the details of the situation (they could be chasing him on foot through a single city or across the wilderness of a single planet, or could be chasing him in ship across space) but I can tell you what I learned running chases of my own. For the purposes of examples, I'll use the best chase I ran, which was a cross-country forest chase of a wounded firebird intent on reaching a location first and destroying it:

  1. The absolute key, in my experience, is to give the players some immediate and obvious sense that they really are reaching their goal. I cannot possibly stress this enough. The first few skill challenges I ran, I knew how many successes were necessary and how close the players were to successfully completing it, but I failed to communicate that to them-- they had no perception of progress, interpreted that as failure, and gave up. I think you are facing the same problem here from your question and a recent comment.

    I'm not sure what your criteria would be, here. It's dependent on your game and set-up. Mine was very simple-- the players could see themselves gaining or losing ground as they chased the bird. Yours might be similar-- "No, he was only here long enough to set this trap," vs, "You must be getting closer, you can see his ship leaving." It might be the resources he brings to bear in a fight. It might be something specific to your game that I can't picture.

    But whatever it is, it MUST be obvious. My players knew the skill mechanics rules, and I remember just telling them at one point, "Yeah, it looks like you're one success away," because it MUST be obvious. If your players don't feel progress, they will feel like they're failing. And failing isn't fun.

  2. Give every character an opportunity to shine. In my forest chase, sometimes the challenge was geared pretty obviously to a particular character: The strong characters would need to jump across a rill to secure ropes; a nature-skilled character would need to judge how close to an aggressive animal lair they could get without provoking a delay; a nimble character would be a natural choice to see if those rocks across the river are stable enough to walk across.

    This keeps all the players invested. In this case, try very hard not to make it just an endless succession of navigation checks. The rest of the players will have little to do. Think nav checks, and fast talk checks to get past checkpoints, and piloting checks for crazy shortcuts, and whatever else you can think of to involve everyone as long as it fits your game.

  3. Never have part of a challenge that you don't have a "right answer" in mind for. This is counter to a lot of GM advice where you might want to pose a problem with no set answer and let the players impress you. I have found it doesn't work in a chase situation (or, honestly, in skill challenges in general.) If anything, if the players got stumped, I would usually give them a small hint, but then up the difficulty slightly at the same time. Basically, if the players get confused in a chase, the suspense and possibly the chase itself is over.

  4. That said, be willing to let the players impress you with their creativity, and be generous in letting players combine talents for successes. Because again, this keeps everyone interested.

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Let them make progress

Progress should be apparent. Maybe after their first investigation they find a safe house that has been abandoned for months, but they find some clues there which lead them to a bar on some rimward planet. At the bar they find a contact who saw someone matching the Sith's description about three weeks ago. As they get additional clues let them get closer and closer. Maybe even have a run in with the Sith, but he sends some mooks to hold off the party while he gets away! If they flub an investigation or get sidetracked by side-quests let him get "further away".

Chasing the same McGuffins

Alternatively have him be after some of the same McGuffins the party is chasing (whatever that is for your campaign). If he starts beating them to the punch they're going to be even more incentivised to either catch & stop him or go faster to get to the McGuffins first.

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Complicate the chase with problems the players won't want to ignore

You don't want to curtail their freedom, so add in narrative reasons for them to choose to pursue other goals along the way, extending the time it takes through their own actions. This is something I've done during my own chases in Dungeons & Dragons, with small isolated villages and settlements across a country; it will work just as well (if not better) across planets in the Star Wars context.

Killing the Sith Lord is important, but they have a month to find them, so throw in narrative complications on each planet they track the Lord to. These could be incidental, but it will likely be more satisfying if they are linked to the Sith Lord's presence - either a side-effect of their passage, or something they've deliberately left behind to slow down the player characters.

Perhaps they left behind a Dark Side enhanced plague on one planet that only Force-users can help cure; on another planet the Lord’s fanatical followers are terrorising or oppressively ruling the population; on another the crops are blighted because of Dark Side corruption that needs to be cleansed.

The players could choose to ignore these things and rush after the Lord, but there will be a great cost that heroes shouldn’t be willing to pay...

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