Today's post contains a table I created to help resolve a problem that I have had come up more than a few times while game mastering over 30+ years. The problem is the PC's have decided to chase someone and the GM doesn't want them to catch that someone. As DM, you can simply state that the target gets away, but I prefer to have a story element to blame so that the PC's don't feel railroaded. I also use these same sorts of entries for "missed" perception rolls, so that the player gets something even if he or she believes their roll might have been too low. You may be able to come up with other uses for them, as well.
While on the subject of chases, I want to share this cool one page adventure that was won the best swashbuckling adventure in the 2013 One Page Dungeon Contest. Click on the picture below to be taken to the pdf archives for the 2013 contest. You are looking for the adventure that looks like the picture ; ) The title of this wonder is Only Acrobats Need Apply and it was written by Andrew and Heleen Durston. In this adventure, it is the PC's who are being chased, but it could easily be reworked with a little effort.
One more cool thing for chases and chase scenes is music. I choose music based upon the circumstances that my players are currently in, but below is a link to an archived reddit post about chase music that is excellent place to start. Good chase music can really help set the mood for a chase in any RPG setting. Without further delays, here are 10 NPC Distractions to Allow Villains to Escape in the City. Happy Gaming!
The villain ducks down a street where four shopping housewives are fighting over an apple cart vendor's selection. The villain makes his escape as the PC's are blocked and drawn into the domestic squabble.
The pursuit leads onto the docks, which are busier than normal today because over a dozen local government and guild officials are inspecting the fishermen and fish merchants to certify their compliance with regulations. You lose track of your target in the chaos.
The villainess swiftly vaults up a wall and makes her way into the next street over. As you give chase, you find that there is a crowd gathered here to watch two street poets "battling" each other with the aid of minor magic effects. Your quarry slips away in the crowd.
The bad guy leads you into the temple district. Just as you are closing on him, your group runs headlong into another fleeing fugitive, who will make apologies and dash off. Moments later you hear the cries of "stop thief!" and the pursuers of this villain are upon you, asking you questions, etc. Where did your guy go? Damn!
The chase leads you into the main square. It is filled with people awaiting either the public execution of a druid, or his last minute aquittal. The crowd is split about what they want and the scene is on the edge of public chaos. The situation is perfect for concealing the escape of the person that you were chasing.
A halfling juggler is entertaining a dozen or so people while his partner is picking their pockets. Your quarry escapes, making a ruckus in the street by revealing the pickpocket to the crowd of distracted locals.
The villain makes a quick turn down a long straight alley. You are sure you will have him cornered. All at once, the alley is full of brawling drunks as bouncers throw 2 pirates brawling with 4 cultists out the back door of a tavern. Your bad guy manages to slip away before you can catch him.
Your prey ducks onto a side street and you follow. A shepherd with two dogs is trying to round up his herd of sheep who scattered when they were frightened after being accosted by three drunken mercenaries exiting a pub. Somewhere between the sheep, the dogs, and the drunks, you lose your target.
You can see your target and you know where she is going. You make a sharp turn into a narrow alley to cut her off. You come face to face with four body guards, three harlots, a large donkey, and a member of the nobility. You can forget about finding your target now, she'll be long gone once you've worked your way out of this mess.
You lose sight of your target for a moment behind a line of people, but then see him turn right into the plaza ahead. When you get into the plaza, you see the resulting chaos of a slave auctioneer that is assaulted with rotting vegetables thrown by screaming abolitionists. You have lost sight of your man.