Your standard, Hollywood car chase is to Wushu-style Car-Fu as your standard, Hollywood fight scene is to Hong Kong-style wire-fu: boring and pedestrian! One of the unique advantages to role-playing is that you are not bound by physics, budgets, or concern for anyone's safety. Car-Fu is about using that freedom to create impossibly acrobatic car chases packed to the gills with over-the-top stunts, death-defying jumps, and enough property damage to bankrupt a major insurance company!
First, I'll outline the basics of running Wushu car chases, including game mechanics and stunt driving. Then, I'll show you how to use cars as melee weapons, the true nature of Car-Fu! The following section covers those flying cars you’re always hearing about. Finally, I'll round out the guide with profuse examples of play.
If all goes as planned, you'll be both inspired to engage in some impossibly agile automotive action, and better equipped to describe it in vivid detail.
Wushu car chases end when someone crashes, which makes them remarkably similar to combat...
Normal driving actions don’t require a roll, so they don’t require a Trait. When you find yourself in vehicular combat, most combat-related Traits will do. A driving-specific Trait would be nice for really over-the-top autobatics, but don’t worry if none of your heroes have one.
Roll Yang dice to force your adversaries off the road by weaving through traffic, shooting out their tires, jumping over chasms, crashing headlong into them, etc. Roll Yin dice to stop your adversaries from doing the same to you, either by evading them or by duplicating their stunts.
Like Yin dice, Chi is spent to keep your wheels on the road. The driver should be the one paying this toll, even if there are other heroes in the car. If the driver gets taken out, the car gets taken out. Generous Directors may restore some or all of a driver's Chi immediately after a crash (i.e. if no one was injured).
Yes, you can (and by all means should) have car chases with mooks! Swarms of police cars are great, but don’t discount biker gangs and Shriners. As usual, let your players describe the positions and actions of these mooks any way they wish.
An action that reduces a mook’s Threat need not be a direct attack. In a chase situation, Threat means pursuit. To get away clean, you have to knock out that Threat rating. Until that happens, there are always more mooks around the next corner.
If you’re going to perform car stunts in a Wushu game, you’ll have to know how to describe them, so pardon the brief digression into matters of mechanical reality...
There are two ways to spin a car: by changing its direction or its orientation. The former is useful for forward 180s and whipping around tight corners. It usually involves cranking on the emergency brake to make the rear tires to skid. Then, you turn the wheel until the car has spun around to the desired direction, and stomp on the gas! Don't forget to mention the squealing tires, burning rubber, and sweeping skid marks.
The second kind of spin involves reversing the vehicle's orientation without changing its direction. Most of the time, you'd do this when you're already in reverse and need to turn the car around without stopping. However, you could also spin the car from forward to backwards so you can shoot at someone behind you. (My stunt driving instructor could do reverse 180s, with one finger on the wheel, and only lose 5 mph.)
This stunt involves turning a vehicle 90 degrees from its direction of motion and then sliding to a sideways stop. It's much more expedient than traditional parallel parking. Again, the trick is using the e-brake to make one set of tires skid, then applying the regular brakes at just the right moment. This is a good way to turn tight corners at high speeds and an even better way to squish a few mooks (but more on that later).
This venerable stunt is much easier to pull off with a motorcycle. Cars usually need ramps to lift one side into the air, then it's all a matter of (unbelievable) balance. However, since it is possible to flip a car without a ramp, it's also possible to put a car into a wheelie without a ramp... by almost flipping it. This is quite useful for hurtling between oncoming vehicles, negotiating narrow alleys, and driving along vertical surfaces.
Now that the realistic stuff’s out of the way, let’s dive into the cinematic craziness!
Car-Fu requires an unreasonable degree of durability from your imaginary vehicles. In the real world, even a low-speed collision can cause structural damage to some makes and models, and few survive a high-speed collision in working order. In a Wushu car chase, expect even the most delicate of sports cars to endure numerous high-speed collisions with other vehicles, stationary objects, and many hundreds of bullets.
Gravity is always the first rule of physics you should break, since it's such a constant pain in the ass. Compared to their real world counterparts, vehicles in a Wushu game should 1) part with the ground much easier and 2) remain parted much longer. In fact, they should be able to jump at the drop of a hat: over railings, off speed bumps, even over each other.
You can add an acrobatic twist to any jump by starting a spin just before you leave the ground. When jumping into an intersection, a 90 degree spin (or a 270 degree spin, if you're feeling flashy) will put you in excellent escape position when you land. An 180 degree spin will put you on the ground in reverse, ready to blast away as witless pursuers sail over your head!
Wushu cars should be able to roll over like the family dog. You can pull out of a roll by hitting the gas and turning into the rotation, thus putting the car's wheels back under its center of gravity. Keep the pedal down and you'll end in a forward or back-wards spin. Escape a head-on collision by turning to the side (or box-sliding) at the last second, bouncing off the other car's hood, and rolling right over them.
Hit a short wall or railing at high speeds to turn a jump (not a crash, see above) into a backflip. The front of the car bounces upwards, providing lift for the jump and allowing the back tires to swing underneath. After a full rotation (or two, or three), land gracefully and continue in your original direction. To turn a back flip into a forward somersault, let the back tires slam into the wall or railing, too; they'll bounce back and swing above the rest of the car, reversing the direction of your flip.
This is a tricky one, but well worth the effort. Going into a jump, you'll tip the front tires down and to one side (or just run into a conveniently placed object). The back of the car will continue into the jump, like a back flip. When combined with the rotation you created by tipping to the side, the car should be right-side-up and facing backwards after half a flip. Then, land the sucker and either put it in reverse or floor the accelerator and drive straight beneath your pursuers!
In the real world, the most common way to kill with a car is by running someone over. In a Wushu game, trying that shit is just askin' for an ass whupin'! Unless they're a mook, your victim will probably jump up on the hood of your car, pull out a pair of uzis, and paint your upholstery arterial red. Or maybe they'll pull a Morpheus: dive to the side and take out your tire with a sword. Or they might hop up, extend one foot, and let the car's momentum carry your squishy face into their spike-heeled boot.
It's not the car's fault, though. Oh no. The car is both a mobile suit of armor and a gas-powered bludgeon. No one is ever unarmed behind the wheel.
Remember those spins from Stunt Driving 101? While they're changing your direction, they also channel a tremendous amount of force into the spinning end of your car. It's like swinging a club, if the club weighed about a ton, where made of metal, and was traveling 60 mph. Just speed towards your target, whip that car around, and send 'em flying into the brick wall across the street!
The motorcycle version is a bit different, since bikes have neither the mass nor the size of a car. Instead, they should combine the spin with a wheelie and smack pedestrian adversaries around with their front or back wheels. If it's the front wheel, remember that it can also rotate on its own for a nice 1-2 punch.
This one's a personal favorite. It's exactly the same as the regular box slide, except there's someone standing between where your car is and where it's going to be in a couple of seconds. Since you're hitting with the long side of your car, this trick is great for smackin' down whole groups of mooks at once. Then, take aim and shoot any survivors through the side windows. Makes a dramatic entrance.
In the motorcycle version, you'd tip your bike over and slide along the ground, knocking your enemies' legs out from beneath them. Since this is Wushu, you'd then be able to hop back up onto your wheels and either beat a hasty retreat or segue into a spin-whip!
Defensive Car-Fu consists exclusively of evasive maneuvers, the kind anyone would try when pursued by a truckload of gun-toting hillbillies or a hoard of ninja on motorbikes. Where the monkey dodge differs is that its evasive ducking and weaving is designed to send attackers careening into buildings, diving off cliffs, or crashing into each other!
Just what it sounds like: finish a jump by landing on top of an enemy. Squishing makes a great beginning or end for any Car-Fu combo. You can land on one enemy, then use the momentum for a box-slide smack-down. Or you could monkey dodge down an alley, jump over a fence, and squish the mooks waiting for you on the other side.
Use this trick as either a desperate last resort or a fiery diversion. Stick some kind of detonator on your car (explosives in the engine, oily rag in the gas tank, whatever), lay some weight on the accelerator, and point it at whatever you want to go BOOM! It's especially classy when the torpedo crashes through something on its way to the target, e.g. a garage door or a few panes of glass.
Some of my favorite movie car chases have taken place exclusively in the air. Freed from gravity, flying cars are even more agile than the ridiculous autobatics described above. The other benefit is that you get to deal with a full three dimensions of oncoming traffic!
Now, we're not talking about airplanes or helicopters, here. We're talking about flying cars in a sci-fi setting, which are usually powered by some kind of "hover" technology. They can float, they can spin, they can tilt in any direction, and they can achieve incredible degrees of acceleration and agility. In other words, you get to careen between skyscrapers a mile above the ground with the speed of a jet fighter and maneuverability that would put a hummingbird to shame.
Use Car-Fu stunts and combat moves as described above, but don't bother with all that physics-related hand-waving. A spin is still a spin, whether you do it by skidding on your back tires or just because your vehicle can move in any direction. Either way, the mooks you squashed with that box-slide smack-down aren't gettin' up any time soon!
Regardless of the technology that makes it possible, aerial combat remains fundamentally the same. The closer you are to a target, the easier it is to hit. That's why it's best to attack from above and behind your enemy: you can dive towards them (using gravity to gain speed), take your shot up close and personal, then rocket past them to a safe distance. Ambush tactics are usually the best tactics. If you're really a bastard, try to get between your enemy and the sun, so it shines right in their eyes.
When being attacked, there are two things you probably don't want to do: dive and climb. If you dive, your attacker will just follow suit... and open fire. If you climb, you'll have to fight gravity, and that means losing speed. A much better option is to weave back and forth evasively, trying either to lose them or to loop around behind them. If you've got guts, roll your vehicle upside down and pull "up," diving towards the ground. Once you've pulled around 180 degrees, you'll be heading back towards your attacker at even greater speed!
Of course, the miracle of hover technology does give us a few new options...
If you've got a bogie bearing down on you fast, make like you're going to pull up into a vertical climb. Then, cut the power and fall backwards towards the ground. Fire straight up and perforate your opponent with an unholy hail of bullets!
Same bogie as before, but now put your car in reverse and tilt so you're facing down, but backing straight up. Shoot the crap out of the mook as he flies in front of and beneath you, then put it back in drive and blast off in almost any direction!
Flying around inside a large structure makes for an exciting car chase! It's also a great way to shave off a few dozen mooks who just won't leave you alone. Buildings under construction are always good, since they tend to have fewer intact walls and floors. The key is to monkey dodge like a mad man and get your pursuers to hit every available girder, scaffold, or exploding power generator!
Finally, there are a few things you'll need to consider when, not if, your hover car goes the way of the dodo. First, crashes are a lot more deadly when you fall a mile or so before hitting the ground. Second, it's harder to roll out of a vehicle at the last second when there's no ground to roll out onto. Fortunately, these are problems that the manufacturers of hover technology will have already put some thought into (I hope)...
Residual Charge - The first option is to build your hover devices so that they retain their charge for a few minutes, even when damaged or without power. That way, you'd at least have enough time to crash into a nearby building. A weaker, back-up hover system would do the same job.
Hover 'Chutes - Think of these as personal hover back-ups. They envelop the wearer in a zero-g field that lets them jump to safety, survive long falls, or even float in place for a minute or two. Note that such devices could also be used for the occasional wall-running stunt or gravity-defying gymnastics trick. (Hell, give 'em longer battery life and you'd have Matrix-style wire-fu in the real world!)
Overdrive (Car-Fu 5) has a friend who's being held prisoner on a zombie-infested cargo ship. Overdrive's partner crept aboard a few minutes ago and Overdrive is his cavalry. He’s idling his Ferrari 456M on the far side of the dockyard when the rat-a-tat-tat of his partner's auto pistol shatters the stillness.
He rockets over the wooden planks, straight towards a tugboat docked near the freighter. He crashes through its cabin wall and sails upward, using the boat as a ramp. Two members of the zombie crew barely have enough time to look up before Overdrive's death car crushes them into the deck. He slams on the e-brake and twists into a box-slide, smacking down three more undead sailors. (6 dice)
Zombies don't tend to stay down, so you give the mooks a Threat rating of 9. Overdrive has Chi to burn, so he goes on the offensive: 2 Yin dice and 4 Yang. He rolls his obligatory Yin hit and puts a nice dent in that Threat rating with 3 Yang hits.
His partner and the hostage pile in the back seat while Overdrive covers them with angry bursts of fire from his Heckler & Koch UMP. He jumps the car forward to slam the door closed, then throws it into reverse and spin-whips a half dozen zombies, launching them over the starboard railing and into the drink. He zips through the gap in the zombies' perimeter and guns for the railing. (5 dice)
The zombies are still a respectable Threat 6, which is plenty to challenge a single player. Again, Overdrive rolls 2 Yin dice and 4 Yang. They all come up roses. Overdrive's Ferrari remains amazingly unscathed and the zombies lose over half of their Threat rating.
Overdrive hits the starboard railing and pops over it, flying across the watery gap to a freighter on the next dock. Sailors dive for cover as the Ferrari blasts across the deck, hits the far railing, and leaps onto a cargo crate being lifted off the ship. He pauses for a moment while the crane swings the crate over the wharf, then hurtles off, drops onto the dock with a seismic THUD, and tears off into the night! (filibuster)
Overdrive grabs his 6 dice, keeps 1 for defense, and rolls 5 to make sure those zombies think twice about pursuing him! Unfortunately, his Yin die is a failure, so he cashes in a point of Chi (and laments the damage to his Ferrari's shocks). On the other hand, 4 of his Yang dice hit, which annihilates the Threat. He and his companions get away clean.
The players move directly to the next scene. Had they not beaten the Threat on that roll, the Director would have created another obstacle or unleashed a wave of zombie pursuers (on poorly-tuned motorcycles, I’d imagine).
Krazy Klyde (Wheelman 5) and the Sixgun Samurai (Death Machine 5) are being chased across a post-apocalyptic wasteland by a trio of leather-clad road pirates (Kill People & Take Their Stuff 3). The pirates have an armored truck with two machine gun nests on sidecars. Our heros have a nitrous-boosted stock car. Having decided that dodging machine gun fire isn't as much fun as he'd imagined...
Klyde weaves onto the shoulder and backflips off a vaguely ramp-shaped bit of rubble. Two streams of bullets follow him as the car rotates in mid-air, then lands right atop the armored truck! His shocks groan in protest. (6 dice) The two pirates hoot and holler like crazed hyenas as they let loose hundreds of red-hot rounds at their prey. The truck's driver hits the brakes, trying to knock Klyde off his perch. (4 dice)
Klyde collects his 6 dice, keeps 2 Yin for dodging bullets, and puts the rest into his insane backflip maneuver. He gets 2 Yin and 2 Yang hits. You roll a fistful of Yang and get 2 hits, but it’s not enough to beat Klyde's pair. You cash in both of the driver’s 2 Chi. (That’s a total of 6 Chi for the nemeses, equal to the two players’ total.)
Sixgun climbs out the passenger window, trench coat flaring around him. He jumps into the air and unloads his revolver into one of the gunners. (4 dice) Klyde floors the accelerator as Sixgun clears the car, launching himself out in front of the truck. (2 dice) Both henchmen abandon their machine guns to climb onto the roof, while the driver tries in vain to keep up with Klyde. (2 dice)
Since he's not being actively attacked, Sixgun puts all 4 of his dice into killing that pirate. He rolls 3 Yang hits. The pirate rolls 1 die for defense, but it comes up a failure. He takes 3 hits and doesn't have the Chi to cover it. He's road rubble. The other pirate climbs onto the roof unopposed. Klyde declares all 3 of his dice Yin, just in case that truck driver gets lucky. He only gets one Yin hit, but your one remaining die isn't enough to cause Klyde any trouble.
Back atop the truck, Sixgun spins his sidearm back into its holster and draws his sword. The acid-etched blade glints brightly as he slashes across his enemy's throat. Then, another gun pops into his hand from its spring-loaded sleeve holster and more bullets blast towards his adversary. (6 dice) Surprised by the ferocity of this attack, the pirate brings an armored forearm up to deflect the blade, spins sideways to avoid the bullets, and kicks savagely at Sixgun's knees. (4 dice)
Sixgun rolls 4 Yang and 2 Yin, getting 3 Yang hits and 1 Yin. The pirate devotes 3 dice to defense and 1 to attack, netting only 1 hit of each. Sixgun's knees escape serious injury, but the pirate loses 2 points of Chi, which is all he had. He's still up, but he's feelin' the pain.
Meanwhile, Klyde's getting fed up with this armored truck. He hits the nitrous, spins the car around 180 degrees, slams the stick into reverse, aims his shotgun right between the truck driver’s eyes, and blasts a slug through both their windshields! (5 dice) Said truck driver rebounds off his seat and slumps over the wheel, leaning on the gas... (2 dice)
Klyde rolls all of his dice to attack and gets 5 Yang hits. The truck driver's meager 2 Yin both come up lucky, but it's not enough to save him. If he had “lived,” you would have continued to menace Klyde with an out-of-control truck. As it happens, Klyde gets to describe the crash as his Coup de Grace.
Sixgun has his opponent on the ropes when the truck lurches sideways, so he smoothly sheathes his blade and leaps towards the stock car, firing backwards at the pirate. (4 dice) The pirate hugs the chassis and prays to his pagan gods. (2 dice) Klyde cuts the nitrous booster and taps the brake, trying to nudge the car into position beneath Sixgun's fall. (3 dice)
Trusting Klyde to catch him, Sixgun declares all 4 of his dice Yang and rolls 3 hits. The pirate rolls 2 Yin dice, but only gets 1 hit and joins his departed brothers in henchman hell. Klyde's action is unopposed, so he just rolls all 3 dice and hopes for at least one success, which he gets!
Sixgun hits the hood in a backwards roll and flops down on the roof, safe and sound. The armored truck is a spectacular wreck!
The Hound (Bounty Hunter 5) pursues his next collar, Scarab Jones (Gangbanger 5), as the latter flees across the city's skyline on his signature Harley. Scarab's engine roars like a lion as he leaps over an alley and bites into the rooftop on the other side. He fires two shotgun blasts over his shoulder, turning the jump into a kill zone. (5 dice) The Hound's Yamaha purrs like a chrome kitten as he leans to the left, scraping his knee on the gravel just as the buckshot flies past. He sails over the chasm, hot on Scarab’s heels. (5 dice)
You roll 5 dice for Scarab and make them all Yang, getting 4 hits. The Hound also rolls 5; since he just wants to see where Scarab is going, he puts them all into defense and gets 4 Yin hits. All of the dice cancel out, so no one has to spend any Chi.
Scarab continues his flight by using a stack of pottery to jump through the back wall of a greenhouse, leaving a mine field of broken glass for the bounty hunter, then rockets through an apartment window across the street. (5 dice) The Hound hits the roof with a spray of tiny stones and weaves left around the greenhouse. He hits the skids a split second before reaching his own jump and flies towards the apartment, using his bike as a shield. (5 dice)
Once again, Scarab puts all 5 of his dice into offense and The Hound sinks his into defense. Scarab only manages to roll 3 Yang hits, which The Hound easily turns aside with his 5 Yin.
Scarab commands the half dozen ganger mooks inside the apartment to grab their guns and put his pursuer in the dead book! The Hound lets their bullets ricochet off his cycle as he crashes through the window and squishes two thugs. He pops back up into a front wheelie in the center of the room and spin-whips a few more with the back tire. Then, he pulls his desert eagle on Scarab. "You're under arrest!" (6 dice)
The chase segues into mook combat. You assign a Threat level of 3 to the thugs, because you want this resolved in a single round. The Hound gets 6 dice, keeps one for defense, and sinks the rest into whackin' mooks. He gets his obligatory 1 Yin, so loses no Chi, and more than beats the mooks with 4 Yang hits.
With nowhere left to run, the Scarab drops his weapons and demands his phone call.
Rave (Rogue Super-Soldier 5) is peeling military police (MPs) off of her stolen hummer as she tries to escape from a military R&D installation. She fires a quick burst from her micro uzi through the passenger side door, turning it and an MP into Swiss cheese. Then, she steers the hummer into a building, scraping more MPs off the other side. (5 dice)
This is an in-media-res opener. You set the dice pool limit at 8 and put 12 points of Threat between Rave and freedom. The player keeps her obligatory Yin die and rolls the other 4 Yang. All come up hits. That reduces the Threat to 8.
Another hummer rushes straight toward Rave from the base's perimeter. "Chicken," Rave notes. "Delicious.” She roars towards her keeper... and cranks the wheel at the last second, tipping her hummer sideways and rolling over the other car's hood! She hangs on as the vehicle rolls twice more, then regains verticality and makes for the fence. (7 dice)
Rave keeps 1 Yin die and rolls the other 6 as Yang. Her Yin die comes up a 6, so she cashes in a point of Chi to stay in the game. However, she does score 5 Yang hits, slashing the Threat down to 3.
The enemy hummer gets its bearings and turns to pursue. Rave aims for a stack of large, metal pipes in front of the perimeter fence. She jumps one side of the hummer off the pipes, which sends her into a cartwheel that barely clears the fence. Its razorwire scrapes across the hummer's grill, shooting sparks into the night air. (6 dice)
Still smarting from last round, Rave chooses a safer split: 2 Yin and 4 Yang. Both of those Yin come through for her, so she gets to keep her Chi, but she only gets 2 Yang hits. There’s a hellhound still on her trail.
The hummer hits the ground in reverse and Rave brings her uzi to bear. She shoots through her own windshield, through the chain link fence, and peppers the other hummer's tires with lead! (4 dice)
Rave wants to make damn sure she's not followed, so she throws caution to the wind and rolls all 4 dice for her attack. She automatically loses a point of Chi for not having any Yin, but it's a small price to pay. Rave nets 3 hits, which is just enough to make her getaway.
Its tires rendered useless, the enemy hummer wipes out on the stack of pipes and rolls into the fence. Rave spins a reverse 180 and takes off into the night.
Free Radical (Cyber Punk 5) is stopped at an intersection, thinking she lost the feds ten blocks back, when she spots flashing lights in her rear viewscreen. A cop's coming in fast, at a shallow dive from two traffic levels up.
She disengages her skycar's auto-pilot, puts the hover drive in reverse, and pitches her nose down. As the cop flies beneath her, struggling to brake, she opens fire with a pair of concealed railguns! (6 dice)
What Free Radical doesn't know is that this is just the first of several squad cars on her tail! You gives the mooks a Threat of 12. Free Radical decides to play it (relatively) safe and splits her 6 dice evenly between attack and defense. She rolls 2 Yin hits (she only needs one) and 3 Yang. That squad car's in a world of hurt!
Three more bogies light up Free Radical's viewscreen, so she dives straight down, weaving through one traffic layer after another at breakneck speed! Finding herself surrounded by the smokey lights of an industrial complex, she pulls into a loose spiral and crashes through the upper-level windows of an automated factory. (5 dice)
Feeling a bit more confident, Free Radical keeps only 1 Yin die and declares the other 4 Yang. She gets 3 Yang hits, reducing the Threat to 6. The bad news is that her Yin die failed, so the player has to fork over a point of Chi.
One of the squad cars misses the turn, but the other two soar in after her. Free Radical streaks over the factory floor, looking for a good place to lose her pursuers. She dips down towards an assembly line and begins weaving between the arc welders like a slalom skier with a death wish. With her off hand, she cues up her onboard AI and runs a schematic analysis of the factory. (5 dice)
Wincing from last round, Free Radical goes more defensive: 2 Yin dice and 3 Yang. This time, she has plenty of Yin, but only manages 2 Yang hits. That leaves the mooks' Threat level at 4.
Free Radical's viewscreen fills with architectural overlays of the factory's various systems. Veering into a service corridor, she heads for the plasma conduits that feed a foundry on the floor below. She box-slides to a stop in full view of the pursuing squad cars... and waits. Just as the lead car opens fire, she cuts her hover drive and drops to the floor. The bullets sail over her and rupture the conduits, spraying plasma over her head and down the corridor! (6 dice)
Free Radical would like to avoid getting any plasma on her sweet ride, so she splits her 6 dice evenly again. She gets 2 Yin hits and 3 Yang hits, leaving the cops with just 1 Threat level. The hood of the lead car literally melts away in the plasma stream, but the second car bursts through the wreckage, still in hot pursuit!
Free Radical decides it's time to go Millennium Falcon on this jerk. She amps up the hover drive and pulls into a steep climb, weaving through the unfinished levels on the back side of the building. She opens up with her railguns, filling the already cramped space with falling debris. (5 dice)
Free Radical rolls 2 Yin and 3 Yang, pulling in 1 Yin hit and 2 Yang hits. More than enough.
The cop collides with one bit of shrapnel too many and veers into a support beam. The explosion blasts Free Radical through the last story and back into open sky!Next: Wyrd-Fu