How to Race a Chariot

This week, I’m very pleased to be hosting my very first guest post. Paul Baalham co-wrote Defenders of Midgard and the Midgard Bonus Bestiary, and contributed to the Midgard Bestiary for 4th Edition D&D. He is also a frequent contributor to Daily Encounter. This article presents some fun chariot racing rules for D&D 4e. With a little work, these can easily be adapted to 13th Age or other editions of D&D. If you stage your own chariot race at the Hippodrome, we’d love to hear how it turned out!

“The bright sea of colours on the stands, the excited roar of the crowd, the thunder of hooves and the rich, pungent aromas of sweat and horse shit. That’s chariot racing, dear boy!” – Plutinus, the Editor of the Games

In the city of Parsantium few experiences can top the thrill of taking part in a chariot race in front of a capacity crowd at the magnificent Hippodrome. The chariot races are a city-wide obsession, bringing together hordes of fanatical spectators from both halves of the divided city and often inflaming existing tensions in the process.

There are four chariot racing factions in Parsantium: the Blues and Whites from the Imperial Quarter, and the Reds and Greens from the Old Quarter. The Blues and Greens dominate the sport, so much so that it often seems the Reds and Whites are just there to make up the numbers – although they have been known to pull off a shock result on occasion.

If your players have managed to get onto one of the chariot racing teams, then here are some rules for you, best suited for the Heroic and Paragon tiers.

Up to 16 chariots can take part in a chariot race – typically five Green, five Blue, three Red and three White. If only one PC is taking part, make it an 8 chariot race. If two PCs are taking part, make it a 12 chariot race; any more, make it the full 16.

Typical stats for the chariots from each of the four factions are as follows:

Blue Chariot
A decent racing chariot but pulled by the fine horses of House Scipio
HP 12; Reflex 4 + the Reflex of the charioteer

Green Chariot
Green chariots are the sturdiest, but this comes at the cost of speed
HP 16; Reflex 2 + the Reflex of the charioteer

White Chariot
The White chariots are lightweight in construction but are often driven by capable soldiers from the garrison.
HP 10; Reflex 1 + the Reflex of the Charioteer

Red Chariot
The Reds lack the the wealth of their Blue and Green competitors, and often resort to getting young kids from the streets of the Old Quarter to drive their chariots
HP 12; Reflex: the Reflex of the charioteer

Rival NPC charioteers have skill bonuses and Reflex defense equal to the numbers below plus half of the level of the PCs taking part in the race (round down):

Mercurius (Blue faction)
A blond-haired, blue-eyed Bathuran with glistening white teeth, Mercurius is the city’s top charioteer and very cocky.
Endurance +4; Athletics +4; Nature +4; Reflex 15

Tarkhan Kadir (Green faction)
The Greens’ best driver, Tarkhan is a talented Aqhrani with an excellent rapport with his horses.
Endurance +3; Athletics +5; Nature +4; Reflex 13

Generic Blue and Green Charioteers
Names: Nazares, Regino, Paulia, Zeth (Blues); Fazil, Ishani, Madiva, Salman (Greens)
Endurance +2; Athletics +3; Nature +5; Reflex 13

Generic Red and White Charioteers
Names: Murat, Umit, Zohra (Reds); Boethius, Timon, Castinus (Whites)
Endurance +1; Athletics +2; Nature +3; Reflex 12

The Hippodrome by Matt Morrow

All chariots start the race at stage 12 at the bottom of the Hippodrome Track (see below). To get the race underway, have the players roll initiative. To speed things up, give all of the Blue chariots an initiative of 15, the Greens 14, the Whites 12 and the Reds 10. Each player takes their turn in order of initiative as they do in combat.


Stage 1 The winner crosses the finishing line!
Stage 2 Closing in on victory
Stage 3 Making a break from the crowd
Stage 4 On the home stretch now
Stage 5 The crowd are going wild!
Stage 6 You catch a glimpse of your trainer’s angry face
Stage 7 Halfway there
Stage 8 The horses are breathing heavier
Stage 9 Building up steam
Stage 10 There’s still a long way to go
Stage 11 Taking an early lead
Stage 12 And they’re off!

Each round, a chariot racer is able to use one of the following special powers on his or her turn:

Chariot Attack!        Chariot At Will Attack Power
Target: One chariot that is in the same stage of the Hippodrome Track that you are in.
Attack: Athletics v Reflex
Hit: The chariot takes 2d6 damage and drops down a stage on the Hippodrome Track.

Spur the Horses      Chariot At Will Utility Power
Effect: Make a Nature check. If the result is:

  • Higher or equal to Hard DC: You move up two stages on the Hippodrome Track
  • Higher or equal to Moderate DC, but lower than Hard DC: You move up one stage on the Hippodrome Track
  • Higher or equal to Easy DC, but lower than Moderate DC: You stay in the same stage of the Hippodrome Track
  • Lower than Easy DC: You move down one stage in the Hippodrome Track

Hold Steady             Chariot At Will Utility Power
Effect: Make an Endurance check (Moderate DC). If successful you have a +4 bonus to Reflex until the start of your next turn and advance one stage on the Hippodrome Track.

Be Aware                 Chariot At Will Utility Power
Effect: Make a Perception check (Moderate DC). If successful, the Track Debris hazard does not attack you until a new chariot crashes out.

As always, if the player comes up with something creative outside of the rules presented here, feel free to let them have a go. Select an appropriate skill and DC. If they don’t have a particular result in mind, then here are some suggested rewards for success:

  • add a bonus to their next attack roll
  • add a bonus to their Reflex for the next round
  • move up a stage on the Hippodrome Track
  • force a rival chariot down a stage
  • restore 1d6 chariot HP
  • force a rival charot into the Track Debris (debris attacks rival with +1 bonus)

If they are unsuccessful, let the wasted go be their only punishment, although there may be consequences on a natural 1….

Chariot races should be fast and furious. To reduce the time taken resolving the NPCs chariots’ turns, consider using these options:

1) Decide what the most dramatic outcome will be each round, rather than rolling.  Move the NPCs up or down stages to keep them close to the PCs or add some excitement by having one NPC take out another. It’s probably best to only have NPCs take out other NPC chariots once or twice to avoid stealing the spotlight from the PCs.

2) Roll once for each faction, so each chariot moves the same number of stages up or down that turn.

After the first chariot has crashed out, the Track Debris hazard comes into play, acting at the end of each charioteer’s turn. As more chariots crash out of the race, the more dangerous the track becomes. Can the player(s) hold on and claim victory?

Track Debris             Level 8
Hazard XP 350
The track keeps piling up with broken chariots and dead bodies. Will you be next?
As the race goes on, the track gets more dangerous, filling up with the debris of the chariots and the dead bodies of charioteers and occasionally horses.
Free Action at end of each Charioteer’s turn  *  Melee
Target: The charioteer whose turn is ending.
Attack: +0 v Chariot Reflex
Hit: The target takes 2d6 damage.
Special: The track debris gains a +1 cumulative bonus to hit for each chariot that has crashed out of the race.

The first chariot to reach stage 1 on the Hippodrome Track is the winner!


Art by Matt Morrow

4 thoughts on “How to Race a Chariot

  1. Excellent read! I really dig these kinds of alternate rules, as I find the default 4E vehicle rules to be hard to use in play. We have a chariot encounter in the Ashes of Athas adventure AOA1-3 The True Lesson Learned (info on requesting a copy here: ). I also liked the ideas in the DDI adventure Owlbear Run, where each Owlbear pulls a wagon and has special rules.


  2. The Dick Van Dyke classic “Step in Time” has been sung at our gaming table ever since we got through the Chimblies section of that adventure! 😃


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