Project 2050: Vehicles

So, of course, no modern or near future setting would be complete without a sweet ride. So, vehicles!

The way 5e handles vehicles is pretty simple: it doesn’t. Okay, yeah, there is a tool proficiency called “Vehicles(land)” associated with a background or two (the Folk Hero comes to mind). However, that proficiency is never really used. I have played a lot of 5e over the past year, and I have never once seen this proficiency used. I’m not even sure how I would go about doing it. “Yeah, I’d like to really cart this cart. Like, extra super cart it.” “Sure, Vehicles(land) check, por favor.”

Not likely.

I have a feeling it was tossed in to give players and DMs an option for some expanded tool use, but it’s really just not useful. However, they were definitely onto something!

Vehicles are tools, not skills

In the half dozen or so modern or future setting RPG systems I’ve played, “driving” or “piloting” was always a skill at which one could get better. This is a very vague concept for a fairly isolated skillset. After all, one can be the best race car driver in the world and not know the first thing about motorcycles. Yet, these would both be applications of a single “drive” skill roll.

5e had a good start by considering vehicles to be tools, but it, too, was a little too vague. Vehicles(land)? So I’m proficient with every type of land vehicle? That seems… unlikely.

Here’s how I’m going to break it down, each being a separate tool proficiency:

  • Vehicles (riding) Things like motorcycles, ATVs, etc.
  • Vehicles (personal) Cars, pick-up trucks, even smaller box trucks
  • Vehicles (commercial) Anything that requires a CDL such as tractor-trailers, buses, construction equipment
  • Vehicles (military) A broad category covering all common military transport vehicles, though they may fall into other categories as well (a WWII Jeep is both military and personal)
  • Vehicles (armor) This category is for vehicles that are also weapons platforms, like tanks, APCs, etc.

The most important thing to remember is that, in 5e, a tool proficiency represents specialized training and practice with that tool. So, not being proficient in a vehicle tool doesn’t mean you don’t know how to drive. If you’re an adult, you probably do. However, you’re going to do it about as well as every other schmoe out there.

Proficiency, on the other hand, is what makes player characters heroic. The very fact that they get increasingly better at stuff is what sets them apart from the other 99% of people who do not go on to become adventurers.

So yeah, any competent adult can hop in a car and drive it to their destination without much trouble. However, if that adult needs to do a high speed chase through crowded streets and jump over a levy, she should probably be proficient in that kind of vehicle.

Vehicles in Combat

I’ve thought long and hard about how to do this, because it’s not as simple as it may seem. My gut was just to consider a vehicle to be a “fast horse,” and therefore simply use the mounted combat rules. However, a horse is far more difficult to control than a car, mostly because my car isn’t going to be spooked by a crisps wrapper.

So, here’s what I’m going to do: all vehicles move up to 90 feet every round (unless some remarkably slow vehicle, like the tractor that carries the space shuttle). It becomes way too easy to be bogged down by top speeds, accelerations, etc. Combat is very small in scope and even the lengthiest most epics fights are usually over in under ten rounds. So, to keep things simple, all vehicles will just move the same amount, which is a bunch.

Additionally, driving a vehicle over normal terrain doing normal things (turning, accelerating, etc.) will require a bonus action on the driver’s turn (in addition to her movement). If the vehicle must traverse difficult terrain or do something more tricky (drift around a corner, do a sweet jump, etc.), that will require an action on the driver’s turn (in addition to movement and including any appropriate Vehicles tool roll).

Mounting and dismounting a vehicle will consume movement based on the vehicle table. For example, to hop on a motorcycle, it requires 5 feet of movement. But to clamber up into the cab of a big rig, that’ll take 15 feet. These are, very generally, based on the class of vehicle (a notable exception being the vehicle (military) class as that has a wide variety of vehicles in it).

If your vehicle is moving during your turn (even if you don’t process the movement until after your attack), you have disadvantage on attack rolls. This is the price of mobility.

Noodley vehicle stuff

A couple more points I want to make.

First, what happens if you’re struck by a vehicle? Well, it depends on how fast its going. If we’re out of combat, it’ll deal 1d6 per 5 mph of speed to a maximum of 20d6 (just like falling damage).

If we’re in combat and a character runs over another character, the target makes a DEX save at DC 10. Success moves the character to the nearest square wherein it will not be struck. Failure results in 2d6 damage.

Second, vehicles can take damage, but they have damage reduction instead of armor class. Vehicles are big, and easy to hit, but small weapons are very ineffective against them. For every source of damage, the damage reduction takes away that much damage before it is applied, to a minimum of 0.

So, here is a preliminary table of vehicles for 2050. This is all a work in progress, so understand that any and all of these numbers could change.

NameCostMount CostDamage ReductionHPFootprint (in squares)
Motorcycle200 gp5 ft410 (2d8)1x2
ATV200 gp5 ft414 (2d10+2)1x2
Car400 gp10 ft624 (4d8+4)2x3
Pickup600 gp10 ft632 (4d10+8)2x4
Tractor-Trailer2,000 gp15 ft848 (6d8+18)2x14
Bulldozer2,200 gp15 ft1054 (6d10+18)3x5
HMMWV2,000 gp10 ft854 (6d8+24)2x3
2.5 Ton Truck2,500 gp15 ft1072 (8d8+32)2x5
APC10,000 gp20 ft1288 (8d10+40)2x5
Tank25,000 gp20 ft1696 (8d12+40)3x6

Don’t forget to let us know what you think!