On The Esclation

This post on Roger's Roles, Rules, and Rolls blog, which is rapidly becoming the sine qua non of the OSR theory discussion group, inspired me to add an Escalation die to my game. 

Why? Because it rips your arms out of your lazy boring sockets.

The short version: Every time someone rolls a seven or a thirteen, the escalation die gets incremented. This provides a bonus to hit and damage and a penalty to saves.

We tried it, and no one remembered.

On my character sheets, there is an escalation track. Anytime someone rolls these numbers on any die, they may mark in the next of ten dots on their escalation track. Once complete, there is a semi-circle with a "9" in it. The next time that player rolls a nine, they may clear their escalation track and raise one of their stats by one.


Questions you may have.

It seems like fighters will have their stats go up quicker, because they are more likely to roll dice with results of seven or thirteen.

It does! They will! This is by design.

Won't everyone die if the escalation die keeps going up?

It goes down by one after the end of every battle. It also gets reset if they return to town or take a rest. The general situation is that it keeps increasing.


  1. I recall the original post, and I thought it was an interesting idea, but how is such a metagamey rule in any way old school?

  2. That is an interesting question.

    Where does this assumption that metagaming is anti-old-school?

    It's my assumption that 'role-assumption' in 0D&D had to do with you being the person making the choice, your character only being an avatar ("That's bill's fighter. Move my cleric up") where names weren't even bestowed until 3rd level.

    At my table, there is no metagaming and players are allowed to use any information, resource, or idea they have with no regard to thought of what 'their character would know'.

    I always thought this was the most old school of all.

    1. What I meant by "metagamey rule" isn't metagaming in the sense of 'knowing things the character doesn't,' but rather rules which don't do anyting in particular to represent some aspect of the game-world.'

      This shouldn't be confused with abstraction, which is a whole 'nother beast. Hit points are an abstraction of skill, toughness, and luck, but they still represent something about the character.

      The escalation die, however, has nothing to do with the characters' abilities - it exists solely to make combat go faster, which ignores the fact that high level combats should take longer because they should be more complex than low-level combats - if a combat is grindy, it's because the players aren't being asked to make interesting choices.

      Out of curiosity, -C, when did you start playing rpgs?

    2. I started playing in 1985ish? At the old age of 8.

      Yeah, I think that's it then. I am completely unconcerned with character ability. They have the least of all factors to do with success on the player parts.

      There's a lot of non-representative mechanics in my games. Design from realism is actively avoided. I'm interested in an entertaining game that challenges players currently sitting at the table during the game.

    3. I don't believe 'challenging the players and 'representative mechanics' are mutually exclusive, and the games I enjoy playing manage to do both.

      As far as the 'character as avatar' thing goes, while there's a grain of truth in it, from my own experience a lot of what gets put out there as 'old school style' is like something viewed in a fun-house mirror.

    4. I don't believe I've put them in the category of mutual exclusivity.

      I value challenging the players at the table (not before hand with 'builds')

      I value design from fun (not design from realism).

      In my experience from writing computer games, running role playing games, and writing game supplements, have found that using realism as a design goal -- that is to stay making an additional rule to make things 'more realistic' or 'more symmetrical' -- negatively impacts the game in nearly all ways.

      I am not able to parse your last statement. I'm not sure what there is a grain of truth to, nor am I certain what you are referring to when you say 'what gets put out there', nor do I understand in what way it is distorted. I am very curious as to what you are saying.

    5. "I value design from fun (not from realism)" comes across as mutually exclusive to me.

      It's also possible we're working from a different understanding of what "realism" means in this context.

      As far as my last statement, I started playing with Holmes, when the only "Advanced" book was the Monster Manual, when we freely mixed in material from the OD&D supplements and Arduin. I find that many of the descriptions of 'old school' offered by gamers who started around the peak of the wave of rpg popularity in the mid-Eighties are very different from my experience playing in the years before 1980. As I said, I find a grain of truth at the core of these descriptions, but like a game of telephone, the actual message is garbled in the re-telling.

  3. I don't think Vulmea is objecting to the knowledge aspect of metagaming (after all, can you really roleplay not knowing something if you know it?) but rather to conscious rules manipulation by players on the part of the characters.

  4. Now I know I'm missing something.

    What rule manipulation?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...