Jonathan and I usually agree on the mechanics of 13th Age, but our memories don’t always agree when it comes to how key mechanics were created.* The escalation die is a prime example.
I remember using the escalation die in a bizarro 4e game, fighting minions of Torog, back before we started work on 13th Age. Jonathan remembers coming up with the mechanic on his own, as part of a system he ran for a couple of months that I…er…never showed up for. Both those memories may be accurate; but recently I discovered that the true origins of the escalation die lay elsewhere.
During a period when Jonathan and I weren’t GMing, Mike Fehlauer manned the captain’s/GM’s chair and took us on a 4e cruise through the Savage Tide. Mike’s excellent campaign benefited from a lot of mechanical experiments, and here’s one that he recently unearthed from an ancient email thread:
Another idea I had for speedy play was to put a card for “end of round” into the initiative deck. Each time that card comes up, all combatants (including monsters) add +1 to all their attacks. Second time it comes up, everyone starts adding +2 to all their attacks. And so on.
The pacing isn’t right, but the general idea is that as time goes on, the combat’s pace toward resolution increases. Sort of like how the blind keeps increasing in poker.
Maybe a better pace is “when a monster or character is bloodied, the ‘combat blind’ goes up by 1. All monsters and characters add the ‘combat blind’ to all their attacks.”
Hmm. Instead of “combat blind”, let’s call it “Savage Tide”. That way, as the Tide rises, things get more deadly. I like the sound of that. :)
Jonathan said that the idea was interesting, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to track it. Paul Hughes commented that you could just use a die to keep track.
Jonathan and I both went off and used our own versions of the escalation mechanic in our games, giving the escalating bonus to the player characters but not the monsters. As a result, by the time we decided to design 13th Age together, we were both locked in with using something like the escalation die at the table.
Turns out that it’s really important to have a good gaming group!
*To be honest, Jonathan and I don’t particularly care which of us created specific mechanics, or how—the topic only comes up when other people ask.
13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.