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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: Tim M Ralphs on January 11, 2007, 03:34:46 AM

Title: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: Tim M Ralphs on January 11, 2007, 03:34:46 AM
Something came up last night that made me question how I was handling things concerning escalation as a free block.

My current interpretation is that someone can block a challenge by escalating to an arena higher/worse/more severe than the arena of the initial challenge and issuing a challenge of their own.

Say that if Cane and Abel are arguing (talking) and Abel challenges with a harsh remark. Cain can escalate to fighting and challenge with a punch to the throat, which counts as a free block. If Abel continues just talking and Cain continues fighting, then Cains future challenges will not count as free blocks unless he escalates to murder.

Now if Abel escalates to physical it is my understanding that he still has to use dice to block or dodge Cain's throat punch. The escalation alone isn't a free block because it's not to an arena higher than the challenge. This would be the same if Abel escalated to fighting in kind, it wouldn't block Cain's attack for free. However, if Abel decided to try and kill Cain he would be escalating to murder and would block Cain's attack for free, before making a challenge of his own.

Firstly, is this the intended reading of the rules?

Secondly, and this is what threw me last night, how does that apply in cases where we have inhuman NPC's? Can an inhuman NPC escalate as a free block, and if so how is that handled given that an inhuman opponent's dice aren't tied to any particular arena? If they can't escalate as a free block, why can they escalate at all as opposed to just rolling more dice to begin with? Is it just simply so they don't show how many dice they've got to the players, is it because escalation represents an obligation on the GM to narrate the situation as being noticably worse, more severe and more serious at these moments of escalation, or is it something else I haven't considered?

Any ideas from anyone are welcome, Vincent I'm totally cool with you not giving a final decision on this. I'm aware Afraid isn't the project of the moment and that you have plenty of other things on your plate right now.

Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: Ludanto on January 11, 2007, 05:52:36 AM
As for escalation blocks, your interpretation seems to line up with mine.

As for non-human opposition, that's an interesting question.  While I don't see anything in the rules that says so, I only ever have non-human opponents escalate to match player escalation.  Partly because that way I don't have to worry about what arena the dice are tied to and partly because I feel that escalation, being a sort of moral choice, shouldn't be an option for things that aren't some manner of people (or at least alive).

Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: lumpley on January 11, 2007, 12:03:25 PM
The arenas aren't hierarchical like that. You can escalate from any arena to any other arena. Talking->fighting->murder is the most natural, thus the most common, but the rules apply identically to murder->physical->fighting->talking (I try to stab you, you grab my wrist to twist my knife out of my hand, I punch you, you beg me to let you live) or physical->talking->murder->fighting (I run after you in the park and corner you at your parked car, you scream that you'll call the police, I pull out a gun and shoot at you, you hit me in the face with a tire iron). All legit, all handled the exact same way by the rules.

Furthermore, when you escalate, you escalate the whole conflict, for everyone. If I punch you, I've escalated our conflict to fighting, and when you see my raise, you get to roll your fighting dice, even if your next raise is still just verbal.


Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: Tim M Ralphs on January 12, 2007, 02:11:25 AM

I've been playing this game so wrong it's hard to believe. Damn.

Thanks for clarifying that.

Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: lumpley on January 12, 2007, 11:15:06 AM
You know that really awkward, convoluted language in the Afraid doc about escalating on a see vs. on a raise? I think it's probably so bad because I haven't quite managed yet to nail "when you escalate, you escalate the conflict."


Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: Ludanto on January 12, 2007, 12:14:15 PM
Ah, well that's important.  The "escalate to match" language really threw me, especially since that's not how it's presented in Dogs.  That is different than the escalation rules for DitV, right?

Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: lumpley on January 12, 2007, 12:26:54 PM
Nope. The only difference between Dogs and Afraid wrt escalation is that in Afraid, sometimes when you escalate you get a free block or dodge.

I wish I'd thought of "when you escalate, you escalate the whole conflict" three years ago.


Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: Ludanto on January 12, 2007, 03:24:41 PM
So, this is new though, right?  Because it certainly doesn't read that way in the DitV book.

Either way, this takes some of the pressure off of the pacifist types.  As long as the other guy is the one who escalates, you don't have to return his blows, you can just redouble your efforts to talk him down. (Or the reverse if you'd prefer to keep hitting the guy who's suddenly trying to talk to you.)

Maybe I'm wrong, but this seems like it would really inflate conflicts.  If some guy's shooting at you, it's almost gauranteed that there's going to be some running, punching and yelling at some point.  The only reason to not just get it out of the way early is to save the "escalation blocks" for those Challenges where they point some really big dice at you.

Just a thought.

Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: lumpley on January 12, 2007, 04:10:52 PM
No, not new. This is how Dogs has always worked.

How I've said it before is, if someone shoots at you, ducking the bullet counts as escalating to gunfighting. You get those dice just for making an appropriate (thus, escalatory) see. That's functionally identical to "if you escalate, you escalate the whole conflict."

Very, very occasionally, someone will be all proud of a character who someone punched them and they declined to roll their body and/or will dice, to make a pacifistic point. I've always considered this to be a harmless violation of the rules: I guess I'm not going to make you roll the dice you're entitled to, if you really don't want them.

You're entitled to them though.


Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: Web_Weaver on January 13, 2007, 05:22:15 AM
Hi Vincent,

I am missing something here. This seems to fly in the face of your ruling that:

If you're escalating on a see, you have to commit your raise to the escalation.

Surely "I dodge the bullet" does not imply that you must shoot in your raise?

Are you suggesting that if you choose to grab the dice on your see then you must shoot or act in a manner consistent with gunfire on your raise, but if you don't grab the dice you can choose later.

This is not functionally the same as "if you escalate, you escalate the whole conflict."

Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: Web_Weaver on January 13, 2007, 06:22:33 AM
Actually, I have been discussing this and I think I see it now.

In my example "I dodge the Bullet" is not an escalation as such (despite how the rules read, which is a problem) as the person that shot has already escalated.

Is this right?

Title: Re: [Afraid] - Escalation question
Post by: Tim M Ralphs on January 13, 2007, 08:57:36 AM
Yeah, I think that's right.

I'm a little confused by the inclusion of the line about not being able to block for free if later you are escalating in kind, as it seems a bit redundant, but I've confused myself enough on this issue that it doesn't really matter.

'Escalate the conflict' is a neater way of putting it. I tried to explain it to my one of my players here, but I want clarification on this: (

and the whole concept of escalation is explained without the context of arenas by a familiar game design theorist here: (

which is a useful thing to have in mind. What's really struck me between Dogs and Afraid is that in Afraid people take less fallout, because instead of escalating to see and having to match the 17 point raise the Monster/Demons have just made with d6's, you escalate to see and ignore it. On some weird level the horrific experiences of Afraid effect the character less than the events in Dogs. It's tangible, Afraid is less about exploring character and more about situation.

So here's what I want to check, the reason I (and I don't think I'm alone) got stuck in the false notion of a hierarchy of arenas is that it's clear that if two characters are arguing and one punches the other then they've crossed a line, they've escalated the conflict, the words are somehow not as important as they were before. The arenas follow the most obvious pattern of escalation.

Now suppose we go from talking to murder, someone tries to shoot my character, which is escalation and a free block on whatever cunning argument my guy was making. Can I escalate to physical by saying I dive out of the way, and thus get a free block? My understanding is that the answer is 'no, because that isn't actually escalating the conflict in any meaningful way.' Whereas if this conflict is taking place in some secluded back ally I could potentially escalate to physical by running out into a crowded street, because shooting me in front of a load of people and endangering them as well is an escalation on shooting me in safety and secrecy.

Have I got that right or am I drawing too much inference from your essay Vincent?