In Stealing the Escalation Die for Numenera, about stealing the escalation die mechanic from 13th Age for use in Numenera games, we talked about using the escalation die as a way to speed up long combats. You may have noticed the line “Monsters and NPCs do not add the escalation die bonus to their attacks.”
Which is the 13th Age general rule. However, in 13th Age, some monsters do use the escalation die. Which monsters? Why the ones the players least want to see using the escalation die! Dragons. Demons. Other big fat boss monsters.
Many of these monsters have special attacks that only go off based on the escalation die. For example the Balor (AKA the Balrog) often gets to do a large amount of extra damage, multiplied by the number on the escalation die. 13th Age PCs really want to take down a Balor fast. Or run away.
What does that mean for Numenera? As we talked about in Numenera GM Intrusions: Creatures, most creatures have a nasty GM Intrusion.
So here’s one suggestion: When the escalation die is 3, and then again at 6, use a GM Intrusion when the PCs are facing a fearsome opponent.
Now I like to start fights with a GM Intrusion, and three GMIs in one fight feels a little excessive, so if I start off with one, I give the PCs a second GM Intrusion when the escalation die hits 4. Again, for fearsome opponents only, gazers need not apply.
Maybe an extra GM Intrusion is not enough to strike fear into the party. I like to add the escalation die to the damage a fearsome creature does. The higher the escalation die value, the more important it is to dodge the next blow.
So what’s a fearsome opponent? You could set it relative to the party, say any creature 3 or more levels higher than the maximum tier in the group. Or you could pick a level. Or decide on a creature by creature basis.
I like scaling with the party. When characters advance in tiers, the creatures that gave them such problems at early levels are now outmatched by the PCs awesome skills. At the same time, I think any 8th level creature is pretty awesome, so when my PCs hit 6th tier, I’ll still let the 8th level creatures use the escalation die. Dark Fathoms define fearsome.
So here it is, how I like to use the escalation die for the good guys. I mean those terrible opponents battling my sainted player characters:
Creatures who are 3 or more levels higher than the highest tier in the party are fearsome. 8+ level creatures are fearsome. Fearsome creatures add the escalation die to their damage and do a GM Intrusion when the escalation die is 0 and 4. 3 and 6 if I forget to start the battle with one.
After trying this a bit, I’ve found it feels a little heavy-weight for the Cypher System. Inspired by the Escalation Die, here is what I do to End with a Bang.