Some call it fate: A mechanic for Escalation



OK, shields, I’ve been burning my noodle on this idea for a long time coming - the idea of a roll which escalates the situation, excites the action, gives heroes hardships and opportunities, and this morning, while teaching 4 year olds, I got this idea, and I think it’s pretty good. Let’s call it a fate die for right now. I’m taking submissions for a better name, but that works for now.

It’s a D20. You are going to roll it along with the D20 you roll to determine whether your action is successful; make certain this second D20 is a different color, but roll them together. Nothing changes about your regular D20 action resolution mechanic; you add your bonus to that number, and try to beat the target; you’ve probably done it in your sleep by now. That second D20, the fate die, you’re going to compare that number to what you rolled on your action D20. If your action roll is lower than the fate die, you get a bane; if it’s higher than the fate die, you get a boon. If they’re the same, you get both. We’ll talk about what that means in just a second.

So, what is a bane?

  • A little toxic yellow D6 that can be added to damage or attack rolled against you.
  • A narrative condition: winded, blinded, limp, weak, etc.
  • Damage to gear, or dropping/losing an item.

And, I guess a boon is?

  • A little berry red D6 you can add to action or damage rolls.
  • Relieve a narrative condition.
  • A narrative advantage or opportunity: sure footing, a distracted enemy, or improvised item, etc.

When you roll a boon and a bone together, you can choose to have them cancel each other out, or take the bad with the good.

Just like karma in EZD6, these D6s can be accumulated, and spent in groups, or one at a time; my initial thought is to start PCs off with 3 boons at the start of each session, since they are the heroes, and you don’t want them feeling like they start off in the hole after the first few dice have been rolled.

I think this strikes a balance with having some edges to keep it grounded, but being open enough to improvise, and not so complex as to be a big cognitive load on player or GM, but it needs testing. I hope to be able to give it a shot, soon. If you are at all inclined to try it at your own table, please tell me in great detail how it went. Cheers!


While I like the concept, I think the d20 is a bit swingy for this boon and bane effect.

Would it be for every action roll?
Is there a system or game mechanic that is similar to this from another game?

What about a misfire / crit range concept;
•On a roll of 1-3 you gain a Bane as fate has judged you unworthy.
•On a roll of 18-20 you gain a Boon as fate has smiled upon you.

Fate may become varied based on a d6 roll for what exact Bane or Boon you acquire.


  1. Overextend: -1 to defense
  2. Wild Swing: Strike and an adjacent ally
  3. Stuck in the Mud: Weapon becomes lodged in object STR to Free
  4. Blood in the Eyes: -1 to reactions and defense rolls
  5. Pulled Muscle: -1 to Attack
  6. +1 TN


  1. Sniker Snak: gain a second attack
  2. Cleave Through: Strike an adjacent foe
  3. Disarming flourish: Foe cant use weapons until they re-equip.
  4. Brilliant Flash: blind enemies for one turn
  5. Highground: +1 attack and defense
  6. -1 TN

Another idea that comes to mind is degrees of success, for every x (let’s say 3) over or under the target you gain a Bane or Boon chip. These chips would work as +/- 1 to any roll and can be turned in once a roll is made but not before the final result is known. Turn in up to a max of 3 chips to affect the your rolls, but the negative chips go to opposition and can be used in the same way.


I dig it at a RL table but to my VTT game it just seems like more stuff to track. If I had a way to put dice “in front of people” maybe I’d do more stuff like this.


That would be tough to track. As the GM, I would probably just keep note cards for each player, and put little dice on them, but I don’t know how they would track it :sweat_smile:


This is all really cool! Good thinking!

I did want to keep this system as explicitly separate from the PC’s success or failure at the task being attempted, so that you could gain a boon on a miss, as a bane on a hit, and though it has some mechanical benefits for it, the impetus was on player choice, which would incline players, I think, to tend to choose narrative (i.e., non or only lightly mechanical) effects. The swinginess of the D20 then becomes a feature of a rapidly escalating conflict with push and pull. This might get gonzo super fast, and need to be dialed back, but I figure I can always do that; I want to see what this looks like cranked up as high as it can go.


What I’d you did something like this (this could be tracked mentally without a die if needed)??

The harder the TN, the easier to get a boon? Or vice Versa? So you use the difference between the TN and 20, so if the TN is 16 for example, you have to roll above a 4 to get a Boon, even if you fail the Attempt. Or if the TN was only 12, you would have to roll higher than an 8.

This may be strange but it’s just where my mind was taking me. This would require mentally doing the math or just keeping 1d20 in front of you with the number shown needed to get a boon/bane.

Edit: just realized this makes it hard to get a bane on an attempt though like you stated LOL, but maybe this thinking will still help?


Second D20 is definitely how I would track it. I really love how elegant this is, and I think there is a group of players that would find this deeply intuitive, so bravo for that! It does not do everything I want it to, you’re right there, and I think it may also be confusing for some players and GMs looking for fewer things to track, but it is really nicely woven into the mechanics (especially ICRPG mechanics). I’m gonna keep this in may back pocket as a way to tone down the gonzo bash of what I put together, and might (if I get the table time) contract and compare the two. Excellent thinking!