2006-10-05 : Escalation
So, my question is about escalation, in general. I wish I could articulate this question better. What is escalation, and how do you achieve it? How do you promote it?
For this answer I'm not going to use any jargon whatsoever. These are all natural English words I'm using to mean their natural English meanings. Some games (Dogs in the Vineyard, maybe others) use "escalation" to mean a specific game-mechanical step or move; that's not what I'm talking about here.
Escalation is part of conflict.
Let's say that two people have a conflict of interests. I'm talking about real people - me and my boss, let's say. Let's also say that it's a normal conflict of interest so we start out discussing it. I'm like, "boss, I think you stiffed me out of some health care comp." My boss is like, "oh. Yeah, I did that on purpose."
Having a reasoned discussion is a level of conflict resolution. Maybe I decide to stay at that level. I'm like, "I'd like you to make good."
Now my boss is tired of having a reasoned discussion, but wants her interests to win out. So she escalates: "no. Now go back to work or I'm writing you up." She's invoked her authority as my boss, bringing something new and more powerful into the conflict. Now it's not a reasoned discussion anymore. Invoking authority trumps reasoned discussion.
So now it's my choice. I can cave and go back to work, or I can escalate in turn. "You know, I think I'll bring the shop steward in."
So now she's calculating, right? What's it worth to her to not pay me? "Vincent, I've had enough. This is your two weeks' notice. You're fired."
"Fired? FIRED? Well YOU'RE bad in BED."
See how each time we escalate, we're crossing a line? Each of our moves in the conflict is more consequential than the one before. Eventually one of us will win: one of us will decide that the next line isn't worth crossing and back down, giving the other their way; or else one of us will put the other functionally out of the conflict and therebey get their way. The former: I'm like, "fired? Now no need for that. It's just a couple bucks, I'll go back to work." The latter: my boss is like, "screw the two weeks' notice. You leave now, and this police officer here will help you find your way."
So that's what escalation looks like in a single small-scale conflict of interest. (And that's how Dogs' rules work, exactly: when you're losing an argument, you throw a punch. When you're losing a fistfight, you pull a gun.)
Conflicts of interest can themselves escalate. My boss fires me, right, and a police officer escorts me to the door. One of two things can happen. I can accept it and move on, in which case my conflict of interest with my boss is done, it doesn't escalate, I find a new job or something. Or I can escalate, like "of course you realize, this means war." Maybe I sue her. Maybe I resolve to cost her HER job. maybe I hire a private detective to trail her and take dirty photographs. Maybe I send bomb threats to the local elementary school in her name. Maybe I talk to her boss; maybe I rat her out to the police.
See how that works?
So, escalation is just naturally what people do when they're in conflict and they aren't willing to let it go. If you want escalation in your game, all you have to do is get some people (meaning characters, now) in conflict who aren't willing to let it go.
I welcome follow-up questions!
1. On 2006-10-05, Ludanto said:
2. On 2006-10-05, Vincent said:
3. On 2006-10-05, Ludanto said:
4. On 2006-10-05, NinJ said:
5. On 2006-10-06, James Nostack said:
6. On 2006-10-06, David Wintheiser said:
7. On 2006-10-06, Sydney Freedberg said:
8. On 2006-10-06, Ben Lehman said:
9. On 2006-10-06, Vincent said: