Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Death Spiral

The Death Spiral. It's a couple words being thrown around in rpg discussions for the past few years. Basically it's a reference to systems that start punishing a character as they receive damage. So the more they get beat on the less effective they are and it becomes more and more likely that they won't make it out alive. Usually it's negatives to die rolls, increased to target numbers and so on.

I kind of actually like this bit of terminology when it comes to game design. It sums up a few sentences of description pretty nicely and isn't entirely inaccurate. I believe the actual idea of having this happen is part of the push for game system to be more realistic. A push that's not entirely abandoned or bad, but usually runs right up against the wall of system complexity but that's a discussion for another time.

Now I have noticed that some games, especially the older ones, don't use the Death Spiral in their mechanics. You just take damage and function normally until you hit the point where it finally pushes out of the mortal coils and the character is dead. Recently there have been a few games that do the reverse of this and your characters are able to pull off even more amazing abilities since they are considered fighting for their lives at that point. Tenra Bansho Zero uses the Reverse Death Spiral and from what I've read players are liking how it all works out.

I'm wondering when the Death Spiral really started showing up in roleplaying games. Now not having a vast and endless game collection to dig through or a wide and varied gaming background either I can't even really offer up a guess at this. Was this an early development in game design or something that came along later? Anybody have any guesses or thoughts on it? Please use the comments section if you do.

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