I'm about to start in on a new campaign with the Roll For Shoes system, but I'm concerned that the characters will swiftly outstrip basic and intermediate challenges as they grow in dice.

In the title I mentioned "longer" campaigns. I'm defining "longer" as at least 72 hours of game time spread out over maybe 18 sessions, with hopes of room to grow.

Here is an example:

Ryan has Do Anything 1, and begins a life of roguishness. He starts breaking into houses and achieves Skulduggery 2, starts using lockpicks for Tools of the Trade 3, then eventually gets to Lockpicking 4 and maybe Safecracking 5.

Meanwhile, the GM needs to provide appropriate challenges for Ryan. When Ryan starts out, he somehow has to break into a house with one die. If he can manage that, the GM will later need to provide an appropriate challenge for Ryan's 4-die Lockpicking skill.

From a story perspective the GM can always provide stronger locks and reasons, but by my very rough estimations getting a character to a four die skill could easily happen in a 4-hour session if the game is moving smoothly.

Does the RFS advancement system work for longer campaigns?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not speaking from experience, so I don't have an answer, but it looks feasible-ish. If you encourage players to diversify their characters' portfolios and limit their applications to more realistic ones, you could even wind up with a somewhat well-rounded character outcome. Of course, it also looks like you've got some wonderful possibilities for massive escalation, which could be just the thing you need for an awesome-scale campaign using the Rule of Cool. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's also pretty easy to append these rules with some more diversifying characteristics, but that's outside the scope of the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 14:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ In games I've run characters have reached 4 die skills in under an hour and that was with six players. Key I found was to limit what you let people roll for. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 14:33

4 Answers 4


It depends on your players and campaign style

The problem, as you've noted, is that players start being able to do specific things really well. However, that's also the solution - force them to do new things. If your campaign is a dungeon crawl, this will be harder than if it's a city-based setting, but you have to remember that the PCs' actions shouldn't happen in a vacuum. This means that not only will challenges naturally get harder after a while ('I heard there's a really good thief in town! Get me the best lock money can buy!'), but people will also change up their defenses, thereby producing new challenges ('Locks are useless against him, but I can sell you a cipher, so you can hide your valuables and then conceal the location, instead.')

Ramping up the difficulty infinitely is difficult to do, and each time the player fails, he moves closer to improving that ability still further. This means that having a hard difficulty leads to faster character growth. However, that also means that starting the campaign with hard challenges leads to fast growth too.

Changing the types of problems the players face is a good incentive to develop your story more. Busting down a hundred doors and killing a thousand orcs to get fifty treasure chests is fairly boring after a while, even if the difficulty scales up. But dungeon-crawling until you find an ancient relic, then fighting in a war to protect it, then having to fight off spies and assassins, then playing the political game to stop the leaders of your country from handing it over, then searching for a traitor, then chasing him when he escapes, then doing another interesting, different thing makes for an exciting and varying campaign.

Lastly, it's okay for some things to become a cakewalk eventually. You don't play a master thief because you want every locked chest to be a struggle to open; you want to be able to open locks faster than if you had the key! Sometimes, let your players overpower obstacles, and they will feel better about tackling issues they are poorly-prepared for.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Super+1 for "it's okay for some things to become a cakewalk eventually" combined with "force them to do new things". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 19:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a very useful answer with a lot of thought behind it. Thank you! I'd like to know more about how to handle high-level advancement so that a party of high level characters maintain individually unique skill trees, but that sounds like a separate question. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 14:27

If they have Safecracking 5 and there aren't any safes around, then that 5 doesn't matter; they're going to be falling back on their broader, lower-dice skills. They may get new skills out of that, but they'll be something different again. In order for them to actually progress beyond the point where they have made Skullduggery 2 obsolete, they'd have to have acquired every possible subset of Skullduggery by adventuring. That's a metric tonne of adventuring!

But if there are safes around, then they might improve... but that's not really a problem either. Not only does it become geometrically more unlikely to advance the more dice you have, but those high-dice skills just won't see much play. And when they do, why not let them enjoy them?

Remember one important rule: the new skill they get must be a subset of the skill that they got all-6s on. If they roll 5 6s on Safecracking 5, what new skill do they get? Cracking Cassiar Model Safes 6? What in the world will skill level 7 be from that? They will never get really high skills that they can use often. When they can use them, don't make the difficulty artificially high because their high-skill-aura is near the challenge, let them use their skill to completely clobber the challenge. It's not like they're going to get many other chances to use it, right?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer a lot. We've joked about Safecracking Under A Full Moon With Your Hands Tied (Tuesdays Only) 8, but the reminder about every possible subset brings a lot of thought back to that lower-level diversity. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dragonsdoom That would be a great skill for a Houdini-type character who could perform impossible feats, but only under very controlled circumstances. :D \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 16:40

After asking this question I looked at the math and playtested a couple of different modifications. I have found that increasing the amount of xp required to buy a skill is a very effective way to reduce the rate of skill acquisition.

Rather than the default cost of 1 xp to change a die to a six for advancement, I adjusted the cost to 10 xp. So far this has played a touch on the slow side, I think 5 or 7 xp could work very well too.

We've been playing for about 8 sessions (3-4 hours each) so far. I've seen two players spend their xp for 2-die skills and one who is holding out for enough xp for a 3-die skill.

I also have the opportunity to award story xp as rewards more often.


Like Dragonsdoom, I found increasing the xp needed to level up helped. But instead of just a flat increase, I changed it to cost 1xp per point increase on the dice. Players would wait until they got close to all sixes before spending the xp since upgrading a die from 1 to six costs (1+2+3+4+5) 15 points but upgrading a 5 to a 6 only costs 5xp.

The cost really depends on how often your players are rolling, my group likes to roll for pretty much anything as an excuse to learn goofy skills so I ended up setting the cost a little on the high end.


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