Friday, March 11, 2011

[RPG] Randomizers

Most RPGs have some element of randomization to determine outcomes and abilities- a die roll, a card draw, rock, paper, scissors- something. Most of these elements are fairly well delineated as solely for things the player does (or wants to do).

Examples include:Want to rob a bank? Roll me an intimidation and/or firearms. Want to jump across the chasm between two tall buildings? Roll me athletics or leaping.Want to go first? Draw a card and tell me the number and suit. And so on, depending on what system you're using and what feel you're going for.

Some of the randomizers are more random than others- a D20 is automatically more random than a 6. If you use suits of cards to determine whether something works, you're effectively using a D4- sufficiently less random than a D10.

Some of the more "random" options pull down the curve some by giving ranges where success or failure is possible. The D20 system is a good example- you "win" when you roll OVER a certain number, rather than being limited to a specific number (eg: you need to roll over a 15; not you must roll a 20). Other systems allow "cheating" by use of chips, points, pushing, cards etc.

What if you don't want cheating to be an option but use a system that allows it? Do you just ignore the rules that exist for fudging things a little? 

Other questions I'm considering are - what if an ability ONLY activates on a "16" (and not higher or lower)? How effective or complex might a system where abilities were strictly determined by a preset randomizing table, without any real wiggle room? What if you're looking for a truly "random" possibility? How would you accomplish that?

And then, how do you do it without interfering in the mood too much?


  1. Check out Maid RPG. Almost everything done during it is set on a Randomization table. It's not a very serious game at all, and is very kitch, but it could give you a better idea of how a game like that might go.

  2. the term "more random" always bugs me.

    1-3, 4-6 on a D6 is just as random as 1-10 11-20 on a D20.

    More sides doesn't mean "more random" though it certainly means that "chance" can be split more.

    A larger dice just means you can say 80% chance of something better than a D6 can represent. Or more sides means more options - a D20 could have 20 different outcomes.

    But in the end, a 50/50 roll on a D6 or a D20 is no more random than the other.

  3. Myself, I've always been a fan of the percentile-based systems.

    But what about games that don't use any sort of randomizers? Take Amber, which is diceless. Players abilities are ranked. If you are higher ranked in an ability than someone else than you beat them.

    And there are the Storytelling games where how well you accomplish a task depends on how well you "defend" how you will go about doing it.


  4. I think the problem with an ability that, as you mentioned, only works on a 16 is that that's exactly the same as an ability that requires a 20. People tend to like numbers that are sequential, and higher numbers are generally considered better than lower numbers. So there's absolutely nothing preventing you from saying that only rolls of 11-15 succeed on a 20 sided die, but in the end that's the same as rolling a 16 or higher.

    Now, if there were some different kind of penalty for rolling too high that could work. I've seen plenty of benefits for 6s or 20s but a weapon that overheats on too good of a damage roll and misses on a poor roll could be interesting.

    But for a truly "random" rules setting? Count the number of cars that pass by in 5 minutes. If more of them are [color], you succeed!

  5. I always had fun with the added 1's and 20's are catastrophic and the Storyteller would make something up.

    a 1 to hit might mean you hit a party member instead, "roll damage" "I don't want to" "roll it"

    While a 20 to hit does bonus damage or something.. which I guess they added in D20.