Hi amazing community,
It’s been a while since I’ve been on the forum (teaching during Covid AND getting married internationally during this Pandemic has been rough) but now it’s Christmas vacation so I have some breathing space. I ended the school year with playing a short (30 minute) game based on Electric Bastionland. This made me think about randomness and the need for it in game. Is it needed? What is it’s function? Etc…
So I’m trying to write down some thoughts:
Randomizing stats creates inequality between player characters. This can be perceived as something by the players. (especially if playing with kids) Now in this case it didn’t, and it was a one-shot so there’s always the chance of rolling up a new one next time. I guess that’s tied in with the lethality of OSR type games. But I’m curious about how much this is just an artifact from old style play that we just use because it’s a roleplaying game. (I know this isn’t a new revelation, but I’m just typing). Some games dropped it, like Fate or RISUS or lot’s of story-type games which derive their joy from the story instead of random emerging gameplay because of randomization.
Dice rolling in general is a form of randomization. It makes failing or succeeding at a task largely dependent on luck. Some people like this, some don’t.
In tase cases randomization influences how well you might do with a character. But there are other options!
In the game I just played I had some Mad-Libs style “spark tables” for encounters in each node of the mini-adventure. The fact that the kids got to choose things to fill it in proved way more enjoyable for them than rolling well on a stat or succeeding on a roll (even though they also enjoyed that). Even just having something that might alter the encounters you have filled in before can give a theme but an uncertainty about what exactly the adventure will bring which is enjoyable to me as a Conductor/GM/Referee… It gives surprise and wonder for me as well.
Electric Bastionland and Into The Odd have randomizes backgrounds/characters which doesn’t include stats all that much but give variations in theme and feel and starter packages.
So my first question for you all is what are your thoughts on randomization and it’s purpose in games?
My second question is what interesting types of randomization do you know of/have you used that don’t just influence stats?