Greetings from the PACU boys and girls!
For those of you blessed enough to have no idea what that is, it’s where they put you to recover from the white collar version of an all nighter in Bangladesh (surgery): you wake up disoriented, woozy, with multiple stab wounds in your gut and a strange lady asking you if you’re ready to leave yet.
So naturally, I want to take the opportunity to introduce another meta-gaming concept, in part to see how well I can manage to form thoughts on schedule 2 narcotics, and in part because I’m way overdue for a post and I finally have some time where I can do literally nothing else.
The subject du jour: the difference between options in a game and options in life. In my mind this is a huge…
That’s about how far I got before passing out. Literally, completely coherent typing, nap time. No middle ground. Whatever brilliant sequitur I promise I totally had from there has long since left me, along with a fair amount of blood and any semblance of abs I might have had… Let’s grab a drink and restart.
I hate dice.
There’s nothing wrong with the familiar ole chance cube ostensibly, and if I’m being really honest about my feelings, it’s not even them I’m really mad at. But I’m a dude and that’s hard for me. So fuck dice. I hope never to use them in a game.
What I’m actually mad about is the role of chance in games, and how it’s approached. I consider adding dice to a game to be a lazy and artificial way to simulate randomness for difficult to model event, and even worse, it’s misleading.
When was the last time you knew you had a 16.7% chance of something happening in your life? You walked into a bar, saw an attractive girl and thought to yourself “Ah yes, I’ll need to roll a 6 for this one!” Very little actually falls into that deterministic fate-driven category where you know all the variables, can slap a number on the desired outcome, and then can’t do squat else to influence it.There’s actually a word for desperately hoping that anything in your confusing and completely out of hand life is simple enough to be modeled by rolling a die: the ludic fallacy.
The example on wikipedia is one of my favorite from the book (The Black Swan by Nicholas Nassim Taleb):
- Dr. John who is regarded as a man of science and logical thinking
- Fat Tony who is regarded as a man who lives by his wits (he is also described as having hairy knuckles and bad cholesterol)
A third party asks them to “assume a fair coin is flipped 99 times, and each time it comes up heads. What are the odds that the 100th flip would also come up heads?”
- Dr. John says that the odds are not affected by the previous outcomes so the odds must still be 50:50.
- Fat Tony says that the guy is lying and the game is rigged. Bet on heads.
The difference here is that Dr. John will work his entire career for a predictable and stable income, whereas Fat Tony, who is based on a real person, was actually a disgustingly successful financial trader. Generally speaking the Dr. Johns of the world are usually working for company’s started by Fat Tonys one way or another.
This is the core of the issue I was druggedly lilting towards: the way people learn to interact with the world is far too structured. We seek out rules and then use them to save us the trouble of directing our own thinking and forcing us to consider an the fallibility of our definition of a problem or the sources for our information. They work well for exactly that purpose, but they’re also the single most common source of unsolvable problems.
Games should teach people to appraise situations with an objective focus and concoct solutions based on creative data parsing and unorthodox uses of standard mechanisms, not to roll and pray. The biggest advantage tabletop games have over the computer is their ability to incorporate these intangible methods of problem solving in their design. The ability to negotiate your way out of an impossible battle and play the people at the table off of one another is what makes setting up all the little cardboard pieces and repackaging everything in its little ziplock baggie at the end worth it. I recognize that some situations would just be tedious to create models of in a tabletop context, and that doing so would bog down an otherwise good game, but nothing is more frustrating than deducing optimal strategies, positioning yourself well tactically, and then rolling four ones in a row. There’s no satisfaction in beating someone that way and no lesson to learn from the defeat.
Randomization should be accomplished in a thematically appropriate fashion whenever possible, please keep divine intervention to a minimum in your design.