Editorial: Probabilities in Roleplaying Games

Changeling Red StarSuccess is something that we want – also during a gaming session.
With every roll of the dice that we make, we always ask ourselves the question:
Will we succeed? How are the odds? And how can I boost my chances?

We use the random number generator built into our table top games every time we are uncertain how a situation will resolve. And because it is so impotent for us whether we succeed, all table top games are more or less the same.

>Because we want to succeed, all the different dice, the pool systems or the well crafted distribution functions are Bernoulli distributed. The Bernoulli distribution is a simplistic distribution, in which a certain probability p rules if an event does take place or does not (e.g. if the value of the distribution is zero or one). The one is our success and the zero our failure. The different table top systems provide more or less sophisticated systems to calculate this probability p, and it is the only thing which sets them apart.

Now, you can say that there are systems out there which also measure various degrees of success. We all know critical hits and misses. And those systems produce a much more complicated outcome than a Bernoulli distribution. Well, that is true and false at the same time. Yes, you are right, this is a more complicated situation than we had before. But to be honest, it isn’t really that much more complicated. And there is another thing. It is very important for me, whether I am satisfied with the outcome of a situation. Of course, I am happy when I critically hit someone, but I am also happy if I just hit and do a decent amount of damage. Also, I am kind of annoyed when I do awesome on a stealth check, but that guard over there just has better perception, and I am caught nonetheless. If you see it this way, systems with degrees of success in them also have a clear feeling of success and failure, and are in this sense Bernoulli distributed.

But when all systems are more or less equal, why are some systems so awesome and others suck so hard? Well, that is simple. We perceive the calculation of the probability p as either on the spot or far off. But it is important to realize this is only our view and our feeling of coherence. And only a few people have the education and experience to give a realistic guess how a certain situation in a table top game will play out. How fast we can misjudge probabilities is shown by the so called birthday problem.

So, in the end we should stop discussing whether a system is realistic or not but rather talk about whether we have a good time when we play together.

You will hopefully have a good time with our three (rolled with a d6) articles of the week:
English articles:
On Monday the Red Trooper Revisedd will offer a few more options to fight for The Red Star.
On Friday the third installment of Shadom’s Changeling the Lost setting Miranbrück will become available in an English translation.

German article:
On Friday Miranbrück will appear in its original German version.

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