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<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-randomness.html>Randomness</a>


Effects or events in the game cannot be exactly predicted.

Randomness is the process of making effects and events unpredictable in games. It does not necessarily make games totally unpredictable, as the Randomness usually has a structure where players can know the chances for certain effects and events.

Example: Very few card games do not randomize the cards by shuffling them before giving the players their cards. Not doing so would ruin nearly all games, and especially games that include Betting.

Example: Many roleplaying games use random encounters to spice up the Game World and give the players the impression that there is more to the Game World than they experience.

Using the pattern

Randomness can be introduced into games to lessen Predictable Consequences and give players Limited Foresight and Limited Planning Abilities. This is usually done for two reasons: either to simulate events in the real world that are chaotic and unpredictable or to generate essential Asymmetric Resource Distribution or Imperfect Information in the games.

Examples of real-world concepts that are often modeled in games partially through Randomness include Combat, and especially Damage, and the starting conditions for Characters. The use of Skills that represent many actions or actions done in hazardous situations also make use of Randomness to abstract complex situations into a manageable situation in game terms. The use of Randomness in these cases often causes Tension, as it is part of actions that players have initiated but they do not control, and initiating them becomes a Risk/Reward choice for players.

Generating Asymmetric Resource Distribution and Imperfect Information can be done either before the actual game play begins, as for example in many games with Betting, but can also find use during gameplay. The time until Delayed Effects take place is one example of how Randomness can be used during gameplay. A more complex use is to randomize future events in the Narrative Structure to create Never Ending Stories.

Common game elements used to create Randomness are Dice and Cards, in the latter case, often to create randomized Card Hands through Drawing Stacks or dealing out Cards. The main difference between them is that of memory and static distribution. The roll of Dice is unaffected by previous rolls, so the randomization process can be seen as having no memory and the chances for any result are exactly the same as they were the previous time. Cards, on the other hand, use outcome like a form of Non-Renewable Resources, so Memorizing what Cards have been used allows players to have better chances of predicting what cards have not been used yet. Further, Cards allow the distribution to be changed explicitly during gameplay by adding or removing Cards from those that are randomly selected. Tiles can also be used to create Randomness, most commonly through Tile-Laying.

In computers, Randomness is typically generated through pseudo-random sequences that are not random but seem random. In Self-Facilitated Games, low-level uses of Paper-Rock-Scissors can serve the same purpose for generating Randomness.


Randomness makes it impossible to have Perfect Information about the effects of actions in the game. Randomness also allows players to have a Perceived Chance to Succeed that does not depend on any skill they have, and thereby reduces pressure on their performance. It does this while still allowing players to have an Illusion of Influence and feel like they have or lack Luck, as long as they have some influence on how the randomization is done. As long as players feel this Illusion of Influence or are emotionally affected by the outcome, Randomness can provide Tension, as is often done in Quick Games.

Randomness makes the Predictable Consequences in games vaguer and makes players have a bounded Uncertainty of Information. This can encourage players to perform Memorizing of the distributions to gain Strategic Knowledge that can be used to make better Risk/Reward choices. The presence of it in games is a weak form of a Balancing Effect, as it is not affected by any players' skills and affects all players impartially. This tends to lessen the chance for Perceivable Margins depending on players' skills in games, makes Game Mastery less noticeable, and can lessen the risk (or chance) of Analysis Paralysis.

As the Randomness used in games typically is bounded within certain values and has a static probability distribution, the use of Randomness can support Strategic Knowledge in that players that have played the game before can know the distribution of the Randomness and use it in their planning.

Randomness can create an unstable form of Player Balance. It is unstable because all players may have equal chances to receive what is randomized, but as soon as the outcome becomes apparent, players may feel disadvantaged. The use of Randomness to determine effects can limit the power of Game Masters if the process is conducted so that all players can see it.


Instantiates: Limited Foresight, Strategic Knowledge, Player Balance, Memorizing, Balancing Effects, Risk/Reward, Imperfect Information, Tension, Luck, Limited Planning Ability

Modulates: Never Ending Stories, Quick Games, Characters, Perceived Chance to Succeed, Narrative Structures, Asymmetric Resource Distribution, Betting, Skills, Illusion of Influence, Delayed Effects, Predictable Consequences, Uncertainty of Information, Game Masters

Instantiated by: Damage, Combat, Cards, Drawing Stacks, Dice, Paper-Rock-Scissors, Tile-Laying

Modulated by: Non-Renewable Resources

Potentially conflicting with: Perceivable Margins, Perfect Information, Game Masters, Game Mastery, Analysis Paralysis

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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