The Tyranny of Chance: How Often Should A Player Succeed?

October 21, 2012 | | Comments 3

Role-playing game designers that use a random element (eg dice)as a task resolution mechanic (combat, skills)  have to ask themselves the same question: How often should a player succeed?   Tasks that are too easy (high probability of success) lack challenge and the sweet taste of risking it all and your PC living to tell the tale.  Overly challenging tasks (low probability of success) quickly become a dull exercise in futility.”Oh, look I failed to roll 100 on a percentile dice…again.”

I am not interested in crunching lots of numbers to answer this question because this is  less about statistics than when those statistics start stepping on the “fun” in a game and fun is subjective.  I am just looking for a number you as a player can live with and still enjoy the game.  Can you have fun with an overall  5% success rate on tasks? 10%? 25%?

I wrote this post because game designers have to ask this kind of question to create a game. A (good) game designer is acutely aware of the math underlying their game and designs within those boundaries.  Sadly, many adventure designers both professional and amateur overlook the math in an encounter and clobber players with mathematical misery. If a monster absorbs 7 points of damage per attack and the players are dishing out 1d6+2 per attack that is just painful. Tedious and a likely TPK.

I suppose this post is both an intellectual exercise and a plea for sanity. I genuinely would like to know what success rate is fun for a player and raise a flag about an issue that is all too common in role-playing games.


What say you?


Trask, The Last Tyromancer

Filed Under: Role-PlayingRPG


About the Author: Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.