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Episode 1007: Rush-In Roulette


Odds don't work in a game like they do in real life. This is because games are designed (at least good ones, anyway) to provide a dramatic approximation of reality, not to be a slavish simulation. Another way to look at it is that games should provide a compelling narrative, much like a well written story. Author Terry Pratchett coined a term for this sort of thing: narrative causality. Things happen not because they would happen that way in the real world, but because it makes a better story.

In a complete turnabout, the game GURPS Discworld, based on Terry Pratchett's popular series, actually adopts narrative causality as a game rule, to ensure that things have a better chance of turning out as they would in a story, and not be foiled by any mere trifle like the laws of probability or nature.

One specific way of achieving this in a game rules framework is through the use of "hero points" (also called by other names in a few games). These are points that a player can spend during a game to, essentially, temporarily suspend the game rules and simply describe what they want to happen - and it happens.

Never tell a hero the odds.


Darth Vader: I feel great anger rippling through the Force.
Darth Vader: Good, good, my daughter.
{Admiral Piett enters and glimpses the back of Vader's scarred head}
Admiral Piett: < ahem >
{Vader, with helmet back on, turns around}
Darth Vader: Admiral?
Admiral Piett: We've lost them in the asteroid field.
Darth Vader: Asteroids do not concern me, Admiral. I want that ship and not excuses.
Admiral Piett: Did you know the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are—
Darth Vader: Never.
Darth Vader: Tell me.
Darth Vader: The odds.

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Published: Thursday, 27 February, 2014; 02:11:02 PST.
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