Randomness in Choice Games, Good or Bad?

Randomness in games is nothing new. A quick peek at most RPG games have random chances for success, failures, damage, and encounters. One that comes to mind is the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons. However, randomness in Choose Your Own Adventure games are in a grey zone.

When would it be appropriate to use randomness, if at all, in the Choose Your Own Adventure genre? How much should it affect the game? Or why should it keep far away from ChoiceofGames?

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I would say for some games using *rand might be a good idea some people love to choose the same choices and if they learn that a certain event might happen if they play it another way? They’ll do it too.

Random events are a favorite of mine simply because I’m one of those people who likes to choose similar choices every time I play. To have random things happen in a interactive fiction is a godsend and I’m more likely to play it because I won’t read the same thing over every time I play.

I do the same things with books unless it’s the best book in the universe (there’s 3) I’m not reading a book twice. And sometimes the same rules apply to interactive fiction.

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It depends.
Some games that have a random factor in battles end up being rather frustrating due to it.

Other games, e.g. Heart of the House, put random story elements to good use.

So, personally I would argue to keep it out of battles unless you know how to balance it well, but feel free to use it for story elements (as long as it makes sense in context)

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Randomness is always hit or miss. I try to avoid it unless it would improve the gameplay somehow, or the scenario I use it in requires actual randomness. Otherwise, it’s too difficult to test because you’re never guaranteed a specific outcome when you play through it.

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I use randomness pretty much only to keep repetitive activities from being repetitive, but not in games of chance, if that makes any sense. For example, your players can visit the shop at the end of every chapter. Sometimes you have a random chance of getting a discount or being the 100th customer of that day and getting a free item. This can motivate your players to visit the shop even when they don’t technically need to–the randomness encourages return without repetitiveness.

However, in terms of success/fail rolls (you play a card game with an enemy and everything is decided by a random generator), I don’t think this is a satisfying way to reward players. In this sense I avoid random chances for success, failures, and damage, simply because I like to have as much control as I can as a player in a game about agency, choice, and control.

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I think randomness is fine if it is 100% of the game with the Stats as modifiers for your chances.
But it is pretty bad when it is included and undermines the stats or makes player decisions pointless

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As long as the randomness does not lead to a fail-state it is fine.

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I dislike randomness in choicescript games because I like to know that I’ll be able to get back to the same playthrough as before. I like to know that that story is still “there” and accessible. I like to know that when things change and branch, it’s a result of my actions, so I can really see what impact those have.

I always find randomness frustrating in these things unless it’s optional.

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I intend to use a lot of randomness in my next game, to best replicate a RPG feel to the combat. Of course there will be stat modifiers and such so it won’t be totally up to chance.

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Randomisation is a huge element of the games I’m writing at the moment. Til Death Do Us Part is aiming for a tonne of replayability to the point where it’s impossible to do everything on your first go. My side project ANTIVIRUS is way more of a game than a story and the randomisation represents the conflict between AI (predictable outcomes and reliable options) and humans (random, chaotic, and untrustworthy). Any part of the game involving humans has a degree of randomisation.

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If it’s an event it’s ok. But usually I don’t like it. I like to replay something a bit different to see if I can get a different ending, and if the game is different, all of my replaying is for nothing.

I pretty much agree with every reply made already. Randomness that determines an outcome isn’t so nice, as randomness that merely flavors a story.

Take for example a list of options, and the reader must pick one of them to advance the story. If the reader wasn’t feeling especially drawn to any one of them, they could hit the last choice that chooses randomly from the list for them. Any frustration following would technically be on the player for letting the randomizer choose for them, but that’s a fairly safe way of using it in a choice game. Low impact though the option would be in this usage.

It is sad to say it, but stat skewing to avoid fail states is a thing, and it makes many games not very enjoyable because of it. (Not strictly these books, and not always strictly due to randomness either…) Doing that just to keep progressing feels like you’re forever leaning on one thing instead of being able to just enjoy yourself more freely.

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I think it’s important to keep in mind that randomness =/= replayability. Some people replay to experience something new, others replay to re-experience exactly the same thing they had.

Randomness adds a level of unpredictability too. This can be good to test player/reader’s skill on adapting, but this also cause inconsistencies—can be dangerous if you implement randomness on main plot without understanding the implication.

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My games aren’t very RPG-like or combat-driven, so I’ve almost never needed or wanted to use randomization. I’ve used it in non-CS games (Twine, mainly). This was for games that were text-driven, but not as heavily narrative-driven as CSGs. Specifically, I used it to randomize flavor text for recurring actions, like stat-raising actions. The best example I’ve seen of this is what Failbetter Games do in e.g. Fallen London, where the RNG’s factor variable even has its own fanciful lore-compatible name, “the airs of London” IIRC.

I think there are good and bad ways to use random factors. If a random roll determines whether or not the PC gets injured in battle, that’s good because it adds unpredictability. If it determines whether the PC survives… That’s too random for a CSG. It takes away the player’s agency.

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I personally hate randomization, but I’m also the kind of player who has the game’s scene files open every time I play it so that I know what every choice does or what it affects

But I can see why some people might like a game that switches things up randomly

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I looove randomization, as someone who loves ttrpgs, but I understand the need to be assured of choices. I think any system that discourages sticking to making the same type of choice constantly is great to me. Lots of games here are very stark - if you don’t meet a stat requirement you fail, and it makes trying different approaches impossible. If there’s an element of risk introduced, it definitely makes me decide “Hey, let’s let fate decide this time because this choice sounds awesome”

That said, it does depend on HOW random it is. If outcomes always have the same odds regardless of stats, then that doesn’t sound very fun. Random outcomes I think should also not lead to game ending scenarios. I like failing in games, but if a random roll leads to death it’s just lame.

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if you don’t meet a stat requirement you fail

At the same time, if randomness is a thing, even if you do focus on a single playstyle, you could fail due to randomness. So there’s little point to build your PC in a certain way.

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I have a gut feeling that people who want to re-experience a story the same way are underrepresented in the audience for choice games.

I do often replay a game to see the impact of making a different choice however, and I have a good feeling almost everyone does this. Incorporating randomness means you might not even see the choice you want to remake.

On the other hand, a lack of a save system with ChoiceScript games means you can’t easily go back and redo choices anyway without considerable effort.

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I liked the random events in The War for the West, because the random event pool was deep enough to feel sufficiently interesting and different on replay. I don’t like when outcomes are dependent on RNG, because it incentivizes the player to savescum for the best result.

A little randomness is okay as it can make things just that bit more unpredictable and interesting.