Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Bead Bag, another alternative to dice.

When brainstorming, you never stop at one solution. My problem is that I want an alternate to Fate dice that's more setting appropriate to the primitivist societies in my game. Related to this is a desire to make the game easy to play around a campfire. In the last post I described the Sacred Bowl Game, which is one way of doing this. But I'm not about to stop at just one way.

The bead bag is extremely simple. You need a bag, and 24 small tokens. The tokens come in 3 colors, eight of each. One color (say, green) is a [ + ], one color (say red) is a [ - ], and the last (say, black) is the blank. It's important that the tokens be similar in size and feel so you can't tell the difference by touch. Colored beads, polished stones of different types, or the tons of identical d6s most gamers have will serve for this purpose. 

To get a FATE spread, you shake the bag, reach in, and draw out 4 stones without looking. Total it up as normal, then put the beads back in the bag. 

Honestly the probability math on this is a bit beyond me: I can look up the equations online but understanding how to do them requires that I use math I haven't used since graduation. Obviously the first bead you draw will have exactly a 1 in 3 chance, but the chance of drawing a second, third, or fourth bead has decreasing probability. This is why I suggest 8 of each color, not 4. The more beads you have in there, the closer our probability will be to the correct FATE bell curve, but there's a practical upper limit to how many beads we want in the bag for ease of use. I figure 8 is close enough for our purposes.

Edit:  Jack Gulick was kind enough to do the math for me. To quote:

Here's the whole thing... not as hard as I'd thought.  Plus or Minus are still symmetric, naturally.

4     0.6588%
3     4.2161%
2    11.5942%
1    21.0804%
0    24.9012%

That means, relative to 4dF, 4 is 53% as likely, 3 is 85%, 2 is 94%, 1 is 107% and 0 is 106%.  A bit more centered, but not too terrible.

What is this good for? Two words: FATE LARPing. 

To use this method, you don't need a flat surface, or to be sitting. You just need a small bag or pocket with 2 dozen small stones. You can do this while walking without breaking stride. A fourth token (kept in your other pocket) for fate points, and your character's stats on an index card, and you're good to go. No need for an alternate set of rules for a LARP version of your game now. You can use the rules as written seamlessly. 

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