Random resolution, also called stochastic resolution, is a type of resolution in which the game mechanics use randomness, generally to introduce an element of risk or uncertainty. Random resolution is referred to as fortune in the terminology of GNS Theory and the Big Model.
Random resolution is rarely wholly random, and the probability of success (or other relevant outcome) are usually affected by character traits or statistics or by the fictional positioning of the situation, or both. These may be built into the resolution mechanic by means of modifiers, target numbers, adjustments to dice pools before rolling, or other means. For example, Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition's core resolution mechanic uses both character statistics and fictional positioning, applying a modifier based on statistics (primarily abilities) and adjusting the target number based on the situation (which may itself depend on the statistics of another character). A certain amount of judgement may be applied to determine these where they are not set explicitly by the rules of the game, particularly by the GM, but the resolution method is still random resolution (not judgemental resolution) as long as procedures determine the outcome based at least partly on randomness.
Random resolution relies on the use of randomisers. The most commonly used randomisers used in role-playing games are dice, but playing cards are also common. Others that have been used include non-standard playing cards (e.g. Tarot cards), random number generators on devices, picking tokens out of bags, etc.
- Main article: Fortune positioning
Something that is unique to random resolution is the timing of the random elements within the overall resolution mechanic, compared to when the player makes other mechanically relevant decisions. This is called the mechanic's fortune positioning, with the word fortune referring to random resolution using the terminology of GNS Theory and the Big Model.
There are three main types of fortune positioning:
- Fortune at the end (FatE) - All mechanical player inputs are applied before the random element is performed, and the random result determines what happens next in the fiction. This is the most common type, especially in traditional role-playing games.
- Fortune in the middle (FitM) - Players make mechanical decisions both before and after the random element of the resolution. For example, in a game like Fate Core, a player may choose a relevant skill by describing what their character wants to do (a mechanical decision as well as a narrative one), then roll dice (the random element), then spend fate points to affect the result (another mechanical decision). The mechanical parts that take place after the random input are usually similar to different types of resolution, i.e. deterministic or judgemental resolution.
- Fortune at the beginning (FitB) - The random element is determined first and all player inputs happen afterwards. This means, by necessity, that the random element is applied the same way every time no matter what the fictional positioning or what the character wants to do.
These terms are somewhat confusing and have been defined in many different ways since they were first coined. In particular, the terms don't indicate the timing of the resolution mechanic within the overall resolution process (e.g. whether dice are rolled before or after the action is described), but only the timing of the random element within the mechanic itself. For terms that cover this, see narration before uncertainty and narration after uncertainty.
Fortune-in-the-middle mechanics in which the part of the mechanics that takes place after the randomised element can alter the overall outcome (e.g. from a success to a failure or vice versa) are sometimes said to have "teeth" or be "with teeth". FitM mechanics in which the part of the mechanics after randomness can modify the effect without changing the overall outcome are sometimes said to be "without teeth".
- ↑ Dan Maruschak (2020-07-27). "It's old now, but the resolution system in Ganakagok was what made me realize that all resolution systems are in some sense oracle systems. "This scene goes in a Woman of Storms direction" is not different in kind from a "This scene goes in a The Task Succeeded direction".". Twitter. Retrieved 2020-07-28.