Resolution is the process by which outcomes are determined in situations of uncertainty or conflict. A given role-playing game can have multiple different resolution mechanics, but most modern games have a single core resolution mechanic that applies in many different situations. In Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, for example, the core resolution mechanic is to roll a d20, add a modifier based on the player character's ability score, and compare to a target number.

Types of resolution processesEdit

Resolution processes in RPGs can be broadly categorised as one of the following three types:

The distinction between these three types was initially proposed by Ron Edwards in his essay System Does Matter. Edwards used the names Fortune, Karma, and Drama after the Laws of Fortune, Karma, and Drama from the game Everway by Jonathan Tweet.[1] However, while Tweet approved the use of the terms for the theory, the terms did not precisely correspond to their use in Everway (the Tweet's Law of Karma, for instance, covered GM judgements based on logical consequences, which Edwards' theory would class as Drama). Use of these terms has been criticised for being jargony (confusing) and misleading.[2]

Parts of resolutionEdit

The IIEE model breaks every resolution down into four parts that take place within the game world:[3][4]

However, while every resolution includes all four parts, resolution mechanics often do not. A game may have mechanics that cover only one stage (leaving the rest to be determined through narration), multiple stages at once (leaving it to the players' discretion at what stage the resolution is blocked in the event of failure), or multiple stages each with its own mechanics.

Considering a basic attack in D&D 5th edition, for example, a character wants to attack an enemy (Intent) and can automatically make an attempt to do so in their turn unless subject to certain conditions (Initiation). Whether they hit or not is determined by an attack roll, the core resolution mechanic of the system (Execution). If they hit, they then need to determine how much damage is inflicted on the enemy through a secondary game mechanic, rolling a different set of dice and adding a different modifier. The damage inflicted can have other impacts, such as the death of the enemy if damage is higher than the creature's remaining hit points (Effect).

Also, while every resolution process has these four parts, if a character fails at any given stage then the resolution process may stop before all four parts take place. For example, if a character wants to say something to a rival (Intent) but is unable to attempt to do so (Initiation), then no further resolution is needed to resolve Execution or Effect because nothing has happened.

Types of resolution uncertaintyEdit

In different games, resolution will be used to resolve different types of uncertainty or conflict. Two examples are known as task resolution (in which resolution applies when a character performs an action that could succeed or fail) and conflict resolution (in which resolution applies when a character has a desire that could be satisfied or thwarted). This differ in various ways, but many games use resolution mechanics that could be used for either, with the main differences being a matter of framing, narration, and scope. If conflict resolution applies in a complicated situation, a single resolution may cover what would be many different task resolutions. (Consider a game that uses a single roll to determine who wins a fight, compared to the more detailed combat mechanics in a game like D&D.) On the other hand, a character may succeed at an action (task resolution), but fail to achieve what they actually wanted out of the situation, which wouldn't happen under conflict resolution.[5]

Both task resolution and conflict resolution are framed from the characters' perspectives, but other forms of resolution exist when there are conflicts between players. Some games will only require resolution if players (including the GM) have different opinions about what happens in the game world. Again, the actual mechanics used in such a resolution can be very similar to the mechanics used under standard task resolution or conflict resolution.


  1. Ron Edwards. "System Does Matter". The Forge. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  2. Elliot Wilen (2010-08-23). "Against Drama, Fortune, and Karma". Ewilen at Livejournal. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  3. Vincent Baker (2006-05-18). "A quick IIEE primer, by request". anyway. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  4. Vincent Baker (lumpley) (2003-09-23). "I finally got IIEE!" (topic post). The Forge. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  5. Vincent Baker (2004-02-05). "Conflict Resolution vs. Task Resolution" (in Roleplaying Theory). lumpley games. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
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