What can I read about how we tie the stochastic characteristics of conflict resolution into statements about the nature of a game? Is occasioning a lot of odd behavior.

  • It's drawn automatic comment-flags a few times. A number of those comments are users arguing (in 600 chars or fewer) why the question is good/bad/on-topic/off-topic.
  • It's got one answer that's basically "here's some references which I don't think address this; maybe video game people know more."
  • It's got another heavily-downvoted answer that seems to be just one user's description of how they believe/percieve distributions to play out. (And then there's that strange tagline at the end.)

The first point alone makes me think we need this meta to more-fully explore the question's merits, flaws, clarity: as much ink's been spilt arguing the question' status and understanding its details as on answering it. The perplexing existing answers strike it home for me.

For now I'm holding the question, moving the comments to a dedicated chat room, and I encourage all who've engaged with the question on mainsite to discuss it here where I hope the space and tools at everyone's disposal can help make it a great contribution to the site.

Just to be clear: I'm not really sure one way or another on the question. I thought it merited holding because of the storm I saw swirling around it. My hope is that in this meta supporters and opponents can make the longer arguments the question seems to deserve. If, as a result of this, five reopen-votes accrue, great. If not, great. The community of people involved with and knowledgeable about the question can do their thing better than I can.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I want to say Keep it open until the study is published, but I fear that in the intervening years until that actually happens the question will keep on attracting pseudo-answers that make noble and helpful attempts to answer it, leading to a vicious circle of frustration on the part of the asker and answerers. (It's one of the reasons I let this question finally die… I didn't know that when I posed it that I wanted a sociological survey of gaming groups, but that's what would make a good answer and that wasn't gonna happen.) \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2017 at 3:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer edited. The mentions of studies relating to effects on creativity (not really your question) and in larping (not your context) made me think they weren't really on-point. Does this ^^ more-accurately capture it now? Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    May 9, 2017 at 11:36

4 Answers 4


I see the following issues:

  1. The actual question is obfuscated.

    The length isn't a problem. Introducing a bit of background to set shared expectations is fine, especially for more nuanced, "feels-y" questions. There's a bolded "thesis statement" at the end that tries to summarize the question, so you're not left searching through multiple paragraphs.

    That thesis statement, though, is really vague (in my opinion):

    How do we tie the stochastic characteristics of conflict resolution into a statement about the nature of a role playing game?

    "Stochastic" is formal jargon but that's fine if you're chasing academic literature anyway.

    "Conflict resolution" as used here is kinda mismatched with what "conflict resolution" means in non-academic RPG theory ("conflict" vs. "task" resolution) or in academic social literature (a process of deescalation, negotiation, mediation, et cetera).

    "A statement about the nature of a roleplaying game" is... well, it's kind of a blank. Based on the preceding information, it seems to be about user experience. But maybe it's more? It kinda reads as an invitation to say anything, except that "anything" must also be deep and rigorous on some highly unspecific level (the very "nature" of a game).

  2. Stringent requirements make the scope problematic.

    In particular I'm interested in the impact of the magnitude of the stochastic variance of the resolution system on the system, as well as the impact of greater or lesser volatility, and of polynomialization of the distribution (i.e. how binomail, trinomial, etc distribution graphs affect the feel of the game).

    This is laser-focused on a small part of the overall "surface area" of player interaction with the mechanics. It may not be something that's easily "separable" from other features as discussed in the answer.

    Now, okay, that's not quite a deal breaker: you can easily write a frame-challenge answer that says "here's a paper on roll-the-dice resolution mechanics that takes a wider view and comes to the following conclusions, demonstrating how your concern is just part of a greater whole, and likely to be eclipsed by other factors" if such a paper is out there.

    But, coupled with the technical language and open-ended notion of "a statement about the nature of a role playing game," it seems like we're being asked a very detailed question about a very specific thing.

So that's a question that's both hard to answer (this is okay), but I think, as it stands, it's also hard for anyone but the OP to evaluate the answer at all. That's a problem.

E.g. I've had to go back and forth between Thanuir's answer and the question several time to figure out whether or not it's actually an appropriate reply. I'm still not entirely sure. (Now, I'm not a full-time academic, but I've read a ton of non-academic RPG theory, and at least one formal game design book that touches heavily on how systems design affects both outcomes and player experience, "immersion," "flow," &c. We've got, what, half a dozen users who've done more than that?)

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm definitely with you on your last paragraph: that's the same experience I had. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    May 10, 2017 at 2:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm with you both on the last paragraph. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tommi
    May 10, 2017 at 5:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with your concerns in point 2. The question seems to presume I can disconnect the resolution mechanic from the rest of the game and say something meaningful about the game this way, but I don't think I can. Statements about the dice resolution mechanic of D&D, Great Ork Gods, Lady Blackbird, Cthulhu Dark, Lasers & Feelings, and others, doesn't tie into a meaningful statement about how the game feels, and I can't talk about how the resolution mechanic feels without talking about its context within other game features that make it feel that way. \$\endgroup\$ May 10, 2017 at 12:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is good. I will try and change the vague 'nature' question to something better defined (UX is, in fact, what I'm wanting to ask about), and "task resolution" sounds like it's better than conflict resolution since I do mean the RPG-specific meaning which is only vaguely related to other one I wasn't thinking about ^^; \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2017 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer You could just say "resolution mechanics" or refer to rolling dice generically. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    May 12, 2017 at 21:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexP rolling dice is too specific and I think will give the wrong impression. resolution mechanics might be better, but I already changed it so that can go in with the next change if one has to be made to avoid needless bumping, since I don't think it's critical. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2017 at 21:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited again, since rejection of abstract questions was on my mind again recently. We'll see if it's enough to get reopened, though. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2020 at 1:50

"What does academic literature have to say about [subject within roleplaying]?" is a suitable question for this site.

That said, I don't think the linked question is very clearly written (or was, as of a couple edits ago).

On academic questions

There is plenty of academic literature on games. There is a significant number of literature on roleplaying games, though with a focus on education or Nordic larp. For example: International journal of roleplaying, Analog game studies, Solmukohta/Knudepunkt/Knutpunkt books.

RPG.se is, to me, a natural place for questions and answers related to this literature. Many of the researchers are active roleplayers.

A typical academic question asks for references or what is known about a subject. There questions can be answered. In an ideal situation, the answer is a review article or a PhD thesis; in a less ideal world, it consists of some keywords and a couple of central references; in the real world, it often consists of some related articles and the fact that the answerer believes that is the best there currently is, as far as related literature.


On re-opening the question

To be reopened, the question needs to show work done. Sources the querent is already familiar with and thinks may lead somewhere, but hasn't gotten there yet.

If re-opened, the community/moderators should also be more aggressive about answer deletion here, for the sake of preserving the quality of the question itself.

The question is poorly scoped

Despite its looks, the core of the question is actually improperly posed. This is because the querent is unable to form the question itself, as he is unable to articulate his own confusion.

Below is a snippet from that question which I believe shows this.

For example, I can tell you that the absence of dice in Amber significantly changes the feel of the game v.s. a similar setting modeled and run in FATE 2.0.

I'm much less articulate as to what the actual differences are, though.

In short: the querent does not know what he wants to know. And so how can the question be properly asked?

The answer to this question is very likely "there is no effect"

The question is asking "what is the effect of the statistical properties of chance on a player's experience" is asking a very high level question that -- to me, intuitively, though I haven't done the legwork for it -- is very likely to yield "there is no significant effect." On my part, this is just a hunch.


Due to the combined factors of:

  • No work has been shown when posing the question

  • The question is poorly scoped because the querent is uncertain about what he wants to know

  • The most probable answer is there is no effect

Then this leads to a very unique question which leads to this situation where it may not always reap the best answers. I submit that a question which is unable to articulate what it is asking about, but has an underlying answer of "there is no effect," will draw confused answers.

This can be fixed by better scoping down the Q to specific aspects of the game's dice mechanics that the querent is interested in. A question of "does statistics generally affect the feel of the game?" is unclear and too broad. A question of "does more variance change the feel of the game?" is better scoped. And if the querent is interested in more than one facet of statistics, they can ask more questions.


As I said in my opening, the if the question is re-opened, the community and moderators need to be stricter about enforcing deletion of bad answers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure how I've failed to show due diligence... I guess I could add a text wall of sources that don't answer my question? Regardless, lack of due diligence in prior research would be a downvote reason, not a close reason. I'm not sure in what manner you think the question malformed. I am interested in the effect of one specific, well-defined, thing on another specific, albeit less well-defined, thing. Do you mean that I use the wrong terms for something? Do you mean that you disagree with my beliefs about reality and thus assume the question is malformed? \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2017 at 8:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ As regards our differences in beliefs about reality: I think that the position that stochastic character has no impact on game feel doesn't negate the value of the question. The belief that stochastic character does impact game feel is long-standing and frequently encountered and so it makes sense to ask about that. even if you believe the entire system of thought should be discarded (which you may not). \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2017 at 8:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Re: question is malformed. You said the following: "I'm much less articulate as to what the actual differences are, though." This signals that you do not know the effect you are looking for. \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    May 9, 2017 at 8:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Re: no impact on feel of the game. The second half of my answer validates your question by saying there is value to it, so this comment seems to be an attempt to disagree with me on a thing I don't disagree with you on. Have you ensured you've digested the message I put in my answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    May 9, 2017 at 8:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ re:malformed I don't think that word means what you think it means. It is true that I don't know the answer to the question I'm asking. However, it doesn't seem to me to be the sort of question which is made more difficult to ask in that circumstance. Re: Impact Yeah, your second part makes this point as well. My point is that that point negates or seems to negate what you are using or seem to be using it for in the middle of the first part. \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2017 at 8:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ If your issue is word choice, then I've removed the word and replaced it. Re: impact, someone stopped by and told me I've answered your actual Main-site question in this Meta, so I removed all background info in this answer to avoid that appearance. I suppose I should just remove the second half as well. Would that enhance the answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    May 9, 2017 at 9:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that's better. I disagree because I don't see what I'm asking for as casting a wide net in the hope of catching a narrow thing, but that's not something I think necessarily needs discussing. I don't think this answers my main site question at all and I think you're fine leaving that stuff in in general. How would this have been answering my main site question? \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2017 at 9:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer If you look into the revision history to the first version of the answer, there was a section about justifying the "no effect" stance with a citation on a game design book and a bunch of other stuff. It could reasonably color this as answering your main Q. But I agree that it doesn't actually -- just edited as the suggestions rolled in. And on that note, the second half of the answer is gone now. \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    May 9, 2017 at 9:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2017 at 9:24

I think part (much) of the issue is that the question sounds like its asking for an answer upfront for most of the body and only makes it clear that it's looking for sources to consume for an answer later. I've made an edit to that effect. I hope that by making it more clearly a reference request type question it will be less confusing to viewers.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited the last paragraph in the linked question since the "and that that" made no sense. Mostly, the edit was nominal. \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2017 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Huh. I actually had to change that back from a previous removal, I figured people just weren't paying attention and deleted the 'repeated' word without checking. The meaning of "explain how and that that literature" is a request to "explain how that literature" and "explain that that literature". Can you help me understand why this kind of language is difficult for you/others? Maybe there's another phrasing that preserves meaning with more-awkward but also more universally accessible english. \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2017 at 16:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Recommendation: add in a comma between "how" and the word "and" to make it obvious what you are doing. It is an awkwardly written sentence. If one has to read, and re read, a sentence two or three times to make it make sense then lucidity has not been achieved. That said, your question, your final call. \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2017 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast sounds good: Question edited \$\endgroup\$ May 10, 2017 at 5:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure how "recommend me some good sources" is distinguishable from a shopping question. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    May 11, 2017 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @fectin Add that as an answer (Reference requests are off-topic since they are shopping questions.) and people will probably tell you, or attempt to. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tommi
    May 22, 2017 at 4:17

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