Pennies randomizer

edited September 2009 in Story Games
Inspired by the McGyvering thread.

So there is this impulse of DIY randomizing. DIY is good, period. And there is this disdain for computer based randomizers (actually I'm fine with them but let's accept that a randomizer physically present in your hands has an edge). Still I like something about computer science: playing with binary numbers. I know I'm already knee deep in nerdspace. Sorry it won't improve, please hit the "back" button now if you're appalled.

A number can be represented in binary, that means only two digits are available : 0 and 1 (yay me!)
So if you see this binary number 10101 it starts to be a little difficult without practice, or without going into details :
10101(binary) = 1 * 2pow4 + 0 * 2pow3 + 1 * 2pow2 + 0 * 2pow1 + 1 * 2pow0 = 16 + 0 + 4 + 0 + 1 = 21
where 2powN means 2 power N (2pow0 = 1, 2pow1 = 2, 2pow2 = 4 ....)

Right now I've got the math/computer geeks thinking "well duh" and the others going "booooriiiiing". Let me toss pennies in here !

So each digit of a binary number could be randomized by the toss of a penny, right? right. So for a randomizer equivalent to a d8 one needs 3 pennies. 4 pennies for a d16 etc... So a BinaPenny randomizer (there I named it) would be better used for dX type of randomizers, where X= 2powY. that's a first limitation.

The next problem is when tossing a lot of pennies how do I know which penny correspond to the higher digit, and the next one and the next one... Well given a flat surface where the pennies landed and given the position of the guy who tossed, we could rule that "the higher penny is on the extreme left of the tosser view, and next bits are read by reading next pennies from left to right". It should work, except for the weird cases of pennies aligned from the tosser POV.

Well ok so now I've got a binary number randomly generated by throwing pennies on a table. It still didn't make binary representation easy on most gamers. We still prefer decimal numbers in general (OK except for time and weird non-metric units). Sure I can solve that by having a sheet of paper with let's say the first hundred binary numbers and their decimal translation. Weak sauce. That's where story-games design geniuses kick in.

Who wants to improve on this?

Comments

  • Heh...that's funny. I never would have thought of going the binary number route with the pennies.

    I would have said: d4 = flip 2 pennies. first one means 1-2 vs. 3-4. Second one picks one. d8 = flip 3 pennies. first one means 1-4 vs. 5-8. Second one narrows it down to 2. Third one picks one.

    Which I suspect works precisely because of the Power of N math stuff...but doesn't require me to actually remember any of that math stuff.
  • You're right, it's strictly the same. Except I don't assume anything about the number of pennies I want to inject in my randomizer. And I'm looking for a methodical way to do that.
  • edited September 2009
    It should work, except for the weird cases of pennies aligned from the tosser POV.
    That depends where Simon is sitting, of course.

    Are you set on using just pennies? If not, you could use a penny, two two pences, a five pence, a ten pence, two twenty pences and a fifty pence. Total the coins that land heads up. Numbers from 1 to 100, plus the opportunity to do funky things with particular coins in your mechanics ("The penny is the Die Of Evil. When it lands heads up, Evil Happens").

    Graham
  • Good call Graham. Different coins would do the trick.

    Your evil penny is nice too. Though I'd see it better used as a sign penny for some Fudge-y pattern : a penny and a nickel is a bit like a Fudge dice... Well not really because 0 happens with probability 0.5 instead of 0.3333...
  • edited September 2009
    It isn't TOTALLY macGuyer, because of prep, but you could paint a numeric value on each penny that corresponds to a 2n value, and leave the other side blank (or put 0).
    #1 - 1 and 0 = 0-1
    #2 - 2 and 0 = 0-3
    #3 - 4 and 0 = 0-7
    #4 - 8 and 0 = 0-15
    #5 - 16 and 0 = 0-31

    [edit]Whoops--and then the obvious, speedier step is to merely add up the numeric values.[/edit]

    Annnnd notice the funky curve, there, in the "0-n" ranges? BIG problem with die ranges as binaries: they become exponentially larger with the addition of each coin. I mean, by the time you toss eight coins, your range is 0 to 255!
  • Posted By: David ArtmanIt isn't TOTALLY macGuyer, because of prep, but you could paint a numeric value on each penny that corresponds to a 2nvalue, and leave the other side blank (or put 0).
    #1 - 1 and 0 = 0-1
    #2 - 2 and 0 = 0-3
    #3 - 4 and 0 = 0-7
    #4 - 8 and 0 = 0-15
    #5 - 16 and 0 = 0-31

    [edit]Whoops--and then the obvious, speedier step is to merely add up the numeric values.[/edit]
    Neat. But the binary->decimal trouble is still high because we have to add a lot of numbers. There must be a way. Somewhere.
    Annnnd notice the funky curve, there, in the "0-n" ranges? BIG problem with die ranges as binaries: they become exponentially larger with the addition of each coin. I mean, by the time you toss eight coins, your range is 0 to 255!
    Well sure. I think that's when one would have to create a game that exploits the exponential wackiness.

    I'm imagining a device with N top-o-matic type of devices. With a dial that sets the number of pennies used, and the bottom of the top-o-matic would be treated so they detect if it's face or tail and a little electronic chip would do the sum for you... OK so I'm back to the computer randomizer, except made of plastic, wood and silicon. Great. Though a steampunk looking version would seduce a niche...
  • How about combining it with rules on bit switching after the throw? E.g. allowing a player to flip one bit by spending a token? Or perhaps it should cost a token pr magnitude of the bit flipped.

    Having the number of bits = number of pennies to use in a throw would make for nice stats with truly extraordinary specialists. E.g. "3" in "Digital madness" would lead to results in the range of 0-7, where as a "6" in "Insane processing" would have results in the range of 0-63.

    Naturally, this mad complexity should only be used in a game where binary numbers make sense in the setting (any ideas? Robo Rally - the story game?).
  • Damn you! Just last night, like 24 hours ago, I came up with the idea of using pennies in my game as a randomizer. Not to produce binary numbers, though; you count heads as successes, tails as failures, and if you get more than zero successes net, you succeed. More successes means you succeed more spectacularly. PvP simply compares successes. And so I considered myself terribly clever, and oh look, I've got time this weekend to work it all out and write it up, I could even playtest it a week from now. So tonight, I log on and what do I find?

    Ahem. Anyway, yes. Binary. Totally. Yes. Stick with the binary. Stick with the binary.
  • Jason, the Pale Puppy folks are going to send their lawyers after you. You totally ripped off the funniest part of OWoD.
  • so like the best way to fix this is to use d10s instead of dice so you get DECIMAL results.

  • In Fourpenny Touch, each player starts with a stack of 10 coins. You can toss up to four on any conflict. You need any number of tails to succeed but you lose those coins. Heads you keep. It's a slowish death spiral, unless of course you have the not too unlikely (1/16) occurence of all tails with your last four coins which happened to my wife.
  • edited September 2009
    How to count in binary on your fingers:

    Make a fist like you were going to rest your knuckles on a table in front of you. Stick out your thumb. Say "one."

    Stick out your index finger while curling in your thumb. You should be pointing away from yourself with your index finger only. Say "two."

    Stick out your thumb back out. Leave your index finger where it was. Say "three."

    Stick out your middle finger while curling in your index and thumb. You should be pointing away from yourself with your middle finger only. Say "four."

    Stick out your thumb back out. Leave your middle finger where it was. Say "five."

    Stick out your index finger while curling in your thumb. You should be pointing away from yourself with your index and middle fingers. Say "six."

    Stick out your thumb back out. Leave your middle and index fingers out. Say "seven."

    Stick out your ring finger while curling in everything else. You should be pointing away from yourself with your ring finger only. You may need to use your thumb to hold down the rest of your fingers into a fist. Say "eight."

    Continue as with the four through seven sequence, but you can now make it to 15.

    Stick out your pinky finger while curling in everything else. Say "sixteen."

    Continue as before, but you can now make it to 31.

    Using both hands, you can count to over 1000.
  • 1023, to be precise.
  • edited September 2009
    Posted By: Jonatan Kilhamn1023, to be precise.
    Until you said that, there was a slim chance that some tactile learner in here might have tried to see how high they could count. You stole that from them. You meany.

    1023 is pretty high. You can make a decent language out of 1023 words, and you could also pick random words by shaking up 10 pennies, Now you have a sign language and a random word generator - it's like Primitive with coins! Maybe street kids trying to make a language, and writing with scrounged-up loose change. Also! If you count in trinary rather than binary - each finger having an up, an down, and a half-bent position - you can count to 59048.
  • edited September 2009
    Actually, if you're rolling off (flipping off? perhaps not... tossing off? err...) against someone, it becomes a much easier system.

    Whomever has more coins flips that many. If they come up with no heads, you have a chance. Flip one coin at a time. If you get heads and they get tails, you win.

    Edit: And there's no need for a tie if you don't want to have them - just use binary fractions! Yes, I taught math two years ago, why do you ask?
  • Do contested rolls. Everyone gets the same number of coins.
    Both players check their first result. If one person has heads and the other person has tails, the person who has heads wins. If both results are the same, move on to the next result. Repeat if necessary.

    Skill X lets you count X coins from the last result, and, if that coin is tails, turn it into a heads. If that coin is heads, turn it into tails, go one coin towards the first result, and repeat. (So, if you got heads-tails-heads-tails-tails, and had Skill 3, you would turn it into heads-heads-tails-tails-tails... strictly speaking, a better "roll".)

    But flipping pennies is a pain. I can't imagine any benefit it would give over normal dice, or playing cards, that would be worth it.
  • Ben, that system might actually be good for a game that uses dice for binary results like high/low or odds/even.
  • Posted By: jasonDamn you!Justlast night, like24 hours ago, I came up with the idea of using pennies in my game as a randomizer. Not to produce binary numbers, though; you count heads as successes, tails as failures, and if you get more than zero successes net, you succeed. More successes means you succeed more spectacularly. PvP simply compares successes. And so I considered myself terribly clever, and oh look, I've got time this weekend to work it all out and write it up, I could even playtest it a week from now. So tonight, I log on andwhat do I find?

    Ahem. Anyway, yes. Binary. Totally. Yes. Stick with the binary.Stick with the binary.
    That's not all that different from FUDGE dice really.
  • Posted By: agonyThat's not all that different from FUDGE dice really.
    Yup, I noticed.
  • Posted By: DanielSolisBen, that system might actually be good for a game that uses dice for binary results like high/low or odds/even.
    I do like the idea... but the results really are isomorphic to "Roll 1d(2^X), and add your modifier." So the question becomes, why not just roll a d20 and add a modifier or something instead of all these fiddly intermediate steps? Besides the fact that fiddly is sometimes fun? On the other hand, well, sometimes fiddly IS fun.
  • Perhaps this is good for playing humans given the power of a god. Normally you roll 1d16 and the gods roll 1d512. However, you've been empowered as an avatar and now you roll 1d16 + 256. Your odds improve significantly.
  • Agreed with many above commentators: This system is interesting, but I'd only use it where it fits the rules (or you're really too cheap to buy dice, but come on now). No point introducing complexity for the sake of it.
  • Posted By: bouletNeat. But the binary->decimal trouble is still high because we have to add a lot of numbers. There must be a way. Somewhere.
    Well, odds are you'll only have to add up half of the number of coins you flip. :)

    I like the mechanical solution you propose. Reminds me of the "computerized" dice roller that actually conveyed dice to drop into a "dice tower," scanned them with OCR when they stopped in a rack at the bottom, then passed them back to the conveyor. Rube Goldberg would be proud.
    Posted By: Frederik J. JensenHow about combining it with rules on bit switching after the throw? E.g. allowing a player to flip one bit by spending a token? Or perhaps it should cost a token pr magnitude of the bit flipped.
    NEAT! And, actually, if you're VERY careful with the coins you use, so that they are all identical, then you wouldn't use the "token per magnitude" because you wouldn't know what magnitude/power of coin you were about to flip, if it was tails. This is, to my mind, a feature not a flaw: it adds an element of chance to bit-flipping. Whereas if you knew the magnitude of the coins, wouldn't you always bit-flip the lowest or highest, the one that pushes your result to the threshold goal?

    As for the exponential range, it would work for a game where very high power and low power characters often interact: supers, god/mythological, humans vs. machines, forest animals of all sizes (not just rodentia and birds).

    @ Ben Wray - Why? Because that's the point of the thread, I think: coins as randomizers, using binary, and how such a base mechanic can be improved and applied. :

    I, for one, think it would rock for LARP, with a limited scale (say 3 to 5 coins) that could be done just by shaking a closed handful of coins and opening it palm-up, to see what's revealed. With "attributes" or "traits" or "foo" ranging from, say, 2 coins to 5, you get a spectrum of 0-3 and 0-31. Obviously, the cost for each "rank" (coin count) of a trait would be similarly exponential, for balance (for LARPers who are big gam/sim players--pipe down, you Scandinavians!).

    Wait... doesn't NWOD LARP use coins like that, but with something like pennies as 0/1 and nickles as 0/5? You could represent ranks as P:N, much like the scores for Gaelic Rules and (IIRC) Aussie Rules Football.
    1 = 1:0
    2 = 2:0
    3 = 3:0
    4 = 4:0
    5 = 0:1
    6 = 1:1
    ... (basically base five, yah?)
    Then you just count by fives and then by ones, which should be easy: "five, ten, eleven, twelve" for a two nickle heads and two pennies Heads result (for any number of coins tossed that result in those four Heads). I KNOW this has been done--didn't we have a thread on The Forge about this about five years ago? Or RPG.net? (I'm on too many forums.)
  • ...And continuing the nickle and penny approach, you could ALSO make it so that costs for some "indentical" ranges differ because of the differences in means. Lemme try to esplain:
    I have a "Rank 20" in "foo" which means the possible range of results is from 0 to 19, right? OK so far.
    Now, if I build it as 4:3, I could get the full range of values, 0 to 19.
    BUT, if I build it as 9:2, I could still get 0 to 19, yet my actual results (should) skew lower (HELP! MATH!) because I have more pennies "smoothing" their average values to 4.5, with more "volatile" nickles 33% of the time adding nothing, 33% of the time adding 5, and the rest adding 10.
    Even more so if I built it as 19:0, obviously: I am going to hit the median more often than not, with such a large sample set of coins to "average out" to half Heads.

    ...Hmmm...Now I want to write a program to run all that....
  • Good call David! Delicious food for thoughts! I gotta give it some thinking.
  • edited September 2009
    Just roll a d12 and interpret as inches. Oh, pennies randomizer. I misread.


    Back on topic:

    I strongly encouraged Jeff Himmelman to rate different traits with different coins (Health 2 nickels, Anger 1 dime, Big Stick 4 pennies) in Kingdom of Nothing. Then you put all the relevant coins in a cup, shake it, dump it, and total the coins that came up "heads."
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