Explaining Permutations

Okay, so I brought up the word “permutations” and it might have gotten people confused as to what I mean when using them in Solo RPGs.

So, I decided to make a special post detailing permutations in Solo Games and why I find them an important feature in a Solo RPG.

First off, what are permutations? Well, they’re combinations in which the order of them must be specific. Specifically, for Solo RPGs, they’re the number of possible combinations to have when randomly generating something.

To give an example, I’m going to use the NPC Interaction Emulator from the Universal NPC Emulator.

Starting off, we have the NPC Mood. We look at the possible results at the bottom of the table and see that there are 7 different possible moods an NPC could have in the conversation. Their relationship doesn’t matter, since it’s a means to set up the range for which the die is rolled.

Next, we have the NPC Bearing. Like before, the 8 subcategories don’t matter because it’s used to set up the range of the results. An easy number to calculate as there are ten in each category, leaving a total of 80 different bearings.

Lastly, NPC Focus. This one’s more straightforward with a total number of 33 different things for the NPC to reference, and this isn’t counting the context of the focus, which would bring the number to staggering degrees.

So, let’s plug these numbers together.

7 × 80 × 33 = 18,480

That’s a big number. And now I’ll explain why this is important to Solo Roleplaying.

Let’s say the number was significantly smaller. For this example, 25, formed from one table with five options and another table with five other options. Every time you roll the dice to determine something, like in the aforementioned example, an NPC conversation, you take one of those permutations from the total amount. Now you have 24 unseen permutations and 1 seen one. In other words, you now have a 4% chance of getting that same permutation. You roll again. Thankfully, it’s another unseen permutation. So now there’s 23 unseen permutations and 2 seen permutations.

The chances of running into the same result increases with each roll of the dice. Eventually, you’ll see every permutation and run into staleness. However, there are two things that could easily prevent this: context and vagueness.

Context is your actions and narrative in the Solo RPG factoring into the result, while vagueness refers to how the result is worded. To give you an example of the latter, let’s make a hypothetical table of five different possibilities of conflict, using the Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock dynamic.

  1. Rock (Skill Conflict)
  2. Paper (Social Conflict)
  3. Scissors (Combat Conflict)
  4. Lizard (Conflict with Monsters)
  5. Spock (Conflict with NPCs)

As you can see, the list above allows a leeway for different options to come up, since the list doesn’t say specifics and instead imply certain kinds of conflict to come up. For example, Rock could lead to a conflict where you’d have to climb a large mountain or stealth your way past watch dogs. An example of a non-vague table is if we took this list literally, and thus, every conflict we have will either be with a rock, paper, scissors, a lizard, or Spock. Another example would be of specific events, such as the ones found in some D&D modules.

Context helps add to the permutations as well. To go back to the listed example, almost every conflict needs context to come to life. What is the skill you need to succeed at? Who are you talking to? Who are you fighting? What kind of monster are you fighting? Who is the most important NPC at the moment? Context adds life to almost every table I’ve seen and makes the possibilities that much more endless.

I don’t exactly know how to calculate vagueness and context into a number, so my hypothesis is that they just double the number. In short:

7 × 80 × 33 = 18,480
(18,480 × V) × C = 73,920

I believe a high number of permutations of a game help make any solo RPG replayable without feeling stale. Of course, this is a theory of mine and I just wanted to share it with some of you to help you better understand what I’m talking about when I refer to “combinations and permutations” either in the past or future.

If you’re interested, I highly recommend Game Theory’s video on just how many levels a person could possibly make in Mario Maker. If nothing else, it’s a very insightful video on how permutations work. If you want to cut to the chase, here’s the direct link to when he starts talking about them.

Bon Voyage, gamers.

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