Game Theory and RPGs; Logic Vs. Reality.

People, please share your thoughts regarding my writing, because I can see we have at least a couple of readers.

In games and businesses we have Game Theory, which to some degree dictates the way people operate. You’d think they’d operate by common logic, but they do not.

Note that I know some tidbits of Game Theory, but not too much. I have several books, including University MBA level on the subject, but did not peruse them too deeply, so take what I write with a grain of salt, well, a bigger one than usual.

So some examples:
We have two people who will never meet again, have this opportunity be repeated or met before: One of them gets $100 and can offer the other participant as much of it as he wants, should the other particiant accept, they both take the money, should he decline they both leave empty-handed.
Common sense would decree that even if you’re given $0.01 you’d accept, because it’s better than going away empty-handed.
Yet, this is not the way things go.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma:
So you have two prisoners(A, B) who got caught after committing a crime, and are questioned simultanously in seperate rooms: If both tell on their friend they each serve 2 years, if neither talks they both get 6 months inside. If one talks and the other doesn’t, the one who talked will go free and the silent one will get to spend 10 years in jail.
By logic, both should remain silent, mathematically, each ‘acting agent’ should speak.

So now let’s look at two RPGs with mechanics one can look at from the Game Theory angle, both have a mechanic with the same name: Trust. The games are the Mountain Witch and Conspiracy of Shadows.

In Conspiracy of Shadows there’s a communal pool called Trust. When you do something for the benefit of the group you put a die in it, when you could do something for the group but don’t, remove a die from it. You can take dice from the pool and use them.
So long everyone is acting all cooperatively it’s all cool. Once someone starts pissing in the pool, aka, acting against the interests of the party, I forsee players taking dice out as fast as possible, in order to not let more dice go to waste.

In the Mountain Witch each pair of characters have a Trust score for one another(the game is influenced by Reservoir Dogs), the higher you trust someone, the more he can use your help to get things done, to help everyone get to the top of the Mountain. Once things get a little hairy as people’s secrets and secret goals get exposed though, the Trust you have for someone can be used against you.
So do you give someone high Trust in order to help everyone at a possible of self-risk or don’t Trust and then you may not even finish the quest?

I am not going to tell you what to do with it, just wanted to get something out there for you to think about.

And if you don’t see how this relates to Competitive games, then shame on you.

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2 comments on “Game Theory and RPGs; Logic Vs. Reality.

  1. I haven’t played CoS, but I have played multiple sessions of tMW. The whole “strangers” dynamic really comes to the fore in this game. In sessions I have run at conventions, where the players pretty much don’t know each other, they are very stingy with trust and very quick to take it away when hints about Fate are dropped. In my home group, everyone was very free with trust and reluctant to pull it from other players, even when foreshadowing got very suspicious.

  2. Guy says:

    I agree.

    I plan to explore the topic of playing competitive games with people you know versus people you don’t about 2-3 posts from now. You’ve given me another point to cover, that of trust.

    Also, my main point is how what happens in competitive games is very different from what is most efficient/logical.

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