All roleplaying games have mechanisms for deciding what should happen when there is a question as to what will happen next. Surprise, you could say, is the reason we play roleplaying games, rather than writing a novel. In many games, the surprise comes from the outcome of rolling dice, but this isn’t the only way surprise can be injected into a story.
Fortune, Karma, and Drama
The mechanisms for deciding the crucial question of “what happens next?” are as varied as the thousands of roleplaying games that exist, but all of them boil down to some combination of the following:
- We consult dice or cards, or some other randomizer, which will tell us what happens next. This is known, in game design, as a Fortune mechanic.
- Someone pays an amount of some kind of points in order to purchase the authority to say what happens next. This is known as a Karma mechanic.
- And finally, someone who has the authority to say what happens next, simply says what happens. This is known as a Drama mechanic.