Help support TMP

"Random events" Topic

28 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Playtest Message Board

Back to the Game Design Message Board

Back to the 18th Century Discussion Message Board

Back to the ACW Discussion Message Board

1,856 hits since 5 Nov 2010
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

charles popp05 Nov 2010 12:13 p.m. PST

Looking to add them to the games I play.JR2 for example. Anyone have a list or system to give me a jump start. ANy Era/rules system is welcome.I am a little foggy on the start up.

shelldrake05 Nov 2010 12:44 p.m. PST

Arc of Fire has 100 random events in their rules.


Terrement Supporting Member of TMP05 Nov 2010 12:50 p.m. PST

There are a lot of ways you can do this depending on what sort of random events you have in mind. Here's a couple of starting points that may or may not fit depending on the type of random events you are looking for. I don't know what JR2 is so I don't know if you are looking at REs for a massed battle, a skirmish, or an ongoing role playing game. You also have to know why you are looking for what in terms of random events. What do I mean?

If you are refighting the battles Heybob Arribob in Bongolosia during their civil war, it could be as simple as each turn rolling for a unit, then applying a card from a deck of events or a roll against a table. The mechanics aren't important. Lets look at the card example. In a deck of 100, you might have a third or a half of them being non-events or "dummy" cards. The remainder might be divided into movement, morale, supply, HTH combat, etc. with a few being very bad or very good and the rest being a minor bump to whatever they are for – so a minor plus might be "Sarge got a letter from home today and is in a good mood. Plus one to any leadership tests he makes today." and a minor bad might be "bad ammo in last delivery cuts effectiveness of firing. Minus one to this unit's next three firing events. Major ones might be "The ground over which you are moving is actually a bit of very bad going (depending on the terrain it is in) and movement is cut to 1/4 for the next four turns as you slog forward or retreat. Mark terrain unit is in as "bad going" where it might be a bog in lowlands, heavy thickets in woods, etc. Obviously won't have a bog in the desert, but could have soft and shifting sand, and won't have thickets in rocky terrain but might have loose and shifting rocks.

If you are looking for plot hooks / RPG type events, again you could make up a simple set of tables with three columns – character – action / verb – object with items tailored to your game. Let's say you are playing an Old West skirmish level game. You might have a list of all of the known characters, and all of the key town personnel, plus some stereotypical entries – pont express rider, stage driver, passenger from the railroad, drifter passing through, etc. The second would be things like "Knows about" "is looking for" "needs to get" "is trying to avoid" etc. and the final one would be a list of people, places and things – so you could repeat the character list, and then add likely items – "a secret" "(person)" "a failed task" "a friend in need" etc.

so a roll against the table for each of the three columns might give you:

The Marshall – needs to get – a friend


Miss Lilly – is hiding from – a stranger

with you figuring out how to thread that into your story for that night.

I'm personally a fan of the MYTHIC Game Master Emulator (GME) which has a great mechanism for storyline events and adding characters and NPCs to the game – can be adapted for use in battle games as well.

Hope this helps. I'm sure there will be lots of other suggestions.

Drop a line if you have questions at


If you are looking for events that are "plot hooks" and typically a very few per session, you could either adapt one from an existing system or make your own.

religon Inactive Member05 Nov 2010 2:01 p.m. PST

I have used event cards to drive this sort of thing.

I'll assume 30 cards with 2 draws per turn. (One by each player.)
This makes a 6 turn game consume half a deck. (Some cards are discarded after matching cards have triggered an event.)

Cards are from these categories…

Generally, I use 2-4 trigger cards for major events like "The Cavalry Arrives." The second card turned triggers the event so that it does not happen too soon after the start of a game.

Opportunity cards could allow you to take special actions like "Fire Canister with Artillery." They don't have to be used, but add flavor to the battle.

Modifier cards can only be used by the drawing player to enhance something about his forces. Adding move bonuses in "Race to the Objective" type games helps disrupt calculating players that have a sure-fire strategy.


Mark Plant05 Nov 2010 5:45 p.m. PST

Your game already has random events built in, by virtue of rolling the dice.

If you add more random events, but don't make the original game less random, then you are doubling the amount of randomness. Can you justify this?

So you reduce the randomness of the original game, and replace it with a specified "random event" system. What have you gained? As far as I can tell an extra layer of work in the game, so that you can put a label on why something happened, rather than just know the result.

I am happy playing games with large elements of randomness, provided that arises naturally and quickly as part of the standard playing of the game. The usual "test to charge" and "combat result" dice rolls. However I don't need to test to charge, only to then draw a card to say that the charge failed because the commanding officer was picking his nose.

Terrement Supporting Member of TMP05 Nov 2010 8:25 p.m. PST

Mark Plant,

Your post goes directly to my:

"You also have to know why you are looking for what in terms of random events. "

Even the greats of our hobby sometimes used these – Featherstone and Bath for two. I think the idea they had, based on the things I read was to take the godlike knowledge and control away from the gamer – to prevent things like "he can charge me if I come within 8 inches of him, so I'll move so that I am 8.0000000001 inches away this turn" and the unrealistic ability to carefully control maneuvers and arrivals on the battlefield that may be permitted by the rules but which do not reflect reality at all.

Similarly, there are rule sets where the general doesn't know the actual ability of untested replacement units until they get "stuck-in" to the battle and see the elephant for the first time. Necessary? No. Better than knowing EXACTLY how capable every unit you are leading might be? Probably not "better" but certainly more representative of reality.

My .02

I agree adding randomness for the sake of doing so adds little if anything. But there are times and situations where it is useful and appropriate

Mark Plant05 Nov 2010 9:49 p.m. PST


There are two main ways of finding the "actual ability of untested replacement units".

The first is that they have a chance of doing well and a chance of doing badly. They roll for whatever it is they are doing (shooting, charging etc) and a result is determined. This is the traditional way, and is nice and simple.

The second is that a roll is made when they first hit combat/shoot etc, and that determines their later rolls because a morale base is established. That way is actually less random, because after the initial roll the player suddenly and magically has more information than before about how they are likely to perform.

The addition of the extra "random" roll has added an extra layer to the game, and thereby made it less random!

It is also a worse reflection of reality, because most generals only find out the morale state of their green troops at the end of the battle. (I imagine most generals didn't even bother to find out then, at the level of individual battalions.) What reality is represented by a man, a kilometre away, knowing after the first volley that the unit on the right is going to perform better than the one on the left? Even a man on the spot would just see two units firing and be no better off.

(Then there is the third way of finding out how good a unit is. The one where the game plays you, so random are the outcomes. Where elite units cannot be even trusted to continue to march along a road, or shoot at the enemy. YMMV, but such games just bore me.)

Personal logo Unlucky General Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2010 11:45 a.m. PST

Rather than 'randomness', perhaps what cards can do is provide the unexpected.

Even within the scope of dice rolling, an experience wargamer who knows their rule set will generally predict the outcome of most decisions and consequences resulting from dice rolling against tables.

In the extreme, event cards may introduce a battlefield or tabletop dilemma which unbalances the game requiring a test of generalship to overcome it.

Whenever I've used them, I end up drawing some form of reinforcement card which I can't represent on the table. Damn disappointing.

Terrement Supporting Member of TMP16 Nov 2010 2:22 p.m. PST


So I guess Featherstone and Bath were mistaken in their approach, right? wink

The second is that a roll is made when they first hit combat/shoot etc, and that determines their later rolls because a morale base is established. That way is actually less random, because after the initial roll the player suddenly and magically has more information than before about how they are likely to perform.

As opposed to knowing ahead of time exactly what the performance parameters (Min to Max & probabilities for each possible outcome) are for the unit? Seems like you get to the magic step at the beginning of the game, but are still in the same place.

(Then there is the third way of finding out how good a unit is. The one where the game plays you, so random are the outcomes. Where elite units cannot be even trusted to continue to march along a road, or shoot at the enemy. YMMV, but such games just bore me.)

Never suggested anything like that. I suspect everyone would be bored by such a "game." I think the underlying question is whether the "script" of the game and rules and the God-like knowledge possessed by players like you prefer is better or worse than one where uncertainty beyond what the player-general-all seeing god knows and can artificially "game" the system is better. Neither is "better" IMHO, but rather it is a question of what works best for you, and is fun and satisfying. I was always bothered by the WRG type players who in addition to having the eye of god to see the entire battlefield, and the knowledge of the enemy army list so they would know that an off-board flanking movement was likely based on troops he didn't see on the table, that the troops in the field could magically know EXACTLY where to stop (not a millimeter closer!) to avoid triggering a response and other such nonsense to be off-putting and totally artificial to a "real" game taht tested generalship, tactics and a bit of luck as opposed to having the Royal Survey team pre-measuring every distance and every angle to decide things that were well beyond the scope of command and control in that period of warfare.

If you are happy with your exacting knowledge of a game and the range and probabilities of all of the parameters fine. It doesn't work for me.

There was a similar "gaming uncertainty" (not randomness) discussion in another thread about tank warfare where the firing party knew instantly what the result of a hit was and how artificial that is from a tanker's own warfighting experience. Basically, if the hit tank doesn't "brew up" the shooter doesn't have the luxury of "knowing" what the result was and whether the damage, if any, has actually affected the war fighting capabilities. That has great implications in terms of an ability to knowingly push forward, switch to other targets, etc.


Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP16 Nov 2010 2:44 p.m. PST

There's random and there's random. I have had the Guilford County militia stand up like the Old Guard and I have had the Old Guard run at the first whiff of powder. All by the roll of the dice. If this doesn't bring back memories to the gentle reader, then dear reader you have never truly wargamed.

The other randomness can be introduced by creating unknown events by decks of cards, die rolls & tables, markers left on the field, whatever your imagination allows. That kind of random event can add greatly to a scenario by creating a sense of the unknown, sort of the fog of war. The secret is to keep that sort of stuff from dominating the game (in other words, don't have a card that says: "volcano explodes and covers field with hot ash" or "you lose")

Last Hussar16 Nov 2010 5:02 p.m. PST

With card driven games, such as those from the TooFatLardies, these can be made part of the deck. For instance I umpired a Arnhem game for Troops Weapons And Tactics where I included an 'Umpire Card'. TW&T has a 'tea break' card, which ends the turn, so on average only half the cards come up in any one turn. First draw of the card nothing happens. 2nd, players told they can hear flack. On the third they hear aircraft. The 4th draw was the resupply canisters being dropped. Now if they were unlucky the Paras may never have seen the canisters – the card doesn't beat the Tea Break 4 times. Or they get resupplied every 4 turns. More likely is every 8 turns or so.

religon Inactive Member18 Nov 2010 12:49 p.m. PST


Speaking as a North Carolinian, the Guilford County militia should perform on par with the Old Guard. These were not unusual dice rolls.

If the game rules suggested otherwise, it might be a game design problem. :)

roughriderfan Inactive Member18 Nov 2010 3:16 p.m. PST

I use a deck of cards for the "Fog Of War" cards – some cards effect one side, some cards effect the other, and some cards effect both sides. Players draw up to two cards and may use them during a turn- or save them for future use.

Good Going lets units add dice of movement – bad going subtracts dice of movement. Some cards let you reroll dice for combat – other cards give additional saves.

I handle officer casualties by this means – as well as special effects – for example in my AWI set some cards can be used to force morale checks – others allow units to reform without cost – it depends on your rules

One can customize the deck for different periods and scenarios – one thing you can do is "stack" the deck – for example in a game where one side may know of a "secret ford" they could be given a card with that information allowing them to cross without additional cost

My .02


make sure that one side gets a card

Zephyr118 Nov 2010 4:03 p.m. PST

I'm up to #915 of a 1001 random events table for a sci-fi skirmish game I'm (still) working on. The players have to 'earn' a chance at rolling for an event, and the consequences can be Very Good or Very Very Bad (depending on what they roll up. And who it affects.) Would such things tend to dominate a game? Yes, sometimes. But taking the risk is what makes Chance fun…. ;)

vojvoda Inactive Member19 Nov 2010 8:03 a.m. PST

Check out the JRIII Yahoo group there was a complete set of cards in the file section a while back. I had downloaded them but do not have the file anymore.
James Mattes

freecloud19 Nov 2010 8:32 a.m. PST

I think you have to differentiate between "random" and "probabilistic" events – apologies if you have, but not all rules writers do!

- Probabilistic events means making the outliers possible, but not common.

- Random means you can get literally anything (within the confines of what you have defined) happening at equal probability

I have found the latter to be eventually frustrating, as if one invents a system like this (say 30 cards) then there is much chance of a common as an uncommon event occurring, which while maybe entertaining is wildly inaccurate and eventually frustrating.

My personal preference is proabilistic using the 2 dice table , ie throw 2 dice and add them and list an event against them. The common events are from c 5 – 9, the outliers are 2 – 4 (bad) and 10 – 12 (good). 12 events should be enough for anyone in my view.

If you did it using cards, then you would have 36 cards, 6 of which would be for the most commmon occurrence, 5 each for the next 2 most, 4 each for the next 2 etc, until you have 1 card for the 2 least common.

The next issue is to decide what the "do as you want them to do" condition is – do you have a an equal chance of things going better and worse?

In my view that is unlikely, and that about 2/3 of the probability should be worse (ie in my system a"9" is "obey orders" and 10+ is "do something better". The mean, around 6-8, are small errors (move 1/2 speed, delay 1 turn, etc etc)

religon Inactive Member19 Nov 2010 11:00 a.m. PST

freecload wrote:
>I have found [random events] to be eventually frustrating, as if one invents
>a system like this (say 30 cards) then there is much chance of a common
>as an uncommon event occurring, which while maybe entertaining is wildly
>inaccurate and eventually frustrating.

A card draw mechanism has entirely predetermined results. Only the oder is uncertain. A good game designer will limit the card options to reasonable choices. An event that predetermines the outcome of a game should be criticized as poorly balanced scenario irrespective of the mechanic that triggered the event.

I would invite a reexamination of the 30 card example I presented, especially the fourth paragraph. I generally agree with your analysis, however the card deck does not model exactly the same thing as a lookup table. The card deck make the order of events that *will* occur uncertain. The 2d6 example with outlier rolls triggering events can lead to difficulty in balancing a scenario.

Reserves and reinforcements are common in many battle scenarios. I characterized this as "The Cavalry Arrives." Their are lots of ways to model this.

1) The cavalry arrives on the 6th turn.
2) Roll d6 each turn after the 2nd turn. On a 6, the cavalry arrives.
3) After the 5th turn, there is a 50% chance per turn the cavalry arrives.

Statistically, each of these average to about the 6th turn.

I dislike #1 as their is no uncertainty, which rarely reflects history.
I dislike #2 as the probability is wildly chaotic and difficult to balance a scenario with.
While #3 is the best option IMHO, I think the card option is even better as it introduces changes of fortune.

In my example, variations of which I have run…
If I had 3 "Cavalry Arrives" cards in a 30 card deck (2 draws per turn), the savvy player can do the math at the beginning of the battle. Assuming as my hypothetical example suggests that 2 such cards must be drawn before the event triggers, they are likely to arrive on turn 7.

The battle starts with the beleaguered player just trying to hold out until the 7th turn.

Two possible things will happen. Either the first card will be drawn early, raising the hopes of the beleaguered player or the first card will be drawn later than probability would suggest.

Very subtle, but that change of fortune after the first card is drawn helps create narrative tension in a game that is lost with similar event ordering mechanisms. Players will discuss after the game the impact of the cavalry's arrival. I wonder if that was ever discussed after Gettysburg?

The events are not random in a card deck. They are deterministic.
The order in a card deck is uncertain allowing a player exercising probabilistic logic for some small advantages.

KatieL20 Nov 2010 2:31 p.m. PST

"card driven games"

I'm starting to dislike these a bit.

People complain about the way that in i-go-u-go systems, they can do things like troop horse across the frontage of infantry units at point-blank with impunity. And that's a valid criticism.

But the card based games are developing a habit of turning into u-go-u-go-u-go systems where my army sits and watches an enemy close on them and then shoot holes in them while failing to do simple stuff like return fire or seek cover.

People keep telling me they're really good models of the friction of war. I can sort of see it modelling the failing of orders to get executed properly, but I was faintly under the impression that trained soldiers would return fire if shot at by enemy in the open without needing a signed order from God first and in this world they don't seem to.

Maybe if "teabreak" was replaced by a card which modifies subsequent cards?

"defensive shooting only from now on" means subsequent activations can't advance or something. Your attacks might still bog down, but at least the infantry could act defensively like they'd been trained a little tiny bit.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member21 Nov 2010 10:15 a.m. PST

- Probabilistic events means making the outliers possible, but not common.

- Random means you can get literally anything (within the confines of what you have defined) happening at equal probability

I guess you never took a Math class dealing with statistics and probability?

religon Inactive Member21 Nov 2010 12:32 p.m. PST

I recently tried card activation similar to the system the Last Hussar describes. I did not like it. I think it slowed the game down.

My version mixed action declaration with the cards. If a unit that declared certain actions like "Charge" or "Shoot" had failed to activate when the "tea party" card turned, they were allowed to act before the turn ended.

My version included four "Jacks" in a standard deck and ended when the fourth Jack turned…roughly 15% of the figures failed to activate due to the mentioned exception. While I replaced it with modified UGOIGO activation rules, it modestly rectified some of the problem you experienced.

I consider "Event Cards" as presented in the hypothetical example above different from card driven activation rules. Event cards control the order of events that will happen in a game, battle, or scenario.

abdul666lw Inactive Member22 Nov 2010 7:04 a.m. PST

The only 'randomness' I would allow in addition to that already built in the rules would try to prevent 'unrealistic tactics' in 'scenario' battles. Too often the 'objectives / victory points' included in scenario encourage to make totally unrealistic choices. More often than not because of a *known* time limit: 'to win the rear guard must prevent the enemy to cross the river / crossroad… before turn 12' – 'to win the raiders must leave the table before off-table enemy cut off their retreat line i. e. turn 9' &c…
In such case I suggest to add an element of uncertainty in the 'winning' time, this last determined only *after* the battle is concluded. For instance, rather than agreeing on 'turn 12', the players would agree in advance on 'turn 9 + 1D6' or 'turn 12 the difference between 1 '+' and 1 '-' dice' -dice other than D6 can be used to finely tune the 'uncertainty', such as the good old 'average dice', or D5, &c… The important point is that the dice are thrown *after* the tabletop conclusion is reached. No radio sets by Horse & Musket times, thus neither the 'attacker' nor the 'defender' knew for sure when the main part of the retreating army was out of danger, for instance, or when the off table columns were in position to threaten the retirement of the raiders. The men keep fighting, and the local commanders had to make difficult decisions without knowing the overall picture – while with totally a pre-fixed time limit known from the onset, players are spared such uncertainty and can make 'unrealistic' choices.

cwbuff24 Nov 2010 12:14 p.m. PST

Have been playing Johnny Reb (JR) for some time. With simo- movement and normal chaos resulting from die rolls, I see no reason for extra chaos. If I showup at a convention and someone is running a game with card options, I would like to play in it.

kevanG05 Dec 2010 6:03 a.m. PST

I suggested to my fellow gamers that we replace the Tea break card with drawing all the cards and tossing a coin for each card…heads you play it and tails you can only shoot or lie down!

There was uproar about how that couldn't work! with statements like "thats just being silly"

oh how I laughed! 8-)

reds21 Inactive Member20 Nov 2011 7:14 a.m. PST

I have been running a napoleonic solo campaign for some years now and have a list of random events based on both my campaign mechanics and events from reading of napoleonic history. So every time I'm reading something I note ideas that might work. The random events are applied after strategic movement orders and are determined by the national lottery bonus ball (UK) so that is 1-47. The events range from issues relating to specific generals eg Mortier has crsis of confidence and does not move this turn if attacked his corps retreats, Austrian high command confused 2 corps (dice for which) fail to move, to logistics stuff eg replacement of all artillery in a corps this turn dice for which, ascendancy of the prussian war party puts another division in the field dice for which corps benefits. This simply applied list of things keeps fresh and can bring some startling changes to the strategic moves which is want I want in a solo campaign.

bgbboogie20 Nov 2011 11:44 a.m. PST

read up spot the unusual that had an affect on the area, then make your own we use 2 x d6 giivg a range from 1:1 upto 6:6 maybe thirty odd combinations.

Works really well for us.


donlowry20 Nov 2011 3:22 p.m. PST

Probabilistic events means making the outliers possible, but not common.

Long ago I devised a set of cards for a group playing the huge board game World in Flames. It involved making possible some events that were historically possible but not likely, such as Spain joins the Axis and declares war on Britain/France.

There were 7 such cards. Before the game the German player could take from 0 to 3, at random; then the British player could take the same number. Neither side knew which cards the other drew (except by process of elimination), but there was always at least 1 card left unused, leaving more uncertainty for both sides.

Even though a player held 1 of the cards, it still could only be played under certain circumstances and some, at least, still required a die roll to activate whatever the event was -- which roll could be modified by certain events having already taken place. For instance, the Spain card got a plus if France had already been conquered.

The idea was not so much to add "random" events as to add realistic uncertainty in the players' minds. For instance, the Allies, historically, really did have to consider, and allow for, the possibility that Spain might join the Axis and allow, or make, an assault on Gibralter, add the Spanish Navy to the RN's problems, etc. The chances of such were limited, but real. Without this card, the Allies know it can't happen (by the published rules of the game).

This sort of thing is, I think, a legitimate, and useful use of "random events" cards.

14Bore20 Nov 2011 4:45 p.m. PST

I have never used this radom system, but thinking I could make up a few and try it in a game. Amunition runs out doesn't get resupply, Col gets killed in volley command thrown in disarray, I like the terrain card

bgbboogie27 Nov 2011 7:19 a.m. PST


These were the events in yesterdays 1861 game of 25 turns, decided on at the start of each turn when we roll for intitiative using a red d6 and a green d6(who goes first,or, second or unit at a time).

I moved my cav up to the crosssroad with a 6pdr, unlimbered to fire event rolled out as
1: red 2 green 5 = **** wet powder withdrawl guns to change powder.
2. red 3 green 1 = A mist rises by the river and reduced visibility.
3. red 1 green 5 = My brigade had moved to close assault when no melee for four turns firefight with no chance to break it.
4. red 4 green 3 = one aide killed ok unless you only have two.
5. red 6 green 5 = (Just as my brigade, shattered as it was, was about to break through) an unexpected reiforcement arrives on left flank (guess where my troops were) my opponents morale went through the roof with fits of laughter.
6. double six for me = A moment of inspiration +2 to all units for two turns CHARGE I shouted, game almost over.
7. Final event end of game, all units exhausted.

Great fun, allows for un planned events, the loss of cohesion of your troops with Colonels going down, adies going down and in our game two brigadiers went pop.

If anyone wants a copy email me on to those who have the rules we made a slight change.


PS we are thinking of using a third dice….lots of events then to micro manage.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.