RockPaperScissors or Non-Transitivity

Problem: We want diceless conflict resolution, or we want to create a choice.

Solution: Sometimes games will use RPS directly as a diceless way of conflict resolution, but the principle behind the game has many other uses.

Some games incarnate RPS directly: unit A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A. But the really important detail is that for every strategy, there is another equally good strategy that foils it.

From The_Case_For_Game_Design_Patterns?.

Known as non-transitivity in game theory.

JP LeBreton sez:

I'm pretty sick of designers holding up Paper Rock Scissors as some kind of paragon of design wisdom (particularly in realtime strategy games, where nobody seems to have a clue what they're doing if they're not copying Starcraft). It's technically a perfectly "balanced" game, but what's the point if (all else being equal) all the strategic choices have an equal chance of succeeding? Strategy becomes a non-choice, which is crap.
The real game behind PRS is the meta-game of out-guessing your opponent, and while there's obviously some skill to that, it's still a game of highly *imperfect information*. Which means that, like you said, superstition and luck still play a huge role. No thanks.

Jamie sez:

RPS is the minimum you must do to have a choice. Some people are satisfied with the minimum. Rollins / Morris have some methods for how you can take non-transitivity and make it interesting.

Examples:

• Roshambo (http://chappie.stanford.edu/~perry/roshambo/)
• Rock-Paper-Scissors-Spock-Lizard (http://www.samkass.com/theories/RPSSL.html)
• Decision Driven Rolegaming Engine Simple-Controlled-Deceptive-Analytic-Chaotic, (http://www.dyasdesigns.com/roleplay/decision_driven.html)
• Lost Worlds - 32 assymetric choices with cards as suplemental possibilities (http://www.lostworlds.com)
• StarCraft?
• Soul Calibur
• Texas Hold 'Em [Mark Nau pointed out to me today that starting Hold 'Em hands are intransitive. AK is more likely to beat JT, JT is more likely to beat 22 (because the chances of drawing a straight + pairing up), 22 is more likely to beat AK! (because AK not likely to draw a straight)]
• Magic: The Gathering - In casual play, fast decks with lots of small creatures have an edge over control decks; control decks tend to lock down large-creature decks; and large-creature decks tend to crush fast weenie decks. In a given tournament, there are likely three or four viable decks which may or may not follow these rules but which generally have a similar non-transitive arrangement. A player going to a tournament might have to choose whether to play the all-around best deck or the deck that beats that deck. (This sort of choice is referred to in CCG parlance as the metagame.)

References:

RockPaperScissors could be considered a relative of OrthogonalElements.

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