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Ideally I am looking for RPGs that completely lack all randomization. No cards, no dice, no spinners. Hidden player knowledge is bad too, even that level of "random" is too random.

I'm looking for the RPG equivalent to Go or Chess.

Acceptable concessions: Should no games exist that are purely deterministic, here are the levels of randomness I will accept. These are in order, a game with only the last item is less desirable than one with only the first.

  1. Ignorable Randomness. The game features random shops or loot, random battles on travel or some other easily ignored randomness that can be replaced with non-randomized lists or just excluded.
  2. Pre-game Randomization. Rolling for character stats, but then using what was rolled for the rest of the game with no further randomization.
  3. Hidden Player Knowledge. For example, if the game has a stealth mechanism that allows the GM not to mark the location of the hidden enemy. Hidden Character Knowledge is always acceptable.
  4. One-Off Random Element. Perhaps the game has a single spell which hits on a coin flip.
  5. TBD - I may add additional acceptable levels of randomness if no games are found.
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marked as duplicate by mxyzplk Nov 8 '13 at 16:09

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Amber immediately comes to mind. –  wax eagle Nov 8 '13 at 15:01
    
@waxeagle And me too. –  lisardggY Nov 8 '13 at 15:11
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I think you need to unpack what about hidden knowledge is bad/random. AFAIK Amber uses hidden stats to make its deterministic skills work. What is your purpose is declaring all kinds of hidden knowledge off-limits? –  SevenSidedDie Nov 8 '13 at 15:19
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Also, could you clarify whether you're looking for a general-purpose, traditional-structure system (1 GM, multiple players, 1 PC per player), or do games like Microscope and Kingdom qualify? –  SevenSidedDie Nov 8 '13 at 15:57
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This could be salvaged by making it more specific to what you want to do with such a game, so that it's no longer looking for just a list. Not with narrower criteria (since that might just not exist), but by telling us what your purpose is, why you're looking for such a game, and what kind of campaign or play style you want to use it for. In effect, describe the problem you're trying to solve. Not "my problem is that I can't find a non-random RPG" which is what this says now; something more like "I'm looking for a game that can be solved by a supercomputer" or somesuch: your real objective. –  SevenSidedDie Nov 8 '13 at 18:34

2 Answers 2

The Amber Diceless Roleplayng Game comes to mind. It's a system entirely devoid of randomizers, be it dice, cards or whatever.

The basis for this choice is that the character, all princes of Amber or lords of Chaos, are all beings of great power, cosmologically. Even the lowliest ability score for an Amberite, that of 0 ability points spent, is better at anything than any human. At these power levels, the random aspects tend to disappear. When everyone is a world-class swordfighter, pure dumb luck doesn't figure as much, all that counts is who is slightly better than the other.

To that effect, the system recognizes ability scores mostly as ladder rankings - it doesn't matter if you have 10 or 20 or 50 in the Warfare ability, these are just the points you put in at character creation time. If one person put 30 in, you'd put in 35, just to be 1st Place - just to be better than everyone else. Whoever is ranked 1st is the best, in the universe at it, and barring special circumstances, will not be beaten by anyone of lesser skill. So much so, in fact, that there aren't any skills at all - it is assumed that most mundane skills, from art to science to technology, have all been mastered by the princes of Amber.

Of course, the older generation of princes, from Zelazny's novels, will almost always be better than the 3rd-generation PCs. But the relation between the characters is critical. Everyone is aware of who is stronger than whom, and at what - both off-play and in-play. This is why the ability scores are assigned in auction at character creation.

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Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game

This game from the early 2000s featured a resource-management resolution mechanic. It boiled down to bidding - who wants to win more? Who can sacrifice more to get his way?

Characters start with a certain amount of resources. They can allocate those resources when faced with static challenges, but those spent are lost. Resources recover on a schedule fixed by the character's attributes. There is no chance involved. It has been years since I played, and I only played a few times, but I don't recall any "wandering monsters" or "random shops" at all. My memory of character creation is similarly fuzzy - I'm not sure if you could create custom heroes or not with the core book. This is among the least-random games I have ever encountered - but I have never played Amber.

Just in case you are interested in pursuing this question further, the term for randomization mechanics in some RPG-theory circles is "Fortune". See Fortune-In-The-Middle et. al..

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