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I recently saw a great little one page RPG called Potatoes shared by Death by Badgers on twitter:

Potato, a one page RPG about being a halfling and trying to quietly enjoy your potatoes in a world that refuses to leave you alone

Rules for the one-page RPG called 'Potatoes'

I won't try to transcribe the rules here, but I'm always fascinated by the balance of these games, where you have three scores, and you race one against the other two.

You can estimate the expected ratio of each score (Orc, Potato and Destiny) per roll fairly easily as "In the garden..." and "Knock at the door" are equally likely, by adding up the pluses and minuses for each potential result: +3 potato, +5 destiny, +6 orc.

Someone also made a simulation in python and posted the results in that twitter thread:

Potato hibernation: 22.1%
Eaten by orcs: 54.6%
Called to adventure: 23.3%

The 'hurling in the back garden' mechanic is inspired, and adds a twist but I don't think that's necessary to balance the game.

I've also seen one-page RPGs where the whole point was, because the balance was shifted so that you could never win, to make social commentary (which it's worth adding, the author has explicitly said, was not the point of Potato).


Now I full endorse Death By Badgers sentiment that:

the pursuit of excellence is a self-imposed shackle and I refuse to be burdened by it

But despite myself I'm still fascinated by the balance of these games, and how to use that to get a certain 'feeling' from these games. My gut feeling is to somehow make the ratio of scores close so that the random rolls make winning possible but not guaranteed, but not so close that you need a very long game over which they balance out.

But how does one strike that balance when trying to elicit certain emotions? Is it purely trial and error to make a 'hard but winnable' game vs. 'obviously impossible' game? How can you balance one of these where winning is more likely than not, but still feels worthwhile to play - instead of a forgone conclusion?

If you look at Trapped in a Cabin with Lord Byron it's essentially the same game, but with wildly different outcomes - this feels like it would make it more bleak but how does one make sure it's not a boring game that's impossible?

I feel like someone with experience making these sort of games could distil down their process into a 'good subjective' answer that covers how they achieve feeling through the balance they aim for.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin: Where's the R in any solo RPG? In the player's head, arguably. Which, of course, is where it is in any RPG — with nobody else playing there just isn't anyone else to tell you "come on, roleplay it just a little, will you?" except yourself. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 10:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ This looks well-scoped and clearly in our area of expertise. Vtlo. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the game image you presented has a typo. It appears that 10 orcs is the intended number for "if your Orcs score ..." entry. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 12:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Whether or not Potatoes is an RPG is the least of this question's problems. This question is just unanswerable because it is far too general. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 12:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ "How can you balance one of these where winning is more likely than not, but still feels emotionally fulfilling to play - instead of a forgone conclusion?" seems like a clear and objectively answerable question to me. (Well, maybe not objectively for the "emotionally fulfilling" part, but that seems ignorable.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 13:35

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You've asked:

How can you balance one of these where winning is more likely than not, but still feels worthwhile to play?

and unfortunately I think there's a wrong assumption here.

In games, replay value comes from interesting choices and new experiences. This game has hardly any choices, so all the replay value is coming from the experience it offers -- specifically, the flavor text about being a halfling who doesn't want to go on an adventure. The actual win probability is not important.

(My suspicion is that few people actually play this game, and hardly anybody plays it more than once, simply because a read-through allows the player to experience everything the game has to offer. In some sense we might view "Potato" as more of an art-form-in-the-shape-of-a-game than an actual playable activity.)

So, many people will feel that games of this sort are not worthwhile to actually play. But those who do play it will be playing it because of the interesting flavor text. So my advice is to focus on the flavor text and not on the game mechanics.


If you do want to tune the probabilities, it's best to write a simulator (or borrow someone else's) and run it to find out what probabilities any game configuration gives you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You make an interesting point! Do you have anything to back this up? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 10:05

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