I'm looking for researched answers here, not just your feeling of what you like best.

I'm setting up a lego based rpg for a bunch of young children, and my friend and I are trying to figure out what "DC" will be the most fun for the kids.

We both feel that a DC of "3" or "4" is good, but are divided on if that should be rolled on a d6 or a d10.

I thought I had read somewhere that 70% success rate is the most fun, but now I can't find it.

Relevant background: There are no skill modifiers. Things you are good at require a 3 or better, everything else requires a 4 or better. Things that are impossible or things you always succeed at are not roled. The premise of the question is as follows: Always losing is not fun, always winning is not fun either. 50% is the most fair, but because people prefer to win, they would have more fun if they won more than 50% of the time but less than 100% of the time.
I.e. is it better to do this on a d6 with a 50% or 66.66% chance of success, or on a d10 with a 60% or 70% chance of success. (or even a d20 with a 80% or 85% chance of success.. but I'm guessing that wouldn't be fun)

Each attack does 1 or 2 damage(warrior or mage) and each creature/character has 2-8 hp. Mage spells are move Lego brick, do 1 point of damage with Lego flame, heal, or fly to any chosen spot within movement range.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ What age? "young children" covers a number of developmental periods. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 10:43
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You mention the answer is system agnostic, but are there any modifiers to this roll? Can a player "get better" at the DC roll or is it always a flat D6/D10 against a set DC? That will greatly influence if @BrianBallsun-Stanton his answer of roughly 50:50 works well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 13:42
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I posted an answer, but deleted it because I didn't notice the "researched answers" bit. At any rate, the main thing I wanted to keep from that is that there is a Parenting Stack Exchange that could give you some additional advice from the perspective of a parent. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nzall
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 23:17
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I also posted an answer, but deleted it. Honestly, after re-reading your question, I feel it needs a lot more detail to be properly answerable. In particular, what are these "DCs" / success rates of yours for? Skill challenges (for what)? Attack rolls (against what)? Whole encounters? Absolutely anything ("I roll to see if I'm secretly a space alien")? In particular, there's a huge difference between, say, missing a single attack and losing the entire fight; a good success rate for one could be horrible for the other. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 0:26
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener True, but at that point, you are going to have to either go "a skilled player is 50:50 and an unskilled player might as well not bother to try" or "an unskilled player is 50:50 and a skilled player has a better chance". This is not something that the current answers based on gambling successes take into account. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


To sum up: children have same expectations of odds, probabilities, and equity as adults so long as the problem is stated clearly. For best interest capture, make it even odds (along the probabilities of blackjack) as influenced by a player-controlled simple skill minigame per test. However, the problems with Piaget's study do suggest maximal elimination of the "character-building meta-game" as much as possible.

Looking at "Children's Understanding Of Randomness: Report Of A Survey Of 160 Children Aged 7-11 Years" (Green 1986):

The high facilities for the random and regular patterns indicate that young children do have a sound conceptual awareness of randomness. The lower facility for the semi-random pattern shows that children's lack of understanding of a problem may produce responses which mislead the investigator.

To translate: there is a strong intuitive perception of the fact of randomness in primary school aged children, but this fact may be occluded by poor design. Therefore, in spite of Piaget's (1975) claims to the contrary, this question in fact, has merit.

Looking at Engel and Sedlmeier (2005):

Various studies indicate that children have valid intuitions about probability. ... All these results indicate an increasing and progressive improvement in statistical judgment.

This paper also disproves Piaget's observations on raindrop distribution.

Therefore, we can presume that a child's hedonic response to success may be directly proportionate to an adult's, so long as the illusion of skill is preserved. In this instance, there should be multiple routes to success to provide for poor and strong impulse control, with equivalent odds weighted for either long term success or (smaller) short term gains. It's also critical to have a minigame in the die rolling, as small skill-based competencies are highly attractive.

(As an aside, may I note that the literature in this area is extremely depressing.)

Looking at this thesis, there's a strong preference for blackjack in "common casino activities." The standard perception of blackjack is a 50% odds per hand (less the house's cut, with strategy possible in doubling and whatnot.) Therefore, have your skill minigame work out to perfectly fair play (50/50) influenced strongly by player choice while rolling the dice. Optimal minigame play should work out to better than even odds (it doesn't have to be significant, call it a 10-20% variation (test this variation strongly in your desired groups) for most optimal to least optimal play).

This design pattern provides for frequent tests of personal skill (which act as useful distractions as attention span is governed by development). One common theme in the papers I read is that personal competence/skill was an important feeling in compulsive gamblers. Combine that with the attraction of new fruit machines to young children by incorporating skill elements, and the ideal of blackjack which involves a skill-decision at the crucial point.

The only solid analysis on risk-skill desirability I could find was a model suggesting that "motive, expectancy, and incentive" are factors which suggest "that performance level should be greatest when there is greatest uncertainty about outcome." Therefore, people with strong motive to achieve should prefer immediate risk whereas those with strong motive to avoid failure will prefer easy tasks or extremely difficult and risky tasks (Atkinson 1957).

As most of the literature is on how to limit gambling in young adults/children (see depressing aside), which is why I had to prove the same odds perception capabilities as adults, then look for risk preference in adults. A reverse citation search of Atkinson's impact on game design is left to the reader.

Someone actually in young child development will do a better keyword search, but there's too much anti-gambling noise in nominal lit searches. Most skill/luck differentials were related to compulsive/non-compulsive gamblers interacting with the same gambling task. I merely framed my suggestion to correspond with the gambling identities proposed by children with compulsive gambling problems. (As it's better to actually provide a real consequence of skill, then allow it to be a justification of a problem behaviour.)

With rules articulated, there is an expressed preference for equity in young children, and a desirability of some risk (as strongly learned/inherited) from parents. However, there was an expressed interest in greater payoffs for competence and motivation, with similar patterns to adult preference for equity. Again, a strong theme in the literature is make expectations clear, children (especially very young children) don't comply with (due to ignorance or other reasons) implicit social sharing rules. (Nelson and Dweck, 1977)

As an aside, fast turn resolution and distraction management are critical to your game's success here.


50/50 will get you losing streaks often

If your chances are balanced towards a 50% chance of success, people will feel that a streak of three, four or more losses is unfair (despite being rather likely in any game with a nontrivial number of rolls) and that "they can't achieve anything". Furthermore, most people are loss-averse and perceive a loss as more 'important' than an equal win; so if they get 7 successes and 7 failures, you can expect that they will feel that they are losing more than they're winning. This is a known factor in adults, but as a parent, I feel that for small children this tendency is even more amplified.

People overestimate their chances

If people expect to win with a probability x %, then actually getting x % will feel unfair. If a person expects n successes in a set of rolls, then getting n+1 and n+2 will also feel normal and deserved (achieved by their skill) but getting n-1 and n-2 will feel improbable and unfair, caused by some external event. If a game shows a person a 80% chance of success, then they will expect to win nearly every time and would be very surprised when getting 2 or 3 losses in a row - IIRC this was much studied in the context of some of Civilization series of games.

People want to win, and kids even more

A success rate of 2/3 would make bad streaks much rarer and would psychologically feel more like a "win sometimes, lose sometimes" balance than true 50/50.

For adults a nice balance might be a 50/50 default chance but with player-achievable bonuses that would push it to 60%-80%, with the expectation that they will often find tricky ways to get those bonuses and get a positive feeling of their skill making an impact.

For kids, who generally have less patience and expectations to lose, a nice balance may be 70-75% default chance to win with player-achievable bonuses to push it to 90-95%, with the expectation that they will manage to achieve these bonus only occasionally, so that when they do manage to make some really skillful combination, you want them to succeed instead of it failing due to a random event.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ without references to actual research this is still effectively just your personal opinion. as the question explicitly states researched answers are required, this answer doesn't meet its requirements \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 17:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .