Privilege: The Dice Game. An Allegory

I’ve been desperately trying not to write this allegory through game rules, because I’m not convinced either that it is particularly clever, or that any good will come out of its existence. But it also won’t get out of my head, so here it is.

In Privilege: The Dice Game, each person gets to roll one die. You get a number of points equal to your roll. Highest point total wins.

One of three different levels of player privilege is assigned based to each player based on factors outside they players control or merit.

Most Privileged each get to roll 1d20 (a single die with twenty sides).

Less Privileged get to roll 1d12 (a single die with twelve sides).

UnPrivileged get to roll 1d6 (a single die with six sides, or a “normal” die).

Now obviously this means that sometimes an UnPrivileged player will score more points than a Most Privileged or Less Privileged player. To the various Privileged players, this will often feel like they had no advantage, or that their advantage didn’t matter. They did have an advantage, of course. A massive one, in *circumstance*. If you offer to play another game with them, and ask what role they want in order to score the most points, none of them will decide to be UnPrivileged just because one once got more points.

Less Privileged players may focus more on the fact that Most Privileged players have a bigger advantage than they do, rather than the fact UnPrivileged players have a huge drawback compared to the Less Privileged.

The UnPrivileged are likely to complain the game sucks. And for them it objectively does. And if they roll a 6, they will not feel the game is fair just because some of Most Privileged and Less Privileged players roll a 5 or less.

Even if we adjust the game and say the UnPrivileged win ties, they are at a disadvantage. AND, at this point, any Most Privileged or Less Privileged player who ties with a UnPrivileged player may feel it’s “unfair” that they lose ties, claiming that the UnPrivileged have an advantage they don’t. This ignores that the UnPrivileged are still likely to score the fewest points, through no fault of their own.

We could even let the UnPrivileged roll 2d6 and take the better of the two results AND win ties, AND say if they roll two 6s they can roll a d20 and take THAT result if it’s better. And since that may feel unfair to the Less Privileged, we say that if THEY roll a 12 on their d12, they can roll a d6, and if it comes up a 6 they can roll a d20 and take that result if it is better.

And it’s still not a fair game, not because the UnPrivileged get two special rules and the Less Privileged get one, but because they are still systematically less likely to win than the Most Privileged.

Now, with these expanded rules there is no outcome that is impossible for any players. So, with this rule set, it is impossible to identify if a single player is Most Privileged, Less Privileged, or UnPrivileged just by being told their final score. Absolutely any player could, theoretically, get a point score from 1 to 20.

But if you are told the scores of 100 players all at the same level of Privilege, you are going to pretty easily identify which Privilege rank they all had.

End of Line

About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on April 15, 2017, in Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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