Random Numbers and VASSAL


VASSAL RNG (Random Number Generator) is not really a truly random # generator!


Computers don’t generate ‘true’ random numbers, simply because they are programmed machines.

Typically, the randomness is based on a mathematical formula with the thousands counter of the computer clock used as the ‘random’ value, but if you calculate the same exact time on two computers, you’ll get the same value. 



Ahh but you say –  This  hasn’t been true for a long, long time. Just look here doubter boi : /dev/urandom for Linux, for example. Modern OSes collect entropy from keyboard clicks, mouse movements, etc.  

Entropy love that shit.

ANNNND it is still a programmed random number. So there.

But do we care?

I don’t know.

Do you?

Much of the science is torturous related to ‘guessing’ the random numbers. What we as gamers want is to have random numbers generated that ‘feel’ random.

VASSAL does not feel random to me. But I rolled 3 fours in a row for a game the other day with my custom sexy balanced dice….

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I didn’t blink at the occurrence. Why? Because I was in control. That makes part of the experience very different for me.

Anyway, thank goodness for VASSAL it has enabled a generation to play games in a hobby that just might be dead without it.

That said just last night I pulled 4 3’s on 2d6 in a row…..I may have to insist on manual die rolls from now with real dice, when playing via skype.


9 thoughts on “Random Numbers and VASSAL

  1. Ugh! Were you spying on my ASL SK Vassal game last night? 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever felt so frustrated with the rolls. I’m sure it’s RNG is random enough but it seems like it gets skewed good for one player and totally bad for the other.

    But yeah, it’s all about the feeling of randomness. If I physically rolled all the crap last night, I would be frustrated but would blame my crappy luck.

    Can’t forgive my inept play though. 🙂

  2. What amazing timing! 🙂

    I just this morning received an email from the author of ZunTzu describing the pains he went through to get randomness out of its dice rolls and card shuffles. He did (at the application level) what you described being done in Linux at the operating system level: molding the random number generation to “an entropy source based on the movement of the mouse cursors of all players.”

    I had no idea VASSAL’s random numbers had been accused.

    Now if we could only get ZunTzu running on MacOS, and build a matchmaking feature for it… 😉

    • awesome. I am becoming a big fan of ZunTzu. The ease of module creation outweighs the lack of ‘intelligence’ in the game. The fact that the die roller(s) may work better is a bonus too. As for Mac…meh I can live without it.

  3. Yea I’ve been whining for years and participated in the discussion on The Game Box (TGB). Steve may have told you but I’ve been rolling manually on all my vassal games for a couple of months now. Other night against Steve in TSC I rolled consecutive 1’s with my black d10. Switched to another color. Couple of rolls later went back to black die rolled another 1. I’m like you that even though the results may not be much different, it feels different when I’m rolling the dice myself, vs pushing a button to give me a number.

  4. It’s easy to be suspicious of the Vassal die roller when three 1’s are rolled because the ‘mechanism’ is not immediately obvious but when three 1’s are rolled via the trusty old black ten-sided from your own hand there’s not much you can say.

    Another thing. I’m by no means an expert on such things but is it possible for the Vassal die roller to be random over a large number of rolls. Say 1000. But not so over a small number. Say 20?

  5. My impression of the Vassal random generator was that it rolled too many 1s on early rolls. So I just roll one extra time and discard the first roll and at least the feeling went away.

Hey!! At least say something! ;)