Goodbye Scissors-Paper-Stone

When I grew up we played scissors paper stone. And I still much prefer saying “scissors paper stone” to “rock paper scissors” (which, to be honest, always sounds ugly to me).

But as this chart from Google shows, rock-paper-scissors has soundly thrashed scissors-paper-stone. So it’s time to change. But we’re not going to rush into it. We’re a (very) small team with a huge to-do list. So for new games, and as we update old games, we’ll make the change.

Rock Paper Scissors v Scissors Paper Stone
Since the mid 90s, rock-paper-scissors beats scissors-paper-stone

So why do we use rock paper scissors for our resolution system?

We use rock-paper-scissors in our murder mystery games for several reasons:

  • First, almost everyone in the entire world knows how to play.
  • Second, you don’t need any special equipment to play.
  • Third, the only outcomes are win/lose/draw – which is enough for our resolution system. (I’ve written about making sure you know what happens on a draw before here.)

(By the way, we don’t use rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock (or any of the other variants) because it’s neither well known nor intuitive. And we don’t need the added complexity.)

But I’m not very good at RPS?

One of the downsides of RPS (and perhaps it’s biggest failing), is that it isn’t completely random. There’s a psychological angle – people aren’t completely random. Here’s a clip of Derren Brown winning time and time again against football fans. (And here’s a blog post analysing Derren’s technique.)

This article from the BBC highlights some strategies that players adopt that prevent the game from being completely random.

  • Players who win, tend to stick with their winning rock, paper or scissors.
  • And players who lose, tend to change – but they tend to follow the order of rock, paper and scissors. So players losing with paper tend to change to scissors for the next game. (I don’t know if that also applies to those of us who grew up calling the game scissors paper stone…)

So now you know that, you can use this information to beat your friends. (Unless they’ve also read the article, in which case all bets are off.)

In fact, if you’d like to test your skill, try this RPS simulator.

Truly random rock paper scissors

And if you’re still uncomfortable playing rock paper scissors, I picked up these dice on Amazon.

RPS dice
Rock-paper-scissors dice
This entry was posted in Design, Rules on by .

About Steve Hatherley

Steve is one half of Freeform Games and wrote Death on the Gambia, The Roswell Incident, Hollywood Lies (and its seasonal variants Halloween Lies and Christmas Lies). He has edited many, many others. He lives in Yorkshire, England with his wife, daughter and dog.

3 thoughts on “Goodbye Scissors-Paper-Stone

  1. Scott Freemire

    So far, I’ve been unsuccessful in finding a description of how to play RPS with multiple people, as in “everyone in a 45 degree angle.”

    So, 6 people do RPS and there is some mix of R, P, and S. Who was hit? Then again for injured?

    Or does each player do RPS individually with the shooter?

    And in area gunfire, do those victims get to attack back? If so, at which stage, hit, or injured?


    1. Steve Hatherley Post author

      Hi Scott,

      You’re referring to the Area gunfire rules in A Speakeasy Murder (currently our only game that has such rules).

      To keep things simple, I would get the shooter and everyone they are shooting at (victims in the 45-degree firing arc) to make a single rock-paper-scissors challenge. Each victim who loses is hit (and may suffer an injury and fall unconscious).

      Those remaining (and any onlookers) can now react. The order in which everyone acts is up to you, but everyone else should have an action before the original shooter gets to act again.



  2. Pingback: From All at Sea to Murder at Sea | Freeform Games murder mystery blog

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