Crying Wolfman: Private, Random Distribution Problem

In my game there are five players, and six Agendas (victory conditions, basically).  I need to distribute them in a random, private manner: each player should know their own and only their own Agenda, and nobody should know which Agenda went unchosen.  In a face-to-face game, this is an utterly trivial problem: deal out five of six shuffled face-down cards and hide the last card away.

The problem is that I’m trying for the Al Gore award, with the game playable in a group of blogs.  So the tools I have are public, signed posts, signed comments, anonymous comments, and  temporarily screened comments.  And I’m willing to use the honor system in general, but not to the extent of expecting players to  not notice something that is blindingly obvious.  I can come up with procedures that do most of what I need to using those tools, but in all of them either everybody knows the unchosen Agenda or else one person knows and everyone else has it narrowed down to two possibilities.  Is there an obvious solution here that I’m missing somehow?

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8 Responses to “Crying Wolfman: Private, Random Distribution Problem”

  1. Jonathan Walton Says:

    Make a webpage that generates the results randomly, using Javascript. Get the players to ask a friend to email the results to the appropriate players. Yeah?

    • mappamundorum Says:

      Well, that works, but is ugly. Adding both the need for the script and the third party seems a bit much. Actually, It could be done without the script if we have the third party, in any number of ways.
      If I’m going for an external web application, I’d rather go with some cgi that does the whole thing. But I’m trying to come up with something that doesn’t require programming, for this part. I’d really like a ready-to-playtest version for the 2 wk marker, and I know I’m not going to do any programming or scripting before that deadline.

      It really feels like it should be a solvable problem. In fact, I’m fairly sure that there’s a public-key cryptography-based solution out there, but I’m looking for something I can explain in a few paragraphs and expect non-computer science people to do when they’re getting ready to play a game.

      Actually, a Javascript page that asks for a player number (actually a Planet; they’ll have picked one of those already) and a game identifier, and then uses the latter as a seed for the random number generator would work. I trust the Honor System that far. But I’d still rather avoid the script entirely if possible.

  2. doubleking Says:

    what JW said.

    is there a way to bend this that people can choose the same agenda and modify it personally somehow? So all you need is a random generator and a maximum of 5 hits on it… even if there are duplications? If you could personalize the Win Order with your own slant then it might not be easily recognizable to someone else with a similar condition.

    best, eric

  3. Talysman Says:

    Here’s a variation on the Javascript solution: many blogs allow embedding small Javascript routines in the page itself. Write a script that uses the date of the first post to the blog as a seed number to shuffle the six victory conditions and assign them to planets. When given a planet as input, the script responds with the victory condition. It’s the same as your solution, but without the need of a separate Javascript page or a game identifier. Players have to be trusted not to peek at other planets.

  4. mappamundorum Says:

    I sort of need unique agendas for the system to work. It’s going to be public knowledge which incidents (Scenes) have scored for and against each of the Agendas, but not which Agenda belongs to whom, and having two players such natural allies will break the system.

    Right now I’m leaning towards third-party now, Javascript later. But I still feel like there’s an elegant solution using only communication (signed, anonymous, and/or screened) that’s just out of my reach…

  5. doubleking Says:

    you… you and your “hope”. 🙂 How about some sort of virtual Roshambo? First you have somebody re-key 1-6 using some kinda die roller until all are filled with unique numbers. Then you have have the key master reorganize the original six in the new formation. Enter those blacked out fields to a new page, open to all. Have the key master’s 2nd then take pairings of Roshambo for who gets to pick first of the re-rescrambled numbers. The 2nd might spy and have some idea of who has what but without coding it, that’s what i’ve got for you.

    – e.

    (ps. we’re on the second gimlet of the eve so there may be a slimmer way of doing this.)

  6. doubleking Says:

    correction, you have the 2nd re-reorganize the actual fields, but the original key master anonymizes which pc is asking for which number. so, a double blind.

  7. Guy Srinivasan Says:

    Each Agenda is assigned an index 1-6. Each player is assigned a number 1-5. Each player generates and posts a random permutation such as (3,2,6,4,5,1). Each player takes her own number, finds it in Player 1’s permutation, takes its index as her new number, finds it in Player 2’s permutation, etc. Her final index is the index of her Agenda. As long as players do this for their number only (there’s the honor system) they will know their own Agenda and no one else’s.

    Worked example: Alice, Bob, Eve, Frank, and Grace are players 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. They generate the following random permutations:
    Alice: (1,3,4,6,5,2)
    Bob: (5,4,3,1,6,2)
    Eve: (3,6,2,4,5,1)
    Frank: (3,2,1,6,5,4)
    Grace: (3,1,6,2,4,5)

    When Eve wants to know her Agenda, she starts with her number 3.
    Then she finds that 3 is in position 2 in Alice’s.
    Then she finds that 2 is in position 6 in Bob’s.
    Then she finds that 6 is in position 2 in Eve’s.
    Then she finds that 2 is in position 2 in Frank’s.
    Then she finds that 2 is in position 4 in Grace’s.
    So her Agenda is the 4th Agenda, and she has no idea who has which other Agendas belong to whom (or which is left out). She could find out by cheating but won’t by casually glancing anywhere.

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