Ultimately the pathing experience can have a random feeling to it. Nevertheless, randomness or chance can in its own right be an important added element to storytelling within several of the story shapes. Randomness is frequently used to introduce a range of secondary characters or challenges within particular sections of a story. Which of these characters or challenges, as well as when and where they will be introduced, is left to the computer to randomly select. Therefore, stories incorporating this function may also be said to be pathing, but in an a-chronological sense. In stories where the audience moves around as the central character, randomness brings the pleasure of surprise and a means of developing that character.
The most common places random elements can be found are within the sequential sets and treebranching paths shapes. While the audience is choosing its course through a section of the sequential sets, occasionally the computer will select a random moment to insert one or more story events necessary to completing that section. Rarely is the randomness found in whether or not an event will take place, but rather when and where. This is because randomness is often used to increase/decrease the health, strength or skill of a character or to impart useful items or knowledge. In Diablo [SB96], and many other fantasy roleplaying systems, the audience must at random moments face a select range of randomly picked foes in order to be prepared to face a different and more powerful selection of foes in later sections. The encounters themselves need an element of chance, but those chances must be influenceable with outcomes that have a real impact on the overall story in order to be satisfying aspects of the narrative.
Within the treebranching paths shape random events form the crucial points where the story forks in different directions. If the audience succeeds in facing a challenge, then the story unfolds one way; if they fail, it unfolds another way. Should these new paths find a way to converge through subsequent random events (perhaps to maintain a core story), then the audience is entering into the braided multi-pathing shape.
A unique instance of treebranching I call "random cascading". As episodes of a story proceed, at any point amongst those episodes a random event, such as winning the lottery, can be inserted. How the audience chooses to react to that event will colour subsequent episodes. If they choose to have the story's lotto winning character go on a spending spree, the story will proceed in one direction; if they choose to have the character save the money for a house and family, then it proceeds in another, until the next random event, such as Grandma dying. This sort of shape closely mimics our experience of life. Though Grandma's death is not unexpected, its apparently random timing can greatly effect what we do and how we feel.
Random elements can also form a "random flipbook", a unique instance of the multi-pathing shape. Much like the children's mechanical books, which are divided into three flippable sections whereby beginning middle and end can be randomly selected, it would be a simple matter to get a computer to perform these selections. Though in order to have any sense of causality within the plot, the stories would have to be closely parallel.
Copyright © 1996, 1998, 1999 Katherine Phelps