raidzuo takeda
United States Alaska

Is there a way to randomly generate numbers without dice, a computer or any other physical object besides a character sheet or notepad?
If not, is there a way to randomly generate numbers using static cards?

Paul Dale
Australia Moggill Queensland
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
When will the die stop rolling? What face finishes showing?

Short answer: no.
Longer answer: still no
Basically, people are really really bad at choosing things at random and once you remove physical objects, only the people are left.
You can generate random numbers using cards. Number each card, shuffle and draw. Either replace after drawing or not  this changes the distribution of the randomness but not the randomness itself.
In theory you could use a notepad by writing numbers on the pages and picking randomly. To be truly unbiased you'd have to cut the pages out very carefully and make a deck of cards.
 Pauli

Matthew Kloth
United States Wausau Wisconsin

If you're not using a devise as a randomizer (like dice or a computer), then you need discrete hidden objects for somebody to select from (scraps of paper in a hat, a set of cards).
If you have two people the first one can write the numbers down and place them face down and have second person choose. If you don't want separate pieces of paper you can have a grid on a single piece of paper (that is printed on both sides).

Paul Dale
Australia Moggill Queensland
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
When will the die stop rolling? What face finishes showing?

MusedFable wrote: If you have two people the first one can write the numbers down and place them face down and have second person choose.
I suspect this would degenerate into a second guessing game rather than true randomness. Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing just not what was asked for.
 Pauli

Laurence Parsons
United Kingdom Bristol
Old enough to know what's right
Young enough not to choose it

If I need a random number, I always use 5.

Mikko Saari
Finland
http://www.lautapeliopas.fi/  the best Finnish board game resource!

Here's a method:
1. Have everyone except one choose either 1 or 0 in secret. 2. That one person will choose other people in any order. 3. Numbers are then revealed and written down in that order. 4. Just convert binary to decimal, and you've got a random number.
The ranges are somewhat limited, but the numbers can be fairly big, if you have enough people (you can also use two hands per person, for example, and choose the order of hands randomly  your left hand, his right hand, her left hand, your right hand, her right hand, his left hand and so on).
People are bad creating randomness, but here everybody creates just one or two bits, without knowing what that bit means.

Eric Phillips
United States Greensboro North Carolina

This method has worked well for me in the past: say we need a random number between 1 and 10. I think of a number to take the place of 10, and then ask someone else to name a number between 1 and 10. Then I figure out what value their number would have on a scale defined by my number as 10.
Example: If my number is a 6 and your number is an 8, the random number we generate is 2, because 6 is 10 on this scale, and we start counting from 1 again after we hit 10. If my number is a 6 and yours is a 3, the random number we generate is 7 (If 6=10, then 5=9, 4=8, and 3=7).
Someone above said something about guessing games being different than random number generation. Obviously someone could try to play this method as a guessing game, but in my experience it's too hard to guess productively (it's not enough to be close to the number I'm thinking of; you have to be on the right side of it too, because if 3 is a 10, then 4 is a 1), so people just throw out numbers, and it works.

Scott Nicholson
Canada Brantford Ontario

If this isn't theoretical and you are just looking for a way to generate a random number with little clutter, you have a digital watch running, and check the ones digit of the seconds for a single number from 110.
For more randomishness, use a stopwatch that you blindly stop, then use the smallest measurement (hundredths of a second, for example) for the digit.
I seem to remember a choose your own adventurestyle book that used this method.

Russ Williams
Poland Wrocław Dolny Śląsk

In the old days, there were books with printed sheets of randomly generated numbers, intended for use by statisticians to do random sampling, for example. You would simply read off successive numbers. Of course such a printed list only has a fixed finite number of random numbers, but it could be quite long.

Adam Badura
Poland Wrocław

I second to the random numbers sheets mentioned by russ. Especially that they are easy to prepare (with a dice or computer) to any size before and then just used.
But you can as well simulate by hand (with the notepad you mentioned you have) one of popular random number generation algorithms. They are usually not that complex.

Dwight F
United States Magnolia Texas

msaari wrote: Here's a method:
1. Have everyone except one choose either 1 or 0 in secret. 2. That one person will choose other people in any order. 3. Numbers are then revealed and written down in that order. 4. Just convert binary to decimal, and you've got a random number.
The ranges are somewhat limited, but the numbers can be fairly big, if you have enough people (you can also use two hands per person, for example, and choose the order of hands randomly  your left hand, his right hand, her left hand, your right hand, her right hand, his left hand and so on).
People are bad creating randomness, but here everybody creates just one or two bits, without knowing what that bit means.
That method has a serious problem in bias away from 0 or towards 0. If you are using group sourcing of the number you need a method that applies a Mod somewhere in it, typically towards the end. Similar to [psuedo]random number generating algorithms, what computer software use.
Have them each give a number on their fingers, total the fingers, Mod to the range you want. Although you can have some bias when the Mod is different than the number of possible fingers from each person and also different than the number of people, especially if the Mod is higher than these.
This also works for each person writing down numbers, then sum and Mod. Poor man's CRC. EDIT: It is actually a checksum, what computers used back when CRCs were prohibitively expensive in computational resources.

Mitch Willis
United States Kathleen Georgia

If you have a digital stop watch that reads decimals out to tenths, hundredths, or perhaps thousandths (depending on how high a number you're wanting), it could be used to generate random numbers...
OOPS...overlooked part of the OP's post...scratch that as a stop watch is still a physical object...

CHAPEL
United States Round Rock Texas
"that's a smith and wesson, and you've had your six"

Sure there is, just count the number of letters in any post of mine mod 6 and whola! Because everything I say is truly random.

W Scott Grant
United States Indiana

Create a 20x20 grid on a note pad (or other sized grid, as long as the X and Y axis are the same).
In each box, distribute evenly the resulting numbers you want, in whatever distribution you want. For example, you have a 20x20 grid and you want your result distribution to somewhat simulate 3d6, you'd have a couple 3's, a couple 18's, a couple more 4's and 17's, and so on.The numbers are placed in the grid without regard to order and arrangment.
Make several of these grids, each with a different arrangement.
During play, two players secretly choose a number from 1 to 20. The first player to reveal is the X axis. The second player to reveal is the Y axis.
Consult the top grid in the stack and determine the resulting number. Now rotate that page to the bottom of the stack and otherwise keep the next grid covered until you're ready to use it.
I believe this will fall within the parameters of your request.

Toby Wardman
Belgium Ixelles Brussels

If you have a digital watch, one person reads off the last digit of the ticking seconds as another person says 'now'.
EDIT: demonstrating double stupidity, I not only missed the fact that the OP ruled this out but also the fact that someone else made a similar error before me and then corrected it. Sorry!

Kenny VenOsdel
United States Saint Paul Minnesota

Since this is in the design forum I am truly interested in why you want a method for randomness with no physical object?

Nikos Fakos
Greece Kymi Evoia

A known random generator from the ancient times (Mesopotamia BC) was found during the ancient board game known as senet.
They used 3 little rocks inside a cup. They threw down the cup, upside > down and then they watched these 3 rocks. If no rock was contacted to each other then the number was 1. If 2 rocks has contact then the number was 2 If all rocks had contact, then the number was 3.
This mechanism is just amazing and it was an inspiration for over 2500 thousand years known for a board game! EDIT:thousand

K Septyn
United States Unspecified Michigan
SEKRIT MESSAGE SSSHHHHHHHHH

You could use
A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates. $81, cheap!

Grant Andersen
United States Kansas

Ghost Leg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Leg
Draw a number of vertical lines on a piece of paper equal to the number of random options you want.
At the bottom of each line label the options (they can be numbers, names, or whatever.)
Then between each line draw any number of horizontal lines connecting them (the more the better.) The only rules for this are: Horizontal lines can only connect neighboring vertical lines. A horizontal line can't be touching any other horizontal line.
After this is done pick a line and follow it down, traveling along each horizontal line as you come to it.

jim b
United States Berkeley California

russ wrote: In the old days, there were books with printed sheets of randomly generated numbers, intended for use by statisticians to do random sampling, for example. You would simply read off successive numbers. Of course such a printed list only has a fixed finite number of random numbers, but it could be quite long. Would you be willing to type in some of these random numbers, so we could use them as alternatives to 5 ?

☆ ✧ ☆ ✧ ☆
United States Minneapolis Minnesota
Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. Chief Seattle

If you want random numbers, radioactive decay is truly random. So take some radioactive material, get yourself a Geiger counter, and time the space between it's clicks.
The numbers will be completely random.

Bruce Murphy
Australia Pyrmont NSW

frumpish wrote: If you want random numbers, radioactive decay is truly random. So take some radioactive material, get yourself a Geiger counter, and time the space between it's clicks. The numbers will be completely random.
Although they will have a specific distribution. Random means different things to different people. For example if a flip 3 fair coins and have the output 'heads' if all three are heads and 'tails' for any other result, the sequence of heads and tails _will_ be random, but not uniformly distributed.
B>

☆ ✧ ☆ ✧ ☆
United States Minneapolis Minnesota
Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. Chief Seattle

But I think the point is that the weight of the coin, the force applied, the effects of gravity, the air resistance, can all be quantified.
At least that's how I understand it.

Bruce Murphy
Australia Pyrmont NSW

frumpish wrote: But I think the point is that the weight of the coin, the force applied, the effects of gravity, the air resistance, can all be quantified. At least that's how I understand it.
No, I said "fair coins" which specifically means "magic hypothetical coins with exactly 50% chance of either result". The change I made was combining the results of the three coins. THere is a 1/8 chance of a head and a 7/8 chance of tails, but the sequence of heads and tails is random, but not uniformly distributed.
B>

David Pontier
United States Oak Forest Illinois

Septyn wrote:
The first review for this book on Amazon is: "Such a terrific reference work! But with so many terrific random digits, it's a shame they didn't sort them, to make it easier to find the one you're looking for."
I laughed for a minute straight.


