Rock-paper-scissors variations

Rock-paper-scissors, is a popular hand game. The game is often used as a selection method in a similar way to coin flipping or drawing straws to randomly select a person for some purpose. However, unlike truly random selections, it can be played with skill if the game extends over many sessions, as a player can often recognize and exploit the non-random behavior of an opponent.

Sportspeople often use the game (both officially and unofficially, in place of a coin toss) to decide on opening plays. Similarly, uncertain calls, or even the whole game in case of rain, may be so decided. It is also often used as a method for creating appropriately non-biased random results in live action role-playing games, as it requires no equipment. It is also used in some online gambling sites as a form of novelty betting.

Rock-paper-scissors has many variations with additional weapons and rules being in place. These variations can either give fair or unfair advantages.


Many variations include additional weapons.

Additional weapons

With an odd number of choices, each beats half the weapons and loses to half the weapons. No even number of weapons can be made balanced, unless some pairs of weapons result in a draw; there will always be some weapons superior to others. These also lose some of the aesthetic elegance of the game, which is otherwise one of the simplest possible games of skill.

An example of an unbalanced four-weapon game adds "dynamite" as a trump. Dynamite, expressed as the extended index finger or thumb, always defeats rock, but is defeated by scissors. The paper-dynamite relationship is disputed; using it as a trump generally implies that "dynamite shreds paper," but there are those who claim that the paper would supposedly smother the wick.Fact|date=August 2008 Because of this dispute (and the potential unfair advantage that would result), organized rock-paper-scissors contests never use dynamite. [cite web
title = The Myth of Dynamite Exposed
url =
author = World RPS Society
accessdate = 2007-11-09
date = 2002

The official roshambo rules of the Ultimate Players Association add "fire" and "water" as potential trumps. Fire will beat any of the standard weapons (rock, paper, scissors), but a player may only throw it once in his entire lifetime. Water may be played as many times as one wishes, but loses to any throw except fire. (Those who adopt this trump depend on good sportsmanship to enforce the once-per-lifetime rule.) [cite web
title = Ro-Sham-Bo (The Official UPA Rules)
url =
author = Ultimate Players Association
accessdate = 2007-11-09
date = 2004-09-04

One popular balanced five-weapon expansion adds "Spock" and "lizard" to the standard three. "Spock" is signified with the "live long and prosper" hand gesture, while "lizard" is shown by forming the hand into a sock-puppet-like mouth. Spock crushes scissors and vaporizes rock; he is poisoned by the lizard and disproved by the paper. Lizard poisons Spock and eats paper; it is crushed by the rock and decapitated by the scissors. [ Times Online] ]

Different weapons

A variation found in Indonesia is composed of an earwig, a human, and an elephant. The earwig is able to climb into the elephant's ear and drive it insane, while the human crushes the earwig and the elephant crushes the human. [cite web
title = Children's Games in Street and Playground
url =
author = Iona and Peter Opie
accessdate = 2008-03-10

The popular television series That 70's Show features a nuclear war-like version. The cockroach survies the nuclear bomb, the nuclear bomb destroys the foot (or human as it may apply) and the foot/human crushes the cockroach. When the character Fez grew upset over his repeated losses he cries out "It's as if everything is beaten by something else!"


Many varitions allow for multiple people to participate.

Multiple people

Standard Rock-paper-scissors is only a two person game; however, variations of Rock-paper-scissors can allow additional players to participate.


Rock-paper-scissors can also be played in teams.


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