JavaScript Arithmetic (Math) Simulating events with different probabilities


Example

Sometimes you may only need to simulate an event with two outcomes, maybe with different probabilities, but you may find yourself in a situation that calls for many possible outcomes with different probabilities. Let's imagine you want to simulate an event that has six equally probable outcomes. This is quite simple.

function simulateEvent(numEvents) {
    var event = Math.floor(numEvents*Math.random());
    return event;
}

// simulate fair die
console.log("Rolled a "+(simulateEvent(6)+1));  // Rolled a 2

However, you may not want equally probable outcomes. Say you had a list of three outcomes represented as an array of probabilities in percents or multiples of likelihood. Such an example might be a weighted die. You could rewrite the previous function to simulate such an event.

function simulateEvent(chances) {
    var sum = 0;
    chances.forEach(function(chance) {
        sum+=chance;
    });
    var rand = Math.random();
    var chance = 0;
    for(var i=0; i<chances.length; i++) {
        chance+=chances[i]/sum;
        if(rand<chance) {
            return i;
        }
    }
    
    // should never be reached unless sum of probabilities is less than 1
    // due to all being zero or some being negative probabilities
    return -1;
}

// simulate weighted dice where 6 is twice as likely as any other face
// using multiples of likelihood
console.log("Rolled a "+(simulateEvent([1,1,1,1,1,2])+1));  // Rolled a 1

// using probabilities
console.log("Rolled a "+(simulateEvent([1/7,1/7,1/7,1/7,1/7,2/7])+1));  // Rolled a 6

As you probably noticed, these functions return an index, so you could have more descriptive outcomes stored in an array. Here's an example.

var rewards = ["gold coin","silver coin","diamond","god sword"];
var likelihoods = [5,9,1,0];
// least likely to get a god sword (0/15 = 0%, never),
// most likely to get a silver coin (9/15 = 60%, more than half the time)

// simulate event, log reward
console.log("You get a "+rewards[simulateEvent(likelihoods)]);  // You get a silver coin