Thursday, April 7, 2011

Games of Chance

The lights of Faro City beckon. It’s a place were fortunes are made, and a man can go from loser to ruler in the course of a night, if his luck holds. Of course, he can also lose everything just as quickly if it doesn’t.

Faro City lies to the south on a barrier island in the Meropic Ocean. It’s a beach resort for the City and places further north, famous for the hotels and attractions along its boardwalk. It’s infamous for its gambling and its means of government--it’s an aleatocracy, that’s rulers are decided by the outcomes in its gambling establishments.

Win at the tables, and you’re unknowingly entered in a secret game. Win in that game and you'll found yourself congratulated by the smiling men of the Gaming Commission, given expensive accommodations, the run of the town--and a silver chip.  Winners are expected to officiate at certain civic events, and to make public appearances.  So long as they don’t seriously disrupt the peace, silver level high rollers live like royalty until their winnings dry up, or another high roller is chosen. Typically, this about a week--sometimes a little more, others a little less. Departing high rollers get a draw from an ancient and mysterious card deck. The smiling men insist upon it. Those who refuse disappear. Those who draw--well, you hear stories, both fantastic and macabre. 

Some High Rollers have long winning streaks, and at some point the smiling men of the Gaming Commission return and give them a gold chip. Gold level high rollers keep living the high life, and can make decrees with the force of law--so long as they don’t disrupt the prosperity or customs of Faro City. They're obligated to act as magistrates, resolving minor disputes brought to them by citizens and visitors alike.  Most stay at the gold level a lunar month, and then they're offered their choice of abdication (and a draw from the ancient and mysterious deck) or a chance at an exclusive, high stakes game.

About this last game, there are only rumors. Some say its stud poker, on a demi-plane where time doesn’t pass, at a table with cardsharps representing Heaven, Hell, and lesser outer planar concerns.  Others say the game is a simple one card draw from a deck held by a veiled woman. The exact states are neve specified even in rumor, but everyone is sure it's an unimaginably big score.

Note: Other rumors concern the smiling men of the Gaming Commission.  Some say they're alien fortunavores--luck eaters--drawing sustenance from the high rollers and eventual-losers they've trapped in their big beachside honeypot.  Others suggest they're probability sorcerers, harnessing the power of the ancient and mysterious deck for some purpose, and the games in Faro City are their recruiting tool.  I'd hesitate to put odds on either theory.


The Angry Lurker said...

What an excellent place to go and hopefully be a winner, sounds like the alien mafia in the old Las Vegas.

Unknown said...

I gotta hand it to you... I never would have thought of an aleatocracy.

I can't wait to get my grubby hands on WA. I don't think I've ever been this excited to run a game in someone else's setting.

Chris said...

Nice one. Wasn't there a city in China Mieville's Bas-Lag that ran on a similar system? IIRC laws, political positions, power and influence could all be staked at the tables.

Have you been watching Boardwalk Empire at all? Or am I asking a *derp*obvious Q?

Trey said...

@AL - AS long as you keep winning. I've got a post (some day) maybe on Dona Fortuna--the gambling mecca in the desert.

@Risus - I had to locate the term. Thank goodness for the internet. I'm moving to get you WA as quick as I can, promise. :)

@Chris - Yeah (I don't recall the name) but there's a city with a "casino-government" where "laws are the stakes" or something like that. I don't think we ever get more than tantalizing hints.

I did watch Boardwalk Empire and plan to do so next season. :) I'm something of a sucker for well-done period dramas, I suppose (Deadwood being another favorite.

Unknown said...

Ah, Deadwood... some of the most exquisite dialog on TV. Kind of like filthy Shakespeare.

Chris Kutalik said...

Surely in such a system something awful must happen to the Great Losers too. Debt peonage? Forced like in old cartoons to push a broom with one of those trash cans on wheels?

Agree about HBO's period shows, I haven't met one yet that I didn't like.

Anonymous said...

While the Gaming Commission admires both luck and skill, they abhor any who try and cheat the system. When the purple suited Enforcers of the laws of Gaming Commission drag someone away, no one gets in the way, as the smiles of the Enforcers do not inspire mirth.

Most of those taken away by the Enforcers vanish without a trace but occasionally a former cheat returns with garbled tales of diabolic games of chance that were almost unbeatable . . . yet somehow they won their freedom (and some say they lost their souls all the same). Most of these survivors will not bet on anything now nor are they willing to return to Faro City.

Trey said...

@ckutalik - Good point. I suspect it varies depending on the truth of the Gaming Commission. It might be as benign as the streep sweeping, or maybe they're harvested in some sinister way for their "anti-luck?"

@seaofstarsrpg - Purple suits, and sinister smiles. Nice. :)

netherwerks said...

The Cards of Wu are incredible. Very appropriate stuff for The City.

Gaming about boxing in The City? How do you handle pugilists? It might be fun to compare and contrast our respective approaches a bit...

Trey said...

I haven't completely decided yet how I'm going to do it in my game. I have it in mind that puglists (at least characters emulating say Popeye or the Goon) might be a version of monks.

I have decided that in the world of the City monsters which can only be wounded by magical weapons can be harmed by unarmed blows. Of course, harming them is one thing and killing is another matter.

Pierce said...

Once again, super cool.