Monday, March 12, 2012

Games of Chance

The new HBO series Luck is about the world of horse-racing, from the owners and trainers to the jockeys and gamblers. While the show is interesting as a drama, I think I find it even more engrossing for its portrayal of the world of racetracks. It got me to thinking about gambling, whether at the races, with dice or whatever, within the world of a a role-playing game.

Gambling seems exactly the short of pleasure-seeking activity adventurers would engage in to blow off steam between brushes with danger. I’ve seen relatively few settings tackle unique or interesting games, though. The first chapter of the Pathfinder Adventure Path The Second Darkness, “Shadow in the Sky” featured a visit to a casino and opportunities for PCs to partake in several different games, but most of them seemed a bit silly to me.

While gambling appears in a lot of the source literature for fantasy role-playing games, most are only vaguely described as anything more than “dice” or “cards.” Off hand, I can’t think of any that are well detailed. There’s Dragon Poker in Asprin’s Little Myth Marker, but from what I can recall the details given are mostly for laughs a la fizzbin.

Anybody got any interesting forms of gambling making appearances in their settings?


The Angry Lurker said...

I've never seen it featured in any rules only with online gaming in an FPS game....

John Arendt said...

One of the settings I reviewed last year, Lesserton and Mor (for labyrinth lord), had a bunch of gambling ideas. It had a strong focus on adventurer culture.

Gothridge Manor said...

Dragon Poker...I did a small time warp there. Our group used to indulge in a little Dragon Poker from time to time.

Is one I stole from the video game Rage, but I think it translated well to gaming. You could actually play it and get results quickly without consuming too much time.

In GURPS games we usually did a uninspiring skill roll check. It made gambling boring. We tried to bring it to life, but it never quite worked. Unlike using other skills you can imagine or say it worker where if you are actually playing blackjack and you lose ten times in row its a concrete conclusion. Even if you character has a 16 skill.

Damn those RPGs. Don't rely on my real life skills or I am screwed.

Xyanthon said...

Heh, not really on topic but sort of. I've been watching the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. One of the characters in the show is reading a post card in one scene with a picture of the Elephant Hotel. I couldn't help but chuckle and think of you and Weird Adventures... ;).

Unknown said...

And of course there's sabbac in Star Wars. There are plenty of resources online, and back when we played SWd20 we sometimes included an actual game, as opposed to the opposed rolls. One of the characters won quite a lot over the course of the game.

One thing to consider when working on this is cheating. Conflict generates drama, and cheating sure generates conflict.

Canageek said...

Lets see. The Gord the Rogue short stories in Dragon Magazine detailed Dragon Chess, with rules in a later issue.

Wizards of the Coast published 3 Dragon Ante, and excellent game that I've had a lot of fun playing.

I'm sure there are other examples; I seem to recall something from the Fafard and the Grey Mouser books, but I could be wrong.

garrisonjames said...

Worm-wrestling, competitive darts, grumbly-peg (like mumbly-peg, only more of a duel sort of thing), Flinchers (strong folks grab a pile of coins in off-hand, then punch each other until one or the other drops the loot, winner takes all), arm-wrestling (either the classic one-on-one style, or by way of golemic proxies mounted on the table...), rat fighting, roach racing, three card draw, there's a bunch. Maybe I should do a post.

Trey said...

Thanks guys. I knew there had to be more.

@Harald - You raise a good point. An rpg almost needs "cheating rules" for contests like that.

@Canageek - Chess wouldn't count as a game of chance since it's deteriministic. I'm fairly certain there's not a detailed game of chance in the Lankhmar stories.

@Garrisonjames - Yes. Yes you should.

Trey said...

@Johnathan - Oh, yeah, I caught that on Boardwalk Empire, too. That's a great show.

Anonymous said...

I have had more than one character run floating craps games in the towns they passed through for extra cash.

What about dominoes, mahjong, backgammon and cribbage? All good gambling games.

Trey said...

@seaofstarsrpg - That's a great way for characters to make a buck. Yeah, definitely all of those games would count.

Andrew said...

For Old School Hack, I put out this book.

On page 15 it has a "Gambler" template, and on 112 there are 4 games of chance to try out.

I agree it is rare and tough to do gambling games well inside RPGs, ironically enough since the roll of the dice means there are dozens of gambles in most sessions.

Canageek said...

There was an article on games of chance in the Forgotten Realms in Dragon magazine, and several others on more then one occasion.

Fist of Dragonstones is another game set in world, but it isn't nearly as good as Three Dragon Ante.

I'm pretty sure there were other such games in Dragon magazine; check through an index?