Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How do they gamble?

I often think about things in the real world and try to figure out how that would happen/work in my fantasy world. Silly little ideas about clothes later grow into the culture impacts of fashion. Too often we (myself included) forget that the fantasy world would have to be enormously different than the modern world. Here’s one that occurred to me:
Gambling: Cards would have to be the gambling style of the nobility. Why? Well because there was no mass production. A deck of cards should be an extremely expensive item. Each card would be a hand painted or inked work of art. Plus, what are they printed on? At best (cheapest) they are probably painted on slivers of wood – slivers that are exactly the same size and thickness. Cutting things that thin is not an easy (inexpensive) task. All this bubbles up to a deck of cards being very expensive!
So if only the nobles are playing cards, what are the commoners playing? Well, probably dice games. Two dice (d6 for all us gamers) are easy to carry around, and they work in most settings, probably even dirt. All sorts of dice games can be played with 2d6, often the kind that can be started or stopped very quickly, such as when a legion takes a 30 minute water break while marching.
What else? Well, in the bars there would be darts. Chess would likely be a nobility game because of the cost of a hand carved set, but checkers could be more reasonable for the commoners. Dominoes or other tile games might be more of a middle of the road (middle class) type of game, because they would be cheaper to produce than a chess set but more than checkers. (Think dominoes; mahjong seems too expensive.) Some tile games are based on card games, and might be a substitute.
What’s it matter in your campaign world? Well, it doesn’t if your game draws no distinctions between the haves and the have nots. In most cultures, the wealthy/nobles will always want to demonstrate their “superiority” over the lesser folk, even those lesser folk who have risen to high position (perhaps by killing dragons and taking their vast treasures). How? Well, the common warrior may be a great craps player, but have little idea how to play poker or chess. The snobby nobles will attempt to exclude or embarrass him because of this. Yeah – it’s a role-playing thing. If your players and your world have no role-playing, well, then I guess it doesn’t matter to you, but are you really playing a role-playing game then?

1 comment:

  1. I have had more than one character run a floating craps game for extra cash. And my most recent Deadlands character was a card sharp (though he cheated in order to lose more often).

    Backgammon and Cribbage are both fairly inexpensive games that are suited to gambling.