Did I ever tell you guys that I was in the SCA? Well it’s true. I was never any good with a sword, but my time in the Society for Creative Anachronism taught me some important lessons about pseudo medieval fantasy worlds. For example, did you know that armor is heavy? And another little known fact: getting hit with sticks hurts! But perhaps most relevant to today’s heads up showdown between Barbarian and Thief is this: gambling is not about gambling.

This is going to take some explaining. Let me start with the duct tape cheese wheel.

You see, there’s this game you play at SCA tourneys called “You Dirty Bastards.” Nobody is allowed to bring the usual swords or spears or shields. Instead you plop yourself down on a hay bail and then keep a careful watch on the other fighters around the table. For there is a table, and it is laden with all manner of “food.” There’s a heavy duct tape cheese wheel. There are various and sundry “sausages” built for stabbing. There are even tankards of duct tape ale perfect for punching your rivals in the schnoz. Nobody makes a move, however, until one of the marshals taps somebody on the shoulder. The chosen fighter screams out, “You dirty bastards!” Then the circle erupts into an extremely violent game of duck duck goose. The table is knocked over, everyone dives for the weapons, and you beat your buddies about the face and head until there’s only one man left standing. I have a distinct memory of grabbing the same tankard as another fighter, then jointly punching the rest of the table in the world’s least coordinated team attack.

It was good times, but by now I’m sure you’re wondering what any of this has to do with gambling. Dice and coins weren’t involved in this game, but here’s the thing: my head canon for You Dirty Bastards always involved a game of chance gone bad.

When gambling comes up in an RPG, there’s always a temptation to go for a bit of actual gambling. You’re already sitting down at a table. You’ve already got gaming gear scattered around the room. Why not have the players enjoy a round or three of liar’s dice or Texas hold ’em? And I mean sure, it can work out OK. But for my money, it’s a bit of a waste of time. That’s because, when gambling comes up in an RPG, gaining or losing a few gold isn’t the point. It isn’t interesting. This is one of those cases where I’d much rather roll a few opposed checks (Deception vs. Insight, Bluff vs. Sleight of Hand, etc.) and simply move the story along based on the abstract results. Sure you lose out on a little immersion, but you get to the meaty stuff so much sooner. What meaty stuff? Well I’m talking about the accusations of cheating. I’m talking about knocking over the table. Grabbing the money and running. The inevitable tavern brawl. For me, the game within the game isn’t important. The real gambler’s thrill comes from shouting, “You dirty bastards!” and throwing that first cheese wheel.

How about the rest of you guys? How do you handle gambling scenes in your games? Let’s hear it in the comments!

PATREON UPDATE: You will be pleased to know that there’s a new NSFW comic up on the Patreon this morning. Suffice it to saw that evil is being smote. :3

Thanks to all the patrons who’ve shown up to the party so far. Laurel and I are having a blast producing all this new content for you guys. Expect the results of the first patrons-only “What class would you like to see featured next in the Handbook of Heroes?” poll shortly.