Player Question about Knivesies [No Spoilers, please]


Curse of the Crimson Throne


My group just got through The part of Edge of Anarchy where you can play this "game."

The scene went well, we were all entertained. It played well.

But the GM had a problem with the way the gambling works. At first I thought it worked as intended - naturally encouraging betting against the favorite.
But upon thinking further, I think our GM might be right. Unfortunately it has been too many years since my one Statistics class that I can no longer produce stats and formulas to help my point.

But essentially, unless we are missing something, the game encourages betting on the side with the least betters and betting less than every one on that side. And if everyone follows that train of thought to its conclusion, then there can't be a game since it requires the wages to play with.

For example, if there are two players and ten betters and the average wager is 2 pieces (for this it doesn't matter what pieces as long as they are the same) and you bet 8 pieces (you are one of the ten betters) - if your side has a total of four betters or more you won't even get your money back. The winner gets 13, and your side gets 13. With you 8, and your three (or more) partners 2 each, that leaves your side 1 piece (or more) short of breaking even.

On the other hand, with the same set up, if the average wager is 5 pieces and you bet 1:
The winner receives 23, leaving your side 23 to split. If your side has four betters in addition to you there are 2 pieces left to split among the five of you - after initial wagers are returned.

There really isn't much incentive to bet.

Is this really how it is supposed to go?
Are we missing something?


Disenchanter wrote:

My group just got through The part of Edge of Anarchy where you can play this "game."

The scene went well, we were all entertained. It played well.

But the GM had a problem with the way the gambling works. At first I thought it worked as intended - naturally encouraging betting against the favorite.
But upon thinking further, I think our GM might be right. Unfortunately it has been too many years since my one Statistics class that I can no longer produce stats and formulas to help my point.

But essentially, unless we are missing something, the game encourages betting on the side with the least betters and betting less than every one on that side. And if everyone follows that train of thought to its conclusion, then there can't be a game since it requires the wages to play with.

For example, if there are two players and ten betters and the average wager is 2 pieces (for this it doesn't matter what pieces as long as they are the same) and you bet 8 pieces (you are one of the ten betters) - if your side has a total of four betters or more you won't even get your money back. The winner gets 13, and your side gets 13. With you 8, and your three (or more) partners 2 each, that leaves your side 1 piece (or more) short of breaking even.

On the other hand, with the same set up, if the average wager is 5 pieces and you bet 1:
The winner receives 23, leaving your side 23 to split. If your side has four betters in addition to you there are 2 pieces left to split among the five of you - after initial wagers are returned.

There really isn't much incentive to bet.

Is this really how it is supposed to go?
Are we missing something?

The winning contestant gets half of the gold, and the rest is split among the bystanders on the contestant's side. So, if Side A (3 people) tosses in 14 gold, and Side B (4 people) tosses in 8 gold, and Side B's contestant wins, then contestant B gets 11 gold while everyone on his side gets 2 gp, 7 sp, and 5 cp.

If one guy on Side B put in 6 of the 8 gold, then, yes, he would end up short by more than 3 gold. IMO, the typical knivesies game probably sees the members of each side putting in equal bets. If everyone on Side B had put in 2 gp (adding up to the 8 gp), they would have all gained 7.5 silver, which isn't too shabby.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Evil Genius wrote:
The winning contestant gets half of the gold, and the rest is split among the bystanders on the contestant's side. So, if Side A (3 people) tosses in 14 gold, and Side B (4 people) tosses in 8 gold, and Side B's contestant wins, then contestant B gets 11 gold while everyone on his side gets 2 gp, 7 sp, and 5 cp.

I simply said that one of the croupiers (one of the guys working at a craps table, for example) keeps track of the ratio of gold being bet. All bets must be multiples of 2 gp up to 10 gp maximum. Bets must be placed before the contest begins. The croupiers eyeball it and keep track. The winning side doesn't split the money evenly based on flat amounts, they split the winning evenly based on their percentage of risk. So someone who risked 4x what someone else did will receive 4x the winnings.

Using an even number of gp for all bets simply makes the math a little bit easier.

And as my players found out, people who win a lot are "encouraged" to move on to a different game. ;)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Knivesies rules aren't written down anywhere in game. The rules are a baseline, and each group who plays the game often with each other is likely to build their own variants into the rules. This is on purpose; the game as designed by Nick isn't as much a way to cause PC/NPC gambling, but as a sneaky way to cause friction and accusations of cheating and conflict in game. The rules for knivesies are super fast-and-loose, and if a game ends up, say, with smart PCs taking advantage of the rules, the other players might get frustrated and attack them. Which is part of the fun too!

And of course, "patches" to the rules like the previous poster listed are great solutions too.

We used a similar design philosophy for "Blood Pig" in Pathfinder 9; the rules are complex enough to make the game interesting, but have gaps in there to abuse or cause confusion/conflict.


So...

From the replies I have gotten, it seems we didn't miss anything. And that as a gambling game, knivesies is nothing but a money pit. A better should expect to lose money for playing, even if they win - even with the rules "patches" as described here.

To help illustrate what I mean, lets look at a one on one bet.

Since half the pot goes to the winning contestant, if you bet as much as your opponent you will get your money back.
If you bet more than your opponent, you will lose money if you win. (Because half the difference of your wager goes to the winning contestant.)
If you bet less than your opponent, you will gain some money if you win.

This encourages minimum betting, or not betting at all. And not betting discourages the knivesies game.

NOTE: The reason this even came up as an issue in the game is because it stopped the session cold. The scene was great, we were having fun, and when the PC won his knivesies match the GM took a couple of seconds to do the math to see what the winning betters won.
When he came up with a loss across the board, we had to stop and do the math in many iterations, double check the game rules as written to make sure we weren't messing it up, and then have discussions about how it probably should have been done.
Not every group will have this problem, as this seems to be the only thread on it testifies. But I find it hard to believe that a game where "the only winning move is not to play," wouldn't last as a gambling game...


My group did this event last session, too. The PC representative smoked the NPC, and even though some of his friends lost a little bit of money everyone was happy - the knivesies player promised to make it up to them.

So maybe that's how it works - even though the winners may only break even or come out a little behind, 1) they're paying for some entertainment and 2) the winner might buy them a round of drinks.

BTW, I used Pathfinder RPG Beta rules. In the first fight, the PC stabbed the NPC once, then bull-rushed him off the table. In the second fight, the PC grabbed the knife, tossed it on the floor, then grappled the NPC into unconsciousness. The PC's CMB was so much higher than the NPC's, it wasn't even really a contest.

Sovereign Court

Our game of knivses went great. Not only did the pc dwarf use his strength to toss the first npc combatant of the table, later two PC's played knivses as a way to get Devargo's attention. The "game" was the high light of the session with the two PC's becomming very creative in their battle to "entertain" Devargo to get an audience with him. The pc dwarf has taken to calling himself Knivses after the match.

The gambling.

First, My players played through the age of worms adventure path which has a gambling event (gladiator matches). The players were crafty enough to get the odds in their favor to the drastic 10-1 place. Then our halfling rogue bet all 5000+ gp he had been hoarding and hiding away from the party on the pc's (the fighting grasshoppers). I had a serious problem handing out all that gold but I had too. Now, I did have bandits try to steal it later, but the party was tough.

That said, heres how I handled the bets for knivses.

I made it so the two combatants on the table put up the coins (any denomination) equally 5/5

Odds are 3-1 and 2-1. 2-1 on the favorite. If more bets are placed on one combatant than the other, the odds flip in the favor of the fighter with the most "to win" bets.

This allowed for side betting on other things;
a combatant dies during the game 4-1
a SPECIFIC combatant dies in the game 5-1
ect...

I'd recommend not giving better odds than 5-1 on any side bet.

In Eels end where groups are the most likely to play knivses, I also declared that due to the majority of the gamblers being on the poorer scale, most individuals would not take bets higher than 5 gp. Gather information helps find those willing to bet up to 10 gp.

Contributor

James Jacobs wrote:

Knivesies rules aren't written down anywhere in game. The rules are a baseline, and each group who plays the game often with each other is likely to build their own variants into the rules. This is on purpose; the game as designed by Nick isn't as much a way to cause PC/NPC gambling, but as a sneaky way to cause friction and accusations of cheating and conflict in game. The rules for knivesies are super fast-and-loose, and if a game ends up, say, with smart PCs taking advantage of the rules, the other players might get frustrated and attack them. Which is part of the fun too!

Its true. Knivsies is a staple in my home games set in a horrible little place called Carcass. It is basically a way to begin a no-holds-barred bar brawl that usually results in horrifying dismemberment and castration.

Remember the first rule of Knivsies: "Never turn your back on the Knivsies table."

;-)


I've been in 2 groups for this, the first group simply did not play, the second group played and was stunned by the ridiculousness of how the wages actually paid out. We weren't even getting half of what we had bet back from the pot and losers were getting more than they bet, it was pretty retarded. Why losers are getting ANY returns on lost bets is beyond me.

James Jacobs wrote:


We used a similar design philosophy for "Blood Pig" in Pathfinder 9; the rules are complex enough to make the game interesting, but have gaps in there to abuse or cause confusion/conflict.

"Blood Pig" was a much more entertaining game that I could see playing as a readily available boardgame in a similar design to "FRAG" or "Blood Bowl". We haven't gotten to this part yet in our second game, I look forward to it.

--------------------------
EDIT:

Disenchanter wrote:

NOTE: The reason this even came up as an issue in the game is because it stopped the session cold. The scene was great, we were having fun, and when the PC won his knivesies match the GM took a couple of seconds to do the math to see what the winning betters won.

When he came up with a loss across the board, we had to stop and do the math in many iterations, double check the game rules as written to make sure we weren't messing it up, and then have discussions about how it probably should have been done.

That is EXACTLY what happend with our group, at which point we stopped playing, deeming it stupid. Stopping a session cold for ruling research/disputes is a very VERY bad thing.


Daniel Moyer wrote:
... losers were getting more than they bet, it was pretty retarded. Why losers are getting ANY returns on lost bets is beyond me.

I have been corrected on this, losers received nothing. Half went to the winning contestant, half was divided amongst the winner's betters, which still amounted to a significant loss for winning a gambling game.


I will change the payout rules when my group gets here. The winning player keeps what's in his pouch. The bettors split what's on the table. And Devargo (and his wannabes) will be willing to bet big just to see the carnage. This is like dog-fighting or bear baiting. It's about the money and the blood.


I'll be following therealthom's suggestion along with stipulating that all bets must be matched on both sides.

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