Gambling Mini-Games


Advice


I've never been able to pull off gambling in-game. It feels like you either abstract it out to such a degree that you're just making opposed skill checks, or else you get so bogged down in the details that you're actually playing poker against the players. Are there any good subsystems to solve this problem?

Comic for illustrative purposes.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

You can always use Pirate Cheat (Pirates of the Caribbean movie) or Craps.


I always found it amusing that in the original Deadlands RPG playing cards are used for all sorts of mechanics, but they are not used for playing poker.


Dave Justus wrote:
I always found it amusing that in the original Deadlands RPG playing cards are used for all sorts of mechanics, but they are not used for playing poker.

The Deadlands TCG was interesting. When you performed a shootout you drew 5 cards from your deck, and cards you already played could let you draw more cards or discard and draw a certain number of cards. When you got a large posse it wasn't unusual to draw 15+ cards and then discard and draw 5 more to make a 5 card hand.

Also a Royal Flush was the second highest hand in Deadlands. A Dead Man's Hand was the highest.

As for gambling, it really is better to just have it be a set DC for the table and then a roll to see how the player does over an evening of gambling. Say every +/-2 represents 10% of the stakes, with results of +/-20 getting attention, the bad kind.


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I created a few minigames for a campaign. Feel free to use them for your own RPGs.

Design criteria:
1. The games needed to be recognizable, I didn't want to spend a ton of time explaining. Most of my players were familiar with basic casino games (craps, blackjack, poker) so the mechanics of these games closely mirrored real life games.
2. The games disproportionately used non-d6, non-d20 dice, because d12s need love too.
3. The games favored the house, but ...
4. The games can be modified in a way so that the house edge is lowered or reversed, to give an advantage to a PC that worshipped Calistria.

Game #1: Craps (these had thematic names in game, which would make zero sense if I posted them, so I'll just call it by the IRL casino games they're based on)

1. Roll 1d8.
2. 1 = lose immediately, 8 = win 2x immediately.
3. 2-6 = you must roll that number again before you roll 1 or 8

House edge: 12.5%
Calistria bonus: making point pays 6:5 (house edge 7.5%)

Game #2: Baccarat

1. Roll 2d8, take the last digit if over 9 (e.g., 3 + 7 = 0)
2. 8 or 9 = win immediately
3. 0-7 = roll another 1d8
4. 8 or 9 = win, 0-7 = lose

House edge: 17.6%
Calistria bonus: roll d6s instead of d8s (house edge 4.7%)

Game #3: Blackjack

1. Dealer rolls 1d6+1d8
2. Player rolls 1d6+1d8
3. Player can:
a. hold
b. Roll 1d10 with the option of further rolling a 1d12 (1:1 payout on win)
c. Roll 1d10 without the option of further roll (2:1 payout on win)
4. Player can:
a. hold (player must hold if 3a or 3c was chosen, player has the option to hold if 3b was chosen)
b. Roll 1d12, only if path 3b was chosen above and player wants to roll a d12
5. At any point, if player exceeds 20, the player loses immediately.
6. Dealer rolls 1d10.
7. If dealer's sum is less than 16, dealer rolls 1d12.
8. At any point, if dealer exceeds 20, player wins.
9. If both player and dealer are 20 or below, the higher sum wins. A tie is a push.

House edge: 2.1%, but the strategy is not obvious, and players will likely make mistakes.
Calistria bonus: the PC can petition her for aid on strategy.

Strategy:
Player >= 17: always hold
Player 16: hold on dealer 2-7, roll on dealer 8-14
Player 15: hold on dealer 2-4, roll on dealer 5-14
Player 11-14: if possible, double (3.c., above) or otherwise roll
Player 10: if possible, double on dealer 2-8 or on dealer 13-14, otherwise roll
Player 9: if possible, double on dealer 2-3, roll otherwise
Player 2-8: always roll

Game #4: Poker

1. Roll 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12
2. Choose one die to reroll (or hold)
3. Payouts are as follows:
a. Four of a kind = win 3x
b. Straight = win 2x
c. Two pairs = win 2x
d. Three of a kind = win 1x
e. One pair = push
f. No pair = lose

House edge: -1.7% (that is, played perfectly, this game can be beaten, but the strategy is the least obvious and most complex of all the games here)
Calistria bonus: the proper die to reroll is identified

The strategy is best described using "outs" as in poker. Three to a straight has up to two outs to complete the straight, plus up to three outs to pair one of the numbers. The difficult part is that the outs have to be multiplied by the difference in payouts (so outs to the straight count 3 times as much as an out to a pair), and not every die can make every out (so rerolling d6 when d8=7, d10=8, d12=9 gives only one straight out, but rerolling d6 when d8=2, d10=3, d12=4 gives two straight outs plus three pair outs). The outs are then divided by the die size (so outs with the d6 are more valuable than outs with the d8, etc).

Note that in some cases, you want to (non-obviously) break a pair - for a roll of d6=2, d8=2, d10=3, d12=4, proper strategy is to reroll the d6 (2 straight outs plus 3 pair outs = 9/6) rather than the d10 (1 three of a kind out plus 1 two pairs out plus 8 one pair outs = 13/10).

Remember that PCs aren't expected to figure the strategies out on the fly, they're expected to make mistakes, and only achieve perfect strategy with Calistria's aid (or Profession Gambler checks).


Watery Soup wrote:

I created a few minigames for a campaign. Feel free to use them for your own RPGs.

Design criteria:
1. The games needed to be recognizable, I didn't want to spend a ton of time explaining. Most of my players were familiar with basic casino games (craps, blackjack, poker) so the mechanics of these games closely mirrored real life games.

These are rock solid. The familiarity is a great starting point, and does a good job of making them immediately accessible.

Did you re-flavor them at all? The only downside is that there's nothing overtly "fantasy-ish" going on.


Bumping


DRD1812 wrote:
Did you re-flavor them at all? The only downside is that there's nothing overtly "fantasy-ish" going on.

I didn't flavor the basic game, but I knew the player whose PC was a cleric of Calistria was the most excited about the casino, so all the bonuses were flavored, with wasps distracting the dealers, the dealers of the best games looking like Calistria, and dice flashing yellow and black.

I (correctly) guessed that everyone else in the party would try one of the games a few times to humor me, and then chat up the dealers into giving them information about the casino owners, while the cleric split the party so that he could gamble on his own. Fortunately (unfortunately?) he made all his Will saves to keep from having to be physically dragged away from the table so the whole encounter ended up being more "dropped by and picked up a few hints about the masterminds" and less "party tank starts brawl with half-orc security guards."

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