Since “play the hand you’re dealt” is the central theme in these stories I want there to be a game of chance in the world that can be used to draw parallels to the characters. I don’t want readers to have to know how to play the game and I don’t really want to spend the time to develop the game. That being said, I do so love the idea of card games. I don’t play poker, but love scenes in stories where gambling and games are used. Here are a few examples of games in stories that have been riveting:
Sabbac in various Star Wars stories
Duel Monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh (I’ve seen all of the original series, some parts more than once)
Casino Royale had great poker and I think even roulette games
The riddle battle between Gollum and Bilbo
The card game Chaos from the manga King of Cards
Downton Abbey even had a card sharp and the lure of gambling used as a plot device, in a couple episodes, thought the games happened more in the background.
These examples span genre and audience, but they all gave me thrills as people were essentially just sitting across from each other wanting different things.
I want this to be a game of chance, mostly. Having it be a game of skill sounds good, but my idea for Laz is basically that he becomes a degenerate because of his grief and his skill is chiefly in sleight of hand and craftiness. He almost always gets a bad roll when it counts and loses it all. Honestly that feels easier to write than actually explaining how he would play a game with rules unless I found one and adapted it like Pirate’s Dice. Laz would be a cheater and a conman who would eek out an existence swapping in a loaded die to win after throwing games. Do I still want to go with this? I’m not sure.
What Is the Function of the Game?
I already wrote a scene that involves gambling and Laz cheating and getting caught, so if I make this game a part of the world and story, it would serve what I already have going. I could always throw that scene out, it was just an idea after all and mostly a challenge to just get me writing again. I liked that scene. It was fun to write and I used it to texture the characters and present some exposition, but in an engaging way. I used the scene and the game to show and not tell. The game was a plot device.
One function of the game would be as a plot device. Simple enough. It will be good if I execute it well, which is always the goal.
As I suggested earlier, the game can be used to help characterize the characters and weave into the theme. Especially in FALL, imagery can apply to the story. For example, if the game were to be akin to poker, Laz can be likened to the Joker or Wild Card that disrupts the higher played cards of the RISE HERO (Kan) who is likened to a king.
Another function of the game could be merchandising. I could produce or have made some pieces from the game for fans of the books or as perks for early purchasers and such.
I like the idea enough to include it, so now I need to work on defining it better. What is the game called? Cards or dice? Why? What are the unique elements of it? What are the rules?
On Game Lore
The 52 Card deck of playing cards has some different sets of lore to it. I don’t know if these meanings have been ascribed to the deck or if they were part of the intention of them. There is a hierarchy built into the deck and it makes sense that it would end or have monarchy at the top, based on when it was developed.
I have heard the 4 suits represent the 4 seasons of the year and that the 13 cards in each suit represent the 13 weeks of each season. I have even heard a religious concepts grafted onto the face cards, if not the whole deck, though the details are fuzzy. Maybe there was something about the 4 Gospels or Mary somewhere in there? I have a lot of sects of Christianity in my background, and that could have come from any number of them.
With the numbered cards the hierarchy is concrete, but when it comes to the face cards, another dimension comes to mind. The Jack or prince or duke or whatever he is is a lesser noble, the Queen wields here authority, but the King is the sovereign, except for the fact of the two Jokers in the deck. The Joker represents this other element. He is lesser than the nobles, but stands apart from the faceless numbers that make up the rest. The Joker doesn’t even have a suit and there are only 2, not 4 like the rest, so it puts him even farther outside of the standard system. Most of that narrative is from my own mind. I think it is the summation of what American culture perceives of the Joker, though I should say Jokers as there are two of them, since the card became a staple in playing card decks.
The idea of a game-breaking duo does suit my story well. RISE and FALL are set to examine two characters who struggle with the same theme and go about in two very different ways. Playing with the idea of the 2 Jokers and applying that concept to my in-universe game could prove useful. If one guy always wins and the other always loses, but they have the same flaw or character defect and how they handle those outcomes
On Mechanics and Flavor
So this is what I want: a game that can be won or loss through skill and strategy, but also luck. There is an extra aspect of play where the game can become totally broken and random and it switches the winners and losers in a single play. I’d like this to be as random as possible and to be part of the fun and suspense of the game, players waiting for it to break their way or not.
Cards are cool.
The merits of a dice game are that it can be simple. A single die offers up to 6 possibilities if it is the only piece in play. It could be 3, if the game is played with evens and odds. Then again, if there are multiple dice, some of them can be standard, while one or two has a special face or two that adds some extra flavor and excitement to the game.
The designation of “WIP” stands for both “Work in Progress” and “Writing In Public” as I will be publishing and updating these posts as I write them. I might mark off each update to track my progress.
I am worried about getting bogged down in details about this game of chance I want to be a part of RISE and FALL. However, I do want this game to be thematically resonant, so I figured I can spend some time on this.
Started this February 15. I kept adding to it throughout the week. I pulled from some older notes and ideas, but I did not expect to get this much written down about the idea of the in-universe game. I still need a name and a mode (cards or dice) at this point, but I think it deserves to be in the books at this point.