NOTE: This entry builds off of the previous. New material will be made in black letters. Previous work will be color-coded as orange.
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…
is what makes them different. Being that those differences are what makes one the villain and the other the hero of the stories overall, then it would be good to lean into that.
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.
Yes. Yes they are.
But really. What are the pros and cons of card?
Cards have an inherent hierarchy. It is written on them, it is represented in symbols and the face cards have a clear value informed by culture. King rules over Queen, Queen rules over Jack, Jack has a face and is therefore not just one in a faceless crowd of numbers.
Clear to read and understand
Informed by culture
Leaves room for culture to be read in
Provides multiple styles and modes of play
Depending on the deck size, it could be a lot to manage
It could feel cheap if I just copy poker
The rules of what hands neat what can be complicated
Describing face cards could be a hassle, that’s more lore to distract me from my story
How are these people going to manufacture and maintain decks of playing cards in those times and in that place?
Cards are kind of overdone
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.
I really like the idea of loaded dice
The collectible could be neat
The randomness of a dice roll is thematically resonant
Variety, there are different types of dice with different facets (think D & D) and they can be used in the game to fun effect
Difficult to mark, how will I differentiate them?
They are too small to have a full on glyph or image on the special dice
Are dice exciting enough for general readers who aren’t nerdy about stuff the same way I am?
The dice are red with black and white markings
The vyrm on the special die has a black eye and a white eye. The white eye is the losing eye because it represents death.
DICE GAME MECHANICS
Here are a couple dice scenarios:
A 3 dice game. 2 are standard 1-6 dice. The 3rd die is also 6 sided. 4 sides of the die are blank, the other 2 are special, 1 guarantees victory, the other defeat.
The players each roll the normal dice to establish an order of turns. The highest rollers go first, then on from there. If two players roll the same, they each roll again with a single die to determine which of them goes before the other, by higher number.
To play, each player puts into a pot then rolls. At the end of the round, the player with the highest roll wins half the pot, they always take one less than there is, if it is an uneven number. If there is only one left, they take it and each player adds to the pot for the next round. When there is a tie in the round, the third die is brought in and rolled with the others. At that point one can win the round by getting a higher number, getting the WINNING FACE or their opponent getting the LOSING FACE when they roll.
Scenario B and beyond, will take some more thought and maybe even a mock up to see how it feels.
The Name of the Game
Before I get back into cards vs dice, I want to put some energy into titling the game. I actually have been rolling this around in my mind a bit and I think I want the titles of the books to relate to the name of the game, or the special “winner” and “loser” in the game.
The idea behind the game is that it is supposed to represent the seeming randomness of life and how easily things from one state to another, for good and for ill. I envision the special face of the game, being a crude two headed worm, serpent or dragon like being that wraps around the die or appears on the cards. Depending on which turns up, it makes or breaks the game for the player that round. The term fire wyrm/vyrm from the 13th Warrior, yes that 1999 sort-of Beowulf movie adapted from a Michael Chriton book. I like the idea of a lanky dragon being called some sort of worm and how it relates to snakes, centipedes and worms. There is something unsettling about such a lanky creature that can move with such rapidity and in seemingly unnatural ways. The idea of a turning worm, of the fickle and changing nature of things is resonant with me. Worms can destroy crops, but they are also vital for working soil and can be used by a gardener for various purposes such as processing waste into rich soil and fertilizer. The worm is a very powerful idea to me. The game sort of represents how easily things can change for good or ill, and there will always be winners and losers.
The Bane Wyrm and Boon Wyrm might be the name of the figure or figures in the game. Blight Wyrm and Bright Wyrm make a nice pair, too,
With all that in mind I submit the following game titles:
Hazard/Hazards – because the players try to void the hazard of losing.
Star Fall – I have this idea that the deities of this world function through the stars and there may even be some sort of creation myth at the very edge of my mind that involves the stars and excludes the sun and moon. The idea behind this name is “will the star fall on me or my opponent” or “where will blessing from the stars fall”
Bane Star – when something bad happens or when a crop fails or something like that, it is said that an evil or bane star has shown upon it, so again the object of the game would be to keep the bane star away from yourself
Recoil – when something recoils upon you it can cause some damage, so when you are playing this you are hoping to win big with the instant win, but run the risk of getting the instant loss
Vyrm Turn – the Vyrm of the game turns for good and ill on the players
Divyrm/Bivyrm and Diwyrm/Biwyrm – these names emphasize the dualistic nature of the vyrm concept
I am struggling with picking a name.
I am basically spinning my wheels to come up with a name for the books and the dice game, especially because I want them to compliment each other. The thematic hook is there and I can worry about the details later. It is more important to work on the rest of the book first. I can give this more attention once I have fleshed out other matters to a more substantial degree.
I am going to be setting this project on the back burner for a while. I want to shift to another, much shorter project that I hope to have done by the end of April 2021.
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 probably worked on this for a month off and on. While this might read OK, it was a hassle to go back into the document, and separate things out by time, so I don’t think I will be duplicating this format for future WIP projects. I will break these WIPs into smaller bits, so they aren’t just a huge blob. Being smaller and more digestible might benefit the curious reader as well as the author, as I do plan to review these resources as I continue working on the projects.