A player has approached me with a really cool character concept. He wants to play a young gambler mouse from Port Sumac, who has gotten in way over his head in debt to the local crime boss and has joined the mouse guard to try to escape and earn money. My question is how to handle gambling in the mouse guard skill system. The player wants gambling to be a big part of how he plays his character, so I’m thinking that perhaps the best option is to make a Gambler skill? If so, I’d need to come up with some rules for gambling conflicts, too.

Something like:

Gambling Conflict
Disposition: Will + Haggler
Attack: Gambler
Defend: Gambler
Feint: Deceiver
Maneuver: Deceiver

I noticed most of the conflict rules used the same skills for Attack/Feint, and Defend/Maneuver - is there a game balance reason for this? Should I strive for parity in my conflict rules?

does it really deserve a full conflict?

Consider first the examples of how the skill would be used, supplies that might contribute, and skills or wises that could add a helping die. After you’ve built the factors you might find that it doesn’t offer a need for a conflict.

Also, consider what kinds of goals and outcomes could be drawn from a gambling conflict. If the goal would always be, “I will win this bet and get the payout,” there is less room for a full conflict to generate different results than using the skill against an obstacle test.

In addition, the gambling conflicts would not be easy for other players to participate in unless they also have a stake in the odds.

I’m curious to see more developed ideas, but I can’t imagine this is a wide area for exploration in the game setting. I can certainly see where the debt and the associations with a crime boss can generate lots of challenges and a strong story, but I don’t see how one or two bets could create an entire conflict unless you are recreating scenes from Maverick.

A challengeable Instinct about gambling, along with haggler, deceiver, and appropriate wises are all you need here. This is much more something for the player to pursue during the Players’ Turn than it is for you to build missions around.

Daniel and Ken have valid criticisms, but I’m putting my vote in for a special conflict. When would it be used? How would the rest of the patrol be involved?

I picture a Casino Royale kinda situation: one guy at the table, one getting drinks for the player, another distracting the other team with loud jokes/risque behavior, etc.

It’s good fodder for stretching your creative muscles and really hitting the “describe describe describe” aspect of MG. I’d say that coming up short in terms of thinking of an action to perform reflects on the player, not the conflict. Lots of stuff to do. Hell, making a wager on the conflict itself outside of the main game could be an action! (“Two silver pennies on Sloan taking this hand!” “Alright, you’re on!”)

I like Rafe’s idea! I feel like i had already posted but maybe i didnt hit send.

In the spirit of Mouse Guard’s “creative solutions” aspect, I thought, why not do both? If some gambling thing requires skill (blackjack, poker) then do a conflict. If it’s just like… slot machines then just test the gambling skill. Change the ob with payout, difficulty, etc. If it’s something like “i bet you i can jump over that creek”, test the gambling skill to get the payout you want if you win/lose and a skill that fits for the actual thing. Just a suggestion, don’t have to use it.

By the way, I’m not saying it can only be a conflict instead of a normal test, only that a conflict is certainly possible and could be a lot of fun.

Wow, some really great ideas here!

I was thinking that the full conflict rules wouldn’t be used very often. Instead, I’d have simple vs. tests for most interactions, and use the conflicts for really important scenes which advance that character’s personal plot-line. This raises another side question: during the player’s turn, does the player decide whether to call for a conflict or a vs test? If he says, “I’d like to find someone in a bar and win some money off them”, something that’s not terribly important to the main plot, how do I handle that? I’d be tempted to call that as a single roll and be done with it.

Also, I’m still not sure about how I want to handle the skill. Clearly not everything about gambling is covered by Haggler and Deceiver, even if you have ranks in Gambling-wise and a relevant B/I. Still, I’m hesitant to add another skill to the game, especially one that’s so narrowly defined. The character would end up being very focused on something that doesn’t come up often during play.

I don’t remember how it was in the movie but in the book ‘‘Ben Hur’’ there is at least one gambling scene including the jew Ben Hur provoking the roman to accept a bet and luring him into a way over his neck bet (which the jew has gold enough for by the way). I think that there might be some conflict juice in the preparations for the actual gambling and in the case of Ben Hur there’s a lot of preprations up to the actual bet and a lot of room for helpers. Choosing how to present the bet, in front of the romans friends, playing out the I’m-only-a-jew-and-no-danger-to-a-real-roman-card and getting him to accept the bet before the sums are assigned and stuff like that. I don’t think gambling is just winning the actual game. This of course in a social context where certain gambling is an important part but still.

Thanks for the ideas, I definitely has to use something like this in my Mouse Guard hack SPQM.

In the case of someone with gambling debts maybe there could be a conflict where the one with the debt manage to buy some extra time by getting the debt collectors to accept some kind of double-or-nothing-bet.

What about you have him roll a D6 everytime he uses Resources, whatever he gets is the rating for this Conflict or Obstacle. This represents the Gambler’s tendency to sometimes have a lot, while other times having not.
I wouldn’t run it as a full Conflict unless it was a huge tournament. When he did these checks (normally roleplaying in the Player’s Turn) I would give a success something like “Gambler’s Winnings” and have it count as “Gear” for Resources rolls or add 1 to his initial D6 Gambler’s Resources dice.

Hi Joker,
I’m Luke. I run this place.
I appreciate your input in this thread. However, you walked into a conversation that ended a year ago. For a variety of reasons, we try not to post new thoughts in old threads. If you have something new to say about Gambling in Burning Wheel, by all means start a new thread.

But when you’re digging through the archive of old posts, check the date before you hit REPLY.


Yeah, sorry about that. I’ve seen some of the dates after I’ve responded so I’ll definitely check now.