Last time, I gave a quick overview of the game of sabacc in the Star Wars universe and started looking at how to put the concepts from that game onto dice for a Gunslingers and Gamblers conversion.
Before I jump into that, let me go over how the poker dice are used in G&G. Non-player characters (referred to as townsfolk in G&G) roll 5 poker dice and must take whatever comes up. If the result is a simple “high card” which means they go with whatever die rolled the highest with no matches, that’s what they get and most likely will lose whatever contested roll they are in.
Player characters and named NPCs will have a rank in a Trait (a skill such as Ride, Shooting, Fighting, and so on). That rank tells the player how many dice may be re-rolled after the initial roll. So if, you roll a pair of queens and three other differing dice while Fighting in the local saloon, and you have a Fighting of 2, you get to re-roll 2 of those three other dice and see if they improve your current hand of one pair. Traits may have up to rank 5/5, which means a character can, after making an initial roll, roll all 5 dice, then pick and choose which of those dice he wants to re-roll. Certain pieces of equipment will give a raise, meaning whatever hand is rolled gets increased by one level (e.g. a rolled pair will be increased to three-of-a-kind when using some pistols). A few rifles grant two raises.
Got it? If not, just ask questions in the comments section, and I’ll answer as best I can.
Now, that being said, here is my current line of thinking on dice for this conversion.
The numbered cards in sabacc are 1 – 11. Adding the four ranked cards brings the total number to 15, plus the eight face cards works out to a total of 23, oddly enough the number needed to win a hand in sabacc yet doesn’t fall onto any size die currently on the market. Yeah, someone could create a wonky-sized die to fit, but I want to use a die type that is available now. There is a 24-sided die, but hard to come by.
So the next best thing is to separate the cards into different dice, and since we need at least two “cards” for a minimum hand in sabacc, let’s try a d10 (dropping the 1) for the numbered cards, and a d12 for the ranked and face cards.
Now the problem I run into with this is for standard poker dice, each die has the same values. If this conversion were to use a d10 and d12, I’m already skewing the results for the dice. And if those faces have differing values, the results move farther apart. I’m not certain if having different size/type dice will really matter. I’m no statistician and the guy in my gaming group who lived and breathed numbers passed away last year, so that’s no help.
Anyway, the object would be to get closest to 23 without going over, as in sabacc, with the Idiot’s Array being the best hand possible. In order to do the latter, we’d need at least three dice—two with numbers (for the 2 and 3) and one with the face card (the Idiot, value 0)—with the numbered and face cards, so two dice for the numbered cards (10-sided dice) and two dice with the ranked and face cards represented (12-sided dice). I’d probably toss in another ten-sided die just to bring things to five dice.
Another problem I foresee deals with the number of dice involved and calculating them. In standard G&G, you roll five dice looking for the best hand. With sabacc dice (for lack of another term right now), you’d roll five dice and still look for the hand closest to 23 or -23 without going over (remembering that a 0, 2, 3 automatically wins). That’s a bunch of adding and subtracting, taking into account the use of negative numbers. My brain just takes a sudden lurching halt at that, kind of like I did a few weeks ago while play-testing ICONS, a superhero roleplaying game. Figuring positive numbers gives me no problems, yet once I hit 0 and drop below that, I have to start counting on my fingers.*
This makes that quick and easy game seem further away than originally intended.
But let’s see where this leads.
So we have a total of five dice being rolled: three 10-sided dice representing the numbered cards of 2 – 11 and two 12-sided dice representing the ranked and face cards with various positive and negative values. Roll the dice and determine the value of the hand rolled with the closest to 23 (or -23) being the winner. Right?
In standard G&G, characters have traits, allowing for re-rolls, which works fine in that game as quickly as a hand can be realized once everyone becomes familiar with poker terminology. In this case, re-rolling a die or more forces more math on the fly, which some people have absolutely no problem with and might possibly enjoy but others won’t. So instead, let’s have traits determine how many dice may be kept to determine final hand with everyone keeping two dice to start.
This means, roll five dice, keeping the two closest to 23 (or -23 though that number may be harder to attain than a positive). A trait of Shooting 1 allows one extra die to be kept, with a maximum of 3 in a trait keeping all 5 dice.
I think this might work, but I’ll need to make a mock-up set of dice to try it out.
Do you have any ideas on how to get this to work? I’d love hearing from you, especially if you’re enamored with numbers and statistics as I want to find a balance between ease-of-play (still not so easy but workable right now) and [something about the numbers making sense].
Next time we’ll look at the trait system, equipment, and maybe a review of a dice test (if I get the mock-ups done).
*And ICONS uses only5 to -5for its range. This sabacc variant would have a range of 63 to -28 using all five dice, if I’ve calculated things correctly.