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View Full Version : Players want to cash in on gambling: how does this work?



Morph Bark
2013-01-03, 08:41 AM
Last session, two of the PCs ended up in a drinking contest with a jotun, one of them passing out early with the other winning both rounds. A third PC decided to start up some gambling by asking NPCs to bet gold on who'd win (this happened during the second round, after the first one was already won by the other PC).

Now, I know practically nothing about how the money bits of gambling work. I just quickly made up something like "well, the other PC already won, so people would estimate his winning chances higher, like 80% versus 20%, maybe? You manage to get someone to bet 15 gold on the jotun, so if he wins you need to pay him back that plus another 80%".

I had him roll a Diplomacy check for the amount of people he managed to convince and how much they'd bet (which wasn't much, clearly), but aside from that, I'm stumped. How does this work? How would this work? I'd imagine a certain percentage would always go to the bookkeeper, but beyond that I've got no clue.

Has anyone ever done this before in a campaign?

Kane0
2013-01-03, 09:24 AM
After our party just took over a gambling den, we introduced a few new card & dice games to bring in the gold.

Most individual games have odds that are % based and we turned the bets into a ratio. So a 50% chance of winning gets you a little (like 1:1.25) as a baseline and a lower chance increases your winnings (ratio of up to 1:10 or 1:20 depending on the game) and higher chance lowers your winnings (down to 1:1 or even less).

It's easier with games that have a pot as everyone pitches in the same amount with more or less equal chances of winning and the winner takes it all each round, bypassing all the % and ratio math.

Bigger bets, like those on fights and races, work on ratios as well. The bigger the ratio the less your chances of winning and the bigger the payout. The ratio is kind of arbitrary in my eyes because I'm not that great a gambler myself and so miss most of nuance involved.

At the end of the day the ones running the money, bouncers and other staff (hired NPCs) get equal shares of 50% of the profits (say 100gp a night for a small den) and the other 50% gets split between the cost/improvement of the den and the owners (the Party). Turns out to be about 5-10 gold for each of the NPCs on a big night and 20-30 gold for the party after expenses. The money increases exponentially when you increase the size of the den into a club or casino.

prufock
2013-01-03, 09:38 AM
You're pretty close to the way it actually works. You've got a percentage built in, but it's different from the way odds are usually stated. It's generally one of two ways, you either deal with odds when you buy into the bet OR when you pay out the bet.

In your scenario, you've estimated that the PC who already won a round has an 80% chance of winning again. The odds on that PC are 1-4, while the odds on the jotun is 4-1. This means a successful bet on the jotun pays out 4 times the bet (plus the value of the bet itself), so if you bet 10 gold, you get that 10 back, plus 40 more.

You can settle when you buy in, usually as cash on the table in a winner-takes-all situation (so if there were only 2 parties in the bet, you could use this one). In this case, the person betting on the jotun buys in for 10, and the person betting on the PC buys in for 40. The total is 50, and the winner takes the pot.

You can instead settle when you pay out, which makes more sense if you have a case where there are many bets and several people can win. In this case, each person pays however much they want to bet to the house (the PC taking the bets) and get paid out if they win based on the odds. If three different people bet on the jotun, they could bet different amounts.
A bets 10 on jotun. Pay out is 50.
B bets 15 on jotun. Pay out is 75.
C bets 20 on jotun. Pay out is 100.
Anyone who bets for the losing side simply loses their money to the house. The house has to cover any difference out of its own pocket, so it can stand to lose or gain depending on the value of the bets for each side.

Bookkeepers can manipulate the odds to their favour, which most do to some extent (see "0" and "00" on a roulette wheel) depending on how shady they are.

Mark Hall
2013-01-03, 11:46 AM
I'd simplify it down to "Roll Profession: Gambler. Highest roll wins. You can use Bluff and Sense Motive instead, but you get a -2 on the roll, and your lower roll is the one that counts."

It's simple, but unless I want to play Three Ranger Limit (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=177994), it's going to be a lot easier, and less boring for everyone else.

Xefas
2013-01-03, 04:25 PM
One NPC bet 15 gold on a drinking contest? Did an entire family pool their life's savings from the past ten years, or was some aristocrat slumming it in the tavern? :smalltongue:

snoopy13a
2013-01-03, 05:34 PM
What type of gambling do your players want to do?

Sports gambling are run by bookies or a paramutual system that takes a small cut for themselves. People can also bet against each other. For example, I can bet a Cowboys fan $100 that the Giants will beat them in an upcoming game.

Casino games--like craps, roulette, and blackjack--have a built-in advantage for the house (blackjack can be beat by card-counting teams who use strategic betting but these are very rare and tend to get banned from casinos when found out). Use the internet to research rules for these games.

In some card games, like poker, players are betting against themselves.

Morph Bark
2013-01-03, 05:38 PM
One NPC bet 15 gold on a drinking contest? Did an entire family pool their life's savings from the past ten years, or was some aristocrat slumming it in the tavern? :smalltongue:

He was in a inn. Clearly he was an adventurer.


What type of gambling do your players want to do?

Sports gambling are run by bookies or a paramutual system that takes a small cut for themselves.

Basically, this. The player wants to be a bookie, primarily for contests between NPCs and the other players.

snoopy13a
2013-01-03, 06:13 PM
Basically, this. The player wants to be a bookie, primarily for contests between NPCs and the other players.

Well, he'll need to do a couple of things. First, there must be a reason for NPCs and players to use him rather than simply bet among themselves. Two reasons are bookies use credit and take bets well in advance of sporting events. For an impromptu barfight, no one is going to use a bookie because they'll just make bets with each other.

Second, he'll have to be able to figure out the odds so that he makes money. If he messes up on the math, then he'll either be out gold or owe people. Plus, if he allows betting on credit, he'll need to be able to collect.

Finally, he may face competition. Likely, there are already bookkeepers who don't want a new person coming into their territory. Quite often, bookies are affiliated with organized crime so a NPC bookie might be a member of the local Thieves' Guild or pay them protection/tribute. A player might have to come to some sort of arrangement with the Guild through peaceful or nonpeaceful methods. This also affects the bookie's odds making. If he gives out odds that are extremely unfavorable to bettors, then NPCs will bet with another bookie.

If bookkeeping is legal, then perhaps the town's government regulates it. Then the player may have to buy some sort of license and wrangle through some political processes or run an illegal book and worry about the Thieves' Guild and the Town Guard.

Overall, it is a really complicated process and one that, in some places, is illegal and potentially dangerous. Real life bookies often have to do things like "lay bets" with other bookies if there is too much betting on one side.

I think it would be very, very difficult to have this in a roleplaying game. Maybe your player should try to forcibly take over some NPC's "book" and have another NPC run it and give the player a cut.

Slipperychicken
2013-01-05, 12:36 PM
One NPC bet 15 gold on a drinking contest? Did an entire family pool their life's savings from the past ten years, or was some aristocrat slumming it in the tavern? :smalltongue:

It always feels weird when you run into the broken D&D economy in a real game session. The two main options seem to be 1. Treat gp like dollars for prices, or 2. Let the PCs be unbelievably wealthy. I'd opt for #2, considering the nature of the PCs work (being the only 5 people in the world who can kill otherwise-invincible monsters, recovering priceless artifacts) really should be making them rich.

Mark Hall
2013-01-05, 05:20 PM
It always feels weird when you run into the broken D&D economy in a real game session. The two main options seem to be 1. Treat gp like dollars for prices, or 2. Let the PCs be unbelievably wealthy. I'd opt for #2, considering the nature of the PCs work (being the only 5 people in the world who can kill otherwise-invincible monsters, recovering priceless artifacts) really should be making them rich.

I tend to go with "Treat SP like dollars", myself. This means a longsword runs about $150 (or $300, if you're using 20sp=1gp). That's a lot to drop on a drinking contest, but some folks'll do it.

Alejandro
2013-01-05, 08:04 PM
You could use Saga Edition's gambling rules. They are:

Playing against the House:

Make a Wisdom check.

Less than 5: Lose your bet.
5 to 9: Lose half your bet.
10 to 14: Break even.
15 to 19: Win 2x.
20 to 24: Win 5x.
25+: Win 10x.

Characters playing against each other:

Each player declares a wager and makes a Wisdom check. The player with the highest check wins. A tie splits winnings. Everyone who didn't win compares their check to the winner's.

A difference of 1-4: That player keeps their stake.
5-9: Give half your stake to the winner.
10+: Give your whole stake to the winner.

Random chance games (like slots):

Roll a d20.

1-15: Lose your bet.
16: Lose half your bet.
17: Break even.
18: Win 2x.
19: Win 5x.
20: Win 10x.

SowZ
2013-01-06, 03:11 AM
I tend to go with "Treat SP like dollars", myself. This means a longsword runs about $150 (or $300, if you're using 20sp=1gp). That's a lot to drop on a drinking contest, but some folks'll do it.

Skilled, middle class laborers make about a gold a day whereas untrained people make about a SP a day. So, yeah, trying to put into our persepctive, (an educated person with a good but not great living makes maybe 45k a year,) means a GP is somewhere around 125 dollars or so. This is the best way I can think of it. Yes, this makes a longsword cost close to 2 grand. Yes, a well made longsword would be prohibitively expensive with the typical crafting technique. And they were very expensive. A Chain shirt being upwards of 10K is perfectly reasonable if you look at the value of such a thing in medieval times.

With the pricings in the PHB, a small den making 100 gp a night is pulling in close to half a million dollars a year. A guy making a 15 GP bet is betting close to two thousand dollars.

Most people don't actually treat gold this way in their games. Which is perfectly fine, it is just how Wizards set it up. Which is why magic item shops don't work by the PHB set up. This isn't to say magic items can't be traded. It is just the kind of thing governments would have to commision/extremely wealthy individuals would have to use their contacts to procure. To put it into perspective, a +10 weapon still doesn't scratch what the most expensive stealth bombers are worth in RL, but such tech doesn't really exist. The equivalent value is about 25 million, but the economy kind of breaks apart because such high numbers can't really translate from a modern/global economy to an ancient one. But it is easy to think about.

Morph Bark
2013-01-06, 04:51 AM
You could use Saga Edition's gambling rules.

That sounds pretty useable. Thanks.


Skilled, middle class laborers make about a gold a day whereas untrained people make about a SP a day. So, yeah, trying to put into our persepctive, (an educated person with a good but not great living makes maybe 45k a year,) means a GP is somewhere around 125 dollars or so.

That's only if you go by current standards. I'd put DnD's rates to a lot earlier in our time, since the economy in DnD is very different from ours. The small-scale/low-end economy is similar to what it was here before WWII or even further back before the Industrial Revolution (which would make 1-10 dollars per day pretty reasonable). The large-scale/high-end economy of magic items is entirely incomparable.

MukkTB
2013-01-06, 07:05 AM
The best games to run if you don't want to crunch math or won't play enough time for the odds to catch up with you are ones where the players take all the risk in a competitive environment and the house gets a cut of the pie.

I buy a 100GP Item. I raffle it away, 8 tickets 15GP a ticket. It doesn't matter who wins the item, I walk away 20 GP richer.

Several nobles want to play poker. I could try to match wits with them, or I could provide the table in a suitably disreputable but not unpleasant location. 500GP to sit at the table. I'll provide drinks, some women, and a moderate amount of security. Who knows how much money might change hands, but I'm sure to walk out several thousand gold pieces richer.

Of course I've just turned gambling into a boring job.

SowZ
2013-01-06, 09:04 AM
That sounds pretty useable. Thanks.



That's only if you go by current standards. I'd put DnD's rates to a lot earlier in our time, since the economy in DnD is very different from ours. The small-scale/low-end economy is similar to what it was here before WWII or even further back before the Industrial Revolution (which would make 1-10 dollars per day pretty reasonable). The large-scale/high-end economy of magic items is entirely incomparable.

Not in what the money can get you or how investments work it isn't comparable. But in how much most people would value a gold it still mostly works out to around a hundred twenty five dollars. Go back that far, where people made 1-10 dollars per day, and a dollar back then could easily be worth 5-10 dollars now. You have to consider inflation. Plus, based on what a gold can net you in D&D, its value would even be bumped up a little more since many of the things you can buy in a D&D world would be much more expensive, even if you bring the economy to scale. So it still works out to, roughly, a gold being as valuable to a D&D person as $125 would be to us.

At the end of the day, to an educated middle class person a gold piece looks like a whole days wage. They would probably value it like we value a days wage of ours. Or, if you are comparing it to olden-day economies, they would value it even more. Because even if you bring it up to scale, the day to day living expenses are higher. So less disposable income. All that argument does is bring the value of a gold piece even higher, (when trying to figure out how much people would value a GP compared to how much we would value a stack of dollars.)

Yeah, I admitted that once things get to a certain value the whole thing breaks down. But no matter how you look at a gold, the magic item end of the economy doesn't make sense.


The best games to run if you don't want to crunch math or won't play enough time for the odds to catch up with you are ones where the players take all the risk in a competitive environment and the house gets a cut of the pie.

I buy a 100GP Item. I raffle it away, 8 tickets 15GP a ticket. It doesn't matter who wins the item, I walk away 20 GP richer.

Several nobles want to play poker. I could try to match wits with them, or I could provide the table in a suitably disreputable but not unpleasant location. 500GP to sit at the table. I'll provide drinks, some women, and a moderate amount of security. Who knows how much money might change hands, but I'm sure to walk out several thousand gold pieces richer.

Of course I've just turned gambling into a boring job.

Good points. But assembling a table of four nobles at 500GP a piece is going to be very difficult in a standard setting via PHB gold values. It'll be a pre-planned thing for a while and take serious contacting unless you are one of the largest casinos in one of the biggest cities. That is like a 62 thousand dollar buy in. Most nobles probably wouldn't be willing to do it. High-high roller tables exist IRL, but you would have more trouble filling them in a lower population/slower travel world. A table of nobles betting well probably looks more like 50 gold. The average joe tables are measured in Silver Pieces, whereas a table of 5-10 gold is for people who do well for themselves or else are betting too much.

Regardless, even if you have a 2000 gold pot and pay 5 gold in rent/building maintenence/bare bones staff, an extra 25 gold in wine/food/women/security, 10 gold in advertising/getting the information to enough high rollers for four of them to take the bait, and take 10 percent of the cut, and you'll net out 160gold. Which is a great haul, but it won't happen every night.