The rules say a PC with Gambling skill is "well informed on games of chance and wise in their play. He has an advantage over non-experts and is generally capable of winning when he plays." The skill description is the same in TTB, BK1 and ST.
Gambling skill is offered in only three of the services, the Marines, the Army, and the Other. Gambling provides a one-time DM on getting Mustering Out cash, which especially in the Other can be very lucrative.
Mechanically, the skill's employment is broken down into simple die throws, one for Organized/casino games and the other for private games. Stake limits are also provided. That's all. Any other details are left to the player and referee. Sweet!
Questions:Is the success throw supposed to represent an entire gambling event, like a poker tournament or a single instance of wagering like a hand of poker? The rules don't say, so it can be either.
If the throw to succeed is already above 7, why does the skill description specify that a natural '2' is always a failure? Clearly, here, the writers of the rules thought it not impossible for a PC to have Gambling skill of 6+!
What are the payout odds when you succeed? There's no guidance, and I've always gone with even odds (1 to 1) when I've used it. That is to say, whatever is staked, you get back, with an equal sum as profit - wager 20, get 20+20.
However, there's no reason why the referee can't change that, and assign higher payout odds for throws that exceed the necessary throw. For a sense of comparison, I looked up the established table odds on a roulette wheel. They range from 1:1 to 2:1 up (not evenly) to 36:1, but that last is super-rare.
The referee can also remove the given limits on organized gambling wagers. A gambler with a reputation can draw a crowd, so casinos invite them in for 'high stakes' games. I think it worth noting that the given house limit, Cr 5000, is more than a 5-term veteran's annual pension. So proceed with caution - or go for broke. It's called gambling, after all.
The Big QuestionHow do you make Gambling more of an adventure, and less of an unreliable ATM when the PCs need cash?
Simple! Whenever they want to gamble, that's time to start brewing up some Random Encounters, Rumors and Patrons! Gambling is a necessarily social activity, so NPCs are going to be involved. Other gamblers, casino staff, interested onlookers can all provide hooks into new ventures for the PCs. Gambling involves big money, and where money goes, crime and adventure follows.
The skill description mentions the potential for detecting cheating (although nothing about how the PCs might cheat!) and for being accused of cheating due to high skill. Either one of these situations could be terrific adventure material.
The plot of the James Bond novel Moonraker opens at Blades' Club in London, with Bond & M trying to smoke out a cheater at the Bridge table. The fantastic Amber Zone Aces & Eights also features the PCs working the tables looking out for a cheat. Back to Bond again. Watch the film version of Casino Royale (the 2006 film). Keeping Bond alive and at the table for the whole game was an adventure in itself! An adventure like that would have plenty of places for other PCs to contribute while the front man slings the cards.
The Gamelords supplement Startown Liberty has a section on Casino life, quite helpful in fleshing out the evening's entertainment. It's worth checking out.
Just getting into the joint could be an adventure. What if it's for big-wigs & high rollers, and your gambler's SOC is 4? Well, time for some crafty planning to get him to the table.
Felbrigg Herriott's Behind the Claw podcast features Gambling skill in episode 32's Rules Talk. Go check it out too!
A little more depthHere is a way of introducing a little more definition to gambling events. It is not realistic to assume that every gambler is going to know equally well all the myriad of games possible in the Third Imperium, or whatever TU you play in. So when a PC wants to find a gambling event, the referee whether what's available is local, regional or interstellar in its popularity. Then have the PC check to see if he's familiar.
Local Game: 10+, DM Gambling or Streetwise, EDU 10+
Regional Game: 8+, DM Gambling or Streetwise, EDU 8+
Interstellar Game: 4+, DM Gambling, EDU 4+
An unfamiliar PC can still participate in the event, but at a DM -1 penalty.
What memorable adventures took place at the track or the table? Please share in the comments.