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Sabacc: Gambling on the Edge


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#1 M00t

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 12:23 PM

Ok, I was looking for some additional ways to add spice to my EotE games. We have been playing with the Beta and having a good time working on the mechanics. So, now we are waiting on the final and I am looking for some additional ideas for the scoundrels in our little party. AHA! Sabacc! A great card game to pass the time in deep space travel and a great game for gambling worlds, and maybe a game of chance for the occasional high stakes obligation.

I am going to create some rules based on the FFG dice mechanic. I think the advantage, threat and other story telling aspects lend itself very well to a game of high stakes chance. As I create the rules, I will try to post them on this board for the input and general badgering.

You cannot buy a card deck for Sabacc. There are some printable versions on line, but getting a good card feel is difficult this way. The deck is basically a Tarot deck. But, not a standard Tarot deck because you need numbered cards of 1-11 and all standard decks are 1-10. Also, there are 7 special cards of which you need 2 of each. So, it requires two standard Tarot decks to create on Sabacc deck.

Most Tarot decks are based on medieval motifs or fantasy. Not so Star Wars oriented. BUT…

Hint #1: If you are at all interested in the coolest deck, get your hands on some Dishonord Tarot decks. The cards are steam punk in style and have a great look. Theses were given away as part of pre-sale promotion for the game last fall. I bought 4 decks off of eBay for 5-10 USD each. I saw some on Amazon for $15. The great thing about this deck is that the card called the "Outsider" has no value identified and is perfect for the Sabacc Fool card which has zero value.

I am going to experiment with the extra 10 card from each suit to make the 11 card. I may also going to try to laminate one deck to give an even more future feel to the cards.

There are no "official" rules for Sabacc. Most rules are based on decoding from books. I think I saw something from WEG or early SWRPG but I did not like the translation. There are lots of various rules on the web. I will let you know which version I end up using.

there you have it. Interested?

Bill



#2 joecor

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 02:33 PM

Sure I'm interested, I think Sabacc is an iconic part of the life of a scoundrel. The way I see it, every character that has visited a cantina in the outer rim has played or at least seen the game, so it makes sense.

I want my characters to play it as part of an encounter, perhaps interwine an important high stakes bet into the story somewhere. 

About the mechanics, I read the folowing in an EotE blog:
Make a competitive Deceit check between the characters. A character who wishes to manipulate the deck itself is allowed to make an Skullduggery check instead (but threats or despair in this type of checks will reveal the cheat to everyone, risking a beating or worse depending on the opponents tempers).
Winner is declared by most successes, first tie breaker is number of Triumphs, second tie breaker is number of Advantages.

About the cards itself and the rules of the game: I think it's a shame no official rules and no offical decks can be found.



#3 Kallabecca

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 05:54 PM

Well, with the rise of iOS and Android devices, one could now create a Sabacc deck game. Since part of the card game is the random changing of the cards in your hand unless you place them in a suppression field near the table surface, this is the hardest part to simulate with normal cards.



#4 djext1

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 07:43 PM

Not sabacc, but gambling related:

My players had a session inside of a casino, to give them a chance at some extra credits I allowed them to play some Lugjack machines (slot machines).  I had to come up with something on the fly that was as random as a slot machine, with payouts and such, as well as a chance at a "jackpot".  My system worked pretty well, and seemed to replicate the monotony and money sink of a slot machine.  Let's see if I can remember it right:

Let's say the PC is playing a 10 credit machine (it can be any amount).  The PC gets to roll 3 ability dice, along with 2 difficulty dice.  For each net success, they won 10 credits.  So with the easy safe method you could potentially win 30 credits.  Now, I made sure to tell them that for each spin, they had to make sure to subtract the 10 credits for the pull.  So if they came up with 3 success symbols, they won 30 credits - 10 for the intial pay in = 20 credits.    This was the safe and easy method. 

For jackpot chances, they had to risk more.   Using the same 10 credit method, they would instead play 30 credits per pull (the cost of 3 success payouts), basically triple whatever the amount of machine they were playing.  However, they were allowed to upgrade one ability die into a proficiency die.  If at any time they got a triumph symbol, they hit a jackpot and won double what they paid in, so the 30cr turns into 60cr.  This allowed them to gamble a bit more if they chose in order to hit a big payout.  Like before, any success payed out like normal, so in this case 10cr per success symbol.  The triumph symbol though was immediate, and any failures didn't matter: instant jackpot.  

Now, doing the math, playing for a jackpot doesn't give a huge payout in the long run, only a slightly higher payout than playing the safe easy way, but it is a little bit more, and some of the players liked hitting a "jackpot"… just like a real slot machine: Pay $40 to win $60…but you feel like you won something, and had fun.

Advantage/threat symbols didn't mean anything and were not used at all.

 

I kept it reasonable, and allowed them to play 10-20-30-50-100 credit lugjack machines.  They did this for about 10-15 minutes, and at the end all but one guy (poor chap couldn't win for nothing..) ended up making about 100cr off of a 40cr start.  One player actually ran it up to about 250cr while moving up in machines only to hit a dry spell and lose most of it back on the 50cr machine.  He then proceeded to go back to the 20cr machines and get it back up to 120.  At that point we moved on with the story.  But it seemed to work well.  Feel free to change it however you like.  But it's an easy gambling mechanic for PCs to play some sidegames for money.


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#5 Sketchpad

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 09:45 AM

I would love to get an official Sabacc deck. ;)


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#6 I. J. Thompson

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 11:34 AM

joecor said:

About the cards itself and the rules of the game: I think it's a shame no official rules and no offical decks can be found.

The original rules and cards in WEG's 'Crisis on Cloud City' were pretty much official, weren't they? They're certainly LFL-approved, at any rate.


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#7 ErikB

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 01:49 PM

One time when I was GMing for a change, the players decided to blow off the whole Rebel Alliance thing (and the adventure I had prepared) and go find a Sabacc game. All I could think of was to rip off Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. So they quickly found themselves in a game on a vast station about to be destroyed by the Empire to prevent it from falling in to Rebel hands, played by an exclusive club of ultra rich beings who only play in locations where order has broken down so they can gamble with the lives of sentient beings (and potentially their own). Ending with a mad dash for the last remaining escape pods as the station was blown apart around them.

Considering they just wanted to go to a seedy cantina and play Space Poker, they thought this was a bit on the Epic side.

--

On cards, a while back I got some cards billed as US Civil War era copies for playing western themed Savage Worlds games. The ones I got were cheap and printed on modern laminated cardstock, but still kinda cool. Something like this:-

They have square corners, no indexes in the corners of the cards, and single ended face designs. Which actually makes them remarkably unuserfriendly. If you have them in a fan in your hand it is difficult to tell at a glance what you have.

I think a genuine period deck would be printed on unvarnished cardboard and have blank reverse sides (to reduce costs and potential for card marking).

Now, obviously this is space and not the wild west, but I think trying to get the same sort of style in to a Sabacc deck would be a noble endevour. Even if the cards are holographic.


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#8 Genghis12

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 03:29 AM

M00t said:

There are no "official" rules for Sabacc. Most rules are based on decoding from books. I think I saw something from WEG or early SWRPG but I did not like the translation. There are lots of various rules on the web. I will let you know which version I end up using.

Every official SWRPG publisher to date has published official rules for Sabacc.  West End Games published it's entire stand-alone rulebook "Sabacc" that was included as a part of the Crisis on Cloud City adventure.  WotC published their version of Sabacc in the Galactic Campaign Guide (p. 43).  And of course there's tons of homebrewed variants produced around the time those games were in force too.  I would expect FFG to publish rules, especially for EotE which is the best place for them.

That's not to say that I wouldn't welcome a new take on this iconic game.

The key thing in my mind is to provide enough rounds of play for the chance randomizer to work its chaos.

The play is pretty simple, as I'm sure everyone generally knows:

The game uses a deck of 76 "cards" (electronic chip-cards) whose face changes randomly throughout play.  Values range from four suits [Sabres, Staves, Flasks, Coins] ranged from 1 to 11 and four ranked cards, along with sixteen nonsuit cards thrown in for good measure; there exists both positive and negative versions of each.  The dealer rotates clockwise around the table after each hand.  Standard play begins with each player being dealt two cards.  Play begins with the bet; anyone can opt to fold (sacrifice the ante only) or bet.  To stay in, need to match the bet.  After betting, the "shift" phase is usually modeled for the card randomization; technically any card at any time until locked is free to be randomized, but most rules used a phase to apply it to a single card of all player's hands if they roll a randomizer trigger.  After randomized, then the call phase (except first turn, game cannot be called until every player has had at least one full turn).  Any player still in the hand may call the hand , ending it; highest hand wins.  Calling may only be done by a player within another player's call turn (and play always follows the original order).  Then finally the draw phase, where players may opt to draw a new card to add to their hand; this may be done to exchange (draw a card to the hand, then discard one from hand) or to simply add (draw a card to the hand).  After everyone has drawn, return to betting phase.

Depending on variant (yes, there's system-, region-, and cultural-variants) players may begin with three to five cards, from which they try to form a total of 23.  Until they lock in their hand within the game's interference field, the randomizer can change any card's face unexpectedly.  Players pay an initial ante, place bets based on initial cards' faces, then bet on final, locked totals.  At any bet, if a player decides that their hand is so worthless, they can bow out and forfeit their wagers in the pot.

Highest total, 23 or less wins the hand pot; over 23 bombs out.  If two or more players tie, there is one Sudden Demise round; dealer draws a new card each of the tied players and this is added to the hand.  Newest modified hand 23 or less wins.  In case of new tie, the pot is finally split equally (with unequal value going to place closest to dealer).  A bomb out is when a player's hand ranges over 23, less than negative 23, or is exactly zero.  Bombed Out players must match the hand pot and pay it to the Sabacc pot.  Players may only win the Sabacc pot by having Pure Sabacc (score of exactly 23 by any means through any number of cards), or Idiot's Array, which can only be made by having Idiot (score of zero), a Two ("2"), and a Three ("3") -- a literal 2-3; Idiot's Array beats Pure Sabacc.

Usually, any rules that I've seen have attempted to model any of the following conditions: 1) bluff: an opposed roll between all Sabacc players, initiated by either PC or NPC, mostly used to push others out through misinformation like "You feel that Player X feels confident about his hand" {Player X hand is weak} or "You feel you can beat Player Y" {Player Y hand is killer); 2) Diplomacy: an opposed roll between all Sabacc players, initiated by either PC or NPC, usually used to divine information about others' hands such as suits, value, or value ranges, or to push others out of the hand; 3) Intimidate, an opposed roll between all Sabacc players, initiated by either PC or NPC, usually used to push other players out through appearing like you or your hand is killer ""Let the Wookiee win."  The Force has usually been modeled in many homebrew rules; Control substituting for opposing roles to players for any of the above, Sense being used to divine information about Players' hands, and Alter being used as opposed roll between Force-user and the Sabacc system to game the outcome of randomizer results for oneself or others, or even randomize cards already locked in the interference field (hugely difficult hail mary).  Actual gambling skill where a system had it could also generally be used to do any of the above, or do do other special actions like play out of order within the turn (randomize before or after someone not in order, being able to call out of order, etc).

In my opinion, the best systems have modeled the game as a series of events, offering a spectrum of interplay between a wide range of skills and player-NPC interactions.



#9 M00t

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 03:39 AM

Great notes and thoughts on styles of games that have been offered to date. Yeah, I agree that FFG will likely have something, so my intention is to fill the gap using the new dice system. I am hoping to send my notes out this week, after a little more play testing with some friends. 

 

Bill



#10 Kyla

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 03:28 AM

The best take on the randomizer that I've seen was one my friend ran.  We have a "keep it simple" rule so when we saw the need to randomize hands, we wanted to keep it as easy as possible.

 

To do this, we marked each players turn with the dealer chip from a standard poker set.  On the start of the round, everyone was dealt their opening hand.  The players then put in their ante and the dealers chip began with their bet.  Once their bet was down, they could "lock" one or more of their cards, or draw one or more cards - not both.  The dealer chip was then passed to the next player.  This continued until one round of betting was complete.  No calls could be made until the second round began, and it began with the original player starting with the dealer's chip (which had migrated around to them again).

 

This second round followed the same rules, save that in addition to locking or drawing cards, you could pass.  Then, once you locked, drew or passed,, ALL unlocked cards for ALL players were collected, reshuffled, and then a matching number of cards were dealt to each player.  This represents the randomizer effect.  Play continued until someone called or all players had all cards locked.  The trick is that if you got called, then even cards outside the lock field counted towards your hand.  It let to some tricky plays (like trying to keep a round of betting going while you had a good hand locked but seeing others locking down too - do you take a card to keep the betting going or just take what the pot comes down at?)


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#11 Warsmith Khonrad

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 09:13 AM

Not sure if everyone saw it yet but in Suns of Fortune, there are rules for Sabacc with this dice system. It looks like it will be reasonable though like many things very difficult until higher levels of skills and characteristics are reached but it is a very functional set of rules and I'm excited for my gambler to get a chance to play cards.
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#12 Crimson Death

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 09:15 AM

Not sure if everyone saw it yet but in Suns of Fortune, there are rules for Sabacc with this dice system. It looks like it will be reasonable though like many things very difficult until higher levels of skills and characteristics are reached but it is a very functional set of rules and I'm excited for my gambler to get a chance to play cards.

 

This thread is over a year old....

 

Suns of Fortune wasn't out yet =p


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#13 Warsmith Khonrad

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 09:55 AM

Not sure if everyone saw it yet but in Suns of Fortune, there are rules for Sabacc with this dice system. It looks like it will be reasonable though like many things very difficult until higher levels of skills and characteristics are reached but it is a very functional set of rules and I'm excited for my gambler to get a chance to play cards.

 
This thread is over a year old....
 
Suns of Fortune wasn't out yet =p

Lol yes and i had totally forgotten about it. It was an interesting thread and then Kyla brought it up to the top and I just finished reading Suns of Fortune and figured since it was back at the top, I'd toss it out there so anyone else who saw it could get the rules FFG created. I thought it would help folks out.
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