Baccarat in the Vineyard

May 7, 2009

This just came to me. Note for people unfamiliar with Baccarat: it’s like Blackjack, but the high score is 9 (not 21), face cards count as 10, aces count as 1, and you only read the ones digit of your total (so a 26 = 6).

There’s a conflict. Whoever’s in the conflict either declares their own stakes or declares that they are playing on the side of someone else’s stakes. The House (GM) is often in the conflict, but not always. The House can choose to play on the side of another player, if multiple competing stakes have been declared, or players can choose to join the House’s stakes, if the House has declared their own.

Determine what level the conflict begins at: Words, Flesh, or Death.

Deal one card to every player, with each player declaring how they are pursuing their stakes or opposing other players pursuing theirs. Deal a second card in the same fashion.

If any player totals 0 at this point, they lose and are out. The conflict is over if there are no longer multiple competiting stakes. If all competing players total 0, something disastrous has befallen all of the involved characters, rendering the current conflict meaningless.

If any player totals 9 at this point, they win and narrate achieving their stakes. If multiple players achieve 9 with the first two cards, both their stakes occur. Followup conflicts can occur as necessary.

Otherwise, the player with the lowest current score either Gives, Escalates, or is dealt a card, describing how their character continues the conflict. This continues until the conflict is over, either by players winning (with 9), being removed from the conflict (with 0), or Giving. Anytime players have tied scores, the House (being the one dealing) decides who takes the first deal.

Escalation means that players discard their current totals (reserving any face cards they have drawn) and are given two new cards instead.

At the end of the conflict, win or lose, each PC takes Fallout equal to the number of face cards they have drawn during a particular level of conflict. For example, a character might have 2 face cards from Words and 1 face card from Death, taking 2 Words Fallout and 1 Death Fallout.

I don’t think there are stats or numerical traits in this game, so Fallout just means bad things happen to you and the people you care about, maybe in the manner of Shreyas’ recent Exalted hack, Radiant.

2 Responses to “Baccarat in the Vineyard”

  1. DevP Says:

    This is quite elegant.


    • I’ve been playing it a bunch with myself recently, just throwing down cards and watching what happens, and I really like it.

      It seems much more random and harder to “game” than standard DITV, so you can’t just bring in overwhelming traits to win. There’s also this thing where you have to Escalate before you lose, because arriving at 0 or 9 can happen suddenly. Fights can be over in an instant or drag on for a little while and it’s hard to know what will happen, so the strategy is really interesting. Also, the only choices you have in a fight are Escalate or Give, which feels much more like the choices you have instant-to-instant, instead of pausing to figure out which traits are appropriate.

      I’m thinking of using it for my true crime Macau gangsters game and your only traits would basically be relationships which absorb your Fallout and keep you from suffering the full consequences of your actions, more like Bliss Stage, I guess.


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