Races with Flavor: The Games Dwarves Play

Their love of wealth and ale makes Dwarves even more fond of gambling than most other races, and dwarven culture is filled with a wide variety of gambling games. The traditional dwarven deck of card has four suits–anvils, hammers, flames and gems– each with thirteen ranks. The cards are numbered from one to ten, and the three remaining cards are the wall, the prince and the king.

But most unusual about dwarves are their dice games. Six-sided dice are common throughout the lands, but dwarvish craftsmanship has given rise to exotic sets of multi-faceted dice. A typical set of hommdar, or “dwarf’s dice,” consists of a four-, a six-, an eight-, a twelve- and a twenty-sided die.

Hommdar are used almost exclusively in dwarvish games; some human collectors procure them at great cost but usually as a curiosity and with no intent of actually using them. Simple stone hommdar are fairly common among dwarves, and more elaborate and durable metallic or gemstone sets are frequently passed down along family lines. Such heirloom sets are called “gal hommdar.”

One popular game using a set of hommdar is “The Pits,” popular because the rules are simple enough even after a few-too-many flagons of mead. The Pits can be played with any number of participants, but games are usually played with between three and five.

To start, each player antes in a copper coin or some other agreed upon amount to the pot. Then each player rolls their d20. The player who rolled the highest without being tied loses, and replaces their d20 with a d12.

Players continue in rounds like this, and each time the loser goes to the next die; d20 -> d12 -> d8 -> d6 -> d4. If a player loses on a d4, that player’s out. When all but one player has been eliminated, that player wins the pot.

Each of the dice in The Pits is given a name. The d4 is the dwarf, the d6 the ogre, the d8 the human, the d12 the elf, and the d20 is the gnome (because, “Everybody hates the gnome.”).

This game has a number of regional variations, including a faster-playing variant called Elf Pit where the first player to be eliminated wins the pot and one called Reverse Pit where the order of the dice is reversed, players start with a d4, and it’s the lowest roll (without being tied) which loses each round.

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7 Responses to “Races with Flavor: The Games Dwarves Play”

  1. This sounds like a great game. I’ve always found that there aren’t enough fast, easy games that the PC’s can play in-character. This sounds like a winner. I can’t wait to try it out.

    Ameron’s last blog post..Month in Review: May 2009

  2. That’s exactly why I designed it. I agree, we need more simple, original games for PCs! Three Dragon Ante is a great game, but I’d never play it in a game of D&D because it takes quite a while.

  3. Just chiming in with my praise; I fully intend to use this in my upcoming games. Much more elegant than something on the fly, and it utilizes the D&D polyhedrons, which is always a welcome idea.

  4. Man, this is awesome! I’ll throw this into my game on Saturday. Thanks!

  5. Same here, that’s too awesome.

    Might work the dice names to fit with my racial relations, but the rest is A-one.

  6. Another suggestion that’s an actual published game, Toss Up!.

    It’s basically a super easy craps. Check out the site for details:

    http://www.areyougame.com/interact/item.asp?itemno=PA7367&q=Toss+Up+Dice+Game

    And hey, even if you don’t play the game, it comes with great green, yellow, and red sided d6s for any other games you might think up.

  7. I love these quick dice games! If you’re looking for some more, and you don’t mind spending a little money, there’s a great supplement for 4th Edition called “Scarrport: City of Secrets” (I had no part in it) that has three more dice games at the end. That’s not all that’s in the book, and certainly not the best, but it definitely adds some more flavor. I’m personally a huge fan of the game Demon Bones – it’s like Blackjack, but with dice.

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