Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.

5/6/2003

Gambling

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

How does a fantasy culture view gambling?

That’s an interesting question…. Our own world has many different views. Some cultures see it as a very normal thing to do. Many Asian cultures, for instance, see gambling and luck as integral to society. The island of Macau is practically a giant casino. Other cultures, including segments of the United States, see gambling as a vice that ranks right up there with smoking and drinking and fornication. In other words, some folks see it as a sin.
But, what about a fantasy world? Would a non-Judeo-Christian culture see gambling as bad? Obviously, some don’t. There might even be a “god” or “saint” dedicated to gambling. One fantasy series, Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen, has temples devoted to gambling and at least one story starts with a daring raid on the hidden treasure trove of one of those temples. Considering how well most state lotteries seem to do, this seems a fairly reasonable thing to see in a fantasy setting. Gambling has been around since recorded history. Or, at the very least, since the Roman Empire. The Bible tells us that the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus “threw dice” for his possessions. And, there are other historical examples.
So, what are the social and economic ramifications of gambling in a fictional culture? Would it be permitted? I think most societies would have some kind of private gambling, if not institutionalized gambling like a state lottery. Games of chance have been with us for thousands of years, and seem like something that mankind cannot escape. So, too, have the people who have warned us against the evils of gambling. It could add some color to have a character who gambles and has to deal with a parental, or religious, figure who disapproves of their gambling. Or, a character with a compulsive gambling habit may, in fact, drive the plot.
In short, I think gambling is fairly ubiquitous and controversial enough to give an author some new ways to expand a story or novel, either as a plot device, or a sub-plot. Something to think about anyway.

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