Fifth Month
Passage Hand
Year 10,174 Contasta Ar

Caste of Players

Here are relevant references from the Books where the Caste of Players is mentioned.
While not specifically titled a Caste, this group is mentioned along with others that are.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.

I wish you well,

see also Kaissa

Supporting References

Other contests of interest pit choruses and poets and players of various cities against one another in the several theaters of the fair.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 12

But this man now approaching was not an amateur, nor an enthusiast. He was a man who would be respected by all the castes in Ar; he was a man who would be recognized, most likely, not only by every urchin wild in the streets of the city but by the Ubar as well; he was a Player, a professional, one who earned his living through the game.
The Players are not a caste, nor a clan, but they tend to be a group apart, living their own lives. They are made up of men from various castes who often have little in common but the game, but that is more than enough. They are men who commonly have an extraordinary aptitude for the game but beyond this men who have become drunk on it, men lost in the subtle, abstract liquors of variation, pattern and victory, men who live for the game, who want it and need it as other men might want gold, or others power and women, or others the rolled, narcotic strings of toxic kanda.
There are competitions of Players, with purses provided by amateur organizations, and sometimes by the city itself, and these purses are, upon occasion, enough to enrich a man, but most Players earn a miserable living by hawking their wares, a contest with a master, in the street. The odds are usually one to forty, one copper tarn disk against a forty-piece, sometimes against an eight-piece, and sometimes the amateur who would play the master insists on further limitations, such as the option to three consecutive moves at a point in the game of his choice, or that the master must remove from the board, before the game begins, his two tarnsmen, or his Riders of the High Tharlarion. Further, in order to gain Players, the master, if wise, occasionally loses a game, which is expensive at the normal odds; and the game must be lost subtly, that the amateur must believe he has won. I had once known a Warrior in Ko-ro-ba, a dull, watery-eyed fellow, who boasted of having beaten Quintus of Tor in a Paga Tavern in Thentis. Those who play the game for money have a hard lot, for the market is a buyer's market, and commonly men will play with them only on terms much to their satisfaction. I myself, when Centius of Cos was in Ko-ro-ba, might have played him on the bridge near the Cylinder of Warriors for only a pair of copper tarn disks. It seemed sad to me, that I, who knew so little of the game, could have so cheaply purchased the privilege of sitting across the board from such a master. It seemed to me that men should pay a tarn disk of gold just to be permitted to watch such a master play, but such were not the economic realities of the game.
In spite of having the respect, even to some degree the adulation, of almost all Goreans, the Players lived poorly. On the Street of Coins they found it difficult even to arrange loans. They were not popular with innkeepers, who would not shelter them unless paid in advance. Many were the nights a master would be found rolled in robes in a Paga tavern, where, for a bit of tarsk meat and a pot of paga, and an evening's free play with customers, he would be permitted to sleep. Many of the Players dreamed of the day they might be nominated for inter-city competitions at the Fairs of the Sardar, for a victor in the Sardar Fairs earns enough to keep himself, and well, for years, which he then would devote to the deeper study of the game. There is also some money for the masters in the annotation of games, printed on large boards near the Central Cylinder, in the preparation or editing of scrolls on the game, and in the providing of instruction for those who would improve their skills. On the whole, however, the Players live extremely poorly. Further, there is a harsh competition among themselves, for positions in certain streets and on certain bridges. The most favorable locations for play are, of course, the higher bridges in the vicinity of the richer cylinders, the most expensive Paga taverns, and so on. These positions, or territories, are allotted by the outcome of games among the Players themselves. In Ar, the high bridge near the Central Cylinder, housing the palace of the Ubar and the meeting place of the city's High Council, was held, and had been for four years, by the young and brilliant, fiery Scormus of Ar.
"Game!" I heard, an answering cry, and a fat fellow, of the Caste of Vintners, puffing and bright eyed, wearing a white tunic with a representation in green cloth of leaves about the collar and down the sleeves of the garment, stepped forth from a doorway.
Without speaking the Player sat down cross-legged at one side of the street, and placed the board in front of him. Opposite him sat the Vintner.
"Set the pieces," said the Player.
I was surprised, and looked more closely, as the Vintner took the wallet filled with game pieces from the man's shoulder and began, with his stubby fingers, to quickly arrange the pieces.
The Player was a rather old man, extremely unusual on Gor, where the stabilization serums were developed centuries ago by the Caste of Physicians in Ko-ro-ba and Ar, and transmitted to the Physicians of other cities at several of the Sardar Fairs
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 27 - 29

In the center of his forehead, there was a large brand, the capital initial of the Gorean word for slave, in block script. But I knew that he was not a slave, for it is not permitted that Players be slave. That a slave should play is regarded as an insult to free men, and an insult to the game.
. . .
"The pieces are set," said the Vintner, his fingers trembling.
"Your terms?" asked the Player.
"I move first," said the Vintner.
This, of course, was an advantage, permitting the Vintner to choose his own opening, an opening he may have studied for a lifetime. Moreover, having the first move, he might more speedily develop his pieces, bringing them into the central areas of the board where they might control crucial squares, the crossroads of the board. And further, having the first move, he would probably be able to carry the initiative of the aggressor several moves into the game, perhaps to the conclusion. Players, when playing among themselves, with men of equal strength, frequently play for a draw when they do not have the first move.
"Very well," said the Player.
"Further," said the Vintner, "I declare for the three-move option at my time of choice, and you must play without the Ubar and Ubara, or the first tarnsman."
By this time there were four or five other individuals gathered about, besides myself, to observe the play. There was a Builder, two Saddle Makers, a Baker, and a Tarn Keeper, a fellow who wore on his shoulder a green patch, indicating he favored the Greens. Indeed, since there were no races this day in Ar, and he wore the patch, he perhaps worked in the tarncots of the Greens. None of this crowd seemed much to object to my presence there, though, to be sure, none would stand near me. In the prospect of a game, Goreans tend to forget the distances, amenities and trepidations of more sober moments. And through this small crowd, when it heard the terms of the Vintner, there coursed a mutter of irritation.
"Very well," said the Player, looking out over the board placidly, seeing nothing.
"And the odds I choose," said the Vintner, "are one to eighty."
At this a real growl of anger coursed through the onlookers.
"One to eighty," said the Vintner, firmly, triumphantly. "Very well," said the Player.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 31 - 32

"I share the fool's lodgings" said Qualius. "There are few doors open to a destitute Player."
Cernus laughed. "Players and fools," said he, "have much in common."
"It is true," said Qualius.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 321

Through the entryway, rather angrily, strode a young man, perhaps no more than eighteen or nineteen years of age, with piercing eyes and incredibly striking features; he wore the garb of the Player, but his garb was rich and the squares of the finest red and yellow silk; the game bag over his left shoulder was of superb verrskin; his sandals were tied with strings of gold; startlingly, this young man, seeming like a god in the splendor of his boyhood, was lame, and as he strode angrily forward, his right leg dragged across the tiles; seldom had I seen a face more handsome, more striking, yet rich with irritation, with contempt, a face more betokening the brilliance of a mind like a Gorean blade.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 322

I looked to one side. There, lost to the bustle in the tavern, oblivious to the music, sat two men across a board of one hundred red and yellow squares, playing Kaissa, the game. One was a Player, a master who makes his living, though commonly poorly, from the game, playing for a cup of paga perhaps and the right to sleep in the tavern at night.
Hunters of Gor   Book 8   Page 47

"Patience," I told him, "is a virtue of merchants."
I held forth the wine bowl that Sheera, from a large wine crater, might refill it.
"Patience, too," said Rim, "is a characteristic of players of the Game, and of certain warriors."
Hunters of Gor     Book 8     Page 96

Players, incidentally, are free to travel where they wish on the surface of Gor, no matter what might be their city. By custom, they, like musicians, are held free of the threat of enslavement. Like musicians, and like singers, there are few courts at which they are not welcome.
Hunters of Gor     Book 8     Page 148

Most Gorean cities now, at least in the south, had accepted a standard tournament Kaissa, agreed upon by the high council of the caste of players.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 43

In most cities it is regarded, incidentally, as a criminal offense to enslave one of the caste of players.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 44

Normally much betting would wait until it was known which player had yellow, which determines the first move, and the first move, of course, determining the opening.
. . .
Often, incidentally, the first move in a match is decided by one player's guessing in which hand the other holds a Spearman, one of the pieces of the game. In this match, however, a yellow Spearman and a red Spearman were to be placed in a helmet, covered with a scarlet cloth.
. . .
The chief officer of the caste of players, with representatives of both Cos and Ar, would be waiting for them on the stone stage of the amphitheater, with the helmet.
. . .
Then, beside he who bore the standard of Ar, there stood one in the garb of the players, the red and yellow checkered robe, and the checkered cap, with the board and pieces slung over his shoulder, like a warrior's accouterments.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 51 - 53

Centius of Cos, in his tent, it was said, seemed unconcerned with the match. He was lost in his thoughts, studying a position which had once occurred a generation ago in a match between the minor masters Ossius of Tabor, exiled from Teletus, and Philemon of Aspericht, not even of the players, but only a cloth worker.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 62

The movements of the pieces are chalked on the left side of the board, in order; the main portion of the board consists of a representation of the Kaissa board and young players, in apprenticeship to masters, move pieces upon it; one has thus before oneself both a record of the moves made to that point and a graphic representation of the current state of the game. The movements are chalked, too, incidentally, by the young players. The official scoring is kept by a team of three officials, at least one of which must be of the caste of players.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 84

I saw now upon the stage Reginald of Ti, who was the elected administrator of the caste of players. A fellow with him carried the sand clocks. These clocks are arranged in such a way that each has a tiny spigot which may be opened and closed, this determining whether sand falls or not. These spigots are linked in such a way that when one is open the other must be closed; the spigot turned by a given player closes his own clock's sand passage and opens that of his opponent; when the clocks must both be stopped, as for an adjournment of play, they are placed on their side by the chief judge in the match, in this case Reginald of Ti. There are two Ahn of sand in each player's clock. Each player must complete forty moves before his clock is empty of sand, under penalty of forfeit.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 85

We watched the large, yellow plaque, representing the Ubara's Spearman, hung on its peg at Ubara five. Two young men, apprentices in the caste of players, on scaffolding, placed the plaque. Another young man, also apprenticed in the caste of players, recorded this move, in red chalk, at the left of the board.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 87

If one may judge by the outcome of Kaissa tournaments, amateur tournaments as opposed to those in which members of the caste of Players participate, there are brilliant men in most castes.
Fighting Slave of Gor     Book 14     Page 211

The only other caste on Gor which is generally considered, for most practical purposes, as immune from bondage is the caste of players. These are the fellows who make their living from the game of Kaissa, playing it for prizes, charging for games, giving instruction and exhibitions, annotating games, and so on. They are usually poor fellows but generally have little trouble securing a night's food and lodging for a game or two. The general affection and respect which Goreans feel for the game of Kaissa is probably the explanation for the practical immunity from bondage commonly accorded the members of the caste of players.
Kajira of Gor     Book 19     Page 298

Incidentally, there are many versions of Kaissa played on Gor. In some of these versions, the names of the pieces differ, and, in some, even more alarmingly, their nature and power. The caste of Players, to its credit, has been attempting to standardize Kaissa for years.
A major victory in this matter was secured a few years ago when the caste of Merchants, which organizes and manages the Sardar Fairs, agreed to a standardized version, proposed by, and provisionally approved by, the high council of the caste of Players, for the Sardar tournaments, one of the attractions of the Sardar Fairs. This form of Kaissa, now utilized in the tournaments, is generally referred to, like the other variations, simply as Kaissa. Sometimes, however, to distinguish it from differing forms of the game, it is spoken of as Merchant Kaissa, from the role of the Merchants in making it the official form of Kaissa for the fairs, Player Kaissa, from the role of the Players in its codification, or the Kaissa of En'Kara, for it was officially promulgated for the first time at one of the fairs of En'Kara, that which occurred in 10,124 C.A., Contasta Ar, from the Founding of Ar, or in Year 5 of the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains, in Port Kar.
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 8

He did not wear the red-and-yellow-checked robes of the caste of players, he was not, thus, I assumed, of that caste. Had he been of the players he would doubtless have worn their robes. They are quite proud of their caste.
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 53

"Perhaps he should apply for membership in the caste of players," I suggested.
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 57

"What are Kaissa ciphers?" I asked. I did not doubt that the papers contained enciphered messages. That conjecture seemed obvious, if not inevitable, given the importance attached to them by the Lady Yanina, she of Brundisium, and her colleague, Flaminius, perhaps also of Brundisium. I had hoped, of course, that the player might be able to help me with this sort of thing, that he, ideally, might be familiar with the ciphers, or their keys.
"There are many varieties of Kaissa ciphers," he said. "They are often used by the caste of players for the transmission of private messages, but they may, of course, be used by anyone. Originally they were probably invented by the caste of players. They are often extremely difficult to decipher because of the use of multiples and nulls, and the multiplicity of boards."
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 243

Two or three cushions down, on Belnar's left, was a fellow in the robes of the caste of players, Temenides, of Cos. It was interesting to me that a member of the caste of players should be seated at the first table, and particularly, in this city, one allied with Ar, one of Cos. To be sure, there tend to be few restrictions on the movements of players on Gor. They tend to travel about, on the whole, pretty much as they please. They tend to have free access almost everywhere, being welcomed, unquestioned, in most Gorean camps, villages, towns and cities. In this respect, they tend to resemble musicians, who generally enjoy similar privileges. There is a saying on Gor, "No musician can be a stranger." This saying is sometimes, too, applied to members of the caste of players.
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 294

"I have soldiers of my own," said Temenides. "With your permission, Ubar, I shall summon them."
I found this of interest. Surely members of the caste of players do not commonly travel about with a military escort.
. . .
"I have a much better idea," said Belnar, smiling. "He is a player. You will play for her."
The player folded his arms and regarded Temenides.
"Ubar!" protested Temenides. "Consider my honor! I play among the high boards of Cos. This is a mountebank, a player at carnivals, no member even of the caste of players!"
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 322

Beneath it, as I had suspected, was the robe of the players, the red-and-yellow-checked robe that marked those of that caste.
. . .
Are you truly of the players?" asked the man.
"It is my caste," said the player. The hair on the back of my neck rose up. I think in that moment the player had come home to himself.
"And in what minor ranks of the players do you locate yourself?" asked Temenides, scornfully. Rankings among players, incidentally, resulting from play in selected tournaments and official matches, are kept with great exactness.
"I was a champion," said the player.
"And of what small town, or village?" inquired Temenides, scornfully.
"Of Ar," said the player.
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 329

There are few on Gor who do not stand in awe of the skills of high players.
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 334

I had found what I had been looking for in a room apparently devoted to kaissa, in the midst of what were apparently merely the records of games, jotted on scraps of paper. Among those records, fitted in with them, were other papers. There was little doubt these were what I had sought. On one paper was a numbered list of names, names of well-known kaissa players. That, even, of Scormus was among them. On another paper there was what purported to be a list of tournament cities, and on another a list of names, of individuals supposedly noted for their craftsmanship in the skill and design of kaissa boards and pieces. There were also, on other papers, numbered, too, the representations of boards.
Arranged in various ways on these boards were letters, sometimes beginning from a word, sometimes from a random, or seemingly random alignment of letters. These were all, I took it, keys to kaissa ciphers of one level of complexity or another. In a very simple case, for example, a given word, say, "Cibron," the name of a wood worker of Tabor, might occur. This key, then, in a simple case, without variations, would presumably be used in the following manner: the deciphering individual would write "C-I-B-R-O-N" in the first six spaces at the top of a kaissa board, moving from left to right, then following with the other, unused letters of the alphabet, moving from right to left on the second line, and so on, as "the ox plows," as standard Gorean is written. In this fashion each square of the board, with its name, such as "Ubar Five," and so on, would correspond to a letter, and some spaces, of course, would correspond to the same letter, thus providing cipher multiples. When one comes to the end of the originally unused letters, one begins anew, of course, starting then with the first letter of the alphabet, writing the full alphabet in order, and then continuing in this fashion.
Some of the lists had small marks after some of the words, seemingly casual, meaningless marks. These, however, depending on the slants and hooks, indicating direction, would indicate variations in letter alignments, for example, "Begin diagonally in the upper-left-hand corner," and such. Those keys on which the entire board appeared usually possessed complex, or even random, alignments, of letters, and several nulls, as well as the expected multiples. A Gorean "zero" was apparently used to indicate nulls.
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 368 - 369

"Perhaps he was a courier," speculated Boots. "Players may come and go much as they please."
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 392

"Who is first sword?" I asked the leader.
"I am," said a fellow to the leader's left. I was sure then that it would not be he. Too, he was on the leader's left, where he could protect his unarmed side. His strengths would probably be in defense. It is difficult to break the guard of a man who is purely on the defensive. While concerning myself with the fellow on the left, or worrying most about him, the leader himself might have freer play to my own left. Too, I suspected the leader would be himself first sword. In small groups, it is often superior swordplay which determines that distinction. In Kaissa matches between clubs and towns, and sometimes even cities, incidentally, a certain form of similar deception is often practiced. One sacrifices the first board, so to speak, and then has one's first player engaging the enemy's second player, and one's second player engaging the enemy's third, and so on. To be sure, the enemy, not unoften, is doing the same thing, or something similar, and so things often even out. This tends not to be practical among members of the caste of Players, of course, as their ratings are carefully kept, and are a matter of public record.
Vagabonds of Gor     Book 24     Page 76

"My kaissa is satisfactory," I said, "for one who is not a Player."
"You are not even a caste or city champion," he said.
"Are you?" I inquired.
"Games are for children," he said.
"Kaissa is not for children," I said. Life and death sometimes hung on the outcomes of a kaissa match, and war or peace. Cities had been lost in such matches, and slaves frequently changed hands.
Too, the game is beautiful.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 93

Sometimes high warriors, city masters, Ubars, generals, and such, play "blind kaissa." Two boards are used, with an opaque barrier between the boards, so neither player can see the pieces of the other. An adjudicator observes both boards and informs the players whether a move is legal, whether a capture has been made, and so on. Thus, in a sense, the game is played in the dark. Gradually, however, from the adjudicator's reports, particularly if one has much experience of this version of kaissa, one begins to sense the positions and strategy of the opponent. This game is intended to intensify and heighten the intuitions of battle. In Gorean warfare, of course, as in much traditional warfare, prior to electronic sophistications, one is often uncertain of the position, strength, and plans of the enemy. Too much in war, and often much of fearful moment, is "blind kaissa."
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 107

Members of the Caste of Players are recognized by their red-and-yellow-checked robes, the worn board slung over their shoulder, the sack of pieces at their waist. Depending on the Player, they will give you a game for as little as a tarsk-bit, as much as a golden tarn disk of Ar.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Pages 2 - 3

As you know there is literally a caste of Players, generally itinerant, which makes its living by "the Game." The charge for a game can range from a tarsk-bit, which is common, to a golden tarn disk, of double weight. Important kaissa players are celebrities, welcomed in a hundred cities, and entertained at the courts of Ubars. They have a status comparable to that of conquerors and poets.
Conspirators of Gor     Book 31     Page 380

There is a game called Blind Kaissa.
It is played in the training of high officers, in Ar, in Treve, in Kasra, and Jad, even in far Turia.
It is played much like ordinary Kaissa save that there are two boards, separated by a vertical screen, precluding each player from seeing the moves of the other. An arbiter is at hand who can see both boards. It is his role to warn against illegal moves, and to announce captures, threats to the Home Stone, and such. In this manner, as neither player can see either his opponent or his opponent's moves, a premium is placed on intuition, sensitivity, reading the character and nature of the opponent and probable conjecture.
Smugglers of Gor     Book 32     Page 447

One of the most interesting castes is that of the Players, who live by means of a board game called 'Kaissa'. In most cases, they will sell a game for a tarsk-bit, but, in certain cases, certain Players, such as Scormus, of Ar, or Centius, of Cos, may receive as much as a golden tarn for a single game. The best players are entitled to set their boards on the highest bridges. Membership in the caste is not determined by birth, but, as with the Warriors, by skill. Most Players do not make much of a living, but they have seen, I gather, as many have not, the beauty of the game. Important matches are often wagered on, and, sometimes, take place at the Sardar Fairs. The Sardar Fairs, so to speak, are treaty grounds, where lethal enemies may sit side by side, observing the great boards, where the match movements are posted. At the times of important matches, even the roads to the Fairs, within a circuit of a hundred pasangs, are deemed treaty grounds.
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Page 435

Is this not as strange as the lore and fame of the checkered caste, the Players. Who cares if a Centius of Cos or a Scormus of Ar can push tiny pieces of wood about on a hundred-squared, red-and-yellow board better than ten hundred thousand others? Is it really so superior to the planting of suls and the harvesting of Tur-Pah, the fishing for eels or parsit, the shaping and smoothing of boards or the weaving and sewing of canvas? Who is the greatest of singers, or the finest master of line and color? Who is to say it? Yet in some games the matter is not so subjective. In kaissa a game is won, lost, or drawn, and it is clear which is the case. It is not a matter of saying; it is a matter of seeing.
Quarry of Gor     Book 35     Page 263

Two men on board were Players, members of the checkered caste. They were playing "speech kaissa," or "boardless kaissa," announcing to one another their moves and countermoves.
Quarry of Gor     Book 35     Page 265

"Merchants buy and sell," said the Tarnkeeper. "Initiates eschew beans and charge for prayers and spells. Scribes ink scrolls, Builders build, Physicians heal, Bakers bake, Metal Workers work metal, Leather Workers work leather, Players battle on the kaissa board, Warriors, in the kaissa of steel, battle on the field and in the sky.
Warriors of Gor     Book 37     Page 170


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