Dice or Knucklebones
These are the relevant references from the Books where Dice or Knucklebones are mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
I left the tiers of the racing stadium and began to walk down the long, sloping stone ramp, level by level. There were few leaving the races but I did pass some late comers, moving up the ramps, who had perhaps been detained or had been released from their shops only late in the day. At one corner in the descending ramp there was a small knot of young men, weavers by their garments, who were gambling with the inked knucklebones of verr, shaking them in a small leather cup and spilling them to the stones.
A number of men crowded between the tables then and some dice, inked knucklebones of the verr, were soon rattling in a metal goblet. Sura knelt before the table of Cernus, her head down. One of her guards snapped a slave leash on her collar. The leash key was on a tiny loop of wire. The guard twisted this wire about the red-enameled steel of her collar. Behind her the men began crying out, watching the tumbling of the knucklebones on the stones of the floor. I understood to some extent what was taking place. It was merely another of the turnabouts of Kajuralia, but in it was perhaps more; Sura's pride and her position in the House, though she was slave, had been resented by many of the men and staff; perhaps even Cernus felt she had overstepped herself; surely he seemed pleased that she would now be humbled, now used as a common Red Silk Girl.
"I use her first!" cried one man.
Then there were more shouts and the men continued to gamble. I had not understood until then that the beautiful, proud Sura would, in order of the gambling, serve each of the men in that room.
I looked to Ho-Tu. To my astonishment there were tears in his fierce, black eyes. His hand was on the hilt of the hook knife.
I looked to Sura. She was kneeling on the stones, bent over, her head down, the hair falling forward, clad only in the bit of red silk, her wrists braceleted behind her back. I saw her shoulders move, and, startled, realized that she wept.
I then moved into the center of the gambling men and, not speaking, as they looked up, angry at the intrusion, I took the metal goblet containing the knucklebones from the man who held it.
Bitterly, yet not daring to object, he surrendered it.
I looked from face to face, and then I shook the knucklebones and scattered them, the four of them, on the stones at my feet.
It had been a low cast, not high. Several of the men laughed with relief. But then my sword was out of the sheath and delicately, turning each bone with the tip of the blade, I placed the side marked with the highest number on each of the bones facing the ceiling.
The men looked on angrily. One or two of them muttered in rage. On their knees from the gambling, they looked up at me, in fury.
"I will use her," I said. "And I alone will use her."
"No!" cried a guard, springing to his feet.
I looked at him and he stepped back, turned, and angrily left the room.
"Dispute her with me who will," I said.
Angrily the men rose to their feet and, muttering, dispersed.
I passed a few fellows playing dice. There are many forms of dice games on Gor, usually played with anywhere from a single die to five dice. The major difference, I think, between the dice of Earth and those of Gor is that the Gorean dice usually have their numbers, or letters, or whatever pictures or devices are used, painted on their surfaces. It is difficult to manufacture a pair of fair dice, of course, in which the "numbers," two, three and so on, are represented by Scooped out indentations. For example, the "one" side of a die is likely to have less scooped-out material missing than the "six" side of a die. Thus the "one" side is slightly heavier and, in normal play, should tend to land face down more often than, say, the "six" side, this bringing up the opposite side, the "six" side in Earth dice, somewhat more frequently. To be sure, the differences in weight are slight and, given the forces on the dice, the differential is not dramatic. And, of course, this differential can be compensated for in a sophisticated die by trying to deduct equal amounts of material from all surfaces, for example, an amount from the "one" side which will equal the amount of the "six" side, and, indeed, on the various sides. At any rate, in the Gorean dice, as mentioned, the numbers or letters, or pictures or whatever devices are used, are usually painted on the dice. Some gamesmen, even so, attempt to expend the same amount of paint on all surfaces. To be sure, some Gorean dice I have seen to use the "scooped-out" approach to marking the dice. And these, almost invariably, like the more sophisticated Earth dice, try to even out the material removed from each of the surfaces. Some Gorean dice are sold in sealed boxes, bearing the city's imprint. These, supposedly, have been each cast six hundred times, with results approximating the ideal mathematical probabilities. Also, it might be mentioned that dice are sometimes tampered with, or specially prepared, to favor certain numbers. These, I suppose, using the Earth term, might be spoken of as "loaded." My friend, the actor, magician, impresario and whatnot, Boots Tarsk-Bit, once narrowly escaped an impalement in Besnit on the charge of using false dice. He was, however, it seems, framed. At any rate the charges were dismissed when a pair of identical false dice turned up in the pouch of the arresting magistrate, the original pair having, interestingly, at about the same time, vanished.
I stayed to watch the fellows playing dice for a few Ehn. I do not think they noticed me, so intent they were on their game. The stakes were small, only tarsk bits, but one would not have gathered that from the earnestness of the players. A slave girl was kneeling nearby, in a sort of improvised slave brace, a short, stout pole, drilled through in three places. Her ankles were fastened to the pole, by means of a thong threaded through one of the apertures, near its bottom, her wrists by another thong passing through a hole a few inches higher than the bottom hole, and her neck by a thong passed through the aperture in the top part of the pole, behind her neck. There are many arrangements for the keeping of slaves, bars, harnesses, and such. I will mention two simple ones, first, the short, hollow tube, usually used with a sitting slave, whose wrists are tied, the thong then passing through the tube to emerge at the far end, where it is used to secure her ankles, and, second, the longer pole, drilled four times, used with a prone or supine slave, in which it is impossible for her to rise to her feet. Her ankles are fastened some six inches or so from one end, and she is then, of course, secured, in one fashion or another, back or belly to the pole, as the master might please, at suitable intervals, by the wrists, belly and neck, the pole usually extending some six inches or so beyond her head. The girl near the gamblers was apparently not a stake in the game. On the other hand, it is not unusual for female slaves, like kaiila and other properties, to serve as stakes in such games, as in races, contests and such. Indeed, in many contests, female slaves are offered as prizes. I had once won one myself, in Torvaldsland, in archery. I had subsequently sold her to a warrior. I trust that she is happy, but it does not matter, as she is only a slave.
"Larls, larls!" called a fellow. "I win!"
"Alas," moaned the other. "I have only verr."
"Larls" would be maximum highs, say, double highs, if two dice were being used, triple highs if three dice were in play, and so on. The chances of obtaining a "larl" with one throw of one die is one in six, of obtaining "larls" with two dice, one in thirty-six, of obtaining "larls" with three dice, one in two hundred and sixteen, and so on. Triple "larls" is a rare throw, obviously. The fellow had double "larls." Other types of throws are "urts," "sleen," "verr," and such. The lowest value on a single die is the "urt." The chances of obtaining, say, three "urts" is very slim, like that of obtaining three "larls" one in two hundred and sixteen. "Verr" is not a bad throw but it was not good enough to beat "larls." If two dice are in play a "verr" and a "larl" would be equivalent on a numerical scale to ten points, or, similarly, if the dice are numbered, as these were, one would simply count points, though, of course, if, say, two sixes were thrown, that would count as "larls."
"I lost her at dice, but won her back. I was going to breed her, but a subordinate wanted her, and so I gave her to him. I think she was afraid of me. As far as I know she is happy in her collar. He is now stationed near Venna, and she cooks and serves in his quarters."
The final ranks had now entered into their long, sloping dive. More complex formations and attacks would have to be planned, I thought. Aerial maneuvers, too, I thought, perhaps with tipped, blunted arrows, might be useful. Too, they must be taught to fight and strike in pairs, or more, never to engage, if possible, on equal terms. One should avoid the application of force, if possible, except against lesser force, and, ideally, much lesser force. An enemy consistently divided and attacked piecemeal is an enemy doomed to defeat. General engagements are sometimes unavoidable, and too often unavoidable, but their outcome is too often, as Goreans might say, a matter not of kaissa, but of the casting of dice.
I had recognized two of the soldiers, and the officer. They had been patrons of the house.
They had lost heavily.
Of course we were guilty! Did we not know of the manipulation of the tables' spins, of the dishonest stones, the fraudulent dice, the ostraka which, to the informed eye could be read?
"Slaves, there," said Menon, "exist to loosen the strings on pouches, urge fellows to shower gold on the tables, to risk much, beyond reason, to pout and look away if there is evidence of hesitation or circumspection, to cry out in pleasure if an extra tarn disk is put in the plate, another card drawn, another flash of dice cast."
"A serving slave, a display slave, a lure slave, such things," he said. "They encourage men to drink, to eat, to spend, to wager, to linger at the tables, to draw further cards, to cast the dice just one last time, and such."
"In the house of chance," he said, "there were games involving cards, were there not?"
"In the back of the large room, at the far tables," I said, "but I did not attend on those tables. Most of us attended on the gaming tables, with the wheels, and the dice where most of the men were."
Paga was of little assistance, or the belled sluts of the taverns. The turning wheels and the cards, the dice tumbling on the felt, were of little assistance, save in lightening my purse.
The lamp-it premises were large. In the crowded room there were more than two dozen tables devoted to various games of chance. Many dealt with colored placards or marked stones. There are several such games.