Put Your Gaming Set Proficiency to Work with Games within Games in D&D

Feats of Inspiration - D&D character building from a single feat
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The Nerdarchists brought up some interesting set pieces in their games within games in D&D video. I’ve had players really gravitate towards gambling at the tavern in between adventures, but just merely rolling skill checks can get a little dull. There are a many options out there for bringing gambling games into your sessions, but I thought I’d share one method I used to take a simple gaming set proficiency and gambling downtime activity of my local rogue and turned it into a recurring scene with an enjoyable NPC and a great way to give weird magic items to the party.

gambling downtime activity gaming set proficiency games within games in D&D
Goblins are small, black-hearted, selfish humanoids that lair in caves, abandoned mines, despoiled dungeons, and other dismal settings…But they might enjoy a friendly game as much as the next creature. [Art by Matt Olson]

Gambling downtime activity as part of the adventure

Gubbins loves Muggins

You’re skulking through a dark, dank cave, your lantern light casting dancing shadows along the earthen walls. Your eyes fall on a small doorway set into the stone earthworks of the cavern. No more than 2 feet in height, this curious wooden door seems terribly out of place. Your curiosity gets the better of you as you crouch down and open the out-of-place door. While your larger compatriots have no hopes in following you into this tunnel, your halfling size allows you to crawl in without a problem. At the end of the path, you spot a small candlelit chamber with a well-crafted wooden table in the center, a goblin peering over with a jagged smile.

“You like Muggins? We play.”

Goblin gamer. [Art by Ahren T. Paulson]
I constructed this with the express purpose of not only getting more mileage out of the gaming set proficiency, but also to play on a character’s greed flaw. Gubbins explains the game of Muggins, which is a very simple version of dominoes. The catch is that to play, Gubbins demands you wager a magic item. If the character loses, Gubbins claims the magic item for himself.

However, if the character wins, Gubbins reaches into his magical bag of holding and gives them a brand new magic item as well as allowing them to keep their original item. In an effort to incorporate the character’s skills and abilities, I’ll give the player first play for having proficiency and maybe even allow them to make checks to have Gubbins play with one or two tiles face up, representing the skill the character would have.

The part I love the most of this is Gubbins uses a magical door and in an effort to find more magic items, always seems to be one step ahead of them, setting up shop in most dungeons they come across. You get a recurring NPC on top of a fun, 10 minute interlude in dungeons.

When I incorporated Muggins, I was using Roll20, so I just created a deck of dominos and played on the virtual tabletop. If you’re in a live game, you can simply buy a set of dominoes. Feel free to take the idea of games within games in D&D and even tweak it to fit your playstyle and table.

Muggins has rules for four, so you could just use Muggins in taverns and spice up basic gaming set proficiency a bit. I hope this has sparked your creativity and I’m excited to see people take Gubbins and Muggins for a spin.

From the Nerditor’s desk

In the video below, Nerdarchists Dave and Ted explore several ways to add games within games in D&D, and there’s plenty of examples to draw from to inspire you, like the many popular minigames from the Final Fantasy series of video games. Developing gaming and entertainment events for your own D&D setting adds another layer of immersion to your world. Maybe the gaming set proficiency playing cards is a collectible card game, and people travel the lands on a tournament circuit, competing and trading cards with other players.

Or perhaps the party comes together around some other form of entertainment or activity. In the Ingest Quest live stream game, the characters were all members of a crew exploring the crystal sphereverse in search of exotic cuisine and more than once their adventures came down to a series of challenges relating to preparing exotic meals through a series of tasks.

And of course, there’s the popular dinosaur races in Tomb of Annihilation. Port Nyanzaru holds these races weekly on the bustling streets, and a good portion of the opening chapter of the adventure is centered on the dinosaur races. Characters can interact with the tropical city’s dinosaur races by betting on them and, of course, participating in the races themselves. This has proven a very popular part of the adventure story for players.

Thinking about how to add games within games in D&D can inspire whole campaigns, opening pathways to all different sorts of adventures to put a fresh spin on your games.

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Follow Jacob Kosman:
Child of the Midwest, spending his adolescence dreaming of creating joy for gaming between sessions of cattle tending. He holds a fondness for the macabre, humorous and even a dash of grim dark. Aspiring designer spending most of his time writing and speculating on this beautiful hobby when he isn't separating planes.

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