Bloodsticks

A game of equal parts chance and skill.

“I was first introduced to Bloodsticks by a University roommate, Jethro Tobbert.   I hope you rot.”
— Höbin Luckyfeller, the very irritated Award-Winning Historian
  The only reason I’m admitting this is because I want to help other addicts heal and get their lives back. I’m fortunate enough to have strong-willed children who never had the problem as I did, but I want to make this statement again, as I did in my book ‘Bloodsticks: A brief history & practical application’:  
“There’s no difference when gambling with cards, dice or Bloodsticks. It’s all the same…getting coin without giving an equivalent for it. It’s damned foolery. Pray that you’ll be consumed by the games until you have nothing left. Pray that you’re forced to give it up. It will be the worst day of your life…and the best.”

- Höbin

 

Don’t Be Fooled

Those who get sucked into the gambling way of life do so because of the universal appeal ad acceptance throughout society for Bloodsticks. Every race plays it, even the Vallen.   Well, maybe not the Therrin. Not sure how they could pick up the sticks with those pointy claws…   You’ll find ‘stick-houses’ everywhere you look, especially when you’re addicted and need that winning fix. Places with lots of lights (or candles), the clean, covered flipping tables and the neatly dressed counters, just waiting to take your money.   Just know that I warned you.   I did.  

Bloodsticks: The Rules

  The following rules are an official standard, used by betting houses and utilized by side bookies. This game can be played anywhere there is an open, flat, dry surface.   It is always recommended that someone act as “muscle”, just in case someone gets bitter and causes problems. Though Bloodsticks is intended to be a friendly game, some players might get irritated when they lose—just like any game of chance where money is involved.  

Aspects of the game:

  • The length of a game consists of rounds, betting, dropping & counting.
  • The number of rounds is equal to the number of players.
  • There is a required minimum of three players to play a proper game, maximum of six—with the optimum number being five. Games of two players are called “challenges” and go by slightly different rules (see modifications below).
  • Each player uses a pair of sticks (also called reeds or at times bloodsticks—plural form), which are identical to each another in markings. Challenges use five reeds (see modifications below).
  • The object of the game is to accumulate the most points, through the random fall of your pieces. The winner is the player with the most points, after all rounds are completed and have been added together.
  • Each player receives a turn to lead the round as a "dropper" and to follow the round as a “counter”.
  • A “cap” is placed upon every game. This is for betting purposes and it’s to prevent richer players from driving out opposition at the last minute by placing a bet that cannot be matched. The default cap for a Bloodsticks game is five silver pieces per round. Any cap limit can be used, so long as the terms are announced and agreed upon before the first sticks are thrown.
 

Pieces of the game:

Each player uses a “set”, which are typically two sticks/reeds, unless playing a challenge (see modifications below). Normally sticks are furnished by whatever gambling house in which you play, but many addicts and professional players have their own sets made.   Sets must be identical in every way, while remaining completely different from sets used by other players. This is to make is easier to discern points during gameplay.   Sticks can contain any design, so long as they are not solid green or solid red in color. Solid green and red reeds are automatically disqualified. If, however, any player feels any set of sticks being put into play distract the eye when trying to determine the points in a round, they must bring this up verbally before the first drop has been thrown. Each player may then vote verbally to accept or ban the sticks in question.   A majority wins the vote.   In the event of a tie vote, the sticks in question are allowed to remain in game.   To provide consistency with weight and bounce of sticks, they must adhere to standard measurements:
• 10 1/2 inches in length;
• 1/4 inch thick at one end, 1/8 of an inch thick at the other;
• made of Tindlewood
The only required marking on a set of sticks is the clear, discernible solid line around its middle to show its center.
There are two other sticks that take part in every game: One solid red, one solid green.
The red stick is called the “bloodstick”. It is known as the mark of death.
The green stick is called the “henki" (HEN-kee). It is considered life and acts as a multiplier.
 

How a round works:

• The first dropper is determined by taking a single stick from each player, along with the bloodstick and doing a traditional drop into the playing area. Player with the highest points goes first.
• The player to the left of the dropper automatically becomes the first counter. The role of both the dropper and counter moves to their right after each round (counter clockwise), until the last player has a chance to become a dropper.
• All sticks are placed in the middle of the table for the dropper to collect…including the bloodstick and the henki.
• Once the sticks are in hand, the dropper makes the first wager, or bet, into the “pot”. This sets the standard. All other players must match the droppers bet or “fall out” for the remainder of the game.
• If a player falls, they lose their money in the pot.
• Once all money has been placed into the pot, the dropper then proceeds to “drop” the sticks onto the designated playing area.
• There are specific ways in which you are required to drop the sticks. They are;
⁃ The High Drop: The dropper places their elbow on the playing surface, rotating their wrist forward as it is brought back towards their own shoulder in a vertical fashion. The elbow must leave the playing surface as the hand opens, releasing the sticks.
⁃ The Low Drop: The most basic of the drops, as well as the most controlled, the dropper holds the bottom of all the sticks flush on the bottom, and the span of three fingers high above the playing surface. The hand is quickly opened and the sticks released to fall the minimum distance.
⁃ The Bounce: Using the same three finger distance from the playing surface, the dropper holds all the sticks flush with their bottom pinky finger. The hand makes a downward motion and releases the sticks before the hand touches the playing surface.
⁃ The Flip: Considered the most complicated and chaotic of the drops, the dropper holds the sticks identical to the bounce method, but instead of lowering their hand, the palm is quickly rotated clockwise. The release is made as soon as the droppers palm is horizontal, palm up.
• If, for any reason, one or more sticks leave the playing surface (as in the case of a table being used), the drop is done over, unless it is the bloodstick or henki—in which case the round plays on.
• If the drop is done over and one or more sticks sticks leaves the playing surface a second time, the dropper is considered “careless”. The fallen sticks, if belonging to a player, then receive a flat score of 8 for each, while the dropper loses the total score of given points off their total score of the game as a penalty.
⁃ If the sticks happen to be the bloodstick, the dropper receives a 10 pt penalty.
⁃ For the henki, they receive a 20 pt penalty.
⁃ Both of these penalties are added to any score taken for a players stick leaving the playing area a second time.
⁃ If a fallen stick belongs to the dropper, it is considered dead. The dropper does not receive a penalty for their own stick, but all other penalties (if any) are still in force.
• Once a drop has been made, the counter steps in and studies the drop.
• Players must move away from the playing area to give the counter full reign to look at the sticks from any and all angles.
• Scores are recorded for each player.
• Players may give their input, however, the final score decision of the counter is absolute.
• Once the counter has recorded each of the player’s scores, the positions rotate and the next round commences, starting with step #3.
 

The KEY to this game is knowing how to read the points:

  • Points are always counted, starting with the sticks on top, then working downward. Sticks on top cancel out all points of the stick they directly lay upon.
  • A stick lying flat is worth 1 point.
  • The thin end of the stick, propped up, is 2 points.
  • The thick end of the stick, propped up, is 4 points.
  • The line around the middle of the stick, balanced or propped up, is 8 points.
  • If the blood stick touches any other stick directly, except the henki, that players stick is considered "dead."
  • If both the bloodstick and the henki touch a players stick, the henki nullifies the bloodstick and points are counted as if the henki and bloodstick didn’t exist.
  • Any stick touching a henki, multiplies the points of that individual stick by 2.
⁃ If the henki lays on top of a players stick, the total points are multiplied by 3.
⁃ If a players stick lays on top of the henki, the total points are multiplied by 4.
 

Concluding a Game:

When all players have had a chance to be a dropper (and a counter), the scores from each round are added up for the final total. The player with the highest overall score wins the game and the total sum of the pot. In case of a tie—then the two players perform another drop, using ALL the players' sticks, and the new total is added. This process is continued until there is a winner. No betting is allowed during a tiebreaker.

Game Modifications

There are modifications to this popular game, which can vary from location to location. However, I have listed the most common rule changes used in the larger game houses.
 

A Challenge Match

There are times, such as between Lords and Ladies, that a private game is desired. This also happens among many rich merchants. The rules are identical to a standard game of Bloodsticks with the following exceptions:
• When playing a challenge, each player uses five identical sticks, not two.
• There are four set rounds in a challenge match, each player having two turns as the dropper.
• A third party is required to act as the neutral counter.
• There are no caps on bets.
 

House Dropper (a.k.a. Fastfall)

Some establishments try to prevent fights and outbursts by controlling the flow of the games themselves. This has become highly popular and is often used to build confidence in new players until they are hooked into the more risky modes of the game. A “house dropper” is used in these cases, which significantly modifies the game as follows:
• Each game is three rounds.
• The house dropper is the only dropper.
• The house dropper chooses three counters.
• The house dropper is not permitted to count.
• Controlled games permit up to ten players to play, as the house uses a container to drop the sticks (usually a wooden cylinder).
• Betting is a set piece per round, usually 1 silver coin.
 

Secondary Pots

Oftentimes the game house will take advantage of those waiting for a house run Bloodstick game by opening a secondary pot. This becomes a little complicated to keep track of and lays a great deal of pressure on the actual counters during gameplay.
A board is kept, where people can bet against the actual drops of the house. The following options can be chosen:
◦ High Drop—where your chosen score is over the house score, within two points. If you are correct, your bet is doubled.
◦ Low Drop—is similar to the High Drop, except you must be lower than the house score, within two points to win. If you are correct, your bet is doubled.
◦ High Score—you guess within two points what the high overall score of the game is and you double your bet. An exact match pay out 4 to 1.
◦ Low Score—same as the High Score wager, but you bet on the lowest score. Guess within two points what the high overall score of the game is and you double your bet. An exact match pay out 4 to 1.
  I have worked closely with Jaime Buckley to provide a .pdf version of these rules, including an explanation of how you can make your own bloodsticks to play at home (thank you Jaime, for the improvisation).

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