I’ve got a new story out! This one is on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a market I’ve been trying to break into for a while. It’s about a desperate man planning to cheat the undead at cards – nice and dark and bleak and with just a dash of hope. Perfect for Halloween, I’d say. Buy it here!
How to Play Tithe
Now, it just so happens I was obsessive enough with this story to actually draw up the rules for the card game that Cedric plays with the dead, called Tithe. I even went so far as to play a few hands (against myself, granted) to see if the game would work and, if it worked, how would it go. Nothing like an actual test of the game, of course, and I’m hardly the best card player in the world, but I did enough for it to pass basic inspection. Curious? Well, here are the rules.
The Deck and Play Area
Tithe is played with a deck of 60 cards with five suits of 12 cards – a Tomb, numbered cards 1-10, and a Lord. The suits are Skulls, Swords, Crowns, Coins, and Hearts.
The game is played on a five-pointed star, with up to five players, each at a vertex of the star. The game can also be played with as few as two players, but the rules shift a little bit to make that possible. Generally, play with a full table is preferred.
Sequence of Play
At the start of a hand, each player puts their ante in the center of the pentagram and are dealt 5 cards by the dealer. The dealer then lays five cards at the five intersections at the center of the pentagram – this is called “the Circle.”
The first round of betting happens just after the Circle, starting with the left of the dealer and moving clockwise. Players with poor starting positions or poor hands fold, anyone else has to match the highest bet at the table or go all-in with whatever they have remaining to play out the hand.
Remaining players must then play a card by matching or beating a card on the Circle adjacent to their starting point and placing it on top. Lords are high, but are beaten by Tombs. Additionally, the suits have a pecking order: Skulls over Coins over Swords over Crowns over Hearts over Skulls.
All suits are therefore dominant over one suit and servile to another. This affects what happens when a card is played on the Circle. It goes like this:
- A card played on another card that is neither dominant or servile wins, meaning the card beneath is out of play (covered entirely by the winning card).
- A card played on a card of a dominant suit merely buries, meaning the card beneath is still in play and the card above (the one you played) can be disregarded. (the top card is placed so the buried card is still visible).
- A card played on a card of a servile suit takes, meaning the player takes the card beneath (and any other cards it has covered) and puts them in your hand.
End of the Hand
Bets are taken every two turns of the circle until everybody but the winner folds OR no remaining players can play cards. The pot is then split between the remaining players (assuming there is more than one left) and the deal moves clockwise and a new hand is begun.
Observations from Games Played against Myself
First, I’ve found it’s super unlikely that more than one person wins a hand. I played a few dozen hands of this thing (looking like a lunatic in my office, believe me), using a suit from a second deck with a different design to represent the 5th suit. The basic strategy circles around knowing or guessing what cards everybody else has based upon what has been shown already. Most hands did not go more than four turns.
Does it work as an actual, playable game? I have no goddamned idea. I am not much of a gambler or a card player (though I am an inveterate gamer), so whether this would make a good way to lose money to card sharks is sort of beyond me. However, the rules are just plausible enough to pass basic inspection. Yes, this seems like a playable game, and that’s what matters.
Also, if any of you ever want to try it out at a convention someday, I’m happy to try – you just have to figure out how to get our hands on a 5-suit, 60-card deck.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this one! And check out my story in BCS this month!
Happy Monday, folks! While I’m digging myself out from underneath a pile of term papers, I have a guest post for you from my friend, Teresa Frohock. Enjoy, and be sure to pick up her newest installment in the Los Nephilim series, Without Light or Guide.
Every time I think about heroes, I hear Brad and Janet from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, singing in my head. I am completely aware of how strange this sounds. Unfortunately, there is no cure. I’ve just learned to live with it and pass the earworm along at every available opportunity.
The song I’m talking about is entitled … wait for it … Super Heroes, and the pertinent lyrics go like this:
Brad: I’ve done a lot / God knows I’ve tried / To find the truth / I’ve even lied / But all I know / Is down inside I’m
Janet: And super heroes / Come to feast / To taste the flesh / Not yet deceased / And all I know / Is still the beast is
Of course, if you can’t see why those lines excite my imagination, you haven’t been paying attention to my stories.
Also, for the record, I never really had any heroes like Brad and Janet. I just wanted to give you that earworm before proceeding to the post.
I used to have this thing about heroes, that they all should be like Superman (the one from the 1950s and 1960s–not grimdark Superman, and screw whoever thought that up). Heroes should be good. They should be strong. Their moral compass should never waver.
And so on and so forth and so on.
I thought about heroes a lot while working on Los Nefilim. For a bit of context: my “angels” are really invaders from another realm – they are another species completely separate from the daimons, which are earth spirits, and the mortals. The angels start out good and wholesome with the mortals’ best interests at heart, but by the time In Midnight’s Silence begins, some of the angels have spent so much time in the flesh, they have become corrupted by the very creatures they think they’re trying to save.
And the super heroes the angels have created – the Nephilim – are beginning to hemorrhage emotionally from being involved in a continual war.
As a creature who is half angel and half mortal, Guillermo wonders about his place in this cosmic dynamic. He has served as a general in the angels’ army for centuries. He has not always been content with this role, but he has always been duty-bound to do what is right. When he was young, he went out and performed great deeds, but now he has settled down with a wife and a daughter of his own. One day, his daughter, Ysabel, will succeed him as the leader of Los Nefilim, and Guillermo is beginning to wonder what kind of legacy he will leave for her.
Likewise, Diago’s life changes dramatically when he is faced with the discovery of his young son, Rafael. Living unmoored to either angel or daimon is no longer a choice. He must choose a side and learn to fit in for Rafael’s sake.
And all the while, the angels and the daimons continue to feed, like a beast that is never sated.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the old Superman, the one who never had any doubts. I need heroes like that. I need them because when my moral compass goes south, I want a clear indication of the right thing – the good thing – that should be done.
The reality is that life and choices aren’t so clear cut. That is one the themes I wanted to explore with Los Nefilim. How super heroes are just like us. They want to have all the things: to be safe, to be a good person, to do what is right. Yet in spite of their best intentions, they sometimes do the cowardly thing. And sometimes, the thing that makes them feel safe turns out to be just an illusion of safety, just as it so often is with us.
However, I don’t believe that one kind of hero should supplant the other. That is one of the things that bothers me when people start arguing about grimdark vs. other forms of fantasy. The implication is often that a hero must be one way or the other, and I’ve never felt that to be necessarily true.
I need both kinds of super heroes: the good ones like Superman, and the reluctant ones like Diago. Occasionally, I read stories with no heroes at all. Yet each story is important, because they all show me something about myself.
I aspire to act with Superman’s integrity; although, most often I am more like Diago – a little lost and afraid in the world. However, seeing a variety of characters portrayed, I am able to find balance, and within all of this beautiful fiction we’re making, I find bits and pieces of myself – both the person I aspire to be, and the person that I am.
T. Frohock has turned a love of dark fantasy and horror into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. She lives in North Carolina where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying.
She is the author of Miserere: An Autumn Tale and numerous short stories. Her newest series, Los Nefilim, is from Harper Voyager Impulse, and consists of the novellas In Midnight’s Silence, Without Light or Guide, and The Second Death.