Competitions and wagers: friendly gambling in the Aligare world

Gambling doesn’t have a very wholesome reputation in our world. Sure, you can buy some lottery tickets as a harmless gift, or have a nice vacation in Las Vegas and freely tell your coworkers about it. But think about gambling a little longer and we find a lot of negative connotations. On our Earth, gambling is often associated with dishonesty, danger, illegal activities and bad decisions. It can lead people down all sorts of slippery slopes.

Caravaggio, The Cardsharps, c. 1594

Caravaggio, The Cardsharps, c. 1594

Making a bet is very different in Aligare. Wagers don’t have whole subcultures attached to them — partly because aemets, korvi and ferrin haven’t put creative effort into scamming each other. Gambling — or, more commonly, “wagering” — is just a way to turn any activity into a friendly competition. It’s also common to say “I’d wager they will”, or “Bet a plum on that!” as a casual turn of phrase.

Just like on Earth, “I’d wager” comments can be a source of hyperbole. Make too grand a claim and there’s no risk anyone will believe it.

“Bet the house on that wager, my friend!” He fanned wing feathers to frame his own truth. “I’ll put words in ears and bring you a fine, heavy pouch full of gifts!”  —Syril of Reyardine, Chapter 8 of Render (A story of Aligare)

“Bet the house on that wager, my friend!” He fanned wing feathers to frame his own truth. “I’ll put words in ears and bring you a fine, heavy pouch full of gifts!”

— Syril of Reyardine being his effusive self, in Chapter 8 of Render (A story of Aligare)

When folk actually make wagers, they’re commonly made between folk of the same species. Maybe two fiesty young korvi decide to fly to that distant mountaintop and back, to see who can do it the fastest. Or a family of aemets all strive grow the biggest garden turnip with their plantcasting. Or a family of ferrin kits declare that the first one to find a crow feather in the forest wins — ready, go! But there can be interspecies wagers if everyone can agree on fair terms, or choose some mental or magical challenge where your body type doesn’t matter.

I don't have any art to represent abstract verbal agreements. Maybe these ferrin won their nice clothes in a wager ...?

I don’t have any art to represent abstract verbal agreements. Maybe these ferrin won their nice clothes in a wager.

The more important part is that the wager participants trust each other. They’re usually family or close friends. In Aligare society, wagers are made for the thrill of competition — but with someone who’ll still like you no matter who wins. The prize is something small: some delightful food, a trinket, or a promise to do some chore. Wagering something large or valuable would defeat the point. How can everyone enjoy the contest if they’re worried about losing? The strong Aligare sense of fairness is present here. (Aligare folk would be confused and alarmed to hear that humans sometimes get themselves in deep financial trouble by gambling. They’d wonder why would a human would bet things they can’t afford to lose, and what sort of heartless person would accept those things.)

Because of the emphasis on trust and fair sport, it would be unusual to make a wager with a new acquaintance. That’s considered risky: most Aligare folk would be leery to either offer that wager or take it up. Who knows what the other person’s skills are? What if they don’t take losing well? It might be an unpleasant experience if the participants are poorly matched. Offering a wager to an acquaintance can be a bold way of flirting, though. Some Aligare folk have stories of a gutsy wager that brought delight and a new relationship. Some folk have sore memories of offering a wager and regretting it. Most just reserve wagers for their close circle of loved ones.

If the wager is something that lends itself to spectators — like physical feats, or casting talents, or song and dance — it might become a public performance. Neighbours might gather to watch the wager, knowing that it’s all in good fun and curious to see what happens. Feisty young korvi are a frequent source of public challenges, with their dragonkind talents of flight and fire being so naturally showy. For anyone of any race, participating in a wager can spark a love of performing and entertaining. And in trying times, a fun public wager can lift a village’s spirits. That’s well worth the prize.

Related articles:

Aligare’s Mandragora, the Legend Creature of stories (heidicvlach.com)

◦  Food culture of Aligare (Part 2: Daily meals) (heidicvlach.com)

Flashback post: How I used light and dark magic in the Aligare world (heidicvlach.com)



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