Cross Bones

A common game played with bones and dice.  


Cross Bones requires a set of four dice and twenty "bones". The dice are usually eight-sided, though it can be played with only six. The bones are marked with a varying number of lines or dots to delineate their value. Traditionally played with pieces made of actual bone, sets are now more commonly made out of wood, porcelain, or metal and stored in a wooden box or lidded cup.  


Cross Bones is an old game of Thali origin, where it was called Kal Jadak. It was most commonly played by sailors during down time on sea voyages. Originally, the game was played with painted shells and fish bones, items easily found at sea and along the coast. Over time, as trade by sea became more prevalent, fish bones were traded in for the sturdier, straighter bones of land animals, and shells were traded out for balanced dice. As the game's popularity grew, well-balanced Cross Bones sets became a valuable commodity. "Luxury" sets were crafted of fine porcelain, obsidian, and even glass or precious stones. Such sets were stored in ornate boxes padded with silk and other fine cloth. This trend led to storing common sets in boxes as well to protect them from damage or loss.   As Caer Thalion expanded trade across Dálnaes, the game was adopted by travelers on the roads as well as at sea. It eventually made its way into taverns in every corner of the five kingdoms. Carpenters began offering sets made of wood, and some smiths even took to forging sets of silver and gold. In Etherea, mages managed to craft sets out of precious crystals that were enchanted to glow. Such sets are often frowned upon by others however, as they could easily be enchanted to give mages an advantage in an otherwise simple game.   For a short period, artistically painted sets became very popular, and noble houses throughout Dálnaes clamored to have them. But most common folk found that painting the sticks different colors made the game too easy, thus skewing the usual betting. Painted sets became a trinket to display, or were used to teach children the game before they moved on to plain white or black sets.  

Playing the Game

Cross Bones can be played by any number of people, even just one, though most games are played by three to five players. The game is begun by one player dropping the twenty bones on the playing area so that they land haphazardly across each other. The player who drops the bones is decided by different factors depending on culture. Age, rank, status, and seniority are all common methods. The player to the left then takes the first roll of the dice. The numbers rolled determine which bones the player is allowed to draw. Bones marked with a matching number of dots or lines can then be picked up, but only if doing so doesn't move any of the others. Players can draw one bone for each die, and their turn ends when they've either succeeded in drawing four bones or have stated they don't want to try to draw any more. Their turn also ends if they attempt to move a bone but fail to do so without moving others. If a player rolls four numbers that don't match any bones still in play, they get to steal one bone from another player.   The goal of Cross Bones is to have the highest score based on the value of each player's bones. The game ends when there are no more bones left on the table.
Type: dice game   Source: Caer Thalion   Number of Players: 1-4 (usually)   Commonly Played By: sailors, travelers
Bets in Cross Bones are placed on a number of factors. The simplest and most common bet is over the final score and thus, the winner of the game. Bets are placed at the beginning of each round. Sometimes bonus bets are placed for difficulty of certain draws or number of steals. Bonus bets can be done anytime and are not required to be met by all players at the table.


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