Note: In the spirit of RPG gaming blogs such as Monsters and Manuals or Playing D&D With Porn Stars I'm starting a new feature here where I will include some unusual features from my current 2nd Edition D&D campaign world- the City of Varo (or Varo for short). I also intend to post summaries of our biweekly game when time permits. Enjoy!
(And if you'd like to read some Varo-inspired fantasy fiction, check out Confessions of a Gourmand and/or Varonian Nights!)
While there are many versions of the game of chess played on the Three Continents, none rise to the level of complexity and obsession of Salumar chess, a game which has been played continuously in the Great Basin for more than fifty centuries, from the times of the Old Salumar Empire all the way down to the present day. The game is similar to conventional chess, except that players are permitted to substitute the standard pieces-- or variants-- on the board (king, queen, knights, bishop, rook, pawn) with special pieces which permit different or enhanced moves on the board. For example, the knight can be replaced with a Winged Horseman, which has the ability to move twice as many squares as its conventional analogue.
The existence of these special pieces in Salumar chess is regulated by the Chessmasters' Guild, which alone has the authority to create and disseminate such variants. Per the ancient rules of the game, special pieces become the rightful property of the player who captures them, which means that chess players must take great care when deciding whether or not to deploy their variants when facing an opponent. Most serious Salumar chess players keep their rarest special pieces under lock and key, bringing them out only for tournaments or other high-level matches, while relying on a "friendly set" containing relatively common minor variants for their day to day gaming.
To simulate a game of Salumar chess, players should roll an opposed Gaming check as normal, but using 2d10 instead of 1d20, adding a +1 to the skill level for each variant piece the player deploys on the board. If a player should roll doubles, they have captured an opponent's variant piece, regardless of whether or not they actually won the individual match or not. On a roll of double 1's, the player rolls a 1d4 to determine how many variants they have captured (if available). The DM can randomly-generate the pieces of a Salumar chess opponent by rolling 2d6 and consulting the following chart:
2- 2d4 minor variants, 1d3 major variants
3,4,5- 1d4 minor variants, 1 major variant
6,7,8- 1 minor variant
9,10,11- no variants (opponent receives a standard Piece of Quality instead; see below)
12- unusual variant, roll d6: 1,2 counterfeit; 3,4 stolen; 5,6 magical
If an opposing player does not have any minor or major variant pieces available for capture, a player rolling doubles on their Gaming skill check will receive a Piece of Quality instead. These are not variant chess pieces, but standard pieces which have been painstakingly crafted. Every individual Piece of Quality owned increases the value of a chess set by 25%. An entire standard Salumar chess set composed of Pieces of Quality is worth 20 times the base cost of an ordinary set. Standard Pieces of Quality do not confer any Gaming skill check bonuses.
Examples of Variant Pieces:
Winged Horse (Minor Variant), travel 2x the amount of squares as a standard knight
Jongleur (Minor Variant), pawn that can move sideways as well as forward
Fortified Castle (Minor Variant), rook that will reappear on the board after 1st capture
Emperor (Major Variant), king with ability to move 3 squares at a time
Gorgon Queen (Major Variant), a variant queen that can "freeze" other players' pieces on the board
Preacher (Major Variant), a bishop that can convert the pieces it captures to its own side