Progression Betting - Free Horse Racing Tips and Betting

Ultimate Gambling Guide for GTA Online - odds, probabilities, and optimal strategies

This is not mine, the creator of this is u/enderpiet

Since the Diamond Casino update, I have seen a large number of 12-year-olds posting Blackjack memes on this sub. As a parent, this has me very worried.
On top of that, I have seen some of the most trustworthy GTA Youtubers giving flawed gambling advice, which can have damaging impact on their gullible audiences.
So that's why I decided to write this up, to educate everyone on the subject, so there will be no more misunderstandings.
(2020 Update down at the bottom.)
If you're one of those Youtubers that wants to use this information in a video, feel free to do so. The more people (especially kids) that become educated about gambling, the better.
But then also please go back and review your own work, and delete or edit the videos that are giving out the wrong advice, like where you're saying you have "a good strategy for making money with roulette", or some other nonsense that I've heard this week. Delete that please.
Before I get into the individual games, I need to discuss a few concepts first, that will make understanding the rest a lot easier.
Expected return and variance
A game like Roulette or Slots has a fixed expected return on your bets. This is a percentage that you have no way of influencing. Say you are flipping a coin against a friend, and you both put up $1. The winner gets the pot. Since the odds are even at 50%, in the long run, you will expect to break even. Your expected return is 100% of your bet.
But imagine if you would play this coin flipping game in a casino against the house. On the "house rules" listed at the table they would probably say that you would only get 95 cents back for every win, while you are forfeiting a dollar on every loss. Would you still play?
Sounds stupid to do so, but still, everybody does it. Every bet they place on Roulette, every coin they put into a Slot machine, is based on the same concept.
Those few cents they take on every bet are their profit margin, and has paid for all the Vegas lights, the Mirage volcanoes, and the Bellagio fountains. Make no mistake - casino gambling games are not designed to make you lose, because sure, you can get lucky on a single night, but they are designed to make them win. That's the beauty of it. They can both exist at the same time.
Too many people that don't see how this works, are just destined for disaster. Just because you went on a lucky streak and won 8 games out of 10, does not mean that flipping coins is a profitable game, or that choosing tails is a winning strategy. Always be aware of the house edge, your true chances of winning, and just realize that you got lucky. There is no such thing as a strategy in flipping a coin that will give you a higher expected return, so it's just pure gambling, just like Slots and Roulette.
Most casino games are made in such a way, that your expected return is a little under 100%. This means that from every dollar bet at the tables, the casino expects to keep a few cents. For individual players, results may vary. Some will win, most will lose. But for the house, it doesn't matter. They take millions of bets each day, so for them, the expected average works out a lot sooner. In short: the house always wins.
When looking at the house edge, we're talking about the expected long-term result, based on the game's house rules. But for a player, it can take literally tens of thousands of hands or spins before you also reach this average number. Until that time, you can experience huge upswings and downswings, that are the result of nothing but short-term luck, which is called variance.
Some games and some bets have a much higher variance than others, which means your actual results will differ enormously from what you're expected to be at.
Take for example betting on red/black at the Roulette table. This is a low-variance proposition, because it has a high percentage chance of occurring, and a low payout.
Contrast this with betting single numbers in Roulette, which only win once every 38 spins on average. This bet has a much higher variance, meaning you can easily hit a dry spell, and not hit anything for 200 bets in a row, or you can see a single number hit three times in five consecutive spins. This is not a freak occurrence in high-variance bets.
Even though the expected return in both these bets is exactly the same, there's a huge difference in variance, causing massive differences in short-term results, which can go both ways. You need to be aware of this, before you decide what types of bets you are comfortable with placing.
Gamblers' Fallacy
Another thing to realize, is that each individual game, hand, or spin, is completely independent from the one(s) before it, and after it.
Gamblers tend to believe, that the chance of a certain outcome is increased, based on previous results.
The most famous example comes from the Casino de Monte Carlo, where the Roulette wheel managed to land on black 26 times in a row. Gamblers lost many millions during that streak, all frantically betting on red, believing that the odds were in favor of the wheel coming out on red, after producing so many blacks. This is not true. Each round is completely independent, and the odds are exactly the same.
You will hear people say things like a Blackjack table being "hot" or "cold", which is completely superstitious, and should be ignored. The exception was when Blackjack was being dealt from a shoe. It made card counting possible. But with the introduction of shuffle machines, and continuous shuffling like is being used in GTA, this no longer exists.
This is also why "chasing your losses" is a very bad idea. After being on a losing streak for some time, many gamblers believe that now it's their turn to start winning. So they will often increase their bet size, believing that when their predicted winning streak comes around, they will win back their losses, and more.
The reality of it, more often than not, is that people will indeed start playing higher and higher limits, until they are completely broke. Nobody is ever "due for a win". There is never a guarantee that you're about to start winning. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true. You are, after all, in a casino.
Betting systems
Some people like to think that they have a fool-proof betting system, like the Martingale system. Simply increase or even double your bet when you lose, and keep doing that until you win. In theory, this system will always win. So that's why table limits were introduced, and where the system fails.
If you start at the Roulette table, playing red/black, with a small 750 chip wager, and just double your bet every time you lose, you only have to lose 6 times in a row, before you will be betting the table limit of 48,000, just to get that 750 chip profit.
Sure, you can go on all evening without this happening, winning 750 chips each time, but this losing streak only has to happen once, and you're bust. Any betting system like this is ill-advised, because you are hugely increasing your so-called "risk of ruin", and that's what we were trying to avoid.
And even if your starting bet is only 100 chips, after only nine straight losses, and nine doubled bets, you are betting the table limit at 50,000 chips. If you lose that bet, you're 100,000 chips in the hole, with no way to recover that with your 100 chip base wager.
So don't believe anyone that says this is the perfect system to always win in the casino. Sooner or later they will understand why they were wrong, when they're asking you for a loan.
Set your limits BEFORE you start playing
One final point before we get into the games, a general tip for people that head out to play: money management.
Just like in real life, before you go to the casino, decide on a maximum amount that you are WILLING TO LOSE.
Bet small enough, so that amount can last you through the entire evening, and you will not be tempted to run to the ATM to continue playing.
Considering GTA money, some people will be comfortable losing 1% of their GTA bank balance, some people will be comfortable with gambling away 5% of their total GTA savings. It's up to you what you can handle. Decide for yourself where it will start to hurt, and don't cross that line.
But whatever number you decide on, as soon as you lost that amount, get up and walk away. Don't chase your losses, stick to your limits, and accept that this has not been your day. There is always another game tomorrow. Always agree with yourself on a simple stop-loss rule, how much you would want to lose at most, and simply stop playing when you get there.
Same goes for winning. You can decide on a number, how much profit you would like to take away from the casino. You can go on a hot streak and be up half a million in a short period of time, but if you would continue to play longer, looking for more, chances are that you're going to lose it all back.
Most people are happy with doubling their daily casino budget, for example. Others are looking for 10 bets profit in Blackjack. Whatever you choose, when you hit that number, you can stop playing and bank your profits, or you can continue playing if you're still enjoying the games, but then only just play minimum bet sizes. Then you're just playing for fun, not for money. You've already made your profit, so simply keep it in your pocket, and don't risk losing it again.
Either way, decide on what your money management strategy will be, and STICK TO IT.
Casino games in GTA Online
Now, I'm going to dive into the games that you can find at the Diamond casino, ordered from worst to best.
6) Slots
Generally the rule is this: the less strategy a game has, the worse it is for the player. And with slots, this is definitely the case.
The only influence you have, is choosing what type of machine you're going to play. Basically, there are two types of slot machines:
-high frequency, low payout slots
-low frequency, high payout slots
In the first type, there is no huge (progressive) jackpot on offer, just your average selection of prizes that don't go up to crazy amounts.
This will result in a player having many more spins resulting in a win. The amounts that you win on the bigger prizes, will be smaller, but they do come around more often. This type of slot machine has a lower variance, which means that your money should last you longer, winning many smaller prizes along the way to keep you going.
The second type of slot machine lures you in with the temptation of a huge jackpot prize. Even though the long-term expected return on these machines is the same as the previous type, the prize distribution is hugely different. The large jackpot prize weighs heavily on the scale of expected return, but the chance of it hitting is extremely small. This results in a much higher variance on this type of machine. Usually your money will go down very fast, because the smaller prizes are less rewarding than on the other type of machine.
At the Diamond, the info screen says the player return at slots is set at 98.7%. This means that, on average, for every maximum bet of 2,500 chips, you expect to lose 32.5 chips.
This might not seem like a lot, but the danger of slots is that the game is extremely fast. You can spin about once every 6 seconds, which would result in an expected LOSS of about 20,000 chips per hour of playing.
But again, in this long-term expected number, the large jackpot awards are also factored in, and as long as you don't hit those big prizes, you'll see your money go down a lot faster.
In any case, thank heavens the max bet is only set at 2,500, or else we would see more players go bankrupt at alarming rates.
Optimal strategy for slots:
There is none. Because after betting, you have no more influence over the outcome. The only choices you have, is what type of machine you want to play at, and how much money you are going to risk. And those are all personal preference. As long as you stick to your loss limits, as discussed above, there's no harm in having a go every once in a while, hoping to get a lucky hit. Just realize that you don't have a high chance of scoring a big win, so as soon as you do, get up and walk away.
5) Roulette
Roulette is also a game where you have no influence over the outcome. There is zero skill involved. You place your bet, and that's it.
In traditional French roulette, a table has only the single-zero, but of course, for American casinos that wasn't enough of a house edge, so they simply doubled their profits by adding a second zero. The house edge was increased from 1/37 to 1/19, which is huge.
This makes playing on a double-zero roulette table by definition a sucker's play.
The payouts scale evenly, which means that a bet on a single number, and a bet on half of the numbers, and everything in between, yields the same expected return. The only difference, again, being the variance that you are willing to subject yourself to.
The player return for double-zero Roulette for all bets is 94.74%.
Except for the 5-number bet, which can only be made by placing a bet on the two top rows that contain 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. The expected return on this bet is lower: 92.1%. This is because it only pays out 6-1. Why? Well, the number 36 isn't divisible by 5, so the greedy people that came up with double-zero Roulette had to round it off someway, and as expected, it wasn't going to be in the players' favor.Just remember that that 5-number bet is the worst bet at the table, and should be avoided. All other possible bets have the same expected return.
So it really doesn't matter how you spread your bets, if you bet only one chip, or if you litter the entire table with a bucketload of chips. Each chip you put out there, has the same expected return, so there is no strategy that will improve your long-term results.
Assuming that you're betting the maximum table amount of 50,000 chips, you will be looking at an expected loss of about 2,630 chips per spin. Considering that a round takes about 45 seconds to complete, your expected LOSS at the GTA Roulette tables will be around 200,000 chips per hour of playing.
Optimal strategy for double-zero roulette:
Stay away. Stay far away.
4) Three Card Poker
With Three Card Poker, we come across the first game where there is actually some strategy involved. You get to look at your cards, and then decide if you want to fold, and surrender your ante, or double your bet.
Additionally, you can choose to place a side bet on "Pair Plus", which offers progressive payouts.
There are some websites out there that ran all the numbers with computer simulations, and even though I would like to quote the source here, these websites are understandably littered to the max with online casino ads, so that's why I have decided against doing that.
Optimal strategy for Three Card Poker:
For this game you only have to remember one strategy rule: Always bet on any high card queen-six-four or better, and fold any high card queen-six-three or lower. That's it. Just don't forget to double check if you're not folding a straight or a flush, and you'll be fine.
This strategy will result in an expected return of 96.63%.
The Pair Plus sidebet, with the payout table that is used at the Diamond casino, gives you an expected return of 97.68%, which is actually a bit better than the main ante bet.
So by playing both wagers, you're reducing your expected losses per bet, but since you're betting more, you're also increasing your expected loss per hour.
My advice would obviously be to not play this game at all, but if you do, put as much of your bet as possible on the Pair Plus, while making our Ante bet as small as you can.
To be able to compare it to the other games at the Diamond, let's stay on that 50,000 maximum wager, meaning making your ante bet 35,000, and your pair plus bet 15,000, if the table would allow it.
This results in an expected loss of about 1,525 chips per hand, and with a round taking about 45 seconds, this adds up to an expected LOSS of around 120,000 chips per hour of playing. In comparison, if you would only play the ante bet for 50,000 per hand, you expect to lose 1,685 chips per hand, which means an expected LOSS of about 135,000 chips per hour. So the more out of that 50,000 wager you can put on the "Pair Plus" sidebet, the better.
Even though it may be fun to try out this game for a bit, since there's only one simple strategy rule to follow, you'll soon find yourself robotically grinding down your bankroll until it has vaporized. You're not missing out on anything if you skip these tables, there is no real challenge.
Just like with Roulette and Slots, if you want to try it out nonetheless, you can just bet the minimum amounts and only play for fun, so it won't matter if you win or lose.
3) Blackjack
Blackjack is the most complicated game by far. Simply because the player has to make a series of decisions, which will largely decide the outcome. Luckily, there is such a thing as an optimal strategy, which will be outlined below.
However, the strategy is also dependent on the house rules. These not only affect your expected return, but in some places also your decisions.
Here are the house rules at the Diamond casino:
-The game uses 4 standard decks, and a continuous shuffle.
-Blackjack pays 3 to 2, dealer checks for early blackjack.
-No insurance offered, no surrender.
-Dealer stands on soft 17.
-Double down on any two cards.
-Player can split only once, but doubling after split is allowed.
-Seven-Card Charlie.
Under these rules, and following the "basic strategy" chart, your expected return at Blackjack is a shade under 99.6%, which is extremely good for a casino game, that's why Blackjack should be your table game of choice.
But it comes at a price: you are going to have to memorize the relatively complicated strategy chart, or at least stick it to your monitor until you have it in your head. But in case you ever stumble into a real-life casino, you won't regret having this table memorized, so I would definitely advise you to work on that.
The strategy chart might look complicated at first, but you will be able to notice certain patterns. Your decisions are mainly based on the dealer's upcard, which is basically divided into a weak card (2 to 6), and a strong card (7 to ace).
When a dealer shows a strong card, you will be hitting more often with the risk of going bust, but when a dealer shows a weak card, you're not taking that risk, and you will be standing more, but also doubling and splitting more. You want to increase your bets when the odds are in your favor, and get out cheap when they're not.
But it also helps to take some time to think about why a certain advice is given. For example, why does it say that you always have to split two eights, even against an ace. Well, that's because two eights equals 16, which is the worst total you can have. It's better to split them up, and give yourself a chance of finding a 17, 18 or 19 with the next card. Once you see the logic in that, you'll have one less thing to memorize.
The playing advice in the basic strategy chart is a result of computer simulations that ran all possible outcomes against each other, and produced the most profitable decision for each situation. So you can't go wrong following it.
Optimal strategy for Blackjack with Seven-Card Charlie
The added house rule of Seven-Card Charlie, adds a small advantage for the player, and it does influence a few strategy decisions. For example, you might have a 14 with 6 cards, against the dealer's 5 upcard.
Normally this would be an automatic stand, but if you're only one card away from the Seven-Card Charlie, meaning an instant win for the player, regardless of the dealer's hand, it turns it into a hit.
Here's the most optimal strategy chart to follow for the Diamond Casino house rules:https://prnt.sc/olct6g
You'll see that two fives are missing from the chart, and that's because you never split them. You treat them as a regular 10. You also never split tens. Just stand on 20.
If you follow this strategy religiously, even with a maximum wager of 50,000 chips, you only expect to lose about 215 chips per hand, and with rounds taking about 30 seconds, that amounts to an expected LOSS of 26,000 chips per hour, which is only half a bet. A small price to pay for an hour of entertainment.
But since the expected return is so extremely close to 100%, you will see more positive short-term results than with other games. But obviously it can also swing the other way. Again, this is supposed to be the game where your money lasts you the longest, but always set your loss and win limits before you sit down. That rule simply always applies.
Still, even with optimal strategies applied, all these games are expected to lose you money in the long run. So betting any kind of large amounts is not advised. If you simply want to enjoy playing these games, there's nothing wrong with betting a minimal amount. Playing these games for a longer period of time will already cost you money anyway, since your daily property fees will still be charged while you're playing in the GTA casino. As long as you can play for fun, there's nothing wrong, but when you see yourself betting insane chunks of your entire bank balance to try to recoup some unfortunate losses, you're doing it wrong.
As the commercials in Britain all correctly say: when the fun stops, stop.
2) Virtual Horse Racing
Now onto the good stuff. I ran some numbers, and I believe Rockstar has made a mistake with the horse racing game. Because as it stands, and if I read the numbers correctly, this game is actually profitable for the player. You can actually make money with this, at least, until Rockstar figures out their mistake and patches it.
If anyone wants to jump into the math and double check this to make sure, please do so. I will add any corrections to this post. This is one of those "to good to be true" things, so I keep thinking that I might have overlooked something. So please verify it if you can.
The setup is this. There is a pool of 100 horses, each with their own attached payout. These are divided into 3 groups, ranked by their odds. From each group, 2 horses are randomly selected to provide a pool of six runners for you to bet on.
Now it's not an actual race you're looking at. You are looking at a raffle. This is important to realize.
Each horse gets awarded a certain number of raffle tickets. The favorites get awarded more tickets than the underdogs, and therefore, have a higher chance of winning.
If this distribution works like it does in the real-life casinos, then the raffle tickets are awarded according to the betting odds.
Example 1: imagine a race with 3 runners, all have 2/1 odds, representing a 33.3% chance of winning. (Because 2/1 means 2 AGAINST 1, so 3 total.) In this case, each horse gets one third of the raffle tickets, giving them an equal chance to win.
Example 2: imagine a race with 3 runners, one has 1/1 odds (or EVENS), representing a 50% chance of winning, and the other two horses are marked up as 3/1, with a 25% chance of winning. The favorite gets half the tickets, the other two get a quarter of the tickets each.
A ticket is drawn, and you'll have a winner.
It doesn't matter in this game which horse you bet on, because the expected return is always the same: 100% or break-even, for the above examples.
Now, what happens if the percentages don't exactly add up to 100%?
They must add up to 100%, because there will always be a winner. And only one winner.
So when this is the case, the actual winning chances of the horses are adjusted to meet the 100% requirement, using their payout odds to determine the scale.
So, if the represented percentages add up to more than 100%, the actual winning chances of the runners will be DECREASED, resulting in all bets becoming losing propositions for the players.
Example: In a 6-horse race, all runners are listed at 4/1, representing a 20% chance. Only with six runners that amounts to 120%. So all chances are scaled down by 1/6th, to end up at 100%.
This means your horse's chances are reduced from 20% to 16.67%, turning it into a losing bet: 5 times you will lose your bet, and 1 time you will win, but only get 4 bets back in this instance, instead of 5. A losing bet in the long run.
This is the type of odds that you find in regular casinos, with fields as large as 15 runners to bet on, where the assumed winning chances always add up to more than 100%, therefore are decreased for all runners, resulting in a house edge.
But in GTA Online's Inside Track, there are other scenarios, because of the small field, and the way that they are put together.
In some cases, the represented percentages when added up, are LESS than 100%, meaning that the actual winning chances of all runners, are INCREASED.
This creates profitable bets for the players, because in the long run, you're expecting to win more money than you lose. This is a gambler's dream, pure and simple.
So, according to the in-game information, the three groups of horses are divided as follows:
-Favorites: EVENS to 5-1
-Outsiders: 6-1 to 15-1
-Underdogs: 16-1 to 30-1
Let's take the two most extreme examples to show what's happening.
The worst possible field to bet on: two runners at EVENS, two runners at 6-1, and two runners at 16-1.
EVENS represents a 50% chance, 6-1 is 14.29%, and 16-1 is 5.88%. Add those up and you land on a total of 140.34%.
This means that the actual winning chances of the horses are decreased by 28.75% (to get that 140% down to 100%), which makes betting on this field extremely unwise.
A horse at EVENS will only come in as a winner 35.63% of the time, instead of 50%,
a horse at 6-1 will only win 10.18% of the time,
and an underdog at 16-1 will only win 4.19% of the time.
The expected return on a bet on any of the horses in this field is only 71.26%, so a maximum bet of 10,000 chips on any of these horses holds an expected LOSS of 2,875 chips.
These returns are the same, because the winning chances are scaled equally, according to the payout numbers. So it really doesn't matter which horse you bet on, in the long run, you expect the same results.
But as explained before, it does influence variance, and therefore your short-term result, which can swing both ways.
But now, the best possible field to bet on: two runners at 5-1, two runners at 15-1, and two runners at 30-1.
Odds at 5-1 represents a winning chance of 16.67%, 15-1 odds means 6.25% chance, and 30-1 odds means a 3.23% chance of winning. Add these six horses together, and you only get 52.285%.
This means that, to get from 52% to 100%, the actual winning chances of these horses will be almost doubled! Multiplied by 1.91 to be exact.
So the 5-1 favorites will now win 31.88% of the time, instead of 16.67%,
the 15-1 runners will win 11.95% of the time,
and the underdogs at 30-1 odds will still win 6.17% of the time.
When betting on this field, the expected return on your bet is 191.25%!
This means that a max bet of 10,000 chips will result in an expected PROFIT of 9,125 chips.
This is printing money, if there ever was such a thing.
Optimal strategy for Virtual Horse racing
So all you have to do, is only bet high on the games where you have an expected positive return, and bet the absolute minimum on the games where your expected return is negative. Or back out of the racing game to refresh the field.
If you don't have a way to quickly add up all the percentages, and until somebody shows up here with a neatly formatted table, just use a few general rules of thumb:
-Always bet the maximum on a race with favorites at 2/1 and 3/1 or higher in it.
-Simply skip all races with two favorites at EVENS in it, and at EVENS and 2/1. Or bet the minimum, if you can't skip or refresh the field.
-To decide if you should play races with other favorite combinations EVENS and 3/1, EVENS and 4/1, EVENS and 5/1, or two favorites at 2/1, the payouts on the other four runners determine whether or not it's profitable to play them. The results of betting on these fields vary from an expected 1,330 chip loss (worst-case) to an expected 1,680 chip win (best-case), with a max bet of 10,000 chips.
But if you're not looking for another strategy chart, you might just want to skip these borderline cases, and just cherry pick the best ones, which are easy to recognize, and with which you can never go wrong.
It's difficult to put a number on an expected win-rate, because it all depends on which fields you get presented with, but it's not unreasonable to state that you can maintain a steady win-rate of around 200,000 chips per hour, with about 50 seconds per race.
Remember, you're not trying to win every race. You're trying to win the most money per hour. So don't sweat it when you bet on a 4/1 favorite, and lose a couple of races in a row. It will still be more profitable in the long run. You have the math on your side.
To reduce negative variance, always bet on the favorite, when betting on profitable fields. We're not gambling anymore, we're grinding out a steady profit. We want to keep the swings to a minimum.
I contacted Rockstar support to verify if this is indeed how it works, but the only reply I got after 6 weeks is that they were "looking into it".
User u/Garsant made a useful Excel-worksheet, available for you to download, where you can quickly type in the payouts on the horses, to see if it produces a profitable bet or not. You can find it in his post here: https://www.reddit.com/gtaonline/comments/ekp8na/gta_online_inside_track_odd_calculato
1) Wheel of Fortune
The number one profitable casino game in GTA Online is obviously the Wheel of Fortune, because it costs you nothing to play.
Unfortunately, you only get one free spin per day, but it holds great value, so make sure you do it.
With a chance to win a super car, vehicle discounts, expensive mystery prizes (which also can be vehicles), and a lot of cash and chips, the expected return on a single spin is around $100,000 in value.
So don't forget your daily spin, it's definitely worth your time.
2020 Update:
As of the Diamond Casino Heist update, the Inside Track horse racing is confirmed to still be as profitable as outlined above.The only thing that seems to be changed, is that you can't refresh the field anymore by backing out of the screen. This does affect your hourly rate in a negative way, but does not change the fact that this game has a huge positive expected return, and should be your go-to when you're trying to take money from the house, without having Lester's nagging voice in your ear. That should also be worth something.
And with that, I conclude my 5,000 word essay on gambling in GTA. Questions, comments, feel free to add your input to this guide.
Cliffs:
-Gambling games should only be played for fun, not for big money. You should expect to lose in the long run. The house always wins.
-A casino game doesn't have a memory, and betting systems don't work.
-Set your limits before you start, how much you are willing to lose or win, and then walk away when you get there.
-Don't play slots, roulette, or three card poker.
-Only play blackjack following a basic strategy chart (https://prnt.sc/olct6g).
-Inside Track betting can be played profitably, if you only bet on fields WITHOUT a heavy favorite.
-Wheel of Fortune is always your best bet, because it's a free bet.
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Alliance Chapter 2

Hello again! I wrote this while procrastinating for my classes, and I tried to expand to a few things I hadn't written about before. Please let me know what you think of it!
First

“Well, it’s definitely not an inconsistency in the fuel,” I announced, wriggling my way backward out of the accessway, trying to blink the sweat out of my eyes. Clarke, my chief engineer, received this conclusion with a flexed jaw. Reactor 2’s slight output fluctuations had gotten more pronounced, so I’d come down to help brainstorm. Thus far, we had ruled out faulty fusion containment, coolant flow problems, and now inconsistency/contamination within the fuel itself. While it was frustrating not to be able to pin down the problem, I was grateful for this last negative—modern Navy reactors only needed to be refueled about every hundred years. The operation was correspondingly long and difficult, involving supervision by two federal regulatory agencies and the Russians.
Clarke tapped her pen irritably against the pad of engineering paper she’s taking notes on. She wasn’t happy with any anomaly in her engine room, and the pressure of our imminent departure wasn’t helping matters. It was worrying me too—not only was my ship relatively an unknown, but my engineer was too. I’d picked up the impression that she was a perfectionist, and she was certainly competent, but I didn’t know how she’d react under stress, or how good she’d be at the inevitable jury-rigging that cropped up on patrol.
My last chief engineer was Commander John Abbas—killed in action. He’d loved troubleshooting, no matter how much he complained about it, and whatever the crisis he’d never lost his composure or his nasty sense of humor; he once configured the security scanners around Engineering to administer mild electric shocks to anyone who said “Carolina,” “Tar Heels,” or “Dean Smith” within five feet of the door. He would’ve thought tunneling was a great challenge.
Focus.
The speaker on the bulkhead crackled. “Captain to the bridge.”
Shit. You forgot, idiot.
We were embarking our half of the joint Human-Z’lask delegation to the Galactic Council today, they were due to arrive at 1000, and it was now—I checked my watch as I scrambled over Clarke and out of Engineering—1015. I guess I’d be fashionably late to greet our erstwhile enemies.
What if they take it as an insult?
Then hopefully they’d shoot me.
I made it from the reactor room all the way up to the currently-unoccupied chartroom off the bridge in record time, with the result that I was even sweatier and more rumpled than I was from being wedged next to an unhappy Reactor 2 for hours. On top of that, I was one of those people who always looked somehow disheveled, no matter how creased their clothes or shined their shoes. I’d never gotten used to the slightly taken-aback look people tended to get when they’re introduced to me—this is the captain? They seemed to be thinking. This idiot who looks like she just rolled out of bed?
I really wished I could look the part. It would make a lot of things a lot easier.
You’d still screw everything up.
I tried frantically to straighten myself out, and quit abruptly as Ramirez and two other marines walked in. “Alright,” I said, making sure I have their attention. “These aren’t the first Z’lask we’ve met, so no staring like you’ve never seen one before. They are the first diplomats we’ve encountered though, so they’ll probably act very differently from what we got used to. Let’s try to be calm and nice and friendly—they’re our allies now, weird as that is. Let’s just take this nice and easy, guys.”
“No sweat, Skipper,” Ramirez responded, as his two buddies nodded confidently. Despite this all three looked tense.
And you’re not?
The diplomats have been permitted onto the bridge, as a show of welcome, so I squared my shoulders like I was taught and went to greet them.
There were ten of them, five Z’lask and five humans. Most of them were staring around at the ship’s interior with varying degrees of curiosity, from the wide eyes of those who’d never been on a vessel so big before to more critical observations from people who clearly had military backgrounds—a human and a Z’lask were both eyeing the weapons status board, taking in the row of green lights indicating all railguns online.
The Z’lask don’t use projectile weapons; they considered them clumsy, even primitive, next to their more elegant energy shooters. The war had disabused them of those notions. I was willing to bet this was the first time this individual had seen our weapons from the operator’s end, and if I was him, I’d be curious.
“We got the stern chasers online this morning,” I said to the mismatched pair, breaking into their inspection. “We’ll be doing charging drills on them today, and then we’ll be all systems operational.” I tried to smile in a friendly, open fashion, and probably looked like I had tetanus.
The human smiled back. The Z’lask’s turquoise pupils brightened before he spoke.
“Do these drills include loading?” He asked, flicking his long, forked tongue to indicate slight embarrassment. “I know it must sound strange to you, but none of our weapons require that, and I would be interested to see how you manage the extra step.”
“Not while we’re in port,” I answered. “But once we’re in transit, we’ll run firing drills. You’re welcome to observe then if you’d like.”
“I would appreciate that,” the Z’lask said, his eyes dimming then brightening to reinforce his words. The human asked him a question about their weapons drills and I excused myself, moved through the rest of the group emitting greeting noises, and escaped to the front of the bridge.
I could feel myself relaxing as soon as I stepped into the familiar tableau: Davis leaning on one elbow over his charts, Xi listening to the comms chatter with one ear and our chatter with the other, Quartermaster First Class Jackie McClane sitting at the controls, a new minion whose name I couldn’t remember (gotta fix that) seated beside her. I paced to my spot. It was good to be back.
The clock on the bulkhead read 1045—time to start preparing for departure.
I always found myself thinking of old family car trips when preparing to leave port—both events were actually pretty similar. Everybody was rushing around frantically, there was a schedule but it seemed like everyone was doing their best to get massively behind it, tempers ran a little short, and then somehow miraculously we were actually ready to leave on time.
The diplomats were surprisingly little trouble—they stood out of the way where they’d been asked to and didn’t bother anyone, content instead to observe the organized chaos of getting the Yorktown back in the black.
Tradition dictated the playing of an ancient song with a title very similar to the cliché about returning to space as the moorings are retracted, and I secretly loved it. Today, it’s extra-special: for the first time since I was captured, I’ll be driving my own boat.
I’m let loose, from the noose, that’s kept me hanging around.
McClane received clearance for departure from Traffic Control, and gently pulled the Yorktown away from the dock.
She’s a big lunk of mass, so she answered her maneuvering thrusters sluggishly at first, leaning gradually away from the pier and wallowing reluctantly into the lane. As she built up some momentum, that old bitch physics started to come over to our side, and the ship moved quicker and more nimbly, a promise of agility showing through her lethargy. Yorktown passed out of New Norfolk gathering way and looking fantastic.
I was standing just between the navigator and weapons officers’ stations, a few feet ahead of the chair my first skipper—Capt. Tillery Carroll, he could read a reactor’s thoughts, had time to teach even moronic new young idiots every simple thing we should’ve known already, and set two speed records—told me that the captain never sat in unless he had to. It was a mark of how much his example impressed me that I still followed his old rule.
I shifted one leg back slightly, to brace for acceleration. We passed the FTL limit beacon, and requested permission to engage our Drazer drives. We received clearance and approached the jump point.
“Permission to go to hyperspace?” McClane intoned, trying hard to keep the excitement out of her voice. My heart was about to go faster than light all on its own. I rolled my eyes around the status boards one more time, felt the thrumming of the drives through my heels, and kept my voice steady as I gave the order.
“Jump to FTL.”
Yorktown shuddered, then leaned heavily into her acceleration—to a stationary observer, she’d appear to be elongating impossibly. She bucked once like she was meeting a wave and then was perfectly still. The view forward changed from the blackness of vacuum, studded with the infinite brilliance of stars, to a whitish-blue tunnel, the only perceptible sign that the Yorktown was now galloping through the stars faster than the speed of light.
I shot a glance at Lieutenant Nguyen, the engineering officer monitoring the reactors and their Drazer drives from the bridge. “All systems nominal, Captain,” he announced, a little nervously. He was new, and evidently a bit scared of me, god knows why.
“Thank you,” I said, turning to look at Davis.
“On course, Skipper, good jump. Estimate arrival at Rendezvous Whiskey in ten hours, fifteen minutes.” He responded quietly, not looking up from his charts. Davis was not made nervous by anything.
McClane cracked her neck and settled in for the watch, her wide-eyed minion looking decidedly less relaxed. I myself could float up off the floor—I just had a textbook first jump with my gorgeous new ship. And even nary a sign of problems from Reactor 2.
Sure, she was a little active building up the bow wave, but that was to be expected—you wanted maneuverability, you had to give up a little stability. She’d probably hop like a scalded cat on exit, but then she’d cut straight through the bow wave and come right back down again without further ado. That was an improvement over her predecessors, which usually buffeted around a few times passing through the disturbance.
Thank you God for letting me be here.
The ship was almost unnaturally still, only the faint vibration of the engines running through her frame. She cruised easily, smoothly, more quietly and much faster than her forerunner Houston was designed to do. I decided happily that she was a worthy successor, and started toying with the idea of sending for some coffee.
Two hours later, the calm of the watch shattered as Xi put her hand to her earpiece. “Distress call, Skipper,” she reported, gaining everyone’s instant attention. “Species unknown, they say they’re under attack by four Drizagen pirate ships at-” she gave the coordinates and my mind started working as my heart started racing.
The Drizagen were a commerce-focused race, and when they couldn’t make it in legitimate business they went straight for the illegitimate. This was considered a disgrace, however, so their pirates were generally small and poorly armed—when they got ahead, they bought their way back into society.
Four of them vs. the Yorktown. Those were the kind of odds she was built for.
Of course, the line between stupidity and aggressiveness was a thin one, and I’d stomped all over it in my career. I knew too many people who thought they were in for something simple, lost their focus, and got killed when they’d survived much worse. I was not going to be one of those people.
“Davis, ETA to their position?” I barked, thinking rapidly.
“Fifteen minutes at maximum speed, Skipper,” he answered at once, tapping away on his navicomputer.
“Increase to flank. Change of course to-” as I rattled off the coordinates I caught sight of one of the Z’lask diplomats out of the tail of my eye, trying to get my attention. I ignored him as McClane repeated the order and the Yorktown leaned over abruptly as she changed course, spinning on her heel as though in disdain for the pirates she was going to meet.
What does he want?
I had more important things to think about.
“Let’s go to general quarters, bring shield generators online in preparation for drop to realspace, charge railguns and arm torpedoes.”
Lieutenants Malinowski and Peretti acknowledged and began barking instructions to their respective broadsides, the steady green squares on their status boards flashing to a malevolent red as each was armed.
“Captain….”
I spun around to glower at the Z’lask diplomat, who had brought himself to speak. “Yes?” I said, just managing to restrain myself from a growl. He stood up a little straighter—all eight-plus feet of him.
“That ship is not human or Z’lask. Its fate is not any of our affair.” His eyes were a steady brightness, no glinting malice or dimmed unconcern.
“What?” I snapped, confused. Space is hazardous to us all, even scrapping human factions acknowledged that. Some of them some of the time, at least.
“It is not our affair,” the Z’lask repeated, apparently firm in his belief. “We do them dishonor to interfere in their private matters.”
Oh for….
Every time I thought I was getting to understand these aliens, they went and did something like this, leaving me more mystified than ever before.
“I’m the captain of this ship,” I said. “And I, in accordance with international law, am rendering assistance to a vessel in distress. We are not dishonoring them by interfering in their private business, we are upholding the honor of a very old code of humanity: they call, we respond.”
The Z’lask’s vivid eyes flickered in confusion, but he shut up, as I knew the reference to rank would make him. I turned back to the task at hand. Four to one wasn’t nice odds, and the UN, in its paranoia that one of us will start another war, had forbidden all forces to open fire unless fired upon themselves—even if they were coming to the aid of another vessel. Because our lives weren’t hard enough as it was. We’d need to be responding the instant we came through the bow wave.
“Realspace drop in three, two, one…” Davis counted down, and the Yorktown lurched again as she decelerated, leaping as she hit her bow wave before driving her nose back down as she knifed though it.
“Shields up,” I barked as we came through the disturbance. I took in the scene in front of me and actually blinked in surprise. Four Drizagen pirate ships—about the size of USN frigates—were swarming around the oddest vessel I’d ever seen in my life.
It looked like a titanic, many-petaled flower in full bloom, sparkling as though coated in raindrops from all the point thrusters needed to move the colossal absurdity. It’s got to be the least efficient thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’m in the Navy.
Its strange design was working for it now, though, as the pirates couldn’t seem to figure out how to board it, and were scared to fire on something so fragile-looking, for fear of damaging the goods. It’d kept them alive long enough to summon help.
“Sensors?” I asked.
“Low-power energy weapons, Captain. Shouldn’t be able to get though our shields.” Came Lieutenant Levy’s emotionless reply.
The pirates had caught sight of us, and two of the four broke off and headed right for us. Our shields were at full capacity, and atmospheric integrity had been maintained since general quarters.
We were built to take some punishment.
“Full right thrust, let’s show them our broadside. Xi, any response from ‘em?”
Xi was working diligently at her station. “No response, Captain,” she replied.
Figures for pirates.
Yorktown rolled into the turn, wheeling to bring her broadside to bear on the two approaching, much smaller ships. It should be an intimidating sight. If we could get them to see that, it would save them what we were going to give them.
They didn’t scare. They drove straight at us, their first shots splashing against our shields, shaking the whole ship but not penetrating, as predicted. Malinowski announced torpedo locks on both of them.
Y’all had your chance.
I eyed up the distances, the closing rate, the trajectories of the flying ships. “Fire tube two at the lefthand hostile, fire five at the right.” It was still a surprise to hear my voice, cold and flat, when my heart was leaping as though trying to escape my chest.
“Fire two, fire five,” Malinowski repeated, and the Yorktown shuddered slightly as the torpedoes launched, becoming two fast-fading pinpoints of light as their motors ignited and they arrowed away toward their targets.
Both ships broke hard as their scanners picked up the incoming shots, but neither were maneuverable enough to shake the nimble, remorseless torpedoes. The faint dots arced into blurred tails as the weapons tracked, then disappeared as they superimposed their targets.
The leftmost pirate tried to run straight away, looping nearly vertically around in their haste to escape. This wild maneuver was spectacularly unhelpful, as it quickly put them on a course directly away from us, easy for the first torpedo to follow. It flew right up their exhaust port, and the vessel vanished in an expanding sphere of blindingly brilliant white light.
The rightmost one was a little smarter, it tried abruptly reversing course in a series of zigzags, like a deer chased by dogs. But even though they took advantage of the second’s delay between firings to try to flee their sister’s fate, it was too late. The torpedo still tracked, and caught them in the aft third of the ship—it broke up and incinerated as their atmosphere caught fire in the detonation.
Fission fishin’, ladies and gentlemen.
The remaining two, having hung back to continue harassing the flower-ship, started frantically flashing their running lights, and Xi winced and turned the volume down on her headset. Evidently they had decided to respond to our hails, and begun emphatically expressing their desire to surrender.
“Tell them to take their weapons offline, drop their shields, and come to a halt,” I said. I didn’t particularly like dealing with pirates. And they were delaying us—we’d lose at least another hour babysitting them until reinforcements could arrive to take them to be impounded. Xi repeated the instructions, and both the pirates complied, drifting to a halt surprisingly quickly as Levy reported their weapons powering down and their shields lowering.
“Skipper,” Xi began, still with her eyes screwed up against the noise the pirates were making. “These guys are pretty freaked out. They’re swearing up and down they didn’t know we were human when they attacked us or they never would have, they’re panicking we’re going to kill them anyway.”
“Tell them as long as they don’t try anything they won’t get hurt,” I snapped. “We’re not animals.”
Another damn species that thinks we’re savages.
You’d think it would be nice to have a reputation that clears the way. But instead it felt like the ringing of a leper’s bell.
Xi managed to calm the pirates down enough to hear herself think, and to open another channel to the flower-ship.
“Unidentified vessel, this is the human warship USS Yorktown, do you require assistance?”
Aside from the one we just rendered.
That wasn’t nice, brain….
“Put them on speaker,” I said. I’d like to hear for myself what these idiots thought they were doing out here.
Xi complied, and a voice crackled back. Even with the distortion of the comm it was high, thrumming, and somehow eerie. The hairs on the back of my neck rose as it spoke.
“Yes, please,” it gasped. “The pirates fired on us when they first appeared, two of our people were wounded and we don’t have enough supplies to treat them, can you help?”
The voice rose to express appeal, and as it did it somehow struck another sound from within itself, a musical note sounding behind and around and out through the spoken words. I’d never heard speech so utterly alien—my mind recalled legends of sirens. If sirens talked this is how they would sound.
I pulled myself back together. Xi actually shook her head like she had water in her ears. “We can send over a shuttle, to ferry your people back to our sickbay. Will that be satisfactory?”
The relief flooding through the being’s voice as it accepted was so powerful it cast a vibration of its own, making the speaker sound doubled. I was now thinking—to my consternation—seriously about sirens. No voice could be this compelling and be innocent.
Or could it? The galaxy was wide, and I was sure there were stranger things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in my narrow philosophy. It was also not a very impressive measure of human progress that sailor’s stories about evil monsters were as present as they ever were.
Nothing is to be feared, it is only to be understood.
“If you don’t mind my asking, what species are you?” I asked, fighting my trepidation.
“We are Iialia,” the voice answered, another musical note emanating from the last word, sounding at once like the pluck of a harp and the strike of a chime—high, crystalline, like the chatter of falling water. “We have heard of you—we knew the humans always went armed, and today we are grateful for that.”
Aaaand another species that thinks we’re foaming at the mouth!
I’d never met an Iialia before, though I knew of them. Their entire species was dedicated to the creation of art—they believed science and the discovery of natural truth to possess artistic beauty, and so the species had reached the stars. And, apparently, sailed them in ships whose design was dictated by artistry, rather than practicality. They were utterly pacifistic—violence was ugly, and their species shunned ugliness.
So at least they’re not sirens?
Damn, we had a low bar.
A medical team—accompanied by marines—was dispatched to their ship, which identified itself as the Cosmic Blossom, because what else would it be called. I glared at the pirates, who have been sitting quietly without making a peep, to keep myself from pestering the team. They would give me information when they had it.
“Bridge, Sickbay, we’ve got the two patients through diagnostics, both are only minorly injured, we’re stabilizing them now. We should be able to patch them up by the time the escorts arrive.”
Oh thank God.
“Good to hear, thank you.”
“Three others accompanied them, they, ah, say they’d like to thank you.”
The fuck?
I sighed inwardly. Now my sunny self—plus the diplomats, I’m sharing my misery—would have to go down to sickbay and meet them, ensure that their first impression of humanity included more than just us beating up pirates for them.
I reviewed what I knew about the Iialia on the way down: they were asexual (I had no idea how they reproduced, except that division was somehow involved), and used the pronoun xa, which apparently translated as “creator.” I’d never even seen a picture of one before.
The Z’lask were annoying and weird as shit, but they at least were within our frame of reference. The Iialia were standing just outside of it, etching drawings on its edges.
I hate diplomacy.
We barged into sickbay. The two patients were behind curtains, being attended to by Dr. Ford, the ship’s surgeon. Looking on were three uninjured Iialia.
They were about human height, which was nice, and covered in fine, sheeny short fur, like cornsilk, ranging in color from pure white to iron gray. Their large eyes, liquid and nearly all black pupil, were set wide apart over small muzzles. They had two legs and two arms, like most species, with the head on top and a sweeping tail like a horse’s at the other end.
They wore short-sleeved garments, their fur evidently much better at keeping them warm than bare human skin, or Z’lask scales. The colors and styles of their fashion slid past my vocabulary—to try to describe them with human words would dirty them. I’d never be able to convey how it was that one seemed to be wearing light, another darkness, the third fire. All the humans stared to see them—their presence was as enthralling as their voices, though they were not what a human would consider attractive.
They’re sirens.
The Z’lask, however, didn’t seem to think so. They greeted the three Iialia formally and courteously, then stared off into space looking bored. One of them, the one who’d disagreed with me earlier, noticed the disparity in reactions about the same time I did, and began staring at us, leaf-green eyes shining with sharp points of concern.
Oh fantastic. Now they think we’re insane.
Who didn’t, at this point.
“Captain,” said the one wearing fire, xa’s fur flowing and smoky gray. “We wanted to thank you for fighting off the pirates—I don’t know what I would do if I lost the Blossom.” The gratitude glittering through the being’s voice sounded golden, like an exultant cello.
“Ah—we truly appreciate that,” I said awkwardly. “Humanity considers it an obligation to respond to distress calls, and we’re always very happy to be able to help.” I tried to smile and look humanitarian. I could feel the green-eyed Z’lask staring at me now.
“Well, permit me to say that we at least are very glad you feel this obligation,” xa said. “Even though we had to be saved by violence, which is such an ugliness.” Xa shook xa’s head mournfully. The musical note produced when xa said “violence” was startling—brassy, impure, and too loud. It was the first sound made by an Iialia that had been anything other than enchanting. The back of my neck prickled and I knew the green-eyed Z’lask had noticed our reaction.
I tried to cover by mumbling something about how we always hated to resort to force, but that unfortunately it was sometimes necessary. The human diplomats slid into the conversation, steered it toward safer topics, and had everyone nattering away.
The voices of the Iialia embroidered musically through the conversation, overlaying the clacking language of the Z’lask and the more guttural or sibilant sounds of English. It was a bit ironic—our speech sounded more “reptilian” than the giant lizards from outer space’s did.
“Excuse me,” the pure-white Iialia began timidly, breaking into my thoughts. “But if I might ask…what is your favorite color?”
“Huh?” I said stupidly. “Uh, blue, I guess. Blue.” I smiled to cover the fact that I’m an idiot.
“What shades?” Xa pressed, staring unblinkingly at me.
God these guys are weird.
“Well, all shades, I guess, except nothing too light. Not like, powder blue or anything.” I matched the Iilia’s stare. I had no idea what kind of evaluation this was.
“Thank you,” xa said quietly, with a sound like the wind rushing from beneath a bird’s wing. Xa sidled over to stand next to the smoky-gray one, who was gesturing widely as xa talked to an equally animated human diplomat while an impassive Z’lask looked on.
The Iialia murmured musically, and to be perfectly honest the lovely sounds were starting to get on my nerves. I realized suddenly that their initial, captivating effect seemed to be waning. The longer I looked at them, the more flaws I saw: their garments were too stiff, their fur antiseptically styled, even their bewitching voices were losing their charm.
What the fuck is going on?
I was chewing on this when the intercom informed us that the reinforcements had arrived to escort the pirates into custody. Dr. Ford pronounced his patients fit to leave, and the Iialia gathered themselves up, thanked us one more time, and departed.
I busied myself with packing off the pirates and getting back underway so I didn’t have to talk to the green-eyed Z’lask, but he caught me after the watch changed, as I was leaving the bridge.
“I noticed something today,” he began. “I wanted to talk to you about it.”
“If this is about answering distress calls…” I warned.
“No, another matter,” he said impatiently. “I wanted to speak to you about your reaction to the Iialia. I noticed you were quite taken with them at first, but by the time they left you appeared rather less enamored of them. Am I correct in these statements?”
“Yes…” I said, eyeing him like he was crazy—even for a Z’lask, he’s being very blunt. I’m not sure whether that was a good or bad sign; I only really had experience in talking like this with one Z’lask, and he was one of a kind. It had always been a good sign when he was blunt though: the time he chucked me in solitary he did it with such flowery phrasing I’d barked at him to come to the point already and gotten myself two extra days.
The self-satisfied lizard.
The green-eyed Z’lask looked…reassured? “They lost their charm to you for the same reason they never appealed to us—there can be no beauty without ugliness.”
“Huh?” I said, with my characteristic rapidity of thought.
Z’lask don’t really have lips, so I considered it a personal triumph of denseness that I provoked pursed lips from this one.
“If you had heard their music, I imagine you would initially have been stunned by the perfection of the sound, but as you listened its perfection would become cloying, then grating, then galling. Of the human songs which I have heard, the ones which I found most moving, which I wanted to hear again to learn and carry with me, incorporated imperfections. Anger, sadness, even just repetitive notes—all things the Iialia would think ugly.”
His viridescent eyes glowed.
“The Z’lask, to borrow the Iialia’s metric, find honor beautiful. The Iialia create art because they believe ugliness to be evil. They have no patience with any imperfection—they could never understand our proverb, ‘there is virtue in the struggle.’ They do not see honor, and so it is not present in their art. Therefore, while we appreciate their works as representations of admirable effort, we find them merely frivolous. You humans, though, your art can be a vehicle. And it is what your art conveys, not the beauty of its form, that captures us so. It seems to speak to us in the same language in which it does to you—it is a convincing demonstration of our compatibility.”
“That’s…good. Isn’t it?” I really was getting pretty tired of the endless whiplash of dealing with the Z’lask.
“I suppose so,” he said. “Though it must be balanced against your insistence on sticking your nose where it does not belong.”
“Not this again!” I snarled, exasperated. “Someone needed help. We could provide it. So we did. End of story. This is not complicated—space is dangerous enough as it is, when things go wrong for you and you have to call for help, you’d want someone, anyone, to come, right?” I barged ahead before he could respond with some nonsense about death before dishonor.
“You would, whether or not you admit it. And you had damn well better do what you expect of everyone else. I happen to believe quite strongly in the responsibility to respect privacy, Ambassador, but it comes second to preserving life. To apply your species’ metric, it is honorable to assist others in distress, because it is what we would want if our positions were reversed.”
“Mm.” The Z’lask clicked shortly. “I suppose it would make sense—your species’ development was so isolated, it is unsurprising you came to view the call for help as a higher one. And there is something appealing about your ideal that you must do for others what you wish them to do for you…it is honorable.” His eyes dimmed with thought, then flashed into brightness again as he realized something.
“It is the same as your Geneva Conventions!” He put his head to one side, an odd look on his face: half-admiring, half-pitying. “You humans insist on plunging into danger, hate the consequences, and then decide you will…legislate the problem away. You did not choose to only sail in groups, so that help would always be at hand, but rather decreed that everyone must answer distress calls—and made it a matter of honor. You did not turn inward to improve your natures, as Z’lask do to conform to the Code, but wrote treaties to do the work for you. Then you made the difficulty you of course still encountered in upholding the law a matter of honor.” He rolled his luminous eyes.
“I suppose this tiring obligation is one to which we could accustom ourselves.” Flipping his tail in the Z’lask grin, he stalked off.
I am going to kick each and every last one of these crazy bastards out an airlock.
Or maybe I’ll just go see what’s for dinner—we had a long trip ahead of us.


Damn, fight scenes are hard to write! I could definitely use some constructive criticism about how to improve them, if anyone happens to think of any! I’d also love to know what y’all think of the Iialia, they were fun to come up with….
submitted by PuzzleheadedCharge4 to HFY [link] [comments]

Ultimate Gambling Guide for GTA Online - odds, probabilities, and optimal strategies

Since the Diamond Casino update, I have seen a large number of 12-year-olds posting Blackjack memes on this sub. As a parent, this has me very worried.
On top of that, I have seen some of the most trustworthy GTA Youtubers giving flawed gambling advice, which can have damaging impact on their gullible audiences.
So that's why I decided to write this up, to educate everyone on the subject, so there will be no more misunderstandings.
(2020 Update down at the bottom.)
If you're one of those Youtubers that wants to use this information in a video, feel free to do so. The more people (especially kids) that become educated about gambling, the better.
But then also please go back and review your own work, and delete or edit the videos that are giving out the wrong advice, like where you're saying you have "a good strategy for making money with roulette", or some other nonsense that I've heard this week. Delete that please.
Before I get into the individual games, I need to discuss a few concepts first, that will make understanding the rest a lot easier.

Expected return and variance
A game like Roulette or Slots has a fixed expected return on your bets. This is a percentage that you have no way of influencing. Say you are flipping a coin against a friend, and you both put up $1. The winner gets the pot. Since the odds are even at 50%, in the long run, you will expect to break even. Your expected return is 100% of your bet.
But imagine if you would play this coin flipping game in a casino against the house. On the "house rules" listed at the table they would probably say that you would only get 95 cents back for every win, while you are forfeiting a dollar on every loss. Would you still play?
Sounds stupid to do so, but still, everybody does it. Every bet they place on Roulette, every coin they put into a Slot machine, is based on the same concept.
Those few cents they take on every bet are their profit margin, and has paid for all the Vegas lights, the Mirage volcanoes, and the Bellagio fountains. Make no mistake - casino gambling games are not designed to make you lose, because sure, you can get lucky on a single night, but they are designed to make them win. That's the beauty of it. They can both exist at the same time.
Too many people that don't see how this works, are just destined for disaster. Just because you went on a lucky streak and won 8 games out of 10, does not mean that flipping coins is a profitable game, or that choosing tails is a winning strategy. Always be aware of the house edge, your true chances of winning, and just realize that you got lucky. There is no such thing as a strategy in flipping a coin that will give you a higher expected return, so it's just pure gambling, just like Slots and Roulette.
Most casino games are made in such a way, that your expected return is a little under 100%. This means that from every dollar bet at the tables, the casino expects to keep a few cents. For individual players, results may vary. Some will win, most will lose. But for the house, it doesn't matter. They take millions of bets each day, so for them, the expected average works out a lot sooner. In short: the house always wins.
When looking at the house edge, we're talking about the expected long-term result, based on the game's house rules. But for a player, it can take literally tens of thousands of hands or spins before you also reach this average number. Until that time, you can experience huge upswings and downswings, that are the result of nothing but short-term luck, which is called variance.
Some games and some bets have a much higher variance than others, which means your actual results will differ enormously from what you're expected to be at.
Take for example betting on red/black at the Roulette table. This is a low-variance proposition, because it has a high percentage chance of occurring, and a low payout.
Contrast this with betting single numbers in Roulette, which only win once every 38 spins on average. This bet has a much higher variance, meaning you can easily hit a dry spell, and not hit anything for 200 bets in a row, or you can see a single number hit three times in five consecutive spins. This is not a freak occurrence in high-variance bets.
Even though the expected return in both these bets is exactly the same, there's a huge difference in variance, causing massive differences in short-term results, which can go both ways. You need to be aware of this, before you decide what types of bets you are comfortable with placing.

Gamblers' Fallacy
Another thing to realize, is that each individual game, hand, or spin, is completely independent from the one(s) before it, and after it.
Gamblers tend to believe, that the chance of a certain outcome is increased, based on previous results.
The most famous example comes from the Casino de Monte Carlo, where the Roulette wheel managed to land on black 26 times in a row. Gamblers lost many millions during that streak, all frantically betting on red, believing that the odds were in favor of the wheel coming out on red, after producing so many blacks. This is not true. Each round is completely independent, and the odds are exactly the same.
You will hear people say things like a Blackjack table being "hot" or "cold", which is completely superstitious, and should be ignored. The exception was when Blackjack was being dealt from a shoe. It made card counting possible. But with the introduction of shuffle machines, and continuous shuffling like is being used in GTA, this no longer exists.
This is also why "chasing your losses" is a very bad idea. After being on a losing streak for some time, many gamblers believe that now it's their turn to start winning. So they will often increase their bet size, believing that when their predicted winning streak comes around, they will win back their losses, and more.
The reality of it, more often than not, is that people will indeed start playing higher and higher limits, until they are completely broke. Nobody is ever "due for a win". There is never a guarantee that you're about to start winning. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true. You are, after all, in a casino.

Betting systems
Some people like to think that they have a fool-proof betting system, like the Martingale system. Simply increase or even double your bet when you lose, and keep doing that until you win. In theory, this system will always win. So that's why table limits were introduced, and where the system fails.
If you start at the Roulette table, playing red/black, with a small 750 chip wager, and just double your bet every time you lose, you only have to lose 6 times in a row, before you will be betting the table limit of 48,000, just to get that 750 chip profit.
Sure, you can go on all evening without this happening, winning 750 chips each time, but this losing streak only has to happen once, and you're bust. Any betting system like this is ill-advised, because you are hugely increasing your so-called "risk of ruin", and that's what we were trying to avoid.
And even if your starting bet is only 100 chips, after only nine straight losses, and nine doubled bets, you are betting the table limit at 50,000 chips. If you lose that bet, you're 100,000 chips in the hole, with no way to recover that with your 100 chip base wager.
So don't believe anyone that says this is the perfect system to always win in the casino. Sooner or later they will understand why they were wrong, when they're asking you for a loan.

Set your limits BEFORE you start playing
One final point before we get into the games, a general tip for people that head out to play: money management.
Just like in real life, before you go to the casino, decide on a maximum amount that you are WILLING TO LOSE.
Bet small enough, so that amount can last you through the entire evening, and you will not be tempted to run to the ATM to continue playing.
Considering GTA money, some people will be comfortable losing 1% of their GTA bank balance, some people will be comfortable with gambling away 5% of their total GTA savings. It's up to you what you can handle. Decide for yourself where it will start to hurt, and don't cross that line.
But whatever number you decide on, as soon as you lost that amount, get up and walk away. Don't chase your losses, stick to your limits, and accept that this has not been your day. There is always another game tomorrow. Always agree with yourself on a simple stop-loss rule, how much you would want to lose at most, and simply stop playing when you get there.
Same goes for winning. You can decide on a number, how much profit you would like to take away from the casino. You can go on a hot streak and be up half a million in a short period of time, but if you would continue to play longer, looking for more, chances are that you're going to lose it all back.
Most people are happy with doubling their daily casino budget, for example. Others are looking for 10 bets profit in Blackjack. Whatever you choose, when you hit that number, you can stop playing and bank your profits, or you can continue playing if you're still enjoying the games, but then only just play minimum bet sizes. Then you're just playing for fun, not for money. You've already made your profit, so simply keep it in your pocket, and don't risk losing it again.
Either way, decide on what your money management strategy will be, and STICK TO IT.

Casino games in GTA Online
Now, I'm going to dive into the games that you can find at the Diamond casino, ordered from worst to best.

6) Slots
Generally the rule is this: the less strategy a game has, the worse it is for the player. And with slots, this is definitely the case.
The only influence you have, is choosing what type of machine you're going to play. Basically, there are two types of slot machines:
-high frequency, low payout slots
-low frequency, high payout slots
In the first type, there is no huge (progressive) jackpot on offer, just your average selection of prizes that don't go up to crazy amounts.
This will result in a player having many more spins resulting in a win. The amounts that you win on the bigger prizes, will be smaller, but they do come around more often. This type of slot machine has a lower variance, which means that your money should last you longer, winning many smaller prizes along the way to keep you going.
The second type of slot machine lures you in with the temptation of a huge jackpot prize. Even though the long-term expected return on these machines is the same as the previous type, the prize distribution is hugely different. The large jackpot prize weighs heavily on the scale of expected return, but the chance of it hitting is extremely small. This results in a much higher variance on this type of machine. Usually your money will go down very fast, because the smaller prizes are less rewarding than on the other type of machine.
At the Diamond, the info screen says the player return at slots is set at 98.7%. This means that, on average, for every maximum bet of 2,500 chips, you expect to lose 32.5 chips.
This might not seem like a lot, but the danger of slots is that the game is extremely fast. You can spin about once every 6 seconds, which would result in an expected LOSS of about 20,000 chips per hour of playing.
But again, in this long-term expected number, the large jackpot awards are also factored in, and as long as you don't hit those big prizes, you'll see your money go down a lot faster.
In any case, thank heavens the max bet is only set at 2,500, or else we would see more players go bankrupt at alarming rates.
Optimal strategy for slots:
There is none. Because after betting, you have no more influence over the outcome. The only choices you have, is what type of machine you want to play at, and how much money you are going to risk. And those are all personal preference. As long as you stick to your loss limits, as discussed above, there's no harm in having a go every once in a while, hoping to get a lucky hit. Just realize that you don't have a high chance of scoring a big win, so as soon as you do, get up and walk away.

5) Roulette
Roulette is also a game where you have no influence over the outcome. There is zero skill involved. You place your bet, and that's it.
In traditional French roulette, a table has only the single-zero, but of course, for American casinos that wasn't enough of a house edge, so they simply doubled their profits by adding a second zero. The house edge was increased from 1/37 to 1/19, which is huge.
This makes playing on a double-zero roulette table by definition a sucker's play.
The payouts scale evenly, which means that a bet on a single number, and a bet on half of the numbers, and everything in between, yields the same expected return. The only difference, again, being the variance that you are willing to subject yourself to.
The player return for double-zero Roulette for all bets is 94.74%.
Except for the 5-number bet, which can only be made by placing a bet on the two top rows that contain 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. The expected return on this bet is lower: 92.1%. This is because it only pays out 6-1. Why? Well, the number 36 isn't divisible by 5, so the greedy people that came up with double-zero Roulette had to round it off someway, and as expected, it wasn't going to be in the players' favor.Just remember that that 5-number bet is the worst bet at the table, and should be avoided. All other possible bets have the same expected return.
So it really doesn't matter how you spread your bets, if you bet only one chip, or if you litter the entire table with a bucketload of chips. Each chip you put out there, has the same expected return, so there is no strategy that will improve your long-term results.
Assuming that you're betting the maximum table amount of 50,000 chips, you will be looking at an expected loss of about 2,630 chips per spin. Considering that a round takes about 45 seconds to complete, your expected LOSS at the GTA Roulette tables will be around 200,000 chips per hour of playing.
Optimal strategy for double-zero roulette:
Stay away. Stay far away.

4) Three Card Poker
With Three Card Poker, we come across the first game where there is actually some strategy involved. You get to look at your cards, and then decide if you want to fold, and surrender your ante, or double your bet.
Additionally, you can choose to place a side bet on "Pair Plus", which offers progressive payouts.
There are some websites out there that ran all the numbers with computer simulations, and even though I would like to quote the source here, these websites are understandably littered to the max with online casino ads, so that's why I have decided against doing that.
Optimal strategy for Three Card Poker:
For this game you only have to remember one strategy rule: Always bet on any high card queen-six-four or better, and fold any high card queen-six-three or lower. That's it. Just don't forget to double check if you're not folding a straight or a flush, and you'll be fine.
This strategy will result in an expected return of 96.63%.
The Pair Plus sidebet, with the payout table that is used at the Diamond casino, gives you an expected return of 97.68%, which is actually a bit better than the main ante bet.
So by playing both wagers, you're reducing your expected losses per bet, but since you're betting more, you're also increasing your expected loss per hour.
My advice would obviously be to not play this game at all, but if you do, put as much of your bet as possible on the Pair Plus, while making our Ante bet as small as you can.
To be able to compare it to the other games at the Diamond, let's stay on that 50,000 maximum wager, meaning making your ante bet 35,000, and your pair plus bet 15,000, if the table would allow it.
This results in an expected loss of about 1,525 chips per hand, and with a round taking about 45 seconds, this adds up to an expected LOSS of around 120,000 chips per hour of playing. In comparison, if you would only play the ante bet for 50,000 per hand, you expect to lose 1,685 chips per hand, which means an expected LOSS of about 135,000 chips per hour. So the more out of that 50,000 wager you can put on the "Pair Plus" sidebet, the better.
Even though it may be fun to try out this game for a bit, since there's only one simple strategy rule to follow, you'll soon find yourself robotically grinding down your bankroll until it has vaporized. You're not missing out on anything if you skip these tables, there is no real challenge.
Just like with Roulette and Slots, if you want to try it out nonetheless, you can just bet the minimum amounts and only play for fun, so it won't matter if you win or lose.

3) Blackjack
Blackjack is the most complicated game by far. Simply because the player has to make a series of decisions, which will largely decide the outcome. Luckily, there is such a thing as an optimal strategy, which will be outlined below.
However, the strategy is also dependent on the house rules. These not only affect your expected return, but in some places also your decisions.
Here are the house rules at the Diamond casino:
-The game uses 4 standard decks, and a continuous shuffle.
-Blackjack pays 3 to 2, dealer checks for early blackjack.
-No insurance offered, no surrender.
-Dealer stands on soft 17.
-Double down on any two cards.
-Player can split only once, but doubling after split is allowed.
-Seven-Card Charlie.
Under these rules, and following the "basic strategy" chart, your expected return at Blackjack is a shade under 99.6%, which is extremely good for a casino game, that's why Blackjack should be your table game of choice.
But it comes at a price: you are going to have to memorize the relatively complicated strategy chart, or at least stick it to your monitor until you have it in your head. But in case you ever stumble into a real-life casino, you won't regret having this table memorized, so I would definitely advise you to work on that.
The strategy chart might look complicated at first, but you will be able to notice certain patterns. Your decisions are mainly based on the dealer's upcard, which is basically divided into a weak card (2 to 6), and a strong card (7 to ace).
When a dealer shows a strong card, you will be hitting more often with the risk of going bust, but when a dealer shows a weak card, you're not taking that risk, and you will be standing more, but also doubling and splitting more. You want to increase your bets when the odds are in your favor, and get out cheap when they're not.
But it also helps to take some time to think about why a certain advice is given. For example, why does it say that you always have to split two eights, even against an ace. Well, that's because two eights equals 16, which is the worst total you can have. It's better to split them up, and give yourself a chance of finding a 17, 18 or 19 with the next card. Once you see the logic in that, you'll have one less thing to memorize.
The playing advice in the basic strategy chart is a result of computer simulations that ran all possible outcomes against each other, and produced the most profitable decision for each situation. So you can't go wrong following it.
Optimal strategy for Blackjack with Seven-Card Charlie
The added house rule of Seven-Card Charlie, adds a small advantage for the player, and it does influence a few strategy decisions. For example, you might have a 14 with 6 cards, against the dealer's 5 upcard.
Normally this would be an automatic stand, but if you're only one card away from the Seven-Card Charlie, meaning an instant win for the player, regardless of the dealer's hand, it turns it into a hit.
Here's the most optimal strategy chart to follow for the Diamond Casino house rules: https://prnt.sc/olct6g
You'll see that two fives are missing from the chart, and that's because you never split them. You treat them as a regular 10. You also never split tens. Just stand on 20.
If you follow this strategy religiously, even with a maximum wager of 50,000 chips, you only expect to lose about 215 chips per hand, and with rounds taking about 30 seconds, that amounts to an expected LOSS of 26,000 chips per hour, which is only half a bet. A small price to pay for an hour of entertainment.
But since the expected return is so extremely close to 100%, you will see more positive short-term results than with other games. But obviously it can also swing the other way. Again, this is supposed to be the game where your money lasts you the longest, but always set your loss and win limits before you sit down. That rule simply always applies.

Still, even with optimal strategies applied, all these games are expected to lose you money in the long run. So betting any kind of large amounts is not advised. If you simply want to enjoy playing these games, there's nothing wrong with betting a minimal amount. Playing these games for a longer period of time will already cost you money anyway, since your daily property fees will still be charged while you're playing in the GTA casino. As long as you can play for fun, there's nothing wrong, but when you see yourself betting insane chunks of your entire bank balance to try to recoup some unfortunate losses, you're doing it wrong.
As the commercials in Britain all correctly say: when the fun stops, stop.

2) Virtual Horse Racing
Now onto the good stuff. I ran some numbers, and I believe Rockstar has made a mistake with the horse racing game. Because as it stands, and if I read the numbers correctly, this game is actually profitable for the player. You can actually make money with this, at least, until Rockstar figures out their mistake and patches it.
If anyone wants to jump into the math and double check this to make sure, please do so. I will add any corrections to this post. This is one of those "to good to be true" things, so I keep thinking that I might have overlooked something. So please verify it if you can.
The setup is this. There is a pool of 100 horses, each with their own attached payout. These are divided into 3 groups, ranked by their odds. From each group, 2 horses are randomly selected to provide a pool of six runners for you to bet on.
Now it's not an actual race you're looking at. You are looking at a raffle. This is important to realize.
Each horse gets awarded a certain number of raffle tickets. The favorites get awarded more tickets than the underdogs, and therefore, have a higher chance of winning.
If this distribution works like it does in the real-life casinos, then the raffle tickets are awarded according to the betting odds.
Example 1: imagine a race with 3 runners, all have 2/1 odds, representing a 33.3% chance of winning. (Because 2/1 means 2 AGAINST 1, so 3 total.) In this case, each horse gets one third of the raffle tickets, giving them an equal chance to win.
Example 2: imagine a race with 3 runners, one has 1/1 odds (or EVENS), representing a 50% chance of winning, and the other two horses are marked up as 3/1, with a 25% chance of winning. The favorite gets half the tickets, the other two get a quarter of the tickets each.
A ticket is drawn, and you'll have a winner.
It doesn't matter in this game which horse you bet on, because the expected return is always the same: 100% or break-even, for the above examples.
Now, what happens if the percentages don't exactly add up to 100%?
They must add up to 100%, because there will always be a winner. And only one winner.
So when this is the case, the actual winning chances of the horses are adjusted to meet the 100% requirement, using their payout odds to determine the scale.
So, if the represented percentages add up to more than 100%, the actual winning chances of the runners will be DECREASED, resulting in all bets becoming losing propositions for the players.
Example: In a 6-horse race, all runners are listed at 4/1, representing a 20% chance. Only with six runners that amounts to 120%. So all chances are scaled down by 1/6th, to end up at 100%.
This means your horse's chances are reduced from 20% to 16.67%, turning it into a losing bet: 5 times you will lose your bet, and 1 time you will win, but only get 4 bets back in this instance, instead of 5. A losing bet in the long run.
This is the type of odds that you find in regular casinos, with fields as large as 15 runners to bet on, where the assumed winning chances always add up to more than 100%, therefore are decreased for all runners, resulting in a house edge.

But in GTA Online's Inside Track, there are other scenarios, because of the small field, and the way that they are put together.
In some cases, the represented percentages when added up, are LESS than 100%, meaning that the actual winning chances of all runners, are INCREASED.
This creates profitable bets for the players, because in the long run, you're expecting to win more money than you lose. This is a gambler's dream, pure and simple.
So, according to the in-game information, the three groups of horses are divided as follows:
-Favorites: EVENS to 5-1
-Outsiders: 6-1 to 15-1
-Underdogs: 16-1 to 30-1

Let's take the two most extreme examples to show what's happening.
The worst possible field to bet on: two runners at EVENS, two runners at 6-1, and two runners at 16-1.
EVENS represents a 50% chance, 6-1 is 14.29%, and 16-1 is 5.88%. Add those up and you land on a total of 140.34%.
This means that the actual winning chances of the horses are decreased by 28.75% (to get that 140% down to 100%), which makes betting on this field extremely unwise.
A horse at EVENS will only come in as a winner 35.63% of the time, instead of 50%,
a horse at 6-1 will only win 10.18% of the time,
and an underdog at 16-1 will only win 4.19% of the time.

The expected return on a bet on any of the horses in this field is only 71.26%, so a maximum bet of 10,000 chips on any of these horses holds an expected LOSS of 2,875 chips.
These returns are the same, because the winning chances are scaled equally, according to the payout numbers. So it really doesn't matter which horse you bet on, in the long run, you expect the same results.
But as explained before, it does influence variance, and therefore your short-term result, which can swing both ways.

But now, the best possible field to bet on: two runners at 5-1, two runners at 15-1, and two runners at 30-1.
Odds at 5-1 represents a winning chance of 16.67%, 15-1 odds means 6.25% chance, and 30-1 odds means a 3.23% chance of winning. Add these six horses together, and you only get 52.285%.
This means that, to get from 52% to 100%, the actual winning chances of these horses will be almost doubled! Multiplied by 1.91 to be exact.
So the 5-1 favorites will now win 31.88% of the time, instead of 16.67%,
the 15-1 runners will win 11.95% of the time,
and the underdogs at 30-1 odds will still win 6.17% of the time.
When betting on this field, the expected return on your bet is 191.25%!
This means that a max bet of 10,000 chips will result in an expected PROFIT of 9,125 chips.
This is printing money, if there ever was such a thing.
Optimal strategy for Virtual Horse racing
So all you have to do, is only bet high on the games where you have an expected positive return, and bet the absolute minimum on the games where your expected return is negative. Or back out of the racing game to refresh the field.
If you don't have a way to quickly add up all the percentages, and until somebody shows up here with a neatly formatted table, just use a few general rules of thumb:
-Always bet the maximum on a race with favorites at 2/1 and 3/1 or higher in it.
-Simply skip all races with two favorites at EVENS in it, and at EVENS and 2/1. Or bet the minimum, if you can't skip or refresh the field.
-To decide if you should play races with other favorite combinations EVENS and 3/1, EVENS and 4/1, EVENS and 5/1, or two favorites at 2/1, the payouts on the other four runners determine whether or not it's profitable to play them. The results of betting on these fields vary from an expected 1,330 chip loss (worst-case) to an expected 1,680 chip win (best-case), with a max bet of 10,000 chips.
But if you're not looking for another strategy chart, you might just want to skip these borderline cases, and just cherry pick the best ones, which are easy to recognize, and with which you can never go wrong.
It's difficult to put a number on an expected win-rate, because it all depends on which fields you get presented with, but it's not unreasonable to state that you can maintain a steady win-rate of around 200,000 chips per hour, with about 50 seconds per race.
Remember, you're not trying to win every race. You're trying to win the most money per hour. So don't sweat it when you bet on a 4/1 favorite, and lose a couple of races in a row. It will still be more profitable in the long run. You have the math on your side.
To reduce negative variance, always bet on the favorite, when betting on profitable fields. We're not gambling anymore, we're grinding out a steady profit. We want to keep the swings to a minimum.
I contacted Rockstar support to verify if this is indeed how it works, but the only reply I got after 6 weeks is that they were "looking into it".
User u/Garsant made a useful Excel-worksheet, available for you to download, where you can quickly type in the payouts on the horses, to see if it produces a profitable bet or not. You can find it in his post here: https://www.reddit.com/gtaonline/comments/ekp8na/gta_online_inside_track_odd_calculato

1) Wheel of Fortune
The number one profitable casino game in GTA Online is obviously the Wheel of Fortune, because it costs you nothing to play.
Unfortunately, you only get one free spin per day, but it holds great value, so make sure you do it.
With a chance to win a super car, vehicle discounts, expensive mystery prizes (which also can be vehicles), and a lot of cash and chips, the expected return on a single spin is around $100,000 in value.
So don't forget your daily spin, it's definitely worth your time.

2020 Update:
As of the Diamond Casino Heist update, the Inside Track horse racing is confirmed to still be as profitable as outlined above.The only thing that seems to be changed, is that you can't refresh the field anymore by backing out of the screen. This does affect your hourly rate in a negative way, but does not change the fact that this game has a huge positive expected return, and should be your go-to when you're trying to take money from the house, without having Lester's nagging voice in your ear. That should also be worth something.

And with that, I conclude my 5,000 word essay on gambling in GTA. Questions, comments, feel free to add your input to this guide.

Cliffs:
-Gambling games should only be played for fun, not for big money. You should expect to lose in the long run. The house always wins.
-A casino game doesn't have a memory, and betting systems don't work.
-Set your limits before you start, how much you are willing to lose or win, and then walk away when you get there.
-Don't play slots, roulette, or three card poker.
-Only play blackjack following a basic strategy chart (https://prnt.sc/olct6g).
-Inside Track betting can be played profitably, if you only bet on fields WITHOUT a heavy favorite.
-Wheel of Fortune is always your best bet, because it's a free bet.
submitted by enderpiet to gtaonline [link] [comments]

Lizardfolk are the cold-blooded hunters of the swamp, hunting humans for their delicious flesh - Lore & History

These scaly, emotionless lizards think about food and not much else beyond that. They’ve been around since the beginning of the game, starting as one of the stronger humanoid foes your fighter or magic-user would run into and promptly be eaten by. As the editions progressed the Lizardfolk became a player race.
In our mythos, Lizardfolk of one sort or another has existed since ancient times. The mythical first king of Athens, Cecrops I, was described as half-man, half-snake, Wahuang, also known as Nuwa, is the mother of Chinese mythology and is described as half-human and half-serpent, and the ancient Egyptians had the patron goddess Wadjet, depicted as a snake-headed woman, a snake, a woman with two snakeheads, or even a snake with a woman's head. In the present day, Lizardfolk abound in TV, cinema, and literature. Dracs, one of the main characters in the book Enemy Mine (1979), is a fighter pilot from the alien race of lizard people at war with Earth, it was later made into a movie starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr back in 1985… it bombed except in the Soviet Union. There’s the Cardassians from Star Trek, Dracoians from Doctor Who, The Lizard - also known as Dr. Curt Connors - an enemy of Spiderman, Cobra Commander from GI Joe…the list goes on and on. There’s even the conspiracy theory believed by millions, that Lizardfolk secretly runs the United States government.
It’s no wonder that Lizardfolk have such a prevalent existence in Dungeons & Dragons when the cultures of ancient and current civilizations are so full of them and their representations. Let’s jump in and see how these creatures have evolved through the generations and maybe you’ll find a soft spot for these man-eating Lizardfolk… or you’ll find out your pet leopard gecko is secretly running the US Commerce Department.
 

OD&D - Lizardmen

No. Appearing: 10-40
Armor Class: 5
Move: 6”/12”
Hit Dice: 2 + 1
% in Lair: 40%
No. of Attacks: 2 claws / 1 bite
Damage/Attack: 1-3/claw, 1-8/bite
Treasure: D
The Lizardfolk make their debut in the Greyhawk Supplement (1974) under the moniker of Lizardmen. While the term Lizardmen is used up until the 3rd edition, we will be referring to them as Lizardfolk from here on out. One of the most important facts about the Lizardfolk we should bring up from this edition is the fact that their artwork actually looks like time was spent drawing it out, and is pretty scary. If we were walking through a swamp and stumbled on one, we’d scream and run away. That’s high praise seeing as how the beholder art just makes you pass out from laughter.
As with all creatures in the early editions of the game, the description is brief and all the information we are provided is composed in 3 sentences. What information is provided is pretty sparse and doesn’t provide much of a basis to work off of. The few things we learn is that Lizardfolk are considered to be intelligent, but its referred to as a ‘rude intelligence’ in that they only use that intelligence to make weapons.
After that, we then learn that the favorite dish of the Lizardfolk is human flesh. We aren't sure what it is with all these monsters and their desire for human flesh, but apparently we are incredibly delicious. Not only do Lizardfolk love eating humans, they will capture a group of them from a village and bring them back to their lairs where they will hold large feasts and gorge on our flesh which… feels like a compliment.
The next tidbit of information provided shows that maybe these are really, really special lizards… or maybe the designers of the game just did not know that much about lizards. In this edition, 65% of all Lizardfolk live completely underwater, which is crazy to think about as no other lizard can spend more than 15 minutes under water at a time. It’s also horrifying to think that all those captured humanoids will probably drown before the great feasts of the Lizardfolk, which is a shame because the Lizardfolk have been cooking all day!
Looking at the mechanics of the Lizardfolk, they are humanoid creatures that are much stronger than many of the other creatures in that catergory. Their AC of 5 puts them in the same league as ogres and giants, but their Hit Dice are on the low side making them pretty susceptible to being wiped out in low numbers. Where they thrive is the number of attacks and the amount of damage they can do in a single round. Three attacks is a whole lot of ass kicking in this edition and with the potential to do a maximum of 14 points of damage in a round, the Lizardfolk would make quite a fearsome opponent. These two factors, along with the fact that you will be running into 10-40 of them at a time, make these creatures the party would not want to encounter at lower levels… especially if they were invited over for dinner.
 

Basic D&D - Lizardfolk

Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2 + 1
Move: 60' (120' swim)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: By weapon + 1
No. Appearing: 2-8
Save As: Fighter: 2
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: D
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 25
The Lizardfolk is introduced in the Basic Set (1977) and later makes appearances in the updated Basic Sets that are released in 1981 and 1983. If the Lizardfolks could be stripped down and made even more boring, we aren’t sure how you could do it. The descriptive paragraph is filled with simple sentences that provide less flavor than the original edition and simply describes the Lizardfolk as man-shaped but with a lizard head and a lizard tail. Furthermore, they are considered semi-intelligent and enjoy eating humans in great feasts.
Now, it isn’t all bad for the Lizardfolk in this edition as they are finally shown a little love as they gain a +1 bonus to their damage. Though they no longer have their multiple attacks and instead only have a single weapon attack, so we guess it makes some sense to give them a boost to their damage even if it isn’t as awesome as having three attacks and tearing apart that troublesome magic-user.
This is the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons that players can play as a Lizardfolk thanks to Dragon Magazine #185 (September 1992). In the magazine we are introduced to the Squamous Ones; lizard men, gator men, and the cay-men, all of whom can be used as player characters. These playable reptile creatures all played a role in episode 32 of the Voyage of the Princess Ark, an old series in Dragon Magazine.
Without going down the rabbit hole of experimental player characters and rules, just remember that some races were treated more like classes than as just races. If you choose to play as a Lizardfolk, you would be leveling up in a Lizardfolk class though you could multiclass into actual classes like magic-user or fighter… it was just really difficult and there were a lot of limitations.
With that being said, out of all three of the lizardkin, the gator men are the by far the strongest and intimidating. Their physical attributes were high, they had more hit points, but their mental stats were the lowest out of any of them. After the gator men, in terms of strength, came the lizard men followed by the cay-men. The cay-men were known for being smart, and by that we mean they don’t have a negative bonus to their intelligence, while the lizard men were middle of the road at best between the two others.
In Dragon Magazine #186 (October 1992), we are introduced to another race of playable lizardfolk in the next chapter of the Voyage of the Princess Ark. The chameleon men, also known as the wallara, are pretty weak like the lizard men, but they have a special talent that makes them pretty awesome. The chameleon man can use a Vanish ability, allowing them to disappear from sight, or they could teleport as per the dimension door spell… so long as they passed an Intelligence check which seems a bit mean. Regardless of the intelligence check, that’s a pretty awesome racial ability!
 

AD&D - Lizardmen

Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 10-40
Armor Class: 5 (4)
Move: 6” // 12”
Hit Dice: 2+1
% in Lair: 30%
Treasure Tpe: D
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 1-2/1-2/1-8
Special Attacks: See Below
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Low (average)
Alignment: Neutral
Size: M (about 7 feet tall)
Psionic Ability: Nil
The Lizardfolk first appears in the Monster Manual (1977) and things are looking up for this edition. Unlike in Basic D&D, which AD&D ran alongside, we are given a full paragraph about the Lizardfolk, about their lairs, and well… It doesn’t paint the Lizardfolk in a great light… At least they get artwork in this edition and again, it looks pretty good! We suppose you have a choice in these early editions, good art or good lore - not both.
The lizardfolk don’t get a lot of new lore, even though there is more information provided. The books now clarify that they are semi-aquatic and that, while they prefer to live underwater, they live in underwater caves that are not submerged. They love to kill and capture humans, bringing back bodies and slaves to their underwater realms and then holding rude feasts. We aren’t sure what they mean by rude, but we suppose the Lizardfolk can be considered rude if they don’t ask permission to eat you first.
If you ever encounter Lizardfolk above the water, they live in small huts and these are the ‘evolved’ Lizardfolk who are more intelligent. These Lizardfolk wield crude weapons like shields, barbed darts, and javelins that they use to attack from range, and then run into the melee with their clubs. There is no mention of a changed diet, so we must assume that they still enjoy the taste of humans and have no problems with attacking villages and eating all the inhabitants.
The first variant for the Lizardfolk, the Lizard King, is introduced in 1981 and is found in the Fiend Folio. The Lizard King is a ruler of a large tribe of Lizardfolk and are taller, stronger, more intelligent, and described as more human-like. They could be found near their watery lairs and one of the few ways of actually seeing one was being offered as part of their weekly sacrifice where the Lizard King will then devour you. Every week, the Lizard King would demand two humans to munch on, if those humans weren’t available the Lizard King would then choose four Lizardfolk and eat them… which we feel like creates a bit of an unhealthy working environment.
The next bit of information about the Lizard King is, not only do they have a large tribe of Lizardfolk who bring them humans to eat every week but also they wield a powerful trident that can skewer enemies and deals some real nasty damage. The description goes on to state that there is some sort of magical connection between a Lizard King and their trident, as no one else can use the trident as effectively as the Lizard King and that no one else gains the benefits of using the trident unless you are a Lizard King. This seems like a missed opportunity for some cool lore, but the description comes to an abrupt end, which is a real shame but we aren’t too surprised as the Lizardfolk just doesn’t get any love in these editions.
 

2e - Lizardfolk

Climate/Terrain: Tropical, sub-tropical and temperate swamp
Frequency: Rare
Organization: Tribal
Activity Cycle: Any
Diet: Special
Intelligence: Low (5-7)
Treasure: D
Alignment: Neutral
No. Appearing: 8-15 (1d8+7)
Armor Class: 5
Movement: 6, Sw 12
Hit Dice: 2+1
THAC0: 19
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 1-2/1-2/1-6
Special Attacks: Nil
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: M (7’ tall)
Morale: 14
XP Value: 65, Patrol Leader 65, Subleader 120, War leader 270, Shaman (3rd) 175, Shaman (5th) 650, Shaman (7th) 975.
The Lizardfolk made their second edition debut in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989) and then reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993). In typical 2e fashion, we are given a lot more lore about the Lizardfolk though a lot of the information is just rehashed from the previous edition but with more colorful language. Also, their artwork in the Monstrous Compendium looks… fine? They look a bit like they ran into the wall and broke their snout, but it's passable which only further proves our point. Good lore or good art, can't have both.
Much like before, the Lizardfolk are tall, strong, and have below-average intelligence. They don’t really use weapons unless they are ‘advanced’ Lizardfolk and like to live next to the water or under the water in their caves. A key difference is that now they are omnivores and that they are only ‘likely to prefer human flesh to other foods.’ This is of great relief to anyone who isn’t a human as now, maybe, just maybe, you can interact with them without them carrying you off to their cave for more rude feasts.
What other information is pretty interesting and helps to flesh out this monster. When fighting, they aren’t great at tactics and typically just rush in hoping to overpower their opponents. To make matters worse, if they are hungry, there is a chance they will stop for a quick snack of dead human on the battlefield, allowing their quarry to retreat, regroup and reinforce. They are distracted by shiny things too, and we have decided to skip past the easy blonde joke here.
Despite their lack of coordination or tactics, they do have several tiers within their society like shamans, priests, patrol leaders, and chieftains. The shamans and priests have additional hit points and have access to priest abilities like spellcasting. Patrol leaders are even beefier and are used as the bodyguards of the Lizard King who is at the top of the food chain and will lead tribes up to 150 Lizardfolk strong. Of course, if the Lizard King doesn’t get their weekly sacrifice of two people, they eat four Lizardfolk which it specifies is their bodyguard… which seems like a bad idea, why not eat the peasant Lizardfolks? You have way more commoners than bodyguards.
We also start to get a little better idea of the physiology of these creatures as they can vary in color from green to brown to gray. Tails can be up to 4 feet long and, while they cannot be used to grab any sort of object, it does seem like its a missed opportunity for a tail attack. Like all lizards, Lizardfolk are hatched from eggs but we strongly encourage you to not eat the eggs as they are described as bitter. The last thing we learn is the question burning on everyone’s mind how do you figure out if the Lizardfolk you’ve been hitting on all night is male or female? The answer is: You don’t know unless you ask. We recommend asking from a safe distance with lots of blonde, dead human bodies in the way.
If you wanted to play as a Lizardfolk, you are in luck as the Spelljammer campaign setting provides character information in The Complete Spacefarer's Handbook (1992). What is interesting is that if you wish to play as a Lizardfolk, you lose some of the natural abilities and flaws that the normal Lizardfolk has, though you do get a few bonuses. You don’t gain a bonus to your Strength, on the other hand, you don’t get a penalty to your Intelligence, which is nice. You have natural armor, you can wield a shield and you can only wear armor that would reduce your AC below 5, like plate mail. Of course, getting custom armor will cost you twice as much then for a human as we can only assume blacksmiths find it hard to add in a tailpiece for you… or they don’t like your kind because you ate their brother. One of those.
Speaking of eating people, you no longer have a bite attack. Instead, you are given a tail attack which is… well, we support having a tail attack but we guess biting people is considered uncivilized. The last bit of awesomeness for your Lizardfolk character is you now have infravision which helps you see in the dark, which is the first time this controversy will come up. Apparently, in the Forgotten Realms specific lore, Lizardfolk has darkvision but they lose it the moment any information is talked about in a setting neutral book.
The Lizardfolk and their information are further refined as a playable character race in The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993). It is here that you get the first real information on how a Lizardfolk should be played when you decide that being an elf just won’t do, why be the eaten when you could be the eater? Lizardfolk have a totally different mindset than other humanoid types, looking at things in a very black and white, food or not food type of way. Civilization as a concept is beyond them, so traveling to and spending time in a city will be a foreign and overwhelming experience for them. Fiercely independent, they might not fit into the party setting very well but can be forgiven when they wipe out a horde of kobolds by themselves. They are still extremely brutal and cruel on the battlefield, so sometimes it may just be best to get out of the way and watch the bodies fly. Another reason to back away is that when shiny stuff or dead bodies appear in battle, Lizardfolk must make a successful Wisdom save or get distracted, and even stop for a little snack of halfling. Considering most combat results in someone or something dying, be ready with those Wisdom checks.
Furthermore, we learn that for a Lizardfolk, skincare is an essential part of your adventuring day and you must moisturize every day or you start getting sick and dehydrated. If you spend too long without submerging your body in water, you dry out and die. On the flip side, you start with two weapon proficiencies, which means you are the advanced Lizardfolk and not just the hilly-billy Lizardfolk who don’t use weapons and have no intelligence.
More lizard-kin are introduced in this edition, though many of them claim to have no relationship to the Lizardfolk. We are introduced to agrutha, crocodillians, varanids, geckonids, tokay and the iguanid in the Dragon Magazine #268 (2000) though none bear many resemblances to the Lizardfolk but rather are considered subspecies or apart from them. One of the few kin to actually be related to the Lizardfolk are the Gator Men from the Monstrous Compendium Mystara Appendix (1994) and a horrifying secret is exposed. The Gator Men were once Lizardfolk that were magically experimented on by a wizard who was trying to give them alligator properties. Some of the wizard’s Gator Man prototypes escaped into a nearby swamp and quickly reproduced, wiping out all other predators in their area. Gator Men hate Lizardfolk and will do everything in their power to destroy and kill every last one of them if they learn of a Lizardfolk tribe.
 

3e/3.5e - Lizardfolk

Medium Humanoid (Reptilian)
Initiative +0 / HP 2d8+2 (11 hp)
Armor Class 15 (+5 Natural) or 17 (+5 natural, +2 heavy shield), touch 10, flat-footed 15
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Base Attack/Grapple: +1/+2
Attacks: Claw +2 melee (1d4+1) or club +2 melee (1d6+1) or javelin +1 ranged (1d6+1)
Full Attack: 2 claws +2 melee (1d4+1) and bite +0 melee (1d4); or club +2 melee (1d6+1) and bite +0 melee (1d4); or javelin +1 ranged (1d6+1)
Space/Reach: 5ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: None
Special Qualities: Hold breath
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +43 Will +0
Abilities: Str 13, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 9, Wis 10, Cha 10
Skills: Balance +4, Jump +5, Swim +2
Feats: Multiattack
Climate/Terrain: Temperate Marshes
Organization: Gangs (2-3), Band (6-10 plus 50% noncombatants plus 1 leader of 3rd-6th level), or tribe (30-60 plus 2 lieutenants of 3rd-6th level and 1 leader of 4th-10th level)
Challenge Rating: 1
Treasure: 50% coins; 50 % goods: 50% items
Alignment: Usually neutral
Advancement: By character class
Level Adjustment: +1
The Lizardfolk makes its third edition debut in the Monster Manual (2000/2003) and is the first edition where the term Lizardfolk is used, replacing the term Lizardmen permanently. To quickly cover the normal parts of our scaly friends; they are organized into tribes, they are a cruel and vicious opponent on the battlefield, and they still live in swamps and marshes. You may notice the fact that their favorite meal of 'you' is not on that list, that's because the Lizardfolk will eat anything and it's only a malicious rumor that they prize human flesh above all else, they just happen to kill a lot of humans and eat them. They’d eat anyone, they aren’t picky. Another change is that they no longer speak Lizardfolk but rather draconic as they now can be found in the employ of dragons.
Societal structure is detailed just a little bit more, giving a tiny more depth to the creature. A tribe exists to eat and perpetuate, and they will do whatever is necessary to make sure these needs are met. Sure, Lizardfolk can hunt and fish like other humanoid races, but when there is a village of humans nearby, you can bet they will be sending out raiding parties and having grilled human for dinner whenever possible. This primitive need for survival has tribes uniting to fight a common foe, even if that foe is another, larger Lizardfolk tribe. It will occasionally drive them to serve more powerful creatures such as dragons, cause in the mind of the Lizardfolk, it is better to serve than to die.
The tribe is set up in a very simple manner - the strong rule the weak, and it’s a man’s world in the Lizardfolk kingdom. This stays with the concept of the powerful rule and the weak serve. The shaman is still alive and well in the Lizardfolk society, acting as a councilor for those in charge, providing insight and knowledge, we expect most of the insight revolves around food. The shaman, along with the rest of the Lizardfolk, now has a deity to pray to, as we are introduced to the patron deity of Lizardfolk, Semuanya. Not surprisingly, Semunya’s primary focus is on the survival and propagation of its charges, once again sticking with the common theme of the Lizardfolk; eat, propagate, and eat some more.
The Lizardfolk appears as a player character race for the Forgotten Realms setting in the Races of Faerûn (2003) and again, they gain darkvision while existing in the Forgotten Realms. Beyond gaining the ability to make three attacks with their claws and bite, there is nothing new when it comes to being a Lizardfolk as a player character.
The next month in April we are introduced to the Monster Manual 3 (2003) and with it, two new types of Lizardfolk come to ruin everyone’s day. The Blackscale Lizardfolk is a massive brute of a Lizardfolk who specializes in pummeling you into the ground and then eating the tenderized meat. Blackscales are large and their presence makes even the tallest Lizardfolk look small as they are typically around 9 feet tall as opposed to the 7 foot Lizardfolk. After the Blackscales are the Poison Dusk Lizardfolk who go in the opposite direction from their Lizardfolk ancestors and are tiny, reaching a max of 5 feet tall and 50 pounds. They specialize in being sneaky, attacking from range, and using poison to bring down larger opponents for the purpose of dinner.
As we are always excited to check out new old rulebooks we’ve never used before, it was exciting to find out that Lizardfolk have their own chapter in the Serpent Kingdoms (2004), though it is centric to the Forgotten Realms setting. There we find out more about asabis, firenewts, khaastas, troglodytes, and trens, but it is the Lizard King and Queen that we were excited about. These creatures are now half-Lizardfolk, half-fiend. A Lizard King resembles a common Lizardfolk, but gets to be even scarier by having demonic features, such as glowing red eyes, extra-long arms, long fangs, or additional scaly frills. They are despised in Faerun since, not surprisingly, they view humans, elves, dwarves, and almost all other humanoid races as food, not as allies or neighbors. Remember how we’ve always said that the Lizardfolk can be cruel and mean? Well, the Lizard King combines the worst traits of Lizardfolk and demons, making them brutal overlords of a tribe, but their tribe means everything to them and they take great care of its members. They use their vision, intelligence and sheer force of will that comes with being half-fiend, to transform a simple savage tribe into a stable civilization that can endure for many generations. We are also provided information about some of the poisons Lizardfolk use like the blue frog paste, which sounds like a powerful form of LSD, but in fact, it is a toxic oil that can be applied to weapons and causes paralysis. The second is the rather boringly named sleep poison, which renders the victim unconscious for a few hours.
Dragon Magazine #335 (September 2005) brings us the ecology of the Lizardfolk, unfortunately, the article is a combination of all the previous editions information, presented in a colorful description, and provides only a few new pieces of information. Religion plays a much more important part in the lore and creation of the Lizardfolk, as the article opens with a section on their goddess, Semunya and the origins of the Lizardfolk. Semuanya was a primitive lesser god who thought only about food and survival while her mate, Kecuala, was an intelligent creature that spent its time doing little physically, as it was trapped in its own philosophical thoughts about the world. One day, Kecuala split itself into two creatures, one male and one female, allowing it to put into action the deep thinking that it had been doing all these years. These two Kecualas were the first Lizardfolk and Semunya took the initiative with them and set them up in an environment where they could hunt and multiply, holding out hope that Kecuala would finally stop thinking so much, merge back into one being, and rejoin Semunya.
Building on the tribal/communal system of the Lizardfolk, we do find out that each tribe has a community-style hatchery where all the eggs are kept until little lizard children erupt from their shells. Lizardfolk reach maturity by 2 years of age, skipping those awkward teenage years and for the brief two years of being young, they are raised by the tribe as a whole and not by individual parents.
The last of the Lizardfolks are introduced in the Monster Manual IV (2006) where we are introduced to the Dark Talon tribe of Lizardfolk and provided an example lair for them. They are similar to the Lizardfolk but have been toughened by alchemical infusions of black dragon blood and seek to take over and control the lands of everyone else. They are brutal, mean and vicious but they don’t provide much information on the whole of the Lizardfolk race but rather how their specific tribe operates but, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything in there to learn. We learned a very important lesson, if you find a massive wasp the size of a horse, you can totally ride on it with a massive lance. Yup, the Dark Talon tribe has a small troop of Wasp Riders who wield lances and charge into battle on their battle wasps. We aren’t sure that the riders are really needed as seeing wasps large enough to be ridden by Lizardfolks already scares us more than a Lizardfolk.
 

4e - Lizardfolk

Greenscale Hunter - Level 4 Skirmisher
Medium natural humanoid (reptile) / XP 175
Initiative +6 / Senses Perception +8
HP 54; Bloodied 27
AC 17; Fortitude 15, Reflex 14, Will 13
Speed 6 (swamp walk)
Spear (standard; at-will) ✦ Weapon +9 vs. AC; 1d8+3 damage
Sidestep Attack (standard; at will) ✦ Weapon The lizardfolk shifts and make a melee basic attack.
Alignment Unaligned / Languages Draconic
Skills Athletics +10, Nature +8
Str 17(+5) | Dex 15 (+4) | Wis 12 (+3) | Con 14 (+4) | Int 8 (+1) | Cha 8 (+1)
Equipment light shield, spear
The Lizardfolk is introduced in the Monster Manual (2008) and we are provided with stat blocks for different roles that a Lizardfolk could be in a tribe like a shaman or a hunter, as well as information about the Blackscales, the massive brutes of Lizardfolk. While the lore doesn’t go very deep, we at least have some pretty great art, especially when compared to the previous Monster Manuals, so 4e has that going for it at least.
The first type of Lizardfolk presented are the smaller and more common Greenscales who are, while not of the highest intelligence, are still considered the intelligent and advanced Lizardfolks who become shamans and leaders of their tribe. The next type are the Blackscales who go around smashing and pulverizing creatures and are often intermingled into the Greenscale tribe. Occasionally the Blackscales will be part of an opposing tribe, but the text reveals that Blackscales just aren’t smart enough to be the leader and, while Lizardfolk believe the strongest should lead, that doesn’t mean that the Lizardfolk are willing to trust a dumb brute with the welfare of their tribe.
There are also a few tidbits of lore that you can pick up on in their description like halflings are too small to bother eating, since they are the preferred humanoid trading partner for the Lizardfolk. Also, that Lizardfolk would occasionally serve dragons, though more often than not they would have servitors of their own like behemoths, crocodiles, and drakes. And finally, that Lizardfolk do not worship any gods but rather they elevate their tribal leader into a living deity. This Lizardfolk becomes the King Lizard and is rumored to have been tainted by primordial or demonic forces to make them so unnaturally strong and powerful.
The next group of Lizardfolk is brought out of the swamps in the Monster Manual 2 (2009) and they are known as the Poisonscales and, as their name might suggest, they really like poisoning creatures. The Poisonscales are a type of Lizardfolk that is less strong and healthy, though far more intelligent and are quite affluent with traps, ambushes, and using their naturally produced poisons to kill creatures and then eat them. These Lizardfolk come in a variety of roles from the magus that can hurl poison magic at their enemies, to the Poisonscale Collector that has the all-important task of gathering food and the plants the Lizardfolk eat to exude their poison, to the poisonless Poisonscales Myrmidons who cannot produce poison but makes up for it with being stronger and having thicker hides.
The Poisonscales are a slightly weaker group of Lizardfolks, which is hard to believe as the Greenscales are so low powered to begin with. The only true threat coming from the Lizardfolks in this edition is that a tribe consists of over a hundred of them, and when its just you and your 3 best friends wandering the swamps and being filled with tasty human meat, well… maybe you can kill enough of the Lizardfolk so they don’t have to share their meal with others in the tribe.
 

5e - Lizardfolk

Medium humanoid (lizardfolk), neutral
Armor Class 15 (natural armor, shield)
Hit Points 22 (4d8 + 4)
Speed 30 ft., swim 30 ft.
STR 15 (+2) | DEX 10 (+0) | CON 13 (+1 ) | INT 7 (-2) | WIS 12 (+1) | CHA 7 (-2)
Skills Perception +3, Stealth +4, Survival +5
Senses passive Perception 13
Languages Draconic
Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)
Hold Breath. The lizardfolk can hold its breath for 15 minutes.
Multiattack. The lizardfolk makes two melee attacks, each one with a different weapon.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.
Heavy Club. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) bludgeoning damage.
Javelin. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.
Spiked Shield. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage
Lizardfolk can be found in the Monster Manual (2014) and with it comes a nice, chunky bit of lore on these Lizardfolk, though it mostly repeats the previous edition. One thing that has been missing the last few editions is finally back, and that’s that they have a hankering for human flesh, even if they are omnivores. It’s no longer considered a mean and unfounded rumor that they like the taste of you, though the lore doesn’t stop at them eating you. These Lizardfolk are willing to forge alliances with others like humans, halflings, dwarves, and more, once they have these alliances made they are fiercely loyal to the other ‘tribe’ and we hope that means they won’t eat you at that point.
Though one shouldn’t expect to have too many interactions with Lizardfolk as these creatures are fiercely xenophobic, hunting and killing anyone who trespasses on their territory. They rarely leave their territory, as they might become the hunted as opposed to the hunter, and that is something they actively dislike. Though, that isn’t to say they never leave their territory, if a dragon, most likely a black dragon, shows up in their swamp, the Lizardfolk will begin offering it gifts and immediately begin serving the dragon. The dragon may be a nice ruler, watching over its Lizardfolk with an eye to protection… or they may be horrible and send out raids of Lizardfolk to help it build up its treasure hoard.
Now, let’s say you get eaten by the Lizardfolk because you were thinking you could walk on their territory and set up a trade agreement and they thought you’d taste better than the terms you were offering. You might, in this situation, be worried that your bones and other inedible bits won’t be treated with the proper respect you think they should be treated, but don’t worry as the Lizardfolk now love to craft crude jewelry and tools from bones of their meal! Lizardfolk will often craft clubs, shields, darts, and other weapons from the bones of creatures they have killed, seeing no point in good materials going to waste just because the previous inhabitant of those body parts are no longer using them. Really, they are just being responsible hunters and using every part of the kill!
In Volo’s Guide to Monsters (2016), the Lizardfolk is presented as a playable race, along with other favorites such as the goblin and kobold. One of the best parts about the Lizardfolk being made a playable race is that we are given an in-depth look into the essence of being a Lizardfolk and how such strange creatures act and think. A Lizardfolk’s mindset is described as alien, but not in the sense that they are from some distance world from the Spelljammer setting, instead, they are described as cold and calculating with few emotions as we would know them. This doesn’t mean that you should roleplay your new Lizardfolk fighter as some hissing jerk, but as a character that genuinely doesn’t understand why other creatures are horrified when they want to fire up the campfire and celebrate the life of a fallen comrade by roasting and eating their corpse.
The existence of a Lizardfolk is centered on doing things that make them feel good and avoiding things that would cause them pain or discomfort. A Lizardfolk doesn’t have emotions that control its fight or flight reflex but instead reacts accordingly to the situation. If it is going against a powerful opponent, it doesn’t run away in fear but rather realizes that the opponent is best to leave alone due to how fearsome it is. If the Lizardfolk finds a magic item that provides a great benefit, it doesn’t gain pleasure from that item but realizes it makes life easier and must protect this magic item so others don’t take it away. The mindset of a Lizardfolk is assigning traits to creatures and objects and reacting accordingly to that trait as they don’t hold grudges or allow rage to overcome them.
The last book we will look at for 5th edition is the Ghosts of Saltmarsh (2019), though it originally came out in 1982 for AD&D, and in it is an adventure focused around these creatures. In the adventure, a party of adventurers is tasked with going to a Lizardfolk lair and investigating the Lizardfolk and seeing if they are responsible for the recent attacks on the city. This is a roleplaying heavy adventure and allows a group of adventurers to explore the lair of Lizardfolks without using violence to get a peek into every room. This adventure provides helpful tips about the mindset of a Lizardfolk and helps to explain that the way they communicate can be quite unsettling or unnerving to those not used to such an alien mind.
Even though they have been around since the beginning of Dungeons & Dragons, and that they have such an overwhelming presence in our legends, the Lizardfolk still have a lot of untapped potential. While they appear in a wide variety of adventures and core rulebooks, they rarely change and when they do so it is incremental. Other humanoids that have been around since the beginning have seen endless amounts of time and effort put into their backgrounds, while the Lizardfolk haven’t been so lucky. They are still the same highly mistrusted brutes that they were before, and maybe that’s all they will ever be as everyone needs a monster to fight. Maybe one day we will see new sub-races or more development on their story as well as their culture. We certainly hope so, as the Lizardfolk deserves more recognition than the few adventures and lore that they currently have.
Have a monster you'd like to see explored throughout the editions? Let us know in the comments!

Past deep dives can be found in the comments.

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Shotgun Fantasy - Part 19: The Human Triumvirate

First Part
Previous Part
Celer didn’t want to be Supreme Magistrate of Elluria.
After the peaceful death of their second ruler, the next seven individuals that held the position were brutally murdered by their successors, only lasting a couple of months at most. Alliances between senators and generals shifted faster than any one person could track during that period, to the point where some of these factions dissolved in a couple of hours after petty bickering. Finally, out of sheer paranoia, the last Supreme Magistrate ran away in the middle of the night without any notice, never to be seen again. Celer didn’t know what to make of that. It sounded like a cover-up story, but pretty much everyone in the castle confirmed its veracity. The man just couldn’t handle the target on his back. He even left behind the Thunder Horse, an enchanted longsword that granted its wielder power over lightning and sound.
This was one of the three stolen treasures of humanity. They were taken from elves during the Zenith Revolts and used by revolutionaries to liberate themselves. In the current era, these weapons were a symbol of authority in every nation that owned one, more important any crown or throne. Abandoning the Thunder Horse seemed ludicrous to everyone who heard the news. It was a sign that ruling Elluria wasn’t worth the power it granted.
Nobody had the courage to assume the position after that incident. Anyone crazy enough to actually want it was already dead from attempting to take it. Rumors began to spread calling it a curse from the gods, but that didn’t make any sense. The divines never bothered with mortal politics unless it directly affected their worship. If this was a punishment, they would’ve made sure it wasn’t interpreted vaguely.
At first, many nearby cities feared their short-lived republic wouldn’t celebrate its first centennial. Taxes weren’t collected for a while due to the chaos, which made it harder to maintain their standing army, which in turn made it impossible to secure their borders from their neighbors. This resulted in losing some contested territory to both the oligarchs of Roulettenburg and the kingdom of Lucretia.
Most of the senate knew something had to be done. They tried to run things like a council, akin to the dwarven system of governance, but soon discovered that fifty people voting on each issue wasn’t efficient enough for their pressing needs. Then, in the middle of heated a discussion, one senator shared a groundbreaking idea:
“What if we just force someone to be Supreme Magistrate?”
The idea was jarring but, in theory, it solved everything. Whoever was chosen wouldn’t have the power to become a tyrant since they would only get their authority from the senate; not the other way around. The senators needed someone they could guilt into becoming Supreme Magistrate. That was the only way a competent person would willingly take the position. They searched for candidates that fit the criteria, brought them before the senate to evaluate them, and voted for the one who complained the most about being nominated.
Unfortunately for Celer, that person turned out to be him.
As Sonata’s magistrate of defense, he had survived all of the previous regimes by keeping his head down without taking sides. The people loved him for his easy-going attitude and genuine love for their city, since he personally patrolled the streets every day to make sure even the poorest districts were well protected.
The senate, of course, had always loathed him. They were incapable of trusting people who weren't motivated by personal gain. Celer thought that might be enough to disqualify him from getting elected, but it seemed their shared disdain only made it easier to agree on their choice. Afterall, the new Supreme Magistrate was intended to be an individual they could puppeteer and blame for everything. Picking someone they already disliked turned out to be the natural conclusion.
Celer couldn’t refuse the position. He understood the need for a leader, even if he didn’t feel qualified to run the republic. At the very least, his rule couldn’t be worse than having no one in charge at all.
To his surprise, though, Elluria prospered under his guidance. Roads were paved between villages, bandit gangs were driven away from their hideouts, and they even managed to recover some of the territory they lost during the interregnum through careful planning and negotiation. The senators couldn’t believe it. Apparently, understanding the citizen’s concerns and actually addressing their problems was the key to a flourishing country. Who would've guessed?
Granted, Celer had only been Supreme Magistrate for little over a year. There was still room for a horrible crisis to destroy all of their progress. It didn’t seem likely, though. The only thing that could threaten the balance of the region was some sort of elven invasion, but they were too busy dealing with unrest in their remaining colonies to care about the human nations.
And then reports of an elven legion being mobilized reached the senate.
That was a threat to all three human nations. Despite all of their quarrels, the one thing they always agreed on was that they needed each other’s support if they wanted to repel any elven incursions. A military conference was necessary to assess the situation. The meeting spot was in the Scarred Prairie, a natural choke point due to its proximity to the widest valley in Pejock’s Mountain Range. One of the most important battles of the Zenith Revolts took place at this site. The victory there marked a turning point in the war since it was the first time dwarves and rock elementals joined the battle. After the Zenith Revolts ended, a magical temple was erected here to honor their triumph, remember the fallen heroes, and highlight the importance of unity beyond race or ideology.
Celer’s caravan traveled for a week with little rest to reach the site in a timely fashion. Their horses were on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion when they arrived. Although weeds covered much of the soil, twisted spikes of earth protruded out of the ground at random intervals, like jagged teeth welcoming them into an open maw of grass. Some were small, only a few inches tall, while others arched over the caravan at several stories high. Vines grew over them and hung from their edges, but their underside remained free of plant life due to a lack of direct sunlight.
Eventually, the terrain got too rough to traverse on a carriage. Celer had to mount a horse on his own from there onwards. His personal bodyguards followed suit, but the rest of the retinue stayed behind to set up their camp. Trenches and craters became more noticeable the closer they got to the temple. Celer steeled himself when he noticed skulls were lodged into some of the bigger spikes. The war had been over for a century but its remnants were as haunting as the day it occurred. Another conflict like this would bring untold suffering to every involved. Perhaps that was why the temple was built in this location. It was hard to ignore the consequences of war when they stared right back at you.
The bodyguards had to wait at the bottom of a small hill, joining a small contingent of guards from the other two nations. Celer hesitated to leave them behind. He worried the tense atmosphere would lead to an uncomfortable situation. The group from Lucretia was composed of mostly women, with a couple of men interspersed among them, all wearing brown cloaks that concealed their faces. They had rifles hanging over their shoulders, but they appeared ready to aim them at a moment’s notice. Their matriarchal kingdom was the youngest of the human nations, created after a horrible tragedy where a prince, on a drunken whim, forced himself onto an innocent maiden from a powerful family. Her subsequent suicide led to an uprising against the military families that defended the perpretator, culminating in a new government where men couldn’t take the throne.
Opposite to them were the people of Roulettenburg, men with tailored business suits and revolvers on their waist. They came from a city-state that was home to Fortuna’s divine shard, the famed Gambler’s Moon. It created an impenetrable barrier of energy around the city called the “Veil of Fortuna” that could only be bypassed after swearing a magical oath, making violence and theft impossible to commit inside its premises. Instead, betting settled every dispute, a paradise for gamblers of all types. Of all the cities built around divine shards this was the only one under the control of humans.
On its own, Roulettenburg was richer than any nation in the region, mostly because of its business-friendly laws. Unfortunately, this wealth was only limited to the city itself. The surrounding villages that fell under its sphere of influence were all impoverished by its presence, since anyone with a thriving business would just move to Roulettenburg and operate from there, where it was much safer.
Celer dismounted his horse and walked up a giant staircase made of gray stone. Along the railings there were statues venerating heroes of the Zenith Revolts. Those who earned the privilege of being immortalized here performed an amazing feat during the war that, while successful, ended in their death. Celer, after reaching the top, was surprised that the temple itself was smaller than he originally imagined. Upon closer inspection, though, it more than made up for it with the level of detail in its design.
The rectangular building had a double row of marble pillars along its periphery, holding up a large pediment with a scene engraved on its surface. It depicted the final moments in the battle of the Scarred Prairie, when the elves were pushed out of the region. The entrance gate was a solid stone door decorated with flowing lines of gold that pointed to three holes in the middle. They were designed to hold the stolen jewels of humanity. Nobody could enter the temple without one of them. The other two swords, the Snow Falcon and the Volcanic Viper, were already inserted into their respective slots. Celer placed the Thunder Horse in the hole and turned it like a key, generating small bolts of lighting that rippled through the door for a second.
The gate slid open without any resistance.
Celer felt goosebumps after letting go of the sword. He still wasn’t used to the sensation of mana coursing through his body. The door automatically closed behind him when he stepped inside and glowing orbs began to illuminate a short hallway, continuing into a circular room with a bronze plaque in the middle of the floor that read:
Always strive to pierce the heavens
The other two leaders waited in that room. Celer heard them arguing before they noticed he was there.
Penthesilea, queen of Lucretia, glared at him with immediate distrust. The woman was a striking beauty, taller than Celer, wearing a purple gown that highlighted her muscular physique. She arched an eyebrow and said:
“Are you the despot of Elluria?”
Celer squinted. “No…?” He stepped forward. “I was elected...”
"By men."
"And women."
Penthesilea frowned. "A minority?"
"Y-yes..."
“Of course.”
Theodor Astley bellowed a deep laugh. He was a middle aged man with slicked back hair, a waxed curly mustache, and a gray suit with a red bowtie. Penthesilea didn’t appreciate his amusement. Her reaction only made him chuckle more, saying:
“Don’t mind her, anything with testicles is a despot to her.”
“Keep talking and I’ll do you the favor of getting rid of them.”
Theodor shrugged. “Sounds like a good time to me. Do I get to be queen afterwards?”
Penthesilea brandished a dagger, strutting towards him.
Theodor shrunk back in fear, covering his crotch with a whimper.
“Whoa!” Celer stepped in between them. “We have bigger issues at hand. Is this really necessary?”
Penthesilea sighed, sheathing her blade. “I just wanted to make a point. These vermin from Roulettenburg always cower at the first sign of violence. They’re too accustomed to running their mouths without consequences.”
Theodor fixed his bowtie with an indignant huff. “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent, young lady. We just so happen to believe in a better way to solve our problems…” He grinned. “...with money!”
Penthesilea rolled her eyes.
“You know,” Celer glanced at Theodor, “you people didn’t have a problem with violence when you sacked our villages.”
“Those were roaming bandits.”
Penthesilea frowned. “Bandits that live in your territory, because you never bother to deal with them… or so you say.”
“I feel like we’re going on a tangent… Aren’t we here to discuss the elves?”
“Oh now you’re all business?”
Celer started massaging his forehead. They absolutely hated each other. It was a miracle they weren’t in open war. He needed to be the voice of reason here. “Previous altercations aside, I’d like to know what you two think of this recent deployment. Their movements are strange, to say the least.”
Penthesilea nodded. “The legion should be marching down the central valley by now. If they continue their path, the roads would either lead them here or at their colonies. It doesn’t make any sense. They should know we can intercept a single legion.”
“Agreed,” said Celer, “even if they were just heading towards the colonies, they would’ve sent more than one legion just in case.”
“Could they be underestimating us?”
Theodor shook his head. “They’re arrogant; not delusional.”
“Then what’s their goal?” asked Celer.
“It’s a feint. I can feel it in my bones. Call it a gambler’s intuition.”
“That’s not good enough to make a decision.”
“Sometimes it’s all we have. I’ve made a living relying on it, so I admit I’m biased. With that in mind, I’m also certain there’s an ulterior motive behind this. The question is whether or not we can afford to speculate.”
Penthesilea became thoughtful for a moment. “I hate to agree with him, but the old man’s right. They might be trying to throw us off. If we hesitate, they could easily make it to the colonies before we act.”
“I’m not that old…”
Celer ignored him. “I’m not comfortable with making a rushed decision. For all we know, they might want us to intervene.”
“And what?” Penthesilea seemed annoyed. “Waste our time? They wouldn’t do this if they weren’t after something.”
“The colonies or the Scarred Prairie. Is that really all their options?”
“That’s pretty much it. Unless…” Theodor scratched his head. “Nah, that’d be stupid.”
Penthesilea narrowed her eyes. “What?”
“Well, if they wanted complete access to our little corner of the world, hiking the mountains would be the easiest way to catch us off guard.”
“You’re right. That’s stupid.”
Celer tilted his head at her. “Why?”
“Because those mountains are some of the last uninhabited places around. They’re filled with winged monsters that’ll swallow a person whole and, even if they survive that, the temperature at certain altitudes would make them wish they were eaten instead. Only a desperate fool would risk that.”
“Indeed” said Theodor. “Those are odds even I wouldn’t take.”
“They have to be heading to the colonies” added Penthesilea. “We can’t allow them to keep oppressing our brethren. Those people are still human. It’s a crime we keep allowing the knife-ears to treat them like chattel.”
Theodor puffed up his chest. “That settles it! We must aid our brothers and sisters! They’ll never be free if that legion makes it there. Duty… Nay, justice demands we help!”
Celer and Penthesilea eyed him with suspicion.
“W-what?”
“That’s too noble of you” said Penthesilea.
“Yeah,” added Celer, “I barely know you and I know that’s wrong coming out of your mouth.”
Theodor scoffed, crossing his arms. “I’ll have you know I’m a philanthropist.”
“No,” said Penthesilea, plainly, with no intent to elaborate further.
“I don’t buy it either.”
Theodor hung his head. “Okay, okay, we’re selling a lot of guns to the insurgents. They’re one of our best customers. We take their orders, pay Kolt to make them, and smuggle them through the mountains.”
“Ahh so that’s how you got the idea” said Celer. “You’re afraid the elves are onto your tricks.”
“Well… I mean…”
“Didn’t you say that was impossible?”
“For a legion, yes. For a small group of smugglers, no. The difficulty of the trip increases exponentially the more people you have to transport.”
Celer pulled down his face. “This is a mess…”
“Either way,” said Penthesilea, “the old man isn’t… completely wrong, even if the motivation is dubious. Our main troops are still a few weeks away. What about yours?”
Theodor narrowed his eyes. “I’m only forty, you know.”
Celer continued to ignore him. “More or less the same. My soldiers should arrive on time to meet with yours.”
“Perfect.” Penthesilea started walking away. “I’ll begin the preparations.”
“It’s been a pleasure, your highness.” Celer followed her to the exit. “Our camp is west of here, if you ever need to send a messenger.”
“Hey! Hey, don’t ignore me! Forty isn’t old, you hear me? I look great for my age, damn it!”
Next Part
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A Guide To Horse Race Betting Systems. Let me ask you a question. If you bet on a horse and you see its price rise or fall dramatically, how do you feel? Greyhound racing is probably the best system under which a punter in Australia can risk - or rather, invest - his hard earned dough. To my way of thinking there is nothing so good as a Paroli Betting System - A Guide to the System. The Paroli Betting System is one which has been praised by many a gambler. The positive progression scheme, which is sometimes also referred to as the Reverse Martingale system, was designed to be used on even money wagers and focuses on raising your wagers when you manage to generate a win. Progressive Betting And Staking Systems For Racing There are numerous, almost infinite, strategies that can be used for purposes of enhancing horse race betting profitability. Consider combinations and variations of these strategies and the available choices expand exponentially. The late Don Scott once wrote that the best form of exotic betting is the trifecta. I think he was right. Don said picking a trifecta winning bet was a test of skill rather than a game of chance. 4 Proven Betting Systems That Work. I remember when I first started searching for a proven betting system googling the term “ betting systems.” There was all sorts of progressive staking systems, martingale systems, stop at a winner systems, progressive laying systems.The fact was though that none of these betting systems held up to any long term analysis and would normally blow your bank

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