Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Ratscrew"

This is the freebie for the October [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "sportsmanship" square in my 10-4-16 card for the Games and Sports Bingo fest.


Kraken had evolved from
an odd wartime truce between
rival crews, and that left a mark,
even now that they become
a supervillain organization.

You could see it in the games,
and most of all, in the fact that
supervillain sportsmanship regarded
cheating as an art form.

They played ratscrew and
slapped each other's hands
and swore over the hidden rules.

They introduced baksheesh
into the game and made rude jokes
about corruption in the Egyptian government.

Another version escaped into the wild
as Mao, which made fun of China instead.

The Krakenguard liked other games
that encouraged cheating, too.

They played Pirate Dice and
and Bullshit and Mogel Motte,
practiced lying and detection
and sleight of hand.

They cheated in games
because it was fun and
everyone laughed over it.

They cheated in games
because it's part of their nature,
with a smirk and a cheery, "Pirate!"

They cheated in games
because it let them practice
skills they needed as supervillains.

But they didn't think of it like others did.

It wasn't just cheating to them,
it was creative play.

It taught them to think ahead,
to challenge assumptions,
to see around corners,
to make changes.

It was how they learned
to win at life in a world with
every deck stacked against them.

So when superheroes would try
to steal back the stolen goods,
the Krakenguard would just
slap a hand over the loot,
yell, "Ratscrew!" and run.

It's been decades,
and the superheroes still
haven't figured out the rules.

* * *


Egyptian Ratscrew is a game based on fast grabbing of cards. It has many names and variations. Like Mao, it can incorporate cheating and obscure rules.

Baksheesh can mean tip or bribe.

Some games actually encourage cheating, and some people enjoy thinking of ways to cheat. If there's a penalty for getting caught, even if it's in the rules, it's still cheating. If everyone is still having fun, though, it's okay.

Pirate Dice is a version of Liar's Dice, which also has multiple variations. Here's a video about it. In Terramagne, pirates are hugely popular and make up a lot of the comic books, since they don't have the same domination of superheroes in that medium, and thus Pirate Dice is the preferred name.

Bullshit is a bluffing game.

Mogel Motte requires discreetly disposing of cards without getting caught.

Some people are willing to play with cheaters, others aren't. Cheating can be viewed as a game variant or as creative play. It's also closely connected with creativity and perseverence. Supervillains tend to see it as a virtue -- but they also prize discretion, looking down on cheaters who get caught. Far more than in most superhero settings, Terramagne supervillains really have their own subculture, and most superheroes just do not "get it." But it's real, and it has its own customs; they're just offset from everyone else's.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, entertainment, fantasy, fishbowl, gaming, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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