Delta recently wrote up a great rundown of “games within games” about subsystems that were practically games on their own.
The subsystem that I always enjoyed immensely, though not really an game unto itself, was character generation in classic Traveller. Rolling up Traveller PCs was, many times, as much fun as playing Traveller. Sometime it was more fun.
However, all this talk reminded me of something that was quite common in our D&D games back in the day, and that was a dice-based gambling game we made up called “Pig”. I don’t recall what the rules were, but it wasn’t this game at all. I”m pretty sure it’s something I made up on the spur of the moment while PCs were in a tavern one time, and I seem to remember it had something to do with rolling a number that was in between two previously-rolled numbers. It was quick, perhaps nothing more than a 2d6 roll followed by a 1d6 roll. It was maybe a little more involved than that, but whatever it was we loved it.
The game of pig was astoundingly popular in the area of a campaign I called “Red Gold” and nearly every trip to the tavern included at least a few quick games. A few times, though, I think much or most of our session consisted of non-stop pig.
Sometimes, we’d even play pig outside of D&D. But I’ll be damned if I can remember how it was played.
Whatever pig was, it certainly was a game-within-a-game that caught on at our table for a while.
(Note: Pig is not the Monday Monster…)