Salting The Mine
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Basic Information

Salting or to salt the mine are terms for a confidence game in which gems or gold ore are planted in a mine or on the landscape, duping the greedy mark into purchasing shares in a worthless or non-existent mining company. During the Gold Rush, scammers would load shotguns with gold dust and shoot into the sides of the mine to give the appearance of a rich ore, thus "salting the mine". A 19th century example is the Diamond hoax of 1872; a modern example would be the imaginary gold deposits in Borneo. Popularized in the HBO series Deadwood, when Al Swearingen and E.B. Farnum trick Brom Garret into believing gold is to be found on the claim Swearingen intends to sell him.


Game and Story Use

  • As with all Confidence Games, Salting The Mine could be a way for unscrupulous PCs to make a little extra cash.
  • In a western game, a salter might be exposed when an unexpected gunfight happens. Whatever he blasts with his shotgun becomes speckled with flakes of gold. This might result in the "sides" in the fight changing mid-battle.
  • A human prince attempts to get the Orcs to sign a treaty and move away. He salts the mines at the reservation he wants to move them too, to entice the Orcs into treaty. That mine will play out within a few days of the Orcs arrival, but the Prince is hoping the Orcs will find it easier to raid territories closer to the reservation than travel all the way back for vengeance. Perhaps this isn't the first time he'd pulled off such a trick. This treachery could be the root cause of minor orc trouble in the area exploding into an epic war, as other orc tribes set aside their differences and join together to destroy the Prince.
  • In a sci-fi setting, where the phlebotinum has radioactive, mutational, dimensional warping, or other harmful side effects, those who salt a mine could be doing unrepairable harm to the environment.
    • Or, the equipment used to mine it could destroy the environment, and the characters have to expose the salters before the quality of life on an entire planet is tanked in pursuit of wealth that isn't there.
  • Someone salts a mine, and someone other than the intended mark finds it. Hilarity ensues.
    • The "someone" in question jumps the claim.
    • The salter's motives weren't profit, but some sort of ruin for the intended mark (as with the prince above).
    • The "someone" is actually a shill bidding up the mine.
      • Combine that with the claim-jumping above: the jumper goes in between sale and occupation and either accepts payment to leave the (worthless) mine (meaning that the mark has effectively paid twice), persuades the mark to give up their claim (at which point the jumper surrenders title back to his confederate the original seller) or, at worst, is run off and the scam is no worse off that it was with the exception of the extra effort of the jump.
        • Added fun: The scammers were only able to coordinate by telegram or similar, and a real jumper shows up.
  • Where strategic materials are involved, successful mine salting might trigger a full scale invasion - and/or war between several powers trying to grab the assumed resource. This may be the intention or may be an escalation from a simple fraud.
  • Like with one coin rolling example: A salted mine turns out to be more valuable than the salter expected (not entirely played out, contains minerals that the salter couldn't recognize or that weren't valuable at the time, good agricultural land…), and the salter decides that the profit belongs to him.
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