Chapter #565

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                                  +
                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +
                                  +

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      +
+  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  +
+  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      +
+  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  +
+  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    +
+  way, shape, or form.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1991-8 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons   +
+  or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.  +
+  Copying and/or distribution of these tales is permissible only   +
+  under the sole condition that no part of them will be used or    +
+  sold for profit.  In that case, I hope you enjoy them.           +
+                                                                   +
+                                  Thomas Miller                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Bosco        12th level halfling thief                      (CN) +
+  Felicia       2nd level female human thief                  (LN) +
+  Peldor       20th level human thief                          (N) +
+  Tanya        5th/11th level female human warrior/thief      (LN) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/15/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        morning                                             +
+  Place:       Lord Kilroy's immense mansion, near Greyhawk        +
+  Climate:     pleasant                                            +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "There are no friends at cards or world politics."               +
+                                                   - F. P. Dunne   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                     DLXV.  Card Sharks





  They awoke to the rather unpleasant (given the circumstances)
sound of Bosco's shrill little voice...

Bosco:  Wake up!  Wake up!  (he continues running around the room)
  Waaaaaake up!
Peldor:  (buries his head beneath a pillow)
Tanya:  (opens one eye, halfway)  Why is it that we can hear him
  through a closed door?
Peldor:  Zzzzz.
Bosco:  (beating on the door)  It's less than an hour 'til the
  games begin!  You've got to get up and come watch!
Felicia:  (already up and almost ready, probably due to her
  age)  I'll go with you, Bosco.
Bosco:  (stares at the door to the bedroom)  I guess they had too
  much to drink last night...

  In truth, none of them had consumed excessive quantities the
previous night, at the feast.  They had, however, eaten fairly
well; as a result, they were sleepy this morning, but not sick.

Bosco:  Wake up!  Up, up, UP!
Tanya:  Go away, Bosco.
Peldor:  Zzzzz.
Tanya:  (nudges him)  Get up.
Peldor:  Zzzz...why?
Tanya:  (merrily)  Because I'm awake, and if I can't sleep, neither
  can you.
Peldor:  Hmph.
Tanya:  Besides, if we're going to watch Bosco in action, we need
  to get moving.
Peldor:  Bosco...better than a herd of rabid chickens for waking
  one up.
Tanya:  How can he get up so early, and have so much energy, after
  a feast like last night?
Peldor:  He's young.  I remember those days well.
Tanya:  Hrmph.

  Eventually, they did wake up, freshen up, dress, and make their
way to the great gambling-hall.  It didn't take them long to find
Bosco; the halfling was standing in a line outside the chamber, as
were most of his competitors.

Bosco:  (jumps up and down)  It's about time you got here!
Peldor:  Sorry.
Tanya:  It hasn't started yet, though - everything will be okay.
Felicia:  (with Bosco)  They're screening out magical items and
  weapons at the door.
Peldor:  What?
Bosco:  (sighs)  It's true.  No magic of any kind - they won't
  let you in the hall.  (he jerks a thumb at a busy-looking blue-
  robed fellow at the entryway to the hall)  See that clown there?
  He's casting spells that will allow him to see all magical auras
  and dweomers.  No enchanted items of any kind will be permitted.
  (innocently)  It's to stop cheaters.
Tanya:  (thinking)  I'm not carrying any such magical items...
Peldor:  (smirks)  I am.
Bosco:  You'd better get back to the room with them, then - the
  games start shortly.
Peldor:  (grumbling, he turns and heads back to the room)
Felicia:  (to Tanya)  You know, if I wanted to collect a whole
  pile of magic items, armor, and weapons, this is how I'd do
  it.
Tanya:  Very astute.
Bosco:  I've taught her well.

  Before long, the line began to move - the gamblers and spectators
were filing into the great hall.  As each individual passed by the
blue-robed wizard, the latter checked them for magical items or
auras (the latter indicating a previously-cast spell.)  In either
case, the offender was turned back.  They watched this happen to
several people, both players and spectators.  What was surprising
was that it happened to the just-returned Peldor...

blue-robed wizard:  (holds up a hand)  Hold.
Peldor:  What?
wizard:  You have the aura.
Peldor:  (looks confused)  I got rid of all my items back in the
  room.
wizard:  (shrugs)  Apparently not.  Now please step aside so the
  others can enter.
goons:  (two of them, they move to "help" Peldor)
Peldor:  Hey, watch it.
Bosco:  What do we do?
Tanya:  You and Felicia go ahead and head in - we'll catch up to
  you shortly.
Peldor:  Save us good seats.
Felicia:  Will do.

  Tanya moved to one side with Peldor, as they searched his person
for the cause of the unexpected dweomer.

Peldor:  I don't understand - I got rid of everything.  Even the
  ring.
Tanya:  (puzzled, she frowns)  Hmm...(she grabs his shirt, opening
  it at its collar-front)  Aha.
Peldor:  What?  (he looks down)  Oh.
Tanya:  I guess you forgot about your feather tattoos.
Peldor:  I guess I did.
Tanya:  Well, they won't come off, right?
Peldor:  Nope - they never have.
Tanya:  What do we do now?
Peldor:  Damn it...I wanted to see this tournament.
Tanya:  That seems unlikely.
Peldor:  (looking around, he sighs)  I suppose we could take an
  impromptu tour of good Kilroy's mansion...
Tanya:  Sounds good to me.

  Meanwhile, inside the hall...

Bosco:  I wonder what's keeping them.
Felicia:  You'd better get to your table.

  It was obvious that Lord Kilroy had been to the previous Dragon-
Deck tournament in the town of Punjab, for the gaming tables here
were laid out the same.  There were eight round tables, each of
which held eight competitors.  The winner from each table would
then advance to a final round, wherein those eight players would
square off for the jackpot.
  The initial competitions had been predetermined; at each place at
each table, a small card bore the name of the one who was to sit
there.  Bosco was surprised to see that a couple of those from the
feast last night were at his initial table.

Lerbar:  (rubs his grizzled chin)  'Ey!  Nice to see you again.
Mekko Minestone:  (his eyes shift as he regards Bosco)  Ready to
  play with the big boys, are you?
Bosco:  I guess.
heavily scarred man:  (glares at Bosco)  I know you...
Bosco:  You do?
heavily scarred man:  (snaps his fingers)  You beat me in the
  first round in Punjab, more than two years ago!  That's it!
Bosco:  Oh yeah?  Well, I hope you've been practicing.
heavily scarred man:  Grrrr...
Mekko Minestone:  (chuckles quietly)

  Once everyone was inside the hall and in their seats, their
host wasted little time with preliminaries...

Lord Kilroy:  (appears on a low balcony that overlooks the hall)
  Ah!  Now that you're all here, and all ready...(his gaze sweeps
  the entire chamber)...let the games begin!

  And with that, the tournament was underway.  Each player had
five hundred gold crowns - half of the entry fee - to use in this
round.  The ante was one crown, but the bets were sure to soar
far above that.  When a player had no more pieces of gold, that
player was out of the tournament.  Other rules were pretty much
standard as well:  they used a house deck, and the players took
turns dealing, rotating this duty to the left.
  Bosco's attention turned away from everything but the game at
hand.  He ceased to see Felicia in the spectator seats (these
were roped off from the gaming tables, so that spectators could
not interfere) as he began to eye the cards, his opponents, and
their gold.  The halfling focused as only a true gambler could,
paying attention to everything, details both obvious and other-
wise.  The name of the game here was to figure out each of the
others' weaknesses and then exploit them fully.
  It wasn't hard.  One of the other seven at the table - a thin
elf with long brown hair - had an obvious problem keeping his
game under control.  When he had a bad hand, Bosco - and most of
the others at the table - knew it.  When the elf lost a hand, he
grew more frustrated, and it ruined his game.  Within five hands,
the elf was one of three who were finished.  Another was down to
a dangerously low amount of coinage.  Bosco figured that he was
in a close second place for total funds.
  The next to go was the heavily scarred man who Bosco had beaten
several years ago; between Bosco and another player's continuous
raising of the stakes, they managed to force the scarred one out
in short order.

heavily scarred man:  Dammit!  No!  It's just like last time!
Bosco:  (shaking his head as he shuffles the cards)  No, last time
  you lasted to the end of the first round.

  The grizzled Lerbar was the next to go, his last coins forfeit
thanks to a Royal Suit held by Mekko Minestone.  With the King,
Queen, and Prince of the Tombstone suit, the dwarf raked in what
coins Lerbar had left, plus copious amounts of the others' funds.
Even Bosco took a big hit on this hand, though he had to admit
it was a good hand.  Now, three remained at the table:  Bosco
himself, Mekko, and a haughty young noble from the lands around
Greyhawk.

young noble:  (throws down a Double Royalty, which beats the other
  two's hands and nets him about two hundred crowns)  Hah.
Bosco:  Don't get cocky, kid.
young noble:  Who are you calling a "kid?"
Bosco:  You.
young noble:  You think you're bound to win this game, eh?
Bosco:  That's my plan.
young noble:  (shaking his head)  I am the better player, and it
  is I who shall win.  (he glances at his cards, pleased that he
  has a complete Suit of Armor)  You simply must see it by now.
Bosco:  (utterly ignoring the impudent young fool)  I guess.
young noble:  You guessed right.
Bosco:  Oh yeah?  What do I win?
young noble:  (fumes as Bosco lays down a Suit of Armor of one
  suit higher than his own)
Bosco:  So much for you.  (he takes the pot, which is about four
  times what the young noble has left)
Mekko Minestone:  Heh.
young noble:  (sputtering, he gets up and walks away, his chair
  falling behind him)
Bosco:  Guess he couldn't take the heat.
Mekko Minestone:  (chuckles)  You're quite a fine fellow, Bosco
  my boy.  I intend to beat you, but I wouldn't mind losing to
  you, either.  Let's finish this.
Bosco:  Yep.

  They proceeded to play a dozen hands, with little net effect on
either of their pots.  It ended suddenly and surprisingly, though,
as the two players simultaneously got hands that they were quite
confident would crush the other's.

Mekko:  We're up to seven hundred crowns...your call...
Bosco:  I raise the stakes...to a thousand!
spectators:  (gasping)
Mekko:  Hell of a hand you must have there.
Bosco:  Superior only to the mighty hand you no doubt hold.
Mekko:  (shaking his head)  I call.
Bosco:  Okay.  (he lays down his cards, revealing the King, Queen,
  and Prince of the Dice Suit, plus a Knight, Squire, and Page
  from different suits)  Castle Suit.  Who'd have thought it?
Mekko:  Hmm.  (he shows his own cards:  Two kings, three Queens,
  and a Prince from various suits)  Beats my Royal Conclave, by
  a hair.  (he stands and extends his hand)  Congratulations.
Bosco:  (returns the handshake)  Thanks for playing with me.

  With this victory, Bosco joined the others who had conquered
their respective tables, and they had to wait on the rest of the
eight tables to resolve their games.  It was sure to take hours,
and since hanging around watching fellow players wasn't exactly
encouraged, Bosco chatted with Felicia and ate snacks brought by
Lord Kilroy's servants.

Bosco:  Where're Peldor and Tanya?
Felicia:  (shrugs)  Peldor was having a problem getting in, so
  I think he and Tanya went to find something else to do.
Bosco:  (wonders if they are robbing other guests' rooms, then
  decides that they wouldn't do that, then begins to wonder if
  Lord Kilroy might try that himself)  Where's our host?
Felicia:  (looking around)  Kilroy was here...

  As Bosco sat there thinking, he got more and more paranoid,
until finally he couldn't take it anymore.

Bosco:  I've got to go check things out.
Felicia:  Sounds good to me.  (she surveys the gaming tables)
  We've got an hour, easy.

  Returning to the room, they were relieved to find that nobody
was there, nor had anyone been there as best as they could tell.
Bosco's items, magical and otherwise, were right where he'd left
them.  There was one mystery, however:  Peldor and Tanya weren't
in the room.

Bosco:  Where could they be?
Felicia:  No idea.
Bosco:  How can they watch my great card-playing when they're not
  even here?
Felicia:  You forget about the feather tattoos...Peldor won't get
  into that playing-hall, one way or another.
Bosco:  But still...

  There was nothing left to do but return to the tournament and
wait.  It actually didn't take that long; when they got back,
five of the eight tables were done, and within the hour, the
others fell into place.  As the servants cleaned the table
nearest to Lord Kilroy and set it up for the final round, Bosco
eyed his competition, discreetly sizing them up.  They consisted
of:

  - Melthius (an old, gaunt man)
  - Shay (a young, blond, scantily-clad woman)
  - Rorvark (a large, hairy, wild man)
  - Irixialus (a quiet, calculating elf)
  - Luc (a black-haired man)
  - Bo (a blond-haired man)
  - Chauncey (a wily halfling)

Bosco:  Well, this promises to be interesting.
Lord Kilroy:  Congratulations to you eight - you have proven
  yourselves to be players of no small talent.  Now, there is
  but one final test ahead of you...(he hands the deck to the
  woman Shay)  You shall deal first.
Shay:  With pleasure.  (she cuts the cards, then begins dealing
  them)

  It quickly became obvious what the young woman's plan was:
with her curvaceous body, revealing clothing, and sultry gaze,
she was dangerously distracting.  Already, several of those
at the table - not to mention numerous spectators as well as
Lord Kilroy himself - were paying more attention to the woman
than to the cards.

Bosco:  (doing a pretty good job of ignoring Shay's wiles)  I
  raise the bet to...thirty.
Rorvark:  Thirty?!?  A mere pittance!  I raise to fifty!
Bosco:  Whatever makes you happy, pal.

  The loud, brash man sat to Bosco's left, meaning he would
always go after the halfling.  This was a good thing, for
Rorvark was quick to bet and quick to call - overeager and
easily excitable.  Bosco knew he wouldn't have much trouble
predicting the other's moves - and acting accordingly before
the fact.
  Having figured out Shay and Rorvark's approaches to this game,
Bosco set his mind to work on the others.  He figured Melthius,
the old, lean one across the table, to be a conservative, slow
player who took few chances.  The elf Irixialus looked to be the
same kind of player himself.  The halfling Chauncey was always
grinning, as if he had something up his sleeve.  Bosco hadn't
yet figured out Bo and Luc, but the way they exchanged hidden
glances with each other, they were either partners or intimate
friends.  Then again, they both had their eyes on Shay, grinning
goofily as the woman plied her charms.
  Before Bosco had a chance to pick the easiest-looking target
and go to work depleting that person's funds - or perhaps
turning his attention to one of the more skilled foes, to get
them out of the way first - someone else did it for him.  As
the hands progressed, Rorvark consistently upped the bets to
dangerous levels.  Usually, the strength of his cards matched
the amount of his bets; other times, he lost money in the end.
He was obviously going after the meeker players:  old Melthius
and quiet Irixialus.
  However, both of those two were more than they appeared, or
at least than they appeared to Rorvark.  Melthius was too shrewd
and careful to fall prey to Rorvark's simple (if intimidating)
tactics.  Irixialus fared a little worse, but wasn't suffering
much either.  The elf actually seemed more interested in gauging
the other seven's actions and reactions than winning the trivial
hands at the moment.  Bosco suddenly realized several things at
once:  Irixialus' talent was to study others, Rorvark was even
stupider than he looked, and Bo and Luc were working together
in this game.
  Bosco figured that they were brothers or cousins; they must
have spent hours rehearsing and planning before this tournament.
Not all of the players had realized what was happening, but the
two were quietly, efficiently depleting Rorvark's funds.  After
the loud, brash one was knocked out of the game, they would no
doubt turn their attention to a new target.
  Four hands later, Rorvark realized what was happening, if not
how - but it was too late.  Shay even chipped in, helping the
man lose more money by showing her Royal Suit and collecting
the pot.  Two more hands, and Rorvark was finished; he left the
table, cursing loudly and stomping his feet.

Shay:  So much for him.  (she smiles sweetly at the others)
Bo:  Mmm.
Luc:  Hmm.
Chauncey:  (chuckles)
Irixialus:  (frowns, deep in thought)
Bosco:  (whistling to himself)
Melthius:  (apparently ignoring them all)

  It was looking like Irixialus or Melthius would be the next to
go, simply by virtue of their non-aggression.  While Rorvark had
been too eager, these two weren't aggressive enough.  However,
shortly after Rorvark was out, Irixialus apparently had a hand
he felt strongly about, for he wasn't backing down.  The bet was
up to two hundred gold coins, and only Bosco, Chauncey, and
Irixialus himself were still in it.

Chauncey:  I call.
Irixialus:  Very well.  (he slaps down a Royal Conclave)
Bosco:  Whoa.  That beats my hand.
others:  (nodding appreciatively)
Chauncey:  (slowly and calmly puts down his own cards - revealing
  a Royal Conclave whose high cards are from slightly higher suits
  than the elf's)
Irixialus:  Aie!
Bosco:  Ow.
Chauncey:  (rakes in the coins)

  Bosco was down now, but not as badly as Irixialus, whose bad
luck had all but eliminated his money.  Shay didn't even have to
use her seductive tactics on the next hand, as she won with a
Double Royalty and took the last of the elf's coins.

Irixialus:  (shaking his head, he takes his leave from the table
  quietly and with dignity)
Bosco:  And then there were six...

  Things were getting pretty cutthroat now; everybody turned
their particular playing style up a notch, and the general pace
of the game sped up significantly.  Bosco decided that Bo and
Luc were the most dangerous, because there were two of them.
However, it was Bo who got knocked out next; even Luc's covert
help wasn't enough to shield Bo from four bad hands in a row.
After Bo left, Luc's winnings visibly decreased, hand by hand.
By the time Luc was out, Bosco's pile of coins was again the
largest, followed closely by Melthius' winnings.  Shay had
about half of what the others did, while Chauncey was in worse
shape, with a meager amount of funds remaining.
  Bosco forged on, relying on his wits and his luck to keep
him going.  He didn't watch the other players; he didn't try
tricks; he didn't play aggressively or conservatively.  He
simply kept track of the cards he let go, took his time, and
thought each play through.  Six hands after Luc was knocked
out of the game, Chauncey ran out of money and left too.

Bosco:  Well, let's do it.
Shay:  Heh.
Melthius:  (yawns)

  They went through one hand, then another, then another.
With only three players, there was much uncertainty - now
it was more likely that someone wouldn't get the single
Dragon card than it was that someone would.  The three were
playing an entirely different kind of game than when there
were eight.
  Things stayed relatively even for a while; none of the three
finalists was either far ahead or behind.  Eventually, of
course, someone had to get a big hand and raise the stakes;
it was Shay, who won quite a pot with a Royal Conclave.  The
next hand, however, went to Bosco, putting a big smile on his
face and more coins in his pot.  The cards were stacked,
shuffled, cut, and dealt again; the result was apparently
favorable for all three players, for none of them backed down.

Bosco:  Raise to five hundred.
Shay:  (lets out a small gasp, then smiles)  Seven-fifty.
Melthius:  A thousand.
Bosco:  (matching that sum)  As you wish.
Shay:  Why waste time, gentlemen?  Twenty-five hundred crowns.
  You can match that?  (she looks over the other players'
  remaining funds)

  Given the fact that there were a total of thirty-two thousand
golden crowns in this game, these were high stakes indeed.
Whichever two players lost this hand were each going to lose half
of their funds or more.  Melthius and then Bosco each matched
Shay's enormous raise, either confident in their own hands or
believing Shay was bluffing them out.  Regardless, discards were
the next order of business...

Shay:  One card, if you please, sir.
Bosco:  Hey, Bosco always pleases!  (he deftly tosses her a
  single card)
Melthius:  Two here.
Bosco:  And none for the dealer.  (smiles a little smile)
crowd:  (their murmuring increases)

  Melthius and Shay both glanced up from their cards at Bosco,
then at each other.

Bosco:  The bet's to you, dear lady.
Shay:  Another two thousand.
Bosco:  Looking to end it all now, are you?
Shay:  (shrugs)
Melthius:  Two of us are wrong about the third's hand...very
  wrong.  (eyeing his dwindling pile)  Call.
Bosco:  Granted.  (he eyes the pot, forking over several stacks
  of golden coins)  I raise the bet to three thousand.
Shay:  (quickly)  Four!
crowd:  (muttering and murmuring)
Melthius:  (pushes in more coins)  I call.
Bosco:  And five.
Shay:  Six, if you can meet it, Melthius.
Melthius:  (sighs)  I hate to do this to you, but I see your six
  and raise you my remaining four hundred fifty crowns.
Bosco:  Since we are playing Gentlemen's Rules, betting is frozen.
  And the dealer calls.  (waits for Shay to match the last raise)
  You raised last, Melthius.

  This was now the single most important hand in the game, indeed,
the entire tournament.  Melthius laid down his seven cards,
revealing a Double Royal:  the King, Queen, and Prince of the
Tree suit plus the King, Queen, and Prince of the Star suit.  His
seventh card, a Sword, raised the suit of his hand to Cross.

Shay:  (lays her cards face down and stands up gracefully, sliding
  her few remaining coins into the pile)  I resign the game.  Well
  played, gentlemen.

Melthius:  Well, I win, unless Bosco there has a certain hand.
spectator:  (somewhat confused)  Which hand?
Bosco:  This hand.

  Bosco had the King, Queen, and Prince of the Cross plus the
King, Queen, and Prince of the Scepter.  In addition, he had the
Dragon card, which propelled the rank of his hand to even more
obscene levels.

Lord Kilroy:  Inconceivable!  It's a Double Crossed Royal Dragon!
Bosco:  (shrugs)  Looks like I win.
Melthius:  (raises an eyebrow)
crowd:  (goes wild)
Felicia:  (cheering for Bosco)
Bosco:  (stands and takes a bow, immensely pleased with
  himself)





next:      a rude surprise for someone
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.intertex.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
www:       http://www.myths.com/pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           http://www.shobaki.org/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv/adv.html
email:     tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     These card games are really confusing to write.  I can
  guarantee you that this is the last one I write.

    And now, here's a special treat from the past:  way back when
  Bosco competed in his first tournament, in the town of Punjab,
  the need arose for official Dragon-Deck rules.  Eric Boyd rose to
  the occasion, and his excellent rules appeared shortly after the
  card-gaming episode.  They were framed by a letter from Bosco to
  his cousin.  Following is the sequel to that letter, including a
  copy of the rules for those who might wish to re-learn them:



>------------------------------------------------------------------<

Cousin Elbert,

    Bosco, Card Shark, Juggernaut Slayer, and Disc-Wielder,
has made his latest mark on the gambling world!  I recently won
the annual Greyhawk Dragon-Deck tournament, played at the mansion
of the Lord Kilroy outside of the Free City.  Please update all
our kinfolk in the burrows - I'm sure they wait with bated breath
for each new chapter of the lengthy book that comprises my exploits.

    You may recall that the last time I visited, I talked with
little Tiger-Mantha about the Dragon-Deck rules you passed on from
me previously.  Since it's been more than two years, and since she
is of an age to lose things with ease, I figured I'd send her a new
copy.  Please pass it on with my fondest wishes for the little
whippersnapper.

                                           Yours,

                                               Bosco the Invincible

>------------------------------------------------------------------<

                        DRAGON-DECK
                        ===========

Dragon-Deck is a game of chance played with a deck of 81 cards
of eight suits. The eight suits, in descending order of power,
are as follows:

    Cross
    Tree
    Shooting Star
    Dice
    Whip
    Tombstone
    Pitchfork
    Scepter

Each suit contains 10 cards in descending order:

    King
    Queen
    Prince
    Knight
    Squire
    Page
    Shield
    Sword
    Spear
    Axe

There is also a single "Dragon" card that is not considered to be
part of any suit.

A game of Dragon-Deck consists of a series of hands, interspersed
by betting.  Before play begins, each player must state how much
they are bringing to the table and show that they can pay.  This
money is called their initial kitty.  Should any player quit before
he is either eliminated or wins it all, his remaining kitty is
forfeit to the eventual winner at the end of the game.  A player is
eliminated when he loses all of his kitty and the hand in which he
lost it is over.

Up to eight players can play in any hand. As few as two players are
needed.  When only one player remains, the game is over.

Prior to a hand, each player ante's up an amount specified by the
dealer (normally ten golden coins).  This is the beginning of the
"pot".  All bets go into the pot, and the winner of a hand wins
the entire pot.  If someone chooses not to pay the ante, they are
considered to be sitting out that hand.  One can not refuse an ante
of 1 golden coin.
All bets must be one or more gold coins. No one can set the ante or
raise the stakes in a hand higher than the smallest remaining kitty
of a player still in the hand (i.e. who has not yet folded), so no
one can be forced to fold (quit that hand) due to lack of funds.

At the beginning of each hand, the dealer deals seven cards to each
player.  Each player evaluates his hand. The player to the left of
the dealer either bets, passes (no bet), or folds.  This continues
clockwise around the table until someone bets.  If no one bets, the
dealer is required to bet at least one gold coin.  After the initial
bet, each player can "call" (match the current bet), "raise" (match
the current bet and increase it to a higher amount), or "fold"
(refuse to match the current bet and quit the hand).

If at any time all the players except one have folded, the remaining
player wins the hand.  Once a bet has made it around the entire
table without being raised, the dealer then goes clockwise around
the table, beginning with the player to his left, asking who wants
new cards.  Each player can request zero, one, two, or three new
cards.  Prior to receiving the new cards, they must the put the
corresponding number of cards from their hand in the discard pile.

Once every player has their cards, another round of betting begins,
again beginning with the player to the dealer's left.  When the
betting is concluded (a bet has made it around the table without
being raised), the last player to bet shows his cards.  Beginning
with the player to his left, each player states in turn whether or
not he can top the best hand.

Hands are ranked in the following descending order:

    *   Double Royal Suit
        (king, queen, and prince from one suit; king, queen
        and prince from another suit)
    *   Castle Suit
        (king, queen, and prince from one suit; knight,
        squire, and page from any suits)
    *   Royal Conclave
        (six cards from any suits including only kings,
        queens, and princes - the suit of the hand is that
        of the highest ranking king (or queen if no kings
        are held, or prince if no kings or queens are held)
    *   Royal Suit
        (king, queen, and prince from one suit)
    *   Double Royalty
        (king and queen from one suit, king and queen from
        another suit the suit of the hand is that of the
        higher ranking pair)
    *   Suit of Armor
        (knight, squire, page, and shield card from any
        suits - the suit of the hand is that of the knight)
    *   The Weaponry
        (sword, spear, and axe from any suits - the suit of
        the hand is that of the sword)
    *   The Players
        (highest ranking card, in both face value and suit)

In case of ties, the hand of the higher ranking suit wins.

In the Double Royalty suit and higher, each additional weapon held
raises the suit by one, but does not advance the rank. Hence a
Royal Suit of the Pitchfork Suit plus a sword card is considered to
be a Royal Suit of the Tombstone Suit, but a Royal Suit of the Tree
suit is considered to be a Royal Suit of the Tree suit, regardless
of the number of weapons held.  When this creates a tie, the hand
with more weapons wins.

The Dragon card raises any hand by one rank, but does not change
the suit (although additional weapon cards might). Hence a Suit of
Armor of the Tree suit plus the Dragon card is considered to be a
Double Royalty hand of the Tree suit. The highest ranking hand is
a Double Royal Suit plus the Dragon card.

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