Of Kings and Dragons
Games of Chance
These games of chance are played heavily in the longhomes of the Ulfen, especially during the long winter months. Travelers are advised to be able to cover all bets.
Linnorm Bones is a dice game popular in mead halls throughout the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, especially during the winter months when people find more time on their hands than good sense. The game requires players to gauge their odds as they play each round and for the match as a whole.
HOW TO PLAY
Each player has five six sided dice and a cup. One die is off color from the others and is referred to as “the Linnorm’s Head”. When the match begins, all players roll their Linnorm’s Head; this is “the Taking of the Heads”. The highest die dictates the number of rounds for the match. All ties for the highest die roll are added together to give the total length. It is not uncommon in larger matches for a groan to be heard throughout the mead hall when an exceptionally long match is rolled as it often ends with all but one player leaving without a coin in their purse.
Play begins with each player placing the predetermined ante into the Pot, followed by rolling and covering their dice. The player who rolled the lowest during the Taking of the Heads begins the wagers. If there was a tie for the lowest roll, those members wager between themselves, beginning with the youngest player, until there is only one wager remaining.
Regular wagering then progresses clockwise. A player may match or raise another’s wager, check if there is no wager, or drop from the round. When the wager makes it around the players without a raise, the dice are revealed and the round’s winner is determined.
Half the wagers go into the Pot and the winner or winners of the round get the other half. In the event of the tabled wagers not splitting evenly, the remaining amount goes into the Pot. The next round then begins with the previous round’s winner starting the wagers. When a match is down to two players, all wagers feed the Pot until an end game scenario occurs.
If all five dice match, the combination is called “the Winter Witch”. A player unfortunate enough to roll this combination must reveal it immediately. They must then match the amount that is in the Pot and are out of the match. If the player had won the previous round, the player to his left begins the wagers. Getting this combination late in a match can be costly as the Pot tends to grow quickly. Should a player not be able to match the Pot, they may be allowed to simply pay what they have left, or they may find themselves in a tight spot with the other players.
If a player drops from a round, they must buy back their dice next round to continue, paying five times the regular ante. Otherwise they are out of the match.
Winning dice are determined in order by this chart.
|No matching dice|
|Quintuples||White Witch||Removed from game, pay to pot|
|1-5 or 2-6, (Linnorm lowest)||Lesser Wyrm|
|1-5 or 2-6, (Linnorm highest)||Great Wyrm|
|4 6’s, 5 on the Linnorm Head||High King|
WINNING THE MATCH
Play continues until one of three scenarios plays out:
• Only one player remains (all other players removed from play by rolling the Winter Witch or dropping and not buying back their dice). Player receives the pot.
• One player rolls the High King the same round another rolls the Great Wyrm. The player who rolled the High King takes the pot.
• The round limit is reached with the last round played. The winner receives the pot.
Wishing Well / Poisoned Well
This is a fast-moving dice game for two to six players (ideally six).
Each player is assigned a number from 1 to 6, representing the numbers on a die. If only five are playing, the 6 is ignored. If only four are playing, both the 5 and 6 are ignored. With three players, each is given two numbers, and with two players each is given three numbers.
Each player in turn rolls the three dice. If any player’s number comes up in a throw, they must put a chip in the pot (the wishing well). For example, if the first player rolls 4, 4, 2, then the player assigned the number 4 puts in two chips, and the player assigned the 2, one chip. The first player to put all his chips into the pot, wins (gets their wish), and takes the pot. A set number of games are played, usually equal to the number of players, with the winner of the previous game becoming the first thrower.
Different sided dice can be used, depending on the total number of players and dice available. 6-sided dice are most common, but games with 4, 8, or 10-sided dice are not unheard of.
In Poisoned Well, if you roll your own number you do not put a chip into the pot. Instead, the player to your left puts a chip into the pot.
Dragon Slayer / Drunken Dragon
This dice game is said to have originated in cities and villages that border mountainous regions harboring dragons.
Dragon Slayer is played with three 6-sided dice and chips, and is played for stakes. All players first roll a die; the player with the highest roll then rolls 3 dice. The resulting total sets the number of rounds it will take to slay the dragon. Starting with the player who set the number of rounds, each player in turn rolls three dice and continues to throw them until a double is thrown.
Each throw that does not contain a double counts as missing the dragon. A throw that contains a double counts as successful strike. A number of chips that equal the number of misses and the throw that contained the double are placed in front of the player. After all rounds are played, the player with the lowest total chips in front of them has slain the dragon the fastest and wins. The winner sets the next game’s number of rounds.
Dragon Slayer is sometimes played as a drinking game amongst the heartiest of adventurers (and is said to be a favorite of dwarves). In this variant, known as Drunken Dragon, players drink a shot of liquor for every miss and a mug of ale for every strike, with the losers picking up the bar tab for the winner.
Beat the Bartender / Beat This!
The origins of this game are unknown, but two versions are played. The first version, known as Beat the Bartender, is usually played in local taverns. The second, known as Beat This!, is played mostly by orcs.
Beat the bartender is usually played using 2d6. Bets are placed between the players and the bartender before the dice are thrown. The bartender rolls the two dice and scores the total of the two numbers thrown. Subsequent players roll the dice and have to score a higher total to win their bet. The bartender wins in the case of tied scores.
In Beat This!, one player takes the role of leader. The game is played with two dice against the leader. Bets are placed between the players and the leader before the dice are thrown. The leader rolls two dice and scores the total of the two numbers thrown. Subsequent players roll the dice and have to score a higher total to win their bet. The leader wins in the case of tied scores. After each round, the role of leader changes to the player with the lowest total score.
Dragon’s Hoard is a common dice game played in many taverns. Patrons often find the game’s layout on the taverns tables. In lower class establishments the layout is often crudely carved into the tables’ surface, whereas finer establishments have been known to use inlaid precious metals and intricately carved scrollwork. The layout is usually nine circles with the numbers 3 through 11 inside them.
In most establishments, the currency of the region is used to wager; however some establishments provide counters or chips. Players sometimes play to divvy up other valuable stakes, such as jewelry and magic items.
Players throw the dice in turn. After each throw, they place a chip on the corresponding number on the layout. For example, if a player throws a total of 4, he places a chip on the area of the layout marked 4. Once a number on the layout has three or more chips on it, the next player to roll that number collects them.
If a player rolls a pair of 1’s, known as Dragon Eyes, that player places a chip on all the numbers on the layout.
If a player rolls two 6’s, know as Stealing the Hoard, they collect all the chips on the layout.
Play continues for a pre-determined time, or until it is agreed to end the game.
Originating in back alleys and played by thieves and other unsavory types, Cutpurse has made its way into local taverns and gambling establishments.
Cutpurse is a simple game played with two six sided dice by any number of players for stakes. Each player rolls a die, with the highest throwing first in the game and the lowest “setting the point”. The player with the lowest roll throws a die again, and the number rolled becomes the point number.
Each player in turn rolls the dice and scores one for every occurrence of the point number. A player who rolls a double point number scores 3 points instead of 2. The first player to reach 11 points wins the game.
Nine Men’s Morris
Each player has nine pieces, or “men”, which move among the board’s twenty-four spots. The object of the game is to leave the opposing player with fewer than three pieces or, as in checkers, no legal moves. Often coins are used as a player’s pieces, lost pieces becoming the prize.
PLACING THE PIECES
The game begins with an empty board. Players take turns placing their pieces on empty spots. If a player is able to form a straight row of three pieces along one of the board’s lines (i.e. not diagonally), he has a “mill” and may remove one of his opponent’s pieces from the board; removed pieces may not be placed again. Players must remove any other pieces first before removing a piece from a formed mill. Once all eighteen pieces have been used, players take turns moving.
MOVING THE PIECES
To move, a player slides one of his pieces along a board line to an empty adjacent spot. If he cannot do so, he has lost the game.
As in the placement stage, a player who aligns three of his pieces on a board line has a mill and may remove one of his opponent’s pieces, avoiding the removal of pieces in mills if at all possible.
Any player reduced to two pieces is unable to remove any more opposing pieces and thus loses the game.
This game is played with several pieces and a gaming board. The King piece is called Hnefi (“King”); the small pieces are called Hunns (“knobs”), Tæflor (“table-men”) or Tæfelstanas (“table-men”). Gaming pieces are often hemispherical and made of antler, amber, bone, clay, glass, horn, stone, jet, wood or even horses’ teeth. The King and his pieces are usually white and the other pieces or enemy are black. The game is played on an 11×11 squared board.
The King (large white piece) goes on the central square, surrounded by his men (other white pieces). The enemy (black) pieces are set up around the edges of the board. Black moves first.
Turns alternate between the players.
All pieces move by sliding any number of squares in either orthogonal direction (up-down or left-right, no diagonal moves) as long as it doesn’t jump over another piece of either color. The Throne and the four corner squares are off-limits to all pieces except the King.
The White player is trying to have his King escape his assailants by reaching a corner square. If the White player moves so that his King ends up with a clear path to any of the four corner squares, he must announce that he has an escape route open. He uses the word Raichi (“Check”) to announce a single route and Tuichi (“Checkmate”) to announce a double route. On his next turn, if he can still do so, the King may be moved to a corner square and escape. White then wins.
If the Black player inadvertently opens an escape route for the King, the White player may take advantage of it immediately!
If the moved piece ends up sandwiching an opposing piece between itself and another piece of the moving color or a corner square, the sandwiched piece is removed from the board. This is called custodial capture. It is possible to capture several pieces in a single move.
White captures both black pieces.
The King must be sandwiched along both axes to be captured. The Throne, corners and edges count as Black pieces for purposes of sandwiching the King, so Black needs only three pieces to capture the King on the edge of the board or if he is right beside his Throne, two if the King is right beside a corner square. When the King is in danger of being captured on Black’s next move, he must announce “Watch your King” to the White player (this is reminiscent of Chess’ prohibition against moving one’s King into check). Black wins by capturing the King. The King can also be captured if he and no more than one defender are surrounded on all sides and incapable of moving.
In all cases Black captures the King and wins.
A piece may safely move to place itself in sandwich between two opposing pieces (or a corner square).
White can safely move in between the black pieces
The winner is the White player if he manages to reach a corner square with his King, the Black player if he manages to capture the King. Because the game is uneven, it is good etiquette to play two games, switching sides. Each player keeps track of how many pieces he lost or took from his opponent and this score is used to determine the ultimate winner.