Shadow in the Sky
First Adventure Bonus Materials
“Shadow in the Sky” begins at the Gold Goblin Gambling Hall, where the grand gambling event “Cheat the Devil and Take his Gold” looks to be poised to bring the game hall back in business after a long decline. Yet the gambling tournament is not the only thing going on in Riddleport, for a strange atmospheric phenomenon lately manifested in the sky above the city. The strange blot has hung in the air for several weeks, moving slowly in what appears to be a random pattern in the sky. At first assumed to be a dark cloud, it soon became evident that it often moved at odds with the wind. The blot itself resembles nothing so much as a shadow floating in the sky, almost as if some large but unseen object were partially blocking the sun’s rays.
Riddleport already hosts a large number of scholars, but as word of the blot spread, additional investigators from locations as far as Magnimar came to witness the strange phenomenon, their numbers swelling the city’s population. Arguments over the source, nature, and implications of the shadow rage in areas where scholars congregate, but when it became apparent that the shadow was having little direct impact on the city itself, most of Riddleport’s citizens moved on to other concerns, leaving the matter to the bookish sages in order to get on with the business of doing business. Of course, the majority of the city’s residents find the influx of new marks to be quite welcome, and both pickpocketing and the confidence business is booming.
Although the Gold Goblin stands in a much-neglected neighborhood and the building itself has long stood dormant and empty, it makes a comeback as the big day comes. Crowds of participants and spectators mill about on the street or file together through the main doors to sign up for the tournament. Overseeing this gathering is a larger-than-life-size statue of a goblin, apparently cast in glittering gold, that stands atop the entry stairs with a smirking expression of satisfaction on its face, as if personally enjoying the crowds that shuffle past it into the doorway beneath the gambling hall’s gilded dome.
The Gold Goblin’s main hall is a very large room, and there are more than a dozen different gaming tables available for contestants to wager, win, and lose. For much of the afternoon, as the registration process continues, the gathering crowd spends time playing cards and other non-sanction games, drinking, or otherwise carousing. By the time dusk approaches and the tournament gears up to begin, there are more than a hundred participants in attendance, along with 17 dealers and croupiers, six succubus-costumed servers, and six burly bouncers crammed into the room.
As the windows begin darkening with twilight, several gamehall employees enter, carrying torches shaped like pitchforks skewering burning heads made of straw and cloth to light several large braziers, giving the hall a more infernal hue. A hush falls over the gathered crowd as a short man climbs to the central podium, accompanied by two gorgeous “succubi,” and stands before the gold, chain-shrouded chest there with a demoness on either side. He wears a formal suit, and his thinning black hair is slicked back. His left arm ends in a stump just above the wrist, and affixed to it is a bronze cap from which protrudes an oddly shaped key. This is Saul Vancaskerkin, the owner of the Gold Goblin and host of the tournament.
“Bounder, bounder, bounder! No doubles, no doubles!” What You’ll Need: 3d6 for the dealer and 2d20 for each player, plus coins to track bets. How to Play: Bounder is unique among gambling games in that both the players and dealer use dice. The dealer gets three 6-sided dice, and each player gets two 20-siders. To start, each player bets a stake (minimum 1 sp). Each player rolls his first d20, making his “point.” After all players have rolled their points, each player may double his stake if desired. Then the dealer rolls 3d6. Anyone whose point the dealer matches loses his stake. Then each player rolls his second d20. If the player’s two dice results are on either side of the dealer’s result—one greater than and one less than the dealer’s number—he “bounds” the dealer and wins an amount equal to the amount he bet. Otherwise, he loses his stake. If a player rolls a 1 and a 20 (or a 20 and a 1), he wins double his bet. Odds: The house edge in this game is 18% without any doubling. A player over time will get about 7/17 of his money back. Extreme points (1, 2, 19 and 20) are as good as 47.5%, so doubling is wiser there (but still not wise).
“What a mighty hero! Ready to rescue the ale from any mug!” Background: Ghoulette is a roulettelike game invented by a strange rogue named Lixy Parmenter. She got the idea for the game after making an unusual discovery while robbing a grave—she found the decapitated head of Dungo the Savage. Dungo was a disillusioned bard and priest of Calistria known far and wide for his withering insults, capable of reducing the most confident lord to a shaking mass. Things did not end swimmingly for Dungo, as he was fatally munched by a ghoul. Before he succumbed to ghoul fever, he spat out one last curse: that the citizens of Riddleport would be haunted by his sharp tongue for all time. Unfortunately, his curse attracted Calistria’s attention, who was at the time in a particularly playful mood. She answered Dungo’s curse by transforming his head into a magic item. (The ghouls ate the rest of him.) Dungo retains a vestigial ability to hurl insults, even with the lack of lungs (or the need to breathe, for that matter). Lixy Parmenter found his insults to be rather amusing, and decided to turn the strange talking head into a gambling game. She mounted Dungo on a wheel and surrounded it with various categories, and players bet on the category that his head will face after each spin. What You’ll Need: A spinner or a d12, plus markers and coins to track bets. How to Play: To play, each player puts a marker and any number of coins on one or more of the spaces on the ghoulette wheel (minimum 10 cp per space). The croupier then spins Dungo until he comes to a stop. Dungo then issues an enraged insult at someone based on the particular topic he is looking at on the wheel. Any player who has coins on the subject matter of this insult is paid the amount of coins he bet in the next highest denomination—copper gets paid in silver (e.g., a 15 cp bet gets 15 sp), silver in gold, gold in platinum, and platinum in ten times the amount. If Dungo says “something nice,” each player gets a consolation prize of the amount of coins he bet in the next lowest denomination, rounded down (e.g., a 15 cp bet gets back 1 cp). Then the croupier presses a button that tilts the edges of the wheel slightly inward, and all original bets (regardless of win or loss) slide into slots under Dungo’s head and into the coffer under the table. Odds: The house edge in this game is 8.33%. Over time, a player earns back 11/12 of his money, or very slightly less if he bets in anything other than increments of 10 due to rounding down on “something nice.”
“It’s you verses the greedy golem! Test your skill and take the monster’s pot!” What You’ll Need: A deck of cards, plus an amulet and coins to track bets. A golem deck is identical to a realworld poker deck, except the cards go from 1 to 13 in four suits: flesh (hearts), clay (spades), stone (diamonds), and iron (clubs). How to Play: Golem is a player-vs.-player card game similar to five-card draw poker, but with a “golem hand.” Golem is played in a series of games; one game must be completely resolved before the next begins. The player to the right of the dealer gets the amulet to start the night. The dealer deals five cards to each player. Starting at the amulet, each player can bet, raise one coin, or fold. Anyone who folds is out of the game, and can’t come back in until a new game begins. Next, each player may discard up to two cards and receive that many back from the dealer. These discarded cards go facedown on the center of the table. Another round of betting occurs, starting at the amulet. If, at any point, only one player hasn’t folded, he wins the pot—the house taking 5 percent—and the game is over. If at least two players are still in after all bets are called, those players reveal their hands. Then the dealer “ups the golem.” The golem hand—those cards discarded when players had the chance to draw new cards—is revealed, and if the player with the best hand beats the golem, he wins the pot, and the game is over. But if the player with the best hand does not beat the golem, that player must put into the pot an amount of coins equal to what’s already in the pot, and all cards are collected so that a new hand can be dealt for the players who were still in at the end. This continues until someone wins the pot. The house takes 5 percent of the final pot, and then the amulet moves one position to the right and a new game is dealt. Odds: The house takes 5 percent of each final pot; otherwise, the odds of winning are determined by the other players.
“Step up to the lake and get your racers ready! There’s a storm a’comin’!” What You’ll Need: A three-by-three grid (or a set of nine small boxes of the same size), a large bowl, and a different-colored set of 25 identical tokens, beads, cubes, or chips for up to eight players. How to Play: Skiffs is a halfling gambling game played on a three-by-three board or set of boxes (the “lake”). Each player puts up in 25 tokens (“skiffs”). The dealer takes one skiff (the “racer”) from each player and then places the rest in a bowl called the “storm.” The storm is flipped over the lake in one smooth motion, so each of the skiffs falls into one of the 9 boxes. (If a skiff falls between parts of the lake, the dealer places it where more than half of it lies, choosing randomly between the two boxes if it isn’t clear.) The dealer places the racers in the bowl. Then the dealer pulls out one racer at a time, and that player takes a turn. On your turn you must do exactly one of the following, if you can: • Remove any one skiff. • Remove one of your skiffs and any one skiff from anywhere on the board. • Remove one of your skiffs and any two skiffs from the same box. • Move one skiff to an adjacent box. When a box contains exactly one skiff, that skiff is “anchored.” An anchored skiff can’t be removed except by its owner, and no one can move a skiff into that box except the anchored skiff’s owner. In all cases, each skiff you remove is worth one coin, regardless of whose it is. After everyone has taken a turn, the dealer puts the racers back in the bowl, and starts a new round of turns. The game can end in two ways. The first way is if anyone has the only skiffs in a straight line vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. In this case, that player wins all the skiffs still on the board. The house keeps the racers. The second way is if each box contains skiffs of just one color, or none at all. In that case, the game ends, the house keeps the racers, and points are counted. You get one point for each skiff on the board, and one point for every box in which you have the only skiff(s). Whoever has the most points on the board takes all the remaining skiffs. In the case of a tie, those skiffs are split evenly between the tied players. Odds: This is mostly a skill game, so there are no precise odds. It’s also not a fair game, meaning others can pick on you if you tick them off. But the house doesn’t care, since it takes the racers (one coin per player).