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Chapter 2: The Tavern Brawl

March 16, 2023
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It was a quiet night in the little village of Kalagrad, but the evening was just getting started at The Side Quest Tavern’s Chance tables.

Now the story must drift away from a boy certain he’s destined for greatness, to a little town in an entirely different part of Tolkhiem.

Kalagrad is a small hamlet that lies far to the North of Shallowharbor. The people of the area are mostly farmers and ranchers, so their minds are typically occupied by little beyond the next harvest. These folk have little care for the affairs of the larger world, let alone the poultry pilfering of a child in some city further south than anyone they knew had ever been.

This particular warm spring evening finds dozens of locals at The Side Quest Tavern. Planting is mostly through for the season, and most of the village has gathered as the mead flows and the music plays.

While the townsfolk may not care for the goings on of the wider world, there is one thing that nearly everyone in Tolkhiem has in common… the game of Chance.

Arlo had a hard day’s work. He trudged down the street as the moon rose, hardly lifting his boots. He could taste the chalky mist he was kicking up covering his body. He didn’t suppose he could get any dirtier than he already was though.

Normally, he was straight home for a bath and a good night’s sleep after work, but not tonight. A recent fire in the woods had left his field strewn with charred debris. Unlike the family farms in the area, Arlo was on his own. When work literally piled up, he was the only one to do it.

This all meant Arlo was weeks behind, and he was exhausted. The dust billowing around him reminded him how parched he was. No straight home tonight. He could hear the music from The Side Quest ahead of him, and he felt he’d never needed a drink this bad in his life.

The music grew as he turned left at the general store. As he walked off the road and towards the torchlight from the entrance, energetic voices began building behind the melody.

The game tables outside the entrance were dimly lit with torches, further shaded by figures standing around them to watch the action. Arlo avoided playing Chance at The Side Quest when he could. He knew the game well, but competition between neighbors could get intense, and Arlo considered himself retired from the game since he moved to Kalagrad a decade ago.

“You get that field cleared, Arlo?” A man in a dusty leather jumper asked as he approached out of the dark.

“Few bits left,” Arlo said with a sigh, knowing he’d barely begun the exhausting work. Arlo tipped his hat to the man without stopping in his steady trudge to the tavern door.

“You know my nephew has an extra Rod of Disintegration hanging around from his first marriage. Probably could cut you a nice deal.”

Arlo continued walking, pretending not to hear the man’s last comment. Many of the farmers in the area had old magic family heirlooms hanging around to make a farmer’s work easier. Arlo, however, was not interested in sharing the fruits of his labor with anyone. Everybody in this town wanted to be owed a favor, but he wasn’t about to owe anything to anyone.

As he pushed through the door of the tavern, the music and voices within suddenly roared. The brightness of the glow globes and the sound of the crowd stunned him momentarily. He signaled the bartender for a mead before taking a quiet seat in the corner.

It was mostly the usual crowd. The Hackenslash Boys were on stage, and old Vila MarCroot was telling some bored girls at the bar about how his family was descended from ancient Faekin sorcerers. All the hired crews from Dingle were still here. Probably moving on tomorrow.

There was one man in the tavern that Arlo didn’t know, however. He was standing next to a Chance table in the opposite corner, chatting and laughing with a large group. Playing at the table was Johno the mayor and the tavern keeper, Merl.

Actual armor — designed to shield from blows and arrows — is rare in the Age of Chance. With disputes settled mostly at the tables, the message an outfit sends is often much more important than any security it provides.

The stranger was an older, rugged man with a deeply booming voice and a thick black beard. Even while laughing, his scarred face seemed permanently set in a scowl. His leather armor didn’t look particularly rich, but it had clearly seen some action. This made him obviously stick out from the dusty farmers around him. At his hip hung a card pouch that Arlo recognized right away… an official Tolkhiem Chance Commission token satchel.

As Johno and Merl finished their game, the stranger whispered something to the tavern keeper, who then proceeded to the stage just as the Hackenslash Boys finished their number.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” Merl announced. “We have a real treat here tonight. Ajax Hammerfist, formerly the champion of Grospodoc in the NCL, is passing through, offering a little impromptu workshop on modern Chance strategy! Anyone interested feel free to hang around after the Hackenslash Boys’ set… they sure are hot tonight, right folks?”

The band played another hour or so, and the crowd continued to drink. Hammerfist milled table to table, commenting on games and answering questions about his illustrious career. Arlo, rather uninterested in musings on Chance strategy, went back to his mead and had a passing conversation with Paladin Kroda about the conflict on the eastern isles.

“So if you’re going to be competitive in Chance these days, you’ve got to know what everyone is bringing to the table. In the past couple decades, strategy has moved away from the more straightforward ‘smack ’em up’ style to a lot more trickery and shenanigans. So who here has the newest creatures in town?”

Marko, the town baker, raised his hand timidly from a table in front of the stage. “My wife used to live in Regara back in the 80s. She used to do some cleaning for one of the tokensmiths down there. Gave her a nice stash of creatures, some of which I’ve worked into my Deck over the past decade or so.”

“That’s great! Why don’t you come up here and we’ll have a little friendly game. I can show you all some of the newer creatures and cards that tokensmiths have cooked up a little more recently.” Hammerfist pulled out a chair at Merl’s usual table, gesturing for the man to join him.

The two men situated themselves and began a game. Marko summoned a Boarkin Butcher to start, Hammerfist answered with a Cragg Runner. The two went back and forth summoning creatures and alternating simple action cards to attack each other. Arlo raised an eyebrow from his seat in the back… odd that Hammerfist would talk about shenanigans and trickery, then play such a boring gambit. Perhaps the veteran was just playing at Marko’s pace.

After more back and forth, Hammerfist’s Brightsteppe Charger landed a critical hit on Marko’s Butcher… his last remaining creature. Hammerfist still had two creatures standing, but barely. It certainly wasn’t the decisive victory you’d expect a seasoned professional to have against the baker down the lane.

“Great game my good man!” Hammerfist said, standing and giving Marko a good clap on the shoulder. “You see the sophistication of some of the new creatures out there? Tokensmiths are doing some amazing work these days.”

The victor stepped away from the table to address the crowd. His hands moved in sweeping, almost hypnotic gestures as he spoke. “I may have underestimated the gaming spirit in… What’s the name of this town again?”

Several voices from the crowd hooted and cheered, and the drunken voice of Molly Kradosko rang out from the back of the room, “KAL- A-GRAAAAAAAAD!!!!”. Arlo could see the bottle of wine raised from where the voice originated, and the room erupted into cheers of local pride.

“Now who wants a try next? We can run through your strategy and make some quick fixes while we play.” Hammerfist pointed at one of the drunkards raising his hand and started a match eerily similar to Marko’s. This continued for awhile, with the “pro” either barely winning or barely losing each match.

Several hours, a goose leg and more than a few meads later, Arlo’s bones had surrendered some of their hostility from the day’s work. He stood from his booth and stretched… morning would be hard again, and he finally felt like he could actually lay down and sleep.

“Agh! Again?!” The sound of broken glass and a ruckus from Hammerfist’s table, wrenching Arlo from his thoughts of sleep. The man had been playing for hours. His luck had turned a while back, along with his temper The folk playing with him had been putting drinks back hard all night and Arlo was surprised they were even still going on the old pro.

“To think, all those years on the circuit and it’s a tanner who proves to be my nemesis.” The momentary anger from Hammerfist’s exclamation subsided oddly quickly into joking self deprecation. “You’ve taken all the shields I have in my pouch, but I haven’t had such good matches in years.” He paused momentarily before his eyebrows raised. “Care to make this a little more interesting?”

“Ha! I’s don’t see how,” responded Borjak the tanner who was seated across the table. “Ye don’t have anything left but the clothes on you’se back–”

“ — And the creatures and cards in my deck,” Hammerfist retorted quickly.

“Oh you’se want to go cards for cards? I’d wager I’s could use a new deck.”

“No no, that won’t do.” Hammerfist shook his head chuckling. “My cards and tokens are of the finest craftsmanship from Shallowharbor to New Tradda. Cards against cards doesn’t seem very fair– I’m happy to wager the larger amount, but my deck is a fortune that you could live on the rest of your life!”

Borjak’s not entirely sober eyes widened, then quickly narrowed as he spoke. “Well, I’s think cards for cards is the custom. Understand if yer afeared though, seein as how I’s already beat you five straight times” Cheers and lauds came from the crowd, and Borjak beamed proudly.

“You have to give me some reason to try. Many of these cards are entirely one-of-a-kind!” Hammerfist leaned back with a furrowed brow and his hands clasped in front of him — as if begging for another chance.

“Wells, alright.” Borjak sighed. “How’s about 1000 shields verso your cards. That’s about double what you’s already lost on me.”

“Sir!” Hammerfist acted offended, “This Deck altogether cost me at least 100 times that much. I couldn’t do it for less than 8000 shields.”

Borjak seemed less inebriated now. He leaned forward and studied Hammerfist. At first he looked like he may decline the offer, but after a glance around at the encouraging crowd, his face found new resolve. “Fine. 8000 it is.” he finally responded after a long sigh.

Hammerfist won the flip. He brought out his Cragg Runner as usual, and Borjak responded with a Grimtotem Cyclops. The next turn, contrary to his play in previous games, Hammerfist didn’t summon his second creature, but only dragged and passed. Borjak brought out a Water Elemental and launched a basic attack with his Cyclops.

While many more reputable establishments across Tolkhiem featured ornate, artisan game boards and tables, anywhere could easily become a Chance table at a joint like The Side Quest.

To Borjak’s surprise, Hammerfist simply attacked again the next turn without playing a card or summoning a creature. “Helluva time to try a new stratchegy you old wash up,” Borjak chuckled as he played an Air Elemental and used several cards to almost finish off Hammerfist’s lone Cragg Runner.

Hammerfist’s expression was far different than Arlo had seen it all night. He looked at the tanner across from him with much more disdain and superiority than had been there moments before the game. He looked at Borjak like he wanted to wipe his boots on the tanner’s cards “Oh, washup am I? That sure is something coming from a never-has-been ripjockey in some dirt farm town.”

The crowd gasped and there were shocked mutters. Before anyone could really settle on how to react, Hammerfist played several cards to buff the power of his Cragg Runner, followed by Full Measure to deliver a 6-shot, instant kill on Borjak’s Water Elemental. The crowd instantly quieted as his now heavily boosted Cragg Runner wiped out the Air Elemental in one drag. “Also, it’s pronounced ‘stra-tuh-geee’, simpleton.” The now grinning pro summoned an Azure Dragon and leaned back with a satisfied expression.

Borjak summoned a Mimic and was able to knock out the Cragg Runner, but he knew he was done. As the match spiraled towards the inevitable conclusion, the tanner’s shoulders slumped lower and lower as the former champion’s smile grew wider and wider..

The stunned tanner gradually collected his wits about him after his defeat. As he did, Arlo could see him growing more and more angry. “You swindled me ya porc! You weren’t trying before!”

“I’m a seasoned professional. Why would I try in a dive tavern full of uncivilized half-wits?” Hammerfist bellowed laughter. His previous charisma and charm were gone now… washed away in a spray of mead-scented spittle over the faces of the crowd. “You said you wanted to make it interesting, so I was more interested. Now if you don’t mind, let’s go get my shields. I’ll take back the 500 of mine you’re holding in your pouch now.”

As the cardshark finished talking, he grabbed Borjak by the shoulder of his tunic. The crowd began to shout at Hammerfist, but one voice rang out over everyone– instantly hushing the room.


Arlo rose from his seat walking towards Hammerfist as the crowd parted for him. “I demand Double.”

“Uh.. what is this, kindergarten? Surely you rubes don’t take that Double stuff seriously.” Hammerfist looked insulted… but definitely hadn’t lost that haughty look with new greed peering through his eyes.

“Quite the contrary,” the mayor interjected, “A citizen’s right to Double is enshrined in our Town Charter.”

1.23:46 All disputes, great and small, shall be resolved through Chance or another activity of sporting nature as is decided and consented to by all parties involved.

1.23:46.a) Any player may appoint a champion for the resolution of a dispute in which they are involved, if it is decided and consented by all parties involved.

1.23:46.b) The loser of Chance or any activity of sporting nature may declare Double, thus compelling the victor to rewager winnings versus an equal sum.

1.23:47.c) If a challenger who is not the loser declares Double, the victor is still compelled to rewager all winnings, so long as:

47.c(2) The challenger was a direct observer of the match

47.c(3) The loser consents to the declaration of Double.

1.23:46.d) No one is permitted to declare Double on a Double.

From Part 1, Section 23 of the Kalagrad Town Charter: “On Activity of Sporting Nature and the Express and Total Ban of Physical Aggression in All Forms in Contract Law and Civil Disputes.”

Arlo calmly sat at the table and gave a long nod to Borjak, whose panicked face now had a glimmer of hope behind his eyes. “So my 8000 shields versus you canceling Borjak’s debt then.”

Hammerfist narrowed his eyes at this new challenger but eventually sat down grumbling. “I guess the law is the law.” The coin flip went to him.

The Cragg Runner came out. Arlo played a Razorvine Ent. The early game progressed far more rapidly than before from Hammerfist’s side of the table… he tore at the Ent with the Cragg Runner turn after turn. He brought out a Gluttonous Mimic and a Furious Bugbear in the following turns… continuing to pound away at Arlo’s Ent while gathering cards.

Arlo, on the other hand, played no other creatures past his Ent in those first turns. He attacked several times to no avail, but as Hammerfist’s creatures got more plentiful, Arlo steadily kept Thorns on his Ent, thus ensuring it regenerated.

The Ent was slowly losing health and Hammerfist had summoned a Brightsteppe Charger as his fourth creature. Arlo smiled and finally brought out his second creature… a Morelkin Spore Cleric.

“Oh no you don’t!” Hammerfist exclaimed as he bore down on the newly summoned creature. It wasn’t enough. The mushroom barely lived.

A smile slowly spread across Arlo’s face. His trap had been set, baited and triggered… now he just had to bag up the quarry. Arlo didn’t bother to heal his Morelkin… and few in the crowd had noticed that he had stopped regenerating his Ent. All of his creatures were in bad shape. He quickly played a series of defensive boosts, then brought out the Furious Bugbear.

Hammerfist, now clearly agitated by his falling confidence in the game, responded with an area attack from his Cragg Runner… clearly afraid to over engage and boost the Bugbear.

Arlo’s turn came back around and he wasted no time. He played the Brightscourge Phoenix. An almost unison gasp came from the gathered spectators. As every creature on his side of the board other than the Bugbear was terribly close to death, over half his team was granted auto-revive.

Hammerfist’s jaw dropped. What was pure surprise on the former champion’s face turned to absolute fury, however, when Arlo followed it up with a Rallying Cry to double the attack of his whole team.

It didn’t take long from there. Arlo delivered a series of devastating blows from his creatures over the next few turns with his hoarded cards. Faced with a constant barrage of Thorns and powerful attacks, it was only a few turns before it was obvious Hammerfist was beaten.

He shoved his chair back from the table, knocking creatures off their feet and spilling Arlo’s drink. “You bunch of cons and cheats. You’re all behind this!” He gestured wildly at the crowd. “Curse this nowhere town! Curse every last one of you smelly dirt worms!”

His rage was cut short, however, when he noticed how many townsfolk were silently closing in on him with a corner to his back. His voice lowered and his chest deflated slightly. Casting his eyes downward he said “You all can keep your shields. You obviously need them more than I.” The once proud champion now scampered from the tavern in a hurry with a quivering upper lip.

After he’d left the door, the crowd dispersed a bit. Either grouping together or paying compliments to Arlo, the tavern quickly got back to the same old Side Quest.

Several moments after Hammerfist had fled, Arlo glanced around to see if anyone was looking, then scooped up the pro’s creatures and cards along with his own. He didn’t think the champ would be coming back for them any time soon.

“I’s don know what to say Arla” Borjak put his hand on Arlo’s shoulder. “You saved my shop, my home… eer’thing.”

“Welcome,” said Arlo, suddenly feeling ready for bed. “Can’t have tripe like that turning tricks in the Side Quest.””

“You’s a good neighbor, but you let me know how’s I can help n’ when. I owes you one.” Borjak began to walk away before Arlo’s voice stopped him several steps later.

“Since you mention it… your uncle said you may have an extra Rod of Disintegration laying around.”

The launch of Legends Reborn is quickly approaching! Our next playtest on the Gala Games platform starts any day!

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