High Dragon was a three-player card game enjoyed in northwest Faerûn, circa the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR, and was rapidly gaining in popularity at that time. Gambling on the outcome of individual turns and/or the entire game was common.
High Dragon required a special deck of 60 cards divided into three suits or "courts": Blue Shield, Green Tree, and Silver Sword. The rank of each card in a court was, from lowest to highest:
- Warrior of the 5th
- Warrior of the 6th
- Warrior of the 7th
- Warrior of the 8th
- Warrior of the 9th
- Warrior of the 10th
- Warrior of the 11th
- Wandering Wizard
- Young Dragon
- Queen Dragon
- Death Dragon
- King Dragon
The dealer shuffled all 60 cards and dealt out a Silent Hand of 7 cards face down that were set aside for the remainder of the game. Then a hand of 7 cards was dealt face down to each player. One more card, called the "battle court card", was dealt face up for all to see and was only consulted in the event of a tie. The first dealer was chosen from among the players and the next dealer was the winner of the previous "battle". The direction of play (either to the dealer's left or right) was also agreed upon before the first battle.[note 1]
A game of High Dragon consisted of a "war" of twelve battles. The winner of the war was the player with the most battle victories.
Each battle began when the dealer played one card face down from his or her hand, then the second and third players did likewise in turn. The dealer then played a card face up and the second and third players did likewise. After all six cards had been played, the face down cards were revealed and each player calculated the sum of the ordinal rankings of their cards (a Knave was worth 3, a Warrior of the 9th was worth 9, a King Dragon was worth 20, etc.) and the highest total won the battle. After the battle was resolved, the six cards of the battle were discarded, a new battle court card was revealed from the top of the deck, and the winner of the previous battle started a new battle.
After every two battles, all cards except the Silent Hand (i.e., remaining hands, discards, and battle court cards) were collected, shuffled, and the winner of the previous battle then proceeded to reveal a new battle court card, deal each player a new hand of 7 cards, and begin the next battle.
In the event of a tie score in a battle, the winner was the player who played the most cards of the same court as the battle court card. If that was also a tie, then the winner was the player who played the highest-ranking card of the same court as the battle court card.[note 2]
If a war resulted in a two-way tie, then the loser bowed out and the two remaining players started another war with 9-card hands, two 9-card Silent Hands, and battles that involved three cards from each player: the first card was placed face down, the second card face up, and the third card face down before all were revealed and summed.
If a war resulted in a three-way tie, then there was no victor and all three players started a new war using the standard rules.
This card game was frequently the subject of gambling. Players and spectators could wager on the outcome of each battle and/or the entire war.
High Dragon became widely and wildly popular in the early 1370s DR, appealing to folks of all types, backgrounds, and professions. As demand increased, many different decks were produced with fine artwork decorating the face of each card. One establishment where this game was in great demand was the High Flagon gambling house just north of Waterdeep on the Long Road. The owner at the time, Drengar Harbright, was known to "sweeten the winner's pot" by adding some extra coins to the prize.
- ↑ The source does not state this explicitly but it seems necessary because the player to go last has the advantage of seeing the other two face up cards.
- ↑ The source does not address the possibility that none of the cards involved in a tie are of the same court as the battle court card. For example, the rules as given do not determine a winner in the case where Player 1 plays the Minstrel and Hero of Silver Swords, Player 2 plays the Minstrel and Hero of Green Trees, and the battle court card is a Blue Shield.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Ed Greenwood (December 2002). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: The High Flagon”. In Jesse Decker ed. Dragon #302 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 77.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (December 2002). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: The High Flagon”. In Jesse Decker ed. Dragon #302 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 76.