Players are dealt five cards. Starting from the dealer’s left, they each discard a card and draw a new one They may then either call and lay their hand down, or end their turn. The objective is to have the lowest summed hand (Aces are 1, Jacks, Queens, and Kings are all 10.) The player whose hand adds up to the lowest value at the time of a call wins. At any point during their turn, players may remove cards from their hand in one of two ways; both are called a spread.

If a player has three or four of a kind, they may lay them down on the table face-up and remove them from their hand.

If a player has three or more cards in a row of the same suit, they may lay them down on the table-face up and remove them from their hand. (For example, the 3/4/5 of clubs.)

If a spread is on the table, any player may, on their turn, add additional cards to it. (Spreads do not contribute to points; it doesn’t cost you anything to add to a spread someone else started.)

Betting is done by buying in before the game. Each hand is worth a particular value (common values are 1 cp and 1 sp) from each player.

Regional variants abound (for example, Shoot the Moon – a hand of all high face cards, jacks/queens/kings, automatically wins; Change Places – discarding a joker forces everyone to pass their entire hand one place to the right; Queen of Wands – the Queen of Clubs counts as 0; and so on, more or less cards in hand – 3/5/7/12, may draw from discard pile).

Gambling Proficiency

Characters who are proficient in gambling gain an advantage when playing Tonk. These advantages reflect an abstracted summary of all the advantages a skilled player would gain and are not intended by be literally true in game.

A character with Gambling proficiency may either cheat or play it straight. A character who is cheating will gain a greater benefit, but may get caught if their proficiency throw is an unmodified 1-3, or based on the result of the game (see later).

A second deck with different card backs should be used for some of these effects, referred to afterwards as the Gambling deck. When it is time to call, if any of the cards used to construct a cheater’s hand from the Gambling deck are already in play (for example, if his hand includes the Ace of Spades from the gambling deck and he or another player has the Ace of Spades in their revealed hand), his cheating may have been noticed. (Remember that this is an abstraction; he is not actually laying down two Aces of Spades in-game, which is why his cheating only has a chance to be noticed. Also note that characters who play it straight, becasue they are not cheating, do not suffer this risk, even if they end up with duplicate cards.)

With one rank in Gambling and a successful proficiency throw, a character who plays it straight is dealt a sixth card at the start of the game from the Gambling deck. When replacing a card, he may replace either a normal card or his Gambling card, and draws a new card from the same deck the discarded one came from. (That is, if he chooses to replace his Gambling card, he draws a new card from the Gambling deck.) When it is time to add up his hand, he may choose cards out of his hand to add together. He must play a total number of cards equal to 5 minus the number of cards he has played as spreads (in other words, he should have a baseline number of cards despite having access to more options. If he has played three cards as a spread, he must select two cards from his remaining three to add up.)

A character with one rank in Gambling who cheats instead receives two cards from the Gambling deck. If he chooses to replace one of his Gambling cards, he may instead replace both.

With two ranks in Gambling and a successful proficiency throw, in addition to the benefits of Gambling 1, a character who plays it straight may scry 1 after replacing a card. A cheating character may scry 1 on both decks, then may choose to place the top card from the gambling deck on top of the normal deck.

With three ranks in Gambling and a successful proficiency throw, in addition to the benefits of Gambling 1 and 2, a character who plays it straight may gain information about another player’s hand after replacing a card but before betting. They choose another player; that player must choose two cards out of their hand to show the gambler. If the gambler is cheating, the player must instead select only one card, and hide that card; the gambler is then shown the other four cards in their hand.

In circumstances where a cheating character may get caught, all other players at the table who do not have Gambling proficiency are entitled to a throw of 18+ to notice. Players who do have Gambling proficiency reduce this target number by 4 per rank (thus, a character with 3 ranks of Gambling needs to roll only a 6+ to notice.) If any character succeeds, they notice the cheating. What happens next is, of course, up to the character who noticed.


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