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Tabletop Game / Hoyle's Rules of Dragon Poker

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The Most Complicated Game on This, or Any Other, World.

In 1985, Robert Aspirin invented Dragon Poker for his novel Little Myth Marker. Since then, fans have added to the game by filling in the blanks left in the deck, the hands and the rules. Hoyle's Rules of Dragon Poker compiles the previous work while adding the long-neglected (by the authors and fans) conditional modifiers, creating the first complete set of rules to the game.

The game is essentially a souped-up version of stud poker, where players get a set number of cards (some face up and some face down) without the ability to draw cards to improve their hands. The game is played (usually) with a regular deck (with Dragons, Unicorns, Ogres and Elves replacing Aces, Kings, Queens and Jacks respectively).

And then things get interesting.

The rules of the game change depending on outside factors. It's Tuesday? Now Unicorns are wild. It's St. George's Day? Those Dragons you're holding are now blank. A romance novel is at the top of the New York Times Best Seller List? Now you can't play a hand that doesn't have an Ogre and a Unicorn. The rule changes stack and your opponents don't have to remind you of the active modifiers.

Saner players than you have gone mad playing this game.

Hoyle's Rules of Dragon Poker is open-source, available to everyone for use and modification. A website, along with ebook version of the manual, detailing the rules and game play can be found here.

Hoyle's Rules of Dragon Poker provides examples of:

  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: The rules state that anything can be gambled: money, chips, names, children, etc. The only real limitation put in place is that dependents have to be returned before the police have to get involved.
  • Anachronism Stew: The author never bothers to explain why a game played in ancient Pompeii has rules for surge protectors and Weird Al.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The game was brought to this world by demons, or so the manual would have us believe.
  • Calvinball: The card game version. There are so many possible rules changes that you're guaranteed to never play the same game twice.
  • Creator Provincialism: Like the book series it's based on, the game, purportedly from another dimension, has an awful lot of references to US/British media.
  • Dead Man's Hand:
    27. If a player plays the Dead Man's Hand, they may not play for the rest of the night.
  • Developer's Foresight: The point of the conditional modifiers. If it could conceivably happen, there's probably a rule change for it. Notable examples include the end of the world, UFO encounters and the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl.
  • Dresses the Same:
    99. If two players arrive wearing the same clothes, the next hand will be played just between them. They will have to share the same face up cards, but their hole cards will be their own.
  • The Dragonslayer: The Jokers, appropriately called St. Georges, serve as this to Dragons, provided another conditional modifier.
  • Direct Line to the Author: The introduction of the manual is fictional history that traces the origins of the game to the destruction of Pompeii.
  • Eastern Zodiac: The only time St. Georges are defeated by Dragons is during the Chinese New Year.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: The penalty for losers.
    60. The overall loser of a game or session will be rechristened by their betters and keep their name until the next new moon.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The game provides not only rules for the end of the world, but also if the world fails to end. (Doubles as a Shout-Out to M*A*S*H
    31. If a session is held on the day of the end of the world or imminent death for the group, chips will be worth $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000. (Local currencies apply)
    32. If the world doesn't end or the group doesn't die within 24 hours, chips will be worth 10¢, 25¢ and 50¢. (Local currencies apply)
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Averted Trope. In Dragon Poker, everything is worse with rainbows!
    221. If there is a rainbow in the sky, flushes and straight flushes are invalid.
  • The Fair Folk: The game acknowledges their existence.
    156. If a player claims or is determined to be a supernatural creature by other players, they are banned from using face cards.
  • Fairy Godmother
    87. If one player is a godmother, she may not use Elves in her hand.
  • Flying Saucer
    169. If the players spot a UFO, all face cards are equal.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Some conditional modifiers use scenarios that can never fail to happen.
    • Due to there being no dedicated Dragon Poker decks, this rule is one.
    141. If the game is played with a non-Dragon Poker deck, raising prior to the second round of betting is forbidden.
    • Rule 30 is one, if you count the spinning of the world.
    30. If the players are in constant and consistent motion for the duration of a hand, the values of the face cards are reversed.
  • Fog of Doom/Mysterious Mist: Betting blind is definitely mysterious and can lead to doom.
    130. When there's a fog or mist, the first two rounds of betting must be blind and there shall be seven hole cards.
  • Haunted House
    86. In a haunted house, Ogres become the lowest ranking face card.
  • The Hidden Hour
    182. During the Witching Hour, every player plays with all hole cards.
  • Infomercial
    107. If an infomercial is playing on the TV at the time the dealing begins, betting will occur after every card is dealt.
  • Loophole Abuse: Some modifiers are vague to the point of meaninglessness, requiring players into this.
  • Lost Him in a Card Game: See the "Absurdly High-Stakes Game" entry.
  • Lost Technology: The history section speculates that real Dragon Poker decks exist, and the conditional modifiers back this up, but none have ever been found.
  • Rules Lawyer: Some of the rules were deliberately made vague to encourage arguments over their exact meaning.
  • Mythology Gag: This isn't the first attempt outlining the rules, so after the author completed their research, they referenced earlier fan guides as part of the centuries long hunt for the rules.
  • Nerd Glasses: There's no other possible reason for the glasses rule to be themed around the number four.
    A player wearing glasses is forbidden from using 4s or hands that utilize Four-of-a-Kinds.
  • Now Do It Again, Backwards: The author clearly loves this trope, as no less than nine modifiers involve changing the order of cards, suits, dealing or betting. The simplest of these merely reverses the order.
  • One-Steve Limit
    79. If two players share a name, they must trade hands after the second round of betting every other hand.
  • Our Zombies Are Different
    125. If two separate rules make a card dead and blank, that card is a zombie card. If it appears in a player's up cards, it must be removed from the deck. If it's in a player's hold cards, their hand is dead (although the player can still win by bluffing).
  • Random Number God: Referenced by name, the rules allow unlimited mulligans for players who have angered the Random Number God.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning
    204. If there is a red sky at night, shuffling will be done by taking the top and bottom cards from the deck and placing them at the bottom of the new deck (This does not need to be exact).
  • Shout-Out: A number of them, many on the obscure side. In addition to ones to the source material, the author pays tribute to earlier fan works by incorporating them into the games history. Other references include:
    • The tag line, which is taken off of Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Worlds.
    • M*A*S*H
    31. If a session is held on the day of the end of the world or imminent death for the group, chips will be worth $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000. (Local currencies apply)
    32. If the world doesn't end or the group doesn't die within 24 hours, chips will be worth 10¢, 25¢ and 50¢. (Local currencies apply)
    35. If, when playing, a Weird Al song broadcasts on the radio, the value of the hands reverses.
    36. If a cat walks by and sneezes, the betting must cease for the remainder of the hand.
    52. If the local radio station allows requests during the session, the loser of a hand must call in “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers to continue playing.
    16. In every hand after the forty-second, the player facing north can discard one of another player's face card at anytime.
    57. If four lights are on in the game room, 3s are wild.
    • Zigzagged Trope: The rules punish any player who makes a pop culture reference, if no one laughs at it.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Due to the sheer insanity of it, the game itself is the subject of legend in-universe. The author assures us it's all nonsense, until he doesn't.
  • Side Bet
    Side bets are permitted at the gaming table at all times, but if there's no winner, the bet will be added to the pot.
  • The Teetotaler: One of the game's specific targets of mockery.
    Should anyone not in the group complain about drinking, at the end of the night, all players will leave any empty bottles in front of the complainer's door.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts
    55. If a player finds themselves in debt, they may only use Clubs until such time as they are out of debt.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The author contradicts themselves on the origin of the game within the space of two pages.
  • Wall of Weapons
    102. If the game room has weapons on display, St. Georges replace Elves.