I’m joining a new Dungeons & Dragons 5E campaign at 5th level, playing the Gambler we designed on Episode 61 of Total Party Thrill. Rasputin Goldfingers will begin his playing career as Bard 3/Warlock 2, with the character concept that he’s made a pact with a fiend for mortal power, but must play a single hand of cards for his immortal soul upon his death. Obviously, he intends to ensure he wins that final hand. I wrote the following vignette as his backstory:
“And so, the bargain is struck, the pact completed!” roars the archfiend joyously, as the halfling’s blood dries upon the parchment. “Rasputin Goldfingers, your soul shall be mine. And sooner than you think, I’m sure!”
The halfling grins, his golden eyes glittering with greed. “We shall see, Avarixhal. As I reckon it, I’ve got a good 60 or 70 years to figure out your tell. If I can’t, then I suppose I deserve what fate befalls me, mate.”
A second cackling joins the devil’s raucous laughter.
A small imp, carrying an ornate, silver rod, dances around the fiend’s obsidian throne. “Oh yes, Master, that’s it. For centuries none has won this wager, but Rasputin Goldfingers, the lutist so lousy he was banished from three courts… the card sharp so dull he runs begging to the archdevil Avarixhal for salvation… he’ll do it in just a few decades! HA!”
Rasputin’s grin grows and he produces a deck of cards from his coat pocket, shuffles them in his skilled hands, and infuses them with his newly accessed eldritch power. “I’ll have my rod now, Fel’hellemuth, you worthless imp.”
Flying on wings almost comically small in comparison to his belly’s girth, the imp delivers the rod, the fell symbol of the unholy pact struck just moments before. Amused by the bard’s unfaltering confidence, the imp taunts further, “Do you know why Avarixhal likes to tempt the wagering types, halfling? You’re all gamblers, and the problem with gamblers is you never know when to walk away. If you’re flush, you’ll play until you bust. If you’re bust, you’ll double down until you’re either flush again, or dead in a ditch. And the trick of it is, you simply never see that you don’t hold all the cards.”
The halfling draws a card from the middle of the deck, staring as it courses with a pink-purple energy while he turns it over between his fingers. “You may be right, Fel’hellemuth, but there’s another gambler’s trick. Sometimes, you do hold all of the cards. And if you can convince the other players that you don’t, you can sucker them out of all their chips.”
With a flick of the wrist, the glowing card flashes across the chamber, embedding face-down into the imp’s corpulent torso. Fel’hellemuth yelps out of surprise as much as pain. Without a wasted motion, Rasputin spins on his heels, the tails of his coat billowing with a flourish, and stomps off toward the magical passageway out of the chamber.
As Fel’hellemuth plucks the card from his flesh and turns it over, Avarixhal grins broadly and chuckles to himself.
Bitterly, the imp tosses the card to the ground: the black Joker.