Several years ago, I ran a fantasy RPG campaign where I was looking for something for characters to do during those inevitable roadside tavern stops while traveling between adventures A and B. Drinking, wenching, and picking fights with the locals eventually loses its charm if you play long enough.
My solution was to offer the players the opportunity to do some good old-fashioned gambling -- but with a twist that made the game feel more unique. I didn't want just another element that felt like it was simply ported over from the "real world". Thus, the game Trefeltromp was born -- a game combining the skill and chance factors of poker with a 78-card tarot deck. The terminology is made up, but inspired by the Nordic languages (don't look for literal translations, however -- they don't exist). After running my players through it a few times, it came out feeling like it was pretty play-able. So, for what it's worth, I present it here for the benefit of anyone else who either can use it in their own RPG campaign, or would actually like to mix up the Friday-night poker session a bit with something different. Enjoy.
Instructions for Trefeltromp ("Triple Trump") -- A Gambling Card Game of Northern Neutara
Trefeltromp is a betting game played with a 78-card (Marseille-style) tarot deck. The betting rules are as poker – that is, there is an ante, and then rounds of betting where players may call, raise, check, or fold. However, the rules are otherwise quite different.
How to Play, Step by Step:
1) All players ante.
2) The dealer deals three face-down cards to each player; deal is counter-clockwise, but betting proceeds clockwise.
3) Players review their hands. There is an initial round of betting (called fyrsturkalla, or "first call")
4) After all players have called or folded, those remaining in play may discard one of their cards and receive another.
5) After all remaining players have received or bypassed their replacement card and reviewed their hands, there is a second round of betting (called banenkalla, or "orb call").
6) After the second round of betting concludes, each player selects one of their cards, and places it on the table in front of them, face down. Once placed, they rap the table twice with their knuckles. The rap indicates the player is ready to proceed; once a player has rapped, they cannot take back the card on the table and replace it with another.
7) Once all players have their face down cards on the table and have indicated readiness by rapping twice, the cards are flipped up in unison for banen ("the orb"). The winner of the banen round takes 1/3 of the current pot. The section below these instructions called "Determining the Winning Card" gives the rules for resolving the winner, if any, for the round.
8) A third round of betting commences (called detuilerkalla, or "scepter call"). Once again, players may check, call, raise, or fold.
9) Players that have not folded during or prior to detuilerkalla repeat step 6, using their remaining two cards.
10) Once all players are ready, the cards are flipped up simultaneously for detuiler ("the scepter"). The winner of detuiler (if any) takes half of the current pot.
11) A fourth and final round of betting commences (called debekransekalla, or "crown call").
12) Players that do not fold during debekransekalla place their final card on the table face down, and rap twice. These final cards are then flipped face up for debekranse ("the crown"). The winner of debekranse receives all of the remaining pot.
13) Deal passes to the right, and play continues until all players have left the game.
Note: It is possible for two or more players to tie in a round. When ties occur, no one wins the round, and the funds in the pot remain for the next round. If there is no winner of debekranse, the pot monies remain for the next hand. Even if there are holdover funds in the pot from the previous hand, players must still ante at the beginning of the next hand.
Determining the Winning Card:
1) See if any player has played a trump (a.k.a. "major arcana" card). If a trump has been played, it trumps all other cards to win the round. If multiple trumps are played, the trump of the highest numerical value wins the round. This means "The World" card – Trump XXI – is the highest card in the game, and therefore unbeatable. "The Fool", as card "0" or the "unnumbered trump", can only win the round if it is the only trump played... but if played and it does not win, it has a special ability described in item five of this section.
2) If no trump cards are played, the next highest cards are the Aces, followed by the face cards (King, Queen, Knight/Prince, Page/Princess). All face cards are considered to be of equal value; therefore, if no trump card and no aces are played, and more than one face card is played, the round is treated as a tie, and no one wins the pot for that round.
3) The remaining cards – 2 through 10 – are worth their numerical value. Higher numbers triumph over lower numbers (e.g., a 9 beats a 7, a 5 beats a 2, etc.).
4) If two players play the same high card (remember: all court cards are considered the "same" for purposes of this game), the round is considered a tie, and the pot carries over to the next round, per the Note at the end of the instructions above.
5) If a player plays the Fool card during either banen or detuiler and does not win, that player has the option of remaining in the game for the next round without having to match other players' bets. The player may forgo this privilege if desired (i.e., if the player wishes to raise, they may do so, but then they must match all other raises in order to stay in the round). This privilege is extended only for the round immediately after the one in which the Fool card was played, and is not extended to the next hand if the Fool card is played during debekranse.
Because each hand can end up having up to three different winners, there is motive for a player to avoid folding in an early round, even if they have a weak card, in order to reap a later portion of the pot that is (potentially, but not always) bigger. Thus, a player who is dealt a three, an Ace, and a high-value trump card may elect to match raises for the first round, and yet play the three -- which almost certainly would not win the banen reveal -- in hopes that opponents may opt to lead with their stronger cards. If this happens, the individual in this example may succeed in "bleeding" high cards from aggressive adversaries, thus giving themselves more of a chance in later rounds that their higher-but-not-unbeatable cards could prevail.
Also, recall that players who opt not to fold during the fyrsturkalla will have one opportunity to discard a weak card in hopes of replacing it with a stronger one. So anyone who has at least one reasonably decent card in their hand has a few opportunities to sufficiently shore up their own hands, while possibly weakening the hands of their opponents -- leading to potential victory in at least one of the later rounds.
On the flip side, the hope that opponents will shed high cards early can lead to a player hanging in longer than they should, fattening the pot for the winners of the later rounds. Hands which would cause players to fold in many other betting-type card games might be just strong enough to keep optimistic players in the game until it's too late.
Questions regarding this game can be directed to Jeannette Roth via the message system box in the lower right-hand corner of our website windows, or via IM through our FaceBook page.