#RPG – Five Fingers Card Game (Four Captains)

Rooftop-ChaseI came up with a quick and dirty card game for use in the gambling houses of Five Fingers and thought I’d share it.

The game is called ‘Four Captains’ and uses a normal set of cards with Ace’s low and Kings high.

A = ‘Scrub’
1-10 = ‘Crew’
J = ‘Mate’
Q = ‘Wench’
K = ‘Captain’

The aim is to get as many of the same card as you can in your hand with value of the card breaking ties.

Four Captains (if you play a four captains – called a New Captain), the other players must all pay you the ante-value from their stash).


Draw cards to determine who is dealer, after this play passes to the left each round. The dealer has advantage.

  1. The ante (typically 1, 2 or 10 gold crowns is placed in the pot. The dealer must pay double the ante).
  2. Dealer deals out four cards face down to each player.
  3. Players may fold at this point, forfeiting their ante. Their cards are placed on the bottom of the deck.
  4. Players determine which cards they are going to discard and all are discarded face up near the pot in the centre of the table.
  5. Starting with the dealer, each player may draw from the face-up cards (seen) or the deck (unseen) to try and better their hand.
  6. Starting with the dealer again, each player may choose to up the ante by its initial value, going around the table, until it cycles back to the dealer again. They may also choose to fold, on their turn, if they do they no longer have to ante up (they do if anyone before them antes up) and their cards are placed on the bottom of the deck.
  7. The hands are revealed and the winner takes the pot.
  8. The cards are put together, shuffled and the dealership passes to the left.

EG: Abelard, Bogrot, Calista and Delbot are playing Four Captains.

Abelard wings the dealer position on a draw and all toss their ante into the pot (1GC with Abelard having to pay an extra coin). The pot now stands at 5GC.

Each tosses cards face up into the middle, ready to redraw.

Abelard tosses a 6, 7 and 8 from his hand, leaving him with a Jack. He knows he’ll get to draw first so there’s not a lot of point him being sneaky, he could take these cards back if he needed them.

After the others toss their cards the pile contains…

4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9

Abelard gets to draw back first. If he takes the two 8s that gives him the highest visible pair, so he goes for it and takes both. That’s enough to win based on what he knows is out there, so for his last missing card he draws from the stack – and draws a King. He now knows he has a pair of eights, the highest visible cards, and that the most Kings anyone could have is three.

Bogrot draws two cards blind.

So does Calista

Delbot takes both the sevens.

Abelard knows that there wouldn’t be any point drawing the sevens – as his eights beat them – unless Delbot had one already. So he could be facing three sevens, or it could be a bluff…

Abelard doesn’t up the ante, but he doesn’t fold.

Bogrot folds, showing his hand, best he had was a King.

Calista folds, all she had was an 8.

Abelard’s heart sinks as Delbot ups the ante, forcing both of them to put a coin into the pot, raising it to 7 GC.

They both reveal their hands.

Abelard has a pair of 8s, a Jack and a King.

Delbot has three 7s and an eight.

Delbot wins ans scrapes in the pot.

Dealership passes to Bogrot.

The game is partly satirical, making fun of the machinations and paranoia of the four High Captains, the shifting alliances and advantage and disadvantage.

As the game has spread beyond Four Fingers it has changed its name to ‘Four Kingdoms’, referring to Cygnar, Khador, Ord and Cryx, though which Kingdoms are named varies wildly from nation to nation.

(More information on gambling is in No Quarter issue 7, and it says the decks – at least in The Galleon are blades, wheels, anchors and skulls).

Iron Kingdoms: The Hand of Fate


Jaspar Solvo, an agent of the Dorne and Fergurn Barristers and Imports Company (not his real name by any stretch) gathers the disparate characters who have been rooming and lodging within Five Fingers, the fates having brought them there. The company wishes to ‘test out’ these new people and to determine their worth and potential for future jobs. As such they have chosen them to tend to the needs of Thane Niccolo Mazini – a minor Ordic noble, well out of his depth in trying to recover his family’s fortunes.

Jaspar delivers a letter to each of them and informs them that the patron is currently staying at The Parson’s Nose. He’ll say no more than that, but will arrange to meet them there that evening to introduce them to their patron.

My friend,

The man who is delivering this note is my trusted agent. I have a task for you which must be accomplished as neatly and cleanly as possible. It is an honourable goal for any man in restoring the lost honour and dignity of a family and rumeneration shall be provided – appropriate to that cause.


Thane Niccolo Mazini


The Parson’s Nose lies on Hospice Island, near to the meat market in the Wake Bridge Bourg. It’s a narrow, wedge-shaped building that is a terrible fire hazard and has no rear exist and only one narrow front door and narrow windows up the front. It has four stories, the lower floor being the bar and kitchen and the upper three floors being cramped common rooms with rank old straw beds. A gobber sitting by the fire burns bundles of cheap herbs (rosemary and time mostly) in order to mask the smell of the meat market. On the plus side, the drink and food is cheap – even if the rum is stained pink from badly processed beetroot sugar and the stew is ‘meat’, or – if a recognisible kind of meat – twice the price.

Mazini has paid out to take an entire common room for himself, though it is barebones and dimly lit to mask his poverty. He seems finely dressed, but the clothing is more than a little worn and threadbare. His luggage looks expensive but is virtually empty. His scabbard and holster are fine but the sword and pistol he wears are rusty.

He tries to act the noble and to negotiate the contract from a position of self-assured certainty, despite being in no position to do so.

The job is to recover a lost mercenary charter, belonging to his family some two-hundred years past. His ancestor, Thane Ordo Mazzini founded The Stone Bay Hullgrinders – a now defunct company – under the auspices of King Merin Cathor III – The Pious. In a skirmish in The Gnarls the Hullgrinders (dilettante second-son nobles for the most part) were humiliated by the Dragon’s Tongue Trading Company, destroyed to a man – save Ordo – and had their charter stolen by a captain of the Dragon’s Tongue Trading Company, Belton Vascal.

Vascal’s family have kept the charter ever since, as a trophy and Mazzini has recently discovered this past of his family (a source of shame) and has sold up everything and borrowed heavily from Captain Waernuk, in hock to his syndicate to the tune of 3,000 royals. 2,000 of which remains for him to offer to the characters – maximum – though he’ll make whatever promises are necessary.

All he knows is that Grigori Vascal is the descendant and nothing more about him. Belton was a great giant of a man with fierce ginger hair and a huge beard, but there’s no guarantee Grigori looks the same.


Grigori is just back from a trip, depositing a kidnap victim for the Dragon’s Tongue Trading Company, several days away from the city have left him hungry for its pleasures. His river boat – twin-engined steam boat The Shame – is only just in port and needs maintenance and resupply, which will keep him busy another day or two before he can leave the Dragon’s Tongue compound.

Grigori is fairly well known as a braggart and as the captain of that particular vessel, it won’t take too long asking around about him to get a description, but being too open about it is likely to get word back to the Trading Company who will send a man or two to see who is asking around and why.

The compound has several river boats docked at any time, plenty of guards, labourjacks and workers and is a walled set of warehouses and offices. It’s a fortress and is not going to be a productive place to raid by force – nor is the charter there in any case.

When Grigori leaves the compound – late at night – with two friends – he’ll stop at The Red Barrel for a few drinks and a meal and then stop at The Two Knocks (a mid-range whorehouse) to pick up a couple of dockmops (prostitutes) before rolling up at his house.


Grigori’s House

A three storey terraced house, the houses either side and along most of the terrace are split up into three separate dwellings each, cheap and cramped and suitable for dock workers. Grigori has the whole place to himself. There’s a small ‘patio’ front and rear, surrounded by an iron fence and it backs directly onto the river with a pipe from the second storey ‘toilet’ hanging out over the water.

Ground Floor

1. The front has a heavy, rusty, creaky iron gate with waxed envelopes hanging off it, pleading notes from his landlord Phinas Schlub, asking for him to pay the arrears in his rent. It’s pleas, rather than threats because of the power of the Dragon’s Tongue Trading Company. The front door is bolted from the inside.

2. The back ‘patio’ is also surrounded by an iron fence and backs onto the stinking river, full of flotsam from the docks. Two kennels here house Grigori’s pair of fighting dogs and the back door is open to let them in and out. They’re loyal, but not that well looked after. Crossbreeds between Ordic Pit Dogs and Khadoran war dogs. The back patio is full of broken animal bones and dogshit.

3. Inside the house there is a kitchen – that opens to the back door and is virtually empty and unused.

4. The front of the house has a sort of ‘reception’ room, bare bones apart from a bootscraper and a mirror.

5. The main living room is the largest room on this floor and houses the staircase. There are long couches in a three-sided bracket around the hearth and a low table. Grigori and his friends – and the dockmops – will be in here, drinking and fooling around.

Second Storey

1. Grigori’s bedroom contains old furniture from someone with far more expensive taste than he has, but perhaps fifty years out of date. There is a portrait of Grigori, a laving bowl on a washstand, a four poster bed and a wardrobe with his ‘civvies’. He keeps a spare pistol, loaded, under his pillow.

2. Grigori’s Bathroom contains a tin bath, a washstand with laving bowl and the toilet – a hole in a plank – that deposits waste out over the river, and any boats foolish enough to sale too close to the shore. The hearth for this room is in here.

3. Grigori’s trophy room is in here. It hangs with paintings and has a long table and chairs, there are also display cabinets. The cabinets contain a few skulls, claws, stones marked with runes as well as seal and signet rings and lockets (worth a total of about 750 royals full price, half that to a pawn shop, 75% of that to a fence). Pride of place is given to a painting showing a man with a broken sword, kneeling before a laughing, ginger-haired giant. The painting is painted on the back of the Hullgrinder Charter, a final humiliation, and the frame is trapped, the hook it hangs on a lever connected to a gas sprayer.

Third Storey

Two spare bedrooms and a storage room, full of miscellaneous junk.


Returning to Mazzini

Returning to Mazzini for the money they will find The Parson’s Nose closed. If they gain access they’ll find evidence Mazzini has been killed, his tongue cut out and left on his table, blood everywhere, a single silver coin resting on his tongue. His luggage is there, but empty and of him there is no sign.

Tired of his bullshit Waernuk has had him killed, though he hasn’t recovered the money (its stuffed into a nook in the edge of the island, out of sight of the bridge). It seems likely that Mazzini has ended up as sausages – apart from his expertly cut out tongue.

Waernuk will still want to recover the money, but for the time being the players have a contract, which they are now the clear and legal owners of.

Grigori Vascal
A lieutenant in the Dragon’s Tongue Trading Company, with a long history.
SPD 7, STR 5, MAT 6, RAT 5, DEF 12, ARM 14
Sword POW 3 P+S=8 – Poisoned +1D damage Vs organic targets
Pistol RNG 9, POW 11
Intimidation 5
Vitality 10
Anatomical Precision – If damage fails to exceed ARM – still take d3 damage.

Dragon’s Tongue Smugglers
Grigori’s friends and ‘boatmates’.
SPD 6, STR 5, MAT 5, RAT 5, DEF 12, ARM 13
Dirk POW 2, P+S=7
Pistol RNG 8, POW 11.
Intimidation 5
Vitality 7
Anatomical Precision – If damage fails to exceed ARM – still take d3 damage

Dockfront prostitutes, trying to scrape a living and find a gentleman – or what passes for one.
SPD 6, STR 3, MAT 4, RAT 4, DEF 13, ARM 6
Stilleto POW 1, P+S=4
Pickpocket 5, Lock Pick 5, Streetwise 5
Vitality 5
Get Away – Missed by an enemy attack other than when advancing, instead of advancing 2”, make a full advance.

Jaspar Solvo
Spy/Investigator 10
PHY 6, SPD 6, STR 4, AGL 4, PRW 4, POI 4, INT 5, PER 5
WILL 11 DEF 15 ARM 8 INIT 15
Abilities – Astute, Language (Cygnaran), Battle Plan: Shadow, Cover Identity, Language: Khadoran
Connections: Intelligence network (minor criminals).
Hyper Perception
Vitality 11
Command 6, Deception 7, Detection 7, Disguise 6, Forensic Science 6, Gambling 6, Hand Weapon 6, Interrogation 6, Intimidation 6, Law 6, Lore (Five Fingers) 6, Medicine 6, Pistol 6, Sneak 6
Holdout Pistol (on an arm rail) +1 Initiative (16) on his first turn. Attack 7, Pow 8
Fine dagger – Attack 7, Pow 5

Thane Niccolo Mazzini
Assume a base of 6 for any important rolls, but he’s destined to die and not really THAT important.

Fighting Dogs
SPD 6, STR 5, MAT 6, RAT 0, DEF 16, ARM 6
Bite: 6 Pow 4 P+S=9
Intimidation 7
Vitality 4
Powerful Jaws – If damage fails to exceed ARM – still take 1 damage

Review: Iron Kingdoms RPG

Like a lot of people I was more than a little disappointed when Privateer Press released their Iron Kingdoms RPG for d20. Creating their own system and re-releasing the RPG has been long-awaited development with a lot of expectation zeroed in on it.

The main selling point of Iron Kingdoms has always been its background, a background solid and interesting enough to sell it under any system. The appeal of the setting has been obvious for a long time as multiple conversions have turned up online for everything from Savage Worlds to Silhouette.

Now we have a background and a system out of the same stable which should only improve the synergy. Expectations are high, especially since Privateer have managed to kick Games Workshop’s butt in the miniatures field.

The Iron Kingdoms is a ‘steampunk’ (actually more of a magi-punk) setting. This is a semi-typical fantasy world that has been transformed by the advent of steam power, gunpowder and the fusion of both with magic. The game has a much more industrial feel than typical fantasy settings but it does have wild places and plenty of room for wilderness adventure as well as delving into the espionage, proxy wars and so on going on between the various Iron Kingdoms.

The background is deep and detailed. Far too much to into in a review but that, itself, is a selling point as far as I’m concerned. The human-led kingdoms consist of Cygnar (liberal, advanced, lightning oriented), Khador (pseudo-Russian, despotic, militaristic), Ord (fishermen and pirates) and the Protectorate of Menoth (religious fanatics). These groups are locked in a perpetual cold war with each other and often operate through mercenary companies, which can become rich and powerful.

Beyond their borders lie Cryx (corrupted necrotechnicians), Ios (mysterious land of the elves) and Rhul (land of the dwarves). Other races, ogrun and trollkin, eke out a living in and around the human kingdoms.

Iron Kingdoms has a system that is the bastard offspring of 4e D&D, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and first edition Warhammer 40,000. It’s very much a miniatures oriented game – not surprising since Privateer Press make minis – though it’s probably more amenable to playing without minis than 4e D&D was. If I was going to compare it to anything it would probably be Cadwallon.

Characters are full-on RPG characters but the degree of customisation and individuality when it comes to actual statistics is pretty limited. Characters advance in tiers (Starting/Hero/Veteran/Epic) which are reminiscent of 40k’s old troop/champion/minor hero/major hero. Your starting stats are determined by race and, given the attention in the d20 version to different human nationalities and races its a little disappointing that they become more generically ‘human’ in this.

Customisation and characterisation comes through the application of various templates and choices that channel the character into various directions. This is most similar to WHFRP’s careers and skill picks but has more layers to it.

You pick an archetype (Gifted, intellectual, mighty, skilled).

You pick two careers from a list including things like alchemist, bounty hunter, cut-throat, duellist or pirate, to come up with a combo that best describes your character concept.

Careers give access to abilities, connections and skills which is where the character individualism finally, really comes in.

The system itself is a rather simple 2d6+modifiers Vs target number one. That gives you a more gritty bell curve of probability with more typical outcomes which – with the compensation of Feat points for when you want to do something more heroic.

Combat is a big focus and where the skirmish-game shows through the most. While the game can be played without minis and a board everything is expressed in these terms and there’s some combat options that are missing due to lacking a degree of combat granularity. It’s fixable enough with improvisation, but it would have been nice to have more options.

Characters are tough bastards with three sets of health in a spiral, representing different effects of different wounds. When defeated, unless explicitly finished off, they instead develop permanent wounds but with magi-tech prosthetics and healing magic that need not be as awful as you might think.

Magic is more free-flowing and less constricted than in the d20 version, much closer to the wargame. Magicians either have fatigue or focus, which is used up to run effects, boost powers and control warjacks – if those abilities are open to you. Spells end to be a bit more combat focussed, but there are plenty of utility spells as well and a creative player with a good Games Master can get around the constrictions.

Somehow this edition doesn’t have the same atmosphere as the previous edition despite having higher production values. It just seems a little too ‘clean’ for the world that it describes. The previous edition also had two books of this size to delve into the background and history of the world and as a single book there’s less space for that in this one. It does the job, but when compared to the previous edition falls short. Of course, the previous edition was outstanding so this one had a lot to live up to.

This edition is full colour and while it re-uses a lot of old artwork it is lavishly illustrated and well laid out. The cover is a little busy perhaps, but the production values are incredibly high throughout. Perhaps controversially I think it might have been better done if it were… in… black and white? The old books almost felt like an artefact of the game world, even if the pages were a bit grey. This version doesn’t have the same feel to it.

An interesting version of the game with wedded background and mechanics. It’s a shame – but not surprising – that it is focussed on skirmish style play but it takes less work to remove that aspect and play in the theatre of the mind than some other games. The relative lack of difference between characters statistically may irritate some players but all things considered it should work fine.

The game needs an example adventure/campaign and an expanded bestiary ASAP but those familiar with the wargame or the d20 version should be able to muddle through.

It would be well worth getting the d20 books on PDF or on ebay, just for the more in depth treatment of the background.

Style: 4
Substance: 4
Overall: 4

UPDATE: Extended bestiary and character sheets etc can be downloaded HERE