Hoyle’s Book of Games
The root of the huckster’s art lies in the Eighteenth Century. Along about 1740, a fellow named Edmond Hoyle wandered Europe, learning arcane secrets and processes—what most of us would call “sorcery.” But Hoyle wasn’t fond of being burned at the stake in some backwater village in France, so he came up with a cover story that would help him travel and talk to people about such things as Tarot cards—which, incidentally, were used for games before word got out that some folks used them to tell fortunes.
Hoyle’s cover story was that he was compiling a book of games for publication. Soon he had learned more about the world of the supernatural than any mortal alive. Needless to say, he also picked up a thing or two about cards and other games.
What Hoyle learned was that casting spells was a function of communicating with certain mischievous spirits—he called them “Jokers” to confuse unwanted listeners.
The Jokers were malicious and evil, but if one could best them in a mental duel of sorts, they were forced to carry out some kind of task.
Hoyle eventually refined his mental duels by visualizing them as games of skill. Poker was a relatively new game at the time, and this quickly became Hoyle’s game of choice whenever he cast his spells—or hexes, as he preferred to call them.
Before he died, Hoyle encoded everything he learned throughout the years in the 1769 edition of Hoyle’s Book of Games. A person who knows what to look for in the complex bridge diagrams, numeric codes written into card play examples, and sample scores that litter the book can discover secrets beyond their imagining. Other editions of the tome exist, corrupted by unknowing editors work, but they’re not as complete.
Those who knew the secrets of Hoyle’s Book of Games benefited greatly from the Reckoning. The number of spirits in the world before 1863 was low, and they were weak. Afterward, a flood of spirits with links to a much stronger supernatural plane made it much easier to make use of Hoyle’s formulas.
“Witches” and “warlocks” are still considered evil by common folks, and suspected dabblers are still swung from the gallows poles on occasion. While the Reckoning has given sorcerers more energy to work with, the evil it’s caused has made people even more fearful and superstitious. In the civilized world, “sorcerers” are forced to keep their abilities secret lest they be hunted by overzealous priests, the Union’s Agency operatives, or the Confederacy’s Texas Rangers.
The wizards of the Weird West call themselves “hucksters” after the snake-oil salesmen who so successfully pull the wool over the collective public’s eyes. Other terms were borrowed from the American Indians, who had a different view of the way things worked. Jokers became “manitous,” and the supernatural plane in which they lived became known as the “Hunting Grounds.”
Becoming a huckster isn’t easy.
Before a person can get them to do his bidding, he must first learn how to communicate with manitous. Never an easy task, this is especially difficult because he’s trying to do more than yell at them to leave him alone (like most well-balanced individuals would in the same circumstances).
Assuming the manitous don’t drive him insane, the huckster must then treat with the ornery spirits and somehow or another get them to agree to engage with him in a game of wits.
The game takes place in the Hunting Grounds and might seem to take minutes, hours, or even days. But time in the physical world moves much faster, so engaging a manitou usually takes a huckster only a few seconds.
A really good (and lucky) huckster can have a manitou licked fast enough in the Hunting Grounds to beat a gunslinger in a fair draw back in the real world.
A Hellish Game of Wits
The game the huckster plays with a manitou is entirely cerebral, but humans perform much better at such things by visualizing an actual game that is familiar to them. The most common game among hucksters in the Weird West is poker. If the huckster loses his game, nothing happens.
Should he win, the manitou is forced to do his bidding.
The drawback is that a manitou cannot normally affect the physical world directly, so the huckster must actually allow the spirit to inhabit his body for a short time in order to accomplish its task. Beating the manitou means it is “controlled” and cannot harm the huckster while it enters her body. From there, it can manipulate the energy it needs to do the huckster’s bidding.
But a manitou is a sly creature.
Sometimes it tricks the huckster into thinking she’s won so she allows it into her body uncontrolled. When an out of control manitou cuts loose, it can cause massive damage, insanity, and even death.
The Life of a Huckster
Hucksters are some of the most powerful characters in the Weird West. When things go their way, they can hide in plain sight, summon storms, or squeeze a man’s heart so hard it bursts.
When a manitou gets its way, the huckster’s going to be hip deep in it. It’s all a matter of playing the odds, but a smart huckster learns to hedge his bets before diving into a deal with these unfathomable spirits.
A character must purchase the arcane background Edge and have at least 1 point in the academia: occult and hexslingin’ Aptitudes to become a huckster. That’s it.
Casting a hex is a relatively subtle matter. The caster simply concentrates for a few moments as she stares into the Hunting Grounds and makes her deal with the devils that live there. If the huckster wins her mental duel, a number of cards appear in her right hand (or left if she’s a lefty). The huckster must actually look at the cards to draw the manitou into her body and make the hex take effect.
Since cards materialize in a huckster’s hand when she casts a hex, someone who knows what they’re looking for can spot a huckster with relative ease. If a huckster wants to hide what she’s doing, she usually keeps a real deck of cards in her hand and makes an opposed sleight of hand roll versus anyone who happens to be watching.
This fools common folk most of the time, and it’s why most hucksters pose as gamblers. Of course, it’s also gotten a lot of “innocent” gamblers mistaken for powerful hucksters by people in the know about such things.
Casting the Hex
To cast a hex, the huckster must first make a hexslingin’ Aptitude check.
The hexslingin’ Aptitude is rarely used by itself. It works a little differently than normal (as you might expect). Each hex that a huckster learns has an associated Trait. When a huckster casts a hex, he uses his hexslingin’ Aptitude level, paired with the die type of the Trait that the hex is associated with.
Velvet Van Helter wants to castthe hex phantom fingers.
Phantom fingers uses the Spirit Trait. Velvet has a hexslingin’ skill of 5 and a Spirit die type of d10. When casting the hex, he rolls 5d10.
If you get at least one Fair (5) success on your hexslingin’ roll, your huckster has managed to contact a manitou and engaged it in a game of wits.
The next step is to draw 5 cards from a 54-card deck (leave the Jokers in). You also get one extra card for every raise on your hex roll. Your goal is to put together the best poker hand possible with all the cards you drew. Jokers are counted as wild cards. The Red Joker you get for free, but the Black Joker has a high price (see Manitous, below).
Most hexes require a certain minimum card hand to accomplish. If your hand isn’t up to snuff, the hex is unsuccessful.
Learning to `Sling
Since your hexslingin’ Aptitude is your huckster’s bread-and-butter, you’ll probably be looking into improving it as soon as possible. Not a bad idea. Raising your Weird Western wizard’s Aptitude level works just like raising any other Aptitude. Going from level 1 to level 2 costs 2 points. After level 5, the huckster is considered an expert and each level
costs double the new rank (so level 6 costs 12 Bounty Points).
Hexslinging is dangerous business. The chaotic denizens of the Hunting Grounds are always looking for ways to get into the huckster uncontrolled, and casting a hex is the perfect portal.
Whenever your character botches a hex roll or draws a Black Joker, the manitou has tricked the huckster into letting it in uncontrolled. The black Joker still counts as a wild card, so your hero might get his spell off, but if your character can’t survive the manitou’s mischief, it doesn’t really matter. For him anyway.
Tell the Marshal whenever you go bust or draw a Joker while attempting to cast a hex. He then rolls on a special chart tucked away in the Marshal’s Handbook to give him some idea what the manitou is up to.
The next few pages are loaded with some of the hexes detailed in full in Hoyle’s Book of Games. Hoyle came up with a bunch more, but there’s not enough space to put all of what’s in his old book in this book. Here are the basic hexes to get you started.
Starting Hexes: Every huckster starts out with as many hexes as his hexslingin’ Aptitude level. A huckster with hexslingin’ 4, for instance, starts the game with four hexes.
New Hexes: Hucksters can buy any of the hexes that follow by spending 5 Bounty Points. These are considered the basic spells found in any modern copy of Hoyles. Other hexes have to be learned from other hucksters, arcane books or forgotten scrolls. We give you some ideas on how to find and learn this forbidden lore in the Hucksters and Hexes book.
List of Hexes
Here's a list of hexes for the huckster