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Barghest Contract - Abigail needs 10 barghest skulls for her experiments. You should be able to get their skulls from the start. Go ahead and get the entry to pick up some fangs though. If you are having trouble finding barghests, then I'm not sure what you're doing. You should constantly run into these little annoying ghost dogs as you move around at night. Just visit any of the shrines for a big spawn. Or just walk around at night and pick up their skulls.
Drowner Contract - This is another painfully easy contract quest. You just need 3 drowner brains as proof of death for the Reverend. Just walk along the shore at night to see a bunch of them. You can read the book called "Swamp Monsters" to get the beastiary entry. You could also just talk to one of the old women around the village. I'd be shocked if you couldn't find 3 drowners in your time in the outskirts. You should try to collect a ton of brains anyway, since they are good alchemic ingredients.
Ghoul Contract - You need 3 vials of ghoul blood for Kalkstein. This is also easy enough, if you can get the beastiary entry before either run in the crypt. Just talk to the old women or read either volume of Fear and Loathing. If you missed the chance, then you can just wait. Kalkstein is still available and willing to complete the contract in Act 2. You'll practically be crawling through ghouls in that chapter too. If you really want to finish it in Act 1 and have already cleared out the crypt twice, then you still have an option. 1 ghoul regularly spawns in the shadow of an abadoned house a little north of the inn. You can farm this guy a few times to get the vials.
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This is a quick one that you'll run across. I imagine that you'll find it when you go to visit Haren Brogg at the fishing village. It seems that some racists want to cut off Zoltan's beard. You can choose to intervene or just leave them be.
If you leave them alone, then you'll find that Zoltan is no push over. He'll kill them all himself. It really doesn't seem to make a difference. You should really go ahead and fight them though. You're just throwing away XP if you don't kill them. Regardless of your decision, you need to search their bodies for a set of dice. You can then talk to Zoltan about just what these dice are for. He'll teach you all about the exciting world of dice poker and you'll suddenly have a new challenge and source of income.
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This one actually spans into Act 2. You have to start it now though. After you finish the Strangers in the Night quest for Haren, you can talk to him again and ask if he might need any more help. He'll ask you to take a special package past the quarintine and to his friend, Coleman, inside the city. Just hold on to it for now. I'll cover the means for settling that one in the next series.
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A Game of Dice
Once you get a box of dice in after the "Racists" quest, you can talk to Zoltan at the inn to learn about dice poker. You can then start working your way up the ladder to becoming a poker legend. You can play against Odo, Mikul, and Haren if you want. I suggest you go ahead and play against them for some easy money and experience. You will need to beat 4 people to move up, so you might as well start now.
There is no real trick to it. Things play out like you would expect them to. You can usually just hold on to pairs and hope for more. The game isn't truly random. There is apparently a complicated luck script running in the background. Geralt is actually luckier than most of the novices, so you can beat them fairly easily. Things get more complicated as you pay against luckier opponents.
It's a good start though.
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You need to warm up in the inn by fighting a few of the weaker opponents. You can always double the default bet and still get a fight. These first few shouldn't be challenging at all to Geralt. Your real challenge is to face Fat Fred when you're ready. You'll have to put down 25 orens to get to fight him.
The actual fight still isn't bad. His boxing match isn't any different than the others. Just punch and then duck. Rinse and repeat until he falls down. You'll get your 25 orens back and your choice of a prize. He offers a series of alcohol and food, a gold diamond ring, or 100 orens. If you don't mind waiting a bit for the resale, pick the diamond ring. It's worth 120 orens.