Sunday, October 22, 2023

Greyhawk City: Champion's Games

Welcome back Greyhawk faithful. On a recent Legends & Lore stream we talked about mercenaries and adventuring parties. One of the things we discussed was the Dungeon #128 adventure from Age of Worms titled The Champion's Belt by Tito Leati. In this chapter, as the PCs search for answers involving a retired gladiator named Loris Raknian, they must enter a gladiatorial event hosted by the "Free City" Arena where groups of compete for the coveted Champion's Belt. The meta plot involving a cult of Kyuss aside, I love the idea of an annual Champions Games held in the City of Greyhawk. I highly recommend this issue for anyone running an urban campaign. In the Champion's Belt, there is a huge list of NPC "gladiator" groups (these are not traditional gladiators, they seem more like rival adventuring groups), some detailed as opponents for the PCs, but most are left for DMs to flesh out. The focus of this post is to show the brief descriptive backgrounds I gave these Champion's Belt teams for my own Age of Worms campaign. But first here is some background rules on the Champion's Games. Enjoy!

"The Champion's Games is a five-day-long gladiatorial tournament that takes place annually in the Free City Arena. The games themselves consist of a massive four-round elimination event, interspersed with spectacle fights that pit gladiators against exotic monsters and other unique foes. A single team can consist of no more than eight members. Familiars do not count as members, but larger animal companions, mounts, and cohorts do. Finally, each team of gladiators must identify itself with a name and designate a leader."
  • The tournament is fought in four successive rounds of elimination. The first round consists of six battles of free-for-all combat between four teams (24 teams total). The six winners of the first round of battles are paired off into three team-versus-team battles. The next round, two of the three remaining teams fight each other, while the third team fights a special exotic monster. The final round is a face-to-face battle between the two remaining teams. The winners of each round is awarded a generous prize (trophy plus 2000-10,000 gp). The winner of the Champion's Games wins the right to wear the Champion's Belt (worth 2000 gp) for a year, along with a cash payout of 20,000 gp.
  • All battles are potentially lethal, but a gladiator always has the option of surrender. To surrender, a gladiator must drop his weapons, kneel, and hold both hands in the air. A gladiator who attacks a surrendering foe is disqualified (and likely arrested for assault or murder). A gladiator who surrenders and then attacks anothr foe is also disqualified.
  • Gladiators that can fly or levitate may do so up to a height of 40 feet. A gladiator that flues any higher is disqualified. Burrowing into the arena's floor is forbidden.
  • A match persists until one team is victorious, either through the death or the surrender of all opposing teams.
  • Winning gladiators have no right to the spoils of the fallen. A defeated foe keeps his gear, or in the case of death, ownership of gear reverts to his team.
  • Any tactic that endangers spectators is grounds for immediate disqualification and possible legal action.
  • A disqualified gladiator must cease fighting at once and must move to the edge of the field of battle. Failure to comply results in the disqualification of the entire team. Once a gladiator is disqualified, he may no longer take part in any remaining battles.
The Competition:
These teams are given a short description by me, and are open to further development by a DM. The module does give an "Encounter Level" for each NPC team which helps. Teams marked with an asterisk are fully detailed in Dungeon #128.

Arcane Auriga* EL 10 
4 elven female archers, exiles from Celene. Led by Rennida Auriga (arcane archer), her daughter Krinasa and two cousins, Eelyssa and Anetah.

Auric's Warband* (defending champion) EL 12
Auric (F10), Khellek (W10) and 3 controlled flesh golems.

Badlands Revenge* EL 9
3 gnoll warriors led by a human druid/barbarian named Joren and his dire badger companion.

Chuko's Ravens EL 7
3 kenku rogues led by a druid named Chuko.

Draconic Brood EL 11
4 half-dragon adventurers (or dragonborn if 5E) including a pseudo-dragon familiar.

Drunken Devilry EL 6
6 drunken students from the fraternal Gnarly House in Greyhawk City.

Final Phoenix EL 7
4 mounted lancers from the Bright Lands.

Guttuggers EL 8
4 half-orc mercenary veterans from Greyhawk City.

Iron (Cairn) Hill Monkeys EL 5
3 monks from Twilight Monastery

Night Owls EL 4
2 rogue knife-fighters from Dyvers.

One of Us EL 4
3 human adventurers (triplets) form the Duchy of Urnst. Might be dopplegangers?

Pitch Blade* EL 12
2 dwarven killers (barb 10) named Drusfan and Pharbol.

Rauth's Dragoons EL 6
4 veteran mercenary cavalry from Perrenland managed by Captain Rauth.

Sapphire Squad* 
EL 9
2 mercenary mounted archers led a jann swashbuckler named Korush.

Snow Leopards EL 9
A half-elf mage and a half-elf ranger with two leopard animal companions from the Lortmils .

Teeth of Kord EL 5
3 clerics led by specialty priest of Kord from Rhizia.

The Crazy Eight EL 6
8 minor gladiators from the Pit in the Foreign Quarter.

The Fisthammers EL 8
4 dwarven warriors from Karakast.

The Gravediggers EL 8
3 of the meanest members of the Gravedigger Union in GHC.

The Skull of Murq EL 9
A mysterious wizard and 4 human bodyguards.

The Unhumans EL 7
A half-orc, an ogre, a lizard man, and a bugbear.

The Woodchuckers EL 3
4 spunky gnomes from Grossetgrottel.

Varmint Patrol EL 5
8 halfling slingers from Elmshire.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Dark Greyhawk Forum Letter

Well met Greyhawkers! Today I was reminded that way back in 2000, at the turn of 2nd Edition to 3rd Edition, before the internet became an everyday means of communication, I wrote a letter to the Forum page that was published in Dragon #273. This was in response to the Question of the Month" in issue #270: “Does your campaign have a particular theme? Is it swashbuckling, epic, gritty, or wahoo? Tell us all about your campaign style!”

Here is my response. Enjoy!

Dark Greyhawk

I wrote this in response to the "Question of the Month" and also to add to the discussion in #264 through #270 about evil characters. The campaign I run is set in the northwest of the Greyhawk campaign setting and uses heavy Al-Qadim sources. The Arabic feel is very refreshing. All the characters are foreigners and have had a wonderful time trying to blend in by learning new customs, dress, and especially language. They have adopted new names and even acquired their hirelings from this area. New and exotic locales always liven a static campaign. The land is full of mystery and intrigue, but the PCs fit in perfectly because they are all schemers and shady fellows as well. They always parlay or even deal with villains rather than just outright slay them. Every monster or encounter is assessed for its benefit, not just used as a stepping stone for the next encounter. Their motto is, dealing with evil is better than a pat on the back. Then, if necessary, you can always turn on evil and side with good in the end.

I do not rigidly control alignments, except in the case of priests. All the characters are decidedly shady but not evil. As long as the PCs can at least trust one another, then it doesn't matter what their alignments are. The lawful evil fighter in my group has shown many instances of paladinlike behavior toward the common man and even his foes. You don't wear alignment like a badge; your actions define your character.

In fantasy literature, the greatest heroes are what I term "shady." Elric, Conan, Fafhrd, and the Grey Mouser are all shady characters. Alignment never stopped any of them from doing the right thing in the end. The only recent characters from literature I can imagine fitting this description are Raistlin or Drizzt. Why are the shady ones the favorites? They have more fun.

It seems to me the only classes purely concerned with their alignment are the religious ones (cleric, druid, and paladin). They are the ones who have their beliefs dictated by a higher power. I am not saying you shouldn't play good guys, but some campaigns could use a change in locale and attitude.