New on Desk #79 — Tournament Triple-Feature

I haven’t felt like writing a newsletter for a few weeks now, so there’s plenty of stuff to write about. I’ll be doing some extra issues over the next few weeks to make up for the missed pace. For now, let’s discuss the big tournament arc that our Tuesday D&D has been engaging in over the last three weeks. (We’ve been playing on Mondays as well, I’ll write about those sessions later.)

Coup in Sunndi #29–31

The Tournament of Fear is a non-standard adventure that was scheduled for the campaign back in the spring; I wrote about the basic idea back then. The last three sessions of our face-to-face Coup game has been full throttle about resolving the tournament, which has been something of a change of pace in that it’s an entirely different content paradigm for D&D: not dungeoneering, not hexcrawl, not investigation, not quite similar to anything else. Been great fun, though, even for a test run; I can confidently say that if we do more tournaments in the future, they’ll be even more amusing.

The actual play content of the tournament arc consists, as one would expect, mostly of quick one-on-one fights between contestants. The tournament bracket determines who fights whom, the prize pool system determines rewards, and the combat system determines who wins and who gets beaten, and how badly. The stakes in the Tournament of Fear are high, as the combatants use real weapons and only stop on forfeit or inability to continue. Our freshly revised rules for injuries have gotten quite the work-out.

Most of the combatants in the tournament are not player characters. Fights between non-PCs have been resolved with a quick single-roll scheme, but even these fights have often been memorable, as the players are invested in scouting future opponents, and in gambling on the outcomes. The gambling subgame is an interesting part of the tournament in general, I’d recommend it. Gambling winnings are even worth some XP at a 10 GP = 1 XP rate.

I’ll review the tournament’s high points next. The process involved ~50 non-player character contestants and a half dozen player characters, so this’ll take some typing…

1st round, round of 32

The 1st round of the tournament occurred in the afternoon of the 1st tournament day, after the Ghoul Run documented in the last newsletter. At this point in the tournament the festivities were relatively perfunctory; fights generally took a Turn each, with quick contestant introductions and prize deliveries. The audience was still warming up to fighters who they hadn’t seen in action quite yet.

The green names are player characters, for those clarity’s sake.

John Steele, Fighter 1, is a dimensional traveler, an anti-corruption vigilante armed with a pistol.
Dadir the Discount Dhalsim, Wizard-Monk 1, is a proud yogi desirous of fame and recognition for his arts.
Dadir dashes forward as Steele draws his gun, back-pedaling away from the opponent while aiming. First shot goes wide, but causes Dadir to start zig-zagging in defense. Steele shoots at fast pace, but only hits Dadir once, and fails to stop the charge. Dadir disarms and subdues Steele handily.
Result: Dadir wins with superficial injuries, Steele humiliated and battered.
Prize: Dragonhide set

Mysterious Blackhook, Fighter-Monk 1, is a grim combatant equipped with a large two-handed shield with razor edges.
Arush the Iron Arush, Fighter 3, is a famous Sunndian hero, a warrior of perfect physique and blazing smile.
Blackhook is clearly the smaller of the two, wary of the giant warrior who chooses here to fight unarmed. Arush approaches in a relaxed, informal stance, saying something to the opponent. Blackhook runs, throwing their weight to the side at the last moment, attempting to slice at the opponent with the shield. Arush facilely grabs hold of the edge of the shield and, despite the body weight behind it, stops its momentum in a great feat of strength. Blackhook stumbles, caught, and has no time to react as Arush throws the shield and fighter both to the ground, proceeding to pummel them with mighty fists from above.
Result: Arush dominates, Blackhook taps out without serious injury.
Prize: Slave of Dread; Arush causes a scandal by freeing the slave right in the arena, flouting custom and causing great consternation among the audience. Tournament proctors attempt to slay the slave where he stands, but Arush receives the arrows himself. Only apostle Nigma’s direct interference saves Arush from retribution.

Etukhan is a slave possessed by the vengeful spirit of the praetor they poisoned, a praetor desirous of one last battle.
Ssshtak, Salamander Pyromancer 2, is an immoral spear-wielding fire elemental.
At first a seeming mismatch between an insane wretch and an unearthly super-human of the inner planes, the fight turns into a desperately gruesome clash of mighty magics as the spirit of Rahul possessing Etukhan refuses to allow the man to die without victory. Ssshtak sets Etukhan on fire outright, but not piercing, not fire, not even dismemberment stops the potent death magic driving the man. Ultimately Rahul suppresses Ssshtak’s fire and forces the off the field, only to have Etukhan himself perish from his injuries.
Result: Etukhan wins, but dies of his injuries before claiming his prize.
Prize: Nada.

Sir Jarque, Fighter 1, is a serious, Lawful knight hailing from the far-away land of Maldor.
Slave Paladin John Hawkwood, Paladin 3, is a slave to Underdark trolls, captured in the far-away land of Sweden.
Sir Jarque wanted to fight from horseback, but the audience protested so vehemently as to cause the referee to forbid it. Forced to face the Slave Paladin on foot, Sir Jarque found the savagely dressed man-gimp more than his match. The audience is greatly impressed by the decisive brutality of the Slave Paladin as, after a short exchange of blows, he fells Sir Jarque with a single well-aimed strike that leaves the knight stunned upon the ground.
Result: Hawkwood wins, Jarque stunned at 1 injury point.
Prize: Squiring Ticket; to the shock of everybody involved, Hawkwood chooses to claim as his prize the opportunity to become squire to the Sinister Thaal himself. The protests of his trollish owners fall on deaf ears. Thaal knows well that Hawkwood is a paladin unfallen, the natural enemy of his dark knights, but he desires to corrupt Hawkwood, or slay him lawfully by his own hand, so agrees to grant the rightful boon of the victor.

Meinhard the Grim, Blackguard 2, is a dedicated edgelord of the Order of Fear, a true black knight.
Lyra the Assassin, Assassin 2, is a clever and amoral sell-sword looking to prove her skills in the tournament.
It seems that Meinhard, being larger and more heavily armored than the nimble Lyra, would have the advantage here, and so it is at first: Lyra’s thrown knives and mobile dashing cuts seem to have little effect. Meinhard is forced to work hard, but he manages to rush Lyra and take the both of them down to the ground. However, at the last moment Meinhard trips on his own armor as its bindings come loose; Lyra has sabotaged the suit in advance, and Meinhard finds the joints locking up and his breastplate falling off. Lyra uses the surprise to her advantage and charges in with a dagger, threatening to slay the momentarily helpless knight.
Result: Lyra declared winner by forfeit.
Prize: A Brotherhood Blade

Medi the Maneater, 2 HD Ogre, is a man rapidly turning ogre, infatuated with Khata the Werecheetah.
Sir Jeremias, Courtier 1, is a cunning, elegant noble scion who’s seen better days.
A classic match between brawn and grace. Medi fights with a club, Jeremias with a peculiar long yet thin-bladed straight sword made of pliable steel; a rapier. The two stalk each other for a time, and predictably when Medi rushes in, the point of the rapier meets him. However, the brute ignores the blade, allowing it to punch into his flesh, and finishes his assault; Jeremias takes a club to the head and falls, leaving Medi to claim the prize.
Result: Medi wins; Jeremias carried off the field, perishes of his injuries later.
Prize: Gorgeous Khanda Sword

Noble Telonious, Blackguard 1, is a knight of the Order of Fear; kinda basic.
Kieza the Monk, Monk 1 cultivation 2 HD, is a dedicated martial artist who wants to win an underground bloodsport tournament before starting her own school.
Telonius has plate armor and a great two-handed sword. He would have truthfully been better served by a smaller weapon, as Kieza proves disconcertingly capable of dodging slow slashes, forcing Telonius to mainly fight with the point. However, Kieza’s staff proves unable to penetrate knightly armor, and ultimately she is exhausted and forced into grappling by the knight, where he proves her superior due to strength and hard armor.
Result: Telonius wins after battering Kieza to submission.
Prize: A Gilded Horn.

Obert the Toady, Fighter 1, is an unimaginative toady of the Order of Fear, sword and board.
Pekka the Guardsman, Fighter 1, is a town guard from a boring default country in Golarion. Armed with a halbert
A meat and potatoes display of basic martial arts from two mediocre combatants. The fight ends dramatically, however, as Pekka stumbles and accidentally falls on Obert. Both go down, but Pekka falls on Obert’s sword, causing a grave injury.
Result: Obert wins, Pekka perishes of blood loss.
Prize: A Pouch of Pearls

Pravos is squire of Telonius’s, intended to end up fighting his master in the second round of the Tournament.
Zahr Eir, Fighter-Witch 2, is the son of a witch, son of the devil, eager to prove his skills to the Temple of Doom.
Zahr Eir judges his opponent to be so inferior as to not justify showing his hand just yet. The witchborn outfences the boy set against him.
Result: Zahr Eir wins by a hardy blow; Pravos survives at 3 Injury Points.
Prize: A Bronze Vessel.

Turak of the Barrens, Barbarian 1, is a prince of the Rovers, a fierce barbarian people up north.
Lokki the Warlock, Warlock 2, cultivation 2 HD, is an opportunist demon-worshipper, the true scum of the earth.
Lokki’s got this figured out: his 2 HD familiar demon Gorman will screen him for the mere moments he needs to blow a cloud of Sleep sand upon Turak, which will basically end the bout. The big bronze two-handed sword-cleaver Turak’s handling will not aid him! Things go wrong when Turak saves against the Sleep and strikes Gorman down hard, 10 points in one blow, leaving the barbarian and Warlock playing catch around the arena. Lokki throws an Eldritch Blast, misses, and gets tagged by Turak. Both realize that the next blow will be decisive, so Turak charges and Lokki throws his second Eldritch Blast.
Result: Mutual kill, both at 4 injury points and unable to claim prizes.
Prize: Nada

Lalli Halligalli, Blackguard 3, is kin to a prince of Sunndi, but gone to rot in crime and now, fascism.
Tuhar Tatambo, Barbarian 1, cultivation 3 HD, is a savage tribesman from the southern isles, swept away to join the Gorilla Gym.
Lalli is a natural knight, but he lacks experience in the savageness of life, and that shows when he fights a man who’s given himself up to the pursuit of animalistic totems of the dark jungle. The two exchange strikes in an exhausting struggle, Tuhar taking Lalli down into a deadly ground combat once and again only for him to struggle free and regain his fencing stance, allowing him to slash and grout at the superhumanly vigorous foe. The fight is close, but at the end Lalli wins the decisive initiative, and finding a clear opening, chooses blood.
Result: Lalli decapitates Tuhar.
Prize: The Hero’s Bow, plus a Hogshead of Fine Wine for the team for winning such a glorious fight so decisively.

Raghu the Thug, is a failed squire of the Order of Fear, participating in the tournament as a filler combatant.
H.Orc the Half-Orc, Fighter 2, is a boatswain and thug of Manta’s Pirates, and the team captain of the same in the tournament.
Raghu, armed with a flail, faces H.Orc armed with a halberd of all things. The fight is rather perfunctory, H.Orc is clearly the more skilled of the two.
Result: H.Orc strikes Raghu down, 4 injury points.
Prize: A Fully Grown Male Tiger.

Shahoon the Poisoner, is an Order of Fear wannabe, opportunist with a penchant for poison.
Zarthasan the Mystic, Foil Fighter-Wizard 3, is a robe-wearing, death-dealing dervish of death and sorcery.
Zarthasan opts to save his tricks for worthier opponents, except for his mighty martial arts; while he’s able to handily outfence Shahoon, a mildly venomous scratch does get through. Shahoon gives up when he realizes that the edge in skill is too much.
Result: Zarthasan wins, loses some HP to poison.
Prize: Sunndian Ceremonial Axe.

Sulman, is a veteran armsman of the Order of Fear.
Richardo, Thief 1, is a pirate seeking to profit from the tournament.
The fight seems like Sulman is rather overpowering. In reality Richardo is faking it, falling theatrically to Sulman’s spear thrust.
Result: Sulman wins without too much trouble.
Prize: Terra Cotta Bull.

Shankaracharya Jayavant, Blackguard 1, a serious knight-type, but pale and has a dramatic cough.
E-Ranger, Ranger 1, 2 HD cultivation, is a Gorilla Gym cultivator, example of the flot-sam and jetsam of player character creation.
At the beginning of the fight E-Ranger declares his struggle for the honor of the Gorilla Gym and Tuhar Tatambo, so cruelly slain by the Order of Fear in an earlier bout. He then proceeds to assault Shankracharya furiously, and while the knight attempts to keep his distance and use his halberd to punish the relentless assault, E-Ranger for all his lack of weapons manages to get inside the arc of the weapon. Shankaracharya is left bleeding in the ground by the savage punch/punch/kick of the gorilla cultivator.
Result: E-Ranger wins, Shankaracharya at 6 injury points.
Prize: Sutras Upon the Virtues of a Warrior.

Shana, is a squire of the Order, just hopes to account well for herself in the tournament.
Rocky Balboa, Fighter 1, 3 HD cultivation, is a Gorilla Gym cultivator, a moral leader among the young cadre.
Balboa is far superior despite Shana’s spear, moving faster and stronger such that a mortal cannot really keep up. He disarms the squire and head-butts her to the ground. Balboa retreats from the tournament at the end, citing his dissatisfaction with the unsportsmanlike treatment of Tuhar Tatambo, their team captain, in an earlier fight.
Result: Balboa wins, Shana stunned.
Prize: The Silver Apple, crushed savagely in an angry fist, thrown to the arena sands.

The rest of the first tournament day after the first round was dedicated to rest, challenges of honor and secondary arena programming (dancing bears, a boy band from the Great Kingdom, etc.). The line-up of fighters would shuffle a little bit before the morning, but here’s a summary of who were remaining in the tournament after the first round:

Dadir the Discount Dhalsim
Arush the Iron Arush
Molvar the Fleetseeded in to replace a mutual kill in the first round
Slave Paladin John Hawkwood
Lyra the Assassin
Medi the Maneater
Noble Telonious
Obert the Toady
Zahr Eir
Seela the Praedorseeded in to replace a mutual kill in the first round
Lalli Halligalli
H.Orc the Half-Orc
Zarthasan the Mystic
Sulman
E-Ranger
Rocky Balboa

2nd round, round of 16

The 2nd round of the tournament happened on the second day, after the combatants had all had a long rest. After a variety of maneuvers by both PCs and NPCs, here’s how the list of contestants shook out:

Dadir the Discount Dhalsim
Arush the Iron Arush

Richardobought himself a spot from Molvar, perhaps hastily
Slave Paladin John Hawkwood

Lyra the Assassin
Medi the Maneater

Noble Telonious
Obert the Toady

Zahr Eir
Mysterious Blackhookbullied her way back in, replacing Seela

Lalli Halligalli
H.Orc the Half-Orc

Zarthasan the Mystic
Sulman

TUM-R-ELO-3E-Ranger exchanged his spot for Tum’s laser pistol to respect faction politics.
Pandur The GallantSeeded to replace Balboa after his walkout.

And here’s how the fights went:

Dadir the Discount Dhalsim, Wizard-Monk 1, is a proud yogi desirous of fame and recognition for his arts.
Arush the Iron Arush, Fighter 3, is a famous Sunndian hero, a warrior of perfect physique and blazing smile.
Dadir lights his hands with Burning Hands, intending to combine his fire magic with martial arts. Arush, seeing his opponent being unarmed, sets aside his weapons as well. Arush’s iron skin proves highly resistant to fire, while his terrifying strength soon pummels Dadir to a point of incoherence.
Result: Arush dominates, Dadir just too weak.
Prize: Arush attempts to claim more slaves to free, but gets blocked by the head referee to avoid worsening the crowd’s mood from yesterday. Arush claims the Midnight Stallion instead.

Richardo, Thief 1, is a pirate seeking to profit from the tournament.
Slave Paladin John Hawkwood, Paladin 3, is a slave to Underdark trolls, captured in the far-away land of Sweden.
Richardo approached Hawkwood in advance, hoping to gain something for throwing the match. Hawkwood is disinterested, and during the match it’s pretty clear that Richardo didn’t plan to be here; something went wrong with his ploys, perhaps. Richardo tries to run away and give up, but the referee ignores the gestures, encouraging Hawkwood to finish the fool bloodily. Hawkwood crits, strikes Richardo with a brutal blow that sends him flying, but does not hurt the man badly.
Result: Hawkwood wins, Richardo gets away with his life.
Prize: A Trio of Slaves.

Lyra the Assassin, Assassin 2, is a clever and amoral sell-sword looking to prove her skills in the tournament.
Medi the Maneater, 2 HD Ogre, is a man rapidly turning ogre, infatuated with Khata the Werecheetah.
Lyra provokes Medi by taunting him before and at the beginning of the match, then prances away, daring the Maneater to grab his sling and see if he can take down the songbird from afar. Lyra responds by dashing in, dodging shots, throwing some daggers, but retreats again. This goes on for quite a while, long enough for the crowd to become quite restless. Something is wrong however… when Medi tries to charge, he finds that he has succumbed to the subtle poison in Lyra’s thrown blades!
Result: Lyra wins by strategy.
Prize: An Iron Chain. Lyra enslaves Medi!

Noble Telonious, Blackguard 1, is a knight of the Order of Fear; kinda basic.
Obert the Toady, Fighter 1, is an unimaginative toady of the Order of Fear, sword and board.
A fight between two members of the Order of Fear, a knight with a two-handed sword versus an armsman with a sword and shield. To everybody’s surprise Obert takes the fight with fierce determination; he wants the win more, and although it takes a long time and isn’t particularly skilled on either side, Obert proves to everybody that he’s a force to be reckoned with!
Result: Obert wins, wins a measure of respect from Thaal.
Prize: A Warrior’s Panoply.

Zahr Eir, Fighter-Witch 2, is the son of a witch, son of the devil, eager to prove his skills to the Temple of Doom.
Mysterious Blackhook, Fighter-Monk 1, is a grim combatant equipped with a large two-handed shield with razor edges.
Zahr Eir enters the field with a revenant, a silent servitor who proves to be a soulless corpse and therefore allowed on the field as a “weapon”. (A zombie, I’m just sometimes a bit uncomfortable using the word in various cultural contexts.) Blackhook again enters with the large two-handed bladed shield, wielding it with obvious skill. The revenant body proves decisive in the actual fight, as it grabs hold of Blackhook’s shield and refuses to let go, pulling it away and forcing the struggling combatant to follow. Zahr Eir himself takes obvious pleasure in leisurely flanking with his sabre, forcing Blackhook into a bind.
Result: Zahr Eir wins, Blackhook escapes with an injury.
Prize: A Ceremonial Phurba Dagger.

Lalli Halligalli, Blackguard 3, is kin to a prince of Sunndi, but gone to rot in crime and now, fascism.
H.Orc the Half-Orc, Fighter 2, is a boatswain and thug of Manta’s Pirates, and the team captain of the same in the tournament.
The apex of the 2nd tournament round. Horc opens the fight by throwing his halberd vaguely towards Lalli, drawing his sword; surprisingly the halberd soars towards Lalli before falling to the ground, forcing him to correct his own charge. Horc’s sword wails in a horrifying way as he attacks, but Lalli somehow manages to scramble out of the way. A furious duel ensues, the two skilled combatants exchange horrible blows. Horc trips Lalli twice, but both times he gets up, the latter time burning Horc with the intensity of his Will to Power. Horc is the larger and more experienced combatant, but when he has Lalli at his mercy, a desperate blind swing of the axe takes Horc in the knee, forcing him down. Lalli moves fluidly to follow up with a dagger to the groin, one of the few places that the Crab Plate armour of Horc’s leaves unprotected.
Result: Lalli wins, swaying at 1 HP; Horc goes down with an injured knee and groin.
Prize: The Frenzy Helmet +2.

Zarthasan the Mystic, Foil Fighter-Wizard 3, is a robe-wearing, death-dealing dervish of death and sorcery.
Sulman, is a veteran armsman of the Order of Fear.
It’s 3rd level Fighter against an ordinary human, so you tell me what you think. Zarthasan does not deign to use magic.
Result: Zarthasan wins handily.
Prize: A Signature of the Book.

TUM-R-ELO-3, is a Troubleshooter from Alpha Complex.
Pandur the Gallant, Blackguard 1, is a true believer in the Dark Enlightenment of the Order of Fear.
Pandur has armor, sword and shield. Poor Tum sold his laser pistol to get into the tournament, and his armor is glistening laser-reflective vinyl good for diffusing laser bolts. Pandur puts Tum out of his misery without much fanfare.
Result: Pandur wins, Tum-3 dies.
Prize: The Nigmatic Paper Trail.

In summary, the Eight Heavenly Kings (the quarterfinalists):

Arush the Iron Arush
Slave Paladin John Hawkwood
Lyra the Assassin
Obert the Toady
Zahr Eir
Lalli Halligalli
Zarthasan the Mystic
Pandur the Gallant

Thaal is quite excited at this point, as the Order of Fear has managed to get four members (he’s counting the Slave Paladin, who opted to become his squire in the first round) into the quarterfinals. A bold statement in the greatest Tournament of Fear ever!

3rd round, 8 heavenly kings

In the evening of the 2nd tournament day, after a long rest for the contestants, the 8 Heavenly Kings convene once again to winnow down the ranks. The matchups didn’t change this time from last round’s results, so without further ado:

Arush the Iron Arush, Fighter 3, is a famous Sunndian hero, a warrior of perfect physique and blazing smile.
Slave Paladin John Hawkwood, Paladin 3, is a slave to Underdark trolls, captured in the far-away land of Sweden.
By this point Hawkwood is hopelessly entangled in a side quest to save Arush from the cunning Apostle Nigma, which makes the fight a bit of a side affair: Arush is determined to win, Hawkwood is determined to lose, and he does manage to do so without cluing the audience in on it, and without having either fighter get hurt badly.
Result: Arush wins, both walk away healthy and ready for the night’s adventures.
Prize: The Black Nail.

Lyra the Assassin, Assassin 2, is a clever and amoral sell-sword looking to prove her skills in the tournament.
Obert the Toady, Fighter 1, is an unimaginative toady of the Order of Fear, sword and board.
Lyra is by this point widely favoured to win: Obert is an unimaginative if workmanlike fighter, while Lyra has won against two men arguably stronger than Obert, who’s still hanging in the tournament as a fluke. However, as the fight begins, we find the Lyra has this time failed to sabotage Obert, or figure out a cunning ploy; the man is too boring to trick, it seems, as he carefully advances on Lyra, ignoring all her tricks. Obert is larger and stronger, and has armor to give him a decisive advantage in a grapple.
Result: Obert is exhausted and muddy, but also victorious!
Prize: A large eye-shaped jewel of crystal, sapphire and gold with diamond chips.

Zahr Eir, Fighter-Witch 2, is the son of a witch, son of the devil, eager to prove his skills to the Temple of Doom.
Lalli Halligalli, Blackguard 3, is kin to a prince of Sunndi, but gone to rot in crime and now, fascism.
Lalli was warned before the fight about Zahr Eir having formed a sympathetic magic connection to him; choosing to stand vigil, Lalli is protected from whatever fell magic of the witch by the fell might of Hextor. Zahr Eir brings all the guns to the field here, coming in with the zombie and opening the fight with some kind of red mist bomb, covering the field in an obscuring haze that burns Lalli’s eyes and makes it near impossible to charge the enemy. Lalli, however, is growing into his terrible powers as a Praetor of Fear; his touch alone suffices to turn the revenant follower of the witch-man into dust, and while Zahr Eir can hide in his mists, he cannot really outfight the fierce blackguard. When Lalli bashes Zahr Eir in the middle of the mists, he chooses to execute the man on the spot rather than risk him coming after him after the tournament.
Result: Lalli continues his bloody work, Zahr Eir dies.
Prize: The Mask of Subtle Terror.

Zarthasan the Mystic, Foil Fighter-Wizard 3, is a robe-wearing, death-dealing dervish of death and sorcery.
Pandur the Gallant, Blackguard 1, is a true believer in the Dark Enlightenment of the Order of Fear.
The Gorilla Gym retreating from the tournament frankly left the south flank of the tournament bracket a bit on the weak side; Zarthasan is not required to exert himself too much as he continues fighting his way forward.
Result: Zarthasan wins.
Prize: The Wondrous Mechanical Peacock.

The second tournament day ends with the semifinalists determined:

Arush the Iron Arush
Obert the Toady
Lalli Halligalli
Zarthasan the Mystic

The last day of the tournament

The third tournament day features two rounds of the tournament: the semi-finals are fought in the morning, with the final match in the evening. Here are the semifinal pairs:

Arush the Iron Arush
Obert the Toady

Lalli Halligalli
Zarthasan the Mystic

However, a scandal! Iron Arush has disappeared during the night and will not be participating. Sinister Thaal, the head referee of the tournament, makes the difficult call of offering a bye to Obert, who coincidentally happens to be one of his own men at arms. After all, can’t delay the tournament in this late stage!

This leaves only one semi-final match:

Lalli Halligalli, Blackguard 3, is kin to a prince of Sunndi, but gone to rot in crime and now, fascism.
Zarthasan the Mystic, Foil Fighter-Wizard 3, is a robe-wearing, death-dealing dervish of death and sorcery.
Lalli is wearing the Mask of Subtle Terrors. Zarthasan is bringing his best as well; he casts Enlarge on himself before the match, allowing the eldritch magic to make the sorcerer unnaturally large. The fight is fierce, yet relatively straightforward, with both combatants attempting to bring the other down quickly, before they can be felled themself. Unknown to Lalli, Zarthasan’s ritual magic preparations actually failed, but his combat skills carry the day still.
Result: Zarthasan wins, leaving Lalli at 2 injury points.
Prize: Big Bag of Gold.

After the semifinal, the Order of Fear performs a quick switcheroo: Obert has fought well, but Thaal does not believe in his chances against Zarthasan, so he has Lalli challenge Obert to relinquish his place in the finals. Obert of course, instructed by the Grandmaster, accedes to this, which leaves Lalli in place to attempt to beat Zarthasan a second time in the final match of the tournament. The fight takes place that night, in front of a great audience.

Lalli Halligalli, Blackguard 3, is kin to a prince of Sunndi, but gone to rot in crime and now, fascism.
Zarthasan the Mystic, Foil Fighter-Wizard 3, is a robe-wearing, death-dealing dervish of death and sorcery.
Lalli is suffering of a persistent -2 to activities from his earlier wounds. Lalli invokes his Aura of Fear at the beginning of the fight, forcing Zarthasan to steel his nerves (and HP Cancel for 5 points) to be able to overcome the fear. Zarthasan show-cases new magics, of which the exotic sorcerer seems to have a bottomless bag: as Lalli charges in to attack Zarthasan turns invisible, leaving Lalli helpless to initiate combat. Zarthasan’s surprise attack fails, leading to a fierce exchange of blows. Lalli invokes the dread power of Inflict Harm, while Zarthasan casts Shocking Grasp, such that both fighters crackle with power. However, only one can make the decisive strike.
Result: Zarthasan wins, leaving Lalli utterly defeated.
Prize: Lexiander’s Signet Ring, the Captive Princess.

The head referee Sinister Thaal declared the Most Valuable Player award at the end of the tournament, revealing that in final expert analysis Lalli had been the most chivalrous, most brave, most competent fighter in the tournament. Nobody was surprised that Thaal kept patting himself in the back, actually talking more about how great the Order of Fear is than paying attention to the annoying outsider who stole the championship from Thaal’s chosen champion.

Aftermath

I was initially concerned about the tournament being too easy as a source of wealth, influence and experience points for the player characters. After all, the risks are relatively modest compared to dungeoneering, there are great prizes, and a character could easily have a valuable quest attached to the tournament. A character could even make a fair bit of money by gambling on the matches (10 GP = 1 XP for gambling profits, by the way.)

However, the easy street didn’t substantiate in actual play. While some characters did make nice money in the gambling, they also lost it all in upset matches later on. Six player characters ultimately participated in the tournament, and see what happened to them:
2 walked out for political reasons early on.
2 were seriously injured, such that one died and the other spent several months in recovery.
1 had the privilege of losing to the tournament winner two times in a row, missing out on the big prizes.
1 got entangled in a side quest and ultimately dropped out of the tournament.

That last one’s John Hawkwood. I’ll discuss his adventure next time, as at this writing we’re still resolving that entire tangle, even as the tournament proper has been resolved.

State of the Productive Facilities

Well, I haven’t really been able to write over July, not even the newsletter. I’ll write about this in more length in the next newsletter, explain a bit; it’s nothing interesting, just normal life stuff.

The upcoming plan is that I’ll make up on the newsletter front by writing a few extra letters on a variety of topics. Then, back to the grind with Muster. I’ve successfully transferred some of the GMing duties in Coup to Tuomas (another thing to discuss once I get that far), so hopefully, assuming I get a hold of my routine, I’ll have a bit more time to write over the coming weeks.

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