Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saturday Grab Bag - Torm's Holy Arena

On Saturdays, or maybe weekends in general, I plan to have a grab bag of posts that don't fit the constraints of the other series. This post will hopefully mark the first post of the Saturday Grab Bag.

Sometimes when I am running my table, the players have traveled faster than I intended, while the destination isn't fully prepped as much as I would like. Sometimes, I've even had to postpone a session because of this, but I really don't like doing that, getting a group of six people with full time jobs together can be a real struggle, so if we're all free I like to have at least something happen at the table.

The last time this happened I came up with the idea for Torm's Holy Arena. Back then we were running a weird improv version of Hoard of the Dragon Queen that I plan to go over at a later date.

On a side note, I really love buying premade campaigns and adventures, but I never run them very close to the intended story line. I improv around the story. I like them because they create a good context for what could be happening around the world during the campaign. I usually start the way the book intends, but then I give the players absolute freedom to go off in whatever direction they want. My players right now are on the run because they slaughtered a group of dragon cultists when they weren't supposed to, and the witnesses saw them as cold-blooded murderers. I also enjoy buying the books because I like to read the story, get ideas for encounters, and just feel immersed in someone else's lore for once.

Torm's Holy Arena 

Invented to fill a session in that campaign. The party had entered Elturel, a town filled with many paladins and worshipers of Torm. It had been a slow previous session, so I wanted to include some fun combat for them, but without going on too big of a tangent from their current path.

A very hedonistic paladin who mentored one of the players introduced them to the arena. He had had it built years before as an attempt to turn adventuring into a sort of spectator sport. Many before him had attempted to create a coliseum-style arena for the common folk to watch adventurers hack and slash at each other, but it had never quite worked out. The problem was these adventurers were too unwilling to fight each other in such a high-risk, low-reward scenario. Why would an adventurer fight to the death against other highly-skilled adventurers to get fame and wealth, when he can achieve those goals fighting badly organized goblins, or saving a farmer's daughter from a cluster of Owlbears?

Attempts were made to create a non-lethal arena, using dull swords and  flat-tipped arrows. But this prevented the magic-users from participating. It is difficult to remove the lethality from a lightning bolt, or fireball.

The paladin, despite his hedonism, was a very pious man. He knew of many resurrection spells, granted to him from his god Torm. Many paladins and clerics from across the region came together to imbue an arena with intrinsic resurrection abilities, and Torm's Holy Arena was born.

When an adventurer dies in the arena, right before their living essence were to leave their body, the holy power of Torm returns the spirit to the body, mends and issues, and transports the adventurer to just outside of the field. Such a feat is very expensive and difficult, and adventurers need to be blessed before hand by local clerics, and fight without anger or hate in their hearts. Elturel is proud to proclaim that the arena has a nearly perfect success rate.

The arena sometimes releases monsters for the adventurers to fight, but the most popular style of event is large Battle Royales, featuring anywhere from 5 to 20 skilled adventurers. People flock from all over the country to witness the event, and the last man standing is usually given some gold, gems, and even a magic item (like the Chalk of the Demiplane Retreat)

Story Time

Right before the party I DM for, who have just recently started to refer to themselves as The Dragon Riders, got to the city of Elturel and participated in a grand arena battle royale, they were traveling across the country side. It was an uneventful couple of days until they saw a strange sight on the top of a nearby hill. A huge, muscular, human man looked like he was fighting two large orcs barehanded.

When they approached closer they saw that not only was he fighting them barehanded, he was wrestling them. One orc was stuck in a headlock, while the other was pinned under one of his feet. The Dragon Riders were quite impressed with this man, helped him finish off the orcs with a couple of well-placed arrows, and beckoned him over to their cart at the bottom of the hill.

The man was Jed Cornhusk, strongman, hillbilly, and grappling afficianado. (As well as future NPC of the Week). When Jed came over to the party, he quickly noticed that this wasn't the average travelling band of humans. The Dragon Riders contain: Two Half-Orcs, one Tiefling, one Half-Elf, and one gnome. Everyone in the party is part human, part something else, except for the gnome. If there is one thing the hillbilly known as Jed Cornhusk hates more than orcs and non-humans, its half-humans, or mudbloods as he calls them. He saw the party as nothing but a group of half-men. Even the gnome was nothing more than half of the size of a man. Jed was a racist.

The Dragon Riders didn't like Jed. They were a diverse group, and they didn't feel the need to apologize for it. They agreed to transport him to Elturel, but then they would go their separate ways. Of course, once they got there, and the arena was planned, the organizers were deadset on including Jed and his amazing unarmed grappling.

Jed, the idiot that he is, didn't pay any attention during the pre-fight instructions. He didn't listen to the warnings about not holding hate in your heart inside of the arena. When everyone else started the fight with a loud "Praise Torm", Jed cursed the god, calling him a filthy mudblood lover.

Jed did quite well in the fight, but that wasn't enough. Especially when the Dragon Riders appeared to gang up on him. After the fight everyone was celebrating and drinking, when someone noticed Jed's body still lying on the field. Torm must have decided to not grant resurrection to the man who refused to praise him. None of the priests or paladins wanted to resurrect him themselves, they didn't dare anger their god Torm. Luckily, the druid in the party had a scroll of reincarnate.

Reincarnate, for those not in the know, can bring nearly anyone back to life. They might have been dead for an hour, or a decade. The difference between reincarnate and more traditional resurrection spells, is that reincarnate places the spirit of the deceased in a brand new body. By some twist of fate, likely caused by some vengeful god, Torm came back to life in the brand new body of a half-orc.

Jed ran screaming into the night, and the party has yet to see him again.