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Paizo Editors and Executives Dodge Fireball in Gladiators Campaign

Recently, Orange Crush led the Chronos team that is growing in notoriety into a fearsome death match with four half-orc barbarians in a lower arena combat. Though the Chronos gladiators won the match, they did not escape unsinged (not to be confused with unsung). Late in the match, when Orange Crush and his volatile group of warriors seemed sure to destroy the last barbarian, their patron attempted to level the Chronos faction with a fireball cast from the stands. Though the magic-wielding interloper was later identified as the patron of the defeated half-orcs, he was successfully dispatched by interested mindflayer spectators in the stands. The mindflayers have been showing an abnormal interest in the Orange Crush group for several matches. Conspicuously absent from the recent combat were the popular Sparks Imperial and the team’s mighty healer, Imphyrio. Also absent was the ability to actually place a deciding blow by the party’s lone female member, Qevar Myrindel, the plucky female elf ranger who flourishes her net and entangles her victims before dispatching them neatly with trident and scimitar. Qevar did entangle one of the barbarians early in the battle, but didn’t manage an effective blow throughout the remainder of the contest. The Chronos faction was well-rewarded for allowing the spice of an arena death match to enliven a potentially dreary day in the lower arenas.

ORCS ON PARADE. The Paizo Coliseum came to life during a recent lunch hour session when Dragon Editor-in-Chief Jesse Decker marched an untried group of Orcs out for a death match against the formidable, up-and-coming Chronos faction peopled by the staffers of Dragon, Dungeon and Polyhedron magazines.

In a campaign that encompasses the player characters described in the Dragon #303 editorial, the lunchtime combat included a new level of treachery perpetrated by the spectators in the stands. With this match, Decker pulled back the curtain a bit further to demonstrate how much corruption and deceit flows through the various arenas in his gladiatorial complex. This combat was the second time that the freshman gladiators from Chronos have been surprised by unexpected assaults in the arena. Early on in the campaign, they had to join in combat with another team of Chronos fighters – The Green Shields – when the latter group was ambushed. The current match was the first one where the new fighters from Chronos accepted a challenge to the death. Four gladiators, including Matthew Sernett’s Orange Crush, Chris Thomasson’s Green Mamba, Kyle Hunter’s The Loser and Johnny Wilson’s female elf ranger, Qevar Myrindel, entered the arena to face four half-orc barbarians sponsored by a magic-wielding patron who spread his contempt for the new Chronos fighters throughout the arena complex. The cause of the patron’s antipathy for the Chronos group remains part of the batch of mysteries to be solved during the campaign, but the answer will not be forthcoming from the NPC himself. Mindflayers actually ate his brain.

LOSER! LOSER! As Orange Crush (lower left) searches for a new foe, The Loser (Kyle Hunter’s fighter/cleric represented by a token from the D&D adventure game) and Qevar (with trident in hand) attack one barbarian as another closes in on them.

As Jesse Decker pointed out in the Dragon editorial, arena combat with this Chronos team is a lot like watching a wrestling match. Each fighter has their own style. Orange Crush just wades in and smashes every possible opponent. The Green Mamba, Thomasson’s dwarf fighter, has his signature snake gesture and has been known to spit what looks like venom at his opponents. The Loser espouses a philosophy where one can only measure the quality of life in terms of whether one is giving or receiving loss. Qevar hails from the country and seems to have issues with the young men from her native countryside. She seems to take an unnatural glee at entangling her opponents and watching them attempt to attack her at less advantageous odds. She wields her net like a toreador wields his cape and is rumored to have a razor net (as in Dragon #303) in reserve for her next match. The match described here was missing Pierce Watters’ cleric of Pelor, Imphyrio. The powerful cleric has not revealed to the rest of the group whether he has entered the arena to seek penance or administer Pelor’s justice within the arena. His presence does create a fascinating counterpoint with Sparks Imperial, the imp gladiator managed by Erik Mona. Erik keeps the entire table amused by using alliterative appeals to his deities in a style that would have pleased Stan Lee in the early days when Thor was still published in Journey into Mystery. The particular match pictured and described here was all Green Mamba and Orange Crush with The Loser and Qevar reduced to supporting roles. Just before The Loser and Qevar were about to finish off the orcs, the renegade fireball erupted in the arena and knocked Qevar unconscious. With Decker’s characteristic and often understanded capacity for intrigue, he later revealed that Qevar saw something of a vision of the Shadow Realm while fighting back from unconsciousness.

DELUSIONAL FEMALE. According to Qevar, she was the first to close on the orc band. Eyewitnesses do not confirm her perspective and this photo looks posed.

Decker’s ideal approach to managing the campaign is to alternate arena battles with sessions which emphasize role-playing. Some of those RP sessions have involved strategy sessions with Caligos, the team’s handler, and a dinner with some of the other heroes of the Chronos faction. The RP sessions serve dual purposes, allowing the player characters to catch up on bookkeeping, follow-up on clues or discover new ones, receive briefings on new rules or new nuances in arena procedures, and to plan the group’s next encounter from Decker’s master list. Decker keeps a list of rankings as opposed to a tournament bracket for each division of his arena complex. The teams are allowed to challenge up or down with the anticipated changes in the odds. Player characters are also allowed to bet with the bookies in the arena to increase their take. Unlike Pete Rose’s experience in modern baseball, there doesn’t appear to be a stigma in betting for oneself. In a recent wrap-up to an RP session, Decker conceded that one of his inspirations for the campaign was the arena in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Sailing to Sarentium series.

ORANGE CRUSHED. Like Qevar’s account, Orange Crush’s account of the action seems staged rather than conforming to the eye-witness accounts of the combat.

THE REAL STORY. The real victory, of course, was a team effort. Even though Orange Crush had a great day and Qevar contributed, it took Green Mamba’s acrobatic fighting style to save the day and some vital transfers of loss from The Loser to turn the tide. Gift Certificates
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