Some Died Free: Spawn of Cyclops Con Tournament Report
by Marc Bruner
For Spawn of Cyclops Con we reimagined our traditional multi-round tournament through the lens of brutal solo play: a pitched battle royale set atop a ziggurat at the center of a wine-dark sea. With terrible foes above, and rising seas below, it only stood to reason that the PCs would fall on each other like wolves – exactly what the foul Lost Aghartans hoped for.
But this is Dungeon Crawl Classics. And no DCC player worthy of the name is going to accept the will of a slave lord without a fight.
Here Judge Marc recounts his experience running the very first session of Slave Pits, in which the gladiators – faced with certain doom – chose valor and furious defiance over submission.
And you can watch the final round of the tournament over on YouTube right now! Recorded live from The Goodman Games Twitch Channel as it aired.
My game actually started way before the official game time with great role-playing and smack talk in the general chat. Interestingly, I had had all of these guys as players during Return to the Starless Sea, and one of them, Travis, was from the first-place team of that tournament:
- Zach playing as Gordred Greyskin (cannibal)
- Dillion playing as Golgo, Death’s Shepherd
- Travis playing as Zog
- Chuck playing as Blogerth
- Kyle playing as SkelUng the Famished
We started with hit point rolls, with only Gordred choosing to consume the flesh-stew made from his fellow captive slaves. Initiative order was Zog, Golgo, Gordred, Blogerth, SkelUng. PC 1 was the only PC not chosen.
From the start, they avoided attacking fellow slaves, going straight for the equipment piles. The first slave-lord command sent the man-bats, which took a nip out of Golgo. Still the gladiators kept avoiding each other, focusing on searching and climbing the ziggurat. Several rounds followed in quick succession. Giants followed the man-bats, the waters rose, and PCs started firing crossbows they found in the mounds of bones at the giants to try to take them down. Two PCs tried striking the crystals to see if they would shatter but avoided touching them, and all the while they kept climbing higher and higher.
At one point a gladiator threw an extra chain mail shirt to another slave, and that is when they really started cooperating. After that, Golgo and Gordred reached the ballistas and Golgo swiveled it around to take a shot at the warlock, causing him to drop his staff. Another shot skewered a giant with one of the huge bolts, pushing it back into the crystal behind it, which triggered another rise in the seas. SkelUng rushed to the top of the ziggurat to grab the fallen staff, and rushed back down the stairs, but couldn’t control it, and cannibal Gordred was forced to attack Zog for a round.
At this point, they were throwing everything they could at the monsters, weaponizing the dungeon in beautiful ways. SkelUng deliberately caused the seas to rise around himself in order to also subsume three of the giants, who were swarmed by leviathans, and Blogerth made it to one of the columns and pushed it over onto two giants below, crushing the life from them.
SkelUng then decided to strike one of the crystals with the staff! In this unusual circumstance, I ruled that the crystal effect was triggered AND a random slave lord effect was also triggered, which caused all sorts of delight, including SkelUng getting propelled to the top of the initiative and healed by the crystal’s power.
Amazingly, after an hour and 45 minutes, all five players were still alive, though some were clinging to mere shreds of hit points and burned Luck. At this point Golgo ascended a column of skulls and wrenched the blazing brazier at the top above his head, shouting to the slave lords for their praise or admonition. Below, with all but one of the giants dead or drowned, Gordred swung at Zog, but missed, and was killed by Zog’s retaliatory strike. SkelUng fought his way to Zog’s side and slew him with a blow from the warlock’s staff.
With seconds left to play and only three PC left, Golgo threw the oil-filled brazier at SkelUng and the last giant standing next to him, rolling a mere ’12’ against SkelUng’s chainmail of AC 16.
With a cry to the slave lords above of “Is this what you want?!?!” he burned his remaining 4 points of Luck to make the throw, immolating SkelUng who rushed into the wine-dark sea to douse the flames only to be embraced by the tentacle hordes that pulled him under.
In the end, after a full two hours of play, it was only Blogerth and Golgo, with a mere 0 Luck, who survived the pits. Both were herded back onto the slave barges to bind their wounds and nurse their souls in anticipation of the second round.
Deep in the bowels of Áereth, beneath the heavy-lidded gaze of the Lost Aghartans along the shores of the blood sea, there could be no hope of victory, but some died free.