Tonight’s Guest Player: The Internet
by Harley Stroh
Hail, Gladiators! Over the course of Spawn of Cyclops Con, dozens of damned souls were dragged into the Aghartan underworld to battle man-bats, leviathans, giants, and each other, all for the delight of wicked elephantine overlords.
Their numbers were winnowed to six over the course of three brutal rounds, and then down to just two: Joe Colistro and Jon Lehman. Each slew the other’s PC in the very same round. Locked together in Death’s leering embrace, our first multi-round battle royale ended in a tie!
The dread doom gong sounded, the wicked lost Aghartans reclined upon their pleasure barges, sated.
In the Slave Pits battle royale we tasked the players with roleplaying two distinct roles with opposing goals:
First, the players played as gladiators in a desperate battle for survival atop a stone ziggurat.
Additionally, the players played the role of the wicked slave lords, eager to torment those same gladiators with a variety of foes.
At end of each round, a warlock atop the ziggurat would call out to the slave lords for their commands, and the slave lords would cast secret ballots, collectively deciding between:
- Release the man-bats! Causing the PC highest on the ziggurat to be targeted by a horde of flying man-bats.
- Into the wine-dark seas! Raising the waters and shrinking the ziggurat, so that any PCs caught in water were attacked by the scores of hungry leviathans.
- Crush them my giants! Causing the slave giants to descend the black steps and attack the nearest PC.
- Forward, feasters of flesh! Causing any PC who had opted to consume the slave lord’s stew to become mindless puppets and attack their fellow gladiators.
Each round the players’ choices could radically transform the battlefield. And as PCs perished, the slave lords’ turn came ever more quickly, until the final rounds were a bloody cacophony of desperate PC actions vying against the hated slave lords.
This alone might have made for an interesting game, with temporary alliances, the inevitable betrayals, and canny voting. But our tournaments need to keep players on their toes; players reaching the third round deserved another twist.
We broadcasted the final round of the tournament live on Twitch. This gave us the opportunity to host repeating polls in the chat. And – through polling – we turned all our viewers into wicked slave lords, deciding each and every round what would transpire on the ziggurat.
The session went from a tournament game with six players to a tournament game with nearly fifty.
The interaction was exactly what you’d hope: Players, speaking as their PCs, alternately cursing the slave lords and then begging them for mercy; the Twitch viewers, delighting in the misery of the gladiators and deciding their fate by whimsy, or “Just to see what would happen.” The viewers played their roles to the hilt, treating the PCs as ants to be tormented for their pleasure. And the players gave as good as they got, fighting to the bitter end.
As a judge, it was one of the highlights of my years spent running games. There have been better sessions, but never with so many contributing players, and never when the stakes were so high. The game had scarcely ended and my gamer-brain was reeling with all the ways we can bring a thrilling, free-wheeling DCC experience to as many players as possible.
As we close out Spawn’s tournament, a final round of thanks needs to be raised up to our amazing judges: Mike Bolam, Bob Brinkman, Jen Brinkman, Marc Bruner, Tim Deschene, Haley Skach, and Jim Skach; and the hard-rolling tournament support crew: Jen Brinkman, Susan Murph, and Thorin Thompson. Without you, none of this would have been possible.
Until next time, see you in the Pits!
Miss the livestream? You can watch this video and dozens more on our official Goodman Games Twitch Channel.