Greybanner’s geographical and cultural center is the Greybanner Arena. It stands above the surrounding houses and buildings, visible from miles across the rolling plains. The sight of it rising on the horizon sends a jolt through the bodies of any approaching fighters. The Arena is a place for them to make their name. It gathers crowds in the shared excitement of festivals and tournaments, filling its stands with uproarious praise for anyone brave enough to enter the ring. The dangers one might face within the Arena are unlike anything they might normally find, but so are the opportunities.
We’ve covered Greybanner itself and the adventure’s introduction. That leaves only one thing left to detail before the story continues: the Arena. This first part will include all of the Arena’s general operations and opportunities for players, from betting to bouts. All of this can be used on its own, without any connection to the adventure, or as a basis for the many additional fights between Tournament rounds. Part 2 will cover the Grand Tournament itself, which will be running throughout the duration of the adventure.
Be sure to read through our previous ‘Secrets of the Arena’ entries, for full coverage of Greybanner and an introduction to bring your players into town…
For the majority of the time that the Grand Tournament is not underway, the Arena continues to function with smaller fights and competitions. The same continues during the Tournament, filling the gaps between rounds as entrants rest and recover. These fights can occur for several reasons. While it is true that the Arena once acted as a place to settle differences and reach violent conclusions to disagreements, those days quickly faded after the town’s establishment. Lately, most fighters enter to prove themselves, spread their name, or to simply make some gold. They do this by facing dangerous beasts and monsters in the Arena.
The Arena is led by a small group of individuals. They command its various operations and workers to ensure its safety and keep it running smoothly. This often means working in tandem with Captain Ashbrand and Eva Cinderbrow when addressing the Arena’s security and engineering, respectively.
The most prominent figures in the Arena, and their roles and duties, are the following:
Erwin Redmane. As Master of the Arena, Erwin Redmane oversees every aspect of the Greybanner Arena. He acts as a central point of authority for every facet of its operations, from maintenance to fighter applications. Most of this is done from a distance. Redmane rarely acts as an outward face or directly interfaces with the public, leaving much of those responsibilities to Esterland. He appears between bouts to lead the Arena’s maintenance and restructuring, and holds everything in his domain to a high standard.
Yvette Esterland. Yvette Esterland is the current announcer for the Arena and Redmane’s second. She leads much of the front-facing operations, with the Arena’s tellers and criers answering to her. Yvette enjoys involving herself in the work she captains, personally reviewing fighter applications, organizing bouts, and, of course, announcing them. As such, she is much more visible than the Arena Master. This comes from a deep fascination with combat and warriors, which often leads to her watching fights from within the pit.
Marla Durand. The town’s primary healer is present for all fights in the Arena. Marla Durand waits behind one of the gates on the Arena’s side, ready to apply emergency healing to fallen fighters or escort them from the field. The Arena’s guards assist her and she often hires additional, temporary aid with tending to the Tournament’s many injuries. All fighters are encouraged to visit her Infirmary after their bout, to receive necessary healing and rest.
Elias Gilderoy. While not required, Greybanner’s resident mage has made it his business to observe the Arena’s operations. Elias Gilderoy waits with and assists Marla from the side of the pit, watching to ensure no one in the stands attempts to magically affect the fight. Between bouts, he aids Redmane and his workers in coordinating the Arena’s magical traps and wards, as well as containing any beasts kept for the Silversteel Challenge. These favors are all covers, as with much of the mage’s business, to allow him to observe and investigate the Arena’s true function.
Rules of the Arena
There are a number of basic rules that govern all fights held within the Greybanner Arena. They exist primarily to maintain as much fairness and safety as possible for both combatants and spectators. As such, they are repeatedly listed in the entryways and halls of the Arena, as well as specifically included in the application process for fighters. The rules have their own punishments depending on severity, upheld by the aforementioned individuals. Wards and enchantments are also inscribed into the Arena’s walls, to help prevent any attempt at breaking particular rules.
The core rules for conduct within the Greybanner Arena are the following:
Fighters must not target the crowd in any way. Simply put, any fighter that knowingly endangers audience members will be disqualified. This includes direct attacks, areas of effect that include crowd members, as well as manipulation of traps or redirection of attacks towards the stands. The same applies to a fighter that attempts to bait or force their opponent into breaking this rule. Those that disobey will find Redmane to be particularly stone-faced in his punishment.
Part of the Arena’s enchantments include a two-way protective field that rises from the internal walls. This warding extends into the Ethereal Plane and acts as a wall to block any projectile or physical effect that would target the audience. In the case of fights against beasts or monsters, the wall also prevents creatures from escaping.
Matches between fighters are to yield, not to the death. The inherent danger of traps, response times of nearby healers, and the sheer cost of resuscitation mean that Arena matches are only until one party yields or collapses. The ambiguity in judging this requires guards and the mentioned healers to remain on standby for the duration of fights. They must often step in and end an obviously concluded fight when a combatant refuses to yield. Silversteel Challenge matches do not share this rule, though the same people wait nearby to incapacitate a monster and tend to its victims, should the creature be the victor.
If a fighter is deemed to have knowingly disobeyed this rule, they face instant disqualification and often imprisonment in the dungeons.
Characters entering the Tournament and other fights will be made aware of this rule. This means that you can safely assume that attacks that reduce a target to 0 hit points are non-lethal blows, unless otherwise specified. Regardless of how a fight ends, Marla Durand is able to cast a healing word to revive a fallen fighter.
Combatants cannot move above the height of the internal walls. The strength of flight magic in duels, as well as the risk of escaping monsters, means that fighters are not permitted above the height of the walls between them and the audience. The walls that encompass the fighting pit are twenty feet high, with the spectator stands atop them. Fighters receive warnings that any magical effect that would elevate them above this height is dispelled upon reaching it. Non-magical attempts will be stopped by a powerful field of resistance. The same applies to anything attempting to burrow more than ten feet below the sand.
This rule acts, in large part, to balance duels in competitions such as the Grand Tournament, particularly as modifications to the fighting pit can lower areas of it further below the walls. Most fighters will still carry a ranged weapon to combat an opponent that does float at the 20-foot limit. They are also aware of this possibility; experienced fighters will have tools or strategies specifically for the possibility of flying targets, and often use the Arena’s various obstacles and traps to gain an advantage.
The crowd cannot influence or interfere with the fight in any way. As the reverse of the first rule, audience interference is strictly disallowed. This specifically refers to any ability that might allow a spectator to impact the fight, such as magically enhancing or weakening a fighter, healing, or any other tangible influence. The rule does not apply to general cheering or yelling at fighters.
Both the Arena’s wards and Elias Gilderoy uphold this rule. The enchantments prevent magical effects from passing through, while the mage keeps a keen eye on fights to spot any attempts by the crowd. If he does spot one, Elias will point the perpetrator out to nearby guards. Anyone caught interfering with a fight will be thrown out of the Arena and often banned from entering for the rest of the current festivities.
Additionally, this also includes any enhancement spells that are applied to a combatant before entering their bout. Elias is sure to see to both fighters before they enter, dispelling any magical effects and issuing a warning. A fighter found guilty a second time is instantly disqualified.
An important aspect of the Greybanner Arena, Silversteel Challenge, and Grand Tournament is the Arena’s traps. We’ve covered the many traps and mechanisms and all their mechanics in a separate article, ‘Greybanner Coliseum: Arena Traps and Hazards‘.
Activities for the Characters
The Arena’s entry is an archway of stone that opens into a hallway extending to either side. Upon entering, your eyes are first drawn to the opposite wall, where a mural covers most of its height and length. Looking around, you see a set of kiosks to your right and cordoned queuing lines to your left that lead to a set of ascending stairs. Decorating the wall to your immediate left is a series of metal plaques, engraved with lists of names and with a shield at their top.
The characters have a number of ways of interacting with the Arena outside of the Grand Tournament. These include simply spectating other matches, placing bets on those matches, or participating in the Silversteel Challenge.
Understanding Fighter Ratings
Every fighter, group, and monster in the Arena is assigned a ‘fighter rating’ as an aggregate representation of their strength, numbers, and coordination. These numbers are used to efficiently determine the likelihood of either side winning a particular bout. This allows you to much more easily compare groups and simulate fights between them.
In the Silversteel Challenge and other group bouts, a group’s fighter rating is based on their total CR, which is rounded up for experienced fighter groups. This number is then doubled to better highlight the difference in experience levels when rolling to determine a victor. It should be noted that the fighter ratings in the Silversteel Challenge assume that the entering group has four members, making it ideal that your party also has four. In this case, your party’s fighter rating is their average level (the sum of their levels, divided by four), multiplied by 2.
While you can find the fighter rating of a larger or smaller party the same way ([sum of levels / 4] x 2), the nature of the action economy means that the more numerous side possesses an inherent advantage. In this case, you may need to rebalance the numbers within the groups of monsters, depending on the size of the party. If you have six or more players, it may be easiest to have them divide into two groups.
In the Grand Tournament, the contestants each have an individual ‘tournament fighter rating’. These are instead calculated from their approximate level as if they were a player character, which is then doubled. This makes it easier to determine your characters’ tournament fighter ratings, which is simply their character level x 2.
Tickets for spectator seats are available for sale in the Arena’s entrance. They can vary depending on the current celebration, though are available mostly on a per-day, or full-pass basis, allowing characters to spectate Tournament and Challenge matches. During the Greybanner Grand Tournament, Tournament fighters receive free entrance for as long as they are not eliminated.
The following ticket types are available for sale during the Grand Tournament:
Day pass. Costs 1 gp, granting entrance to every fight or event on a particular day. Characters can visit the Arena entrance kiosks to purchase day passes up to five days in advance.
Tournament Pass. Costs a discounted 15g and grants entrance to every fight for the full duration of the Grand Tournament.
Determining the Victor
When conducting Arena battles between non-player groups, rolling for each and every attack is a waste of time. To determine the outcome of a fight, roll a d20 for either side and add their fighter rating as a modifier, with the higher result being victorious. If the characters are not observing the fight, you can simply do this once to determine the winner. If they are spectating, use this result to describe how the fight progresses each round, making a note of each side’s successes. Continue until one side has succeeded five times, after which their opponent falls. If you are short on time or find your players losing attention, reduce this number to three.
Each round in a fight should come as a short description of its events. Focus on a particular character or attack, being sure to vary the focus and wording each round, and keep it as concise as possible. If the characters have bet on a particular outcome, keep that in mind as a way to hold their attention. The same goes for other gamblers nearby or the crowd at large, who will react to each round based on their own biases. These details can help build suspense and immersion by involving the player in what is happening.
Characters are able to place wagers on other bouts in the hope of making gold. An individual bet can be as small as 1 sp or as large as 500 gp, given over to the Arena kiosk when the bet is made. If their chosen fighter wins, they receive their bet back, plus an amount based on the projected likelihood of the fighter winning. The less chance a fighter has of victory, the more gold there is to be made by betting on them.
A share of the gold from every bet goes to the Arena itself as payment. Another portion is also added to the victor’s reward. Both of these occur in the background, meaning you can leave them out of the payout calculations to avoid over-complication. The same applies to the characters’ rewards, which include the assumed bets placed on them. This only changes if the characters actively seek to increase the number of bets placed on them, as detailed under ‘Spreading the Word’.
The odds of a fighter or creature winning comes from their fighter rating. These numbers are used to determine which side is more likely to emerge victorious, which then dictates the possible payout for bets placed on them. There are two ways to go about this. The first method is more involved but produces more accurate results and can lead to more enticing risks for the characters. The second simplifies the system drastically.
This more detailed approach compares the ratings of the entrants and uses that to determine their exact odds of winning. These odds are multiplied by the character’s wager to give their payout, which is the amount of gold earned (in addition to the return of their original wager). Use the following formula to determine a character’s payout:
Payout = (opponent’s rating / chosen fighter’s rating) x wager
The ‘chosen fighter’s rating’ is always the rating of the fighter that the characters are betting on, while the ‘opponent’s rating’ is the fighter rating of the chosen fighter’s opponent.
You can simplify the system by just comparing ratings in terms of which is higher. In this case, there are set payout brackets that depend on whether the fighter is equal or more or less powerful than their opponent. This version is less preferred but is available for those looking for the simplest approach.
When the ratings are equal, payout = wager
If the chosen fighter’s rating is lower, payout = wager x 1.5
If the chosen fighter’s rating is higher, payout = wager x 0.5
While bets made outside of the Arena’s official systems are not officially allowed, they still frequently occur. These are most often made between two individuals, small groups, or the fighters themselves. As such, they do not require the same calculations; to the victor go the spoils. This also means that private bets usually cover details that the official betting does not cover. They may be for a fighter to win with the use of a trap, achieve a flawless victory, or any other specific challenge.
Spreading the Word
Part of a fighter’s reward for their fight is taken from the bets placed on them. This means that characters looking to maximize their rewards or simply gain the audience’s favor can spend time encouraging the crowd to bet on them or their friends. Doing so involves spending time around the Arena, Markets, or taverns, spreading the fighter’s name and exploits. Characters that lack the skills themselves may also find bards willing to assist them, for a share of the profits.
Prior to a bout, a character can spread word of a particular fighter. They may tell tales of their adventures or achievements, or even spread complementary rumors about them. After two hours spent spreading the word in the days before a bout, or one hour immediately prior to it, characters must make a DC 10 Charisma check. This check is modified by Performance, Persuasion, or Deception, depending on how the character advertised the fighter. On a success, the fighter’s reward for their next bout is increased by a percentage equal to the check’s result.
The Silversteel Challenge
The Silversteel Challenge is a set of fights that runs alongside the Grand Tournament. It fills the schedule between Tournament rounds, pitting groups of fighters against progressively more dangerous beasts and monsters. Characters looking to fight together can do so in the Challenge.
The Challenge consists of five rounds, with each round making up the two days of rest between rounds of the Grand Tournament and interspersed with musical performances and other festivities. If the characters participate, this will mean four Challenge fights over the two days, or two fights per day. Participating groups must face randomly-selected monster groups of increasing strength. They are not made aware of their opponents prior to their bout. A group must be victorious in a round to advance to the next. Each round passed carries its own gold reward, with the final round carrying an additional bonus.
Both the Challenge’s name and prize money are owed to the Silvercrown Mining Company that sponsors it. On the surface, they use it to attract further attention to the town and economically bolster the Grand Tournament’s festivities. The truth is that it was established some generations ago to compliment the Tournament in ensuring the required sacrifice for the ritual below. As such, the company’s current leader and town councilor, Mariana Harkness, is responsible for much of the Challenge’s planning. This includes the organization of the Challenge, as well as the recent captures, purchases, and keeping of the creatures for fighters to face. Much of this was accomplished through the Ironwind Mercenaries.
Entry. A group looking to enter in the Silversteel Challenge must submit an entry fee of 5 gp per member, along with their individual names and a name for their group, before the beginning of the Challenge’s first round. They are also encouraged to list any prior experience or achievements, to help determine their odds of success.
The creatures in each Challenge round are balanced for a party of four, of approximately the same level as the round number. If your party is larger or smaller, you may wish to increase or decrease the number of monsters they will face. Each round should be challenging, but achievable with effective use of tactics and abilities. As always, balance for your own party and their capabilities in battle.
Running the Challenge
Each round of the Challenge is more difficult from the last and features more traps in the Arena. Roll a d4 for each participating group (or allow players to roll their own) and consult the round’s table to determine the monsters they must face. Remove a result once it is rolled, as two groups cannot face the same monsters. The d4 result also dictates the time slot of the bout (morning of the first day, afternoon of the first day, the morning of the second day, or afternoon of the second day).
Next, select or create an interior for the Arena as per the traps section and roll on the traps table the listed number of times.
The gold reward is given as a group, to be divided between its members.
Fighter rating. 14
Number of traps. 5
Reward for success. 200 gp and the group’s choice of a single +1, silvered weapon. The weapon is engraved with their group’s name and the title ‘Silversteel Champions’.
|1||2 ettercaps and 3 giant spiders|
|2||1 vrock and 3 dretches|
|3||1 air elemental and 4 dust mephits|
|4||1 wyvern and 6 blood hawks|
One of our most rapidly expanding resources is the Token Editor. It has a wide array of characters and creatures in premade packs or with the ability to color your own. Many of them are perfect for the Arena’s monsters and other combatants…
There are a number of other groups attempting to overcome the Silversteel Challenge and prove themselves. They come from the surrounding regions, each with their own skills, strategies, and likelihoods of success. The characters are able to watch these other groups fight in the Arena. When bouts are not underway, they can usually be found in the Markets, eating and drinking in the Targe, or in their own sections of the Fighters’ Camps.
The following groups are participating in the current Silversteel Challenge:
Fighter rating. 6
The Greyblades are far from being an established adventuring party. Their members are all Greybanner natives, disenchanted by the town and seeking lives of distant lands, glorious quests, and mountains of gold. Their ambition is undeniable and their fighting ability is impressive despite their inexperience. Fortunately, the town has not grown tired of their antics, and instead encourage the young fighters to earn the lives they seek.
Leader. Angus Weller (LN male human thug) is the son of Kreston Weller, the proprietor of Weller’s General Goods. Angus was a rowdy child, always larger than his peers and rarely receptive to instruction or wisdom. This changed during his mandatory training for the town militia. Though he would never mention it, Captain Ashbrand’s leadership righted Angus and sparked his aspirations. He and his Greyblades now aim for distant horizons, with Angus also hoping to succeed where his father did not.
Members. The Greyblades are all of similar ages, having known each other since childhood. Foreman Adris’s daughter, Estelle Adris (CG female dwarf spy), is Angus’s rebellious lieutenant, self-trained from an early life of theft, truancy, and snark. Kieran Hapley (N male half-elf thug) is the son of a woodsman and the group’s third, who holds a long-standing friendly rivalry with Angus. Kieran’s younger brother, Dillan Hapley (LG male half-elf acolyte), spent his childhood idolizing and following the three in their escapades, eventually developing magic and officially joining the Greyblades.
Tactics. Despite their inexperience in true combat, the Greyblades’ familiarity with each other allows them to act in unison. Angus and Kieran thrive in melee, drawing attention from their compatriots, particularly Dillan, who assists them with magical healing and enhancement, as well as creating distractions with his sacred flame. Much of this serves to create openings for Estelle, who remains hidden and mobile on the battlefield, striking when the opportunity for sneak attacks arises.
Fighter rating. 12
Made up of the best of Esme Kal’barar’s mercenary company, the Scorntusk Elite are a display of what she has accomplished and an advertisement to prospective recruits. Its members are all skilled warriors that the previous Champion met and recruited since her victory. Now, they accompany her in her return to Greybanner to remind the town exactly why she is Champion.
Leader. Felgris Anathe (NG male tiefling priest) is half of the reason for the Scorntusks’ existence. Once the son of struggling merchants, his life changed after watching Esme Kal’barar’s victory in the previous Grand Tournament. He approached her during the celebrations and begged to join her. Feeling a deep empathy for the boy, she accepted him as the first member of the party that later became the Scorntusks. He has changed drastically since then but continues to act as her source of calm, calculating wisdom, always sending a portion of his payments to the homestead that he bought for his family.
Members. The Elite consists of Felgris, two other experienced members, and a promising new addition. Farren Blackjaw (CN male half-orc bandit captain) was a challenge-seeking warrior, inducted into the group after tracking Kal’barar and challenging her to a duel shortly after her Tournament victory. He lost and graciously ‘accepted’ her as his leader. Fortunately, his experience as a traveling fighter led them to Jessa Tallis (LN female gnome spy), herself a discerning, independent mercenary at the time. Their most recent addition is Krista Oran (NG female human thug). A quiet and attentive trainee, she joined the group after assisting in a grim job that involved a bandit raid on her home village.
Tactics. The Scorntusks are aggressive, organized, and favor total control of the battlefield. Felgris leads the group from behind Farren and Krista, the former of whom acts as the anchor for their movements. Krista flanks Farren’s opponents while Felgris remains close enough to slow and weaken them with his spirit guardians. He otherwise works to protect and heal the others, sending his spiritual weapon to harry ranged combatants. Jessa exploits openings to remove weakened targets, often coordinating with Felgris’s guiding bolt to remove an opponent entirely as the fight begins. They will focus on removing mages and archers while opposing warriors are unable to protect them.
Fighter rating. 4
The Larks have the least experience among the fighter groups, primarily owing to them not being a fighting group at all. They are, rather, a traveling band of bards and acrobats. This puts them at an obvious disadvantage in the Arena, as their combined combat experience is less than that of other lone fighters. The Larks do not let this get in their way. They make full use of their true talents for entertaining and inciting a crowd, endearing themselves to Greybanner. Perhaps they are the beginning of a surprising underdog success?
Leader. Lauren ‘Red’ Butler (CN female halfling bard acolyte) is a fiery showman, skilled on the stage and entirely inexperienced in combat. She was once a performer in a small circus, before leaving with the belief that she could do better and go further than they ever could. While the latter has not proven true, Lauren has managed to bring together a group of like-minded friends with whom she performs. She leads them with her quick wit, silver tongue, and limited magic in pursuit of fame and fortune. This often means performing in the most outlandish places they can manage, the most recent of which is Greybanner’s Silversteel Challenge.
Members. Three of Lauren’s friends fight and perform by her side, all originally hailing from the capital before leaving as a group. Roxanne Melios (N female human bard acolyte) was a failing bar singer before meeting Lauren, who convinced her of her potential beyond the city. The two then found the twin acrobats, Archer (CN male elf scout) and Rufus Visari (CG male elf scout), who were involved with and indebted to a company of thieves. They paid their debts with Lauren and Roxanne’s help and happily joined them. Since then, the group has engaged in progressively less advisable performances in an attempt to spread their name.
Tactics. The Larks conduct themselves as performers. They lack defined battle strategies and instead try to simply keep their distance from opponents as they attack. This primarily falls to the more experienced and agile brothers. The other two interact with the audience and generate excitement, performing tricks and even goading the monsters they fight. This all carries immense risk but continuously builds upon the crowd’s fondness for the group. They continue outside of the Arena, spreading their name whenever possible and ensuring the maximum number of bets on the few Challenge rounds they can overcome.
Focus attention on the leaders when describing these groups, or when characters interface with them. Each leader acts as a summary of their group. This helps players to form a more distinct memory of the group and leader, instead of needing to keep notes of each individual member. If the party does show a particular interest in one of the groups, you can begin to expand on other members at a pace that does not overwhelm your players.
With all of the Arena’s general operations and fights out of the way, the next step is the Grand Tournament. Our next section will go into all of its many details. It will cover the schedule of rounds, how to DM the background fights, and also include a full roster of fighters participating in the Tournament. That’s right, there’ll be a full list of tiered fighters for players to meet, learn about, and then throw down with. But, until then, feel free to leave feedback below. We love hearing what you think and using it to improve our content!
You can also directly support me through Patreon. It helps me dedicate more time to writing, while also giving you exclusive bonuses. You can get early access, cheaper releases, and even your own custom character as a fighter in the adventure’s Grand Tournament.
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