Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hungry for a Fight

"May the odds ever be in your favor." - The Hunger Games

While I have never read the books, I know many people who are stoked for the movie of The Hunger Games.  I thought it would be cool to look at some of the themes from the novels and apply them to various Dungeons and Dragons adventures.  I hope that fans of the books will be pleased with the results.  Forgive me if I make an basic mistakes, I'm simply looking at overall themes, not nitty gritty details.  Don't worry, I have no desire to watch the movie before I read the books myself.
This post is dedicated to you Hunger Games fans.  Have fun at your midnight release!

Pretty much "the" big even in The Hunger Games is the actual games themselves, a free-for-all fight to the death in a large arena-like location.  There is only one victor.  I can see many DM's and players getting excited over the thought of such an event for DnD games, but there is somewhat of a problem.  In fact, this problem stems from the unofficial #1 rule of DnD.

Never split the party.  (Just ask Wil Wheaton).

However, as many of us all know, rules were meant to be broken.  And so, having your own DnD style Hunger Games may very well be one of the most interesting nights in your entire campaign.

First, you will need some sort of reason as to how the heroes are captured.  Perhaps a mad archmage has his own magical arena that they will be placed into.  Perhaps the minotaur magus has a colossal labyrinth created for such a task.  Regardless, setting up a scenario that forces the players into the games isn't so hard.  It's the rules that come afterward.

For simplicities sake, I created a small map to use as an example of your own Hunger Games arena.  Whatever you decide to create, make it large, and make sure you can lay the entire map out with your tiles or drawings.  This will keep things quicker for yourself.  You might want to cover up the rest of the map so the players can't see everything, but will have a general idea of where they stand in the grand scheme of it.  Label your rows and columns.  I suggest using a alpha-numerical system, so that you have A5, B8, etc.  Like Battleship.  This helps players (and you), remember where characters were as they take their turns.

My sample map.  Not the greatest, but to be used as an example.
You, as the DM must decide where all the players are going to be starting.  For example, player 1 starts at X1, player 2 at K12, etc.  Players will take turns based off an initiative roll.

The game will begin to differ drastically here.  Your players will have to sit in another room.  I suggest having them have a TV show, or a video game.  Something they can easily leave to take their turn.  You, as the DM, get to continually sit at the table.  

It should be noted that you can add whatever roaming monsters you want to the arena, as well as NPC enemies who are competing as well.  This increases the number of threats/interesting things players can encounter as they try to survive the arena.  Adding extra threats gives the players a good reason to quickly find each other and team up again.  Then they can roam the arena, finding and defeating their enemies while figuring out a plan of escape.  They could also try and negotiate with the other creatures, maybe teaming up with them.  Be warned though: some PC's will love the opportunity to betray the rest of the party, and may go rogue.  Chaos can quickly ensue.  Be warned with how you present these ideas.

Now that I've explained how this works, let's use a quick example.

Tonight, we will have four heroes trapped in the mad wizard's arena of death.

Our first heroine
Our first heroine, named Kat (the player actually created this character a few months back, and named her in honor of The Hunger Games main character).  A deva witch, she is an immortal being full of magical skill.  Her familiar is a bound demon, and she was involved with a cult back in the day.

Our second heroine
Caitrisana is an eladrin warlock with a strange connection to the stars.  She has journeyed far, looking for clues to her sister's death.  Unfortunately, she has ended up here.

Our third hero
Ragnarok is a half-elf druid werewolf who has journeyed across both the natural world and the Feywild, searching for his mother.  Though his father died in Brokenstone Vale, he was able to inform his son to seek the Formorian Kingdoms in the Feydark for clues about where his mother could be.

Our fourth hero
Gregg is a half orc and the son of a fierce orc warlord.  Driven by hatred of his father, Gregg seeks to be the opposite of everything his father is.  Honor bound to the last, Gregg will not rest until his father is dead and the grief he has caused has been dealt with.

And so we have our four characters.  They each will start at different locations.  Each will have a full turns worth of actions for their turn (standard, move, minor).  I would suggest making skill use like Perception minor actions so that the characters can use their full actions to move and explore.  Players can also hide and ready actions, getting ready to ambush whoever will come their way and get a surprise round.

Sometimes the players will simply stumble across an enemy of another player.  If that is the case, bring them both in the same room to determine what happens.  If they decided to fight, they both roll initiative and combat will proceed as normal.  If they decide other things, roll with it!  You're the DM.  It's your job to roll with it.

Caitrisana encounters Ragnarok.  The two decide to form an alliance.  Ragnarok leaves to scout ahead.

Kat decided to hide behind a rock, waiting for somebody to show up.  This requires a Stealth check.
A clay golem lurks amongst the skeleton of a giant.
Gregg spots the clay golem and attacks!
Ragnarok approaches the rock Kat is hiding behind.  He fails to see her.

Kat ambushes Ragnarok, hitting him with a spell and sending him sprawling.
Ragnarok recovers and transforms!  The battle begins.

Hopefully the pictures/writing will give you an idea of how the exploring/interaction should work.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment/send me a tweet.

Sometimes though, when it comes to arena fighting, you just want the classic gladiatorial arena.  Luckily, such a map exists.

The Arena
The only catch is that the map came with 2009's Free RPG Day module, Bloodsand Arena by Chris Tulach.  As of this writing, there are about 5 copies on ebay, some of them bids, while one is available for purchase for ~$25.00 (USD).

I hope you enjoy adding a Hunger Games twist to your DnD game.  As always, please leave comments/follow me on twitter @artifceralf.

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