Interlude 20: The Tournament
Amazons are legendary women warriors who shun male-run society in favor of their own settlements, far from other civilizations. Many consider them to be legendary, although more than a few licentious adventurers have speculated about the possibility of encountering them. For some this is because of rumors that the amazons choose their mates from among the strongest men that they can find, ones who will help them sire mighty warriors for future generations. Usually such speculation leads to nothing more than empty boasting, along with vivid imagining by the parties involved. What few realize is that these legends are true, and that the amazons occasionally recruit men to compete for the honor of being chosen for mating.
Note: Refer to a previous post about the amazons for relevant stat blocks and maps to use with this encounter.
Given their seclusion from other societies, the amazons don't exactly advertise when they want to stage a tournament. Rather, characters can become involved in a number of less direct ways.
- Those adventurous types who happen to stumble into amazon territory could be confronted and captured or, if they demonstrate considerable prowess, might be asked to accompany the warrior women back to their settlement.
- Should a hero develop a reputation for feats of strength and puissance in combat, he might receive some kind of cryptic invitation—but without directly being told what it entails.
- Given that certain daring amazons will actually venture to visit other societies, one such woman could learn of a particular hero or perhaps even meet him on the street of a place such as Port Royal.
However it is that the PC's become involved, making the journey to the amazons' settlement is no easy or straightforward task. Because of their love of privacy, they insist on meeting at a predetermined site, at which point the characters involved are blindfolded and led to the place where the tournament is held. This requirement applies even to female characters from outside the amazon's society, although—at the GM's discretion—those who have earned the trust of the warrior women could be allowed to make the journey without the normal precautions. Yielding control in this manner should present a challenge to many of the characters, but the amazons refuse to allow anyone to make the trip in any other manner.
The tournament itself is a single-elimination series of fights pitting the combatants against each other, two at a time. For this reason, it is most appropriate to start with two, four, eight, sixteen (and so on) men involved. In this way it is a last man standing competition, with the winner being chosen as a mate for the amazon queen herself. Others who are defeated late in the tournament, but who demonstrate considerable skill, could be selected by lower-ranking women.
Note that these fights aren't necessarily to the death; this is up to the contestants involved. Some ruthless competitors choose to slay their opponents, while others show mercy to fallen foes. Depending on the general alignment of the amazon group that is hosting the tournament, such cold-bloodedness or compassion could reflect well on a fighter or be considered a sign of weakness.
This interlude doesn't provide write-ups for possible competitors because it would take too many to represent the possible range of fighting styles that characters of various levels might encounter. Refer to other adventures, interludes and articles, however, to find a variety of stat blocks that could serve as opponents in the contest.
Given that the competition probably only involves a few members of the party, and no female characters, the others might be looking for something to do during the fights. Detailed here are a few possible occurrences, ones that can add a little drama to the tournament as a whole.
- One of the men involved has no qualms about cheating. He puts poison on his weapon, something that astute characters might notice.
- In a more subtle variation on this theme, the competitor could receive magical assistance, and it is up to the other PC's to detect that this is happening.
- Another of the people present is a thief, and tries to pick the pocket of someone in attendance. This could happen between bouts, or perhaps as a distraction during a fight.
- Should one of the PC's defeat an opponent but show him mercy, he could try to take revenge on the man who humiliated him.
- A younger amazon, one who has reached the age of majority but who isn't in a position to choose a husband from this tournament, could become smitten with a charismatic non-combatant. Of course, if her kin should learn of the matter, they might demand that the charming fellow prove his worthiness.
The amazons honor the character who wins the tournament by arranging for him, and perhaps those who otherwise demonstrate their abilities, a night of conjugal bliss. This lasts through the night, and then the characters involved are given a day in which to recover from everything. After that, they are escorted back the way from which they came and thus homeward. There is an invitation, however; after ten months, the amazons will send word to the winners so that they may see their offspring, the fruits of their efforts. This is not without its own complication, however. The amazons keep any female offspring for themselves, but they turn any males over to the ones responsible for siring them. Since the PC's are probably pirates, being presented with babies could lead to all sorts of drama and shenanigans.