The crowd cheers at the spray of blood fountaining like rubies tossed into the sunlight. First one, then more and more of the clamoring throng rise to their feet as the stones of the arena itself begin to thrum with energy. He raises the ruby-weeping head high into the air and showers himself in gore. He is invincible.
Last year was the year of Dark Sun in our campaign, as the characters were transported to that post apocalyptic beach resort for the latter half of their heroic tier. In that time they experienced much that Dark Sun has to offer, and one of the highlights was the arena. We spent more than a few sessions in the arena, as the characters gained more and more notoriety by defeating the denizens who challenged them.
I wanted some kind of mechanic to allow for the affects of the crowd in the highly competitive arena combats that were taking place. It is well known in the real world that the reactions of spectators can have a big impact on the outcome of competition. Often this is known as momentum, and can be a game changing factor, with glory and accolades pushing a team towards victory, or setbacks and infamy causing the crowd to turn, hindering them. One only need to go to a modern sports event to realize what a huge impact a screaming crowd can have on the performance of a beloved or reviled team.
These cards are meant to represent crowd based boons or deprivations. The basic premise is that throughout a contest, the combatants will earn these glory and infamy cards. Some of them have immediate affects, some of them last the length of the combat, and some are powers. There are a number of ways to use them, and I have experimented with various ways of implementation. The current rules I use are that a Glory card is drawn any time an enemy is bloodied or slain, and any time a natural 20 is rolled. Also any time a character does something suitably awesome, the character can make a “save” and if successful, gets a card. A character can have any number of Glory cards in his hand, and some of them are one use, and must be discarded after using, while others can beheld onto for the whole battle. Also, if a character earns three or more Glory cards, they are allowed to keep one for use during the next arena battle.
An infamy card is scored much the same way. Any time a combatant is bloodied or knocked unconscious, or rolls a natural 1, they receive an infamy card. Again, some of these are held throughout the battle, while, others are discarded upon use. When a character receives 3 infamy cards, they may immediately get to draw a glory card. Currently there are nine cards for each type. When used, they add to the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, ad can really give a cinematic quality to the fights. I like to really get the crowd involved in these contests, so I use them for role-playing hooks as well as immediate combat affects, and if the DM wants to allow it, the players can keep track o their infamy/glory running totals from battle to battle and get an idea of where they stand among thier fans.
The Glory and infamy cards can add a crowd factor to arena battles, and can help turn a string or series of arena fights into more of a “season” or sporting event, where some contestants become crowd favorites while others are reviled. The 18 cards I made can be downloaded as a PDF by following the link at the bottom of the page. I suggest playing around with them, and if you like the way they work, adding more to the set, as 9 can seem like too few if you are doing more than one or two battles. I had to print out 27 of each type during my bang up battles with 8 or more players partaking in the arena contests, and the lack of variety began to show. More cards would prove useful, so look for an update to these at some point in the future.
It is also very easy to modify when the cards are handed out, they can be based on more than just bloodying and critting. A contest might involve more than just killing, such as knocking opponents into or out of zones, or king of the hill, or flag-stealing, any number of otions, and the cards can be used in conjunction with these other goals. About the only cnstant with these cards is that they are intended to be based on crowd reaction, so if a character (or monster) does something the crowd likes – or hates – consider a card. The “save mechanic” is also a useful mechanism for really letting loose and givin a chance for glory or infamy for losts of reasons. There were many times when a player would do something JUST to try and impress the crowd, and I found the grandstanding to be an excellent side affect, and would often allow the player to roll for a glory card after such a display.
You can download the PDF containing the 18 glory and infamy cards here: