"No! Let me go!" The shrieking sobs of a woman being dragged past the barracks had the slaves on edge. Garthak trundled in. "So, worms, how many of you ever heard the story of the Lady or the Tiger? Well today you don't have to choose! You get both! The crowds like heroes so that's what you are today. Just save the lady and the crowds will love ya!" Today's lineup included Sarunin Tay, Dar'ag Tan, Zylyss, Fillin, and Vishrakth.
After the heroes had been equipped with short swords, bows and arrows, they were led into the arena. Up against the chasm was a large cage inside of which was a smaller cage, tightly woven bones of some sort. In the small cage was the sobbing common woman who had been nabbed by slavers in the city. In the larger cage, terrifying her, was a large tiger, prowling and growling and rattling the bars which were secured with a sliding door and large lock. Toward the other end of the area were two large cages, each holding a tiger. A couple of slavers manned the latches, ready to set them free. "No fair attacking the tigers til they come out to play, boys!" they taunted the slaves.
It was clear this was going to be a tough fight. Zylyss, Dar'ag Tan and Sarunin Tay sent blows at the beasts, doing a little bit of damage here and there. After a bit, one of the tigers was bloodied. Sniffing the blood, the other loose tiger launched itself at it and began trying to finish it off. As the fighters got close, that tiger also snapped his jaws at them, drawing more blood. The heaving chests of the slaves fought to draw in air as they took their second winds.
Dar'ag Tan took a swing at the lock on the cage but to no avail. Zylyss appeard and began picking the lock with a piece of bone that he found on the ground. When the lock gave way, they tried to hold the door as the tiger inside raged against it. At the right moment, they slid it open and the tiger shoved forward to attack. The fighters began hacking at the beast when Fillin, who was a ways away, threw a force push at the tiger and shoved it aside, giving Zylyss, Sarunin Tay and Dar'ag Tan access to the cage. From inside, Zylyss eventually managed to get the small cage open to let the woman out. The crowd was on its feet as the tiger shoved its way halfway into the cage again. Then Zylyss unloaded his sling on the tiger and Dar'ag Tan began slashing it heavily. It was soon bloodied.
The bloodied tiger had gotten up and limped away, watching the battle but losing its will to fight, even in its starved condition. The other tiger suddenly dashed toward Fillin who unloaded his shard spirits upon it, shredding it and sending it howling in a spray of blood and fur (crit!). It limped away, not interested in taking more pain from the seeker. The crowd booed its disapproval.
Inside the other cage, Zylyss flung a stone hard and close from his sling, driving it straight into the tiger's eye and sending it rolling in a shuddering heap of blood matted fur that lay still. Suddenly, the slavers were there, hoop poles around the two bloodied tigers and began tugging them off the battle field. The crowd booed as the slavers dragged the tigers out of the arena but cheered the slaves as they walked the woman from her cages. Yet again, they survived another day of brutality in their captivity and gave some measure of satisfaction to a crowd of Raam's restless citizens.
I'll admit I'm still getting the hang of balancing encounters. Three tigers might have been a little more balanced for a full six fighters but there were only five today. The players continued to learn their powers although they miss some added damage which is certainly to their detriment when they don't remember to deal it out! The fact is that the tigers would have been too tough if they had gone full bore, so I toned them down a bit and had them go after each other too. That's part of the fun of being a DM is knowing when to gently keep the characters alive without making it easy.
The main thing is that the kids have fun. They like to get psyched up wondering what they're going to face each week and so far they've walked away from the table each week with smiles on their faces. Time constraints still limit us a little bit and I have to make sure the encounters fit within about an hour and forty-five minutes or so. The arena nature of the encounters coupled with the fickle nature of Abalach-Re are simple tools to be able to draw an encounter to a close if need be. So far it's been a lot of fun running this campaign and I'm looking forward to broadening the story eventually when the time comes.