Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dancing With Daggers

Slice and Dice

Another day, the usual blistering heat bakes the shimmering  sands in Raam's arena, and Garthak grabs a handful of slaves who aren't otherwise engaged into readiness to once again entertain the citizens of Raam. Some of the slaves were on other duties, but Visrakth, Zylyss, Sarunin Tay, Dar'ag Tan, and Keergnok were all available. "Out with you to dance with the knives, boys," the ogre laughed. "Get out there and put on a good show. You're gonna meet Makliss, one of the Zisin brothers. Knife dancers they call 'em. Try to stay alive but if you're gonna die, make it good for the crowd." He chortled as he passed out weapons to the slaves and sent them out into the midday sun.

"Make a circle," Garthak instructed them. The five spread out. From the sidelines, a thin man came sauntering out. A large earring hung in his ear and he was flipping a dagger, catching it alternately by its hilt and by its tip. He strolled into the circle of fighters, to the cheering of the crowds. He paused, still flipping and catching his dagger, and then slowly turned in a circle, looking into the eyes of each of the slaves. He paused. There was a brief stillness even among the crowds. With a sudden lunge, Makliss darted over to the dwarf, slashing him and drawing blood and then spinning around and over to slash at Zylyss, also drawing blood. It was on!

The knife dancer dashed across the sand, even making a quick tumble across some piles of sand, many of which were strewn all over the arena to make the fighting more entertaining. Vishrakth was quick to engage the man, this time properly equipped with two short swords. Whirling frenzies and slashes drew blood from the knife dancer but he managed to keep moving around the now widened circle of opponents.

Dar'ag Tan manage to get close swinging wildly but missing. Vishrakth managed to once again get on one side while Keergnok and Sarunin Tay sent flashes of energy and psionic waves to pummel their wiry foe. In the heat of the battle, Zylyss forgot himself and decided to close with Makliss. He dashed around some of the sand mounds and managed to flank the fighter. But he was too off-centered and his point-blank shot with his sling just whistled past the dodgy fighter. Snarling at the threat, Makliss spun, slashing Zylyss and spinning around him, bringing his dagger to bear a second time and then rollingin quickly away. That was enough to send Zylyss to the ground, unconscious.

Makliss proceeded to work his way around the circle, with Vishrakth close on his heels. Dar'ag Tan came up to Zylyss and managed to staunch the blood and stabilize him. The crowd booed the help he received but their attention was quickly turned to the knife dancer, who was bleeding from several wounds. Makliss made a dash for Keergnok whose energy orbs continued to fly wide and past him. Vishrakth came whirling with his blades, his frenzy powering his fury. Makliss dodged aside and then jogged over to Sarunin Tay, slashing him viciously. Though weak, Sarunin Tay held him off until Keergnok and Dar'ag Tan could close and cover the slippery little stinger on three sides.

But it wasn't enough as Makliss drew blood from Dar'ag Tan and then rolled away quickly. He was caught by Vishrakth and dealt some serious blows. Keergnok managed to get behind him and with a shuddering blow of energy from his staff, dropped the knife dancer to the sand like a rag doll. The crowds boos and cheers mixed in a crescendo and in a moment the slaves were back out of the arena, nursing their wounds and resting. They had survived--some just barely--another day in their brutal lives of entertaining servitude.

Game Notes

The shorter amount of tie we have with the kids at the library demands simple encounters. The arena is good for this but it's still a challenge to balance the encounter for five or six characters. I found that the Knife Fighter was a reasonable 600 XP, but was a tough opponent since he hit very easily and was very tough to hit for the first level characters. But while he was a challenge, they were able to take him down (and a few crits didn't hurt). Actually, it worked out pretty well; the characters survived but not by a wide margin.

Zylyss was a special case. As a fair-minded DM, I wanted to spread the dagger-slashing love around. But Zylyss, whose specialty is a sling, for some reason likes to shoot at point-blank range. He learned his lesson when he ran up and missed and then the knife dancer did a deadly spin right around him and sent him to the ground unconscious. Perhaps he'll play the rogue a little smarter, which I hope the players will keep learning. They're still move independent in their attacks and haven't learned to use their powers together to complement one another. Until they do, there's probably not much chance they'll decide to work together and find a way out of their brutal servitude.

The encounter was a bit shorter than others but it was still fun. I was pleased that the knife fighter actually got the highest initiative so he could make a dramatic opening move. It was a fun fight and I enjoyed running the knife fighter, that dexterous weasel with a nasty bite!

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