I am in the middle of a homebrew and my PCs have been given the option to fight in the arena in the city they are seeking to help. The award is to be allowed a personal audience with one of the BBEG in the campaign if they win. (Chances are they will not win.) So far the things I know I want from the arena are:

  1. I want them at some point to have to fight one another BUT - It will be non lethal. I do not want the loser of the fight to be knocked out of the tournament and unable to help with the last fight in the arena.

  2. I want them to fight together against a Hydra at the end BUT - their chances of killing the hydra are slim. I want them to feel the pain of failure. If they can beat it, Great! but I do not see it as likely.

  3. I want them to fight another group of NPCs (these characters, 2 of them, are some of our characters we created in past campaigns, I know they will get a kick out of this). BUT - Since it is only 2 NPCs, I don't know how to justify that 4 of the PCs are allowed to compete against them.

Ultimately, I want them to fight one another (which engages all 4 PCs ) but the result of that will be that there is a loser and a winner. I need to find a way that all of the above can happen, and that all PCs are engaged throughout the whole process.

I also do not want to play a double faced DM and have to entertain 2 plot lines. Example: 2 winning PCs advance to fight while other 2 PCs go on some random mission (since they lost).


PCs are levels 4 and 5 broken down below:

  • level 5 Warrior
  • level 5 Cleric
  • level 5 Bard
  • level 4 Rogue

My thought is to have this like a festival. There is one, maybe two fights a day. I am hoping for ideas. I want them to feel like all fights are lethal but they are all not. The PC vs PC fight will not be lethal. The PC vs Hydra fight will be lethal.

They have made their way into a corrupt city. The BBEG likely does not know that they are the protagonists of the story. The right hand man of the BBEG, SHILROCK, met with the PCs earlier in the campaign and asked them to assassinate a Lt. of the BBEG to better his position in the court. They succeeded and Shilrock told them he would enter their names into the tournament as a reward. It is an honor to be able to fight in the arena. Also, the reward for winning the arena is a personal audience with the BBEG.

Hope this clears some things up.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Mark, welcome to the site, take the tour. We specialize in single questions and answers here, so if you could narrow this down to 1 specific, answerable question you will get a lot more positive response (and avoid getting put on hold). If you have more questions you are free to make multiple questions, each with a clear objective. If your question does end up being put on hold, you can just edit it according to the comments and it will be reopened shortly. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Feb 5 '18 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mark, what level are these characters, and what classes? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 5 '18 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm having a little trouble following the narrative. What is the time frame between each fight? Are all fights supposed to be non-lethal? (Is the hydra trained to not kill their opponents?) What about the NPCs; is that fight non-lethal or to the death? \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Feb 5 '18 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ So my thought is to have a fight ( maybe 2 ) per day. Almost like this is a festival ( see the movie "Knights Tale") \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Feb 5 '18 at 19:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also - The Hydra can kill and it will be the last fight. might possibly even be a surprise from the BBEG to try and kill them \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Feb 5 '18 at 19:11

First off, it seems odd that the BBEG would give an audience to losers. You imply that you don't expect the party to win against the hydra. Generally, the higher-ups would only want to see the winners. Unless the motive of the BBEG is to mock, cast out, and/or kill the losing team. This would mean that the party should win all the fights.

So the simple answer is --

Change the order of the fights.

The festival is a tournament elimination bracket. For the first round, the teams fight a locally captured monster for sport. If the monster wins, you're out (and probably dead). Of all the remaining teams, they keep fighting in pairs until there is one undefeated team declared champion who can get a celebratory feast which includes a private audience with BBEG.

You can describe any extra fights to add flavor (watching a battle from the wings).

Fight One: The team fights a monster, in this case, a hydra. They need to win this fight in order to get to the next bracket.

But there was a hiccough; there is only one other winning team from round one, and only two heroes survived (the others were burnt/trampled/eaten beyond recovery).

Fight Two: In order to keep things "fair" (ha, ha), the PCs need to fight each other. This will determine their two champions to move on to the next round. Four PCs enter, two PCs leave. Okay, all four leave, but two are on stretchers.

Fight Three: The two strongest of the PCs face off against the only other winning team; the two NPCs. The losing PCs can be information gathering in the recovery center to keep them busy.

NOW, if you're still insistent of all four PCs face the two NPCs make a minor switch:

  • Fight One: Fight the hydra and win
  • Fight Two: Fight the NPCs and win
  • Fight Three: Since there must be one ultimate champion, the winning team needs to fight their teammates til only one stands.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not enough for a complete answer, so I'll tack this on to this one- just a suggestion for Fight 3: in my games, whenever the party is split up like that, I give control of the NPCs over to the "off-screen" players. It keeps them from getting bored and makes for a good change of pace from just playing the same character. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Feb 7 '18 at 0:32

Create tiers of combat

The arena fights can easily involve a day of combat where the challengers (our PCs) partake in a serious of challenges for the audience.

Challenge 1

In the morning they fight each other where the winners are allowed their choice of weapon or armor (possibly magic in some minor way) for the later challenges.

Challenge 2

At noon, the hydra is the game master's way of proving to the audience the challenger's developing their ability to work as a team: "As our contestants have rested after deliberating their own strengths against each other, now let's see how they fare against a common for, can they learn to fight together to fend off... THE HYDRA."

Challenge 3

Finally, in the evening, they are out against the champion duo that the audience has known to love. They've fought each other, honed their teamwork against a hydra and now the climactic competition arrives.


Battle Royale

Make the announcer say in the ealier stages of the tournament that the top 4 will be able to attempt their luck against a special extra surprise challenge with a special reward.

Make their fights go until there are only the four of them. After this, make the fight a grand show with a free for all fight with all 4 there.

Despite the resuts, no matter who wins, the 4 are alive and will participate in the extra special surprise challenge (hydra). I think this can solve your problem.

You could as well keep normal 1v1 fights, but the crowd would probably find more attractive seeing the 4 that tried to beat each other yesterday trying to fight together today against a greater opponent. Remember, arena fights are a show, entertainment must be entertaining.


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