The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Blade Breaker 1.29

Ragnar Grimfang, twiceborn, exile, lone wolf on the streets of the City of Shadows.

I will have you all know that I braved kitten attacks on my hands as I typed this. Also, I am an uncle today, welcome Grace and congratulations to Aaron and Deanna :D

New to the serial? Start here and follow the links in comments to read along.

Missed last weeks? here it is.

I sent a message to Obsidian Tower, the redoubt of The Guild, addressed to the assassin that I knew by the name of Sildus. I sent it via the Myrrhn Street Couriers, using Madame Glorianna’s seal and my name. The Myrrhn Street Couriers are expensive, but they rarely failed. Rumour has it that they had an understanding with The Guild. I suspected my name would get Sildus’s attention.

Renoit was not difficult to find. Normally I would have trouble getting into Old Town, but with Sargent Murith at my side the Old Town watch was positively friendly.

Renoit owned a small villa in the middle tier. It had high walls and a well-tended garden out front. Old Town is secure enough that some people who live there leave their doors unlatched. Of course, Renoit did not, even though he had far less to fear than most people in the city. I knocked just loud and long enough to irritate Renoit and call him forth.

“Ragnar?” said Renoit, his lean face twisted indignation. “Who let you into Old Town?”

“I did,” said Murith. “Sargent Murith Stouthand, City Watch, sir.”

“I am pleased to make you acquaintance, Sargent Stouthand,” said Renoit. “But if this man expects me to testify on his behalf or vouch for his character or whereabouts I must decline!”

Murith looked at me doubtfully. I grinned.

“Actually Renoit, this is about business,” I said.

“What business could I possibly have with you?” said Renoit, a note of curiosity creeping into the symphony of arrogance.

“Do you remember how I was investigating a murder?” I asked.

“I didn’t do it!” said Renoit.

“Calm down,” I said. “I’m not accusing you. The victim was a prostitute at an expensive brothel. She happens to be the sister of Lily Gemarkand. The murder was done in such a fashion as to implicate The Guild and rile up my people.”

“Yes, yes. How does this interest me,” asked Renoit.

“We have reason to believe that the killer is in League with the Devout, masquerading as the leader of a Sirutiran sect,” I said.

“So?” said Renoit.

“Have you heard of the Devout?” I asked.

“Certainly,” said Renoit, puffing out his chest. “I’ve even killed one. I thought they were a broken power, however.”

“It appears not,” I said. “They are back. I fought one in Lily’d Gemarkand’s private arena, which means they have dealings in the city. They arranged for Sapphire’s death, mostly to sew chaos. One of their agents actually just tried to kill Madame Glorianna.”

“No!” said Renoit. I smiled inwardly. Renoit will get involved in any event he deems important enough. Once I dropped enough names that he recognized and respected it was easy enough to land his help. “This sounds important Ragnar. I suppose if the city needs my help… let me get Estelle!”

“Who is estelle?” asked Murith.

“His Rapier,” I said.

“Oh,” said Murith. “The city needs her too, I’m sure.”

“He’s actually quite good,” I said.

Git’s shop was closed for the day by the time we arrived. Renoit had to dress you see. Murith knocked, Git’s assistant answered.

“Sargent Stouthand, what is this about?” said the assistant, eyes darting between Renoit and myself. I looked like I usually do. Renoit was dressed in black lace, silk, and burgundy leather. He even had some kind of neck cloth I did not know the name for in some exotic fabric that I could not name. I expect that had he not been with Murith and myself, one of the Burning Hill gangs might have tried to rob him.

“We need to speak to Git,” said Murith. “It is urgent, but he is not in any trouble.”

“Very well,” said the assistant. “I’ll see if I can find him.”

Git’s assistant rose several degrees in my estimation. She was loyal and cool-headed, giving her master time to assess the situation and escape if need be.

Git appeared a moment later. The little Goblin was already dressed in a black leather overcoat with ivory buttons, a broad brim hat, and goggles. “Combat kit or adventuring?” he asked without prompting.

“Are you not curious as to what we are about?” asked Renoit.

“I am,” said Git. “But I am also bored. I’ve been waiting for a chance to test something. Besides Renoit, when I see both yourself and Sargent Murith I know it is important and above board.”

“Bring whatever kit has the most tricks,” I said.

“That was easy,” said Murith. “What next Ragnar?”

“Do we have anything resembling a plan?” asked Renoit.

“The plan is to go the temple of Kamesin Greeneyes and confront the priest,” I said. “Even if he isn’t involved he will know something.”

Divinity: Original Sin Review

The Cover

The Cover

From time to time I like to review games. I play a lot of games, and have worked a little bit in the industry as a writer and designer. If the cards come down in my favour I would even like to take a crack at designing my own games, from the ground up. With engines like Unity the technical side of game making seems to be getting easier and better organized.

Divinity: Original Sin caught my eye just before release. I had always given the Divinity games a pass before, but this one seemed different. The old-school isometric look and the clean, bright environments seemed inviting and the beta community was giving it impressive reviews on steam. So I took the plunge and gave it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised. As a whole Divinity combines the best of old-school games like Baldur’s Gate and Pool of Radiance with some more modern conceits, all without losing track of core gameplay, elegance, and fun. The game starts off with a simple plot hook and then drops the player into the world, allowing them to engage the story on their own terms. Unlike most modern games, the monsters have a static challenge level which acts as a simple throttle on where players can explore. If you are smart enough to find a way around those challenges however, the game does not slap your hand. This is refreshing. The cosmic overplot is reminiscent of older fantasies like Elric, the Riftwar Saga, or the Elminster novels, perhaps with a few elements borrowed from Dr Who.

Here are a the top 5 reasons why I would recommend it.

  1. Divinity: Original Sin rewards intelligent play. The game has quite a few puzzles and mysteries, from riddles to devious traps, but that is only scratching the surface. The game rewards smart play in almost every action you take. A favoured example is the rain spell. Initially I just ignored this spell… I mean why would I need to make it rain? Divinity: OS, however, has a complex layer of object interactions that clever players can really use to their advantages. Thus the simple rain spell can be used to make steam to act as cover, to soak creatures and make them more vulnerable to electricity, to remove poison or fire from the ground, to leave puddles of water that can then be turned in to ice, to weaken fire based creatures, and so on. All of these uses are fairly intuitive, and they all can be used to create impressive chain reaction combos that can reduce tough bosses to into easy victims, if you don’t mess them up and if you are smart enough to make use of them. Of course the enemies can turn these forces against you, so don’t fighting makes with lightning bolts while standing in water and make sure the terrain you are on isn’t going to create real problems when your foes interact with it. In combat and general exploration I found myself keeping an eye out for terrain features that I could exploit to my advantage or that might be used against me and I had great fun trying to make the most of them to gain an upper hand against difficult foes. The game also rewards preparation with many items that can give players different kinds of situational advantages, and it does so without forcing these down the player’s throat.
  2. Old-School with Modern Sensibilities: We put up with a lot of crap in the old RPGs. We have also learned a great deal since those days. Divinity: OS works the most important of those lessons in with more modern elements like randomized items, crafting, and physics objects. Opening chests in Divinity: OS is fin, because you never know what kind of sweet loot you might get. Being able to drag barrels and other objects around gives you more ways to solve problems and more ways to mess with your enemies in combat, while making you feel like you are a greater part of the world. The game also has extensive decision trees, so your actions on various quests have some impact on future play.
  3. Character Creation/Advancement: While the visual customization is simple and you cannot choose a race. You have a wide variety of skills, talents, and abilities with which to customize your two starting characters. The best part, however, is that the basic archetypes that they give you are actually fairly playable. Often with free-form systems the archetypes given are inferior, but these are actually good starting points. Advancing your character is also fairly enjoyable with quite a few interesting choices. The customization isn’t perfect but is a far cry better than most.
  4. A Sense of Impact: When you do things in Divinity: OS the game rewards you with satisfying, visceral effects and beefy bonuses. Knocking an opponent down with a charge is equally rewarding mechanically and in presentation. Most of the special actions have a chance to cause other effects as do a majority of magical weapons. This makes combat far more than an exchange of damage, especially when taken in conjunction with point 1. Divinity: OS goes out of its way to make the players actions stand out, which is a lot of fun.

    In Divinity Original Sin every fight can be wildly epic.

    In Divinity Original Sin every fight can be wildly epic.

  5. Epic: Epic games never really disappeared, I mean Path of Exile and Diablo III are still epic even though they both have dark, horrific tones. Divinity: OS is not afraid to put it all out there however. From the cosmic metaplot to the fantastic environments this is a game that is refreshingly honest about itself. It does not try to hide behind a veil of cynicism or drown everything in sepia tones and faux Grimdark. As you progress through the game (I’m only ~40 hours in) you gain a definite sense of progression of power, venturing into areas that were once daunting without fear. The game does not shy away from fantasy tropes that might be fun in an effort to seem original, but rather dives right and and plays with them. Quite nice really.

In the end I would rate the Game as a A, maybe an A+ to people who loved the old Baldur’s gate titles. It is not perfect, but is ambitious, fun, and deeply rewarding.

Shadow Wolf Sagas: Blade Breaker 1.28

Tis Thursday, time to join Ragnar Grimfang on the shadowy streets of Myrrhn dispensing… justice.

The first post in the serial, follow the links in comments to read them all.

Missed last week’s post? try this.

“You had better have a very good explanation for this Ragnar,” said Madam Glorianna.

Several burly bouncer types stood behind her, alert now to danger. Of course none of them had expected that she would need protection from her longtime bodyguard, Crimson Wind.

“I don’t actually,” I said, looking down at Crimson Wind’s broken body, blood filling my nostrils. The sword-bride had died a warrior’s death, swords in hand, much better than the whore Sapphire, or her lover Bjorn. “Not yet, regardless.”

“You didn’t seem surprised when she reacted like that Ragnar,” said Madame Glorianna. “Can you at least tell me what is going on?”

Her tone was almost plaintiff. I suppose if someone that I had trusted to guard my life at all times turned on me for no apparent reason I might be somewhat taken aback as well. Sword-Brides never broke their contracts either, or their sisters would hunt them down, sparing no expense. It was altogether mysterious, at least on the surface.

“I can, but it requires that you answer a few questions,” I said. “Lets us go somewhere safe and quiet. Instruct your men to behead her and burn the body, just to be sure.”

<>

Madame Glorianna took us to a private study, leaving Murith and I to eat and mill about while she attended to some details. When she reappeared, after a long delay, she was wearing a fresh gown, ruby red silk with a high collar, and very much in control of herself again.

“Now, Ragnar, tell me why my friend and bodyguard of five years just tried to gut me at a word from you,” said Madame Glorianna, eyes burning.

“Greeneyes is a name Murith and I saw that appeared frequently in the books at the Pink Pearl,” I began. “It was on the books every time Bjorn or our Assassin friend visited, including on the night of the murder. Greeneyes is an odd monicker. It put me in mind of Sapphire’s funeral: she was a follower of Kamesin Greeneyes, a Sirutiran deity. So was Crimson Wind, I think.”

“She was,” said Madame Glorianna. “She was always trying to get me to convert, to come to her meetings and meet her high priest. Why the fuck did she try to kill me?”

“I thenk Kamesin Greeneyes is just a cover,” I said. “Do you remember what Crimson Wind said to me before he died?”

“No,” said Madame Glorianna. “I was just focused on surviving.”

“Something about the strong,” said Murith. “Only the strong.”

“That is what I heard as well,” I said. “Only the strong is not a saying that the Sirutirans are known for, especially the Sword-Brides.”

“Who then?” asked Madame Glorianna.

“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “But they wanted access to you, or to disrupt the Doxies Union for some reason. I also feel that they wanted to start a war between my people and The Guild.”

“Darkness falling, who would want that?” asked Murith. “It would be bad for everyone.”

“Someone who does not care about the business of Myrrhn,” I said. “The Devout worship strength do they not?”

“They do…” said Madame Glorianna. “I thought they were broken, gone?”

“No,” I said. “Sapphire’s sister made me fight one in her little private arena to prove myself to her.”

“That’s illegal!” said Murith.

“I’ll file a complaint,” I said. “The word of a Nordan Exile against the leader of the Gemarkand Family…”

“Focus, please,” said Madame Glorianna.

“I’m now wondering where Lily Gemarkand found herself a Devout warrior…” I said. “And who the other names on the list are. This little event of ours is bigger than Sapphire and Bjorn. It is bigger than The Guild, the Gemarkand family, and the Doxies Union. This is about the city as a whole, I think.”

“What do you mean, Ragnar?” asked Madame Glorianna.

“He means the Devout are involved,” said Murith. “Crimson Wind was one of them perhaps, or at least part of one of their Harbinger cults. They invaded Myrrhn once, using an uprising of cults that they had planted and nurtured within the city: little incubators for their sick philosophy.”

“They couldn’t possibly be planning another invasion, could they?” asked Madame Glorianna. “And why would the Doxies Guild matter to them in that case? Why could they want me dead?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “For now, keep word of Crimson Wind’s death from spreading as long as you can. Double your guard: old hands only. Gather as much money as you can and start putting mercenaries on retainer, reputable companies from out of town. Murith, you are going to have to convince the watch that we might have a serious problem here. I am going to see if I can track down the priest of Kamesin Greeneyes and see how he is involved in this, and then I’m going to find out where Lily Gemarkand got her hands on a Devout warrior.”

But first, I had to call on some friends.

Structures and Systems: The Grand Championships in the Domains of the Chosen (part two)

One of the running themes of my musings on this blog are how structures and systems can become the enemies of people, and how this can make for great genre fiction. I find it interesting how modern escapism is often apocalyptic in nature: in some ways we often end up pleased when the Zombies or that Meteorite come along and finally wipe out the monumental systems that dominate our lives. No matter how horrible the walking dead gets at least they don’t have to worry about debt, work, taxes, or unrelenting boredom.

One of the problems with my early D&D games, and other works is that when I put effort into world-building I often created these clockwork societies and systems that never changed. Much of this is because I wanted to preserve my work. Sadly, I found that these eternal structures were lacking because they did not change. Imperfect beings create imperfect things, and that includes institutions, cultures, and even beliefs. Only those that acknowledge their imperfections and take steps to adapt and change can really stand the test of time. (Change just for the sake of change doesn’t count — that is just another system in a way. I’m looking at you new WordPress UI.)

Last week I outlined the basic system of the Grand Championships. This week I will illustrate the sort of corruptions that have changed this system over time. Think of this as an example of how systems can change over time. There are exploits, and then regulations put in place to halt those exploits, then there are corruptions that become popular changes, almost an evolution of the system.

Here are some examples, using the structure of the Grand Championships from last week’s post

  • Location: The Grand Championships are always held in the City of Krass. How can this be exploited? well for one, any Gladiators who have easy access to the City of Krass have a kind of home-field advantage. While people come from all over the Domains for the Grand Championships, the largest significant group in the arena crowds will be from the City. Gladiators who spend time wooing the people of Krass thus have a significant advantage in a show of thumbs.
  • Selection Part One: Part one of the selection is a general vote open to any citizen in Krass. The system here is the same as gaming the system in any Democratic election. Skilled Gladiators will often lose out to more interesting or popular fighters. In a sense this is the original corruption of the games. It was supposed to pick the best fighter, but popularity soon became a factor.
  • Selection Part Two: This part is utterly corrupt. The Factions and the Chosen trade favours and butt heads over the previously selected candidates. The only oversight is that the people will riot if a favourite is left out. Exploits here include getting rid of fighters who might be a danger to your Gladiator, changing patrons, and so on.
  • The Parade: On the surface the parade is the least important part of the Grand Championships, merely a way for the Gladiators to present themselves to the people. And yet it becomes surprisingly important, since Gladiators who make a great impression here can sway the crowds of Krass. I like The Hunger Games for understanding the importance of presentation in a contest of this sort with Katniss and her flaming gown. There are other exploits in the parade as well. Most importantly: who gets to provide food and drink and who gets other important contracts for parade day. The parade is a huge holiday in Krass, and very few places are open. Those that are given contracts to provide services during the parade gain wealth and reputation, at least if they don’t mess up. Getting these contracts becomes a matter of great importance with all sorts of wheeling and dealing.
  • The Qualifying Round: Each Gladiator faces a monster in the qualifying round. Judges score how each Gladiator fares and the lowest eighteen fighters are eliminated. Judging is fraught with corruption, of course, just look at Olympic figure skating. However, it is also possible for a Gladiator to be put up against a monster that is too easy or too hard.
  • That One Little Wrinkle: Ut Nex, the challenge to a Deathmatch forces the other Gladiator to make a split second decision on whether or not they will put everything on the line. Deathmatches tend to gain the attention of the crowd, which allows a less skilled fighter willing to risk more a secondary path to victory. Few Gladiators will turn down Ut Nex, mostly due to pride, so one must make sure one can win. Interestingly enough Ut Nex in the qualifying round is another way for a Gladiator to show show mad courage.
  • That Other Little Wrinkle: Assassinating the other Gladiators is just plain ol’ cheating. However the politics of such a manoeuvre would likely be very interesting
  • Cheating and Exploits: Anything that can be abused to gain an advantage will be abused to gain an advantage. The Gladiators have to be on guard. The Deliberative have to monitor everything. And yet all of these people are human with desires and needs that can be pried at to gain advantage. A lusty Gladiator might be lured into a late night dalliance before a crucial match that leaves him strangely drained. A lucky pre-fight meal at a favourite restaurant might be drugged. Last minute advice on how to exploit an opponent’s fighting styles. An accident on the training grounds. The sudden death of a loved one. There are many possibilities for exploitation, and the best of them are the head games that mess with the psychology of individual fighters. After all, at the highest levels of competition, it is often focus and the will to win that carry the day.

 

 

Title Change for Book Three

After much soul searching, more like agonized dawdling I suppose, I have decided to change the name of Warbound: The Shield Maiden to Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden. Many readers are not connecting Warbound with the first two Domains of the Chosen Books. This is entirely my fault, as most of my beta readers suggested that I keep the name Bloodlust for consistency. I should have listened, but I was focused on getting the book out and not thinking enough about branding issues.

Hopefully the switch does not cause any problems. Here is what the new cover looks like. It will release on the 16th. If you have the old cover, don’t worry about switching over, the book itself remains unchanged.

Not a huge change, but it is still a mistake on my part.

Not a huge change, but it is still a mistake on my part.

If this does cause a problem for anyone, let me know and I will send you a file in any format you choose.

 

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: Blade Breaker 1.27

Time for some Shadow Wolf!

New to the series? start here and follow the links in the comments.

Missed last week’s installment? I have your back!

“Hello, Greeneyes,” I said.

Sometimes you just have to roll the dice and see where they lead you. I had little to go on but suspicion, and Murith counselled me to check simple reactions. Sometimes the guilty react to certain keys, even when they should not. I half expected her to greet me with a look of confusion, or even irritation at the inappropriate use of her God’s moniker.

“What is the meaning of this Ragnar?” asked Madame Glorianna, more annoyed than alarmed.

Interestingly enough Crimson Wind went for her employer first. She lunged across the room, Kiyari swords a cascade of glittering metal, blurring as they swept.

I moved. A crossbow thrummed. Murith, shooting blind, still hit Crimson Wind centre of mass. An springloaded arbalest, a holdwarden’s weapon, powerful enough to split a stone block. The Sirutiran woman slammed into the wall behind Madame Glorianna’s desk.

“What the fuck Ragnar–” madame Glorianna began. 

“Get behind me Glory,” I said. “I don’t think she’s done.

Madame Glorianna moved with alacrity that should not be possible in the kind of dress that she was wearing. Crimson Wind kicked to her feet, I moved between the two, axe in one hand, pick in the other. 

“You won’t get another shot, Dwarf,” said Crimson Wind.

“I won’t need one,” said Murith. She was right. Crimson Wind was deadly with a blade, but she had a crossbow bolt thought her belly. I was surprised that she could stand. She lifted her Kiyari, long swords with an elegant curved blade. The glinted in the warm light of the glow crystals. I could hear people running. It would be over by the time they got here.

“You don’t have to do this Crimson Wind,” I said, meeting her eye, watching her response. “We already know about your friends–“

“You know nothing, Northman,” she spat, painting the hardwood with red.

“Why don’t you tell me?” I asked. “Did Sapphire betray your little cult?”

She swayed and for a moment I hope that she would drop. Madame Glorianna had people who could keep her alive and make her answer questions. But Sword-Brides are tough, and she snapped back into focus and came at me. 

The Kiyari is the worlds deadliest slashing blade. I love my people dearly, but our swords seem like lead footed adolescents trying to match steps with dancers next to a Kiyari. Crimson Wind’s swords split the air beautifully, one coming high from my left, one coming low from my right. She left me no choice.

I stepped in, burying my axe in her skull. Her high blade cut through my mail and grazed a rib. Her low blade bounced off my pick. She twitched, still trying to kill me. Her mouth moved, drooling blood.

“Only the strong, Northman,” said Crimson Wind, then she collapsed.

I frowned. I had hoped to question her, but she chose to attack me in such a way that I was forced to kill her or suffer a terrible wound. As it was my arm was bleeding more than I was used to. Kiyaris seem sharp enough to wound even a Twiceborn it seems.

Madame Glorianna let out a breath behind me. Her people were already in the room, including two enormous bouncers. She held up a hand before they could interfere.

“You had better have a good explanation for this, Ragnar” she stated.

 

Structures and Systems: The Grand Championships in the Domains of the Chosen (part one)

One of my favourite subjects to write about is how systems, especially broken or corrupted systems, can define a character or a conflict. My favourite example is Javert from Les Miserables, an unrelenting, scrupulous Paladin of an utterly dysfunctional system of Law.

In my next Domains of the Chosen novel, I am delving into how the systems that have evolved around the Grand Championships of the Great Games can draw a series of characters in and change their lives. The novel begins with how these people react to hearing that the event will take place, their feelings, the plots they hatch, and the hopes they have and follows them through to the end.

For those of you who have not read my books, the Great Games are a mixture of bloodsports, magic, and politics, and the Grand Championships determine who is worthy to join the Chosen, immortal rulers of the Domains. (You can read a bit about the Great Games in my free short story.)

The Grand  Championships are a huge event, on the scale of an Olympic games or the Fifa world cup. They are usually held every fifty years, but if a Chosen dies they are the tournament is held sooner to find a replacement. In my new book, a Chosen has died very soon after the previous  tournament was held, and everyone is caught off guard and left scrambling as the new Grand Championship is held. Over the years tradition, politics, corruption and plain old opportunism have led to an elaborate set of mechanisms surrounding the games. Let me break it down:

The Core of the Grand Championships (the basic system)

  • Location: The Grand Championships are held in the Grand Arena of the city of Krass, only during the summer. Krass is the Capital of the Empire, an enormous port city analogous to New York/Rome/London as the focal point of a dominant power. The Grand Arena seats over five hundred thousand spectators, a truly fantastic amount of people crammed into one place. This last part is more important than you might think, unless you understand food services, event planning, or sewage. Since the event is always held in the same place, the Grand Arena is the focal point of the Games, almost a place of pilgrimage for true fans.
  • Selection, Part One: Before the event is held the Gladiators must be selected. Selection begins with fans from all over the Domains coming for the cast their votes for their favourite Master Rank (50+ fights & 10 ranking tests passed) Gladiators. The Hundred Gladiators with the most votes make the short list. It is important to note that this is at least partially a popularity contest. A skilled, but boring Gladiator will often lose out in the voting to a fighter with a more compelling story or more fan support. This works to Gavin’s favour in Bloodlust: Will to Power, one of my earlier works.
  • Selection, Part Two: The short list of one hundred Gladiators picked in the open vote must now be narrowed down to fifty fighters. The voting for this part of the selection is limited to members of the highest Popular Assembly and the Council of the Chosen. The politics and horse-trading at this stage is intense, as each faction tries to find the candidates that have the best chance of winning while trying to sabotage the efforts of rivals both in and out of their factions. They must do so without annoying the people as a whole, who will riot if a big favourite is dropped from the shortlist.
  • The Planning and the Parade: Once the final selection is made and the event is booked, preparations for the Grand Championships begin. The people of the Domains are so mad for the Great Games that work more or less ceases, especially in Krass, around the time of the event. This means that anyone doing anything important, such as shipping ammunition or even waging war, must plan around the Grand Championships or suffer some disruption. The event itself begins with an enormous day-long parade winding through the streets of Krass and ending in the huge parade ground in front of the Grand Arena. The Logistics of this parade are impressive, and also surprisingly important (more on that in part two)
  • The Qualifying Round: Most of the matches fought in the Grand Championships are against other Gladiators. However, many fans consider the very essence of the Great Games to be their favoured fighters facing ferocious monsters. Also fifty is an unwieldy number for a single elimination tournament :D Thus every single Gladiator must face off against a monster in the qualifying round. The devil is in the details in this round, where some competitors might end up facing tougher monsters than others and the scoring system is often criticized.
  • That One Little Wrinkle: The rest of the Grand Tournament is surprisingly simple. The remaining Gladiators face off against each other in single elimination matches. However, various exceptions and rules can change the nature of each match. A Gladiator can declare Ut Nex before a match, forcing his or her opponent to agree to fight to the death or forfeit the match. Some Gladiators use this as an intimidation tactic, although you can see how it might backfire.
  • That Other Little Wrinkle: It is not impossible that someone is killed or drops out of the Tournament. If this happens a new Gladiator is taken from the selection. Often this causes a riot, and the Gladiator added to the tournament is sometimes picked just to appease the rioters. Sometimes the riots are goaded on purpose for just this reason.
  • Cheating, and Exploits: It is very hard to just cheat at the Great Games, especially at the Grand Championships. But, with so much riding on the line, it is more than worth the risk. Illegal weapons, bribed officials, banned substances, and everything else you might think of can and will be tried. Much worse than overt cheating, however, are those who exploit the rules of the arena to their advantage. More on that in part two.

Stay tuned next week when I will cover the rest of this subject, going over the corruptions and unforeseen changes in this system.WillToPower_Icon