Day 1-Registration Day
On the day before the contests begin, the competitors present themselves at the Temple before the cult priestesses, to identify themselves, prove their eligibility, and tender their entrance offerings. A large crowd gathers to size up each contestant and speculate on the most likely winner. At this time the priestesses ask which events the competitors will participate in. Each competitor may take part in as many or as few of the seven events as he wishes. However, making a sporting effort in all seven events shows the proper spirit and respect for the contest's sacred origins. Those who shirk any contests earn the disapproval of the crowd, and the special enmity of the public-spirited Hounsgorders. Throughout the day the townsfolk, assisted by local farmers and their families, are preparing Houndsgor for the festival, hanging coloured cloths about the streets, whitewashing their houses, and sweeping up the dust and debris. People are even sluicing the market square with buckets of water, much to the irritation of the more zealous of the stallholders who have already set up shop. These opportunists will attempt to sell the Characters local and foreign food delicacies and other nick-nacks: "Lovely statuette of the Butterfly Girl, Look perfect near the front door in any Kasshert townhouse. Only 75 Sails to you, and I'm wringing my own neck!" Other residents of the region arrive over the course of the day, including farmers from the forested hills.
Registering for the Contests
Sir Davis Houndsgor and some of his associates have set up shop under an awning outside the Temple. A long table stands here, presumably brought from inside, and a large ledger lies open for registration, as well as a chest for collecting the fees. (The other people on duty will be two priestesses, who will always be called upon to verify the truth of each applicant's statements.) Sir Davis is often busy and absent from the registration table, however when the Characters first register he will be here. (At any point later it is 50% likely he will not.) He is tall, bearded and imposing, a man of authority, yet also of humor. He seems to be very much part of the spirit of things, yet he also seems distracted, as if he is expecting problems. Sir Davis may be persuaded to converse with an Ostragyan noble or Armiger, and could be coaxed to reveal that he has heard a rumor that both Sorghall and Solanthos are fielding a man in the contest, and that if either wins it will be a tragedy for Houndsgor. He explains that it will be bad because they are fielding the contestant for political reasons, and do not respect the local myths and customs. Therefore the following year threatens to be one of storm and difficulty. This reason alone is enough for him to hope that a more devout worshipper wins. Registering across the morning, in this order, will be: Carylon Squally: Local Houndsgorder, age 22, friendly and nervous. Vathmar Allweather: Arrogant Klinthe independent, but possibly the most approachable Klinthan here, age 26. Sir Barharach: a loud and courageous independent adventurer from Terregor, age 25. Throughout the day the locals perform traditional dances and act out various cult myths.
The Men of Klinthe and Kasshert Arrive
Just before noon, a commotion begins around town, and people run to the walls and the gates. Before long, the Characters will see an entourage of bearded men on Qurrocks arriving from the south. They wear golden armor, and several have hawks riding on their shoulders. This can only be Lord Solanthos Ironpike and his retinue from Klinthe, presumably including his champion. One amongst them is unusual in that he has a small crested dragon riding behind him on his qurrock. The dragon has a gold collar, and from this a chain connects him to the wrist of the rider. Riding with them are a group of Ostragyan Armigers and Nobles, who the locals soon identify as Lord Raus of Kasshert with his wilful daughter Jezra and his Shiplord. The Lord Solanthos and his closest entourage (about a dozen of them including five bodyguards) are to be quartered in a house he has rented, along with a young man (Promidor) whom all the Klinthans seem proud of. They are often seen slapping him on his back, whilst he grins sheepishly. The others, about 30 of them, set up bright yellow tents on the opposite side of the road to the Parade Ground. Sir Davis and some of the Priests and Priestesses come out and formally greet the Lords, and drinks are shared. Lord Raus and his retinue lodge in the tower by the harbor. Promidor registers. He is 24 years of age.
The Samadrians Arrive
Around the middle of the afternoon another big commotion begins, and this time the locals run for the docks. Coming into the harbour is an unmistakably Samadrian boat, amidst a great gushing of water (elementals or sea spirits must be driving the boat, which causes some locals to mutter darkly about sorcery). On board are around a dozen or more Samadrian notables, including Lord Sorghall himself and Borghall his faithful brother. Radak quickly assembles his Armigers on parade, and bugles are sounded. The Samadrian contingent is also quickly met by Sir Davis, accompanied by Solanthos and other notables. They seem friendly enough, but are all proficient diplomats, so who knows what unease or dislike lurks beneath the surface? Amongst the Samadrian party a jester capers about annoyingly, although Sorghall himself seems quite amused by him. Myrrhyn Calmstorm arrives direct from Kasshert by road an hour or so after the Samdrians. He and his three hulking associates are all dressed in travelling gear, but have a military bearing. For people that have apparently just ridden down from Kasshert, they are comparatively dust and grime free. (Only reveal this to Characters who are specified as watching for new arrivals or otherwise being alert around town.) Myrrhyn is 23 years old, and registers as an independent.
During the day Sir Davis contacts any loyal Ostragyans characters he knows and tells them he has learned disturbing news, that he has heard of a possible plot to assassinate Sorghall. An assassination attempt in Houndsgor would not be a good thing, bringing a bloodfeud for sure and even the possibility of the Samadrians using it as an excuse to attack Houndsgor. The Character/es is/are asked in no uncertain terms to keep en eye out and report any suspicious characters to Sir Davis immediately and privately. The swarthy figure of Jarst Daro steps forward and registers early in the evening just as Sir Davis and his colleagues are about to pack up the registration table. The populace is intrigued, and the priestesses are scandalized by the surprise appearance of the mysterious foreigner. Jarst's qualification as a Horned Man cultist means he is eligible but his mysterious appearance becomes the talk of the town. He is 25 years old. A great host of rumors erupts immediately, the most common of which is that the Samadrians have sent him in a bid for political power. Jarst registers himself as an independent contestant. The Characters may well suspect that he is the real Samadrian champion, unless they know otherwise. Sorghall will never betray any feelings either way.
A special small keg of ale is brought from the town, and broken open so that the ranking foreign notables can raise a mug to the games. The Harvest Priestesses bless the keg, and Loolie the Priestess of the Smiling Man lurks nearby, adding her own special 'Ale into Urine' blessing into the general magical effects. Sorghall and Solanthos toast each other with foaming mugs, both grimacing slightly and breaking off the healthy quaffs they had begun. The crowd seems puzzled, and the two drinkers are forced to put on a brave face and pretend that all is well. An Ostragyan Character contestant near Loolie notes she is shaking with barely concealed mirth. She glances at him and hisses with a grin: "A warm and frothing welcome to our guests from East and West, straight from the bladder of a qurrock!" The two unfortunate men wipe thin moustaches of foam from their upper lips and politely refuse a refill, whilst somehow managing to look suspiciously at each other.
Rumors and GM Notes on the Notables
Raus Rumor: That doxy on his arm is none other than the Grey Fox, the famous adventurer. Rumor: Between them, Raus and Houndsgor plan to line their pockets with the cut they take of all bets made.
Lord Belvani Rumor: It's strange that Lord Belvani now fights left handed; a veteran swears Belvani was holding his spear in his right hand as they charged the Terregor pirates at Brath. And that little dragon mascot Belvani takes around with him is more than just an exotic pet from Lumulea, claims a man who says he saw them 'conversing' with each other at a campsite on the Kasshert road.
Krogar Wolfhelm Rumour: He suspects that Calmstorm is a Samadrian tool, and is looking for some more Ostragyan warriors to uphold cult honor by beating Myrrhyn in the contests.
Laughing Loolie - Itinerant Smiling Man Priestess. The Trickster's irrepressible representative, and a hefty 125 kilos of chucklebait and cheap gags. She is especially tough on foreigners. It is not widely known that she is a priestess, as her role is not publicly acknowledged. This information may be garnered by astute Ostragyan contestants amongst the Characters, but until then she is simply another larger than life character amongst the crowds. (See her character sheet, for the option to use her abilities as a plot device.)
Activities for the Characters
It is expected that one or more of the Characters may wish to compete in the contest. Technically, any number of contestants are permitted, as long as the candidates are eligible. The other main characters may enter into the carnival atmosphere of the contest, cheer their friends as they compete in each of the events, lay bets, lose some time (and possibly their shirts) at one of the numerous sideshows, listen to the rumor and speculation, and so on. Unscrupulous Characters might wish to improve a favorite's chances by interfering with another contestant. Plausible ploys include: tricking vain Vathmar Allweather into breaking one of his geases; getting the thirsty Sir Barharach drunk before an event; telling an inebriated Sir Barharach that Myrrhyn Calmstorm is a heretic; or stealing some of the magical stormapples. Many possibilities for mischief exist for inspired main characters. Of course, interested NPCs might practice similar dishonorable tricks upon the player characters on behalf of their own favorites. During the actual events, GMs could invite other gamers to sit in with your regular group and play the parts of the six NPC competitors.
Wagers may be laid on single events or on the contest as a whole. The Houndsgor Armigers strictly control betting at the contest and take a 10% cut on all winnings. This is automatically deducted by the bookmaker before the payout (if any) is made. In return for this imposition, punters who feel they have been cheated can take their complaint to the authorities. Legal bets can be made at a stand run by priests in the market, and they have several assistants who do the rounds of the taverns. Players may go to one of the two bookies down from Kasshert , but might be disappointed to learn that they too will prudently abide by the gambling laws. Numerous illegal bookies also operate in the town, particularly in the wineshops, taverns and carnivals. They melt into the crowd at the sight of the authorities. Although they cannot cover large sums like the legal bookmakers, they sometimes offer better odds. Several are con men who won't be found after the contest or who refuse to honor bets. Players must take their chances when making a bet with an unlicensed bookmaker. Odds for the various competitors begin as shown in "Place Your Bets," but may change as the contest progresses or the GM dictates. However, an honest bookmaker will pay you the odds you made the bet at. It may not be possible to bet on the overall winner once the first event is concluded.
Place Your Bets!
Wall of death
* Whether he wins or not, after everyone sees Promidor's brilliant eye for birdflesh when choosing his mount for the race, they reappraise his chances in the joust to 10-1.
** When Vathmar starts mouthing off about how he's going to try catching arrows, his odds rocket past 100-1.
*** These odds shorten to 5-4 as the rumor gets around that he's a "sure bet". Eventually, you won't be able to put your money on Myrrhyn at the legal stands.
*** As an unknown quantity, the bookies only offer long odds for the first event.
Rumors about the Contestants
- Carylon and Melisande are sweethearts, and the priestesses really hope that he will win. If he does, Houndsgor is bound to have a bumper harvest next year. [True]
- It is almost certain that Melisande will pick Carylon as her favorite. If this happens her father will be furious. The Winnows and the Squallys have been feuding for years. [True]
- If Promidor wasn't Lord Solanthos' nephew, he would never have been picked for the contest. [False]
- Promidor was only chosen because he is Lord Solanthos' new toy boy. [False]
- Vathmar was a nobody before the Forest Man gifted him, and will be a nobody again when he breaks his geases. [Meaningless]
- He is geased to 'never seek shelter from a storm', which is the real reason why this conceited Klinthan has to sleep outside. [False]
- If Vathmar has such stamina, why is it that he keeps away from all the girls? [Meaningless]
- He paid to enter the contests with freshly minted silver Sails from Samadria. [True]
- Myrrhyn is one of Faltikus' men. [More or less True - if anyone's, Myrrhyn is more Sorghall's man.]
- I saw him drinking with a pair of Samadrians from last night. [True. They were actually Sorghalls' agents giving him final instructions.]
- No-one has told this Terregan that you can't hit mounts in the joust. [False. He knows, and simply does not care.]
- To Sir Barharach, heresy is abomination. This includes heretic-lovers like Faltikus. Nonetheless, he'll drink all night with anyone who has a deep pocket. [True]
- He just walked in without anyone noticing! [True]
- This man is obviously a Samadrian agent sent to cause trouble in Houndsgor. [False]
- Even the Samadrian agents in town are scratching their heads over this guy. [True]
The Favored Suitor
In the evening when all the competitors are assembled, the maiden chosen to play the Butterfly Girl may select one of them to be her "favorite." The young women of the town dance around the chosen favorite, calling on the gods to acknowledge their champion. The Butterfly Girl grants this ritual fruitfulness and beautiful magic flowers appear in the suitor's hair. These will last until the early hours of the morning and then fade away. If this person wins the contest, this is taken to mean that the coming year will be especially bountiful. The favorite selected is almost invariably a cultist of the Horned Man or the Smiler, though not always a local. If he is a foreigner, Sir Davis Houndsgor (chief landholder of the district) will refund the value of the foreign favorite's entrance gift to the priestesses.
Melisande, the beautiful Harvest Queen, must select her favorite. Will she pick her childhood sweetheart Carylon, the handsome Myrrhyn Calmstorm, a dashing Character contestant? Surely not the enigmatic stranger, Jarst Daro? The contestants are all gathered together after Sir Davis packs away the registration table. Then, before the silent crowd, Melisande talks to each of the contestants, asking them about themselves and why they are competing.
The characters must first use their best communication ability (possibly assisted by magic) with the adjustments below. Give 1 point for each point the roll was made by, then add the bonuses below. The contestant that rolls lowest drops out until a single winner remains. (These rolls indicate the persuasive power of their conversation with Melisande, as she considers their merits.) One contest point is awarded to the Favored Suitor: no points are given for second or third place, since she chooses only one favorite. In the evening stilt-walkers, fire-eaters, and jugglers are active (several of them being of impressive capability), and great bonfires are lit around the outside of the town, well away from the walls. Drummers are also gathered in small groups, some accompanied by a horn blower. Local people dance and drink until late. After midnight no more fuel is added to the fires, and they finally die out in the early hours of the morning
Adjustments (more than one may apply):
Local boy: +3
Ostragyan Horned Man or Smiler cultist: +2
Per 2 points of COM over 10: +1
Foreign Horned Man or Smiler cultist: no adjustment
Someone with suspected Samadrian ties: -2
Local of other cult: -3
Someone with known Samadrian ties: -3
Other Foreigner (culturally or geographically): -3
Contestant Strategies to become Favoured Suitor
Carylon - Oratory 12-. Gets +2 bonus due to Melisande's ribbon., +3 for being a local boy and +2 due to COM and +2 for his cult affiliation.
Promidor - has to rely on regular conversation (basic roll 8-) but will try KS: High Society (11-) as a complementary to try to impress her. Gets +4 due to COM, the negative for being a foreigner is cancelled out by being a Horned Man Cultist, for a total of +4 to his roll(s).
Vathmar - Oratory (12-), the negative for being a foreigner is cancelled out by being a Horned Man Cultist and he gets -1 for his COM.
Myrrhyn - Will use Oratory (plus the Samadrian Trick below, which will lift his Oratory roll to 18-). If prevented from using the trick, he will use poetry (11-) plus oratory as a complementary roll to lift his presentation. Either way he gets +2 for his cult affiliation, +1 for COM for +3 to his roll
Sir Barharach - Will sing. Unfortunately he gets no adjustmnt being a foreigner, though of the cult of the Horned Man.
Jarst Daro - will use conversation (13-) (augmented with the Gherent's fascination power if possible). He gets no adjustment for being a foreigner, since he is of the cult of the Horned Man. He gets +4 for COM, for a total of +4 to his roll.
The Samadrian Trick - Myrrhyn and a disguised Agrestis will be carefully and clandestinely chaperoned so that they have a minute or so together inside a nearby beer tent. Unless this act is somehow prevented, Myrrhyn has the spell Charisma cast for his benefit. This magical effect will not be noticed by most people except to observe that Myrrhyn is a handsome boy who really speaks well and has a charming manner with Melisande. A few people however will shout rude comments - having made their EGO rolls, they are not taken in. A character might notice this discrepancy...
Gherent's Trick - The Gherent will try to use the fascination power, which means he has to get close to Melisande and get her to look at him - he won't do it if he feels he is being observed, but it should not be too hard).