Sunday, July 30, 2017

Creating a 5E Mini-Game: The Dwarven Keg Battle pt. 2

In my last post i wrote up the details to a mini-game called the Dwarven Keg Battle which was inspired by an entry in the Adventurer's Almanac describing a holiday named Dwergferi. Last Friday I tested the game out with a group of high-level PCs, and the experience definitely was an entertaining kick off to our campaign finale (I'll be writing up a play report for this session soon). What unfolded was a fairly dramatic bout of competitive athleticism that achieved the aim of both adding a bit of flair and immersion to the world but also a bit of wonky fun that gave the players a little break from the somber tone from the overarching story.

The Setup

The characters (Eddgerin, Quivin Hood and Kane) had found themselves stripped of their memories and living amidst a group of dwarves inside a cylindrical cone shaped valley. The confused players, all elves, seemed regarded as essential to the livelihood of the community. As they tried to find answers to their questions, the investigation was interrupted by a festival devoted to the worship and praise of the Stonewife, the chief deity for the dwarves here. The three babyfaces elves were feeling fairly out of place and insecure due to a cultural ritual known as the Judging of the Beards. A chance of escaping this cultural isolation soon presented itself as Eddgerin's friend, Cael Gargglestone, encouraged him and the others to enter into a competitive event called the Dwarven Keg Battle. They accepted as they eyed the small ioun stone floating in a trophy case with ambition.

The Game

The game begun with each team of three lining up 25 ft. from the center line. The referee was the village elder, a hoarder named Turdegga Holderhelm, and as she blew the whistle Eddgerin raced forward and got in front of the keg. He soon lost possession of it, however, and the dwarven team got a leg up and began passing it to one another and raced to the other end of the field. Quivin Hood cast a hold person spell on the running back with the keg, which caused Turdegga to blow the whistle and eject him from the field. He went to the sidelines to plead ignorance of the rules, and the game continued. The elven team was not in a good spot, as they were now down a player and the dwarven team was a mere 10 ft. away from scoring a goal. All around the field, the audience was hooting and hollering in satisfaction.

Quivin Hood, meanwhile, was getting no where with the referee. With all attention on the field and the anticipation of a goal, the clever fellow cast charm person upon the referee. Turdegga suddenly ejected one of the dwarven players, citing an extremely obscure rule that a player must refrain from flatulence while not in possession of the keg. The crowd was incensed, but none were aware of the magical influence, and instead assumed that Turdegga was either a terrible referee or had engaged in her own version of Deflategate and spent some time with the keg prior to kickoff.

Turdegga's logic under Quivin Hood's charm person spell.

Eddgerin came in from behind the keg carrier and grappled him, stopping his forward movement. It was at this time that Kane came in with a slide tackle and was able to knock the keg loose from the opposing side's hands. Kane and Eddgerin then finally hit their groove and began taking turns charging forward and then making lateral passes to each other to maximize their progress down the field. Suddenly, from seemingly nowhere, a member of the crowd came charging onto the field with a huge empty tankard that he was looking to fill. Eddgerin had the keg, and he narrowly dodged the oncoming crowd member by diving into the endzone, scoring a point for his side. Turdegga, still charmed, called for it to be scored as three points due to the interference of a crowd member. The stands of dwarves in attendance booed in incredulous rage. The opposing team ran to the referee to demand an explanation. The elven team won through a combination of magical manipulation and athletic prowess, and at the end of the day they were awarded the trophy which was an Ioun Stone of Mastery, giving +1 to proficiency bonus.

Eddgerin is going...going...GOOOOOOOOOOOAL!

Concluding Thoughts

Things I would change: I think I would introduce some sort of contact between the players. The rule as it stood for this session was that you could only physically come in contact with the character holding the keg. Slide tackles to knock players prone and slow their movement down the field and grapples could add some different dynamics.  I also at the last minute changed the width of the field to be 55' instead of 45'. It would be interesting to try this with a more realistic sized field with a wider field of play. I think 330' x 230' would be more authentic. Adding a more versatile point system with a field goal could be interesting to add to a bigger field of play as well.

Was it perfect and balanced? Not by a long shot. The players involved were level 18, and what I'm learning about 5e is that its incredibly difficult to challenge characters at this level. But was it fun? Absolutely. Playing a modified version of dwarven rugby in a roleplaying game is surprisingly satisfying and the players added flavor to it that really made it come to life.

Having run this, I would encourage DMs to put some thought into a mini-game like this and give it a try. It was definitely a highlight and a memorable component to this story. This event worked really well because it involved all of the real elements you'd expect from a story event: the opposing team, the referee and the crowd played important parts. It also had parts to play for every character, the two more athletic characters were on the field literally doing the heavy lifting while the shifty arcane trickster was off on the sidelines conning the ref. 

What else could be a fun mini-game? Have you had any luck introducing or playing a mini-game in your campaign? 

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