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The Rite of Battle Fitness Revealed
Posted on Thu, March 04, 2004 by Legate
CruelSummerLord writes "The Rite of Battle Fitness has been mentioned by everyone from Xagyg to Sargent Silver to Iquander as a brutal and bloody spectacle conducted by the inhabitants of the Hold of Stonefist, now the kingdom of Stonehold to choose their leadership. However, no one has yet described what challengers must actually do in order to succeed at the Rite. There is far more too it than a simple battle royale...

The Rite of Battle Fitness-Its Tasks, Its Rules, Its Challenges
By: CruelSummerLord
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.


Respected Iquander and Respected Sir Pluffet:

The Rite of Battle Fitness is indeed far more elaborate than we southern scholars would guess. The Stoneholders, despite their savagery, their brutality, and their sadism, have a highly elaborate warrior culture to rival that of any southern nation. As such, they value not only sword skill in their leaders, but also intelligence, physical endurance, physical strength, charisma, and the ability to survive in the wilderness. Participants in the Rite must pass tests concerning each of these attributes, one after another.

These tests and their rules will be explained below. I will also detail modifications that have been made to the Rite in modern times to make it more survivable while still challenging, and the ways that Sevvord Redbeard would rig the various tests in order to kill the most aspiring applicants. Both of these have been hinted at, of course, by Sir Roger.

-In the first test, participants must travel from Vlekstaad to Purmill through the mountains, taking nothing with them but a weapon, a shield, and a bottle of water. They must survive on their own, using their wilderness skills, and travelling through the mountains. On the way, participants must show proof of their courage either with the head of a giant they slew, or the heads of any three of their competitors.

Redbeard used evil druids to cast harsh weather, various trained monsters to kill some participants, and use planted agents to divert warriors into meeting each other, thus leading each to battle for the other's head, and thus increasing the death rate to a level much higher than it would have been otherwise. In modern times, travel through the mountains is limited to simple survival, and appearing at Purmill within three days suffices to ensure passage to the next test. Those who capture great trophies on their trip will be given favorable positions in the next event...

-As the test of endurance, participants must swim through the Frozen River (in summer, obviously), starting from Purmill and going to a large summer camp that extends about a hundred and fifty kilometers down the river, located due west of Kelten. Rest stops are permitted, though those who do not arrive within a certain time limit are disqualified. Redbeard could unleash bunyips, giant gar, and other river monsters to kill participants, though he did this infrequently. Now, the swim down the river is only about fifty kilometers, though any who stop to rest are now disqualified.

-In the test of intelligence, warriors must make their way through a deadly, booby-trapped labyrinth, which is supposed to have clues that the clever warrior will follow to safety, and the next part of the test. There are no monsters, but the traps are uniformly deadly. The labyrinth is redesigned every two years by Stonefist/hold dwarves, who also devise the clues and riddles within the maze. In rigging this part of the competition, Redbeard would plant false clues to have warriors killed, and the modern labyrinths are simply mazes of stone walls, with no traps, atlhough the clues remain (which are generally honest).

-The test of physical strength was frightful-contestants have to wrestle wolverines in pits and throttle the beasts to death, before climbing out of the pit with the monster's carcass. Evil druids could and did entice these animals to become rabid, which would of course make them much more dangerous and fearsome to fight. Now, contestants must simply wrestle bulls, and need only wear the creatures into submission before they pass.

-The test of charisma was a strange one-in taverns and mead halls, warriors who have made it this far had to rally other men in the tavern to support them in their quest to win the Rite, and be their lieutenants if they succeed in defeating the Master of the Hold or any of the warband leaders. Other warriors would also be haranguing the same tavern-govers, attempting to rally support for their own causes. Redbeard did not need to do anything to rig this part of the contest-bloody fights almost always resulted between the supporters of two or more rivals, though these rarely resulted in death. In modern times, this test serves to determine how high a rank is initially granted in the rhelt's standing army, based on the skill of his speech and the effect it has on his fellows.

-The test of weaponskill is a final, bloody battle royale between all those who remain standing in the competition, divided into groups of ten at the most, or less if they can be divided as such. These fights take place within fenced rings, and any type of weapon and armor were permissible. The only caveat was that magical items could not be used-anyone caught with a magic sword, for instance, would be immediately eliminated from the competition. Apart from this, there were no restrictions on combat, save that battle did not need to end in death. Those who manage to disarm, stun, or otherwise defeat their opponents without killing them would be treated the same as those who won their fights by killing in cold blood. Those who were defeated without being killed would also be allowed to continue.

Redbeard manipulated this contest by bribing clerics to cast berserking spells over certain warriors, in the guise of simple priestly blessings before battle. He would also lace the food or drink of fighters with drugs to slow them down; slow-acting poison that would weaken them in combat, and eventually kill them even if they survived; or herbs to send them into a killing frenzy in battle. Particularly dangerous contestants could also have the attention of all their competitors focused on them, provided the proper rumors and innuendo were planted. In the modern era, these battles are conducted with fists and bare hands-wrestling and unarmed combat as opposed to full-contact sword battles are used.

Contestants who survived all five tests were rated based on their performance in all five events-how few wounds they suffered, how many supporters they obtained, how quickly they passed the tests, etc.-and were assigned points on a numerical scale, something surprisingly elaborate for the crude and violent Fists. The person who scored the highest could challenge the Master of the Hold, one of the Atamans of the towns, or become a war-band leader. All those who scored beneath him may have been allowed to challenge the Atamans or become warband leaders, depending on how they did. Those at the bottom usually had to wait another two years for the next Rite without getting any rewards, however.

These events speak clearly to both the savagery and the intelligence of the Fists, in particular their fearsom Masster, now Rhelt, Sevvord Redbeard. In addition to being perhaps the greatest warrior in the Flanaess, he is also one of its most ingenious. With such a leader, it is a small wonder that Tenh, the Rovers of the Barrens, and the Suel barbarians can never rest in their struggles with this most foul of enemies.

Yours faithfully,

The Brother of the Cruel Summer.

"
 
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Re: The Rite of Battle Fitness Revealed (Score: 1)
by cwslyclgh on Tue, March 09, 2004
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good job, a nice, helpful article :)



Re: The Rite of Battle Fitness Revealed (Score: 1)
by iquander on Sat, March 26, 2005
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This is an excellent article. A very helpful glimpse at the cornerstone of an unfortunately marginal Flanaess kingdom.

While reading the article, I couldn't help by think that it would serve as an excellent outline for an adventure. I can imagine numerous hooks to get the PCs interested in winning the competition, and from there would ensue a wild ride of exciting encounters for a great payoff.

Bravo.

--Erik Mona
www.superunicorn.com/erik



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