Wednesday, April 18, 2012

From the Classics: Rule by Dogfighting

"I'm one of three brothers," said Hildir. "Ulf's the name of one and Ylfing's the other. We've arranged to hold a meeting next summer to decide who's going to be king of Giantland. It's to be the one who performs the most heroic action and has the most savage dog in the dog-fight assembly."

- Arrow-Odd, (Anon., 13th century AD)

There is no way that there isn't going to be a nation in my next D&D campaign whose political system is based on dog-fighting. The possibilities for hijinks are endless. It gets better when you learn that the judges apparently aren't too strict with the definition of the word 'dog': Ulf is fielding a wolf, Ylfing has a polar bear, and Hildir eventually gets an even stronger bear which is mad and ravenous after hibernating for six months. For D&D, let's say that the officials who preside over the tournament are a trio of extremely wizened and short-sighted elders who will accept just about any creature so long as it has fur and four legs.
The most obvious adventure potential in this is that the PCs have to find, catch and train a powerful 'dog' of some kind in order to seize power, or to help their ally seize power (maybe you have to be a native to be eligible for kingship). This is exactly what Arrow-Odd does in the story.
There are also other implications if the dog-fight is conducted once a year, and the king is expected to defend his title with the same dog he used last time. What happens when a champion dog is growing old? What will the king pay for a method of reinvigorating his hound so he can rule for a few more years? On the flip side, what happens if the king dies but his dog keeps on winning?

Expect more material from Arrow-Odd in the next few days. I highly recommend it to those interested, as the resemblance it bears to a game of D&D is uncanny. It's got loot, secret doors, clever plans, magic items, a badass villain with a metal mask, and the age-old adventuring tradition of solving problems with fire.

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