Balancing BloodSands Arena encounters

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I need help figuring out if I'm doing something wrong. For the Bloodsands arena market battle the enounter as given is worth 700 something XP but I've only got 4 PCs. Should I scale it down  to 400 or are they really supposed to have a good chance to loose since the encounter gets interrupted before they could be killed by the Templar guards.  If anyone has any experience with this it would be greatly appreciated.
I thought the default for adventures were 5-6 players, so if you have 4 you may want to reduce it a bit.  
Actually default is for 5 adventurers so if you have 4 you can cut it down. I have found that balancing games can be hard with new characters but after a few sessions you will know what is hard for your players and what is too easy. That sweet spot is right in the middle where there is a risk of loosing so each fight is exciting. Anything that I have that the players encounter that I know they will be rescued from I will make it so they are hoping to be rescued.. XP given for each kill and 1/2 from all that were still standing when the rescue takes place.
Thanks for the feed back guys.
Thanks for the feed back guys.


How did it go?

I generally like the technique of looking at the actual XP value and reducing it down to what is appropriate per the DMG for the size of your party. However, the quick method is to drop one foe of the level of the encounter (for a level 3 fight, drop a level 3 monster).

Whenever I scale an encounter up or down I try to use information on the party if I can - do they have a leader, are they experienced players or new, do they like hard fights, etc. In the absence of that I assume easier is better.

One thing you can also do is to plan contingencies. For example, remove two foes, but consider having them run in at the end of round 2 if the battle is going too easily. Conversely, plan on one foe surrendering or running away (being a coward or a slave that has no stomach for battle) if the battle is too brutal.

I also like the bloodied state as a trigger for contingencies. The simplest of these is that when a foe is bloodied they do more or less damage if the challenge level is not appropriate. For example, the elves are just destroying the party and that doesn't seem fun. As each elf becomes bloodied you reduce their damage by 1 die, and role-play how their resolve seems shaken. On the opposite end, if the fight is too easy a foe may grow angry and determined when bloodied, dealing an extra die of damage. You can play with this system when you get more experience running so you can really fine-tune combats. Don't do this all the time - just when it is necessary.

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I'm actually running the first session using the module today (we got delayed in finding a day that worked for everyone).  I pretty much just lowered the overall moster xp budget to meet their level and tended to err on the side of taking away monsters with roles vs normal minions since 2 in the party are pretty inexperience. You do make a fine point about throwing some more monsters in mid battle if things seem to be too easy and I will keep it all in mind latter today.

Also you make a good point about enemies "breaking" and I'll also keep that in mind for  small raider enounter in the desert that has like 10 human slaves and 3 actual raiders. I'll be sure to make teh slaves flee if their masters all fall.  I'll also give a recap of stuff after the fact. Thanks for your interest and help.
I'm actually running the first session using the module today (we got delayed in finding a day that worked for everyone).  I pretty much just lowered the overall moster xp budget to meet their level and tended to err on the side of taking away monsters with roles vs normal minions since 2 in the party are pretty inexperience. You do make a fine point about throwing some more monsters in mid battle if things seem to be too easy and I will keep it all in mind latter today.

Also you make a good point about enemies "breaking" and I'll also keep that in mind for  small raider enounter in the desert that has like 10 human slaves and 3 actual raiders. I'll be sure to make teh slaves flee if their masters all fall.  I'll also give a recap of stuff after the fact. Thanks for your interest and help.



When I ran the encounter you are talking about, I just had the slaves watch and not get involved. Why would slaves help their masters when their deaths would free them.
I know the minion identified is human slaves, but within the journey skill test part 3 they are actually described as escaped slaved being led by wasteland raiders.  Thus to me it made sense that they would willingly and openly attack (had the PCs killed the raiders first though they would have broke and ran).


I made it up to the finish of this ambush encounter in our first play session. Besides doing the 1st skill challenge a bit wrong as a DM things went smoothly and everyone got involved.  I'm looking forward to finishing it out with the arena showdown.

When I ran the encounter you are talking about, I just had the slaves watch and not get involved. Why would slaves help their masters when their deaths would free them.


There was a great piece of fiction written by the admin of the Legend of the Five Rings "Heroes of Rokugan" living campaign. The Dragon clan sets up a siege of an ancestral village that had been taken over by the Lion Clan. at one point the commoners rise up against the Lion, so as to help the Dragon. Dragon come in, and in part due to that aid destroy their foes. The Dragon warlord orders all the commoners put to the sword. They didn't know their place and can't be trusted.

It's the kind of harsh lesson that fits perfectly into Athas and a strong reason why slaves would do their master's bidding regardless of circumstances - it is their place and any deviation from it usually means death. Brutal/wrong world!

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I think the key is that while you may die facing the enemy if you don't move to attack you are guaranteed to die at the hands of your leader.

Alpha I'm def gonna checkout ashes of athas for resources.
Also I totally forgot to scale down the minion # so that the total xp waws for 4 lvl 1s and not 6, but hey they got a lot of xp out of it.
Update. Finished all of part 1 of the module. Ran the arena game kinda wrong (best out of 3 games vs a single game) but had the trapjaws in force at the start of the 2nd game.

Anyone have any tips as I move into the second module included in the Free RPG day bloodsands pdf?

When I ran the encounter you are talking about, I just had the slaves watch and not get involved. Why would slaves help their masters when their deaths would free them.


There was a great piece of fiction written by the admin of the Legend of the Five Rings "Heroes of Rokugan" living campaign. The Dragon clan sets up a siege of an ancestral village that had been taken over by the Lion Clan. at one point the commoners rise up against the Lion, so as to help the Dragon. Dragon come in, and in part due to that aid destroy their foes. The Dragon warlord orders all the commoners put to the sword. They didn't know their place and can't be trusted.

It's the kind of harsh lesson that fits perfectly into Athas and a strong reason why slaves would do their master's bidding regardless of circumstances - it is their place and any deviation from it usually means death. Brutal/wrong world!



I get the idea. The module starts in Tyr where slavery is meant to be gone, yet the elves try to enslave the party. It's a mix of deception, I just played it out differently with my group.

RickDeckard, did your players get bored with the repeated arena battles? I'm assuming you are up to 'Matinee of Webs?
In Ianto's Tomb, Tithian is presiding over public slave markets in Tyr. Inconsistent writers unfamiliar with the setting, I guess.
IIRC Blood Sand Arena takes place completely in Altaruk, which still had slavery.

Even if the towns slaves were free, I woudlnt put it past some elves to try and kidnap some folks for slavery to be sold elsewhere. 
IIRC Blood Sand Arena takes place completely in Altaruk, which still had slavery.

Even if the towns slaves were free, I woudlnt put it past some elves to try and kidnap some folks for slavery to be sold elsewhere. 



Blood Sand Arena starts in Tyr or on it's outskirts, where the PC's are hired to escort Kaldras caravan to Altaruk. The Journey takes place in Tyr and the sand wastes, although it's true that most of the battles take place in Altaruk.

Let's try to stick with RickDeckard's question. I would try to plan for a party failure on the skill challenges as the adventure doesn't have much information about what to do if things go wrong.
We had a break of about a month down to bad scheduling. I'm running the second set half of the play module today with them in the arena. We'll see how it pans out and where to go from there.
IIRC Blood Sand Arena takes place completely in Altaruk, which still had slavery.

Even if the towns slaves were free, I woudlnt put it past some elves to try and kidnap some folks for slavery to be sold elsewhere. 


One of the sources mentions that Arisphistaneles (the governor of Altaruk) is placing a temporary ban on slavery. I forget the exact details and the source, as we used that bit of information in Ashes of Athas and I haven't kept the details separate in my mind. It makes sense to me, as this would be something Arisphistaneles would likely want to achieve.

As Raddu said, even in a location where people are free there will be those looking for opportunities. For example, a Balican visiting Tyr with her slaves does not lose her slaves - they remain slaves. But, she can't buy new ones or sell hers. That doesn't mean the Balican couldn't hire workers and then once outside of Tyr try to enslave them.

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I disagree about the "Balican visiting Tyr doesn't lose her slaves". The precise extent to which Tyr has extended the liberation promised by the First Edict is a point of contention in my campaign world. An outline of the various positions can be found on my OP page:

www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/the-lost...



Show
King Tithian‘s famous First Edict was delivered from the king’s box in the Tyrian stadium, shortly after the assassination of Kalak and immediately following the announcement of his demise and the proclamation of Tithian as the new king. The text of the edict reads as follows:

I, King Tithian the First, do hereby proclaim the immediate and total abolition of slavery in the city of Tyr and its associated territories.


The Edict caused an immediate reaction from the assembled crowd, with most cheering wildly and chanting Tithian’s name. Many wealthy nobles and merchants remained silent, though, and had to be won over later by instrumental personalities like Agis of Asticles. In the days and weeks following the assassination, the particulars of the Edict were—and continue to be—the topic of much discussion and legal wrangling.


Some of the legal issues surrounding the interpretation and enforcement of the Edict are as follows:


Status of “persons”
Some have argued that the Edict does not apply to the monstrous races of the desert, such as braxats and even giants. Some have gone so far as to argue that the more bestial races—gith, tarek, New Races—also do not fall under the conventional interpretation of personhood, and can remain enslaved. Because so many of the monsters of the Athasian wilds possess a degree (sometimes substantial) of intelligence and psionic power (for example, the monstrous psurlon), a difficult slippery-slope argument has arisen about where to draw the line.


Generally speaking, Tyrian courts have ruled on the side of caution, exempting any intelligent race from conventional slavery. When a braxat is captured and worked as a guard, or sent to kill or die in the arena, however, the law gets a little murky, and there are still challenges and rulings to be made on the matter.


Tyrian territory
The city-state of Tyr is generally assumed to encompass the city proper and the immediate environs—half of Tyr’s population lives outside the walls but within a mile or two of the city itself. Tyrian military outposts and installations are also considered Tyrian territory, as are Tyr’s client villages (such as Kled in the north). Additionally, Tyr’s iron mines and other similar locations fall under the scope of “Tyrian territory”, and slavery is forbidden at all of these.


The areas between these locations, and the parts of the Tablelands, Wastes, and roads where Tyr generally has influence, are where things get tricky. Tithian has consistently sent the Tyrian military (often using the Crimson Legion) against slavers operating in a wide radius from Tyr (although, given the wildness of the area, reports continue to filter in of slavers and bandits preying on Tyrian villages—no different than they had during Kalak’s reign). In the first days after the Edict, slave merchants were unsure how serious the Edict was, and set up a slave market just outside of Tyr itself. That was swiftly broken up. When the slave traders moved further afield (half a day up the road), they were again rousted and sent packing. Tyr had proved the point that it was not going to simply give lip service to the new law, and slave traders began to give the western part of the Tablelands a wide berth.


One further issue is the handling of slaves brought into Tyrian territory by merchants, nobles, and envoys from other city-states (where slavery remains legal). Tyr has consistently stated that all slaves in Tyrian territory become free, and therefore most visitors grumble and hire free servants to attend to them when visiting Tyr, leaving their slaves at home (lest they risk their slaves simply walking off and starting a new life in Tyr). There have been cases, however, where especially powerful individuals have brought their slaves with them, keeping them in check by threats, magic, or force of will; it is always disturbing to Tyrians to see these cowering slaves marched through their streets, but unless the slaves choose to accept the freedom that is there for the taking, there is not much that can be done.


Immediate and total abolition
Freeing the slaves within Tyrian territory was simple enough; the extent to which the economic practice of slavery continued, however, was up for debate. Some members of the Revolutionary Council—Sadira of Tyr foremost amongst them—wanted merchant houses based in Tyr forbidden to derive incomes from the slave trade, even through their outposts in other cities. Much of the Council recognized the unenforceability and potential economic damage of pursuing that line of thought, though, and currently Tyrian merchants houses do continue to trade in slaves as long as the goods do not pass through the Tyr area in any way.


Some of the most radical voices in Tyr opined that Tyr was obligated to fight for the abolition of slavery in other city-states as well. The Council in general, though, does not want to pick fights with the powerful city-states of the region, and has not endorsed that viewpoint.


Conservative voices on the Council (and King Tithian) initially supported legislation that would forbid slaves fleeing from masters in other city-states from finding refuge in Tyr. Without such a law, they argued, other city-states would have a pretext and a reason to invade Tyrian territory, claiming that Tyr was encouraging their slaves to flee by providing safe harbor. The Council could not, however, stomach the prospect of turning away slaves seeking Tyrian ideals of freedom, and the law was never created. Indeed, since then, Tyr’s Crimson Legion has grown by absorbing fleeing gladiators, and its fields do not lack hands to work them. However, as predicted, the other city-states increasingly grumble about Tyr’s practices and even advocate war.



A Balican noble who brings his slaves into Tyr proper would normally find that his slaves are, while in the borders of Tyr, free, and can simply walk away from him. Slavery is maintained not by the physical power of individuals, but by the collusion of the state. A Balican who complains to Tyrian soldiers that his slave has escaped will receive amused looks at best.

Of course, it is entirely possible that a slave chooses not to flee while he's in Tyr. Perhaps the noble still owns his family members back in Balic and has made it clear that they will be treated poorly if the slave escapes. Perhaps the slave has never been outside the milieu of slavery, and therefore can't even imagine leaving his master--a thorough job of mental conditioning. Perhaps the slave is moderately comfortable in his servitude and realizes that if he flees he'll be starving in Tyr, or at best laboring on a redistributed work farm.

If Tyr begins to enforce rules of slavery for other city-states, it would represent the cynical end of the revolution. There are many small ways that Tyr could creep toward hypocrisy (owning slave holdings outside of the city walls, capturing and handing over fugitive slaves back to the city-states from which they fled) or move the revolution along even further (allowing revolutionary or terror groups dedicated to the overthrow of other city-states to operate freely within its walls...AKA the Veiled Alliance or the Smoking Crown Initiates, attempting to export its revolution through warfare, etc.). All of these would be great plot points the characters could be working for or against.
I disagree about the "Balican visiting Tyr doesn't lose her slaves".


That's completely valid for a campaign.

I think that historically that tends to be not how cities run, assuming frequent visitors, as it would cause economic collapse. Think of all those merchants and caravans arriving every day into Tyr - if all of them lost their slaves when they entered they would never return and Tyr would have no trade.

There are ways around this. Gulg has a small area where foreigners can operate. Tyr could set up a similar zone for foreigners. Or, there could be rules to distinguish a visitor from someone operating/living in Tyr. If freedom is instantaneous, then something would need to explain how trade does not collapse. Are there intermediaries hired at low cost to provide services? Does the city of Tyr make payments to diffray costs, in turn causing a serious problem financially? That could be fun.

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I don't think that's true, historically speaking. Let's look at some examples from real-world history.

One immediately obvious example would be the way American slaves were treated in the North during the years when slavery was legal only in the South. In those cases, slave owners generally did NOT bring slaves into free states, precisely because of the reasons I described above. Northern governments simply would not pursue complaints of slaves refusing to "remain slaves", and courts consistently supported that position. A specific law (the Fugitive Slave Act...there were two, in 1793 and 1850) had to be created to address the issue, and became an enormous point of contention. And it's critical to remember that this was a situation occurring in the same nation; between disparate city-states, there would be even less inclination for one to respect the laws of the other. The Fugitive Slave laws were attempts to keep the country whole (much like the Compromise and other slavery laws)...again, something that wouldn't concern city-states.

The fact is that there is not the kind of economic problem you raise, either. As the example I discussed above shows, it is pretty easy to simply hire laborers for travel into nonslave areas...or to ensure the slave doesn't flee by holding his/her family "hostage". It was a myth propagated by proslavery forces that society without slaves faces inevitable economic collapse, when in reality market forces ensure that there is no labor vacuum when slaves can't be used.

I would also look at modern examples, where domestic servants are essentially kept as slaves by wealthy Saudis and the like, even while travelling in nations with labor protection laws. Like in Tyr, there is no legal recourse if those servants fly the coop and refuse to return. However, it occurs because of the issues I described in my previous post...family members elsewhere, lack of opportunities if the slaves flee, etc.

If your world's Tyr enforces slavery the way you've described it, it's already proven how worthless and corrupt the revolution was--very different than the Tyr portrayed in published campaign materials as a place attempting to build a new society while struggling against regressive forces. And don't get me wrong...that's very cool and very cynical, and may be where Tyr in my world eventually heads...but I think it's a departure rather than a standard.

(note: I edited to add dates)