Dragon Awards Gladiatorial Face Off – Setting the Stage

A while back I noted that my friends Declan Finn and Brian Niemeier both got nominated for the upcoming first annual Dragon Award in the same category. Being a good and loyal friend, this forced me into a conundrum: who to vote for? There is only one way to settle this – gladiatorial combat! The authors have now submitted their champions.

Declan Finn

HonorAtStakeAmanda Colt. Vampire.

100 years old, give or take. Russian. Her CV is extensive. She’s served as a spy and a soldier on multiple continents and wars. She’s also Catholic, religious, and has alternate blood supplies. She has mastered more combat systems than even she remembers, if only because of professional interest, and she has the time on her hands. She’s smarter than the average bear, and has several bachelor’s degrees, and a smattering of Masters degrees here and there. She hasn’t bothered with any PhDs that I know of, but characters sometimes don’t tell you everything.

Her powers are standard vampire: seriously strong, seriously fast, and has teeth. At this point, she can turn to mist, but probably can’t take her clothes with her. She can become a rat or a bat, or a wolf. She is eye-blink fast when she wants to be (as in: she’s in front of you, you blink, she’s behind you breaking your neck). She is allergic to sunlight, wood, and silver. If she’s set on fire, she can put it out, but she has to do it fast, or she goes up like flash paper. Her exposure to low-level sunlight won’t kill her, but direct sunlight will burn her, and she has seconds to get to cover. Religious objects will not hurt her, because of her moral / ethical / alignment. And of course, cutting her into little pieces or cutting her head off will kill her.

Brian Niemeier

Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Astlin Tremore, Souldancer of Fire.

The Souldancer of Fire resembles a slight teenage girl with shoulder-length, deep red hair and incandescent blue eyes. Clad in asymmetrical leather armor haphazardly fashioned from the tanned hides of otherworldly beasts and strewn with metal fasteners, rings, and buckles.

In truth, a souldancer’s outward appearance is merely a shell Worked to contain the merged interdimensional rift/soul of its true being.

Special Abilities:

  • Healed by elemental/magical fire at a 2:1 fire damage to HP recovered ratio.
  • Cannot be healed by healing spells/ordinary medical treatment.
  • Immune to all poisons and disease.
  • Immune to natural cold.
  • Doesn’t need to eat or drink, but still requires sleep.
  • Acid and Electricity Resistance 21
  • Magic and Power Resistance 26
  • Takes double damage from magical cold and water attacks.
  • Flame Cascade x1/day: fire burst centered on the Souldancer in a 10′ radius rising 30′ high. 11D6 fire damage. Targets can save for half.
  • Fire Portal: If a Fire Souldancer dies, everyone nearby has a very short period of time (1D6 rounds) to flee from the area as the souldancer’s body begins to come apart. Once the body has completely broken apart, a screaming gate to the Plane of Fire opens, releasing a level of heat that can only be found in the heart of a volcano.
    Everything in 30 feet of the portal takes 20D6 fire damage, this damage is reduced by 1D6 for every five feet beyond the 30 foot point. This opening is not merely a portal, but the soul of the souldancer, continually torn and twisted in pure metaphysical agony. The souldancer cannot be brought back to life by anything short of a Wish, and this agony will continue until some way is found to close the portal. Even after the portal is closed, the souldancer still cannot be brought back to ‘life’ by anything short of a Wish.
  • Insanity: Astlin suffers from severe post-traumatic stress, as well as a grab bag of psychoses and emotional disorders.

The First Challenge!

barbed_devil_tinyThe arena goes dark, lit only by tiny torches ringing its vast combat field and the twinkling of the stars above. The audience quiets in anticipation. Bones of fallen gladiators litter the field, punctuated occasionally by the random piece of arms and armor. Our champion steps onto the field, ready for combat, and they erupt in raucous cheers

A dark, robed figure stands above all on a floating dais: the Gamelord. He makes a gesture with his hand and the audience goes silent. The ground rumbles. Across the arena from our champion smoke billows out from below. A creature appears. From the tip of its lashing tail to the serrated features of its fang-filled visage, this fiery-eyed sentinel bristles with barbs. Hell itself has come alive. It drools and snaps its jaws. It sees our champion and lashes out, straining to reach her. An invisible force holds it at bay.

The Gamemaster raises his arm and the audience goes wild. His face remains hidden under a thick hood, yet our champion can feel his malicious grin through the cloth.

“Begin!” he calls out. The monster moves, as if invisible bonds have broken.

The first challenge is a Barbed Devil inside a darkened, star-and-torchlit arena at night.

Sentinels of the vaults of Hell, jailers of the darkest souls, and living weapons of the infernal forges, barbed devils—known as hamatulas to diabolists—enforce the strictures of the damned and safeguard the nefarious works of greater devils. A hamatula enjoys the feel of warm blood on its spines, and prefers to leap into melee when presented with an opportunity for battle.

Hamatulas are collectors and organizers, and are favorite allies of greedy summoners as they often bring with them tempting treasures from Hell’s vaults or know the paths to deadly riches. Left to their own devices, the lairs of these devils often bear the pierced trophies of their past victims, hung like perverse bug collections on bloodied walls. Most barbed devils stand upward of 7 feet tall and weigh 300 pounds, though their leanly muscled bodies appear much larger due to the constantly growing and adjusting spines that protrude from their razor-sharp bodies.

Both champions face the same challenge, one at a time. The fights will be posted in the order in which they are received. Authors are encouraged to be creative, over-the-top, and above all awesome. The Gamemaster reserves the right to require edits to combat under the standard Gamemaster “no, it really happened this way” clause. The more entertaining, exciting, and awesome the feat is, the more likely it is to be approved. Stats of the creature are available at the link in standard D20ish format, but there is absolutely no requirement for the combat to stick to D20 rules. Descriptions of D20 rules are discouraged; they make for great gaming but boring reading.


If you enjoy these characters, please remember to stop by and patronize the authors by buying their books. And please consider both of them as worthy contenders in the upcoming Dragon Awards!

Special Note: Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer is currently free and will remain so until the end of the week. You can’t beat that!

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