Mar 7, 2012

Organising Pit Fighting in WFRP 2e Part 1

So we played the third session of Thousand Thrones on Sunday, in which we finally arrived in Marienburg. Our group consists at this point of a barber-surgeon with amnesia, an apprentice celestial wizard played by me, a halfling tomb robber, an elf rogue, a squire and a pit fighter. The initial set up left us fairly poor, and so upon arriving in Marienburg, we set out to make some money. In particular, the pit fighter looked for pit fights, found one, was mauled in it, lost a fate point in the process and there was some discussion about whether the current set up for pit fighting is viable, both as a thing in the world, and a fun thing that a player would want their character to do.

The set-up the referees had put in place was the following:

The matches are set up using a Swiss ladder between all the pit fighters who register. In practice this means that one must win in at least three fights to win the day. It costs 1GC to register for the day, regardless of how many matches one fights in. Odds are determined once matches are assigned at referee discretion (in game, the operators of the pit set them). Fighters may wager on themselves, and winners will be paid 1d5 gold crowns for winning the first round, 1d10 for the second, and another 1d10 for the third, plus the option to enter the weekly tournament.

Fighters have a cut-man and a hype-man. The hype-man places bets on behalf of his team, and encourages the crowd to bet more money, which may either swing the odds or improve the gate. In practice, for each degree of success on a Charm test by someone with the Public Speaking talent, the payment the winning pit fighter gets is increased by 1GC. The hype man may also encourage the crowd to throw money into the ring at the end of the fight with a Charm test. The cut-man is a healer who patches the pit fighter up between fights, allowing them to continue, and who can rush out onto the field after a fight to deal with critical results.

Fights themselves are handled with three opposed rolls: a weapon skill test, a strength test and an agility test, in that order. The first to get two successes wins the fight. Ties are rerolled. The loser of each test takes damage after that test is failed, which may also cause them to surrender and withdraw.

The goal of the system was to abstract and speed up what was originally intended to be a one-man sideshow (the roles of cut-man and hype-man were added once other PCs expressed interest in assisting the pit fighter). The problem is that by negating all the various talents and skills that a character uses to avoid damage in WFRP 2e, pit fighting became incredibly deadly, and it was unclear how anyone could survive long enough to get through three rounds without being killed.

In the car ride after the game, one of the referees and I discussed some possible changes, which I decided to write up in a systematic fashion. The system I propose here is intended to satisfy several criteria:

1) Provide a method to establish what opponents a pit fighter faces and the odds on each combatant
2) Avoid requiring pit fighters to fight multiple times in the same day except on special, dramatically interesting occasions
3) To expand pit fighting in such a way that it becomes a viable and interesting, if highly dangerous, career.

1) The Hierarchy

All pit fighters in a large city like Marienburg are graded from 1 to 10 by the Pit Fighter's Guild in conjunction with the individual arenas who report wins and losses to them. "1" means an absolute rookie who has never fought before. "10" is the champion of the pits. The grades are organised into 2 tiers: 1-5 and 6-10. Only fighters within the same tier will be paired with one another in "fair" fights.

All pit fighters start their careers graded as "1".  If they leave the city their ranking is in, or do not fight at least once between one regional tournament or another, they are considered to have retired or abandoned their rank.

Ranks 1-5 are essentially "pit fodder". Fights are between individual combatants with real weapons, and may result in death. Fights end when one opponent is too badly injured and withdraws, or with the death or incapacitation of one of the combatants. Ranks 1-5 have an unlimited number of members.

To progress to the next rank, a pit fighter must win a number of victories equal to (the next rank - 1). So to go from rank 3 to rank 4 requires 3 wins. The placing wins for each rank are separate and non-cumulative, so to get to rank 5 a fighter must have won 10 fights. Losses count for nothing. Wins must be accumulated within the time between one regional tournament and another (essentially over the course of a single year).

Ranks 6-10 are professionals. To move from rank 5 to rank 6 requires the pit fighter to win a weekly tournament. Professionals at this level still fight one another in one-on-one fights, but they also participate in a variety of showy games, like team fights, fights against beasts, and the executions of prisoners who have been sentenced to death (pirates, traitors, heretics, etc.). Most fights are to the first critical, though this may still cause death.

Progression through the ranks in this tier is done at tournaments.

2) Matches

Registering at a pit as a combatant costs 1 GC, and the registration is good for one day. A pit fighter may fight as many matches as they please during that day, though most fight only one, except at tournaments. The roles of the hype man and cut man in the fight are unchanged.

Matches are played out as regular combats. This actually makes them less deadly than the current system we are using, since hits can be dodged or parried. This makes 2H weapons less dominant and less likely to get Ulric's Fury.

Winning a match brings 1d10GC, modified by the hype man's roll.

3) Odds

Higher ranked fighters are always favoured over lower ranked ones. The odds of any given payout are [(difference between the two fighters' ranks) x 0.5] +1 to 1, with the higher number being the payout on the lower ranked fighter. Fights between fighters of the same rank payout at even odds.

e.g. A rank 1 fighter challenges a rank 4 fighter. The payout if he wins is 2.5 the value of the bet.

3 (the difference in the ranks) x 0.5 = 1.5
1.5 + 1 = 2.5

This system keeps payouts reasonable (it represents the house taking a part of every bet).

Fighters may bet on themselves, but not their opponents.

Next up, the tournament system.