Feats of Athletics (or Traps) in Game Worlds

This weekend I was watching the CrossFit Games Regional competitions – mostly the South contests, but a little of the Pacific and California ones too. If you have never seen a crossfit workout, it usually combines Olympic lifting and gymnastics moves with the intent of improving whole-body movement and capability. During the competition this weekend we saw jumping, climbing, running, rowing, and weight-lifting done with an amazing level of skill by a wide range of athletes – from their 20s to their 30s.

crossfit-games-2016If you look at your traditional heroes in a roleplaying world, they tend to be late teens to mid-30s, so crossfit becomes a bit of a real world analog (except for weapons training) to what many of our characters may be able to achieve in our games. And it made me wonder… Why don’t we see more competitions of brains, brawn, and overall athleticism in our campaign worlds?

The simplest reason is that our heroes are too busy to train for hours a day… If you look at Olympic-class athletes, they focus on training as a full time job. Many of the athletes who participated in the regionals this weekend also focus on fitness, sometimes as gym owners or trainers – but also some modern-day heroes in the form of police or fire rescue roles who use crossfit training to keep up the high level of physical capability they require in their everyday jobs.

It got me thinking… How can we use something like the concept of a “joust” or “Olympic games” or a Bloodsport-style competition where fighters of all styles and capabilities can compete to see who is the best?

So I’ve come up with a three-table generator to help come up with a few ideas…

medieval-tournamentFirst, a d4 tells us what quality we’re testing:

  1. Strength
  2. Speed
  3. Agility
  4. Endurance

Next, we determine how it’s being tested with a d8:

  1. Time
  2. Weight
  3. Obstacle
  4. Size
  5. Distance
  6. Balance
  7. Grace
  8. Flexibility

And lastly, we figure out the type of terrain in which it’s being tested with a d6:

  1. Grass
  2. Water
  3. Sand
  4. Stone
  5. Earth
  6. Air

So how might these qualities come into play?

  • (Strength/Time/Sand) Warriors compete to push a 500 lb. block of stone 100 meters down a sandy beach. First to the end of the course wins.
  • (Speed/Obstacles/Stone) Thieves from around the world climb up a sheer mountain cliff dotted with difficult spots they must move around.
  • (Agility/Balance/Air) Gymnasts are judged on style and difficulty as they cross a 50 foot tightrope and perform death-defying feats of acrobatics.
  • (Endurance/Distance/Grass) The fastest warriors in the world are brought together to see who is truly the quickest among them, running through a grassy inland sea.

Though any of these could be used as an actual competition setting, they could also be used to create unique traps to ensnare the unwary. Consider these:

  • 18777610482_41fa6d7555_b(Strength/Weight/Water) Before you is a 25 foot gap that seems to be filled with water that comes to about 10 feet of the cliff face you are standing on. It stretches straight up and down as far as the eye can see. But dark shapes below hint at something beneath the surface. (GM: A stone block 15 feet at the bottom must be moved to rest on a giant button. Any PC who moves the block on top of the button will make a hidden door open that leads to stairs down, across beneath the water, and up the other side. The button will slowly rise to push the block off its perch until the doors once again close…)
  • (Speed/Size/Earth) This room is filled with loose, loamy black earth. As you step inside, you trigger a maze of spikes with extend and retract from below. Every 6 seconds, a set of spikes extrudes from the floor and the old set (if visible) retreats below with a thud that shakes the earth to hide any possible marks made by the spikes retreating beneath the earth again.
  • (Agility/Flexibility/Air) As you step into this room, a number of poles extend from the walls at random intervals. On the other side, the only other exit is a door about 25 feet off the ground. Every 6 seconds, a set of poles extends from the walls while the last set retracts.
  • (Endurance/Grace/Sand) With your first step into this room, a square stone rises from the floor and sand begins pouring from openings in the walls. If you step on the current stone, it begins to descend and the sand stops flowing until the stone is flush with the floor and another stone rises elsewhere beginning the cycle once more. A series of doors on the other side promise possible exits, but only one actually opens. As the sand rises, it becomes harder to open the doors and hold them open…

You could get really devious, so I’ll stop there. I’ve already endangered more than a few gaming parties around the world by presenting their GMs with more evil ways to kill them. 🙂

Let me know what you come up with – I would be curious to see what kinds of challenges you create!

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