Booming thunder and flashing lightning accompany epic keyboard music, presumably written by a Bard that looks a lot like John Tesh.
Massive dwarven runes drop from the sky, spelling out the title of everyone's favorite Saturday afternoon entertainment: BATTLE ROYALE!
The thunderclouds clear, and we pan overtop of our stage, four buildings with a single door, two on either side of a deep river, featuring two parallel bridges. Four towers bracket the arena in its corners, with their battlements accessible by stairs. As the theme song builds to a crescendo, MAGRIM, the overseer of the Dwarven afterlife, appears in a flash of lightning, looming over the stadium as a giant would over a bowl of chili.
MAGRIM: It's another beautiful day at Droskar arena, home of Droskar, god of sufficient toil and eventual success. Welcome to the World of the Gods network, where we break all the rules for your entertainment. Party allegiances? GONE! Character Alignment? GONE! The fourth wall?
THE CROWD, A BUNCH OF DRUNKEN DWARVES: (cheering) BROKEN!
MAGRIM: I'm joined, as always, by my younger brother, TORAG, Creator of the Mortal Dwarven Race!
TORAG: That's right Magrim, and boy, do we have an exciting matchup tonight. We're going to have cat-people clawing at each other, a big ogre running around with a club, a guy that goes swimming... there's so many ways this could go.
MAGRIM: I want to remind our viewers that none of the contestants will have any conscious recollection of this, and that Battle Royale is brought to you by Caltrops. "Oh my God, I've exhausted all other options- wait, what about Caltrops." Caltrops, "So that's what those things are called."
Let's get right down into the action, first off, we're going to see Mirna, a human fighter, jump OFF the roof of building one.
TORAG: I like the move. Show 'em you're on the house, jump right off. Did she go left? Right? Is there some unseen secret window? Nobody knows.
MAGRIM: Next up, Konrad the Cleric! Pretty sure this guy was part Dwarf before he turned into this Cat-clawed thing. He'll hide behind his own house at house 4.
TORAG: Right you are, Konrad played Dwarf in college for Olaffson's Smithy. This guy has a TON of hit points, and the other guys know it.
MAGRIM: Darwynn the Cat-Bard flies up tower 3, Davian the Rogue dives into the river, and Gumbach the Ogre is run right up to the door of Tower 3. Folks we are underway!
Gumbach the Magical Silver Ogre kicks open the door to Tower 3 and is up the ladder! Off to a fast start! He's gonna get a good shot in on Darwynn, She smacks him in the face with both claws!
TORAG: That could get infected, Magrim.
MAGRIM: She drops off the side of the tower, clearly wanting nothing to do with old Gumbach.
TORAG: I don't know about you, Mags, but I like to be ABOVE an Ogre. I think we're gonna see a mess here.
MAGRIM: Right you are, Tor, he's jumping, and coming down fast, and makes HUGE contact with the club. Darwynn's hit hard twice before anybody else has seen action.
TORAG: OH HO! BOOM GOES THE HAMMER! You don't get under an ogre, Mags! You don't do it!
MAGRIM: If I had a nickel for every time you told me that. Tough opening for Dar-Wynn and Cat-Bards in general- this is their debut as a mutant race here on Battle Royale, and she's gotta want to stay in the fight.
Let's zoom in now on Davian the Rogue. In true burglar form, he's going to head out of the river and into house 4. We're going to see a trap inspection here- Tor, do you like the use of time?
TORAG: I do not. With the exception of "Awesome Crossbow" day, these boxes are just going to be potions. It's a rookie move.
MAGRIM: Darwynn has since flown away from combat, and is atop tower 1, leaving Gumbach with nobody to play with.
TORAG: Oh, Ogres do not like that. He's gonna get mean! Look at him BOUNDING over the bridge towards Konrad!
MAGRIM: Who has become engaged in combat with Mirna. They are going at it toe-to-toe and are NOT looking out for Ogre intervention. Gumbach... is going to veer off into House 2 and loot the potion. This Ogre is planning ahead!
TORAG: Not normally a skill the Ogres demonstrate. My Ogre God friends actually forgot to buy tickets today.
MAGRIM: Well I hope they're enjoying the game from home, perhaps with an Ice Cold DWARVENBRAU from Arcana Brewing! DWARVENBRAU: "Find YOUR umlaut."
TORAG: I had one while you were reading that plug, Mags. *BEEEEELCH!*
MAGRIM: Back to our good friend, Gumbach, who is drinking some potions. He had a little dose of cat-scratch-fever early in the fight.
TORAG: I'm allergic. I could not deal with that.
MAGRIM: The whole gang seems to have teamed up on Konrad, here. He's taking big whacks from Mirna, Gumbach, and Davian. Davian is going to get what looks like a critical hit, but we're going to hear from the judges.
TORAG: That arrow found a gap in the armor, Mags. I think that's a crit.
MAGRIM: And we've got word that this WILL be a critical hit- things look grim for Konrad.
TORAG: I don't care if he does look like a cat. You don't like to see a Dwarf in that condition.
MAGRIM: Gumbach is going to step in here and finish Konrad off. I tell you, he went down, but it took the whole party to do it. I think that's Dwarven bravery.
TORAG: Completely agree. You got a guy that can heal himself, huge hit point pool to work with, got his own cat claws? I think that's respect, is what that is.
MAGRIM: We'll have to see if that pays off, Tor- Konrad looked great by the numbers, but the biggest bag of tricks is probably Darwynn, who sat most of that fight out. Did the team make the right call, going for Konrad?
TORAG: Time will tell.
MAGRIM: Not everybody on the same page, here, as Gumbach is attacking Mirna, and Darwynn is attacking Gumbach. Davian is left alone to shoot arrows out of his hut- not many of which have really made a dent since the earlier critical.
TORAG: I don't know if the guy is a bad shot, or if he just doesn't like arrows. He is getting those things as far away from him as he can.
MAGRIM: Mirna is down, and Gumbach is clearly upset about the misread earlier. I think he thought Darwynn was going to help him, but he is not thrilled about that exchange.
TORAG: No way she misses that call, Mags- the Ogre was the threat.
MAGRIM: Davian and Darwynn have nodded at each other, suggesting a more formal alliance than we've seen so far today. They both make a break for Tower 2.
TORAG: Leaving Gumbach to loot potions. This guy's in for the long haul.
MAGRIM: He does eventually wrap up the potion drinking and get over to Tower 2, and we will find out what happens.
TORAG: The last 3 vie for the prize! Valhalla awaits!!
MAGRIM: That's Valhalla, home of all great warrior gods, where your combat vacation fights back! Whether you want to die a great warrior, or just vacation like one, make your next home Valhalla.
TORAG: That place is just great. I took my family there last week, we had meads, beers, liquors, wines, ales, stouts, moonshines, whiskeys, beers mixed with coffee that made us hop around like fat, bearded penguins... I love it. MAGRIM: It's going to be Gumbach or Darwynn, as we approach the half time mark, as Gumbach has knocked Davian off the tower and out of this round. He is down.
TORAG: HA! He went limp like a lily when the Ogre punted him off that tower! Oh GLORIOUS COMBAT!
MAGRIM: This may wrap up sooner than we thought, Tor, Darwynn has landed what I'm certain is a critical hit. Gumbach drops, and we get to interview Darwynn at the half. Darwynn, you ran around a lot, but you had a great strategy. What are we doing for you now that you've won the half?
DARWYNN: I'm a master brewer and I can't drink. I think I'm going to want that back, if possible. Beer turns to ash in my mouth, and that's not really where I'm at in my life.
MAGRIM: Ok, most people get a sword or a hat or something, so that's a tall order.
TORAG: TALL! It's so tall. I don't know about this.
MAGRIM: We're going to think about it as we go to commercial- John Tesh the Bard, take us out!
MAGRIM: That's Grumpy's Healing Potions! Grumpy's, for when your armor runs out of class! Available in fine stores.
TORAG: As always, we have revived our contestants and reset for round two- and we always thank our legendary dwarven clerics in person for that. GRUSTAV, how is the family? I hear you just had your forty-seventh child!
GRUSTAV: Is great Torag! I have so many dwarf baby, I get into pretty creative phase with naming. For example, new baby dwarf is "ELF." I'm all "Hey ELF, get back over here," and nearby Elves all jump and look scared!
MAGRIM: Thanks for the revivals, Grustav, and you may want to stick to the healing and let somebody else name the kids.
We are back to the action, in Battle Royale round two. Now while the combatants won't actively remember any of this afterwards, we do erase the memories between rounds, as well, but you never clear out everything. Some of these fighters are definitely showing signs of adaptation between rounds. Darwynn flies to a tower, as that did work for her last time. Gumbach is playing a bit less aggressively this round, and has retreated behind a wall. Walls have been added to change things up in round two, and we've traded our four towers for one big one in the center.
TORAG: He's got a cheesy grin on his face, Mag- I think this Ogre's up to something.
MAGRIM: We have seen some strange tactics come out of our round twos, haven't we. Now this is unusual, Mirna's starting position was over the river, this time, and she cannot swim. She is not really charging out of the gate, Tor.
TORAG: You know, you wear a lot of metal to these things, Mag- it's just not a good swimsuit.
MAGRIM: Davian is headed into a house, and loots another potion. He saw that work for Gumbach last time, and he can dodge punches. Is an Ogre's strategy going to work for a Rogue?
TORAG: I doubt it, Mags- the Rogue game relies heavily on allies to distract people. It's great early on, but he's going to have a tough time closing it out at the end.
MAGRIM: Looks like Davian and Gumbach are running around the wall, one on each side, and I'm not sure either one sees the other one. You have to hope Davian's got more brains than this big Ogre-
TORAG: Careful there Mags, we got a lot of Ogres watching the show.
MAGRIM: No offense to our Ogre viewers out there, if not for you, I have no idea who's dig our moats.
TORAG: You are going to get us in trouble.
MAGRIM: While Mirna is out of the water and running toward a house, Darwynn is buffing up!
TORAG: Big magic from the small cat. I see Bull Strength, Bark skin, and Mirror Image, and not exactly efficiently. I think if the others weren't distracting each other, she might not get those off.
MAGRIM: Totally agree, Tor, the magical music of the bard sounds a lot like my cousin's garage band, and one of them plays a live mule.
TORAG: I dug the entire B side off of "Mulein' Around." It's the essential Mule Boys.
MAGRIM: He knows you're a fan, actually. I'm gonna get you a shirt. In the mean time, Konrad has opened up house four, and is fighting a spectre. They learned these houses had potions in them in round one, but in round two, we really want to double down, and we throw in some ghoulie ghosts.
TORAG: I think these guys came from the Underworld, Mags. They have an ethereal shell but still take a whack with a hammer like anybody else.
MAGRIM: Konrad wraps things up with the spectre, and does wind up with his potion after all. TORAG: I will NOT get into how we stuff the potion bottle into the spectre.
MAGRIM: Probably for the best. We didn't see this much in round one, but what we've got now is a fire trap going off right next to Gumbach! These things really up the ante, because nobody likes being on fire.
TORAG: KABOOM! Flaming Ogre! MAGRIM: Sounds like a drink I'd have over at your bar, Tor! I think Davian has also figured out that some of these houses have spectres in them. You're going to see him running full retreat towards the river, and I am not sure he saw it there. This guy sure does like water, Tor.
TORAG: He doesn't look like he's swimming as well as he was in round 1.
MAGRIM: So this is NOT what I thought I'd be saying next, but Gumbach, the Silver Ogre, who was in the area, is reaching into the river and is fishing around for Davian! I think he's got his arm!
TORAG: I don't think either of them are in a great spot, right now, Mags. Ogre's on the ground, Davian's underwater, it's just not pretty.
MAGRIM: So to make matters worse, it looks like Mirna AND the spectre from house 1 are approaching and are going to take some free shots at Gumbach!
TORAG: Mirna has teamed up with the spectre! Davian's still underwater! This is like a catfish noodling broke out at a bar fight during a horror show!
MAGRIM: Darwynn, still buff, buff, buffing away atop the tower- she is not getting involved. I don't think the others see this.
TORAG: Not a scratch on her. We may have to honor her wish if she can pull this off.
MAGRIM: So Mirna has reconsidered and looks like she'll attack the spectre, as Gumbach finally pulls Davian out of the water.
TORAG: THE ROGUE SHALL DIE BY HIS HAND, VERILY!
MAGRIM: Wait, that is NOT the plan- it looks like Gumbach is trying to smile and nod at Davian, and that Davian is horribly misinterpreting it! He is shrieking at the top of his lungs like a little girl!
TORAG: Not the face you want to put forward when working with an Ogre.
MAGRIM: Yeah, fortunately, he's fast, though, as we see him pop up from prone and take a swing at Gumbach.
TORAG: People skills, Mags. You gotta have people skills if you want to play politics.
MAGRIM: Konrad and Darwynn have both independently buffed themselves up quite a bit. The play against Gumbach is going in their favor.
TORAG: Oh, Konrad remembers that Critical Hit. He may not know where he is or what day it is, but that arrow ticked him off. He's flinging acid arrows right at Davian, and charging into combat!
MAGRIM: So Gumbach is going to try to get up here, and with three adversaries surrounding him, has made his final play of the day.
TORAG: Ogre down.
MAGRIM: And spectre goes down, as Mirna makes this battle royale just a little less spooky.
TORAG: May these brave ancestors rest in peace, until next week, at the same time and channel.
MAGRIM: The combatants are at a critical point here, and Konrad wants to go after Darwynn. Davian, on the other hand, is making an appeal to Mirna- he apparently does not want to play with the kitty cats by himself.
TORAG: I think Darwynn might have just bought herself some more time to buff up, she is practically glowing.
MAGRIM: Right now, DarWynn is helping Davian and Mirna take on Konrad. I think Konrad is frustrated, seeing the big alliance boulder start teetering toward him.
TORAG: They should listen to the Dwarf Cat! Sure it's a cat, but throw "Dwarf" in front of it, and I trust him!
MAGRIM: And the usually reliable Darwynn has missed several times in a row- and get this- the BRACERS she is wearing are taunting her!
TORAG: Oh, this is a family show, Mags.
MAGRIM: Maybe we'll knock those cursed things off for her if she can pick up another W here today.
TORAG: Has to be a heavy burden on the dating scene. Arm bands that ridicule your performance?
MAGRIM: I get enough of that from the wife, Tor! We're going to see the potions start coming into play here, as Davian, Konrad, and Mirna are all taking breaks from the fight and slamming down a cold Grumpy's Healing. I tell you, is that stuff magic or what?
TORAG: There's really no sport without safety. These athletes are out there giving it their all, and our state of the art health potions protect them from...
MAGRIM: A GIANT FIREBALL! Davian has been scorched! He and Mirna are chasing Konrad down!
TORAG: We're going to revive them, this is fine.
MAGRIM: Konrad is just going to tee off here on Mirna, and he's got a critical. Man, she is backing off and trying to drink another Grumpy's as fast as she can unscrew the top, Tor.
TORAG: WILL THE ROGUE UPHOLD THE ALLIANCE?
MAGRIM: He will, and he's into Konrad for another critical hit. I tell you, this guy is not that accurate but he's drilled Konrad twice today, and Konrad is going to have to heal himself. OH NO, A BACKFIRE!
TORAG: That's not what you want in a healing spell, and he doesn't look good.
MAGRIM: That WILL do it for Konrad, as he has magicked himself to death, not giving the Davian/Mirna alliance the satisfaction.
TORAG: An honorable exit.
MAGRIM: Davian's into the potions himself, and he and Mirna are running back to the tower, where Darwynn has retreated. And she is BUFFED.
TORAG: I'm not sure they can beat her together. I think she's played them.
MAGRIM: You may be right, they are up the tower and into combat, though, so we will find out...
TORAG: The flash of steel! The ripping claws! THIS is a Battle Royale!
MAGRIM: Darwynn, big claws to the face of Davian, and he is not looking good. He is hard to hit but can't take much punishment.
TORAG: Mirna's looking like she's got a crisis of conscience going on. The last Davian plan didn't go well, and she knows it!
MAGRIM: And that may do it for Davian, as Mirna has spun around and looks to want to make this a two-way fight between herself and Darwynn.
TORAG: He'll make his case, Mags, but I think she's had it. Mirna is hitting him, Darwynn is hitting him, he's done for.
MAGRIM: And the lifeless body of Davian Dawntracker will fall from the tower, and take us down to two combatants. He had a lot of plans that looked ok on paper, Tor, but ultimately the numbers went against him, as did his ally.
TORAG: Any given Saturday. You just gotta pick up the pieces and get back out there.
MAGRIM: And we're going to see a quick finish, here, as Darwynn's next shots will take down Mirna! It may not have mattered whether Mirna and Davian stuck together or not. I think Darwynn is punching too hard.
TORAG: The combat prowess of an enchanted bard-cat, and a voice that could easily put the lead singer of Mule Boys out of a job. I love the story!
MAGRIM: Let's go down to the field, as Tor and I will probably have to give this lady her beer hobby back.
TORAG: It's just cruel, anyway. You can't take away a dwarf's beer, even if they are some kind of cat creature.
DARWYNN: Come on, that's two. That's gotta do it. I'm ready to drink some beer again. You said there was a prize!
MAGRIM: Indeed, champion of the Battle Royale. We shall restore your appetite for drink, and get rid of the cursed bracers.
TORAG: Kids do watch the show.
Darwynn runs off to the beer tent as the dream fades away into daylight, where our characters sleep safely, none the wiser that they could be an instrument of entertainment for sarcastic gods on their weekends.