The Contender

The PCs are fighters on a competitive circuit. Perhaps all of them compete, or maybe only one or two are contenders while the rest are instructors, coaches, trainers, doctors, bodyguards, and friends. Many martial-arts schools enter multiple contestants in a tournament, so fighters could reasonably travel from event to event as a group - and occasionally even face each other in bouts.

The focus of such a campaign is the tournaments. Fights might be legal and regulated or illicit and of dubious safety. Even legal matches can prove deadly, intentionally (as in Roman gladiatorial contests) or accidentally (as in modern boxing). Illegal events in the real world generally feature lower-quality opponents - the desperate fight illegally, while the talented fight in the big leagues for the real money. In a cinematic game, the opposite is true: underground death matches attract only the best!

The activities that dominate the time in between tournaments depend on the setting and the realism level, and might suggest a whole different theme. Examples include training, working at jobs that use fighting skills outside the ring, and fending off rivals or money-hungry crime syndicates in order to survive to the next bout. Historical contenders moved in a variety of social circles, too, from the lowest to the highest. Roman gladiators, Japanese sumotori, and American boxers were all hired as bodyguards, desired as party guests, and retained as martial-arts instructors.

This theme is surprisingly portable across history, and allows for travel and adventure. Pankrationists and boxers traveled between events in ancient Greece. Indian wrestlers and American bare-knuckle boxers might compete almost anywhere in the world in an early 20th-century game. Mixed martial artists and Lethwei (p. 186) fighters would compete in full-contact matches worldwide in a 21st-century campaign. South America's vale tudo matches are an ideal venue for a modern-day game.

Rocky and Raging Bull are both excellent fictional treatments of this theme - and see The Blood of Heroes for a postapocalypse twist. For real-life inspiration, the best places to look are the professional boxing, kickboxing, sumo, and wrestling circuits, and the various MMA championships. The rules, format, and prize money for such contests are widely available, making it easy to stage a realistic modern-day game. Historical records for some older events are available, too - sumo records go back centuries.

... what kind of powers do you have? Do you use them for good, or for awesome?

- Strong Bad, Some Kinda Robot

Boxing Simplified

Boxing Simplified

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