Dragonbowl is a 306 page adventure that consists of nine, neatly-delineated chapters (fully bookmarked, for ease of reference). Here is a breakdown of what to expect. (Please note: the following info is for DMs ONLY as it contains multiple spoilers. If you’re a player, send this link to your DM or buy them a well-earned present!).
Chapter 1: Introducing Dragonbowl. A history of the festival, plus adventure hooks, a poster handout and an Adventure Flowchart to help DMs plan the adventure.
Chapter 2: Let’s Get This Party Started. An investigation reveals up to three ways of reaching the Underbelly Cavern from above ground: The Old Mining Tunnels, the Sea Cave System and a Secret Teleportation Circle, after which the party can register for the Blood Games and get orientated. The arena action warms up with the Blood Challenges (Stirge Shooting, Lava Leaping, Halfling Tossing and Beast Chase) and the chance to win Gold, Silver or Bronze Dragonbowl Rings, after which the Opening Jamboree provides players with plenty of social interaction and the opportunity to get entangled with the festival’s showrunners and intriguers, as well as fellow gladiators.
Chapter 3: The Showrunners. This chapter introduces the personnel of Blood Games Incorporated, the company behind Dragonbowl, along with their own secret ambitions, plans and love interests. Includes Power Structure diagram and original artwork of the Games Master, the Machiavellian mind behind the Games (and the inventor behind many of the technical wonders for sale at the ArcTech Expo).
Chapter 4: The Intriguers. We meet Dragonbowl’s VIP spectators and other schemers, and learn about their diverse agendas, as they take the opportunity to make shady deals with like-minded ‘business’ people. Some of these speculators may offer sponsorship to promising gladiatorial teams.
Chapter 5: The Gladiators. 16 fun and fantastic fighting outfits to pitch against your party in the arena. Choose your favourite four teams from between the likes of the Ghostmakers, Kiss of Death, Twisted Firestarters, Dandy War Dolls, Scimitar Sisters, Apocalypse Drow, Shifty Blades of Gray and Reborn to be Wild. Each team is made from familiar/official stat blocks (from the Monster Manual, Volo’s Guide to Monsters etc), but with their own unique ‘Team Features’ that will challenge players and provide genuinely deadly encounters. Furthermore, each team comes with their own back story, motivations and potential ‘entanglements’. (Each gladiatorial quartet also has a 5th member for 5-player games).
Chapter 6: The Rules of Engagement. This chapter details how to run the Blood Games tournament. Dragonbowl is a spectator event, meaning certain spells are blacklisted (spells that impede fans’ views, banish opposition or summon allies are forbidden, for example – it’s all in the contract the players signed in Chapter 2!), while DMs will learn how the arena’s monster pits and other special effects work, and how sponsors can aid their teams with ‘Healing Potion Drops’. There are also rules on how to ‘work the crowd’. Features original Arena Battlemap.
Chapter 7: Locations. This chapter features over 30 original locations to explore, each with something unique to do there, and many with their own Location Encounters table and related ‘entanglements’. Key locations include:
- Dragonbowl Arena. More than just a fighting pit, the arena is home to Flame Bets, Player Lounge, Infirmary/Morgue and the Dragonbowl Gift Shop, as well as a basement level with dungeons, bestiary, surgical laboratory, and saferoom. Original maps, detailing all three levels of the stadium.
- Dragonbowl Airship. This floating behemoth is host to several VIP parties and also features in the Sky Heist entanglement and in the Xanathar Attacks climactic battle. Includes original maps and stunning 3D art.
- ArcTech Expo. A trade fair of the latest arcane technologies with over 30 new magical items for sale, from flying disks to firearms.
- Festival Hall. The best place to mingle with Dragonbowl’s rough and ready crowd, and engage in fisticuffs and drinking contests.
- Dragonbowl Casino. Two floors of gambling and social opportunities, with rules on how to play five different games, from Waterdeep Hold’em to Dragon Roulette.
- House of Poetry. Players can enjoy a touch of culture and eroticism at this louche den of verse.
- Dragonbowl Funfair. Featuring five different tests of legerdemain, strength and resilience, with rules for determining the outcomes.
- Mystic Ink. A chance to get inked with one or more of 15 original magical tattoos, each available in different sizes (from common tattoos with one power, to legendary tattoos that bestow five increasingly potent abilities).
- Hall of Champions. Players can pay their respects to former victors, while asking for the divine blessing of Tempus. God of Combat. Includes original two floor map, with hidden basement shrine to the Dead Three.
- Dread Dinos Hatchery & Vivarium. Adventurers can shop for dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes, freshly imported from Chult. (Or attempt to free them!).
- Port Dragonbowl. A great place to party on the shores of Cave Fisher Lake with the riff raff, or to meet intriguers at the Mermaid & Myrmidon tavern or Swinging Lantern speakeasy.
Chapter 8: Events. This chapter takes over where Chapter 2 left off, detailing all the special events that take place during the Blood Games gladiatorial tournament. Namely the Sky Party, the Ermageddon Festival, the Dance of the Dead Parade, the Games Master’s Live Address, Closing Ceremony / Crowning of Champions and the Bloodwizer Blowout Closing Party (the latter is sure to be a peaceful affair!).
Chapter 9: End Game. The winners of the Blood Games are invited to the Breakfast of Champions at the Games Master’s extraplanar mansion. The CEO of Blood Games Inc. may have one final game for the heroes to play, before they pose for their statues. A final confrontation is likely to ensue, after which several matters will need resolving – and the heroes may have to rush to the Dragonbowl Treasury to claim their prize.
Appendices. Five new useful stat blocks, handy initiative/combat tracker tool, large versions of all maps, including player handouts and arena battlemap for 4, 5 and other number of players.
***CHECK OUT THE PREVIEW TO READ THE FIRST CHAPTER BEFORE YOU BUY***
VOLO’S TOP 15 THINGS TO DO AT DRAGONBOWL!
First published in the Waterdeep Wazoo.
Greetings citizens of splendour, it is I, Volothamp Geddarm here, at your service, reporting live from DRAGONBOWL XLIX – the gladiatorial games taking place right here in the bowels of Mount Waterdeep. The action is bobbing along, like a schooner in the breeze, down in the Underbelly cavern, and it’s not too late for sports fans to pop along and join the merriment… (if you orientate yourself towards Dock Ward you should be able to encounter a knowledgeable guide to escort you).
Your sagacious editor, Gaxly Rudderbust has tasked me with providing a tantalising glimpse of what the tournament has to offer prospective merry-makers thinking of making the journey, and therefore let me present Volo’s foremost 15 things to do at Dragonbowl.
- Behold the Blood Games. The festival’s premier attraction features sixteen elite gladiatorial teams pitched against one another in a series of fights to the death, and is an undeniably thrilling sight to behold. The violence, of course, is abhorrent, but one can always appreciate the contest’s artistic and cultural merits, as I do. Besides which, the organisers do rather sportingly offer Resurrection Insurance to contenders at a reasonable price.
- Cheer on the Blood Challengers! These challenges offer a diverting twist on traditional tournament fare, such as archery and equestrianism. Those stirges really go ‘pop’ when they’re caught square by an arrow! The Beast Chase is particularly popular with the ‘cosmopolitan’ crowd. Talented sports folk can put their names down at the Registration Tent.
- Admire the innovations at the ArcTech Expo. Five different vendors are exhibiting their wares at this trade fair of the world’s latest tools and technologies. From Scry-Fi enabled telecommunication devices to flying disks, sentient constructs and submergible vehicles, one can get a glimpse of Faerûn’s future possibilities. Those firearms look fun too. I’m sure they’re only selling them to responsible owners.
- Procure an invitation for the Sky Party. The tournament’s hot ticket, this snazzy schmooze cruise takes place on board the Dragonbowl Airship’s Sky Lounge. A delightful opportunity to meet the festival’s high fliers (if you’ll excuse the pun!) and dance the night away.
- Fraternise at the Festival Hall. There’s something soul-warming about rubbing shoulders with the great unwashed (if you don’t mind the head lice). This humungous beer hall is the public house to end all public houses, and as an egalitarian drinking den as any in the land.
- Savour all four varieties of Bloodwizer Beer. There’s a drop of dragon’s blood in every pint, I’m told! Blood Premium is my personal fave. It does rather go to the head mind you…
- Gamble responsibly at Dragonbowl Casino. The ground floor ‘Gambler’s Den’ is full of rather rough-looking rascals, and wisely avoided, but upstairs in the Speculator’s Suite you can play Blackjack, Three-Dragon Ante, Waterdeep Hold’em and Dragon Roulette. All of which are best enjoyed with the house’s Dry Yuan-tini (insist that yours be shaken, not stirred).
- Frolic at the Funfair. This charmingly old-fashioned fair boasts games as varied as Hammer Time, Captain Hook, Anaconjecture and Lord of the Stings. The stall masters are a rather gruff lot, as a rule, but the tigrish fellow who runs Skull Shot is a jovial soul at least.
- Be regaled by the bawdy bards at the House of Poetry. A world-famous weaver of words myself, I doff my beret to the talents of this team of louche lyricists who reside in this magnificent centre of culture. And no, my review is not swayed by their rather revealing costumes, which if anything detract (or at least distract) from the artistry on offer.
- Dine out at the Gold Wyrmling Bar & Bistro. If the fare served at the festival food trucks is a little hit and miss, the same criticism can’t be levelled at Dragonbowl’s flagship restaurant. The lobster bisque is excellent, and afterwards you might spot a celebrity (such as myself!) in the Cigar Lounge relaxing with a Tiamat Maria or Djinni’n’Tonic.
- Attend the Ermageddon festival. By a wonderful co-incidence, the orcish festival of hospitality coincides with this year’s Dragonbowl. Take it from this cultural commentator, that our much-maligned, stout-jawed cousins show their softer side on this holy day, which celebrates the succour the hag Erma showed to their god, Gruumsh, meaning that it’s perfectly safe to attend. Plus thrill-seekers can saddle up at the Aurochs Rodeo!
- Sign up for a spirit tattoo at Mystic Ink. If you can overlook their association with foul-mouthed mariners, I would highly recommend getting a discreet ‘spirit tattoo’ from the elven lady in the patchwork tent overlooking the shore of Cave Fisher Lake, on the edge of Camp Dragonbowl. These gorgeous works of body art fuse the fey power of your spirit beast with your own life force, no less!
- Take a soak at Dragon Springs. When all the excitement gets too much, this beautiful brick bathhouse provides therapeutic, thermal relief. A good place to hobnob with gladiators, who like to recover here between bouts.
- Learn Docknee Rhyming Slang. When at Dragonbowl, do look out for a curious, bent-over fellow by the name of Baboo, wearing a long-beaked doctor’s mask. This industrious merchant sells what he charmingly refers to as “witches lotions” (that’s “magic potions” to you and I!) and is a most friendly fellow. He will gladly teach you a few phrases of his distinctive Dock Ward dialect.
- Snap up a souvenir at the Dragonbowl Gift Shop. Last but not least, you can’t leave Dragonbowl without purchasing a little memento of your trip. They were all out of “Only the Merciless Will Survive” tunics when I got there, but they still have plenty of bone dice, marble eyes and skin ottomans for sale. A little macabre? Perhaps, but you have to admire the organisation’s commitment to recycling…
It would be remiss, nay irresponsible, of me not to round off this article with a 6 THINGS TO STUDIOUSLY AVOID AT DRAGONBOWL! Please do read, for your own well-being and good conscience.
- Trifling with Dragonbowl Security. These soldierly sorts are mostly fair, but very firm and rather unforgiving in their application of the rules. Our own City Watchfolk seem the very souls of reason by comparison. Best pick up a copy of the festival’s Code of Conduct and study it well!
- Smoking too much Blue Lotus tea leaf. This exotic leaf from the jungles of Chult makes for a smooth, sweet and nutty pipe filler, but it can leave you feeling rather squiffy…
- Buying a hatchling from Dread Dinos Ltd. It’s downright cruel and irresponsible. These magnificent beasts should not be taken out of their natural habitat…. no matter how cute their little lizard faces are! (Sssshhh Todzilla, not now! I’m working).
- The doves at the Dance of the Dead Parade. Their incandescent white feathers give these birds a fascinating aura, but seriously those are some pernicious pigeons, and savvy sports fans should give them a wide berth.
- The temptation to visit the medusa fortune teller. Why anyone should believe a word the charlatan says is beyond me! The brazen swindler demanded 100 gold pieces for her ‘divine insight’ and then had the nerve to tell me my Guide to Spirits would vanish without trace… I suppose she thought that was funny!
- Listening to every last rumour you hear! The notion that the Games Master is Halaster Blackcloak is plainly nonsense. And the idea that he’s somehow contaminating every barrel of Bloodwizer beer with mind-controlling drugs in a bid to bring the civilised world to his heel is far-fetched to say the least. (And even if he was looking to mass influence folks, surely it would be easier for him to enchant these lovely earrings he’s been handing out to everyone? I haven’t taken my off since I got it!).
So there you go Waterdhavians! It’s not for I, Volothamp Geddarm (at your service) to say if Dragonbowl is the right underground fighting tournament for you. It’s merely my duty to help you make an informed decision. The last time these Blood Games were in town was 6 years ago though, so those without an elven life expectancy should strongly consider if they want to risk missing out!
Ps. this report was originally intended to be written by the Wazoo’s regular reporter Gillian Redfearn, but she appears to have gone missing. If anyone has seen her (short, bright-eyed wood-elf, rather unkempt bush of hair), please do write to Gaxly Rudderbust and let him know her whereabouts. He is rather worried about her.
PRAISE FOR DRAGONBOWL
“My kind of fun.” Jarlaxle Baenre
“A wonderful opportunity.” Davil Starsong
“Stimulating in every sense.” Volothamp Geddarm
“Blood sports are your basic citizen rights.” The Games Master
“I’m gonna fry every last m*****-****ing one of you!” Xanathar
EXPLORING DRAGONBOWL: MAP OF THE UNDERBELLY CAVERN
Dragonbowl contains themes that may upset some players, including violence/death, slavery, animal cruelty, prejudice, harassment and drug/alcohol use. Some halflings may have been hurt in the making of this adventure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Duncan Rhodes is a professional travel blogger and semi-professional adventure designer and RPG blogger. He has released multiple best-selling products on the DMs Guild, including the Platinum best seller, Esquiel’s Guide to Magic Weapons. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, he likes to weave the odd pop culture reference into his work. You can keep in touch with him via his blog: www.hipstersanddragons.com
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