Postfest XII(Richfest 2009): Coliseum of Grrth'mar
Date: Tue, October 13, 2009
Topic: Campaign Articles

Ancient colliseums hold the secrets of their Masters and of those who fought and trained there.  There is one in particular which holds the secret of crossing time and place.  Within those ruined walls trained a warrior who was forced to make a choice; choosing between his tribe fade into obscurity and die, or giving up his way of life and foregoing his memories and becoming one of the greatest mercenary leaders from the time of Caerdiralor, a Captain of the Nameless Legion.

Lost to the annals of time are the records and histories of many mercenary companies that have fought alongside regular military units in every major confrontation throughout the history of war.  There is one which only the most wizened sages and scholars know of.  They are known among informed sages as "The Nameless Legion".  [Mike Mearls, Mercenaries for Hire, p 23, Dragon Magazine #304, Feb 2003]  A group of mercenaries from all the known planes of existence, the Legion is a conglomeration of monsters, humanoids and bizarre creatures serving under the command of a mysterious group of arcanists known as the Paymasters.  Their history has been rarely found in the Flanaess, but millennia ago, the Legion was active there, and they thrived in the wars that tore apart the Kingdom of Caerdiralor over 2,500 years ago.


One of the greatest military strategists of the Nameless Legion was known as Grrth’mar.  He was a wemic of great strength and size.  He grew as a young cub, in the tall grassy expanses of the Kabreevo Plains in the southern extremes of Hepmonaland.  In this rough and unforgiving place, he came to prominence as a warrior and eventually as the chieftain of his tribe.  His long and illustrious career did not go unnoticed by the Paymasters of the Legion, who look for precisely that type of skill.  Through scrying and divination, they found him living out his days in the company of his pride in what might well be called pastoral pleasure.  But the Paymasters had other plans for him.



The Paymasters told him that they knew of a prophecy that named him as one of great potential and promise, and that he could take charge of hundreds of men and lead them to victory in war.  The term, however, were that he must submit to a psychic chiurgeon who would use a secret method of conditioning  that would purge from him most all of his memories … they would be erased.  And so, he had a choice; either his simple life amongst his tribe which would likely eventually die off and be absorbed by the larger and stronger tribes, or strike out on his own and make a name for himself.  Grrth’mar chose to follow his own destiny and find out if there was fame to be had.  Among those with whom he would eventually serve, he came to be known as “Accroc”, which meant “rip” and referred to the way he would often use his claws to tear the flesh of soft-skinned creatures.


There was much glory found in his career, but much of it was as with any other military career … the only people that knew of it were those in the military and mercenary fields.  Civilians – his family and friends – never really knew how important he had become.  Grrth’mar longed to have an impact on others, and make a difference.  He had tired of fighting wars not his own, and when his contracted duty was complete he wanted to find life again among his own kind.  He told the Paymasters of the Legion that he wasn’t going to renew his enlistment again.  Not wanting to lose an influential resource such as this tactician and commander, they offered him a deal.  There had to be a compromise, and so they offered a place as an instructor in one of their training coliseums.  They would create a magical portal that would allow him to return home whenever and as often as he liked, but that would permit him to continue to be present and serve in the Legion.  Grrth’mar agreed to the conditions of service, and went on for years to come to become renowned as one of the greatest mercenary Captains of all time.  Even after two thousand years, the ruins of his training center still stand to this day.


The coliseum is situated in the rugged country just east of the headlands, near the areas which are now known as Onnwal and the Dragonshead Peninsula.  It is far back in the hills in a small isolated dale that has hidden it for ages from prying eyes and the greedy hands of adventurers that would pillage it for whatever treasures they might believe to be there.  Despite all the best hopes of those who founded the coliseum, there have still been the ravages of the ages, and rare but injurious occasions when the depredations of tomb raiders and treasure hunters have left this notable site in little more than ruins. 



The coliseum is set into a cut away hillside amid many burial cairns and a ring of menhir standing stones that form a circle around the site nearly 450 feet across.  The arena itself is a semicircle backed against a small three-story building, with tiered seating three quarters of the way around the arena floor.  The main structure includes an armory, training rooms, barracks and dining hall, and even a prop room where items were kept for making the arena into different types of battlegrounds.


The arena itself is only about 75 feet at its widest point from side to side.  The ring of seating adds another 75 feet surrounding the arena floor.  The main structure faces out into the arena, and there are many openings through which trainees and combatants may enter.  There are eight main entries and a grand arch way in the center of them.  The dolmen are parallel standing stones, some still with a crossing stone beam joining them across the top.  All are weathered and craggy in appearance with rough pitted edges and chipped off pieces.  The same is true of the stone of the coliseum in general. 


The entirety of the coliseum has carving on every available surface.  Many of them depict battle scenes of gladiators fighting, and various war scenes celebrating what is clearly the Nameless Legion in many confrontations.  There are depictions of trolls, giants, medusas, githzerai, and many other, stranger things.  Unfortunately many of them are in various states of disrepair, with the age of the coliseum.  The most common creature, however, that is depicted in more bas reliefs than any other is the wemic.  The creatures’ active leonine bodies are shown in many intricately carved positions.  They show the craftsmanship of a master stone carver, and they are made to clearly demonstrate how marvelous the wemic is, and to illustrate the wemics’ proficiency in mêlée.  There are almost no carvings of any language in the pictographic carvings, but in a few places, the word “urmahlullu” appears.  It seems to be a very old word, possibly Ancient Baklunish, which refers to the wemic. 


Just outside the entrance to the main corridor of the arena, there is a large block of stone set into the ground.  It is worn smooth from the feet of Legionnaires coming and going over it for many, many years.  In its surface are five round grooves that make small indentations in its surface.  This is the key stone for the portal that still functions to this very day … or so it is reported by adventurers who tell such tales.  The small circular notches are for placement of the keys.  It is a variable portal that functions as a gate.  Keys are required for each use of the portal, and the keys are expended in use, disappearing when the portal deactivates.  No one has ever claimed to know where the coins go, or if they are discorporated in their use.  So, one must have a set of keys for each leg of their journey, and the keys are particular to each destination.


The keys themselves are each coins (or trade markers for places that don’t use coinage) from various regions and are placed in a particular arrangement that resembles an arrow.  The three tiny basins that make up the “arrowhead” represent the place that the traveler is going to, and the other two represent where he is coming from, and where he is now.  Coins (or their equivalent) must be used in these niches.  The “origin” slot is filled with a coin from the users’ home region.  Obviously, the coin from the region near the portal is what fills the “current location” slot.  The other three make something like a triangulation of where the traveler is going to, with each coin representing a local town or other populated area.  One must have three different coins from the areas surrounding the destination.



If the traveler hasn’t any coinage from that region, he must make an arrowhead of a “larger area”, using coins from further and further away from his destination.  This often results in the portal opening to areas that are only “close” to where the traveler intended, and some overland travel may be necessary.  [The DM may wish to use the Teleport tables in the PHB; replacing “Familiarity” for how “local” the coinage is, in order to simulate this effect.]  The portal is known to be keyed to Grrth’mar’s home in Heplmonaland, but it is speculated that the Nameless Legion used headquarters in different parts of the Multiverse, and so, there could be interplanar keys for the portal, as well.


All in all, this coliseum can be used in many ways, from a jumping point for having PCs explore the continent of Hepomonaland  or travel the known world in adventures, or as a discovery of lost lore, or even as a headquarters after it is discovered and possibly renovated by the PCs!  The DM should feel free to place Grrth’mar’s coliseum anywhere he wishes, it isn’t tied to any one local.  Also, it may be likely that the portal only works to specific other linked portals, and the PCs must have very specific keys in order to activate certain other, more precise, arrival destinations without the chance of being “off target”.


This article comes from Canonfire!

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