Thursday 14 January 2016

Centipedes in the Zone

The zone has a lot of Centipedes. It has more than enough.

Tipping over a stone or tearing away a chunk of bark will reveal some and they can be found pretty much everywhere, trying to eat pretty much anything. Most zone inhabitants will receive a nip from a frustrated centipede at some point but the poisons they carry are not strong enough to be anything but an irritant to a human being.

Though they do not prey on mankind or provide any significant threat, they are still a vital part of zone culture. Centipede fights, and the betting upon them, are one of the few leisure activities in the zone and the only one which unifies all classes and stations, ages and genders, though they are especially popular with the cohort which is both male and high as fuck.


Only the largest available Centipedes are used to 'duel'. This particular species can grow to between 8 to 12 inches in length and come in a range of colours. Centipedes of dramatically different sizes will never be allowed to fight, this would be unsporting.

The Centipedes are starved for a day or for two, then placed in an enclosed space together. They fight to the death and the winner eats the loser

The classic bout takes place on a cut piece of fallen cloudgrave frond lodged in the ground and flattened off like the trunk of a carefully-felled tree. Smaller bouts can take place on flat stones or, in a 'blind fight' the two creatures can be thrown together into a bottle or bucket.



This is a good mechanic for a simple fight between two Centipedes of average status on which the PC's are betting an insignificant amount of money.

First each trainer decides whether they are starving their Centipede for one day or two (most will starve to death after three).

One-Day Centipedes roll 2d6.

Two-Day Centipedes roll 1d12.

----To Begin----

First, once Centipede must insult the other. (The trainer will usually do this for them.)

Second, the other Centipede must demand an apology or satisfaction.

Third, after a brief pause for drama, the first Centipede offers satisfaction.

The crowd goes "ZZZZZZzzzzzzZZZZZZZoooooOOOOO-AH!", slowly raising its hands in the air and, on the "AH!", dramatically slamming them to the ground.

The Centipedes are thrown into the ring.

The bout begins.

----Each Round-----

Each Centipede rolls its dice.

If the total numbers match for each creature match the animals are assumed to be grappling. That round is discounted.

Whoever reaches 13 first is the victor.


If PC's have staked a significant amount of money, or perhaps an important favour, on the result of a bout, then they may wish to use these slightly more complex rules.

The PC themselves should model and roll dice for their favoured combatant, the DM, or perhaps another PC, should roll dice for the opposition.

A Centipede is assumed to have 10 hp, an AC of 10 and to do d6 damage on a hit.

A 'two day' centipede has +1 to hit and initiative, but -1 to AC and hp.

These stats count *only* to simulate Centipede duels, they do not carry over into 'real life'.

Both parties should agree on the size of the ring and map the rough position of their Centipedes. If a Centipede is driven out of the ring area, it forfeits the match, and, traditionally, the owner of that Centipede must then eat it alive in front of the crowd.

----To Begin----

First, insult.

Second, the other demands apology or satisfaction.

Third, pause, then "Satisfaction!"

The crowd goes "ZZZZZZzzzzzzZZZZZZZoooooOOOOO-AH!", slowly raising its hands in the air and, on the "AH!", dramatically slamming them to the ground.

The Centipedes are thrown into the ring.

The bout begins.

----Each Round-----

Both parties make attack rolls. If they hit, both make damage rolls. These are considered to have happened at the same time.

After attack and damage rolls have been made, but before the results are applied. The parties roll a d6 for initiative. Whoever wins initiative can declare one of the manuvres below to avoid or enhance the effect of a blow.

•             'Retreat!' : If they got hit, the Centipede may avoid the effects of an attack roll by declaring a retreat. Their opponent can move them a number of inches equal to the opposing attack roll.

•             'Entangle!' : If they hit the Centipede can wrap around its opponent. This does no damage but stops them from declaring a manoeuvre next turn and lowers their AC next turn by the value shown on the damage die.

•             'Focus' : Instead of attacking, the Centipede concentrates on their enemies weaknesses. Their next attack gets a +1 to hit and damage. This bonus stacks. If a Centipede concentrates every round for 3 rounds and then hits, their attack gets a +3 to hit and damage.


The unusual aspect of Centipede duelling in the Zone is not that the animals are forced to fight, (games of a similar kind can be found in many cultures) But the sophisticated lore that surrounds the assumed character of the Centipedes.

In the Zone, duelling Centipedes are considered personalities in a complex, evolving drama.

Any duelling Centipede must be given a name and a title. The title must be a noble one. "Sir" or "Lady" at a minimum. (Note: the actual gender of the Centipede has no effect on its name or title). Usually, but not always, a centipede will start at relatively low rank, however sometimes a centipede will be given a relatively high-status name straight away if it seems obviously appropriate to the creature.

Exactly what makes the name appropriate is not always clear. Some might have a distinctive feature or particular quality of behaviour, i.e. a wounded Centipede might be called "General" or a torpid one "Bishop", a beautiful one "Queen" or a dramatically-limbed one "Emperor", but the exact relation of title to creature is never exact, though the crowd will certainly know if a centipede is poorly named and will mock its pretension.

As well as a name, each Centipede has an assumed character, back-story, personality and, if it survives long enough, a dramatic and labyrinthine personal history.

The Centipedes are imagined in the public mind as Nobles vying against each other in some dramatic, continuous, ever-expanding tale. Some Centipedes are assumed to be 'good' or heroic creatures, and some are assumed to be 'bad' or villainous. This has no effect on their popularity with the crowd, though bouts between one 'good' and one 'bad' creature always draw the biggest crowd and largest bets.

Zonal Centipedes come in a range of colours, from dim blue-black, to pale white, red, green, purple and some 'colourless' Centipedes.

Centipedes of the same colour will be assumed to be of the same Noble family, organisation or house, though this does not mean that they will not fight against each other

Like a street-name or an in-joke, no one person can assign a Centipede its 'character'. The exact details of the imagined history, personal background, and the invented slight that brought two centipedes to battle are an emergent property of the audience. These histories might flex and shift their form a little for a few bouts, but if a centipede keeps surviving then its history becomes legend, to be preserved and transmitted rather than argued over or invented.

Some of the more famous have a notoriety that passes through the generations. Old zonals will often happily sit and talk of the great centipede duels of the past, and will often remember the imagined personal histories of their favourite centipedes.

Though a losing centipede always dies, the character they play can return. Sometimes, if a Centipede is found which seems similar enough to a previously defeated one, and if it seems appropriate, the 'character' may return to the ring, perhaps to avenge their previous defeat. Such a creature might be painted black to signify that it is 'incognito' then, should it win, the ink will be washed off and its true name and nature revealed.

(If it matches its evolving story, a Centipede might even be painted a different colour to signify that it has betrayed its house and gone over to an opposing house.)

Of course if a famous character returns to the ring and dies in the first bout, the crowd will simply say that they were a Pretender or 'false' centipede and that the 'real' personality is still out there, somewhere, awaiting their return.

Players should always name their own Centipedes, but here is a selection of possibilities.


1. Sir
2. Dame
3. Lord/Lady
4. Baron/Baroness
5. Prince/Princess
6. King/Queen
7. Cardinal
8. Bishop
9. Sultan
10. Seneschal
11. Caliph
12. Shogun


1. Snips-it-all
2. Cephalophant-seen
3. Debt-off
4. Gargantua
5. Rock-rider
6. Acidic
7. Click-and-close
8. Knees-Please
9. Toefucker
10. All-Poisoning
11. Mole-Fear
12. Infinite Twist


1. For the honour of a lady
2. Suggested cuckold
3. Accusation of cowardice
4. Inferring false parentage/false colours
5. "A snake with legs", "long bee" or other claims of false species
6. Physical weakness, Too long and thin "like a marked string", Too short and fat "like an accordion", weak poison "water in your forpicules.
7. Contemptible house "Effete Blues", "Savage Greens" etc.
8. Too wealthy and therefore lacking knightly virtue "no more than a usurer/banker" etc.
9. Too poor and therefore not true nobility ("Poor Knight" Centipedes usually considered 'good guys' by the crowd
10. Ancient enmity i.e. Blues must always challenge Blacks, all must challenge the Colourless house etc.
11. Claims of false colouration ie "painted", "no true green" etc.
12. Desire to challenge the most noble and potent (common challenge for 'good guy' centipedes)


  1. Oh, look it's another excellent bit of weirdness . How predictable of you.

  2. Thou blue-from-a-bottle strand of walking lace, have at thee!

  3. Pah! Scorn upon your muculent, unmandibled worm!