In addition to playing out the beginning of the League’s ascendance up through the Nexus Tournament, I also wanted this episode to be the start of their experience with celebrity, hence the scenes with Troy McClure, which were designed to put the more combat-centric members of the League on the back foot. I really loved everything that the players gave me in those moments.
Also, any chance I get to come up with fake movies on Troy McClure’s résumé is a golden opportunity.
Another note I want to make is that the players did NOT need to win the Nexus Tournament in order for the plot to advance—there were any number of other ways for them to get the gem they were after, and I began every session knowing that it was totally fine for them to lose a fight and be kicked out of the tournament. As a result, I didn’t pull any punches when it came to the tournament matches—turns out the heroes did fine anyway, but I like to make sure that there are plenty of contingency measures in the event of poor decisions or bad rolls.
The episode starts with the League in the ring against Team Zoanthrope. Note that when members of Team Zoanthrope reach half health, they go into beast form and they gain the stats and powers in parentheses. In addition, the Zoanthropes can land additional hits when they roll Fighting (one hit on a Green result, two on a Yellow, and three on a Red).
Alice the Rabbit
F: Ex (Rm)
A: Rm (In)
S: Ty (Gd)
E: Gd (Ex)
Health: 66 (100) Karma: 60
Bakuryu the Mole
F: Rm (In)
A: Ex (Rm)
S: Gd (Ex)
E: Gd (Ex)
Health: 70 (110) Karma: 46
Long the Tiger
F: Rm (In)
A: Ex (Rm)
S: Ex (Rm)
E: Rm (In)
Health: 100 (140) Karma: 60
Uriko the Half-Beast
F: Rm (In)
A: Ex (Rm)
S: Ty (Gd)
E: Gd (Ex)
Health: 66 (100) Karma: 36
Yugo the Wolf
F: Ex (Rm)
A: Ex (Rm)
S: Ex (Rm)
E: Ex (Rm)
Health: 80 (120) Karma: 42
There’s a shot of all of you standing victorious in the ring as the camera slowly pulls back… and we see that this is part of a montage of similar scenes of triumph, a multitude of strange and eclectic warriors raising their fists in triumph above their defeated foes. The whole montage is playing behind a being sitting at a desk. He’s dressed in a salmon-colored sweater over a collared shirt and red tie. Despite his meticulously coiffed brunette hair, he’s clearly some type of humanoid alien—his skin is lemon yellow, he has a very pronounced overbite, his eyes are large and circular, and each of his hands only has three fingers and a thumb.
“Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You might remember me from such television shows as Diagnosis: Murder and Saw: The Animated Series, but today I’m taking on my greatest role to date: the host of Tournament Talk! That’s right, I’ll be walking you through every spine-tingling, electrifying moment of the Nexus Tournament! The qualifying matches are over, as many of you know—over a hundred thousand of you attended these matches in person across every district of Nexus City, and let me tell you, those districts really came out in force! We’ve seen some truly incredible displays of athleticism and showmanship over the last few days, and, love them or hate them, we now have our final lineup of Tournament groups, and we have been hearing from all of you on social media about just how excited all of you are with the warriors we’re going to be seeing going head-to-head! One moment in particular has gone viral. Take a look at this footage from the Chicago district…”
(At this point, the screen displays a particularly explosive and exciting moment from Team Ohana’s match.)
“Well, because YOU demanded it, I sat down with the members of this group, who call themselves Team Ohana, and talked to them about how they feel about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The scene now shifts to Troy McClure sitting in a plush chair in a cozy library, smiling to someone sitting just off to the side of the camera. “I’m so glad to you could join me, Mister… (checks his notes) Archer. Sterling Archer, is it?”
Troy has the following questions prepared for the League, and will give follow-up or additional comments depending on their feedback.
Archer: “That was some very impressive gunplay we saw out there in the qualifying match. Tell me, where did you learn such skills?”
Luna: “I have to say, Luna, you really have a lot of people talking out there, and the question on everyone’s lips is: who are you wearing?” (I intentionally skewed Troy’s questions to Luna to be a bit more sexist.)
Dante: “Daint, what do you have to say to the accusations that some people are saying—that you’re a vampire?”
Mordin: “Doctor Solus, would you happen to be of any relation to Team Battletoads? I’m not racist.”
Stitch: “Oh, aren’t you just precious. Would you like a little treat? Would you like a special treat?”
Archer: “Alright, now on to some of our viewer questions… Archer, if you could be any animal, what would you be?”
Luna: “Luna, what would you say to some of the young women in our audience who might someday like to partake in the Nexus Tournament?
Dante: “Daint, what do you do when you have a real case of the Mondays?”
Mordin: “So Doctor Solus, some people have been saying they’ve picked up on some romantic tension between you and Daint. Any comments on that?” *wiggles eyebrows*
Stitch: (Improvise based on Stitch’s last response) (I guessed that Kit was probably going to do something chaotic and destructive that would render any additional prepared questions irrelevant. I was right!)
The camera zooms out now and we see that the interview segment is being shown on one of the several large, flat-screen TVs in your swanky new penthouse apartment in Nexus City. What are you up to, and what have you been up to in the last couple of days since your qualifying match?
After enough character stuff has happened, the heroes will be expected to head to the stadium where the first round of matches will be taking place. They can arrange for transportation if they like, but by now they’ve almost certainly discovered that their penthouse includes a garage with eight different vehicles (including two motorcycles) and its own private car elevator direct to street level. They’re free to dictate which vehicles are available to them.
The Balboa Memorial Arena is a gigantic building at the crux of several different districts of Nexus City. As you pull up to it, you can see that the multi-level parking structures nearby are all filled to capacity and people fill the sidewalks, eagerly waiting to be let inside. As you pull around to the back entrance, fans immediately begin to swarm toward your vehicle, camera phones ready to catch a picture or video of one of the teams in the Nexus Tournament.
You’re now in the backstage area, which is beneath the actual arena itself. As you’re shown to your team dressing room, you see that there are common areas where other teams are working out, watching TV, or just talking and planning with each other. You see that each of the teams has a cameraperson following them intently, documenting everything they’re doing.
Before you can enter your dressing room, you are approached by a woman wearing a white doctor’s coat carrying what looks like a high-tech jet injector. “Team Ohana?” she says. “Need to inject you with translocation nanos.”
If they ask, she’ll explain: “Standard procedure—each of the matches is going to take place in a different location, but because the locations are chosen at random, we can’t move you there beforehand, so we’ll just teleport you there once the location is announced, and then back here once the match is finished.”
After they’re injected, they see a familiar group of warriors looking at you from down the hall. “Ye shouldn’t have bothered with them,” says Cervantes. “They won’t make it past the first round.”
Team Soul Edge will be their usual hostile selves, but won’t allow things to escalate to actual blows.
Eventually, you reach your dressing room—each of you has your own mirror surrounded by lightbulbs, one rack for clothing, another rack for weapons, a TV tuned into the tournament coverage, and an assortment of snacks and drinks.
But you’re not alone in this room. There’s a metal orb in here, roughly the size of a beach ball, floating right around eye level. Its top and bottom hemispheres are mostly dark and featureless, although there is a strip of red lights running around its equator. The main feature of the orb is a single round lens currently pointed in your direction.
It floats over to you, settling a comfortable distance away. “Hello, I am Cambot. I’ll be your producer and videographer for the Tournament.”
If they ask, he reminds them that they agreed to full reality show coverage at the discretion of their assigned producer when they initially signed up for their qualifying match. He also reminds them that they are responsible for creating entertaining content, and will be constantly encouraging them to engage in adversarial and/or sexual relationships for the viewer’s entertainment.
Eventually, the TV announcers begin to grow more obviously animated and excited as the house lights of the arena dim. Even from the concrete backstage area the heroes are in, the ecstatic roar from the crowd above shakes the floors and walls.
The TV screens show the besweatered TV host Troy McClure step behind a metal podium in the spotlit area of the stage to thunderous applause. “Hi, I’m Troy McClure! You might remember me from such films as Operation Time Crime and Baby’s Day Out 2: The Reckoning. And folks, I can honestly say that I have literally never been more excited in my life than I am to be here on stage before you right now. We’ve seen the footage from the qualifying matches, but here today, hundreds of modern-day gladiators will meet and fight. There will be losers, but more importantly, there will be winners. Who’s ready for the greatest show on all the Earths?” The audience responds with a cacophonous cheer.
“Alright, time for our first match! Which will be…” McClure pushes a button on the podium in front of him. A huge screen behind him comes to life as a series of pictures of the teams flash by in a blur, eventually slowing until they come to a stop showing a trio of humanoid amphibians. McClure says, “Team Battletoads! Versus…” He pushes another button. Again, countless teams flash by quickly and randomly behind him, eventually coming to display… “Team Soul Edge!” By this point, the audience’s excitement has built to an electric hum. “And they will be fighting in…” He hits a third button on the podium. This time, the screen flashes by with brief views of a number of varied locations. Eventually, it stops at a shot of a large, subterranean cavern. Lights have been strung up along the walls and at various points on the ceiling and floor, illuminating the area in sporadic pools of yellow light. You can see stalactites hanging from the ceiling, stalagmites sprouting from the floor, an uneven and unpredictable terrain, and a small dark pool on the far side of the room. “The Midnight Caves!” Troy McClure announces, to a chorus of cheers and “oooohs” from the audience.
The screen then changes from a static picture of the caves to a live feed. Two separate groups of shimmering blue-white light appear and seem to solidify, one group becoming the medieval warriors of Team Soul Edge, the others becoming a trio of sunglasses-wearing, heavily-muscled, humanoid frogs. The air distorts momentarily around both teams as the kinetic dampeners are engaged, and a moment later they receive the go to fight. Both teams leap at each other.
The Battletoads are obviously skilled and well-trained. They know that Team Soul Edge has the advantage of numbers, and the Toads are trying to overcome this by quickly taking out their opponents before Team Soul Edge has a chance to turtle up and use their numbers against them. Unfortunately for them, Team Soul Edge is obviously quite experienced themselves and don’t let the Battletoads’ wild and aggressive approach panic them. At one point, the Battletoads gang up on Astaroth, getting within the giant warrior’s reach and landing a series of punches and kicks, then leaping away before Astaroth can bring his huge but slow axe around in a counterattack. Before they can topple Astaroth, however, Team Soul Edge swarms up from behind them, cutting off their escape route, and lock them into a pincher attack until all three toads lie unconscious on the ground. Thanks to the kinetic dampeners, none of the blows they took are fatal, but it’s clear that they’ll be out for some time.
“This match has been decided! Your winner, Team Soul Edge!” The medieval fighters raise their weapons in triumph as they and their unconscious foes are teleported out of the caves.
Back on stage in the arena, Troy McClure laughs in delight. “Let’s hear another round of applause for our fighters!” he says as the audience gladly indulges. “Don’t worry, folks, we have only the highest-grade medical care for the Tournament—Team Battletoads will be back on their webbed feet in no time. I’m not racist.
“Alright, let’s move on to our next pulse-pounding match, shall we? And that match is going to be…” He pushes a button on the podium and, once again, teams begin to flash on the screen, eventually coming to a stop on a very familiar-looking group of heroes. “Team Ohana! Versus… Team… uh, is this right? Team… The Very Best! And they will be fighting in… The High Rise!”
At this point, a tingling sensation comes over all of you—similar to what you feel when you activate the DDC to travel through worlds. You’re surrounded momentarily by a nimbus of white and blue light. A moment later, it dies away, and you find yourselves standing in a very different location.
You’re somewhere in Nexus City—there’s no mistaking the weird geometry of the kaleidoscope city. You’re several stories up, standing on the concrete floor of a building under construction—no interior or exterior walls, just an exposed skeleton of metal girders and unfinished concrete floors. Construction equipment is scattered all around: tools, machines, you can even see a few cranes and other vehicles just outside the building. From the looks of things, you’re about halfway up the building. You can see small drone cameras buzzing around from multiple angles around the site.
Standing across from you, emerging from his own glowing teleportation field, is a single opponent. He looks to be about ten. He’s wearing a white and red ballcap over his thick, spiky black hair, and is wearing a blue jacket over a green shirt, jeans, sneakers, and fingerless gloves. Perched on his shoulder is a small creature, maybe the size of a cat. It looks something like a combination between a rabbit and a rodent, with bright yellow fur and a dramatically zig-zagged tail.
The air around you seems to shimmer and thicken. A mechanically-amplified voice emerges from speakers around the area. “Kinetic dampeners engaged. You are go for combat. Fight!”
In a move which became standard for the Nexus City arc, I had initially thought I could fit in the fight with Ash and his Pokémon, but we ran out of time and I had to bump it to the next episode. We’ll see you then!