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Fantasy Battles


What's the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of an arena? Russell Crowe? Perhaps "American Gladiators"? Or maybe Judge Mills Lane yelling "Let's get it on!"? Regardless of what you specifically see, the general idea should remain the same: you'll envision combat between two or more opponents, going after each other in some way to achieve victory, usually at the expense of the life of another.

Surely everyone has experienced the thrill of seeing a combat spectacle at some point in their lives - perhaps even in their favorite gaming genre. RPGs are practically built for dueling; true to form, most have arena-type setups where one or more of your characters can battle scores of combatants, usually for some prize upon victory. They're always a fun little distraction from the main plot; in such battles, players can focus on pure combat and enjoyment of the battle system, not to mention the awesome bonuses and satisfaction that come from mastering it.

But I'm sure you've noticed that your own characters rarely ever fight each other. Indeed, you probably get extremely tired of watching your ubered characters beat on puny random enemies after a while. Haven't you ever imagine what would happen if, say, Auron (of Final Fantasy X fame) were to fight Locke (from Final Fantasy VI)? I'm sure you have. It's probably popped into your mind at the most random times, like during class. Wouldn't it be great to actually see these fights and how they ended up?

While this may really seem to be going into the real nitty-gritty of RPG geekdom, they are questions we've all asked ourselves from time to time or even argued about with other fans. Everyone has their own interpretations and they tend to conflict. Some gauge it by plot power that you see the character wield in the story, others by in-battle power only. It's a pretty big difference, as you see Sephiroth destroy a solar system every time he casts Supernova, but it's not enough to kill the rag-tag band of misfits assembled to fight him. Whatever your particular way of arguing, is this simply a phenomenon held strictly to message boards? An activity where fans argue with each other until they are blue in the face with no clear outcome; or are there actually places where (gasp!) they take such arguments seriously? With a bit of searching, you might find the answer is yes.

For a long time, various fan-made sites have popped up around the Internet where visitors were allowed roleplay as their favorite RPG character and fight. Such sites typically gather a small but dedicated group of friends to have some fun. They also generally focus on one particular game or series of games, so the interpretation issues between battle systems are not that difficult to deal with. Such sites can usually be found with a simple search on the topic of "RPG Arena Fighting," or something similar. Other sites eschew the roleplaying and put the characters in a tournament format, a simple poll deciding who would win. Again, this is usually done with a focus on a particular series. However, large-scale projects, which encompass the entire genre of games and the characters that go with them, have sprung up from time to time. The most well known example of this, while not stictly RPG-oriented, was the GameFAQs character battles in the summers of 2003 and 2004. Being popularity-based in nature with vote counts in the tens of thousands, it gathered quite a bit of support, as well as a cult following on the likewise named "Summer Contest" board with debates raging about who really would win in battles not strictly left up to popularity. But do such sites actually exist where this holds true? The answer, again, is yes.

The tournament style format is by no means a new thing to the internet. The earliest known wide-scale attempt at such a website that encompassed all of RPGdom was Bobbin Cranbud Presents, which was located at Beginning humbly on AOL Instant Messenger as a group of friends, it grew into quite a professional-looking site as Mr. Cranbud and two friends provided everyone with forums, weekly joke news articles in the tabloid fashion, fan fiction, game reviews, and the feature attraction, the weekly RPG character tournament. With a fanbase of well over three hundred at its heyday and incorporating over fifty different RPGs, it really set a standard in web-based RPG Arena-dom. When Mr. Cranbud decided to retire the site in 2003, several attempts to pick up the torch were attempted. The now defunct was one such site, which worked off a central leadership like the RPGP did. It continued the tradition of arena-style combat and also ran forums. A second site, the RPG Duelling League, also sprang up around this time. The RPGDL also features the tournament format and forums, but also added new features like a grand-scale strategy league where armies of RPGdom duke it out. However, they run off a democratic system where almost any newcomer can submit material.

Regardless of their wildly varying philosophies, the RPG character tournaments are only the most prominent of the facets these sites present. Admitting that character duels can be done in a fun and fair fashion, and that anyone can come, vote, and argue about who is really the best - this is what those sites are all about. Debating, and finally agreeing, about which one of these deserve the glory of battle - be it Cloud against Squall or Citan against KOS-MOS. And, just between us... the joy of seeing your favourite character win a good match may well be just as satisfying as a hard-fought victory of your favourite sports team.

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