The Llaza racecourse is a venue that hosts all manner of races. From simple footraces, to those involving animals from shandix to matoo, over flat ground or through obstacles, with anything from glory to death awaiting contestants.
The racecourse is located on the mainland, in the area known as the Shambles, near the causeway that carries Broad Way over to East Isle. It is a large area of packed earth that can be marked out in different ways for different kinds of races. Along the area commonly used for starting/finishing, one of the long sides of the rough oval, is the Imperial Box, retaining its name despite independence. Here, and in the surrounding Enclosure, the well-to-do of Llaza go to be seen, to gamble, and to feast. Various expensive refreshment areas are attached to the enclosure, as well as the weighing room and the Paddock, where patrons can view the runners, riders and mounts.
Across from the Enclosure, on the other side of oval, are the more functional areas; stabling, training areas, storage for apparatus for the more elaborate races, even some housing for regular racers. The Stands, where one can find those not rich enough for the Enclosure, are located on this side. Other, movable, bleachers are used for the cheapest seating, and these are positioned according to the races. It is possible to attend for nothing by walking between these areas, assuming you don't mind being considered the lowest form of society. The area around the racecourse is full of bookies, tipsters, trainers and owners, gamblers, aristocrats, jockeys, stablehands, punters, pie-sellers, tea-sellers, pickpockets, thieves and thugs.
Races take place all year around, except for the wettest season around Second Month when the ground is too water-logged. The highlight of the year is the Viceroy's Cup at midsummer (45th day, Fourth Month). This is an open contest to all types of entrants, mounted or unmounted, of any species, on any kind of animal. It is an elaborate obstacle course where the goal is to collect ten tokens from the jaws of many death-traps and be the first across the line. Weapons and magic are not allowed, except for the final dash in an area called Last Chance Alley where contestants are allowed to relieve other contestants of their tokens by any means available. The danger is great, but the reward - one million yen cash and the freedom of Llaza - make it worth the effort for many people.
Using the Racecourse
Like any location, the racecourse can serve as the backdrop to adventure, whether the player characters are investigating race-fixing, tracking down a racecourse denizen as part of another mission, meeting members of high society or fighting beneath the bleachers in the dead of night. Some player characters may also wish to enter the races.
Ticket to The Enclosure - 10,000 yen (100gp)
Ticket to The Stands - 1000 yen (10gp)
Ticket to the bleachers - 100 yen (1gp)
Simple races cost 10,000 yen (100gp) to enter, and most contestants have a sponsor of some kind. Prizes are usually 2-5 times this amount, less for second and third. Fourth and beyond win nothing. Some races are "winner takes all", with only a first prize, usually about 75% of the combined entrance money from all contestants (the remaining quarter, of course, goes to the organisers). Simple races may be a combination of Strength, Dexterity and Constitution checks (depending on distance), although possession of the Run and Endurance feats can help. Mounted races use the Ride skill of the riders (opposed checks) with perhaps Constitution checks or Fortitude saves for the mount for longer races.
Matoo races are popular affairs, involving an ever-changeable framework known as The Jungle through which the matoo climb. This is normally only open to salsham'ai riders, but other small races could manage to ride a matoo. The goal may be at the top of The Jungle, or The Jungle may lie across the path of a flat race. Tangled areas, rope swings and monkey bars are common elements. Balance, Climb, Jump and Tumble checks for the mount as well as Ride checks are common for these kinds of race.
The matoo race is really just a variant of the obstacle race for other runners and riders. The nature of the obstacles vary depending on the mode of transport employed, although jumps are the simplest and most common form of obstacle. Balance bars, water hazards, cargo nets, swings and other obstacles are common for foot races. Obstacle and matoo races cost 50,000 yen (500gp) to enter, and the prizes are higher, from 3-10 times as much.
Death-match races are fairly rare, often employed as a means of executing criminals under capital sentence. Entry is not normally open to the public. Obstacles are nearly always employed, often with deadly intent such as swinging blades, greased poles over a pit of hungry crocodiles, or a wall of poisoned spikes to climb. Contestants are allowed to use any means necessary to win, including killing their opponents. They may not take weapons into the arena, but some makeshift items can be found along the course. The winner usually gets a pardon, although if their crime is particularly heinous this is often commuted to a less painful method of execution than they would normally expect. Surviving losers are put to death.
The Viceroy's Cup. The Big One. Entry costs 100,000 yen (1000gp) but the prize is ten times this much, plus the Freedom of Llaza. The course is usually similar to a death-match, complete with deadly obstacles (although often marginally less deadly, plus magical healing is always on hand). Contestants must collect ten tokens from a range of different trap-zones (there are more than ten of these, so contestants may choose which to tackle). It is illegal to take another contestant's tokens until Last Chance Alley, the final mad dash for the finish line. The Viceroy's Cup can be conducted as an adventure in its own right if characters wish to participate (or, perhaps, are forced to by a third party).
(c) 2009 The Creative Conclave.