Shabby Land: The Adjudication Pits of Barter-Mart

I’ve been gradually working on my post-apocalyptic hex crawl The Shabby Land. As I design each hex, I’ve been trying to keep each location succinct, evocative, and to the point. This is how my favorite OSR hex crawls handle it, and I’d like to follow their example.

However, some locations will require a little more elaboration. One such location is Barter-Mart – the largest community and trading post in the Shabby Lands. Since this is a place PCs will most likely be spending a lot of time in, I wanted to make sure there were plenty of hooks and adventure seeds. This is one of them.

The Adjudication Pits – Small Claims Court with Stabbing

When there’s a conflict in Barter-Mart between two parties, the Adjudication Pits serve as a private dispute mechanism. Litigants can enter the pits to fight each other themselves or hire professionals as proxies.

Petty disputes are usually settled with battles to the first blood, or unconsciousness. More serious or personal disputes are often fought to the death.

Weapons of Choice

The litigants can bring any hand weapon they wish into the pits, subject to veto by the other litigant. Armor other than shields is forbidden. If they cannot come to an agreement, the Adjudication Pit authorities will select a weapon at random from the Wheel of Misfortune (The crowd loves this, and will chant the name of the selected weapon in unison) .

1Fork You! – War-Fork (3D Damage)
2The Saw Is Family! – Chainsaw (-2 to hit, 4D Damage)
3Punch Buddies! – Spiked Gauntlets (1D Damage)
4Slice-N-Dice! – Machete (2D Damage)
5Hammer-Time! – Sledge Hammer (3D Damage)
6Max the Axe! – Battle Axe (4D Damage)


Litigants can hire professional gladiators to fight for them. These professionals use the title Esquire. Esquires can charge anywhere from 20-1000 TU depending on their ability, reputation, and the strength of their opponent. The best esquires are treated as a cross between a sports star and a attorney.

If a Litigant cannot afford an esquire, and is unable or unwilling to fight on their own, the town Benevolent Society (basically the Barter-Mart militia) can provide a Public Defender. A Public Defender is a poor soul, who was caught by the Society violating the laws of Barter-Mart. They have been sentenced to serve as gladiators for a fixed term. The martial qualities of Public Defenders varies quite widely. They are usually assigned randomly.

The Pits are a huge attraction for people of Barter-Mart, and adjudications involving expensive Esquires or prominent townsfolk are usually mobbed with spectators.

Fortunes can be made or lost betting on the outcome of adjudications. People who owe too many trade units to a Barter-Mart bookie often end up in the pits themselves.

Adventure Seeds

  • One of the PCs is in a dispute with a rich merchant. The merchant has hired Verner Thorax – the most feared esquire in town. The PCs have to find enough money to get an esquire of equal ability or face Thorax themselves.
  • The players come across a bit on information that a famous esquire is going to throw a fight for money. They can use this info as they see fit.
  • A PC or a friend of the party has been made a Public Defender.
  • A shyster of esquires (that’s the correct plural noun in Barter-Mart) is looking for some new talent. They’re willing to give the PCs a chance.

3 thoughts on “Shabby Land: The Adjudication Pits of Barter-Mart

    1. Thanks. I got the idea driving through Florida, and seeing ever-increasingly aggressive billboards for local personal injury attorneys. They all portrayed lawyers dramatically posing like action heroes and boasting how hard they were willing to “fight” for you.

      It followed pretty naturally from there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow! Thats quite a contrast to here in the UK, where we have friendly-looking profile shots of a team of solicitors in glossy brochures. Don’t think they’d have much chance against using legalese and harsh language against the people in the adverts you described…!


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