Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from my upcoming work, Bloodlust: The Sum of Hate (Domains of the Chosen #7).

The book centers around a duel between Chosen Sadira, one of the series most popular characters, and Chosen Silvius, an enjoyably scummy villain who takes on a new light in the Trump era.

This teaser focuses on an event that stretches all the way back to book #3, Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden, involving accusations against former Senior Centurion Hephus, who took field command of the Eighth Cohort of the Ninth Legion at the battle of Fort Nerus. Hephus is a Gifted (a magic-user) and the Gifted are not allowed to command in the Legions, by ancient tradition. The good guys argue that an exception had to be made for conditions in the field, while others argue that the Law is the Law.

Hephus’s focus snapped back to the inquiry as Assemblyman Skavetz called a witness.
“Legionnaire Septimus Bron, please take to the podium of truth.”

Maximus Skavetz cut an impressive figure in his formal toga. He was tall, square-jawed and straight-backed, with dark curly hair and piercing eyes. His voice, however, was what set him apart; a rich, a commanding bass that could thunder in judgement or offer deepest sympathy.

Hephus recognized Septimus Bron. The Legionnaire looked nervous and uncomfortable before the assembly as he moved forward and took his seat behind a heavy marble table facing the assembly. He had a noticeable limp and one side of his face was viciously scarred.

“Legionnaire Bron, do you know this man?” Skavetz pointed toward Hephus without looking at him.

“I do, sir, that is Senior Centurion Hephus of the Eighth Cohort,” said Bron, looking at Hephus. “He’s a good–”

“Please refrain from offering your opinion unasked, Legionnaire,” interrupted Skavetz.

There was some muttering among the assembly at his title. In the Legion, the Gifted were not supposed to command the Legionnaires. It was a fear founded in The Reckoning, the disaster cause by those who commanded the forces of magic, nearly destroying the world. The Legions were now see as a counter-balance to the power of The Chosen and The Gifted, answering to their own command structure and the people of Krass.

“Legionnaire Bron, firstly I would like to acknowledge your bravery and your service to The Empire. You have suffered greatly to bring us victory. We have brought you here to clarify some questions about the battle of Fort Nerus and the role played by one Hephus Krassius. I will be asking you questions which you should answer to the best of your ability. Please refrain from conjecture or colour commentary; this inquiry is purely factual. Do you understand, Legionnaire?”

“Yes sir,” said Septimus Bron.

“Very well, my first question concerns the promotion of Hephus Krassius to Senior Centurion. Septimus Bron, were you aware of any other surviving Centurions in the Eighth Cohort?”

“Yes, but…”

“Please keep to the questions Legionnaire Bron,” said Maximus Skavetz in a patronizing tone. “Were any of these other Centurions Gifted?”

“No, sir.”

“Interesting. What position did Hephus occupy before his ascension?”

“He was in charge of munitions and forging, sir.”

“Is that a command position, Legionnaire?”

“No sir.”

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Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser comes from Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale, first book of the Domains of the Chosen series.

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Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale.

The second half of the book takes place in the desert. The parallels to computer games (and certain Fantasy/Sci-Fi films) that have an act in the desert is purposeful. Scorpion’s Oasis is where the Gladiators join the Faction games and begin a kind of popularity grind as they seek to further their careers. Ambitious Sadira purposefully chooses a place where her chosen Faction is on a loosing streak, hoping to win extra glory by turning it around.

For those who are new to my work, Factions are like political parties, but they permeate beyond politics, even owning their own sports teams. Imagine the superbowl if teams or players could represent the Democrats and Republicans.

Of course, in the modern day, we associate the barren desert with the wealth of Arabian Nights and the oil princes.

Under Giselle’s patient supervision Scorpion’s Oasis had been built into a resort town of unsurpassed beauty and impressive luxury. The extravagant splendour of the place was known throughout the Domains, attracting an elite clientele, including many of the Chosen. The tall walls of the town were tiled with pinkish-white marble imported from quarries half an empire away, while the streets were paved with beautiful tesserae of bright coloured glass, formed into cunning geometric patterns. These glass cobbled roads seemed cool to the touch, even in the harshest sun. The Gladiators learned that each street had its own intricate identifying motif; simple signs being considered far too common for such a decadent place. Most animals were not allowed to enter the city, for their waste and clacking hooves might offend, and they had to be stabled some distance away from the main town.

Regal palm trees and shapely flowering bushes, planted in rich soil, lined every street surrounding the sprawling waters of the Oasis. Gardens and parks, so rare in the desert heat, abounded here. A dozen palatial bath-houses, magnificently decorated with gold and marble, and a score of opulent inns gathered around the pure, perfect crystal waters. Peacocks wandered freely in front of glorious fountains adorned with beautiful statues of Ezuis, Giselle, and a few allied Chosen. The town was spacious, clean, and beautiful; full of smiling young men and women who were eager to assist in any fashion. Servants lived in small, cunningly hidden compounds on the grounds of the places where they worked. A handful of independent taverns, brothels, and restaurants competed with those that could be found on the expansive grounds of the baths and inns. A hundred or so residences of modest size but great sumptuousness belonged to those who could afford the absurd expense of buying property within the town. Tall lantern posts lit up the city at night and also sprayed a fine mist into the air that kept pedestrians cool during the hottest hours of the day.

The Faction Games have an additional set of rules, based on making challenges to other teams. Often the Gladiators do not fight directly (which would be costly) and rather fight the same match and are awarded points based on their performance. Part of Sadira’s growth is having to learn these rules and get her team to understand them.

Sadira tried not to sound frustrated as she went over it again. “Marius’s additions double the loss of points for any team member unable to stand at the end of the match. This makes defence even more important. If the Blues let anyone tap out, this rule will make them pay a rather hefty penalty, enough to guarantee a victory for us. We included this addition because you, Ravius, haves told us that they don’t field many defenders and we have Vintia and Gavin.” The two defenders smiled. Sadira continued. “The Southshire rules add points for monster kills with a maximum equal to your survival score. This addition will encourage the Blues to attack hard, which might get some of them in trouble.  Also with Karmal and Vintia casting strong spells and my fighting skills, we should be able to keep close to this points cap even though we aren’t all attackers. Overall, with our Defenders and Ravius backing everyone up we should be able to last a long time without anyone dropping, and rack up enough kills to max out our score. The Blues will have to field a really well-balanced team to even come close.” Sadira exhaled emphatically; she was tired of talking. Faction challenges seemed needlessly complex to her, as if designed to foil the novice on purpose. Gavin had told her the intricacies came from centuries of accumulated rules and rulings.

“What happened to the increased number of monster waves?” asked Vintia, pinching her lower lip while looking at the sheet they were reviewing.

“The Blues rejected it; sorry Vintia,” said Gavin. He too, had been looking forward to a longer match; it would give defenders like them a real advantage. They were trained to outlast their opponents. “They also rejected our terrain additions…”

“Well, at least we won’t have to deal with them cheating again with the single-team trial bit,” smiled Karmal. “Those bastards nearly cost us the last match with their cheap tricks. Although, I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on that little spaz Steel Harmony…”

Understanding Red Glory

It looks like my next book, Bloodlust: Red Glory will be out in eBook format on Wednesday (or at least submitted to Amazon on that date, sometimes it takes a while for it to propagate). With that in mind, I will be concentrating on discussing and promoting the book for the next few days.

Red Glory is a return to a more unusual format. Readers of my books will be familiar with the basic structure from Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale and Bloodlust: Will to Power, where each chapter is set around a match in Gavin Valcoeur’s career in the arenas of the Domains. Red Glory follows that basic structure, with most chapters being centered around a match in the arena.

The disadvantages of that kind of structure are obvious: it requires a hell of a lot of fight scenes, and such a rigid structure can get in the way of narrative flow. However, many readers enjoyed the episodic, predictable build of the story moving from chapter to chapter almost like a TV series or a connected set of short stories. I decided to return to this for Red Glory, which is another story about the arena, but instead of following a single Gladiator, I follow six fighters seeking to win the ultimate prize.

At its heart Bloodlust: Red Glory is the story of an event. The Grand Championships themselves are a character in the story, at least that is how I see it.

After finishing Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden, I sat back and reflected on what I have wrought and written. The Grand Championships are barely covered in Bloodlust: Will to Power, despite being the pinnacle of the whole series. Gavin gets inserted into them purely through the will of the people and the manipulations of others. In the first books the readers only get to read about his involvement in a single match in the whole event, and in the interludes where Sadira fights Karmal. In retrospect those few chapters do not quite capture the epic scope of the Grand Championships.

Some events shape the societies that celebrate them. The great religious pilgrimages. The state of the Union and massive election campaigns in the states. The moon landings. The Super Bowl, The Olympics, and the World Cup. Each of these events brings the far flung reaches of the civilizations that birthed them together, uniting even the most diverse peoples for a time. They also exhibit particular characteristics. The Olympics foster a sense of fellowship through competition, bringing nations together through sport, but sometimes this competition becomes more than sport. Meanwhile the Super Bowl and the World Cup are rowdy, flashy events where the corporate sponsors are very much in evidence. These attributes give grand events a personality of sorts, which is something that inspired me in Red Glory.

I have already written of how the Great Games are a violent collision of sport, hero worship, and politics. The enemies of the Domains are humble by its Gladiators in ritual combat. The Gladiators, in turn, perform to gain the favour of the people, which is the only way that any Gifted will ever be trusted enough to join the ranks of the Chosen.

But I felt the need to further characterize the games, to breathe life into the Grand Championships. The Grand Championships are the pinnacle of the arena, an event that defines the Domains of the Chosen. Bloodlust: Red Glory is the tale of this event. The Gladiators, the Chosen, and the Citizens, victors and victims both, are caught up in the tide of feverish expectation. Like all such events, the Grand Championships take on a life of their own, crushing some and bringing prosperity to others. It touches everyone, even those who are repulsed by the vicious underpinnings of the fighting grounds. Defining this event in detail gives the reader a better idea of the culture of the Domains.

In the end I needed to write Red Glory to better define the Domains for the series to come. The Domains are modern in some aspects, and we all understand imperialism, but the bloodier aspects of the arena are harder for us to grasp. At the heart of it all lies the fear of the Reckoning, and the covenant that the Chosen made with the people of Krass to survive. Underneath all of the bread and circuses, what can we learn of them?

Structures and Systems: The Grand Championships in the Domains of the Chosen (part one)

One of my favourite subjects to write about is how systems, especially broken or corrupted systems, can define a character or a conflict. My favourite example is Javert from Les Miserables, an unrelenting, scrupulous Paladin of an utterly dysfunctional system of Law.

In my next Domains of the Chosen novel, I am delving into how the systems that have evolved around the Grand Championships of the Great Games can draw a series of characters in and change their lives. The novel begins with how these people react to hearing that the event will take place, their feelings, the plots they hatch, and the hopes they have and follows them through to the end.

For those of you who have not read my books, the Great Games are a mixture of bloodsports, magic, and politics, and the Grand Championships determine who is worthy to join the Chosen, immortal rulers of the Domains. (You can read a bit about the Great Games in my free short story.)

The Grand  Championships are a huge event, on the scale of an Olympic games or the Fifa world cup. They are usually held every fifty years, but if a Chosen dies they are the tournament is held sooner to find a replacement. In my new book, a Chosen has died very soon after the previous  tournament was held, and everyone is caught off guard and left scrambling as the new Grand Championship is held. Over the years tradition, politics, corruption and plain old opportunism have led to an elaborate set of mechanisms surrounding the games. Let me break it down:

The Core of the Grand Championships (the basic system)

  • Location: The Grand Championships are held in the Grand Arena of the city of Krass, only during the summer. Krass is the Capital of the Empire, an enormous port city analogous to New York/Rome/London as the focal point of a dominant power. The Grand Arena seats over five hundred thousand spectators, a truly fantastic amount of people crammed into one place. This last part is more important than you might think, unless you understand food services, event planning, or sewage. Since the event is always held in the same place, the Grand Arena is the focal point of the Games, almost a place of pilgrimage for true fans.
  • Selection, Part One: Before the event is held the Gladiators must be selected. Selection begins with fans from all over the Domains coming for the cast their votes for their favourite Master Rank (50+ fights & 10 ranking tests passed) Gladiators. The Hundred Gladiators with the most votes make the short list. It is important to note that this is at least partially a popularity contest. A skilled, but boring Gladiator will often lose out in the voting to a fighter with a more compelling story or more fan support. This works to Gavin’s favour in Bloodlust: Will to Power, one of my earlier works.
  • Selection, Part Two: The short list of one hundred Gladiators picked in the open vote must now be narrowed down to fifty fighters. The voting for this part of the selection is limited to members of the highest Popular Assembly and the Council of the Chosen. The politics and horse-trading at this stage is intense, as each faction tries to find the candidates that have the best chance of winning while trying to sabotage the efforts of rivals both in and out of their factions. They must do so without annoying the people as a whole, who will riot if a big favourite is dropped from the shortlist.
  • The Planning and the Parade: Once the final selection is made and the event is booked, preparations for the Grand Championships begin. The people of the Domains are so mad for the Great Games that work more or less ceases, especially in Krass, around the time of the event. This means that anyone doing anything important, such as shipping ammunition or even waging war, must plan around the Grand Championships or suffer some disruption. The event itself begins with an enormous day-long parade winding through the streets of Krass and ending in the huge parade ground in front of the Grand Arena. The Logistics of this parade are impressive, and also surprisingly important (more on that in part two)
  • The Qualifying Round: Most of the matches fought in the Grand Championships are against other Gladiators. However, many fans consider the very essence of the Great Games to be their favoured fighters facing ferocious monsters. Also fifty is an unwieldy number for a single elimination tournament 😀 Thus every single Gladiator must face off against a monster in the qualifying round. The devil is in the details in this round, where some competitors might end up facing tougher monsters than others and the scoring system is often criticized.
  • That One Little Wrinkle: The rest of the Grand Tournament is surprisingly simple. The remaining Gladiators face off against each other in single elimination matches. However, various exceptions and rules can change the nature of each match. A Gladiator can declare Ut Nex before a match, forcing his or her opponent to agree to fight to the death or forfeit the match. Some Gladiators use this as an intimidation tactic, although you can see how it might backfire.
  • That Other Little Wrinkle: It is not impossible that someone is killed or drops out of the Tournament. If this happens a new Gladiator is taken from the selection. Often this causes a riot, and the Gladiator added to the tournament is sometimes picked just to appease the rioters. Sometimes the riots are goaded on purpose for just this reason.
  • Cheating, and Exploits: It is very hard to just cheat at the Great Games, especially at the Grand Championships. But, with so much riding on the line, it is more than worth the risk. Illegal weapons, bribed officials, banned substances, and everything else you might think of can and will be tried. Much worse than overt cheating, however, are those who exploit the rules of the arena to their advantage. More on that in part two.

Stay tuned next week when I will cover the rest of this subject, going over the corruptions and unforeseen changes in this system.WillToPower_Icon

In Process — Bloodlust: The Great Games (Part 1)

I am working on my first short story for the Domains, tentatively titled Bloodlust: The Great Games. I figured some readers might be interested in my process, and perhaps in giving input as to what they might like to see.

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The purpose of the short story is to create a work which can act as an appetizer for new readers and a illuminate a small part of the Domains for those who are already familiar with the world. The basic idea for the first short story is a father taking his son to the arena to watch his first Match. On the surface it is a fairly sweet story, akin to taking a lad out to watch his first Hockey game… except of course, that it is Gladiatorial combat.

I actually hate the name, but I’ll figure something out.

Here are some of the points that I want to touch on:

  • I need to show how an everyday person from the Domains view the arena. Getting the citizens perspective of the arena is interesting for veteran readers, and provides an interesting introduction to the Bloodlust story arc for new readers.
  • I want to showcase Faction culture from the point of view of a fan. While I touch on this a little bit in Bloodlust: Will to Power, I think I can delve into it a bit more. The sports angle in the arena can be really fascinating.
  • I think that structuring the short story around the interaction between a Father and son outing adds a sense of the familiar to an otherwise unfamiliar setting. The enthusiastic elder could even add some elements of exposition explaining rules and conventions to the son.
  • I want to hint at the idea of the testing a Child for magic and the choice they must face if they do have the Gift.
  • I need a strong action scene that enthralls the reader. The fighting is a key part of the series, and I want to make sure readers, new and old, get a good taste. I think a monster fight would be best so the reader knows who to root for. Monster fights also hint at the theme of imperialism.
  • I want to show some of the stuff that goes on between the main events in a day at the arena which gives me a chance to show veteran readers just how a show would be put together. Small descriptions of seating, vendors, and between match entertainment excite me. I might even strike out into explanations of how the arena is cleaned between matches (Blood Zamboni? …  no… that’s sick) and what sort of viewing aids are available.

So the outline for the story is rather simple. A Father takes his son to watch a favoured Gladiator/Gladiatrix fight. It starts with the Father getting off-work and rushing home. I highlight his character here and have a chance to offer a glimpse into the working life and technology of the Domains while I establish the Father’s character (see below). On his way home the father considers his son. He wants his son to love the arena (and the proper faction!) like he does. he might be nervous about how his buddies in the faction will see him if he has a child who does not love the Great Games. Cut to a scene of the son with his mother, establish character. Father arrives, picks up son to walk to the Grand Arena. Emphasize how awesome it is to be going to THE Grand Arena to watch THIS Gladiator fight. The Father and son will pass a Chosen on the way (the Hall of the Chosen is next to the Grand Arena, so it is pretty damned convenient.) and maybe see a few details. This part of the story likely has to be fairly short and yet has to convey and establish a fair bit of information.

The rest of the story is a back and forth between the action and the father and son. The son struggles to understand the arena. The father is nervous about his son’s reaction and display of proper appreciation for the “one true cultural event” but is also madly excited about the climactic match. Main action sequence, reaction, and wrap-up. It is more of a character piece than a plot-driven story (so far).

The Characters

  • The Father: I want the father to be a likable person, despite leaning a little too far towards extreme fandom. An average Joe with a good heart, but not someone who is inclined to analyze deeply. It might be a challenge for me to write the character in such a way that he does not come off as stupid or overbearing. Likely a fairly athletic man who would have loved to be a Gladiator himself, Maybe there are amateur leagues or knock-off sports? Needs a huge mustache.
  • The Son: The son is not inclined towards the arena. Quiet and reserved, but worships his Dad. Likely named after his Grandfather. Very observant. Much of the drama in the story revolves around his takeaway from the experience.
  • The Gladiator/Gladiatrix: I want to use a character I have already introduced here. I have a few options in mind.
    • Razorthorn from Book 2: A  Gladiatrix with a distinct look that got a good response from readers. I worry that she might be a little too odd for new readers, however. The armour dangling from hooks in her skin might seem overly fetishistic.
    • Ravius: Ravius has enough personality to shine in a short story and a skirmisher is ideal to for demonstrating some of the arcane aspects of Gladiatorial combat like appealing to crowd and showing off.
    • Azure Dream: Azure is a good pick for the same reasons as Ravius. Plus locking her into a match like this is not as limiting as it might be with Ravius.
    • Other options include Green Sting (bk2), Bull Danger (Bk1), Cassius (Bk1) or a new character for future use ( a protege of a familiar character)
  • The Monsters: The Monster(s) conveys a fair bit about the setting.
    • I want some familiar monsters like stitched and beastmen, but not for the main event.
    • A construct might be an interesting opponent.
    • A tainted creature might be the best option since it allows me to convey how people feel about the Reckoning and the negative aspects of the magic.

Feel free to make suggestions or requests for the story. Cheers.

Fantasy Sports

When he was halfway through Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale, my friend Dan Barclay told me that he really enjoyed the sports angle. He noted the parallels to modern athletics even before the book delved into the Faction Games in Scorpion’s Oasis. This is a fair observation on his part because the Great Games borrow heavily from modern and ancient sports with leagues, sponsors, scandals and even celebrity athletes.

Despite the fact that I don’t really even like hockey, the one true Canadian sport, that much, sports culture fascinates me. To me, the TSN guys, seem to be among the happiest people on earth, spending all of their time immersed in their favourite recreation. I sometimes watch them just to bask in the joy of people who really, really love what they are doing.

The politics of sports also fascinates me. Currently we are limited to politicians trying to piggyback onto the successes of popular sports franchises, or trying to earn a little everyman street cred by showing off their love of their favourite teams. Just check the political oriented twitter feeds and facebook updates every time a popular sporting event takes off. (I’m writing this during the Superbowl) In Bloodlust I take it a step further by having sports and politics linked directly. Just imagine how modern sports would be if political parties could sponsor teams or individual athletes.

Fantasy Sports are certainly nothing new, but the lag behind most other activities in good representations in novels and movies. Here are a few of my personal favourites:

1) Quidditch: J K Rowling’s superb magical sport from the Harry Potter series provides an excellent example: It is played on flying broomsticks, it is rough, the rules are archaic as well as arcane, and it provides plenty of opportunity for intrigue based mishap, characterization through action, and even advancing the plot. The whole thing is brilliantly conceived and I hope more writers follow her example in including fantasy sports in their novels. What stands out, to me, about Quidditch is how, despite being entirely made up the game manages to use the ubiquitous language and culture of real world sport to draw you deeply into a fantasy world and even explain some of the more unfamiliar concepts of that world. Quite ingenious.

2) Bloodbowl: An enduring classic from Games Workshop, the Bloodbowl IP takes high fantasy tropes and turns them into football teams. It is the father of all Fantasy Sports Games, filled with crazy rules and has spawned a host sub-games and imitators. The original version of my Bloodlust game was created when we played a Bloodbowl league in University, but wanted a more casual play style.

3) Blood of Heroes: A post apocalyptic sports movie, Blood of Heroes has all of the standard sports movie tropes plus a healthy dose of brutality. Rutger Hauer plays a washed up exile who takes his team from the wasteland leagues to the vault leagues, essentially. The positions, rules of the sport, player specializations, and co-ed play make this one awesome.

4) Lane Defence Games (DoTA, LoL, HoN) and Starcraft: Competitive computer gaming is an interesting scene, but these games take it to new heights with player streams, huge tournaments with massive prizes, dedicated coverage and analysis, spectator modes, sponsors, and all of the other trappings of professional athletic leagues. If Geek Chic is the beginning of information age culture than these are the seeds of information age sports leagues…

5) The Joust: From classics like Le Morte D’Arthur to the current favorites like A Song of Ice and Fire or the Ryria Revelations, the joust is perhaps the best represented historical sport in writing. It does not take much magic to give a simple joust just a little fantasy twist. Jousting was an fairly dangerous sport and thus makes a great set piece for intrigue. With the addition of wearing a lady’s favours and other symbolic act this simple sport can also spark epic romances and torrid love affairs. The joust is a personal favorite because it is such a well worn historical trope, and it is easy for clever writers to invoke or subvert reader expectations.

Sports can be used in several ways in a Fantasy setting. Here are a few off the top of my head:

1) Action. Sports are another way to provide action sequences in fantasy.  The Quidditch scenes in Harry Potter provide great physicality and a sense of danger without direct physical combat, which would have been inappropriate in a protected setting like Hogwarts. They also help build up the action until the real war erupts. The same is true for jousts.  Sports can also provide variation in action scenes since the artificial nature of the rules can showcase different physical skills or unusual talents in ways that a duel or battle could not.

2) Character roles: Team sports can set up strong relationships between characters while repeat matches are a great way to create and showcase character rivalries. These logically carry over to the story beyond the sports-field. If a Character wins a great victory while wearing a favour at a sporting event like a joust, it is a great setup for romance elements.

3) Culture: Sports can also be a strong element of cultural world-building, since a culture’s approach to sports can tell us quite a bit about the values and practices of that culture.

4) Magic: Sports can also be used to demonstrate the rules of magic in a Fantasy world. If your mages need to practice their skills it seems only logical that some of them would make games out of this and that these games could evolve into complex sports. These sports provide another way in which the author can showcase magic.

Fantasy sports can provide a little bit extra to even the most detailed of worlds. Bonus points to anyone who can write a little bit about what the Great Gladiatorial Games from Bloodlust demonstrates about the culture and values of the Domains of the Chosen.

Sports and Politics in the Domains

The Popular Factions in Bloodlust might seem, at first glance, to be a reference to modern political parties. In Canada the Conservatives are Blue, the Liberals are Red, the NDP are Orange, points to you if you guessed that the Greens are Green. This is true to a certain extent. However it is also a reference to some interesting phenomena that I came across in my studies: the sporting factions of Rome and Byzantium.  We know a fair bit about these organizations due to records of the Nika Riots but they frequently pop up in older references to Gladiatorial Combat in Rome as well as Byzantine Chariot Racing. The incomparable Guy Gavriel Kay make use of them in his superb Sailing to Sarantium duology. In many ways these Factions served similar functions to our modern political parties, giving the common people and the lower aristocracy a greater voice in governance due to mass of numbers and organization. I actually think that there are more similarities, and that it is an area of history well worth examining.

In this light, I decided that the popular Factions in the Domains started off as sporting clubs and gradually gained broader influence as their organizations became more and more powerful and more unified. Each faction begins life as a group of sportsmen, fans, and supporters who band together to influence the sport that they love. They quickly find that this sort of allegiance gives them influence over the popular assemblies. We currently have  Political factions with their own news channels, imagine if they also had sports teams…

The Blues, the first Faction, started as a group of Arena Masters and Traditionalists who were wary of new changes in the rules of the Great Games. It is understandable that people who have an advantage in a particular system want to preserve (or enhance) that advantage. They likely started as a group that opposed the influence that the Deliberative gained over the Great Games as a whole. They wanted each individual Arena Master to have as much independence and control as possible.

The Reds rose in opposition to the Blues. The Blues became so powerful that they not only crushed the original political alliances in the popular assembly but they severely curbed the power of the Deliberative and handed Arena Masters free reign over the games for a while. This led to abuses, favoured Gladiators dying, and at least a handful of Chosen who were basically put in place by the Blues. The Reds formed out of the anger against the abuses of the Blues. They are not as tightly knit as a group, but they are far more numerous and quite powerful whenever they come together and organize.

For a long time the Blues and the Reds were enough. They balanced each other. The Faction games were created so that they could directly support their favoured fighters. However, even the more progressive Reds became bogged down by special interests over time and thus the minor factions (Oranges, Greens, and others) arose. These Factions often push particular issues until it becomes popular enough so that one or both of the major Factions feels compelled to pick it up.

As it stands in the Domains now, each Faction not only has its own news, politics, and Gladiators but also taverns, celebrities, neighborhoods, authors, dancers, and so on. They are full lifestyle choices. They are the Dominant “brands” of the Domains and are so powerful in the time that Bloodlust is set that even the Chosen have to tread carefully around them.

However, that said, I try to avoid pushing modern political issues onto the various Factions in all but the most general sense. The politics of the Domains are very similar to ours, but their problems and solutions are not at all the ones that we face in the real world.