Teaser Tuesday: Leagues in The Domains of the Chosen

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: Will to Power. As usual, it will be up for free this Friday on Amazon.

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The Cover for Bloodlust: Will to Power

As a Canadian I have always been fascinated by the idea of sport’s leagues. I first became aware of this when my grandfather was discussing the differences between the rules of the CFL and the NFL. Now, I don’t follow sports directly, but the passionate discussion of minutiae and how a simple rules change can impact a game falls directly into my love of anything game related. It stuck with me, and when time came to write the Domains series, I remembered those discussions.

There are numerous Leagues in the Arenas of the Krassian Empire. The Faction Leagues, the games put on by popular political parties, are the most widespread and influential. But there are others…

“I see,” he said. “You’re both Gladiators, ranked six… Faction Champions, albeit from a small town in the south… Decent records… Still in good standing with the Reds. I see no problems here, honoured Gladiators. Do you wish to join the Free Leagues?”

“We do,” Gavin answered, cutting off any chance for Ravius to exercise his wit. They had, after all, stood outside in the rain and mud for several hours for this very reason, but the clerk still needed their official acquiescence.

“Agreed,” said Ravius.

They both touched their thumbs to the clerk’s link device to finalize their agreement.

“Very well,” said the clerk after a few more minutes of fiddling with his link. “The trials are tomorrow. It will count as a regular match for your career ranking purposes. We will be taking the best two fighters from each trial, win or lose. I have entered you both in the trials appropriate to your training class. Please feel free to browse through the trial rules on your way out.”

Ravius smiled brightly at the clerk, but his expression quickly darkened after they stepped outside.

“Champions of a small town?” he grumbled. “That’s more than he’ll ever be. I’ve been poisoned, cut, set on fire, stabbed, and stepped on by a giant. I’m damn proud of what we have accomplished!”

“You can get your revenge by winning, my friend,” said Gavin.

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Here is a rundown on the leagues:

  • The Faction Leagues: in the Faction Leagues, each Gladiator fights for a particular faction in various challenges. Gladiators earn points for their faction in each challenge, which are tallied at the end of the season to see which Faction ‘wins’ a particular arena. The Faction Challenge system is so complex and strategic that it requires an additional layer of management, but this only seems to endear it to modern fans. Factions are essentially political parties with massive sports franchises and are based on the old Chariot Racing and Gladiatorial factions (which also used colours, as in red faction, whote faction etc) from our own history. The Faction Leagues have their own feeder leagues and are the primary goal for any Gladiator who wants to make a name for themselves.
  • Independent Arenas: Independent Arena Masters are not required to host any League.
  • The Free Leagues: The Free Leagues were created as a no-nonsense League free of any of the restrictions and complications. Any Gladiator can join the Free Leagues, as long as they can pass a trial. Free Leagues Gladiators choose their own matches and can fight for a faction if they desire.
  • The Death Leagues: In the Death leagues every match is a Deathmatch. The Death Leagues hearken back to when the games were pure, or so they would have you believe. Gladiators who survive here gain influential backing which can get them into the Grand Championships.
  • The Skyclad League/The Skin Leagues: In the Skyclad Leagues the Gladiators are required to wear more revealing armour. Even the Heaviest armoured Gladiators must bared their face, chest, genitals, and buttocks in this Leagues. This new League is popular, for obvious reasons, but most fighters and ‘true fans’ look down upon as mere titillation. The monsters often have a sexual theme as well and more than a few detractors call this league by darker names.
  • The Master’s League: The Masters Leagues is reserved for Gladiators of Master Rank. In practice only former grand champions and popular masters really get to fight in it.
  • The Heretic’s League: This League is reserved for Heretics seeking to redeem themselves and gain citizenship.
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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?

Teaser tuesday

Time for another teaser from Bloodlust: Red Glory.

Both Gladiatrices stood facing the crowd’s judgement.

Hummingblade was bruised and her body was covered in patches of black where the Frost had burnt her skin. She was bruised from several blows of the shield and her arm still bled from the cut that Diamond Frost had landed to end the fight.

Diamond Frost was bleeding from the wounds on her side and back as well as many smaller cuts from the Hurricane blade. The thrust into her chest in particular had been a telling blow, and it still bled freely. Hummingblade could tell that the Light-Elf was trying not to wilt from blood loss and fatigue. Would the audience notice?

Neither Gladiatrix spoke as they raised their weapons to salute the crowd.

Hummingblade closed her eyes while she waited for the verdict of the spectators. She knew Ravius was cheering. She could almost hear him. She wondered if Diamond Frost had people she loved cheering her as well.

Either way the crowd ruled, she was pleased with her performance. Diamond Frost was as skilled with the shield as she was with spells, having been able to weather the Hurricane Blade and pin the thrust to her side before it became lethal. She was proud to have stood against such a skilled adversary and remained standing.

One of the aspects of the arena that I wanted to explore further this time around was the role of the crowd. How easy is it for a Gladiator to salute the person they were just fighting, treating it like the handshake at the end of a hockey match all for the sake of propriety?

Scarmaker took a deep breath. Oh, she was a cunning one. He turned to the announcer’s box, signalling his desire to make a declaration. Gloria Bella Maxima advanced a step toward him, bright and bold, but he did not flinch. He knew the rules well enough.

“I declare Ut Nex!” said Scarmaker.

“Coward,” muttered Gloria Bella Maxima.

“Gloria Bella Maxima, do you accept Ut Nex?” asked Quintus diKrass. The audience was deathly silent.

Gloria Bella Maxima turned to the audience.

“WHAT SAY YOU?” shouted the Gladiatrix. “SHALL WE HONOUR THIS COWARD?”

Some of the Gladiators actively play the crowd in Red Glory, trying to ensure that they have an advantage in a show of thumbs or even other goals. The fury and fervour of the crowd actively help and hinders the various Gladiators, while behind the scenes various players work to ensure that they can offer their support in the form of filling the seats with partisans.

Darius roared Fiona’s name as the Gladiatrix finished her salute, his voice one with the rowdy crowd. Rose stood beside him, on her seat, brandishing her swords and shouting at the top of her lungs. His daughter’s expression was a mask of ferocious elation, a mirror of his own. It filled his heart with joy to share such a special moment with his child.

Both were flush with triumph as they left the arena, spilling out into the great Parade Ground amidst a sea of red. Fiona’s fans and other Red Faction partisans, cheering, laughing, and revelling in the wake of their win. Darius picked up Rose, and set her on his shoulders. She was too busy enjoying herself to take this action as an affront to her pre-teen dignity. It was good day. No, a great day.

Here and there Darius saw groups or individuals with dour faces, hurrying away from the crowds. These were the fans of The Weird, no doubt. Darius felt a momentary sadness for them, but their fighter never really stood a chance against a Gladiatrix of Fiona’s calibre. Their hopes had always been in vain.

Darius carried Rose all the way back to their little house, ignoring the ache in his shoulders, laughing and cheering all the way.

Of course, in the end the fans are there for the spectacle and the ritual. The character of Rose, a young fan, is meant to make the reader question the morality of the games, but not in a heavy-handed fashion. Darius is an honest fan of the games and a good family man, after all.

In the end Bloodlust: Red Glory is a book about a grand event, and the crowd are key participants as well as witnesses in the ceremony. In this way it mirrors similar events in the modern age, from superbowls and the Olympics to elections and protests in that the participation of the people is key. Of course, that also means that the people bear responsibility…

Teaser Tuesday

In one hand, the Executioner bore a large wickedly curved sickle and in other other a full sized headsman’s axe. Darius knew that even a man his size would have likely have trouble wielding such a weapon in a fight. Gladiators used the Gift to enhance their bodies, and Fiona’s muscles were like steel cables, far stronger than any normal person could be. Her armaments were made of exotic materials, custom made by master smiths and enchanted with potent runes and Darius, who admired craftsmanship, took in the details reverently.

Rose was impressed. Naturally, her Favourite Gladiatrix was Red Scorpion, who wore light armour and carried three swords.  

In the end I decided to go with a new Gladiator, a protege of one of the characters from the books, but someone whose main actions thus far occur in the short story. Mostly this reflects a desire to entertain old fan with something new, but it also makes it easier for me to fit the story into the continuum.

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.

Roman Gladiators and Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale

For death, when it stands near us, gives even to inexperienced men the courage not to seek to avoid the inevitable. So the gladiator, no matter how faint-hearted he has been throughout the fight, offers his throat to his opponent and directs the wavering blade to the vital spot. (Seneca. Epistles, 30.8)

My fights have spells. And more blood.

A dramatic depiction of the end of a deathmatch.

As regular readers have probably guessed by now, I am a big fan of the classical age. I love all things ancient Roman and Hellenic with a passion.  As a child, before I had any understanding suffering, slavery, and death, I was really into Gladiators. The pictures of these athletic, imposing fighters with their iconic weapons and gear caught my interest long before I developed the critical faculties to question the morality of Bloodsports. Years later this interest would resurface when I was looking to create a faster, snappier alternative to GW’s Bloodbowl (a tabletop football game with fantasy elements) for my local games club, which led to a Bloodlust role-playing game (unpublished) and then finally to Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale, my first novel.

Roman Gladiators are the most famous of the Bloodsport traditions. The Colosseum  the archetypal arena, still stands in modern Rome evoking memories of bloodthirsty crowds and desperate battles. Livy dates the first use of Gladiators as 264 BC, a fight to the death in a forum, held as part of the funerary rites of an important personage. Livy emphasizes the theatrical tone, even then, but it is doubtful that it bore much resemblance to the decadent public spectacles of the late Republic and the Roman Empire. Likely it was closer to pit fighting at this stage. It is known that these commemorative rites with their ritual and sacrificial elements did continue and later gave rise to the greater Gladiatorial games. Famous examples of these early games include a Munus put on by Scipio Africanus during the Punic Wars to honour his family members, killed in the war against Carthage. Over twenty pairs of Gladiators fought by some accounts. It is possible that the cunning Scipio used this spectacle to raise morale. These early games were far more lethal, thought to always end in the death of one the fighters.

By the first century BCE, Rome was getting a taste of State sponsored fights, put on by the consuls for the express purpose of entertaining the public. These are the true beginning of the Gladiatorial games we see in movies and television. They were part sport and part circus, but all vicious. The political aspect of these games, which had consuls and later, Emperors, cynically using the bloody entertainments of the arena to manipulate public opinion are one of the things that I find most fascinating about the games.

Here are a few brief notes about the Roman games and how they compare to my use of Gladiators in Bloodlust.

1) Gladiators were divided into distinct types: Roman Gladiators, at least those who were trained in Ludi, each fought with distinct gear and a particular style. Some of these types began in imitation of the fighting styles of the early enemies of Rome, such as the Samnites, but in the end it seems to me that they were more about style and variety. Creation of distinct categories of fighters allows even modern fighting sports to mix it up and create a multitude of different events from wrestling to boxing to MMA. I expand upon this a little bit in Bloodlust with weight class, training types, and magic types but instead of following this rigid structure the Gladiators in Bloodlust choose new specializations becoming more an more individualized throughout their careers. At some point I will have to do up a separate post of all the Gladiator types from the Roman arenas with all of their interesting armour.

Fall AWAY from the sword, dude.

A Mosaic depicting two Gladiators fighting

2) Gladiator were a mix of free men, slaves, and prisoners of war: We all know that the Romans, like many ancient peoples, were cruel to those that they fought against. Rome just took it a step further institutionalizing their imperialistic humiliations as a sporting event. Conquered peoples who survived often ended up in the arena as fodder or if they had potential, as trained fighters. Interestingly, not all Roman Gladiators were slaves or prisoners of war. At the height of the games, there were professional, volunteer Gladiators who earned fame and fortune facing death in the arena. Some even estimate that these volunteers made up around half of the trained Gladiators. In Bloodlust the Gladiators are all magically adept people (called Gifted) who choose to fight in the games so that they can keep their magic and have a chance at becoming one of the Chosen. Magic is considered too dangerous to just let the Gifted use it freely and so they are kept under control until they earn the right to use it or give it up. That’s the surface theory, at least. The truth behind this is that it is a power play and an institution that has vastly outgrown its original purpose. This is similar to the Roman games which very quickly outgrew their origins and became very hard to control; even the reformist Christian Emperors had trouble stamping them out until Chariot Racing overtook them in popularity.

3) Women fought in the arena and Gladiatrix is not a word that I invented: No one is sure of how widespread female fighters were in the arena, but their is direct and circumstantial evidence that they did exist. There are references to women volunteering to train at the Gladiatorial schools. There are murals of bare-chested armoured Gladiatrices locked in combat and account of fights involving women. Grave markers of honoured female fighters have been found as well. In Bloodlust the women are right out there with the men, with Sadira being considered the best fighter of her “generation” of Gladiators.

4) Gladiators would not only fight each other but also animals of all sorts: It sounds like animal cruelty, but its really just cruelty in general. Roman Gladiators killed and  were killed by animals in the arena. Beast fights were considered more sporting than fights against Noxii, untrained fighters, but generally far less interesting than a bout between two trained and well-promoted fighters. In Bloodlust I switch it up a little. While fights between Gladiators are still considered the most exciting form of the sport, the Gladiators are commonly pitted against monstrous foes from outside the Domains. These monster fights are a form of ritualized jingoism that allow the people of the Domains to see the horrors that exist outside their borders being dominated and destroyed by their favorite fighters. I leave it to the reader to decided if this is ugly, offensive  imperialism or just good old action porn. After all, Beastmen and Wirn are evil, right?

Funny looking lions IMO.

A depiction of Gladiators fighting beasts.

5) Gladiators were taught in Schools (Ludi): As the Roman games worked up into full swing Schools were founded to train the most promising of candidates. Gladiators would train hard at these schools, honing their skills between each match. I don’t really change this much in Bloodlust, although my Gladiators can train harder since they heal faster and do not owe allegiance to their schools.

6) In the later Gladiatorial games, lethality became less important than celebrity. It seemed that a brave, well-known fighter stood a good chance of seeing mercy if defeated. Some Gladiators fought in as many as a hundred and fifty matches, which makes me think that the fights were often wildly unequal. This is similar to Bloodlust, where Deathmatches are fairly rare. However in the imperial period, the lethality of Gladiatrial contests often varied by Emperor, with guys like Caligula wanting the bloodiest matches possible. Again, I follow this idea Bloodlust, where politics can interfere with the Great Games and a few fans always want to return to the good ol’ days where every fight ended with death.

7) There were some crazy match types: Roman Gladiators would sometimes re-enact famous battles in crazy set pieces. There are even accounts of the Colosseum being flooded to enact a naval battle. I expand on this Bloodlust with many usual match types and a bewildering variety of special rules.

I could go on. Roman Gladiators still fascinate me, despite the ugly aspects of the arena. There is so much to cover here, if you can stomach it. The ancillary aspects of the Roman games like the Factions and the sportsmanship also appear in my work. The stylized, sexualized armour. The crazy gear. Interesting topic, if a little grim. Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale  is at least in part my attempt to face my own guilty fascination with this heady mix of celebrity, politics and brutal bloodsport.

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.