Gladiators

In the Domains of the Chosen magically gifted Gladiators vie with each other in brutal competitions in front of legions of adoring fans. They are a potent combination of celebrity, athlete, performer, and warrior and their struggles can influence all aspects of the society that adores them.

A Day in the Life of a Gladiator

  • Gladiators are conditioned from an early age to follow a strict regimen. They rarely sleep in.
  • Because of their supernatural physiques and hard lifestyle Gladiators eat quite a bit more food than a normal person of their size would.
  • Gladiators spend 8-10 hours a day training. Their bodies can recover more quickly, so fatigue and wear are not a problem.
  • Most Gladiators warm up with a long distance run, at least an hour long, followed by a swim if possible.
  • Strength training, balance training, stretches, and sprints usually follow the run. Hundreds of pushups, sittups, squats, and so on.
  • Several hours of weapons drills, Kata of every type usually follow. The start off simple and get increasingly intense.
  • After exercise is done the Gladiators will duel on the training grounds against other Gladiators if possible. These duels use live weapons, spells, and Keystones, just like the arena and are supervised by officers of the Deliberative. Blood is always shed and it is not uncommon for serious injuries to occur, but it is considered very bad form to get angry over a training bout.
  • Gladiators practice their spells daily, usually after physical training is over.
  • Special training regimens are required for the exotic disciplines that a Gladiator learns later in their career. A Gladiator who learns Path of the Juggernaut, for example, will often spend a few hours a week training dragging a massive while sprinting or ramming reinforced tackling dummies.
  • Some places offer additional training options like automated gauntlets that test a Gladiator’s reflexes and mobility or even live Beastmen to train against.
  • If a Gladiator has a match they will spend less time in exercise, usually a run and short workout just before the fight. The rest of their time will be spent in metal preparation for the match and going through the rituals of readying their weapons and so on.
  • After practice Gladiators usually treat themselves to a long bath and a massage. Men and women bath together, and few Gladiators have any inhibitions when it comes to nudity and sex.
  • After the day is done a Gladiator will pursue other interests. Sports are popular, of course. Young Gladiators usually enjoy social gatherings and are notorious for heavy drinking and ardent carousing. They tend to settle down and develop more individual hobbies at a slower pace than most people.
  • Gladiators can go for some time without sleep, but given an option they will always seek a full night’s rest.
  • Gladiators average 3-5 matches a year.

Facts of Gladiator Life

  • The state provides Gladiators with basic food, lodging, and a small stipend. Quality of these vary from arena to arena.
  • Gladiators earn money from matches. They can spend this money on anything, except things that they can use in the arena.
  • Gladiators also earn victory coins (Veesees) when they fight. These can be spent on pre-approved items which can be used in the arena. They must be purchased from specific shops and are highly regulated. This whole system exists to ensure fairness.
  • Popular Gladiators receive patron gifts. These tokens of affections can be just about anything.
  • Gladiators are considered sex objects. Many in the Domains seek them out as sexual conquests.
  • Gladiators are segregated from the rest of society. Most cities and towns with arenas have a Gladiator’s quarter where they can move about freely, but in any other cases they must be escorted by a member of the Deliberative.
  • Gladiators are not sundered from the more destructive aspects of their magic, but they are blocked from using outside of the arena and training areas. The officer of the deliberative that they are bound to can lift this block.

The Gladiator’s Early Training

In all but the most remote or war-torn areas children are tested for the Gift at age five. The tests used by the Deliberative have been refined over the centuries and they are exceptionally accurate. Those who test positive for the Gift (and the disease metaphor might be appropriate here, in some views) are immediately taken from their families for training. It is a hard thing for any parent, and rituals have developed in some of the older Domains surrounding this moment.

Most Gifted begin their early training in the City of Krass at the Campus Maximus. Here they are taught to read and write, basic mathematics, basic science, and a smattering of the humanities. They are also trained in the use of magic, particularly how to control their powers. Most of the Gifted display an affinity to one of the traditional “schools” of magic, and specialize in that type by their third year of training, but this may have more to do with how magic is taught than how it really functions.

Magical Training is very thorough, but any use “harmful” magic is strictly limited.

The Campus Maximus is a restricted area, supervised exclusively by cloistered members of the Deliberative who have little contact with the outside world. Not even the Chosen are allowed within. The Children are rarely allowed to leave and only see their families once a year at most. Still many of the Gifted remember their time within the Campus Maximus with great fondness…

The Choice and the Campus Gladius

After five years of schooling, the Gifted are allowed to choose if they will become Vassals or Gladiators. (The moral implications of this are debated constantly in the Domains) Those that choose the path of the Gladiator go to the Campus Gladius (also in Krass).

The Campus Gladius is much stricter than the Campus Maximus. The Children here are taught “harmful” magics that they will use in the Arena. They are trained in the use of weapons. They are taught how to kill with spell and steel. They are conditioned physically and mentally for life in the arena. From the moment they make the Choice to become Gladiators the are treated as living weapons.

Discipline in the Campus Gladius is harsh, but not overly brutal;  after all, few Gladiators in training fear pain after their first year, so punishments tend to be confinement, humiliation, or harsh labour. Younger Gladiators are allowed some leeway, but they are all watched very carefully.

Training starts of generalized but becomes increasingly specialized as it progresses. The first branch is magic, usually chosen before the Gladiator leaves the Campus Maximus. Gladiators then choose their armour weight class (commonly referred to as weight class — although this can be misleading since it refers to the weight of the armour, not the Gladiator). The final and most important choice is their training specialization, a branch of their education that should match their personality as closely as possible (Attack, Defender, or Skirmisher).

Gladiators spend six hours a day in classes and six hours in physical training and practice bouts. Most of them have killed a beastman or some other common creature by age twelve. Training is remorseless, allowing them to use live weapons and spells on each other. (Incidentally Vassals training in the healing arts often intern for a while in the Campus Gladius.)

One of the most unusual, and horrifying, aspects of a Gladiators training are the “tap” classes. “Tapped” is Gladiator slang for when their bodies are killed or incapacitated (comes from tapping out to a submission hold) but their life-essence is preserved by a Keystone. All Gladiators are conditioned to use the natural flow of magical power within them to regenerate. Part of this conditioning requires that the Gladiator sustain horrible wounds of many different types, so that their body and magic can recognize and react to them. Part of this training also includes killing them (biological definition) at least once. This not only conditions them to regenerate, it also teaches most of them to cope with pain and lessens their fear of death. “Tap” classes are reviled as brutal and harsh by many people of the Domains, but most Gladiators find the experience invaluable.

After six years of training a Gladiator must pass a test, a series of fights against other students and some monsters  in which they show what they have learned. Winning is less important (to the evaluators) than demonstration of skill. Those that pass the testing are allowed out. Very few pass the tests the first time they take them.

Male Gladiators and Female Gladiators train together. Romance (of any kind) between students is discouraged, but punishments are relatively mild and human nature is accepted.

Gladiators of all races train together. Although racist taunts are common in fights (anything goes), few Gladiators are actually racists, having trained, fought with and against, and roomed with all races.

It is worth noting that some Gladiators never leave training.

The Unranked

After leaving training a Gladiator begins his or her professional career as an unranked novice (often called a Freshie or a Rank 0). They are released into a more adult environment with less direct supervision, but are always kept separate from the general populace. Most go to the Campus Martius in Krass.

The Campus Martius is full of young, athletic men and women getting their first taste of life after six years of cloistered training. Sex and drinking are not prohibited here and most young Gladiators revel in them, giving the place a kind of carnival atmosphere. For people attracted to that kind of lifestyle, the Campus Martius represents the pinnacle of the young energetic, party-all-the-time lifestyle; and getting a job that allows them to work in the Campus and interact with the Gladiators is a dream come true.

The Deliberative allows the Gladiators in the Campus Martius to make their own mistakes. Fights are broken up before they get too serious. The most serious problems are uncontrolled magic and vandalism. Most Gladiators have long since learned to keep real violence for training and the arena; those that make the mistake of getting seriously violent in other places are dealt with ruthlessly.

Gladiators can receive visitors in the Campus Martius. They are often re-connected with their families at this time. (of find out that their families have disowned them in many cases)

Gladiators must choose their first set of weapons and armour, purchased with special seals from highly regulated shops, before their first match. For the sake of fairness Gladiators can only use weapons, armour, and enchantments that they purchase with these seals and the Victory Coins they win in the arena. It stops a Gladiator with a large inheritance from dominating the fighting grounds with a super-powerful weapon gifted to them, or a poor Gladiator from having to use sub-standard equipment. Basically anything they can actually use to gain advantage in the arena cannot be purchased with normal money.

Gladiators receive food and minimal lodging as a gift from the State. Those with money or family connections can use this to buy better accommodations. They cannot hire servants until after rank one, however and they cannot own businesses or land until master rank (Ten).

Gladiators are allowed to set their own pace with their first five matches. Most are too busy enjoying campus life to push hard and it takes 2-4 years for them to make it to their fifth professional match, which is the test for rank one.

The Private Leagues

Most arenas are run by the Chosen or the Factions.  Some, such as the Grand Arena of Krass, are run by the government in the name of the people of the Domains. However a significant number of smaller arenas in out of the way venues are privately owned and operated. The arenas must obey the laws set forth by the deliberative, but are otherwise free to employ any Gladiators they want in any type of match allowed. They pay the costs, but also keep the profit.

Most Gladiators spend their first few ranks in the Private Leagues, touring small arenas and working for private arena masters until they are recruited by a Faction. The relationship between an private arena master and a Gladiator is often antagonistic, and most fighters are happy to leave these leagues behind.

Still, the private leagues bring the Great Games to corners of the Domains where they would not otherwise be seen. A very few Gladiators spend their time exclusively in the Private leagues, often because they form a good relationship with the Arena Master or because they feel their talents are better served outside the faction games.

The most notorious of the Private Leagues is the so called Death Circuit. This private league features blind-draw death matches and draws a very exclusive clientele. This league is legal only in a handful of Domains and the Deliberative is constantly trying to shut it down.

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4 comments on “Gladiators

  1. Holla! says:

    Are there any more classes besides skirmisher, defender and charger? I cant find any mention of others in Bloodlust. The reason I ask is that the class system feels very incomplete. You either run at people attacking them (Sadira), taunt them into making a mistake (Ravius) and then pounce, or defend others (Gavin) . There doesn’t seem to be a class that is more balanced, a class that takes a more measured approach to attacking. Take the members of the Faultless Blade school for example, such as Sax and that one lady who’s name i’m blanking on. Neither of them seem to fit into one of the classes that are currently laid out.

    • grimkrieg says:

      Great points Matt! I’ll put it in gamer terms, if that doesn’t help let me know. The short version is that they start off similar but grow in different directions.

      In RPG terms a novice Gladiator has a training class (Charger, Defender, Skirmisher), a magic class (battle-magic, cogimancy, necromancy, elementalism, druidic), and an armour class (Light, Medium, and Heavy). I also had a merits and flaws system and a few other bells and whistles when we played it as a game.

      The training class only represents a portion of the skills that the Gladiators learn, and basically teach them to use their natural tendencies. Chargers are aggressive, Defenders are survivors, and Skirmishers are opportunistic. Armour class adds an additional layer of training, with lights being taught to use mobility, heavies being taught how to hold ground and use their armour to their advantage, and middle-weights learning versatility. Magic class adds an additional layer on top of that. I found that those three combined with a robust attribute system made for interesting starting characters.

      But you’re right, those distinctions do not make for interesting champions. Gavin is ~16 when he fights his first match, and is still not even sure of what weapon he favours. Gladiators are always training, and as they advance in rank they gain access to more and more exotic disciplines (Karmal’s Pyromancy, Sadira’s Battle Dance). By the time they make it to the end of their career they are often versed in a multitude of tactics. I worked hard to get this across in Bloodlust: Will to Power, it was easy for some characters (Karmal) and harder for Gavin, who is a very technical fighter and kind of rejects the idea of being flashy.

      Sax is a light charger elementalist. When he first started he was likely similar to early Sadira in style, hit fast, hit hard. Unlike Sadira, who can rely on her healing as well as the Gladiator’s regeneration, Sax would have powerful ranged attacks. Also he would be less agile, but stronger which would have him looking to deal a decisive blow upon closing instead of dancing in and out like Sadira. As Sax progresses through his career he leans towards brutality first (this comes up in passing in book 2, but it doesn’t spoil anything) and takes the Brutal Executioner school to master that one slash, one kill theory, he then learns some of the Champion discipline to round out his defence because light armour is tricky in monster fights against lots of opponents, eventually he moves on to the Flawless Blade and Empty Mind schools.

      In general, in the game I wanted the players to start off raw and then move to customize as they leveled. In the book the fans take pleasure in watching young Gladiators develop, so much so that they forget their fear of those who wield magic.

      • Holla! says:

        That makes a lot of sense, thanks. I’m so used to the MMORGs, where when ones class completely determines one play-style, with small variations due to talent allocation. The way you just described it seems like ones class is only a very basic template, which allows for huge amounts of customization.

  2. grimkrieg says:

    That’s spot on. While fiddling with my tabletop games I created a system which uses layered templates for character generation and advancement. Class in Bloodlust is just one of the building blocks for a starting character.

    However since the arena is a sport on some levels it gets played up a fair bit in Gladiator jargon and stereotypes.

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