29 October 2011

Gladiators fought like gentlemen?

It's 8am trying to force some food down before I run off to SydCon, pictures from the event should be up sometime tomorrow or on Monday.

While eating here, in front of my computer as usual, I was googling around for information on Gladiators. As with any other subject that has become part of my hobby I always want to learn more to both get an idea of how tweaks to the game could become historically accurate and to get history straight.

So I stumbled upon this National Geographic article about Gladiators which I found very interesting. It's not very long but it made a huge impact.

The most remarkable bit of information was the suggestion that 90% of the Gladiators fighting in the arena got out of the fights alive. Huge contrast to any Gladiator spectacle movie/tv show that pretty much depicts every arena encounter as a foreplay to decapitation.

This little bit of information, along with the "no blows to the head from behind" part really got me thinking as I was wondering about whether or not to implement some "surrounded by enemy models" penalty for the Gladiator rules. As for the "low lethality" rate the Gladiator rulebook does mention that fights staged would often be determined to be non-lethal or to the death beforehand. As such I think if played "correctly", a Gladiator campaign with 1vs1 battles and their like should be played as "non lethal" (still keeping the wounds/after game chart events though) up to the point where the primus/champion of both teams face off each other in which case the "appeal to the crowd" would make sense.

Mass battles, or fights with slaves destined to die in the arena in particular would be played without any restrictions though.

In the end this would make sense game wise as well, considering the amount of fights won needed to advance between each Gladiator level (it's a long way from novice to champion).


  1. That's my understanding too - highly trained gladiators were too valuable to waste in death matches. Accidents happen of course, but I believe that execution style endings were very rare.

  2. Yes it makes perfect sense, but it is such a contrast to "popular culture". Especially that silly show Spartacus: Blood and Sand (which will be reviewed next week)...

  3. I gather that gladiators were a more lethal version of the WWF, or whatever it's called now. The audience would have had their heroes and villains and 'the spectacle' would be the main appeal.

    Let's face it, it cost money to buy and train a gladiator and to lose your investment in one fight wouldn't appeal.

    I'm sure there was a darker side, you might get one 'hero' put against several condemned men, or something like that, which would have been a bit of a blood-fest and probably 'fixed' to ensure the hero's victory.

    It was certainly dangerous, but perhaps not as deadly or earnest as we'd imagine for the 'real' gladiators.

  4. Another interesting read. I'm really enjoying your Gladiator development lately.

  5. Talked to my buddy Calle about all of this today and we pretty much came to the same conclusion that it would almost be of benefit if the rules had some sort of "entertainment value" that Gladiators fighting could gather during a fight.

    For blows dealt and received, wounds dealt and received, and taking others out of action. Being outnumbered in a fight etc. I will give it a though, it might be a nice additional twist. There is already something similar though a "light" version of it in the Gladiator rulebook but it wouldn't hurt to flesh it out.

  6. That sounds good. You might consider negatives like 'foul blows' and similar events perhaps?

    Certainly showmanship or playing/teasing the crowd would be 'entertainment value' for sure too.

  7. Coming in late here ...

    The Romans had gladiators to entertain them for some 4-500 years, and obviously things changed over time. I get the impression that the lethality of fights varied throughout history - in the Republic they were fairly bloody, but during the early Empire they were less so as gladiators became big business. Later in time I think things got deadlier.

    I don't know whether geography had an effect either - whether spectacles in the outlying parts of the Empire were more or less deadly than those in Rome.


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