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Why All Warriors Should Want to Train in the Thyatis Arenasby Håvard
I think one of the reasons why Gaz3 The Principalities of Glantri is so popular is because it made all players of magic user characters not only be from Glantri, but also go there if they were from other parts of Mystara. The idea of studying at the Great School of Magic or learning many of the other magical secrets, like the Secret Crafts or even the Secret of the Radience are things every player would want their magic user character to get into. To some extent I think the Alfheim, Five Shires and Rockhome Gazeteers did the same for the demihuman classes.
However, I don't think Dawn of the Emperors quite manages to do the same for Fighters. Sure, many other countries have warrior types too, but I would like to see Thyatis be presented in a way that draws Fighter type characters in, the same way Gaz3 does for magic users and Glantri. More specifically, I would like to connect this to the Gladiatorial Arenas of Thyatis.
Why the Arenas? Mainly because they are such an iconic location and we need something like that to parallell the Great School of Magic. This might mean having to revise the way we look at the Arenas though, which is something I have been thinking about lately. I think that because of what the Gladiator Arenas were like in history is something that makes players want to stay away from them. They are associated with slavery or punishment and they may be seen as death traps. Some characters may also have moral objections to fighting into the arenas, if they risk being placed in situations where they have to fight and maybe kill opponents who have been forced into the arenas. From a setting design perspective this is bad in my opinion, because we should want to have places that the players want their characters to visit. Not the other way around!
I am not going to remove those aspects of the Arenas, but I'd like to make them something else too. I want the Arenas to be a place that warrior types want to visit for the following reasons:
1) TRAINING/HONING THEIR SKILLS
In order to become a powerful warrior, there should be no place better than training with the Gladiatorial Schools and fighting in the arenas. Even if a charcter doesnt want to fight in the arenas, just training with those who do should be a perfect way to learn new forms of combat and prepare yourself for all kinds of enemies.
Game Mechanics: Most editions don't really have too many rules for training, although BECMI does require finding weapon trainers in order to learn higher levels of weapon mastery. Perhaps the chance of finding a weapon trainer can be increased if the PC trains with Gladiators? If the DM requires pcs to spend gold/time to gain new levels then those can be reduced if training at the arena. In other editions, perhaps specific feats are only taught at the arenas etc. There's also the chance to gain XP for arena battles of course.
Nothing helps make you more famous than proving yourself in the arenas. Fighting monsters in dungeons may be heroic, but in the arenas, everyone can see what you are worth. Large audiences worship the warriors like modern day movie stars. If rules like renown or other fame rules are used you could give a bonus to arena fighters. If not, you could simply look at the character's level and take into account how much success the PC has had in the arenas or other places which would boost his fame.
3)CONTACTS, FIGHTING ORDERS AND MISSION CONTRACTS
Contacts shouldn't be just for Thieves and Magic-Users. At the Arenas, Fighters can make friends with other like minded characters. Dawn of the Emperors introduces some Organizations for Fighters. Perhaps these Orders have scouts at the arenas looking for new talents to recruit to their orders? Maybe they even have their own champions who fight to promote the Orders? The Arenas might also be a good place to find other types of work. People looking for bodyguards, heroes to clear out dungeons or be sent on missions across the world may do worse than look at the Arenas. These employers probably pay better than the shady robed figure who hires you in a town tavern in rural Karameikos.
4)MONEY AND MAGIC ITEMS
Fighting in the arenas could be a good way of making some quick cash as well. If you use some kind of downtime rules, a fighter could earn some GPs fighting in the arenas in his downtime or it can be roleplayed out for the more deadly fights. Famous gladiators will earn extra income through gifts from sponsors and fans that may even include Magic Items. Some of these gifts may be placed within the arena, making the characters fight over them.
5) SETTLING SCORES
Countries like Darokin or Minrothad may have traditions of duels when people want to settle a score with a rival, but perhaps Thyatians challenge eachother to a fight at the Arenas? That way you could get an opportunity to kill a rival without the law getting involved.
What do you think? Could this new way of viewing the Thyatis Arenas add some fun to Mystara's fighter characters?