Here’s a 5e Gladiator background for Parsantium: City at the Crossroads.
You have fought many times on the sands of the Hippodrome to entertain the crowds, killing and maiming wild beasts and your fellow gladiators for money and glory. You were either raised from an early age to fight in the stadium, were sent there by the courts after committing a murder, or you volunteered and won a place through auditions. You were part of a gladiatorial team with a flashy name such as Mountain Avalanche or Lightning Strike and probably have a stage name of your own. You may have won a medal or two, and although your body bears many scars, you did well to survive this long without losing more than a finger or two. While you still love the roar of the crowd when you step out on to the sands, you started to question the senseless slaughter, your own life expectancy, or both, and this prompted your retirement from gladiatorial life.
Skill Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Performance
Languages: Two of your choice
Equipment: a trident or net, a plumed helmet or other trophy, a token from an admirer, and a belt pouch containing 15 gp
FEATURE: ADORED BY THE MASSES
Your prowess in the arena has meant your fame has spread beyond the Hippodrome, and you receive a warm welcome whenever you visit one of Parsantium’s taverns or inns. You rarely need to pay for your own drinks and food, and everyone is eager to hear your tales of blood and glory, making it easy to make useful contacts in all three quarters of the city.
The best gladiators capture the imagination of the crowds at the Hippodrome and often have bold, confident and theatrical personalities, sometimes bordering on the arrogant. Others are the kind of scary and intimidating bruiser you definitely wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.
|1||You don’t win a bout by fighting fair.|
|2||I still feel a shiver of excitement at the start of every battle.|
|3||Only the weak grant mercy.|
|4||I like to look my best at all times. I get my hair trimmed by the finest barbers and keep my body well-oiled.|
|5||I want them to carve “they lived life to the full” on my tombstone.|
|6||I rise early and greet the new day with a brisk morning run whenever I can.|
|7||I’m at my best when there’s an audience watching.|
|8||I’m always ready with a well-honed quip or insult to rile my opponent.|
|1||Honour. If I say I’ll do it, I will (Lawful)|
|2||Creativity. Any thug can stab someone. I like to do with style and panache. (Chaotic)|
|3||People. I always put my friends first, before any “noble causes”.(Neutral)|
|4||Greed. I’m only doing this to get rich as fast as possible (Evil)|
|5||Respect. All people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. (Good)|
|6||Glory. I live for the roar of the crowd in my ears. (Any)|
|1||I’m going to track down the person who framed me for murder and kill them.|
|2||My weapon is my most treasured possession – it has saved my life dozens of times.|
|3||I haven’t seen my family since I became a gladiator and need to make things right with them.|
|4||I would do anything for the gladiators in my team. They are my brothers and sisters.|
|5||I’m in love with my greatest rival.|
|6||I owe the Editor of the Games a small fortune and have three months to pay him back.|
|1||I will not run away from a fight.|
|2||I always strike first, ask questions later.|
|3||I find it hard to resist the amorous advances of my fans.|
|4||I like to check my reflection whenever I pass a mirror.|
|5||I’ve become numb to killing.|
|6||I’m always broke – I blow any money I earn gambling.|
Chariot racing in Parsantium is not so much a sport as an obsession. You belonged to one of the four main teams of charioteers, known as factions – the Blues, the Greens, the Reds and the Whites – with the Blues and the Greens by far and away the more successful and popular. The city is divided along faction lines: residents of the Imperial Quarter tend to support the Blues and the Whites, while those living in the Old Quarter support the Greens and the Reds. Several times in the past few years fights have broken out between supporters of the rival factions before or after a race, and once or twice these scuffles have turned into full-blown rioting.
As a charioteer you took part in numerous races, driving a four-horse chariot around the track at the Hippodrome at high speeds. The most successful charioteers are household names in Parsantium, hero-worshipped by both men and women, who shower them with gifts and pester them for autographs and kisses.
You can adapt the suggested characteristics above to fit this background, and replace one of your language choices with a tool proficiency with land vehicles. Note that any ex-charioteer is unlikely to be welcome in a pub frequented by an opposing faction.
Art by Matt Morrow