Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Antioch Season 1, Episode 2

Following on from the last episode, we carry onto the next round. Mark's posts are in blue, mine are in green, and any post-editing commentary are in red. The gladiator rules used are Munera Sine Missione. Each round will be posted as a weekly episode.

Well that was a decisive opening round. The favoured one KIA on his first appearance!

Let me know if you want me to start another gladiator from my poor start. As Gallus’s first skill, I will take Dodge, as I think he needs to improve survival skills at this stage.

Ahenobarbus was not very happy about this initial showing, although considering it was only the matinee, not too much damage done ... The crowd saw a good fight with GALLUS and plenty of blood with SCORPU. And Ahenobarbus was able to make a quarter-aureus selling the dead body to the lion keepers.

GALLUS earns 2 aureus for the day's work, which becomes his starting balance. And the Dodge skill, as you indicated.

A few days later as Ahenobarbus was busy in a training session with ALUCIO, (another gladiator in the ludus who is subject to violent mood swings that affect his fighting capability) and wondering if the new herbal medication he had been told about would do any good, he got a visit from Helios, who he knew well, one of Athenodorus's slave secretaries and confidential general agents.

(After some discussion, it was decided to run a replacement gladiator, Germanicus, who is a dimacheri - otherwise it would have been the crazy Alucio.)

Helios explained that Athenodorus had heard about the mixed fortunes of Ahenobarbus's fighters the week before, and wanted to make an offer. Athenodorus would be prepared to give Ahenobarbus his gladiator GERMANICUS (Dimachaerus, no skills) at no cost, and pull strings to get Ahenobarbus two prime time slots at the Games of Diana, if Ahenobarbus would just arrange something for him ...

Athenodorus was up for the prestigious office of City Aedile this year, but his main opponent, Paulinus, was getting traction and looked like winning. Now, if he could be removed before the election which is just after the Games ... He would be an easy target as he normally had no bodyguards and often visited an obscure temple, alone, in the early morning when no one was around.

Ahenobarbus agreed, indeed he had no choice as a freedman client was totally expected to obey the commands of his patron. He would think about it later, after the Games.

The Games of Diana duly arrived and as promised there were two prime time slots for Ahenobarbus's men:

GALLUS (now well recovered) (Secutor, Dodge skill) will fight SABURRA (Gaetulian, Reflexes skill)
GERMANICUS (Diamachaerus, no skills) will fight SENECIO (Myrmillo, Dodge Skill)

Ahenobarbus was grateful for this opportunity given by his patron, but nervous as his men lined up against opponents who were nominally superior in skills. However if successful the prize money would be lavish.

One thing that is apparent is that the crowd of Antioch is not only hard to please but quite bloodthirsty!

It was clear that Gallus was a lot more determined in this fight, and was better prepared with a strength of 8 vs Saburra’s 5. Saburra was very tricksy, he came out quite fast and got a couple of good javelin throws into the flanks, but Gallus’s armour proved too strong. Saburra then lunged with his sword in a moment of opportunity, but yet again was unable to cut through the armour. Despite his energetic performance, Saburra was only able to gain very modest crowd support for his boldness and many attempts at showmanship. All the time was also the watchful but clumsy referee, who inexplicably got in the way a few times. Then came that moment, Gallus rolled 6AP, enough to move the referee away from protecting Saburra’s flank (must have been bribed…) and got a massive 6 strength hit in which Saburra failed to save against. The crowd, who never really warmed up to Saburra, gave the thumbs down. (as will be discovered later on, the thumbs down here was quite fortunate for Ahenobarbus)

Gallus: lost 0 from 6, favour points 0. Won.
Saburra: lost 6 from 5, favour points 1. Lost Appeal modified result 6. Dead.


This was one of the best fights of the day, but again, the crowd was hard to work. Senecio started strong (why does everyone get the “jump” on Ahenobarbus’s gladiators?) and attacked a few times with many misses and only scoring 1 wound. He did get 1 favour in that time, which was poor reward for a strong opening. Gemanicus bided his time then came in with a strong flank attack doing 5 damage, injuring Senecio. But Senecio was one to never quit, despite the AP penalty on his wound, he drew upon the crowd support to just perfectly time a flank attack. It was a dismal miss, and Senecio was now “tired” (but not yet emotional). Gambling money was flying on Germanicus to close this out. However, the wily Senecio wrong footed Germanicus and got a 4 hit in, causing serious injury. Germanicus recovered to get a few attacks in (all misses) and was on the brink of tiredness, but garnered 1 favour from the crowd for the fight back. Germanicus then came to life and had a powerful strike on the unshielded flank of the slowed Senecio with enough damage to win the fight, but the sword glanced off the helmet as Senecio’s armour held firm. Senecio then countered and struck Germanicus who fell.

Germanicus: lost 7 from 7, favour points 1 (5 fatigue). Lost but survived Appeal.
Senecio: lost 5 from 8, favour points 0 (5 fatigue). Won.

The appeal roll was interesting here. The roll was 4. As Germanicus did not have a helmet it dropped to 3. It looked like curtains. But.. +1 for being injured, +1 both gladiators tired or exhausted, +1 for injuring opponent, +1 for favour point. Just got to 7 to survive! Luckily Saburra was not spared, as the -1 from this would have finished Germanicus off.

The next skill Gallus will choose is Attack.


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Antioch Season 1, Episode 1

Munera Sine Missione are a fast playing set of gladiator rules that can throw up a surprising amount of narrative. A major advantage is that they can be easily played solo.

This is part of a series of campaigns that myself and Mark Stevens played by email. It was run as a "solo" campaign with a GM; one player plays out the arena fights, whereas the GM controls the storyline between fights. The idea was that the "in-between" events were a set of multiple choices (or played out as a skirmish using the Song of Shadows and Dust rules), and that it should not be too dangerous for the gladiator.

The first campaign we played was Leptis Magna, this is our second campaign. The roles were reversed, I was the "player" using my miniatures and conducting the fights, Mark was the "games master".  It was played to a conclusion in 3 weeks in May 2015; all communication was via email.

The campaign is set in Antioch, in the province of Syria in the last years of Nero's reign. The timeline follows on from the end of the Leptis Magna campaign.

From my list of gladiators, I used Scorpu, a Retiarius, and Gallus, a Secutor.

Below are the emails that passed back and forth - Marks entries are in blue, mine are in green. Any post edit comments are in red. I will post the whole campaign, round by round, on a weekly basis.

Campaign Rules background
For the Lanista to make a reasonable return on a gladiator, the gladiator needs to repay an amount of 100 gold aureus to the Lanista. This is repaid from a gladiators share of the winnings. Extra money can be earned in side activities. Depending on how the story goes, the Lanista might also sell the gladiator to another Familia. Or the gladiator could win the rudis and be freed!

Gladiator Background Story
It is 67 AD in the Roman Empire, in Antioch, Syria. Nero is Emperor, but is unpopular and lurid stories circulate. However for most people away from Rome, and not politically involved, it does not mean very much. Of more interest is the news from Judea in the south where the Jews, always troublemakers, have revolted against Roman rule. Last year came the shocking news of a major Roman defeat by these Jews. Now, reinforcements have arrived and several legions have marched south under T F Vespasianus, to deal with them. There has been some unrest in the city of Antioch, as the large Jewish minority (always hating the Greeks who are the dominant population) stirs up trouble in the markets, demanding more religious freedom, and execution of members of some bizarre sect that has apparently broken away from them.

Marcus Ulpius Ahenobarbus ("brass beard") is a former gladiator - probably from the Rhine provinces, he himself cannot really remember - who made it in Antioch, a major city of the Empire. After he won Primus Palus on the local circuit, he was freed and his old Master financed him to start a small ludus. He must now start with his small squad of inexperienced men and try and establish himself. Luckily the patronage of his former master, Gaius Ulpius Athenodorus, will come in useful as Athenodorus (a romanised Greek) is an influential man in the city. As a freedman, Ahenobarbus took his middle name from his former master as a sign of respect and clientage, as is the usual practise.

Ahenobarbus's two most promising recruits are SCORPU (a Retiarius, as was Ahenobarbus himself in his earlier career) and GALLUS (a Secutor). For the Trojan Games coming up next week, Ahenobarbus has been able to get these two fighters onto the roster, although only in the late afternoon shift. However, as he reflected, you have to start somewhere. The potential prize money is only a measly 2 aureus per game, although the City collegia, who sponsor these Games, can give a further 2-4 aureus as a donative to a fighter who puts on a really good show.

SCORPU will be fighting ASTINAX

GALLUS will be fighting UMBRIS

None of these men has any skills, they are all rookies.

In preparing his men for their first fight, Ahenobarbus emphasises the high stakes: the whole future of the ludus could be on the line.

Over to you ...

On a blistering hot day they took the field.


This was a real street fight blow for blow type thing. At first, Umbris with his better speed got some strong side attacks in, but could not cut through the armour of Gallus. The crowd appreciated his enthusiasm though and he started to gain favour. Gallus looked out of sorts but did some counter attacks, but the shield of Umbris saved wounds a number of times except for one hit that got through for 2 damage. Umbris then did a very strong attack on Gallus’s unshielded flank, doing 6 damage, seriously wounding Gallus. Gallus, though slowed, continued to attack earning the praise of the crowd, and he had to draw on this to keep him going. Just when all seemed lost, Gallus made the perfect strike (double 6 event) and took down Umbris, who, unexpectedly, fell. Umbris survived the appeal as he won some praise for his efforts, and many thought he was the better gladiator. A feature of the fight was both gladiators working the crowd quite well.

Gallus: lost 6 from 9 strength. Won 3 favour points, spent 2. Win
Umbris: lost 10 from 9 strength. Won 3 favour points, spent none. Survived Appeal with final result of 9.


Something seemed amiss in the Ahenobarbus ludus, first there was the lucky win of Gallus, and now Scorpu seemed underdone, with a 7 strength vs a 10 strength Astinax. Despite being the slower gladiator, Astinax charged up to a sluggish Scorpu and hit him for 6 damage. Scorpu recovered slightly and got the trident through for 1 damage. Scorpu, (with atrocious AP rolls) kept his distance but Astinax rushed him. At close quarters, Scorpu dislodged the shield from Astinax (double 5 event) in a disadvantaged attack. Astinax, though, was able to jump back, pick up his shield, advance and attack (with really good AP rolls), A further hit of 3 felled Scorpu who appealed, but the crowd was not generous and gave him the thumbs down…. Unlike the first fight, neither gladiator was able to work the crowd, a very dour, spartan affair, no wonder the crowd was in an unforgiving mood.

Scorpu: lost 9 from 7 strength. No favour points. Lost Appeal final result of 6.
Umbris: lost 1 from 10 strength. No favour points. Win.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Leptis Magna Season 1, Episode 9 (Finale)

Following on from the last episode, we carry onto the next round. My posts are in blue, Marks are in green, and any post-editing commentary are in red. The gladiator rules used are Munera Sine Missione - note that this version may have differences to the current version. Each round will be posted as a weekly episode.
Unexpected answer….. Mago draws his gladius and leaps forward in a great rage at Noctua. Having the advantage of surprise, Mago felled Noctua in a single blow. The other 2 guards were stunned but starting to react. Mago turned to the first one and quickly despatched him. The second guard came up, and parried Mago’s first strike with his shield. The guard, now with his gladius drawn parried a second blow from Mago. He then counter struck and killed the unarmoured Mago. Such was the end of a promising career. In a way, Mago found peace away from the crazy world he was born into. At the scene of the crime, it was discovered that Mago carried the branding of Macer. The Magistrate was to later arrest Macer for ordering an assassination of Noctua, and it is unknown whether Macer was able to scheme his way out of that one. 


I wasn’t intending for there to be death during the “in between” events, as I thought the most dangerous option out of each 3 was obvious – but from a character role playing point of view, it was the correct answer (in my defence I didn’t know they were brothers!).

I gave the situation the following odds of success, which involved three successive d6 rolls. 1st roll: Kill Noctua on roll of 5 or less. 2nd roll: Kill first guard on roll of 3 or less. 3rd roll: Kill second guard on roll of 2 or less. The chances of success drops at each successive roll as the opponents recover from the surprise. For each failure, a reroll is allowed, but 1 is added (cumulative). A very difficult one. The first roll was 2, Noctua was killed straight away. The next roll was 1, killing the first guard. All of a sudden Mago was looking like surviving here. Third roll was 5, so the last guard was able to recover from the surprise. There was still a chance to win, but I had to roll a 1 (needed 2 or less with +1 on the dice). I rolled another 5, so it was over. Close at the end.

Anyway, it was a good run by Mago, and the story evolved quite a bit – Macer is ruined for a second time (no doubt he originally left Capua the first time under similar circumstances).

I think the mechanism worked very well, the main learning point for me as the Active player is not to get too much into the background context and leave that to the GamesMaster.

No happy endings for anyone: Mago and Kemsa dead, Macer ruined (probably), Noctua dead. Just like real life. I wonder what happened to Samasu?

The second campaign we ran was Antioch, which will be posted up next. Leptis Magna (Season 2) was revisited again after Antioch.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Leptis Magna Season 1, Episode 8

Following on from the last episode, we carry onto the next round. My posts are in blue, Marks are in green, and any post-editing commentary are in red. The gladiator rules used are Munera Sine Missione - note that this version may have differences to the current version. Each round will be posted as a weekly episode.

Wow, a very dramatic outcome. Macer is at a loss. It started in that cestus fight with Isaac, Macer mused. Since that time, Kemsa was not the same, he must have been bewitched by that cult out of Judea. On the other hand, he was very pleased with Mago. That trident is quite special. Macer told Mago that is was tempered by the blood of a 3 year old goat, giving it’s wielder good fortune. Mago wins 9 gold, after deducting 1 upkeep for the child, Mago’s savings are now 35 gold.

Blaming everything on Noctua, Macer decides he will spike the wines in Noctua’s ludus so that his gladiators will be too ill to fight in the next games. Samasu’s sources have learned who Noctua’s wine merchant is. The plan is to somehow intercept the next wine delivery on route and put a herbal mixture into it that causes extreme stomach pain for a week. Samasu has the pouch with the herbs, Mago is to go as “security” in case something goes wrong. Both are cloaked and it is late evening. Unexpectedly, the wine cart left early and got to the outside of Noctua’s ludus by the time Samasu spotted it. It was full of amphoras (earthenware jugs). The merchant was greeted by two armed guards of Noctua who started talking about the wine. While distracted, Samasu snuck up to the back of the cart with his pouch full of herbs, while Mago hid out of view around a corner. Samasu was trying to remove a cork seal on one of the amphora’s when one of them fell, making a loud noise. “Thief!” screamed the merchant as the two armed guards turned around and advanced. Samasu had no choice but to grab an amphora (pretending to be a thief) and bolt, with the 2 guards on hot pursuit. The merchant was not far behind screaming “Thief! Thief! Get the wine back!”.

It was eerily quiet as Mago stepped forward towards the now unattended cart with amphoras full of wine. Most of them are large amphoras with Roman markings on them that look like the names of regions in Africa (with Mago’s limited/no ability to read) and some sort of numbering. There is a single small amphora with what looks like Greek markings on it, but Mago doesn’t understand that language. All the amphoras have large cork plugs on them. It is also apparent that Samasu dropped the pouch with the herbs next to the cart before he ran off. He probably had to drop the pouch in order to steal the wine. In the distance, Mago can hear the smashing sound of an amphora breaking and yelling. Does Mago;
  1. Run away, back to Macer, before he gets discovered an implicates Macer in a theft against Noctua, or
  2. Pick up the pouch, uncork one of the large amphoras and empty the contents into it, recork and run back to Macer, or
  3. Pick up the pouch, uncork the small amphora and empty the contents into it, recork and run back to Macer.
To be a successful Retiarius, when it seems very every one you come up against in the arena is going to be more heavily armed and armoured than you, requires nerves of steel and lightning fast reactions. So it is no surprise that Mago moves fast, retrieves the packet of herbs, and empties it into the small amphora. He re-seals the amphora and slips quickly away into the shadows, back to Macer.

Mago swiftly goes about his work. Just as he pushed the cork back into the small amphora, 2 more guards come out of the gates of Noctua’s ludus building with a man of rank. Mago has seen this man before in the stands, and recognises him as Noctua himself. Mago is stunned for a second, as Noctua yells out to Mago “we have been waiting for you, stop standing around and bring your masters cart in!” (the cart is a sort of large wheelbarrow). Mago has clearly been mistaken as a servant of the wine merchant. One of the guards asks “where are Corvus and Glabrio, they should have been out here?”. The second guard responded in a dismissive tone “those lazy sods are probably out gambling with dice again, they cheated that African gladiator of Macers really good last time!”. They all burst out laughing.

The merchant with the other 2 guards (Corvus and Glabrio) are still nowhere to be seen and might return at any time. And what happened to Samasu? What does Mago do;
  1. Turn and run, he has not been recognised with his cloak on and can easily outpace the armoured guards, or
  2. Play along, pick up the handles and push the cart into the ludus of Noctua, or
  3. Rush forward, draw out his gladius, attack Noctua and the guards, being offended at the slight and trickery against his deceased friend Kemsa.
Oh dear this is starting to get dangerous and tricky. I mini gamed some options (dice rolled for probabilities) including trying to fathom why Kemsa and Mago had been so close. Turns out they were brothers, who had kept it a secret for fear of being split up and sold separately. This was factored into Mago's response to the options you set below.

Mago rushes forward and attacks Noctua and the two guards. He blames Noctua for engineering the death of Kemsa, giving credence to what Macer has been saying.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Leptis Magna Season 1, Episode 7

Following on from the last episode, we carry onto the next round. My posts are in blue, Marks are in green, and any post-editing commentary are in red. The gladiator rules used are Munera Sine Missione - note that this version may have differences to the current version. Each round will be posted as a weekly episode.

These were wonderful fights! The crowds were thoroughly entertained. Everyone was riveted, except of course Noctua, who was seething at the success of Mago. There is talk now that Mago is on course to be selected for the Primus and become the champion (Primus Palus) of Leptis Magna. This would bring great honour to the ludus of Macer. Mago earns 8 gold from the win, and Kemsa, despite losing gets 1 gold. Their savings are now, Mago 27 gold (start 20, win 8, child -1), and Kemsa to 9 gold.

Onto world news, the governor, Vespasianus has now left the province with his family and taken up permanent residence in Rome. Policing of the province has mainly been left to the Legio III Augusta until a new governor arrives.

As both Mago and Kemsa were seriously wounded, they have to do a lot of recuperating before the next fight. It gives Mago more time with Dahia and their little boy. Given his growing status in the arena, Macer offers Mago some new equipment. He can either have some nicely polished and fancier armour [effect: - reroll first result of 4 or less on ‘appeal to the crowd’], or a damascus steel trident [effect - reroll the first 1 (if attacker) or 6 (if defender) roll following a double 1 special event].

Does Mago:
1) take the fancy armour, or
2) take the Damascus steel trident

Kemsa on the other hand passes time by gambling with dice. He can place a bet of 1 gold. Roll 4d6. On a doubles, he wins an extra gold, on 2 doubles, two extra gold. You can only keep going (push your luck) if you keep winning. If no doubles are rolled, the whole lot is lost including the original bet of 1 gold, and it comes to an end. If he does this, let me know if he wins (or loses) any money.

Mago thought about the options offered to him by Macer, and decided to take the Trident.

Kemsa played five games of dice (in my simulation), each ending on the fifth throw or when he failed to throw a double, whichever happened first. Over the course of the five games he won 14 gold including one pair of doubles in the same hand, but ended up losing each game, so as well as 'losing' the 14 gold he has lost his original stakes totalling 5 gold. Kemsa does not really understand probability, so he maybe secretly thinks he has been cheated somehow, or that some god is against him.

After the rather boring recuperation period, both Mago and Kemsa are now fully recovered. Kemsa is feeling emboldened by his new trident befitting his status, while Mago is feeling that luck has turned against him, and possibly as mentioned, he has offended the gods in some way. Gambling is clearly not good for him, losing at both the chariot racing and dice throwing, though people have warned him against the evil “Roman” dice that are slightly warped. Kemsa is now down to 4 gold by the looks of things, and is growing desperate for an arena win to turn his fortunes around.

The upcoming games are announced as the “Ludi Piscatori”, celebrating the fishermen who ply the local seas. The Retiarius (the fisherman) and Murmillo (the fish) will be the focus of events. Unfortunately, both Mago and Kemsa are facing weaker opponents (so they won’t gain a skill if they win), which leads Macer to believe that yet again, Noctua is meddling with the Magistrate to exclude his fighters from opponents of worth. Macer has decided that something singular must be done with Noctua after the games…

Mago is against Priscus (Murmillo) who has 3 skills (Reflexes, Attack, Dodge), and Kemsa is against Mus (Murmillo), an earlier opponent of Mago, who has 2 skills (Dodge, Reflexes). Before the gladiator fights, there was an execution of criminals and other undesirables ad bestias (killed by wild beasts). Through the lattice work of the gates, both Mago and Kemsa noticed that amongst the criminals was Isaac, who was captured. He had the word FUGITIVUS branded onto his forehead and met a grizzly end. Such is the new reign of terror from the Legate of the Legio III Augusta to restore order to the province.

Let me know the outcomes.

Mago and his new trident made short work of Priscus. Priscus started with a whole run of very low AP dice, and did not make much use of his extra 'Reflexes' AP, and Mago came right across the arena to attack him. Mago scored an immediate 5 strength hit, followed by ensnaring Priscus in the net and finishing him off. The crowd spared him even though he had not fought very well. A virtuoso performance by Mago.

Mago: lost 0/10 strength, 2 fatigue, Vincit (Won)
Priscus: 7/7 strength, 2 fatigue, Missio (Lost by given Mercy)

Kemsa and Mus fought a fast bout too, but this one was not to the advantage of Macer's ludus. Mus immediately knocked Kemsa down and he lost his shield (double 5 special event). Kemsa was able to stand up again, but Mus immediately knocked him down for a second time and seriously wounded him (double 6 special event). The crowd started to boo that Kemsa had thrown the fight (even though he was badly wounded) and voted for him to be killed. Mus was happy to oblige.

No one knows why Kemsa failed so badly today. Maybe the news about Isaac, and his own gambling losses, were on his mind and made him lose confidence? Now we will never know.

Kemsa: lost 10/8 strength, 0 fatigue, Peruit (Killed)
Mus: lost 0/10 strength, 0 fatigue, Vincit (Won)