A set of combatants for the ring
Men and women who fight willingly, for fame or a little extra cash.
1. The Death Wish
'Kill me. There is no other choice.'
This man desperately wants to die, but his religion forbids him from taking his own life. Unfortunately, this includes simply allowing himself to be killed. And even more unfortunately (for him), he's a really, really good fighter. He participates in gladiatorial combat whenever there is an open spot, hoping that one of the new recruits will finally prove his match. The Death Wish doesn't like to cause unnecessary pain or suffering, but will relentlessly press any opponent who seems to be holding back.
2. The Trouble-Seeker
Participating in a death match is all sorts of illegal, but this young nobleman has the money to bribe his way into the ring. Perhaps he wants to start a scandal, or perhaps he was too sheltered as a child. Either way, he will soon find out that a gladiatorial match is no game, and might need to be rescued/sheltered by the party.
3. The Pastor
'Repent or perish!'
A radical member of the Faith, this man participates in a weekly sermon/death-match to help spread his faith. He will preach scripture - often in a pithy, light-hearted manner - while dealing crushing blows with the 'Fist of God' (a large, spiked mace). Many of his opponents are reluctant to hurt a religious man, for fear of angering his god. If a fallen opponent repents, he will convert the unfortunate sinner and spare his life, with the understanding that he will come back to finish the job, if necessary.
4. The Showoff
'I just have a gift.'
Some men are born fighters, and The Showoff is one of these. He's independently wealthy and doesn't need the money - he fights purely for the challenge and the roaring approval of the crowd. Whenever business is slow (pirate ship, mercenary company, etc) and the wenches are cold, he will assuage his boredom with a brutal death match (and perhaps some 'fan service' afterwards). Watch out for his signature move - the Ten Slices of Fury. It's a real crowd-pleaser.
5. The Mascot
A symbol of national pride, the Mascot is usually scheduled for the opening match. He enters the ring to the clash of trumpets, clad in a full-face mask and traditional costume. The Mascot will often be matched against opponents clad in the garb of conquered or soon-to-be invaded nations. He is not allowed to speak, and his true identity is a strict state secret, but he is definitely one of the best fighters in the nation.
6. The Vigilante
'Justice has come. You will pay for your crimes!'
What started out as a personal quest to avenge his sister's murder turned into a life-long mission for this ex-soldier. If a particularly repugnant criminal fails to receive the death penalty and is instead assigned to the gladiators' ring, The Vigilante will make sure that he never has the chance to earn his freedom. He wears a full-face helmet to protect his identity, engraved with the symbol of the God of Justice.
7. The Professional
'It's nothing personal.'
An ex-gladiator who earned his freedom in the ring, The Professional found life outside it's walls ill-suited to a man of his talents and temperament. With no other job skills and little support from his estranged family, The Professional returned to the ring to fight for coin. He's not a particularly flashy combatant, and fights more defensively than the crowd likes, but he's useful filler during a slow week.
8. The Shapeshifter
A bestial man who thrills for the hunt, The Shapeshifter has found that men make the most challenging prey. The Gladiators' Ring is about the only socially acceptable way for him to indulge his appetites. He's often employed as a third-match 'surprise' to delight the crowd, or as a way to shake up a stand-off. His favorite trick is to enter with the other animals, catching his opponents off-guard with his human-level intelligence or an unexpected shift to a new form.
9. The Heir
Daughter of a famous gladiator, this fighter entered the ring as soon as she was legally able to do so, hoping to earn a little extra money to support her aging mother and crippled father. She relies heavily on her father's reputation, and has had much of his custom armor reforged to fit her smaller frame. She never speaks, preferring to let her spear do the talking for her. Depending on the setting, the Heir may be disguising the fact that she is a girl, partly to secure placement in the more risky (and better-paying) matches.
10. The Second Son
Overlooked and underestimated by the royal family, this prince sees the Gladiators' Ring as an alternate path to power. Realizing that gladiators are often more popular than politicians, he is slowly building up a name for himself through mortal combat. The Second Son knows that there are few in the ring who can hurt him (he has very expensive armor and has received the best tutelage available), and can always bribe his way into an easier match if needed. Several of his opponents suffered pre-match 'accidents' or were drugged/poisoned to make them less capable than normal.
11. The Doppelganger
'Who's it gonna be, eh?'
The Doppleganger is a rare creature, and this one knows how to exploit that rarity to its own advantage. A consummate actor, he regularly hires his services to the local Ringmaster to fill whatever role is required of him. For a fee, you can pay to see your own worst enemy slaughtered for your entertainment - the doppleganger can survive a surprising amount of damage, simply by moving its internal organs around. The Emperor often uses this service as a warning to his political opponents.
Slaves of the ring, these people belong to the Ringmaster and must earn their way back to freedom by fighting in paid matches. The higher-risk the match, the better their paltry commission.
12. The Faithful
This heartsick young man was captured by his noble lover's political enemies, during a drunken night on the town. The lady has long since moved on, but he has no way of knowing that. He has carefully etched her name into his sword, and dreams only of returning to her arms. His battle cry is her name (which makes many female audience members sigh). Over the months, he has made more attempts at escape than any other gladiator left alive, and often bears fresh welt marks across his back and face for his trouble.
13. The Fool
He's not a fighter, and he knows it. The only reason he is still alive is because he can make the crowd laugh with his cowardly antics. Will often 'stumble' into the arena, nearly impaling himself on his own weapon. The crowd loves to shout conflicting advice at him, and he will attempt to follow ALL of it. Has been beaten in every match up, but the victors have so-far been forbidden from delivering the death stroke, due to The Fool's high entertainment value.
14. The King
This man was once great, and you can still see it in the set of his shoulders, the lines on his face. A deposed leader from a conquered land, The King is a real draw for the weekend crowd. He wears an iron crown that has been permanently screwed into his skull, and is often forced to fight with poor or inferior weapons. Still, he refuses to give into despair, hoping that his victories in the ring will bring hope to his former subjects.
15. The 'Queen'
An accidental eunuch with a taste for cross-dressing, The 'Queen' is one of the more colorful characters you'll see in the show. He was thrown into the Ring after repeated violations of the public decency laws. His success there is due to his ability to combine feminine looks with an unexpected burst of masculine strength, that catches his opponents off guard. Visiting gladiators have no idea that the 'shrieking, mewling woman' can crush a trachea with 'her' bare hands.
16. The Half-Wit
'Not want fight -- not want fight!'
Big, dumb and gentle, The Half-Wit is a sad sight to behold. He hates the ring, and must be dragged or prodded into it for each match, after which he will huddle in place weeping with terror. That's where the rocks come in handy. A favorite game of the audience is to pelt the Half-Wit with stones until he snaps; the resulting rampages are impressive and often deadly for the other combatants.
17. The Adulteress
A hardened, wiry-framed woman, you can still see a hint of the beauty she once was. Her former husband caught her in the arms of another man, and sold her to the Ring after killing her lover. Despite the odds, The Adulteress has survived a number of matches. She relies heavily on the terrain, using her wits to lure other warriors into traps or weak positions before striking. It is surprising how viciously she can kill.
18. The Tribute
As is customary for many evil regimes, The Empire requires a yearly sacrifice from each of its conquered territories, in the form of a youth or maiden. These are either used for religious sacrifices, Minotaur fodder or gladiatorial combat, depending on the whims of the current Emperor. The Tribute is one such youth - fair of face and strong in body - that was lucky enough to receive combat training in his home province before being selected. The gods seem to favor him, for he has defeated several warriors far stronger and more experienced than he.
19. The Insane
'For I am come to deliver you into the Greatest of Wars! Rejoice!'
This man seems to genuinely believe that he is the God of Combat, come to the Ring to reward and punish his believers. Unsurprisingly, he has developed quite a rivalry with The Pastor, who denounces his ravings as 'blasphemous'. To The Insane, the Ring is an altar of sacrifice and the audience is full of adoring devotees; he will rant and rave semi-religious expressions at them while declaring his own everlasting glory. Unfortunately for his opponents, his insanity allows him to shrug off wounds that would be normally incapacitating, and he has absolutely no fear.
20. The Foreigner
There's one in every ring - an exotic warrior with strange eyes and coloring, wielding a weapon both deadly and strange. The Foreigner doesn't speak the local language and is beginning to despair of ever finding his way home again. He views everyone with distrust, but he's smart and keeps his eyes open. Anyone who speaks his language may find a willing accomplice or source of information, especially if they can promise his freedom in return.
21. The Sorcerer
This man had no right to survive more than a week in the Ring. He has no combat training to speak of, and the Ringmaster expected him to go down in his very first match. Instead, a strange series of unfortunate events keep befalling the warriors who are matched against him, and he is acquiring a reputation for 'devil's luck'. In reality, The Sorcerer has a latent magical talent that expresses itself during times of extreme stress. He is completely unaware of what he is doing.
22. The Doomed
'Oh Sirius, Lord of Mercy, preserve me!'
Unlike The Sorcerer, this man has no tricks up his sleeve; he was just an average wage-earner, sold into slavery after his nation was invaded. Mid-thirties, strong but bent after years of hard labor, he has no chance of winning his first match. The worst part is, he knows it. He will be exceptionally eager to participate in any plan that offers him hope for escape.
23. The Scarred
No one knows this guy's story; his tongue was removed by the man who sold him to the Ring, years ago. The Scarred has been horribly and intentionally disfigured, his face burnt and cut in so many places that there is no telling what he used to look like. Someone obviously had a strong grudge against him, though - the scars cover every surface of his body, and he is missing an ear and several fingers as well. He is such an amazing fighter, however, that there is a lot of speculation about his former identity.
24. The Priest of Mathom
'Whenever's good. I'll be here!'
He's never seen a match. Well, that's not exactly true - he was scheduled for one match, after he'd been in the Ring for several months, but it was canceled after an enormous delay. His opponent's armor (The Pastor, that time) was found to be infected with a strain of metal-eating fleas, and the tigers were all suffering from some sort of stomach illness. Then the lock on his cell was discovered rusted shut, and the key had gone missing to boot. Meanwhile, the audience had grown restless and the Ringmaster decided to just reschedule the Mathomite for a later date.
25. The Monkey
More Aladdin than Conan, this man is a quick, agile fighter who prefers to go into the Ring as lightly armored as possible. His insane climbing/jumping skills allow him to tumble around the arena, evading his more cumbersome opponents with ease. The Monkey is more adept with a sling than a blade, and one of his favorite tricks is to pelt the other warriors from a high vantage point, exploiting tiny weaknesses in their armor. He has killed more than one foe by slipping a stone right through the eye-slit in their helmet. When caught, he will try to play 'dead' until his foe makes an exploitable mistake.
26. The Illusionist
Another one of the profession's rare female combatants, this woman was captured and tried as a witch before being sold to the Ring for pure entertainment value. She only knows a handful of minor illusions, and has had to rely on temporary alliances formed with other prisoners to stay alive. Her magic can make herself or an ally harder to see, or divert an opponent's attention at a critical moment. The Illusionist intentionally plays up her reputation as a witch, hoping to terrify some of the others into making fatal mistakes.
27. The Wrongfully Accused
An ex-soldier who was tried for murdering a commanding officer, this man has spent the past several years in the ring, trying to earn enough to win back his freedom. He won't talk about his crime, because he is covering for the man who actually killed the officer - a younger friend or brother who should have kept his temper. He is one of the few captives who will volunteer for extra matches, knowing that every fight he wins brings him closer to freedom and family.
28. The Elderly
One of the few veterans of the Ring, this man has survived more matches than any man alive, but plays so conservatively that he rarely gets the big tips or commissions he needs to earn his freedom. The Elderly seems to know everything - his foes' win/loss records and their favorite tricks, how to get the best bits of grub from the scraps thrown to them, etc. He can even make small repairs to armor and keeps his own gear in far better condition than most.
29. The Orc
A member of a race known for its battle prowess, The Orc is expected to live up to that fearsome reputation in the arena. The Ringmaster likes to talk up his many bloody victories in far-off locals, and dresses him in savage garb. Truth is, he wouldn't have been captured at all if he were a good fighter. This particular Orc was just support staff for the last orcish invasion - a simple cook or day laborer. He speaks a few words of broken Common, and is smart enough to play the role assigned him, knowing that a scared foe is easier for him to defeat.
30. The Centaur
The Centaur was actually considered part of the 'animal stock', until he made a nearly-successful escape attempt from their enclosure. Even now, the Ringmaster doesn't know exactly how to treat him. Sometimes, he is given a weapon and pitted against a human opponent. At others, he is chained to arena like one of the tigers, or made to enter through one of the animal enclosures. Unlike the human combatants, The Centaur earns no pay and has no hope of winning his freedom - a fact of which he is bitterly aware.