Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Leptis Magna Season 2, 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, the second Antioch, and for the third, the Leptis Magna storyline was re-visited and continued with a new pair of gladiators. I was the "games master", and Mark was the "player" using his miniatures and conducting the fights.  It was played to a conclusion in about 2 months between July and September 2016; all communication was via email.

The campaign is set in Leptis Magna, in the province of Africa in the last years of Nero's reign. From Marks collection of gladitors, he chose;

SENEX - Thracian; (sword but gladius not sica), small shield, light armour.
ASIATICUS - Secutor; sword, large shield, light armour incl no helmet.

Below are the emails that passed back and forth - my entries are in blue, Marks 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

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! This becomes most likely if a gladiator makes it in gaining five skills.

Campaign Background
It is said that mystics predict Leptis Magna will one day be a great city, and a son from it will rise to become emperor. But this is not the situation today. The hapless magistrate, Lucius Septimus Geta, presides over a city torn by hatred and rebellion.

Armed gangs roam the streets where no one is safe. Just recently, a lanista named Mettius Ulpius Noctua was murdered by such a foul gang. It is said that in the same night another lanista, Servius Albius Macer mysteriously left the city to join with his powerful relative, Lucius Clodius Macer, Legatus of the Legio III Augusta. Some say he was fed up with the lawlessness, others say he went to the protection of the legion as the Magistrate was going to move against him. With Vespasian no longer governor, having been sent to Judea to quell a rebellion, the power in Africa is now held by the Legatus.

With so many gladiators up for sale, a number of astute purchases were made by Androcles, said to be from Corinth. He is a recent arrival who has decided to set up a ludus in Leptis Magna, occupying the former training grounds of Macer, which were declared forfeit by the Magistrate.

Such is that fate of Senex and Asiaticus that they were brought to Leptis Magna by Noctua, and now find themselves the property of Androcles. Both gladiators can buy their freedom if they earn enough money, and it is rumoured that some have done this. Or they can win freedom with the wooden rudis.

Other veteran gladiators become well paid trainers. Such is the doctore of the Androcles’ ludus, Quadratus, who is a violent man, and veteran of the arena. With an evil grin, he calls both Senex and Asiaticus out. “My lovelies” he says, “why you were selected over better gladiators in this ludus is unknown to me. But you are up against skilled fighters. I doubt I will see you back here…”

Senex is to fight Corax, who has 1 skill.
Asiaticus is to fight Priscus, who has two skills.

The photo below shows the starting lineup. Notable that three of the four fighters got Strength scores of '2', the exception being Corax who scored '5'. I will admit I made my gladiators use blue MOAB dice and the opponents use the dreaded white MOAB dice in the hope of improving my chances. How that worked out, you can read below!

This was the first pairing to take to the arena. I gave Corax the "Attack" skill as you can see. However as the fight developed it was Senex who did most of the attacking, causing some damage but with little real effect except to build up his fatigue. Corax cleverly kept parrying and retreating, waiting for the right moment while preventing any chance for Senex to work around a flank. Eventually Senex scored a 'double 5' special event and Corax lost his shield. At this point Senex stood on the shield and let most of his accumulated fatigues dissapate. He took one risk too many though, as Corax achieved a long awaited '6' AP score and was able to attack Senex's unshielded side. The modified attack ended up as potentially 6 damage and Senex failed to save. However he scored well on his appeal to the crowd, having both caused and suffered wounds, and was granted Missio.
Quadratus, fuming on the sidelines, was heard to mutter about these utterly hopeless new fighters he was expected to train, and that the sooner they became lion food the better.

Senex: lost 6/6, Missio
Corax: lost 4/9, Vincit

It was obvious from the start of this fight that Priscus was a show-off (having the Popularity and Dodge skills), what with the fancy armour and not carrying a shield, but he also went straight into action while Asiaticus advanced more cautiously. The crowd expected pizzazz from Priscus and he delivered!

Initial clashes were indecisive, but then Priscus, showing off a clever move, lost his sword. Over the next several moves he engaged Asiaticus in a clever cat and mouse game, tempting Asiaticus to move away from the weapon in the hope of striking a lethal blow, but then parrying and edging around to reclaim the weapon. This included surviving three attacks by Asiaticus on his rear hex! That Dodge skill really paid off. The crowd was on its feet going wild for the favourite, and then ... he lost the sword again.

Asiaticus kept doggedly following Priscus and attacking, unspectacularly but relentlessly, eventually taking him down to 'exhausted' status with only a single strength point left. Priscus never was able to repeat his earlier brilliance and retrieve his sword after the second loss. In the end a short run of poor AP dice meant Asiaticus could complete the job. Another attack from the rear succeeded this time, with a massive +7 modified score, killing Priscus outright with no chance to test his Popularity skill.

Asiaticus: lost 0/6, Vincit
Priscus: lost 12/6, Peruit

The comments of Quadratus about this success do not seem to have been recorded ...


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Antioch Season 1, Episode 9 (Finale)

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.

A few days later Athenodorus himself came to the ludus, to meet Ahenobarbus and the gladiators including GALLUS who had achieved the great feat. Athenodorus personally gave generous gifts to all concerned to show his appreciation and bestow honour on the house of Ahenobarbus. GALLUS made a further 8 aureus out of this, taking his accumulated total to 35.

In a one on one meeting, Athenodorus advised Ahenobarbus that there would be private games at the villa of the Governor (Mucianus) in two days, and 'requested' that GALLUS be available to fight a new gladiator the Governor had imported from Capua. Ahenobarbus was naturally 'honoured' to accept.

This fight in a small private indoor arena will pit GALLUS (Secutor, skills: dodge, attack, crowd pleaser, reflexes) against PAVIO (Samnite, skills: attack, dodge, reflexes, stamina, veteran) the Governor's new favourite.

Athenodorus also commented that Pericles was going to be crucified in a few days, which was a pity in some ways because he would probably have made a good gladiator. But he was such a notorious gangster it was better to make a public example of him. Of course the capture of Pericles "by Athenodorus" (who as City Aedile was not responsible for law and order) was a huge boost to his reputation, after the responsible authorities had been "trying" without success for years. Many believed they hadn't been trying too hard because Pericles was protected by powerful friends who used his muscle for their own nefarious schemes. So Athenodorus might make enemies as well as friends by this.

What is it with ancient Rome? There are never any fairytale endings.


Despite their good stamina, both gladiators took to the fight with average strength, Gallus at 7, Pavio at 8. Gallus was certainly the better fighter, he attacked the shielded flank of Pavio. Pavio saved. Gallus attacked the unshielded flank of Pavio. Pavio saved. Pavio attacked, and failed every time, getting to 4 fatigues. Gallus attacked, a double 4, and Pavio was knocked down. The crowd, however, was still not impressed, and didn’t give out any favours. Neither had any wounds, and Gallus was looking the better, but the goddess Fortuna had other plans. Pavio rolled a 1 for AP. With the reflex skill, this was a reroll. Pavio rolled a 6. Pavio stood up and attacked. A double 2. Gallus was down. Gallus rolled a 7 on appeal. -2 for being unwounded, and -1 for not inflicting any. Thumbs down, the end……..

Ah well, he went out on a high!

Yes, it was a good campaign. It was interesting how we both had different slants on each game, I was more so on the rivalry with another lanista, yours was more on a street gang. Both campaigns finished with the main antagonists dying on or about the same time the protagonists did, so the story arcs had some completion to them.

It was a somewhat quick ending, but that is the nature of this, it can end at any moment. In any event, a steadily growing sidecast is developing to give continuity. The next campaign returns to Leptis Magna, for season 2, with new gladiators to face the challenges...

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Antioch Season 1, Episode 8

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.

A win is a win, and GALLUS has now accumulated six arena victories, a very good record by any standard. Most gladiators would consider themselves lucky with three career victories, and still being alive! He is now the top fighter in the Ahenobarbus ludus, and receives special favours (better food, special attention from the female slaves etc). Ahenobarbus finds himself keeping half an eye on his attractive wife Lucia, in case there is any funny business going on. She likes to ogle the fighters training, from a balcony, concealed behind a screen. However his slave informers report nothing is happening on that front. At the moment, anyway.

GALLUS pocketed a further five aureus for the win over USSUR, taking his total to 27. If he continues to be lucky he can look forward to freedom and financial security, very rare for a gladiator.

But meantime, day to day business continues. GALLUS, Ahenobarbus himself, and CRISPUS, another experienced and trusted fighter, have to escort a large sum of money from the ludus to Athenodorus's house. It is several month's takings from his shadowy dealings as Aedile, and secrecy is paramount, so he insists the movement is done late at night. The bags of gold are carried in discreet backpacks by two unarmed civilian slaves.

The three men, all in civilian clothes but carrying concealed swords, and light armour under their tunics, set off through the poorly lit quiet streets escorting the two porters. About two blocks from their destination (a side door into Athenodorus's villa), they encounter a Night Watch patrol, four men under a sergeant. They are allowed to pass after being briefly stopped. Ahenobarbus does all the talking, and a small sum of money changes hands.

Around a couple more corners and into the alley leading to the side door. And then: in front of them is the unmistakable form of Pericles, with two of his street thug henchmen. And behind the party another two henchmen step out of the shadows. Someone has betrayed them it seems.

What will Ahenobarbus do:
(1) Start talking to Pericles with the aim of bluffing his way through?
(2) Shout for help, to alert the Watch, Athenodorus's men, and awaken local residents?
(3) Attack Pericles and his gang (while defending the porters and their money)?
(4) Back away with his men and try to get out of there?

A tough one. That damn Pericles and his band of thugs! Ahenobarbus, a man of action, and so close to home, attacks – picking option 3. He hopes to take out Pericles first…..

The short and bloody dust-up in M&M street* was under way. CRISPUS charged one of the henchmen in front of the party and knocked him down. Then Ahenobarbus followed up and killed the man. Meanwhile GALLUS pushed the two porters up against a side wall and stood between them and the two henchmen of Pericles who were in the rear.

* Named for the large block of flats running along one side of the street. See photo which shows the moment just before Ahenobarbus reacted. The various boxes and tins represent buildings.

The other henchman of Pericles moved into contact with Ahenobarbus and was knocked down. Pericles himself then attacked and knocked down Ahenobarbus. Men were falling like ninepins! One of the rear henchmen tried to move past GALLUS to bring help, but panicked (turnover) and did nothing.

Ahenobarbus stood up and counter attacked with the support of CRISPUS, and Pericles was forced back. CRISPUS also despatched the fallen henchman, so Pericles had now lost both the men with him, leaving only the two at the rear of the party. GALLUS stayed where he was defending the porters.

Pericles managed to get up again and shouted (group order) to his remaining men to attack GALLUS and seize the porters. They only got one action so moved into contact with GALLUS but could not attack.

GALLUS fought valiantly against the two henchman but was slowly forced back. Luckily the two porters had enough sense to edge along the wall to keep out of the way. Ahenobarbus attacked Pericles again, and again knocked him down. This time there was no mistake, as CRISPUS at once jumped on the fallen gangster and captured him. The other two henchmen then ran away (I did not bother about free hacks).

The little party then reassembled, and reached Athenodorus's house in high spirits, bringing not only the gold but also one of Antioch's most notorious gangsters as a prisoner!


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Antioch Season 1, Episode 7

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 is in red. The gladiator rules used are Munera Sine Missione. Each round will be posted as a weekly episode.

Athenodorus was not exactly happy with the result of the rumble at the market, but after reprimanding Ahenobarbus he privately mused that it could have been worse. The fact that most of the Pericles Gang escaped made it look like just another street brawl, whereas if they had all been disappeared or killed it would have looked suspicious. And the captured henchman was singing like a canary in one of the cellars.

However, as a sign of the patron's displeasure GALLUS ended up with only 2 aureus in hand, taking his accumulated total to 22.

Meanwhile, back at the ludus, preparations are going ahead for an unscheduled set of games. A prominent ex-Governor, Valerius Flaccus, has died back in Rome, and in his will he bequeathed funds for some one-time memorial games at Antioch (fondly believing the people there loved him). At these Flaccan funeral games GALLUS (Secutor, skills: Dodge, Attack, Crowd pleaser, +1 other not yet advised, please let me know) will be pitched against USSUR (Laquearius, skills: Celebrity, Dodge, Reflexes, Stamina) who used to belong to Ahenobarbus but was sold last year to raise some needed cash.


Gallus took reflexes as the next skill. This was a truly weird fight. Ussur started poorly and had his spear broken at the start of the fight. Despite this handicap, Ussur had extreme good luck in armour saves, surviving  a 5 damage hit (rolling 1) and a 3 damage hit (rolling 1 again). Gallus got tired, and Ussur got exhausted, a very long fight with 1 damage hits and wearing down. Ussur then lost his lasso and had to resort to improvised attacks, but was able to recover the lasso. Eventually, Ussur was brought below 0 strength, despite his remarkable saving ability. Ussur, being a celebrity, ended up on 10 on the appeal table so survived.

GALLUS Lost 3 from 8 strength. WIN
USSUR Lost 12 from 9 strength. SURVIVED APPEAL

Gallus, despite winning, was not that convincing, but at the same time, never looked in too much trouble, so a strange fight.