Ptolus, City By The Spire
Ptolus’ Arena was built about two hundred years ago, when the city was growing quickly beyond its previous role as a simple port town to support Dalenguard. Originally, the Arena was to host great sporting events and concerts, plays, and operas. Soon after its completion, however, the populace clamored for a different kind of entertainment spectacle: gladiatorial combat.
Once introduced to Ptolus, the sport gave birth to a subculture surrounding the training and promotion of gladiators. Spreading out in a radius around the Arena, one can find training centers, fighter schools, weapon and armor smiths (most specializing in repair), and promoters of fights and fighters.
Combat in the Arena is never intentionally to the death; with clerics and healers on hand, it very rarely ends up that way. Traditional fights allow neither poison nor magic, nor firearms or alchemical mixtures. (An Arena mage casts detect magic and detect poison on each combatant right before the fight begins.) Occasionally, the Arena hosts so-called “spell duels” of mages, but they are rare due to the damage they can inflict. In a few matches, called “All Means” combats, anything is allowed. Such contests sometimes pit humanoid gladiators against such captured monsters as dire animals, monstrous spiders, or even a hydra.
Some of the original vision for the Arena still remains. Many sporting competitions besides combats take place there. A racetrack around the circumference of the Arena allows both foot-race events and horse racing. Other contests of physical prowess, such as hammer throwing, pole vaulting, long jumping, and team sports such as targetball also appear on the bill at the Arena. These comprise about 40 percent of the Arena’s activities, though, with gladiatorial combats making up the other 60 percent. Plays, concerts, and operas have found other venues (see the Cloud Theater in Midtown, the Shadow Theater in Oldtown, and the Crown Theater in the Nobles’ Quarter).
Wagering on all the sports held in the Arena is popular and completely legal, assuming the Empire gets its 10 percent cut. Various criminal organizations also maintain “off-the-record betting” on the games and fights and sometimes even try to influence or rig them in their favor. Many gladiators, for example, are secretly fund- ed by the Balacazars (or others) to sway a fight one way or another as needed. However, the criminals find the gladiators — particularly the most puissant (and therefore popular) ones — so difficult to control, they often don’t bother at the higher levels. The members of the Balacazar organization long ago found it hard to intimidate someone who can singlehandedly take on a legion of enforcers, and it’s difficult to bribe someone whose successes have already made him rich and famous. They usually stick with