Imperial citizens are known for their impeccable manners, strict adherence to the laws that govern them and, above all, for their pride in the glory of the Empire. Accordingly then, the Champions that represent them have the most rigid discipline and the smartest, most expensive uniforms seen anywhere in the arena.
The history of the Empire dates back to an era in which there were no states or nations, only warring tribes led, usually only briefly, by powerful charismatic warlords. One such warlord, the exceptionally rich and self-important Baron von Fabius, lived to be 40-years-old, a ripe old age for a warlord at that time. Realising that he’d been lucky to live that long, von Fabius retired from frontline fighting and declared himself ruler of absolutely everything he knew about. It was a bold, almost absurd, declaration, but it worked. The Empire was born.
Countless centuries, wars and emperors later, the Empire has found out about, and claimed dominion over, a great many more things, and still holds its place as by far the most powerful civilization in all Gladvald.
A sensible, no-frills approach characterizes the Empire’s fighting style, combining robust defensive tactics with a direct attacking style. They’re the most difficult Origin to break down and rout, with many tournament spectators believing that this also makes them the most predictable and boring combatants to watch. Of course, anyone heard complaining about this out loud risks finding themselves on the wrong end of a lightning-charged battleaxe, so crowds always at least pretend to be pleased whenever an Empire Champion steps onto the arena floor.
The Desert people are a resilient bunch. They work hard for everything they get, and guard their possessions fiercely. If a Desert dweller has something you want, then be prepared to pay. If you’re lucky, they’ll take your gold. If not, your life.
The origins of the Desert people have been lost not in the sands of time, but in the sands of the desert. Two thousand years ago, a catastrophic dust storm swept across the sands and destroyed the golden city of Dahabi, burying it far beneath the rolling dunes. The scattered, nomadic Desert tribes of today are the descendents of survivors of that great cataclysm. Many of them still wander the desert in search of the ruins of Dahabi, said to be full of gold and priceless treasures. Others, though, seek their fortunes in the arena!
Famed for the ruthlessness of their assassins and archers, the Desert dwellers possess all the sudden speed, deadly precision and tough exterior of a sand scorpion, and there’s no easy way to defeat a band of them. Keep your distance and they’ll pick you off from range. Charge in recklessly and you risk being overpowered toe-to-toe. Either way, they’re dangerous foes who cannot be taken lightly.
The Undead are mindless walking corpses with no free will. The unholy magic of Necronomus brought them back from the grave, and now they can do nothing beyond what he compels them to do. They dwell and work in the same crypts they were once entombed in, and in strange, twisted structures assembled from ancient bones and strange sinuous material. Their existence is devoid of love or joy or culture, or indeed of any emotion or meaning at all. Even the appreciative roar of the arena crowd is lost on their long-dead ears.
Those Undead chosen to serve in the arena have been stitched together from the strongest, least rotten body parts available, and charged with as much necromantic magic as their decayed frames can cope with. They’re horrifying and fearless, and it’s very hard to kill them thoroughly enough that they stay dead.
Under Necronomus’ command, Undead and non-Undead Champions alike are compelled to rise up as zombies almost as soon as they’ve died, but even killing an Undead Champion for the first time can be a major challenge, thanks to their habit of stealing life from their enemies and feeding it to themselves and their allies.
Another favorite weapon of the Undead is poison. Whether it’s launched across the arena or expelled in a toxic green cloud, poison damages both enemies’ Health and their ability to fight effectively.
The Forest folk are gentle and peaceful in all matters except the matter of protecting their sacred woodland home, whereupon they become as ferocious and belligerent as any fighting force in Gladvald.
Having learned not only to harness the power of nature, but also to preserve its balance, the Forest folk live healthy, carefree lives among the trees, constructing their homes high in the forest canopy using only thoughtfully pruned cuts of wood. The Forest folk would never dream of felling a perfectly healthy tree just for lumber. In their world, this would be an act of murder.
The Forest folk aren’t especially fond of fighting, so their tactics in the arena are mostly designed to keep their enemies at a distance while they heal themselves and each other as much as possible. But this isn’t because they’re afraid or weak – far from it. While their enemies are struggling to do them harm, or even to get close to them, they busily store up Mana in preparation for a selection of devastating special attacks. Only a fool would dismiss the Forest folk as a bunch of peace-loving tree huggers. They’re lethal.
High among the misty peaks of the Altus Supremus mountains shine the glistening spires of the Temple Of Light, home to the disciples of Light. The purest, holiest, most righteous people in all Gladvald.
The disciples of Light dedicate every moment of their lives to the God of Light. This of course means many hours each day of prayer, meditation and collective worship. But in the Temple Of Light. even mundane everyday activities are considered acts of piety. Washing the body and clothes, and cleaning the home are processes of purification in the name of the Light; eating and drinking are regarded as absorption of the fruits of the Light; sleeping during nighttime hours is a mark of respect to the Light in His absence.
How fighting in the arena tournaments fits into this dogma is rather less clear, but the general idea is that by competing in the games, the Light Champions somehow cleanse and purify the arena itself, as well as the spirits of the many thousands watching. The Priests of Light claim this still works even if their Champions fight alongside Demonic, Shadow or Undead Champions and Legends. And as far as the Priests are concerned, there’s no room for debate – the Word of the Light is final.
The God of Light grants his Champions a wide range of powers in the arena, with particular emphasis on protection and healing. And nothing is prized more highly by the Divine Light than acts of martyrdom, so every time a Light Champion falls in battle, all surviving Light Champions receive a powerful blessing. This makes the disciples of Light masters at turning the tide of battle just when it looks as if all is lost.
For a Demon, the meaning of life is to destroy all other life. Settling down, working the land, building a community, forging a nation… all ideas that inspire nothing but disgust and vitriol among Demons. Their only motivation is to burn everything in sight. And to smash anything that won’t burn.
Demons dwell among the lava flows and sulphur clouds of the Bolkanak region, where little in the way of other life survives. Incapable of the love and affection required for conventional reproduction, they’re instead spawned fully grown from the throats of Bolkanak’s volcanoes.
Their unbridled anger and aggression makes Demons a perfect fit for tournament combat, although they do need frequent reminders not to destroy the entire arena. What they lack in tactical subtlety, they make up for with an abundance of destructive power, launching themselves into the midst of the enemy, causing explosions and setting fire to anything that stands in their way.
The Ice people were once a prosperous, powerful tribe who settled on an expanse of lush, fertile, temperate land. But then an Ice Age came, and the whole tribe was frozen in ice for 2 million years. Only recently has the ice begun to melt, thanks to pollution caused by Demonic carnage and Imperial industry, and the Ice people are finally free to roam Gladvald once again.
They haven’t completely thawed though. Not only are they still noticeably blue of complexion, they also find that everything’s moving rather too fast for their liking, and this is why they’ll do everything in their power to slow their arena opponents down, or preferably stop them altogether. Being frozen for 2 million years has granted them a great degree of power over ice, and they use it to reduce the pace of battle to their liking.
The Ice people’s favorite trick is to completely encase an enemy in a huge block of ice. Failing that, they’ll whack a foe over the head with a lump of ice, which is less elegant but it incapacitates the victim just the same. Showering opponents in ice crystals, meanwhile, doesn’t halt them completely, but it does slow enemy movement and attack speed over a wide area.
The Shadow fiends, more so even than the Demons or the Undead, are evil. To be clear, they are not people who happen to have an evil nature. They are evil in the sense that are creatures born of and made from the essence of pure, unadulterated evil.
They’re the sneakiest, dirtiest, most backstabbiest team in the whole arena, and the spectators love them for it.
While Champions of a more sporting, fair-minded nature are prepared to let their opponents hit them, if only for the opportunity to hit back, the Shadow fiends frustrate and humiliate their enemies by dodging, weaving, and evading all over the place. Even their Knight has special dodging skills, and he’s carrying a shield!
But really, the Shadow fiends see evasive action as something of a last resort. They actually prefer it when their enemies don’t know they’re there at all. They’ll sneak up behind them and stab them in the back or, failing that, just blind them. Then stab them in the back.
The sneakiest moves the Shadow fiends have up their sleeves though are those that trick their foes into hurting themselves and each other. They’ll conjure an aura that reflects attacks back on their attackers, and laugh while their enemies batter themselves to death. Or, worse still, they’ll seize control of an opposing Champion, turning them violently against their own teammates then, once they’ve snapped out of it... stab them in the back.