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Overview

The Babel Grand Arena is a large Colosseum-style structure with extensive storage and armory areas underneath. After the fall of the Empire, it was significantly retrofitted; with Conjuration magic, the cruelty of housing live beasts and slaves (including undead) to fight for crowds proves quite unnecessary. In turn a large amount of storage space has been freed up to house staff and performers, construct and maintain props, and build a more extensive armory of exotic and high-quality equipment for standardized use in the Arena.

With such extensive equipment, and such an easy-to-clean sandy groundcover, it might be easy to assume the Arena is simply used for gladiator-style combat and little else, even in this more peaceful age. In fact, all manner of events make sporadic use of the venue between fights, from contests of skill, wit, and agility to bardic performances.

With this more generalized role in mind, it's important to realize that combatants in the Arena are considered entertainers before warriors. Fighting in the arena can pay well for those suited to it, but the work is not a test of combat prowess. Even the most skilled combatants may see nary a coin thrown their way by the crowd if they lack showmanship and flair. Meanwhile, a suitably charismatic and showy duelist might capture the hearts and attention of the crowd well enough to earn a lavish living from his share of the Arena's gambling revenue- and even direct tips from the crowd!

The Arena collects only a tiny entry fee from most members of the audience, and a larger fee to reserve any of the box seats- but the real income for the venue is absolutely based around gambling. The Babel Grand Arena takes a 5% cut of any winnings, and does not allow personal betting. Even discussion of a bet not put through Arena staff is grounds for a member of the audience to be escorted out- without gambling revenue, the arena simply cannot afford its standards of 'safety' and maintenance.

Layout

The Babel Grand Arena is comprised of a large ovaloid Colosseum-style structure and a massive sprawl of subterranean rooms converted from the old pits.

The Sands

The center of the arena is a large area covered in conjured sand. One per day, possibly more if several fights get particularly bloody, this sand is funneled into a massive Bag of Devouring along with anything in it- including the blood and hair of fighters that might otherwise be collected for unethical ends- before it is dismissed and resummoned. As of 27th of Lamashan, Year 44 IA, only 3 Arena staff have died in cleaning accidents. This admirable safety record is attributed to a filtering grate placed over the Bag of Devouring after the third such death.

The Stands

A twenty-tiered set of circular stands surround the main arena, providing seating for around 50,000 people- in general, the stands are never fully populated, but the five boxes- especially the large 'VIP box' to the north- are never empty, often filled with wealthy gamblers and arena staff all-too-eager to record their bets and collect the Arena's share.

The Undersprawl

Various cages and cells that littered this dungeon-like lower level were removed and in many cases salvaged for materials, and several support pillars were added for stability in their absence. The lower level, referred to as the 'Undersprawl', is almost a small town in its own right- it houses nearly 50 Arena staffers year-round as part of their contracts and contains many wide open rooms for the assembly, maintenance, and storage of the various props and equipment used on the sands above. A locked cube of protective grates wards curious hands away from the gigantic bag of devouring located beneath the center of the arena sands.

Standard Practices

Every combatant or contestant to enter The Babel Grand Arena is readily alerted that this is not a place for grudges, nor purely a place to truly test your skills. Foremost, the Arena is in the business of entertainment and gambling! As such, most fights in the Arena follow a group of unspoken rules of showmanship that cater to the most common crowd.

  • The Coward's Gambit - In response to the whims of the crowd, usually about ten seconds of one party avoiding or otherwise hiding from their opponent(s), combatants may placate these cries by accepting the Coward's Gambit. The match is briefly paused, and the 'coward' allows warm tar and feathers made from copper leaf to be showered over their body to make sneaking or subtlety far more difficult. This in turn lends comedy to the battle, should they continue to evade the notice of their opponent through extreme skill, and can stir up even more excitement and gambling for the arena.
  • Matched Combat - Each side must feature an equal number of bodies, but these bodies aren't guaranteed to be equal. If one combatant enters the arena with multiple bodies- be they summoned creatures, illusions, cohorts, or ki techniques- then the other combatant will have that number matched by conjurers in the employ of the arena. This isn't to make the fight fairer- the summoned creatures are rather weak 'Figment' summons, meant to be torn apart and maximize the chaos of the spectacle.
  • Valor's Over Trickery - Combatants may be thrown items, even particularly expensive ones, to counteract anything the crowd perceives as 'foul play'. In standard format, they might throw antidotes to poison, talismans against Mind magic, spare weapons, or similar items in the event that a 'valorous' fighter with the adoration of the crowd finds him or herself weakened by otherwise valid tactics. The source tactics are not banned outright because this crowd interaction, as with everything else, increases engagement, spurs betting, and even boosts concession sales.
  • No Boring Fights - The audience is fickle. A Commoner may fight a chicken, and if he makes the fight engaging it will surely result in laughter, applause, and even some lighthearted low-denomination gambling. On the other hand, the powerful are held to a higher standard of showmanship; surely, a sixteen-foot-tall juggernaut wielding a wagon sized axe can readily eliminate a dozen men in a single cleave, but the audience will jeer and even throw debris at that fighter if they don't at least make it look like a struggle!
  • Everyone Leaves Alive - Bloodthirstiness is highly discouraged in the crowd, and the arena's general culture around fights has established that killing an opponent once they're downed is clear evidence of poor control or excessive violence. Even though the arena allocates a significant amount of funds to resurrect those who happen to die in the course of combat, a combatant who kills one or more opponents outright (rather than those opponents dying to bleeding, which is considered negligence on the Arena's part) is generally looked down on and socially expected to contribute to the costs of a higher level spell than the Arena's typical Raise Dead from whatever winnings they collect.

Contests and Duels

Adventurers who wish to use the arena for a duel or some other contest, by default, do not have to allow the above 'rules' in their contests- but they are generally made well aware of the expectation for showmanship and required to provide at least one day of notice before using the arena to engage in combat outside of the arena's entertainment-focused general format. This allows interest to be drummed up to gather the appropriate crowd and at least a small group of gamblers to cover the arena's costs.

When scheduling use of the arena this way, it can be assumed the arena will acquire any necessary props and participants aren't limited to merely combat. A trial of agility might be arranged, and the arena would prepare a gauntlet of deadly traps for maximum audience visibility; a massive tug-of-war might involve a magically enhanced chain; and a battle of wits might involve a massive illusory game board or projection of the struggle in some way the audience can understand. Whatever the case, audience visibility is at a premium!

Whatever the contest, however, if a nonstandard fight or contest is unimpressive or onesided, the participants- particularly the winning side- can expect jeers from the crowd, accusations of cowardice or other personal failings, and even attempts to extract money by the arena organizers (or even gamblers from the event). This usually takes the form of very verbose, written complaints that their failure to perform has resulted in 'significant costs' that it would be 'advisable' to reimburse. While participants are under no obligation to actually reimburse these people, they likely should if they plan to be a regular at the arena.

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