Guide to the Roman World


There are many different types of gladiators, each with a specialized fighting style. They excel at riling up the crowd and are usually paired with other gladiator types in common match-ups.
Game Elements: Descriptions of gladiator types are followed by suggested game mechanics for players, including sources. Abbreviations used here include World of Darkness Core Rulebook (WoD), Armory (Ar), Armory Reloaded (ArRe), Requiem for Rome (RfR), Fall of the Camarilla (FotC), and Hunter: The Vigil core book (HtV).

Scutarii: Shield Carriers

These heavy gladiators rely on strong, powerful offense to offset their reduced mobility. Their armor tends to be extensive and they rely on their strong defensive equipment to block attacks while the gladiator can concentrate on smashing his opponent to pieces. Because legionaries also carry heavy armor and shields, ex-military gladiators favor these styles.

  • Provocator: The Challenger. Armed with a short sword and a large, rectangular shield, these scutarii use their massive shield offensively as much as defensively. They have an all-encompassing helmet with grilled eyeholes as well as a manica (protective sleeve), greave (protecting their shield-side leg), and cardiophylax (chest protector). Typically they are paired against another provocator.
  • Murmillo: The Fish Man. This type of gladiator gets its name from the distinctive fin on the helmet which from some angles looks like a fish-fin. Though they also carry a short sword and shield, they are more lightly equipped than the provocator. They have large, partly oval shields which are smaller than the provocator's and lighter padded armor over the sword arm. The murmillo is the typical opponent of the Thracian, though a smaller arena might match them up with a provocator. Rarely the murmillo is sent against a retiarius, though the fish-fin helmet makes an easy target for a net.
  • Secutor: The Chaser. The secutor is trained for one thing: chasing down and killing a retiarius. He has a short sword and a back-up dagger for stabbing his target and a small, rectangular shield for blocking. His helmet is rounded like an egg to provide few catches for a net and he has only a padded guard on his swordarm and a greave on his leg on the same side.

Game Elements: Though most gladiators fight with shields, the scutarii are the masters of it. A scutarius of any style will have dots in the Sword and Shield core fighting style (ArRe 91-94), especially provocatores who want to use their shields as weapons (see Ar 178 or ArRe 93), and most scutarii will have training with their swords as well. Despite their reputations as heavy fighters, Roman warriors rarely used large swords so most scutarii have dots in the Fencing core fighting style (Ar 210-211 and ArRe 66) as opposed to the Heavy Sword (Langschwert) style (ArRe 81-84). Those who want to benefit from their shields defense and still attack effectively should also take the Ambidextrous Merit to reduce the penalty of holding a shield. As far as weapons,

Parmularii: Small-Shield Fighters

For those who don't want to carry a big shield, nimble footwork is a must. A parmularius stays on his toes and skips around his opponent, getting in jabs through slow defenses and staying out of the way of retaliatory blows. Some fans see parmularii as skilled artists with finely-honed skills while others go to the games to see them crushed beneath the powerful strikes of a scutarius who puts an end to their showboating.

  • Eques: The Horseman. While they are among the small-shield gladiatorial types, the equites are formidable opponents as they are the only mounted gladiators in the arena. Carrying both lance and shortsword and defended by the small parma equestris shield and old-fashioned brimmed cavalry helmet, the eques is typically matched only against other horsemen in the arena. They start the fight mounted and then dismount to finish the bout.
  • Hoplomachus: The Hoplite Fighter. Whether a tribute to a worthy civilization's top fighters or a subtle slight that Greek warriors are now little more than entertainers, the hoplomachi are a popular type of gladiator for crowds. With their thrusting spears and round bronze shields they are a bit more exotic than gladiators of a more Roman tradition, and their distinctive Grecian style helmets call to mind famous epics. They are a sort of middle-ground fighter in that their shield and padded armor over sword arm and thigh are light but cover a lot of area. They are correspondingly matched up with both scutarii and parmularii, usually a murmillo or Thracian.
  • Retiarius: The Net Man. Armed with a trident and net and armored with the distinctive galerus (a metal sleeve fitted to the shoulder on the side opposite the trident and flaring up to protect the neck) the retiarius is perhaps the easiest of the gladiator types to recognize, even for those not familiar with the games. Once the retiarius was a style fit only for crass novelty fights, but now matches between retiarius and secutor are a must for any large gladiatorial event.
  • Thracian: The barbarians of Thrace have been allies and enemies of Rome at critical times in the history of both Republic and Empire. Though they are now "conquered" they remain evocative and the Thracian style of gladiators, with their curved, foot-long Thracian dagger and small, rectangular shield, gain much applause. They usually wear distinctive, wide-brimmed helmets with griffin crests (the companions of the goddess Nemesis) and light padding as armor. Typical opponents include the murmillo and hoplomachus.

Specialty Fighters

Besides the traditional fighters that most come to the games to see, there are specialist trades that attract huge crowds. These trades are very difficult to master, however, or to use effectively against enemies so gladiators of these types rarely live very long. Others, however, take advantage of their unusual style to get the drop on their more traditional opponents.

  • Andabata: This type of gladiator gets its name from a Greek term meaning "Lacking Senses," which makes sense as soon as one sees their helmets which lack any opening for the eyes at all. For obvious reasons, andabatae are only matched against each other and fight using hearing and vibrations only. The style is either crudely barbarous or excitingly lethal depending on one's disposition. Sometimes criminals are sentenced to this sort of fighting as a way to humiliate them.
  • Cestus: Not usually seen in the large, spectacle arenas, these boxers are popular for smaller venues or even street-side diversions. Cesti sometimes fight with their fists wrapped in rags, but for more lethal bouts they might wear gloves or wrappings that have metal spikes over the front.
  • Dimachaerus: This style fights using two swords and no shield. It's hard to be as effective as gladiators with more defenses but masters of this style often make a name for themselves and draw large crowds with fights that are fast and furious. Dimachaeri tend to fly at their opponent with spinning blades, in a manner that both bewilders those facing them and delights the audience.
  • Essedarius: The traditional chariot fighters of the Celts inspired this style which fights from vehicles that race around the arena. They were immensely popular in years past and reached their height under the early emperors but have steadily declined since 80CE. Today, essedarii are rarely seen.
  • Laquearius: Similar to the retiarius, the laquearius fights with a lasso that confounds his foes and grabs at their weapons and feet. This style requires a lot of training and offers very little over the retiarius, however, and is limited to outer provinces where it can gain some appreciation from those raising horses.

Weapons and Armor

Swords and Daggers

Written by Nasdaq on the Myth Weavers boards.

The days of the gladius are about a century behind us at this point, but starting with a description of the gladius, and its origins, are a good way to get a handle on the nature of Roman military equipment. The gladius traces its origins to designs of barbarian blades, either from Gaul or the Celtiberians. A single-handed weapon with a blade around two-feet long, the gladius was a fantastic weapon for getting in close. It evolved over the years, becoming the primary weapon of the Roman legionnaires until it was later replaced by yet another weapon tracing its origins to the barbarians Rome encountered. This would prove to be something of a common theme in Roman equipment. Though their tactics and logistics were the stuff of legends, and highly original to boot, their equipment was more derivative. This is not an insult, mind you; the Roman's were fantastic at taking what made their enemies great, and turning it against them.

Eventually, the gladius would come to be replaced b the spatha. This weapon, still a singe-handed double-edged blade, but with an overall length between 30 and 40 inches, and a blade of around 25 to 30 inches, was derived from that of Celtic auxiliaries. When the horsemen joined the legions they mostly kept much of their original equipment. The effectiveness of the sword later led to it being adopted on a wider basis. Not only was it effective in the downward slash of a cavalryman, but also on foot. By the 4th century and the rise of Constantine, the spatha had completely replaced the gladius in common use. Shorter weapons, known as semispatha, were also still in use, some apparently reforged from broken spatha. The term in general applies to shorter weapons.

A gladius is not entirely forgotten, but it is outdated by the period. Perhaps a family heirloom, but for the most part the longer spatha, a longsword in game terms, is the primary weapon. The gladius is primarily a stabbing weapon, while the spatha can be used to stab or slash, which is its main strength over the gladius, in addition to the longer reach of the blade.

In the north, the existence of two-handed swords is known. Germanic barbarians ares sometimes known to use them. A better example of larger sword-like weapons are the falx of the Thracians and Dacians. A single-edged forward-curving sickle-like sword, the falx can be used one handed or two-handed. A larger, two-handed only version with a less drastic curve known as the rhomphaia also exists, though larger versions of the normal falx are known too. Both of these are known for their devastating use against shields and armor… and flesh. The falx was so devastating that the legions had to reinforce their armor against it, and the Emperor Trajan introduced the use of greaves and armor protectors, as well as reintroduced lorica hamata (chain mail) and lorica squamata (scale mail) over the lorica segmentata (plate) that was less effective; its inability ot 'give' made it easier to puncture for the curved tips of the falx.

Persians used a blade called a acinaces, as did steppe cultures like the sarmatians. These were variously designed, less set in their ways than the industrial scale equipment of the Roman legions. Steppe peoples in particular were known to use ring-shaped pommels on their swords. These weapons were mostly double-edged, and tended to be shorter, more large daggers than swords in some ways.

The Illyrians, Thraicans, and Dacians also had a large curved dagger called a sica that possessed a blade of around 16 to 18 inches, and had a fairly radical curve. It was designed to get around shields and attack at odd angles. It was one of the weapons of a Thrax gladiator, but is attested to as a functional weapon as well.

On a more Roman front, the pugio was the standard sidearm of the legionnaires. A broad bladed stabbing weapon, the pugio was not really a utility knife, but rather a purely combative weapon designed to inflict broad and deep stab wounds. They had at most, a foot long blade, but generally smaller. However, the they could be as much as two-inches wide.

Armor and Shields

Written by Nasdaq on the Myth Weavers boards.

In the fourth century, the iconic lorica segmentata of the Roman Legions is, for the most part, a thing of the past. Expensive to make and maintain, the heavy banded plates held together with straps and latches remains in use in some parts of the Empire, but only rarely. The armor was heavy, but provided supreme protection against many sorts of weapons, particularly ranged ones which found little use when they struck armor legionaries. However, during the Dacian conflicts of the early 2nd century, it was often replaced by the lighter lorica hamata and lorica squamata, both of which would be both easier to produce and more effective against the piercing weapons of the Dacians.

Lorica hamata is amongst the most common form of body armor, both now and throughout the Imperial era. The technology for chain mail likely originates from the Celtic tribes that Rome came in contact with, and it was common for auxiliaries long before it became the common sort of armor worn by the legions as it is now. It's design is, in many ways, reminiscent of the Greek linothorax armor, which was heavy linen armor with a distinctive set of shoulders and body. Though cheaper to produce and, to a degree, easier, each suit of lorica hamata still took over two months to make, and had up to 30,000 rings in it, with each ring being only 7mm around on the outside. One main benefit of the hamata over the segmentata was that it was easier to maintain and could, with attention, last for several decades; the constant friction helped keep rings free from rust, which was a constant problem with segmentata.

The lorica squamata was a sort of scale mail, similar in form to the lorica hamata (which itself was similar to the aforementioned Greek linothorax). Often seen on non-standard troops, including leaders and cavalry, and some auxiliaries, the lorica squamata became more common as the lorica segmentata began to wane. Evidence shows it too was one of the main replacements during Trajan's Dacian conflicts, as it was likely similarly effective as the lorica hamata against the deadly dacian falx. Individual scales were very thin, sometimes as thin as half a millimeter. However, their overlapping made areas thicker than they'd normally be. Usually, the armor was sewn into fabric backing, though sometimes they were simply sewn or wired together.

The lorica plumata was a modified form of lorica hamata, reserved for military commanders. Something of an anachronistic naming, it gets it from the fact that its modified rings look like bird plumage. It is mostly the same as lorica hamata, but the rings have bits attached to make it look like feathers, requiring significantly more effort to make as a result. It was reserved for high-ranking officials. Alternately, officers might wear a muscle cuirass; bronze or iron or leather shaped armor that was designed to impress as much as defend.

Most forms of armor had greaves and arm guards as well, added only a few centuries ago. These arm guards were known as manica, and all forms of the armor had variations on them; they'd been used by gladiators for many years by the time they were adopted to help, again, deal with the Dacian foes. Some of the lorica hamata also was extended down to protect the legs. Helmets have becoming increasingly stylized, many having a raised ridge on the top of the head rather than the plumage that is often associated with them.

Shields have also changed from the large, rectangular scutum to more oval shaped shields, though tactics remain mostly the same. These shields resemble the Greek theuros and had been widely used by cavalry and auxiliaries before being adopted, sometimes known as a parma. These were usually metal-edged wood, sometimes reinforced with animal hide.

Barbarians often wear either heavy linen armor or chain mail of varying qualities. Their shields are not too different than that of the the Romans. Likewise, to the East, the design of shields was very similiar, though lighter troops were known to use smaller, crescent-shaped shields or even large wicker shields to protect their archers, which formed a core element of eastern style armies, in contrast to the heavy infantry obsession of the west. They were often lighter, even unarmored, as a result of being conscripted peasants more often than not. Elite heavy infantry was usually mercenary in nature.

The eastern armies were also known for two types of units with very differing armor types and uses. Their infantry often used heavy linens or even rawhide (which was less likely to dissolve due to the dry climate) to the heavily armored cataphract cavalry. These were found in most eastern armies, and also in the steppe nomads to the north of them. They were unique in that they armored the rider in heavy swathes of chain or scale, and then decked out the horse in heavy scale or chain as well, making them nearly impervious to attack in many ways.

Weapon Stats

In addition to the weapons below, consider the melee weapons on page 170 of the World of Darkness core rulebook and pages 21-37 and 89-91 of Armory.
Weapon Damage Size Cost Special
Gladius 2L 2/S ** -
The gladius is the typical Roman sword, under a meter in length and designed for stabbing. It is the standard armament of the legionaire since the 3rd century BCE, though it is starting to be phased out now in favor of the spatha.
Net 0 1/S n/a uses Dexterity + Weapons
-1 to pool without Dexterity 3
The net is effective weapon, though it does no damage by itself. Most often seen in the hands of a specialized retiarius gladiator, the net can be used to tangle an opponent to attack with other weapons. When the wielder hits an opponent with a net, the opponent can attempt to break free with a Strength + Brawl or Strength + Weapons roll, with the wielder's Dexterity subtracted from the pool. If he fails to break free, the wielder can make a Dexterity + Weapons roll to render the opponent prone, immobilize the opponent, or disarm the opponent as with Grappling (see WoD 157-158). In this case the net is the "other grappler" so the wielder can remain upright when knocking prone and gets the advantage of being an "opponent outside the grapple." The wielder must keep hold of the net with at least one hand or his Dexterity is no longer subtracted from the opponent's roll to break free.
Pilum 2L/3L (thrown) 3/N * +1 Defense
The pilum is the weighted spear of the legion. It is far less effective at close range so the legions typically open with a charge and hurl the pila ahead of them. Because it is weighted, the pilum is shorter and easier to carry than a typical spear, and can be used one-handed without penalty.
Plumbatae 0L 0/P * usually used with poison
The weighted dart is an assassin's weapon, it does very little damage on its own (do not roll d10s on a hit) but it is easily used to deliver poison.
Pugio 1L 1/S * -
This small dagger is a back-up weapon for the legionaire if he loses his sword or is disarmed. It also comes in handy for campwork and whittling, or when a weapon needs to be hidden.
Spatha 3L 2/S ** -
Straight-edged and a meter or more in length, these swords represent the changing nature of Rome's armies. After seeing these weapons used to great effect by German auxiliaries in the north, they are replacing the //gladius on the front lines of the army and in the arena.
Trident 4L 4/N ** +1 Defense
The trident does more damage with its three points as opposed to the spear's single point. It is somewhat unwieldy, though, and typically only used by gladiators specially trained with it (the retiarii).

In addition to the armor below, consider the armor listed on page 170 of the World of Darkness core rulebook and pages 175-179 of Armory.

Armor Rating Strength Defense Speed Cost
Boiled Leather 1/0 2 -1 0 *
This stiff leather shirt is worn by auxiliaries and barbarian troops and is inferior to metal armor. It is lightweight, though, and doesn't rust so some camp staff find it useful enough to wear day-to-day. It is common for gladiators as well.
Clibanarius 3/2 4 -2 -3
This extremely heavy armor is made of steel plates fitted with stiff joints forming a protective but unwieldy protective cover for the warrior. They are used in the East by Parthia and Palmyra for their mounted heavy cavalry. The name is said to come from the Greek word clibanos ("oven") to refer to the experience of wearing this armor in the eastern deserts.
Legionary Shield +2 Defense 3 0 - **
The large rectangular shield of the legion is their biggest advantage. It locks together with other shields to the side and covers the whole front-face of the soldier carrying it.
Lorica Hamata 2/1 3 -2 -2 **
Chainmail armor is issued to Roman legions as secondary defensive equipment and to some auxiliary troops. It is also favored by private soldiers and bodyguards in the cities of the Empire as it is light and effective.
Lorica Segmentata 2/2 4 -2 -2 *
The "lobster armor" of the Roman legion, the lorica segmentata is made up of steel bands which overlap to protect against chopping blows and point thrusts. This expensive armor is very rarely seen outside the legions.
Lorica Squamata 3/2 4 -2 -3 **
This armor is made of overlapping scales and has been used at various times in Rome's history as an alternative to the lorica segmentata. It is more durable but more expensive and harder to maintain with more moving parts. Currently it is not used by the legions, although the Parthian cataphracts are commonly outfitted with this type.
Padded Armor 1/0 0 0 0 n/a
This armor is the bare minimum of defense and is only commonly seen on gladiators or unskilled combatants.
Parma Shield +1 Defense 2 -1 -1 *
A smaller shield used by light infantry, cavalry, and many lightly-armored gladiators.
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