Created By: DorianModeSeptember 25, 2012 Last Edited By: DorianModeDecember 29, 2012

Forged in the Arena

A character has a history as a Gladiator to explain their Badassery

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This is something you see in heroes as well as villains. As a way of justifying how great a character is at fighting (including their Charles Atlas Superpowers), part of their backstory involves them fighting in some form of gladiatorial combat. Bonus points if they earned their freedom that way.

Examples:

  • Conan The Barbarian, in the movies anyway, after his stint at the Wheel Of Pain, was taken (presumably by the same people who put him there) and sent to the arena, from which he emerges in full "lahmentashuns of da wimin" mode.
  • Several characters in Mahou Sensei Negima, most notably Jack Rakan:
    "He made his debut in the arena, a young slave gladiator in the Empire. And over the first few years, he almost died any number of times. It was only after he climbed to the peak of the gladiatorial world and became a freed slave that people began to call him "invincible"...his strength was forged and tempered over forty long years of real battle experience and training."
  • Megatron in Transformers Prime gained popularity as a gladiator that he later leveraged into political power, then rebellion, then planet-making-bad...
  • Pumyra from the 2011 version of Thundercats is found by the main cast having been sold into an arena run by dogs after Thundera was destroyed.
  • Before hitting the big-leagues, Dr. Impossible of Soon I Will Be Invincible spent several years in the Underground Supervillain Fighting circuit in Thailand, using stage names like "Smartacus".
  • Sagat, in the movie version of Street Fighter, was an underground pit fighter before he graduated to running the fights himself.
  • Thrall, Warchief of the Horde in the Warcraft universe, was raised for gladiator combat before he became a shaman.
  • The Gladiator character in Sacred is Exactly What It Says On The Tin.
  • Weaponlord has this as almost a requirement for the roster, as this is set in a time-period where barbarians were commonplace. The Demon Lord Zarak runs his own arena circuit, with Jen-Tai as his arena queen, who controls the fights and the arenas.
  • Strong Belwas from A Song Of Ice And Fire is one of the toughest fighters in Daenerys' entourage due to having spent most of his life as a gladiator slave.
  • Dungeons And Dragons 4th Edition has a number of character options built on this trope.
    • The character backgrounds grant the bonuses or training in the skills they'd have used as a gladiator, mainly athletics and endurance. The Follower of Kord background explains that the character learned to worship Kord, the god of strength, during their time as a gladiator. The Former Gladiator background grants the character an additional death save due to their hardened past.
    • The Dark Sun campaign setting features a theme that grants a character additional powers that they picked up during their gladiator days, outmaneuvering and exploiting their moves.
  • Spartacus Blood And Sand: Oenomaus was a champion gladiator before becoming moving on to overseeing the rest of the Gladiators. This made him the biggest threat to Spartacus's rebellion early on.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • September 25, 2012
    MrRuano
    • Weaponlord has this as almost a requirement for the roster, as this is set in a time-period where barbarians were commonplace. The Demon Lord Zarak runs his own arena circuit, with Jen-Tai as his arena queen, who controls the fights and the arenas.
  • September 26, 2012
    Koveras
    • Strong Belwas from A Song Of Ice And Fire is one of the toughest fighters in Daenerys' entourage due to having spent most of his life as a gladiator slave.
  • September 26, 2012
    Rotpar
    This is a very common back story for characters in a tabletop RPG like Dungeons And Dragons. I should be able to find a in-game rules example, other then a vague "players do this".

    Edit:

    • Dungeons And Dragons 4th Edition has a number of character options built on this trope.
      • The character backgrounds grant the bonuses or training in the skills they'd have used as a gladiator, mainly athletics and endurance. The Follower of Kord background explains that the character learned to worship Kord, the god of strength, during their time as a gladiator. The Former Gladiator background grants the character an additional death save due to their hardened past.
      • The Dark Sun campaign setting features a theme that grants a character additional powers that they picked up during their gladiator days, outmaneuvering and exploiting their moves.
  • September 26, 2012
    Astaroth
  • September 26, 2012
    Tallens
    Also from Warcraft:
    • King Varian Wrynn spent the years he was missing as Lo'Gosh, a gladiator in an Orcish arena. This is one if the things that set him up as a foil to Thrall when he was introduced.
  • September 26, 2012
    WolfgangAmadeusPenis
    I prefer the title "Fire-Forged Badass"
  • September 27, 2012
    DorianMode
    Hmm...how about "Forged In The Fighting Pit"? That would include the pit fighters, etc. who aren't necessarily gladiators, i.e., slaves.
  • September 27, 2012
    Astaroth
    In Arcanum, players can create custom characters with the 'Raised in the Pits' background, which gives them a bonus to their strength and combat skills, but an intelligence penalty and less starting money (which is explained as brain dmage caused by getting hit on the head).
  • September 28, 2012
    TBeholder
    Ex-Gladiator Backstory?
  • October 2, 2012
    abk0100
    I like the title.

    Spartacus Blood And Sand: Oenomaus was a champion gladiator before becoming moving on to overseeing the rest of the Gladiators. This made him the biggest threat to Spartacus's rebellion early on.
  • October 2, 2012
    JonnyB
    Spartacus, obviously.

    Subverted in Gladiator; Maximus was a badass before becoming a gladiator.
  • November 28, 2012
    DorianMode
    But played straight with the y'know, gladiators. But also subverted with the old guy who doesn't seem like much of a badass, but turns out to be a former gladiator.
  • November 28, 2012
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Hat> Zero Context Examples are not allowed on the wiki. Most of the examples for this are just "X did this in Y." Those are not examples.
  • December 29, 2012
    DorianMode
    "Most" is stretching it. Context has been added to the two formerly least elaborated-on.

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