Morturi: Campaign Rules

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Morturi Te Salutant: Main Page -> Morturi: Campaign Rules

This page describes how to run Campaigns!


Running campaigns is not an easy task! Its up to the Imperator to link together a series of battles, providing both opportunity and incentive for lanistae to play as many games as possible!

The following factors ought to be considered by any Imperator player:

  • Working the Campaign Calendar
  • Preparing and running Auctions
  • Adding School Resources
  • Battle variety and rewards
  • Death / Survival Checks
  • Ending the Campaign
  • Balance, New Schools and Retirement

Working the Campaign Calendar

Campaigns need structure, and one of the best ways to do this is to introduce a Campaign Calendar. Doing this introduces a sense of narrative to the Campaign, and provides a framework of explanations.

For example, you might choose to run a Campaign around the months of the Romulan calendar:

  • Martius (31 days)
  • Aprilis (30 days)
  • Maius (31 days)
  • Iunius (30 days)
  • Quintilis (31 days)
  • Sextilis (30 days)
  • September (30 days)
  • October (31 days)
  • November (30 days)
  • December (30 days)

Each month can then be broken down further. A recommended structure might look something like this:

  • 1) Auctions
  • 2) Build/complete School Resources
  • 3) Ludi - the Battles are fought!
  • 4) Free play - Out-of-arena activities are engaged in.

A nice thing to do with working the calendar is to make each month themed in some way. For example, you could set out that Martius is the season of the Spring Festivals, and that the games are set across a variety of small towns across the Empire. As a result, we'd be looking at small arenas with small teams, and straight forward rules. In contrast, Quintilius could be a month of Funerary Games, taking place in Rome itself and dedicated to a single deceased Emperor and with lots of Games set around classic match ups, like Secutor-Retarius duels. Then, October could be Beast Month, with multiple games around beast-fights, and large financial rewards for bestiarii and schools who provide animals for the games.

Likewise, you could theme a game around geographic regions. Perhaps in your high fantasy game the Season of Springtide has the games in the Elvish Kingdoms - this could be reflected in the auctions, with Elf Faction gladiators being available for auction, and Games which favour elvish skills.

Preparing and Running Auctions

An Imperator has a heavy responsibility, preparing a batch of Gladiators for auction and then running the auction itself.

First, ask yourself how many Gladiators you want to auction each month. If you provide too many, then they'll get sold too cheaply. If you provide too few then Schools will have too much spare cash for School Resources.

For novice Imperators, as a good rule of thumb its worth totalling the denarii available between all the schools, dividing that number by 1500 and then providing that many Gladiators. So, for example, in the first month, if there are three players with 10000 denarii each, then provide 20 Gladiators! The majority of the Gladiators should be of Palus rank, perhaps 1 in 5 as Novicius and 1 in 5 as Primus Palus.

Its might be worth avoiding providing Primus Palus gladiators for auction in the first couple of game months, as they can quickly unbalance any battles they are in if they have no similarly skilled peers to compete against!

Remind players that they once the Auctions are done they can still purchase Servus rank gladiators freely at 100 Denarii each, so they can make up their numbers, and can invest in School Resources as well.

For game months after the first, you don't have to look back over the School's balance sheets to work out how many Gladiators to auction. Instead, look at the prizes of the previous month, total them up and then work from that number instead.

The above is, of course, just a guideline. Part of the skill of being an Imperator is judging month by month what is going to be most fun and what will best support a strong narrative. It makes sense, for example, for a month of games in a small town to yield only a very small number of Gladiators, while one in Rome itself should provide lots of choice!

As to running the auction, the Imperator has a choice of methods. Its recommended that you either pick one and stick with it, or if you're feeling adventurous and creative, customise the auction method that reflects the location of that month's games. Auction methods might include:

  • Open Auction

With this method, the Imperator first sets out all the "lots" of Gladiators, and describes them in full. He then selects a lot, which might consist of one or more Gladiators, and asks for a starting price. If any player bids, then he has control of the lot. Other players can then jump in with higher bids, or the Imperator can actively call out incremental prices, trying to persuade the Lanistae to outbid one another. If no player bids at all, then the Imperator can drop his starting price, but he should keep in mind a "reserve price" which he will not drop below (500 for Palus, 1000 for Primus Palus is generally reasonable as a reserve price). If no-one will meet even this reserve price, the gladiator is taken off auction.

  • Closed Auction

With this method, the Imperator describes the lot, and then takes a written offer from each Lanista. The highest offer wins the auction immediately and buys the lot, so long as it exceeds the reserve price.

  • Structured Auction

This works in the same way as an open auction, but rather than shouting out bids, the Lanistae are turned to in strict order, asking if they want to decline or raise on the previous bid.

  • Roleplayed Auction

In this variant, the players actually roleplay out their lanistae freely, wandering the streets and looking for their new Gladiators. Smart roleplay might work in a lanista's favour (for example threatening a slave trader with his thugs to force a cheap sale) or it might turn against a lanista (landing him in trouble with the law, and having him booted out of the marketplace). This sort of approach is recommended only for groups who are comfortable with the diceless roleplaying involved, and who trust their Imperator to run such diceless stories fairly and impartially.


At the Imperators discretion, one or more of the gladiators on auction each month may be an Auctoritatius. These gladiators are not slaves, but rather free men who contract themselves to the schools for short periods of time.

In this case, the Imperator states how long the Auctoritatius is selling his services for. The auction winner, rather than gaining the gladiator permanently, retains him only for that length of time. This length of time might be defined in campaign months, or in number of battles.

Note that if an Auctoritatius is contracted for a number of battles, then this number refers to the next number of battles that the gladiator participates in, rather than the School. A cunning School might therefore hold such a gladiator on contract for a very long time, only fielding him occasionally. However, an Imperator who notes that an Auctoritatius has not been fielded once for a full month or more might have the Gladiator approach his Lanista, and cancel the contract.

Many Auctoritatii are already Primus Palus rank gladiators. However, those that are not gain experience from battles as normal, though their new tricks are selected by the Imperator player rather than the Lanista player.

An Auctoritatius that completes and survives his contract normally returns to the Auction the following month.

Adding School Resources

Next the lanistae can spend some or all of their remaining denarii on School Resources.

Note that each resource can be bought only once by each school. However, the resources are considered to be "generic" rather than specific, a school is not prevented from buying a resource that another school has already purchased. For example, if both the Legio Mortis and the Ludi Aeternum school want to purchase the Clean Stables resource they can do so without reference to each other.

Battle variety and rewards

The Battle Design page gives guidance on designing your own battles, and the Premade Battles page gives a selection of pre-made battles for your inspiration and use. Its worth trying to get a good variety of battle types into each campaign month, and making sure that there's at least some opportunity for every School to participate in at least one Battle.

Monetary Rewards

After a Battle, participating Lanistae recieve additional Denarii for their school, with extra granetd according to various factors. They cannot spend this money yet, but must wait until the next round of Gladiator Auctions or Resource Building.

Rewards of Experience

After each battle, each Novicius and Palus Gladiator gains +1 new Trick.

A Novicius Gladiator that has three or more tricks is upgraded to Palus rank. A Palus Gladiator that has all the tricks of his role is upgraded to Primus Palus rank.

Note that this advance is gained even if a Gladiator is taken "out of action", though in this case the Gladiator does not gain the new trick until after he has attempted his Survival Check.

Servus Gladiators do not use these rules to advance, but insead use their own advancement rules, detailed under their entry here.

Primus Palus' Gladiators do not advance at all... they're already as good as they can be!

Death / Survival Checks

A Gladiator that is taken Out-of-Action during a battle is presumed to be severely wounded, and risks dying. After the battle is completed roll a D6 for each out-of-action Gladiator and consult the table below:

  • 3 or less: Dead. The Gladiator dies of his injuries. He is permanently removed from his school's roster.
  • 4-5: Recuperating. The Gladiator survives his injuries, but must spend time recuperating. He is unavailable for use for the rest of the Campaign Month.
  • 6 or more: Recovered. The Gladiator survives his injuries, and recovers quickly. He is available for use again straight away.

Note that some factors may effect the Survival roll, most notably the Gladiator trick Will To Live, and the Hygenic Stables and Chirugeon resources.

Gladiators who are not taken Out-Of-Action are automatically fully restored between battles, shaking off any received injuries and any ongoing status effects.

Ending the Campaign

Campaigns can run indefinitely, and it may be fun for some playgroups to run an ongoing "League" over many sessions. On the other hand, if a Campaign runs too long, the richest schools with the most experienced Gladiators may soon become so far beyond the reach of less successful schools that the game starts to lose a lot of its fun.

To avoid this, its recommended that you think about the end of the campaign from the very start, and set out a victory condition for the campaign itself. Examples of campaign ends and victory conditions might include:

  • A Summer of Profit - The Games run from Iunius to Sextilius over three months. Over the course of the campaign, every time the school gains Denarii set aside 25% of that amount into the School's Moneypot. Denarii in the Moneypot cannot be spent. At the end of the Campaign, each Lanista totals his remaining denarii and his moneypot, and the Lanista with the highest total wins the campaign.
  • Fame and Glory - The Campaign ends when anyone school owns 12 (living) Primus Palus Gladiators. That School wins the Campaign. If two Schools reach total this at the same time, victory is shared.
  • The Emperor's Games - The only battle that matters is the Emperor's Games at the end of the Campaign year. At that time, every school fields every gladiator they have in a massive free for all. The last School with a Gladiator standing wins the Campaign!

Balance, New Schools and Retirement

During a Campaign, especially right at the start, its easy for a school to suffer a massive blow to its finances (for example by having all his Gladiators killed in a single battle) and for the Lanista to feel like there's no way he can continue to compete using the School he has. This isn't much fun for the player involved.

Likewise, its also very possible that during a Campaign, a new player may want to join in.

Its important for Imperators to find a way to deal with these two circumstances, and he should lay out his rulings on this matter at the start of a campaign.

The following "default" rules are suggested, but Imperators are encouraged to make their own rulings according to the campaign's nature:

Default rules:

  • A Lanista can choose to "retire" his school at any time during the game month. If he does so, his school is removed from play and cannot participate in the rest of the month's events.
  • At the start of any month a player without a school (i.e. either a new player or one who has retired his last school in a previous month) can make a brand new Lanista and School, with a fresh budget of 10000 denarii.

Retiring a school can be painful, especially if the Lanista has plenty of Resources but few Gladiators, and feels he is being forced to abandon his hard work in building up the school. To deal with this, Imperators might want to include an optional rule to allow weakened schools to get back into the game.

Possible optional rules:

  • A Lanista can ask another Lanista for a loan. This request can be refused or accepted. However, the next 2X Denarii the borrowing school earns in prizes are given to the loaning lanista, where X is the loan amount. If the borrowing school is retired, then the lending lanista can send "bailiffs" to collect Resources and Gladiators from that school to make up the unpaid amount.
  • A Lanista can sell off Resources at the end of a month. Doing so recovers only 50% of the paid cost of the Resource.
  • A Lanista can sell Resources or Gladiators to another Lanista, at whatever price is agreed.

Option: Champions

Sometimes, especially with larger gaming groups, it becomes impractical to run a game where every player has his own School. By having too many players, a heavy workload is created for the Imperator player.

As an option, an Imperator player may want to halve the number of schools by allocating two players to each school. In this circumstance only one player plays the Lanista. The Lanista bids in auction, orders the construction of improvements and selects which Gladiators participate in a given battle.

The other player in the School takes the role of Champion. The Champion is a Primus Palus gladiator, whose role is determined by the player, and who is given to the school free of charge. The Champion automatically passes any Survival checks he is called upon to make, which makes him an excellent gladiator to field as often as possible.

During the battles themselves, the Champion moves the school's Gladiators and rolls dice for them. The Lanista player is still present, and can tell the Champion player what he would like to see, and suggest certain moves, but it is up to the Champion player to actually touch and move the miniatures, and make any dice rolls.

It is recommended that Imperators consider using the Champions option if there are six or more players wanting to play the game, as this reduces the number of schools to a more manageable level.


This page created by Asklepios.