Play Your Next 5E D&D Game as an Ultimate Gladiator
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted create a fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Ultimate Gladiator character in video that echoes in eternity. They set out to create a 5E D&D character who makes great use of the net in combat. There were several dead ends but they kept digging and come up with a fun character. Are you not entertained? Let’s get into it.
Behind the CBG — Ultimate Gladiator
Every CBG we create considers the journey as much as the final outcome. We aim to present a guide suitable for any level of 5E D&D play whether you’re pursuing an epic campaign from start to finish, starting beyond 1st level or choosing a character for a one shot. Then we take those concepts and develop an NPC or creature version of the character build for DMs to incorporate into their games. All of this gets packaged up and laid out in a PDF you can find over at Dungeon Master’s Guild. We’ve got dozens of pay what you want products at DMG, many of them best sellers so if you want to check those out start with the Ultimate Gladiator here.
All about the character story
Each CBG starts with a character concept sticking to a particular schtick, from the Mind Breaker’s psyche crushing smites to the Ultimate Gladiator’s coordination in combat with allies. Sometimes puns and pop culture references instigate the creation of a CBG too. This one came about through simple curiosity over the versatility and usefulness of nets in 5E D&D. As always we find a narrative thread to follow through the level progression. The character version for the Ultimate Gladiator got caught breaking the law and was sent to the gladiator arena as punishment. Stocked with nets they’ll set up the enemies by controlling their movement and through stuns and knocking them prone. After that their fellow adventurers can go to town for the delight of the crowds.
For us it’s important to consider who these characters are as individuals and why they follow these particular paths. One special thing to note with this CBG is while we always aim to make the journey to 20th level as practical as possible — none of these characters “come online” after an awkward slog through many levels — the Ultimate Gladiator hits their stride around 9th-10th level courtesy of the Thief rogue’s Fast Hands features followed by the fighter’s Action Surge, which is pound for pound the No. 1 best feature in the game and a tremendous benefit to just about any 5E D&D character.
Gladiator also shows up in the Player’s Handbook as a variant background for the entertainer. Mechanically the gladiator variant is identical with the only difference being the flavor and replacing the entertainer’s musical instrument with an unusual weapon like a trident — or a net. Gladiators thematically can fit into just about any setting but of particular note is the Theros setting in the appropriately named Mythic Odysseys of Theros. This 5E D&D book kind of went under the radar and didn’t get a lot of recognition but I think it’s one of the best in the current edition library and I’ve got a post here on the website to prove it.
Arena Commander NPC for 5E D&D
Full disclosure — the NPCs and creatures we make in CBGs are some of my favorite bits of 5E D&D content to create. We step back and look at the character build to find the standout features that feel like signature abilities. The juice! From there we consider what sort of person or people would possess or gain these abilities and build a stat block around them. More often than not the section of a CBG For Dungeon Masters presents a generic creature.
The great thing about NPCs, monsters and other creatures is they don’t draw from the same pool of resources as player characters. This provides DMs and any other designers extreme flexibility to achieve particular effects, outcomes and scenarios through traits. In this case the Ultimate Gladiator becomes the Arena Commander, a powerful opponent with a fighting style based on subduing opponents. Arena commanders who are no longer in the gladiator pits can make excellent livings as bounty hunters too. The same skills honed in the arena serve them well to capture dangerous individuals and entities because unlike the limitations of the net for players as designers it’s simply a matter of creating traits and actions to fulfill your desired ends.
Pit Fiend. As a leader in the gladiator pits, the arena commander rallies their team of fighters and sets up opponents to suffer devastating attacks. They’re so effective and successful in the arena, they’ve earned patronage and relish in the life of combat.
“Rally the Team (1/day). As a bonus action, the arena commander can choose up to two creatures within 60 feet of it that are allied with it. Both creatures and the arena commander regain 10 hit points, provided the creatures can see or hear the arena commander.”
If your next 5E D&D game needs a character who understands how to coordinate with allies and quickly form tactical teams in the heat of battle — whether you’re the DM or a player — check out the Ultimate Gladiator Character Build Guide here.
*Featured image — Haktos the Unscarred is one of the heroes of Theros. An Oath of Glory paladin? Maybe and he definitely has the Unscarred Supernatural Gift! [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]