The Dance of Theria
The arena is ran by the priests of Kord who see that feats of strength and courage most often come about in combat. They are also proponents of personal freedom and would be leery of having slaves participate — leery, but not completely unwilling. The free champions of the arena are Theria’s top athletes, drawing attention and fame to their names.
The priests of Kord would allow slaves to fight against their own free warriors to show that the free fight better than the coerced slave. In many cases a slave-gladiator will be allowed to fight on condition that they are freed on a loss. There are a few slave owners who have raised champion fighters and are grudgingly allowed to participate by the priests of Kord (or face lawsuits they can ill afford).
S’long as both parties agree, mortal combats are legitmately recognized by the city. There are some dark temples (bane and gruumush for example) that promote problem solving through such means.
There are grand tournaments once a month, usually on religious or secular holidays and minor games once a week as well. There is no gladiator guild but several competing gladiator “schools”. The Militia and the sword mages of the Guild often put up contestants to these events. Once a year a great spectacle is held to crown that year’s gladiator champion who “reigns” for the rest of the year. This is a highly sought after spot and a great deal of wealth (usually in the form of gifts) comes with it.
Participation in the weekly contests is simple enough with a fee based on reputation (110 gp per level). Usually this means participants (non adventurer types) have to have backing from a patron to pay the fees.
Participation in the monthly contest requires the same fee but also the participation in at least one previous weekly contest…and they must have impressed either the priests of Kord or the crowd enough to warrant inclusion. Exceptions are made to this rule but at a substantial increase of fee. Likewise, the annual contest demands the participation in at least one previous monthly contest. Exceptions are again possible at some cost.