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The Solaris Games are the most popular and prominent gladiatorial games in the Inner Sphere. Centering primarily around combat between BattleMechs, the Solaris Games take place on Solaris VII, a rowdy frontier world on the border between House Steiner and House Marik. MechWarriors from across known space will travel to Solaris to participate in the games, whether seeking fame and fortune or out of desperation, as do countless fans and tourists. The Solaris Games bring in substantial revenues for the planetary government and whichever realm controls the Solaris system, incentivizing them to ensure the games are carried out in an open and forthright manner. Nevertheless, the wealth to be gained in the games also attracts the unscrupulous elements of society, leading to occasional charges of fixed matches, skimmed prize money, and elimination of competitors outside of sanctioned fights.
The Fighting Stables
While it is possible for a lone gladiator to make it in the Solaris Games, the system is set up to work against such competitors. Most instead will joint a Fighting Stable, owned by a wealthy patron who provides all the necessary support for the gladiators and run by a stablemaster. Typically a stable will have between ten to forty MechWarriors employed, with similarly varying number of 'Mechs - some MechWarriors might own their own 'Mech or share it with others, or they might lease it from the stable - along with the technicians and administrative staff to keep the stable running. In return for defraying training costs, providing a monthly salary and arranging matches, the stable takes a percentage of all direct revenue brought in by the MechWarrior, typically between 15 to 25 percent. Where the real money is found though is in lucrative merchandising and broadcasting rights, which by contract belongs to the stable; a typical MechWarrior might receive up to ten percent of that revenue, though prominent fighters are in a position to demand more.
While most come to them from all across the Inner Sphere, the fighting stables are always on the hunt for new talent and many offer internship programs for teenagers as a form of secondary education. Generally lasting three to four years, these internship programs will teach the students the skills needed for a given profession, such as a MechWarrior, technician, promoter or stable manager. Once completed, the intern is pledged to work for the stable for a certain number of years, typically four, after which they are free to pursue their own career path.
How much a MechWarrior can earn as part of a fighting stable depends partly on their own skill and prominence and partly on the state of the stable. Most stables on Solaris offer fair terms and are usually solvent, though they might run into the occasional financial or maintenance issue. For an unknown newcomer starting out at a stable with a bad reputation for fraudulence and poor support, they might earn as little as 250 C-Bills a month, while a superstar fighting for one of the more elite stables might bring in more than 2,500 C-bills a month. However, beyond having to give up a portion of their winnings, there are other drawbacks to being a member of a fighting stable. Before they can fight, a gladiator must obtain a dueling license from the Solaris Civic Council which, depending on the arena class they want to fight in, can cost between 5,000 to 50,000 C-bills (a waiver can be obtained instead for each individual fight, but at double the cost). Often the stable will defray the cost of the license, but in return hold ownership of it, making it more difficult for the gladiator to leave their service. Furthermore, many stables require that a member place a "surrender bond" which is given up in case the warrior losses a match by capitulation. This bond is typically valued between 50,000 to 250,000 C-bills, encouraging many warriors to keep fighting until they've lost (or more likely been killed) rather than give up.
Instead of joining a stable, some MechWarriors will instead form a Cooperative, coming together to provide mutual support to each other. These cooperatives have little financial support or backing, with the 'Mechs either owned individual and/or jointly by the MechWarriors involved, and generally command fewer resources than found in the average fighting stable.
For a list of fighting stables and cooperatives, see here.
The Solaris Circuit
Perhaps the most famous event associated with the Solaris Games is the Grand Tournament, an annual single-elimination tournament taking place typically during the latter half of the year, which pits 128 of the best MechWarriors against each other until only one is left standing. The champion takes home a half-million C-bills in prize money and other perks, and is guaranteed to be offered lucrative merchandising and broadcasting rights. They will also be challenged to defend their title, producing more matches which can generate almost as much wealth as the championship itself. If the champion loses one of these the title is suspended until a rematch or a new Grand Tournament is held, whichever comes first; if the champion loses again, the title is transferred to the challenger.
While the Grand Tournament is the biggest draw on Solaris, a large number of fighting events take place year-round, many drawing an impressive amount of betting in their own right. The most common and popular are championship tournaments structured similarly to the Grand Tournament, using either a single-elimination or "best of three" elimination scheme to determine the final winner. Less popular and more common among the lower class arenas are leagues where, over the course of a year, between twenty to thirty MechWarriors fight in a round robin format. In addition to the prize money, the fighters win points with each match - 3 for a win, 1 for a draw, 0 for a loss - until they have all fought each other and the one with the most points is declared the winner. Many spectators dislike the repetitive nature of league matches, though some Solaris connoisseurs regard them as the best way to judge a fighter's talent. Lastly are challenge matches, usually set up as a sporting promotion or a grudge match between two fighters with no impact on any other tournaments. Typically these are one-off duels, though they may also involved multiple opponents; one popular format is a tag-team match as popularized by the O'Bannon sisters.
Getting accepted into a tournament or league or finding an opponent for a challenge match depends greatly on what class the fighter is participating in, their prominence, and the reputation of their fighting stable or cooperative. Likewise with the size of the purse, the prize money which goes to whoever wins the match. For a match between a couple of relative unknowns going at each other in exoskeletons, it might be as little as 250 C-bills; a match between some minor leaguers in medium 'Mechs might reward between several thousand to tens of thousands; an epic bout between two prospective Grand Tournament champions in an Open Class arena can have a purse in the hundreds of thousands of C-bills.
|Class Two||Light 'Mechs|
|Class Three||Medium 'Mechs|
|Class Four||Heavy 'Mechs|
|Class Five||Assault 'Mechs|
Over a hundred fighting arenas dot the two continents of Solaris, broken down into weight classes depending on the size of the machines they are certified to fight. Most small towns can only support a Class One or Two arena, while larger urban centers can boast Class Three, Four or even Five arenas. Arenas can host matches between 'Mechs up to their Class restriction, though with the permission of the Solaris Dueling Board they may host "out of class" matches. The entry fee to fight in these arenas is commiserate with their class rating: a Class One might cost 500 C-bills, while a Class Five can cost 2,000 C-bills. Of course, an unlicensed fight can occur anywhere on Solaris, but such matches tend to be organized by criminal gangs and lack any of the regulations or safety measures of licensed bouts.
The most famous arenas however are the Class Six or 'Open' Arenas, found exclusively in Solaris City. Each of the five Open Class arenas are located within and controlled by one of the city sectors associated with the Great Houses. The entry fee for these arenas is 2,500 C-bills, but the potential prize money and fame to be gained by fighting in them is worth it.
The names and features of the five Open Class arenas are famous throughout the Inner Sphere:
- Boreal Reach
The Boreal Reach arena uses holographic technology, coupled with advanced environmental controls, to produce virtually any setting which can be conceived. It takes its name from one of the more popular such settings, an arctic tundra.
- The Factory
The Factory began life as a manufacturing plant designed around accommodating IndustrialMechs, including floor space, hallways and doors large enough to fit them, which has been repurposed for urban combat.
Ishiyama ("Iron Mountain") is a man-made mountain through which a series of tunnels and caverns criss-cross, creating a claustrophobic environment in which opponents play a deadly game of hide-and-seek.
- The Jungle
- Steiner Stadium
Designed with a Roman-esque facade, Steiner Stadium is one of the few arenas which allow large audiences to watch matches in person thanks to a special lostech barrier. Its featureless floor is a favorite among MechWarriors seeking familiarity.
Many of the 'Mechs which take to the arenas of Solaris VII are little different than the fighting machines used in the battlefields of the Inner Sphere. However, given the unique aspects of these gladiatorial matches, many more are built around fighting in the Solaris Games. At first, such machines were customizations of existing designs or even scratch built, experimental one-offs of which there have been too many to count. Eventually, a small weapons industry built up on Solaris around providing 'Mech designs specifically for gladiatorial combat. Firms such as Solaris Arms, Vining Engineering and Salvage Team, and many others produce small batches of arena 'Mechs, closing down and reopening lines as customer demands or technological upgrades warrant. Many such 'Mechs are as much works of arts as tools of war. Frequently these designs make use of experimental weapons and equipment which haven't yet or might be unsuitable for the battlefield but perfect for the arena, such as Fluid Guns, BattleMech Tasers or Claws.
For a list of Solarian 'Mechs, see here.
- MechWarrior's Guide to Solaris VII, p. 63
- MechWarrior's Guide to Solaris VII, p. 78
- ''MechWarrior's Guide to Solaris VII, p. 14-15
- MechWarrior's Guide to Solaris VII, p. 79
- MechWarrior's Guide to Solaris VII, p. 80
- MechWarrior's Guide to Solaris VII, p. 81
- MechWarrior's Guide to Solaris VII, p. 64
- Technical Readout: 3055 Upgrade, p. 124-125