Gladiator, released in 2000, is one the best movie I ever saw in my life.

You watch the fall of Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Roman General, because of the ambition of the Emperor’s son Commodus. He then loses his army, his family, then his found by slavers and sold to Proximo, a gladiator merchant.

Fight after fight, he became famous and the Emperor Commodus has to challenge him to a duel in the Colosseum in order to keep the crowd with him. They both die during the fight and Maximum received an honorable funeral as a soldier of Rome.

Gladiator is a very good movie with Russell Crowe as main actor, beautiful landscapes, amazing soundtrack, and an interesting scenario. It is quite emotionnally strong as you follow the fall of this Roman general who is betrayed by the Emperor’s son because the Emperor prefers him to his own heir.

I always have loved the Roman Empire, and I am still wondering what would look like the world if it has won its wars against the different Gaul tribes. The Romans were so technologically advanced, and thanks to the Greek they nearly already knew that Earth is spherical.
Maybe we might have stepped on the surface of the Moon in 1800? Who knows…

Roman Empire

Savage Worlds

Roman Formations

I give you some rules to use the Roman infantry tactics in your game, and it is useful even if you don’t play during the Roman era.

I assume that there is one character on each square or 2″ area. To make it easier, I also assume that a formation is possible with at least 9 people.

A formation implies that all the characters do the same thing. Split a formation is better if you are stronger or far more skilled than your enemy.

It takes only 1 turn to go into formation or to split one.
Novice and Seasoned soldiers take 2 turns to switch formation, Veteran ones take 1 turn.

The barbarians never use formations, but a common Roman legionary has Strenght and Vigor d8, and he suffers a -1 penalty in Fighting for duel fights because his training is based on formations.

  • Repellere equites (“repel horsemen/knights”) was the formation used to resist cavalry. The legionaries would assume a square formation, holding their pila as spears in the space between their shields and strung together shoulder to shoulder.

With this formation, every soldier gains a +2 bonus to it’s fighting roll and to it’s parry against cavalry.
It gives also a -1 penalty for archers wanting to aim at a soldier in such a formation.
Siege weapons have a +1 bonus to hit the soldiers in these formations.

  • At the command iacere pila, the legionaries hurled their pila at the enemy.

This simultaneous ranged attack gives a +1 bonus to the throwing rolls in an area of 4″ by 4″ squares.
You can’t choose the square formation after this attack, they no longer have their pila.

  • At the command cuneum formate, the infantry formed a wedge to charge and break enemy lines. This formation was used as a shock tactic.

This formation is really useful to attack, it gives to each soldier a +2 bonus to it’s fighting roll, but also a -1 penalty to it’s parry.

  • At the command contendite vestra sponte, the legionaries assumed an aggressive stance and attacked every opponent they faced.

This order gives a +1 bonus to the fighting roll but also a -1 penalty to parry.

  • At the command orbem formate, the legionaries assumed a circle-like formation with the archers placed in the midst of and behind the legionaries providing missile fire support. This tactic was used mainly when a small number of legionaries had to hold a position and were surrounded by enemies.

This formation doesn’t give any bonus or penalty, but your archers are defended by the legionaries. This is a formation with two units, for example 9 legionaries in circle, and some archers in the midst.
Siege weapons have a +1 bonus to hit the soldiers in these formations.

  • At the command ciringite frontem, the legionaries held their position.

This order gives a +1 bonus to each soldier for it’s Spirit roll to recover from shaken or for a terror roll.

  • At the command frontem allargate, a scattered formation was adopted.

This formation is the best one against siege weapons because it gives to them a -2 penalty to aim.
It also negates a potential bonus for a simultaneous archers attack.

  • At the command testudinem formate, the legionaries assumed the testudo (tortoise) formation. This was slow moving but almost impenetrable to enemy fire, and thus very effective during sieges and/or when facing off against enemy archers. However the testudo formation didn’t allow for effective close combat and therefore it was used when the enemy were far enough away so as the legionaries could get into another formation before being attacked.

The famous tortoise formation gives a -3 penalty to ennemy archers and negate a potential bonus for a simultaneous attack.
Siege weapons have a +1 bonus to hit the soldiers in these formations.
Soldiers in this formation move with a pace of 4″, and have -1 penalty to their fighting rolls.

Roman Tortoise

  • At the command tecombre, the legionaries would break the Testudo formation and revert to their previous formation.

No special effect, the soldiers only switch formation.

  • At the command Agmen formate, the legionaries assumed a square formation, which was also the typical shape of a century in battle.

With this formation, every soldier gains a +1 bonus to it’s fighting roll and to it’s parry against on foot soldiers.
It gives also a +1 penalty to enemy archers to their shooting roll.
Siege weapons have a +1 bonus to hit the soldiers in these formations.

Gladiators Arena

You may want to put your players into an antique arena and make them fights like lions to survive.

I give you the rules to play this and create a good moment for your adventure.

Here is the arena map from Tomas Reichmann, you can print it and the square (2″ per square) are already showed.
There are 5 squares between a statue and black pillar.


There are four entrances (North, South, East, West).
The North one is four legionaries if the gladiators rebels, in order to kill them and defend the plebs.
The South one is four the animals, often lions to fight against the gladiators.
The East and West ones are for gladiators. Each slaver uses his allocated entrance.

The Emperor is of course present at the fights, and the victorious gladiator can hope to be free from his slavers if he was brave enough and entertained the plebs.

This is how i imagine a common fight:

1- Your players fight against a team of equivalent skills and equipment, Extras or Wild Cards.
2- When half a team or half of the total gladiators are dead or with 4 wounds, the lions enter the arena.
There are as many lions as half the total number of gladiators, but they are only Extras.
3- When the lions are all dead, the gladiators keep fighting against each others.
4- When a team has been killed, the Emperor decides whether it is a team victory (then the gladiators stay slaves and will fight once again), or a deathmath, the ultimate survivor might then have a chance to be free

The Emperor makes his decision either with a thumb up or a thumb down, like in the movie Gladiator.
Each time a gladiator kills another one, or has a joker for his initiative, or gets two raises, he gets 1 plebs point in his favor. The crowd starts with an opinion of -5 about the gladiators.
So, when a team or the ultimate survivor has killed all its opponents, you roll 1d6 and apply the popularity modifier, if the score is 4 or higher, it is a success. Either the team will fight another time together, or the ultimate survivor is freed.

Have a good figth 😉


I love role-playing games. I love to create, write and bring fun around a table. I also like web development, horror stuff, TV shows, video games, Stephen King's books...

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