The east side isn’t a nice place. It’s been described as a “war zone” in the news, and given the gangs going after each other with automatic weapons, that seems apt. However, the more powerful gangs are organized enough to have leaders who realize that large scale armed conflict is bad for everyone. That doesn’t mean they’re throwing away their guns – it just means they’ve set up a common system to resolve disputes between gang members of rival gangs. Without getting the law involved, of course. The cops are everyone’s enemy, here.
Any grievance can be brought to trial by combat. The two parties must each be members of gangs who participate in the arena, and their leaders must agree the grievance is legitimate. The leaders of the respective groups will negotiate the terms of the battle – one on one or a small group skirmish, unarmed or with certain weapons, on which roof, and to what end: first fall, first blood, submission/unconsciousness, or death. Once the trial is complete, the losing side makes any restitution required by the agreement between the groups’ leaders, and the matter must never be brought up again by either side or the gangs are responsible for punishing those who do so.
Of course, grudges will be held, and the arena hosts a cycle of revenge drama. Toughs looking to avenge their fallen buddies simply must wait for some new slight or excuse before issuing a new challenge. Since the grievance is just as sore on the other side, such an excuse is sure to come along. Yet, the punishments for stepping out of line are enough to discourage outright brawling or gunfights in the streets, for the most part. The arena focuses the aggression of the young gangsters. Gang leaders know this, so they frequently grant requests for challenges, though less frequently death challenges. Non-lethal challenges happen many times a day, while fights to the death are reserved for tensions which would otherwise boil over into much more violence. Still, death battles happen about once a month.
The action in the rooftop arena is recorded and sold online. Access to the live streams of the nonlethal battles is available via subscription; the death challenges are available only by mail on DVD, because the gangs are savvy enough not to post direct evidence of their countenancing murder online where their origin IP could be traced. If it ends up online somehow, they can claim it was staged and no officer, there was no murder – someone would’ve pressed charges, surely! Sometimes the deception extends to introducing the officer to the “actor” who was “in makeup” to appear to be the loser in the video, whose “death” was entirely fake and staged. So far, the police have not cracked a case on the killings in the death arena, but some detectives keep their eyes out, watching and waiting for a slip. Rights to the revenue of a fight’s streaming and recording go to the winning gang. The fighters receive a portion, and the rest goes to the leaders.
A certain bloodthirsty class of sports fan follows the death arena, and the events draw live crowds. Numbering somewhere around a hundred for each fight, these spectators especially love submission and death duels. The bookmakers share the opinion of the crowd, because the more excited the spectators, the more they bet on the fights. Far more cash changes hands in the betting than in the direct revenue of the streaming, recording, or even the charge made on the spectators for entry. When the fight lasts to submission (which most commonly means someone is beaten senseless), the bets are about double the usual. If it’s to the death, ten times as much cash flows, and about five times as many spectators show up. Some of these spectators are locals to the neighborhood, but most of them are wealthy criminals with interests in the activities of the gangs, taking advantage of this neighborhood’s unique system for resolving disputes for their own entertainment.
Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.