For time out of memory, Panemira (pain-MEE-rah) was ruled by the thirteen Immortal Godkings, supposedly direct descendants of the Gods. Cloistered safely in their decadent palaces, they waged war on each other as quickly and arbitrarily as succubae make love, each vying for complete control over Panemira, and none gaining a clear advantage over the others. This continued for eons until, eleven thousand years ago, the thirteenth protectorate, its ruler, its people, and the very land itself, simply disappeared.
The remaining twelve Godkings paid little mind: one less rival to worry about. They continued their decadent, hedonistic lives and waged their bloody, pointless wars until, on the anniversary of its disappearance ten thousand years later, the thirteenth protectorate reappeared, bringing with it a wave of death and destruction the likes of which Panemira had never known.
Ten of the thirteen protectorates were utterly and completely destroyed (including the mysterious thirteenth), leaving none but the three most powerful Godkings in a state of near ruin. Horrified, the Godkings immediately closed their borders and would not open them for almost five hundred years, and even then would not allow anyone into the blasted Wildlands of the ten destroyed protectorates. Only in the last two-hundred years have the Godkings been openly sending forays into the lands of their former rivals, collecting artifacts and treasures from the ruins of the former empires.
The Godkings soon returned to their rivalry, but recognized that all out war, given their depleted numbers, would be ruinous. So one of their advisors suggested a yearly contest with each protectorate providing an aspect of conflict. One would provide an “arena,” full of its own hazards and dangerous flora and fauna. The other two would provide warriors to fight to the death in the terrain. The protectorate that provided the arena would rotate each year so no one protectorate would have a distinct advantage over the others. The Godkings would then scry on the arena and show it to their vassals in great scrying chambers that offered a panoramic view of the proceedings. The Godkings all agreed to this idea, and thus the War Games were born.
At first, the Godkings threw in dangerous criminals, but this soon grew tiresome to their fickle nature, so they tried trained gladiators. This too became old quickly, and so they began throwing in regular citizens. This never grew boring because you could never predict what the outcome would be. This practice continues to this day.
There are three possible outcomes: Either the protectorate who provided the terrain would win, producing an environment so hostile that more deaths were credited to the terrain than the warriors, or one of the protectorates who provided warriors would win. This fostered the habit of putting many warriors into the arena at once in the hopes of a high body count, and making it more difficult for the terrain to kill more than the opposing warriors. As yet, there is no limit to the number of warriors that can be placed in the arena, though each protectorate keeps a close eye on the others through a wide net of spies to see what they are planning.
This year, right before the War Games, the warriors from your opposing protectorate all died of some mysterious ailment.