Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Sports in Fantasy Games

Looking back on my games, I haven't featured a lot of sports. Not even the sportified version of combat sports - touch duels, jousts, etc.

We've tried, but generally it's fizzled. We've had PCs fight in pit fights, but inevitably the same guys who want their PCs to fight in them also want to kill their opponents, kill anyone who doesn't want them killing their opponents, and then kill their way out of town. So it goes from "sport" to "murder" in a few turns of combat.

We have had forced competitions, with foot races, obstacle courses, and odd skill challenges.

Not much else.

The Dread Empire books featured "Captures," a game that's very much like a variant of Calcio Fiorentino. So is the Game of the Juggers, actually. They'd make good sporting events in a fantasy world.

I've just had trouble featuring them in a game and then getting players to treat them as something other than a lethal encounter with a thin veneer over the top. Anyone have any better luck with a game within a game?


  1. I have played, GMed and seen in play quite a lot of non-lethal combats in GURPS: from duels to the first blood and combats with real damage, but with blunt weapons and not to the death, to touch duels, wrestling contests and archery competitions. They are pretty fun and I have not seen many players trying to kill their sporting opponents (some NPCs, on the other hand... :) ), Maybe, this sports even help players to realise that victory is not equall to "all enemies are dead" and make real combats less bloody.

    You can try to make PCs fight with each other (one-on-one or as part of different teams) and not fight as one team. Then killing your temporary opponents, but long-time comrades, is less likely.

    We also played in jousting, but it is very dull in "normal" combat system, IMHO: too many rolls and not enough chouces to make, so I do not recomend it, unless you want to make a special system for it (then I am very interested in it :) ).

    Also I wrote GURPS rules for (fantasy-version of) knattleikr (Viking ball game), which are quite brutal, and played a play-test version, but have not used this rules in actual gaming yet.

    1. I'd be interested in seeing that ball game play out in an actual game session.

      I think one reason we don't have a lot of non-lethal encounters is because even lethal ones have no real-world consequences except maybe needing a new paper man. So you aren't getting to settle some issue without a real risk, but without a risk you don't suffer anyway.

      "Maybe, this sports even help players to realise that victory is not equall to "all enemies are dead" and make real combats less bloody."
      I'd have to see that play out to believe it. :)

  2. I've never tried running a sports event in a fantasy setting, although back in the Car Wars days we ran a Celebrity Ob-Racing Challenge event as part of our Corporate Car Wars campaign (with duellists from each team taking part).

    I've been meaning to try to run an Ob-Racing event in a GURPS Autoduel setting, but being GURPS it could also be retooled for a fantasy setting.

    1. What is Ob-Racing? A web search left me no less confused.

    2. Sorry, should have specified: Ob-Racing is an Obstacle Course/Race sport from an article in Autoduel Quarterly 7/2.

  3. In Gwythaint's Northport game he has "Juggah", which is a complwtw and total copy of "Game of the Juggers", except for the name. It's primarily played between the gobbos (hobs and gobs) and the orcs, with pretty deadly rivalry at times. It's not featured in games as something the PCs play/partake in/etc, but it does show up when appropriate and sometimes as missions, frex when the gobboes and tuskers were about to go to bloody war int he metropolis' streets over an Eastside-Westside romance and a group had to go settled some hashes to keep the peace. And I do believe it ended without any bloodshed, is pretty rare for DF players, except that Northport has a bunch of diplomancer Players bringing the mood down for all the murderhobo Players.

    He's also featured darts games, arena duels, and I think a few other games, be they sports or "gambling"/"not really sports" (like Darts, cards, etc).

    1. Thanks for the mention! The ranking members of the Adventurers Guild of Northport all have independent income from their involvement in the local sports book; several adventures were based on establishing new locations for arena fighting rackets, and recently, hunting down someone cheating at cards and throwing off the odds.


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