Are You Ready For Some Football?!?!?!
Why aren't there sports in roleplaying games? Sports have such a huge impact on us culturally and have been played for thousands of years. So why aren't they mentioned in roleplaying games?
A friend of mine introduced me to an old board game called Blood Bowl, a fantasy game based loosely on American Football. Teams are comprised of orcs, elves, undead, etc., averaging ten members to a team. The game is played on a board with miniatures and use dice to determine success/failure. The game can be won by accumulating the most points within a set time or by killing off the other team members. The game itself is fairly expensive and the miniatures are as well. Teams (miniatures) are sold in box sets and run about $40. The game itself is close to $80.
I borrowed Blood Bowl from my friend, bought a box of plastic Viking warriors from a hobby shop (40+ figures for $9, can't beat that) and am currently painting them. I'll get 2 or 3 human teams by using these cheap unofficial miniatures.
My family paints and puts models together as a group. My children are all young and can't do much more than encourage us, but they love watching and love being included, even if only peripherally.
A thought struck me the other night while we were engrossed in painting the Viking football players. How often do sports enter roleplaying games?
Outside of gladiatorial combat and martial arts, I've never witnessed sports in a roleplaying game and yet, throughout history sports have been prevalent in every culture of our world.
I think that sports would add a huge amount of flavor to a game world and open up a lot of exciting possibilities for characters. Take American Football for example.
This is a game that can easily be introduced into a fantasy world. It would start with humans and could eventually spread to other races. Imagine half ogre linemen, elven receivers, and orcish defensive ends. It'd be pretty brutal, especially if magic is added in.
Even if you keep to a realistic approach (no magic, only human and half human players) the game would be cool. Every country could have multiple teams that compete throughout the season. There would be state champions, national champions, and international champions. Imagine a game world where every kingdom sent their best team to compete on a national level.
In order to prevent an Olympic nationalism type competitiveness as is common with China and the USSR (unless that's what you want), you could incorporate the free agency rules, salary caps, and other limitations that the sport has to balance the game between teams in real life.
I created a fantasy world a while back as an experiment in different forms of government. I had a dictatorship, a theocracy, a matriarchy, a federation, a monarchy, a city state, and confederacy. I decided to add football to the monarchy, a relatively poor country that relied on mining coal and marble for exported income.
Each city within the monarchy had a team except for the capital. The capital supplied the referees for the game and a location for the Superbowl. Visitors to the kingdom soon fell in love with the sport, which became an economic juggernaut.
The players, none of whom like football and didn't like my idea of adding the sport into the game, soon grew to love the roleplaying opportunities that the sport presented.
Even when the game was in the background, with no direct bearing on the adventure, it provided an influx of visitors and merchants to the cities that were hosting games. Team fanatics and religious cults worshiping the sport or individual players sprang up. Players had the opportunity to contribute to the sport in different ways. Gambling, halftime and warm up shows, or as players, wannabe players, or has been players.
One memorable character was a running back who had killed a man in a drunken brawl, served several years in prison, joined a monastery and is now a wandering priest.
When choosing a sport for your game world, make sure that it is a sport that is fun to watch. While you may love playing golf, baseball, or bowling, these sports are incredibly boring for people who do not play or are not obsessed with them. Likewise, I would avoid sports that rely on judges for scoring like gymnastics or dance competitions.
Stick with sports that are easy for fans to keep score, that are fast paced and aggressive, and that can be played as a team. Some good examples include American Football, international Futbol (Soccer), Basketball, and Rugby.
Introduce a sport or two to your world and test it out. Much like religion and government, sports provide a historical and cultural connection to the world that your game is set in.