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On The Curious Ulven Game of War

The Curious Ulven ”Krigspel” or ”Game of Battle”
A Rules Folio by Fentiman Thatcher of New Hope
Commissioned by Duke Joakim Ventrini

Honored Duke,
I was quite pleased when you requested that I record and codify the rules to this curious Ulven game. Your patronage, as always, is greatly appreciated in these troubling times, and I will see that your love of the Ulven and their culture is spread throughout the Colonies.

To the more casual reader,
While I still mourn the loss of our beloved homeland, this new world has much to offer. From hardship comes perseverance, and I hope that you might find strength in our neighbors, the Ulven people. While we have many differences, it is said that the love of games is something that unites all people, and so I would present to you – in the spirit of jolly co-operation – this document, containing the rules to a uniquely Ulven game, referred to as “Krigspel” by their people.

Much of my research came from my travels to Clan Goldenfield, who possess a keen love of this game in their leisure-time. I was assisted in learning the rules by an older, rather learned Ulven – in exchange for several texts and a promise of anonymity, he helped me to understand the rules of the game. I understand and respect his desire for privacy – while we have excellent relations with many of our new Ulven neighbors, the recent war amongst the Ulven seems to be concerned with our presence here, and his apparently higher social status may suffer should his work with me be discovered. I should hope that engaging in mutual sport will assist in the building of good relationships amongst our peoples – I know my helper has commented quite highly on Sir Nevan’s Brother, a recently-scribed play from our time here, and if the older Ulven are interested in our art, then perhaps it is time that more exchanges occur.

The History of the Game
My guide to Ulven culture explained the game as growing out of a need to train warriors at a younger age, as well as provide an outlet for friendly competition amongst the various hunters and warriors in the various Packs and Clans. Its rules, while simple, seem to foster tactical thinking and co-operation amongst the players.

According to my theories, the game may have sprung up from ritualized re-enactments of battles against their hated foes, the Mordok. The ball, which is oftentimes called “huvuðinn”, or ”the head”, may have once been a severed head, and the violence of the sport may have once been played out with actual sharpened blades.

My companion assured me quite harshly that there is no evidence of this, but I would assume that he has little knowledge of the scholarship and research conducted on Faedrun – after all, the Ulven, despite all of their wonderous culture, still seem to struggle with the written word and prefer oral storytelling, a lower art form than that of the play or novel. It is no wonder that my host expressed such interest in the books and plays of my countrymen.

On The Players
A team is composed of nine players – two of whom are designated as “The Healers” and who do not enter play, except to retrieve the blades of fallen players on their team. Teams typically mark themselves in a distinct way – I have seen many methods to do so, such as scraps of coloured fabrics or pigments added to the face and hair.

There are always five players per team on the field – any more, and the team is penalized, typically by losing a point, although harsher actions may lead to players being ejected. Typically, however, it is performed in the spirit of leisure, rather than of fierce competition – even if the distinction is difficult to detect amongst our savage cousins.

Additionally, a score-keeper is required – typically a pair are appointed, one for each target, although this is not required.

On The Field
A “field” or “pitch” is a marked-off area, three poles in width and one-and-one-half chains in length. Along the edge is a narrow corridor, typically an ell in width, which only the Healers are allowed to enter during a game, as well as sites on both corners of a team’s side for the players held in reserve to enter the field. These corridors – two ells in width – are the only places players may be.

The boundaries are often marked off with pitch, chalk, or other temporary materials on grass. It is recommended that the field be fairly open, so that the players do not trip or injure themselves too badly. It is forbidden for anyone other than the players to enter the field during a game, and rowdy spectators may find themselves unceremoniously tossed out by the players.

On The Equipment
The game requires three major pieces of equipment – the blades, the targets, and the ball.

Beginning with the simplest, the ball is typically made of rags, wrapped together to form a ball roughly the size of a human head, with a long, trailing tail to allow the players to carry it. It cannot be cast or struck during a game, but instead is carried loosely in the off-hand of a player.

The targets are typically large barrels – one is placed on either end of the field, to serve as a basket for the ball.

The blades are “training weapons” – constructed of the hard woods native to Mardrun and balanced similarly to the Ulven’s typical blades. According to their rules, the weapon may be no longer than an ell in length – this is checked by laying all of a team’s blades across the Healer’s Boundary, and discarding any that pass over the lines. No effort seems to have been made to pad them, and as has been demonstrated, they are still quite capable of injuring someone should the players grow too enthusiastic.

Each team must provide five blades for their team, and be able to provide a replacement should one break during the normal play of the game. Physical contact is somewhat frequent, and I have observed more than one blade cracking under the stress imposed upon it.

On Play
The game begins with five players on each side, each lining up on the same edge as their target, with each player bearing one of their wooden blades. The ball is placed in the center, and the scorekeeper signals the start of that play.

The players then rush to the center, attempting to grab the ball and place it in their opponent’s target barrel. To complicate things, players may use their swords to strike their opponent – a player who is struck must kneel down immediately, holding their blade aloft to signal that they have been “killed”. They remain in position until a healer enters the field to retrieve their blade – once the healer leaves the field with their blade, they may return to their team’s reserve, at which point another player from their team may enter the field once they have been handed a blade by one of their team’s Healers.

Healers may also be struck while they are on the field – rather than kneeling on the pitch, they immediately exit the field and kneel on the Healer’s Path. They may only perform their duties after being tagged by their team’s other Healer.

A point is scored when a player, with their feet firmly planted, places the ball in their opponent’s target area. The score is noted, the players reset their positions, and the game continues. Any kneeling healers return to their duties.

Gameplay lasts for twenty minutes, consisting of two halves of ten minutes, and a brief break at the halfway point to switch ends for the teams.

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