Hi, my name is James and welcome to Code/Switch. Today I want to talk about sports. If you’re in the United States you’re about to experience the magical time of year where all 4 major sports (Football, Basketball, Hockey, and Baseball) are in season. There’s a chance for a Sports Equinox, where all 4 sports are on at the same time, on October the 18th if Major League Baseball decides to make the playoff game scheduled for that date a night game. If you’re a 4-for-4 person, this is an exciting time; I’m more of a football, hockey, Overwatch League fan myself.
Thanks to Ultimate Equipment and the Advanced Race Guide, Pathfinder and its setting Golarion has 8 non-Olympic sports. I’m going to make the assumption that running, javelin throwing, discus, swimming, and wrestling were defaults in the setting, and if not were introduced when the strongly Grecian Ibiydos was fleshed out in the Inner Sea World Guide and the later Distant Shores. In Ultimate Equipment you’re able to purchase equipment for; kite fighting, tennis, polo, rounders (basically baseball), croquet, bowling, billiards and darts. There’s some comedy in these sets all save for the kite come in under 1gp, croquet and polo for the masses!
The equipment is enough to flesh out a semblance of a sporting culture being present throughout Golarion, but it underestimates the variety of sports played in the actual world during the middle ages. The item ball in 2in, 5in, and 10in variety are meant to help give rules for sports like soccer and basketball which they do, but also miss the important facet that the sport is more than its ball. However, I’m not going to admonish people for not wanting to write 2 dozen items exactly 3 players will buy, but I do want to throw some more items what could be buy-able to better flesh out the sports ecosystem of Golarion, and maybe your home games too!
I know it’s not super exciting, but with foot races being likely, why aren’t ski races a thing? Skis have their origin in pre-history on Earth and were utilitarian for most of their history. Golarion has skis, as evidenced in Ultimate Equipment under the “clothing” section, but Golarion also is a more bountiful world as a whole making sporting more likely as you’re under less stress to survive. Well, from things we on Earth worry about, I can’t speak to Ice Wyrms. The use of skis on Earth is much more widespread than we think about, from Scandinavia to northern China, basically anywhere snow was found for most of the year. Golarion has similar regions in addition to having overall more traversable artic landmass than our modern day Earth, giving plenty of trade, contact, and opportunities for friendly competition. Karlsgard is missing out on a non-deadly sport for their Viking games.
I grew up with this sport being called Kataw, but I’ve come to terms with that being the most confusing term to call the sport, and will call it Sepak for brevity. Sepak is a team sport, usually 3v3 but can be done in duos or quads. Teams must hit softball sized ball made of rattan, a material similar to wicker, to each over a volleyball net without using their hands. Pathfinders “ball” description ignores the special qualities of this ball that feels relatively hard and brittle, but has a heck of a bounce when kicked and leaves a heck of a mark of spiked into the face. The acrobatics this sport puts on display are a perfect fit for all those dervish dancer bards, and make me excited for its potential inclusion in the 2024 Olympics.
This sport is similar to polo, if it were adopted by Gengis Khan era Mongolians who also thought Slayer was boss. The game consist of 2 teams of people on horseback trying to get a ball to the other sides goal. Wait, I’m sorry not ball; an amputated, beheaded, and disemboweled goat or calf carcass. This metal display was often put on by wealthy landowners to dazzle people in the spectacle, similar to how middle ages jousting is portrayed. Today, there’s a bunch of different ways to play, but countries like Afganistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have set rules which you can find on this brutal Wikipedia article, click at your own risk, thar be carcass.
Sports are something inherently human. Play is found amongst a large variety of species, but its only humans who take such intricate measures to keep score of playtime. Sports are also used as a way to build camaraderie, maintain physical ability, and proxy more violent forms of contact. In the face of such a variety of sports, wouldn’t it make sense to up your game in the game department for your own roleplaying games? Give your players what they want; competitive vigor, dazzling acrobatics, face-rippling speeds, and goat carcasses. Think of any other gnarly or interesting sports? You can find me and all the other KD members at our discord.