Arpastra is a full-contact sport originating, and predominantly played, in the eastern Oereldian Peninsula by the Allasian and Eldian peoples, though it has found some popularity elsewhere. At its core, the object of the game is to score points by throwing a ball through a wooden hoop on the opponent's side of the field. While arpastra is not technically a combat sport as might be found in a number of cultures, it is still remarkably violent, and it is not uncommon for players to be severely injured, or even killed. Arpastra is the favorite pastime of people in eastern Fehrlang, and is of massive cultural significance to them.
History and Significance Edit
Arpastra was developed either by Allasian or Eldian tribes (both peoples claim credit) some centuries before the founding of the Kingdom of Fehrlang; at the first arpastra game held in his honor, King Aureg I is said to have been told by his Allasian advisers that people regularly spoke of their grandfathers' grandfathers playing the game.
Aureg was shocked by the brutality of the game, and is said to have remarked that it was "too small to be a war and too cruel to be a game." He considered outlawing the sport in his kingdom, but was advised that it was so crucial to Allasian identity that his newly-forged kingdom would be torn apart by rebellion. This policy stood when his successor, Aureg II, extended the kingdom's dominion to the Eldians.
King Ollden IV (known pejoratively as the "the White," implying cowardice or weakness), disgusted by the violence of the sport, banned its playing upon his ascent to the throne in 502 OTK. This immediately drove the Dukes of Allaise and Eldia and their vassals into open revolt, beginning what was very quickly called the Sportsman's War. After a few early losses to the combined armies of the Eldians and Allasians, the king relented and reversed his decree, satisfying the nobility. Since then, the playing of the game has been unobstructed, and subsequent kings have occasionally shown an interest in the sport. Agnen I was even a player of some local renown in his youth.
Likely predating the formation of the Eldian and Allasian nobility, arpastra has long been a unifying force between the peasantry and their rulers, as well as a significant source of social mobility for the common born. Eldian and Allasian nobles will often sponsor teams to represent their lands, and skilled players can become quite wealthy if playing for the right lord. It is not unheard of for lands and even knighthood to be bestowed upon those who bring glory to their lord on the arpastra field.
The game is still played casually, however, with both nobles and peasants indulging in it, sometimes together. Casual play is often less extreme than tourney play, but injuries are still common.
Due to its popularity and at the urging of the Allasian and Eldian nobility, royal law in Fehrlang states that no man may be punished for the accidental killing of another in a game of arpastra, so long as his attack was legal by the rules of the game. This holds even in the case that a peasant kills a noble. As a consequence, unlike most of the rules of the game, the list of legal strikes is standardized by decree of the king himself.
Popular though it is, the rules of arpastra are poorly standardized. The number of players and size of the field can vary widely depending on the availability of space and willing participants, and these variables are typically set on a tourney-by-tourney basis. Most tourneys mandate team sizes between 15 and 24 men (along with the referee, called the "reeve," and any assistants, called "deputies"), and the rule of thumb for field size is typically held as "a fathom per man," meaning that the field's length will be a number of fathoms equal to the number of men on a team, while its width will be half of that. On both sides of the field, there is a hoop typically two cubits in diameter, oriented vertically, and held atop a post between six and ten feet tall. Both are usually made of simple wood, but the wealthy may commission more elaborate fixtures for their fields.
The arpastra ball is similarly varied. While by custom, the ball must be at least as large as a man's palm, they can be as large or larger than a man's head. The ball is typically made of an inflated animal bladder, with a thick wool layer of padding, all wrapped in a stitched-leather shell. Apocryphally, soldiers on campaign have used the severed heads of their enemies for lack of a ball, but this is poorly documented at best.
Points are scored by passing the ball through the opponent's hoop from in front of it. This can be achieved in any way conceivable, including by climbing the hoop and handing it through (as as happened in unusual circumstances). Victory is achieved when one team reaches a number of points agreed upon beforehand, or one team is physically incapable of continuing due to injury or fatigue. The ball may handled and struck with any part of the body.
During the game, players may employ almost any means necessary to create openings to score and to hinder the other team. This is where arpastra's reputation for brutality comes from: only strikes to the groin, gouging of the eyes, biting, and the use of weaponry are forbidden. Players may pummel, grapple, and choke one another as they see fit otherwise. Reeves watch carefully to ensure that these rules are followed, and will physically intercede if necessary.