Games and Pastimes of Tamriel

Author: Taenarus Valius
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This text was first published on Douglas Goodall’s Substack from 2/26/24 to 4/8/24


Games and Pastimes of Tamriel, V. 1: Skyrim

My friends know me as an avid fan of gambling, gaming, and sports. Some may recognize my name as the champion wrestler and gladiator of Cyrodiil in 143 and 144 or the Second Legionary of the Imperial Redclaws Glowball team until Pelagius III ordered all the teams disbanded (fortunately, Empress Katariah has reinstated the sport, but, alas, I am too old to do anything but advise). Some may recognize me as the announcer of the Cyrodiil Arena for the last seven years. After such long and happy careers, I have chosen to spend my waning years on a series of tours to enjoy the many games, sports, and other pastimes in every province. In this first series, I have tried to pay special attention to the games children play, as I am not aware of any other work that documents them. Naturally due to the nature of such a short tour, this is not intended to be a comprehensive list of games and sports.

As my publisher has reminded me repeatedly, I am no writer. But I am too proud to hire someone to write for me, so please excuse any errors I might have.

Anyway, my friends advised me that I should wait a few months and take a ship south, but I was eager to get started. Fortunately for me, one of my fellow gladiators, Sodros Telas, used his earnings to buy a ship and was captain of Katariah’s Crown. I got a letter from him, indicating he planned to be in Solitude in two months. He was planning to make a great circle of Tamriel and it seemed the perfect change to make my tour. Therefore, my first tour of Tamriel began with a long wagon trip to Solitude. We stopped five days in Falkreath, but I found no games there or even someone willing to throw a few dice or play a little nine-holes. It’s a dreary place.

Solitude is far more pleasant. Despite the cold, there were children playing everywhere. Most were well known all across Tamriel such as tag, river crossing, hide-and-seek, marbles, rat’s tail, flip-the-lid, and those rhyming and clapping games ever popular with girls. I was excited to learn that there was a small arena and that there would be a gladiatorial battle as well as two sports entirely new to me in a few days.

Chair Dance

As I wandered the city for a few days, waiting for the arena event or my ship to enter the port, I came across several examples of children’s games. The first was a small group of children who were taking turns doing handstands and jumping on a stack of chairs. I asked one what they were doing and learned this is called the Chair Dance. It is a game where one child does some kind of acrobatics, but at the end of the trick, the child must land on the top chair of a rather precarious stack. After that, all the other children have to do the same thing. Anyone who can’t do the trick or doesn’t land on the chair (or tips the chair over) is “out.”

This is a simple game, but some of the players were quite impressive. In one of the later rounds, the first child did a backflip, a cartwheel, and then landed hands-first on the chair and pushed themselves up to the back of the chair before flipping over onto their feet. This was rather too hard for most of the other children and cut down the players considerably.

Toss the Sack

The next day I came across many of the same children playing a game where two teams alternate toss a small beanbag up the side of a building (in this case, the Blue Palace itself!), trying to get it to land on one of the uneven stones that jut out from the wall. The other team then forms a human pyramid to retrieve it, sometimes trying to hit the sack with sticks or throwing ro

cks at it. If a team cannot retrieve the sack, the other team wins. If a team cannot get the sack to ‘stick’ on the wall after three tries, the other team wins. Before I could learn more about this game, one of the palace guards leaned over the parapet and told the children to quit it. After this, they ran off, arguing over whether the last team ‘won’ since the beanbag was not retrieved.

Log Racing

The day of the arena came, and the first event was Log Racing. The Arena was set up with pits, narrow bridges, long muddy troughs, sturdy walls, a sort of hedge maze but made of stakes, and other obstacles. Naturally, most of the players were Nords, but there was a Redguard and a fellow Imperial among them.

Each player was weighed on a large balance scale while a scribe wrote down each player’s weight. The players then left the field. Several men came in dragging huge logs of different sizes behind them. Holes had been drilled through each log and a rope strung through them. These men consulted with the scribe and then weighed each log and began cutting off measured lengths and weighing them again.

While this log-cutting was going on, a fan of the game sat down next to me, and I was able to ask a few questions. He said the winner is the one who drags the log through the obstacle course first. The weighing is to make it fair to smaller players, who are given shorter logs. Women, and there were quite a few among the contestants, were also given slightly lighter logs for their weight. There is some formula for determining the weight of the log. It is not as easy as “half the contestants weight” or something simple like that. The point is not to give victory to merely the stronger, but to the one who pushes themself the most.

During the race, players can grab each other’s ropes, tackle each other, trip each other, and sit on each other’s logs. They cannot strike each other, draw a weapon, or use magic in any form. Indeed, a rare Nord wizard cast a few spells on the contestants, and one immediately began vomiting. This one had apparently swallowed some sort of potion before the event and was disqualified.

Each competitor’s log was tied around them in a sort of harness. At the sound of a horn (a literal horn, this being Skyrim), they were off. I was immediately surprised at the different ways each player handled the log. Some lifted it in their arms and ran with it. Some dragged it by the rope, and some just ran, letting the harness pull the log.

The mudpits and walls were the most difficult obstacles. Those who picked up their log to carry it through the mud sometimes sunk quite deep and were stuck. Those who dragged the log were also slowed and a muddy log made the rest of the course more difficult. The pits were longer than the ropes, preventing a particularly strong player from tossing the log to the other side. The walls required both strength and finesse. When the players lifted their logs to the top of the wall and tipped or threw them over, they had but a moment to get over the wall (or at least up in the air) themselves or the falling log would grab their harness and pin them painfully against the wall. Many players were injured when their log hit them or rolled onto them.

Few of the players interfered with each other at the start. Near the end, there was a clear leader and no one could reach him. But there was a fierce competition for second place. Most of the remaining players were close enough to pull each other back, especially at the walls and pits where the players are all delayed in dealing with the obstacle. The second and third place shifted over and over as the leading players were pulled off a wall, pushed back into a pit, thrown into the mud, or simply had another player grab their ropes and keep them from moving forward. Several serious injuries occurred.

Eventually the remaining six players, all still closely placed, went over the finish line. The winner was Rigurd, a local favorite, champion at the sport, and plainly gifted by the gods with great strength and endurance in a slender frame. Second place went to Dagny, as fine an example of womanhood as I’ve ever seen, and third to Ormar. an enormous bear of a man who had to have additional lead weights tied to his log to make it heavy enough. I was impressed by all the winners’ performance. With a little training, any of them would make a fine Glowball player.

Harald’s Defense

After the magnificent gladiatorial battle, which took place in the same obstacle course (a young Myrmidon, Thorek White-Fist, was the victor and gave quite the performance), some of the obstacles were removed and a dozen large logs were dragged into the arena. This time the logs were quite long, as tall as two men. The logs were set up vertically in stone holes, three on each side of the arena. This next game was called Harald’s Defense.

Once again I was fortunate to be seated next to someone who understood he game. Each team has a Sky Defender, armed with a quarterstaff padded on both ends, who stands atop the logs and beats any opponents who try to reach the top. Each team has five Attackers, armed with nothing, who try to climb the opponent’s logs, and three Ground Defenders, armed with padded clubs, who try to keep them away. A team wins when they have a player atop every log or only one side remains.

The action was brutal and intense. The Sky Defenders were amazing to watch as they leaped from log to log, smashing the hands and heads of the Attackers. The ground battle was intense as well. Although outnumbered, the Defenders had better range and no goal other than to beat the Attackers back. The Ground Defenders are not allowed to hit the Attackers once they are completely on a log with their feet off the ground. At that point only the Sky Defender can hit them. A few received penalties for doing so (which involved them having to put their club on the ground for a short-glass).

The match ended with a partial victory. One team had two Attackers on the logs, and the other team had no Attackers (or their Sky Defender) left standing. I enjoy the spectacle immensely, but my local guide proclaimed it an inferior and disappointing match.

My time in Solitude was well spent, and although I hated the cold, I greatly enjoyed the taverns and friendliness of the Nords. I wish I could visit more of the eastern Skyrim cities, as I hear they have different traditions there and perhaps different games, but my ship arrived and in a few days we traveled west to High Rock.

Games and Pastimes of Tamriel, V. 2: High Rock

The journey on Katariah’s Crown was much more pleasant than the wagon ride up to Solitude. After a brief landing in Northmoor, the ship sailed straight to Wayrest, Jewel of the Bay. There are many cities named jewel this, crown that, but few live up to their name. Wayrest was one of the exceptions, a magnificent city, and so large that each district seemed like a city unto itself. I started in the Wayrest Docks.

Stickball

Children throughout Tamriel often have similar toys, and both sticks and balls are among the most common. There are endless games that can be played with these simple pieces.

Those of you who are familiar with the way stickball is played in the capital will find this game similar, but not the same. I found some children playing it in an empty and hard to reach space between two warehouses.

As with regular stickball, the ball (much harder and heavier, more on that later) can only be hit with sticks. A player who touches the ball or is hit by the ball is out. In Cyrodiil this is until the next game, but here in Wayrest, children hit by the ball are only out until they count (quickly, often skipping numbers) to one hundred. Points are scored by hitting the ball into one of the goals. In Cyrodiil the game time is measured by a half-glass. In Wayrest, the game seemed to end when the players became tired, bored, or simply conceded. In Cyrodiil, each team has a single goal, usually up high, such as a nearby balcony or a basket tied to a wall. Hitting the ball into such a goal is a true challenge and scores are low, often 1-0. In Wayrest, the goals were six potholes where the bricks between the warehouses had been removed. The heavier ball would be almost impossible to hit off the ground, but with more goals, all of them easy to reach, the scores were likewise very high. A few of the children kept score on a slate and the games I watched were 82-41, 99-91, and 65-59.

Sticktoss

This is a very simple game, so much so that I am surprised none of my own childhood companions thought of it. Players each make a circle in the ground by holding their stick out as far as they can and turning in place.

Players then toss sticks to each other. Players try to catch the sticks without leaving the circle. If they catch the stick, they toss it to someone else. If a stick lands inside a player’s circle, even partly inside, that player is out. If a stick lands outside that player’s circle, the person who threw it is out.

Dodgeball

I should mention that the balls used for Stickball in Wayrest are quite heavy and even a little painful when a bystander such as myself is hit by them. They are gruesomely constructed of two human skull-caps covered with scraps of leather or fabric wrapped tightly around the skulls to hold them fast and then covered with a layer of glue and crow feathers. In Cyrodiil, most children’s balls are inflated bull or bear bladders, or among wealthier children, Dreugh sacs. (Of course professional sport balls are usually troll bladders treated by the Guild of Mages so that they retain some of their regenerative properties. And glowballs are not material at all, but a ‘stationary wave of illumined glass vapors along a spherical negative mana membrane’ as the infamous Ysara Motierre helpfully explained to me.) In any case, I feel I must describe how the balls are constructed in Wayrest so that readers will not imagine I am just telling stories about children standing on inflated bladders.

The form of this game is similar to a gantlet. There are two teams who alternate dodging and throwing. The dodgers all stand on their balls and run backwards atop the ball so that they move themselves forward, all while balancing on the ball. They must move this way past a row of throwers who toss their balls at the dodgers, trying to knock them off. The winning team is the one that has the most children make it to the goal still atop their ball.

Some of these children were both agile and tough, proudly displaying the bruises of their sport. I tried to explain to them the virtues of glowball, but I fear they found me a boring old man.

Four Scarves

In the market district I found a group of girls playing Four Scarves. Similar games are familiar to most readers, but I will describe it anyway for those in Black Marsh or Summerset who haven’t seen it. This game is played with any objects of four colors, although scarves, bandannas, or fabric scraps in the colors of blue, yellow, green, and red are the most common.

There is one red scarf and a roughly equal number of blue, yellow, and green scarves. All but one child (the Guesser) takes a scarf and hides it somewhere in their clothes. A line or very large circle is drawn on the ground. One side is ‘in’ and the other is ‘out.’ The child who drew the red scarf must show it to the Guesser.

When the Guesser says ‘Go!’ the children all jump in and out (that is, on one side of the line or the other). Children all jump at different paces, but they all have to keep jumping and can’t stay ‘in’ or ‘out’ too long. Additionally, they may exchange scarves at any time, although this is difficult to do when jumping back and forth.

When the Guesser says ‘Stop!’ all children have to stay in place. The Guesser then must try to guess the color of scarf of each child that is ‘in.’ Often the scarves are not perfectly hidden (these are children after all) or they are in the process of being traded and thus the guessing is easy. The Guesser can only guess blue, yellow, green, or none. If the Guesser is right, she takes the scarf. If not, the child must still show their scarf before hiding it again. If the Guesser says a color for a child who currently has no scarf, that child can take a scarf back from the Guesser.

In any case, the child moves ‘out’ when they are guessed, correctly or otherwise. At any time the Guesser can say ‘Go!’ and the jumping resumes. If the red scarf is displayed or the guesser correctly guesses everyone in the circle, the round is over and the Guesser’s score is how many scarves they collected. The game is over when every child has been the Guesser. As far as I could tell, the next Guesser is determined by shouting.

The Ring Seat Game

In an old amphitheater I found a group of children playing a game using the rings of seats as their playing field.

There are two teams. One starts on the innermost ring and one starts on the outermost ring (the row of seats further from the stage). Each player keeps one arm behind their back. If they don’t, they are ‘out.’ Their other hand they keep straight and chop at the other players. If a player is chopped on an arm or leg, they can’t use that limb anymore. Arms go behind the back, legs are pulled up and the child has to hop. If a player loses both legs, they are ‘out.’ Hand chops to other parts of the body don’t count.

The goal is for each team to get every remaining member of their team on the opposite ring. The gaps in the seating (such as the stairs) are treated as if it is part of the ring, but children can only stay there briefly or they are ‘out.’ Older children leapt across the gap, but younger ones had to step into it briefly.

The winning team is the one who has the most players reach the opposite side. Once one team wins, the players who were out are re-assigned teams and the game begins again.

Reeding

In the royal district I found the Wayrest Arena. There are events here every day and currently there was a ‘Reeding’ event taking place. I had seen a few tall, bendy poles in the canals, but wasn’t sure what they were for. In years past, it was common for people to cross the many streams and smaller rivers around the city by leaping to a tall reed placed in the water, grabbing it, and letting it bend to place them safely on the other side. Now that all the streams and rivers have many bridges, this has fallen out of favor and turned into a sport.

There were no canals in the area, only a series of reeds. Contestants leapt from the ground to a reed, then leapt to another reed as it bent them towards the ground. It clearly required skill to grab and hold onto the reed. There is apparently also some skill involved in shifting your weight so that the reed bends the right direction, and in leaping off in such a way that the reed whips back to hit another contestant. It was a puzzling spectacle, and one I fear I could not appreciate.

Bottle Boat Race

One of the spectators mentioned it was a shame I would be leaving before the bottle-boat race. She explained that the young women of Wayrest gathered empty ale bottles all year and used twine and thread to tie them together into a raft that is then covered with flowers. They put them in the Gardner river and try to keep them afloat until it merges with the Bjoulsae. Every four or five years, one of the young ladies drowns, but this does little to diminish the custom. According to my informant, anyone who drowns during the race is blessed by Dibella and granted many lovers in Aetherius. This is certainly not what I’ve been taught of Aetherius, but I’ve found it useless to argue such matters.

Featherdart

After the reeding event, the Wayrest Arena was set up with a tall vertical net in the middle and two teams came out to engage in Featherdart. This is a sport exclusive to those who know a little magic, for the ‘bird’ (a ball of feathers) cannot be touched by either team. Only two spells are used, one of levitation and one of force. Referees have a device that warns of any other magic cast nearby.

Each team consists of three groundlings and two floaters. The goal is to push the ‘bird’ such that it lands on the opponents’ side of the net. The groundlings cast levitate and force spells on the ‘bird’ to keep it off the ground and move it over the net. The floaters cast levitate on themselves and try to use force from above to push the ‘bird’ rapidly into the ground.

It was certainly an unusual sport, and faster-paced than I originally expected, but I found it dull to watch with little display of athleticism or physical prowess. In truth, the sport consists of four people floating around and six walking about, staring up in the air. I found it difficult to focus on the ‘bird’ but to be fair I was in one of the cheapest seats. The locals were quite engaged in the sport, shouting and cheering as much as any gladiatorial audience.

Three Elements

Another magical sporting event was the last one of the afternoon. Three Elements refers to fire, water, and lightning, not the traditional elements as they are known in Cyrodiil. There are three teams of three people: a burner, a splasher, and a sparker, who do what it sound like. The burner wears a belt that causes incapacitating pain when it is wet. The splasher wears a belt that makes him vulnerable to lightning. And the sparker has a belt that makes him especially vulnerable to fire. The players run about casting spells at one another, which have to be slow bolt-type spells. There is much maneuvering and dodging, for a single hit is usually incapacitating for a short time. A team wins when both other teams are all unable to stand or when both other teams have exhausted their mana.

The game has some strategy, but I found it resembled a more lively version of the common children’s game known as shell-sheet-knife or sap-bug-dung. The crowd around me shouted and cheered, but I found the spectacle quite dull, even when one of the players was writhing about in pain or engulfed in flame. Apparently those born under the Atronach are disqualified.

Ol’ Nof

When I took to my rooms at night, I played a few rounds of Ol’ Nof in the tavern. This is a dice game using a very large number of regular dice. The objective is to make a 5×5 square of 6s (the ‘Nof’, 16 dice total) with one 1, 3, and 5 inside and no 2s or 4s inside.

Each turn one player is the thrower. All the unclaimed dice are placed in a bag or cup, shaken, and dropped on the table by the thrower. If a dice hits or knocks over a claimed die, that die is now counted as whatever its face-up value is now. All players can try to protect their dice (or Nof) with their hands. All players except the thrower then try to grab and claim dice on the table as fast as possible and put them in their square, which is built on the table in front of each player. Any dice that fall off the table (or into a drink) cannot be claimed. Any dice in excess of the 16 6s and 1 of each other number in front of each player are then gathered up and put back in the bag and the next player becomes the thrower.

It is valid for the thrower to drop some dice, let people start grabbing them, leaving their Nof unprotected, and then throw the rest of the dice at the player currently in the lead.

When someone makes a 5×5 square with one of each other number inside, they have ‘Secured the Nof’. Every other player gets a turn at being the thrower (and often throws the dice at the current winner’s Nof, trying to knock their dice around). Anyone who has a Secure Nof cannot claim dice, but if their dice are knocked over, they can claim dice again. The last player with a Secure Nof is the winner. So if someone Secures the Nof and manages to protect it (or replaces any knocked-over dice), but another player also Secures the Nof in the last round, the later player is the winner. If no Nofs exist at the end of the ‘final’ round, then it isn’t the final round and the game continues.

If one of the dice inside a Nof is knocked over to become a 2 or 4, or if a 2 or 4 naturally lands inside the Nof, that player has to discard a 6 from his Nof to get rid of the 2 or 4.

There is a great deal of terminology to the game, which I found confusing and unnecessary. For instance, the dice aren’t referred to as numbers. 6s are stables or bones, 5s are stars, 4s are giants, 3s are waves, 2s are maormer, and 1s are towers.

Equestrian Sports

I heard that in the interior of High Rock, many equestrian sports are commonly played, such as hooks, vaulting, mounted archery contests, and of course the famous Dragonling Game, one of the most well known sport of High Rock, where opposing teams try to knock a ball through a series of loops on the ground while mounted. Each player must also keep their roped dragonling from being captured or killed by the other team. This was not the case in Wayrest, where such sports are looked down on as something only westerners and ignorant villagers do. Perhaps if I make another tour, I can visit some of these smaller towns.

Games and Pastimes of Tamriel, V. 3: Hammerfell

My journey next took me to Hegathe, an ancient coastal city at the very tip of Hammerfell, and the major trading port with Summerset. The city was quite different from Wayrest, but equal in splendor. It is a city of contrasts: tall, plain stone ramparts and beautiful gold-engraved tents; barren deserts and bountiful vineyards; the ancient shrine of Tava and the busy, modern harbor.

Crown and Forebear

Appropriately enough for a city with such history, the first game I encountered was a group of children playing Crown and Forebear. Children divide themselves into teams. For every Crown there are three Forebears.

Each Crown hides a half dozen or so trinkets in the area while the Forebears stay out of sight. The Forebears try to spy on the Crowns, but also try not to get caught. If any Crown spots a Forebear at this stage, the Forebear is out of the game.

When the trinkets are all hidden, the Crowns announce the start of the game. In addition, each Crown can make up a single rule that all the Forebears must follow, such as “no climbing” or “no touching baskets.” This is usually related to how some of the trinkets are hidden. For instance, if some trinkets are buried, a Crown might provide the rule “No digging.”

The Forebears then begin hunting for the trinkets while the Crowns supervise them. Each Crown can enforce his own rule (and no other). If a Crown catches a Forebear breaking a rule, that Forebear is out and the Crown takes all that Forebear’s trinkets.

A Crown can be out if they try to enforce another Crown’s rule or make a false accusation. The winner is the child with the most trinkets when all (or almost all) of the trinkets have been found.

Empty Throne

Another game I saw children playing several times in the streets of Hegathe was called several things, but most often Empty Throne.

One child is the King. The other children for a semi-circle around him. All players must take ten steps away from the King. Then the King turns away and closes his eyes and counts to three (rapidly). From the first sound of “one” to the end of “three” the other players can move closer to the King. At the count of three, the King spins around and opens his eyes. If any of the other players move, the King can point at them and they are “out.” If the King touches any of the players, they are “out.” If any of the players touches the King while he is counting, that player wins. Once the King opens his eyes, he cannot move his feet, so he can’t see players directly behind him. Although such players are not allowed to move closer, they are apparently allowed to make funny faces and gestures at the King.

Streamers

This is a game of dexterity where children pass weighted streamers to each other. These can be specially made for this game, but most often they are an old sock, stocking, or sack with a rock in it or a braid tied to a couple fishing weights.

Players gather in a large circle and pass the streamers to each other and can only catch it by the tail, not by the weighted part. Players are out when they miss or catch the weighted end. Each time a player is out, the circle gets smaller and the throws get faster. When there are only a few children left, it resembles circus juggling.

Morwha’s Grasp

This is a game that could only be played in Hammerfell as it requires the use of one of the many statues of Morwha. For those who have never seen one, Morwha is a large woman with four outstretched arms. Kids place the statue on a moving surface, such as a potter’s wheel or on a greased plate or rock so that the statue can spin easily.

One kids spins the statue, then runs away. The rest of the kids try to toss various rocks, rings, and so on and try to get Morwha to “catch” them. The first player to get an object in one of the Morwha’s hands or hanging from her arms is the winner. Getting something wrapped around her head does not count.

Apparently the priests of Morwha do not mind this game and even encourage it.

50 Holes

This is similar to 40 Holes as played in Cyrodiil. Incidentally, it was called that because the lines were originally holes. You could only play the top token because the rest were literally underneath it. I’ve seen boards for it that still use holes.

Anyway, instead of 24 lines and black and white tokens, there are 25 lines and four colors, two per player. Instead of rolling two dice to determine how many moves you can make, each player has a hand of cards.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the game, it is played with tokens (in Hammerfell, red and black for one player, blue and white for the other) on a board with 25 lines. Each player has five cards: 1, 2, 5, 7, 8. Players can play their cards to move a single token that many spaces. There is no limit to how many cards can be played in a turn, but only one or two tokens can be moved in a single turn. You can move one token 7 spaces and one token 3 (1+2) spaces. You can move a single token 23 spaces if you use all your cards and nothing blocks you.

Once all players’ hands are empty, all players re-draw their cards. So if you use all your cards in a single turn, you might have to skip four turns while your opponent plays one card at a time.

The objective is to get all your tokens off the board. One player is moving right and one player is moving left (or both players move right relative to their facing). Each line can have four tokens, but they must all be the same color or all be different colors. So if you want to move your black token to a space occupied by one of your red tokens, you can do that. But if you then want to move another red or black token to that line, you cannot. But you opponent could move a white or blue token to that space. As in Cyrodiil, only the ‘top’ token on each line can move.

To move a token off the board, you must have exactly the right number of moves. So if you have a piece on the fourth line from the right, you can move it off the board with your 5 card. If it’s on the third line from the right, you’d have to move it twice as there’s no combination of cards that adds up to 4. The ideal game is one where a player manipulates things such that his last 5 pieces are 1, 2, 5, 7, and 8 spaces from the end of the board. Clever players find ways to block other player’s moves, such as trapping them beneath his own tokens or making several closely-spaced doubles of the same color that requires high cards or multiple cards to move over.

I enjoyed this game, but I had poor luck at it. I lost quite a bit of my savings for the trip.

Games and Pastimes of Tamriel, V. 4: Valenwood

I must confess I planned on skipping Valenwood on this initial tour. Alas, Katiarah’s Crown suffered damage after a dreugh attack and had to anchor off the coast while working on repairs. The captain suggested that I accompany him to the nearest village, some nameless hovel north of Woodhearth. There was little entertainment of any kind here.

Archery

Archery is a major pastime, even among children. Bosmer are given bows as young as three or four years old. Children’s bows are mostly horn and sinew and their arrows are of carved bone, sometimes with stone tips. They do not shoot at wooden targets. Indeed, shooting a tree seems to be a serious foul. Instead they shoot mostly at mounds of dirt, whether natural or constructed for this purpose. Apparently moss and grass do not count under the Green Pact, at least not for the purpose of archery.

Bones

Another common pastime is bones. Unlike in the Empire proper, where ‘bones’ usually refers to some sort of dice game, here it is a played by throwing bones up in the air and catching as many as you can.

Bug Charming

I spotted two hunters having a contest of sorts over how many grubs or beetle or worms they could entice to come up to the surface by tapping the ground, whistling, and moaning. After one of them ‘won’ the game, they gathered up all the worms and grubs and beetles. A few were eaten immediately and others were put in a sack, presumably to be eaten later.

This entire province disgusts me, and fortunately the ship was repaired before we had to attempt any of Valenwood’s hospitality.

Games and Pastimes of Tamriel, V. 5: Summerset

Summerset is beautiful, but the residents make an effort to avoid foreigners, avoid conversations, and never answer questions simply. Even getting to Summerset can be a challenge for most Imperials. Fortunately, I knew some Altmer from my sporting days who were able to get me out of the Firsthold docks and keep me from making a fool of myself. However, I was unable to learn the rules or even the names of many of these games. I can only describe what I saw.

Ten Papers

Each player takes ten blank cards and writes down a ‘rule’ on each one. Five ‘standard’ cards are placed on a table along with a pile of gems. The first five pieces of paper say, via a rough translation:

A gem is any stone in the official collection.

Each player may take one gem on their turn.

Place a gem into the official collection to play a card.

The only numbers are zero and one.

Cards may only be played on cards.

Each player picks up a gem and then starts putting gems back in the pile to play cards. As each card has a different rule on it, the game rapidly becomes complex and confusing. According to one of my informants, amateur players such as children often write rules like ‘Cassius gets 100 gems on his turn’ but these are quickly overwritten by other players or nullified (for instance, you’d have to overrule the ‘only numbers are zero and one’ rule first). The objective is to make subtle rules that result in you winning without the other players realizing that it will lead you to win. The game starts without any way to win, which has to be added by one of the other cards. Often games end (all player run out of cards) without any winner.

Honestly, this was the most boring game I have ever seen. A friend was translating for me, so it wasn’t a matter of not understanding the cards being played.

Glass Top

This is played with glass-blown tops, which have holes in them that make a musical tone as they spins. The tone changes based on the speed of the top. The tops speed up (but become wobbly) when a fifth higher than the top’s current tone is sung at them. They slow down with fifth lower and can be stabilized by matching the exact current tone. Some other technique can move the top slightly away from the singer.

The objective, as best as I could understand it, was to keep your top spinning while knocking the opponent’s over, either by slowing them to the point they fall or by hitting them with your own top. It sometimes seemed as if other players could ‘sing’ at opposing players’ tops, but sometimes it seemed the opponents tops did not react to a player singing directly towards them.

Flying Race

Most Altmer can cast a few spells, including levitation. The players of this game race each other by flying. The best magicians have a huge advantage in that their flight spells can be faster and longer lasting. But there are additional rules, such as collecting ‘flags’ or touching certain location, which take time from the final race times, so a player that completed the flight in ten minutes could still beat one that completed it in five if they collected enough flags or touched all the monuments of a certain category.

The rules seemed overly complicated, and my informant was unable to explain them clearly to me.

Tabletop Drop Game

This was one of the strangest and most interesting games I’ve ever seen, but it is difficult to describe.

This four-player game uses a small wooden table with eight ‘handles’ on each side. When a handle is pulled, a paper-thin slat of wood pulls out. These slats have solid parts and holes. Each slat has a different number of holes and spacing.

The game board is an 8 by 8 grid. Each player has 16 crystals of a single color. The game starts by players taking turns placing the crystals on the board. Once all crystals are placed, a signal is given to begin. The players begin rapidly their handles precise distances. If all four slats in one of the grid spaces are hollow, that crystal falls into the table’s hollow bottom compartment. The winner is the first player whose crystals all fall into the base.

To complicate matters, there is a spinning wheel at the bottom with some kind of repulsive force that moves the slats on their own by one space in a preset pattern. There are several choices of wheel, and some negotiation about which wheel to use occurs before each match.

Players can touch their opponents’ slats, or indeed use telekinesis to move them, but they cannot stand up from their chairs to do so. If a player moves one of the crystals by accident, such as a badly aimed spell or shaking the table, they are disqualified.

As my informant explained, each player must try to move the slats such that their crystals fall through the holes while preventing their opponent’s crystals from falling. There was much strategy and discussion from the audience during this game, but to me, all I saw was some elves sliding handles in and out, sometimes a handle sliding on its own, and the crystals falling randomly into the bottom.

Whip Fencing

This is an impractical sport based on fencing. It is played with two long, thin reeds or stiff cords that are almost more like whips than swords. It is played on a complex court with geometric shapes painted on it.

A referee, for lack of a better term, draws cards from a deck and calls out moves. This requires both fencers to move to certain places on the board, such as the intersection of a triangle and an arc. There is usually more than one valid location. After both move cards are spoken, both players can ‘attack’ at the sound of a chime. Both fencers can attack and defend with the whip-swords, but only in a specified way, based on their current position. So you may be allowed to block in the upper right quadrant if you’re standing at the corner of a square, but not allowed to duck because neither of your feet are on a curve. And you may be allowed to attack from the left, but not from the right, etc.

Players lose if they are hit three times or if they make an illegal move.

I could not follow this game well, although it was interesting to watch and the duelists were graceful.

Red Blue

One of the few children’s games I saw on the island, and one truly incomprehensible, I will call Red Blue. One child, the “alarm” stands in the middle of a circle of children and wears a helmet so they cannot see. All other children face away from the alarm. The “alarm” makes a magical light over their head. When the light is red, children must walk slowly away from the “alarm” while singing. When the light is blue, children must freeze in place and remain silent. If a child is moving during the blue light, the “alarm” can try to mark that child with the blue light and everyone runs up to them and forms a circle around them, making them the new “alarm.” If a child is singing wrong in some way during the red light, the “alarm” can mark them with red light, which takes them out of the regular game, and into some sort of side-game played only by the red-marked children, which I couldn’t understand, but it looked like a sort of slow-motion race with the slowest child the winner.

I tried to ask a few questions of the children, but I couldn’t get an answer as to how they knew the color of the “alarm” if they were looking away from it, how the “alarm” knew who was or wasn’t moving, or just about any detail of the game. One of the children’s parents came by and was much alarmed at my presence, so I had to leave with only these meager observations.

As much as I enjoyed the beauty of the island, I was happy to return to Katariah’s Crown and continue to Elsweyr.

Games and Pastimes of Tamriel, V. 6: Elsweyr

Perhaps more than any other race in Tamriel, the Khajiit are known for their many games. Some accuse the Khajiit of treating everything as a game, and this is not entirely wrong.

The itinerary of Katariah’s Crown gave me only one full day in port to conduct my observations of the games and pastimes of Elsweyr. Fortunately, games were being played everywhere in the city. I saw a game being played within view of the ship by children of the Carriers. The children were very curious about my attire and eager to answer questions in exchange for candies, dried meat, and other treats.

Fool’s Mane

One of the players is selected to be the Mane, which is a Khajiit deity or religious leader. All the other children carry a distinctive length of braided hair, string, or patterned fabric with a clip. These are called braids. All other players squat, kneel, or prostrate themselves around the Mane with their braid clip between their teeth. The Mane then tells each player where to place their braid. The braids are clipped on to the Mane’s fur or clothing (again using only the teeth to hold and open the clip).

When all braids have been placed, the other players run away and hide. The Mane then sings a rhyming song while walking on a path. According to the children, the path must have a certain number of hiding places. In this case, the path went around the crates waiting to be loaded. Each player must try to take their braid or the braids of other players from the Mane. They cannot touch the Mane and can only unclip the braid with their teeth. Once the braid is unclipped, they may touch it, hide it, steal it from another player or whatever they wish. The Mane cannot touch the other players or run, but can jump, dodge, spin around or otherwise move as much as he wishes. But the Mane must stay on the path and keep singing.

After the Mane goes all the way down the path and back, the players come out of hiding and reveal any braids they have taken. The winner is the one with the most braids, but if they do not have their own braid, they are disqualified. Several times a child was sure they were the winner, but had not noticed another child stealing their own braid. If there is a tie or no legal winners, the Mane wins. The winner gets to be the new Mane.

One of the oldest children was kind enough to give me a translation of the nonsense song the Mane sings while on the path, which I have tried to fit into a poor rhyme to better match the original feel. He said the song was about the Manes who made poor choices, often two verses are about the same Mane.

One foolish Mane wore two shawls

Gave the fire stone to mad cat’s doll

One foolish Mane, three dunes tall

Buried his bones in Agami’s hall

One foolish Mane had two wives

Played on the roof with the forest-man’s knives

One foolish Mane, took all four

Drams of venom from the spider’s store

One foolish Mane served two kings

Danced to the lonely puppy’s strings

One foolish Mane, weighed three tons

Melted in the tears of the cold sun’s son

Leap-Prey

As I walked to the western gate I saw another group of children playing and an ohmes girl watching them. I asked her what was going on and leaned this was her least favorite game, Leap-Prey. After watching it, it does seem to favor the more bestial Khajiit.

The players start by drawing a very large circle on the ground. The children I saw were using a basket of sand, but it can be chalk, stones, and other markers. One child is the Leaping Cat, sometimes called the Gatherer. The Prey each have a weight of some kind (in this case, small bags of sand) on their back.

If a player steps out of the circle, they lose. If a player drops the weight on their back, they lose. The Leaper tries to jump over the Prey and pick up the weight. If the Leaper succeeds, that player loses. The losers stand outside the circle.

The Leaper can only touch the weight, not the other players. If the Leaper touches a Prey, that Prey picks up all the Leaper’s gathered weights and becomes the new Leaper. The former Leaper loses. Players who lose stand outside the circle.

At first it seems that only the Leaper requires skill (and, after picking up a dozen weights, great strength), but after watching a moment, I noticed that many Prey became the new Jumper by arching their backs at a critical moment or moving in coordination with each other so that there was no place the Leaper could go without touching one of them.

The winner is the first one to gather all the weights, but no one succeeded in winning while I watched.

Capture the Trinket

After finishing a few games of Leap-Prey, the children decided to play a game I am calling Capture the Trinket. It is a variant of the flag-capture games common across all Tamriel.

The players spit into two teams. In this case two of the children were somehow selected as leaders and each one alternated picking players for their team. Each team has a trinket and a box, in this case, braids and two old shipping crates.

The boxes are placed upside down at opposite ends of the play area and the trinket is placed inside. The goal of each team is to steal the opposing team’s trinket and protect their own. The winner is the first team to have both trinkets in their box.

There are some special rules I learned about as the game went on. You cannot sit on the box. You cannot bury the box or put it fully inside another container. You can try to hide the box as long as it is accessible. You can grab and tackle others players, but cannot hit them, bite them, or hex them.

Otherwise, the game is simply flag-capture.

Gold Teeth

Near the western gate, a ruined and disreputable part of the city, I found a group of rough-looking Khajiit playing a game they called Gold Teeth. One of them explained to me that the betting pieces were originally shaped like teeth. Another player disagreed and said the name came from the shape of the dice.

The game is very simple and mostly left to chance. Each player has five long, narrow eight-sided dice-rods and a colored marker stone. The game also requires some kind of “spinner” that can point to different players. In this particular game an empty skooma bottle was used.

Each player rolls their dice and keeps them visible to other players. Each player puts one of their dice in a row on the table and places their marker stone next to one of the dice. These are called “columns.” One player turns the spinner and whoever it points to must place one of their dice on one of the columns (not necessarily their own). If the spinner is ambiguous, pointing between two players, it can be spun again. The last die placed in a column is the “strength” of that column. Each player can now move their marker stone to a new column. Each player must then place a coin on the table next to any of the columns. After all coins are placed, the player who place the die, spins the spinner again.

The round is over when the spinner points at someone who has no dice left. At that point, the column (or columns) with the highest strength are the winners. The coins are split among all those who put marker stones on the winning columns.

One of the players who enjoyed talking about games said that the winner is usually decided by the player who placed a die last. Sometimes this player is called the Mane-chooser. No one wants to leave the column they marked in a weak position once someone has run out of dice. On the other hand, placing a seven or eight on a column encourages the next player to place a one or two below it.

To complicate matters, the players often sign contracts or exchange bits of fur in secret before the game starts. These contracts usually say that if one player wins, they will share 1/3 of their earnings with the other player. So if someone has the last move, and they are not able to make themselves the winner, they can try to make someone with whom they have a contract the winner.

I would not have expected one of the more unusual Khajiit to be playing this game, but among the players was a battlecat as large as a horse, who rolled and placed his dice with his tongue. He even lapped up the pot of coins when he won with a deep, chuffing laugh. How he kept those coins in his mouth, I do not know. The players changed the rules a bit so that the bottle wasn’t pointing at him, unless it was pointing close to where he placed his paw on the table, otherwise, the odds of it ending at him would be far too high.

Heist

Another group of Khajiit nearby was playing a different dice game, played with standard Imperial dice, which one said translates to something like Heist. The game was similar to many other dice games. Each player rolls six dice. The best roll is what we’d call a straight: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. The next best are 6 of a kind, then 5 of a kind, then 4 of a kind. There are no other valid rolls. Higher values beat lower ones. A straight beats six 1s beats five 3s beats four 6s beats four 5s.

The differences are in the Flip or Steal and the Loser’s Die. The player who had the worst hand (as they probably had no valid hand, ties are determined by the lowest total value) gets the Loser’s Die, which is just an extra die they roll on their turn. Everyone rolls, the Loser replaces one of their dice with the Loser’s Die, then the loser takes their turn, then everyone takes a turn to the left.

On your turn you can Flip or Steal. If you can make a valid roll by swapping one of your dice with one of your neighbors to the left or right, you can do that. Or, you can flip one of your dice to an adjacent face. So if you roll a 1, you can’t flip it to a 6, but you can flip it to 2, 3, 4, or 5. After everyone takes a turn, the player with the best roll wins.

Betting is complicated. Players with no roll could skip that round. Everyone else had to put something in the pot. The pot went to the player with the best roll, but some rounds it seemed as if the winner took nothing. If the winner stole a die from someone, they had to give some amount to the player they stole from. I couldn’t quite figure out how it worked.

Moon Dance

Another gambling game these Khajiit played was called “Moon Dance.” The game is played with regular six-sided dice, but the faces of the dice show Masser, Masser, Masser, Secunda, Secunda, and Blank. Each player picks a die and places it in front of them with the side of their bet, Masser, Secunda, or blank, facing up.

Players take turns rolling four of these dice. For each of the rolled dice that show Masser, every player whose own die shows Masser must place a coin in the pot. For each of the dice that show Secunda, every player whose own die shows Secunda must place a coin in the pot. Every player whose own die shows a blank must place four coins in the pot. It is legal to change the face of your die between rolls if you place five coins in the pot.

In the first two rounds, if all four rolled dice show the same face, everyone must place four coins in the pot. In the third and later rounds, if all four rolled dice show the same face, the players who have that face showing on their own die win and split the pot. Note that the winners split all the money placed on the table to bet, even if it was never placed in the pot. If a player runs out of coins, they forfeit and must leave the game.

Masser is a common bet since it has the highest chance of coming up and the highest chance of winning. But in a longer game, it means many more coins placed in the pot, and you are more likely to have to share your winnings with more players. Some players start with a blank bet for four or five rounds and then switch to Masser or Secunda and pay the penalty for doing so.

If all four dice have the same face, but no one is showing that face, the pot is collected and put off to the side. I wasn’t able to get a plain answer as to why, but it is apparently “collected.” I wasn’t able to get a plain answer about who collects it, either.

Big Drop

It was late afternoon by the time I left the city. In the middle of the ruins just outside, someone had cleared a large flat field and placed benches around the edges for weary spectators such as myself to sit.

There were several teams of Khajiit here along with many spectators. The game they were playing was called something like Big Drop. I arrived near the end of a tournament and was only able to see the last two matches. I am not sure I fully understood the game’s rules, and the spectators near me either did not speak Cyrodilic very well or they were intoxicated.

The Drop is a large (taller than a man!) inflated ball. I could not get any answer about what it was made of, but it looked somewhat soft. The players try to move the Drop by throwing smaller, hard leather balls at it.

Each team had a strange composition, but this composition was always the same. If I understood one of the spectators correctly, there are different leagues of this game, where each league has a different number of players and positions. The teams playing today each had one Shield, who was always one of the so-called battlecats, two Leapers, which were one of the smaller tigers, five Throwers who could be any kind of upright Khajiit (or other race, as one of the throwers was a Nord), and one Wizard (in this case, most of them were the tiny housecats, but there was an Orc, one of the more man-like Khajiit, and a short monkey-like Khajiit).

At the start the defending team places eight tall posts on their end of the field. The posts are spaced about twice the width of the Drop. The attacking team puts the Drop in position on their side of the field. There are lines about one fifth of the way from each side of the field. The attackers begin by pushing the Drop as fast as possible down the field. Once the Drop crosses their one-fifth line, no one is allowed to touch the Drop.

The larger Khajiit try to block the balls of the other team’s Throwers from hitting the Drop. They do this by swatting the balls from the air, catching them in their teeth, or most simply, interposing their body. I did not envy these Khajiit as they were the most injured. The Leapers are also the only ones allowed to pick up the smaller balls after they are thrown. Throwers can take the balls from them once they are picked up.

The Throwers for each team start with five large leather balls carried in a net tied about their waist or chest. Once the Drop has crossed the line, both teams begin throwing these balls at the Drop to change its course. They also throw balls at members of the other team. Each team had a few healers on the sidelines to tend to the players as incapacitating injuries seemed to be common. There didn’t seem to be any rules about the use of healing magic. A few of the spectators were injured by these balls as well, including the unfortunate Khajiit who was sitting just to my right. When the Throwers run out of balls, they can still intercede with their body, but they cannot pick up balls from the ground.

The Wizards do not carry balls themselves, but are allowed to use a spell that creates a very strong gust of wind. They can use this spell as often as they can cast it on the ball or on the other players. The spell is not as damaging as being hit by one of the balls, but it can knock a player off their feet. In the most brutal game, all the players on both teams were incapacitated except for the two Wizards who both tried to push the ball with their magic until one lay exhausted and it rolled, very slowly and unopposed, between the posts with the tiny Khajiit sauntering behind it.

If the Drop goes between the posts without knocking any down, the attacking team gets a point. If the Drop knocks one of the posts down, the defending team gets a point. It is common to try to divert the ball just as it goes through your own goal. The teams alternate defending and attacking until a team reaches five points.

I could see adopting something like this, with modified rules of course, for play in Cyrodiil.

Games and Pastimes of Tamriel, V. 7: Black Marsh

I wish I was able to spend more time in Archon, but the heat and heaviness of the air was tough on my old bones. I barely managed to make it from the ship to the tavern and back and seemed to spend every waking hour drinking and sweating it back out just as fast.

Most of the games I saw were from the balcony of my room where I could sit in the shade, drink, and watch the children play. The tavern was close to the docks, but near the northern edge of the town, and much of the view consisted of swamp.

Jump Stick

A few Argonian children played a game similar to jump rope, but with sticks. Two children held long wooden poles and the remaining children jumped from one side to the other. The poles were lifted, dropped, crossed back and forth, in rhythmic patterns. Each pattern had a name that pole-bearers would shout before starting it.

The child who was ‘next’ would start by placing a hand on one of the pole-bearers, then as soon as the next pattern was called, would jump to the other pole-bearer and put a hand on his head, and leap out. If one leapt out of the path entirely or got their foot caught in a stick, they were out.

Marsh Tag

Everyone remembers tag as a child, but in Black Marsh, it is apparently played in the water. Children each held what the innkeeper told me was a ‘chirp-fish.’ The fish make a rather constant and annoying chirping sound, and every player had to have one at all times.

The children all dove under the water and, as far as I could tell in the murk, they found and tagged each other by hearing. A child who was out, simply walked back to dry land and waited.

Sink Tag

This is another sort of tag game, but the children divided into two teams. One dove into the murky water. The other team each took two large nuts (inedible, according to my host), and climbed into the trees. The team in the trees threw the nuts into the water where they sank. Anyone hit by the nut was out. The game was over when all of the children in the water were out or when the team in the trees ran out of nuts. The teams would then swap roles and play again.

Jaw Beetle Fight

In this odd game, the children tied themselves together back-to-back. One child would swim underwater while the other carried two big sticks tied at one end, sort of like giant tongs. The goal was for the top child to grab the other pairs’ tongs with their own tongs and ‘disarm’ them. It was all very strange and seemed quite awkward for the children lying on their backs, trying to grab things with two long sticks.

Ironseed

The only adult game I witnessed was on my last day. Some locals heard of my project and half-carried me to a playing field where a game of Ironseed was taking place.

The game was played with a single, very heavy ball. It resembled a cannonball, about a handswidth and about two stone. There were two teams of five players. The ball was difficult to carry, but there were no rules on how the ball should be moved. Players picked it up, threw it, kicked it, and so on. So the game alternated between one player carrying or rolling the ball a good distance while the rest tried to catch up…and a group wrestling match where you assumed the ball was somewhere in there, but you couldn’t see the action.

The goal was to get the ball across a goal, in this case a wooden pole tied between two trees. The game was played in an uneven marsh, which made it even more difficult to move the ball. A few times a player got the ball across the pole and tried to throw it into a hole in one of the trees the pole was attached to. The hole was about two hands wide and stands about the height of a man on the tree.

As was explained to me, getting the ball across the pole is 1 point. Throwing the ball into the hole counts for 4 more points, but if you miss, you lose the point you just earned. Most players didn’t take that risk and only one actually scored the extra points in the one match I watched.

Games and Pastimes of Tamriel, V. 8: Morrowind

Necrom was a strange city. I turned down several invitations to visit the many catacombs and tombs in this allegedly holy city. I didn’t come here for the dead. Perhaps I should have asked my hosts if the infamous ghosts of Morrowind played any games. Fortunately, the Dunmer were not as dour as their reputation, and I was invited to all sorts of games.

Emperor’s Feast

Many games in Necrom were played by both children in the streets and by drinkers in taverns, and this was one of them.

Emperor’s Feast requires a container for each player, such as cups or shells, and some markers, such as marbles or rocks.

In the tavern version, players are given cups and four markers (three white, one black). The players pass the cups back and forth out of sight (under the table or behind their backs) and try to sneak markers in and out of the cups. When the cups have been passed three times, everyone “drinks” which involves turning the cup over and letting the stones spill out. Players can look at their markers, but can’t look in the cups until the end.

A player was ‘out’ if they had any black markers. Usually everyone had at least one black marker, and the Dunmer found this outcome highly amusing for some reason.

Telvanni’s Fall

This was another game played by children with improvised materials, and in taverns with a set of pieces made for it.

In the tavern version, each player was given five oddly shaped pieces of wood (each one different), three curved, hardened patches of netch leathwe (whatever a netch is), and one guar hide. Players took turns placing a set bet (usually one drake) in the pot and one of these items on the “tower” in the center of the table. As the pieces were not designed to go together, it was difficult to place them and the tower became more precarious with each move.

When the tower falls, the last player who balanced a piece on it was the winner. If the piece they placed was the guar hide, they got the entire pot. Otherwise, they got only half the pot (unless that was the last round of the game, of course).

Yam Race

This was yet another game played by both children and adults. Each team had a heavy oblong ball (the ‘yam,’ children often played with actual ash yams) and each player had a long sort of paddle, similar to a wide, flat shovel (often actual shovels among children). Players balanced the yam on the paddle and tossed it into a basket or a circle marked on the ground at the other side of the court.

Players could toss the yam to each other. Opposing players could try to catch it in their own paddle. No one was allowed to touch the yams other than with the paddle. A yam must not be picked up again once it touches the ground.

It clearly required some skill to balance the yams on the flat paddles, but I couldn’t help but burst into laughter several times during the matches I watched. The game was, to put it bluntly, silly. And the way the Dunmer treated it so seriously only made it seem funnier.

Coal Toss

There are several games where players must toss a ball and stand still while they are holding the ball, but this was the only one played with a hot coal and where the goal was to light candles.

Each team of six had a brazier with hot coals and six candles on their “goal line.” The objective was to take a single coal from the brazier, toss it to other players until it was at the opponent’s goal line, then light a single candle with it, and toss it in the opponent’s brazier.

Even with the Dunmer’s resistance to heat, this limits how long a single player can hold a coal, even by tossing it hand to hand. It is therefore a fast moving game. When someone has the coal, they can take but a single step (or finish one they already started). After that, they must keep both feet flat on the ground until they pass the coal.

When near enough to the opposite side, players can attempt to light one of the candles. If successful, the player must toss the coal into the opponent’s brazier. If they miss, all the candles on that side are put out. Often the coal was no longer hot enough to light the candle by the time it reached the other side. If a coal touches the ground, it can’t be picked up again. It must be kicked out of bounds before that team can pick up another coal and try again.

Player were not allowed to catch the opposing team’s coals, but they could hit them away with their hands or block with their bodies.

A key strategy seemed to be positioning the best throwers to light the farthest candles first so not as much time was lost with a missed throw. Another was to keep one player back by your candles and try to knock the opponent’s coal away when it was being tossed in the brazier. Every match I watched required multiple quenchings of all the candles on both sides.

Ashprints

This is, oddly enough for the Dunmer, a party game, and the only one I encountered on this tour. Everyone wears a black cloak and carries a grey cloak. Everyone dips their hands in ashes. Then the lights are put out, the windows are covered, whatever it takes to achieve total darkness. At the sound of a tone, all participants try to slap their ash-covered hands on each other’s backs. Only hits to the black cloak count, and the fabric shows the ashprints remarkably well. Players can interpose their grey cloak, dodge, block, even sit down or try to hide. At another tone the lights come back on, and the winner is the one with the fewest prints.

There are few other rules. No violence or magic is allowed. Players can’t hide their cloak, take it off, or lean with their backs to the wall. The cloaks themselves are usually enchanted in such a way that they cry out, as if in pain, when the rules are broken.

Fireball

This was a great sport and one that might catch on in other provinces. It reminded me a little of glowball.

Players form two teams of six players. There are three attackers and three defenders. A light ball of oiled rags is set on fire (some places might use a magical ball). Players must be nude apart from a loincloth and can only hit the ball with their feet, legs, or hips.

The game is played in a dark, enclosed court. There is a hole in each wall on opposite sides. Points are scored by kicking the flaming ball through the hole or by kicking the ball so that it hits an enemy player above the waist. In the match I saw, there was minimal lighting apart from the flaming ball itself, which made it a bit less interesting to watch.

Hitting an enemy player above the waist is always worth one point. The game is divided into five parts, each one about ten short glasses. Kicking the ball through the hole is worth one point per part. So if you score a goal it in the third part, it’s worth three points, but if you kicked it in at the end of the game, it’s worth five points.

Conclusion

I hoped to achieve many things with this tour, but all I really did was learn how to do a better one. I shall go on another, longer tour that spends more time in each province. Until then this initial brief summary must suffice for those who have an interest in the various games and sports of each province.

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