Numenera and Royal Shrovetide Football

Royal Shrovetide Football is a unique game played in only one village in England. Several thousand people gather in the town square once a year and then they throw a large, leather ball into the crowd. T 1280px-Shrovetide_football_dated_1887jpg wo teams try to move the ball about 1.5 miles to their goal.  The rules are few (no running on church yards or gardens, no unnecessary violence), but otherwise everything goes.  It is a massive, brutal scrum with occasional sprints as fast runners move the ball across the countryside to their goal, which requires jumping in a stream to reach. It is violent, chaotic and honestly looks like a lot of fun.  I ran across a great documentary about the game (still played today after 1000 years of yearly games) called “Wild in the Streets.”  The documentary does a great job of explaining the game and how it is the fore bearer of modern rugby and football and it is narrated by Sean Bean, in one of the only roles where he does not die.

After about 12 nanoseconds of thought, I decided that a wild, violent game with minimal rules would make for a great one-shot game for my Numenera group. One of the PCs had a birth control accident and impregnated a local girl, but sadly it went horribly wrong as she came down with a nano-tech plague that required treatment. Seeking help from the best, if most mysterious and potentially sinister experts in technology on the Ninth World, “The Convergence,” the Convergence asked the PCs to prove themselves worthy of future work (and treatments for the sick mother to be) by “rigging” the Shrovetide football game in a nearby town.

Strangely for my morally bankrupt players, they did not actually cheat and decided to help one side win. Fairly!

Mechanically, I added a few more rules (no weapons, armor is ok, but the women and children  make fun of you for being a “pansy” and cyphers and artifacts are not used by gentleman’s agreement…mostly) specific to the Numenera world, but other wise the game runs exactly as the real-world version.

My PCs arrive in town and immediately ask a local named “Uncle Bob” about the rules of the game. Bob quickly describes the basic rules and where the respective goals are in the town. Bob lies ( he is on the opposing team)  and the PCs immediately began prepping to score against themselves. They are trusting and it makes the GMs job so easy sometimes.

The day finally arrives and the 8-foot mutant character jumps right into the middle of the scrum trying for the ball. One of the Jacks with bard-like abilities starts singing to raise spirits and the other PCs position themselves around the town square looking to grab the ball. One PC with the “fights dirty” descriptor strips naked, covers himself in slippery mud and basically starts tripping, gouging eyes and generally breaking the unnecessary violence rule…repeatedly.

Mechanically, I assigned the opposing team a level and might checks made against that number how well the PCs moved through the crowd. After much bashing and eye gouging, a Nano PC got a hold of the ball and esoterie-jumped on top of nearby building to get clear of the crowd.  Then the chase was on using the chase rules in the Numenera core book.  Actually this was quite funny because the ball runner outran most of the PCs as well.  Eventually the party even figured out they were going in the wrong direction and reversed course.  The final push came in a stream as the giant mutant PC leapt into the water and the mud-covered dirty fighter jumped on his head for some reason to  supposedly help him score.  Despite my best efforts the PCs repeatedly deflected my GM intrusions with XP and no one dropped the ball in the stream. Finally, after much effort the PCs score and win the game. Hurray!


Overall, the Shrovetide game went very well and made for a nice change of pace over the standard combat encounters. It was a fun time and made for a nice segue to the more serious part of the campaign where the PCs have to help The Convergence breach a fortress called “Neverfall,” so named before it has never been breached. Piece of cake, right?


Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.