Few games have such a wild contrast of unrestrained violence and refined ritualistic expression of personality as Zzachok. It is an energetic and colorful ball game, which finds its roots in an ancient Allar society, from well before the Sendrassian Civil War. It has morphed through several different forms throughout the ages, and has served as an almost religious practice for many different religions in Hadar and Sendras. Today, it acts as the absolute pinnacle of Allar culture, tying together nearly every part of their society, to the degree where a challenge to a Zzachok competition is nearly on the same level as a challenge to a duel for Ailor Cultures.
Zzachok was first recorded in the capital city of Sendras, the Golden Soor, in roughly 200 BC, by Zu-Travv historians. The game appeared to originally have been a method to worship the Dragons, but it quickly adapted to be a widely accepted method of worshipping the most popular Allar religions, through thoroughly ritualized actions. The original creator of the game was widely credited to an Izu-Allar named Hesstra Sessna, although some heavily water-damaged scrolls that have been recently discovered refer to Hesstra as, in fact, a Maz-Allar, rather than an Izu-Allar. The common theory is that an Izu-Allar at the time elected to take credit for the invention of the game, rather than to allow a common Maz-Allar to create such an influential game. Over the centuries, the game has morphed into an entirely different concept from what the ancient scrolls describe. The most severe change occurred in 22 BC, as several million Allar refugees descended on the tropical lands of Hadaria. The sudden urge to make cultural change adapted Traditional Zzachok into the most commonly played version today, Modern Zzachok, and the game has survived ever since.
- Traditional Zzachok: Traditional Zzachok is a significantly more aggressive and savage version of the game, in which each team is quite literally fighting for their life. There is no limit on the number of players each side brings onto the field, and while a Cro must always be the “Team Leader,” it acts as much as a test of political skill as martial skill. There are in fact, also, no limits on the amount of violence allowed in the competition either, and each team is limited only by not being able to bring weapons on the field. It is considered to be a distasteful game, although it is occasionally used in Allar culture as a method of usurping an opposing Cro-Allar.
- Modern Zzachok: A far more peaceful and popular alternative, mostly popularized by the Hadarian Allar who were attempting to turn over a new leaf after their bloody history. It is considered to be a generally fun past-time that plenty of Allar participate in, especially considering its minimal material requirements (A ball and the hoops). Violence is limited to bodychecking, tripping, and elbowing, and each team may only have up to six players. Generally, one Cro, who acts as a “goalie” or commander, two Maz, who act as goal-scorers, another Maz, who acts as muscle to stop the opposing team, and two of any caste who fill the gaps between the other players, however those specific caste requirements need not be met, and often games are just played with whoever’s available.
Two Haszt Hoops
Haszt Hoops are large stone or metal hoops set about seven feet off the ground with a horizontal rather than vertical opening. They are commonly engraved with imagery of the game, as well as whichever gods the game is intending to please. They are also the most easily decorated pieces of the court, and often possess gold plating or ribbons for good luck.
A Zzachok Ball is a very thick leather ball built to be resistant to the claws of the Allar who kick it. It additionally has a large strap attached to the side of it, which allows Maz-Allar to “fling” the ball using their large talon-toes.
(Optional) Drums or Lanterns
Drums or large, alchemically treated glass lanterns, can be placed ritualistically at the four corners of the field during the beginning of the game, while the drums pound out a strong beat for the players. This is supposed to work in concert with each other, and neither should exist alone
Another optional feature of the games is to include alchemically-created dyes to use as face paints or colored sashes, both in order to determine who’s on which team easily in the moment.
How to Play
- Nobody may touch the ball with their arms at any point during the game. This includes but is not limited to shoulders, forearms, elbows, etc. ignoring this rule results in a point being deducted from the offending team.
- No weapons are allowed on the court for either version and ignoring this rule results in the offending team being expelled from the game, as well as a significant amount of dishonor falling upon them.
- At no point are bystanders allowed to be injured. Violating this rule results in three points being deducted from the offending team
- Nobody but the Team Leader Cro is allowed to act as a “goalie” for the team, and while the Cro is allowed to move from his post by his team’s Haszt Hoop, it’s a risky move that could be easily capitalized on by the other team. Violating this rule results in a warning on the first offense, and a single point loss from then on.
- The ball must be passed from one player to another at least once on each team’s “pass” on the Haszt Hoop. Violating this rule results in a warning on the first offense, and a single point loss from then on.
- Once one team scores, players are reset to their original positions, and the possession of the ball goes to the team who got scored on
- Rules regarding the number of players allowed on the court and the amount of violence allowed changes between which version you’re playing. Consult the “Variations” section for more information.
The game is played until one team reaches ten points. Points are scored by kicking or hip-checking the ball through the other team’s Haszt Hoop.
- While traditional-style Zzachok is generally frowned upon in Allar society, it offers a way for Cro to directly challenge one another, without fearing for life-threatening repercussions (usually.)
- Allar who are particularly good goal-scorers (usually Maz-Allar) are given a special name: Mezzi, which is generally a title of respect. Legendarily good Mezzi are apparently even capable of scoring points from halfway across the arena, and are especially valuable to Cro, who will often keep their eyes peeled for talent in any form.
- While Izu-Allar often act as a combination Master of Ceremonies and Referee in Zzachok, it’s not unheard-of for Izu-Allar to play in games, especially when they’re younger.