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 is believed to have arisen around 500 BC in the ancient city now known as the Golden Soor. The game appears to have originated as a method to worship now lost or shrouded deities, but quickly changed into a sport with more ceremonial or symbolic qualities. This shift is often credited to an Allar named Harum, who was originally some form of priestess yet found the ceremony and pageantry to stifle what was otherwise creative, and interesting game possibilities. While it took her a lifetime, she ultimately adapted the game into a form roughly equivalent to its modern version. The most severe change in the game occurred around 120 BC, as several million Allar refugees descended on the islands of Hadar. This move saw Traditional Zzachok changed 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, with the position of "Team Leader" acting 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 beyond Sendras, although it is occasionally used in Hadarian Allar culture as a method of usurping Digmaan.
- 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 “goalie” or commander, two goal-scorers, another player to act as muscle to stop the opposing team, and two of any caste who fill the gaps between the other players.
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 players to “fling” the ball.
(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 is allowed to act as a “goalie” for the team, and while the Leader 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 community leaders to directly challenge one another, without fearing for life-threatening repercussions (usually.)
- Allar who are particularly good goal-scorers 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 team leaders, who will often keep their eyes peeled for talent in any form.