Ah the Olympics! A time for competition! A time for nationalism! A time for glory! With athletic completion on television constantly I’ve been wondering where sports can fit in your campaign. While some of the current sports, like field events and wrestling, would fit nicely in any campaign world, the real question becomes, why would your players be interested?
Sports can fit the interests of your players in any number of ways. Maybe the only person who can help your players wants them to prove their greatness by winning a sports competition. Maybe they find themselves fighting for their lives in that old classic: gladiatorial games. Gladiatorial games can work for most settings, the post apocalyptic warlord has a fighting pit, the city has a storied gladiatorial ring, that sort of thing. Or maybe the players have to help a sports team for their patrons.
In my Gotheer campaign there were noble houses loosely based on the Houses of Eberron. Each house sponsored their own ‘pitball’ team. Pitball is a sport of my own design similar to Olympic handball but with more fantasy elements. The players avoided this adventure, but they were going to have an adventure where they helped a house’s team win the league championship. This would have entailed thwarting others from cheating, helping the team train, protect the team, and maybe even replace members themselves. The point here is don’t be afraid to get a little anachronistic when you include sports in your campaign. Professional sports leagues aren’t out of the question, Bloodbowl is something that exists after all.
But don’t forget the sports that are basically what your players do every day. Archery, fencing, javelin, discus; these are all things your players are very familiar with. Don’t forget that sport used to just be another way to train soldiers. Jousting is a prime example of this.
Athletic competition is a very human thing. It’s hard to imagine a world without sports. Including sports in your campaign is an easy thing and an easy way to add depth to your game.