Vines was a sport that originated in the great forests of the East, but whose popularity has spread throughout Creation. A game played naturally amidst the huge trees and rampant vines of the East, or in artificial arenas in the more sorcerously-rich Empire, it is considered a sport that makes such intense use of a contestant's physical prowess and combative abilities that it is a second to War in resolution of conflict only insofar as no one is likely to give you a title of nobility for owning a good team.
The game was - and continues to be, locally - played amidst an arena consisting of large though sparsely distributed trees, and a great number of vines. The arena is three-dimensional in nature, with minimum and maximum heights of play, as well as horizontal boundaries. Artifical arenas in the Blessed Isle tend to be spherical in nature. Imperial standard arenas are three hundred yards (length between goals), by one hundred yards (width), by fifty yards (height), with a minimum height off the ground of twenty yards.
The center of the arena contains the highest density of trees, while vines are thickly distributed throughout. (This tends to obscure vision when played normally, though Imperial arenas use flexible crystal vines and clarity spells on the trees, so as to make the entire arena fairly transparent. Players wear tinted goggles to help them see.)
Teams consist of six players each; two players on the defense, two on the offense (which may move only by vines), a captain (which may move wherever he likes), and a goalie (who is situated in the hollowed trunk of a tree which serves as a goal; in the East it is usually a man-sized hole, though players will settle for whatever they can find of equal sizes for both goals. In the Empire, official standard sizes are eight feet in height by fifteen feet in width and six feet in depth).
The gameplay itself centers around a ball of tree sap, thickened with flour and chilled in river-water until it becomes an almost-solid slightly-malleable spheroid. The sap itself tends to cause a certain state of euphoria in those that handle it with bare hands; all players wear a hook-shaped hollowed scoop for catching and throwing the ball (the hooks are known as "straps", and the ball as "cordons"), as well as a large metal claw for grasping a hold of trees (though some unscrupulous players - also known as everyone - occasionally use them for mauling other players). Only the goalie does not wear a claw; he receives two straps. In the East, players' uniform is a loincloth, and a full-body oiling which prevents one from accruing too much poison from the cordon. In the Empire, players tend to wear tight but restrictive clothing - a thong, bra, and a layer of oil are not uncommon. There is a ban on magical accoutrements in the arena; no charms of even the most insignificant sort are officially allowed. All players are carefully checked before every match, and at half-time. (Though it is not entirely unknown to bribe a referee into allowing a slightly enhanced oil or the like, gross enchantment has never been known to find it's way into the arena - the risk is great, in that a player caught cheating is gauranteed to lose his career, and chances being beaten, crippled, and sold into slavery by the owner whose money he squandered.)
The goal of play is to lob the cordon into the opponents' goaltree. Difficulty arises not only in passing and the ubiquitous brawling, but in keeping one's focus on the game despite the building high from repeated exposure to the cordon. Vines has, obviously, become the center of a great deal of politicking and gambling. The Guild has partial ownership of several Imperial teams, and often participates in backroom deals to bribe players over to various teams, or to convince (bribe, blackmail) someone to throw a given game. Nobility of various stature have taken to using their teams (or sometimes, just a family member that has chosen to participate in the sport) as anything from a bragging right, to a political tool, to a lever with which to gain an advantageous marriage. House Cynis owns an entire team, and is willing to settle conflicts in the Arena rather than the battlefield.
Most Imperial players are minor God-bloods or adolescent Dragon-bloods; despite the game's popularity it is considered to be a sign of immaturity for an older Exalt to dally in such games (rather than the backroom deals), and mortals tend to break quickly (though a single noteworthy game can earn a mortal enough jade and acclaim to allow him monetary comfort for the remainder of his life.)
Each team is given an Offense Score and a Defense score. The Offense score is calculated by averaging the team's Athletics and Melee scores and adding the average of their Dexterity. The Defense score is calculated by averaging the team's Athletics and Thrown scores, and adding the average of their Dexterity.
Gameplay takes part in two rounds (one for each half, and an overtime round if the two are concluded with a tie.) In each round, each team rolls one die. The higher amount gets the ball. The team with the ball - the team on Offense - rolls 1d10, and adds their Offense score. The team on Defense rolls 1d10 and adds their Defense score. If the Offense wins, they receive a goal, and the first half is over. If the offense loses, the defending team becomes the Offensive team, and their roles are now reversed. This continues until a team scores a goal, which concludes the half.
1d10's are again rolled to determine who gets the cordon for the second half (and in overtime, if the game should extend that far.)
Extended-Play rules are more appropriate when one wishes to focus on the game (perhaps it's the highlight of the session, or the PC's all happen to be Vineplayers, or somesuch.)
In this instance, gameplay goes as follows:
A referee lobs the cordon into the center of the arena (usually dropping it from a vine above dead-center, above the maximum height of the arena.) Captains tip-off for the cordon (this is decided with an opposed Dex + Athletics roll. If either of the Captains has a Charm of some sort that allows them to increase their jumping or their speed, then the one with the superior charm automatically wins tip-off).
Characters travel by leaping (vine-to-vine, tree-to-tree). Normal movement rates apply (leaping is Str + Athletics yards vertically and twice that distance horizontally.) To successfully land on a tree requires a Dex + Athletics roll with a difficulty of 0.
Opponents may attempt to intercept (to be covered below). If a leap is reduced to zero successes, the character may try to grab a vine on his way down (Str+Athl diff 2 if not possessing the cordon, or if willing to drop it, +2 diff. if attempting to hold onto the cordon on the way down.)
At any time, a character may attempt to pass the cordon. Passing requires a Dex + Thrown roll at a difficulty of 0 for the first 50 yards, with an additional +1 difficulty for each 10 yards thereafter. When passing "backwards" (towards one's own goal), the difficulty is always reduced by one, and by an additional one if passing to one's own goalie. Passes may be intercepted (to be covered below.)
Scoring is an opposed roll between the shooter's Dex + Thrown roll and the goalie's Dex + Athletics. The catcher's dual-straps allow him a +2 die bonus. Scoring attempts may also be intercepted by defenders (usually resulting in a shooter trying to outrun both defenders, or ending up trying to shoot through two men *and* the goalie).
Turnovers and Fouls
-If a player should ever attempt to scoop the ball out of another player's strap, the play is immediately called, and both teams return to their starting positions. The offended player's captain is immediately given the ball, without tip-off.
-Tip-off is called after every goal.
-Shoulder- and knee-checks are allowed. Attacking another player with a strap results in an immediate return to start positions, and a turn-over of cordon to the offended player's captain. This does not preclude "accidental" brushes with the strap during the normal course of play.
-Leaving the field (either above, below, or around the arena) immediately results in a turn-over. In Imperial stadiums, where the field is an artificial spheroid, this usually results in having nothing to hold onto, and a sudden fall to the ground many yards below.
-Crossing the half-field treeline before a Captain has gotten a hold of a cordon during tip-off is considered "off-sides", and results in immediate concession of the cordon to the opposing team.
-Knocking a player purposely out of the arena results in a turn-over. It is difficult to prove that a player was "purposely" knocked out; this is ultimately at the ref's complete discretion.
-Throwing a cordon at a player is not a penalized action.
-Any physical contact with the goalie is penalized by an immediate turn-over. Unofficially, any attempts at harming a team's goalie usually results in a most severe and painful series of attacks on the offender throughout the game. While mauling a team's captain is expected, and the other players are more or less fair game, goalies are sacrosanct. (This is due to the fact that they are the ones most commonly struck with the cordon, and thus tend to burn out with far more frequency than other players - to purposely hurt players that only have two or three seasons in the first place is considered simply vicious.)
-Holding the cordon with any body-part other than the strap results in a three-minute suspension from play. This rarely comes up in actual play; holding onto the cordon with bare flesh for more than a second usually results in a state of euphoria bordering on a coma for several days. This rule exists solely for the occasional god-blood with an immunity to it's poisons. (These players are very highly valued.)
-Movement Intercept: If opposing players come within two yards of one another, the defender may attempt to tackle the offensive player with a Dex + Athletics, Dex + Brawl, or Dex + Martial Arts roll. If attacking with the strap, he may use Melee or Athletics. The offending player may Carry if he wishes to continue leaping without stopping to handle the defense, or he may respond with a tackle of his own. If Carrying, he loses no time on resolution, and thus does not have to worry about other defenders taking the time to reach them. If tackling, however, he may knock out the defender for a few rounds. Once "Carrying" or "Tackling" is decided, resolution is as follows:
- In a "Carry", the defender rolls his Dex + combat trait. The offender rolls Dex + Dodge or Dex + Athletics to avoid the blow. If the defender scores more successes, this is treated as a normal combat blow; normal punching or kicking damage, in bashing. (If using a strap to attack, the strap does 4B damage). If the offender
succeeds in his dodge, he continues to move in the same direction he was headed, without losing any time or distance. If the defender succeeds in his blow, and stuns the offender, the offender drops the ball and may not attempt to catch it that round (giving the defender a chance to catch it, as well as any other nearby player). If the defender succeeds in his blow, and doe