Monday, April 30, 2007

April 2007

THE NEW DISCWORLD HOROSCOPE

by Lady Anaemia Asterisk

A Question Of Sport

Spring is springing! And don't you just feel your tired, stodgy winter body crying out for some healthy activity out in the fresh air? Well, my little starry-eyed potoroos, I have just the thing for you: an astro-illogically calculated list of sports and games most suitable for each Sign. That will get your blood racing and your endorphins endorphing! Of course, down in the continent of XXXX, everyone's winding down for the coming winter, but as they're all sport-mad there anyway I'm sure the Fourecksian horoscope-followers will take pleasure in, and inspiration from, my suggestions. So gather your balls and hitch up your trouser legs and get ready to play the best of what the Disc has to offer in healthy activities. Game on!

[Note: some of these sports are somewhat Ankh-Morpork-specific. If you can't get to A-M to participate, use your imagination... and be thankful that the non-A-M versions are almost assuredly far less life-threatening.]



The Adamant Hedgehog 21 Mar - 20 Apr

Your sports: Feegle Baiting; the Sport of Kings

Feegle Baiting is one of the easiest sports to play. It's also one of the most active, and definitely one of the most dangerous! It can be played by any number of players, even one, although there is undoubtedly relative safety in crowds. To play, first collect your Feegles - this can be done by opening any pre-prepared bottle of strong drink (i.e one with a long strong string tied around the neck, or for preference, a long strong string tied to a full webbing harness around the bottle) and then sidling away whilst holding the other end of the string and keeping your eyes constantly on the bottle (do NOT take your eyes off the bottle for even one second! Feegles are very fast, especially when it comes to the stealin' o' the likker). When a blur of blue and a chorus of tiny voices shouting "CRIVENS!" announce the presence of your Feegles, tug hard on the string; this is the Baiting part. Now for the most important part: RUN! Fleetness of foot is the only thing standing between you and a horde of infuriated Feegles. Surviving players tend to do very well at track events in the Celestic Games, although in the case of Feegle Baiting there's no gain without a lot of pain.

Contrary to popular Roundworld opinion, the Sport of Kings has little to do with horse racing and everything to do with invading your neighbour under hostile pretences. One of the most ancient of sports, tSoK has been played since long before there even were kings. All that is required for players is a pointy spear, broadsword or siege engine and, for advanced-level players, a horde of bloodthirsty mercenaries and gormless conscripts. The rules are as follows: there are no rules. Taking of prisoners is optional; devastation, decimation and sowing of the target ground with salt are all long-standing game ploys. In tSoK, the traditional cries of the losing players are "ARRGH!", "Noooo!", "Mercy!" and "Oh no, not AGAIN?!" (this last cry is especially-often used in Borogravia), and each player's personal cheer is "Still not King yet!"



Gahoolie, the Vase of Tulips 21 Apr - 21 May

Your sports: Assassination Football; Llamedosian Cricket

No sport brings home the fragility of life quite like Assassination Football! Also known as the Sport of the Nemesis of Kings, Assassination Football is fast-paced, exciting, unpredictable... and often lethal. In fact, it's the only sport in which body count is an essential part of the scoring system. Each match is played by a team of twelve Designated Assassins and six Designated Victims. There are no restrictions on equipment, no special clothing required (although dark or camouflage clothing is traditionally recommended), and the only limitation on play is time - Assassination Football matches must never run over ninety minutes; there are also six Time Outs allocated per match, and a half-time changeover (when surviving Victims are exchanged, so competition in the first half is always exceptionally keen). Ten extra points are awarded, by decision of the referee, for especially creative methods of inhumation. While referees are usually senior members of the Assassins' Guild, provincial matches tend to make do with any convenient hanging judge or nearby professional torturer. Note: Designated Victims who survive a match will drink for free for the rest of their lives - which, unless they feel a suicidal urge to enter a subsequent match, can mean many safe and comfortable years of drinking. Surprisingly though, former Victims tend to die young of non-AF-related liver poisoning.

Llamedosian Cricket is a bit of a mystery sport. Certainly details of the number of players to a side (seven plus four) and the necessary equipment (bats of bog ironwood, balls of specially-prepared tightly-wrapped bull-hide leather, safety pads of imported Agatean cotton, helmets and stumps of imported Howondaland canewillow) are well documented, but no-one is quite sure of the actual nature of a Llamedosian Cricket match because every game in history has been stopped on account of rain. But according to the annals of XXXX, where a drier version of Llamedosian Cricket is played, each match takes several days and includes mysterious rituals involving cucumber sandwiches, beer, tea, long conversations about the weather, beer, picnic baskets, comments about holding willies, beer, scandals, and beer.



Herne the Hunted 22 May - 21 Jun

Your sports: Mime Sprinting; Tower of Art Abseiling

Hernians, though usually pastoral souls, are well suited for the sport of Mime Sprinting even though it was invented in the urban jungle of Ankh-Morpork. The object of the competition is to perform mime for as long as possible, and then to run away as quickly as possible when "made" by the local law, other emissaries of Lord Vetinari (Patrician to the huddled masses and noted mime-hater), or angry troupes of legitimate actors armed with burning torches, tar, feathers and pitchforks (after all, it's not often that troupes of actors get to turn the tables in this manner); for this reason, slow-developing mime routines combined with at least ten hours per week of wind-sprint training are recommended for those who wish to excel. Although special clothing is not strictly necessary, sturdy rubber-soled shoes suitable for silent running will improve your score and quite possibly preserve your very life, at least to the point of keeping you safely away from scorpion pits. Similarly, painting your face white will make you much harder to recognise when not participating in Mime Sprinting. What, you thought that mimes painted their faces white just for decoration? The longest recorded time for an uninterrupted Mime Sprinting mime is three minutes and twenty-one seconds, though legend has it that Mundo Bakelite of Lobsneaks once managed an entire ten minutes; sadly, he is no longer around to confirm this, having been captured by a passing mob of unemployed actors, thrown into the Ankh and then squashed by a runaway Gungee Jumper.

Tower of Art abseiling is one of the most pulse-pounding of specialist Xtreme sports, fraught with danger at every turn. Not only do you have to get to the top of the tower unobserved, past human and magickal guards, but once at the top - and for half of the journey down - you have to avoid being terminally pecked by the mutant ToA ravens (who are well clever enough to figure out how to fray an abseiling rope beyond its tensile strength before you get down to a safe falling distance), and then there's the matter of, should you have been espied by members of the Faculty or senior students, literally not knowing what shape you'll be in when you reach the ground. Not for the faint of heart, vertigo sufferers, or anyone with an aversion to spending the rest of their lives as a small green toad.



The Wizard's Staff and Knob 22 Jun - 22 Jul

Your sports: Elevennis; Very BadMinton

Elevennis, originally developed in the court of Mad King Soup, is traditionally played with bread rolls and butter paddles at the hour of Second Breakfast. Two players, or two teams of two players each, stand at opposite ends of a long dining table and attempt to pelt their opposition with rolls. Players may move up to the centre of the table (climbing on the table is encouraged) and to either side of the table as far as the sideboards and warming trays. Elevennis is scored as follows: fifteen points ("Fifteen!") for each head or upper body strike; zero points ("Missed! Hah!") for each strike below the waist or elsewhere in the room; minus fifteen points ("Doofus!") for hitting any other food dishes; also, any player causing spillage of food or drink requires the referee to shout "Juice!" Whoever scores 120 points first is declared the winner. Using stale bread rolls, multigrain rolls or dwarf bread constitutes a foul and instant forfeiture of the match. Historical note: it was originally de rigueur for each player to shout "Serve!" before batting, but this has fallen into disuse due to the size of cleaning bills and injuries to waiters.

Very BadMinton is rather like Badminton, but played with gnomes instead of shuttlecocks. As this results in a number of very angry gnomes, the object is to keep your gnome in the air for as long as possible so as to avoid being attacked by a furious, somewhat dizzy and headsore gnome. The most exciting part of Very BadMinton comes after the match, when spectators enjoy the sight of players being chased by very angry, somewhat dizzy, headsore and totally unfettered gnomes. Very BadMinton requires no special clothing, but well-fitted chain mail is recommended, as are suitable running shoes.



Bilious, God of Hangovers 23 Jul - 23 Aug

Your sports: Gungee Jumping; Hurling

Gungee Jumping was developed in Ankh-Morpork and requires either the River Ankh or, in other regions, any severely silted and reeking river, although it can also be practised with silted, reeking ponds, former millraces, spring-filled quarries and, if you're truly brave, uncharted swamps. You will also need a very strong, long elastic rope (somewhat longer than the distance between the top of the jumping-off point and the calculated bottom of the target gunge), a high building or gantry, nose and ear plugs and a liberal supply of disinfectant. To play, go to your designated jumping-off place, tie the rope firmly to the most immovable projection you can find there, tie the other end of the rope firmly around your ankle of choice, and... jump! Few sporting thrills can match that of seeing an expanse of toxic gunge coming ever closer as you plummet toward it, and there's the additional excitement of not really knowing how deep the gunge is, not really knowing how solid the gunge is, not knowing whether the ends of the rope are tied tightly enough, and of course, not knowing if you will get stuck in the gunge and require resuscitation when your spectators finally manage to pull you out. Oh yes, I forgot to mention the most vital piece of equipment - spectators. And a team of parahealers. For those who desire all the poisonous danger of Gungee Jumping without the actual jumping, there's always Competitive Ankh Guzzling, a sport that takes "a yard of" beverage quite literally.

Hurling, in Roundworld, is a field sport of ancient and noble heritage, but for you Bilians, it's quite literal. This game is played by any beings with access to excess - alcoholic beverages are traditional, but enormous meals can do just as well and are often far more impressively colourful - and a weak stomach (or strong diaphragm). I don't think I need to draw a picture of how to play (eww!), but be aware that scoring is based on volume and distance. The current record for volume is six gallons, and the current record for distance is a truly impressive whole nine yards.



Mubbo the Hyena 24 Aug - 23 Sept

Your sports: Tag Team Vampire Staking; Pyramid Skiing


Tag Team Vampire Staking is surely the noblest of blood-sports, and also the best organised, as there are no dangerously mad horses or baying scent-crazed packs of hounds to deal with; all you need, apart from the players, is four willing vampires, one sympathetic umpire and a chrono-imp who can count in fractions of seconds... and a good supply of freshly sharpened stakes. TTVS takes place at a crossroads after sunset, of course, and traditionally consists of four-person teams. The object is to stake your vampire as soon as the umpire blows his whistle, then return behind the chalk line and touch the next member of your team. This is harder than it sounds, as the vampires will merely be tethered rather than spread-eagled and thus free to dodge. The umpire must be supplied with phials of blood for reviving the vampires between each team's go. As for where to find your vampires, Black Ribbon Society meetings are recommended - not only will there be a cadre of vampires willing to be amused in new ways, but as Black Ribboners they are unlikely to exsanguinate the losing team in any event.

Pyramid Skiing is a geospecific sport, taking place only in Djelibeybi, but the thrill of it makes the cost of the journey worthwhile. The object is to ski down one of the Djeli Great Pyramids. Simple, yes? No, because - as any student of history knows - the Pyramids are temporally unstable, making any downpyramid run a thrilling exercise in variable time travel. The record for longest run currently stands at 35,577 years, and the current holder of the record for shortest run is Ethenbridge Border-Colley of Sto Helit, who left on a Tuesday and finished his run on the previous Octember. The Pyramid Slopes International is opened each year by Queen Ptraci I, and the opening ceremonies alone are worth travelling a long way for, as they feature a demonstration of Xtreme Pyramid Skiboarding. With crocodiles.



The Small Boring Group of Faint Stars 24 Sept - 23 Oct

Your sports: The Game of Running Around a Marked Field and Touching Certain Sand-filled Cloth Bags after Hitting a Thrown Ball with a Wooden Bat; Mild Draughts

The Game of Running Around a Marked Field and Touching Certain Sand-filled Cloth Bags after Hitting a Thrown Ball with a Wooden Bat was, needless to say, invented by Leonard of Quirm. Aficionados of tGoRAaMFaTCSCBaHaTBwaWB, or Bat-ball as it's more commonly and less tongue-twistingly known, tend to be extremely passionate about the sport and astonishingly devoted to the collecting and debating of Bat-ball statistics - how many balls were hit by each team member, how many balls were missed by each team member, how many balls were mis-hit and concussed the umpire, how many balls were hit so far beyond the pitch as to never be found again, how many off-pitch windows were broken by mis-hit balls that did not concuss the umpire, how quickly each ball-hitter runs around the cloth bags, how many cloth bags are touched by each runner, how many games lasted until after sunset, how many games were called on account of rain...you get the idea. Bat-ball is the most statistics-ridden of all sports, quite probably because it is essentially a very boring game in which not much happens; it's a game of nine halves, played by teams of nine players who wear the most embarrassing costumes of any team sport apart from Morris dancing. Despite this, it is extremely popular, possibly because it can be played by unfit weekend warriors who aren't capable of running any further than once around a quartet of cloth bags one to three times in an entire game. For Boring'uns who find even this too physical and stressful, there is always the honourable tradition of watching Bat-ball games from the sidelines and discussing the game very quietly over a glass of warm milk afterwards.

Even less physical and stressful than Bat-ball is the game of Mild Draughts. This is played with blunt pencils and paper, so no pieces have to be knocked over or leapt over in real life - rather like Hangman without the sight of those upsetting nooses, or Battleships without the distressing thought of make-believe wars. Best of all, Mild Draughts can be played solo, so no-one knows if you're cheating. Boring'uns who feel a slight taste for living dangerously, but not to the point of donning conspicuous striped clothing and attempting to hit batted balls, can always consider playing Mild Draughts for pennies. Oh, the excitement!



Androgyna Majestis 24 Oct - 22 Nov

Your sports: International Standard Pheasant Plucking; Rim Surfing

International Standard Pheasant Plucking, a sport that should not be taken up by those with a speech defect, unless they happen to be members of the Guild of Seamstresses, is far more fascinating than it sounds (and not for reasons having to do with speech impediments or Seamstressing). Even if the though of fowl-plucking seems foul, publicly plucking a plump pheasant can be perforce profitably pleasant - yes, there are cash prizes awarded at International Standard Pheasant Plucking competitions for the most precipitously punctilious pluckers, as well as for the most feather-free fowls and the most creatively conducted plucking performances. What's more, extra accolades can be won for specialising in the cruelty-free live plucking of broody hen pheasants. Come on now, wouldn't you like to be known as an awesome Mother Plucker? International Standard Pheasant Plucking does require quite a lot of plucking practice, but if you persevere, not only will you never be lost for words when someone shouts "Pluck this!", you'll also be a family favourite during holiday-time dinner preparations. And you might even achieve the dream of every aspiring plucker and win the Grand Prize at the famous yearly Sto Lat Pluck-Off. So get clucking and have yourself a plucking good time!

Adventurous Andies will want to book a tour cruise in time for the Rim Surfing season. The beautiful Rimfall sunsets, the gently lapping ocean, the mostly-fruit drinks with little paper umbrellas in them, the hot surfer girls...what are you waiting for? The Rim Surfing circuit - I'm sorry, I almost said "circus" there - is among the most glamorous of all sporting circles, surpassed only by the glitz and glitter of Formula One coach racing. You'll need a good surfboard, flowered swimming trunks that don't fall down at inopportune moments, suntan lotion, towels, board wax and both varieties of six-pack. You might also want to invest in a good net and safety line; although the professional Rim Surfing Association tournaments feature fully trained retrieval teams, the sport is rife with tales of surfers who went too near the Rimfall and were never seen again, and even more fanciful - maybe! - tales of colonies of Lost Surfers living on bedrock outcrops under the Fall. Then again, it beats being forever stranded on a desert island!



Great T'Phon's Foot 23 Nov - 21 Dec

Your sports: Squidditch; Rice Hockey

One of the most active - and interspecies interactive - sports, Squidditch is related to Water Polo and is favoured by all coastal dwellers and island populations. An elaborate and complicated sport requiring the services of professional squid-wranglers, shark-chasers, seaweed-harvesters and swimwear manufacturers, Squidditch has long been the province of wealthy hydrophiles, but advances in the field of fast-growing domesticated Giant Squid biology have now brought this magnificent sport down to the level of the hoi polloi. Play takes place in an oval pitch 500 feet wide, 180 feet long and a quarter-league deep; two blowfish are used in the match, plus a Sea Cucumber (which is used for scoring goals) and a gilded Sea Urchin (which has been treated by Krullese Hydrophobe wizards and is thus pretty much impossible to catch); teams consist of seven-plus-one players, each riding a trained squid. Matches can go on for a very long time - nearly as long as Llamedosian Cricket matches, if rain ever stopped for long enough to play a full match - and only end when the Sea Urchin is caught, or at the agreement of both team captains, or at nightfall, or in case of hurricanes, tidal waves, naval invasions or waterspouts. The winner of the game is the team with the most points, or fewest drowned members. Fourecksian Indoor Rules Squidditch operates along the same lines, except that the squid are smaller and more beer is involved.

Rice Hockey was first developed in the flooded rice fields of Agatea and then exported to the barbarian nations in order to give Agateans a good laugh. Why a good laugh? Ah well, if you know what Agateans traditionally fertilise their rice fields with, that should tell you all you ever wanted to know about the origins of Rice Hockey (no, I don't know how to say "Ewwww! Get that thing away from me!" in Hunghungese). As played in more civili-, um, barbarian lands, Rice Hockey uses less fragrant pucks (generally, they are made from compressed bricks of turf) but is still played on a flooded pitch, so fishermen's waders and waterproof clothing are required. Protective armour is recommended, especially for the goalkeeper! The winning side gets to take the pucks home; this is very useful, as they burn exceptionally well when dried. Note: Field Hockey, a related sport popular at girls' schools, is considered far too dangerous for boys or adults.



Hoki the Jokester 22 Dec - 20 Jan

Your sports: Table Fencing; Shoplifting

Originally developed as a variant of the Agatean sport of Pong-Ping, Table Fencing combines the most enthralling aspects of indoor tennis and swordplay and is suitable for developing agility and self-preservation in Table Fencers of all ages. This is a sport that, although played indoors, requires plenty of room (especially for the spectators), as rapiers are the official Table Fencing weapon and they tend to be over a yard long, not counting the length of a Fencer's natural reach. Since rapiers are also light, easy to handle and of very little use for cutting off heads or hacking through chains holding captive princesses in torchlit dungeons, the sport tends to attract lightly built, agile players rather than brute-force musclebound oiks or Hubland barbarians (same thing, really, only the former tend to speak in bad-part-of-the-city patois and have far less interest in treading jewelled thrones under their sandalled feet, yadda yadda); serious Table Fencers are often also accomplished gymnasts with good minds for strategy. Apart from a good rapier and well-fitted lightweight armour, you'll need a table sturdy enough to support two gyrating players (check at strip clubs going through a refit), good light, and an experienced set of judges. The acquisition of duelling scars is favoured; the legendary swordmaster Rodeo "Iron Bottom" CapoFrodo, revered founder of Table Fencing, was always proud to point out that none of his best scars came from duels less than three feet above floor level. These days, Fencers are supposed to keep their rapiers tipped, but the more daring and/or foolish always have a way of finding that "Oops! Sorry old chap, seem to have lost my safety!" moment. Table Fencing is all fun and games until someone loses a tip, and someone else loses and eye.

Shoplifting is a sport that separates the strongmen from the wusses. It also often separates the trapezius muscles from the collarbones and rings the cash drawers of hernia specialists. The best way to develop good Shoplifting technique is to start small and work your way upward: hawkers' tents, which are quite light, are a good place to start, and then move on to mobile grills, then chip vans, then semi-permanent market stalls, and by then you're on your way to the big time and even a medium-sized boutique should eventually be within your reach! Of course, every dedicated Shoplifter's impossible dream is to raise an entire department store at least three inches above ground level, but that's simply... impossible - then again, that's what they used to say about the four-minute mile, so maybe the 5,000-tonne Shoplift will someday come to pass.



The Rather Large Gazunda 21 Jan - 18 Feb

Your sports: Conkquers; Curling

Conkquers (once Conq-Ido) is yet another sporting activity exported from the Agatean Empire. Although it bears a passing resemblance to the Roundworld children's game of Conkers, Conkquers-with-an-added-Q is far more daring and dangerous because it is played with miniature Barking Dogs filled with Agatean Thunder Clay. Miniature lit Barking Dogs filled with Agatean Thunder Clay. And possessing very short fuses. Since the object of Conkquers is to break your opponent's piece with your own, this can result in some spectacular explosions that send both contestants to that great clay quarry in the sky - which thus means that Conkquers is as much a test of sheer nerve as it is of true aim and excellent running-away speed. The secret of a winning "Laddie", it is said, is clever packing of the Thunder Clay, making sure that it is marbled with damp patches to slow down but not completely dampen the volatility of the filling; this gives you the chance of striking your opponent's piece more times before your own goes boom. Of course, you still have to run if you do break it before it ignites, as being hit hard enough repeatedly with a heavy object with also set off your opponent's Laddie. Practise your speed-starts and remember the traditional Hunghungese Conq-Ido cry: "Dhuk yu-suk ah!"

Curling is an activity that gives you two thrills - no, three - in one sport: healthy physical activity, artistic expression, and, yes, the commission of crime (note careful lack of capitalisation: the Commission of Crime is a semi-secret, that is to say unproven, branch of the Breccia, and you surely don't want to mix it up with those mountain-bred muhfuhs). Well, anti-crime, I suppose, because Curling involves sneaking up on unsuspecting ladies (and the occasional long-haired men) and giving them a cut and fast-setting perm without their knowledge until after the event. As you can imagine, this is a tricky business indeed, but experienced Curlers have been known to commit (although they call it "administering" or "municipal beautification works") a complete set, colour and styling in under fifteen minutes! Appropriately, the common punishment for Curlers apprehended in the act is a compulsory head shave, as well as confiscation of their scissors and curling tongs. Mind you, sometimes, if you pick the right victim, you might instead find yourself in possession of a healthy tip and the Clacks addresses of a multitude of wealthy widows longing for tonsorial attention.



Lesser Umbrage 19 Feb - 20 Mar

Your sports: Body Building; Dwarf Tossing/Dwarf Shaving

Body Building is the ancient traditional sport of Igors and should not be confused with the practice of developing ridiculously oversized muscles - although come to think of it, vat-grown muscles are an Igor speciality and having the strength of ten average clerks can certainly be an advantage when robbing graves for spare Body Building parts! So if you're a bodybuilder who wants to take up Body Building, you're well ahead of the game; not only are you muscled like a Sonky full of walnuts, but you'll already have a good working knowledge of how muscles work and what goes where, on the outer bits at least. To become a successful Body Builder, you will need the following: one laboratory situated in a high, desolate place (mountaintops are preferred but not compulsory); one heavy-duty lightning rod; one complete surgery kit (including a good bone saw, trepanning kit, strong dissolvable sutures and stronger non-dissolvable sutures, a full set of neck bolts, several quarts of Mammal-Gro [patent pending] and those fiddly little tools for dealing with those fiddly little jobs like attaching nerve endings to brain stems); one marble slab (restraining chains recommended); one stained white coat; and a large supply of rubber gloves (speaking of Sonkies...). Body Building doesn't have a scoring system as such, but gaining the coveted Prix de Petri at the annual Allcomers' Body Building Championships in Uberwald makes all that hard work and grave-robbing worthwhile.

Dwarf Tossing is exactly what you think it is: the tossing of Dwarfs for fun and prizes. This makes it a dangerous sport, not only for the Dwarfs themselves but for the poor buggers who have to capture them and then face an angry mob of Campaign for Equal Heights activists.Nonetheless, it's a popular competition in many parts of the Disc (though not in Copperhead!) and a highlight of fairs, fetes and embarrassingly fertility-rite-driven seasonal gatherings. The rules are simple - muscle power only, no additional equipment allowed (siege catapults and cannons are particularly frowned upon); throwers are allowed a short run-up but may not have any part of their body over the toss line when the Dwarf is released. A good sport for barbarian heroes and bodybuilders (see entry above). Those of a more Xtreme bent can go in for Dwarf Shaving, but be warned that the Dwarfs shaved will be very dangerous and the angry mobs will be considerably larger.

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