Half Time CH15: The Big Game

By Rutskarn Posted Saturday Jan 23, 2016

Filed under: Lets Play 17 comments

I’m wrestling with the most gut-twisting and unfair dilemma of my misspent life, and it naturally follows that I’ve taken my ethical contortions to the bar. I’ve a hazy notion that a few stiff ones will push me out of my deadlock. They won’t, obviously; that’s just a thin pretext for the usual moral procrastination and substance abuse. I’ve reached the point where I can observe and label my failings with the keenness of an ornithologist.

That’s the bother, isn’t it? Knowing what’s wrong with your life is certainly helpful. It just doesn’t require the same skillset as fixing it.

“Bartender, give me something really disgusting.”

“I’ll have what he’s having,” wheezes the man beside me.

The voice is painfully familiar. I do one take, then–as the evidence filters through the inebriation–a double-take. That besotted fop sitting next to me, red-eared, red-cheeked, and with the wispiest peach-fuzz hint of grizzled stubble on his chin–he’s the coach of the Surf Somethings, and he looks as bad as I do.

“What?” he says. “So I’m having a couple. Elves can’t get drunk.”

“I think they can,” I say.

“Can they? Shit.”

“So, I’m guessing your season’s not going well either?”

He looks at me through eyes like bloodshot diamonds. “What season?” he growls.

“You mean, you’re not…”

“You do realize I coached an elf team and it was defeated at Blood Bowl by a bunch of blubber-stuffed teddy bears?” He wipes his dribbling-but-nonetheless-handsome nose. “My whole team quit on the spot. Or moved. Joined the circus. Joined monasteries. Joined Chaos. Started chess clubs. Got committed. And nobody else would sign with me! I was a pariah! Me! You know, I pegged my whole damn reputation to this awful sport and now it’s an arrow in an orc’s ass. No taking it back–it’s gone forever. I just gave up trying to put together another one. I’m gone forever.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I’m going to lose this season too.”

“Feh! You coach halflings. You’re supposed to lose! What’s so hard about that?” He shakes his head. “My whole damn reputation…all my fortune…”

I think twice about my next question. Then, after a nice little drink, I have occasion to think thrice–but that third thought expires during a bathroom break. Two drinks later, it’s revived for fourth thoughts, and I let the question dribble out:

“So why did you get into Blood Bowl?”

“Huh?” asks the elf, peeling his face off the bar.

“Elves. You’re mostly rich and you hate violence. Why the hell do you play this game, anyway?”

He looks at me like I’m crazy. “We play it to win,” he says.

“Yeah, but it’s a game for orcs. Ogres. Why not just let them..”

“Because then they’d win.” He finishes his drink. “Shows how much you know about being an elf.”

The next day, in the cold subterranean grease-stained damp of our home field locker room, I catch Pervince strapping on his shinguards. “You drank the potion of agility, didn’t you?” I ask.

He shrugs.

“That’s exactly the kind of hard critical intel I need to coach this team. Thank you, Pervince.”

“You don’t care,” said Pervince. “Doesn’t matter to you either way, does it?”

No, it doesn’t matter to me either way…or it wouldn’t normally. But there’s something weighing on me as he and the others march out onto the field, some greater significance to today’s match lurking beneath the surface of my cynicism. Maybe deep down I really do care if we win or lose. Maybe I just care about Pervince winning or losing, either this match or some greater war just beyond it. Maybe it was that I was getting to the point in my life where skating from one coast-is-clear breather in the brawl of modern existence wasn’t good enough for me; where I wanted to build something, empower something, transcend mere survival.

Or maybe–just maybe–it was the drunken blue-chip life-savings-and-then-some bet I was now remembering I’d placed on this match.

“This is gonna be interesting,” I say. And from the boom and clamor out there, the unwitting crowd agrees.

The match is not going well.

The first half was over before it started. Our lunchbox collapsed, our tree panicked, Pervince tried to fly, an Amazon yanked his ankle, Pervince hit the ground with the grace of–well, of a halfling. Jeers in the crowd, blood on his cheeks, mud on his jersey, tears in his eyes. The boys fought like furious infants and an Amazon slipped them with the ball and scored before the half had really begun. No other goals scored. And the caterer’s oven busted, so no snacks for the next half, either.

As I’m tussling over what kind of speech to give, the halflings are all looking up at me with the same expression–no, that’s funny, not all of them. Most of them have a kind of resolve–the same grim determination they always had, now that I think of it–the same look they had when they lost the first few dozens times in their careers and the same look they’ll have for the next few dozen losses. The same look of acceptance and defiance I had to develop myself, many years ago. That’s what all of them look like right now except for Pervince. He won’t look at me, but that’s okay. I can guess what’s in his eyes right about now. I think right now, I can push things one way or the other with a few words–but I won’t. It’s not my turn.

“Perv,” I say. “You give the speech.”

He shakes his head.

“Pervince, you stand up and you give these boys a speech. You tell them what they need to hear.”

For a long while I think it’s hopeless–I think I’m going to give them a slap on the back and get them back into the churned mud for the last half of their season. But finally, Pervince speaks up.

“You all…make me proud.” He nods to nobody. “You make me proud to be me. Whether we win or not.”

And now it’s time to start the second half.

I see the Amazons debating over on the other side of the field. All they need to do is punt it near the center line, and my boys have another chance at a goal. They kick it deep, my boys are fighting uphill–their odds of scoring are damn low.

The Amazon kicker takes a run up, toes the ball–it’s soaring. It’s past my boys, all of them. It’s screaming for the edge of the bounds–any farther and it’s going to go out, and I can put it right in Pervince’s mitts–and there, right there at the edge of the field, is where it rolls to a terminus.

Pervince starts running. After he gets the ball he’ll have to worry about fighting past their blockers, getting to the treemen, surviving his landing–all the normal fears. But for now he’s just got to run, and snatch that ball back–through a quick look over his shoulder at the defenders on the center line, the ones about to be overrun. You can see his little heart beating. You can see his little hands sweating. If you know where to look, you can see the dozen Skeeters fans in the audience all holding their breaths as one.

He’s not resting for more than a second before he’s running again. And then–he trips. The ball skids out of his hands and tumbles end over end as just about a thousand people burst out laughing and the Amazon players break through the defenders and start eating up the pitch.

He gets up. He grabs the ball again. He runs. The treemen–both knocked down. The defenders are scattered. What’s he got left? Is he going to run the ball–like an elf? Is he going to wait for the trees to get back up? It doesn’t really matter. All he’s got to do is hang on. All he’s got to do, right now, is keep the Amazons locking eyes with him and leaping over stunned halflings from getting the…

Pervince trips again.

The ball tumbles in the air like a raindrop down a statue. It’s a beautiful leather grain of sand in a frozen hourglass. And then Amazon hands reach up and take it away.

Next Week: The Epilogue. If you have any questions about the series, post them below and I’ll answer them in the next post.



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17 thoughts on “Half Time CH15: The Big Game

  1. The Rocketeer says:

    In the year 52 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar, having laid siege to the Gallic fortress-city of Alesia, refused to grant flight to the women and children expelled from the city after rations became too scarce to support them. Instead, they were left to die of starvation and exposure in the no-man’s-land between the concentric fortifications.

    But that hardly compares to the brutality of this series’ latest chapter.

  2. SmallIvoryKnight says:

    Pervince is a gods-damned hero. Love the little bastard.

  3. Ninety-Three says:

    Did you play out all the games, then write a story to them, or have you been playing one game and writing up its story every week? If the latter, I’m curious as to how difficult it is to write a story where major dramatic points are dictated by the RNG rather than where you want the story to go.

    Not a question: I really appreciate that you allowed the coach to actually get out from under his debt. Normally that character archetype is defined by being broke and the status quo must never change.

    1. NotSteve says:

      Though the enormous bet the coach has apparently put on this match may render him broke again.

      1. Viktor says:

        Or extremely rich, depending on who he bet on.

  4. Bubble181 says:

    Did the Oda ever conquer all of Japan?

    Who would you say is this story’s protagonist – Coach or Perv?

    Any plans to do this again with a different team? I can imagine quite a different story if todl from the point of view of, say, a Khemri Mummy.

    Why only elves, ogres and amazons?

    What game’s next, or haven’t you decided yet?

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Love the depiction of elves.

    1. MrGuy says:

      Elves are apparently Miranda from ME2.

      Privileged, entitled, feeling like they have to be better than everyone else at everything (regardless of how dumb it is) for no compelling reason other than to prove their inherent superiority, feeling burdened by sacrifices nobody actually asked them to make, and oozing with smug “you just don’t understand how hard it is to be as perfect as me!” completely unlikable bullshit.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        This is all kinds of absolutely spot-on.

      2. evileeyore says:


        That’s every Elf I’ve ever roleplayed… even the lazy shit-tier ones that know they are failures. They fail so hard epic tales are spun about how much they failed and that no one shall ever fail as perfectly as they did.

      3. Armagrodden says:

        I don’t know, I read it more as a humanizing “the elves are laboring under an inferiority complex much like the halflings are” note. If they don’t win Blood Bowl, then the orcs will win and keep on making “poncy little elf” jokes.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Although I guess the term would be ‘elvenizing’. Or ‘elfanizing’. Or some such – something like that.

        2. Felblood says:

          Nah, Being an Elf in the Warhammer universe is about two things:

          1. Knowing you’re better than everyone else.

          2. Making sure everyone else knows that you know.

  6. Cozzer says:

    I never comment, but I have to say this thing, right here, is beautiful. Possibly the best thing on this site, which is full of funny and thought-stimulating things.

    I don’t think I’ve ever cheered for a fictional or real sportsman the way I’m cheering in my heart for Pervince Potatoe. I hope this can somehow manage to be a moral… non-complete defeat.

  7. Cuthalion says:

    Awww, it makes me sad.

  8. tremor3258 says:

    Don’t be too brutal on your character’s kneecaps – I really feel for the halflings.

    Questions: How did Oda end up doing?

    Besides playing an underpowered race – do you feel the game comes down to the players and the dice or the coaching (or is it worth trying the low-tiers?)

    Game worth picking up for casual play?

  9. Nelly says:

    As a long term (Urk, like 20+ years) blood bowl fan, I’ve really enjoyed this, thanks.

    Did you play any of the other races? Or was it straight in with the halflings?

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