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Njor Games and Sports

I’ve done two Njor posts now, one with base notes about Njor culture and one with 3 Njor idioms (with a link to the Patreon version of the article that has 18 more idioms!). But I have TONS of Njor-notes in my files (having used variants of them in 3 different campaigns I have run), so I thought I’d keep compiling and offering Njor articles.

Today, we look at some common Njor games and sports, which I think are another great way to flesh outa culture.

Bear Hunt

Supposedly inspired by older contests utilizing actual bears, the Bear Hunt game is a popular way to get young Njor some simulated combat experience. An experienced warrior plays the part of the “bear,” (often wearing a big, silly bear hat that somewhat obscures their vision), wearing a belt with 3 or more red flags that dangle to just short of the ground, and armed with a mop soaked in red dye. A circle, normally 30 feet in diameter, is marked on the ground and the Bear cannot leave it. “Hunters” must dash in, try to grab a flag (there are normally at least half as many flags as Hunters), and get away. The Bear attempts to hit Hunters with the mop. If hit, the Hunter must rush back out of the circle. If an arm or leg is hit, it is bound down before they can go back in. If the head is hit, a thin cloth is tied over the eyes to reduce vision. If the torso is hit, the Hunter must chug a mug of strong ale before rushing back in. Anyone hit three times is out. Whoever grabs the most Bear flags before the last flag is taken, or all Hunters are out, wins.


Dugr is the most popular form of wrestling in the Njorlands. In some regions it is so popular professional Dugr wrestlers can make a living just from the sport, and sometimes conflicts between clans, groups, and even city-states can be settled by champions engaging in a series of Dugr matches.

The rules are specifically designed to allow competitors of different sizes to compete against each other by using different tactics. Njor don’t much care about a Dugr match being “fair,” but they do want it to be “interesting.”

A Dugr field consists of a 10-foot square pit 4 feet deep, with a 5-foot path around it. At each corner and the midpoint of each side of the outer square are 5-foot tall posts, each topped by a rod 10-feet long balanced at its midpoint.

Two Dugr contestants enter on opposing sides, and have one arm of their opponent’s choice lashed to a rope strung between them. There is 20 feet of slack in the rope between the contestants. The contestants may not wear hand, arm, foot, neck, or head coverings, or capes or cloaks. Wrestling begins when a horn is blown, and consists of 1 round with no breaks.

If a contestant touches the bottom of the pit, or steps out of the path around the pit, or knocks a rod off a pole, they lose. If a contestant touches their opponent with anything other than the rope, they lose. (Wrapping the rope around your fist to punch someone is allowed, but risky as the rope can slip.) If a contestant changes what side of the path they are on, their opponent must also change what side they are standing on within a three-count given by the crowd, or lose. If this happens when you are standing on a corner switching fully to either side counts, but if on a side just switching to standing on a corner doesn’t.

Normally a local considered honest and sharp-eyed is mutually agreed-upon to serve as a judge. For more contentious matches, each side proposes five judges, each side pick two of the other sides’ proposals to be put in a random selection, and then three of the four are randomly selected to judge and judgements are made by majority vote.

It’s common for heavy betting to take place around Dugr matches.


Flights is a form of archery contest. A ramp is set up, edge-on the the contestants. A basket of dyed rawhide balls of different colors is dumped on the high end of the ramp. Contestants must shoot only one or more specific colors which are announced just before the balls are dumped (often tan or fire-blackened), getting one point if the knock a ball off the ramp and two if they stick their arrow into the rawhide, but forfeit if they hit even a single ball or a forbidden color. The archers keep shooting until all the balls are off the ramp or reach its end. The exact length and pitch of the ramp, number and color of balls, distance from the ramp, number of arrows each archer gets, and whether the archers go one at a time or all at once vary both by region and based on the expected skill of the archers.

Some regions have similar games but for thrown rocks, slings, and even hurled axes.


A large field is set up, longer than wide, with a basket half buried at each narrow end, on its side so its open mouth faces the field. A large rawhide ball is placed in the center of the field. Two teams of people armed with wooden mallets rush the field, one from each end, and try to use the mallets to hit the ball into the basket on the far side from the one they entered on.

In some regions, that’s the entirety of the rules. In others, its forbidden to hit each other with the mallets, there’s a pause if anyone is knocked down and each time a basket is scored, the number of players per team is limited, or the collective weight of all the members of each team must be nearly equal. Nearly all Njor consider the rules common in their region to be reasonable, fun, and wise, and rules only found elsewhere to be dumb and boring.

Pit Fighting

Less popular than Dugr and banned by more civil Njor settlements, pit fighting remains common enough for all Njor to be familiar with it. Pit fights take place in a 10-foot-square pit, 4 feet deep(which also often serves as a Dugr pit). Four 10-pound stones are placed in the pit, one at each corner. Two, three, or four fighters jump into the pit at the corners. The first one to lift more of the stones out of the pit than any other fighter-still-standing has lifted out, wins.

The rules for what weapons and armor can be taken into a pit vary by region, but the most common are that no weapon may be longer than the length from fingertip to elbow of the shortest fighter in a given match, only one weapon may be anything but a club, shields are disallowed, and helmets are encouraged.

Normally pit fighting does not have judges, as the terms of victory are self-evident and there really aren’t any other rules once you’re in the pit. While pit fighting is more popular than Dugr in some Njorlands, and professional pit fighters exist, no one ever settles larger conflicts with pit fights. In fact, pit fighting is more likely to create disputes between factions than end them.


There are multiple forms of tafl games popular in Njorlands, including some that have up to 5 players (1 central player, and up to 4 outer players who get 1 move each per 4 central player moves). Tafl is seen as a game of sages, leaders, hunters, and people who are dangerously clever.

A form of Ale Tafl is popular at celebrations, where each player must drink a small cup of winter ale (ale that has been frozen and the ice thrown away, so its alcohol content is higher) after each move, and falling over is considered forfeiting.


Only common near large bodies of water, in Tides a number of weights with ribbons are thrown into the water and allowed to sink, then 2 or more swimmers dive after them and bring up as many as they can within a set timeframe. In some variants, different colors of ribbon are worth different values. The colder the water, the shorter the timeframe, and some Njor play Tides after drilling a whole in an iced-over lake.


A number of folks have asked about helping me cover my medical expenses as I recover from my pulmonary embolism, and prepare to battle my cancer. While I’ll do a GoFundMe if I absolutely have to, and expect there to be more product bundles to raise funds come April, the main way to support me right now is to join (or increase your pledge level) at my Patreon, or make a direct contribution at my Ko-Fi.

Thanks, folks.


Now On Patreon: Njor Idioms

Yesterday I gave a preview of Njor culture for a fantasy setting. One of the things I often like to do to explore the attitude and tone of a culture is to write up some words of wisdom common among them. Over on my my Patreon, I listed twenty-one common Njor idioms.

Right now the full list of 21 idioms (and all Thursday blog posts) is Patreon-exclusive, because I need to grow my Patreon to keep spending time writing blog posts and other public content. However, once my Patreon funding level hits $1,000/month, I’ll go back to posting my Thursday posts free for all to see here, AND I’ll create and maintain an index page of all my PF2 articles for Patrons, so they can easily access all my online PF2 content!

But here are 3 of those idioms, as a teaser.

Railing against the storm does not stop the snow.

The cleverest fox is still a poor wolf, the strongest wolf is still a poor fox.

Respect your elders. They have survived that which you have not yet faced.

Support A number of folks have asked about helping me cover my medical expenses as I recover from my pulmonary embolism, and prepare to battle my cancer. While I’ll do a GoFundMe if I absolutely have to, and expect there to be more product bundles to raise funds come April, the main way to support me right now is to join (or increase your pledge level) at my Patreon, or make a direct contribution at my Ko-Fi.

Cultures Not Species: Njor Culture

For many years now, I’ve been looking at worldbuilding with cultures and societies defined not by species (ancestry/origin, whatever term your ttRPG uses), but with cultures. Most (though certainly not all) fantasy settings have a mix of species living in most big cities and regions, so why define them as being from specific species-oriented kingdoms? Yes, that’s how Tolkien did it… but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way.

Nor do I feel any flavor has to be lost by focusing on multi-ancestry cultures, rather than monospecies groups. A lot of tropes in fantasy can easily apply to regions, guilds, orders, religions, and sects, rather than being tied to a single species, and much like there are sub-cultures within real world societal groups, we can explore sub-cultures within our larger regional/sectional cultural idea.

Here’s an example, a short beginning sketch of a multi-ancestry culture adapted from several old campaigns of mine where I used from variant of this.

The Njor

The Njor (/niˈɔr//njɔr/)are a culture found in the Northern Reaches, ranging from the Thalassic Ocean in the west (and in some cases settlements within and west of the ocean) to the Barrow-Steppes in the east; and from the zastruga in the north to (west-to-east) the Daggerports, the Midland Kingdoms, Merothia, the Allemarche, Wroklaw, and to Old Belavarus to the south. Note that the Njor are not a unified kingdom, and though the term Njorlands is often used to describe territory largely controlled by Njor groups, its borders with other regions are approximate at best.

Further, Njor groups self-identify into a wide range of clans, tribes, city-states, and domains held by independent chiefs, gyothi, jarls, and kings which are no bigger than typical baronies in the Middle Kingdoms or Allemarche. As personal allegiance is typically more important to Njor than loyalty to a group of government, but loyalty to a broader clan, kith, or sept can overshadow even personal allegiance, non-Njor often find the links of interlocking obedience and faithfulness confusing at best, and actively contradictory at worst.

Common Njor Ancestries

The most common ancestries among the Njor are dwarf, giant, goblin, hobgoblin, human. Less common but not surprising ancestries include elf and halfling. Individuals with mixed ancestries are common and generally not considered oddities, including a large number of giantblooded (with giantblooded goblins often seen as the source of hobgoblins, and giantblooded halflings thought of as the origin of the Stoutist clans of halflings), dragonblooded (who often seem to have draconic influence from some source other than parentage, such as being born on the day a dragon was slain, or marked by draconic constellations when coming of age), and trollblooded (which are generally attributed to the old High Trolls, regenerating giants of great culture and smithing skill). 

Not every Njor settlement has all these ancestries of course. Njor underground and mountain holdfasts are often a mix of dwarf, goblin, and hafling clans as their lesser stature work well in tight tunnels where every foot of headspace must be carved from the rock at great effort. Hill settlements tend towards taller Njor ancestries, and those in the most frozen regions lean towards humans and orcs. 

Njor Honor

Honor is highly prized in Njor culture, but honor is not defined in the same way by Njorlanders as many other cultures.

Njor honor was defined by Skatti Grandmother Salmon as “Being true to your Way and your Word, and hiding neither in common life.”

While that is self-evident to most Njor, many Te Astran and Allemarchan scholars have spend lifetimes analyzing what it means. In short, a Njor is seen has having a path in their (their “Way,”), which they must stick to the core principles of. A Njor blacksmith is expected to take all smithing tasks seriously, and to never intentionally act to make smithing less famous, less trusted, or less respected by others. Similarly a Njor ruler is expected to look after their lands and their people, Njor thieves are expected to be true to the art of thievery and their thieves’ band, and Njor soldiers are expected to take the art of fighting and warfare seriously and as important and worth doing right.

Note that a Njor being honorable is not the same as being blameless. “You can’t shame a wolf for killing your sheep, but you can’t mistake it as kinfolk, either.”

Njor Virtues

In addition to holding honor (as they define it) in high regard, Njor strongly value cleverness, courage, honesty, luck, martial prowess, sagacity, thrift, and tenacity. Of course often cleverness and honesty are at odds, but to Njor there’s rarely an actual conflict between the two. If someone is extremely clever about their dishonesty, that’s a virtue. If they are prosaic, clumsy, or even just unsuccessful with dishonesty, that’s a personal failing.

The Njor attitude to mysterious powers often varies based on how those powers are presented. If a wizard seems to be a clever sage, their powers are an extension of those virtues. A warlock granted strange powers through no act of their own might be seen as lucky. A cultist who tricks people into being blood sacrifices to fuel their own power could well be accused of lacking honesty and thrift.

Going Wolfing

Life in Njorlands is often harsh, and sometimes the crops do not produce as needed, the cattle are sickly or have suffered too many loses to wild creatures and monsters, the coffers are empty, and trade is poor. If a settlement or even single household is close to the edge of failure, one or more of its members may choose to mark their face with the rune of the wolf, and become a raider in richer lands. The wolf-rune on the face is an indication that the Njorlander is no longer following the path of their normal life, but has become an animal for survival. Known as “going wolfing,” this activity is seen as rational and acceptable, and a Njor is not blames for acting like a wolf when marked as a wolf. By the same token, no one is blamed for treating a wolfing Njor as an animal — killing one on sight is reasonable and not treated as murder, much as killing a wolf stalking your sheep is not seen as murder.

Of course, non-Njor generally don’t care about such distinctions, and when wolfing raiding bands strike down into richer bordering lands to the south or east, the targets of those raids both tend to attribute the savagery shown to all Njor, and to blame the settlements the wolfings came from holding a grudge long after the wolf-runes are removed.


A number of folks have asked about helping me cover my medical expenses as I recover from my pulmonary embolism, and prepare to battle my cancer. While I’ll do a GoFundMe if I absolutely have to, and expect there to be more product bundles to raise funds come April, the main way to support me right now is to join (or increase your pledge level) at my Patreon, or make a direct contribution at my Ko-Fi.

Thanks, folks.