Rules for Glocken

No one is quite sure where and how the sport of glocken originated.

There is one legend that it started as a mating dance involving fermented liquids, which would subsequently turn violent. Another story guesses that it came about much later, when space lanes were opened and Colmarian Confederation ships regularly collided with one another. One theory that has quite a lot of backing is that the game wasn’t a game at all, but a meditation on the futility of existence and sports in particular. In any case, historians the galaxy over have mostly agreed that glocken has had an overall detrimental effect on the advancement of civilization.

The only reason glocken became so outrageously popular over the millennia was because the game is playable by nearly every species. There are lots of sports that are played in the galaxy. But when you have untold races competing, there are bound to be ringers who simply make the game boring.

For instance, if there was a game that required height, the twelve-foot-tall Banur would likely dominate and it wouldn’t have as many fans. If a game required speed, the Po or Dallnast would make short work of it.

People loved playing sports, they loved watching sports, but they also liked to imagine themselves, however remote the chance, participating. If you had to have at least twelve kneecaps to be a benchwarmer in a sport, only the hardcore gamblers were going to follow it.

Glocken could accommodate all shapes and sizes and abilities.

The game was organized into lanes, 1 through 8.

The smaller, quicker players were usually in the low lanes, while the stronger, heavier players were in the upper lanes.

Each lane carried a token on offense.

A token was a disc with a rope-like loop on each side. In junior leagues the token would be wood or plastic; in the professionals it was a complicated electronic device weighted and balanced with metal.

You could throw tokens, hand them off, roll them, do anything at all to get them to another person or even an area on the field. Offensive players were never declared down or out, only tokens.

A token was dead if it was taken completely from an opposing player and held for five seconds—five seconds being a key duration in glocken. The professional leagues had sensors in the loops to determine this, otherwise it was up to the referees. A token was also dead if you knocked a player down while he held a token, generally defined as not moving for five seconds since “down” could be relative with some species. If a token went out of bounds it was immediately killed and out of play.

You could drop a token at any time. This could be used to distract the other team because they had to hold it if they wanted to kill that token, otherwise, an offensive player could always go back and retrieve it.

If offense and defense both held the same token, it was contested, and wouldn’t be uncontested unless the offensive player holding it went down for five seconds, went out of bounds with it, or scored.

Each lane carried tokens of different weights. At intramural and non-professional ranks, the weights didn’t vary much because it was usually all the same species playing and they simply didn’t have much diversity.

At the Super Class level, which was the most widely-broadcast professional league, the weights were:

Lane Weight of Token Points for Scoring
1 1 pound 1
2 5 pounds 2
3 10 pounds 3
4 40 pounds 4
5 100 pounds 7
6 500 pounds 11
7 1,000 pounds 16
8 4,000 pounds 22

The vast majority of points were scored in the 1-4 lanes. Usually one and two. The heavy tokens were hard to move, impossible to throw, and only a few people per team could carry them. Often the players in those lanes would simply drop their tokens and help block for their lighter teammates.

There were also weight limits on the players to prevent gross imbalances. In Super Class, the first four lanes of players could not weigh more than 2,000 pounds total. The second four players could not weigh more than 25,000 pounds.

Players had to be certified to carry the token in their lane, which meant walk with it across the field. So you couldn’t stick a ninety-pound guy in lane eight and pretend he was going to carry a 4,000-pound token.

The objective, of course, was to carry or hold the token uncontested in the end zone, which would give the offensive team that token’s points. You only had to hold a token for one second uncontested in the end zone to score.

Once all the tokens were dead or scored, the offensive team switched to defense.

There was only one global score. If one team was ahead by five, and the opposing team scored five, the score was now zero. So one minute it could be Faintly Flounderers 25 and the next minute Obscene Grandmothers 6.

There was also no time limit on glocken games but there were numerous conditions under which a game could be ended.

If fans stopped watching, the game would be declared over. For televised games, the referees would tell the coaches that viewership was going down. The team that was winning would then try and be as dull as possible so the game would be called in their favor, and the team that was losing would try and execute exciting plays to bring viewers back. Even pickup games played for fun usually recruited official “fans” who would sit around and watch as long as they were entertained.

Player’s spouses could call off a game. Early games had gone on for so long that relationships and even marriages would fall apart. So the spouses formed powerful unions and they made their opinions known. Again, in non-professional games, this happened all the time, with angry boy/girl/thing-friends coming to the lanes and demanding the players return home to dinner.

The referees could call the game. This was usually due to injuries or overmatched teams. Referees were generally very well-respected. All the bad ones had been murdered a long time ago, so it wasn’t an occupation to enter lightly. The standards were quite high.

Both teams could agree to end a game. This wasn’t as hard as it sounded. If one team was getting dominated, they simply wouldn’t line up.

The game could also end if there weren’t enough players. Teams needed a “fiver” to keep playing. Any combination of players carrying tokens that totaled five points. Either a four lane and one, or a two and a three, or a five and higher. You could have a game with just one player versus one other player and it would still be considered glocken.

Glocken games often ended abruptly for one or another reason and there was never much anger at the cause. If you couldn’t keep your fans, or your boyfriend got mad at you, that was part of the game.

At the start of each offense, the teams would line up three-quarters of the field away from the end zone they were trying to reach. There was no continuing progress, no half-measures. You scored or the token was dead. Then the next team was on offense at their own quarter line.

Fields varied in length, but the Super Class was 400 feet with thirty-foot end zones.

The offense had to start directly on their own line of scrimmage, but the defense could line up anywhere they wanted, as long as it was in bounds and on their side of the line.

You could replace up to four of your players between offense to defense. Often the low lane offense would be replaced with heavier, more durable defenders.

Players were allowed protective gear and you could cover 50% of a player’s surface area with equipment. Since all species were different, and not everyone’s vitals were in the same location, this was an early compromise.

To decide who played offense first was a typically complicated process.

One team would first flip a coin. The winner of that would then flip another coin and one of the referees would hold his fingers behind his back. If the result of the fingers and the binary result of the coin toss was odd, then the flipping team would go on offense first. If the referees didn’t have fingers, they could use toes, or appendages, or pebbles, or something that could be hidden from view. The coin toss was a contest in itself.

There were many specialized positions in glocken.

TILT: Player who requires numerous defenders to tackle him. Someone who tilted the field. They were almost always the heaviest and strongest players on the team. The problem was that each team got them and then they just bumped into each other and didn’t do anything. The upper lanes almost never scored.

WEIGHT: Defensive players. Basically, just grabbed hold of the offense and slowed them up until their team could assist. Since you didn’t get credit for moving down field, only scoring, you could take your time and kill tokens at the last minute.

CAPTAIN: Called plays and action.

KILLER: These were expert defenders at making tokens dead. Stripping them from offense or intercepting passes or tackling. Tackling was actually a last resort and often a poor use of force and time since most lanes were relatively equal in player weight. But it was a general name for defenders and there were sub-roles such as Strippers, Chasers, Stoppers.

HACK: A player whose purpose was to hurt other players. Not an official position, but everyone knew what they were and who they were and what they were doing. They had to be careful as a penalty could be called by the referees if it was too egregious.

PUFFER: A fast token runner, almost exclusively 1-, 2-, or 3-lane. They scored the majority of the points in games and many teams were built around star Puffers.

WEDGE: A blocker who tried to clear paths for runners, often dropping his own token.

TWISTS: Throwers. Tokens weren’t exactly designed for throwing. The best throwers did a sort of rotational twist. Some were skilled enough to have a token land on its edge and roll. Most Twists limited themselves to lower lanes so they could get some range, and someone can catch the light tokens without dying. To throw a token, you had to be behind the line of scrimmage, but you could have it drop anywhere and it didn’t have to be caught. Good Twists were nearly as valuable as good Puffers on offense.

FORWARDS: Players who waited for a throw. Depending on their lane, they could also help with blocking or simply be distractions.