Description and Rules

Rounders is the sixteenth century British version of a bat and ball game that dates back to "the dawn of time". In theory, it is a descendant of the bat and ball games played by our "cavemen" ancestors. This theory is a result of the observation that there is no culture in the world that does not have some form of a bat and ball game.

Played in England as long ago as the 16th C., Rounders was a popular pastime. A version of Rounders is still played by folks in the U.K and Ireland. By the 19th C. in America, the game had undergone many changes, and was commonly called Townball. Today we play still another variant called Baseball.

At the Northern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Rounders is played daily by the actors and workers with visitor participation (ask at the Horse Tourney area).

See my Rounders documentation page for research references.

The Layout

[Map of the Playing Field]

The Object

Each time a Defender successfully completes a foray and returns to the Castle with his gleanings (more food, more weapons, etc.), he scores for his team. Tally is kept by marking a stroke for each score (IIIII IIIII II). In other words, Each Runner who makes it back into the Castle scores a "Tally". At the end of the game, the team with the highest tally (the most runs scored) wins. The game ends after each team has been In the same number of times -- there is no limit but exhaustion or darkness to the number of "In"ings.

The Rules

  1. Infinite Swings. The Striker (the person hitting or "striking" the ball) has no limit on the number of tries to hit the ball. He keeps trying until the ball comes in contact with the stick.
  2. Ball Must be Fed Where Striker Wishes. The Feeder (the person throwing or "feeding" the ball to the Striker) must throw the ball where the Striker wants it. If the Striker is unhappy with a Feeder, the Striker may request a new Feeder.
  3. Any Hit - RUN! Any time the ball contacts the stick, even a "tip", it is a valid hit and the Striker must run. The ball may be struck anywhere! -- however, see Convention #2 for modifications to this rule. The Runners at the Sanctuaries may begin running as soon as the ball is struck -- whether it is a good hit or an Out doesn't matter, once the Runner begins to run, KEEP GOING!
  4. Run Clockwise! Upon hitting the ball, the Striker then must run clockwise around the Sanctuaries. The runner does not need to touch any of the Sanctuaries and may run anywhere as long as he passes outside of each Sanctuary.
  5. Striker is Out. The Striker is out if the hit is caught in the air or on one bounce.
  6. Runner is Out. The Runner is out if he is plugged (hit with a thrown ball) while running. He is not out if he grasps a Sanctuary (that he hasn't used before - see Rule 7) before he is plugged. Note: the Striker becomes a Runner as soon as he begins running.
  7. Sanctuarys Work Once. Once a Runner has touched a Sanctuary, he may not let go of it and then grasp it again - it has been used up for that Runner. (The idea here is that you are hiding -- if you suddenly pop out of hiding, everybody sees where you were hiding and it doesn't do you much good to try to hide there again.)
  8. In until Out. A player is "In" until he has been gotten out. This also applies to the Castle - all players who are "In" must remain in the Castle (they are "Defenders"), if they step out they are "Out".
  9. Undefended Castle is Vulnerable. If there are no Defenders in the Castle (for instance, the last Defender just struck the ball and is now a Runner) the Attacking team (the team in the outfield) may capture the Castle by plugging the Castle Stone.
  10. Everybody Out. The teams change sides when the entire Defending team is Out, or when the Castle has been captured.
  11. Two Rounders. If the last Defender hits the ball and makes it all the way back into the Castle in one run (a "Rounder") twice in a row then everyone on his team is back In again.
  12. No Blockades. No Attacking team member may get in the way of a Runner in an attempt to prevent him from grasping a Sanctuary or proceeding around the Sanctuaries.

The Conventions

These are not official rules, but have been decided upon by the players to keep the game civilized and manageable.

  1. Hanging Out by the Sanctuary. If the runners have all stopped running and are hovering near a Sanctuary, and if the Feeder has the ball in his control back by his stone, the play shall be deemed ended and the Runners shall grasp the Sancuaries and the next Defender is up.
    If either the Runner has not stopped running or the Feeder is not in control by his rock, the ball is still in play.
  2. Hitting into the Castle. The ball may be struck anywhere out of the Castle (local field rules or number of players may limit the shape and size of the Castle). If it is hit into the Castle, the Striker comes back, the Runners go back and it is played over.
  3. Pulling Up the Sanctuarys. If a Runner, in his or her exuberance, pulls out the Sanctuary stake, that Runner is automatically Out! Notify someone of a loose stake before this happens to you.
  4. Letting Go of the Sanctuary Between Plays. If a Runner mistakenly lets go of a Sanctuary after the play has ended but before the Striker has hit the ball, that Runner is automatically Out!
  5. Obnoxious and Argumentative Players. Certain players tend to get very upset when thing don't go the way they want them to; TOUGH! Feel free to ridicule them.
  6. Little Children. Give them as much help and encouragement as you can. Help them have fun. If they hit the ball, Cheer! Don't plug them out just because you can -- "miss" them, fall down, drop the ball, help them run, whatever. Because, always remember the real reason we are playing this game...
  7. Having Fun. The real point of this game is to play it and have fun. I take the attitude (except in Team Competition play) that it doesn't really matter which side wins or loses as long as everybody has a blast doing it!

The Ball

[Ball Pattern]

Here is a pattern for the ball. Make four pieces from about 7 oz. leather. I sew two pair of pieces together into two hemispheres and then sew the two hemispheres together almost all the way around leaving about 2" open. Stuff it with whatever is handy - what you use will affect how the ball reacts. I use raw wool for a very bouncy, soft ball; old wool sock snippets for a less bouncy, less soft, but still a far travelling ball; leather snippets for a heavy, dead ball (for smaller fields and older players); or old nylons for a dead, soft ball (for smaller fields and young players). In case the scale doesn't translate correctly, the pattern is about 4" to 4.75" on the long axis.

The Stick

The stick can be any piece of wood 12" long or longer. Any shape will do, but flat sided ones seem to be the most popular. Make sure there is some sort of knob at the bottom to keep it from flying out of the Striker's hands.

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