A History of Skiprocks (Part 1: Origins)

As Uncle Reggie and I used to spend long hours polishing our skiprocks before a competition, or sometimes as we enjoyed an ale or three down at our local brew-hall, he would recount to me in great detail all he knew, or thought he knew, of the origins and evolution of our ancestral sport.

At the time I put it down to his advancing years, a natural desire to set his small place in the world against the backdrop of our people and their history. Now that I know more of his past, I see in these talks his Harper predilection to learn, to record, to protect and preserve knowledge as much as one might protect the weak and vulnerable. Given my less than happy experience at school, I had given scant thought to the value of knowing the past, something that I associated with dusty books and unsympathetic tutors. Instead, the knowledge that seemed important to me was of the here and now, of staying a step ahead, of finding an advantage. As my Uncle would ramble my mind would wander, or my youthful attention would be drawn to an attractive barmaid or a handsome purse.

I wish now I had paid more attention to him. Now that he’s gone, the least I can do it try to record what he tried to tell me.

On Their Origins

There is, as one might expect, no real written record of when we Hin first used skiprocks, although it seems likely that they were first arose in Luiren long ago as a hunting weapon, where their skip could be used to great advantage among the deer herds and quail coveys so plentiful in the Rift. It seems likely too that contests soon arose within and between clans and caravans as to who could best master the skill, and that in turn those artisans who could craft them best were sought out for their handiwork. There are many oral tales among my people that refer to them, in passing or as a central part of the story. It is said too that the only Hin to ever manage a sextuple skip was Brandobaris himself, wandering the land in avatar form during the Time of Troubles.

There is little in the way of written Hin history, and so it comes as no suprise that the first written records of the skiprock are human, and a little over a thousand years old. The third volume of the Annals of Myth Drannor records that, in 294—a scant decade after the first Hin migrated through the portal to that legendary city—a Hin watchman named Lurkin Kinlur used one (oddly termed a “bouncebludgen” in the text) to fell two drow assassins fleeing the city. Uncle Reggie, it must be said, was always doubtful of the veracity of this tale, despite the considerable weight placed on the Annals by the human sages. To him it seemed a little too coincidental that a Hin so famed would conveniently be named “Stonequick Quickstone” in our native tongue.

What is certain, however, that Hin slingers in the army of Myth Drannor did use the weapon five hundred years later, during the Year of the Despairing Elves, to break up massed charges of worgs, orcs and goblins. A woodcut from the period, now on display in the museum at the University of Silverymoon, shows a slinger apparently using a skiprock to strike at foes besetting his dwarven and elven fighting companions.

The first publication on Skiprocks was Ezikiel’s Guide to Stones, Their Skipping, and Their Most Careful Manufacture, published in Beluir around about 1137, but which only found its way to the Hin communities of the northwest many decades later. As one might expect from a Strongheart publication, its tone is focused and disciplined, directed largely to the crafting of skiprocks and their employment for hunting and war, and including as an appendix a comprehensive summary of rules to be applied in contests. It is evident from this text, that Luirenian Hin have long used the skiprock as an auxiliary to bow and sling in battle, and that the hand-thrown tricks developed among the Lightfoot communities of the Sword Coast have deep roots in serious conflict as well as popular community entertainment.

Uncle Reggie was never able to find a copy of this book, much to his frustration. I too have never seen it, but only have heard tell of its contents, like him, from elders who claim to have read from its pages in their youth or travels south. I’m sure a copy could be found in Beluir. Once current mysteries are solved, and current evils confronted, I hope to voyage there, and to find a copy to study the lore and history he tried so hard to teach a distracted young nephew.