Wizards and other casters are oft inseparable from the institutions that train them. But during a degree in the arcane arts, there's far more to do on campus than study musty books all day. After breaking up the hundredth underground wizard fight club, university administrators realized that their students' warlike tendencies could be turned to profitable ends, instead of halving the size of each year's graduating class. So began the noble sport of Fireball, a test of intellect, reflexes, casting prowess, and ability to rules-lawyer one's way out of a red card for "accidentally" incinerating the Dean of Students.
Fireball is played between 2 teams of 4 players. At least one player on each team must be able to cast Fireball (or an equivalent spell that creates a ball of fire), and every team member must be able to interact with Fireballs in a way besides becoming seriously injured by them.
The game has 4 15-minute halves, separated by short rests for players to recover HP, strenuous abilities, and dunk their heads in Wyvernade.
A Fireball pitch is just long enough for long-ranged spells (like, for instance, Fireball) to make it halfway (~200', or 60 metres); a goalpost is located at each end.
Teams get one point for each Fireball spell that hits the opponent's goalpost; if it volleys off of 2 or more players besides the caster, it counts for 3 points instead.
There's a laundry list of what counts as a fireball, what counts as a player, what's allowed re. magic items, extradimensional interference, necromancy, time travel, etc. These (and other) rules are enforced by three referees, all loaded up with powerful movement, divination, and abjuration spells.
Player locations are demarcated by which Zone they're in. You're either on Home Side, Midfield, Away Side, or in Home/Away Goal (only one player is allowed to be seen in each goal at all times)
Home Goal | Home Field | Midfield | Away Field | Away Goal
At the beginning of the quarter, fill a bag with chits, one per player. Teams can set up their players anywhere from Midfield to their own Goal. Determine starting player by drawing from bag (without replacement). On a player's turn, they can move one zone and take one other action (casting a spell, punching someone, trash-talking...). If you move into a zone with an opponent in it, you may move to Cover them, so you can more easily Intercept their spells. If you move while Covered, whoever is Covering you can opposed DEX test to move with you and keep Covering you. If you move while undefended, anyone in the same zone can make a DEX test to catch up with you. If they do, they can Cover you.
To throw a Fireball (or another similar spell), make an INT or DEX test. Fireballs can go up to one zone away. Anyone in the same zone as the caster can try to Intercept by beating your INT/DEX test result with another INT/DEX test; if they succeed at Intercepting, initiative moves to them and they can interact with the Fireball; if multiple players try to Intercept then the highest roll wins. Anyone Covering the caster gets to Intercept as well, and goes first no matter what if they succeed.
If you can handle a Fireball with your bare hands (with a Shape/Control Fire spell, or by being magically fireproof), you can carry Fireballs while moving and hand them off to other players. Only players covering you or your target can try to Intercept the handoff.
If the Fireball makes it to its target:
Target is an undefended goal: Score points equal to the Fireball's (dice)! If the Fireball volleyed off of at least 2 Intercepting players, it counts for double points.
Target is a defended goal: Goalie makes a INT/DEX save to Intercept
Target is an undefended player: The Fireball passes to the target, who now gets to act
Target is a defended player: Everyone involved makes a INT/DEX test; whoever wins gets to Intercept
When multiple Fireballs are in play, resolve them from closest to the Away Goal to closest to the Home Goal (this is Home Field Advantage)
If there are no Fireballs in play, next player is determined by drawing a chit; once the bag is empty, the Quarter ends.
Minor injuries, out-of-bounds player or fireball, mind control, injuring a spectator, etc. cause a Yellow Card
. All Fireballs are counterspelled, everyone returns to starting positions, fouled team gets to start next play.
Major injuries, time travel, killing a player, injuring a ref, necromancy outside of pitch boundaries, scrying the end result, etc. cause a Red Card
. Fouling player removed from pitch (forcibly if necessary), and Yellow Card is enacted.
Escaped magical beast, arcane catastrophe, dimensional incursion, pitch collapse, ref going berzerk, etc. cause a Blue Card
. Play is halted and everyone drops what they're doing to work together to contain a greater threat.
If teams are tied at the end of the fourth quarter, the game goes to Sudden Death. Players are subject to random escalating environmental hazards (traditionally random lightning bolts) until either one team is entirely out of commission, or one team scores.
The National Conclave for Arcane Athletics (NCAA) Occult Conference
(find the rest of the NCAA at the Oblidisideryptch here!
The Miskatonic Arcane
The Miskatonic Institute of Thaumaturgy has spent its entire storied history on the bleeding non-Euclidean edge of arcanology. Their programs in magi-zoology and spell consciousness are unparalleled across the realm, and when a task force of MIT lawmages finally got animate spells recognized as people under the law of the land, they were the first to admit them as students. Of course, this meant that Fireball authorities had to decide what to do about it. After a lengthy campaign, they let them play - and the Arcane responded tremendously, winning three league championships in a row.
Teleport! Always bubbly, seemingly omnipresent both on the field and in the media, famed for some of the league's most daring saves.
Each spell only knows their spell, which makes them a team that specializes in going all-out on esoteric plans. While they have warlocks and sorcerers to provide much-needed versatility on the pitch, the core of the Arcane is always a pair of animate spells who've trained to use their abilities as far more than the sum of their parts. Swapping out players changes the character of their playstyle entirely, but any single combination has rather obvious hard counters.
The Tower rises from midfield, a pillar of obsidian that reflects possible futures and occasionally takes action to bring them into being. Attempts to remove it for study or because it violates rules against temporal distortions in the course of play have been thwarted by nightmarish visions and mysterious ailments.
The Notre Damned Balors
Ever since Notre Damned University was defiled, it not only turned from a holy citadel of theological learning into a debauched and destructive hive of scum and villainy, it became one of the premier Fireball teams in the NCAA. Worshipping Go'al, the dark god of Sports and Victory turns out to be a winning strategy. They field a team of evil clerics and anti-paladins, many of whom are tieflings and therefore resistant to the fire and brimstone that engulfs their home field. Willing to do anything to win.
Infernos Burnside, Archpriest of Go'al, defiler of a thousand fields and summoner of ancient demons. He knows he's the epitome of heel-ness, and plays to it. Rumors that he's actually a rather nice guy off the field are rapidly quashed by infernal portents.
Literally praying to the god of sports to gift them with victory. Even the refs fear Go'al, and so they're rather lenient with penalties lest they risk Go'al's furious wrath. Usually this means that the first minor injury on each opposing player won't get penalized.
A captured balor rules over midfield, attacking players with its firey whip and lightning blade at random. Home Field and Away Field both contain a pre-drawn summoning circle.
The Imperial Battalion
The Imperial Adventuring Academy spent decades petitioning for admission into the NCAA despite their dedicated focus on everything non-casting. Eventually, the NCAA board had had enough of their stubbornness, and caved so that they could get on with far more important initiatives like regulating the number of allowable spectator casualties before a temporary game stoppage. That tenacity is reflected in their players, with fighters, barbarians, rangers, and thieves bringing an entirely new dimension of brutal tactics to the league.
Haley Cassiterite, a dwarven fighter with a grudge against magic-users that she inherited from her adventurer parents. Many other star mages have lost teeth to a rapidly-moving dwarf tossed at their head.
They have special dispensation to issue Firecatcher Gloves and Wands of Fireball to all their non-fireproof players; a generous act of "martial inclusivity" by the NCAA. They've developed several unique fighting styles as a result.
The wearer can handle, shape, and even throw fire - just don't let it touch your bare skin.
Sanctioned Wand of Fireball:
To ensure that magic items don't run out of control, the NCAA doesn't let these wands have more than 3 casts of 1-die Fireballs. They recharge after the game.
Frontline Blitz (unarmed). When someone casts a spell within your movement range, you can move to them and make an opposed STR vs. WIS test. If you win, you break their concentration and the spell ruptures. Apply an effect as a 1-die Counterspell.
A well-kept, entirely featureless field. No tricks, no traps, no arcane phenomena - just a plain test of strength, will, and tactical acumen.
The Comet Mountain Dojo
Adept schools have long been powerful influences on adventuring culture across the continent, and the temple on Comet Mountain in particular has acquired a certain reputation. Its style of sport-combat is fast, cunning, and overwhelming, striking with the heat of a star and the fury of a dragon. The Dojo took home the very first NCAA title, and their pedigree is unmatched.
Tai Li, half-orc adept and NCAA all-star for three years running. She's the proud record-holder for most Fireballs dunked on goal, fastest land speed, and most opponents' limbs broken in a single quarter.
The Comet Mountain school teaches many adept stances to control a practicioner's inner fire, externalize it, and bend it to their will. Three such styles are detailed below:
You can jump three times as high and as far, and take no damage from falling from these jumps. When you hit the ground after falling at least 10', you can force everyone around you to DEX save vs. being knocked down and disarmed.
You can handle fire with your hands and feet. When you Intercept the Fireball, you can double it and interact with both.
You can handle fire with your hands and feet. You can cast Fireball; this expends HP equal to (dice)*2.
A forest of stone spikes and pillars with incredible verticality. Cover is ubiquitous, and those who master climbing and jumping across the broken terrain have a decided advantage.
The Llanport Fair Folk
While enchantment is a tightly regulated school of magic, Llanport Academy excels in both theory and practice of enchantment spells. Between forcing additional rules on the pitch (or solely upon the enemy team), animating fields, charming summons and local beasts, or even outright Suggestion spells on their opponents (or refs), the Fair Folk have a bottomless bag of dirty tricks.
Yntirimon Abulir, a 500-year-old elf who's failed the final year exams every year for over a century. Everyone's sure that this is just so he can finally get a chance to win a championship, yet the only times the Fair Folk have taken home a title are the years in which he's been suspended, injured, or imprisoned in a pocket dimension. Still, everyone loves an underdog.
Llanport has a well-regarded lawmage school, and apprentices pursuing a prelaw program often use that expertise to extend or alter the Fireball rules in the course of play. One such spell they use is Enforce. Refs tend to come down hard on abuses of such spells, but sometimes they're caught in the effects as well.
Range: 10', Target: 100' radius sphere, Duration: (sum) rounds
A pre-written law of (dice) or fewer sentences takes effect in the target area. Anyone consciously intending to violate the letter of the law must pass an INT save to do so. If they fail their save, decrease the duration of the spell by 1 round as the magic strains to control them.
A calming aura settles across the Llanport pitch, relaxing players and fans alike. In that atmosphere, everyone's more likely to make mistakes - that the Fair Folk are primed to capitalize on.
The Scarvard Krakens
On the pitch, the biomancers of Scarvard Medical Academy are nigh-indistinguishable from their creations. Mutated to the edge of what can legally be considered a player, the Scarvard Krakens are a fearsome sight across the pitch, as their formidable mental might fuels terrifying physical force. Their penchant for biology changes even their opponents, inflicting debilitating temporary (usually) mutations or baleful polymorphs to devolve the opposition into an ineffective mess of meat.
Adrian Sharktocrab, of the renowned Sharktocrab family of biomancers. He's also part bat, part crocodile, and part something he swears isn't chinchilla (but no one's sure what else it could be).
The Krakens often run very few mages who can actually cast Fireball, instead opting to play a heavily defensive game. All their players start with at least one positive mutation, and some have pushed their biology beyond the brink, taking on negative mutations for additional benefits. They tend to prepare spells like Polymorph, as well as effects that alter the environment to make it favorable for their unique modes of locomoion.
Midfield is a deep lake, surrounded by thick jungle on either side. The jungle usually burns down throughout the match as fireballs are redirected into trees, and the lake has mandated stone pillars for non-aquatic players to jump across.
The UPen Mechanists
The University of Penrith boasts one of the most popular artifice programs on the continent. Famed for their golemry, clockworking, and general commitment to doing ten times as much work to automate tasks as it would to do them manually, the Mechanists field a legion of constructs alongside their team. While they field wizards and sorcerers like any other team, artificers are the real heart of the Mechanists, able to repair and modify their constructs on the fly.
The Mechanists' constructs aren't allowed to catch, run, or project Fireballs, but they can cover any number of other roles, from covering players, to blocking Fireballs, to acting as mounts. They can't be much larger than a dog, and take manual commands, but act as an incredibly potent force multiplier. Each player carries a few constructs on them (exchange 1 prepared spell for 1 HD of construct), from tripwire-crabs the size of a hand, to unfolding shieldbots that work as mobile cover.
Cov Redscale, a kobold artificer with a chip on their shoulder. No one's ever seen them bring the same construct twice, and fans eagerly await their latest surprise innovations.
The Mechanists' field would be perfectly ordinary if not for its location in the middle of the campus industrial labs. It's affected by every magical and technical accident, from choking sentient smog, to rampaging golems, to sudden arcane earthquakes. Plans to relocate the stadium have been steadily stonewalled by fan protests, who enjoy the unpredictability far more than the players do.
The R'lyeh [REDACTED]
Ten years ago, a fortress-city of black stone and green slime arose from oceanic trenches off the coast. From it came a horde of unknowable beings, ever-shifting confluences of eyes and mouths and tentacles. From their chorus of throats burbled one demand: "PLAY BALL." After much deliberation, the NCAA let them field a Fireball team for an exhibition match, and popular demand did all the rest. Now a mainstay of the Occult League, the [REDACTED] never fail to impress with truly (and in several cases literally) mind-blowing performances. Their gameplay keeps their opponents guessing, the fans entertained, and the refs in a perpetual state of bewilderment.
Un'glepth'tolh, a mile-wide blob of flesh that suspends itself high above the stadium and projects a small humanoid mass of worms onto the pitch to play. It is the ultimate fireball-playing lifeform, knowing neither submission nor defeat. This hasn't stopped it from angrily storming up to the refs and demanding they scry the penalty again, then being ejected with extreme prejudice. [REDACTED] fans are famous for showing up in elaborate cosplay that might also be horrifying mind-controlling infectious tumors.
A universal constant that exists in all realities simultaneously. All possible games are played on this field simultaneously, and only the most entertaining remains. Big plays and improbable comebacks are laws of reality here.