by Jerry Hovenanian
Author's Note: Last April, Sharon Dornhoff posted a funny send-up of teams for hardball on the Mystara Message Board. This made me think about how the game was played, the rules, and its history. In a ongoing effort to add more color to Mystara (if that is humanly possible), I give you Hardball.
Hardball is played on a short grass field like most sports. The field is 150 feet wide by 300 feet long and it is separated into 50 squares of 30 feet by 30 feet with a 10 foot long goal zone at either end .
The goal of hardball is to put a small, bright orange, rubber ball - about the size of a grapefruit - into the goal of the other team. The ball may not be carried over the line of the 50 squares; it must be passed over from one player to another. The field judge makes sure that it is passed over, and not handed over. If a team illegally crosses a square, the other team gets possession of the ball at that spot. Any method may be used to gain control of the ball, save magic. These include tackling, wrestling, tripping, and in some cases, picking up your opponent and shaking him till he drops it.
The game is played in two periods of 45 minutes each, separated by a 20 minute half-time break. Once the clock starts, it keeps going unless there is an injury on the field. If magic is used by a team, before or during a game, that team forfeits the game and will have to pay a stiff fine to the league.
Each team has twelve players. The normal line-up consists of four forwards, two strikers, three blockers, two safeties, and one goal-tender. The forward's main job is to pass the ball around. Forwards usually have a good dexterity, and are fast. The striker's job is mainly to put the ball in the opponent's net. Not to say that anyone else can't shoot the ball into the net, but the striker spends most of his training time on that task and on building up his strength. Blockers have a simple job: when someone from their team is running with the ball, crush anyone in the way; when the opponent has the ball, "take out" their blockers. The safety's job is to use his natural speed and strength to defend against the other team's advance, and to make a "safe zone" for his own team, should their advance stall. The goal-tender is the last person standing between the goal and the opponent. "Goalies" wear a leather chest pad and leather helmet.
Each team has its own style of play, depending upon the team and the coach, but most races play along certain lines. Elves play a fast-paced game using no blockers. The Hin play a very sneaky game by trying to hide the ball. Dwarves play what is called "smashmouth" hardball. (Don't let the name fool you - the mouth is not the only thing they are willing to smash.) Gnomes play a very determined game because no one considers them serious hardball players, and hence they are always having to prove themselves. You never know what style of game humanoids will play, from a sneaky Goblin front-line or a band of Ogres bent on smashing through to the goal.
History of the Game
No one knows for certain when hardball began in Alphatia. Some say the game was started among the peasants shortly after Landfall. The first recorded hardball game, however, was in AY 680 (BC 320) in the city of Draco, Kingdom of Stonewall. The game played back then barely resembles the modern game. Rules varied from city to city. The game was played on a smaller field. It was much more dangerous; in some cases weapons were permitted on the field of play. In fact, the game was so dangerous that many kingdoms outlawed it altogether.
Over the years, many people attempted to organize play, make the game safer, and unify the rules with little success. Finally, in AY 1014, a merchant named Alcar Sareth started a league with 4 teams, and the Southern Alphatian Hardball League was born. This league, with its codified rules, eventually grew to become the Imperial Hardball League. In the years since its inception, the IHL has grown to over 35 teams and has split into 2 divisions. Before the Wrath of the Immortals war, the two divisions were the Continental Players' Division and the Colonial Hardball Association. After the war, the Colonial Hard-Ball Association became the New Alphatian Hardball League and the Continental Players' Division became the Continental Players' League. The only teams to change leagues because of the war were the Skyreach Lightning and the Seashield Hurricanes; they joined the New Alphatian Hardball League.
Today the game is much friendlier than in its early years. There has not been a death on the field in over 130 years. Many women's leagues have been founded at various times. Unfortunately, many were nothing more than a way to exploit women. Today, the main leagues are mixed-sex. In fact, many of the best goalies in the league today are women. Anyone who can play well is allowed to play. Hardball is not only the Imperial sport of Alphatia, it is the Imperial pride of Alphatia.
The Continental Players' League
Starpoint Magic Missiles (they were known as the Comets when the team played on the outer world)
New Alphatian Hardball League
East Portage Harbor Masters
Note: - When the Alatian Islands were a Part of the empire, their teams were:
Cross Roads Bandits
Rainbow Park Titans
This article copyright 1999, Jerry Hovenanian. All rights reserved. Used by permission.