So, it occurred to me that in my comments on sports here I missed one very large elephant in the room that makes competitive sports… difficult.

Namely, the number of species, and then the number of clades of those species, and that’s before we start getting into individual-level modifications, which leads to truly astonishing levels of ability divergence in various areas, many of them qualifying as “special abilities”.

To some degree, as we do, you can try and level that with rules, but that’s limited in the first place unless you go for a blanket “only baselines, or at least only alphas, of one single species, can play” – which very much limits the number of players and amount of interest you’ll get – you’re dealing with an entire culture of people whose natural inclination is to exploit the hell out of loopholes in anything that seems “unfairly restrictive”.

And it’s not as if this “ain’t no rule” attitude wasn’t giving referees plenty of headaches long before there were any other species around. “Yes, the rulebook says that the ball must be in a player’s possession when it enters the scoring zone, but there Ain’t No Rule that says another player can’t PK-throw the possessing player into said zone, right?”

(Minor plot point from the Contact Novel That Shall Never Be Written: the first football team to come up with the notion of hiring a kaeth fullback. After the ensuing (mostly metaphorical) carnage, it didn’t take the NFL long to come up with the “must weigh under 400 lbs.” rule.)

As such, those attempts at competitive sports leagues which do exist tend to have rulebooks the approximate size of the unabridged Encylopaedia Britannica, and add about a chapter to their length every game as people find new, obscure abilities or new, not-yet-forbidden synergies of abilities to exploit.

Or they go the free-for-all route, but that’s less “competitive sport” and more “exhibition grand meleé, specializing in deviousness”.


13 thoughts on “Sportsball

  1. I imagine the most (though still not very) feasible solution is, rather than try and outright forbid various combinations of abilities, is to bucket competitors in something akin to wrestling weight classes: you don’t put a 53-kilo female wrestler against a 110-kilo male wrestler, and you don’t put a thirty-tentacled psychokinetic cephalopod against a (relatively) mundane humanoid without any compensatory traits — of course, intelligence, stubbornness, and a frightening competitive streak can certainly compensate in some sports…

    • Seconding this.

      And further adding that even in the absence of a formal, restrictive bracket, the eldraeic obsession with absolute ability mentioned in the previous post might mean that the competitors would find it nothing short of insulting to be matched up with someone who couldn’t provide them with a proper challenge.

    • It’s been tried.

      Trying this, and noting that you have rather than one factor (weight), n factors of differential ability with n-to-the-nth possible combinations, is one of those things that leads to having rulebooks running up to volume CCCLXVII. Well, that, and the endless arguments about how to weight, say, winged flight versus PK body-flying, and so on, and so on, and so on.

      It’s the overhead that kills you.

  2. I’m reminded of a Battletech story where a planet with no garrison but an Inner Sphere-renowned football team tried to defend themselves in a football game against Clan Elementals.

  3. It’d probably end up being more like eSports here. Everyone is playing with the same sleeve or droid (think those football robots in the cutscenes during US-football) or the allowed bodies are tightly limited like a DnD character generator and the game is how well you can play within those confines.

    • Apart from making it kind of boring (especially with the first option), given that performance is now predictable and has little to do with one’s personal qualities – if you pick any particular species and clade to base the standard body on, you can be guaranteed that athletes of every other species and clade, especially the ones with radically different body plans, etc., will deliver a fairly justified snort of “Yeah, no, that’s racist.”

  4. Hmmm…

    An emphasis on technical skill over raw power, combined with an ever-escalating race between clever innovators exploiting arcane loopholes and an increasingly elephantine rulebook that grows thicker by the season as they try to close them off…

    Sounds like the eldrae would be right at home in NASCAR 😉

    • Although it’d probably wind up as torch ship racing, with planetary gravity wells for those high speed banked turns. Races would take place in multi-moon gas giant systems. Vessels must be ‘stock’.

      Then there’s the possible flipside, Formula One Candle Racing. You have 3 (or 4) engines to last the whole season. Various rules for your ship. Engine size limited.

  5. Another thought that just struck me:

    Or they go the free-for-all route, but that’s less “competitive sport” and more “exhibition grand meleé, specializing in deviousness”.

    …So, basically, Blood Bowl?

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