A short History of Dungeon Bowl.
Fantasy Football is a game that takes many forms. There are professional leagues where well-equipped, highly-trained Elf Princes and Chaos Warriors perform for huge crowds of adoring fans, and there are back alleys and mouldy dungeons where snivelling hobgoblins and wayward vagabonds fight to the death for the promise of a copper coin. Perhaps the oddest form of the game is Dungeon Bowl which resembles the original game very little indeed.
Dungeon Bowl as a sport has its origins in the coldest and most forbidding parts of the Old World where players were forced underground to escape the weather. Teams that winter in semi-arctic or mountainous regions were frequently forced to hold their training activities in caves and catacombs. In 2356 after seismic activity near the training caves at Axe Ford, a small town near Barak Varr, a cavern was created that was big enough to hold a regular game of football. A vast underground stadium was constructed and local businesses invested heavily. The facility was a great success over those first few long hard winters. Soon the Axe Ford Open Underground League was formed to entertain the large population of couped-up blood-thirsty locals. Huge sums of gold were invested to bring in top teams from around the Old World to play. The stadium and its small local league became one of the most lucrative to be found anywhere between Lustria to the Chaos Wastes.
Unfortunately in 2378, during prematch warmups for the season’s opening game against the Snivelling Sappers, the entire Iron Hammers team was killed in a massive cave-in, which separated both halves of the pitch permanently. With no other field to play on, NAF officials were forced to improvise. Wizards were brought in to setup a portal to let players move from one side of the pitch to the other. Although this allowed the following game to go ahead (obviously without the Iron Hammers), it did result in the death of seven players from the Rotting Rockets, as the opposition setup around the portal to ambush each Rocket as they teleported across into their waiting arms. To improve the viewing angles for the fans (and protect the remaining teams) additional portals were set up and moved around the pitch to different locations each game. These became known as teleporters and the standard number for their use was set at six per field. This allowed teams to escape some of the ambushes and the game carried on. Many players were permanently lost in those early days of teleportation, but the NAF covered over this, instead attributing them to a hungry beast in the caves. The cover up allowed technicians enough time to develop the ability to recover lost players, fortunately before players ever learned of the true risk those early players were under.
The fans found that the separating of the teams into different cave sections led to a less confrontational game with not enough action. If a team did not have the ball its players would generally wait together by the endzone for the opposition to arrive. When the semifinal between the Haughty Hawks and Da Grinderz went on for two days in this manner, league officials stepped in to change things in a way that would forever alter the game. For the following grand final match league Commissioner Ancor Goldmane instituted a series of changes designed to keep the crowd entertained, (which was obviously a variety of ways to increase the bloodshed). The first major change was to rig the various caves and passages with a wide variety of traps and pits. Most of these were cunningly concealed within the caverns, they achieved their aim and were a huge hit with the fans. Ancor’s second contribution to that fateful grand final was a series of chests packed with gunpowder and set to blow apart at the lightest touch. The entire Grinderz front line was painted with troll blood after Ulgh Noserot became curious about the first chest they encountered. The roars of delight from the crowd nearly brought the roof down again. The Hawks star thrower Larkon Widefeather lost both arms when opening a chest hoping to find a cache of weapons. Again this development was a huge hit with the predominantly dwarven crowd. The Grinderz continued to lose their dimmest and most forgetful players through the first quarter of the game, but by half time it became clear that no player remained who was stupid enough to open one of the trapped chests. At half time five rigged chests remained intact and the crowd were not pleased about it. Commissioner Goldmane solved the problem by placing the ball in an empty chest and hiding it in the dungeon with the others while both teams were in the locker room at halftime. In a hunt for the ball in the second half, five more chests were opened before the ball was located, and the explosives proved to be an overwhelming success.
After the great delight shown by the crowd, the tournament was run again the second year in the same format as the second half of that infamous grand final. After a few years demand for tickets well outstripped the seating space for spectators within the caverns. A deal was struck with Cabal Vision to broadcast the game to crystal balls and frontal lobes around the Old World. Eventually Dungeon Bowl fans were no longer satisfied by seeing a player leave the game with a gouged eye or a broken ankle. The best healers, wizards and necromancers were brought to Barak Varr each winter to protect, heal and regenerate players from the minor wounds that would keep a normal player off the field. Players were fixed up and put back into the game on the next drive or in the next game. To this day Dungeon Bowl players suffer dramatically fewer career ending injuries than normal players (unless you include death by explosion). This is due to the huge amount of effort that goes into monitoring each player’s health during each game and teleporting the player out of the dungeon to receive medical ministrations as soon as they are injured. This serves two main purposes, it keeps players relatively ship-shape so the league doesn’t run out of players in the otherwise extremely brutal sport, and it keeps the crowd happy. The most common inspirational chant at a dungeon bowl match is “In A Box, In A Box”, which is the crowd’s friendly way of reminding the players that they won’t be able to hobble-off the field with a faked hamstring, there are only two ways out of the dungeon, victorious, or in a box.
Today Dungeon Bowl is more popular than it has ever been, and it has come a long way from those first seasons of AFOUL in a slimy cavern. Games these days are played in purpose built dungeons, chiselled directly out of stone, or built from carved stone blocks. However the wide variety of dungeon layouts, the high explosives, hard stones the hidden traps and other perils all combine to create a game that keeps players on their toes and fans on the edge of their seats.