The ancients recognized fire to be one of the four basic building blocks of the cosmos. The name of the genius who first learned that it could be rolled up into a sphere is lost to us now, but villains everywhere who rely on the venerable fireball to be tossed into a melee owe a debt to that individual for all time. Fireballs range from tiny missiles the size of a ping pong ball to huge infernos that take two arms to hurl, from nearly colorless incandescences to orange gouts of flame to spheres crawling with corona discharges, and from noisy and harmless poppers to multi-kiloton bruisers, depending on the skill and background of the caster. There are a few nearly universal principles that apply to all of these, however, along with a certain athletic regimen that will benefit nearly all armed with these versatile spheres of mayhem.
- The spell. It all starts out with the concocting of the ball of fire, whether through magic or through technology, with a number of recipes all vying for the title of most popular. The chief qualities most casters desire are speed of fabrication, reliability in final dimensions, durability under battle conditions, and economy in raw materials. Attempts to prepare fireballs in advance and thaw them out at the time of use have generally been disappointing due to the energetic nature of the substances in play. It is not always the largest fireball that has the greatest effect, for sometimes the smaller, more nimble projectile is the one that can find the tender spot in your target.
- The pitch. Unlike the pool cue precision of the lightning stroke or the broad area coverage of a battle curse, one who wields a fireball skilfully has a considerable opportunity to cause the missile to fallow an unexpected path the same way a baseball pitcher or a cricket bowler can. The insubstantial material composing the fireball is subject to air resistance depending on its surface properties and the amount of spin it has been given, and it can be propelled with speeds greatly exceeding those of massive charges of the same size, while still packing a considerable punch. Alternatively, it can be lobbed like a hand grenade to clear obstacles between yourself and the target.
- The fuse. Though the fireball can do damage by setting its target on fire (especially if hurled at something particularly volatile), more often the devastation it brings is its explosive charge we are all familiar with. Heavily armored targets need to be in the very immediate blast region to take significant damage in most cases, so fusing is key. The burst can be triggered by proximity, time delay, telepathic command, or sense of irony.
- Add-ins. Many villains like to spike their fireballs with additional nasty surprises such as a magical numbing field, a caustic payload that splashes all targets around the point of impact, or antipersonnel shrapnel. If the opponent can be taken by surprise these can make the crucial difference in the tide of battle, making the additional complications they inevitably introduce possibly worth the trouble. They can also rejuvenate the career of a fireballer who has passed his or her peak in effectiveness.
- Collateral damage. Some opponents will suffer debilitating losses of morale immediately upon being assailed with the fearsome enchanted fireball. Others will burst into flame and then run amok among their own ranks, spreading chaos and destruction to your benefit. The jackpot is the strike which causes your enemy’s own ammunition stores to go up in an uncontrolled orgy of detonations sending the opposing troop into rout.
Strokes of genius
- Full-body conditioning. Many fireball hurlers concentrate on their upper body during training, not recognizing that the upper ranges of velocity is largely imparted by rotation of the trunk along with a powerful leg stride and that neglecting this part of one’s conditioning can lead to injury. A well thought-out exercise regimen is important to develop consistency in the throwing motion and to explore the variety of deliveries which may prove to be useful. Also, a sensible diet and a series of pre-melee stretches will lead to a productive career in the long run.
- Automatic mode. The old manual method of dispatching fireballs singly has in recent times been supplemented with techniques relying on a rapid spray of pyrotechnics which rely less upon precise targeting and more on overwhelming the opponent with a dazzling bombardment. A mechanism of some degree of precision is responsible for casting the fireballs and propelling them with little or no effort on the user’s part. The disadvantage is the way a fully automatic system gobbles up one’s resources with alarming speed, the risk being that the target may find shelter during the onslaught and emerge to face one at a time when one’s stores are depleted.
- Firebowling. This technique is especially useful when the target sits low to the ground with a vulnerable undercarriage or the like and consists of a bocce ball approach to reaching the destination. Special armament which will withstand bouncing off of a hard floor a few times without going off prematurely are needed along with a reasonably smooth style of footwork along level ground.
Traps for mere fools
- St. Elmo’s fireballs. They look like the real thing, but are all just a sham.
- Headwinds. When casting in close quarters out of doors, blowback is always a consideration, particularly if the fireball is compounded with noxious components. A delivery that travels lower to the ground is sometimes better equipped to punch through swirling air currents at head level or above.
- Damp ammunition.
- Open containers of boiling oil.
- Loose or slippery footwear.
Precious and needful
- Lighter fluid.
- Ice cream scoop.
- Major league magic wand.
- Rosin bag.
- Strike-anywhere matches.
- Ear and eye protection.
- How to avoid a gruesome demise
- How to break up with someone
- How to deal with heroes and superheroes
- How to deal with invading aliens
- How to defend against magic swords and other weapons
- How to flee your pursuers
- How to plan a mass grave
- How to move an immovable object
- How to issue an ultimatum
- How to run a police state
- How to oppress the meek
- How to betray your master
- How to walk away from an explosion
- How to lead barbarians to their doom
- How to get rid of giant eagles
- How to release a kraken
- How to haunt an evil forest
- How to rule men's minds through sex
- How to look frighteningly deranged
- How to roll with a gang of energy beings
- How to be enrobed in flames
- Image credit Energy Ball by ~Brenda-Starr~
- Image credit Flower of flames by SiamEye
- Image credit Burn that sign! by Pulpolux !!!