Quidditch isn't just a cool literary concept created by J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter novels. It's a co-ed team sport played on hundreds of college campuses around the world. There's even a World Cup tournament sponsored by the International Quidditch Association(IQA). But Quidditch is a great game for an off-to-college or 18th birthday party too.
There's some variation in muggle versions of the game, of course. Surmounting the inability to fly takes some flexibility, after all. So, here's the lowdown on Quidditch rules, snitch and all, under IQA guidelines, followed by some variations, so you can mix and match.
Players: Each co-ed team consists of seven players. They include three chasers, who try to score by shooting the quaffle (a ball) through one of three goal hoops to earn 10 points. Two beaters try to knock out players, dodgeball-style, with bludgers (more balls). A keeper, armed with a short bat, protects the goal hoops. And a seeker - Harry's role - tries to grab the snitch. In addition to the 14 players on the field, one non-allied player plays the role of the snitch, wearing a flag in his waistband that must be snatched, flag football-style, to end the game and win extra points. In the Harry Potter novels, it's a 150-point grab. In the IQA, it's a mere 30 points.
Field of Play: The Quidditch pitch is an oval field, with three hoops at each end. These hoops are mounted vertically on poles at different heights - you can improvise with hula hoops, PVC pipe and duct tape.
Equipment: Every player, except the snitch, runs with a broom between his or her legs. Alivan's supplies official brooms to the IQA for $32-$79, depending on the model. Generic brooms are fine too. Use dodge balls or playground balls for the bright red quaffle and two smaller black or blue balls per team for the bludgers.
More Nitty Gritty: Players can only handle their assigned balls - so beaters, for example, cannot score goals, and chasers cannot whack other players with bludgers. Players who are hit by a bludger go back to their own goal posts and start again. If they were holding a quaffle at the time of impact, the ball is dropped on the spot. The keeper cannot be knocked out by a bludger, unless he has left the safety of the goal zone - which would be a bad idea, in any case. Beaters, chasers and keepers must stay within the game field's oval boundaries. The snitch and seekers can go anywhere they want, although it may be a good idea to map out boundaries of some sort ahead of time so the snitch doesn't, you know, leave town altogether.
Variations: Some players use a Frisbee for the quaffle, or give the keeper a tennis or racquetball racket instead of a bat. Another variation is to "freeze" players with a bludger hit, instead of sending them across the field. Instead of a human snitch, a small yellow superball can be tossed through the game from time to time by the referee. And the game field, of course, can be rectangular, instead of oval.