About this project
ALL STRETCH GOALS UNLOCKED!
"Breezy fun. . . . [Deadball] captures the spirit and feel of the sport." —Baseball Prospectus
Deadball is a fast-paced baseball game for one or two players that uses real statistics and RPG dice to bring the ballpark to your tabletop. In fifteen or twenty minutes, simulate a full game between real or imaginary teams, using an elegantly simple system that's intuitive to die-hards and casual fans alike.
For the dead of winter, for the dead of night, for when your team is dead in the water, Deadball is there.
Why is Deadball Special?
Deadball is not as deep as Out of the Park or Strat-O-Matic. What it is is cheap, dynamic, fast, and fun.
Deadball is a product of the winter, the offseason, the void. I created it because, like all true baseball addicts, I was desperate for the return of the game—not just the sight of a center fielder chasing down a fly ball, or a portly slugger jogging towards home, but the comfort of filling out a scorecard, of reading a box score, of watching a team fall behind early and come back to win late.
My requirements were simple. I needed a game that could be played using real statistics—taken from Baseball Reference, box scores or baseball cards—and I needed it to play fast. I wanted a game to last about twenty minutes, and I wanted every at bat to be resolved with one or, at most, two dice rolls. Why? This little tyrant:
I needed a game that could be played while my one-year-old was swallowing spoonfuls of pureed peas. I wanted it to feel like baseball, to produce realistic game scores and stat lines, and I wanted it to have enough randomness that the team with the best players doesn’t always win—just like in real life.
After a few weeks of playing the game with my baby—and regaling him with play-by-play—I typed up the rules for a friend whose fiancée was undergoing lengthy surgery. I knew my friend would have a long, stressful afternoon waiting in the hospital, and I thought an hour or two rolling dice and imagining his favorite childhood team, the '96 Yankees, stomping all over the competition would help keep him distracted. I thought the rules turned out well, and after a few months of play testing and refinement, I decided to share them with you.
There are two things that make Deadball unique and delightful:
- Deadball uses real statistics that every fan knows and understands, like batting average and ERA, allowing it to be learned in minutes.
- Because the game is based directly on real statistics, you can play as any team you want.
Any. Team. You. Want.
Want to replay the 2000 World Series? Please do—maybe the Mets will win this time.
Want to see if the 2017 Dodgers could beat the Boys of Summer? Awesome. I’ll take Jackie Robinson—you can have Chase Utley.
Want to see how your fantasy team would play together in a real game? Just write down the lineup, and start rolling dice.
Want to make a team based on you and your friends, or your favorite movie, or Real Housewives of Atlanta? Deadball has detailed rules for creating random players, meaning that even when you don’t have stats, you can generate a lineup in five minutes or less.
This is the most important thing that sets Deadball apart from the competition. Strat and OOTP offer historical leagues and exhibition play, but every new edition costs $50 or more. In 60 clear, concise pages, Deadball lays out a system for any team, real or imaginary, past, present, or future, and the rulebook PDF costs less than 10% the latest edition of Strat.
Download a dice-rolling app and you can play Deadball wherever boredom strikes—on the subway, in the airport, in a hospital waiting room. Scribble down a lineup, and you'll be playing before you can say "ceremonial first pitch."
Don’t get me wrong—Strat-O-Matic is a wonderful game, and I logged around 200 hours in OOTP last year. But for when you want something more lightweight, Deadball is there.
How Does It Work?
Just like real baseball, Deadball starts with your lineup: nine players, or ten if you use the heathen DH. Round their batting averages to a two digit number, and you have the Batter Target—the foundation of the game.
From the rulebook:
The fundamental unit of a baseball game is an at bat, and Deadball is just the same. For each at bat, you roll your d100 (that’s two 10 sided dice), to get the batter’s Swing Score. You want to roll lower than, or equal to, the Batter Target—the number based on his batting average that you wrote next to his name. If you do, he got a hit. If you roll one to ten points higher than the Batter Target, it’s a walk. This means that the higher the average, the more likely the player is to get on base. Pretty nifty, right?
When the batter rolls, the pitcher rolls too, adding his result to the batter's in hopes of turning a hit into an out. There are other modifiers, taking into account everything from handedness to hot streaks and slumps, and there are bonus traits that distinguish some players as free-swinging, slow-footed sluggers and others as base-stealing defensive wizards.
With a single die roll, you'll know whether or not you got on base. If you're out, the same roll tells you if it was a pop-up to left, a ground ball to short, or a 4-6-3 double play. To keep track of the game, Deadball uses classic baseball scorekeeping, allowing you to glance back over the action at game's end and remember every inning, every hit and every run. Don't know how to keep score? Deadball will teach you. Hate keeping score? Skip it, and use our nifty Deadball game sheet to play:
Every baseball nut loves the game in a different way. Some live for power and contact. Others prefer great pitching or slick defense, and think there’s nothing in the world more beautiful than a 1-0 shutout. Some love the game because it connects them to 1986, or 1975, or 1955 or 1928. Some love watching their fantasy team clobber their friends, and some people like to go to the ballpark, get drunk and yell. Deadball offers something for all—though for now, it's BYOB.
In a game like this, the character of the players emerges not from their statistics, but from what they do on the field. If you write down a player’s name and watch him go 0-4, stranding five and hitting into two double plays, you will hate him. You’ll want him out of the lineup, out of the city, out of the game. But if he goes 3-4 with a walk off home run, you will love him forever, even though he’s just a name and a few simple numbers scratched out on a piece of paper. No amount of statistical complexity can replace the action that happens in your head, and that’s why I’ve kept Deadball simple.
Praise for Deadball
“[Deadball] captures the spirit and feel of the sport. . . . A compelling baseball substitute during the long winter months, the lonely evenings, or any time in between. . . .Possesses the right aesthetics to make it familiar, enough complexity to make it real, and plenty of room to invent our own successes and failures.” —Bryan Grosnick, Baseball Prospectus
"This is a sexy game." —Robert Silverman
"Great game! I like the realistic output of the game and its simplicity. The rules are really, really well-written." —Sam Smith, creator of Untitled.
“I have been looking for a game like this for a long time.” —Backer Garret M.
“The 5 tool system works amazingly well. I think it is fantastically nuanced and yet user-friendly.” —Backer Corey L.
“These are the kinds of projects that I love supporting on Kickstarter. I got rid of all my sports games because I just didn't like that it took two-plus hours for me to play one game of football. The simplicity and fast play time sold me on this.” —Backer Kevin S.
"This s**t is f**king brilliant." —Lifelong Mets fan Michael S.
What Do I Get?
Everyone who pledges $5 or more gets the rulebook PDF, along with all the digital supplementary materials, which include:
- A one sheet summary of the game’s rules
- Blank scorecards for one and two player games
- The game sheet, which includes space for lineups, a diamond to play on, and all the tables you need to get started
- Ready-to-play games featuring Old Hoss Radbourn and other stars of the game's early era, Roman emperors, classic fictional detectives, and—with all due thanks to Monty Python—great German philosophers v. the Greeks
- A table of randomly generated players organized by position, allowing you to roll up an entirely new team in under five minutes
The game does not come with dice, but you can buy them here. Don't like those? Any set of polyhedral, or RPG, dice will contain everything you need.
Everyone who pledges $13 or more gets the PDF and all the stretch goals. Pledge $18, and you get all that plus a code to buy a copy of the print book from DriveThruRPG at cost—currently estimated to be around $2.50, plus shipping and handling.
Pledge $30, and get your name in the rulebook. Either claim a spot on the random player table, which comes with all versions of the rules, or the 25 man rosters of the Southern Circuit—the fictional league that everyone who pledged for stretch goals will get.
Pledge $40, and you can be one of the eighteen players featured in the tutorial game, with stats custom-generated using the RPG-style character creation system detailed below. Pledge quick, and choose your position. (Sold out!)
Pledge $60 for naming rights to one of the teams in the Southern Circuit. Who will compete against the Tallahassee Wrens and the Nashville Sparrows? Any team you choose! The only restrictions are that it has to be a southern city that doesn't have a real-life MLB franchise, and the mascot has to be a bird. Not only do you get to choose the name, you can also define its personality. Is your team all sluggers? Are they built around a great bullpen and good outfield D? Are they just plain bad? You decide—you're the owner!
Just So You Know: The rewards column on the right side is a bit of a muddle right now, due to some issues on our end. Please do not back the $1, $5 and $13 rewards that have limited quantities. Those are being phased out and replaced with better-worded descriptions. Thanks!
At $750 (UNLOCKED!): I’ll release an alternate player generation ruleset inspired by RPG character creation, which creates teams of unique players by putting points into each of the five tools. I’ll also include an alternate gameplay mechanic using those RPG-style players, which pits specific pitcher traits (such as command or stuff) against specific hitter traits (such as power or eye) to give the game an added layer of complexity and depth.
At $1000 (UNLOCKED!): I’ll release rules for league generation and league play, allowing you to run an entire season using players of your choice.
At $1500 (UNLOCKED!): I’ll release a four team league, the Southern Circuit, a fully-playable league with complete 25 man rosters and a full schedule.
At $2000 (UNLOCKED!): I’ll release the rules for Bored Boy Baseball, a predecessor to Deadball which uses playing cards and plays even faster.
At $2500 (UNLOCKED!): Expansion comes to the Southern Circuit, increasing the league from four teams to eight.
At $3000 (UNLOCKED!): I’ll release Deadball 1909, which optimizes the game’s tables and character creation for the actual Dead Ball Era of the early 1900s, a time when home runs were rare, pitchers were demigods, and small ball reigned supreme.
Risks and challenges
The risks are few. The game is finished and playable right now, and you will get access to the digital beta as soon as you pledge. You can start playing as soon as you find your dice.
All of the art has been sourced from the public domain and is already in the book. Right now I'm putting the finishing touches on layout, which means that barring a meteor strike, the finished PDF should be available for release as soon as the campaign wraps.
As a journalist, I respect deadlines like they are the word of the baseball gods themselves, and as a father of a young baby, I assume everything will take five times longer than it should. As such, I’ve gotten very good at planning ahead. The game is already done. Pledge, and make it yours.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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