Dice Exploder
Dice Exploder
Blaseball with Chris Greenbriar

Blaseball with Chris Greenbriar

In the year of our lord two thousand and twenty, many things occurred. But one of those things was the cultural event known as Blaseball.

Blaseball was, more or less, a simulated baseball league that ran one game an hour, one season a week, that players could bet on and then use their winnings to vote for global rules changes. It got... weirder from there. And bigger. And memeier. It became nothing less than a lifestyle.

And then, this past summer of 2023, it ended.

What made it such a phenomenon? What made its fans so passionate? Was Blaseball even a game? And what will we do with ourselves now that it’s gone?

This week I’m joined by Chris Greenbriar, former moderator of the team discord for the Core Mechanics (that’s one of the teams from Blaseball) to reminisce and celebrate Blaseball’s legacy and everything that made it beautiful.

Further reading:

Blaseball’s website

The Blaseball fan wiki

Before: an archived, rewatchable version of Blaseball

Onomancer: a Blaseball name-generator adjacent thing

The Seattle Garages bandcamp and the Fourth Strike Records website

The Great Soul Train Robbery in both original two page and zine length

The Saga of Salmon Steve

Empires of EVE: the EVE Online history book series

17776, which we didn’t mention but which you should give a glance


Join the Dice Exploder Discord if you need to talk with Chris directly.

Sam on Bluesky, Twitter, dice.camp, and itch.

Our logo was designed by sporgory, and our theme song is Sunset Bridge by Purely Grey.


Sam: Hello and welcome to another episode of Dice Exploder. Each week we take a tabletop RPG mechanic and knock it clean out of the park. My name is Sam Dunnewold and the Dice Exploder Season 3 Kickstarter is running right now. Run, don't walk to your phones, pick it up, click that link in the show notes and back Season 3 on Kickstarter.

We've got Alex Roberts of Star Crossed, James Wallace of the Ludonarrative Dissidents Podcast, and John Harper as a stretch goal on this thing, designer of Blades in the Dark. And an exclusive backers only episode featuring Mikey Hamm, designer of the award winning Slugblaster talking about exploding dice. But today, I want to take you back to a simpler time: the year of our lord, 2020. In this year, many things occurred. But one of those things was the cultural event known as Blaseball.

Right now, you are either screeching in joy or pretty sure I just mispronounced America's national pastime. But no, dear listener, I did not. Blaseball was more or less a simulated baseball league that ran one game an hour, one season a week that players could interact with via betting and voting on rules changes.

It got weirder from there.

As of recording this intro, the Blaseball fan wiki has 5, 155 articles that contain 6,970 images, most of them fan art. It's 1am in the states as I record this, and the Blaseball server has well over 5, 000 people online, even after Blaseball itself was declared finished and over by its developers over a month ago.

I personally didn't manage to keep up with the splort after those first few months in 2020, but god, I had such a blast while I did. In a time of so much despair, it was something joyous to gather around.

When I heard that Blaseball had ended, I wasn't surprised, but I was a little heartbroken. I thought, what's the right way for me to memorialize this thing that may or may not have been a game? Oh, right I have a whole podcast about that shit. I went on the Dice Exploder discord, asked for who knew anything about Blaseball, and got a big response from Chris Greenbrier.

Former moderator of the team discord for the Core Mechanics, that's one of the teams from Blaseball, he's less of a designer and more just a big fan. And today, he's a fan of Blaseball.

It's all Blaseball, all the time. How did it work? What made it so beautiful? And now that it's gone, what will we do with ourselves? I don't know. But. Here is Chris with Blaseball.

Chris, thanks for joining me.

Chris: Yeah, happy to be here.

Sam: So today we are talking about R I P Blaseball. Um, I don't know where, where are we even starting with this thing? So I'm gonna just kind of give an overview of my recollection of Blaseball. So Blaseball was a website slash procedurally generated sports league that you would go to in July of 2020 and onwards.

There were procedurally generated sports games that you could bet on with fake money, and then you would take the fake winnings that you received and you would spend them at the end of every season. Seasons were like a week long. You would spend your fake money to vote on rules, changes for the league, and upgrades for your team.

And fundamentally, at a mechanics level that was essentially the entirety of Blaseball, but built on top of it were these very, so many memes. So many memes. There were great names of teams each derived from an emoji, which made it very digital and easy to talk about. There was just great graphic design all over the website. There were strange items you could buy. Like I remember a fair weather flute being important and peanuts being essential. And eventually there were things like boss battles and giant fan wikis and hundreds of thousands of words of fic that you could write and art everywhere.

Chris: If you think squirrels and peanuts are crazy, you got, you got some stuff coming. Ask me about the depth chart.

Sam: Gosh so before we get into the depth chart, is there anything else about the core of Blaseball that I am forgetting?

Chris: No, I think, I think you got it. It's it's simulated baseball. I think the biggest piece of game design is all of the ways that the game itself was designed to be fucked with.

Sam: Mm. Yeah. Okay. Tell me about some of those.

Chris: So the one you'll remember is Necromancy.

Sam: Uhhuh.

Chris: They released the idol board, which was, I forget how it used to work.

Sam: I vaguely remember this. Anyone could name a single player who was their idol that they got bonus money for following. I want to say.

Chris: And there, there were important things.

You could still idol incinerated players who were dead, not playing any games. And the fans worked out that there was a blessing on week I wanna say six that the player in the 14th slot in the idol board would be moved onto whichever team won the blessing. And the fans obviously moved an incinerated player, specifically Jalen Hotdog Fingers,

pause for laugh,

Sam: yes. I remember the hot dog fingers man. Yeah.

Chris: I believe she is most commonly accepted to have she her pronouns. But we'll talk about that too. That's one of those things that caused controversy, not in this case, but in a lot of cases.

And uh, they moved Jalen Hotdog Fingers, who was the first player to ever get incinerated, into the 14th slot. And therefore moved her out of death and back into active play. This is a hundred percent fully intentional on the part of the devs, but they had to work very hard to pretend it wasn't. Because I think a large part of interacting with Blaseball is feeling like you're getting away with something.

Sam: Yeah. Yeah. It was, designed to be broken in a lot of ways.

Chris: And also kind of breaking down all the time.

Sam: Yeah. Yeah. Literally was breaking down. Okay. Before we get too deep into any one of these particular things and stories, 'cause really like the way I think we're gonna talk about the mechanics of this thing today is by just telling a lot of stories.

Because Blaseball has died. There will be no more. It was not monetarily sustainable in the long run for the devs. And really, I want to have just a memorial episode here, but I think a lot of examples of things that happened in Blaseball are interesting design stories to be learned from.

But I think we need a little bit more context about the beginning of Blaseball and what it was coming out of, because it's July of 2020. We're four months into lockdown. Everyone is horribly depressed from that. We're a month and a half out from George Floyd's murder. I'm essentially scrolling Twitter 12 hours a day feeling bad about the world and spending two hours a day designing my first game.

And Blaseball appears on the scene as this release for everyone that I know. It is absolute nonsense. It is purely weird and joyful, and it is something to talk about while you are working from home and trying to procrastinate. And a way to connect with other people in this time when connection was so important.

And I think that that's a big part of what allowed it to blow up in the first place. Like the, whole thing was just so silly. The, the team names, I love the design of these team names.

Chris: The Kansas City Breath Mints.

Sam: Mm-hmm.

Chris: The

Sam: The Canada moist Talkers, Ugh. Yeah.

Chris: Jinx. My personal favorites are the ones that they added after the, after you left, which are the Core Mechanics. My team, my, my guys, my BBOs. The Atlantis Georgia's

Sam: I remember I, yes. I loved the Atlantis Georgias.

Chris: It's. The Ohio Worms whose, chant was O Worm. And God, oh, they're gonna crucify me. I don't remember the fourth one.

Sam: I

Chris: It was the Crabs again, the Baltimore Crabs.

Sam: The Baltimore Crabs came back. Originally I remember Crabs were there during my time. Like I. I, I mean, you gotta appreciate some of the original ones too, like the Charleston Shoe Thieves. Clearly what had happened was they'd picked a shoe emoji, said how can we make a pun out of a shoe eno emoji?

Then we're like, got to Charleston Chew plus shoe thieves. I, I don't, it's just so, it's not, it's barely a pun, but it feels like a sports team and like a pun

Chris: I did not realize that that was the pun.

Sam: Yes.

Chris: I didn't even see that.

Sam: Similarly, the Tokyo Lift coming off of the Tokyo Drift. And the Chicago Firefighters I always really loved 'cause I, I used to live in Chicago and of course, you know, the Great Chicago fire is a big, big story. The Seattle Garages too just we're doing the meme about Seattle being, grunge. They

Chris: And, and that's a real band. That's a real record label. We'll talk about this.

Sam: Wait, what? Okay, we're talking about it now. That's a real record label?

Chris: Okay. So the Seattle Garages, you can look them up on Spotify right now. I recommend you do it. They're just a collective of Blaseball fans, or they started

Sam: Oh my God. Yeah.

Chris: and they make really fucking good music. And then eventually they got big enough. Just from being part of Blaseball that they spun off into Fourth Strike Records,

Sam: Oh

Chris: which is now like, I'm not in that discord. I don't know what's going on with them, but they have released a bunch of non Blaseball music at this point. Like I, think that will be Blaseball's most enduring legacy.

Sam: Wow.

Chris: The one that everyone will have heard is Mike Townsend is a disappointment

Sam: Oh, yeah. This is pretty good

Chris: They were my most listened to

Sam: Oh my God.

Chris: band for the last like two years. 'cause (A) it's a shit ton of music and (B) it's just really good like rock.

Sam: Yeah.

That was in itself the amazing thing about Blaseball is that this small number of mechanics, the facsimile of a sports league inspired the rabid devotion of a sports league, but even more so like, it, it, it came with this fan fiction culture on top of it too, the other most rabid kind of fan I can think of on the internet. And it created just this absolute force.

Chris: Well, I, think a lot of that comes down to the way that it interacted with the fans.

Sam: Yes,

Chris: Especially your time, like especially in the discipline era, which is what it's called when Blaseball was being made by a team of like five people who were just always doing Blaseball.

Sam: Yes.

Chris: and everyone else was also Blaseball.

Sam: Yeah.

Yeah, there wasn't anything else to do. Yeah. Oh yeah, I think that that harnessing of your relationship with the fans in this way, they did such a good job, like you were saying earlier, of not being obvious about all the ways that they were interacting with their fans, but being present and providing the fans such great things to latch onto.

Chris: Oh

yeah. And more than that, there was shit like the two separate trials that happened on the fan Discord and our canon to Blaseball

Sam: oh my God. Tell me about, okay, so I, I want to transition us into the section of the podcast that is telling stories about Blaseball. Do we want to go chronologically with me starting, or do we wanna jump right into one

Chris: Sure. No, go, go I genuinely do want to hear what you have to say because I was not there when Blaseball was like season two. There must have been max 400 people like


Sam: Season one was very small, but season two was enormous. Season two is when it went viral and the devs got incredibly overwhelmed I think.

I remember I was, digging back onto my hometown friend group's Discord and the channel we were using to talk about baseball at the time. And there was a screenshot of one of the devs saying we thought we'd get about a thousand people and that'd be it. And boy were we surprised. And like, you know, a hundred laughing emojis. And this is. Season two, maybe early season three. It was enormous in those first couple of weeks I was involved.

And what I remember from the time is that it was a pretty minimalist experience. They hadn't really got into a lot of the playing with the fan base stuff yet. There was really simple rules for improving your team and for like how changes might work. There was still all this lore, right? There was this book of, it was like the book of Blaseball with all the rules, but you know, 50 percent redacted

Chris: which we all voted to open.

Sam: Yeah, but that kind of thing of like open the forbidden book, that was like a season four or five or six kind of thing, like seasons two and three. It was just, there's a bunch of censored stuff on the website and we don't know what's going on with that yet. Like, let's go back to betting on games.

It was Blaseball at its most minimalist, which, you know, is probably why I liked it the best. 'cause I, I love that minimalism time.

So the, the big stories I have from this are, I was a Hades Tigers fan. Go Tigers. And they were, they were very good at the time. I'd picked them randomly as a team, but it was sort of like I'd accidentally picked the Yankees to root for. But I was okay with that 'cause I liked winning. And my partner was really upset that the Hades Tigers did not have any deceased players playing for them. Which in retrospect was foreshadowing.

But I remember the moment when our best player, Landry Violence was incinerated at bat. And I was watching live at the time and it was shocking. It was devastating. And everyone else cheered 'cause no one else was cheering for the tigers. So everyone loved it. And I lost horribly.

And then a couple of weeks later too, there was a decree that was like, at the end of the season, the top 1% of money havers, like the people who have hoarded the most money,


Chris: decree is called Eat the rich, by the way. It doesn't go away.

Sam: I believe this was in the, the season sponsored by Friends At The Table. So there were a bunch of like communist things going on. There was a one decree that said like, all of your players will become maximum socialists. Like their socialism stat will get maxed out. Somewhere in here. Someone had hacked out of the code a list of all the stats that every player had, most of which were not public, and they were things like anti-capitalism, that was it, that you'd max out your anti-capitalism base-thirst, buoyancy, coldness,

Chris: The one I remember is Divinity because of a story I will tell later.

Sam: I'm looking at a screenshot here of Dominic Marijuana. Oh, another thing I wanted to, to mention about the player names. They were clearly procedurally generated, but they were also clearly trying to harken back to the meme of the old nineties baseball video game where a Japanese game designer had to make up a bunch of American sounding names and you ended up with stuff like Darrell Archidelb and Sleeve McDichael

Chris: that's the one I was trying to remember.

Sam: Yeah, sleeve McDichael. And that's what all of the boys' full names ended up sounding like. You know, like Swamuel Mora is still my screen name on that hometown kids discord.

But, okay. So they'd introduced this anti-capitalism decree, this Eat the rich decree, which said the top 1% of money havers were gonna have all their money taken away and redistributed amongst everyone else.

And I remember doing a ton of work to try to calculate where that line was gonna be so that I could be just underneath it. And I failed. I lost all of my money. And David Block, who's on this season, on another episode, he had like 500 monies less than me. You know, I had $11,000 and he had $10,500 and he did not have all of his money redistributed.

And I was livid. I think that's actually what got me out of following Blaseball is it was so disheartening to go back and try to build up a fortune again. Yeah, I was rich and I got eaten and, you know, absolutely fair play, but I, I kind of was out after that.

But the the biggest story that I remember that then became part of the lore, I think this was the first time I saw something go down and I was like, oh, this is going to be on a fan page Wiki somewhere with hundreds of thousands of words of lore around it. And I am no longer going to be keeping track of all this.

So the Shoe Thieves are playing the Tacos and it's inning 15, and it's tied. It's been tied this whole time, and the Shoe Thieves go up like three runs to 16, and then the bases get loaded and they hit a grand slam. So they're up 20 to 13.

And this game has been going on so long at this point that the season has been delayed. Like games started at the top of every hour, but this game had taken longer than an hour to go, which was not great for the league at all. So what happened immediately after this Grand Slam was hit was that the hour ticked over and the site broke because a game was still going on. And everyone panicked and when the game finally started loading again, the game had been rolled back to 16 to 13, like the Grand Slam that never happened.

So immediately everyone started writing all this time travel lore. This became like the un-slam, I wanna say it was called. And after the game finally finished with the Shoe Thieves taking it, a giant ominous peanut appeared on the website and started saying things like, "hello, did you taste the infinite?" and spinning very scarily.

And the, the response to this that I liked most was David Block again saying, turns out the thing that I needed in my sports was more boss battles. And that really felt like the start of the peak Blaseball nonsense.

Chris: That was the first peak. The second peak was much higher,

Sam: Yeah. Yeah. No shit.

But that, a lesson from that I felt like is the devs took what essentially was a mistake, an error in code, a broken part of their game, and turned it into an opportunity. They turned it into this big community moment and really underlined it as they had to take the website down to fix things by throwing up this weird peanut villain that they knew was coming down the pipe from what they had planned in the future.

And that also felt like sort of quintessential that felt like quintessential the way the devs interacted with the audience.

So tell me, yeah, what happened after that? Tell me some Blaseball stories.

Chris: Okay, so the peanut appears. A bunch of shenanigans happen at one point. There is a peanut fraud. 'Cause the peanut was very Catholic. The peanut said that we must atone by collectively eating a million peanuts, I want to say.

Sam: I remember that I helped eat some of those peanuts.

Chris: And then someone found a way to break that and it read is like negative a billion something or something like that.

And at that point the peanut declared that splortsmanship is dead and that is kind of what kicks off the discipline part of the discipline era, which is the peanut just being a big guy in the sky hurting all your favorite players and ruining your teams.

Eventually there is a massive boss battle against the peanut. Every player that they had shelled, which was a thing they were doing to players, not important, but that was, the shelled one's pods was the team.

And then they went up against the Crabs, and the Crabs got bodied instantly. And then the next season they went up against, I think the Shoe Thieves and the Shoe Thieves also got bodied.

Then the hall stars a team of all of the most, like all of the best incinerated players. Players who had been dead, all came down and had a giant anime boss fight with the peanut culminating in the sun going supernova and becoming a black hole.

Basically the upshot of this is that because the only weathers that were available at the time ate runs, the championships took like literally two and a half hours. I remember me and, and my like five college friends who were all decided to get at a voice call and watch the championships. 'Cause how long could it take?

Sam: All night, baby.

Chris: And then it, it went on for so long.

Sam: I think something that I'm noticing about this is the procedural generativeness of Blaseball is a big part of what made it so memeable because the randomness and the number of teams involved meant that there was always something happening sort of at the tail of the bell curve of likeliness. And that meant there was always something really weird going on that you could turn into a story or that you could latch onto.

Like in a any given game or any given season, you have like, what, 12 matches going at a time. And one of those is just gonna be the last match, and everyone's gonna kind of focus in on that and see the conclusion of that game.

And then once a season or so, that last match is gonna have something really weird go down just because that's how the probabilities were set up, or because the devs were planning it. And because it was the last match going all eyes were on it. And so, so many people got to see so many of those outlier moments and thus experience the weirdness of outliers.

And that feels very Blaseball but also like a very cool game design thing to identify that outliers are really interesting and that you can build so much on top of them.

Chris: Yeah, and like to maybe bring in the subject of this podcast, I've thought about this and I think that is what makes it kind of impossible to make an interesting Blaseball RPG. Because you can do things where you create characters. You can exist in the Blaseball world. But to like really capture the Blaseball experience, the core part of it is just endless simulation and all of like... to create outliers, you need to also fill out the middle of the bell curve.

Sam: Yeah. Yeah. And the, the experience of Blaseball was so much about being an audience member and like an audience member who was throwing peanuts at the field.

Like I think about going to theater and this was not an audience member, like watching modern high class Shakespeare. This was an audience member like going to a clown performance and having the clown point to you and ask you to volunteer out of the crowd. But pointing to everyone at the same time. Like it very much felt like the audience was a character, a mass together that you were a part of, and that that collective experience is so much of what Blaseball was and so much the thing that you can't replicate because you can't get a hundred people around a table to.

Chris: Absolutely. And more than that, like, Blaseball is even more transient than most, you know, huge internet fandom things like, the obvious comparison is Homestuck. And Homestuck was, was a different beast if you were a part of it like I was when it was still running than it is now. But there is still, you know, this massive thing on a website that you can read. And like that can give you enough to get on the forums and become part of the fandom as it exists now.

But Blaseball, even though fans have archived literally everything that ever happened on the site except for I think like season one, it just like, just watching the site is not participating in Blaseball.

Sam: There's such a component of liveness to Blaseball I think about how every year when the Academy Awards come around, I am really interested in watching the Academy Awards if I can watch them live. But if I can't, I don't care at all about going back and rewatching the broadcast. And that's kind of true of sports games for me too. I enjoy going and seeing a sports game, especially with someone that I'm there with, or I really enjoy going and seeing theater.

But none of those things, like if you film a theater production and then show it to someone, it's so bad. It's like it can be the best theater in the world. It just does not record well.

And in all of these cases, there's something special about the liveness, that feeling of I could see something go horribly wrong at any moment and of participation like you're saying of that give and take, that back and forth between performer and audience that is so special and that Blaseball was really able to capture. It was like a live video game.

Actually, that brings me to something I wanted to hash out with you, which is: is Blaseball an RPG? Is it a larp? Was it just like a regular sports league? Like what noun best describes

Chris: I mean, I already mentioned web comics. I think that's the closest. Or podcasts like a, a narrative fiction podcast like the Magnus Archives are Welcome to Nightvale.

I think those are the places to, if you want to participate, you can't do Blaseball anymore. If you want to find something that feels like Blaseball felt, those are the places you should look. But I don't think it is, like, it obviously isn't a podcast. As much as it is telling a story and as much as we've been talking about fan participation, I think there was just overall less of it than even the game itself would suggest.

Sam: Yeah.

Chris: But like that participation was still crucial. 'cause they really upped the interactivity in the Expansion Era as the name might imply.

So they had basically blessings that only affected your team, that only your team could vote on. And the upshot of this, or at least the, the outlier that I most remember and want to highlight is someone going by the name of Bad Steaks Fan.

So, the Dallas Stakes were a Blaseball team. They were the smallest team. They had like 400 people on the, they were tiny. And because of the way the Expansion Era worked out, it just so happened that someone got really lucky or paid a lot of attention to a lot of spreadsheets and got you know, millions of coins every season from betting. And they literally held the team hostage because they were the, they had so many votes. That the entire rest of the Steaks could not compete. And there was actual moderated drama on the Steaks channels of the Blaseball Court and the, the Steaks side Discord where they like sent letters being like these are my demands. If they are not met, I will not release my hold on the Steaks' wills.

Sam: My God. I had hoped that I could leave Blaseball for a while and come back to passive income and do something like that. And had discovered that I obviously could not, they had put in guide rails against people doing that. But I'm glad that someone did. It sounds horrible. And also that's exactly the kind of breaking the game that I really wanted to see from Blaseball.

What were their demands? What did they want?

Chris: I don't remember. This is my biggest problem. This was the story I most wanted to tell on this podcast, and I still couldn't really find details from my current very small corner that is left of Blaseball.

Sam: Yeah. That's one of the things that feels so tragic about Blaseball ending to me, is the loss of a bunch of great stories like that. I kickstarted many years ago a oral history of Eve Online, like an actual history book documenting the history of Eve Online.

So Eve Online, if you're not familiar, is an M M O with a single instance. So every player is playing in the same game world. So when two giant clans go to war, it affects literally everyone playing the game.

And I remember the author of this book talking about how he was having to do history research about events that were ongoing. Like he considered many of the sources that he talked to about the history of Eve Online compromised because the people he was talking to still had a vested interest in the game and how the history of the game was going to be remembered.

And I wish someone had done something more like that for Blaseball .Like I, I know the Wiki is so comprehensive, but in a lot of ways the Wiki,

Chris: It's really not. In, the way of all volunteer run projects.

Sam: Yes, exactly. Yeah. But, you know, I wish, I wish someone had published like a Blaseball monologues, you know, like some collection of the best stories from the community.

And maybe that does exist out there. maybe someone will write in with it for me. But yeah, so many great stories and so many of them lost, it feels like.

Chris: Yeah.

Sam: Okay, so, going back to, is Blaseball a RPG or fill in the blank? I think it's safe to conclude that definitions are useless and nothing else was like Blaseball. It was in a category unto its own. But also I wanna run by you. Is Blaseball a lyric game?

Chris: No, because you can play it. That's right. Shots fired. I'm coming for lyric games.

Sam: We did the, we did a two hour long episode on lyric games, either earlier this season or coming soon on this season.

Chris: Good.

Sam: But yeah, one of the things we talked about on that is how much many lyric games can be played but that is not the main intention. And I think you're right. Blaseball really did yearn to be played in a way that is not true for many lyric games.

Chris: Hmm.

Sam: So do you have any other stories from, the later days of Blaseball?

Chris: Oh, do you know about Salmon Steve?

Sam: No.

Chris: So, hey, remember how Landry Violence got incinerated in season three?

Sam: How could I forget?

Chris: Remember how after that we all started saying rest in violence instead of rest in peace?

Sam: Yes.

Chris: Well, at some point during the expansion era, the Society for Internet Baseball Research decided that it would be fun to have Blaseball statistics have their own like file name, you know, like .PNG or .xls

Sam: Uh huh.

Chris: And they decided, hey, why not .RIV

Sam: Yeah.

Chris: for rest and violence? And they discovered that the dot RIV file name was already in use for a piece of software from the 1980s that was meant to model salmon fisheries to calculate the most like efficient means of sustainable salmon harvesting at these fisheries. And we found this program, and in this program there was like a classic, like late eighties, early nineties software Easter egg, which was just a picture of a guy with the, like Steve in text burned onto it.

Sam: Uhhuh.

Chris: So naturally we began the hunt for Salmon Steve.

Sam: Oh my god.

Chris: And eventually they found him and he joined the Discord. And this 40 year old man who had just had his Twitter absolutely annihilated by people he had no concept of,

Sam: Yeah.

Chris: you know, participated in the cultural event of Blaseball. He hung around on the, the SIBR discord a while and like got involved in programming stuff. It was really cool.

Sam: That's such a classic Blaseball story too, where the culture that was created around this game was very much about breaking it and seeing what you could do with it and that, that culture leaking out into the real world feels inevitable and part of the fun and charm. Like it, it almost feels like a, for better and worse, like an Improv Everywhere kind of event.

Chris: And like, I just want to hammer in that without that one completely random event in season three where Landry Violence got a bad dice roll and was incinerated, none of this would've happened.

Sam: It's such a statement about role-playing games at large and how, just the, the beauty of generating story out of randomness, using randomness to push you and your friend's story forward. That's something you don't get in another medium. And it's, it's what leads to all of this. And it's what leads to most of the beauty that has happened in all the best role playing games I've played.

Chris: Absolutely.

Sam: I feel like one of the lessons to take away from this really is to leave room, maybe even a lot of room for outlier events in your own RPG design. It feels important and really exciting to do.

Chris: Absolutely. And like there's a lot you can do to signpost these events. Like you can deliberately design in, you know, my favorite example is from a game called the Great Soul Train Robbery, which is a Honey Heist hack. You're robbing the devil's train, and when you roll three sixes, if that ever occurs, which I have personally, like I've run this game at conventions a lot. I've never seen it happen.

Sam: Yeah.

Chris: When you roll 3d6 and come up all sixes, the devil shows up. Conductor of the train

Sam: just appears


Chris: in front of you and punches your ticket. And that's,

it's just this thing that I, again, I have never seen happen, but the knowledge that it might has informed so much about the way I run that game.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely.

Just the, the tantalizing possibility of an outlier event like that brings a vibe and a beauty to the game.

On that note, I kinda want to wrap up here, move towards wrapping up some concluding thoughts.

One of the things I think Blaseball does that is so special that RPGs can and do also do is the way it it creates this strange world that you would not have come up with without someone else's help. An idea on the edge of ideas. But then it gives you all this space to then make it your own and blow it up and play around with it. It invents a new genre in a way. And I think that is what my favorite, what the best role playing games out there do.

Chris: Absolutely. I don't remember where I'm pulling this quote from, but something that has stuck with me is that like there, there's this ongoing meme on Tumblr that the... The reason tabletop role playing is so great is because it replicates the ideal fandom experience of just you and your five other people who have ever heard of the thing going completely feral.


Sam: Yeah, yeah. But Blaseball got to do that with several thousand people.

So in the end, I, I think the end of the story of Blaseball as I understand it, and please correct me if I'm wrong here, I think you probably have more context than I do, is that the game was simply too beautiful to exist under capitalism.

That the cost of making the game was greater than the amount of monetary support that the creators were able to bring to it. And because a game of this size required so much time to keep alive, it was not sustainable for them to do so. And that's sad. Uh, but that's, you know, that's the way of things.

Chris: I mean, I think, I think another huge part of this that I wanna highlight is that the pandemic, for better or worse, like lockdown ended

Sam: Yeah.

Chris: Like the devs talked a lot about how they were really struggling to find a way to create a Blaseball that wasn't always on.

Sam: Yeah.

Chris: A baseball that respected your time now that people with lives had to, you know, go out and do literally anything else.

Sam: Yeah.

Chris: Blaseball became unsustainable. And that's just

Sam: It was nothing less than a lifestyle.

Chris: Yeah. And just like all great trends and cultural events, once circumstances changed, it, you know, it couldn't help but collapse.

Sam: Yeah.

Chris: And I don't think that's really a bad thing. I mean, it's, it sucks that it's gone, but I really like, I don't know how it could have kept going. And I don't know how it would've been outside of that. Like, like no matter what it would've done, it wouldn't have been Blaseball as I remember it, you know?

Sam: Yeah, I think. I, I think most endings are beautiful in a way. I think when things end that allows you to put brackets around them for better and for worse. But it, it allows you to define what the thing is and was and to be able to talk about it as, as a complete thing.

And Blaseball... I think in its ending it... it was a way of, God, how am I trying to say this? Um, Blaseball ending is a sign that many people, as you're saying, have other things in their life again, and that's a beautiful thing to know and to see even if there is a lot of sadness and mourning in Blaseball going away.

And of course, innumerable tragedies still in the ongoing pandemic that is not over and all the people that still can't leave their home because of it. But, but I think in the ending of baseball, the ending of an era allows, makes space for whatever the next era is going to be. And that is always beautiful to me.

Chris: Absolutely. I think that's a great note to end on.

Sam: for being here, Chris.

Chris: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Sam: Alright, the show is over, but if you want more, you can go donate to the Season 3 Kickstarter right now to immediately get a sweet bonus episode about exploding dice featuring Mikey Hamm, designer of Slugblaster. You don't want to miss this one. Thanks again to Chris for coming on. The best place to find him is on the Dice Exploder Discord.

You can find me and all my games on itch, at sdunnewold or on Twitter, BlueSky, or Dice. Camp.

Our logo was designed by Sporgory, and our theme song is Sunset Bridge by PurelyGrey.

And thanks as always to you for listening. Especially if you're a Blaseball fan and here for the first time, really, truly welcome. I hope you stick around. See y'all next time.

Dice Exploder
Dice Exploder
A show about tabletop RPG design. Each episode we bring you a single mechanic and break it down as deep as we possibly can. Co-hosted by Sam Dunnewold and a rotating roster of designers.