The tools of ignorance has long been a baseball term that referred to the catcher's equipment. From the April 4th, 1944 issue of The Sporting News:

"Players call the catcher's armor the 'tools of ignorance.' Outfielders contend that no one in their senses would clutter themselves up with a mask, a heavy chest protector and weigh down their legs with shin guards. All of this when the mercury is trying to climb out of the top of the tube, and those outfielders are on vacation, waiting for something to happen."

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There are several different games on the site that award points for such things as correctly answering a trivia question or successfully defending your fans in Barnstorming. Your points total reflects all of the points that you have been awarded in these games and can only increase.

When you join The Tools of Ignorance, you are given 1,000 credits. In addition to each point that you gain, you will also gain a credit. Credits can be spent in many ways, such as drafting a Barnstorming team or making roster moves, so conserve and/or use them wisely.

You earn credits when you successfully defend a zip code. The number of credits that you win depends on the population of the location. Small population towns are worth 25 credits as the population increases, so do the credits that you can earn. You can also find credits hidden in various zip codes.

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Barnstorming is a new online game based around the idea of barnstorming around the country in an effort to pick up new fans. Historically, baseball players in the first half of the 20th century would earn money in the off season by playing exhibition games around the country. These games were popular in areas without Major League Baseball and provided small town fans with a chance to see the greats play on their own turf.

This online game aims to recreate that era by allowing you to draft a team of players and sending them from town to town trying to gain new fans. If the population of a town is already fans of another team, you can challenge them to a game where the winner gets the fans.

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The game is open-ended so you can set whatever objectives that you want. The goal of the game is to build up your fan base, challenge other teams for their fan base, find hidden items, and/or win games. Successfully defending your fan base will earn you credits that you can use to improve your team. As the game grows and more teams, there will be periodic tournaments that your team can enter and win prizes such as credits, hidden teams, or even have your own classic team added to the game.

There is also an exploration element to the game. Some towns are not as they seem. Some contain hidden sites, curses, or even classic teams from the past that will challenge you to exhibition games. With 40,000+ areas to explore and hundreds of hidden items, you never know what you might find.

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The first step is to draft a team. This will cost 900 of the 1,000 credits that you were given when you joined the site. You will also choose a zip code where you would like you team to start at. Please be patient, as drafting a new team may take several minutes.

Once your team has been drafted you will see your team's main page. This page includes a summary of your challenges, your team's current location, team level, the number of moves and miles you've made today, your record, roster, etc. You can return to this page at any time by selecting the "Barnstorming" link at the top of the side menu.

Next you can customize your roster by selecting "Change Positions" on the side menu. This will move players to a different position or to and from the bench. You must have one player for each listed position.

After you have set you roster, select "Change Order" to set up your lineup and pitching rotation.

You can improve you team by using the "Add A Free Agent" option. Here you can choose to release the player you've assigned to the reserve spot among either your pitchers or position players. You will then receive another random player. Each roster move costs 50 credits.

The "Move My Team" option is basically the "action button"... it's how you move your team to another town. Enter a zip code and it brings up that town. It will tell you the population and the distance from where you are. If it has an allegiance to another team, it will list who. If you use the link to move there, it will randomly determine if that town's population becomes your fans or not. If not, nothing will happen when you move there. If they do become your fans, a congratulatory message will tell you so. If the town is already aligned with another team, you will see a "Challenge" link. Clicking this will move you to the new location just like the "Move Here" link but it will also issue a challenge to the other team. If they accept, the winner claims the town's fans as their own.

When first starting out, it is a good idea to focus on smaller towns as you have a better chance of gaining fans in towns with lower populations. Keep in mind that your dailies miles and moves are limited. You can review this information on your main team page.

The "My Challenges" page keeps a record of past and pending challenges. Challenges expire after seven days.

The "My Fans" page is a detailed list of your fan base.

The "My Discoveries" page lists all the hidden stuff that you have found. This page also allows you to play exhibition games against and between the hidden teams that you have found. As a bonus, five infamously bad major league teams are available from the start for you to simulate scrimmages against.

You can see game logs of all of your team's games by selecting "Game History". The drop down box at the top of the page will also allow you to see exhibition games that you have played with other classic teams. Game logs are presented in standard a box score format as well and in retrosheet event file format.

Finally, the "Rankings" page lists all Barnstorming teams with W/L record, RS/RA, total fans and current location. If you click on a team's fan total, it will show you a list of each town they've obtained. There is also a drop down box that will allow you to sort the rankings in various ways.

Those are the basic elements to the game and should be more than enough to get you started. For more in depth look at the game, keep reading the FAQs below.

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You can gain fans in one of two ways. If the town is already fans of another team, you will need to challenge that team for those fans via the "Move My Team" page.

The other way to gain fans is by moving to a town that does not currently have a team alliance. You may gain these fans automatically, just by visiting there town. The odds of winning over a town's fans without playing a game, is tied to your team level and the town's population. The higher the population, the lower the odds that you can win them over. Increasing your team level will increase your chances of gaining fans in higher population areas. When first starting out, it is best to focus on towns with small populations (such as those with less that 5,000 people).

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Once you have gained a town's fans, it may seem foolish to risk losing them by accepting a challenge. On the other hand, the only way that you can gain credits within the game is to successfully defend your fans. Therefore, the only way that you will be able to buy free agents and improve your roster is by winning those games. The home team also benefits from a hometown advantage so in a game between two equally matched teams, the home (defending) team should win most of the time.

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Most tournaments are available to everyone. When a new tournament is announced, the loction (zip code) will also be given. At that point, the first X teams to reach that zip code will be entered in the tournament. Occasionally, a tournament will have other conditions added. Your team must meet these requirements to be included in the tournament.

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Team levels are a measure of how well known your team is. This effects how easy it is for your team to win fans when visiting new towns. If you are at level one, your odds of winning fans in smaller towns is pretty good but in larger towns, you may have some trouble. As your team level increases, you will find that it gradually becomes easier to win fans in larger towns. Your team level also determines how many moves and miles your team can travel each day. As your team becomes more famous, they can travel longer distances, but they won't be able to make as many moves per day.

Your team starts out at level 1. The only way to improve your team level is by finding hidden sites. When you move to a hidden site, a message will appear telling you what you have found and your team level will be increased by one. Hidden sites could be anything from the site of a ballpark to the birthplace of a famous player.

While hidden sites increase your team level, a hidden curse will decrease you team level by one. Your level can never go below one.

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Your total number of moves and miles traveled appears on your main team page. These totals reset every night at approximately midnight.

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Those teams have discovered a warp pipe. You can find more information about Warp Pipes in the Barnstorming Weekly Strategy Guide #1.

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Ever since I created the site, I have been playing around with the idea of an online fantasy baseball game. The challenge was creating something different than all of the other fantasy sites. A few months ago, The Tools of Ignorance writer, Jim Williams, wrote a column that made use of the following quote:

"Back then, Cleveland trained in Tucson, and the Giants trained in Phoenix. Then we'd break camp in early April, and we would get on a private train and travel back east with the Indians, barnstorming in all these little towns."
--Bobby Thomson

This provided the inspiration that was needed to create a fantasy game that didn't rely on merely creating a league and competing within that closed world. I hope that you'll find the new game simple yet deep and I hope that it will breathe new life into the fantasy baseball genre.

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The Tools of Ignorance is an online community which was conceived as a place where like-minded fans can communicate and research the game that they love.

Random Fact

Three NL players have been hit by a pitch twice in the inning. The last was Andres Galarraga on July 12, 1996.