It was December 26, 2012 when I first decided to start blogging. Four years later, I’d say that whatever 2016 held for me personally, and for the world at large, it’s certainly been the biggest year ever for Gaming Ballistic.
This was a big month. We started the Aeon campaign, I began the Reloading Press, and I did a few reviews. The Broken Blade appeared in Pyramid.
GURPSDay got recognized as a real thing by SJG, and started a strong, year-long tradition that hasn’t let up despite travel, injury, and toddlers.
Also, the very first posts in what would become Dragon Heresy appeared, with Hit, Miss, Armor, Shield showing up at the end of the month. This month sets my course for the rest of 2016.
More of the same. A few reviews, campaign logs, and more reloading press.
A bunch of alternate GURPS posts showed up too, from finding ways to give limited defenses despite using All-Out Attack, to some concepts for looking at Task Difficulty Modifiers and speeding up guns combat.
I also strongly intimated that I had started Dragon Heresy as a real product.
26 posts, a slight decrease from February’s 28, and Dragon Heresy saw its first playtest games to try out the rules. Kept on with my schedule of posts; I seem to recall my traffic increasing nicely about this time.
Finished up one of my better review series – the GURPS Action line. More reloading presses, including a fun one for April Fool’s Day on the M41 pulse rifle and its ammunition that was very well received.
The GURPSDay traffic on my blog started to increase wonderfully, at least in Blogger hits, though many of those were more than a bit bogus.
The Dragon Heresy manuscript hit 125,000 words, which is about 30% of where it is today. I also did a playtest with 6th level characters. I had a long list of “learned items” that I took away, which informed better writing. You can still see the results of this test in the current draft.
I was still keeping up with my blogging schedule at this point. I had delusions of polishing this into a real form by August 2016. I went looking for artists and cartographers – and did wind up spending a bunch of cash on maps.
A lot of good writeups and a lot of chaos in the Aeon campaign, as we worked out our characters and how to play them. As I was GMing a game and playing in at least one more, I started to fall off the pace of posting, with only 70% of days having a fresh post, down from closer to 100% in Jan-April.
It feels like June is the month my GURPS output really started to drop as I headed towards what would become a pretty major milestone in September. The writing stacks up some major to-dos, and at this point I’m still talking about “only one book.” It must be in July and August that it changed. I’m starting to make more noises about the project management side of things, talking about editing, art, cartography, and Kickstarter. I only got 2 Reloading Presses in, out of four that would usually happen in a month.
Ah, hah. I notice that my non-Dragon Heresy writing has tapered off, and apologize for it. I’m still in the “finish a complete publishable draft” realm of thought, even though the manuscript is now pushing 300,000 words. I’m aiming at September for a Kickstarter, even. I can see I’m very much lowballing the art, but that’s deliberate, and I haven’t seen how text flows yet, and how art holes show up naturally, and more of them than you’d think.
I’m really starting to think hard about crowdfunding here. I’m also thinking hard about self-publishing, and what that means.
Heh. On the first day of August I realized that the book had grown to the point where two 250-275 page volumes were likely . . . and that was likely because my “how many words per page” estimates were still using SJG estimates, which run from 700-800 words per page, which is roughly twice the wordcount I have on, for example, Dungeon Grappling. I was being deliberately art-heavy for DG, but still – the final project of 200,000 words per book, two books, each of something closer to 370 pages (550 words per page) hasn’t poked at me yet. I’m hoping for a Q117 release at this point.
GURPS hardbacks – Mars Attacks! and Discworld – are sent to the printers. This is a welcome change for those that love them some print-copy GURPS.
I start to flirt with how to do art direction. I can see, in hindsight, that my efforts are really underscoped in terms of what I’m providing potential artists.
I do some market research via polling, and learn that in the “one big book” vs “two smaller books” question, it comes down into two smaller books by about a 3-2 margin. Not huge, but reasonably decisive. There’s always the opinion that if your book(s) are that long, they must be poorly written.
I start to really go to down in worldbuilding, fleshing out each country on the map Cornelia Yoder built for me. Each realm has enough history and interest and differentiation to be able to site a campaign there, though I have no plans, as of yet, in doing so.
I do a post on printing costs for offset print runs that is one of my most popular posts ever.
The Dungeon Fantasy boxed set is announced for GURPS. It will Kickstart, and I host a Q&A with Phil Reed.
This is the month that things really changed on me.
I spent the first eight days and eight posts of September flogging and promoting the DF boxed set Kickstarter, including an interview with Sean Punch.
On Sept 9 I announced the formation of Gaming Ballistic, LLC to host my game, my sales, and keep liability for the thing away from my house. I take a look at The World of Aetaltis, a setting for 5e that had some pretty good fiction and biggish names in support. It seemed to have lush art, a whole lot of prework done, and a ton of stuff would come with it. Larry Correia and Ed Greenwood contributed fiction stories in the world.
It failed. Gulp. They asked for $70,000 (reasonable, if not low, given what they were offering), and got only 31% of the way there. It wound up with 189 backers, and Dungeon Grappling wound up with 294. While my book wound up with nicely high production values, World of Aetaltis had demonstrably high quality from the get-go.
Hrm. I start reconsidering the too-soon October Kickstarter. I also start the process to migrate from Blogger to WordPress.
I took a business trip to Thailand, jet-lagged the hell out of myself, and in the background Ken Hite agreed to edit Dragon Heresy. That necessitated pushing the Kickstarter to January. Even now, it’s likely to get pushed to February, and that’s feeling uncomfortably close to right the hell now.
I start quantifying just how nasty international shipping is.
I take delivery of the final copies of the Dragon Heresy maps. They’re very pretty.
I’m doing a lot of writing – bingeing on the monster fluff-text – and my blog output falls to 56% daily posting, which is pretty low. On the other hand, the monsters are getting loving attention. I finally arrive at two books, each of roughly 350-370 pages, as the most likely size of Dragon Heresy. I don’t think that’s changed.
I reached out in late September or early October to a fairly well-regarded launcher of Kickstarters. His advice to me about Dragon Heresy was basically “forget it.” Too big an ask, especially for a first timer. In order to get the backers I need, I’d basically have to get each of the folks that follows my roleplaying collection on Google+ (maybe 1,300 folks at the time) to give me $100.
That isn’t going to happen. So I decided in early October to do a small one first, and landed on grappling as the topic. I anticipated having a “pre-fund Dragon Heresy!” set of tiers, but I dropped that as I considered the Kickstarter, because “focus focus focus” was the right call.
I recognize the need for a boilerplate retail contract. I still don’t have one. This will be “yes, I will sell your stuff through Gaming Ballistic, and give you a large royalty on the sale.”
Near the end of October, I have a playtest in Pathfinder that confirms the “hit point problem,” and we fix it. The draft looks good for release, and I lay the foundation for the Kickstarter . . .
The website gets a major facelift, to the format and aesthetic you see today. I still love it.
By the end of the month, I’d seen a layout pass on the project, made suggestions to Nathan, and most of my time was spent in getting the Kickstarter ready.
I make my video, get some art from Emily Smirle to sell the book, and launch the Kickstarter. That basically consumes my blog and my life for the month of November.
On the other hand, it funds in four days, and passes the first stretch goal in a week. I go on Shane Plays radio as well as the Round Table. I get reviews of my project and post them, and they’re all positive. Eventually, I pre-commit to full-color artwork, since the trajectory looks good.
The Kickstarter closes on December 6, with me in Thailand again, having funded at $4,853, or 323% of my ask. My internals show I’m within a few dollars of hitting the full cost of a custom cover, and as I’ve shown, boy am I glad I did that. For what it’s worth, I have made a few hundred dollars more in Backerkit, and “officially” passed the $5,000 stretch goal anyway, so it was a good call for me to just place the order.
Blog took a bit of a snooze while I was in Thailand – I was sick and jet lagged and worn out. I did, however, keep up with my artists, and am on track to get most of my art in hand in the next week or two, which will allow me to assemble the final copy of the book. I also purchased Adobe Creative Cloud, which has allowed me to begin to do things like provide mockups of books, and play with images in a more sophisticated way. Also learning to make direct edits in InDesign, but I’m a few tutorials short on that one, and I don’t dare touch anything until I know enough to be slightly less dangerous.
The art I have and continue to get is gorgeous, and exceeds my expectations, even my wildest dreams. And I’m on schedule for delivery.
Dragon Heresy needs a renewed shot in the arm, though. I have to find time this week to seriously revisit the old manuscripts.
It’s been a hell of a year, but a good one.
Dungeon Grappling probably won’t change my life by itself. It’s a small product, and while I suppose it could sell 50,000 copies or something crazy like that, that’s a nice shot in the arm, but it’s not a new career.
Dragon Heresy, though . . . if that goes well, it’s got legs. It’s the beginning of a solid game engine (one that Alex Macris has spoken favorably about in terms of Cyberpunk ACKS), carries with it the promise of supplemental material, and (even if I do say so myself) is a great setting that would be a lot of fun to play in.
I cannot wait to ship Dungeon Grappling to backers, and then start on what will be an even larger project, one that has the same strong team behind it, supplemented by some real powerhouses.
One thing occurred to me here, which was an update on the financial status of Gaming Ballistic, LLC.
I think I’ve gotten all of the actuals entered into my sheet, but over the last year, Gaming Ballistic paid and received the following:
- Donations: ($150)
- Expenses: ($5,204)
- Revenue: 4,544
- Pending Expenses: ($1501) for art
- Pending Revenue: $281 for Backerkit add-ons not yet received
- Expected Net: ($2,030)
Note that above I show some pre-payments and investments on Dragon Heresy, and that amount was $1,390 in actuals and about $706 in pending payments, for a total of just under $2,100. Legal fees that are project independent are also included. I will also be spending $1,562 on printing and shipping Dungeon Grappling books and PDFs add-ons. There’s an unassigned “currency transfer” that is almost certainly Dungeon Grappling related.
Breaking it down, and assigning roughly 706 in pending expenses for Dragon Heresy and a net of $2,076 in expenses for Dungeon Grappling:
- Dragon Heresy: Invested $2,650
- Dungeon Grappling: Profit of $107
- Administration and Setup of Gaming Ballistic: $903
- Donations: Spent $150
So Dungeon Grappling as a stand-alone project is in the black. Dragon Heresy is in the red and will be for a while. Setup costs and donations are what they are.
Still not bad.