Gaming Ballistic – March Update

Here we are again, this Saturday, end of March, marks roughly the seventh month, sort of, since Gaming Ballistic was incorporated. While that might be the official incorporation date, it probably makes far more sense to date the birth of the company from roughly October 1, 2016, which is when I really decided that Dungeon Grappling needed to happen, and proceeded to plan and launch the Kickstarter by November.

In any case, what’s been going on?

Mostly trying to get back on to a regular posting schedule again. I got very, very head-down on working some of the projects I’ve been working, and noticed that I’d not written any real content on the blog, certainly not much of value-added nature, in weeks. Well, frack that.

My new intended posting plan is something like this:

So tomorrow I’ll either review the latest Pyramid, or I just got a copy of Cirsova Magazine #5, and I can throw down some game-inspiration notes from that. Means I need something OSR/ACKS-ish for Monday . . .

Beyond that, the only real question right now is which project gets far enough along to Kickstart first.

Dragon Heresy

Looking at March, well, a lot has happened. Ken and I worked out a misunderstanding on something, and so I got him by the end of the first week in March a “edit this for real” draft that has some fairly substantial changes. We de-Tolkienified some of the material, stripping out parts that didn’t make much sense in light of the setting. I also had a bit of a revelation about one of the ways I was handling wounds and vigor that is only a tiny step different than what I was doing, but in the end makes a ton more sense.

Here’s the deal. As you know from reading the various threads on the blog, one of Dragon Heresy’s core mechanical conceits is separating damage to a character into wounds and vigor. That’s not new, per se, though I don’t know that anyone has yet built a game around it the way I have, as opposed to house-ruling an existing one. No matter either way. The deal was that most hand weapons would normally do vigor, unless certain things happened, etc. It was assumed, of course, that the vigor loss was due to active defenses being applied – blocks, parries, or overt dodges.

Projectiles and spells tended to do straight wounds, unless X or Y, special case special case fiddle fiddle.

Well, I came up with a simple tweak to the rule that plays exactly the same as all the great playtest games, but didn’t engage in WTF-ism. All weapons and spells and whatnot do damage, which can be absorbed as vigor at a 1-1 ratio if you can defend against the attack, or absorbed at a 2-1 ratio if you can’t. That last is termed “frantic defense,” and is a key survival mechanic. If you can’t absorb it as vigor, it strikes you, some may be absorbed by armor, and the rest goes to wounds. 

If that sounds like “so . . . what was the problem?” it was that the default incoming damage from mundane hand weapons was vigor, and other attacks were considered a special case. Now, the number of special cases has been reduced (always good), and the narrative explanation of the mechanics is more coherent (also always good). It doesn’t sound like much, but it should make the game even more approachable.

I also wrote what I call the AppendX (mis-spelling purposeful). It’s a list of optional rules for those that want them – call it extra crunch, if you like. What’s there?

  • Stacked Advantage/Disadvantage – what happens if you get to roll more than 2d20 for advantage? Where does rolling extra dice stop making sense? This is basically incorporating a blog post I wrote a while ago as an optional rule.
  • Facing and Flanking – rules for the map-board for incorporating facing into tactical game play. That also has implications for when a creature is considered flanked that make things a bit more interesting.
  • Rules for different shield sizes and types beyond what is considered the default “medium” shield. Also includes making stronger shields as well as metal and wood.
  • A quick note on defending against heavy weapons with light ones, or unarmed.
  • Two lethality switches, one having to do with disallowing or restricting frantic defense, so that you don’t always have to drain a foe’s hoard of vigor (formerly hit points) before doing real injury. The other is slowing down natural healing rates to match reality.
  • A bit of musing on using Dexterity for all to-hit rolls, and Strength for all damage boosts. This includes making a bow have a strength rating (a STR 19 longbow) instead of being generic. Crossbows are covered too. While it’s not quite “The Deadly Spring,” it’s a neat concept for those that want to bother, and it means that if you want to do a lot of damage you need to hit a vulnerable spot (increased critical threshold) or be really strong.

Those were the big design improvements and changes that happened.

Art-wise I got some major work turned in from Juan for prelim marketing, and expect the rest of it Real Soon now (he’s been sick).

Michael Clarke has been doing yeoman’s work on both layout and the cover concepts. I’m not going to show those just yet, but unlike Dungeon Grappling, a full-on awesome cover is part of the plan from the get-go, and I can’t wait for y’all to see what he’s doing.

OK, I’ll give you one peek:

Venture Beyond

The unnamed sci-fi game got a name: Venture Beyond. It’s also got an author. Well, it’s always had one, but at this point we’re far enough along to reveal more.

David Pulver is taking something like the best of four different OGL rules sets, and then weaving through it a fundamental mechanic that is somewhat unique, but should be fast and easily understood while still giving some very interesting possibilities.

I expect that by the end of March the rules will be playable, and so we’ll play them, getting preliminary copies of both the basic game and three ready-to-play adventures into some beta testers’ hands for review and consideration. If things go well, that’ll be ready for crowdfunding quickly. Maybe even before Dragon Heresy, but we serve no fries before their time.

I’m looking forward to this one – if it takes off even a bit there’s a ton of additional support material ready to be produced, and it should be a set of good looking books. I think it will sit in similar geography along with variants of White Star, Traveller, and the Firefly RPG, and bring along with it mechanics concepts taken from fairly disparate sources, but woven together into a seamless whole.

Dungeon Grappling

March saw the DriveThruRPG GM’s Day sale, which lasts for 10-14 days. Sales of the PDF of Dungeon Grappling were brisk during that time. 35 copies of the PDF and one print/PDF bundle went during March. Through the Gaming Ballistic web store, I sold 1 PDF, 1 print copy, and 1 Print/PDF bundle. I also actually sold 1 through CreateSpace, though no more through Kindle Direct (and no surprises there, either). So that’s 37 PDF and 4 print copies in March.

I also started making Dungeon Grappling available through Steve Jackson Games’ Warehouse 23.

No copies have moved through W23, and no copies of The Art of Dungeon Grappling sold in March. That last one is not a surprise, I suppose. I was hoping more folks would bite on either the charity or the chance to collect some work from great artists, but alas, it didn’t happen. I probably won’t repeat that effort, then.

Looking Ahead

If things go well, the rules will be ready for early testing on Venture Beyond by the end of March. With rules, a layout template, and adventure support in hand, the only thing that really needs doing here is crowd-funding. So it’s remotely possible that we’ll do that for Venture Beyond in April.

Once the Dragon Heresy manuscript is edited, which should be the end of April, I’ll have a complete manuscript, some preliminary art, graphics for the Kickstarter, book covers, and layout templates ready to go. I won’t know exactly how much art to put in exactly until after the Kickstarter . . . so that looks like May to me.

I could see a 2-4 week slip in either date, or both. But all-in-all, both games would be in a print-and-play stage when crowdfunding starts, so really, the only thing left to do is the art, and to hopefully do well enough to start considering offset print runs for both.

So if we can hold zero on the plan, there should be exciting things happening early in the summer, and at least one of the books should be ready by GenCon50, at least in demo form.


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