As always, surveys represent a self-selecting crowd. A survey purporting to look at “the OSR” may get skipped by a GURPS player or someone that only plays Savage Worlds. In any case, the link takes you to an OSR-focused game survey. The results, anyway.
Even so: this is really interesting. Based on number of games in the survey:
Adding up all the flavors of OSR, you have TWO OSR games for every one 5E game. For just under every five 5E games, someone’s playing Pathfinder. And for every three Pathfinder games, two people are playing GURPS.
That doesn’t sound right to me . . . for several reasons. But it’s an interesting and surprising data set.
We’ve frequently discussed sales data and market share, and this survey is a very different take. The last ICv2 numbers I saw put the Tabletop RPG market size at about $55 million, and my general feeling was that it was 80-90% D&D and variations, and everyone else was fighting for the last $5-10M. I’d assumed that it was 50% 5E, 30% PFRPG, 10% OSR combined, and 10% “everyone else.” Those numbers are supported a bit by “who’s playing what on Fantasy Grounds and Roll20.”
In the Dragon Heresy game from last week, the GM had us eventually match up with Loki himself. He’d kidnapped Santa Claus, you see. We challenged Loki to a game of musical chairs. Yes, really.
A few things bore mentioning that were of interest to me. None of these were Dragon Heresy specific, just observations.
One of the players was reaching for her dice saying “I shoot him” with an arrow. Fortunately, that was never resolved. Were I the GM, it would not have ended well; either that, or Loki would have just waved his hand or phased around the shot at least the first time. But frack me, it’s Loki. Taking a pot shot at the Asgardian god of Mischief is an offense punishable by “it takes three days to find all the pieces of you squashed on the floor.”
The GM had us make a single die roll, and Loki rolled the lowest; we beat him on the first round, and thereby saved Yule/Ylir/Christmas. Afterwards, she expressed some disappointment that the contest was over that quickly.
It is likely she hadn’t statted out Loki fully; certainly she didn’t give him the kind of bonuses and proficiencies he should have had relative to a 1st level character . . . or maybe she did. If the Divine Mr L had Proficiency of +6 and a stat bonus of +7 or so, it’s a lower bound of 14. We all did roll very well.
I suggested to her that for things like this where you don’t want luck to completely dominate, you can tame the variability of a flat-roll 1d20 with several methods:
Roll 3d6 instead of 1d20, which will tend to actually center around 10, meaning the proficiency and skill bonus would prove the most important
Give Loki advantage: he’s a god for goodness’ sake
Break it up into two rolls, which will favor the one with the highest bonuses due to averaging. First roll is to realize the music stopped, which would be a Perception check. Loki almost certainly has high WIS and CHA, so on the average he’d probably be among the first to hear it’s time to lunge for chairs. THEN a Dexterity or even Acrobatics or Athletics roll, but made with disadvantage if you rolled a lower Perception check than Loki. Or just apply the margin of victory or defeat relative to Loki’s Perception check to the roll to grab a seat.
That last one is nice, in my opinion, because it’s multiple attribute dependent. You’ll want someone good at WIS and STR or DEX rather than just one; that should prolong the contest.
I also noted that there were, in fact, rules for a ritual exchange of insults (flyting) in Dragon Heresy on page whatever. Would have been apropos.
Daniel over at Mailanka’s Musings has a nice post on Map-Making in Theory and Practice. In short: a million times yes. I have to echo his throughts on Maps and Inspiration: a good map is really, really inspiring.
Started with a Map
It works both ways, too. In my Torengar/Nordlond setting for Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment and Lost Hall of Tyr, the map came first. I set up a history using Microscope and another “game to play a game” kit that I can’t remember anymore that helped set up the long prelude to the current state of the main realm. I drew up some key terrain features that appeared to be important, and then commissioned Cornelia Yoder to make me some maps.
I have since been leveraging those maps heavily in making the details of my setting sing. This is particularly true of the mini-setting I’m working on for what will hopefully be my first-quarter Kickstarter: The Citadel at Nordvorn.
Featuring the titular town of Nordvorn with its adjoining citadel, there are also three other important towns and villages of note, one of them destroyed.
The town of Ainferill (Riverbend) sits about 40 miles south of Nordvorn on the Jotunnain (a river; áin means river; I think properly conjugated it should be Jotunná, but I have it as “fun” that the northern areas use áin and the southern areas use á, as sort of a regional accent thing). It’s a town of about 1,000 souls, or about 200 families, give or take. It’s the seat of a Jarl, the second tier of noble, but they still have to get the king something like $10M per year in GURPS moneys, or about 200,000 gp in D&D moneys, as a Duty to keep the title.
Just north of Ainferill is the slightly smaller (750 people) town of Vegghofn (Sallyport), which marks the last easily-accessible break in Audreyn’s Wall (think in between Hadrian’s wall and the Great Wall of China) until the other side of a mountain range that the wall jogs around for Reasons.
Anyway, point is: I am detailing these three settlements. What are the important guilds? Why have guilds at all? What industries or products make each town unique? Why should there be a town here at all?
This is my realm map. What can I say about it? Well, it’s got heavy forest, plains, and lightly wooded or intermediate areas. These divide out nicely into “logging and forestry,” “grazing lands,” and “farming” when it comes to surplus products for more than just surviving. It’s a high-level thing, but it’s informative.
The cities cluster densely in the farming area (blue). More food, better climate, more trade, higher population density. The capital is also there.
A Slice of Nordlond
Hey, what do we have here? A slice of Nordlond/Torengar, with Isfjall from Hall of Judgment in the west, and stretching to Midgard in the East.
Northwatch is Nordvorn – one means the other. But it’s maybe 250 miles east of Isfjall, so it’s a hike if you walk it. But why would you? Take a boat and sail down the Wodenain to Nethanfoss, then it’s maybe 50 miles along the “Palisade Road,” which isn’t shown on the map. That should be an exciting trip, since the area to the Northwest of the Palisade is called The Hunted Lands, home to marauding faerie and more than its fair share of monstrosities, undead, constructs, and other things that wish to eat you.
But the map informs this. How long will it take to get there? Well, big rivers tend to move at a few miles per hour, 1-5 mph not being unusual. So the 200 mile trip on the river could be as fast as 40 hours, or two days, or as long as a week. Plenty of time in either case for a few encounters with river raiders or river-dwelling monsters, but not so long that the game will drag.
That last 50 miles to Northwatch from Nethanfoss is probably a few days hike as well, and while the path/road is guarded, it’s still dangerous lands.
That makes Nethanfoss a very interesting market. It has access to both grazing lands, water, and abuts the Einmanna forest. And it’s a crossroads, being the natural departure point for goods to come east from the settlements along the Wodenain.
All this from the map.
Now we venture south from Nordvorn, because there’s been a rumor that the Jarl is hiring adventurers. Or maybe killing them. It’s Nordlond: perhaps it’s both.
In any event, what’s going on at the Riverbend? Well, it’s got woods. It’s adjacent to a metal-rich mountain/range. It’s got grazing land. And it’s at a convenient stopping place for ships coming upriver to rest and get ready for a hard pull into the faster-flowing stretch of the river from Ainferill to Nordvorn.
If you do a bit of line work, you can see that the Jarl probably controls about 265 square miles of land, and about half of that is grazing land – ideal for sheep – that is mostly plains. The other half, to the north and west, is lightly wooded, leading to thicker woods in the Einmanna Forest.
OK. So we have wood, metal, wool, and cattle and goats. This is a shipbuilding town. It’s also one of the towns (the two south of Ainferill and west of Jarngardr are two more) from which a whole lot of sheep are raised and turned into wool, cloth, clothing, and other products.
This is a jarl whose income depends on wool, cattle, ships, and trade. That’s what he’s going to care about, and that’s where threats to his power – or extensions of it – will come from. Does he mine in the hills just across the river? Does the hajarl of Midgard resent this? Ainferill could sit in the demesne of either Northwatch or Midgard – are the jarl’s loyalties solid, or being tested?
What about bandits? Or monsters? If you do the work, something that between some expert help and the Adventurer Conqueror King books domain rules make easy, you can see that monsters or monstrous people killing or taking livestock will really honk off our jarl, as as much as 25% of his Duty – maybe more – can come out of the income stream from wool and cloth.
But . . . karls (freeholders) own their own lands. How does that work? Well, that’s where the guilds come in. That worked out nicely too.
I spent a lot of time last night working with the map, agricultural data, and conversing with some experts to turn this slice of Nordlond into a living world. Not only is it living and hopefully provides some immersive detail, but it becomes something from which you can really see how folks might wish to bring an adventuring party on board to deal with problems.
Suffice to say that the tie of personality, economics and trade are all made more obvious with a good map. A map, a knowledge of what can be grown and made with certain natural resources, a feel for the personalities of the leaders and citizens and what they care about . . . and the adventures flow easily. Especially when the area in question has recently undergone some . . . rather dramatic calamities.
Stay tuned. Hopefully you’ll see this one pop up in the first quarter of this year!
I got to play Dragon Heresy in a game run by a young lady my own system on Friday. She’d either never or rarely GM’d before. She decided to run in my book, as her dad was a supporter of both the original Lost Hall as well as Dragon Heresy. My take-aways?
The world is compelling and immersive. She grabbed on to the details and hooks provided by the map of Torengar every bit as much as I’d hoped.
Northwatch really is a compelling spot on that map, and I’m glad my upcoming release will detail the heck out of it
The grappling system, also available as a stand-alone in Dungeon Grappling, really is that good. Everyone got it, everyone used it, no complaints. Seamless.
It was amenable to fast play in a two hour session by a new GM. So very accessible.
The final confrontation was not combat; she ran a nifty scenario where we had to play against Loki himself. I showed her the flyting rules after the fact, and she really liked them.
To be Improved
The real area that stuck out as a stumbling point was a stumbling point on remembering that a swift attack (like an arrow from a bow) is quite nasty: it only has to meet the lower Threat DC unless the target has a shield.
It didn’t come up much, but the decision to employ a Frantic Defense to avoid taking wounds if a target is attacked and its Hit DC is exceeded happens before armor is subtracted.
The ranged combat tweaks in general are more extensive than melee.
There’s an obvious fix for this: a short flowchart. Ideally something that fits on a 3×5 or playing card. Once you get the system, it’s very smooth. But a quick reference for ranged and melee combat that would fit on the back of a playing card is now on my radar.
All in all, she designed and executed a two-hour scenario that finished in two hours, which is amazing for a new GM, so well done to her on that.
As for my part, I kept my promise. I answered questions where prompted, she ran the game, and I shut up and played my character.
Thursday is GURPSDay, and marks the first full week of 2019. It’s been a bit of a crazy week for me, as schedules are only now returning to normal after break (the kids are back in school) and trying to work out a good balance of writing and doing other things.
There are, however, things to do. I am busily writing The Citadel at Nordvorn, a mini-setting with far too much going on for its own good, for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. This is the first of three works that will be published for that game in 2019. As noted in my brief post today: I’m having ridiculous fun writing it.
In personal Gaming Ballistic News:
If you liked Hall of Judgment, and either also play or have friends that play Fifth Edition or Dragon Heresy, the Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) campaign closed having raised roughly the same amount of money as the 1st edition. That left us short of the offset print run stretch goal at $6,000 . . . but the Backerkit Phase is going very well, especially thanks to a few folks who ordered Viking-style shields! If you can show your D&D-playing friends the link, pitch it to your FLGS, it would go a long way. We’re something like $100-400 from that stretch goal, with two weeks left in the Backerkit phase. The more I can get product out there, the better stuff I can do for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, as rising sales lift all boats.
There’s been a lot happening “under the waterline” over at GB, and more will be revealed soon. I will say that several varieties of product, not written by me, are all simmering on the mid-stove. Some of these will really excite SJG fans!
GURPSDay is in its fifth year – GURPSDay started in February 2013, a year after I started Gaming Ballistic. Things have slowed down a bit, and I’ll be considering how to revitalize this weekly activity. I’d like to see an average of 100 posts here per week – one per blog, ish – so we’ll see what we can do to get creative juiced flowing.
If you just started a GURPS blog – and I know that some of you have – email me and get on the list! With the advent of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPS, there’s even more reason to write.
How? Two action items: post more, recruit more. It’s really that simple. More posters is more posts, and more interest in GURPS.
Below you can find the blog activity for the last week. There’s a whole lotta awesome GURPS going on. Read all the posts.
Not every blog posts about GURPS every week, but some are ridiculously prolific! The list is randomized, so different bloggers will be highlighted at the top of the post each week.
As always, if you’re interested in having your blog consolidated here, navigate over to The Instructions Page and drop me a line. Take special note of the RSS Settings Fix if you’re on WordPress.
I’m busily writing The Citadel at Nordvorn, Gaming Ballistic’s next return to the world of Nordlond (known as Torengar in Dragon Heresy). This one’s a mini-setting, focusing on the events and interactions between important players (including the characters!) in the lands surrounding this vital town. I am having ridiculous fun putting these towns together.
I just finished the description and detailing of Nordvorn itself. I am moving on to the other two important towns in the book, Ainferill (Riverbend) and Vegghofn (Sallyport).
The compact nature of the towns – Ainferill and it’s roughly 1,000 inhabitants sits on a chunk of land and water about 25 acres in size. That’s a circle about 350m in diameter, which is basically the size of The O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) in England. That is, the entire village would fit inside it.
Even the much larger keep and town of Nordvorn is only 7,500 residents and its longest dimension is only three times that of Ainferill.
These are little places, relatively speaking, which means they can truly come alive with detail.
I certainly hope that you enjoy visiting them as much as I am writing them.
Some fun bits from the draft. Subject to change, of course. Presented entirely lacking context or structure.
The “lift road” is named for its terminus at the great lifts coming from the docks and the lower market and shipyard. After one leaves the market proper, one can find all sorts of ironmongery and shipfitting crafts: Sailmakers, blacksmiths, armorers, brassworkers, and weaponsmiths. The armorers and weapon-makers are closest to the Ring Road, mostly to reduce the noise. Any goods coming upstream, or going downstream, by ship must pass through the lift. As such, some call Lyfta Road “Skattgötu,” or “tax street.”
A name like that invites hubris, but the Eilífur Brú has the chops to merit the name. The walls are over 20 feet thick, the columns, supports, and span magically melded with the strong rock of the river gorge. It has stood up to wind, weather, and thrown boulders from trolls and hill giants, as well as projectiles from siege engines.
The bridge begins with a massive structure known as The Terrace Gate, which as its name implies houses a series of massive doors each on a different level of the structure. The Terrace Gate actually enters a hundred feet or so below the top of the eastern gorge wall, and the winding staircase with interlocking gates, murder-holes, and other defensive emplacements is called The Spiral.
The town side of the Eternal Bridge ends in a large walled enclosure as well. There are barracks, training grounds, and defensive emplacements, and the entire structure would rank as one of the notable fortifications in Nordlond if it weren’t immediately adjacent to the Citadel itself.
The Hunting Gate
The closest tower and sallyport to Little Rock. Even more than the other city gates, the Hunting Gate is constructed to be used, and frequently, for war. It is staged to allow sorties from within the Lower Town when needed, as well as the point of departure for those thegns, huskarls, and Wardens who attempt to keep the people and goods coming out of the Hunted Lands safe. Or at least safer.
Thievery is forbidden. Sneaking around and taking someone else’s property is punishable by outlawry and thralldom. However, challenging someone to combat over a coveted possession, or facing them in some sort of fight, real or provoked, allows the victor vast leeway in claiming spoils of battle (in some cases this can include property and in older times, even family). Property obtained in this manner is called sigurtakn, (“victory token,” or “trophy”) and is considered honorable. Well, at least valorous. Dangerous, perhaps? A man bedecked head to toe in armor and weapons that are all sigurtakn is a man to be kept at arm’s length. Such people are called dýrð-óðir, or “glory-mad,” (behind their backs) and given the same sort of respect you give a scorpion, venomous snake, or feral dog – admiration for their deadliness, but not someone you turn your back on. Ever.
The Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) Kickstarter campaign is in the Backerkit phase. You guys have done great for the surveys . . . and have been generous with the add-ons, which I appreciate. We’re over 4/5 – 82% to be precise – complete. There are 24 people who have not filled out their surveys, but of those, 17 have hard-copy material for which I need an address, so if you have already ordered, or would like to order, physical goods . . . I need a shipping address. We are also only 20 new orders from achieving the offset print run stretch goal . . . so we’re very, very close.
Those of you that have backed my projects before know I’m transparent in terms of where the money’s going. You backed me, you get the straight dope on funding flow. In this case, after Kickstarter fees, we brought in $3,675 from that part of the campaign. Backerkit has brought in about $940 in not-shipping fees, for a total of $4615 to date that can be applied towards the dual goals of the project: the maps, and the print run.
The offset print run and maps together require $5,275, so we’re about $660 shy of the goal.
Even as-is, the digital short-run printing with CPI in the UK will produce up to 400 books if I choose. In distribution, these won’t be self-sustaining at the cost-to-produce as they would with the offset run: That’s OK (It’s not ideal, but it’s OK). No matter what, there’s Dragon Heresy support out there, and more on the way.
The key to victory here is simple: 20 pre-orders of PDF and Print.
Glynn has already finished five of seven maps. I gave a preview of what they’ll look like a few days ago, but I like seeing it so here it is again:
He’s done something fun with the entrance to the Hall itself, which is to draw the outside and inside lower hall as a single map, split into two halves. This will allow a notional battle to rage between the two seamlessly, which was in the original adventure but not really reflected on the maps.
That means barring Real Life, the maps should be done and ready by week’s end. That will let me start finalizing the PDF. I’ve got a few conversion notes to put in, some stats and conversion notes for Swords & Wizardry to add, and an error check to do. Hopefully that will all be complete within the month of January; then we’ll get a preliminary PDF out so folks can look for errors and typos that always slip in.
Basically, I’m on schedule. The same schedule I posted originally in the Kickstarter campaign. This isn’t an accident: it’ll be the fifth Kickstarter that I’ve run that will be on time or ahead of schedule (that is, all of them). If we hit the offset run, expect your print copies in June (or before). If we don’t, you should get them 4-6 weeks earlier.
Don’t forget those surveys if you’re doing physical product! And as always, a little word of mouth (of Facebook? Of Twitter?) goes a long way. We’re about two dozen print pre-orders, or 10 “Starter Kit” with a copy of Dragon Heresy included, from the stretch goal that will both improve the book (thicker, heavier paper, lay-flat sewn binding) and get it out there in retail stores next to the core book.