I got word from Studio 2 that 1,510 copies of Dragon Heresy arrived there yesterday, and before the day was over, 320 of those were on their way to me here in Minneapolis.

Delivery to me is scheduled for Tuesday. I expect to print labels and start shipping the following day. So all books should be in hand by the end of October, as promised.

We’re coming down to the end of this one. Now I just need to determine what, if anything, is next.

Thursday is GURPSDay, and we’re going to get right to it! GURPSDay is currently pulling from 104 blogs on the roster.

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.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPSIf 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.

Continue reading “GURPSDay Summary Oct 5, 2018 – Oct 10, 2018”

Happy Birthday

So, my wife is pretty cool. When I turned 40, she suggested that my relatives get me a unique gift. That gift was a one-hour lesson in how to fly an actual helicopter, which ended with me piloting a Robinson R22 after a brief introduction to the theory of rotary-wing flight. It was amazing.

Well, last week was my birthday (47 this time) and this time, after a week of cryptic hints that ranged from casual fun to 1970s naughty bacchanalia. One never knows with a redhead. But we started out on Sunday, having been only told “block out the afternoon” and made our way to Mall of America, where much to my surprise, she informed me that she’d rented a Tesla Model 3 for us for a day, and soon thereafter, we left to tool around the western edge of the Twin Cities (mostly around Lake Minnetonka) for the afternoon and evening. I had the car from 3pm Sunday to 3pm Monday, which let me drive it in various conditions. Continue reading “Apropos of Nothing: 24 Hours of Tesla”

The Blind Mapmaker takes time to review Hall of Judgment. As he notes, he backed at the Thegn of your Own level and contributed a character to the samples. Nonetheless, he calls out what he likes, and is firm about what he doesn’t.

The Blind Mapmaker’s reviews are quite thorough, divided into Meat, Cheese, Sauce, and General Nutritional Value.

Bite-sized Review Hall of Judgment – Powered by DFRPG

I’m going to quote the summary here:

Summary (No Spoilers!)

Douglas H. Cole delivers an outstanding product that is proud addition to the Dungeon Fantasyline and makes one hope for more from this licensee. The adventure is pretty linear, but atmospheric and puts the characters against foes supernatural and natural without neglecting the realities of mountain travel.

It is a satisfying read and a good way to introduce new players and GMs to GURPS without having them lament the quality or the lack of the illustrations. Thanks to both the author and SJGames for making this possible!

Total score: 8.05 (third place of all time)
Total score is composed of a weighted average of Meat (32.5%), Cheese (32.5%), Sauce (20%) and Generic Nutritional Substance (15%). This is a balanced meaty-cheesy book.

Value score: 9.025 (PDF, best value ever!), 8.025 (softcover), 7.525 (bundle); getting the bundle is advised if you want to run the game online and offline!
Value Score is composed of the average of Total and Price.

Commentary

There are a few things – a very few things – that I want to say about some of the notes in the review, but let me start by saying I find it quite fair, even the thing he didn’t like as much. To arms, then:

The town section is not quite as detailed as in DF Setting – Caverntown

Hrm. Caverntown was my template for this one, so I’m glad he caught the similarities. The more that I think on this, the less it bothers me, though, since “Town” is deliberately lower-key in The Dungeon Fantasy RPG than in the main-line Dungeon Fantasy games. So “not quite as detailed” is both accurate and deliberate. I wanted Town to be more than just “the place where we buy and sell our stuff,” but it needed to be that and more. 

Make sure to mention the ruins beforehand, because they can be easily missed depending on which path the players choose.

The ruins, as well as the goblin warrens and several other areas of the adventure, are designed to be able to be missed. There’s cool stuff there, and not cleaning out the ruins bodes dire things for the region. (Which I’d love to detail in future supplements, licensing permitting). The approach to the Hall itself was my attempt – mostly successful, I think – to make the adventure far less linear. The original adventure – Lost Hall of Tyr –  was a convention romp. It was designed to be run in two hours, show off the grappling system from Dungeon Grappling, and be a drop-in and drop-by to play kind of thing. It featured “Quantum Encounters” that moved to find the players and three pathways to the Hall – which you teleported to instead of a month-long overland journey – that all dumped you in the same place.

But the ruins themselves are optional. That being said, as Captain Joy reports in this After-Action Report, the ruins can be run in a few hours as an independent encounter by themselves. Or encountered in a separate sortie, perhaps even after the Hall is found and perhaps cleared.

…but getting lost on the way to the hall is not very easy if the GM hands out the player map of the area (included in the PDF version).

The PDF map is layered in the downloads so that you can hand out the map without the key GM information! At least I think it is. It definitely has layers.

Edit: In the comments, Mapmaker reminds me of a design decision at the core of the “hard to get lost” thing. Originally, seeing the Hall at all required the tiwstakn. That was the entire point of the thing, a ring that would show you what was hidden. Effective a See Invisible spell that worked against the illusions Tyr had placed concealing the place. As revision progressed, I decided that the worst possible thing that could happen would be to arrive at the mountain containing the hall (Hollfjall? Logifjall?) and not be able to find it because the players didn’t take a tiwstakn with them. So the entrance was made obvious. That’s a good reminder of how the thing evolved from its original incarnation.

The Hall itself is also represented by battle maps, but again it is a very simple matter and was a little disappointing after all the build-up.

Regrettably fair. The original Lost Hall suffered in the art and maps department due to my entirely missing the size of the market. I’d figured that since my first KS had about 300 backers, that my second, which had better exposure and with Dungeon Grappling as an existence proof that I could deliver, would be at least as good, with 300-500 backers likely. I also had cause to think that there might be some folks crossing over due to interest in vikings and shields and some fantasy artwork by a noted HEMA teacher. Alas, this was not to be, and my plans to go all-out on art and whatnot on the Hall itself were curtailed at the time.

Hall of Judgment was my best KS to date in terms of backer count, but when doing a product based on “I will do Lost Hall, but better, with existing assets to minimize risk!” there’s only so much deviation I was willing to undertake. So as I noted: regrettably fair.

The demon boss for the adventure is something of a rarity in GURPS as it is a singular creature

The team and I worked very, very hard to make sure that the boss monster would be a legit challenge for a group of delvers. Anyone familiar with GURPS (and fighting in general) knows that in a many-on-one encounter, it takes a lot of work for things to go well for the one. I’m very pleased at how the boss turned out, but fair warning: we designed this creature to kill the hasty or unprepared. If you rush in where angels fear to tread, you’ll get curb-stomped.

…the adventure is quite linear…

I think any adventure where the point is “go to this fixed place, and do a fixed thing” will feel linear. There are options to vary it up, and multiple pathways to journey to the Hall are provided. It’s true, though, once you get to the Hall, the choices winnow down quite a bit, both a legacy of the origin as a limited convention scenario, but also because all roads end at the Vault of Law.

Maybe Logiheimli has to be located for a vital clue first and the whole twistakn (token of Tyr) thing might be explored some more. 

Heh. The tiwstakn was a key bit of magical lore and had great import in the original. Too much so, I thought, so the tiwstakn diminished in importance, and then on a reread of the near-final version, I realized that the entire thing might be better off without any sort of mystical signpost that would turn the entire darn thing into a really linear progression. So I “killed my darlings” and hid the bodies a bit.

Playing up the tiwstakn would be easy to do, and import and utility can be grafted on to it as needed. The ruins of Logiheimli do contain something very valuable, though: a rare magical weapon that comes in rather handy for the final encounter. Want to push the players there (making it ironically more linear, rather than less)? Don’t give the delvers the Oathblade that Geirolf Tyrthegn recovered from the prelude!

I’m in two minds about cutting out the name Tyr and all that implies. Sure it makes things more generic, but it’s always easy to cut something as the GM and the tips in the OGL version were more than enough to make this a bit more accessible.

Trust me, it would have been my overall desire to keep it pretty Norsified, but the de-Norsing was one of the things that was in the sales pitch. The Dungeon Fantasy RPG, and to a lesser extent, Dungeon Fantasy as a subline, is generic. Very much so. The work the GM needs to do to call the Law God “Tyr” and the Lord of Storms “Thor” (or in Dragon Heresy, the parent setting origin, Ziu and Donnar) is just about the same as de-Norsing it. Too much firm setting and I think I’d have lost more than I gained, and if the entire premise revolves around a fixed cosmology, that makes it less portable.

Don’t worry: Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) is in the works. It’ll re-Norse the entire thing, and if things go well enough, I’ll be able to do a few upgrades along the way (maps and printing, perhaps).

The random encounters are all well thought out too, but take a little preparation to pull off. Some are a bit deadly, but it helps to have players who do not simply attack everything and everyone. It might be useful to predetermine some of the most atmospheric bits like (the starving Jarl’s ghost, circling ravens, drinking companion of Thor etc.)

I agree with this in a most profound manner. Some of the encounters are designed to be evaluated and avoided unless a tactical advantage can be brought to bear; very little “gee, is this encounter balanced?” was considered. Only if it would be fun. If you have two delvers (as did Captain Joy’s group in the Logiheimli mini-game linked above), then the Bandit Camp will either have to be avoided or taken down one or two bandits at a time. Numbers matter in GURPS. The Faerie Noble will turn even a well-equipped and experienced party of delvers into pink mist, and quickly. She’s a force of nature – think Leanansidhe from Dresden Files powerful.

The fact that the real reward here is the knowledge recorded in the hall is nice, but it’s spoiled by the Lady of the Harvest appearing and handing out magic weapons and golden hairs that turn into artefacts. 

Originally, and in the Lost Hall adventure itself, the reward is the knowledge, full stop. I got a lot of pushback from playtesters that there wasn’t enough reward in the book. Also, there’s a not-revealed (I think) reason why it’s the Lady of the Harvest (Sif) who shows up and not the Law God (Tyr) himself, so while meeting Tyr at the end would have been cool, that’s not what wound up happening.

Still: Divine Smoochies are a reward in and of themselves.

The Kickstarter had all these available as high-resolution graphics files for use with virtual tabletop software and I assume they are included in the PDF version too.

They are. They’re big downloads, but they’re available. I’m not sure if you get them at Warehouse 23 or not; if not, ping me and I’ll ensure you have them.

Parting Shot

This is a very thorough and very positive review, and (obviously) I’m very pleased. The number of such reviews of Hall of Judgment has been somewhat limited. I’ve tried to collect them:

Hall of Judgment – Collected Comments and Reviews

Even so, the bulk of the commentary shows I hit my mark. I’m especially pleased that so many are responding well to Isfjall – that’s my intent with future supplements to ensure that each “Town” provided has the same sort of character and tangibility that Isfjall does – and that Logiheimli, a new addition unique to Hall of Judgment, is getting good play at the table.

So thanks for the review, Mapmaker. I hope in the future there’s more for you to look at!

Hall of Judgment is available in both hardcopy and PDF at the Gaming Ballistic Webstore, as well as Warehouse 23!

Bit by bit, I’ve been working out how to improve my viking shields. My poplar edged shield that I made for myself is 5.75 lbs and about 34-34.5″ in diameter, and is still holding up strong after probably a year. Even so, there are issues with it that later commissions have fixed, but not for this one. It was my first attempt using goat hide for edging, and I hadn’t gotten the trick of keeping the edging flat and flush with the edges. The stitching is far too wide per stitch, and of course I re-used a boss that I had with a terribly wide flange, probably making the thing 1/2 lb heavier than it should be.

For all that, it’s a good shield. Still: I want to try a new one. Why? Read on. Continue reading “Viking Shield Upgrade Experiment”

Thursday is GURPSDay, and we’re going to get right to it! GURPSDay is currently pulling from 104 blogs on the roster.

GURPSDay is in its fifth year – GURPSDay started in February 2013,  a year after I started Gaming Ballistic.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPSIf 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.

Continue reading “GURPSDay Summary Sept 28, 2018 – Oct 4, 2018”

I heard from a backer in Sweeden that he just received his hardcopy of Dragon Heresy. So “international” backers should look for theirs this week or next, ideally.

Last I heard, we’re still on schedule to have the bulk of the US order arrive at Studio 2 on October 8, which hopefully means will see inventory at my house later that week, and then into media mail for the USA. Hopefully that means US folks should have their games by Oct 21.

If your address has changed since the Kickstarter, ping me at gamingballisticllc@gmail.com and I’ll change it in Backerkit. Once the books arrive at my house, I’ll print postage via the Backerkit online system – that worked beautifully when I did it for Hall of Judgment – and that, as they say, will be that. 186 copies of Dragon Heresy, plus assorted other copies of Lost Hall and Dungeon Grappling, are in the queue for distribution. A few of you ordered 3-4 of them.

I think you’ll be pleased with the books. We’re almost there!

Thursday is GURPSDay, and we’re going to get right to it! GURPSDay is currently pulling from 104 blogs on the roster. This GURPSDay quarterly summary reaches back for the last three months to pull what can be pulled from each blog on the list. As such . . . it’ll be long.

GURPSDay is in its fifth year – GURPSDay started in February 2013,  a year after I started Gaming Ballistic.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPSIf 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.

Continue reading “GURPSDay Summary June 27, 2018 – Sept 27, 2018”

Just a thought about a thread kicking around on the forums. I don’t have a lot of time for this sort of thing these days, but I did want to note something. The thread is about whether DFRPG characters feel a bit like superheroes. This can be taken two ways: that they resemble such because of a special-forces-like division of labor and skills (or, as Kromm notes, Jungian archetypes or close to it). It can also be taken as “you’re nearly at ‘name level’ in a D&D game, and you’ve avoided ‘the grind’ of getting there.”

I wanted to offer a slightly different take, which is that the DFRPG is designed for introductory play. Now, building a GURPS character is pretty much where all the “pain” is, or at least the activation energy. A 250-point character could conceivably involve 250 choices (in practice it does not, but it’s usually a fairly large number). The template system used in Action and Dungeon Fantasy and the Dungeon Fantasy RPG is designed to bound those choices to only a few, to get folks playing.

But wow, 250 points. That’s a lot. Superhero, right?

No, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not that such characters aren’t powerful. They are. It’s not that they aren’t tough and name level and whatnot. They are.

But it’s a power level where every template starts more or less capable of doing effective work without during-play complicated choices or attack/defense options to stay effective.

Let me quote from my own melee skill levels post from long ago:

Skill-18
Attack: Ah. Sweet victory. This is an utterly achievable skill level for entry-level DF characters. The Knight can get there pretty fast, and even well beyond given things like Weapon Bond and Balanced and choosing DX over ST, you can easily push a single skill to 22.

Still, at Skill-18, you can now hit the Brain better than 50% of the time, and use a Committed Deceptive Attack to the Vitals (!) to give -2 to your foes defenses and skewer him 83% of the time. Might want to only DA down to Skill-16, though, to preserve the extra chance for a critical hit. You can target arms and legs and either hope for the 10% chance to crit, or “only” accept a 90% chance at hitting and impart -1 to the foes defenses. Leg-chopping for fun and profit is viable here. More importantly, on really tough foes, you can target Chinks in Armor, dividing DR by 2, at 50% success rate . . . more with various Attack Options stacked up.

Defense: Base Parry/Block is 12, and you’re probably sportin’ Combat Reflexes too. You’re now looking at base Block/Parry with the +2 DB medium shield of 15 – now your foes have to start throwing Deceptive Attacks just to think about getting to you. And that’s without you really trying hard. With the right kit (such as a +3 DB shield) and Defensive Attack (+1), you can Riposte with a net defense of 14 and bequeath your foe -2 to defend against your own next attack, reserving your offensive bonuses for target location or soaking other penalties.

Forget all the numbers for a moment. At Skill-16 to Skill-18, both “I whack him!” and “I whack him in the face!” are both entirely viable saying nothing else but that. You’re going to hit nearly 100% of the time for the first, and between 2/3 and 5/6 of the time for the second. On defense, especially with a shield, “I block!” is looking at Skilll/2 or 8 or 9, probably combat reflexes for the +1, and the base +3. Minimum you’re defending on 12 or 13 . . . and then you toss in +2 DB for a shield. That’s 14-15 for the line. Unless you choose to be daring and give up some defenses, “I use my shield to not die!” is, again, something you can just say.

This makes the game newbie-friendly, which was a primary design goal. Much less than Skill-16 to Skill-18, and one needs to have rules mastery to fight and win. This was on full display in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG demo game at GenCon 50. The demo was super-streamlined and effective, maybe even eschewing either attack or defense rolls, I can’t recall. But really, what the skill level (call it a warrior type with a DB +2 shield and Skill-18 with a sword) does here is allow a newbie to “spam” the I attack and I defend buttons with no more rules mastery than that and have a good time playing. They can watch their friends go for Deceptive Attacks (lowering your attack percentage in order to lower your foe’s defense percentage), Feint, or other things and then say “I want to try that!” But they don’t have to start that way. They can hear “Oh, I want to target the arms, or the vitals, or stab through the eye!” and learn that the first is entirely viable, the vitals is easier than the face but better armored, and the eye is only 50-50 at Skill-18, or a bit worse, but that the sweet, sweet x4 to injury can make it worth it.

But until that point: “I whack him” is a viable tactic. With (say) an axe or dueling glaive, whose high adds to swing damage make for a powerful force multiplier, cutting damage to the torso is entirely viable.

Ultimately, I think that’s one of the reasons 250 points was chosen for the sub-line and the stand-alone RPG especially. You can be awesome at your primary combat job, and not suck at several other things. The on-ramp is smoother, and merging into optional rules requires less driving skill.

It’s been a long time coming, but the first hardcovers are going into the mail. As seems to be amusingly the case, it’s the international books that go out first. Roughly half the books went out last week, and the rest will go out next week. Postal service is Korean air mail, so it should be pretty much everywhere in about two weeks. Hopefully everyone will have theirs by Oct 6 or so, certainly I hope by Oct 13.

For the US folks, I expect October 8 (ish) to be the date that something like 1500 books arrive at Studio 2, and then it’ll take a few days to get 320 books (about half a pallet) to me in Minnesota. I’ve already got the packing materials, labels, etc, and so will be able to process the US books and get them into the mail in a matter of days. After that, it’s the usual 2-10 days for USPS to get it there, so everyone should have their stuff by the end of October, as promised.

Shipping internationally was unpredictably expensive. That’s on my end, and it will figure strongly into “lessons learned” for the future.