Disclaimer: I’m a terrible artist

This may be a mistake, but I’m willing to show you guys my crappy whiteboard art direction for the Citadel at Norðvorn Kickstarter  if you promise me not to flee in terror.

I’ve tried to make some references for my artists, as well as things to keep my writing consistent. So, when I say “this is a setting,” what I mean is that I have in mind some of the lovely and inspirational detail in worlds like Harn, which I experienced with Rob Conley playing in his game.

Nordvorn and the Lower Town

This was my initial sketch of the citadel. I wanted it to be very not-square, something that marks it as a dwarf-hewn keep. I also wanted it big – one of the most impressive castles and structures. I tended to look up “how big was a castle wall/tower/keep,” find the biggest one, and then make this bigger. For example, the Great Wall of China is about 5m wide and 8m tall. Audreyn’s Wall is thus 10m x 10m, but not exactly square.

In any case, this was my initial reference for the Citadel, which led naturally to thinking about Laegribaer, the Lower Town.

What the heck is an aircraft carrier doing there? Scale. It’s a gigantic ship, 330m or so long (1,000-ish feet) and shows that the inner courtyard contains nearly six acres of space. That’s a big inner bailey!

The river is the wrong scale, which I realized when thinking about how wide and deep the river is downstream at Ainferill (Riverbend). Nearly all of the water that flows there also flows here, so if the river is nearly 0.75 miles wide there . . . well, the gorge needs to be bigger. Probably 100-135m wide!

Looking at the Citadel allowed me to consider the shape of the town as well, I went with a classic Viking-style ring town, with an outer wall.

I went with concentric and spoke roads, and wooden towers interspersed between heavy, large, barbican-style gates. The River Gate was initially smaller, then it was enlarged and replaced as the town grew; the old gatehouse is still there, and a sprawling market exists on both sides of the outer wooden wall.

I’ve also worked out where the major “where do I shop” things happen here in the Lower Town, and that gets a solid section in the writeup. Remember, though: Norðvorn is a city, but not Town – adventure can and should happen here!

If it’s time to rest your head, where do you go? A bit of research led me to believe that when focusing on the traditional “fantasy Inn,” I was vastly underscoping how much money and importance these places were. Matt Riggsby probably already knew all this, but it was new to me! So I made sure each of the major Inns had its own thing going on, and that the owners had their own quirks and character, and ties to the workings of the town. Also: for those that want to do so, under the inns there was usually storage for valuables for travelers, and while in Nordvorn in particular, a dungeon might be out of place . . . it might not.

But what if you can’t afford the inn? What if you don’t want to stay there?

Gestrisni – An Excerpt from the Book

Gestrisni. Afer the fall of the dragon empire, the subjugated populations—humans, eldhuð, captured elves and half-elves, and others—fled south out of the Dragonground, with hordes of dragon-men, eðlafolk, and gangaeðla in pursuit. Those caught might be re-enslaved, or killed and eaten. Settlements and fortifications were hastily erected, and a custom grew of allowing any traveler to take refuge inside a compound. The words for “traveler” and “refugee/fugitive” in the Norðlond language differ only slightly, with “moving from one place to another” and “fleeing being turned into an hors d’oeuvre” being relegated to context and aspiration of certain letters. In any case, a long tradition of guest-right (gestrisni, or hospitality) in others’ homes took root over time. Gestrisni is not a trifling thing—by requesting it, one is stating that the host has something you need: protection.

The host provides shelter; the guest promises to stand fast in the home’s defense. In more modern times, with Nordlond being somewhat more civilized (depending on whom you ask, of course), gestrisni is usually requested or offered within those of a common background and social status. A party led by a follower of The Snow Queen of no special wealth or nobility might reasonably request gestrisni of a shopkeeper or successful farmer from within the braeðralag of the Snow Queen. A husgjof (house-gif) of food, drink, or some tangible useful object is usually offered each night. In practice, this is the cost of living for your Wealth level, though it is never paid in coin, as that would be insulting to the host.

Back to Images

To help my artists visualize the area, I attacked my whiteboard and came up with some, well, not-so-great perspective drawings of the keep itself. It dominates the local scenery, and I wanted to ensure folks were working from a common base.

I first tried to capture the bulk of the fortress. Squat and imposing, I hoped. The scale isn’t great on this, mostly that the walls are thicker in cross-section than shown. If I had time and a 3D modeling program, I’d be able to do this easily.

Connecting the keep to the Lower Town across the river gorge – which I realized as I worked had to be MUCH wider (and the river MUCH deeper!) than I’d initially conceived it – is the Eternal Bridge. It actually anchors into the wall of the keep side, perhaps 30m below the magically-raised location of the Citadel on the north side of the gorge. Counter-weighted lifts bring goods and travelers from the lower docks, and the winding and defensible stairway, called The Spiral, takes you from the gates in the gorge up to inside the keep itself.

The smaller keep on the Laegribaer side of the fortress is called Little Rock, and it would be considered a primary and impressive fortification all by itself were it not dwarfed (see what I did there?) by the Citadel itself!

On either side of the gorge, cut into the rock and supported with good engineering, magic, and pillars, are the lower docks. Giant stone and wooden dockworks and huge, counter-weighted lifts bring cargo from the river level up to the main market. The lift ends at the foot of a road that leads to the outer wall, which is formally called the Lift Road, but locals tend to call it Tax Street.

That’s probably enough, though I do have more that I gave my artists.

But if you really want to know where the money’s going on The Citadel at Norðvorn: it’s here. Taking my crude visualizations and power-point doodles and turning them into high-quality artwork and maps for you to use.

Citadel at Nordvorn is currently on Kickstarter, and more than halfway to the funding goal. If the above strikes your interest, please consider pledging! Most of the book will be system neutral, and applicable to any fantasy RPG.

I’m going to be on two more shows in the next two days!

RPG Coast to Coast

I will be one of the hosts tonight at the RPG Coast to Coast at 9:00pmEST//8:00pmCST//7:00pmMST//6:00pmPST.

Topics for tonight include discussing Longevity of D&D, Art not the Artist, How Best to Promote your Product, and whatever else strikes our fancy.

It’s going to be held in the Tenkar’s Tavern Discord chat.

How do I get to The Tavern Discord? Follow these Steps:

  • Step 1.) Go here https://discordapp.com/download
  • Step 2.) Click which is best for you Windows, Mac, Android, IOS, or Linux and download it.
  • Step 3.) Once it has finished downloading click the + button surrounded by a dotted circle on the left hand side
  • Step 4.) Click the Join a Server button and copy and paste this into it https://discord.gg/GaXW2TX

Being Stalked by Matt Finch

OK, not really. I reached out to him. 🙂

Even so, we will be chatting on his D&D Neighborhood channel at 6pm Central time, Saturday Feb 23. We always have fun.

Morning! As we head into what will be a heavy writing weekend for me on Citadel at Norðvorn, I wanted to leave you with two podcasts.

Roleplay Rescue (Che Webster)

Che and I talk for about an hour, and cover gaming stuff both old and new.

Game Night on Geek Gab

I return to their show for the third time. We cover what’s gone on at Gaming Ballistic since HoJ, being nice to customers, and group stealth rolls . . . plus a bunch of Nordvorn sporadically through the show.

Thursday is the Citadel at GURPSDay, and this has been a great week for GURPS. Don’t believe me? Fine! Check out this awesome list of GURPS stuff on the horizon.

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 was put on the “watch this space” calendar. SJG doesn’t do teasers – they’re either ready to rock, or they keep quiet. So look for this one.

Also, The Citadel at Norðvorn went live on Kickstarter this past Tuesday, Feb 19. We had an amazing first day, and can use your help getting to first the basic funding goals, and then pushing to the stretch goals for a larger book and better printing. Sean Punch wrote an entirely fascinating foreword to the book that every GURPS fan should read. It also hints of the next big Dungeon Fantasy RPG happening: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2, which will be Kickstarting in March. If it funds, we will also see a reprint of the Boxed Set!

Norðvorn and Monsters 2 are not connected with each other, other than both bringing new life to an amazing boxed set that as fans we all feared had failed to thrive. These projects – with at least two more on the way later this year from Gaming Ballistic, and whatever Evil Plans SJG has in store, will hopefully change that. As a wise time traveler once said: “It goes like this. The Future’s not set.”

In personal Gaming Ballistic News:

  1. I will be on Geek Gab’s Game Night – for the third time! – starting at 9pm Central Time to chat about Citadel, GURPS, TFT, Dragon Heresy, Vikings, and trying to run an indie game company. Check it out here at the appropriate time!
  2. The Lost Hall of Tyr 2nd edition physical print proof from the US printer were approved today. Based on their projections, that project should complete something like two months early.
  3. I posted a hoped-for publishing schedule for me in 2019.
  4. I received word from my authors on TFT projects that the first two (one from each) are over 75% completed for writing; there are ten in the works total
  5. I’ll be headed down to FNORDCon April 6-7, and running a table. Lots of Nordlond, maybe a preview of Citadel even, and several surprises

GURPSDay is starting its sixth – 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.
Continue reading “The Citadel at GURPSDay: Feb 15 to Feb 21, 2009”

Citadel Foreword (by Sean Punch)

As with Hall of Judgment, I asked if Steve Jackson Games would like to contribute a Foreword to introduce the book. Within the hour, I had a remarkable piece by Sean, which I inserted into the layout.

Here it is in text form. I have the Citadel Foreword by Sean 2 as well.


By Sean Punch

For those who missed the Hall of Judgment foreword: Hi, I’m the designer of Steve Jackson Games’ Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying GameGaming Ballistic has invited me back to write a few words about The Citadel at Norðvorn, which I find exciting for several reasons.

The Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game Kickstarter campaign was funded in less than three weeks (September 1-17, 2016)—a success by most measures.

Still, the RPG market is flooded nowadays, with new products pushing old ones off shelves in mere weeks, too. Success is hard to sustain. In our case, post- Kickstarter sales weren’t strong enough to justify more in-house support for the game.

Fortunately for us, Douglas Cole—hajarl of Gaming Ballistic—wanted to take up the quarrel (jarls love quarrels). He proposed adapting Lost Hall of Tyr as Hall of Judgment for the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game, and that Kickstarter campaign was fully funded in 11.5 hours on June 19, 2018.

That’s a success even by exacting standards!  On the heels of that success, Doug came back to SJ Games and asked if we’d be interested in seeing him publish more support. He and I started an informal discussion on July 25, 2018. That heated up over the summer and eventually involved Alain Dawson, Director of Licensing; Phil Reed, CEO; and Steve Jackson, Hajarl (okay, “President and Editor-in-Chief”).

It took considerable number-crunching and soulsearching, but Doug’s figures and answers finally convinced us: On October 16, 2018, SJ Games issued Gaming Ballistic a license to publish three Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game supplements, The Citadel at Norðvorn being the first. We’ve since signed off on a smaller item in addition to these.

Now we watch and wait. If this supplement and the two that follow do well, we’re likely to extend Doug’s license further. I won’t claim the sky’s the limit, mostly because it isn’t my place to commit Doug’s time. That said, if the lean operation that is Gaming Ballistic can support a product from SJ Games—which is larger and more diversified, with the overhead that implies—we might just have a winning formula.

But there’s more to it than that.

For one thing, thanks to the success of Hall of JudgmentSJ Games has decided to reexamine supporting the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game in house. I’m writing this in February 2019, and in March, we’ll be launching a Kickstarter for a reprint of the game along with the release of a second collection of monsters, Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2. If you’re reading this in the future, you’ll know how that went… but all I can do right now is cast the runes. Still, if our Kickstarter and The Citadel at Norðvorn both fly, you can expect more releases across the board.

For another, Doug has done me an honor: He tells me that a mini-setting of mine—GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Setting: Caverntown—was an inspiration for how to present a town in RPG writing. In his words, it’s like a checklist for everything you have to include if you want the place to be not just interesting color but also useful in a game with real players who want to do really crazy stuff. It inspired not the locations in Hall of Judgment and The Citadel at Norðvorn, but how they were presented. Your support of those works is a big vote of confidence for me, personally.

But this is Doug’s party, not mine, so I’ll get back on message: Thank you Doug and thank you Doug’s customers! The continued backing of Gaming Ballistic’s projects is a fantastic vote of support for the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game.

Sean Punch, GURPS Line Editor, Steve Jackson Games February 14, 2019

So . . . Hall of Judgment funded fast. Less than 12 hours to reach the $3,000 funding goal. Felt pretty good about that. Still do. My wonderful backers on The Citadel at Norðvorn passed that in just over three hours. Right now, in still less than the 12 hours it took for Hall of Judgment to fund, we’re running over 30% hotter than the first day’s rate. I’m . . . impressed.

So welcome aboard! I’m going to wear out my F5 key. Well, it’s an old keyboard anyway, and it will be sacrificed to good cause.

Regardless: thanks for jumping on early, and I can’t wait to see what the next two days bring.

In the meantime, even if you’re here . . . you can still help!

  • The Power of Networking. The usual re-shared that you guys have been doing on Twitter, a link to communities you’re part of on Facebook, Instagram, MeWe, Discord . . .whatever. As long as it’s not spam, ’cause that never helps.
  • Favorite Local Game Stores. One new-ish thing I’m doing with Nordvorn is I’m offering several retail levels. Three or four copies of Dungeon Fantasy RPG or my other books at more-or-less a 50% discount. Those are aimed squarely at retail shops, and if you have a local game store, bringing my work to their attention might help. It will certainly help with the overall visibility of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG product line, and the upcoming KS for Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 plus the boxed set reprint will help there too!
  • Blogs and Podcasts. I’ve reached out to some folks that I’ve podcast with before, and will be doing more. But if you run a podcast, or operate a blog . . . I’d love to answer your questions!

Stay tuned. I’ve got a really fun update for tomorrow morning – Sean Punch has graciously written another introductory Foreword to Citadel, as he did with Hall of Judgment . . . and it’s a heck of a read.

Until tomorrow!

By the way, for Hall of Judgment:

  • Day 1: Reached $3,300
  • Day 2: Reached $6,500
  • Day 24: Reached $13,000
  • Kickstarter Total: $15,793 from 525 backers

Crush your stretch goals, see them driven before us, and hear the lamentations of their, um, actually, if we do that no one will be lamenting much. Onward!

In the meantime, watch the Nordvorn Updates page for sneak peaks and information. For example, tomorrow morning, I’ll be posting Sean Punch’s remarkable Foreword for the new book.

Today at 10am Central Time . . . in a bit more than two hours after I publish this update . . . the second third-party publication for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG will launch on Kickstarter.

The Citadel at Norðvorn is a mini-setting for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. It consists of three major settlements, many small villages, at least one ruin, and two primary sources of conflict: The Hunted Lands to the northwest of The Palisade, and the Endalaus Forest, to the north and east of Audreyn’s Wall.

It is intended for starting Dungeon Fantasy RPG characters of 250 points. They will be major players, and the fulcrum around which the future of Norðlond turns. 

I hope that you will join me on this project, share the Kickstarter with your friends . . . and perhaps even more importantly, tell your Favorite Local Game Stores about it: there are several retail-level tiers available for stores looking to get their Gaming Ballistic on. Combined with the upcoming Kickstarter for Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 and a reprint of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set, this is an important inflection point in the product line.

So join me in bringing The Citadel at Norðvorn to life!

The Citadel at Norðvorn

Return to Norðlond in a detailed mini-setting for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

In The Citadel at Nordvorn, you will find many adventures, plus more trouble the players will doubtless create on their own. The area is so teeming with strife and peril that their characters will have the opportunity to stand at the center of many crises.

The Citadel at Norðvorn is a mini-setting for the Dungeon Fantasy RPGIt consists of three major settlements, many small villages, at least one ruin, and two primary sources of conflict: The Hunted Lands to the northwest of The Palisade, and the Endalaus Forest, to the north and east of Audreyn’s Wall.

Return to Norðlond, Viking-flavored world with its own history, culture, and expectations. Visit as an outsider, or fresh from a victory rediscovering the Hall of Judgment.

Citadel is intended for starting Dungeon Fantasy RPG characters of 250 points.

Good luck, and may the Fates have a bold destiny in store for you!

The Citadel at Norðvorn goes live on Kickstarter at 10am Central Time, Feb 19, 2019.– Douglas Cole

I’ve updated the Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) PDF to correct some errors I noticed while looking at the proof. This should be the final file, though doubtlessly in the future someone will point out something I missed. This is the change log.

You should be receiving a Backerkit distribution of the file. I’m currently spooling out a new interior file for the printer(s), and that will be uploaded slightly later today. They actually prefer changes in the form of single page, but since both of the printers (UK and USA) also support POD, a new, full file is sensible.

Change Log u20190215

  • You’ll never notice this, because you’ll only get this version, but I’m upgrading the cover to 12pt/300gsm instead of 10pt/250gsm. The heavy paper on the interior needs an appropriately stout exterior.
  • p.iii – changed the ampersand in Swords & Wizardry to a different font, because it looked stupid in PR Viking
  • p. vi – adjusted the image and text to bring an orphan line where it belonged. It’s a hard-knock life.
  • p. 11 – Removed some underlines that were a legacy of the paragraph style used in the Pack Animals table
  • p. 18 – the borders went MIA in the Lowland Encounters table. They’re back.
  • p. 30 – a colon was used instead of a period in a run-in title. Colonectomy performed, period.
  • p. 41 – Way too many titles in the map-as-art. Now just reads “Dire Straits,” which gives more room for Dire Wolves to eat the PCs. Talk about clean plate club.
  • p. 42 – changed “When Norðalfar Attack” to “When Goblins Attack” in the art, and fixed a find/replace artifact (Goblinoids–>Goblins) in the text. A goblin is something different in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, so my faerie goblins got renamed to norðalfs, plural/generic norðalfar.
  • p. 45 – removed an underline in the table that didn’t need to be there.
  • p. 49 – changed “ore” to “more” because typo, dammit.
  • p. 50 – expanded the map to very nearly fill the entire page. It’s slightly offset to the left in the PDF, because in print there will be paper lost to gutter.
  • p. 52 – Added details of “Trap D,” which managed to go MIA for several versions of the book. Yay, poison gas!
  • p. 54 – also expanded the map. This page was the bad print error page, so it would have been fixed regardless
  • p. 56 – Italicized Muspelheim.
  • p. 60 – changed paragraph style on “Varieties——>” to make it match other section heads
  • p. 92 – Changed map title to just read Dire Straits
  • p. 93 – Changed “Norðalfar” to “Goblins”
  • p. 102 – fixed a few layout errors and emphasis mistakes in the One Page Grappling section
  • p. 103 – fixed the ampersand in Swords & Wizardry so it doesn’t look silly
  • Back Cover – there are no ready-to-play characters in Lost Hall 2.0, because Dragon Heresy, 5e, and S&W Characters are very quick and simple to make at Level 1-5. That needed to be removed.

That’s the list!

The moment I’ve been waiting for. I hope you have too. There’s good news and bad news.

The Bad News

Let’s start with the bad news, because other than a few things to adjust, the rest is just freakin’ great.

There are maybe three or four things that need fixin’:

  • One of the pages had a legit whoops. The printer must have run out of ink or something. I’m hoping that quality control would have caught that, ’cause dang.
  • The goblin warrens maps were left out of the document. That’s an issue, because I’m out of space. I have a few ideas. The maps as they are are quite large, and done in full-page mode anyway. I can make them bigger, overlapping the page borders, and that would do it. I hate to lose the Dragon Heresy teaser or any of the other info. I’ll probably do that.
  • One map is labeled “When Norðalfar Attack!” instead of “When Goblins Attack!” That’s a quick fix.
  • There might be typos or other errors, but I’ll do a read-through word-by word with the pages in hand tonight. It’s always easier when you can look at the pages.

And that’s all for errors. One legit printer muck-up, and the rest are really my problem.

The Good News

The book is going to look amazing. Let’s start with the cover, and see how it stacks up with other books. Oh . . . one thing before I go nuts pasting pictures. This is an unbound proof. So don’t look at images where pages show through on the cover and judge the binding. There’s isn’t binding yet. That makes it easier to inspect the quality of the complete page.

The Cover

The Interior

Hall of Judgment - 128 pages; Lost Hall 2.0 - 112 pages. That's THICK paper.
Hall of Judgment – 128 pages; Lost Hall 2.0 – 112 pages. That’s THICK paper.
Oops. Won't ship the book like this!
Oops. Won’t ship the book like this!

Final Word

So, there are a few things to fix. Once that’s done, though – these guys did a nice job, and I look forward to doing more work with them in the near future.

I think you’ll like the heft and feel of the book when you get it. The colors are nice, the cover and paper tangibly good quality, and it stacks up as a nice companion to the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set.

I’ll read and correct errors tonight. Not entirely sure if they’ll want me to send over pages, or an entire file (no problem either way). After that, I suspect it will be a quick turn for printing, and then I’ll get shipping going.

Major milestone!