I got a quick bit of feedback on using Conditional Injury in actual play. Recall this article was not playtested, and mostly theoretical. Granted I was musing on it for years, but it never really got a good stress test. So someone wrote me with one:

Dingo (Discord Forums) wrote:

A lot shorter than planned and got a ‘longer’ fight expected which I’ll do a proper play writeup for; but regarding the Conditional Damage it worked really well. It encouraged superior fighters to allow themselves to take more risks because being hit for low-damage hits wasn’t as threatening as before where 7 hits alone was enough to have you suffering penalties; there were a lot more all-out attacks and all-out defenses to set up counterattacks. It felt, to put a word to it – a great deal ‘meatier’. A 3v1 fight of one skilled fighter with just DR 1 on the torso involved a lot more hits than before without worrying about an instant escalation. Weak hits were still dangerous due to failed-HT rolls potentially making injury condition worse, but in practice this meant that the immediate danger wasn’t HP (a limited resource) but shock penalties, stunning, and knockdown – both attacking and defending these became priorities. Jabs to the face (using Defensive Attack) became a very effective tactic in the 3v1 for the trained fighter. So all in all, a good fun fight that didn’t cause the GM panic of ‘well it could end in 3 hits’.

Interesting. I’d not have figured that.

This report suggests that the GURPS Death Spiral has perhaps been tamed a bit. Risking more wounds, rather than fewer, wasn’t really a design goal. But then, it wasn’t not a design goal either. Some of the emergent behavior, such as more strikes to the face looking for knockdown and stun, are outstanding results, the kind of emergence one hopes for. An increased use of All-Out-Attack (I will take a minor wound in order to deal a major one!) seems more accurate for a game that tends to have to remind GMs that mooks, unskilled mooks, will not do the math on defending like players do. They want to hit you, and will happily fling Telegraphic All-Out or Telegraphic Committed (+8 and +6 to hit, respectively for the Determined option) blows to do so.

So this is a good report. I still have to do my Designer’s Notes commentary on the article; hopefully I’ll get to that today.

Ooo! Follow-up comment by Dingo (Discord Forums)

yeah it quickly became very appropriate to approach the fight less from ‘put hurt on the opponent’ and instead shift to ‘control your opponent’. The player I was testing it with wasn’t so confident with the grappling rules as to put that entirely in scope (It’s what we’re gonna add in for the next test to see how it comes together); but quickly made realizations like the importance of hits that risk stunning, or in a group fight – the fact going for more dangerous hits can be worthwhile if you’re confident you can handle the backlash.

Ultimately the fact victory comes down to a status game rather than a counter game meant you immediately had to shift tactics away from damage/attrition and instead towards control and disabling.
Especially if your opponent has a high enough HT that you can’t rely on Cumulative Wound severity increases without All Out Attack (Strong); one exchange against someone with 13 HT resulted in the player doing -repeated- Defensive Jabs to the face, solely waiting for a stun and outlasting their counterattacks. Once the stun hit – AoA (Strong) to the face over, and over, and over until they either were crippled from a sufficiently high damage hit, or recovered from stun (at which point it returned to jabs and defensive)

So really interesting stuff here, in that “go repeatedly to the face, and when stunned, ground and pound” is rather nifty because that’s exactly what you see in MMA fights with two skilled foes that are pretty tough, by dint of repeated experience.

Dragon Heresy is in the hands of backers at last, having shipped out all copies to those who backed the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter, and by this time tomorrow, I’ll have gotten all of the DH copies out to those that added it to Hall of Judgment as well.

As folks have received it, it is my sincere hope that they do as The Mixed GM did, and review it. His review is short, sweet, and to the point, which allows me to make some useful commentary along the way.

First Go Read The Review

“Now that’s a cover! (Please excuse my phone camera and lack of camera skills)”

He likes the cover. The art is by noted Western Martial Arts instructor and historian Roland Warzecha. He told me that he had so much fun embellishing and making the drawing that his wife (whom I believe is the warrior pictured) had to nudge him to stop spending time on it. Read about the details of the composition here on the Dimicator Patreon page.

“Honestly, it feels like a halfway point between 5E and the OSR.”

That, of course, was deliberately intentional. I like the OSR games for their speed of play, their reliance on the GM and player skill, and the open-endedness where rules are only invoked when needed.

I like 5E as a delightfully modular system that attempts – mostly successfully – to unify the basic mechanics of a very large amalgamation of various accumulated rules and ideas into a coherent whole. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of the 5E games I’ve played.

It’s also, as he notes, a hack – it adds a small number of subsystems (grappling, social standing, flyting) and rules tweaks (wounds/vigor, Threat DC/Hit DC, and Damage Reduction for armor) that I think add to verisimilitude and enhance epic play.

“Hopefully, the ‘X’ will be Kickstarted soon…”

I’ve been asked about this a few times by enthusiasts, much to my delight. Yes, I have further plans. Yes, Level 1 through Level 20 is already written.

But the art – all of which really ought to be new going forward – is going to be expensive, and I’d really like to see significant interest from the market at large before I do another big one like the Intro Set. I’d like the next book to be full-color hardback, with the same production values, just like the Intro Set was. That takes serious funding, which takes serious backer interest.

“Removed the Thief/Rogue Class”

It’s true that the thief/rogue is gone from the Dragon Heresy Intro Set! But perhaps not for reasons why you might think.

Thievery in general was a great way to get yourself outcast in Viking society. In Egil’s Saga, Egil, a loud-mouthed, distemperate and ridiculously effective fighter (berserker/barbarian, really) and raider, goes on a raid. His force gets captured, but by virtue of prodigious strength, he escapes (by lifting up the main pole of the longhouse that he’s tied within!).

They grab their weapons, some loot, and head back to the ship. Midway, Egil stops, and says that he cannot do this. He refuses to be so dishonorable as to steal. They go back, and I believe set the target’s longhouse on fire, and kill those who emerge.

See, stealing is bad. But setting a house on fire and killing the men as they emerge? That’s perfectly cool.

In any case, I had to make some hard choices when reducing my overall manuscript from 750-800 pages for my full three-volume original intent to 250-300 for the Introductory Set. Certain classes had to go. Berserkers had to be there; too Viking to not be. I added Skald (bard) back during the Kickstarter.

But there just weren’t very many Viking thief stories, and for an Intro Set, I had to make choices. So Thief, Druid/Trevinur, Ranger, Paladin, and Sorcerer went by the wayside.

They exist, though. So do some very cool “explicit multi-class” options I wrote. Maybe in a Character Building expansion; that would add back the missing classes, and push the levels covered from 1-5 to include maybe up to 12 or 13.

Builds in the grappling rules from ‘Dungeon Grappling’

I’m glad he listed this as part of “The Good!”

Interestingly enough from an historical perspective, the Dungeon Grappling rules existed first as part of the Dragon Heresy manuscript. When I got advice that no one in their right mind would fund a three-volume set from an unknown guy (true advice, if hard to swallow), I broke out the unique grappling rules as my first product.

They improved over time, and honestly improved again when I modified them for the Powered by GURPS supplement Hall of Judgment for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, and then were inserted back into Dragon Heresy, where they exist in their present form.

Grappling is now very intuitive and easily blends with regular combat. The way it should be.

FULL COLOR ART EVERYWHERE

Yeah. Won’t lie, I’m proud of that. And while he’s kind enough to ‘respect my IP’ by not publishing more images, here are a few more.

I really had a lot of fun specifying the art, and my art team: Juan Ochoa, Ricardo Troula, Christian “KrizEvil” Villacis, Roland Warzecha, Michael Clarke, Cornelia Yoder (cartography), Gerasimos Kolokas, Elizabeth Porter, John Blaszczyk, Gennifer Bone, Erin Arik, Dean Spencer, and Rick Hershey did amazing things with the book.

The Viking-ish world is baked into every aspect of the game, from class section to monsters

This is vital to the book, and to the world. I did everything I could – and given that the SRD is mechanics only, I had to do quite a lot – to ensure that everything tied to the world, to a viking/Norse feel, and had a reason. Even the Tieflings and other half-human, half-creature races, are tied to the world. There’s a reason that those exist (half-elves, half-dragons, half-fiends, half-Asgardians) and a reason the Dwarves have no half-human parts.

A Vigor and Wounds system that is a little deeper than just hit points

This bit was important to me, as it both makes being dogpiled quite dangerous, but it also resolves some weird edge cases. It’s also in keeping with the Gygazian notes on p. 82 of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, where he notes that it’s ridicuous for a high level combatant to be robust enough to only be killed by 10 sword strokes that land home, where a 1st level guy only takes one. Humans are fragile. With wounds/vigor, so long as you keep your wits about you, you can probably take most attacks as vigor. But once wounds start accumulating? Beware the death spiral, and consider strategic withdrawal.

Playtesting revealed this was a lot of fun, and produced an element of risk in fights that those that enjoy games like GURPS will recognize and enjoy. Anyone who has had to blaze through a foe with 150 HP in an unadulterated battle of ablation will appreicate it as well.

The Bad:  It is based on 5E, so if you hate 5E and 5E-based things with a burning passion, this may not be the game for you

This is simply true . . . but depending on what you don’t like about 5e, you might find I’ve addressed some of it. Shields are way cooler. All battles aren’t a slog of HP ablation. Grappling doesn’t suck, and is in fact pretty fun. Monsters that grapple are terrifying. Vikings.

There’s a lot to like here, even if I say so myself.

The Ugly: It has Tieflings. I don’t like Tieflings

I have no response to this except an image of gratuitous Tiefling art courtesy of Juan Ochoa.

Parting Shot

The Mixed GM’s review is considerably shorter than my response to it. He definitely hit the highlights: if you like 5e, there’s a world to explore, some fun rules tweaks, and it’s a very pretty and well put-together book.

I hope you are encouraged to pick up a copy and see for yourself!

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!

Moe Tousignant has a rep for thorough and detailed reviews. We’ve been in each others’ gaming orbits for a while, as he discussed below. When his dance card came up empty after reviewing James Spahn’s White Start, I teased him about reviewing Dragon Heresy.

He accepted.

He’s working through the preliminary-but-playable PDF file I’ve been working with, screen-shotting, and from which the edited manuscript will emerge, eventually. He notes the fix I made to moving Alignment where it’s supposed to be under Character Background somehow didn’t “take.” A few other things need fixing as well. This is why you need an editor.

Even so, he’s posted two long examinations so far, and will continue through the book. It’s readable, it’s thorough and fair. And he’s given me permission to re-host it.

So here we go, from Moe Tousignant’s RPGaMonth Group in Google+:

My history with Dragon Heresy and first look.

I’m finally caught up. It’s the fourth month of the year and I’m starting on my fourth RPG book for #RPGaMonth. If I can finish this one by the end of April then I will actually be on schedule!

For those just joining in, I’m reading this book as part of #RPGaMonth, where the goal is to read one RPG a month for the entire year. The main drive is to get those books that have been sitting on your shelf/hard drive unread and unused for far too long off that shelf/drive and get them read or, even better get them read and run.

My history with Dragon Heresy and it’s designer, Doug Cole

That goal of getting stuff off my shelf/drive? Well, that doesn’t apply here. Dragon Heresy is new to me, as of yesterday. Actually right now it’s kind of new to everyone. Well, really, it’s not new to anyone yet as it’s not actually out, or finished.

Dragon Heresy is a new fantasy RPG written by +Douglas Cole aka Gaming Ballistic. It’s up on Kickstarter right now (there will be a link at the end of this if you want to check it out).

So why am I writing about a game that’s not even finished yet? Well, it seems I must be doing something right with these reviews as Doug really liked my White Star Review and contacted me and asked if I would consider reading a pre-production copy of his new game next.

Now I’ve known Doug for as long as I’ve been on social media. From what I remember we first “met” in the Old School Gamers group on Facebook. Over time I’ve also grown to know him as That Thursday GURPSday guy, and now he’s becoming that Dragon Heresy guy (and with that, the Viking shield making guy).

I’ve always enjoyed my interactions with Doug so agreed to give Dragon Heresy a read. So take this as my full disclosure. While I don’t know Doug personally, as in, in real life (we’ve never met), I do know and respect him through our online interactions. Also, he did send me a pre-production copy of this game. Will that affect my thoughts on the game itself, I don’t think so, but it is something to consider when reading my thoughts on Dragon Heresy.

What I know going in

Due to the fact Doug was on pretty much every RPG podcast ever created in the last few weeks, I’ve heard quite a bit about Dragon Heresy. I know it uses Dungeons & Dragons 5e as it’s base. I know it’s more crunchy than D&D 5e. I know it’s about Vikings but still keeps all the magic and fantasy and I know that you don’t need to own D&D 5e to use it. It’s a standalone game. That’s pretty much it.

What is going to make this review interesting is that I have not read Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Yes, you read that right. I don’t play nor have I read the worlds most popular roleplaying game. For shame. Now I did do the whole D&D Next playtest, back when it was just the Caves of Chaos and Fighters still did damage on a miss. I’ve also got a ton of XP with D&D 4th Edition, 3.5 edition, and AD&D 2nd Edition. So it’s not like Fantasy D20 games are new to me. But I thought it worth noting that I haven’t played/read 5e so in some cases I’m not going to know if a rule in Dragon Heresy is new or something straight from the D&D 5e core rules.

First Look

Obviously, Dragon Heresy isn’t done yet and that needs to be taken into consideration for the entirety of this review. I’m dealing with PDF files here and not physical books.

That said, I was very impressed by how far along the game is. There’s art. It’s laid out. It’s full color. It looks like a complete RPG. Which I have to admit is awesome to see for a Kickstarter. When I received files from Monte Cook for playtesting they were just word documents. I really wasn’t expecting to see something this polished.

The book (you still call it a book when dealing with PDF’s right?) looks beautiful. It’s two-column justified text that looks to flow well. Most charts are in line as is most of the art (with a few bigger images squeezing one column or the other). I’m not sure if more art is coming but there are some sections where it’s a bit sparse, I found one section where it’s 12 pages between pieces of art. The art that is there is solid and appears to feature multiple artists (one of the pages I don’t have are the credits).

As expected from a book based on D&D, it looks like a large portion of the book is dedicated to spells and monsters. It’s also worth noting this is a one book system. No separate campaign book or monster manual. It does look like there’s still art coming for the Monsters as I didn’t notice any during my flip through the book.

First Impressions

My first thought as I scrolled quickly through the Dragon Heresy PDF was: man this looks like a complete game. As I got near the end I noticed there was still some layout to be done and art missing but overall it looks done, at least as far as the rules are concerned.

I haven’t actually read any rules or anything more than some random headings so I can’t speak about any of that yet, but I can say this is going to be a great looking game once it releases.

Now we just need to see how the rules look… next time.

Part 2 Covering: Introduction, Core Mechanics, Creature Characteristics, Ability Scores, Generating Characters, Character Races, Character Classes, Character Background, Beyond 1st Level and Equipment Continue reading “Moe Tousignant Reviews Dragon Heresy (preview edition)”

I thought it was worth explaining in more detail what’s actually in the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set.

Other Updates from the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter

  1. Welcome to Dragon Heresy! (blog/KS link)
  2. A Great Beginning: the first 24 hours (blog/KS link)
  3. Hail to the Shield-Guard! The Skjald-hirð carries the day! (FUNDED!) (blog/KS link)
  4. Designer’s Notes, and Shields with at least 12% more Viking (blog/KS link)
  5. The Established Facts Podcast (blog/KS link)
  6. Progress Report: Things moving along well (blog/KS link)
  7. Page Count, Cosmology, and first review (KS link)

I’m targeting a 3-5% wordcount reduction in the overall text during the editing stage to try and keep the book at 256 pages once the front matter, maps, Index, and ToC go in, so pages might shift a bit. But this will be a good guideline.

Not Exactly a Table of Contents

  • Introduction (1 page)
  • Core Mechanics (9 pages)
  • Generating Characters (1 page)
  • Character Races (11 pages)
  • Character Classes (11 pages)
  • Character Backgrounds (7 pages)
  • Beyond 1st Level (1 page)
  • Equipment (12 pages)
  • Campaigns/Adventuring (14 pages)
  • Rewards and Treasure (3 pages)
  • Magic Items (5 pages)
  • Combat (18 pages)
  • Damage, Rest, and Injury (6 pages)
  • Conditions (2 pages)
  • Magic (8 pages)
  • Spells by Class (25 pages)
  • The World of Etera (14 pages)
  • OGL (1 page)
  • Foes (100+ pages)

So that’s what’s in the book.

Cosmology Preview

There are a few things I’ve yet to do with this that will change a tetch by final entry, but here’s a brief glimpse into Etera and the Nine Realms.

The World Tree and pathway between worlds, Yggdrasil maps the ever-shifting flows of magic through the nine realms. One can move through the realms by tapping into and following the flows of magic, by being transported by Heimdallr’s Bifrost, or by stepping through a dimensional rift. The nine realms touched by Yggdrasil, the World Tree, are described below.

The branches of yggdrail run with the sap of magic, and touch all Nine RealmsRealms of the Gods

The highest branches of Yggdrasil reach into the heavens, and touch on the realms in which the most powerful beings in the universe dwell.

Asgard. The home of the Aesir, and the seat of power of Woden Allfather. Not all of the Aesir are on the level of Ziu, Donnar, Valfreya, and Skadi (to name but a few), and travelers can meet Aesir of varying power (See the Aesir section of the Bestiary). Transit between Asgard and the Realms of the Field is achieved via the Bifrost—a powerful teleportation circle over which Heimdallr of Asgard stands eternal watch.

Alfheim. This plane or dimension is the realm of the Archfae, and the home of at least the Winter Court. The Summer Court, if it exists at all, might be here as well. This plane is not the realm of the pocket dimensions of the lesser fae (svartalfheim), though access to that realm is much easier from Alfheim than other places.

Jotenheim. The “giant’s home” is the demesne of the elder dragons, where they undertake their journeys of mind and spirit as they slumber on their hoards. Even in their sleep, they are active—and very dangerous—in Jotenheim. Encounters with ancient and elder dragons can be expected, and their power is as great as their motives and desires are mysterious. It is called Jotenheim because that’s what the Aesir call it . . . and they were greatly disturbed when the Elder Dragons drove the giants from their Realm.

Realms of the Field

The middle branches of Yggdrasil contains the realms in which the powerful lords of creation play their games—the playing fields of the gods. This includes the world on which Etera sits, and possibly many others.

Midgard. The home of Etera and the physical world. The sun, moon, and the world are considered part of Midgard. The Astral plane, the realm of pure thought, interconnects the Realms of the Field like vines weaving through the branches of a tree. It is formally part of Midgard, as it cannot exist without the thoughts, perceptions, and guidance of the living minds of the world to create it.

Vanaheim. There is some mystery and argument over Vanaheim. The association of some of the Aesir, such as Yngvi Lifegiver and Valfreya with magic, nature, and the cycles of winter and summer are cause for debate over whether Vanaheim is the realm of magic itself, or if it is related to the spirts and natural phenomena of the world. The animating spirits of places and things that can be called forth that are not souls and elementals. Others—a distinct minority—feel Vanaheim consists of parallel worlds, similar to Midgard but different in some ways. The ethereal plane, the realm of alternates and interconnectivity between the physical and other, is part of Vanaheim.

Muspelheim. The plane of fire, and home to fiends. The Gods are much more powerful than even the lords of the tyrann and kvoldomur that rule over Muspelheim—at least on an individual basis. The fiends of Muspelheim are far more numerous than the Aesir, Elder Dragons, and Archfae, and pose a real threat to Midgard.

Realms of the Spirit

Here are the ephemeral planes and universes that stand in for archetypes and non-physical journeys.

Hel. The realm of death, over which Halja has dominion (but she commutes to work, and most often resides and can be found in Asgard). Here you may find the souls of the departed not selected to dwell in Asgard awaiting Woden and Valfreya’s need. This is also the realm necromancers contact and touch to create undead.

Niflheim. The realm of “ice,” so named after the first journeys to this plane found a cold and inhospitable space, filled with creatures of ice and frozen stasis. The name held, even when it was discovered that other elemental essences also were found here. This is where the fire, earth, water, ice, air and other elemental forces and archetypes originate.

Svartalfheim. The “home of the dark elves,” this is where the base fae create their pocket dimensions and personal realms. It is also an ethereal plane, and from here, a traveller may reach most other realms and worlds.

First Review

Follow Me and Die! posts reviews, discussion about gaming, and more

Larry Hamilton over at Follow Me and Die! likes reviewing my stuff. I like it when he reviews my stuff. It’s a good match. This is the first review published, but more are pending. So check out FMaD!’s review below

DRAGON HERESY – A QUICK REVIEW

Howdy! I’m back from possibly the worst travel itinerary I’ve had inflicted on me in my 17 years working at my company. From Thailand to Minneapolis, I sat in hotel rooms or airport layovers for 36 hours, while actually moving from place to place in cars and airplanes for perhaps 24 hours. I am pretty much a wastoid right now, but soldier on anyway.

In any case, we’re entering the last six days of the Kickstarter. I was greeted by three reviews or pieces of commentary on my return, and all paint a favorable picture of Lost Hall of Tyr. I’ll present them in the order I read them, and quote them in full where appropriate.

Actual Play Report

The best feedback is “I played the game and it worked for me.” That’s the summary of this report by Anders:

Lost Hall of Tyr” is Douglas Cole’s adventure for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, made to showcase his Dungeon Grappling rules. It is set in Torengar, a country heavily inspired by the Old Norse and the goal is to regain lost books supposedly penned by one-handed Tyr, god of war, law and sacrifice.

I ran the adventure with seven 5th-level characters (which is probably more than it is recommended for) and it took about four hours to run. Cole has done a good job of capturing the flavor of Norse mythology and blending it with the Dungeons and Dragons feel. The adventure contains plenty of both fighting and non-fighting challenges. We had a lot of fun with the game, although I’m a little worried about how the final challenge would go with a less powerful party. You might have to adjust for that.

The adventure comes complete with a map of northwest Torengar and encounter maps for all the challenges that require them. It is excellent quality and I would recommend anyone interested in 5th edition to pick it up and play, and (obviously) to back the Kickstarter.”

I should note that his players didn’t engage with the grappling rules at all, which was good proof for me that in fact you can just run it straight. They went full hack-and-slash through the entire thing.

I will put in some advice about the final encounter, though, into the section on Alternatives for that fight. There are some things that aren’t entirely obvious about the big fight at the end that make it easier, and a few switches that can be thrown if the party is truly understrength.

Eric Diaz (Methods and Madness)

First impressions on +Douglas Cole’s Lost Hall of Tyr, based on the 52-page, yer unfinished, PDF:  

It seems like a very genuine exploration of Norse culture and conditions. It uses not only norse gods, it seems, but norse religion, with beliefs, rituals, folklore, etc.

It has detailed (and very reasonable) rules on cold, starvation, dehydration,e etc.  

The adventure itself if more focused on overland travel than the actual Hall. It is a very straightforward adventure, with branching paths, multiple ways to solve each encounter, and so on.  

The art I’ve seen so far is very good to – above average IMO. It also contains rules for Dungeon Grappling, Douglas’ last supplement – which I reviewed and enjoyed quite a lot. The PDF is $5 with this kickstart and I would DEFINITELY recommend getting it too.

If you want a realistic, norse-themed adventure, with support for overland travel, check this one out.

Justin Folkerts (Kickstarter Reviews)

Lost Hall of Tyr: a 5e Adventure

So this one, I’m conflicted about. not about the project – looks awesome. not what I would purchase because I don’t tend to get adventures unless they are HUGE and mega (wink wink).  

But, D&D has this dungeon masters Guild http://www.dmsguild.com/ which is EXACTLY suited for this sort of project, and a location that is desperate for high quality products like this one obviously appears to be.

Ideally, and with synergy, a KS project like this would follow the below arc:  

  • Stage 1: kickstart the project to fund it, get it built to the quality standards you are looking for. this pays for the upfront costs of art and cartography and editing etc.  
  • stage 2: kickstarter funders get the opportunity to purchase a dead tree version or some other exclusive as a reward for funding this project  
  • Stage 3: once published and released to the funders, IMMEDIATELY put this project for sale on dms guild for general release. make it PDF only, or because dm’s guild it run by drivethru, have a POD option.  
  • stage 4: help grow the dm community via releasing top notch content.

Good luck to this project. its already funded and not heading into stretch goal territory. I know that many game companies started out this way. Frog God games, Kobold press, Goodman, etc, but honestly, I’d like to see the tools that already exist be used for both amateur and professional products to help raise all ships. just my $0.02

Commentary

Anders’ report (I know him from the GURPS boards) is of the most interest to prospective backers and players, because it answers concretely (if anecdotally) a few things:

  • It took four hours to play
  • It was playable in “hack and slash” mode
  • It played well enough that it didn’t engender a list of things that needed horrible fixin’
  • The scenario will prove challenging to overstrength parties, and I might need to rescope the bottom end of things a bit.

In truth, the GenCon experience was done with six or seven 4th level characters, and it wasn’t a cake-walk. I’ll probably recenter this one a bit.

Eric and Anders (who is Swedish, I believe) both said nice things about fidelity to Norse mythology, which makes me happy.

Justin brings up some questions about why not the DM’s guild that bear answering, and it can be summarized in two lines from this page.

The two in question are “publish my original campaign using 5th Edition rules,” and “print and sell my 5th Edition…product on my own.” Both of which are answered “no.”

I’m not sure if it’s always been there or was a clarification, but I used to think if you published on the DM’s Guild they had claim on your IP. This has been addressed formally:

Does Wizards own any unique IP that I create in my DMs Guild publications?

Wizards does not own any of the unique IP that you create in your publications. Wizards does own the IP that they contribute, plus the DMs Guild agreement will grant Wizards and other DMs Guild authors a license to use your IP. That said, if your work merits incorporation into canon, Wizards will contact you about purchasing your IP outright.

Ultimately, this adventure and the Dungeon Grappling product are part of a creative universe that encompasses my “Etera” Norse-inspired campaign world. I definitely want to print and sell it on my own, and should this Kickstarter suddenly sprint to the finish and get 375 print backers, getting a high-quality offset print run of this or future books is something I very much wish to do.

Anyway: the news is good, so spread the word!

Josh Beckelhimer is an early backer of the project. He requested and received an early preview copy of the adventure, and reviewed it in detail at his website Fantastical Beckelhimer. I have reproduced the entire review below, but have also made some comments where appropriate to address some of his open questions. Thanks to Josh for the review!

A Review – Lost Hall of Tyr (Kickstarter Edition)

As I am writing this up Lost Hall of Tyr: A 5e Adventure (Dungeon Grappling support) just needs less than $400 to be funded. If you read my previous post you know that I am pretty excited about this project.

Gaming Ballistic: About $225 to go as of this post!

Also, Douglas Cole sent me a Review Copy for me to read through. And these are my spoiler free thoughts on it.

In this current state Lost Hall of Tyr is 52 pages (not including the cover and back cover).

  • Introduction/Background – 4 pages
  • Adventure – 19 pages
  • Wilderness Travel Rules – 3 pages
  • Bestiary – 16 pages
  • Quick Start: Dungeon Grappling – 2 pages
  • Preface/Legal Jargon/Table of Contents/Art
  • Placeholder Pages – the rest of the pages

First, and like my previous post, the layout is great. The coloring and the borders for the layout really have set the bar on what a 5th Edition adventure should look like. Yes, a thousand times better than WotC’s layouts for their adventures.

Gaming Ballistic: I expect a page of Kickstarter Backers, at least six pages of maps, a page of scenario flowchart, Table of Contents (no index) as a first pass as to extra pages beyond simple adventure content. If we start punching through stretch goals, the page count may increase.

Introduction/Background

This section gives a brief description of the setting and where the adventure will take place. And rumor has it there is a campaign setting in the works for where this adventure takes place.

Also, there is a brief story that sets up the adventure and the hook for the characters. There is also information on how to tie this adventure into your own setting. Though, there are two things I want to address:

  • 1. No where in the Introduction or the Preface does it state what level the characters should be and how many characters the adventure is designed for.
  • 2. There is a weapon mentioned in the introduction, “magical against all foes and as a +1 magical weapon against a creature type.” (I left out the type of weapon and creature type) But I don’t know if it is meant to be +1 against all foes and a +2 against the creature type or is it supposed to be treated as non-magical +0 against all foes except magical +1 against the creature type.

Gaming Ballistic: Fair cop on the scenario parameters; it was supposed to be printed on the back cover, which isn’t done yet. It’s designed around 4-6 characters of Level 3-6, and I’ll make sure that’s reiterated in the interior of the book.

For the sword, one of the neat things about 5e is that a weapon can be magical but provide no bonuses – there are several spells and power-ups that let mundane weapons strike foes as if they were magical, and this matters for creatures who have resistance or immunity to damage from non-magical weapons. So the sword is magical against just about anything. It gets a small bonus against a particular type of creature owing to how it was created. 

Adventure

*When reading through this the maps were not included just the placeholders for where they would be.*  

First, there is something that needs to be addressed before I continue on with this section. There is NO flavor text. As in, there is no blocked text that is dedicated to the GM to read to the players. Personally, this doesn’t bother me at all. This might be a turnoff for some but I think this also helps with adapting this adventure into whatever setting the GM is running.

I like the writing layout Douglas has done with this adventure. He has created four different categories that helps the GM with running the adventure.

  • Challenges – Describes the challenges that the PCs will have to overcome in this section. Whether it is NPCs or an obstacle that is their way.
  • Concealed – Describes some skill checks they may be needed to achieve a challenge. Also information that may be hidden from the PCs.
  • Alternatives – Describes some alternative ways to deal with the challenge in the section.
  • Rewards – Describes the rewards/treasure the PCs can find in this section. Some rewards are just being able to bypass the challenge.

Though, this adventure was written for 5th edition, there is enough information with this writing layout that the adventure could easily be converted to another system.

Wilderness Travel

This section of the book shouldn’t be treated as something optional. Surviving in the wilderness is essential to this adventure. This adventure is a fairly long trek and a challenge within itself. In this section there are all sorts of rules and information on how to survive in the wilderness. Such as, how much food/water the PCs should have, hunting/gathering, preserving food, weather and climate. Again, this shouldn’t be optional in this adventure.

Gaming Ballistic: I’m very glad that Josh likes the additional wilderness travel guidance. However, for groups that are more of the “let’s just kill some bad guys already!” variety, it’s quite possible to play without using these. In general, though, I think that being able to use the environment as a potentially deadly challenge adds some real flavor and spice to a scenario, and I’ve tried to make it more meaty with the addition of the section on Wilderness Travel.

Bestiary  

This section of the book describes all the NPCs that will be found in this adventure. There is a description for each NPC and their stat blocks. There are familiar monsters that most GMs should know but some of them have been modified to fit this campaign setting. Such as, the goblinoids are considered fae in this setting. There are a total of fifteen NPCs in the Bestiary.

Gaming Ballisitc: One fun note here is that the final PDF will make extensive use of hyperlinks for navigation. So when you see (for example) there are 18 (or 18,000) goblins, you’ll see it as “18 goblins will attack the party,” or the equivalent, with the (curently italicized) goblins taking you directly to the bestiary entry. There will also be return navigation, so you can hop back to the encounters that have the monster. There’s plenty of room for this in the layout, but of course it’ll have to wait for the final layout until we implement it.

Quick Start: Dungeon Grappling

This section of the book is also very important and shouldn’t be ignored or treated as optional. Douglas has created an awesome system when it comes to grappling. The preface of this adventure also describes the importance of this system. If you get this adventure and you plan on running it I highly recommend that you read through this quick start guide and know how Dungeon Grappling works and then show your players how it works. Some of the Challenges in this adventure use this system so it is important to know. Encourage your players to take advantage of this system. You can learn more about Dungeon Grappling here.

Gaming Ballistic: There’s no doubt I love me some grappling – especially when it’s the monsters doing the grappling. And eating. Or dragging you back to its lair. But while I think the grappling rules (“DnD grappling rules that don’t suck!”) are excellent and add a lot of dimensions to the scenario, they are optional. I mean, you should use them. And you should love them. But if you don’t, well . . . the scenario is still fully usable.

I didn’t have any art or the maps but from this Review Copy I could run this adventure now without any of the maps. And that is an important thing to me; being able to just use the text to run an adventure. I look forward to receiving both my PDF and Physical Copy after it is completed. There is still plenty of time to back this project. $7 for PDF backer level and $20 for PDF and Physical Copy backer level. Also, the more money this project receives the more that will be added to it!

Gaming Ballistic’s Final Word:

Thanks to Josh for writing this review of Lost Hall of Tyr. I’m glad my enthusiasm for the adventure comes through, and he’s correct that this is based on the campaign setting for my Dragon Heresy RPG, which is 400,000 words and roughly 790 pages of eventually-to-be-released goodness currently in editing with Ken Hite. 

For now, though – I hope that you enjoy the adventure, and spread the word so that we smash the funding goal and continue into the stretch goals!

I was at GenCon’s 50th Anniversary this past week, and I had the honor of observing the first of Gaming Ballistic’s Dungeon Grappling demo games, and playing in the second. Here are my thoughts, for those that are considering its use:

Summary

It’s not as scary as you probably think.

Qualification

I have 20+ years experience with D&D in general, maybe five or so with Pathfinder, and a month or two with 5e. I have always felt like grappling, in general, has gotten less attention than it deserved in pretty much any system, including all editions of D&D, and have had characters/moments in-game where I’ve found myself grappling (with the rules and/or the enemy) and found them a bit awkward. At the point of the convention, I had not read the Dungeon Grappling book (and still haven’t as of this writing—but I will), though I am quite familiar with its spiritual-ancestor, GURPS Martial Arts – Technical Grappling, so I did have a basic understanding of how it works beforehand.

Observations

In my brief exposure to the Dungeon Grappling system, I found it to actually be very easy to understand and smoothly integrated. It uses the normal attack-damage mechanics. “Control” is just damage of a different sort, the accumulation of which inflicts one of a handful of “grappled” conditions. Those conditions are well-defined and sensible, using established mechanics. A character can “attack” to add more to his own control, reduce his enemy’s control, aid allies’ grapples—it’s very intuitive. It works the same against larger or smaller opponents. The book has all the right cheat-sheets in easy-to-find places. I know the book does delve into more detailed grappling situations—and I generally like the more crunchy stuff—but really, the little bit that I observed is all you need to make grappling in D&D a bit more interesting, and it’s simple enough that I couldn’t give anyone a good reason to not use it.

And, I’m told Dungeon Grappling addresses that burning question I’ve always had in D&D and never found and answer for: how far can you throw a halfling? 😛

Note from Gaming Ballistic: Pretty darn far if you’re an Ancient Red Dragon

My 2¢.

Based on a long-standing “I should probably see this, because I enjoyed the Sly movie well enough, played the RPG once, and love Karl Urban in just about anything” desire to watch this one, I was finally nudged over the edge by a recommendation on G+.

So I watched it last night.

Dredd as played by Karl Urban was a bit more multidimensional than I’d have thought. I was surprised a bit by his “be gone when I get back” line to the beggar. I also didn’t get quite the level of fear of the Judges that was conveyed to me in the RPG.

I played this once in High School, and our GM told us after a long, drawn-out shootout that had we just shouted out “OK, SKEGS! WE ARE THE LAW!! PUT YOUR FACES ON THE FLOOR OR FACE SUMMARY EXECUTION” that we could have likely bypassed the entire shootout due to pure primal fear. That was my only real exposure to the source material.

Otherwise, impressions:

I did not find any completely egregious, oh-my-god-no mistakes with firearms handling or technology. Most weapons other than the (um) LawGiver pistols were conventional. The tactics used by the Judges weren’t completely idiotic, though they could have paid more attention to Apone from Aliens (“Watch those corners!”) in the Peach Trees maze.

The basic plot – escape from a sealed deathtrap – was entertainingly simple, and gave the actors a chance to work with a known environment and explore it well. When the doors came down in the beginning, I found myself thinking – OK. That’s one way to go. But it worked for the movie, and was an important part for avoiding the usual pitfalls: why didn’t they call for backup? They tried. Why didn’t they just leave? They couldn’t. Why couldn’t they just turn off the building? It was actively under control by the Enemy. Why didn’t the bad guy magic users use their own spells against the PCs? They did. Constantly.

I found Mega City One utterly believable, in that it was not wall-to-wall dystopia and dark, and many scenes could have been (and clearly were) set in any modern-day cityscape.

There were giant buildings 2x the height of the old World Trade Center (which was 110 floors, IIRC from memory) but many times larger in cross-section. Note that the quoted population of Peach Trees was 75,000 folks. Unbelievable? Not at all. It’s only 375 folks per floor, and if the average dwelling is 3.75 occupants (for easy math), that’s only 100 units per floor, or 100,000 square feet if each unit was, on the average, a two-bedroom place similar to a NYC apartment. Seem huge? It’s only 100 yards on a side. The World Trade Center was about 70 yards on a side and was half the height.

The buildings of Mega City One seem to basically be three cubes stacked on top of each other. If a story is 10′, more or less, and Peach Trees was 200 floors high (plus some superstructure which we’ll ignore for now), that means that the sideways dimension is on the order of 665′, or 200m on a side and 600m tall. It’s hollow-core, but even allowing for that, we’re likely looking at 30,000 square meters per floor, or about six million square meters, or 65 million square feet. That’s 865 square feet per occupant, suggesting that someone did their homework here. That’s either very, very large apartments (unlikely), or a density artificially lowered by it being taken over by a horrid criminal gang.

Loved the part of rookie Judge Anderson, though there were one or two moments where I thought her powers were conveniently forgotten (but then again, distractions happen). Her plot arc was much more evolutionary than Dredd’s, of course – he’s the established character, and she’s the newbie. She gets the most room to prove herself and change, which – spoilers – she does.

Lena Heady was credibly bonkers as the primary bad guy. She showed evidence of not being stupid, which was good, and combined at least some sense of long-term planning with a “social compact” score in the negative range. Utterly amoral and vicious, and reminiscent of a female joker without the makeup (though with the bloodstained smile).

All in all, it was an enjoyable film, though not one to watch with the squeamish. There’s a lot of blood and slow-motion (or perhaps Slo-Mo?) scenes of bullet impacts and spouting squibs. I’d enjoy watching Urban and Olivia Thirlby reprise their respective roles.