Sorry for the extreme dearth in posting. I’ve been in Thailand since last Monday morning, and I’m still there, for work.

These trips are almost invariably two weeks long, and quite draining. Work hours are regular, but one tends to get very, very sleepy right after dinner, so it’s hard to focus on much, and certainly not focus on rules.

Still, good news: I have a draft of the Venture Beyond ruleset. I have edited and commented on all chapters but the core rules, which I’ll be getting to Real Soon Now, hopefully starting tonight.

We’re going for a fairly rules-light approach. No classes, no levels, though there’s a strong “profession” type notion running through the game. It will feel a bit like a hodge-podge of Fate, the old d6 Star Wars, LBB Traveller, plus a dose of more modern design concepts. Point-buy is primary, but we’re trying to see if there can be some random chargen and maybe even life-path options; that might need to come later.

I’m looking forward to hitting the rules section hard, because I’ve got a chance to try and avoid some of the issues or quibbles I have with other game systems, including my own Dragon Heresy, but also GURPS and others. So it should be fun, and David’s given me a solid core to work with. Once the editing and rules settle, then it’s Kickstarter time, I guess!

Dungeon Grappling is part of the DriveThruRPG OSR sale. I have also lowered the price of the print product on my own website.

From now until June 11, you can get Dungeon Grappling at a lower price:

  • The PDF has been reduced to $8.00
  • The Print Book has been reduced to $16.00
  • The Dungeon Bundle has been reduced to $21.00

Dungeon Grappling has been fairly heavily praised for making grappling, and grappling monsters, no longer suck. Show your players the real meaning of gripping terror with Dungeon Grappling.

I’ll be at GenCon this year, which means all of Gaming Ballistic, LLC will be in attendance. That second one sounds much more impressive.

My fate was sealed when I pledged to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG Kickstarter, and opted into the Saturday 1-5pm session with Sean Punch. Doubly sealed when I decided I’d try and go there under the auspices of the Indie Game Design Network, as both an exhibitor and table fiend.

But . . . that meant I could take the time to do a bit of hands-on demonstration, too.

Grappling Smackdown

From 10am to noon on both Friday and Saturday, I’ll be running a two-hour one-shot session designed to show off how Dungeon Grappling plays at the table.

Right now, each game will be using Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition rules. It isn’t PvP – it will be a normal romp through a limited dungeon, but designed to highlight the grappling rules as modified by Dungeon Grappling.

What does that mean?

It means that a gaggle of kobolds might score enough control points to worry a high level fighter. It means a web spell does control damage. And it means that a Barbarian or Monk got real interesting when optimized around the wrestling skills.

Grappling is Combat

Grappling never really gets the credit it should, because folks usually insist on invoking complicated or non-optimal subsystems to resolve it. Dungeon Grappling is both new and old, in a way that will become instantly apparent when you play.

Come find out what a smooth grappling system can do for a game. Sign up as follows:

Friday 10am to noon

Saturday 10am to noon

I’m a member of the Indie Game Developer Network. So when a member wrote that his Kickstarter was mid-swing, and a surfeit of real-life obligations prevented him from doing marketing for great justice (nod to Zero Wing). I offered to take a look at his product and review it.

The Book of Nouns

Well, yeah. The book contains about 80 different write-ups, categorized as landscapes; cities, towns, and buildings; events; people. There are twenty of each. There’s typically a full-color photograph of the thing in question, and a few pages of writeup, in 6×9 format. Every entry ends with some thoughts on how to use the idea in play.

It’s a straight-forward concept, and one might wonder if it’s needed in the age of Google? I’ll throw down an answer, which is that the world and it’s history is a vast and unruly place, and in order to search for something, you need to know it exists, or be very clever in your search terms.

This book takes some places you might or might not have heard of, people who have done great things (“terrible . . . but great,” to borrow a phrase, in some cases), cities and other events that make a place noteworthy, and then served ’em up to you as a jumping-off point for ideas.

Examples

I won’t spoil it, of course. But there are some very interesting entries in there.

Son Doong Cave

Oh, megadungeons. Not real. Too fake. Too contrived. Could never exist.

Hah. Then you’re not aware of Son Doong Cave – which I was not. Five and a half miles of caves (that’s 2,900 10′ map squares, or if you do four squares to the inch for your graph paper, you’re talking something like a map that’s sixty feet long). And that’s just the linear dimention. Some of the caves are 600′ wide and (more impressively, perhaps) 450′ tall, which is enough to easily support some pretty horrifying avian threats. Like dinosaurs. Just sayin’.

Tell me you can’t see great encounters happening in here? Continue reading “Review: Archive – Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs”

A bit over a week ago, I was joined by David Kenzer of Kenzer and Company. In fact, I was originally joined by Jolly Blackburn and Steve Johansson as well, but after nearly 90 minutes of great conversation, I had the horrifying discovery that I had 90 minutes of video . . . and no audio whatsoever.

Fortunately, David had the time and grace to do it again. We covered some of the same, and a lot of different topics the second time around, though Jolly and Steve were unavailable.

It was a good chat, and we covered topics ranging from the history and product portfolio of Kenzer and Company, to the production and design of Hackmaster, to the current Kickstarter for Aces and Eights Reloaded.

A transcript was added to the post May 21, 2017.

MP3 File – Kenzer and Company Interview

Text Transcript

Douglas Cole: Good evening and welcome to Gaming Ballistics’ Firing Squad.

I am joined today by David Kenzer of Kenzer and Company. We may have some other people join a little later.

This is a special event for me because David has agreed to join after we already recorded this yesterday, and we got 90 minutes of great video and 0 minutes of audio. So there is a whole lot of animated conversation, but it is literally animated with no voices.

Kenzer and Company was gracious enough to do this a second time . . . so thanks for joining me again! 

David Kenzer: [chuckles] Hi everybody and thanks for having me a second time. I don’t think . . . I know for sure Jolly is not coming, and Steve is probably not going to be able to make it either, it doesn’t look like today. Maybe I’m the only forgiving one of the group.

DC: Which is entirely fair, batting .333 is pretty good in the major leagues, and I’ll take it where I can get it.

So what I wanted to do for people who aren’t as familiar with the history of Kenzer and Company: Maybe you could briefly lay out some of the highlights: when the company started, first product, the breadth of the portfolio. I knew of Kenzer from Hackmaster and Knights of the Dinner Table, and not much necessary more than that.

But as I dug in and we conversed yesterday, you have a very broad, dynamic, interesting product portfolio. So why don’t you walk through a little of the history of the company, so people know where you are coming from as we talk about the kickstarter you’re currently running, and some of the other games you’ve done. Continue reading “GB’s Firing Squad welcomes Kenzer and Company”

Not too much going on.

It’s ComicCon (technically Wizard World Minneapolis) this weekend, and unlike most times when we spend the entire weekend there, my family was helter-skelter this weekend, with my wife in Chicago, me needing to attend a few Viking planning sessions to build curriculum for classes, and generally playing single-dad with young kids in activities. Plus the toddler/preschooler being . . . her charming self when balked.

This phase really can’t end soon enough.

Anyway, I did see minor progress on the game building front. Venture Beyond saw some discussion, and Michael continues to work art for the covers in the background. His prelim sketch and coloring work is very much in the Dungeon Grappling style of brushing, but obviously different subject material. My feedback to him was very brief, ’cause he’s on point with nearly everything. One comment about how to hold an axe (and I need to get him a reference picture) for fighting, one more about foot position when using a viking shield, and a suggestion but not a correction on a dwarf spear-tip. One comment about overall coloration. But it’s going to look good, and I can’t wait to see how the final covers turn out.

Still waiting for writing and editing on both projects.

Otherwise, it’s about time to go swoon and blush and act like a complete fanboy in front of Charisma Carpenter, and introduce my daughter(s) to Nichelle Nichols. My wife will probably have palpitations over John Barrowman (fortunately for me, he’s not his character).

Onward!

It’s time for an update on Gaming Ballistic!

Dungeon Grappling

Great sales in March, thanks to the GM’s Day sale on DTRPG have been followed by lackluster sales in April, with four copies sold (though two print copies, which I love seeing – not because of all the extra money, an extra few dollars per book, but because I do think it’s a good book to hold in your hands).

At this point, with only two sales, I can conclude “The Art of Dungeon Grappling” as a failed experiment. Alas.

I’ll be bringing a bunch of stock with me to the Independent Game Design Network’s booth at GenCon, though, as well as shipping some stock over to their warehousing team.

I’ve not heard much from play reports, though. I’m hoping folks that use the game in play do give me feedback, and session reports. Consider this a request!

There’s also an error that’s come up twice in questions that is, thus far, the only errata that’s been reported to me. In the 5e example, while Thorfirr’s STR score is called out correctly, I made a typo in his attack roll, and so the paragraph introducing him on p. 41 should read as follows, with a 1d20+3 replacing the mis-typed 1d20+2. I’ve bolded the stuff that is relevant.

THORFIRR. A second-level fighter, and keeping his stats from the PFRPG gives STR 16 (+3), DEX 11 (+0), CON 11 (+0), and WIS 16 (+3). His AC is 16, he has 16 HP, his attack rolls are at +5, but lacking Athletics proficiency, he only grapples at 1d20+3. His Grapple DC is 13, from his Strength (Athletics) bonus of +3. His Control Maximum is 20 (his STR of 16, no DEX bonus, and 2× his +2 proficiency bonus).

Venture Beyond

We are very, very close to having a complete manuscript. The last reports I have had from David show a level of optimism about how the rules are coming together.

Unsurprisingly, it’s coming in at the longer estimate of wordcount, and so I’m going to predict the book will be about the size of the Fate System Toolkit, with the adventure books each being fifty or sixty pages each. That’s not really a change, but it is a confirmation.

Once I have the manuscripts in hand, things should go fairly quickly. I’ve got some mockups of kickstarter graphics banners that I did myself, and Juan took a look at them and thought he could improve them (doubtless true). I’ll post a preview there when I have them, but for now, my first effort is shown above.

The look is designed to be “retro-tech,” and as does the book’s layout, it features a Hubble space background, and block, easy-to-read text with a raster-scan look to it. The space to the right is to hold some art.

Dragon Heresy

I spoke with Ken a few days ago, and we chatted about the perils of big projects during a busy time for successful freelancers. Anyway, things are more clear, and I can anticipate getting edited manuscripts bit by bit as April turns into mid-May.

I’ve also got some amazing preliminary sketchwork from Michael. My original concept for the covers got tweaked just a little, but frankly it’s better the new way, and I think everyone will be really happy when they see it. I’ve been sending him images and art direction based on some of the recent Viking stuff I’ve been doing and seeing, and it’s paying off. I know that’s a bit of vague-booking, but I don’t want to give the game away on this one – it’s going to be a great reveal, though.

I also hope folks are enjoying Monster Mondays. There’s a decent amount of info in those posts, and they show off the flavor of how critters will look and act in Dragon Heresy.

Project M

Regardless of that, there’s some movement going on in the motion tracker around an expansion for Dragon Heresy that fills one of Ken’s observations, which is that settings are better when the rules are written around the setting (this is the GUMSHOE method), rather than the rules left static and the setting painted over.

Dragon Heresy takes this about halfway – there are a lot of changes and improvements to the melee combat rules, but by and large the magic stuff was left alone. But I’m learning a bloody ton about Viking magic and sorcery, and have some ideas for something optional that would really make for a fun “try it this way instead.” Need more time on that one, but honestly I think it’ll be really cool as an expansion if Dragon Heresy is given what I hope is a warm reception.

Project X

I’ve always had more things in mind for the Dragon Heresy game, and based on some conversations I’ve had with a few people, what that will be is starting to firm in my mind. There will be a vast amount of downtime when the DH art is being created, and that time will be used to create the next iteration of the Dragon Heresy project. I know a whole bunch of folks that will be pleased with the results.

The Blog

With a bit of flutter happening over at Steve Jackson Games over the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, as well as me getting back into the “write content nearly every day” mode, my traffic is starting to creep back up. I had a bunch of ballistics-related posts, some Dungeon Fantasy RPG posts, and at least one Viking post. More of that this weekend, actually!

One thing I desperately need to revitalize are my “index pages.” I have well over 1,000 posts, and some of them are great stuff, especially for GURPS players when we were doing more regular Melee Academy posts. Right now, if you click on each header you get a date-sorted list of all posts in the category. I need to add an option that takes you to a simple list of clickable titles.

This will be needed for at least the Melee Academy, GURPS 101, and Firing Squad sections, plus the Reloading Press. The rest can wait, but I need to figure out how that’s done Real Soon Now.

 

 

Monster Monday will return, but today and tomorrow I’m on a short break. The head of Hurstwic, Viking combat and history experts are here on hand for seminars and lectures about Viking combat, mythology, religious practices, and Icelandic culture. Also Viking magic, which is a lot deeper than I first thought.

Great fodder for Dragon Heresy, but great practice as well. I did combat archery with foam tips today, too – a 20-lb. bow with one archer and three spearmen per side. It was ridiculous, ridiculous fun. More later. Possibly pictures.

Reasonable behind the scenes work going on.

Game Development

Venture Beyond is heading towards a complete manuscript, with some darn nifty concepts threaded through. Took note of recent threads about how old games could fairly easily port in a reader’s favorite authors’ works, and how too-detailed settings and starmaps can eat the wonder from a setting because there’s nowhere for your cool stuff to go. So noted. And easily accommodated. This game is designed to have enough help to make it coherent and playable, but enough empty space to somewhere between encourage and demand improvisation and GM/player control. We’ve had great discussions like “Pirates are awesome, and space piracy is awesome, so how do we ensure piracy isn’t precluded by setting assumptions?” If we have tramp freighters and independent agents in ships that are not so expensive that the ability to buy one is the ability to live like a zillionaire, how is that viable at the same time as the equivalent of a container ship is viable? We want to emphasize the sheer fun of getting out there in the fringe, and making your own way. The feel of Firefly but with a much bigger scope, Traveller without quite so much inertia of pre-existing (though frequently cool) canon to fight if you want to tell stories that are more your own.

Anyway, I really like how things are shaping up, and we’re taking the time to do it right.

For Dragon Heresy, editing is happening. Art is also happening, and I have started to make the banner graphics with help provided by Michael Clarke:

So I have the outline for what I want to do, and now I just have to write the pitch. Should be easy with 425,000 words under my belt, right?

Not a huge update, but not every one will be. By the end of April, things will start to pop, I hope.

The Blog

I’ve been good – or at least better – about populating the blog with actual content.

It’s been fun writing again, and as any author will likely tell you, it’s a skill you have to practice. And as you practice, you get better, and it comes more easily. It’s been good to get back to some ballistics stuff, and I owe y’all a post from yesterday on 5e . . . and since I saw a thread on facebook on Guns and 5e (“No, no, please, no!” was a fairly typical response), I thought I’d indulge in a bit of “what if?”

Yeah, I’m sure I should have noted this before. But . . . while I’d noted that my RSS feed was limited to 10 posts, while my old Blogger site was 25, I just shrugged and chalked that up to system differences.

But this week, I noted that my “Precis” descriptions were not getting uploaded into my GURPSDay feed. I checked, and they were formatted correctly.

What gives?

Ah, looking at the RSS feed itself shows that the main body text isn’t there; it’s an abbreviated version.

Since most of my fellow bloggers on WordPress for GURPSDay also only show 10 posts, I figure I’m not alone.

The Fix is In

This isn’t complicated. It’s so simple I never bothered to look for it. But go into your Settings/Reading in your Dashboard, and make the changes I note.

I’m not positive this will work; I will need to run the script again to check. But I do expect it’ll fix the issue.