Gaming Ballistic is pleased to announce that the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set will be coming to Kickstarter in April 2018.

Dragon Heresy is a Norse-inspired setting and supporting roleplaying game. It is built around a fantasy representation of the Nine Realms, where the Aesir, fae, dragons, and fiends all vie for control of Etera in the mortal realm of Midgard. The PCs are looking to become mighty heroes, and venture north into the ancient lands of the former demense of the Elder Dragons to find fame, fortune, glory, and magic.

It builds off of the excellent SRD5.1 game engine, but with adjustments and additions made to match the feel of the setting and provide more nuance to combat and struggle

  • Division of HP into wounds and vigor for a more coherent treatment of rest and injury
  • Shields are way, way cooler
  • Enhanced use of existing mechanics to add nuance and risk to combat
  • Grappling rules that don’t suck

The Dragon Heresy Introductory Set is a fully playable game, covering character creation, adventuring from Level 1-5, combat, gear, and challenges. In the book you will find:

  • Choose from Fighter, Berserker, Cleric, and Wizard classes
  • Humans, Dwarves, Half-elf, and Dragonborn available as races
  • Norse-inspired culture, cosmology, and mythology
  • Deadly and tactically interesting combat Rules refined from the 5th edition of the world’s most popular fantasty RPG

The book will be approximately 256 pages, with major sections for

  • Character creation – including races, classes, backgrounds, equipment, and spells from Level 1-5
  • Core Mechanics – what’s the same, and what’s different, from SRD5.1
  • Running the Game – example rules for survival and overland travel in a hostile wilderness, risks and rewards, a random treasure generation table suitable for the levels in the book
  • Combat – all you need to live and die by violence, including melee weapons, new rules for shield use, grappling rules that don’t suck, and more. Fights are not driven by attrition, integrating morale and the potential for sudden incapacitation
  • Injury, Rest, and Healing – Dragon Heresy differentiates strongly between wounds, vigor, and exhaustion to make resting vs. healing a meaningful distinction.
  • Spellcasting and Spell Lists from spell level 1-3
  • A brief introduction to the Norse-inspired world of Etera
  • Over 100 monsters custom-modified and rewritten to suit the mythology and cosmology of the Nine Realms

Read on for more details!

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy: Introductory Set coming to Kickstarter in April”

It’s taken a bit, mostly because I was working personally with two busy folks, but all Kickstarter rewards have now been delivered: the two character sheets with portraits were finalized and delivered for my Styðja-level backers last weekend.

It was a fun ride. As I noted before, I indulged in a bit of extravagance by splurging on a piece of art that took the project to date from break-even to a bit of a loss. However . . .

There’s more coming for Lost Hall of Tyr. I wish I could discuss it . . . but look for an announcement on my mailing list and blog in a week or two.

I’ve also been hard at work on the next voyage into Etera – a very important one. The core rulebook for the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set is in layout and final assembly. Sometime this coming weekend, I should have the chapters on Foes (80-125 pages and about 100 critters, depending on how it lays out) added to the 140-150 pages of core rules for level 1-5. That’s right down the pipe for what I wanted.

Here’s an image of a sample of interior layout:

And another WIP of the cover:

I expect you will see this in Kickstarter some time in April. Early April if things go well.

Thanks for joining me for Lost Hall of Tyr!


Another quick use of GREP

Find: (.*)\r

Find Style: Topic (my header style)

Change to: $0================>

The key thing here is the $0, which is InDesign for “grab whatever you just found.” The equals signs and greater-than sign are actually what I get when I paste the graphic that Michael built in to my template.

What that does is find every instance of my Topic Paragraph Style and selects the entire line. It rewrites the line exactly, and then adds the graphic afterwards:

Since once one determines this works, it takes seconds to make the switch, being able to do things like this is a big deal.

There’s still occasionally some formatting I have to do. But by and large, this sort of thing is a ridiculous time-saver for things.

Working with Tables

No way ’round it. They’re annoying.

But . . . one thing I found out the hard way is that working with a table there are several different ways you can do it, and they’re all different, and all needed.

  • You can use the select tool, which picks out the frame.
  • You can use the Text tool and click inside the text, which works with the cells
  • You can also use the text tool to highlight entire lines of cells, which is slightly different

This next one was the big reveal for me

  • If you right-cursor or manage to click so that the cursor position becomes the ENTIRE left side of your table, that allows you to use centering and other things to keep the table within your frame, or indent it, or whatever.

This was a huge deal for me, because for whatever reason, I kept having my tables offset from my frame, which meant that lining up the frame with the columns did me no good.

In Closing

Working with InDesign is subtle. It’s like a Wizard that way, and the program is quick to anger, and publishers apparently taste good with ketchup.

But I was able, with a bit of consultation from Michael and a lot of “Oh. Oh! OH!!!” moments over the weekend, lay out in good form the entire non-monster portion of the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set. 150 laid-out pages for about 94,000 words.

This is a huge deal for me. It probably means that at worst, the intro set will be 272 pages, which is more than I’d like but not crazed. If the new monster format I worked out with Michael comes in at 550 words per page it means the thing will nicely fit into my original 256-page “shoot for this” scheme.

If I can hit the same word density as the first bits I’ve laid out already, we’re on target for 240 pages, which is in my mind the ideal target. But really, anywhere between 240 and 256 works for me.

Next up is collecting all of my existing art assets in one place and seeing what art holes naturally exist in the document. I didn’t purposefully add any, and removed quite a few. I’m violating some layout rules in the Intro Set to keep page count down. But overall, I should be able to use and re-use most of what I have (and some is original to Dragon Heresy in general) and keep things restrained.

That means I can probably Kickstart the thing in April. Watch for it!

Last few days or a week or so I’ve been laying out the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set. The manuscript is done, cut down from 410,000 words to about 149,500, and 55,000 of those are completely awesome monsters.

But InDesign, basically the industry standard layout package, is a CAD program for words. It is ridiculously functional, but what it is not is a word processor. Certain things, like “line spacing,” are not really things in layout. Oh, they exist, but line spacing is all sorts of things, mostly “leading,” (named for the strips of lead placed between lines of text), but there’s space before, after, during, around the side . . .

Anyway, two minor victories last night.

First, columns and frames. I didn’t like the way my spell lists were coming out. I wanted it to be more clear what spells were what level. It took a lot of manipulation, but I finally got it.

Hint 1: Turn Text Threading On

To solve the presentation issue, I wound up having to create at least three to five different frames. It took a bit to get the size right. The only way I could rationalize it all is to keep the text thread viewer turned on. That’s the blue lines that connect how the text flows from frame to frame. Out from one arrow, into the other. Whenever something wasn’t behaving right, keeping this on solved the issue two times in three for me.

(Note: whenever it doesn’t work, it’s my fault. InDesign doth not guess what to do. It does what you tell it, even if you tell it wrong.)

So turn on Text threads from the View–>Extras–>Show Text Threads menu stack, and you’ll see blue lines (mine are blue, anyway). They help.

Hint 2: GREP, GREP, Baby

My second issue was poor spacing for spell descriptions. Words are pages, and pages are money.

I started with a poor spacing issue, probably because my No Spaces style in Word did not import properly into the RTF when I round-tripped the file to InDesign for style cleanup.

So I had too much space in the spells.

It was a slog, but eventually I figured out how to fix it. I made a Character Style called Spell Statistics with the leading set to 50% instead of 120% of the character font size. I then used Find/Change (CTRL-F) and the GREP function in the menu with this command


That selects everything between the lead-in word Range: (with the colon) to the forced line break/paragraph mark (\r). For the replace, I replaced the existing character style with Spell Statistics. Click Change All, and boom – 104 replacements in a matter of seconds.

Repeat for Components: and Duration: and it was all done.

Hint 3: Round Trippin’ Across the Universe

The final bit is a commonly-used tactic to clear out the copious amounts of crap from the Word styles menu. Short version, Place the doc file in its own new text frame in a brand new document, with all other documents closed, just to be sure. Ignore that it will overflow the frame. Click in the text somewhere (this is important) with the Text tool, then Export. It will come up as RTF, and you re-save your file this way.

Now, close everything. When you Place into whatever your working document template is in InDesign, and you do Style Mapping, ONLY the styles you use in your document are going to come in. In fact, I might have even lost a few (see above). But I once had 83 ToC entry styles and if you don’t exclude them, you have to map them to something (or nothing) one by one, which is irksome.

Nothing New Under the Sun

These hints are not me being original or clever. I found tutorials on the web, or talked to experts, or (with the particular GREP thing) used a google search for regular expressions to find the right wildcards.

But they helped me, and so I record them for posterity’s sake.


Earlier I went through and took a stab at what it costs to develop an RPG book. One can consider these, in somewhat imprecise terms, economic costs, rather than an accounting or cash-flow cost, in that it’s not required to write checks for all of them. Further, the costs presented represent doing everything on a contracting basis, and everything bespoke, meaning created for your game from scratch.

This is not remotely the only way to do it. It’s probably not even necessarily the best way to do it.

So I’m going to muse here on ways to reduce both the economic cost as well as the cash cost of RPG development. Continue reading “Economizing on RPG Development Costs”

I tend to be pretty transparent here at Gaming Ballistic, perhaps even too much so. Still, it came as a surprise to me – though it was, in a Rumsfeldian sense, a known unknown – just what it took to make a game. For example, I had always thought that print games were simply much more expensive to design and produce than PDF, and the casual derision occasionally flung at PDFs on some boards reinforced that.

Turns out that with modern publishing methods, at least for me, the only difference between “make it a PDF” and “make it print” is your InDesign output settings. Exaggeration? Perhaps, but not by much. The print costs are non-trivial, true. But they’re also not nearly the bulk of the cost.

There was a discussion of “Production Values” on the SJG Forums, where I offered to lay down what my estimates of costs were to make a game. It’s not universal – every company is different, I’m sure. There will be a lot of “from X to Y” in it, because sometimes you pay what you have to, and sometimes you pay what you want to. It’s also going to include some things that many small companies don’t “pay” for, because they do it out of sweat equity. I do this myself, and it’s probably not smart.

Linear and Non-Linear Costs

Many of the things here are what I’d call linear costs. They scale very directly on a per-word basis, or indirectly, in that you don’t technically pay by the word, but you might pay by the page, or have an average number of things you have to do based on layout, which will put a certain number of words on a page.

I’m going to use Lost Hall of Tyr as my primary example in most cases. Mostly because start to finish, it’s completely done, and I have a very good idea of what I spent on it, having maintained my spreadsheet and updated it as “projected cost” turned to “real cost.” If you really wanted to get good, first make your budgetary sheet, and then copy it and lock it, and make “actual expenses” a separate tracking item. Continue reading “RPG Development Costs”

Just a quick note on some behind-the-scenes stuff that’s exciting to me.

First, I’ve nearly completed one of  my Styðya-tier backer character sheets and illustrations. Michael Clarke made this 5e version of the Dragon Heresy character sheet for me, and Rick Troula provided the illustration for this particular backer. I’m quite pleased with how it’s all turning out.

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy and Lost Hall Progress”

Two of the backers chose illustrated character sheets for their reward levels. I thought I’d show you guys a Work-in-Progress view of one of them.

The backer chose to use the Dragon Heresy character classes and backgrounds, because Dragon Heresy is going to be awesome. He’s a Berserker following the Path of Lausatok, which is basically a grapple-barbarian in 5e terms.

He’ll be 5th level when he’s done. Michael Clarke, who did my cover on Dungeon Grappling and has done the covers, layout, and graphic design on Dragon Heresy did the character sheet template.

Berserker of Lausatok WIP
Berserker of Lausatok WIP

The Path of Lausatok’s initial ability is:

Expert Grappler

Starting when you choose this tradition at 3rd level, your study of unarmed combat begins to focus on grappling and wrestling. You gain proficiency with Athletics; if you were already proficient, you gain expertise. Additionally, you gain the following benefits:

  • You have advantage if you are making a grappling attack against a foe but have not yet achieved any Control.
  • If you have a creature grappled and they attempt to counter-grapple either to reduce control or establish control on you, you may use your reaction to reduce their effect by 1d4 plus your Strength or Dexterity modifier, whichever is better.

The next boost, which will come at 6th level (so only one more!), is called Weapon Wary, which makes it easier to lunge in on armed opponents to secure a grapple (opportunity attacks when initiating a grapple have disadvantage), and you get to give yourself resistance (if you’re not raging) or immunity (if you are) to mundane bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing damage for one turn, once per short rest.

The Dragon Heresy RPG is the next step in my mission to bring the world of Etera to life for gamers. I have 425,000 words written, and 300,000 of those have been subjected to a first-round comprehensive copy editing pass.

When that’s done, hopefully in the next few weeks, I’ll hack it down to 256 pages (maybe 140,000 words) and present a Kickstarter to develop an introductory set that will cover level 1-5 for some of the more classic races and classes, to get folks used to the world and the new rules concepts.

I’m working out how that’s going to go. I’d love to do the entire three-volume full set at one go; that will be expensive to do as I’d like. So I’m going to follow The Big Dog and bring out an intro set first, followed by The Hunted Lands, a mini-setting tailored to the intro rules. Those two will then pave the way for the deluxe full-spectrum books.

If you’ve been following my 2017 Year in Review and my Financial Updates, you’ll see I’ve pre-invested a rather substantial amount of money in art, layout, and editing. So the barrier to produce the intro set should be fairly low. There are still things I want to do with it (a professional copy edit, and an index, and paying my layout partner for the actual work to do this for real), but those are relatively speaking lower ticket items.

Stay tuned for more!

I posted my Ballstic’s Report a few days ago, but since then I’ve been able to dig into 2017 a bit more, thanks to it also being Tax Time.

So . . . what happened?

The Detailed Breakdown

Overall, GB lost money. Quite a bit, really.

That was expected, to a certain extent. Overall, most of the loss came from very definite, known places, and I’m mostly satisfied with each bucket of cost and revenue, even if overall I’m disappointed that certain lines didn’t do better, or make more progress.

The key bit of this analysis, which isn’t required for tax time but is very useful for me (and if you’re an aspiring company owner out there, I suggest this as well), is allocating the costs by project and product. Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic 2017 Financial Details”

Gaming Ballistic started as a blog in late 2012, and then became a company in its own right in October 2016, as the company formally launched its first product, Dungeon Grappling.

This year, 2017, marks the first full year of the company’s operation. It still has but one person doing all of the administrative work: me. And thus far, Gaming Ballistic exists as a vehicle to deliver Douglas’ game ideas, but with luck and planning, that will change.

Gaming Ballistic is a producer of games and entertainment.

2017: Executive Summary

The year started off with a frenzy of activity completing promised deliveries for Dungeon Grappling, the first product Kickstarted and delivered by Gaming Ballistic. All rewards were delivered ahead of schedule – physical product was 3 months early, PDFs were delivered a month early. Not bad for the first Kickstarter for GB.

The Gaming Ballistic website and blog site were completely revamped, and look and work very well. A lot of below-the-waterline work on several projects consumed most of the company’s time and money in 2017 to no real outcome in terms of “product that GB can sell.”

GB did hit GenCon as part of the Independent Game Designer’s Network booth, and I was also there as part of a reward package for backing the Dungeon Fantasy RPG by Steve Jackson Games. That was inspiring but expensive, with relatively little to show for it in terms of market presence or sales. I did, however, write and run a scenario whose purpose was to demonstrate Dungeon Grappling. Fifteen people from ages 10-50 played through that scenario to good success.

The combination of leveraging some of the Dragon Heresy background material and the existing write-ups allowed GB to write and launch its second Kickstarter, for a linear demonstration adventure eventually called “Lost Hall of Tyr.” That Kickstarter also successfully funded, and primary rewards were again delivered three months ahead of schedule.

Expanding into physical stuff a bit, GB also researched and constructed mostly-authentic Viking-style shields to match the Dragon Heresy theme. A single shield was sold at the end of the year, which capped off a lot of building and trial-and-error to get the process down. Larger plans for such crafting have been scoped out.

The year ended with the return of certain parts of the Dragon Heresy manuscript to my primary control, and new plans being laid for that product that will hopefully bear fruit in 2018.

Continue reading “Ballistic’s Report for 2017”