Since 2013 or so, I’ve done a GURPSDay post, where I collect GURPS-related posts and publish links. For years, I was able to do this like clockwork, every Thursday morning, which is the release day for GURPS products for SJG. That got a bit . . . squishy . . . as I got busy with publishing, and some days I’d miss. Sometimes I caught it, sometimes not until the next week.
Well, GURPSDay is going through some changes. I’ve finally sat down and figured out how to get WordPress to do what I want it to, more or less.
I’ve finally got a blog roll. Look to the right, and you’ll see any recent posts from blogs I follow. No excerpts, just titles, dates, and author names if they’re provided in the stream.
Also, there’s a new GURPSDay RSS Feed page. This will be updated twice daily, and displayed in reverse chronological order. It displays the most recent 50 posts (which these days covers about three weeks), provides an excerpt of 65 words per posts, and might display an image one day. It’s supposed to, but that requires cooperation on my blog, the plugin, and the target blogs.
So you can check out the most recent GURPS content any time you like.
I thought I’d share an art preview. If you like it, you can pre-order the book on Backerkit!
Cover (Teresa Guido)
The Allfather (Thanh Tran)
Goddess of Death (Kriz Villaciz)
The Fates (Steven Shan)
The Lawgiver (Piotr Jamroz)
The Lady of Life (Rick Troula)
The Trickster/God of Mischief (Juan Ochoa)
Queen of the World (Matsya Das Bdds)
The Snow Queen (Sandrine Malus)
God of Thunder (Kriz Villacis)
Lord of Warding (Eren Arik)
The God of Wind and Sea (Juan Ochoa)
Valkyrie (Rick Troula)
So, that’s the art for the book. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I do. If so…maybe you want to pick it up?
The Nordlond Sagas crowfunding campaign has entered into its next phase. Having surpassed the funding goal, we’re now collecting shipping and “add-on” items for those that pledged.
But there are also many that didn’t, some for bad timing, some because of the Kickstarter labor dispute, or other reasons. No worries: we’ve got you covered. “Pre-Orders” for individual books and bundles similar to those from the campaign are available on Backerkit. If you want to pick and choose what books you get, or just missed the campaign the first time around . . . now is the time to come by!
The Norðlond Sagas campaign expanded the growing “Norðlond” setting – a Norse-inspired world playable with the material in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set.
Three books were included in the campaign pledge; a fourth new book is available as an add-on. There are two setting/campaign books (The Dragons of Rosgarth and Forest’s End) and a 16-page supplement of character options (Norðlondr Fólk, detailing the races of Norðlond) which were part of the campaign pledge levels. A fourth 16-page book, Hand of Asgard is available as an add-on. It provides specialization options for clerics devoted to one of the 12 gods detailed in the setting, as well as more than 20 new Holy Might powers.
Whether you get all the things, or pick and choose . . . this is a great opportunity to obtain more ready-to-play material for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.
I’ll start with the obvious: content has been thin on the ground here for a while in terms of stuff that’s not just updates to my production process/crowdfunding efforts. This one won’t be much different, but it’s a bit of a download on what’s going on.
A Bit of Chaos
First thing, the last few months – maybe since April – have been very hectic. My family decided to move. Not far, still in MN, but we started the process. Found a house we liked. Bought it. And moved.
But we still hadn’t sold the old place yet. We’d put a lot of work into it, so we figured it would sell quickly. That didn’t happen. In fact, it still hasn’t happened. So things have been tight around here, and there’s been a lot of time and angst spent on the process. This past week, a buyer’s financing fell through, and so what we thought was a done deal was not. Exhausting, mentally.
The disassembly of my workshop also meant I stopped crafting for a while. That meant shields and promised goods for the Citadel at Nordvorn kickstarter were on the “to-do” list until my shop got set up again.
I also re-started training in Hwa Rang Do, so to spend more time with my wife, who’s an instructor. So my schedule changed quite a bit; again with less time.
This isn’t going to end with “so bad things for Gaming Ballistic, boo hoo.” It just has taken a bit to recover.
All the shields and swords are now done. My workshop is set up. Nordvorn is completely delivered, the physical copies from Four Perilous Journeys are due to arrive at Studio 2 before mid-November. And the Nordlond Sagas campaign . . . well, we’ll get to that in a moment.
The first thing GB was known for, other than all the gun stuff and occasional forays into grappling rules, was GURPSDay. Before I got heavily into publishing, that was every week, like clockwork.
Now, with my schedule on Thursday being “get kids up for school early, and then get back from martial arts late,” it’s become irregular. I mostly get one out weekly, but not always. The 100 blogs (or so) that are part of the list are a bit more irregular too, and readership seems to have fallen off a bit. The giant spike in stats that I used to get isn’t nearly as impressive as it was.
I’ll still do it, but it needs a shot in the arm somehow.
Not any campaign in particular, but in general. Phil Reed has been (correctly) lamenting the state of the gaming industry for some time now. Too many projects, with too short a shelf life in folks’ minds. The usual timetable for how Kickstarter was “supposed” to work was
- A roughly 30-day campaign, ideally suited to cover five weekends, so that there are at least two, maybe three, pay periods in there
- Two weeks of “waiting for all the money”
- Ten to 14 days for the primary Backerkit survey, which is there because one usually doesn’t know what shipping will look like until the thing is done
So that’s two full months of administrative time just getting the orders, sweating marketing, and hoping that folks will be using the power of social media networking to talk up your stuff. That doesn’t usually happen for the big guys, much less me.
Even if you’re completely on the ball and the entire project is done when Backerkit closes, the best you can usually do is send the PDFs out that day. You still have these steps to take, if you intend to go to print, which I like to do.
- Have your backers check the PDFs for errors. They usually find some. That’s a nice 2 weeks minimum.
- Assemble the final files, spool them out, and wait for art to be done. Again, that could be basically one day, could be more.
- Send them to print. That’s a month. There’s a lot of surprisingly inactive time here.
- Then move them around the world. I do a thing where my international books go to the UK, and ship out. That’s a week from Latvia to the UK, and then 1-6 weeks to arrive, depending on the quality of the post. For the USA, it’s supposed to be about a month more, but in reality seems to take more like six weeks, because things are always delayed. Always. Then it’s 2 more weeks for Media Mail to deliver stuff.
That’s another 14 weeks – three full months – before all stuff is in hand. Once the books go to print, though, the “I have so much stuff to do on Project X” period is really over. Starting a new project is not crazy at this point, but you will be paying lots of money for print, ship, and fulfillment during this period. So while the workload is lower, the financial drain is maximum. The biggest individual checks one writes are for printing and shipping. The total project cost is higher for art, but that’s almost always spent on many artists.
Best case, you can do a project every 2.5 months; worst case if you wait for everyone to get their stuff before you start the next one? Two projects a year.
I can’t really turn Gaming Ballistic into a self-sustaining main job at two projects a year. Even five per year isn’t awesome unless each of those gets roughly 2.5-5x as large as they are now. Doing MORE requires something else. I can parallel process more books at once than Kickstarter will allow me to do, since my project management skills are up to the task.
What to do? Well, I’ve got two options here.
One is to explore alternate options. GameOnTabletop is intriguing. One thing is that all the add-ons and whatnot are available right away, in addition to pledging. You know exactly what folks are getting, they’re just set up as items. So the “add a new thing in the middle” that happened with both Four Perilous Journeys and Nordlond Sagas is much easier to handle. I’m getting a better feel for shipping, too. I mean, it still sucks, and costs too much, but I can probably guess what it’ll be in advance of the projects these days, since I now can calculate the weight of books easily due to experience in actually getting them. So it’s a bit of a one-stop shop for that. Cards are charged right away, too, and the fees are lower. Cash flow should be superior to Kickstarter, and you need money to pay writers and artists right away when the work has already begun.
The other possibility is to bring it all in house. There’s a crowdfunding app on WooCommerce. No rules but the ones I make for myself. If I have an idea, I can put it on there and say “pre-order it, and it gets made if we hit the goal.” This provides a powerful market tool, in that if I’ve got several books I want to make, the backers will vote with their dollars on which ones they like, and which ones they don’t. It means I can have rolling funding drives, too. It’s sort of the bastard child of Kickstarter and Patreon. All the IT burden falls on me, but there are real advantages to this method. I may try it out with a single small project to work the bugs out.
Even so, the actual process of crowdfunding is a bit of a slog, since you’re bound to the rules of the other systems you use (KS, Backerkit, GameOnTabletop), and they take their cut. It may only be 5%, but that’s 5% that doesn’t go into developing new cool stuff. A few thousand bucks goes a long way at my scale.
Still working away at this. The block-and-tackle of Kickstarter and Backerkit should be done. The two small books – Nordlondr Folk and Hand of Asgard – are looking really good. Layout is finished, art is underway. Now it’s time to turn the effort to full-on editing the adventures, which is a big job. Writing tight, technical, entertaining prose takes work, and so the authors and I are in constant contact helping that out.
I’ve got about five weeks to edit and lay out the two adventures. That will get them in a state to have art done, I hope, by the end of December. I’ll admit it . . . that’s starting to look optimistic. Even so . . . time to get to it.
The current project will run through the end of the year at least, and I suspect that I will slow down a bit on the back-to-back sprints that has been this year. Even so, there’s at least two major things happening next year, and maybe more than two.
More Perilous Journeys
The first up in 2020 will be the sequel to 2019s very successful effort. The logistics pathways and needs for counter sheets, card decks, and of course the adventures themselves are now well known. Shipping and production time scales and costs are known. I anticipate a much better planned effort this time. Hopefully with content that folks want. I hope that with a few more hoped-for solos, and lots more time to plan and execute the cards and counters, that this will be even more successful than the last one.
The Nordlond Bestiary
This is the big dog of the coming year. I wrote a huge amount of text for the Dragon Heresy RPG back in 2015 and 2016, taking most of the SRD and writing fluff text and stats accordingly for the Norse-inspired world. Well, those efforts have turned to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG…and the words are still there. This is going to be the bestiary folks in the GURPS sphere have been waiting for. A giant book of monsters, thematically unified by the Nordlond setting . . . but any GM worth their salt can port the critters to their own needs. It’s going to take a lot of work to do right, but I’ve got a great team.
Speaking of Dragon Heresy, I do have plans next year of taking some of the existing work – Lost Hall, Nordvorn, Rosgarth, and Forest’s End and pulling them apart to turn them into two different books. One with lots of setting and flavor information, and one with the adventure content. I’m likely to crowdfund these to see if they can garner up enough interest for a profitable print run as well.
I’ve avoided putting my stuff on DriveThru for a while; the bite they take out of revenue is large, and in most cases the print quality of their POD offerings is simply lower than the books I print in Latvia. But in 2020, all my PDFs will go up on DriveThru as well as through other channels. We’ll see what happens there.
I’ll be at two conventions early in 2020. The first is Con of the North, here in Minneapolis Feb 14-16. So Happy Valentine’s Day. The second is FnordCon, down in Austin TX. That’s April 3-5.
Shields and Swords
I’ve refined my techniques on these, but they’re only going to be available by special order, through the website. I love making them, and have gotten much, much better at it. But they’re not really on point for the publishing business. Even so, if you’re interested, reach out. They’re not cheap, but the shields in particular are going to be closer to what you might have seen historically (based on certain finds) than most of what you see made of plywood online. Some of those plywood guys cost more than my planked, accurate ones!
So that’s the recap for Gaming Ballistic. I’m not sure if the work above will be what folks want – I hope so – but it seems like a good plan for 2020. There might be one surprise – and it would be a big, cool one – that could show up later in the year.
It’s a full schedule, but less than I would be able to do if I could get the reach and interest to make my hobby job my day job. That, of course, is on me . . . and we’ll see how that goes. Maybe I’ll win the lottery.
The Four Perilous Journeys Kickstarter for SJG’s The Fantasy Trip was my best campaign ever. It was also the first one where I made a mass-offer of not-books that was widely accepted. I’d done shields and swords before, but only a few at a time and only to the USA. This was my first “stuff” shipment.
Well, Chris Rice (not Christopher R. Rice, who co-wrote two of the perilous journeys) in the UK got his stuff, and posted images. The UK is in the best situation to get things quickly. I drop copies to Kixto in the UK for my international shipping, as Royal Mail is really inexpensive to the Rest of World.
In any case, he’s one of the first to get the stuff, and he got it all.
I think they turned out well. Ironically, he saw the final counter sheets and the card deck before I did.
Shipping of All Rewards Complete
This past weekend, the very last item – a shield and sword for a backer who requested a purposeful delay in shipping in order to be home when it arrived – was mailed out.
As far as I know, this means 100% of all promised rewards for this campaign have been sent out.
Thanks for coming with me on this journey.
Up Now, Up Next
As most of you know, we launched and funded four more Nordlond books from Sept 10 through Oct 12. This funded in the first week, suffered through horrid doldrums until campaign close, and then we got a bit of a spike at the end.
I made a lot of progress in moving through the Backerkit tedium to get the pre-order store open for the books in the Nordlond Sagas campaign. That’s always painful, as it’s excruciatingly manual. International shipping also goes nowhere but up these days. It’s only a pass-through, but it’s still unwelcome.
I anticipate having the store open on Oct 27, so if you missed the campaign, you can get the books you want then. I’m going to try and arrange it so there’s no differentiation between pre-order backers and Kickstarter backers in terms of pricing and shipping. That’s not always easy.
In the future, I’m giving a very hard think to what kind, and how much, Dungeon Fantasy RPG content to offer. The strongest feedback thus far has been “great stuff, but so much of it…can’t digest!” That’s fair! But it’s also not something I can run a self-sustaining business off of.
So I’ll be doing a few things.
Nordlond Bestiary. You guys probably know I got pre-approval for the Nordlondr Ovinabokin, or “The Nordlond Enemies Book.” This is what we’ve all been poking for for a long time: an explicit conversion of a giant list of monsters to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. The original draft of “The Book of Foes,” from my DnD5e-based “Dragon Heresy” RPG spanned 130,000 words, including stat blocks, and had 200-250 creatures. My aim in 2020 is to bring the full draft over into the Dungeon Fantasy RPG space, only skipping creatures that are already in the Monsters boxed set, unless new “fluff text” is required. Obviously, you can skip the fluff – which is all based on the Nordlond setting – and just use the stats in any fantasy game, and frankly, in a Monster Hunters or similar critter-filled campaign world as well. This will not be a cheap book to produce, but I’m going to go all out on it. I hope you join me.
A Few Small Projects. I may release some focused products. Perhaps a Trevinur (Druids) book. Maybe a 5-room dungeon or two. But other than the big dog above (the Bestiary), my production of Dungeon Fantasy RPG material on Kickstarter will be more constrained.
Finish my TFT Commits. I have standing permission to bring three new TFT GM’d adventures, and up to two solos, to life from the same authors that brought you the “Four” Perilous Journeys that resulted in five new TFT books, NPC/Monster Cards, and some die-cut counters. This will be the first project launched after Nordlond Sagas completes.
New Approach to Crowdfunding. As a small business with no real post-crowdfunding income stream, my ability to source new works is really constrained more by the crowdfunding platform than by my ability to produce material. The usual “crowdfund, wait for funds to settle, post-funding phase” cycle is two full months long. Policy (and not a bad policy at that) is to not allow a new project to launch until the old ones are done. That limits campaigns to three or four a year. So I’m going to try something new with funding individual projects on a “first past the post” basis using my website and a crowdfunding app. I’ll try it with a small project first, and if it works out OK, see what that looks like. I do know the current model is unsatisfactory to both me and to those who have spoken up and given feedback, so I want to try something new.
New Product Lines. There are a few projects that I want to bring to life. One is an entirely new RPG. The other is a quiet discussion with another writer whose work I’d love to see print but a lot has to happen before that. More on this later; they’re second half of 2020 at best. I also might look into “same world, different setting” and bring a few new-feeling cultures/locations to the world on which Nordlond is set. Something that feels like Japan/Korea/China (the land of Inthriki), as well as Macedonian Greece or Republican Rome (Morevel). Perhaps that will refresh things!
Dragon Heresy Conversions. Likewise, once the Nordlond Sagas are done, I will probably pull apart Hall of Judgment, Nordvorn, Dragons of Rosgarth, and Forest’s End and publish one setting book and one compiled adventure book/path, all for Dragon Heresy. This will allow playing pretty much as-is with 5e as well. I’ll release these as PDF only and crowdfund a print run. That should keep costs down. I’ll also list all of the PDFs on DriveThru and see what happens there.
In any case: this brings The Citadel at Nordvorn to a formal close. Thanks, and I hope to see you around on other Gaming Ballistic projects in the future!
To run Gaming Ballistic as a growing business that is self-sustaining, I need to be able to turn more product, more quickly, and have it sell pretty well. Not exactly a unique business plan, right? But to do that, I probably need 2-3x the number of customers on any one project, and to turn 2-3x more releases. I’d hoped that after hitting 600 folks on both Nordvorn and Four Perilous Journeys, I could continue to grow that pool. The last project, though, showed clear signs of product fatigue. That’s a big concern, obviously, but hopefully some of the items outlined above will shake things up. If so, onward! If not . . . I’ll have to throttle back and look more towards a small number of releases each year, maybe only one or two. That will keep Gaming Ballistic the company around, but really just as an occasional player.
Nordlond Sagas: Last Day!
A big day today, I hope.
We’re in the last half-day of the Nordlond Sagas campaign. Gaming Ballistic’s efforts were mentioned in both the Frog God Games newsletter, as well as an update to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG main Kickstarter page. Hopefully it’ll help push us to the stretch goals. We’re maybe 75 backers short of an offset print run, and perhaps $6,325 from the “more content” stretch goal. That’s only about 125 people, so the difference between the two is not large. We also have sufficient “following but not yet pledged” mass to easily hit both goals and more. So time will tell.
These books – two adventures and two character supplements, including what is basically clerical domains, but for GURPS/Dungeon Fantasy RPG in the “Hand of Asgard” supplement – are going to be very, very fun. I won’t lie: I’m particularly enthusiastic about Hand of Asgard. Clocking in at only 16 pages, Kevin Smyth has managed to get a lot of flavor in the book, and I’m having a lot of fun with layout.
TFT Advance Copies arrive
I also got copies of the final product for the TFT Kickstarter I ran earlier this year. They’re really pretty and I think the backers will be pleased. I know I am. I’ll be getting the international fulfillment started this weekend, and I know that the remaining print quantity, probably 850-900 copies each, will be on the water soon (a bit of paperwork to do).
I’ve been getting a lot of manuscript updates from the authors, who are all working to make my life easier in many ways. Revising text, checking formatting, and playtesting in the background.
With that, though, it’s well past time for another glimpse of something. In this case, another page from Hand of Asgard.
This is totally not Hela, Norse goddess of death. Nope. If it were, she’d look like Cate Blanchett, clearly.
Even though this is Norse-flavored, Kevin has done a fantastic job in capturing these as archetypes, so that with a bit of care, they could be worked in as “domain” flavored clerics in any game.
Until tomorrow, then . . . come check out the Nordlond Sagas. Four new books for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG!
Four weeks ago, the Nordlond Sagas campaign launched. It had the strongest start of any of my eight Kickstarters to date, and funded in the first week. That means all the books under development (see below) are being produced.
There are a lot of folks following the campaign right now, which is awesome. In fact, there are over 500 of them. Combine those following but not yet pledged (420) with those who actually pledged (347) and the stage is set for the Nordlond Sagas to be my best campaign ever with over 750 backers. Both in terms of numbers and dollars if we got everyone!
The Nordlond Setting: Under Development
Here’s the quick-and-dirty of the four books under development. Check the main campaign page for some images and further details.
The Dragons of Rosgarth is a quest adventure. The PCs have to do something that the jarls and their huskarls don’t have the wherewithal to do themselves (likely due to the issues over at Nordvorn). It details Jarngarðr, the “Iron Garden,” likely the most industrialized town in Nordlond. This book is included with the basic campaign pledge. 64 pages.
Forest’s End takes place on a fairly in a relatively new settlement, detailed in the book, called Skogurenda: Forest’s End. The village described can serve as a useful adventuring location. It also contains at least three dungeons to delve, finally putting the dungeon in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG part of the setting! This book is included with the basic campaign pledge. 80 pages.
Norðlondr Fólk provides several new racial templates, and expands on a few existing ones, to bring more setting-appropriate racial options to the setting. Half-elves, dwarves (dvergr), and proper elves get tweaked, a few new races are introduced, and a whole variety of half-breeds and hybrids get introduced with Norse-friendly flavor. Animal-inspired races such as crosses between humans and bears, wolves, ravens, and boars, plus various mixes of Aesir, Demon, Dragon, and Alfar blood with the ever frisky human population. This book is included with the basic campaign pledge. 16 pages.
Hand of Asgard is a character expansion book. It presents template modifications for each of the 12 gods detailed in Hall of Judgment and Nordvorn for Clerics, and about two dozen Holy Might powers flavored for them. These are available for Holy Warriors as well. This book was added mid-campaign and is available as an add-on. Increase your pledge by $13 to get it in both Print and PDF. 16 pages.
The Nordlond Setting: Already Published
The Nordlond setting was established in two prior funding campaigns, and three books already exist. If you missed both of those, the Allar Sögurnar (all the electrons) and Allar Bækurnar (all the books) pledge levels let you catch up in one fell swoop, if that is your desire.
Hall of Judgment introduced Nordlond. It features a quest adventure, and includes several sample locations for other butt-kicking (Logiheimli and the nordalfar warrens), plus the titular hall. It contains the grappling concepts expanded in Fantastic Dungeon Grappling, enhanced survival rules, a bestiary of over 30 creatures, and pre-generated characters letting you get right into the game. Hall of Judgment established the use of the excellent Caverntown model of what to talk about in a city location. This book is available as a post-campaign add-on. 128 pages.
The Citadel at Norðvörn is like Caverntown, but more so. It details one city, two important towns, and several sample villages (plus a village generator). A relationship map covering four competing factions to forms a web, allowing the GM to instantly improv reactions to the PCs actions. Each faction has goals and relationships described in the book. This book is available as a post-campaign add-on. 128 pages.
Fantastic Dungeon Grappling tweaks and expands the concepts in Hall of Judgment, which themselves greatly refined the rules from GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling to enhance speed of play. It hits the actions needed to round out “these are the kinds of things you want do to with a grapple.” It also provides examples of new grappling magic spells, and a page of examples on how to adjudicate new grapple-centric moves that players or monsters might be clever enough to come up with. This book is available as a post-campaign add-on. 8 pages.
As noted: the campaign ends this Saturday, October 12, at 10:30 pm Central Time. After that, here’s how I hope it goes down:
- Oct 12: Kickstarter Campaign Ends
- Halloween Week: Backerkit phase opens for surveys, shipping, and pre-orders
- Mid-November: Backerkit “closes” and cards are charged
- End November: PDF review phase
- Mid-December: PDF feedback due
- Before Xmas: PDFs sent out and final files sent to printer
- End January: Printing
- End February: Moving books through the world
- End March: Arrival in-hand
 Backerkit won’t really CLOSE until the final printer files go out, so I know how many orders to place, and whether we get the offset print run at 300 physical copies ordered.
The PDF review phase will see about 10% of the backers get preliminary files, probably without full art. These are chosen based on a combination of how much was pledged (total pledge amount, not pledge level) plus a random factor, so that the highest pledge levels get priority, but lower pledge levels are not locked out. This phase is IMPORTANT, and everyone who provides useful feedback receives credit in the book.
There’s a lot of great material in this campaign, and if you enjoyed the prior elements in the setting, you’ll like the new ones as well. Jump on board, and help make this Kickstarter – my eighth – the best yet. Stretch goals make the two adventure books even longer . . . and I know the authors have the material to cover them!