Daniel over at Mailanka’s Musings has a nice post on Map-Making in Theory and Practice. In short: a million times yes. I have to echo his throughts on Maps and Inspiration: a good map is really, really inspiring.
Started with a Map
It works both ways, too. In my Torengar/Nordlond setting for Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment and Lost Hall of Tyr, the map came first. I set up a history using Microscope and another “game to play a game” kit that I can’t remember anymore that helped set up the long prelude to the current state of the main realm. I drew up some key terrain features that appeared to be important, and then commissioned Cornelia Yoder to make me some maps.
I have since been leveraging those maps heavily in making the details of my setting sing. This is particularly true of the mini-setting I’m working on for what will hopefully be my first-quarter Kickstarter: The Citadel at Nordvorn.
Featuring the titular town of Nordvorn with its adjoining citadel, there are also three other important towns and villages of note, one of them destroyed.
The town of Ainferill (Riverbend) sits about 40 miles south of Nordvorn on the Jotunnain (a river; áin means river; I think properly conjugated it should be Jotunná, but I have it as “fun” that the northern areas use áin and the southern areas use á, as sort of a regional accent thing). It’s a town of about 1,000 souls, or about 200 families, give or take. It’s the seat of a Jarl, the second tier of noble, but they still have to get the king something like $10M per year in GURPS moneys, or about 200,000 gp in D&D moneys, as a Duty to keep the title.
Just north of Ainferill is the slightly smaller (750 people) town of Vegghofn (Sallyport), which marks the last easily-accessible break in Audreyn’s Wall (think in between Hadrian’s wall and the Great Wall of China) until the other side of a mountain range that the wall jogs around for Reasons.
Anyway, point is: I am detailing these three settlements. What are the important guilds? Why have guilds at all? What industries or products make each town unique? Why should there be a town here at all?
This is my realm map. What can I say about it? Well, it’s got heavy forest, plains, and lightly wooded or intermediate areas. These divide out nicely into “logging and forestry,” “grazing lands,” and “farming” when it comes to surplus products for more than just surviving. It’s a high-level thing, but it’s informative.
The cities cluster densely in the farming area (blue). More food, better climate, more trade, higher population density. The capital is also there.
A Slice of Nordlond
Hey, what do we have here? A slice of Nordlond/Torengar, with Isfjall from Hall of Judgment in the west, and stretching to Midgard in the East.
Northwatch is Nordvorn – one means the other. But it’s maybe 250 miles east of Isfjall, so it’s a hike if you walk it. But why would you? Take a boat and sail down the Wodenain to Nethanfoss, then it’s maybe 50 miles along the “Palisade Road,” which isn’t shown on the map. That should be an exciting trip, since the area to the Northwest of the Palisade is called The Hunted Lands, home to marauding faerie and more than its fair share of monstrosities, undead, constructs, and other things that wish to eat you.
But the map informs this. How long will it take to get there? Well, big rivers tend to move at a few miles per hour, 1-5 mph not being unusual. So the 200 mile trip on the river could be as fast as 40 hours, or two days, or as long as a week. Plenty of time in either case for a few encounters with river raiders or river-dwelling monsters, but not so long that the game will drag.
That last 50 miles to Northwatch from Nethanfoss is probably a few days hike as well, and while the path/road is guarded, it’s still dangerous lands.
That makes Nethanfoss a very interesting market. It has access to both grazing lands, water, and abuts the Einmanna forest. And it’s a crossroads, being the natural departure point for goods to come east from the settlements along the Wodenain.
All this from the map.
Now we venture south from Nordvorn, because there’s been a rumor that the Jarl is hiring adventurers. Or maybe killing them. It’s Nordlond: perhaps it’s both.
In any event, what’s going on at the Riverbend? Well, it’s got woods. It’s adjacent to a metal-rich mountain/range. It’s got grazing land. And it’s at a convenient stopping place for ships coming upriver to rest and get ready for a hard pull into the faster-flowing stretch of the river from Ainferill to Nordvorn.
If you do a bit of line work, you can see that the Jarl probably controls about 265 square miles of land, and about half of that is grazing land – ideal for sheep – that is mostly plains. The other half, to the north and west, is lightly wooded, leading to thicker woods in the Einmanna Forest.
OK. So we have wood, metal, wool, and cattle and goats. This is a shipbuilding town. It’s also one of the towns (the two south of Ainferill and west of Jarngardr are two more) from which a whole lot of sheep are raised and turned into wool, cloth, clothing, and other products.
This is a jarl whose income depends on wool, cattle, ships, and trade. That’s what he’s going to care about, and that’s where threats to his power – or extensions of it – will come from. Does he mine in the hills just across the river? Does the hajarl of Midgard resent this? Ainferill could sit in the demesne of either Northwatch or Midgard – are the jarl’s loyalties solid, or being tested?
What about bandits? Or monsters? If you do the work, something that between some expert help and the Adventurer Conqueror King books domain rules make easy, you can see that monsters or monstrous people killing or taking livestock will really honk off our jarl, as as much as 25% of his Duty – maybe more – can come out of the income stream from wool and cloth.
But . . . karls (freeholders) own their own lands. How does that work? Well, that’s where the guilds come in. That worked out nicely too.
I spent a lot of time last night working with the map, agricultural data, and conversing with some experts to turn this slice of Nordlond into a living world. Not only is it living and hopefully provides some immersive detail, but it becomes something from which you can really see how folks might wish to bring an adventuring party on board to deal with problems.
Suffice to say that the tie of personality, economics and trade are all made more obvious with a good map. A map, a knowledge of what can be grown and made with certain natural resources, a feel for the personalities of the leaders and citizens and what they care about . . . and the adventures flow easily. Especially when the area in question has recently undergone some . . . rather dramatic calamities.
Stay tuned. Hopefully you’ll see this one pop up in the first quarter of this year!
I’m busily writing The Citadel at Nordvorn, Gaming Ballistic’s next return to the world of Nordlond (known as Torengar in Dragon Heresy). This one’s a mini-setting, focusing on the events and interactions between important players (including the characters!) in the lands surrounding this vital town. I am having ridiculous fun putting these towns together.
I just finished the description and detailing of Nordvorn itself. I am moving on to the other two important towns in the book, Ainferill (Riverbend) and Vegghofn (Sallyport).
The compact nature of the towns – Ainferill and it’s roughly 1,000 inhabitants sits on a chunk of land and water about 25 acres in size. That’s a circle about 350m in diameter, which is basically the size of The O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) in England. That is, the entire village would fit inside it.
Even the much larger keep and town of Nordvorn is only 7,500 residents and its longest dimension is only three times that of Ainferill.
These are little places, relatively speaking, which means they can truly come alive with detail.
I certainly hope that you enjoy visiting them as much as I am writing them.
Some fun bits from the draft. Subject to change, of course. Presented entirely lacking context or structure.
The “lift road” is named for its terminus at the great lifts coming from the docks and the lower market and shipyard. After one leaves the market proper, one can find all sorts of ironmongery and shipfitting crafts: Sailmakers, blacksmiths, armorers, brassworkers, and weaponsmiths. The armorers and weapon-makers are closest to the Ring Road, mostly to reduce the noise. Any goods coming upstream, or going downstream, by ship must pass through the lift. As such, some call Lyfta Road “Skattgötu,” or “tax street.”
A name like that invites hubris, but the Eilífur Brú has the chops to merit the name. The walls are over 20 feet thick, the columns, supports, and span magically melded with the strong rock of the river gorge. It has stood up to wind, weather, and thrown boulders from trolls and hill giants, as well as projectiles from siege engines.
The bridge begins with a massive structure known as The Terrace Gate, which as its name implies houses a series of massive doors each on a different level of the structure. The Terrace Gate actually enters a hundred feet or so below the top of the eastern gorge wall, and the winding staircase with interlocking gates, murder-holes, and other defensive emplacements is called The Spiral.
The town side of the Eternal Bridge ends in a large walled enclosure as well. There are barracks, training grounds, and defensive emplacements, and the entire structure would rank as one of the notable fortifications in Nordlond if it weren’t immediately adjacent to the Citadel itself.
The Hunting Gate
The closest tower and sallyport to Little Rock. Even more than the other city gates, the Hunting Gate is constructed to be used, and frequently, for war. It is staged to allow sorties from within the Lower Town when needed, as well as the point of departure for those thegns, huskarls, and Wardens who attempt to keep the people and goods coming out of the Hunted Lands safe. Or at least safer.
Thievery is forbidden. Sneaking around and taking someone else’s property is punishable by outlawry and thralldom. However, challenging someone to combat over a coveted possession, or facing them in some sort of fight, real or provoked, allows the victor vast leeway in claiming spoils of battle (in some cases this can include property and in older times, even family). Property obtained in this manner is called sigurtakn, (“victory token,” or “trophy”) and is considered honorable. Well, at least valorous. Dangerous, perhaps? A man bedecked head to toe in armor and weapons that are all sigurtakn is a man to be kept at arm’s length. Such people are called dýrð-óðir, or “glory-mad,” (behind their backs) and given the same sort of respect you give a scorpion, venomous snake, or feral dog – admiration for their deadliness, but not someone you turn your back on. Ever.
The Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) Kickstarter campaign is in the Backerkit phase. You guys have done great for the surveys . . . and have been generous with the add-ons, which I appreciate. We’re over 4/5 – 82% to be precise – complete. There are 24 people who have not filled out their surveys, but of those, 17 have hard-copy material for which I need an address, so if you have already ordered, or would like to order, physical goods . . . I need a shipping address. We are also only 20 new orders from achieving the offset print run stretch goal . . . so we’re very, very close.
Those of you that have backed my projects before know I’m transparent in terms of where the money’s going. You backed me, you get the straight dope on funding flow. In this case, after Kickstarter fees, we brought in $3,675 from that part of the campaign. Backerkit has brought in about $940 in not-shipping fees, for a total of $4615 to date that can be applied towards the dual goals of the project: the maps, and the print run.
The offset print run and maps together require $5,275, so we’re about $660 shy of the goal.
Even as-is, the digital short-run printing with CPI in the UK will produce up to 400 books if I choose. In distribution, these won’t be self-sustaining at the cost-to-produce as they would with the offset run: That’s OK (It’s not ideal, but it’s OK). No matter what, there’s Dragon Heresy support out there, and more on the way.
The key to victory here is simple: 20 pre-orders of PDF and Print.
Glynn has already finished five of seven maps. I gave a preview of what they’ll look like a few days ago, but I like seeing it so here it is again:
He’s done something fun with the entrance to the Hall itself, which is to draw the outside and inside lower hall as a single map, split into two halves. This will allow a notional battle to rage between the two seamlessly, which was in the original adventure but not really reflected on the maps.
That means barring Real Life, the maps should be done and ready by week’s end. That will let me start finalizing the PDF. I’ve got a few conversion notes to put in, some stats and conversion notes for Swords & Wizardry to add, and an error check to do. Hopefully that will all be complete within the month of January; then we’ll get a preliminary PDF out so folks can look for errors and typos that always slip in.
Basically, I’m on schedule. The same schedule I posted originally in the Kickstarter campaign. This isn’t an accident: it’ll be the fifth Kickstarter that I’ve run that will be on time or ahead of schedule (that is, all of them). If we hit the offset run, expect your print copies in June (or before). If we don’t, you should get them 4-6 weeks earlier.
Don’t forget those surveys if you’re doing physical product! And as always, a little word of mouth (of Facebook? Of Twitter?) goes a long way. We’re about two dozen print pre-orders, or 10 “Starter Kit” with a copy of Dragon Heresy included, from the stretch goal that will both improve the book (thicker, heavier paper, lay-flat sewn binding) and get it out there in retail stores next to the core book.
There’s a lot going on here at Gaming Ballistic, and eight days into the New Year I find myself multitasking furiously. This is good. One of the things I’m working on is setting up international print-on-demand for Hall of Judgment.
One of the eternal frustrations of working as a US publisher is the difficulty – largely due to shipping – of serving cross-border customers. For whatever reason (and I’ve read several), it’s darn near prohibitively expensive to get books made in the USA out. This is especially irksome given that if for some reason I am able to afford an offset print run, which brings the cost per book down to levels that can survive a distribution channel profitably . . . I can’t effectively get the books OUT again.
Anyway, short version here. I really liked the production values of Hall of Judgment. It wasn’t sewn or lay-flat, but it was a nice perfect-bound book on 93# paper (140gsm).
I just approved the new cover for Hall of Judgment via Print-on-Demand from the same vendor (CPI Anthony Rowe). It’s going to be about 1mm thinner, but still printed on nice thick silk-coated paper stock. It’s also going to be print-on-demand out of the UK, and sent by Royal Mail. This is the best shipping arrangement I’ve found.
So if you order a book from me and you’re not in the USA, it’ll probably come from them, and we can avoid the extra $20-40 in shipping that comes when I send out of the USA.
Once it’s all finalized, I just received word that the title is now ready to print! As soon as I get an update on prices, I’ll change the shipping prices on my website for that product. But it’s a good step to getting product worldwide for less.
I did a bit of checking, and there are plenty of folks with physical product who haven’t completed their surveys – not surprising given the relatively low fraction of folks that went digital-rewards-only. If you can work that in today that will help.
On the flip side, we’re about $1,100 away from the offset print run stretch goal, though about 50% of that is related to a single backer who is interested in one of my viking-style shields. That’s really not that many folks.
(Which everyone should be. They’re awesome. Ahem. Sorry.)
While the adventure is Dragon Heresy . . . 5e is really just “turn Threat DC/Hit DC/DR into armor class” and this adventure can be played nearly as-is. A bit of cross-promotion will go a long way.
There’s a great opportunity for game stores to pick up Dragon Heresy and Lost Hall at a discount. Mentioning this to your Favorite Local Game Store would be helpful. And it only would take eight such orders to push us over the edge to the print run.
I should note that the prices in the pre-order store and add-ons reflect the sale that was going on when I launched the Kickstarter, effectively extending until Jan 25 the time that my stuff is 23% off.
Glynn is making great progress on the new maps, which are a heck of a lot more on-point than the more generic maps that used to be there. I’ll start inserting the images into the layout that I’ve got going starting today.
He’s got at least two maps completely finished, with more on the way. He’s knocking them down very quickly.
This shows a sample spread with “maps as art.” The maps are actually full-size for a page: 8.5×11, and will appear with scale bars and references for what a 5′ or 10′ square would be. These full-page maps will be available in the back of the print copy, as well as a separate file for drag-and-drop into your favorite Virtual Table Top.
I think the new style of maps integrates much better than the old one, especially when compared to the map styles Glynn did for the new Logiheimli section, as well as the broad area maps locating the Hall more precisely – something missing from the old edition of the book.
You can see that I still have a bit of conversion work left – eliminating references to Hall of Judgment for the Powered by GURPS Dungeon Fantasy RPG. In nearly every case, this sort of conversion is very easy: I can either look at my old 5e notes from Lost Hall (1st Edition), or convert on the fly. Lots of room in the book to accommodate layout reflow as well.
So things are going well and quickly, and I don’t see a reason to shift schedule at this time!
I am making slow but steady process on The Citadel at Nordvorn, my first of three upcoming supplements for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. It’s set in the same world as Hall of Judgment, but will easily be portable to any other game world with the right tweakage. I can see Nordvorn as it takes shape, and each area of the Lower Town, and the interesting places the PCs can visit, is plunking down on the map with ever-increasing certainty.
Citadel is not an adventure, as such. It is a web of locations and interactions, in which the players can find adventure. So it’s more of a mini-setting.
But it is, by far, the most detailed and specific thing I’ve done. Not “detailed rules,” because it’s not that sort of supplement. But the GM and players will know/can find out where to find all sorts of stuff. I was impressed when Rob Conley had all the rich descriptions of what shops and trades we were walking by in his Harn-inspired city that we played in way back when.
I think Nordvorn will be like that. I’m really looking forward to the maps.
Glynn is hard at work on new maps for Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition), and below you can find a bit of history on the old maps, how he and I got to collaborate, and some WIP he’s willing to show.
Maps and Expenses
When Lost Hall of Tyr (1st Edition) was being made, I budgeted for a Kickstarter that equaled my first: about 300 folks. I also spent a bunch of money on a really prime piece of artwork that was (and still is) the most expensive single image I’ve yet procured.
Even so, I couldn’t afford bespoke maps. Bogie Maps – and Dan was a pleasure to work with – had stock maps in hand, and was able to mildly customize a few for me using assets he already had.
As an example, he created a generic location for “Rival Claim” using a stock map. The advantage was obviously cost. The disadvantage was that it had no real tie to the adventure description: it was just a big map.
That has its charm, as it’s portable. And the full-scale combat maps are still part of the book package. But when I got the opportunity to upgrade content of the book for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG as Hall of Judgment, the project required more maps. Specific maps, that would let the linear convention-style demonstration adventure – Lost Hall’s purpose was to demonstrate the concepts in Dungeon Grappling – turn into something much more non-linear and sandboxy. Not a true sand-box; it is a quest adventure, after all. But something with more geography, and a lot more detail and options on the approach.
Glynn Seal’s The Midderlands
I got to know Glynn through his Midderlands kickstarter(s). I was impressed by his high production values on the book, and also with the quality of his cartography and artwork. Very evocative, and really brought the feeling he was going for to the work.
When I decided to produce new maps, and new locations, from the Village at Logiheimli to the Goblin Warrens (two of them!) to make mincemeat out of adventurers . . . um, provide a suitable challenge for adventurers . . . I reached out to see if he was available for commission.
Well, he was.
Logiheimli; an Easy Choice
He was (and remains) extremely easy to work with. I sent really, really coarse sketches of what I was looking for – I’m a stick-figure kind of guy when it comes to de novo art creation, though I’m a fair hand at digital compositing of existing work.
I can’t recommend Glynn enough as a creator and a collaborator. You can see the first of seven new maps below . . . stay tuned for more, and of course please help steer your friends and Favorite Game Store folks to the Pre-Order page!
Thanks for staying with me!
Update on Surveys
The “Smoke Test,” which vets the survey for effectiveness and function, is nearly complete. I will likely send it out to all backers shortly.
It will run for three full weeks, during which time I hope you’ll help me get the word out, as the Pre-Order Store is open, and if we can hit extra stretch goals during that time, I’m all for it.
I should be seeing the initial Kickstarter campaign funds settle sometime between today and Sunday. That will allow me to, in earnest, get cracking on the finalization of text, maps, and printing.
That’s it! Hope you guys had Holiday breaks that were eventful in only good ways.
Also, if you’re curious to how 2018 treated Gaming Ballistic, read about it below and see what’s coming next.
All the same products are available as during the campaign – the books, the bundles, even the Viking-style Battle Shields of Torengar.
The campaign was short and raised about $4,100, which was enough to secure a quality print run on 85# silk-coated paper. But it won’t take many more backers doing pre-orders to push the campaign past the $6,000 stretch goal at which point we go for an offset print run.
What’s that got to do with anything? It’s a higher-quality book. Still softcover, but heavier paper (105# stock), and with a smyth-sewn (so it won’t fall apart) lay-flat binding. That way it’ll sit on your table for easy reference during games, and the pages are physically sewn into the book, so they won’t fall out with repeated use.
If we actually reach $7500 . . . the book becomes a hardcover.
I’ll admit it: I drool a bit about that one. Having a quality hardcover book sitting next to the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set on store shelves? It’s doable. The softcover is even more doable, as it would only take another 60 or so folks to jump on board at the Print+PDF level, or only 30 picking up both the core book and the adventure.
It’s that time again, and on the first day of the New Year, it’s time to do a retrospective, a Gaming Ballistic 2018 Year in Review.
Here’s the skinny.
Averaged 4.25 posts per week, 220 posts total for the year. Best year ever was 307 in 2016.
Lower unique content delivery in general, as things focused on the publishing end
Maintained good fidelity to GURPSDay
Need to re-energize the blog side of things in 2019
Ran three successful Kickstarters in one year! The first two continued my record of “on time or early” on my KS projects, making me four-for-four. The last one kicked off in December, and while it’s on schedule, can’t be considered early, late, or other just yet.
Dragon Heresy got published as a Level 1-5 Introductory Set, in what is the best-feeling RPG book I’ve ever handled. Really: the production values are stunning and compare with anything the big dogs (or anyone else) have made. It’s a great book with great content, and I’m very proud of it.
Hall of Judgment became the first-ever, and currently only, licensed product for SJG’s Dungeon Fantasy RPG
HoJ was run at several conventions, including GameHole Con by me, and was quite popular
HoJ was my most successful KS to date in terms of backer count (over 500), and post-KS sales have been good. Counting PDF and Print sales individually (which means if you bought a print and PDF copy, you get counted twice), Hall of Judgment has moved over 1,000 copies, making it my most popular product to date. GURPS folks have been good to me.
GB was profitable by a few thousand bucks (more on that in the coming weeks) in 2018. If sales of the Dragon Heresy core book take off even a little, this will provide a vital source of revenue to support ongoing work. I have since learned that what I thought were zero sales in December (true) was expected; first actual sales coming in January, with 25 pre-orders confirmed, with more expected! This is unexpected wind in my sails (sales?).
I received three additional contracts for more expansions for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG in 2019! The releases will be spread through the year. The first title will be The Citadel at Norðvörn and it should enter crowdfunding in the first quarter of 2019.
A second edition of Lost Hall of Tyr was successfully crowd-funded, but once again I was shocked at how few folks backed the project based on my pre-campaign market analysis.
Marketing and outreach needs to be a priority for 2019 if I’m going to successfully see “take-off” in the future
GameHole Con was awesome and I’ll return there, and try and generally increase my convention presence in the future; even so: day job limits the amount of time I can spend at such events.
I gamed less than I wanted to this year
I definitely felt singed running two Kickstarters back-to-back with Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment. These were successful, but wow.
Some major and positive life-changes in my household (my wife got a great full-time job in her area of expertise) were still very disruptive on my schedule
I need to exercise more, and force time for it. Day-job and schedule changes make this harder
Keeping track of many social media feeds is draining.
I’ve been enjoying the hell out of shield-building and wooden weapon-crafting for my Viking stuff, but there are issues to be resolved with it in terms of where my time is best spent.
Overall, it’s hard to argue: 2018 was a successful year for Gaming Ballistic. I just wish it felt more successful. The miss on the number of folks who would be interested in Lost Hall 2e is particularly painful. I’d pondered hanging up GB entirely in October-November, but then I got the three contracts for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG for 2019, which was uplifting. I hope that these three projects, plus a few more in the pipeline, provide the wind in the sails for 2019.
Dragon Heresy needs some actual play, some good reviews and press, and a bit of word-of-mouth. If it can get it, it can be a bit player overall and still make the difference in my being able to self-fund, rather than crowdfund, projects. I have more ideas from myself and others than I have cash-flow to support, mostly in the “it costs good money to get good art” category. I like going into crowdfunding with nearly everything complete, and that can’t happen just yet in 2019.