Gaming Ballistic’s offerings on Warehouse 23 have expanded greatly. Every available PDF I publish is now online there. As soon as Decks of Destiny is out of the way, you will start seeing physical copies there as well.
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.
2019 marks the third full year of the company’s operation. It still has but one person doing all of the administrative work: me. During 2018, Gaming Ballistic existed as a vehicle to deliver Douglas’ game ideas; that was supposed to change in 2019…and it did. Hugely.
Gaming Ballistic is a producer of games and entertainment.
2018 Recap and Goals for 2019
In 2018, Gaming Ballistic posted a roughly $6,000 loss. There was a lot of loss for admin and overhead, and more losses and expenses on shields that took a huge increase in revenue over 2017 and turned it into a loss. Spend money to make money, seed the fields, etc. Even so, I considered 2018 a good year, as my revenue went up by a factor of five or so, and I scored some important license permissions from Steve Jackson Games. (Spoiler: that was super-key in 2019).
My stated goals for 2019 were
- Be profitable in 2019
- Publish several Dungeon Fantasy RPG releases, including Citadel at Nordvorn and Fantastic Dungeon Grappling.
- Produce a minimum of 10 short adventures for The Fantasy Trip, beginning a series of on a once-a-month cadence
- Publish The Dragons of Rosgarth and Forest’s End
- Publish a Viking-flavored OSR release by James Spahn
- Do more original content publishing on my blog
That was a tall order. How did I do?
2019 Executive Summary
To hit the highlights:
- Gaming Ballistic increased revenue by nearly 3× in 2019 over 2018; I easily cracked the six-figure mark, bringing in $116,000 in revenue.
- I was profitable. Not only was I profitable, it wasn’t even close: Revenues exceeded expenses by about 17%.
- I published two Dungeon Fantasy RPG books, five adventures for The Fantasy Trip, and reprinted Hall of Judgment in a luscious 2nd Edition with an offset printing.
- I manufactured and distributed three different “not-books” products! Two of them, for The Fantasy Trip, were hugely popular.
- 2020 has a minimum of 10 projects queued up, with a potential for two or three more.
- I have launched and delivered eight kickstarters. Six were on time or early, TFT was just a tetch late due to issues at the printer and getting transport secured. The eighth, the Nordlond Sagas project, is running about two months behind schedule.
- I utterly burned my candle at both ends for reasons discussed below. This interfered with a whole lot of stuff that’s my job to not let it interfere with, including spectacularly neglecting my blog.
The High Points
Gaming Ballistic, oddly enough, makes games. Roleplaying games, to be precise. Ultimately, making and selling such things are why GB exists.
In 2019. I managed to get a minimum of seven stock-numbered products into customers’ hands. I also produced three physical products.
The Dungeon Fantasy RPG
In 2018, I obtained a license to publish a supplement for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG . . . the first (and currently only as of 2019) third-party license for that game. The effort went so well that as Sean noted in his foreword to the upcoming Citadel at Norðvorn, it changed the course of SJG’s intent for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. We have since seen several SJG Kickstarters (Magic Items 2, Monsters 2, and a reprint of the boxed set) for this line, with another, the Dungeon Fantasy RPG Companion, queued up in 2020.
Did I have something to do with that? Maybe.
The Citadel at Norðvörn campaign was successful, delivered on time (except for some shields, which were delayed when I moved. See Off Target below!), and also saw the fruits of going to GameHole Con. “Hey, SJG! Mind if I turn the grappling rules from HoJ into a short stand-alone book?” “Yah, sure, you betcha.”
And Fantastic Dungeon Grappling was born.
Both projects did very well, and the Citadel campaign made enough money I decided to print a few hundred copies of Hall of Judgment in a second edition, with an offset print run. So folks got really, really pretty books.
Nordvorn was and is a great book. It’s gorgeous inside, and my art team did a fantastic job. I ran the game twice at FnordCon, to great reviews. I also started down the pathway to produce four more books, which were supposed to launch in mid-to-late 2019 and sorta did.
The Nordlond Sagas campaign followed on the example of my TFT work, attempting to publish several books at once, all by authors who were not me. Two of the books, the short ones, were character-stat heavy and Kevin Smyth, the author, is a freakin’ genius at making sensible, well-reasoned characters and templates. So Nordlondr Folk and Hand of Asgard were completed on time, on budget, and are in backers’ hands as a preliminary PDF.
I ran out of mental bandwidth to do the heavy lifting I needed to help my two new authors, Merlin Avery and Kyle Norton, over the hurdles of writing lore-heavy adventures on their own. Ultimately, Nordlond Sagas will see print (and the two big adventures will see PDF) in the first half of 2020. And they’re really pretty as well . . . but not on time, and I hate that.
Even so, taking into account all of the expenses and revenue that accrued in 2019, the profit margin of direct expenses was about 26% for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG line.
The Fantasy Trip
At FnordCon in early 2019, I asked Steve “what else can I do with and for SJG?” His laconic-as-usual answer was “Write for The Fantasy Trip.”
I was nervous about it. I didn’t know the game, the style, and never had played. But I had authors who, with the folding of Pyramid, wanted to work with me. And so after thinking about it, I came forward with a proposal with 10 ideas for adventures, with my pitch being “SJG should pick their favorite four.”
Their response? “Yes, do that.”
“You just pointed to all of them.”
Ok, then. So I would. I queued up four right away, and got things going. All in all, and cutting it a bit short, the writing went well, but initially the Kickstarter didn’t. It was only when I was asked by backers, got permission from SJG, and convinced myself it would not be an abject disaster to produce counters for NPCs and creatures and Decks of Destiny-compatible creature and NPC cards, and added a Fifth Perilous Journey, that the campaign took off and became my most successful (and profitable) to date.
The TFT crowd likes solo adventures. They like David Pulver. And they like stuff.
The five adventures, 63 cards, and five counter sheets have been very well received by backers, and are generating a steady stream of revenue (not a ton, but $4 PDFs and $8 print books don’t make a ton) in 2020. The black and white interiors make them very affordable to produce, and some of the internal art is simply spectacular, and all of it is good. The expenses that could be directly attributed to this product line, compared to revenues, provided about a 28% profit margin.
I’ll note that this surprised me, because I expected to see that TFT was more profitable as a line than the Dungeon Fantasy RPG . . . but probably due to the extra shipping and production costs for the physical goods, it is about the same.
On the other hand, the late-breaking decision to do a fifth adventure and all the counters and cards came at a cost.
I did two conventions in 2019. I nipped on down to FNORDCon in April, and had a blast. The Nordvorn Kickstarter was in production, Dragons of Rosgarth had enough done to have Kyle run a few games, and I had 12 or 13 folks at my table for both sessions: I refused to say “no” to anyone that wanted to play GURPS with me. It was a smashing success. No sales, really, because I didn’t have anything to sell.
I also hit CONVergence in July. That is a Sci-Fi and pop culture convention, with a very tiny RPG element to it. I was the only vendor there selling RPGs, and I did a modest business while there: perhaps a few hundred bucks.
I did make some great contacts while I was there.
I plan on being at Con of the North in 2020 (in a month!) and will be running my table for FnordCon 2 in April. This time I WILL have something to sell!
Shields and Weapons
I’ll give the short-short version here. I made a lot of shields, and still more wooden wasters. I love doing it. Roland Warzecha, who runs the Dimicator school of medieval combat (Sword and Buckler and Viking sword and shield fighting) in Germany, gave my construction his stamp of approval, as did Arthur von Eschen, who owns and runs Asfolk in MN. I got a great source of 36” diameter calf-hide direct from Pakistan, which allowed me to really cut costs on these types of shields.
I have all of the tooling and now that my workshop is set up better, the wood and tools needed to make both swords and shields for folks that want them.
Not many people want them, but I love woodworking. I spent a lot of money on shield materials in 2019, but the sales (and there were sales) were mostly buried in the Nordvorn Kickstarter revenue. If you account for the three shields and five swords I sold during that project, I about broke even in the shield department.
Other Product Lines
The Dragon Heresy/Fifth Edition product lines were on autopilot this year. No new development, no cross-over conversions. I fulfilled the Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) project and overall the Dragon Heresy/5e segment made Gaming Ballistic a bit less than $1,000 in 2019 . . . but at a nearly 60% profit margin. That’s what happens when all of your costs are sunk.
Lost Hall and Nordvorn went great. On time or early. The Fantasy Trip was a week or two late, but basically went OK. Would have been early but some production problems over in Latvia held things up. Nordlond Sagas is running two months late, but backers have three of the four books in hand in preliminary PDF form. So I’ll give myself a B on this one.
Authors and Artists
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that in 2019 I continued to build a fantastic team. Instead of writing it all myself, I published works from six different authors, plus work I did. I befriended a fantastic editor, Emily Blain, who sees eye to eye with me on the Oxford Comma and other life-altering details. I helped three authors continue to publish regularly after Pyramid folded, and tried to help three more get started. My art team is top-notch and growing: about a dozen artists will be on the credits list for Forest’s End and Dragons of Rosgarth. Nordlondr Folk (p. 15 if you must know) has a piece that has gathered many chuckles, and I will never forget the Triger. Gaming Ballistic has a strong and growing team, and it’s been glorious to help it along.
Off Target: Challenges and Missteps
Each year brings opportunities for improvement, and some missed steps.
Goals Not Met
I fell behind the cadence of publishing in the last half of 2019. I’d intended to produce two more DFRPG adventures, and five more TFT books in 2019, than I actually did.
I more or less ignored my blog from about April through December. There’s a reason for it, but no one cares much why I didn’t meet a goal of making interesting blog content. I just didn’t do it.
We decided to move and try and break out of a bit of a “one day we’ll…” rut mindset near Feb/March of 2019. We found a new house, and since our old one was pretty nice (so we thought), we took the risk of buying first, figuring the old one would sell quickly.
This ripped apart my workshop, destroyed my office, and saw day after day after week after week consumed with fixing up the old place and moving into the new one. That was late April and early May.
And it wouldn’t thaw. Seriously: it was cold, and cold, and we had concrete work to do, and it just wouldn’t thaw. You can’t bring heavy trucks on certain residential roads until the City says “OK.” Otherwise the roads get chewed up, and MN is already hard on roads.
So we missed the market. And picked the wrong strategy for going down on price. But then . . . it sold! October 24 was the date.
That closing fell through. They couldn’t secure financing and were totally opaque to questions.
Then it sold again! As stressful (and expensive) as it was, our Christmas would be made merry with a December 23 closing.
That fell through. The loan officer had a meltdown and didn’t do any of the work on the buyer’s side.
So now we’re going back on the market . . . and I never have understood the phrase “I just can’t even” more than right now.
Anyway, we made some major cosmetic upgrades to the old place over the last few weeks (new carpet, new paint, top-to-bottom scrubbin’) that really modernize the place’s look. But we still have one more house than we really need, and it’s a gigantic suck for energy and verve.
Note that this really went down/fell apart right as Nordlond Sagas was kicking off.
Nordlond Sagas: Meh
Nordlond Sagas did not show the response I thought it would. Nordvorn had 600 backers, and was run in parallel with Monsters 2/Box Set Reprint, which probably helped. Four Perilous Journeys for TFT ran in parallel with Decks of Destiny . . . and on the one hand it taught me what the TFT folks wanted, but the sheer amount of awesome available from SJG at the time? Maybe helped, maybe hurt. Hard to say. But again: 600 backers.
I was hoping that Nordlond Sagas, with four books eventually available, would also pull 600 folks. Maybe more. I mean, it didn’t compete with anything, and had the promise of great stuff in it. I figured so long as I hit 500-550 people I’d be good, and growth to more than that was possible. I need it to be possible, and that magical 1,000 number is important.
But nope. Didn’t do it. Didn’t crack 500. And given the ever-expanding content (and therefore art cost) of these books… it puts 2020 off to a hard start.
As noted in 2018, I went from sending DH to the printer to launching HoJ the next day, and then followed it up with Lost Hall 2. That hurt. A lot.
The same thing happened a bit in 2019. Nordvorn went great. Then TFT started off really slow . . . I would fund, but unspectacularly. The market had whispered and I missed it. I also overpriced the initial offering. But I determined to correct it, and David agreed to write a solo, and I scrambled to prove the concept of physical stuff. That went very, very well.
Oh, but what a mountain of work it created, and that pushed Nordlond Sagas managing editor functions, my blog, and my regular gaming with my friends right the heck off the table. Combined with some Real Life stuff . . . it’s mid-January 2020 now and I still haven’t recovered.
2019 Financial Summary
Gaming Ballistic overall was profitable in 2019, bringing in revenues in excess of expenses of nearly $20,000 . . . or about 17%.
This is incredibly exciting. On the other hand, I need $10-15,000 of that to finish up Nordlond Sagas, which means that if I were to pocket the balance, I’d have made less than $1,000 per month of “pay the owner.”
So I’m not quitting my day job any time soon. That’s a shame. I’d love to do nothing but make RPG content for a living.
Revenue: nearly 3× Increase!
First up: GB took in about $116,000 in sales and other income in 2018, 2.9× the prior year, which is tremendous revenue growth. Each of my SJG-licensed product lines independently brought in more revenue than all of my product lines in 2018.
My must-do for 2019 was profitability. I did it.
I will note that all but $4,000 of my revenue came from crowdfunding. Barely any real “tail,” somewhat minimal distribution sales, etc. If past performance is an indicator of future results…Gaming Ballistic’s future is tied to how many crowdfunding campaigns I can run, and how many backers I can land per campaign.
More on that in a bit.
Costs: 2× Increase
My costs went up, of course. I spent something like $96,000 last year. Lots of inventory purchased due to doing offset printing in Latvia, with Livonia printing. I got 1,000 copies each of the TFT books, and still have over 500 of each to sell.
I bought 500 copies of Hall of Judgment 2nd Edition, 750 of Nordvorn, and 1,000 of Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. More is better from a cost-each perspective.
I also feel I did well by Steve Jackson Games, sending them a nice set of checks in 2019 for license fees. Given that over 90% of my revenue came from SJG products this year…that’s to the good.
But I did spend $19,000 or so (a bit less) on license fees, admin and overhead, and marketing and convention expenses. I spent a bunch on supporting other Kickstarters, including SJG’s, but also fellow creators. Adobe is still expensive. And even though I’m going to two more conventions in the next two months, and who knows if I’ll do more later in the year…they’re still not paying for themselves at all.
Net: Did I mention Profit?
A company’s business is to make money doing cool stuff. I made money doing cool stuff. Can’t ask for more.
Actually, that’s not true. I can ask for more, but 2019 was a financial and business success.
In My Sights: 2020 Goals
So 2018 was revenue (check). 2019 was profit (check, and also revenue)! But it was also the second year in a row burnt out on the effort to make all that happen.
So I need to look to 2020 cautiously, but there’s room for optimism. Goals, then?
- Finish the Nordlond Sagas books and get them off to the printer and fulfilled. Try and hold “late” to less than three months.
- Take a short break and recover my sanity. A few weeks or a month, during which I will start working out again, and begin a face-to-face gaming circle so that I can blog and rediscover my creative spark.
- Explore not-Kickstarter for crowdfunding (see below)
- Launch “More Perilous Journeys” and see it done. Five more books for TFT, plus counters and Decks of Destiny style cards. I feel like I know more about this one, and can do a bunch of pre-work that will save stress up front.
- I have permission and the intent to make the Nordlondr Ovinabokin . . . the Nordlond Enemies Book. This will be huge. Likely 200-300 monsters and 250-300 pages. Hardback. All-in for art and awesome. But it’s going to take some serious funding.
- Break the 600-backer threshold; I need that to really do the kind of work I want to do, and also take more steps to making Gaming Ballistic truly self-sustaining.
- I need to consider moving my eCommerce platform away from WooCommerce and on to something else. I don’t know what.
- I will look hard into migrating from Adobe to Affinity Publisher and Photo in 2020. I was putting that off until a few features crept into Affinity Publisher…but then to put together Forest’s End I found ways of doing what I was waiting for by other means. That’ll save me real money, which might be better spent on an eCommerce suite that is less painful.
So overall, 2018 was good, 2019 was better…and 2020 has a lot of potential.
Thus far, I have done all of my crowdfunding on Kickstarter. And why not? It’s one of the largest platforms, and it’s done well. After my first few, I also did my post-campaign shipping and add-on phase via Backerkit. I even used Backerkit Postage to fulfill Lost Hall of Tyr.
But there are limits there. Kickstarter only lets you do one campaign at a time, which exercises good restraint on creators, but also can be limiting. Moving from Kickstarter to Backerkit is expensive and time-consuming each time. I mean, you need to do something, because unless you know exactly what production pathway you’re taking, and where all the parts will come and go, and how…you take a mighty risk trying to guess at shipping before the campaign even starts.
For RPGs, if a project does “meh,” then it’s pretty tempting to fulfill by POD. It’s killer expensive, but for fewer than about 300 copies, it’s cheaper to do POD than order excess inventory via short- or long-run digital or offset printing. So you really don’t know where things will come from: Shipping is complex.
And my projects have seen some “grow in place” work that has been to the good. The card decks and counter sheets for TFT; the fifth Perilous Journey; Hand of Asgard. All were conceived, executed, and added to pledges or as add-ons late in the campaign.
That worked out OK for TFT. Hand of Asgard is an amazing book that should have gotten more attention than it did.
In any case…I’m going to be looking at trying GameOn Tabletop for crowdfunding in the future. At least one small project will serve as a trial balloon here. I had a fantastic conversation with one of the owners of the platform, and the features it has to allow easier organic growth of a project, as well as pre-positioned add-ons you can put explicitly in your cart as you pledge for a campaign, plus an integrated shipping phase?
Oh, and you can also feather projects. If I had wanted, I could have done Forest’s End, Dragons of Rosgarth, and Nordlondr Folk as separate entities, and then added Hand of Asgard mid-stream no problem. It allows the backer to say “yes, I want that; no thank you, Asgard” as they wish, and that gives me a lot more information about what folks want.
It’s not perfect, and no platform is. But I’m going to gently give it a go in 2020 and see if the platform is superior (it seems to be). It’s also dedicated to RPG and tabletop games, so perhaps the awareness will be higher? Don’t know. I’ll keep folks posted on the blog and by the Gaming Ballistic mailing list when it gets close.
I worked with GoDaddy to get some site maintenance done over the weekend. I’m finally on PHP7, which caused me issues when I wasn’t after the new year.
Also, I now have print and PDF copies of the TFT books from Five Perilous Journeys up for sale on the GB Store. Was only PDF for a while. The link is to the bundle for all five, but you can also get them individually.
I’ve got a bit more to go before I post the 2019 in review.
Gaming Ballistic products are now on DriveThruRPG. One of my goals entering 2020 was to host PDF versions of my products on DriveThruRPG. The reach is so large that even with the cut they take, hopefully it will balance out. Of course, if you’re already here, you might simply go to my web store – we small-time publishers can use all the direct sales we can get!
On the flip side, Gaming Ballistic goes to great lengths for print copies to get offset print runs, or if the demand isn’t there for a full run, then higher quality digital printing.
With that in mind, the following titles are currently available in PDF via DriveThru:
The Dungeon Fantasy RPG
The Fantasy Trip
- Vampire Hunter Belladonna (Solo Adventure)
- Crown of Eternity
- Ironskull Castle
- Curse of the Pirate King
- Citadel of Ice
More will come later as the PDFs are finalized.
I’m starting to get reports that the books are arriving in the USA. Excellent; that sounds about right. Some Media Mail is super fast, others can take up to 10 business days. So stay alert.
Errors? Can fix.
Also, make sure you get what you paid for; with a big delivery, fulfillment errors can take place. This includes everything from “oops, you’re missing X” to “the USPS crushed my books into something unrecognizable.”
I’ve got LOTS of spare copies of books. If your card decks or counter sheets are damaged . . . that’s going to be more of an issue. But let’s hope that the really high price I pay for each box (I mean, really?) means they’re quality stuff and protect the goods well. That being said, I’ve sent out two replacement sets of adventures to our “not the USA” friends due to mis-handling, and I’ve got lots and lots of copies in the USA that can be used for that purpose…so if your stuff is broke, email me directly with a photo of the damage and we’ll sort it out.
As always: the thing that creators probably get the least of is post-campaign feedback. “I liked it,” or even better, “I played it” and “here’s what I liked and what I didn’t” is super-valuable. Especially since I’m going to be turning my efforts to “More Perilous Journeys” in 2020.
More Perilous Journeys?
Yep. That’s going to be the new title of the Kickstarter. I may try and take a page from the Car Wars concept and rack up as many pre-orders as possible…but I’m going to be trying a few different things in 2020 with my crowdfunding direction, so we’ll have to see. Kickstarter is popular but a bit confusing; Backerkit is nice, but really labor intensive. Both lack tools that I’d like to see and make things harder than they should. I may try something else, but I want to test it first with a smaller project.
First: let’s take care of “when.” I expect/hope to have all five manuscripts in my hands by Feb 14, 2020. Three are already done, though not edited or laid out. The TFT layout is very clean, so I don’t anticipate any issues there. I’m going to do my best to have all of the text layout ready to go on these by the time crowdfunding launches; I also need a bit of a break after the Nordlond Sagas campaign due to behind-the-scenes stuff. So figure late Feb/early March for a launch date on these.
You’ll be seeing three more adventures that are sequels to Crown of Eternity and Curse of the Pirate King; these are GM’d adventures written by the same team of Christopher R. Rice and J. Edward Tremlett.
You’ll also be getting two 32-page solos from David Pulver; he’s writing those now. They will be very, very different than Vampire Hunter Belladonna in subject matter.
I’ll see if folks want more counters and card decks. As before, these will only be offered as one-time specials for the Kickstarter, but I will certainly have the older counter sheets and card decks from “Four/Five Perilous Journeys” as an add-on, a dedicated print run for those.
Smaller and Bigger 2020
That’s what I’ve got on tap for you for TFT in 2020 thus far. I’ve got other things in mind that year, of course. One is a giant Dungeon Fantasy RPG book, the Norðlondr Ovinabokin, the “Nordlond Enemies Book,” which is planned as a huge bestiary, in hardcover, full color. We’ll see if “A full-length monster manual for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG” has the legs folks say it will! Also, maybe-possibly a brand new RPG from a name you know well (not mine) that is neither TFT nor GURPSy, but I’m very excited about. That one would come late in the year.
So “smaller” number of major releases; each one will be “bigger” though, in terms of how much content will come with the project. I’ve also got a number of projects in mind that will pop up when they’re ready to go, and if my alternate vector for crowdfunding works out, can pop up at any time. I’m already working a really neat DFRPG concept for a 16 or 32-page book with the author of Nordlondr Folk and Hand of Asgard…and more besides. Anything like this will show up as shorter works, though.
By Special Request
A comment in the TFT Discord channel boiled down to “I’d really like a set of cards for the Nordlond monsters.”
I’ll tell you what I told him: after the Nordlondr Ovinabokin is done, I’ll have prose and art for likely over 200 creatures. Turning those into the much-simpler TFT critters should be straight-forward.
So consider it under consideration. Obviously something like this requires permission and discussion with SJG . . . but if they say yes, I’ll see what I can do to slot something like it in for 2020.
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’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.
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.
The Norse-inspired Norðlond setting for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG keeps growing. Here’s what’s going on, and what’s coming, for Gaming Ballistic in this series of third-party products for SJG’s Powered-by-GURPS boxed set.
Nordlond Sagas: Now on Kickstarter
On Sept 10, Gaming Ballistic launched its 8th Kickstarter campaign, and much like the quite-successful “Four Perilous Journeys” campaign for The Fantasy Trip, Nordlond Sagas is also funding multiple books.
The Dragons of Rosgarth
48 or 64 pages
This setting expansion and adventure scenario details the towns of Midgard and Jarngarðr, and provides a looming threat worthy of a party of seasoned delvers. Targeted at four to six delvers of 300 points or more. Written by Kyle Norton.
64 or 80 pages
A bold thegn built a fortified settlement beyond Audreyn’s Wall, near where the forest meets the sea: Skógarenda . . . Forest’s End. Forest’s End features several threats and three actual dungeons to delve for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG! Written by Merlin Avery.
Sixteen playable racial templates to supplement those from Dungeon Fantasy Adventurers, including Norðlond-specific versions of elves and dwarves. Also dragon-blooded, children of humans and demons, and other hybrids, such as raven-folk and those who are brothers and sisters to bear and boar. Written by Kevin Smyth.
Of course, if you missed out on the Hall of Judgment and Citadel at Nordvorn campaigns, those are available, along with the Fantastic Dungeon Grappling booklet, as both comprehensive “all the books” pledge levels in both PDF-only and Print/PDF bundles, as well as add-ons should you wish to pick and choose.
Announcing: Nordlond Bestiary and Enemies Book
Gaming Ballistic is thrilled to announce that we’ve been given the green light to develop a comprehensive bestiary for the Norðlond setting for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.
It’s going to be very meaty, to the tune of 200 to 250 creatures, mundane and magical. Making it Nordlond-specific and based on the Dungeon Fantasy RPG means that the project and its collaborators get to write to a common target. The specificity of it means each creature and entry can be tailored well enough that it’s not just a list of generic creatures. The issue that plagues such projects is that it’s impossible to guess what campaign flavor it’s going to be in. By making this support Nordlond, it removes that constraint and allows me to be specific while not precluding other efforts or adaptations.
This is going to be, well, a beast of an endeavor. The good news is that tens, maybe even hundreds, of thousands of words already were written as part of a different project for this purpose. Some art even exists. And I even have a draft (work-in-progress, subject to change, etc.) cover:
A project this large will take a lot of funding to pull off. That’s why I haven’t rolled it in to the Norðlond Sagas kickstarter directly.
But I will say this: if by some miracle the current Kickstarter takes off and hits like $75,000 or $80,000 (which is a record-for-me-breaking campaign of 1200 to 1500 backers!), I’d not need to fund it separately to get to the printable PDF stage. I could develop it and only at the end use a short campaign to size the print run.
Wouldn’t THAT be fun?
You guys have so far funded three Dungeon Fantasy RPG books from Gaming Ballistic.
Hall of Judgment was my first license from SJG, and you guys showed up strong. Then came the more recent Citadel at Nordvorn, and not only did you throw down for that, it also brought a second edition of Hall of Judgment with a much, much better printing, and a stand-alone booklet: Fantastic Dungeon Grappling.
We’re not going to string the products out for you this time. Gaming Ballistic is thrilled to announce that next week marks the launch of the Nordlond Sagas crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.
It will bring you three unique books, all written by new authors, and all set in the ever-expanding Nordlond setting.
The Dragons of Rosgarth
48 pages (64 if we hit a stretch goal)
This setting expansion and adventure scenario details the towns of Midgard and Jarngarðr, and provides a looming threat worthy of a party of seasoned delvers. Targeted at four to six characters of 300 points or more. Written by Kyle Norton (Dungeons on Automatic).
The Ruins of Rosgarth are occupied again, this much is certain. But mining caravans and logging expeditions are being threatened by growing hordes of undead, as well as surging ranks of dragonkin. Wizards and clerics alike are muttering uneasily as they feel the disturbance in the land, and the Aesir whisper in the dreams of heroes. Journey into the wilds north of Audreyn’s Wall to Rosgarth Ruins. Investigate the source of the danger . . . and defeat it if you can.
64 pages (80 if we hit a stretch goal)
The King proclaimed over a year ago that for the first time in centuries, the ranks of the nobility would be expanding, with lands available for those bold enough to hold them. The catch? The lands lay beyond Audreyn’s Wall, where dragonkin roam, giants dwell, and all manner of creatures make their lairs.
And yet, the Dragonground, as they are called, are home to countless ruins and dungeons, plus abandoned broken ley line junctions . . . and the boundless and magical wealth of the fallen empire of the Dragon Queens. One thegn, more than bold enough to take up the King’s challenge, built a fortified settlement near where the forest meets the sea: Skógaenda. . . Forest’s End.
A year has past, and the settlement has thrived. The thegn is ready to claim his rightful status as lord and jarl. A great feast is planned. What could go wrong?
Forest’s End features several threats and three actual dungeons to delve for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG! Written by Merlin Avery.
This short supplement brings at least 16 different playable racial templates to supplement those from Dungeon Fantasy Adventurers. Including Nordlond-specific versions of elves and dwarves, it also provides ties to other cosmology for the setting: dragon-blooded, children of humans and demons, and other hybrids, such as raven-folk and those who are brothers and sisters to bear and boar. With new traits available for every Dungeon Fantasy race, this book allows you to tie all of the “usual suspects” in with the Nordlond setting and bring some entirely new abilities to your games. Easily portable to other settings. Written by Kevin Smyth, who was deeply involved with writing and proofing the pre-generated characters from Hall of Judgment.
Goals, Duration, and Pledge Levels
Depending on approval, the campaign will launch either Sept 10 or Sept 12 (next Tuesday or Thursday) and run through October 12.
It has an initial funding goal of $15,000, and two important stretch goals
- The first stretch goal is at 300 physical copies. At that point, we upgrade to a higher-quality printing, at the same printer that did Citadel at Nordvorn and Hall of Judgment 2nd Edition.
- The second stretch goal is at $29,000. At that point, there’s enough funding to ensure that Rosgarth and Forest’s End can both be expanded by 16 pages.
The pledge levels are offered as a bundle including all three books. This is necessary for printing cost efficiency as well as to get the loyal DFRPG customers more stuff in 2019.
If you missed Hall of Judgment and Citadel at Nordvorn, there’s also both digital and physical tiers to get all the books, all at once. Plus two retail levels for those who would like to cover the line.