Today I posted a bit on the Discord channel and got some interesting feedback about what some folks want to see as part of a Kickstarter. One comment – fairly easily accommodated – is that they liked graphical pictures of the rewards. Links were provided, he said in passive voice.

Still, it is nice to see what you’re getting, so I hit the internets with the intent on finding some good Photoshop smart mockups, and found three or four good ones.

You can see various exports here, in black and white and color, of what I really hope the final product looks like.

Some notes:

  • The book looks really thick; that’s an artifact of the template. The real thing will be 256 pages, which depending on how it’s printed will be between 5/8 and 13/16″ thick including the covers
  • The templates invariably show a sewn binding; while I’d love (love love love) to do that, it depends on backer counts.
  • I’m still tinkering with pledge levels, since my goal is “a rising tide lifts all boats.” I want to ensure I can make and print the book, first thing. But as pledges get higher, I want the book to get better. Perhaps from softcover to hardcover to color hardcover to offset print run for US backers (if we get to an offset run, international orders will likely get DriveThru Color Premium).

In any case, I’m putting together graphics packages to show the rewards, and it’s both easy and a lot of fun.

More after the break!

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy: Way too much fun with Photoshop mockups”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on for more details!

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

Another quick use of GREP

Find: (.*)\r

Find Style: Topic (my header style)

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

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

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

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

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

Working with Tables

No way ’round it. They’re annoying.

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

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

This next one was the big reveal for me

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

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

In Closing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy and Lost Hall Progress”

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

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

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

Berserker of Lausatok WIP
Berserker of Lausatok WIP

The Path of Lausatok’s initial ability is:

Expert Grappler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for more!

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

So . . . what happened?

The Detailed Breakdown

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

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

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

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

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

Gaming Ballistic is a producer of games and entertainment.

2017: Executive Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading “Ballistic’s Report for 2017”

DM Guild Logo links to DM Guild on OBS/DriveThru

Rob Conley over at Bat in the Attic just put up an important post for those considering using the DM’s Guild as a vector for publishing.

Here it is, complete with provocative title!

OBS Content Program is terrible and it is now not just an opinion

Basically, the net/net of it is that if you publish in the DM’s Guild, you’re basically doing a bit of retroactive Work for Hire. You can reuse your own stuff, but only on the DM’s Guild. Others can re-use your stuff, but only on the DM’s Guild. If you want to incorporate pre-written or pre-published content into your DM’s Guild work . . . don’t, because the content on DM’s Guild is exclusive to the DM’s Guild.

I had considered using DM’s Guild as a vector for my Dragon Heresy work, but even without Rob’s recent clarifications, the “no Kickstarters” rule scared me away, as I wanted to develop my own look and feel and layout and fill my stuff with cool art. Can’t do that on DM’s Guild.

Not saying DM’s Guild is all bad all the time. If you want to create content and have it released once and for all into the WotC ecosystem and only in that ecosystem, it might still be a great thing for you. But do so with your eyes open: content created in this program is theirs, not yours, after you put it on that platform.

One might say, and be correct, that this is the price one pays for having all of the Product Identity, from Beholders to Tiamat to the Forgotten Realms and others, at your disposal. And that’s true. If that’s your thing (and fine works spring from it), than that’s great. It’s a reasonable vector for things as long as you realize that once on DM’s Guild, your stuff is not yours anymore. It’s part of a shared IP gestalt that’s available in and through the DM’s Guild infrastructure and that’s all.

For me, it was never an option, because Kickstarter. But if you ever think “Hey, my setting would do well in [Some Other System],” then the  DM’s Guild is not for you. If you want your own brand to be important, then DM’s Guild utility is much lower (you can’t put your logo or brand identity on the outside of the work, only on the inside).

It’s a good set of Q&A, and Rob’s right: his musings aren’t opinions anymore. They’re policy. Read it, ask your own questions, and if you want to go into the DM’s Guild (and there are many fine products available through it), do so with your eyes fully open.


Final Print Schedule

I’ve held off sending this out so that I don’t spam your email boxes, but I finally can confidently report on the print copy final schedule.

The print copies should ship to me by Thursday, which means that sometime between Saturday and Monday, I should receive 125 copies of Lost Hall of Tyr, of which roughly 96 are destined for US backers.

The packaging is all ready to go, mailing labels attached. The shipping content printouts are going to be done today. We’ve got plenty of packing tape. So is all we have to do is get stuff in boxes and tape ’em up. Then the “you have got to be kidding me” moment when I bring in 96 of them to the USPS.

But that means that the promised schedule of all print copies distributed by the end of January (ahead of an April delivery statement from the Kickstarter) can be confirmed unless horrible things happen. This is Minnesota, and snowpocalypse requires the plural form here, but things look good.

The only deliverables left are the two high level tier’s art-and-character promises. I have a character sheet from Michael that’s very pretty, and solid input from both folks. As soon as this weekend I’ll contact the artists and get them some direction, and we’ll get this wrapped up. Those are an April delivery promise as well, and that should be well in hand.

What’s Next

That will wrap it up for Lost Hall of Tyr, and thanks to all for sticking with me.

If you like the world of Lost Hall, I have some good news for you. I’m working through edits for a full game based in that world. It is fully playable with the 5e rules, but is really built around an OGL modification of the system called Dragon Heresy. I also plan a full adventure mini-setting for the world of Etera, tentatively titled The Hunted Lands (Veiddurlond, much like Lost Hall of Tyr was Domstollinn).

This one won’t be a linear convention scenario, but a living chunk of the world, centered on a very hazardous region of Torengar that is slightly North and East of the starting point for Lost Hall. I estimate it will have six to eight “plot chunks,” which will relate to each other. Four to six characters that start at level 1 will be able to reach level 5 without completing every last jot and tiddle of every encounter.

I’m working through that development process now.

You can find more on my plans for 2018 at Gaming Ballistic.