So, GenCon has come and gone, and I got a lot of business done while I was there. Some of this will be reflected in what projects GB is working on.

The Tower of Justice – Adventure Scenario

The brief scenario that I over-prepared for (two hour session, but I wanted to ensure we didn’t run out of fun) went over very, very well. I can confirm that 15 folks, from newbies to grognards, went through it, and despite grappling appearing constantly, everyone was engaged and had fun. The give and take of control damage was as compelling to them as it was to me.

The scenario is built around the Dragon Heresy world, and the strong undercurrent of Norse-ish mythology that flows through it was well received.

The “do we or don’t we go this way” puzzle that was supposed to be one of the scenario forks (which one needs for a con game, though much less so for a campaign) was so compelling (and frankly, not hard enough) that both parties just got it. I came up with a good re-arrangement of things that will resonate better with sandbox play, as well as providing larger exposure to more potential resolution pathways.

So . . . I’ll be publishing this, for real. The GenCon folks that were at my table will get free copies and playtest credit, if they email me. Otherwise, I will work it up for 5e and Swords and Wizardry, at least, plus of course Dragon Heresy.

There’s a ton of work done already, and turning it into a short adventure supplement should be fairly quick. I suspect that I can re-use a lot of art I’ve purchased for Dungeon Grappling. I may even re-use the Dungeon Grappling layout template, which will push my InDesign skills to grow and improve.

In short, I don’t think I’ll need to crowdfund this one. We’ll see. I could also Kickstart it when it’s basically ready and see if folks have enough interest to help me fund custom art. That way, I’d be able to work with some old and some new artists – many of whom I met at GenCon – on a very short project with little risk. Test out working relationships and whatnot, and keep in practice for crowdfunding. Besides . . . I love generating new art (well, paying others to do so).

What about Pathfinder? I will need to consult my oracles; I’m not as good with this ruleset than others.

The adventure itself stands at 11,500 words – roughly 23 pages as-is, which would grow a bit with maps and fleshing out all parts of something designed for “until it’s done” rather than “cram into two hours.”

Dragon Heresy: Starter Set?

I watched “Ashcan” versions of various games in development fly off the shelves in the Indie Game Designer’s Network booth for four days. The 5e Basic Rules were pretty popular.

So, I’ve got a project that will be in editing for a while, but is fully playable. The system plays well and has some neat tweaks to it. The setting is compelling enough, and has loads of room to support adventures.

So I’m pondering and chopping a very, very limited version of the game that only covers Level 1-4, ditches all optional rules, and is otherwise a nice intro. I’m shooting for something like 60,000 words, which is about 15% of the total three-volume set.

I’ll see how far I can distill it. There are advantages to doing this that solve some issues I had with my Kickstarter planning, too.

The full game is still progressing! And again, with the artists I chatted with, I’m very hopeful I could go from “funded” to “done” in a reasonable time period through the glory of parallel processing. But . . . I think I can get something fun out there that’s playable, and will only improve with time as Ken does his magic on my writing.

Venture Beyond

Just for completeness’ sake, David and I are closing in on a first-complete-manuscript. We’ve nailed down a lot better where we’ll be conventional in business development process, and where we’ll take risks for the sake of time to market.

I’m feeling good about where we are, at least for now. Not much of an update, but as with a lot of “below the waterline” stuff, there’s a lot to unpack in the words “making progress.”

Saturday was packed for me. I was busy from 9am until 10:30pm with good important stuff. Sunday, the last day of the con, was basically open for me – a free day – until the show closed, at which point I was to help tear down the booth.

The Big Day

Well, I awoke realizing that I’d left my battle-mat in the booth. No big, assuming it was there. I beat feet over before, it turned out, that the convention hall opened, which was 9am. So I went over to my gaming room, set up early, then chatted with some of the IGDN members there. I described my grappling system to Sarah at the booth, and another member sat down, and “oohed” and “aahhed” over my book, which was on the table. She opened it up and started avidly reading. I just grabbed a pen, signed it, and made a gift of it to her. If she’s that enthusiastic, she can have one! Continue reading “GenCon: The Big, The Free, and The Teardown”

I think my first and only trip to GenCon was in 1994 or something. It was still in Milwaukee. West End Games was there, and I got to see Timothy Zahn and the WEG designers talk about Star Wars. Was cool.

Now, many (too many) years later, I’m GenCon bound again. I am kinda losin’ my mind about it.

First, the good: I’m playing in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG first-game experience with Sean Punch. That was a Kickstarter reward, and I expect it to be a hoot.

Next, the freakout. And while normally I’m good with crowds and pressure, this feels different.

  1. I’m a member of the IGDN and working the booth. I’m hoping that goes well, although there are things about it that are not optimal, it’ll be a good way to interact with a ton of folks coming by the booth, pitch my and others’ stuff, and see how things go.
  2. I’m running two games, the Grappling Smackdowns.
  3. The adventure I will run isn’t quite done yet. And I realized how much stuff I’d IDEALLY like to have to run a game (maps, tokens, lots of dice, all sorts of stuff) and how much I rely on my computer to run games these days.
  4. It’s been a while since I’ve GM’d at all; it’s been a while since I’ve GM’d 5e or Dragon Heresy in playtest, and that was with a very well-trusted group.
  5. I’m on a panel for the first time ever. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, I’m sure this will be a wonderful experience yadda yadda yadda. But my demo session isn’t nearly as complete as I want it to be (of course, I would have ideally finished it a month ago an playtested it eight times with eight groups), and my not-GenCon/not-writing schedule is packed today and tomorrow.

So . . . feelin’ queasy.

About a week until GenCon, so what’s kickin’ in the hopper at Gaming Ballistic, LLC?

Dungeon Grappling and the Grappling Smackdown

To date, other than the 300 or so Kickstarter copies of Dungeon Grappling, I’ve moved 87 more via DriveThruRPG, of which nine were physical product. I’ve also sold 20 through my website, with a much higher fraction  (50%) procuring physical copies. My participation with the Indie Game Designer’s Network has moved a few more physical books (four, I believe). I have not sold a single copy through Amazon CreateSpace, and given how much of a pain it was to re-do the layout to their specs for active text and bleed (very large pain, with no help unless you want to pay them for a consult), I may reconsider doing that again. The print quality of CS did not blow me away, though it was a lot cheaper per copy than DriveThru. Case by case basis, I guess.

The Kickstarter itself broke even by the time all was said and done. I made a great looking book with solid rules content, paid for it all, and got it all out on time. I then ordered $662 worth of inventory. My revenue has been just north of $900, I think – which means that overall, Gaming Ballistic made about $300 in profit on a project basis.

I am, of course, substantially in the red as a company, because of things like paying for InDesign, hosting, and the remarkably non-trivial money of my own that has gone into Dragon Heresy in particular.

Still: Dungeon Grappling’s all-in profitability is on the order of 5% on a project basis.

I am still of the opinion that the Dungeon Grappling rules are very good for what they do, or at least the least-bad option of any I’ve encountered (unless as with many groups, you simply ignore grappling, which is the ultimate in rules-light play, I guess).

Which brings me to the Grappling Smackdown.  Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic Update and GenCon Grappling Smackdown”

I want to apologize for my ridiculously sparse content production this last . . . month? I had a business trip to Thailand, which despite what seems like lots of time on planes and with downtime in the hotel, is mentally draining. For me at least. It’s basically the creative equivalent of being hit with a hammer. Not in a good way.

Then immediately after I got back, my wife had to nip off to Italy for a 10-day martial arts tournament and seminar. So I’m in charge of my 7yo and 3yo daughters, which does not give me a ton of time to dig in to anything creative during the day (well, for the weekends).

This week is going to be a bit better. The 4th of July work schedule for most folks is pretty slim, and my kids are at school/camp MWF, which should give me some creative time. Further, +David L. Pulver and I are making below-the-waterline progress[1] on Venture Beyond, and I can see a time coming soon where the game goes to playtest and final layout.

For Dragon Heresy, there is slow progress being made, but it IS very slow. We’re in the middle of a bit of a rate-limiting step, where the things I want to do right now are unwise to do until that step is done, otherwise much time is wasted.

Still, my apologies for not throwing anything down for a while. I’ll try and rectify that soon.

[1] This is a synchronized swimming reference. Above the waterline, all is graceful and still and nice. Below the waterline, churning like a piranha-great white shark smackdown. If such a thing could happen. The key reference is all the hard, frantic work happens where no one can see it.

Dungeon Grappling is part of the DriveThruRPG OSR sale. I have also lowered the price of the print product on my own website.

From now until June 11, you can get Dungeon Grappling at a lower price:

  • The PDF has been reduced to $8.00
  • The Print Book has been reduced to $16.00
  • The Dungeon Bundle has been reduced to $21.00

Dungeon Grappling has been fairly heavily praised for making grappling, and grappling monsters, no longer suck. Show your players the real meaning of gripping terror with Dungeon Grappling.

I’ll be at GenCon this year, which means all of Gaming Ballistic, LLC will be in attendance. That second one sounds much more impressive.

My fate was sealed when I pledged to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG Kickstarter, and opted into the Saturday 1-5pm session with Sean Punch. Doubly sealed when I decided I’d try and go there under the auspices of the Indie Game Design Network, as both an exhibitor and table fiend.

But . . . that meant I could take the time to do a bit of hands-on demonstration, too.

Grappling Smackdown

From 10am to noon on both Friday and Saturday, I’ll be running a two-hour one-shot session designed to show off how Dungeon Grappling plays at the table.

Right now, each game will be using Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition rules. It isn’t PvP – it will be a normal romp through a limited dungeon, but designed to highlight the grappling rules as modified by Dungeon Grappling.

What does that mean?

It means that a gaggle of kobolds might score enough control points to worry a high level fighter. It means a web spell does control damage. And it means that a Barbarian or Monk got real interesting when optimized around the wrestling skills.

Grappling is Combat

Grappling never really gets the credit it should, because folks usually insist on invoking complicated or non-optimal subsystems to resolve it. Dungeon Grappling is both new and old, in a way that will become instantly apparent when you play.

Come find out what a smooth grappling system can do for a game. Sign up as follows:

Friday 10am to noon

Saturday 10am to noon

Not too much going on.

It’s ComicCon (technically Wizard World Minneapolis) this weekend, and unlike most times when we spend the entire weekend there, my family was helter-skelter this weekend, with my wife in Chicago, me needing to attend a few Viking planning sessions to build curriculum for classes, and generally playing single-dad with young kids in activities. Plus the toddler/preschooler being . . . her charming self when balked.

This phase really can’t end soon enough.

Anyway, I did see minor progress on the game building front. Venture Beyond saw some discussion, and Michael continues to work art for the covers in the background. His prelim sketch and coloring work is very much in the Dungeon Grappling style of brushing, but obviously different subject material. My feedback to him was very brief, ’cause he’s on point with nearly everything. One comment about how to hold an axe (and I need to get him a reference picture) for fighting, one more about foot position when using a viking shield, and a suggestion but not a correction on a dwarf spear-tip. One comment about overall coloration. But it’s going to look good, and I can’t wait to see how the final covers turn out.

Still waiting for writing and editing on both projects.

Otherwise, it’s about time to go swoon and blush and act like a complete fanboy in front of Charisma Carpenter, and introduce my daughter(s) to Nichelle Nichols. My wife will probably have palpitations over John Barrowman (fortunately for me, he’s not his character).

Onward!

It’s time for an update on Gaming Ballistic!

Dungeon Grappling

Great sales in March, thanks to the GM’s Day sale on DTRPG have been followed by lackluster sales in April, with four copies sold (though two print copies, which I love seeing – not because of all the extra money, an extra few dollars per book, but because I do think it’s a good book to hold in your hands).

At this point, with only two sales, I can conclude “The Art of Dungeon Grappling” as a failed experiment. Alas.

I’ll be bringing a bunch of stock with me to the Independent Game Design Network’s booth at GenCon, though, as well as shipping some stock over to their warehousing team.

I’ve not heard much from play reports, though. I’m hoping folks that use the game in play do give me feedback, and session reports. Consider this a request!

There’s also an error that’s come up twice in questions that is, thus far, the only errata that’s been reported to me. In the 5e example, while Thorfirr’s STR score is called out correctly, I made a typo in his attack roll, and so the paragraph introducing him on p. 41 should read as follows, with a 1d20+3 replacing the mis-typed 1d20+2. I’ve bolded the stuff that is relevant.

THORFIRR. A second-level fighter, and keeping his stats from the PFRPG gives STR 16 (+3), DEX 11 (+0), CON 11 (+0), and WIS 16 (+3). His AC is 16, he has 16 HP, his attack rolls are at +5, but lacking Athletics proficiency, he only grapples at 1d20+3. His Grapple DC is 13, from his Strength (Athletics) bonus of +3. His Control Maximum is 20 (his STR of 16, no DEX bonus, and 2× his +2 proficiency bonus).

Venture Beyond

We are very, very close to having a complete manuscript. The last reports I have had from David show a level of optimism about how the rules are coming together.

Unsurprisingly, it’s coming in at the longer estimate of wordcount, and so I’m going to predict the book will be about the size of the Fate System Toolkit, with the adventure books each being fifty or sixty pages each. That’s not really a change, but it is a confirmation.

Once I have the manuscripts in hand, things should go fairly quickly. I’ve got some mockups of kickstarter graphics banners that I did myself, and Juan took a look at them and thought he could improve them (doubtless true). I’ll post a preview there when I have them, but for now, my first effort is shown above.

The look is designed to be “retro-tech,” and as does the book’s layout, it features a Hubble space background, and block, easy-to-read text with a raster-scan look to it. The space to the right is to hold some art.

Dragon Heresy

I spoke with Ken a few days ago, and we chatted about the perils of big projects during a busy time for successful freelancers. Anyway, things are more clear, and I can anticipate getting edited manuscripts bit by bit as April turns into mid-May.

I’ve also got some amazing preliminary sketchwork from Michael. My original concept for the covers got tweaked just a little, but frankly it’s better the new way, and I think everyone will be really happy when they see it. I’ve been sending him images and art direction based on some of the recent Viking stuff I’ve been doing and seeing, and it’s paying off. I know that’s a bit of vague-booking, but I don’t want to give the game away on this one – it’s going to be a great reveal, though.

I also hope folks are enjoying Monster Mondays. There’s a decent amount of info in those posts, and they show off the flavor of how critters will look and act in Dragon Heresy.

Project M

Regardless of that, there’s some movement going on in the motion tracker around an expansion for Dragon Heresy that fills one of Ken’s observations, which is that settings are better when the rules are written around the setting (this is the GUMSHOE method), rather than the rules left static and the setting painted over.

Dragon Heresy takes this about halfway – there are a lot of changes and improvements to the melee combat rules, but by and large the magic stuff was left alone. But I’m learning a bloody ton about Viking magic and sorcery, and have some ideas for something optional that would really make for a fun “try it this way instead.” Need more time on that one, but honestly I think it’ll be really cool as an expansion if Dragon Heresy is given what I hope is a warm reception.

Project X

I’ve always had more things in mind for the Dragon Heresy game, and based on some conversations I’ve had with a few people, what that will be is starting to firm in my mind. There will be a vast amount of downtime when the DH art is being created, and that time will be used to create the next iteration of the Dragon Heresy project. I know a whole bunch of folks that will be pleased with the results.

The Blog

With a bit of flutter happening over at Steve Jackson Games over the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, as well as me getting back into the “write content nearly every day” mode, my traffic is starting to creep back up. I had a bunch of ballistics-related posts, some Dungeon Fantasy RPG posts, and at least one Viking post. More of that this weekend, actually!

One thing I desperately need to revitalize are my “index pages.” I have well over 1,000 posts, and some of them are great stuff, especially for GURPS players when we were doing more regular Melee Academy posts. Right now, if you click on each header you get a date-sorted list of all posts in the category. I need to add an option that takes you to a simple list of clickable titles.

This will be needed for at least the Melee Academy, GURPS 101, and Firing Squad sections, plus the Reloading Press. The rest can wait, but I need to figure out how that’s done Real Soon Now.