Mid-Campaign Ulcers and Status

Of the book. Not the ulcers.

I won’t kid you guys – seeing the Lost Hall of Tyr pledge total move up and down as it has has not been good for my stomach lining. As I mentioned in the comments, all of the withdrawals to date have been legit life reasons, but it’s certainly painful to watch.

We’re still funded, though, and the book is progressing well. I just sent Todd a pretty thorough edit of the manuscript as a last look before we really start assembling the thing, corrected a bunch of typos, and made a few edits for clarity of writing.

I have received the promised art that I commissioned from the team in four of the five cases: the cover, Roland’s piece, and two of the other pieces. The last one is on schedule. All the maps are done. I’m in the process of commissioning the remaining art assets for the basic book. Things are on track.

Stretch Goal Adjustment

I took a hard look at what the goals of the campaign were, and I’ve made some adjustments.

No adjustments have been made to reward levels; if you’ve pledged something, you’ll get what was promised.

So what changed:

  • I have decided to fulfill all physical product through a high-quality POD company, PubGraphics. I was very impressed with their work on Dungeon Grappling, so the books that come out of this Kickstarter, and any future orders through my website, will come from them. The product will, of course be available through DriveThruRPG as well.
  • I have merged the “More Art” and “S&W Conversion” stretch goals, which will both happen at $6,000.
  • Additionally, I have spoken to Alex Macris of Autarch Publishing, and I will also commit to an Adventurer Conqueror King System conversion of Lost Hall. That one might take some reframing, but he has agreed to give me some advice there.
  • This allowed pulling in the “more art from Roland” levels to $8,000 and $11,000 respectively

Both of the conversions would be delivered when the print books have been promised: April of 2018 (or before).

What about Delivery? Later?


My initial scheduling was done assuming we hit all the stretch goals and I was commissioning all the art that might be needed. So the changes above don’t impact anything.

The Swords and Wizardry conversion pull-in was the result of doing a hard look at what was required to do it, and it’s less work than I had planned.

Finally, ACKS is awesome, and I have wanted to do a Dungeon Grappling tuning of ACKS for a bit; it’s not that different than Swords and Wizardry at the core, and the proficiency-based capability system is similar to the various skill and feat systems in 5e. So it’s a fairly easy conversion. I will discuss with Alex the right way to execute this in terms of his product line, and get working fast.

So I have confidence I can execute this.

Stythja Tiers

A bit more about those tiers.

As part of the reward level, each backer at this level will work with me to create a character for the scenario. You will also receive a preview copy of the Dragon Heresy races and classes chapters, from which the Etera setting is drawn.

We’ll work up a character together, then I’ll make art notes, share them with the backer for review, make any tweaks required, and then fire off the art notes to the artist whose reward level you’ve chosen. Those characters will then appear in a separate PDF file that will be distributed along with the physical rewards and conversion material. Kind of “pre-gens” for the scenario.

Onward to the Finish

We’re headed into the last week of the campaign. Thus far, we’ve seen two reviews of the product:

Fantastical Beckelhimer and Follow Me and Die! both liked it. They also saw the ease of conversion to other material and appreciated the setting details as well as the value the Dungeon Grappling system brings to the table.

I’ve also been on four podcasts to talk about the work:

  • Table Top Babble where the topic was also Kickstarter advice
  • Geek Gab Game Night where we talked a lot about adventure design
  • Delve Podcast which focused pretty hard on the Lost Hall details
  • Shane Plays (forthcoming) about 10 minutes on the adventure

These are good places to point folks for more details about the game. There is, of course, also my blog, which has a category for Lost Hall.

So, with that . . . I hope that folks continue to get energized about Lost Hall of Tyr, and invite others to do so. To the finish line!

Lost Hall of Tyr: Dómstóllinn: Kickstarter is now LIVE

Lost Hall started as a GenCon game called “The Grappling Smackdown.” It was my first GMing experience at a convention, and it was also a scenario designed to showcase monsters that grapple using the rules from my book Dungeon Grappling.

I ran it twice, and it was very successful. It also clearly had enough hooks in it to expand into a full adventure. So I did.

I talk about Dungeon Grappling, doing Kickstarters, and Lost Hall of Tyr on James Introcaso’s Table Top Babble 040 – SciFi and Kickstarter Advice.

The module is set in a culture and realm that uses the mythology and legends of the Asgardians, and the Nordic/viking culture, as a basis. It include, of course, advice on how to drop it into any campaign and setting, so long as the journey and quest takes the party into the mountains and wilderness, in search of an object or goal that is valuable because of its history and contents, but not powerful by itself.

The book contains:

Preface. The preface introduces the adventure as having started life as a 2-hr demonstration scenario run at GenCon that introduced two groups to the alternate grappling rules in Dungeon Grappling. Fifteen players, two sessions, great fun. It was then expanded into the volume being kickstarted.

Introduction. The local geography and the events leading to the quest to rediscover the Dómstóllinn, the Hall of Judgment, are laid out with enough background to drive the adventure if running Lost Hall of Tyr as a stand-alone demonstration. The introduction also provides some inspiration to use the adventure in other campaigns, settings, locations, or even as part of a mega-dungeon!

Lost Hall of Tyr. The core scenario. It includes a flowchart so that the GM can see how the different encounter areas connect, and then 20 adventure segments – a journey, a riddle, a combat encounter, or a physical feat. Each encounter will include Challenges, telling the GM what must be overcome, Concealed information that the players don’t know initially, Alternatives that talk about ways to short-circuit, bypass, or otherwise not just Leroy Jenkins one’s way through a challenge, and Rewards, where appropriate. Ransom encounter tables, encounter map images, and evocative artwork paint the story of the challenges faced.

Wilderness Travel. Travelling overland, especially carrying an adventurer’s usual load of gear, is hard work. This short chapter discusses ways to make that work dramatic and fun, including guidance for food, water, hunting, preserving meat, and rules for cold weather and climate. Not all challenges have talons and teeth.

Bestiary. Each monster that is listed in the scenario is given statistics, including a quick-reference chart for grappling, as well as statistics compatible with the Dungeon Grappling rules.

Dungeon Grappling Quick-Start. Even if you don’t have the book, you can still use the rules. Two pages of grappling the way it should be: fast, fun, and well-integrated with the Fifth Edition basic rules mechanics.

All together, this is a complete adventure that can be run on its own or dropped into an existing campaign.

Let’s get something straight right off the bat: You do not need to have, use, or even like Dungeon Grappling to use this adventure.

You need not entirely buy in to the Viking-ish, pseudo-Norse setting material that serves as background.

I mean, you should love Dungeon Grappling, as a great set of grappling rules that don’t suck. And Woden will cast his unflinching eye on you with displeasure if you dis the setting. But, sigh . . . such things are not required.

I did, however, condense the Dungeon Grappling mechanics into a two-page quick-start that accurately represents how I both taught and ran the game at GenCon. You can attack to grapple, defend from grapples, and even cause injury by grappling, at the very least. Just the basics. But in Indianapolis, that was enough.

Each encounter has monsters that might use grappling against you or be grappled more effectively than they are struck. Well, except for a few where that’s not true, because you have to keep everyone guessing.

It makes for a really different kind of game, in a good way.

This is my second kickstarter. It’s probably a bit better organized than before, and definitely it’s farther along in terms of investment: I have more faith in myself and my ability to deliver a product.

  • Print will be an option right out of the gate, and the better the Kickstarter does, the better the printed book will be
  • The “cool cover” is not an option that comes around last; I commissioned it already, and Juan Ochoa is busy at work on it
  • I’ve already got encounter maps, by Dan Roy of Bogie Maps, being created. These will also come as separate files for dragging into a VTT
  • Oh, of course the entire thing is written, edited by renowned industry pro and multiple ENnie Winner John Adamus (Thanks to Ken Hite for steering me his way!), and Todd Crapper of Broken Ruler Games is completely owning the layout and graphic design, telling me when things are good, and when I just need to shut up and let him work.

So, is there anything not done? Well, sure. I’ve commissioned some preliminary art, and you’ll see that in the first two weeks of updates. And if it just passes the first goal, I’ll be able to populate the existing art spaces.

But there’s a bunch more art that could be there, and with a moderate achievement in stretch goals (roughly what Dungeon Grappling raised, actually), more art will be added.

Also: I’ve got a special guest star, so to speak. Roland Warzecha, of Dimicator, is perhaps one of the finest Sword-and-Buckler Western Martial Arts instructors and fighters in the world. He’s also an amazing illustrator. We got to know each other through Asfolk, the Viking Martial Arts studio I joined (and where I’m now an assistant instructor) researching Dragon Heresy. He’s agreed to a commission for at least one piece for the project, and I sincerely hope it does well enough to add a few more.

But really, that’s it. I could ship the thing on Monday and the adventure would be playable, while the book would be very attractive (if somewhat incomplete) . . . but that’s not how we do things around here.

So, I hope you help me bring Lost Hall of Tyr to life, as you helped me bring Dungeon Grappling to life.

I’ve got what I need, I think.

The video is complete. The pitch looks OK to me and some of my eyes-on folks.

But don’t take my word for it. Check it out in preview mode.

Lost Hall of Tyr: Dómstóllinn by Gaming Ballistic, LLC

(The title link is to the preview; the image is just the video)

A 52 to 64 page adventure for 5e (and S&W at least, if it does well) with support for Dungeon Grappling.

Look for it Real Soon Now on Kickstarter.

I’m always on the lookout for good publishing resources. To date, I thought I had two choices, really, for POD, and these were what I leveraged for Dungeon Grappling.

The first was DriveThruRPG. It was my go-to for Kickstarter fulfillment, not least reason of which because they had a really nice shipping calculator for “Rest of World” type movements, and they could print in the UK which was both less expensive, and really got past the cross-border US–>everywhere else fees that make international shipping the joy that it is. They gave excellent help during my Kickstarter (Meredith was fantastic; my new rep not so much, and that would be revised to “meh” at this point) and convinced me to do print at all. Meredith took an active hand in helping me prep my files for total ink coverage, which was a problem in the first round.

The only downside there was price: my 52-page book costs $7.70 per copy through DriveThruRPG. Further investigation shows that going direct to LightningSource/Ingram Spark I could drop $1.00 to $1.50 from that, at $6.00-$6.50. Still, that means if I sell my $15 book (well, now $15, was $19 when it launched) to retail for $9, my profit margin is approaching a buck a book.

That led me to CreateSpace, whose $4.50 cost to print the same book was (and is) very attractive.

However. However however.

Dealing with CreateSpace’s upload and proofing algorithms is 100% annoying. Their tolerancing methods preclude anything looking like live text from appearing at a much farther distance from the trim lines than DriveThru. I was staring a 50 DriveThru copies of DG on my desk while CreateSpace was telling me “we can’t print that.”

I wound up having to adjust the layout myself for CS, squeezing the borders in from the edges, and making some font size changes, to make it work. As a result, and to ensure all my customers get the same book regardless of print source, I wound up re-submitting that new file back to DriveThru. Naturally it went through first time. If it works for CS, it’ll work for DriveThru has been my experience.

Then I ordered copies. My first CreateSpace proof, way back when, came by with ink flaking off all of the dark images – there were white dots all over the images from where the ink didn’t take. The second time I ordered repeats, I ordered 25, and all of them had crappy binding, and 8 of 25 the covers were mis-cut.

Then I got my first retail order! Six copies to a store in North Dakota. Those copies came in flawed as well, with black text offset from red text in a shadow-looking thing.

So basically, quality control sucked, and I have no faith in them. You get what you pay for. Continue reading “Three POD Comparisons (Lightning Source/DriveThru, CreateSpace, PubGraphics)”

This is a bit of a cry for help. I know a few folks – maybe one or two – who played what was called then “The Tower of Justice” or “Grappling Smackdown” with me in the IGDN booth at GenCon this year. Friday and Saturday mornings, 10am start time.

Each day was 7-8 people, some who’d signed up, some who didn’t.

As the book that will be now titled Domstollinn: Lost Hall of Tyr approaches both Kickstarter and finalization, I want to give you folks playtest credit. And a free copy.

So: email me! You have my card from the event. You can also hit me at gamingballisticllc@gmail.com, or leave a comment to this post. Let me know which game you attended, what character you played, the name you wish to be credited with, and the most memorable thing that happened to you during the game.


A mailing list is a key part of any company’s outreach strategy. In short, it’s the first line of defense against stagnation and starvation. It’s the folks that have come to you, and either expressed interest in, or outright purchased your stuff.

It’s probably criminal that I haven’t set one up by now . . . a crime against good business.

But I’m rectifying that.

  • There’s now a sign-up bar at the top of the page. If you’re interested in getting emails on current and future products, progress on projects, or generally wanting to be informed as to (say) when a Kickstarter of mine will launch, please sign up.
  • If you’ve purchased something from me before, I’m going to proactively add you to the list . . . and then immediately remove you upon request, of course.

You can probably look for an email from me maybe every two to four weeks, and no more. I don’t want to spam you, and it’ll be a bit before enough happens in every given week to merit such a thing.

But please: if you’re interested in Gaming Ballistic as a company that sells products, rather than just a nifty blog, sign up!

I’ve just sent a note to all 287 backers of the Dungeon Grappling kickstarter.

I’ve updated the files to fix one mistake and tweak layout a bit to make a few of my print options identical (that’s below-the-waterline stuff).

So you have a coupon code from me in your inbox (or trash, or spam box, or . . . ) allowing a free download of the updated PDF.

Thanks again for backing my product!


The blog has been very quiet recently. But in the background . . .

I have a 19,000-word manuscript for my GenCon scenario. Renamed Domstollinn: Lost Hall of Tyr, it’s ready to go to layout.

I’ve got a layout person, who will likely sign our contract tomorrow, and then get to work. We’ve got some discussion of graphical elements and color palette to handle first, I think, but his projects are so very pretty I hate to interfere too much.

I have a line on at least one cover artist. For Dungeon Grappling, the cover came last. This time, it comes first, because I like having nice covers.

I reached out to a few dozen more artists I got cards from at GenCon. They’re slowly responding to my pings, but they’re expensive, by and large. If you do well enough to go to GenCon, buy a booth, work it, sell stuff, and make money – and most of these guys assuredly do that well – you’re going to be on the high end of the price curve.

I’m going to try and get a few more bids for the cover from some folks I’ve not contacted yet. I’m trying to reach out to folks I’ve not worked with before, so when The Big Project comes around, folks know what they’re getting into with me, for better or (hopefully not) for worse.

I condensed Dungeon Grappling into a one-page cheat sheet for inclusion into the back of the adventure. It’s not the full book; not all options are on, and some subtleties are deliberately not included. But you can run the system with the one-pager, which is no mean feat.

This has kept me very, very busy. But things are moving, and I hope to start assembling for a Kickstarter in early October. I’m strongly considering a Ransom Model, where if I hit a certain funding target, I will release the document as Pay What You Want, with the hopes that folks will contribute significantly to simply making the book pretty as hell. I’ve got other stretch goals in mind. Fantasy Grounds and/or Roll20 support (though I would need a lot of help with either; that’s not my forte) for one.

I think that the bare minimum, a laid-out file with no art to speak of other than some necessary encounter maps, will run about $3,000. To push the art content up but not hit the magic 32- or 48-page “offset efficiency” numbers I’d need about $6,000. For $8500 I double the art content in the book. At $12,000 I do all that and get paid for my efforts.

We’ll see. Some of the lower aspirations are definitely reachable. The higher ones will require something to hit.

I’m looking for some names and recommendations for what I hope will be a quick-turn project.

What is it?

Domstallin: Lost Hall of Tyr is what became of my “Grappling Smackdown” demo that I ran at the IGDN game hall for GenCon. I have expanded it into a full, if linear, scenario.

What’s the status?

The manuscript stands at 16,571 words, and I expect it to change a bit as I finalize the document. It has already been copy edited by John Adamus. I expect to have the true “final” manuscript ready to rock by the end of this weekend.

The manuscript is in Word 2013, in .docx format, and has extensive use of Styles for easier import.

Oh, you want to know more?

Continue reading “Looking for a Layout Pro for a fast-turn project”

Well, well. That GenCon 2-hour demo has turned into a 16,500 word first draft. I got some good feedback during the sessions, and still more afterwards. I think the flow is better, and it’s got a lot more meat to it.

What’s left to do?

  • I need to de-Dragon Heresy the SRD monster writeups. That’s pretty easy.
  • I need to write some random encounter tables. ACKS shows me the way there, as well as numerous OGL and online resources for what’s good. Really, I just need a few tables. Encounter type, and then some sub-tables for specifics. Animal, fae, weather/hazard, etc. It’s all hills/mountain terrain.
  • I need basic sketches for encounter areas and key art pieces. Not exactly art direction, but close.
  • I will try pouring the file into one of the two already-done layout templates I have in InDesign to see how it looks. Since the scenario is made to go with Dungeon Grappling (but can certainly be run without it!) I might default to that template.

One of the Kickstarter goals (and there will be a Kickstarter, oh yes) will be a fresh, purpose-built layout.

And I’ve got a great editor lined up, with preliminary agreement to start work tomorrow if The Legal Guys come through and get the contract into the signing program. So more tomorrow on that, I hope.