Wow. Big month.

Went to GenCon. Can find blog posts on that kickin’ around. I learned a lot, gamed a lot, and networked a lot. I still have to catalog the mighty stack of artists’ business cards I got.

I sold about 10 copies of Dungeon Grappling. That was good; more would be better.

To rectify that, I am hurtling towards releasing my adventure scenario that I ran at GenCon as a product. It’s designed to be used with Dungeon Grappling, but will be a viable 5e scenario on its own. I will almost certainly Kickstart it, and it will almost certainly be relatively low buy-in. There’s a high upper end on what I’d like to do with it (full color art is always a goal of mine), but even as-is, I can use the Dungeon Grappling layout template and re-use existing art. I have some outdoor maps, and will be needing some encounter-level maps as well. But more is better, and the fun thing here is that I can work with some of the exiting new artists I met at GenCon. Look for that pretty soon. Of the roughly 15,000-word budget I’ve given myself (32 pages), 14,000 are already written. I’ve got an editor lined up, with a mutual agreement on the work, and that’s exciting too.

Dragon Heresy continues to make progress. So does Venture Beyond. VB is getting closer and closer to “first complete draft” though it’s way over wordcount estimates. That’s not horrid, but it might change how I go about things. It might not, though. Plus, there’s the option of seeing what folks groove on and what they don’t in playtest/blindtest. It’s going to be a very, very cool product line, but “we serve no fries before their time” applies. I have a day job so I don’t have to worry about publishing before things are ready.

Otherwise, I’m cranking hard on the adventure writing, and hope to get that into editing and more playtest soon.

Also: I took delivery of more inventory from CreateSpace. But much of it was flawed. 8 of 25 had mistakes on the cover (was cut wrong), and all of them were only so-so binding quality. So once I get that replaced (they’re printing and shipping them now), there will be a buy one from my website, get a second (flawed, but signed!) physical copy free offer that pops up for the classic “limited time only.”

I just got my first “free download” customer who bought Dungeon Grappling either at GenCon or Origins.

That means there are 11-13 more people out there who haven’t done it.

Maybe dead tree is all you need – that’s cool. But I simply love having the PDF as well for quick reference, and if you bought it at a convention where I sent books (which is, I believe, GenCon, Origins, and the UK Game Expo), you probably got a coupon code with it.

Don’t forget!

 

Live to Grapple. Grapple to Live.

  • Beowulf struggles with Grendel. Sinew parts, Grendel flees, dying.
  • A dragon plunges from above. It’s grasping talons seize the adventurers, bearing them away.
  • Mighty Ajax and Clever Odysseus struggle against each other, yet neither can throw the other, nor be thrown.
  • A python lashes out, grasping its prey first by the mouth, then its coils. It struggles weakly, then not at all.

From the first story ever told, to tales on the silver screen. They all have at least one thing in common: Grappling.

Grappling is thrilling, dangerous, and drives thousands of years of epic storytelling.

Dungeon Grappling brings those thrills to the oldest fantasy RPG with rules and examples for Swords and Wizardry (and other OSR-style games), the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and 5e.

Dungeon Grappling provides:

  • Simple, unified mechanics, using the same concepts as weapon strikes
  • Variable outcomes – grapples can be good or bad
  • Dynamic, tense stories
  • Weapons, talons, magic . . . they’re all in here.
  • Grappling just got scary again!

What’s in the Book

First and foremost, this book contains rules based on Open Gaming Licence content from several editions of the industry’s most popular RPG – explicit examples for Swords and Wizardry, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and Fifth Edition.

This is the printed, hardcopy version. 

Let’s look inside:

Introduction: How can grappling be as epic at the tabletop as it has been in stories throughout history?

Core Concepts: Dungeon Grappling shows that the same basic concepts that you use to smite a foe with your sword are perfectly appropriate when grappling. The attack roll, target number, and effect roll are all unified in the context of grapples to minimize special cases.

Grappling Effects: Dungeon Grappling presents a variable effect roll – using both “control points” as well as conditions to make grappling exciting and unpredictable.

Grappling Techniques: This section gives you options, from simply rendering them immobile, to tossing or dragging, to takedowns, throws, choke holds, grappling with weapons, using magical spells to grapple in a way that makes all of them follow the same basic principles.

Monstrous Grappling: Let’s face it. Grappling is for monsters. A dozen examples are provided to highlight how to calculate the attack bonus, grappling target number (the equivalent of armor class for grappling), and the grappling damage roll, as well as brief discussions of how such monsters fight.

Combat Examples: An example vignette and grappling-oriented combat is provided for each of Swords and Wizardry, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and 5e.

Quick Reference Sheets: All of the key calculations, tables, and concepts are summarized in three pages in the back of the book for easy lookups and rules checks.

Art and Layout: Laid out and illustrated in full color by a great team of professionals, the interior is as beautiful as the rules are elegant.

I’m a big believer in analysis, and looking at the price point for my Dungeon Grappling book relative to what it is (soft cover, full color, POD, decent production values, very nice art and visual appeal, 51 pages, perfect bound) and other market competition (everything from GURPS Spaceships to ACKS in hardback to Symbaroum and Shadows of Esteren, plus of course the Paizo and WotC entries), I’ve decided that the books were priced a bit high.

So you’ll find that the new softcover price is $15.00; the new PDF price is $7.50.

Hopefully that, um, grabs you.

 

Dungeon Grappling: Grab it now

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.