And we’re done!

At least I hope so!

This morning I dropped off about 40 books into the mail, which means that all but one order – and that one is an international order – is complete. I’ll take care of that one with TheDiceLatte in Korea over the next day or so.

Including today, this means that the usual 10 days of media mail will bring us to Halloween. October 31 . . . meaning that I can chalk Dragon Heresy as my fourth “on time or early” Kickstarter, preserving my 100% hit rate.

Thanks to everyone for supporting this project.

A Request

I’ve been getting some nice emails or quick Tweets about the book, which of course, I appreciate greatly. Even better would be a fast review on a social media site or forum, even better attached to a play report. It’s a non-trivial ask, I grant, but the more folks curious about Dragon Heresy and who buy books, the more support I can give to the line! (More on that later.)

Favorite Local Heretical Gaming Store

As a result of breaking through to the last stretch goal, I’m in possession of about 1,300 copies of Dragon Heresy that I’d obviously love to move out and get into folks’ hands. So bring your own copy by your Favorite Local Gaming Store, and they can either order from me directly or the books will be available via Studio 2 come December. I think the books will have great shelf presence, and if your game store owner contacts me, we can work out an appropriate retail discount if you want to order from be before then.

What next?

Well, the very first thing will be to provide a bit of adventure support. Originally, Lost Hall of Tyr was a convention module I ran for 5e at GENCON 50, and then published it as a 64-page supplement.

I approached Steve Jackson Games about converting it to The Dungeon Fantasy RPG (Powered by GURPSand to my surprise and pleasure, they said yes, and we announced Hall of Judgment for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG in April. In doing the conversion, I also expanded it to be more of a micro-setting rather than a linear convention romp. It grew to 128 pages, with more detail around the city, three additional dungeons/locations, and tweaked-out new rules.

Well, I’m going to be converting the larger version of Hall of Judgment back into Lost Hall of Tyr, 2nd Edition (for Dragon Heresy). I’ve already got a preliminary layout, and the new edition will support play at Level 1-5 for Dragon Heresy. Any who already have the PDF will get a free upgrade; I can’t upgrade the print copies, as I’m sure you understand.

I’ve also been asked about mid-tier play. Well, there’s good news and a challenge there. The good news is that I’ve got another two races (elves and gnomes), several classes that didn’t make it into the Introductory Set (Ranger, Paladin, Warlock, Monk, Sorcerer), 16 more backgrounds, and of course the spells lists that go along with them. Those need to be edited and laid out, but they already exist.

The challenge is art. I’ve used and re-used quite a bit of the original art I’d had commissioned for my first four products, and I’ve had quite enough of that. So there will need to be new art to go into this expansion. I’d also like the product to sit next to the Introductory Set on retail shelves, which means an offset print run!

Those would require money. I’ll rough out what it would need, and see if we can fit a crowdfunding campaign into what is shaping up to be a very exciting and busy 2019.

Fit in? Yeah. I’m not ready to announce yet, but expect even more support for the world of Dragon Heresy in 2019, and not just written by my hand. I can’t wait for the announcement, but a few things are pending that need to happen first.

So stay tuned . . . and I hope that I can continue to make things happen over the next 14 – 18 months for you.

Thanks again!

I heard from a backer in Sweeden that he just received his hardcopy of Dragon Heresy. So “international” backers should look for theirs this week or next, ideally.

Last I heard, we’re still on schedule to have the bulk of the US order arrive at Studio 2 on October 8, which hopefully means will see inventory at my house later that week, and then into media mail for the USA. Hopefully that means US folks should have their games by Oct 21.

If your address has changed since the Kickstarter, ping me at gamingballisticllc@gmail.com and I’ll change it in Backerkit. Once the books arrive at my house, I’ll print postage via the Backerkit online system – that worked beautifully when I did it for Hall of Judgment – and that, as they say, will be that. 186 copies of Dragon Heresy, plus assorted other copies of Lost Hall and Dungeon Grappling, are in the queue for distribution. A few of you ordered 3-4 of them.

I think you’ll be pleased with the books. We’re almost there!

It’s been a long time coming, but the first hardcovers are going into the mail. As seems to be amusingly the case, it’s the international books that go out first. Roughly half the books went out last week, and the rest will go out next week. Postal service is Korean air mail, so it should be pretty much everywhere in about two weeks. Hopefully everyone will have theirs by Oct 6 or so, certainly I hope by Oct 13.

For the US folks, I expect October 8 (ish) to be the date that something like 1500 books arrive at Studio 2, and then it’ll take a few days to get 320 books (about half a pallet) to me in Minnesota. I’ve already got the packing materials, labels, etc, and so will be able to process the US books and get them into the mail in a matter of days. After that, it’s the usual 2-10 days for USPS to get it there, so everyone should have their stuff by the end of October, as promised.

Shipping internationally was unpredictably expensive. That’s on my end, and it will figure strongly into “lessons learned” for the future.

All of the books have gone into the mail, and the expenses paid. So, where did the money go for this project? It’s my practice to be as transparent as I can with this little adventure in self-publishing and running a small business. So here we go. Hall of Judgment financials.

Costs

One thing about Hall of Judgment is that it was, obviously, a conversion of Lost Hall of Tyr. Plus a significant expansion. So the costs of the conversion do not reflect the cost to create a new book from nothing. Bear that in mind as we decide if the project has been successful (spoiler: I think it was), and to what extent (spoiler: pretty good).

  • The expenses for the project:
  • Writing and Editing: $1350
  • New Art: $1850
  • Backerkit Fees: $475
  • Printing: $3,000
  • Shipping and Fulfillment: $3,500
  • License Fees: Classified

So, in this particular case, it cost more to move the books from hither to yon than it did to create them in the first place. I’ll have to look into that.

Total expenses were about $10,200 plus license fees to Steve Jackson Games, and printing and shipping was the lion’s share of that, perhaps 65%.  The new artwork and editing was the next chunk.

The book was 128 pages as delivered, plus the cover. The total print run was about 500 books. So one can look at the development and printing costs as $80 per page or about $20 per book. Shipping is deceptive, though: it’s a pass through. I do my best to break even on it, and this time I was relatively successful there, perhaps losing about a dollar per book on shipping overall.

Revenue

For a “just the books” Kickstarter, this one was the most successful for me yet. Fully 1/3 of the backers of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG itself jumped in for the Kickstarter, plus more since.

  • Kickstarter Net Revenue: $14,350
  • Backerkit and Pre-Order: $3,825
  • Post-KS Sales: $500

So total revenue has been $18,675. Backerkit and Post-KS sales numbers both include shipping dollars.

On a project-only basis, this means it’s been profitable, by about $8,500 less licensing fees. Note that it did take about four months from Kickstarter to final deliveries, so even without fees, the INCOME of the project would average $2,000 per month.

That’s nice, but it’s not “quit your day job” for me levels by a long shot. Oh, and also . . .

Lost Hall of Tyr

Don’t forget that Lost Hall of Tyr was a bit of a net loss: perhaps $1,100. So there is that.

Of Lengi las Ekki

Too long, didn’t read? Well, Hall of Judgment is done, and has been a success as a one-off. It was profitable, and I still have roughly 100 books left to sell, which would increase the take if they get cleared out by about $2,000.

That’s not bad! What it won’t do, though, is pay easily for a second print run. The fact that it cost me more to fulfill the KS than it did to print the books is alarming. Not surprising, given the state of international shipping. No matter what, domestic USPS cost about a grand, and getting international books fulfilled was another $1,000 (for about 100+ books, so really not bad at $10 each), and getting the books to the USA accounted for about $1,000. The rest was supplies and hardware (label printer, boxes, tape, etc).

So there’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that overall, I think Hall of Judgment is a great book, attractive and solid, and the first print run will certainly be depleted over time. PDF sales will continue.

The bad news is that it’ll be quite a risk to reprint the book, and it’s not really sustainable using the same pathways I used before if continue to only use Warehouse 23 (though we’ll see about that; physical sales will start there in a few weeks, and they have much better reach than I do).

Hall of Judgment was able to take ridiculous advantage of being the fourth book I’ve produced. I had page after page of grappling-inspired art from Dungeon Grappling. I had enough viking-style art that fit in perfectly with HoJ from the production over the last two years of Dragon Heresy, which probably cost a total of $30-40K to produce, and of that $12K was the print run and a heck of a lot of that was pure art expense. Hundreds of high-quality images. Plus Lost Hall of Tyr itself was not art-light, either.

So the while the expected cost of making this book would usually have been $100-150 per page, plus the print run of $6,500 for a total of $19,000 on the low end to as much as $26,000 on the high end for a “from nothing” book, including paying the writer, layout guy, etc (that would be me) for work done . . . all of the “money spent” above are actual checks paid to others. The money brought in above would have been just enough to support the $100 per page plus printing level. If a second Kickstarter happened, from scratch, I’d have to keep that in mind and plan accordingly.

Back to good news, though: I’ve realized that the economics of success very much favor the low end of offset print. So from here on out, the only real question in my mind is “between 1,000 and 3,000 copies of [future product], how many will I order?”

Because at those levels, especially for the printer overseas, whatever I don’t sell in the KS can go into distribution, and Studio 2 will take the product to conventions, get it into stores, etc. The take is quite low as a percentage of cover price, but when you do offset, you can still go into distribution, pay for the line to be evergreen, and throw off some income to fund future work.

So no matter what: I consider this both a financial and educational success.

That’s the tale of the tape. Thanks for listening!

Douglas Cole
Gaming Ballistic, LLC
Sept 20, 2018

What Now?

Breathing is good and important. It’s been a real sprint here at Gaming Ballistic since April 1. That day, SJG and Gaming Ballistic announced the conversion of Lost Hall of Tyr to the Dungeon Fantasy RPGand the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set went live on Kickstarter.

Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment

A month later, I’d met the goal for an offset print run, and got busy – very busy – finishing up the PDF for Dragon Heresy. The PDF went out to backers on June 17; the printable PDF (higher resolution but flat file with no hyperlinks) went to AsiaPacific Offset on June 18. The Hall of Judgment Kickstarter launched June 19.

That one was my best Kickstarter yet. More backers than any of my prior projects by a long way, and frankly, a better “mix ratio” of print to PDF than other projects as well. Nearly 2/3 of backers wanted a physical copy of the book. My best estimates put that mix at 50%. Also: there were 1,587 backers of the box set RPG: 1/3 of that number is 529, which is coincidentally exactly the same number of backers that Hall of Judgment got. Since the typical group seems to be about 5 people including the GM, really anything more than a 20% hit rate is amazing, and Hall of Judgment did quite a bit better than that!

Fulfillment

The Dragon Heresy books are “on the water,” and should arrive at Studio 2 on October 8. I’ll get a sub-shipment of 320 books a few days later, so by the end of that week, I hope to have all domestic books in the mail, which means that with little room to spare, the “October” promised delivery date for all rewards will be met.

The first two cartons of Hall of Judgment (about 120 books) arrived at my house yesterday, and all of them but a few have been boxed up and mailed off already. The remaining five cartons should arrive at my house by noon today, and I will begin the process of finishing up shipment there. Folks will start receiving their books next week, then, and might extend into the 3rd week of September. The promised delivery date for rewards was August; some of our not-the-USA friends did actually get their physical copies in the trailing days of August, and I apologize to the US crowd for the month of delay. I do think, however, having finally held the book in my hands, that you will be pleased.

That does mean, though, that I’ve been hard at it for six months straight. It’s been a wee bit of a sprint, especially with a day job. But now my kids are back in school again and my schedule should be normalizing. I hope. That means my breather, such as it is, is over. Continue reading “A Pause to Breathe: OK, that’s done”

It’s fulfillment week for two of my Kickstarters, whose physical product are coming due at roughly the same time. So: dual-wielding emails! (I picked up that proficiency/specialization over the last few months)

Other Books

If you are not in the USA and ordered Dungeon Grappling or Lost Hall of Tyr  as a physical copy from either the Hall of Judgment or Dragon Heresy Kickstarters, your books are now on the way. I placed the orders for six folks for Dungeon Grappling, and two more for Lost Hall (both of those from the Dragon Heresy KS). I have contacted the backers with a personal email with a copy of the info forwarded to me, as well as an order number.

Any issues, let me know. The UK product should show up within two weeks. Italy shortly thereafter. The Australia/New Zealand can take days or weeks, depending on when things fall together. But do contact me if things don’t move sprightly as things go forward.

Hall of Judgment

I’ve heard from Kixto in the UK, and they’re in the process of filling the HoJ orders for international folks, after which they’ll forward the rest of the orders to me via airmail. That still means that it’s not crazy-talk for me to see a pallet of books on my floor by the end of the week, or perhaps the weekend. This weekend is a holiday weekend in the US (Labor Day) and I’ll be at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival all three days doing Viking Martial Arts demonstrations . . . but as soon as it’s remotely possible, I’ll bundle your HoJ books and any other physical product that you’ve ordered into one shipping box and get them on the way by next week at the latest. So on schedule for Sept 15.

Dragon Heresy

The Dragon Heresy books are still going to be the last to leave. The books are done, and 50 books will head over to Dice Latte in Korea as soon as a few customs issues are sorted out and folks get back from vacation. Then the international copies for both DH and HoJ Kickstarters will go out. Sometime this week, I expect the books (nearly 1,500 of them) to move to staging at the shipyard, and then three weeks on the water to the USA. Then another week to get to Studio 2 in TN, and finally they’ll break the order into “keep ’em!” and “ship to Doug” and then I’ll do fulfillment from my house. So six to seven weeks until books are in-hand: first two weeks in October, I suspect.

Again, the US orders that have Dragon Heresy in them will be sent in one bunch. I will not hold Hall of Judgment waiting for a Dragon Heresy bundle, so if you ordered Dragon Heresy through the HoJ Kickstarter and you’re in the USA, expect two packages: one with HoJ and Dungeon Grappling and/or Lost Hall of Tyr (if you ordered those) and another with Dragon Heresy.

If you’re on the Dragon Heresy KS, you’ll get everything at once.

Hall of Judgment now available on Gaming Ballistic and W23

The new adventure “Hall of Judgment” is now available for retail purchase at the Gaming Ballistic web store and on Warehouse 23 over at Steve Jackson Games.

From the blurb:

Hall of Judgment is set in the barbarian lands of the north (predictably called Norðlönd). It is designed to evoke the feeling of a nordic/viking culture without specifically invoking Norse myth and legend.

  • This product is a micro-setting and scenario for the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Powered by GURPS)
  • It features non-linear adventuring for 4-6 250-point characters
  • Explore a Viking-flavored world trekking through cold, harsh mountains, facing dangerous faerie, and searching for a lost holy place, and the priceless relics within
  • Easily portable and usable with any GURPS Fantasy campaign

The book contains:

Preface. Contains a brief discussion of the original volume and how it came to be converted to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

Isfjall. The town is described in enough detail to serve as a base for further adventures.

The Journey. This section is broken out and expanded from the original volume. Random encounter tables, weather hazards, and other difficulties that arise when nature itself rises against you.

Lögheimili Ruins. A dangerous place. Full of evil it is. In you must go. A micro-dungeon! You don’t have to go in. Or come out.

Domstollinn. The core scenario. It is presented as a set of encounters that can be tackled (or not) in any order. An encounter includes a set of Challenges, telling the GM what must be overcome, Concealed information the players don’t know initially, Alternative ways to short-circuit, bypass, or otherwise not just Leroy Jenkins one’s way through a challenge, and Rewards, where appropriate.

Bestiary. Each monster that may be encountered in the scenario is given a description, statistics (including brief stats used with the Fantastic Grappling Quick-Start), and combat tactics to make each one unique. Over 30 creatures, nearly all of them new.

Fantastic 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 DFRPG mechanics, using the control damage type first introduced in GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling, but refined and simplfied after years of play in multiple systems.

Pre-Gen Characters. Sixteen 250-point characters will be provided to allow the scenario to be played with minimal preparation; this adds to the excellent pre-gens already provided in the DFRPG boxed set.

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

I sent Hall of Judgment preliminary files to the printer

They were accepted first try, as “ready to print.”

I expect that I’ll hear back from the printing liaison today, since it’s mid-afternoon in the UK, and we can make plans to get things moving forward. But I think that means the clock on printing has started.

Still waiting on final ship approval as folks get settled and Return from Gencon (with associated Con Crud expected, if you’ve been to one of those). But things are nipping along well.

Just a reminder: if you’re interested in a physical copy of the book, and you don’t live in the USA, the very best time to order it is right now, as shipping will only be this cheap if there’s enough back-order for me to get a reprint from not-the-USA. Sure, one day I’ll have POD copies available, but odds are they won’t be as good, as most POD tops out at 105gsm/70# paper for one (the book as ordered uses 140gsm/93# silk-coated paper), and are much, much more expensive to print, for another.

So, this should be an interesting week.

For one thing, I really don’t have much on my plate from a “writing games” perspective. This is the first time in about four months that this has happened, since Dragon Heresy was immediately (and I do mean right away) followed by Hall of Judgment.

Both are basically done, and out of my hands until it comes time for shipping. Even then, except for the day(s) printing postage and/or actually boxing up hundreds of books, I have those hours back. I’m about to go to sleep before midnight for the first time in a long time that didn’t involve sickness or simply collapsing from exhaustion.

Where do we stand?

Dragon Heresy PDF is long since shipped out. Not much response from it thus far; I hope that changes when the physical books arrive, and folks dig in and really read it. The changes to the base 5e SRD are somewhat simple, but provide a great deal of emergent behavior that everyone from GURPS players to OSR fans to 5e aficionados to Pathfinder folks should like.

This week should see the arrival by FedEx of the final signature, which I sent back for corrections. That was on my end, not theirs, so that delay is on me, but I saw a mistake (some formatting) and I fixed it. After that, I’ll give permission to print and bind, and then in a week or two I’ll start seeing advanced copies and basically be ready to give ship approval. About 30 copies will go out to backers of both the DH kickstarter and the HoJ one who live in “not the USA,” and the rest – about 1,470 of them – will come to my house, and about 250 (ish) will then depart for places here in the USA and Puerto Rico. Last week in September or first two weeks in October. So “on time,” if not “ahead of schedule.” Alas.

Also, within about 12-36 hours I should hear back from the Hall of Judgment printer in the UK about pre-press. I’ve paid my deposit (via PayPal! Yay! No wire transfers or certified checks) so I am as current with that vendor as I can be, and if they say “oh, yeah, these files work” I’ll give the go-ahead for printing, which means in about 3-4 weeks they’ll be done, and then another 2-3 weeks to get them sorted out and shipped and received. So really, all these books for both KS will arrive effectively simultaneously.

I’m very proud of both books. For one, they’re very, very pretty. For another, I think they’re legit good work.

But now I need more to do. Fortunately, I do not lack for options. If nothing else, I need to convert Hall of Judgment into Lost Hall of Tyr, 2nd Edition. Then it will be the adventure it needs to be.

More on that later.

So, it’s time. Dragon Heresy print approval has been secured.

This morning I received notification that my acceptance of the final proofs has initiated the printing process. Just need to mail ’em a check, which I will do this very day.

This means I’ll be locking down addresses so I can start the process of figuring out fulfillment and how to get the books to folks.

Allowing for the two-day delay adjusts the anticipated schedule to this:

US Backers/Pre-Orders

  • July 10: I give the OK to print
  • July 27: Fold-and-gather samples are ready
  • July 30: I give permission to bind the books
  • August 9: Advance prelim copies are shipped to me from the printer
  • Aug 14: Ready to Ship
  • Aug 20: Estimated Departure from Printer[1]
  • September 24: Arrival in MN
  • Mid-October: Books arrive to backers in USA

Not-the-USA Backers/Pre-Orders

  • Aug 20: Estimated Departure from Printer to fulfillment in Korea
  • Aug 27-Sept 4: Arrival in Korea; pack and ship to international
  • Early to Mid October: Books arrive in Not-the-USA

Final Steps

I need folks to validate that their shipping addresses are correct in Backerkit. I will be locking them down on Saturday. From there, I will parse out final distributions. If you’re looking for a shipped book and I don’t have your address, things will get very expensive to fix, though I will leave a few surplus books in Korea to pick up stragglers.

After we lock down and confirm shipping, it’s really all over but the waiting.

Thanks for coming this far. I can’t wait to hold the book in my hands.