There’s a lot going on here at Gaming Ballistic, and eight days into the New Year I find myself multitasking furiously. This is good. One of the things I’m working on is setting up international print-on-demand for Hall of Judgment.

One of the eternal frustrations of working as a US publisher is the difficulty – largely due to shipping – of serving cross-border customers. For whatever reason (and I’ve read several), it’s darn near prohibitively expensive to get books made in the USA out. This is especially irksome given that if for some reason I am able to afford an offset print run, which brings the cost per book down to levels that can survive a distribution channel profitably . . . I can’t effectively get the books OUT again.

Anyway, short version here. I really liked the production values of Hall of Judgment. It wasn’t sewn or lay-flat, but it was a nice perfect-bound book on 93# paper (140gsm).

I just approved the new cover for Hall of Judgment via Print-on-Demand from the same vendor (CPI Anthony Rowe). It’s going to be about 1mm thinner, but still printed on nice thick silk-coated paper stock. It’s also going to be print-on-demand out of the UK, and sent by Royal Mail. This is the best shipping arrangement I’ve found.

So if you order a book from me and you’re not in the USA, it’ll probably come from them, and we can avoid the extra $20-40 in shipping that comes when I send out of the USA.

Once it’s all finalized, I just received word that the title is now ready to print! As soon as I get an update on prices, I’ll change the shipping prices on my website for that product. But it’s a good step to getting product worldwide for less.

I am making slow but steady process on The Citadel at Nordvorn, my first of three upcoming supplements for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. It’s set in the same world as Hall of Judgment, but will easily be portable to any other game world with the right tweakage. I can see Nordvorn as it takes shape, and each area of the Lower Town, and the interesting places the PCs can visit, is plunking down on the map with ever-increasing certainty.

Citadel is not an adventure, as such. It is a web of locations and interactions, in which the players can find adventure. So it’s more of a mini-setting.

But it is, by far, the most detailed and specific thing I’ve done. Not “detailed rules,” because it’s not that sort of supplement. But the GM and players will know/can find out where to find all sorts of stuff. I was impressed when Rob Conley had all the rich descriptions of what shops and trades we were walking by in his Harn-inspired city that we played in way back when.

I think Nordvorn will be like that. I’m really looking forward to the maps.

Lost Hall of Tyr is coming to Dragon Heresy

In a few days, I’ll launch the Kickstarter for Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition).

This is a somewhat unusual crowdfunding effort, in that there are really only two or three things I’m trying to do here. The order of the funding goals for the campaign changed while I was thinking about it, in order to maximize success and deliver the best product folks want.

  1. Upgrade the digital/stock asset combat maps with Glynn Seal’s stylistically great pen-and-ink drawings
  2. Upgrade from POD to high-quality digital printing
  3. A large-scale, softcover print run from an offset printer
  4. If possible, a large-scale hardcover print run so the books match the Dragon Heresy core book

In short, the purpose of the campaign is to make a spectacular print run, worthy of the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set‘s production values. And provide a companion module to sit on the shelf on stores next to the Dragon Heresy core book.

Why a Second Edition

Quite simply, the expansion of Lost Hall 1e into the Dungeon Fantasy RPG version “Hall of Judgment” made the book better in every way. Art. Maps. Setting details. The publication and distribution of Dragon Heresy meant that I had a great core book out there with no support. Lost Hall 1e made for a great convention scenario but not a great long-term campaign.

So I’m reformatting the new content for the 8.5×11″ form factor of Dragon Heresy, and revising it for the Dragon Heresy rules.

Got the Lost Hall PDF already?

If you have already purchased the Lost Hall of Tyr 1st Edition PDF, you’ll be getting a copy of the new edition for free. If you got it on DriveThru, you’ll likely get a link on DriveThru. If you bought it from my website, you’ll get a link from there, or an email.

This crowdfunding effort is only for the print copy. It’s going to be a great looking book, especially in hardcover. I’ve selected 105#/157gsm matte-coated art paper for the interior, and 2.5mm boards. The overall 112-page book will likely thus be about a half-inch thick, and will in all cases have either a lay-flat and smyth-sewn binding.

The book will also have a new cover – and a first-pass of it can be seen to the right. Juan wasn’t entirely happy with it, though, so it’ll be revised during the Kickstarter to make it even better.

June? Really?

I’m allowing lots of time in case we actually hit the stretch goals to do the maps and hit the offset print run. That’s really it. I hope to have it sooner than June, but Dragon Heresy took a long time to get done. The results were worth it, but they were time consuming.

This is the intended schedule. 
  • December 2018: Kickstarter campaign
  • January 2019: Funds settle, Backerkit phase; prelim PDF distribution for error proofing; new maps worked
  • Feb 2019: PDF finalization and print order submission; final PDF distribution
  • March-May 2019: Print overseas; transit to warehouse; fulfillment
  • June 2019: Delivery of hardcopy product to backers 

Retail and Bulk Order

The top tier is four copies each of Dragon Heresy and the new Lost Hall of Tyr. This is designed for stores, but thinking about it . . . if you want lots of them, you can have lots of them. I’m not closing this off from personal purchases: if you’re a store? Great. Please let me know! If you’re a person and you want to buy a bunch of them for whatever reason? Awesome.

Please Support Gaming Ballistic

I’ve got big plans for 2019, and Lost Hall 2e is the first of four products I hope to release supporting the Dragon Heresy line. Three of those four are being written right now, and two of them are from “not me,” which means other authors are stepping up to the plate. Support for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG will continue as well, with each adventure being available in two versions (not dual-statted), with an appropriate form factor for each line: 8×10 softcover for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, and (ideally, with your support), 8.5×11 hardcover for Dragon Heresy.

Please help spread the word, let your local gaming stores know about Dragon Heresy and this Kickstarter, and with your help, 2019 is only the beginning.

The Kickstarter Preview is Now Live!

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!

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

A quick one this Tuesday morning.

I continue – via comments, Twitter, and other methods – to hear about HoJ successfully arriving in the UK, Finland, and even a copy to Australia over the last week. Excellent. Kixto got it done, which is all one can ask for.

For the US backers – and the US author – there are seven cartons of books in Exeter in the UK, waiting for DHL to do . . . whatever it is that they do in order to clear them for departure and put them on a plane. I contacted DHL this morning to see if there was anything I needed to do. They assured me that they’d get back to me before tomorrow at 5pm.

“Well, yeah. Everything’s supposed to arrive by tomorrow noon.”
“I guess that’s one version of hearing from us, then?””Right.”

If that happens, I should be able to get my labels and postage organized and printed. I’ll box up the multiple-order (HoJ plus LHoT or Dungeon Grappling, for example, or more than one copy of HoJ) because they’re “special” and then start boxing up the single-copy orders immediately thereafter. Since I’ll be shipping out 281 books, each of which is about 1.1 lbs, it might require more than one trip to the USPS. Good news is with pre-paid postage, I won’t have to ring ’em in individually.

Anyway: assuming, they show up, most folks should get them by mid-September.

In personal news: I spent three straight days in chain mail at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival with Asfolk Viking Martial Arts. Had a great time doing shield-and-sword, axe, and spear demos for very good crowds through the weekend. I’m feeling a bit baked today, but it was a great time.

This will likely be the most eventful two weeks of Gaming Ballistic’s existence, as physical fulfillment begins on two core products.

Lots of things going on, all at once.

Dragon Heresy

Printing is complete. The final tally was 1,530 books printed, which is 2,219 kg of books. Two and a quarter metric tons.

Of that total, perhaps 250-300 are currently spoken for between the backers of either Dragon Heresy or Hall of Judgement, plus the comp copies for contributors.

To deal with that, I entered into an agreement with a distribution company to push the books into retail! This is exciting for me, and the terms are good. Soon, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches and the books are in hand, we might start seeing Dragon Heresy on store shelves.

Speaking of which I dropped by Mind’s Eye Comics here in Burnsville, and the new owner Chris and I hit it off pretty well. I suspect I’ll be a regular fixture there, as my daughter loves comic books, and enhancing the presence of gaming and comics in Burnsville, specifically the Burnsville Center Mall, seems like a win to me.

But . . . there will be one-week “get all the paperwork straight” hold, then the books will go three places. To my house (320 books), to Dice Latte in Korea for international shipments (50 books), and the balance into distribution. I will also begin the process to get things carried on Amazon.

Based on probable outcomes, I suspect everyone will have their books by mid-October. Not early, but not late. A Wizardly kind of pace, I suppose.

Hall of Judgment

As anticipated, today I got pinged by the printer in the UK about what to do about the books. I was ready, and closed the pre-orders for Hall of Judgment in Backerkit, delivered the list of “not-the-US” backers and my home address to Kixto (fulfillment company, also in the UK), and provided the required addresses and contact information to get 500 books from the UK to the UK, which really ought to be in the “not hard” category.

I will have a cost estimate by the middle of next week, and shipping should begin by the end of next week. The international books (107 books to 103 backers) will thus start their journey. Some may arrive the first week in September – there are 24 backers in the United Kingdom and there’s no real reason why Royal Mail should take that long to get things in place. Beyond that, it will be a bit of a random number generator, but most international folks should get their stuff in September.

For US backers, let’s assume it takes the better part of a week (first week of Sept) to airmail the stuff to me and then take delivery at my home; most of that is likely paperwork related, since actual travel time from fulfillment to airport to airport to my house is probably 12-24 hours. In any case, once they arrive, I’ll do the Backerkit postage thing (I’ve got my label printer all ready) and get those in the mail. From there, Media Mail is usually less than two weeks. So the US books should arrive in hand by mid-September as well.

Dungeon Grappling and Lost Hall of Tyr

There are perhaps 50 folks that ordered hardcopy of Dungeon Grappling and Lost Hall of Tyr along with the other two kickstarters. I will begin shipping all copies of these books to international backers this week. Those that ordered hardcover will get them fulfilled through DriveThruRPG premium, as that’s the best way to get it to you for not-ridiculous money.

The rest will ship out with HoJ or DH orders, packed together.

New Plans

The next move for Gaming Ballistic is to look into some new projects. I’ve already got at least four concepts being worked, and more news on that when I can say something.

Next I convert Hall of Judgment into Lost Hall of Tyr (Second Edition). This brings all of the work done on Hall of Judgment back into the Dragon Heresy fold. It converts backwards from the Dungeon Fantasy RPG and makes LHoT into a more sandboxy experience instead of the convention-style linear adventure. There are some things I have to work out – the LHoT original layout was 8.5×11, while HoJ was 8×10, for example – but once those decisions are made I should be able to convert HoJ to LHoT(2e) fairly quickly.

Anyone with a PDF of Lost Hall of Tyr (first edition) will get an upgrade for free. The new 2nd Edition upgrade will more directly support Dragon Heresy by tweaking the challenges of the adventures into the 1-5 range supported by the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set.

Not sure the timeline on this, but since books are probably arriving in October, well, that seems appropriate, doesn’t it?

It was the moment I’ve been waiting for, and it arrived today. The first six copies of the fully-printed, smyth-sewn, entirely freakin’ awesome Dragon Heresy Introductory Set arrived today by FedEx.

I am utterly blown away. This is a book I think anyone would be proud to put on their shelf. Even better, to take out and play. The production values are ridiculously good. Yeah, I know, it’s my book, but wow.

I’ll put two pictures above the fold, then a bunch more below.

As I said to a backer on my Discord channel: I pulled out all the stops for this book. Every time I had a choice to make between “awesome” and “merely satisfactory” I went with awesome.

I don’t regret it one bit. Neither will you.

(If this looks like something you want on your game store shelf – and you know you do – please contact me directly and we’ll make that happen.)

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy Advance Copies Arrive!”

Just for giggles, after a quick conversation with an interested party on Facebook, I decided to see how much it would take – cost and price wise – if Gaming Ballistic were to produce a boxed set similar to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

I used an online quote generator to look at the cost of standard boxes. One thing about this: there’s usually a good correlation between availability of an online quote generator and not being the best pricing you can find. Even so, upper bound.

I looked at custom-sized boxes. No. Don’t go there. Wow. So we look at 10.5 x 10.5 x 2″ box, and find that in quantities worthy of making a boxed set (1,000-1,999) we’re dealing with about $4 each for the box itself.

Hrm. OK. Looking at prior quotes of mine, and assuming either a 96-page book or a 128-page book, with good production values in 8×10 size. Hrm. The actual production cost is about $2 per book (slightly less at 96 pages, and slightly more at $128), but the place where you get bit is shipping the books to the publisher, which itself is about a dollar per copy pretty much regardless of size.

Let’s say we need four books, averaging about 112 pages each (so right in the middle). A characters book, an action book, a technology book (let’s say we’re doing a modern action game), and a foes book (a hypothetical Bug Hunt-ish game similar to my Alien Menace campaign would need information on worlds and aliens; alien tech would have to be squeezed in somewhere too). Four books at $3 production cost each. That’s $12 for books, $4 for the box. $16 total cost. Scope creep might push that higher if the books get thicker. An extra dollar per book would say $20 total cost.

So to survive a distribution model, that means a price tag of $80-100 for a “complete setting and rules set in a box” that would be a slimmer, books-only thing comparable to the DFRPG. No dice, nothing that can’t itself be sold as a book with an ISBN on it for Reasons (taxes, inventory, etc; “books” or “collections of books” are exempt from VAT in many places, but throw not-books in there and you make things more challenging).

Interesting. If the fan base would groove on it ($80-100 is still less than the three comparable books at full retail for DnD5e, and about what you can get the three books for at Amazon – $88 all told) it seems like a viable option.

The costs to produce it would be high. To get component prices in the right ballpark, you’re dropping about $16-20 x 1500 sets: $24,000-30,000 right there. You’re also notionally making about 400-500 pages of material, and PDF development costs as I’ve noted are $100-150 per page. So $40,000 to as high as $75,000 to make the thing. Total spread of production costs: $65,000-105,000.

Even at $100 per box, that’s 650-1050 backers required to get there.

That’s still a big lift. Not insane, but not yet proven: my best-ever crowdfunding has drawn about 550 paying customers. I’d need to double that, which means a very large interested mailing list. Probably double or triple what I have now.

Still . . . not out of possibility. But not right now.