Disclaimer: I’m a terrible artist

This may be a mistake, but I’m willing to show you guys my crappy whiteboard art direction for the Citadel at Norðvorn Kickstarter  if you promise me not to flee in terror.

I’ve tried to make some references for my artists, as well as things to keep my writing consistent. So, when I say “this is a setting,” what I mean is that I have in mind some of the lovely and inspirational detail in worlds like Harn, which I experienced with Rob Conley playing in his game.

Nordvorn and the Lower Town

This was my initial sketch of the citadel. I wanted it to be very not-square, something that marks it as a dwarf-hewn keep. I also wanted it big – one of the most impressive castles and structures. I tended to look up “how big was a castle wall/tower/keep,” find the biggest one, and then make this bigger. For example, the Great Wall of China is about 5m wide and 8m tall. Audreyn’s Wall is thus 10m x 10m, but not exactly square.

In any case, this was my initial reference for the Citadel, which led naturally to thinking about Laegribaer, the Lower Town.

What the heck is an aircraft carrier doing there? Scale. It’s a gigantic ship, 330m or so long (1,000-ish feet) and shows that the inner courtyard contains nearly six acres of space. That’s a big inner bailey!

The river is the wrong scale, which I realized when thinking about how wide and deep the river is downstream at Ainferill (Riverbend). Nearly all of the water that flows there also flows here, so if the river is nearly 0.75 miles wide there . . . well, the gorge needs to be bigger. Probably 100-135m wide!

Looking at the Citadel allowed me to consider the shape of the town as well, I went with a classic Viking-style ring town, with an outer wall.

I went with concentric and spoke roads, and wooden towers interspersed between heavy, large, barbican-style gates. The River Gate was initially smaller, then it was enlarged and replaced as the town grew; the old gatehouse is still there, and a sprawling market exists on both sides of the outer wooden wall.

I’ve also worked out where the major “where do I shop” things happen here in the Lower Town, and that gets a solid section in the writeup. Remember, though: Norðvorn is a city, but not Town – adventure can and should happen here!

If it’s time to rest your head, where do you go? A bit of research led me to believe that when focusing on the traditional “fantasy Inn,” I was vastly underscoping how much money and importance these places were. Matt Riggsby probably already knew all this, but it was new to me! So I made sure each of the major Inns had its own thing going on, and that the owners had their own quirks and character, and ties to the workings of the town. Also: for those that want to do so, under the inns there was usually storage for valuables for travelers, and while in Nordvorn in particular, a dungeon might be out of place . . . it might not.

But what if you can’t afford the inn? What if you don’t want to stay there?

Gestrisni – An Excerpt from the Book

Gestrisni. Afer the fall of the dragon empire, the subjugated populations—humans, eldhuð, captured elves and half-elves, and others—fled south out of the Dragonground, with hordes of dragon-men, eðlafolk, and gangaeðla in pursuit. Those caught might be re-enslaved, or killed and eaten. Settlements and fortifications were hastily erected, and a custom grew of allowing any traveler to take refuge inside a compound. The words for “traveler” and “refugee/fugitive” in the Norðlond language differ only slightly, with “moving from one place to another” and “fleeing being turned into an hors d’oeuvre” being relegated to context and aspiration of certain letters. In any case, a long tradition of guest-right (gestrisni, or hospitality) in others’ homes took root over time. Gestrisni is not a trifling thing—by requesting it, one is stating that the host has something you need: protection.

The host provides shelter; the guest promises to stand fast in the home’s defense. In more modern times, with Nordlond being somewhat more civilized (depending on whom you ask, of course), gestrisni is usually requested or offered within those of a common background and social status. A party led by a follower of The Snow Queen of no special wealth or nobility might reasonably request gestrisni of a shopkeeper or successful farmer from within the braeðralag of the Snow Queen. A husgjof (house-gif) of food, drink, or some tangible useful object is usually offered each night. In practice, this is the cost of living for your Wealth level, though it is never paid in coin, as that would be insulting to the host.

Back to Images

To help my artists visualize the area, I attacked my whiteboard and came up with some, well, not-so-great perspective drawings of the keep itself. It dominates the local scenery, and I wanted to ensure folks were working from a common base.

I first tried to capture the bulk of the fortress. Squat and imposing, I hoped. The scale isn’t great on this, mostly that the walls are thicker in cross-section than shown. If I had time and a 3D modeling program, I’d be able to do this easily.

Connecting the keep to the Lower Town across the river gorge – which I realized as I worked had to be MUCH wider (and the river MUCH deeper!) than I’d initially conceived it – is the Eternal Bridge. It actually anchors into the wall of the keep side, perhaps 30m below the magically-raised location of the Citadel on the north side of the gorge. Counter-weighted lifts bring goods and travelers from the lower docks, and the winding and defensible stairway, called The Spiral, takes you from the gates in the gorge up to inside the keep itself.

The smaller keep on the Laegribaer side of the fortress is called Little Rock, and it would be considered a primary and impressive fortification all by itself were it not dwarfed (see what I did there?) by the Citadel itself!

On either side of the gorge, cut into the rock and supported with good engineering, magic, and pillars, are the lower docks. Giant stone and wooden dockworks and huge, counter-weighted lifts bring cargo from the river level up to the main market. The lift ends at the foot of a road that leads to the outer wall, which is formally called the Lift Road, but locals tend to call it Tax Street.

That’s probably enough, though I do have more that I gave my artists.

But if you really want to know where the money’s going on The Citadel at Norðvorn: it’s here. Taking my crude visualizations and power-point doodles and turning them into high-quality artwork and maps for you to use.

Citadel at Nordvorn is currently on Kickstarter, and more than halfway to the funding goal. If the above strikes your interest, please consider pledging! Most of the book will be system neutral, and applicable to any fantasy RPG.

Return to Norðlond with a mini-setting by Gaming Ballistic.

Response to the first journey to Norðlond, to find the Hall of Judgment, was outstanding, and introduced players of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG to Isfjall, a city in the depths of the barbarian north. Now, journey from Isfjall to Norðvorn, the magnificent castle and town that anchors both Audreyn’s Wall and The Palisade.

The Citadel at Norðvorn is coming to Kickstarter on February 19

From the northeast, the dragonkin threaten; from the northwest, the Hunted Lands are simmering, and about to boil over with hostile faerie. And of course the peoples of Norðlond are troubled by scheming, demons, and schemin’ demons.

Citadel will contain three large settlements: Norðvorn itself, home to 7,500 residents including the Castellan and the Wardens. Longbru, opposite one of the sallyports in Audreyn’s Wall, a town from which many adventurerers depart into the Dragongrounds . . . but not all return. And Ainferill, a town in turmoil after the tragic “accidental” death of the Jarl’s wife and adult son. It also spends some time to talk about what is between the big settlements: details on some sample villages, many important NPCs and what they care about, and a tangled web of danger and deceit that the PCs can engage with, or not, as they choose.

Citadel is a mini-setting for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, again licensed by Steve Jackson Games to Gaming Ballistic. It will contain the locations above, plus important and not-so-important people and factions, each with their own goals. The entire region is about to burst into chaos . . . can the PCs find out why, and help contain the coming dark?

Citadel is planned for 80 pages, but I probably have enough content for 128 page or even 144 if things go very well. Stretch goals will add content in 16 page increments, improve the quantity and quality of art. As before, the book will be softcover and in 8×10″ format. If you liked Hall of Judgment, this book’s production values will be at least as good.

I hope you will join me, as before, in spreading the word and helping this come to life.

I managed to get my “year in review” out on January 1, which is really quick for a year in review. Now, even more importantly, it’s time to look forward. While “do more with the games I have” is in the cards, publishing and growing my business is about new content. So without further ado, here’s my tentative publishing and crowdfunding schedule for 2019.

On the Docket

There are certain things that are either contracted or have already an agreement in place but signatures pending. What are those? Some you know, some you don’t.

I did announce this in various channels, but Steve Jackson Games and Gaming Ballistic struck a deal similar to the one we made on the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, allowing me to produce 3rd-Party content under license for The Fantasy Trip. The TFT projects are up to 10 short adventures, which will be a color cover, black and white interior, and 16 pages long each. It would be insane to crowdfund one of these each month, and they can be produced reasonably quickly, so I’ll do them in batches of 4. If the first two campaigns do well, I’ll solicit for more authors for more projects. I’d love to effectively get far enough along on these, and have them be popular enough, to release one per month until SJG and the buying public get tired of them.

Additionally, I’m very excited about the new Dungeon Fantasy RPG projects. Nordvorn is the one I’m writing now, and I’ve now pretty much cleared my plate of everything but finishing the draft. When it’s close enough to done that I don’t feel like I’m in a panic, I’ll launch a Kickstarter, but I really want that to be in February, which means I’ve got about two weeks to polish up the draft. Given that I’ve already written 42,000 words and I don’t think the market will bear a book larger than about 80-112 pages, this means anywhere between zero and 17,000 words in about two weeks, which is completely doable.

The other two Dungeon Fantasy RPG projects and all of the TFT ones aren’t being written by me as author. I’ll manage the projects, get art, edit, and do other publisher-type things. I’ve got nice contracts in place for all of these, including a feature where the pay scale rises for the authors as the number of backers increases. I hope they max out!

In any case, I’ll release more tidbits as I can. The “Print Available” line assumes a no-time-lost turn on an offset print run. If the demand isn’t sufficient to print the titles offset, then print availability will be a month to six weeks sooner, as digital short-run printing is faster but more expensive. Any offset runs will see books go into stores beside the core books, though, so I’m very excited about that. I hope that folks join me in making that possible.

Let’s do a table.

Project Working Title Book Title/Working Title Crowdfund Date Backer PDFs Print Available
Lost Hall 2e Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) Jan-19 Jun-19
Citadel The Citadel at Nordvorn Feb-19 May-19 Aug-19
TFT Group 1 Untitled TFT 1 Apr-19 Jun-19 Sep-19
Untitled TFT 2 Apr-19 Jun-19 Oct-19
Untitled TFT 3 Apr-19 Jun-19 Nov-19
Untitled TFT 4 Apr-19 Jun-19 Dec-19
Dungeon Fantasy RPG 2 Ruins Project Jun-19 Aug-19 Nov-19
Dungeon Fantasy RPG 3 Forest’s End Aug-19 Oct-19 Jan-20
TFT Group 2 Untitled TFT 5 Oct-19 Dec-19 Mar-20
Untitled TFT 6 Oct-19 Dec-19 Apr-20
Untitled TFT 7 Oct-19 Dec-19 May-20
Untitled TFT 8 Oct-19 Dec-19 Jun-20

A Deep Breath

This represents a very aggressive schedule for a one-man shop plus contractors. If Citadel and the first TFT crowdfunding go as well as I hope they go (without being irrationally exuberant!), though, it means that there will be a stream of funds available from sales of those books that I can get a head start on the rest, and that turns an aggressive schedule from one of stress to merely one of project management and risk assessment.

I’m good at that. Five for five Kickstarters on time, or even early to promised schedule.

Also, the Print Available release schedule is geared towards “not the kickstarter.” I suspect backers will get their print stuff all on the first date, but if there’s a retail release, it’ll follow the stepwise schedule so folks can see something new from me each month on the store shelves.

Even so, if these projects take flight at all, and Nordvorn and its children do as well as Hall of Judgment, and if the TFT content is half as well received as the TFT Adventures project, it will give a great start on getting the next ones going, and if they achieve the same success that the TFT Adventures do, the line becomes self-sustaining.

We’ll see.

That represents my intent. Real life and the slings and arrows of the real world may conspire to move things around . . . but this is what I’m aiming for. Five crowd-funding projects this year, each effectively launching when the PDFs go out for the one before. Once that happens, the printing is somewhat on autopilot – barring disasters and lost shipping containers, that’s just time. My printing partners of choice are top-notch, so I’m not worried on that score.

Is that “all” for 2019? Maybe, maybe not. I suspect so.

I think I’ll be quite busy enough!

 

The next installment in the licensed adventures for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG is starting to really come together. Look for The Citadel at Nordvorn soon! I’ve got over 42,000 words written so far, and in super-dense text format (no art, only the barest of layout, and a very temporary background) I’m at 650 words per page and 66 pages. The usual with-art layout is 500-550 words per page, which means the final document would be something like 78-86 pages were it done.

Which it’s not.

A Mini-Setting for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG

In Hall of Judgment, I set up Isfjall as “Town,” where you buy and sell your stuff, and it served as a jumping-off point for the quest to find the titular Hall.

Nordvorn is going to be a bit different. Yes, there’s Town. And nice GMs will tell the players which that is. But there are many other potential settlements to explore, and all of those are very much not Town.

There will of course be monsters to fight, ruins to explore, and bandits to kill and take their stuff. There will also be a tapestry of personalities and culture to play in, and if you liked what you got with Isfjall for Hall of Judgment, well, you’re going to get a whole lot more of it with the Citadel at Nordvorn.

Bear in mind that everything about the presentation of this will probably change. The image is just a simple background of a castle done up in Photoshop; the real background and graphic design will be similar enough to Hall of Judgment that you will know they’re related, but different enough to set it apart.

But it’s much easier for me to pick apart words on a page than it is to stare at a screen, so I dumped it into layout and now I can see what’s going on.

Nordvorn Itself

Nordvorn itself, both the Citadel and Laegribaer, the lower town. I cannot wait to get an artist to detail this up. I’ve got a really crude sketch of the city and town in, well, PowerPoint.

I’ve also got notes on what braethralag (brotherhoods devoted to the same god) cluster where, temples, craft districts, etc. Note that the Citadel is not necessarily “Town,” and that betrayals, violence, and things that aren’t rest, study, and buying and selling stuff can happen there!

There are five inns in the city, and each is located and described. There’s a fun section on shopping (and shipping, for that matter), of course. Plus even more festivals, some familiar, some new:

Geitur Dag (October). A festival peculiar to Norðvörn—and peculiar in general, really—Goat Day. Each year, the Lower Town goes absolutely mad for goats. Goat costumes, fermented goat milk, goat races, head-butting competitions, and the animal husbandry competition to see which pair of goats will be dubbed Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr (the goats that pull the Thunder God’s chariot) for the day. Alas for the winners, at the end of the day, they get eaten by the Hamar and Steðji of the Thunder God’s temple.

More than One Town

Two neighboring towns, one of which very much is “Town.” The other is Ainferill, and there’s . . . a lot going on there. Little of it good. Violence, betrayal, cult activity, and a tangled web of intrigue. Plus folks to kill and stuff to take. Good times.

This is a piece I commissioned a long time ago for Dragon Heresy . . . but from the moment I set it down, I knew it was going to be one of the plot points in Citadel at Nordvorn.

There’s also Longbru, which is home to a dwarf-made bridge that spans the Jotunnain river for over a mile (thus: Long Bridge), and the opposite end terminates at one of the few sallyports in Audreyn’s Wall. Naturally, Longbru hosts many adventures seeking glory in the Endalaus Forest . . . and can be considered “Town” as per Exploits!

Coming Soon

With the relationship web already written, and the nouns coming together (Places, People, Things), I’m hoping to get to the point where I feel comfortable launching a project in a few weeks. That will be the first of three Dungeon Fantasy RPG projects, all set in Nordlond, and all planned for PDF delivery, if not print, in 2019. I’ve got some finalization to do on another project first, but when that’s done, it’s all Citadel, all the time when it comes to writing.

Unlike many of my prior projects for the last bit of time, though, Nordvorn is going to feature virtually zero re-used art from prior books, unless it’s absolutely on point. So you’ll get to see the graphic design and maps and imagery take shape more or less at the same time as I do.

Stay tuned! I hope you will have as much fun exploring this, which is the beginning of an extended look at Nordlond, as I am having writing it.

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.