Printing

Today I made the final edits to Hand of Asgard and Nordlondr Folk. Both of these books are being printed by Mixam, and will be done in the US for US people and in the UK for the Rest-of-World. I have placed the US order, which they tell me will arrive on my doorstep next week (!!). I wound up ordering 300 copies of Folk and 165 of Asgard.

The UK order is much smaller: 80 for Folk and 55 for Asgard. I’ll be placing that later today as well.

In both cases, reprinting is fast and easy, because they’re small, stapled, and local. So I don’t have to worry about “how many to order overseas or local so I don’t run out?”

I have also received the final round of quotes for Forest’s End and Dragons of Rosgath. I’ll be ordering 500 of each, 150 to be delivered to the UK (for about 75 orders), and 350 to the USA (for about 210). They’ll be sewn-binding, digital print…same paper quality used in the 2nd edition of Hall of Judgment and Citadel at Nordvorn.

I anticipate a month to print, and another month to six weeks to ship to me. As usual, getting them to the UK is likely faster, and Kixto will be handling fulfillment for me again when they get there.

Even so: that means it’s probably going to be mid-May before Rest-of-World fulfillment begins, and maybe late May or even early June before the US books start going out.

Pre-Order Store Closed

In anticipation of putting the PDFs up for sale – and thank you for your understanding on that front – I have closed the pre-order store. Once I get Forest’s End and Rosgarth finalized and spun out for printing, I’ll first send out “last” updates for the PDFs (there always seems to be one or two formatting things that creep through; some of that is the ‘style guide’ is (a) a moving target, and (b) somewhat subjective at times), then put those files up on Gaming Ballistic.

Some time later, they’ll be available at Warehouse 23, but that will probably be a month or so. Print copies at W23 and Gaming Ballistic will obviously be in the summer.

Say Nice Things?

All of this is to say that the general public will be getting a look at the books later this week if things continue to go well.

Should they pick up copies? What about Hand of Asgard, which lags behind the other books by a third or so?

Folks won’t know unless you tell them. So if you have reviews, comments, play reports . . . please throw them up online. If you have a blog . . . make sure I know about it so I can put it up on the GURPS Blog Roll that I keep on Gaming Ballistic. If you don’t, but still want to say something . . . send me an email and I’ll publish it on my own blog.

So, major milestone today, with a few more coming later this week.

For now . . . I’ve actually got to hit up the Day Job for a bit. Later!

Today the last of the art came in for the Norðlond Sagas books.

Nordlondr Folk and Hand of Asgard, both by Kevin Smyth, wound up right on target at 16 pages.

Forest’s End, by Merlin Avery, grew to 96 pages by the end.

The Dragons of Rosgarth, by Kyle Norton and Douglas H. Cole, came in totally swole at 112 pages.

I’ll be taking a short breather, seeing if my outstanding proofers catch any remaining errata, and then getting these to the printer.

I will probably offer the PDFs for sale on GURPSDay this coming week: Look for them on Gaming Ballistic on March 26 in PDF.

Pre-orders for printing will come shortly. I may open Forest’s End and Rosgarth up so that if many not-the-USA orders come in, I can compensate with a slightly larger splice of the books to the UK for international shipment. The smaller books are easy: they print at Mixam in both the UK and USA, so if I need more, it’s a piece of cake.

Here’s the New Errata Page!

I’m coming down to the end for The Dragons of Rosgarth. Today, “thanks” to Coronavirus-related school shutdowns and social distancing, plus a pair of kids who happily kept themselves occupied productively for nearly nine hours, I got the hyperlinking and indexing done. I also realized that I’d missed a whole page of unique magic items (the source of the Bang’a Gong errors, as an example).

But it all got done. Plus lots and lots of errors corrected in the main text and bestiary.

A few more pieces of art came in too.

So now I feel like I’m down to a few pieces of art, maybe a few “please fix my name” things.

Final Requests

This means that if you have any changes to request on ANY  of the four books, please make them now. Let’s assume that the last changes I made to the other three were made the last time I sent out files. So if there’s something in Nordlondr Folk, Hand of Asgard, or Forest’s End that you haven’t sent me using the new errata page, please take the time to do it now.

If things go to plan, I’ll have all the remaining art by the end of the week, and I’ll start placing

print orders this coming Monday.

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Errata Page Again

The new submission system is working out really, really well. So I’m going to insist that all new requests for changes use it.

Thanks! So very close!

It has been a regrettably long time since I’ve posted here. But some personal and GB-professional things finally went to the to-done pile, from what seemed like a perpetual to-do. I hope this bodes well for my sanity, and the blog, going forward.

So, what’s up?

  1. We finally sold the old house. That was nearly seven months of having one house and effectively two extra mortgage payments than I really wanted to have. More importantly for fans of the blog and Gaming Ballistic, it means that the nearly endless series of visits to fix up, adjust, prepare, clean, or otherwise deal with the older place are no longer on the list of things that might (and did!) disrupt other work. So very nice to be done with that.
  2. I now have three of four books from the Nordlond Sagas Kickstarter completely finished, and the fourth has all 112 pages of content in place, though we’re still in the “odds and ends” phase. That means proofreading, checking monster stats, getting marketing copy on the back cover of the book, indexing and hyperlinking, and of course getting all of the art finalized. While that sounds like a lot, it’s probably about a week of work. After that, the books go to the printer.
  3. I’m getting things in place for FnordCon 2, where I’ll mainly be there manning my booth and doing a few panels about TFT and the Dungeon Fantasy RPG/GURPS. I get to hang out with Sean, which is always a treat.

The real news for the publshing track is of course #2, but the mental, financial, and time-related drains on my energy from #1 were huge.

So hopefully in about a week the final PDFs for Nordlond Sagas go out. Then I take a short break for myself, and start digging into the next TFT project. Three of five manuscripts are already in, and the three together represent 48 laid-out pages . . . contrasted to The Dragons of Rosgarth, which came in at 112.

So this is a much more tightly-bound project set coming up, and I will have the mental and financial wherewithal to have a LOT more of it completely done by the time the crowdfunding campaign launches.

I should also have more bandwidth for, you know, actual gaming. I have some personal friends and family for whom I want to run some games, and an online game I want to join . . . which happens to be set in Nordlond. My setting. So woot to that.

More gaming means more writing about games, too. So that’s to the good. Needs to liven up in here.

While I’m busy finishing up the fourth of four books for the Nordlond Sagas Kickstarter, Steve Jackson Games has launched more support for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

The project funded in a few hours on the first day. But this is a “Quickstarter” which means it’s only running for a week. And though the 64-page book funded on Day 1, it “only” has about 350 backers as I publish this, and more is always better. Things get at least “nod with satisfaction” for me at about 500 backers, and just over 600 was my “take” on the last two projects I ran.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG had nearly 1,600 backers (1,587 if you must know) on its initial launch, and this book promises some ready to go magic items, monsters, and pre-gen NPC races that could easily be migrated over to the player side of the force if a GM wants.

I’m in for the print version; I may upgrade to Retail later, as, well, I DO have a store.

Support the campaign sooner rather than later; it really is the primary portion of the campaign rather than the post-campaign Backerkit-and-Shipping phase that I watch, and I suspect that the SJG folks look at he same thing.

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Here’s a bit of a hodge-podge of updates for Gaming Ballistic. Sorry I’ve been content light for a bit; all of my efforts are going to the Nordlond Sagas writing and editing and layout.

Books Arriving!

I’m starting to get reports that the books are arriving in the USA. Excellent; that sounds about right. Some Media Mail is super fast, others can take up to 10 business days. So stay alert.

Errors? Can fix.

Also, make sure you get what you paid for; with a big delivery, fulfillment errors can take place. This includes everything from “oops, you’re missing X” to “the USPS crushed my books into something unrecognizable.”

I’ve got LOTS of spare copies of books. If your card decks or counter sheets are damaged . . . that’s going to be more of an issue. But let’s hope that the really high price I pay for each box (I mean, really?) means they’re quality stuff and protect the goods well. That being said, I’ve sent out two replacement sets of adventures to our “not the USA” friends due to mis-handling, and I’ve got lots and lots of copies in the USA that can be used for that purpose…so if your stuff is broke, email me directly with a photo of the damage and we’ll sort it out.

Feedback Wanted

As always: the thing that creators probably get the least of is post-campaign feedback. “I liked it,” or even better, “I played it” and “here’s what I liked and what I didn’t” is super-valuable. Especially since I’m going to be turning my efforts to “More Perilous Journeys” in 2020.

More Perilous Journeys?

Yep. That’s going to be the new title of the Kickstarter. I may try and take a page from the Car Wars concept and rack up as many pre-orders as possible…but I’m going to be trying a few different things in 2020 with my crowdfunding direction, so we’ll have to see. Kickstarter is popular but a bit confusing; Backerkit is nice, but really labor intensive. Both lack tools that I’d like to see and make things harder than they should. I may try something else, but I want to test it first with a smaller project.

First: let’s take care of “when.” I expect/hope to have all five manuscripts in my hands by Feb 14, 2020. Three are already done, though not edited or laid out. The TFT layout is very clean, so I don’t anticipate any issues there. I’m going to do my best to have all of the text layout ready to go on these by the time crowdfunding launches; I also need a bit of a break after the Nordlond Sagas campaign due to behind-the-scenes stuff. So figure late Feb/early March for a launch date on these.

You’ll be seeing three more adventures that are sequels to Crown of Eternity and Curse of the Pirate King; these are GM’d adventures written by the same team of Christopher R. Rice and J. Edward Tremlett.

You’ll also be getting two 32-page solos from David Pulver; he’s writing those now. They will be very, very different than Vampire Hunter Belladonna in subject matter.

I’ll see if folks want more counters and card decks. As before, these will only be offered as one-time specials for the Kickstarter, but I will certainly have the older counter sheets and card decks from “Four/Five Perilous Journeys” as an add-on, a dedicated print run for those.

Smaller and Bigger 2020

That’s what I’ve got on tap for you for TFT in 2020 thus far. I’ve got other things in mind that year, of course. One is a giant Dungeon Fantasy RPG book, the Norðlondr Ovinabokin, the “Nordlond Enemies Book,” which is planned as a huge bestiary, in hardcover, full color. We’ll see if “A full-length monster manual for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG” has the legs folks say it will! Also, maybe-possibly a brand new RPG from a name you know well (not mine) that is neither TFT nor GURPSy, but I’m very excited about. That one would come late in the year.

So “smaller” number of major releases; each one will be “bigger” though, in terms of how much content will come with the project. I’ve also got a number of projects in mind that will pop up when they’re ready to go, and if my alternate vector for crowdfunding works out, can pop up at any time. I’m already working a really neat DFRPG concept for a 16 or 32-page book with the author of Nordlondr Folk and Hand of Asgard…and more besides. Anything like this will show up as shorter works, though.

By Special Request

A comment in the TFT Discord channel boiled down to “I’d really like a set of cards for the Nordlond monsters.”

I’ll tell you what I told him: after the Nordlondr Ovinabokin is done, I’ll have prose and art for likely over 200 creatures. Turning those into the much-simpler TFT critters should be straight-forward.

So consider it under consideration. Obviously something like this requires permission and discussion with SJG . . . but if they say yes, I’ll see what I can do to slot something like it in for 2020.

The Nordlond Sagas crowfunding campaign has entered into its next phase. Having surpassed the funding goal, we’re now collecting shipping and “add-on” items for those that pledged.

But there are also many that didn’t, some for bad timing, some because of the Kickstarter labor dispute, or other reasons. No worries: we’ve got you covered. “Pre-Orders” for individual books and bundles similar to those from the campaign are available on Backerkit. If you want to pick and choose what books you get, or just missed the campaign the first time around . . . now is the time to come by!

Pre-Order books from The Norðlond Sagas

The Norðlond Sagas campaign expanded the growing “Norðlond” setting – a Norse-inspired world playable with the material in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set.

Three books were included in the campaign pledge; a fourth new book is available as an add-on. There are two setting/campaign books (The Dragons of Rosgarth and Forest’s End) and a 16-page supplement of character options (Norðlondr Fólk, detailing the races of Norðlond) which were part of the campaign pledge levels. A fourth 16-page book, Hand of Asgard is available as an add-on. It provides specialization options for clerics devoted to one of the 12 gods detailed in the setting, as well as more than 20 new Holy Might powers.

Whether you get all the things, or pick and choose . . . this is a great opportunity to obtain more ready-to-play material for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

For Asgard!

I’ll start with the obvious: content has been thin on the ground here for a while in terms of stuff that’s not just updates to my production process/crowdfunding efforts. This one won’t be much different, but it’s a bit of a download on what’s going on.

A Bit of Chaos

First thing, the last few months – maybe since April – have been very hectic. My family decided to move. Not far, still in MN, but we started the process. Found a house we liked. Bought it. And moved.

But we still hadn’t sold the old place yet. We’d put a lot of work into it, so we figured it would sell quickly. That didn’t happen. In fact, it still hasn’t happened. So things have been tight around here, and there’s been a lot of time and angst spent on the process. This past week, a buyer’s financing fell through, and so what we thought was a done deal was not. Exhausting, mentally.

The disassembly of my workshop also meant I stopped crafting for a while. That meant shields and promised goods for the Citadel at Nordvorn kickstarter were on the “to-do” list until my shop got set up again.

I also re-started training in Hwa Rang Do, so to spend more time with my wife, who’s an instructor. So my schedule changed quite a bit; again with less time.

This isn’t going to end with “so bad things for Gaming Ballistic, boo hoo.” It just has taken a bit to recover.

All the shields and swords are now done. My workshop is set up. Nordvorn is completely delivered, the physical copies from Four Perilous Journeys are due to arrive at Studio 2 before mid-November. And the Nordlond Sagas campaign . . . well, we’ll get to that in a moment.

GURPSDay

The first thing GB was known for, other than all the gun stuff and occasional forays into grappling rules, was GURPSDay. Before I got heavily into publishing, that was every week, like clockwork.

Now, with my schedule on Thursday being “get kids up for school early, and then get back from martial arts late,” it’s become irregular. I mostly get one out weekly, but not always. The 100 blogs (or so) that are part of the list are a bit more irregular too, and readership seems to have fallen off a bit. The giant spike in stats that I used to get isn’t nearly as impressive as it was.

I’ll still do it, but it needs a shot in the arm somehow.

Crowdfunding

Not any campaign in particular, but in general. Phil Reed has been (correctly) lamenting the state of the gaming industry for some time now. Too many projects, with too short a shelf life in folks’ minds. The usual timetable for how Kickstarter was “supposed” to work was

  • A roughly 30-day campaign, ideally suited to cover five weekends, so that there are at least two, maybe three, pay periods in there
  • Two weeks of “waiting for all the money”
  • Ten to 14 days for the primary Backerkit survey, which is there because one usually doesn’t know what shipping will look like until the thing is done

So that’s two full months of administrative time just getting the orders, sweating marketing, and hoping that folks will be using the power of social media networking to talk up your stuff. That doesn’t usually happen for the big guys, much less me.

Even if you’re completely on the ball and the entire project is done when Backerkit closes, the best you can usually do is send the PDFs out that day. You still have these steps to take, if you intend to go to print, which I like to do.

  • Have your backers check the PDFs for errors. They usually find some. That’s a nice 2 weeks minimum.
  • Assemble the final files, spool them out, and wait for art to be done. Again, that could be basically one day, could be more.
  • Send them to print. That’s a month. There’s a lot of surprisingly inactive time here.
  • Then move them around the world. I do a thing where my international books go to the UK, and ship out. That’s a week from Latvia to the UK, and then 1-6 weeks to arrive, depending on the quality of the post. For the USA, it’s supposed to be about a month more, but in reality seems to take more like six weeks, because things are always delayed. Always. Then it’s 2 more weeks for Media Mail to deliver stuff.

That’s another 14 weeks – three full months – before all stuff is in hand. Once the books go to print, though, the “I have so much stuff to do on Project X” period is really over. Starting a new project is not crazy at this point, but you will be paying lots of money for print, ship, and fulfillment during this period. So while the workload is lower, the financial drain is maximum. The biggest individual checks one writes are for printing and shipping. The total project cost is higher for art, but that’s almost always spent on many artists.

Best case, you can do a project every 2.5 months; worst case if you wait for everyone to get their stuff before you start the next one? Two projects a year.

I can’t really turn Gaming Ballistic into a self-sustaining main job at two projects a year. Even five per year isn’t awesome unless each of those gets roughly 2.5-5x as large as they are now. Doing MORE requires something else. I can parallel process more books at once than Kickstarter will allow me to do, since my project management skills are up to the task.

What to do? Well, I’ve got two options here.

One is to explore alternate options. GameOnTabletop is intriguing. One thing is that all the add-ons and whatnot are available right away, in addition to pledging. You know exactly what folks are getting, they’re just set up as items. So the “add a new thing in the middle” that happened with both Four Perilous Journeys and Nordlond Sagas is much easier to handle. I’m getting a better feel for shipping, too. I mean, it still sucks, and costs too much, but I can probably guess what it’ll be in advance of the projects these days, since I now can calculate the weight of books easily due to experience in actually getting them. So it’s a bit of a one-stop shop for that. Cards are charged right away, too, and the fees are lower. Cash flow should be superior to Kickstarter, and you need money to pay writers and artists right away when the work has already begun.

The other possibility is to bring it all in house. There’s a crowdfunding app on WooCommerce. No rules but the ones I make for myself. If I have an idea, I can put it on there and say “pre-order it, and it gets made if we hit the goal.” This provides a powerful market tool, in that if I’ve got several books I want to make, the backers will vote with their dollars on which ones they like, and which ones they don’t. It means I can have rolling funding drives, too. It’s sort of the bastard child of Kickstarter and Patreon. All the IT burden falls on me, but there are real advantages to this method. I may try it out with a single small project to work the bugs out.

Even so, the actual process of crowdfunding is a bit of a slog, since you’re bound to the rules of the other systems you use (KS, Backerkit, GameOnTabletop), and they take their cut. It may only be 5%, but that’s 5% that doesn’t go into developing new cool stuff. A few thousand bucks goes a long way at my scale.

Nordlond Sagas

Still working away at this. The block-and-tackle of Kickstarter and Backerkit should be done. The two small books – Nordlondr Folk and Hand of Asgard – are looking really good. Layout is finished, art is underway. Now it’s time to turn the effort to full-on editing the adventures, which is a big job. Writing tight, technical, entertaining prose takes work, and so the authors and I are in constant contact helping that out.

I’ve got about five weeks to edit and lay out the two adventures. That will get them in a state to have art done, I hope, by the end of December. I’ll admit it . . . that’s starting to look optimistic. Even so . . . time to get to it.

Next Year

The current project will run through the end of the year at least, and I suspect that I will slow down a bit on the back-to-back sprints that has been this year. Even so, there’s at least two major things happening next year, and maybe more than two.

More Perilous Journeys

The first up in 2020 will be the sequel to 2019s very successful effort. The logistics pathways and needs for counter sheets, card decks, and of course the adventures themselves are now well known. Shipping and production time scales and costs are known. I anticipate a much better planned effort this time. Hopefully with content that folks want. I hope that with a few more hoped-for solos, and lots more time to plan and execute the cards and counters, that this will be even more successful than the last one.

The Nordlond Bestiary

This is the big dog of the coming year. I wrote a huge amount of text for the Dragon Heresy RPG back in 2015 and 2016, taking most of the SRD and writing fluff text and stats accordingly for the Norse-inspired world. Well, those efforts have turned to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG…and the words are still there. This is going to be the bestiary folks in the GURPS sphere have been waiting for. A giant book of monsters, thematically unified by the Nordlond setting . . . but any GM worth their salt can port the critters to their own needs. It’s going to take a lot of work to do right, but I’ve got a great team.

Dragon Heresy

Speaking of Dragon Heresy, I do have plans next year of taking some of the existing work – Lost Hall, Nordvorn, Rosgarth, and Forest’s End and pulling them apart to turn them into two different books. One with lots of setting and flavor information, and one with the adventure content. I’m likely to crowdfund these to see if they can garner up enough interest for a profitable print run as well.

DriveThruRPG

I’ve avoided putting my stuff on DriveThru for a while; the bite they take out of revenue is large, and in most cases the print quality of their POD offerings is simply lower than the books I print in Latvia. But in 2020, all my PDFs will go up on DriveThru as well as through other channels. We’ll see what happens there.

Conventions

I’ll be at two conventions early in 2020. The first is Con of the North, here in Minneapolis Feb 14-16. So Happy Valentine’s Day. The second is FnordCon, down in Austin TX. That’s April 3-5.

Shields and Swords

I’ve refined my techniques on these, but they’re only going to be available by special order, through the website. I love making them, and have gotten much, much better at it. But they’re not really on point for the publishing business. Even so, if you’re interested, reach out. They’re not cheap, but the shields in particular are going to be closer to what you might have seen historically (based on certain finds) than most of what you see made of plywood online. Some of those plywood guys cost more than my planked, accurate ones!

Parting Shot

So that’s the recap for Gaming Ballistic. I’m not sure if the work above will be what folks want – I hope so – but it seems like a good plan for 2020. There might be one surprise – and it would be a big, cool one – that could show up later in the year.

It’s a full schedule, but less than I would be able to do if I could get the reach and interest to make my hobby job my day job. That, of course, is on me . . . and we’ll see how that goes. Maybe I’ll win the lottery.

 

The Four Perilous Journeys Kickstarter for SJG’s The Fantasy Trip was my best campaign ever. It was also the first one where I made a mass-offer of not-books that was widely accepted. I’d done shields and swords before, but only a few at a time and only to the USA. This was my first “stuff” shipment.

Well, Chris Rice (not Christopher R. Rice, who co-wrote two of the perilous journeys) in the UK got his stuff, and posted images. The UK is in the best situation to get things quickly. I drop copies to Kixto in the UK for my international shipping, as Royal Mail is really inexpensive to the Rest of World.

In any case, he’s one of the first to get the stuff, and he got it all.

I think they turned out well. Ironically, he saw the final counter sheets and the card deck before I did.