So, GenCon has come and gone, and I got a lot of business done while I was there. Some of this will be reflected in what projects GB is working on.

The Tower of Justice – Adventure Scenario

The brief scenario that I over-prepared for (two hour session, but I wanted to ensure we didn’t run out of fun) went over very, very well. I can confirm that 15 folks, from newbies to grognards, went through it, and despite grappling appearing constantly, everyone was engaged and had fun. The give and take of control damage was as compelling to them as it was to me.

The scenario is built around the Dragon Heresy world, and the strong undercurrent of Norse-ish mythology that flows through it was well received.

The “do we or don’t we go this way” puzzle that was supposed to be one of the scenario forks (which one needs for a con game, though much less so for a campaign) was so compelling (and frankly, not hard enough) that both parties just got it. I came up with a good re-arrangement of things that will resonate better with sandbox play, as well as providing larger exposure to more potential resolution pathways.

So . . . I’ll be publishing this, for real. The GenCon folks that were at my table will get free copies and playtest credit, if they email me. Otherwise, I will work it up for 5e and Swords and Wizardry, at least, plus of course Dragon Heresy.

There’s a ton of work done already, and turning it into a short adventure supplement should be fairly quick. I suspect that I can re-use a lot of art I’ve purchased for Dungeon Grappling. I may even re-use the Dungeon Grappling layout template, which will push my InDesign skills to grow and improve.

In short, I don’t think I’ll need to crowdfund this one. We’ll see. I could also Kickstart it when it’s basically ready and see if folks have enough interest to help me fund custom art. That way, I’d be able to work with some old and some new artists – many of whom I met at GenCon – on a very short project with little risk. Test out working relationships and whatnot, and keep in practice for crowdfunding. Besides . . . I love generating new art (well, paying others to do so).

What about Pathfinder? I will need to consult my oracles; I’m not as good with this ruleset than others.

The adventure itself stands at 11,500 words – roughly 23 pages as-is, which would grow a bit with maps and fleshing out all parts of something designed for “until it’s done” rather than “cram into two hours.”

Dragon Heresy: Starter Set?

I watched “Ashcan” versions of various games in development fly off the shelves in the Indie Game Designer’s Network booth for four days. The 5e Basic Rules were pretty popular.

So, I’ve got a project that will be in editing for a while, but is fully playable. The system plays well and has some neat tweaks to it. The setting is compelling enough, and has loads of room to support adventures.

So I’m pondering and chopping a very, very limited version of the game that only covers Level 1-4, ditches all optional rules, and is otherwise a nice intro. I’m shooting for something like 60,000 words, which is about 15% of the total three-volume set.

I’ll see how far I can distill it. There are advantages to doing this that solve some issues I had with my Kickstarter planning, too.

The full game is still progressing! And again, with the artists I chatted with, I’m very hopeful I could go from “funded” to “done” in a reasonable time period through the glory of parallel processing. But . . . I think I can get something fun out there that’s playable, and will only improve with time as Ken does his magic on my writing.

Venture Beyond

Just for completeness’ sake, David and I are closing in on a first-complete-manuscript. We’ve nailed down a lot better where we’ll be conventional in business development process, and where we’ll take risks for the sake of time to market.

I’m feeling good about where we are, at least for now. Not much of an update, but as with a lot of “below the waterline” stuff, there’s a lot to unpack in the words “making progress.”

Saturday was packed for me. I was busy from 9am until 10:30pm with good important stuff. Sunday, the last day of the con, was basically open for me – a free day – until the show closed, at which point I was to help tear down the booth.

The Big Day

Well, I awoke realizing that I’d left my battle-mat in the booth. No big, assuming it was there. I beat feet over before, it turned out, that the convention hall opened, which was 9am. So I went over to my gaming room, set up early, then chatted with some of the IGDN members there. I described my grappling system to Sarah at the booth, and another member sat down, and “oohed” and “aahhed” over my book, which was on the table. She opened it up and started avidly reading. I just grabbed a pen, signed it, and made a gift of it to her. If she’s that enthusiastic, she can have one! Continue reading “GenCon: The Big, The Free, and The Teardown”

Today was eventful as hell, from a personal level, as well as a professional one.

Dungeon Grappling: Tower of Justice

So, I ran the Con Scenario that was shorthanded Grappling Smackdown but is formally called The Tower of Justice.

The seats were supposed to be filled; I had three initial no shows, but then three folks showed up and really wanted to try. So full house . . . and then the actual three showed up, which meant I had to ask the newcomers to leave. All were gracious about the entire thing. One player had his young son along, and it was very clear he was going to sit and watch. No frickin’ way. I asked “will your son be joining us?” “Can he play?” “You tell me . . . can he play? If he can, he’s very welcome.”

So seven seats for a six-player game. The young one was an Evocation sorcerer. Dad was a dragonborn bard. We had a human paladin of Tyr, a Thief/Rogue, another dragonborn bard (but he said that testing the new grappling rules was the ONLY game he insisted on playing; this guy was a dream player/playtester), a human ranger, and a young lady who had never played DnD before who took her hand at a half-elf fighter.

All played well, engaged in the scenario, and were gracious about learning the new rules.

I started by making them write down their grappling stats, which were not on the sheet. I did this deliberately so I could teach them the key levels and what they mean.

Your grapple DC is 10 + whatever. It’s your hit roll for grappling, and will nearly always be lower than the Armor class.

Your hit roll for grappling is 1d20 plus your athletics skill bonus.

Your damage roll for grappling is your hit die type, plus your strength bonus.

Write down the following levels: Grabbed; Grappled; Restrained; Incapacitated.

Calculate your restrained max, your grappled max, your grabbed max. Incap is higher than restrained by one.

There are things you can do with your control points. Here’s a list. If you think of anything else cool, let me know and we’ll adjudicate it on the spot.

So . . . what happened?

Highlights

  • They quickly figured out the puzzle that gave the directions to the back door of the Tower of Justice, and I figure that if I let the group tomorrow find the same puzzle, they’ll also go that route. I may just railroad ’em into the main way, to test the other half of the scenario. I have a reason why this isn’t completely lame, I swear
  • the fight with the hobgoblins between the waybridge and the tower went very well. I needed more monster tokens, but otherwise, the players were determined to grapple as much as possible, and so were the hobs. The fight went well for the players, and though a few wounds were taken, it wasn’t bad.
  • The climb of the 150 foot cliff ran into a major design issue that I know how to fix, but I saw the problem coming soon enough. More on that later.
  • The big fight with the Glabrezau demon (four attacks, pincers, fists) opened with the PCs deciding to whittle away the demon’s HP from behind a magical barrier. That would have been tedious but effective. Then someone (the Dad bard, actually!) decided to Leroy Jenkins the demon, several others followed suit. The demon grabbed the paladin for 45 control points, turned that into 10d4 injury . . . and rolled abysmally, doing fewer than 15 HP of damage. So sad! I was hoping to rip him in half.
  • The players saw the never-played-before fighter grapple the demon . . . roll a crit and max damage, and restrain him. They dogpiled him by grappling, and incapacitated it! That meant they could kill it by fiat, which they did.

That took the entire time. I got some great feedback on the grappling rules. In short: they were playable and fun, useful but not complex. These WORK. And they work with strangers who were not (to my knowledge) game designers, unless the 10yo was a ringer.

The Lowlights

  • Swapping out players was a time killer, and meant that we got very close to running out of time at noon. This will be an issue tomorrow since I have to be on a panel at noon in another building.
  • The climbing rules were cool on paper, but as we were about to run through it, I realized this was going to be an insane number of dice rolls and tracking. I figured out how to fix it, now I just need to implement it. No worries there.
  • The tree puzzle is too compelling and will likely 100% of the time short-circuit the bridge and front-door approach. I’m not sure if that’s bad or not, but it’s an observation.

The Booth

I did another stint at the booth today, five hours. Heel wasn’t quite as bad, but I took care to walk around today (walking and running are both better than standing for me).

Highlights here?

Sold some Dungeon Grappling

I was a lot better at pitching other folks products

I really need to pick up Fragged Empire. The graphic design is a thing of beauty. Setting seems interesting too.

I also need to learn about the Apocalypse World engine. A lot of the games seem to like using it as their core system, and there must be a reason for it. I may or may not agree with the reason.

Had a polite disagreement with a designer who described tactical wargame elements in RPGs as pointless. I think they have their place, and enjoy the hell out of them. The perspective has merit I think, in that it puts an adminstrative overhead on both player and GM in terms of stats, rigor, and play speed that you have to understand, accept, and find fun.

He does’t. I do.

That’s cool for both, but there are two sides to that coin, and if you think only one of ’em has value, you’ll be a worse designer than if you understand at least the impulses that drive both points of view, and consciously address them. Even if that means ignoring one; at least do it with malice aforethought.

I reviewed a set of grappling rules in another designer’s system. Pronounced them very abstract, but since they were the same level of abstraction and used the same mechanic as his other conflict resolution systems, I pronounced that they obeyed the rule of ‘use what’s there’ and was thus satisfied.

Steve Jackson(!!) dropped by the Indie Games Designer’s Network booth. Turned out he wasn’t just looking around. He was there to see me.

(swoon)

We chatted about the DFRPG, the Kickstarter, and I showed him my Dragon Heresy flier. He responded by telling me something that nearly made my eyebrows crawl out of my head (not sure I can say what it is), but that will make GURPS folks very happy. There was also some egging on by me of the notion of a modern action boxed set, since (sez me) “GURPS has the best firearms rules currently in the market. Clean ’em up, simplify for speed, and you’d have everything you need to shoot folks and take their stuff, or any other plotline.”

I also talked with D. R. Lunceford, gigerman on the forums, about a great many things. He is responsible for the graphical look of the blog. We agreed it was time to start the web design for the dragon heresy website and page. We talked about a few blog improvements, and game design. And shields and grappling and shooting. Good times.

I also made arrangements to have drinks with Ken Hite to discuss Dragon Heresy progress.

Spoke in rapid succession with the folks at Thomson-Shore and KrakenPrint. Now I know of four potential vendors for my books, all of whom are reasonably priced for offset and make great looking books.

All in all, an excellent day.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is going to my equivalent of BUDS. Well maybe not. But it’ll be a busy, hectic day.

  • 10-noon: Second Dungeon Grappling demo
  • noon-1pm: I’m on a panel on how to get into the game industry
  • 1-5pm: DFRPG session with Sean, Christopher, Joseph, and others!
  • 7pm-?? First attend the Delta Green panel that Ken Hite is speaking at (’cause Delta Green is a great setting and I’m honestly curious), the go to drinks and talk Dragon Heresy

Sunday is all mine.

 

About a week until GenCon, so what’s kickin’ in the hopper at Gaming Ballistic, LLC?

Dungeon Grappling and the Grappling Smackdown

To date, other than the 300 or so Kickstarter copies of Dungeon Grappling, I’ve moved 87 more via DriveThruRPG, of which nine were physical product. I’ve also sold 20 through my website, with a much higher fraction  (50%) procuring physical copies. My participation with the Indie Game Designer’s Network has moved a few more physical books (four, I believe). I have not sold a single copy through Amazon CreateSpace, and given how much of a pain it was to re-do the layout to their specs for active text and bleed (very large pain, with no help unless you want to pay them for a consult), I may reconsider doing that again. The print quality of CS did not blow me away, though it was a lot cheaper per copy than DriveThru. Case by case basis, I guess.

The Kickstarter itself broke even by the time all was said and done. I made a great looking book with solid rules content, paid for it all, and got it all out on time. I then ordered $662 worth of inventory. My revenue has been just north of $900, I think – which means that overall, Gaming Ballistic made about $300 in profit on a project basis.

I am, of course, substantially in the red as a company, because of things like paying for InDesign, hosting, and the remarkably non-trivial money of my own that has gone into Dragon Heresy in particular.

Still: Dungeon Grappling’s all-in profitability is on the order of 5% on a project basis.

I am still of the opinion that the Dungeon Grappling rules are very good for what they do, or at least the least-bad option of any I’ve encountered (unless as with many groups, you simply ignore grappling, which is the ultimate in rules-light play, I guess).

Which brings me to the Grappling Smackdown.  Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic Update and GenCon Grappling Smackdown”

I backed the Kickstarter by Goodman Games promising a collection of essays entitled “How to Write Adventure Modules that Don’t Suck” out of genuine interest and curiosity in the subject matter. 

In the first place, advice and considered thought on how to write adventure modules (which I’ll refer to as adventures or scenarios interchangeably in this review) can only help me consider how to make my own adventures should I put on my GM’s hat athwartships again.

On the other hand: I’m a game publisher now, with one in the can (Dungeon Grappling), two on the way (Venture Beyond and Dragon Heresy), and at least one or two more under consideration. All of those will need support in one way or another, and adventure support, while seemingly universally less profitable than core books on a per-unit basis, is taken as a strong sign of a vibrant well-supported game line. A good adventure showcases the rules, engages players, and generates conversation and “buzz” about the game that is way better than abstract reviews or other considerations.

So, I backed it with interest, and received the hardcopy a week or so ago.

Continue reading “Ballistic’s Report: How to Write Adventure Modules that Don’t Suck”

I’m a member of the Indie Game Developer Network. So when a member wrote that his Kickstarter was mid-swing, and a surfeit of real-life obligations prevented him from doing marketing for great justice (nod to Zero Wing). I offered to take a look at his product and review it.

The Book of Nouns

Well, yeah. The book contains about 80 different write-ups, categorized as landscapes; cities, towns, and buildings; events; people. There are twenty of each. There’s typically a full-color photograph of the thing in question, and a few pages of writeup, in 6×9 format. Every entry ends with some thoughts on how to use the idea in play.

It’s a straight-forward concept, and one might wonder if it’s needed in the age of Google? I’ll throw down an answer, which is that the world and it’s history is a vast and unruly place, and in order to search for something, you need to know it exists, or be very clever in your search terms.

This book takes some places you might or might not have heard of, people who have done great things (“terrible . . . but great,” to borrow a phrase, in some cases), cities and other events that make a place noteworthy, and then served ’em up to you as a jumping-off point for ideas.

Examples

I won’t spoil it, of course. But there are some very interesting entries in there.

Son Doong Cave

Oh, megadungeons. Not real. Too fake. Too contrived. Could never exist.

Hah. Then you’re not aware of Son Doong Cave – which I was not. Five and a half miles of caves (that’s 2,900 10′ map squares, or if you do four squares to the inch for your graph paper, you’re talking something like a map that’s sixty feet long). And that’s just the linear dimention. Some of the caves are 600′ wide and (more impressively, perhaps) 450′ tall, which is enough to easily support some pretty horrifying avian threats. Like dinosaurs. Just sayin’.

Tell me you can’t see great encounters happening in here? Continue reading “Review: Archive – Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs”

Reasonable behind the scenes work going on.

Game Development

Venture Beyond is heading towards a complete manuscript, with some darn nifty concepts threaded through. Took note of recent threads about how old games could fairly easily port in a reader’s favorite authors’ works, and how too-detailed settings and starmaps can eat the wonder from a setting because there’s nowhere for your cool stuff to go. So noted. And easily accommodated. This game is designed to have enough help to make it coherent and playable, but enough empty space to somewhere between encourage and demand improvisation and GM/player control. We’ve had great discussions like “Pirates are awesome, and space piracy is awesome, so how do we ensure piracy isn’t precluded by setting assumptions?” If we have tramp freighters and independent agents in ships that are not so expensive that the ability to buy one is the ability to live like a zillionaire, how is that viable at the same time as the equivalent of a container ship is viable? We want to emphasize the sheer fun of getting out there in the fringe, and making your own way. The feel of Firefly but with a much bigger scope, Traveller without quite so much inertia of pre-existing (though frequently cool) canon to fight if you want to tell stories that are more your own.

Anyway, I really like how things are shaping up, and we’re taking the time to do it right.

For Dragon Heresy, editing is happening. Art is also happening, and I have started to make the banner graphics with help provided by Michael Clarke:

So I have the outline for what I want to do, and now I just have to write the pitch. Should be easy with 425,000 words under my belt, right?

Not a huge update, but not every one will be. By the end of April, things will start to pop, I hope.

The Blog

I’ve been good – or at least better – about populating the blog with actual content.

It’s been fun writing again, and as any author will likely tell you, it’s a skill you have to practice. And as you practice, you get better, and it comes more easily. It’s been good to get back to some ballistics stuff, and I owe y’all a post from yesterday on 5e . . . and since I saw a thread on facebook on Guns and 5e (“No, no, please, no!” was a fairly typical response), I thought I’d indulge in a bit of “what if?”

I’m not big on the April Fools Day thing, so just take it as a coincidence that the GB update falls today.

Things have been more active on the blog this last week or so, something I hope to continue. I’ve re-established a posting schedule, and am sticking to it. Tomorrow, for example, is GunDay Sunday, and while I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing, I have a lot of options, including a Reloading Press, which I’ve not done for a while.

Schedule

The short version: everything’s late or delayed, and that’s just how things go.

I’ve got some Dragon Heresy artwork still pending, I’ve got editing hopefully being done on that same manuscript, which is about a month behind schedule. Venture Beyond is probably two weeks behind, which was somewhat expected, though there are some issues that if they’re not worked out will pose an issue for me. I was hoping to have VB ready to rock by summer, and Dragon Heresy by late fall . . . but some of that’s up in the air.

Still, it’s not like I’m holding other people’s money on this one. So those delays are irksome, but don’t represent a break with customers. And it’s not too late to yank things back on track, so we’ll see.

Pyramid

The Pyramid Wish List has been updated, and it’s fairly inspiring to me for the first time in a while. I can think of a few article I’d like to write, plus one that I made a major breakthrough on yesterday that will be fun to finally put to bed. I think there’s at least two issues it could fit into. Maybe three.

Sales

As noted in the March update, sales for Dungeon Grappling were very strong in March, thanks to the DriveThru’s GM’s Day Sale. 39 orders through them, and 3 more through my own web store. Not bad.

Week in Review

Some disappointing speed bumps, but still, more progress can be made. I can start work on the background for the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter, which can wrestle in priority with Venture Beyond in terms of which Kickstarter happens first.

It’s not like good things haven’t been happening, but they’re “below the waterline” stuff. I had a great discussion on cover concepts with Michael, and I think the final product is going to blow folks away. I’ve been learning some more InDesign, and I think I have made some progress into being a bit more self-sufficient. The graphics work that’s been done sets me up well to make slow but steady progress on getting the Kickstarter ready to launch, and I think that I’m probably a short stretch away from having all of my pre-launch art done that should set up previews of the layout, the races, the maps. Even the cover templates are view-worthy, and that’s even before the final illustrations are done.

So this is the sort of week that the business owner takes a deep breath, and decides that next week is a fresh start.

Here we are again, this Saturday, end of March, marks roughly the seventh month, sort of, since Gaming Ballistic was incorporated. While that might be the official incorporation date, it probably makes far more sense to date the birth of the company from roughly October 1, 2016, which is when I really decided that Dungeon Grappling needed to happen, and proceeded to plan and launch the Kickstarter by November.

In any case, what’s been going on?

Mostly trying to get back on to a regular posting schedule again. I got very, very head-down on working some of the projects I’ve been working, and noticed that I’d not written any real content on the blog, certainly not much of value-added nature, in weeks. Well, frack that.

My new intended posting plan is something like this:

So tomorrow I’ll either review the latest Pyramid, or I just got a copy of Cirsova Magazine #5, and I can throw down some game-inspiration notes from that. Means I need something OSR/ACKS-ish for Monday . . .

Beyond that, the only real question right now is which project gets far enough along to Kickstart first. Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic – March Update”

Well, another month has come and gone, and what’s happened? More and less than one would think. I’ve been so head-down in doing the projects that my blogging and general evangelism has fallen off a bit.

Dungeon Grappling

Well, the book came out, well ahead of schedule, and in addition to those sales I made during the Kickstarter campaign (about 300), I moved about 24 more. Mostly PDF through DTRPG (15 sales there), and nine more – a healthy mix of print and PDF – personally and through my web store. I sold two copies of The Art of Dungeon Grappling, which is disappointing but perhaps unsurprising, despite the benefit to both charity and the artists.

The reviews have been very positive to date, so I can’t complain about that. Word will hopefully get out, especially as I broaden the applicability of the system and offer more products. Most folks probably just have been so burned with bad grappling in the past that they might not be interested. That was to be expected, I think – it’s a niche product. It’s a good product, but niche.

I will be running a few Dungeon Grappling Smackdown events at GenCon via the Independent Game Designer’s Network. More on that in coming months.

I also released Dungeon Grappling through CreateSpace. That was a bit of a chore, as I actually had to lay out the book again to meet Amazon’s margin requirements. But it’s available as both a softcover and a Kindle book (I’ve sold one Kindle version, and no CreateSpace print copies).

Dragon Heresy

Looking over my blog, I see I’ve not said much about Dragon Heresy. Well, things are moving. Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic, LLC – February Update”