Current Status

We are so very close.

My team and I just spent about three hours adjusting color saturation and “Total Ink Coverage” as the “really, this should be the last draft!” file just . . . didn’t look right. Sure, it was pretty, but frankly, given the raw art files, it should be gorgeous.

So we should have restored that, and I’ll see a v3 pre-Final draft either today or tomorrow.

I’ll do a detail read, but I’ve done a few of those already, so I think we’ll be ready to go for that part. We’ll still need to add the internal bookmarks and hyperlinks, and get the eBook output. I’d say 1-3 days and we’ll be ready to push the PDF pre-Final copy to everyone.

The Manor Collection and Guardians

I’ve pushed the buttons, I think, that should enable you guys to download your digital copies of The Manor Collection (a .zip file) and Guardians.

If you can or can’t – email me at and let me know.

Let me know “it worked” so I can relax about getting that part done. But if it did not work, or isn’t working for you, also let me know, and I’ll get in touch with the Backerkit folks, who are supposed to be handling digital distribution. There are 21 copies of Guardians and 27 of  The Manor Collection that need to go out, and I want to make sure that happens.

Print Proofs

I’ve emailed a copy of the PDF template containing the freaking spectacular cover (sorry, when it comes to art, I’m both a novice and a fan, and Michael did fantastic work) to DriveThruRPG, and hopefully Chris will get that into the hands of whomever needs to look at it.

As soon as we have an interior section we’re happy with, we will also send that over for a preview and order a proof. That will test if our interior ink limits actually did what they’re supposed to do (prevent the pages from sticking together), and if things look good, I’ll place the order for everyone for whom I have a shipping address.

That is, all but three folks for whom I either don’t have shipping addresses, or I do but he has to hit “CONFIRM” to make it stick.

Three. People.

Please? With a cherry on top? I want to make sure you get your print copy!

Final Thanks

I probably say this a lot, but then, I can’t really say it too much: Thank You.

Naturally I ran into a few extra expenses. I needed some art fixes. I wanted a vector-art logo for 5e compatibility (and wait until you see it). I asked Juan to change a few of his pieces to fit better (and they do). But when all is said and done, the Kickstarter will have done it’s job: fund the creation of the book.

I won’t make any money on the campaign. Every dollar went into it (plus a bit more). But I have faith that it’s a quality product, and that folks will love it when they play it.

And even if I did, those funds would get plowed into Dragon Heresy anyway. There’s always another project!

I’ll let you know when I am ready to upload, so you can know to look for it. Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

Just a very quick Dungeon Grappling update

  • Received and responded to another round of layout.
  • 80% of my artists have completed their obligations with complete contracts.
  • I have reached out to Juan for some alterations to two pieces of his, which were not his fault but he’s going to get me altered art within two days anyway. My fault, not his, so he gets paid extra.
  • The cover is done.

 Backerkit Surveys Close Friday

It’s four days until Backerkit Surveys close. There are fewer than 30 of you guys that need to fill them out. If you don’t, I’ll use the name I have from Kickstarter to give credit, and of course you’ll get your stuff as ordered through Kickstarter. But it would be super-great if I could have the confirmation that your name is as you’d like it to be.

So please fill out your surveys this week!

General Impressions

In doing the final edits for the book, I got to re-read it. Twice. I think you’ll like the final version, and it is, quite simply, a gorgeous book. There were some extra art holes that I filled with close-ups from the cover (hope you’ll forgive me for that), and a few bits of grammar and clarity. Plus some updates for feedback from playtesting and reading.

But by and large, there are only a few things left to do.

  • Some of the graphics and logos need reworking
  • The final changed must be made
  • Artists and sponsors inserted where appropriate
  • Final art insertion, a few changes to the art due to layout
  • Table of Contents will be generated
  • MOBI and ePub files will be generated
  • Bookmarks and links will be added to the PDF file
  • Validate CMYK color saturation levels for print versions
  • Validate cover and interior art with RPGNow

Once those things are done, it’s complete. Can’t wait.

Christmas to New Years, I wanted to provide an update on where we are, and some thought I’ve had on the process.


We’re down to the last few pieces for art. Of the 22 commissioned pieces, plus the cover, I’ve received painted/colored final images for all but five. Of those five, one is the cover, which you’ve seen is about 2/3 done. Two are actually painted, but needed tweaks – one was a tiny detail (some magical light coming from where Black Tentacles were emerging from the ground and walls), and the other needed an adjustment to the background in order for the image to make sense as a whole – moving from “warrior” to “gladiator” was narratively more coherent. I expect to have those in hand any moment.

The final two images are also close – one required a lot of discussion between the artist and myself because the art direction and the shape of the art space didn’t mesh well. We resolved that last night, and she’ll be turning that into a sketch and painted final quickly. The final image has an approved sketch as of yesterday too, so I expect that I’ll have it in the next few days.

After I get the finals . . . and pay for them – Gaming Ballistic uses a milestone-based approach so that as each artist finishes a piece, they get paid, and then they upload the high-resolution file . . . I will digitally play with each one a bit, to produce a torn-edge effect as seen in the p.22 preview. Those finished files will go into a repository that Nathan can pull from to insert into the final document. I’ve assigned those at the sponsor level to artwork which matches their contribution; most sponsors have been given more than one piece, because a $100 pledge goes a long way towards sponsoring art. The sponsor levels paid for all but five images, and the cover, of course, was my treat to us all. For what it’s worth, there’s room for four more Art Patrons at the $100 level if a sudden urge to sponsor artwork hits you.

Layout and Editing

With some distance between the last submitted draft and today, I went back, printed out a hard copy, and read it word-for-word. There were mistakes. Not a ton of them, but enough that I was very glad I did it.

What changed in the edit? First, what didn’t change: the content of the document rules-wise. No reviews were endangered by the edits. What got tweaked?

  • The title/credits page got adjusted, and the “S&W Compatibility statement” was added. Some of the new artists got their rightful due.
  • Grammar and clarity were adjusted throughout the document
  • The not-so-good writing that was part of the Pathfinder SRD explanations of the Grappled and Pinned condition (discussed in terms of being Restrained in this document, for consistency) was turned into a bulleted list. It reads better that way.
  • Some examples were fixed. I see what I did, I think, but I like it better another way. Also fixed two internal consistency errors. One was just weird, and the other was an egregious tense mismatch.
  • Some style elements were altered
  • Explicitly mentioned Swords and Wizardy/OSR in the appropriate places.
  • The grappled condition in 5e was weak sauce; I added “can’t make opportunity attacks” to it, which is a step in the right direction.

Overall, I’m still very pleased with the document, and the suggestion of adding reference pages at the back has grown until they’re 2.5 full pages of useful, consolidated stuff. The combat examples that were added – one for each rule set – add materially to how the information is explained and shows how it works in play. The new layout of all the information is clear.

Overall, these changes are good and worthy, and after Nathan gets them into the document, we’ll insert the images and then tweak the hell out of everything to get the final layout.

This may mean going back and commissioning more artwork. Thanks to your generosity and acquisitiveness on the Backerkit surveys, this will probably not injure the project’s financials at all.

Project Financials

On my blog, in my 2016 Review, I tucked in a quick overview of the Dungeon Grappling project as well as Gaming Ballistic’s revenue (all from this project) and expenses (from setup, Dragon Heresy, and Dungeon Grappling) this year.

When Dungeon Grappling completes, I’ll post a financial summary. What I took in and from what sources, and where the money went. As an example:

  • Kickstarter prep: about $400
  • Art: about $2,400
  • Indexing, Layout, eBook prep: About $750
  • Printing and Shipping and Fulfillment Costs: $1,500
  • Kickstarter and Backerkit fees: $600

So the costs were about $5650, while the revenue was about $5,400 ($4,850 from Kickstarter itself, plus another $550 from Backerkit). There were other expenses, but those aren’t directly allocated to the project. Legal fees ($775) for contracting and standing up Gaming Ballistic, and another $50 per month to buy Adobe Creative Cloud, which has already paid dividends in my ability to make mockups of product as well as to start to learn to make edits directly in documents.

So, net/net, I think Dungeon Grappling managed to be turned into what it will become for a net of $150 expense on my part, at least on a project basis. If you detect a bit of satisfaction that I managed to budget reasonably well, you’re not wrong.

Next Steps

The immediate next steps are in your hands. If you haven’t filled out your surveys – and there are about 40 who have not – please do so. I will be locking down survey collection on Friday, January 6, which will charge any extras you’ve plussed-up or rewards to your preferred payment methods. You will all be able to download your extras immediately (they’ve already been uploaded) via Backerkit.

Then, roughly the same time, or perhaps a week after (Jan 6-13), Nathan and I will hopefully finalize the PDF layout of the document, including any extra art I need to buy (some of my artists are very, very fast).

At that point, I will do two things: make the PDF available to y’all for download, and order a print proof via DTRPG. Hopefully I can get that in a week or two.

During that time, I’ll need your help again. During the week I’m waiting for the proof, I’ll need you guys to read the hell out of the PDF file you download, and report to me anything you think is an error at, with a lead-in title of [DG ERRATA] in the subject line of your email.

What’s an error? What isn’t?

It’s not “I don’t like this rule.” That’s valid, but it’s not a mistake. As an example, I got a playtest report from someone and his comment from a Pathfinder test was that he was going to alter the thresholds for each condition, because he wanted the low-Strength guys to not be hit so hard.

That’s awesome – he’s altering the rules to fit the game, like GMs have done and will always do. But it’s not a mistake, because another GM will say “if you don’t want your STR 7 wizard to get grappled to death by a dire wolf, stay out of their reach, silly.”

What are a mistake?

Yeah, that was. Grammar foul. Things that I can, and will, change?

  • Grammar and spelling mistakes
  • Clarity issues that generate confusion
  • Consistency errors (you say [blah] on p. 13, but on p. 34 it’s [different blah].

If you see any of those, let me know, and I’ll fix ’em in the PDF. I’ll also fix ’em before I order 120 print copies of the game and mail them out. That way, the book is as good as it can be before it hits hardcopy.

Once that’s done (figure the third week in January, maybe the fourth), I’ll place the orders for all the print copies, and they’ll start their journey to you all. Anywhere from three days to ten weeks (!) later, depending on location, you’ll get your copies, and the Kickstarter will be complete. Worse case lagging shipments should arrive, then, in mid-April. Most orders will be in your hands in February. I’ve resisted the temptation to publish this estimate beforehand, but it seems real enough to make an educated estimate at this point.

Note that pre-orders and retail sales will not ship until a week or so after the Kickstarter backers’ copies go out. It’s only fair. At roughly same time as the pre-orders ship out, I’ll open up for retail on my website, DTRPG, Tabletop Library, and Amazon. Spreading the word at that point would be very much appreciated.

Final warning: I have no visibility or responsibility for any customs duties that are charged for delivery out of the USA. I noted that in the Kickstarter verbiage, but I’ll say it again. Your shipping covers shipping, as I could calculate that fairly precisely using the tools at DTRPG. Customs or other duties are not included.

So . . . that’s it. The end seems in sight, and things are still moving at a good rate to conclusion. Thanks for bearing with me as we conclude this campaign!

Funding and Surveys

I got confirmation that basically everyone’s pledges have cleared, and the funds that I’ll use to complete the project are on their way. Thanks for being a well-regulated bunch!

With the two week mandatory delay finished, the backer list has been imported into Backerkit, as well as being able to finalize the surveys. I’m mocking up a “this is a POD copy of the book” image for clarity, and after that happens (hopefully today), I can send my survey for review. There won’t be much to it, honestly – I’ll get y’alls shipping and email addresses so I can distribute rewards. My intent is to only have the surveys open for maybe 10-14 days or so, so please look for it and get it filled out quickly, so that I can get you the promised goods correctly the first time.

Art, Art, Baby

Finally, I’ve seen some spectacular art progress over the last week. The new custom cover is freakin’ awesome, and one of my other artists’ commented “Old School never looked so good.” I’m inclined to agree.

Of the 23 pieces of art including the cover, I have 12 color images in hand (some of which are being tweaked), and 10 concept or black and white “sketches,” some of which are basically publishable as-is, but hey, color! The final image was a challenge due to an odd art-space requirement, but Gennifer and I worked out some options last night, and that will be proceeding as well.


Once all the art is in, Nathan and I will finalize the layout, tighten any text to fit, and create the pre-final document. Then my playtest platoon will give it a solid once-over to ensure that any obvious errors are fixed up, and then the electronic files will go out.

I believe electronic documents will be fulfilled by Backerkit. I’ll give them digital copies of Dungeon Grappling in PDF, eBook, and any Manor or Guardians add-ons you’ve purchased (and you’ll select those through the Backerkit survey). They will send those out and it’ll be fairly instant gratification.

As soon as I have the primary file and cover done, I’ll order a proof from DTRPG, inspect it to ensure it meets my standards, and then place the final orders for your books, which will arrive anywhere from 3 days to 10 weeks (!) from order placement, depending on shipping destination.

Thanks for your patience, and I’ll continue to whip the process into shape. I’ve got expert help.

(Yes, this is an art preview. The other images? Yeah, they’re similar quality.)


Well, Gaming Ballistic has just concluded it’s first Kickstarter, and as you can see, the company had a great campaign. We very nearly hit our ultimate stretch goal of $5,000 . . . but the mix of pledges that came in at the end might have actually pushed the “internals” to the point where we actually achieved the stretch goal anyway. Hard to say, but I’ll know in a few hours.

Hearty thanks to not only my backers, but those that backed and those that didn’t, but who shared the project around. I know that made a big difference.

I’ll return with some lessons learned, and a breakdown, when all is said and done, of the true costs of the project, the “money that I can write checks with” vs. “costs I have to pay that I never see,” such as Kickstarter and Backerkit fees, printing, and shipping.

Now comes two new challenges: getting all of the components I need (art, logos, and final rewrites and editing) into place and finalizing the document itself, but also before that navigating the surveys, funds collection, and finishing details that make up the process of finalizing the campaign. So my work is not yet done, but boy it’s great to have come this far!

I got a new review of Dungeon Grappling, and this one was on RPGGeek:

The Short Version? Dungeon Grappling finally makes grappling more like every other system in the game and it works.

Review Review

Things are looking good for Dungeon Grappling at the moment. With 21 hours to go in th
e Kickstarter, dungeon-grappling-cover-mockup-2were closing in on $4,400, only $600 shy of my ultimate stretch goal of $5,000 – that pays for a custom cover that will replace the current mockup that I did that I usually describe as serviceable.

The recap, then, of reviews and discussion thus far:

RPGGeek. “This supplement actually has me excited about grappling in my games again. I think it will make the fights easier and more exciting with better defined and more predictable outcomes. Basically, these are the grappling rules I’ve always wanted.”

The OmnusCritic. The OmnusCritic provides a 21-minute video review of the book, evaluating it and giving a passing grade on four criteria: aesthetics, writing, mechanics, and value.

The Round Table with James Introcaso. Less a review than a 75-minute discussion of the project, game rules for grappling, and other motivations and aesthetics animating the design. Still, if you really want to hear a passionate discussion of why grappling should be more important in fantasy RPGs . . . look no further than this conversation.

Tenkar’s Tavern. “what I have looked at looks good. He even addresses rulesets with descending AC. I’ll give this a closer look over the coming week. Did I mention the buy in is just 5 bucks? Seriously. Currently PDF only, 5 bucks to solve my RPG grappling issues that have dogged me for the last 33 years or so? Priceless…”lady-and-the-minotaur

Ravens’N’Pennies. “Dungeon Grappling is a cohesive set of rules that works across multiple iterations of Dungeons and Dragons. For those familiar with his work on GURPS Technical Grappling Doug approaches the problem in the same way, but tweaked for a different game engine – and it works surprisingly well. To tell you how easy it is I’ve not looked at the new Dungeons and Dragons, glanced at Swords and Wizardry, and gave up on Pathfinder a while back. The system he presents was intuitive, easy to understand, and provides a lot of flavor. In short, it’s a module you can just bolt on and go.”

Dungeon Fantastic. “I’d urge you to check out this Kickstarter. Doug’s got a solid product here – I’ve seen it (I mean, its origin was a co-authored article and I’m the co-author) and it is good. It’s really superior to most of the clunky, ineffective, or downright risky grappling rules that come with so many games. Take a look and give it a chance.”

Follow Me, and Die! “This is something that has been needed in RPG’s for a long time. The Grappling Rules in AD&D are notoriously challenging to implement in play. The short and simple system introduced in Manor #8 is expanded in these pages. It gives a bare bones system and adds options and touches on how it can be used in specific systems. The basic rules will work for variations of the original game and clones, as well as later editions and variants of the original game.

The system is built on a basis of normal combat resolution. I like this approach. Use what is there instead of building a new system that doesn’t feel right. Another good example of this is what James Spahn did in White Star with vehicle combat using the same format as individual combat. I can’t think of a situation not explicitly covered in these rules.”

Original Edition Rules. “Dungeon Grappling is a supplement for your old-school RPG that gives a fast, simple, and robust system for moderating unarmed combat. We loved this system so much that we used it as inspiration for unarmed combat in the Guardians super hero role playing game, and has become the de facto system for all our Original Edition rules. ” The author of this review is Thomas Denmark, who wrote the Guardians superhero RPG with David Pulver.layout-example-1

Bat in the Attic. “The basic idea is that there a better way of dealing with grappling. Doug developed a set of mechanics that takes the same basic mechanics of rolling to hit and inflicting damage and turns the result into something meaningful when it comes to grappling. He did this for GURPS and now he doing this for classic DnD, Pathfinder, and DnD 5e with the kickstarter.”

Shane Plays Radio. This 30-minute live radio show got into a lot of things, but was a bit light on the details of the Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter itself. That was my fault.

Gothridge Manor. “When I run a game I like to have options available for my characters…good options. The way grappling stands in most games it isn’t a good option and the players don’t consider it when in combat. With Doug’s system, combat doesn’t need to be all or nothing. Kill or be killed. In this way it allows for more roleplaying. I’ve never liked the subdual rules of most fantasy RPGs. Basically it’s a crappy way of patching a hole over something the developers couldn’t figure out. Doug has figured it out. And it’s good. And it’s useful. And it doesn’t slow down play.”


Many of these folks were given a preview copy of the rules, laid out but with no art. All of them backed the kickstarter, some before, some after, receiving the rules. Many are game writers in their own right, and several are folks that I’ve become friends with as a result of a shared passion for the hobby.

All of them pull no punches when something is bad – hot fires make strong steel and all that. And none of them told me what their reviews would contain (nor would I ask).

Please Consider Backing

The picture you get is of rules that work, for something that should be an important part of fighting, but usually isn’t, because of mechanical drag on game play. Dungeon Grappling addresses that, and to hear the folks above talk about it, it does so successfully.

The Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter closes at 11pm Central Time on Monday, December 5.



One more day ’till Dungeon Grappling
The Crowdfunding will be done
It is time to have the monsters
Chomp and grapple for their fun

And the PCs will be mighty
Monks, Barbarians mighty thews
Diff’rent flavors of the systems
Are provided; you can choose.

So don’t think you pledge to early
Or that something slipped my mind
Once the artists are all finished
You will get your game on time!

So messieurs, please head on over
And peruse the video
Read the reviews, see the sketches
Spend an hour – the tome show!

Last 48 Hours

The Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter is in its final 48 hours through the weekend.dg-ks-44-hour-image

We’ve done very well, passing the basic goal, funding an eBook that will come with any pledge that includes a PDF copy, and full color interior art (the $4,000 goal turned out to be $3,906 once the mix of pledge types were factored in).

If you have a preview copy of Dungeon Grappling and were going to write a review, in the immortal words of Walter Koenig: “Scotty, now would be a good time.”

Layout Tweaks

I have made another revision and received the revised layout. The next revision will be the last one, which will include the aforementioned full-color art inserted into the text.

As I noted, the tweaks punched up the visibility of the calculations, re-organized them for easier assimilation. So the stuff you need for instant gratification leaps out at you, and is delivered first, as an expert. If you’re not an expert, or are looking for a special case, that is provided next, with more use of titles and headers to pull out the important bits.

We also reorganized the Quick Reference sheets (now three pages), and added five pages of combat examples – one per system.

Is it perfect? Not yet. But I can see concrete things to do for all the things I’ve got issues that need fixing, and so I know that when I get the art, Nathan and I can work together to finish the book in a timely fashion.

Then it’s eBook, cover compositing, and making sure that the game for which I’m claiming compatibility (the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and Swords and Wizardry) both have executed all of the right things that are called out. Plus a double-scrutiny pass on the OGL statements, to ensure I’m giving credit where credit is due.

Add-ons for Great Justice

In case you missed the other updates, don’t forget to consider the add-ons.

The Manor Collection is 8 short volumes of highly usable eZine, which can be pillaged like there’s no tomorrow for NPCs, locations, and other flavor, including several ready-to-use adventures.

The Guardians RPG applies Old-School sensibility to the superhero genre, and is both a great playable game as well as a fascinating design study on system tweakage that shows why those venerated basic rules have such staying power.

The Final Countdown

So, we’re in the last hours, and I’ll be here in Thailand as my project ends. I guess I’ll be staying up on Monday night or so, since I’m 13 hours ahead. What’s Thai for “Hit the F5 key again?”lady-and-the-minotaur

In any case, this is the time to get the word out. Tomorrow I’ll show some art sketch samples that I’ve received from Christian and Rick thus far, and that will serve as the final during-the-campaign message from me to you.

After it’s over, I’ll get hard to work on Backerkit and working to close out the Kickstarter end of things – my preference is to get this done quickly, but Kickstarter apparently wants me to cool my jets for 14 days. Ah, alas . . . I can do this. Helps y’all get stuff figured out. That will mean that Backerkit surveys probably go out on Dec 19 or Dec 20 (coincidentally almost immediately after I come back from Thailand). Those, too, require 10-14 days of hang time so folks can carefully consider what they’re doing, etc, but faster is better for both of us.

During the next four weeks, then, I’ll be working with the artists to get sketches and finals done, and working with Nathan to finalize layout. Once that’s done, we’ll assemble the PDF, eBook, and POD versions of the files, upload the uploadable to Backerkit, and those will go out to everyone who’s pledged and whose funds have settled. I will likely order a proof of the POD on an expedited basis, give any feedback if required, and then place those orders for the customers that want them.

The communicated due dates are February for electronic files, and April for print. We are definitely still on schedule for those dates. The most likely things that could upset the applecart are probably delays in receiving artwork, really ugly proofs from DTRPG, or some sort of funding SNAFU with Kickstarter or Backerkit. I don’t anticipate that, but if I plan ahead aggressively, all my surprises (and yours) will be pleasant ones.

I look forward to getting the book(s) in your hands.