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.

And I would fly 10,000 miles . . .

Just a bit of a head’s up. I’ll be in Thailand for business for the next two weeks. Unavoidable. So for the next two days, I’ll be intermittent in my connectivity depending on where I am (though oddly enough, the WiFi on long-haul airliners is pretty darn good these days).

Combat Examples

Today I wrote 3,100 words of combat examples to tack on to the back of the Monsters chapter. That’s another six pages possibly, so I might need to trim that down. But it’s a mix of vignettes and actual turn-by-turn combat, with an example provided for each system discussed in the book. Some of the feedback I received back in the day for my other grappling book was a request for more examples, so I figured I’d try and get some in here too.

Trajectory and Reception

According to the Backer Tracker and Kicktraq, the project will close at around $4,500 or so taken in. Backer Tracker is allowing for a ridiculous hockey stick at the end, which would take the project to $6,000.

One can dream. I hope that we see a flurry of activity. Perhaps sharing the reviews and discussion with our RPG bretheren would help.

Some of the best:

If we get anywhere close to that $5,000 stretch goal, I’ll spring for the commissioned cover. You want it (I think), I want it – so spread the word and let’s go get it.

Finishing Touches

  • Art, art, and more art. That’s really what’s remaining.
  • Choose cover art and background, or commission custom cover
  • Edit and trim back-of-book text
  • Make appropriate barcode or barcode spaces for ISBN/EIN or the DTRPG SKU code
  • Place logos (Gaming Ballistic, 5e, S&W Compatible, Pathfinder) on back cover
  • Format final book into eBook, Print-ready PDF+Cover, hyperlinked PDF
  • Finish Backerkit survey prep, get photos in for add-on items
  • Ensure I precisely meet the terms of the S&W and Pathfinder compatibility rules. That’s worth triple-checking. Likewise with the appropriate OGL and copyright statements
  • Format table of contents

Really coming down to the end here, and the rate-limiting step is taking delivery of all the art. Half of that is in approved sketches (which are ridiculously better than “sketch” gives credit for. I’ll post a preview of them tomorrow).

I’ll hit the finishing hard. Kickstarter recommends waiting two weeks (that’d be Dec 19) before closing the project down, and then 10-14 days of Backerkit surveys (Jan2 or so) – I’ll be asking that folks get on that right away. As soon as that information is in and confirmed (both informationally and financially), and the art is finalized, I’ll first get the electronic copies of everything out to folks, then get a proof of the print book. When that’s checked out and validated as worthy, I’ll process the rest of those orders and get them in the mail.

Thanks for your patience, faith, and support in this project.

Now let me tell you about my next project . . . (OK. Too soon.)


After forwarding a preview copy to him, he read through it and delivers his feedback. Overall, he gives me a passing grade on aesthetics and layout, writing and editing, mechanics, and value. He put his money where his review was, too, and backed the project.

Some commentary:

  1. The Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter ends on Monday, December 5lady-and-the-minotaur
  2. I have enough faith in the trajectory that I have asked my artists to bypass black-and-white art and proceed directly to color for all interior artwork. I put my first complete work of art the page it was designed to sit in in a prior update.
  3. The print version (as you say, $23) also comes with a copy of the PDF, as well as a black and white, no-art, yes-tables eBook format for small screens and tablets.
  4. Fair point on the need for pre-work; the good news is one you HAVE that pre-work, you just play. This does give me an idea for a follow-on product – a table of monsters with Grapple DC, damage, and Control thresholds listed.
  5. I have redone the Quick Reference pages in the back of the book for more usability; there have also been some layout changes for the same purpose throughout the book to make uptake of the rules even better.

I will hopefully be able to show more finished art, and some of the sketches (half are in sketch mode, half pending), in upcoming updates.

One of the great things about writing and publishing games is that, for the most part, the creator community is pretty cool. Peter Dell’Orto and I wrote the modifications to the grappling system I wrote in GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling into what became Grappling Old School, in Manor #8. After I expanded that into Dungeon Grappling, I asked Tim if I could offer up The Manor Collection as an add-on to this Kickstarter, so folks could see the secondary origin of the rules, as well as experience the tasty goodness that is a whole lot of inspirational content.

Likewise, after Manor #8 came out, Thomas Denmark was writing an RPG, wondering what would have happened if the “first” fantasy RPG, using the classic old-school basic rules system, were to have been a superhero game instead.

Well, he enlisted David Pulver as a co-author, and the two of them set to work. I discuss that in much more detail below. But he also saw the grappling rules, and thought they’d be a great add-on to his game. David and I have known each other for years, and so he approached Peter and me about incorporating them. We said yes.

And when this Kickstarter came out, I asked Thomas if he’d mind me offering Guardians as an add-on. Not only did he say yes, he provided me with a cleaned-up copy, with all errata fixed.

The Guardians RPG


Guardians is a fascinating study. On the one hand, it applies the basic, old-school mechanics to the superhero genre. You will recognize hit dice, armor class, hit points, and class and level.

On the other hand, the superhero genre is pretty darned wide, with power levels that can get insanely high, and nearly anything under the sun possible in a character concept.

The class-and-level system doesn’t seem to be a terribly good fit for that kind of variety out of the box . . . but Thomas and David give it more than the old (school) college try.

What emerges is a game that is neither Champions nor GURPS nor basic OSR-style fantasy gaming, but rather a fairly interesting hybrid of all of them.

The Basics

If I had to define the basics of this style of gaming, it would revolve around class, level, and a small number of basic attributes. Some of that isn’t even necessary – one of the challenges in Dungeon Grappling for the OSR rule sets was how to define quantities like Control Maximum for monsters for which you are given little but their Armor Class, Hit Dice, and Hit Points.

Guardians starts out by taking one of the more obvious superpowers – sheer might – and assigning a scale to it that gives a range from a human infant (ST 2-3) to a level where you can move around Earth’s moon (ST 96-97).

It then gives a selection of eight possible origins (from Human to Mutant to Super Alien) and four archetypes – character classes – that form the basis of the character template.

Each origin gives a mix of modular Gifts, Powers, Limits, and Issues – and some special notes. Each class gives an experience point progression (super-agents advance to 10th level twice as fast as Gadgeteers or Power Wielders, and about 1.25x faster than Bruisers). As you level, you get better at what you do – gaining new powers or gifts, extra gadgeteering points, or more energy points that allow you to fuel your super-abilities. Continue reading “Add-on Spotlight: Guardians RPG (by David Pulver and Thomas Denmark)”

Last Week of the Campaign

Dungeon Grappling is entering its final week of the crowdfunding campaign.

It’s been a great ride so far, and we’ve solidly funded and passed the first stretch goal. I’ve also (in a prior update) noted that I’ve placed all of the art orders in color already, so even though we’re not at the stretch goal for it yet, we’re tracking there, and I’d rather get you a great book early than any other option.

Welcome to the party, pal

How can you help me hit those last goals? Bring friends.

This is the time to share that you’ve backed the project with others, including perhaps the proprietor of your FLGS. The KS price is likely going to wind up being roughly half what the retail price will be, as it turns out. So you’re getting in at the right time.

The Art Cometh

As I showed on the prior update, I have started to get final art images. I suspect they’ll continue to come in through the end of December.

What might that look like? In low resolution, something like this

Is that final? No. Nathan may come up with something brilliant (the above is me and a really low-quality image editor), and that’s what layout pros are for – to take raw material and make it brilliant.

Speaking of Layout

I got some good feedback on the book from a reviewer. He was completely fired up about grappling, especially when he realized how many monsters really should be grappling as a primary attack mode.

There were some things that he recommended in layout and structure that would make it easier to use in play, and streamline knowledge uptake. Nathan and I are working through these bits.

Some are easy, such as reorganizing the Quick Reference section by game instead of by topic. So if you’re playing the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, there’s a Pathfinder section for you. Same with Basic/S&W, and Fifth Edition. The grappling techniques reference also got some shorthand to define the mechanics to be used (Attack Roll vs. Grapple DC; if successful, stunned for 1d4 turns). A few things were deleted, and some things were substituted or added that really should have been there the whole time.

There was also a monster tweak (Constrictor Snakes are now PFRPG instead of 5e) so that there are four example monsters for 5e and PFRPG, and three for S&W.

I’m also going to add a combat example for each rules system.

Good feedback, then, and actionable, so action was taken.

What’s in a Fechtbuch?

So, if you’re in at the Fechtbuch level ($18+$5 shipping to almost everywhere), what do you get?

  • A full-color, layered, hyperlinked PDF that will likely be 48 or 52 pages long.
  • A text-only eBook in black and white, with just content and charts, for easy loading and easy reading on small screens and tablets.
  • A full-color, premium quality softcover book printed and shipped through DriveThruRPG.
  • Your name in the book on a thank-you page.

Probably $35-37 plus shipping if purchased piecemeal after the Kickstarter campaign ends.

Finish Strong

Once again to all my backers – thank you for your trust. I’m definitely on schedule to deliver on time, and (knock on wood) at the moment “on time” looks like a worst case situation.

Nope, nope. Shouldna said that. -R. Hagrid

The weekly update comes round at last. Thankful, I am, for my backers and those also telling me “Yeah, grappling, but I can’t wait for Dragon Heresy.” Keeps me going.


I was on the Round Table with James Introcaso for Ep 146. It was a fantastic 75 minutes of conversation, and we talked RPG design, my Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter, Dragon Heresy, and why I like 5th Edition.

I procured and utilized a “licensing for existing works” contract. That was a good addition to my repertoire of agreements, and Real Soon Now I’ll procure a retail sales agreement template. That should be what I need: create stuff (professional services agreement), use other folks’ stuff (licensing of existing works), sell stuff.

I continue to realize that my marketing reach is growing, but not all it could be. I would encourage folks that are interested in Gaming Ballistic products to join the Gaming Ballistic Google+ group, for starters. Once the Dungeon Grappling RPG supplement goes on sale both here and on DTRPG/RPGNow, TableTop Library, and Amazon, I’ll be taking the next steps there. I will probably also go to either fortnightly or monthly updates for GB, to avoid the appearance/reality of spam.

The Kickstarter is almost 3/4 complete, both from a timing and funding perspective. I’ve learned a bloody ton about them for use in the next one, though some of the final bits – the Backerkit survey, how product is delivered, etc., are still in the future. Also: how and when to get paid. Judging from the Dungeon Fantasy RPG KS, that isn’t just “snap your fingers and get cash.”

Otherwise, it’s late November, so I need to decide when the fiscal year of Gaming Ballistic ends, for tax purposes. I understand that is arbitrary to some extent, but I really need to consult with a tax pro lest I do something stupid.

Dungeon Grapplinglady-and-the-minotaur

As noted, the Kickstarter is heading to the end of it’s 3rd week (of four) and is trending to a pretty happy place. The ultimate desire is something like $5,000, which will give me the ability to write checks for the amount of about $3,000-$3,300 (a lot of that $5K goes to print and ship costs for the physical product parts of the KS). That pays for:

  • Layout
  • Indexing
  • Contributor Payments
  • Background art for chapter-break pages
  • The 3D art for making the video
  • Some legal fees
  • Help assembling the cover images into a print-ready PDF file
  • eBook layout (single column, no art, yes tables, black and white only)
  • Full color interior art (22 pieces, 331 square inches)
  • A custom cover (an 11 x 11.5 cover art image, which will leave room for text on the side. I like how the D&D books do that – full fidelity to a great image, but clear space on the back for text.

One thing I have noticed – and it’s to be expected – is that folks are starting to move in and out of pledge levels. I would be very interested to know why someone might drop down to a $1 level, or perhaps go from print to PDF, etc.

By and large, I’m in a working mode here, with my artists doing and improving sketches. I’ve got solid submissions from two, and am working with the other two to get to that stage. I’m far from the point of being nervious in any way about timing.

Oh, and here’s a tip: never, ever buy a barcode from Bowker, though you will need to source your ISBNs from them. Why not? Because of this: Free online barcode generator. It might take some doing to figure out exactly how to use it, but it’s FREE, and if you vacillate on pricing, or whatever, you can just generate a new one.

Otherwise, steady as she goes, I think.

Dragon Heresydragonsigilcolor-3

The Big Project got some work this week too, with me updating monsters from my contributors into The Book of Deeds, and also reverse-integrating Dungeon Grappling into The Book of Heroes. I’m on a long business trip to Thailand in December, and I expect I will spend many nights banging away at monster writeups and re-reading both books for edits and progress. I know I need to re-look at the Ranger class writeup, as well as the Druid. The Book of Deeds needs a read-through. But still, closing in on the “done writing” point that enables me to get into the editing and art direction, and maybe even a bit of layout. Even indexing can start.

That’s going to require me reaching out to my team and seeing when the engagement point is. I was hoping in my wildest dreams that there’d be enough influx from Dungeon Grappling to allow me to subsidize the Dragon Heresy project with that revenue. That still might happen with retail sales, but probably not to the extent I was hoping. I guess Dungeon Grappling could explode in the last week or so. Stranger things have happened.

This update definitely falls along the lines of “shameless plug.” Nonetheless, as part of any pledge level to the Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter that includes the basic Dungeon Grappling PDF, you can add to it The Manor Collection (1-8). You do this by adding the cost of the product to your pledge. This will give you a credit when the Backerkit survey comes around, and you can then add it to your “email/ship it to me” shopping cart. This is a digital only product, so instant gratification is where it’s at.

The Manor is a ‘zine published by Gothridge Manor‘s Tim Shorts. I became aware of it when I joined Erik Tenkar’s “B-Team” playing Swords and Wizardry on a more-or-less monthly basis. That was my re-introduction into DnD after a long hiatus, and my actual introduction to the OSR (Old-School Renaissance).

It’s got some great stuff in it, and the nice thing is how, well, digestible it is. A lot of this stuff can be simply dropped into existing low-level campaigns.

And it’s at a pretty steep discount. Adding all eight issues to your cart will run you $12, which is $1.50 per issue, 40% off the usual $2.50 (and way less than the original price of each ‘zine, which could be as much as $4 each). Each issues has an eclectic mix of adventures, adventure seeds, random tables, characters and NPCs, and poetry. Yes, poetry.

Below you can find the contents of each issue. There are plenty of ready-to-play adventures, interesting folks, and exotic locations. It’s definitely worth your time. Continue reading “The Manor Collection – Great Content for the OSR and other games”