I thought I’d share an art preview. If you like it, you can pre-order the book on Backerkit!
Cover (Teresa Guido)
The Allfather (Thanh Tran)
Goddess of Death (Kriz Villaciz)
The Fates (Steven Shan)
The Lawgiver (Piotr Jamroz)
The Lady of Life (Rick Troula)
The Trickster/God of Mischief (Juan Ochoa)
Queen of the World (Matsya Das Bdds)
The Snow Queen (Sandrine Malus)
God of Thunder (Kriz Villacis)
Lord of Warding (Eren Arik)
The God of Wind and Sea (Juan Ochoa)
Valkyrie (Rick Troula)
So, that’s the art for the book. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I do. If so…maybe you want to pick it up?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Nordlond Sagas: Last Day!
A big day today, I hope.
We’re in the last half-day of the Nordlond Sagas campaign. Gaming Ballistic’s efforts were mentioned in both the Frog God Games newsletter, as well as an update to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG main Kickstarter page. Hopefully it’ll help push us to the stretch goals. We’re maybe 75 backers short of an offset print run, and perhaps $6,325 from the “more content” stretch goal. That’s only about 125 people, so the difference between the two is not large. We also have sufficient “following but not yet pledged” mass to easily hit both goals and more. So time will tell.
These books – two adventures and two character supplements, including what is basically clerical domains, but for GURPS/Dungeon Fantasy RPG in the “Hand of Asgard” supplement – are going to be very, very fun. I won’t lie: I’m particularly enthusiastic about Hand of Asgard. Clocking in at only 16 pages, Kevin Smyth has managed to get a lot of flavor in the book, and I’m having a lot of fun with layout.
TFT Advance Copies arrive
I also got copies of the final product for the TFT Kickstarter I ran earlier this year. They’re really pretty and I think the backers will be pleased. I know I am. I’ll be getting the international fulfillment started this weekend, and I know that the remaining print quantity, probably 850-900 copies each, will be on the water soon (a bit of paperwork to do).
I’ve been getting a lot of manuscript updates from the authors, who are all working to make my life easier in many ways. Revising text, checking formatting, and playtesting in the background.
With that, though, it’s well past time for another glimpse of something. In this case, another page from Hand of Asgard.
This is totally not Hela, Norse goddess of death. Nope. If it were, she’d look like Cate Blanchett, clearly.
Even though this is Norse-flavored, Kevin has done a fantastic job in capturing these as archetypes, so that with a bit of care, they could be worked in as “domain” flavored clerics in any game.
Until tomorrow, then . . . come check out the Nordlond Sagas. Four new books for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG!
As I write this, the campaign has been active for exactly three weeks, and we have 12 days to go.
Today the Norðlond Sagas was featured on Steve Jackson Games’ Daily Illuminator. If you get a moment, re-sharing or commenting on the post – especially in venues off the forums – will help bring some needed attention and (hopefully) velocity to the campaign.
Map of Norðlond
Things have not been idle since I last posted an update. Glynn Seal has completed the map of Norðlond that is available as an add-on, and it unifies the various adventure locations geographically. The team had a good time naming the various larger towns and cities. I’m looking forward to using this particular map in books and as a stand-alone.
With that in mind, I’ve done a bit of digging on the map options, and wanted to pass this information on.
The heavy, 14-point map, UV-laminated for limited use with dry-erase markers is basically printed on business card stock. I’m going to ship these directly from my house, so that I can pack them in a rigid mailer and two plies of double-wall cardboard to keep it safe. Shipping in the USA is likely to be about $10 (it can’t go by media mail, and the packaging to keep it safe is expensive); rest-of-world is likely quite a bit more.
For those who want portability, for the same price of $15 I can offer a 100# paper map, 16×20″, which can be rolled up in a tube mailer. This is just a glossy poster format, no lamination or coating. There’s no price difference there, just paper stock. As always, shipping is a pass-through, I have no control over it, etc.
For international customers, the 12×18″ maps available through DriveThruRPG will be your best bet to have a larger map but still have shipping be affordable.
I have started in to editing pieces of Rosgarth, and to a lesser extent Forest’s End and Hand of Asgard. The work is coming in a chapter at a time, and I’m going over it and making adjustments to keep the world coherent, as well as acting as editor and keeping in mind flow, art, and all the things that go into making a set of books. This part of the “publisher” job is time consuming but also a great deal of fun, helping folks achieve their vision.
Right now, we’re hovering at around $20,000 and we’ve been, well, pretty flat – the last 11 days have been tough. Roughly $600 in cancelled pledges, and some of that is related to Kickstarter itself. I hope that these folks come back to us during the Backerkit phase, which avoids that interaction.
The good news is there are nearly 400 folks who are following the campaign but not yet pledged: that means that between actual and “latent” interest, there’s as much as $43K out there. We certainly won’t pull a Pokemon and catch it all, but there’s more than enough to surpass the $29K stretch goal, and all non-shipping funds collected in both Kickstarter and Backerkit will count towards that goal. I want more pages in the book(s) as much as y’all do. The authors, of course, will want more room for more material in their books! (Plus, they get paid more as the backer count increases; my version of profit sharing. Their per-word rate goes up with backer count).
So while things have been quiet for the last week or so, there’s still nearly two full weeks in the campaign, we’ve long since funded, and there’s lots of potential to hit the big goals for offset print as well as longer books.
Gaming Ballistic on the Web
In case you’re looking for me, you can always find me here:
Just for Fun: Yrth?
Earlier today, someone pinged me on Discord and noted that they just bought Hall of Judgment, and while they really loved it, their current campaign is on Yrth, and so how would Nordlond fit?
My first suggestion was to plunk the continent on which Norðlond can be found elsewhere, simply not on the continent of Ytarria. The explicit “the Gods of the setting are real, walk the earth, and the creation ‘myth’ isn’t a myth at all” would have to be altered to fit the setting. I talk about variations on the cosmology of the setting in a blog post: Monotheism and Competing Divinities in Norðlond.
The other possibility is, well, those Nomad Lands are pretty far north. What is more, Ytarria is very big. I found this map online, which is the publicly available Ytarria map plus the continental USA and Alaska, added by Eric B Smith.
For those of you that know me, I’ve been living in Minnesota since about 2000. Norðlond is very deliberately sized to my home state, maybe a bit bigger, and the location of major cities in the setting might kinda sorta happen to correspond to county seats in Minnesota. But if Nordlond is roughly 90-100K square miles (it is), that means it can fit into the Nomad Lands about four times over. If your campaign isn’t already much involved there, you could probably drop Nordlond and a good part of the Dragongrounds into the Nomad Lands without even blinking.
Make of that what you will!
Over on the forums, a poster asked a question that probably seeks to tie the Norðlond setting in with real-world history. He has a very specific goal in mind for his musings.
I’m not going to address that.
But the question of “hey, I want to introduce competing religions into this setting” is a close cousin to “I already have existing religions in my setting, but this part of the map over here would make a very handy viking-inspired realm.”
So here are three thoughts I have on the matter, which blend the two.
Let’s get this one out of the way. I’m going to quote from a not-subtly-worded reminder in Hall of Judgment (p. 5):
The religion of Norðlond is one of worship and veneration for the pantheon (really an extended family) headed by The Allfather and his wife The Queen of the World. It is a truly polytheistic practice, and the worship of any one particular god indicates that one has an affinity with that deity’s realm or area of influence, or the deity’s demeanor and attitude towards life and conflict. It does not indicate a disavowal of the power or existence of the other gods. It is not considered polite (or wise) to speak ill of another’s affiliation. Doing so can result in a challenge to judicial combat as a matter of honor; extreme cases might invite the gods themselves to intervene.
Those that share a common affinity to a particular god gather together to form a Braeðralag, or Brotherhood, to share in the Guðrun: “God’s secret lore,” communicated by the gods to their followers through the clerics.
The worship of the Norðlond gods is a personal and immanent connection. The gods are real, occasionally walk the world, and converse with their followers and their clerics. To be an atheist in Norðlond is to be deluded, blind to the reality of the world. The brotherhoods exist to provide connection between those with a common interest in advancing the cause of the gods with which they feel an affinity.
I’ve highlighted a few things of particular relevance here.
Here’s another one, an excerpt from the upcoming Hand of Asgard (by Kevin Smyth), which I quote selectively to emphasize the point about how the Norðlondr behave in the face of such beings that physically walk the earth.
The divinities of Norðlond are a true pantheon; worship of one does not deny the existence of the others, and doing so is more than simply rude – it’s delusional. These mighty beings walk the Realm of Midgard and interact with the peoples and creatures there. As such, a cleric who serves several Aesir, or all of them collectively, is plausible. As such, the interpretation of some common disadvantages in the Adventurers’ templates needs clarification within the Norðlond setting.
Intolerance (All Other Religions) is rare, but still crops up from time to time; someone who worships the God of Law might have it in their head that all of the other gods have transgressed, or a devotee of the Trickster might feel the other Aesir have treated his patron unfairly. These sorts of fanatics tend to get the side-eye even from other members of their own order: if a priest of the Thunder God is badmouthing other Aesir, the Thunder God himself might just decide to get offended on his brethren’s behalf and smite the impious fool!
So that’s the thing. If the Allfather and the Aesir really did create the Nine Realms – and in the Norðlond/Etera setting (for those playing Dragon Heresy), they did – then any competing religions are going to have to deal with the fact that if they deny the existence of Skaði or Donnar (The Snow Queen and The God of Thunder), said gods might just show up and smack ’em down.
But what about clerics of other religions? Well, the simple answer is there aren’t any.
This runs into worldbuilding and portability problems, and is rather less interesting in a polyglot fantasy world where you might want to have fully functional cultures that serve as foils and counterpoints to each other (“oh, Vikings vs. Samurai, eh?” “Well . . . yeah.”). Even so: make no mistake: when the creation “myth” of a world is neither myth nor legend, but ‘yeah, this is how it actually happened, and the Creator(s) sit right over there, go have a chat’ then the concept of “religious skeptic” is likely not going to fly.
There’s an easy way around this. Or if not ‘easy,’ then at least plausible. It’s actually more direct in the Norðlond version of the setting, because rather than be given actual names – Woden, Donnar, Skaði, Heimdallr – the gods are presented as archetypes. The Allfather, The God of Storms, The Snow Queen, and The Lord of Warding. While “hey, Woden, over here!” isn’t quite as portable, “The Allfather” rather is. In many of the religions humanity practices, there’s an overarching chief deity who varies between supreme and first among equals. Zeus. Odin. Amun-Ra. Po. This is most explicit, I think, in Hinduism, where the supreme being is Brahman, who appears in different guises depending on what they’re doing at the time.
That basic Hindu concept of manifestation, which gains even more traction combined with “and the gods manifestations reflect the beliefs and the needs of the humans who attempt to give words to the divine concepts” allows a set of basic truths (there are Realms, in which there are holy or divine beings, who created the world(s) for Reasons) to be fairly universal, but reflected in many different ways.
This allows for different cultures and geographies to each have their own “pantheon” or even a monotheistic religion (“the One God,” “the God who is Many and One,” “The White God,” etc) while maintaining a consistent creation myth for the world or universe.
In truth, in order to eventually expand into other regions of the world in which Norðlond sits, as a world-builder, I am nearly forced to take this path.
One other possibility here is that the gods themselves are real, but given form by the Will of their worshipers. This provides for all sorts of mayhem, as if (say) the Goddess of Death gets a whole lot of followers, she will eventually be supremely powerful. This starts to look like actively proselytizing competing belief systems, which of course isn’t anything our modern world has in great supply (*cough sarcasm cough*). If you want to check out a source where some of that is referenced while still feeling the viking love: read Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword.
If you want to go all “There’s a War in Heaven,” this is probably the most self-consistent route to take. A strongly monotheistic belief could eventually “force” all of the disparate facets of a One-as-Many being into simply the One Being. If folks are worshiping only the Allfather, eventually not only will the Allfather subsume the other gods, he’ll sort of stop being the Allfather. Talk about being self-conflicted.
One last possibility, which also has some truth in the Norðlond setting. The Nine Realms were created by the Asgardians to protect that creation from . . . something ELSE. In the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, these are the Elder Things. In Dungeons and Dragons, the Aberrations. They are outside creation, and if there’s a plan for the Nine Realms, they disagree with it. A lot.
Frequently, these beings are portrayed as Cthulhoid tentacled horrors, showing the origins of the type in Lovecraft. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, since it’s used to varying degrees of awesome in media from Monster Hunters, International to Hellboy to some versions of Aquaman. It’s a fact that “Squid Cults” are part of the canon in Norðlond, inherited from the parent Dungeon Fantasy RPG, which has Elder Things as one of the more interesting things to fight.
But what if the “squid” was a powerful entity from beyond the universe that wasn’t a tentacled horror. What if that being simply disagreed with the Asgardian purpose for the Nine Realms? Then, the new “squid cult” might be the “cult of the white god” and the magic and power flowing through the believers would be quite real. Or not: A new monotheistic religion where followers were granted Magic Resistance and could create No Mana Zones and were really enamored of technology instead of channeling divine power, as the new being put their stamp on the world in a very non-Asgardian way.
As noted, the cosmology of Norðlond, and because it’ s a growing setting from a company that wants to do not just vikings, the broader world that it’s in, will take more than a few notes from the first two (Delusion and Manifestation) in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG version of the setting at least, and then the first paragraph from Invasion, as the guiding canon for worldbuilding. Since the Etera/Dragon Heresy version has Morevel (based on Macedonian Greece) and Inthriki (with history influenced by Kamakura-era Japan), I need something to allow proper development of those areas in ways that aren’t just silly.
But while the particular request of the original poster isn’t something that I’m going to explore, the underlying question of “how do I introduce a competing or parallel religious belief system or culture,” and the neighboring “but my campaign world already has gods and a cosmology, how can I fit Norðlond into it?” are valid questions. And not to put too fine a point on it, not only do they impact the game world, they impact my game company: A portable setting is more salable then a “you play my way or not at all!” version of such.
So: that’s three ways of looking at it. I’m sure there are more!
I’ll also note that, for example, dropping Nordlond into Cidri, where the cosmology is very much not the Gods are Real, but rather the Mnoren are top dogs and physics is their plaything, would require some different kinds of gyrations, since none of the Norðlond assumptions are really true!