Adventuring in Nordlond

We had the inaugural session of Kyle’s campaign, which he’s calling the Nordlond Sagas. Not Kickstarter related entirely, but not unrelated either. All the PCs wound up taking a racial package out of Norðlondr Folk. So we have no pure humans. We have an Elfàrd Wizard (me), a Himneskur (god-blooded) knight-ish character built with Five Easy Pieces , a boar-folk barbarian from the neighboring realm Brionnu (Celtic influence), a Raven-folk priest/rogue/face character, also from Five Easy Pieces, and a triger barbarian.

Note: Five Easy Pieces is from Pyramid #3/113, and gets a lot of use with this crowd.

My wizard (whose name is Daingeannruadh, and goes by Daingean…isn’t that much better?) is an exercise in me getting to know the magic system better. I tend to like fighty characters, but as an author, I need to be more aware of how magic works. And today was a great example of that.

We started on a ship bound for The Citadel at Norðvörn. That’s N-o-r-ALT240-v-ALT246-r-n for those curious. This is precisely how I started my own one-shot session for the playtest game of Citadel back in FnordCon 1, and for the same reason. We were on a gigantic knarr – a 115′ long cargo vessel, and we were attacked by a 45′ long longship filled with a captain and 15 attackers. I believe the final tally was the chieftain, 8 bandits armed with axes, 3 bowmen, and 4 spearmen. All were based on the bandit “template” from Hall of Judgment, I believe.

Short version: we wiped the floor with them. That’s not unsurprising. Some details, though:

  • We saw the other ship coming. That gave us about 30 seconds to prepare. Which means that our Raven-folk had a few spells to throw first, and so did the wizard. My spell list is a bit eclectic, but I led off with Grease, which wound up neutralizing quite a few folks in the prow of the ship. Lots of failed DX rolls and slipperiness, and those NPCs are on the steep end of the bell curve. A -2 to DX and -1 to defend goes a long way, and extra movement cost plus more penaties for unfavorable terrain when your friend goes down in front of you is a good way to start.
  • The three meaty folks (two barbarians and a knight) took the fight immediately to the other ship, which suffered from narrow confines (maybe 2-3 yards across at the widest, mostly 2), and pinned most of the raiders to their own ship. This prevented a lot of flanking and kept the number of bad guys who could take flank and rear shots to a minimum.
  • We got peppered with arrows to no avail, but the bowmen didn’t really figure in the fight much.
  • After building it up for a turn, I dumped a bolt of explosive lightning into the rear of the ship. It deep fried the primary target – who I believe was already down – rolling 9 burn damage, which left 3 in the second ring, and 1 in the third. There was a friendly in that ring, but his DR 1 bounced the zap. The rest – maybe four or five targets, had to check for stun, and I think two not-the-chieftain guys went down to physical stun. That’s basically “out of the fight” for many.
  • After that, I charged up a deathtouch and attempted to get close enough to use it. I wound up using it, but rolling crap for damage.

We cleared the ship, and claimed it as spoils of war. The captain of our own boat took slight exception to that and wanted (and got) a cut. We let the raven-folk with high Wealth deal with that; always let the face do face things.

Lessons learned as a wizard?

  • The battlefield prep spells are a good use of time.
  • I have a lot of stuff in my grimoire that isn’t combat related, which is fine, but once the fight is on, I have to be careful
  • Power Items are not Power Stones. They can only be recharged in town, and do not represent a free energy reserve. So my order of operations needed to be ER and FP first, power item last. The GM let me ret-con this.
  • I wound up burning through a total of 11 FP on the three spells. Technically I burned 14 FP: 2 for a 2d deathtouch, 6 each for 2-hex grease, 6 for 3d-3 explosive lightning, but 3 back because of skill level. That burned through my ER and all of my FP before I drop below 1/3 of FP to leave me reeling. That was efficient.
  • It also means that in combat, I get 1-3 key spells with which to shape the fight, and then I’m done.
  • I forgot to take shortsword to use my Wizard’s Baton, which lets me attack with things like Shocking Grasp and Deathtouch at Reach 1 instead of Reach C. My original plan was to use a spear and buckler, but I’m not really strong enough to do that, and you can’t use a spear as a Wizard’d Staff. So a bit of “oops” character sheet tweaking is needed
  • Before the game I made a grimoire of all the spells I know, by simply copying the stuff from spells into a word file, and printing that out. It saved TONS of time . . . but even better would have been to excise some of the rules. Area effect. Cost reduction due to high skill. And explosive damage. Huge time-savers to have that to hand. And this is why PDF also adds value beyond print.

Other fun bits? The Hrafnarfolk with the rogue specialty liked to backstab, and he used Wait to hold off “until the end of my turn” and then AoA, followed immediately by a return to his own turn where he could act normally. That’s a Kromm-approved bit of “how to backstab” and it comes with potential drawbacks. A Wait is always risky, as the situation can change. Anyone who can respond right then to the AoA can strike during a turn where he has no defenses. So if a nearby foe is also Waiting, or can respond with an attack that requires a defense roll or Quick Contest . . . Hrafnar gets tagged. Otherwise, he stabbed at least one person in the eye, and another in the neck.

The triger claimed the other ship as their own by peeing on it. I broke into a bit of Tom Petty: “and we’re pee . . . pee brawling!” But having a three-headed tiger person claim the ship via combat urination was inspired.

One of the bad guys crit-failed at least once, maybe twice, with their weapon. That left me pondering if one could have a weapon that was cursed that emerged in play. Like an Unlucky Weapon instead of a Named Weapon, though both of those things are not canon for the DFRPG. Daingean said he didn’t care that he wasn’t a bard, he was telling stories about the cursed sword.

“It was an axe.”

“Who’s telling the story here?”

“I’m just saying, it was an axe.”

“And it was cursed!”

“He dropped it.”

“It was cursed to be dropped!”

“He’d just had his leg pulped by Chuff.”

“That’s pretty cursed!”

“…okay, that I’ll grant.”

One last thing. Chuff, the triger-folk barbarian, hit one of the bandits on the head (DR 2, also DR 2 for the skull) for 20 points of damage . . . and rolled a double-damage crit. So doubled to 40, down to 36, ×4 for skull . . . 144 points of injury to the skull, which is a full 12× the starting HP of that target. That’s dead no saving throw dead.

All in all, a good starting session. Fights with many fighters last a long time, and it was tough to keep several communications channels going at once. MapTool worked flawlessly. Kyle brought some really good maps.

We also had a good chat about the ship itself as spoils of war. The thing was a 45′ longship (15m) in terrible condition. Even so, some googling gave an estimate of 28,000 to 40,000 hours of labor to make a 30m ship (The Sea Stallion) using traditional methods. That puts the cost of such a ship pretty far up there, and scaling down to a 15m vessel is probably on the order of “how much square footage reduction for the hull?” Half the size is about one-quarter the surface area. Fewer trees, fewer fittings, etc. Even so, new it’s probably 7-10,000 hours of labor. We looked in Low-Tech companion and decided that the prices there seemed well-enough underpinned; my initial estimates of cost were based on extrapolating from D&D books, and probably wound up high by an order of magnitude.

Even so: the ship would have likely been worth a whole lot, new. It’s portable (if also poorly maintained) loot. And apparently there’s a story behind it, which we’ll find out in due course. Maybe next session when we pull inti Ainferill.

Another Wizard’s Tale

Over at Don’t Forget Your Boots, they’re also playing in Nordlond. The latest recap features two things of note.

The first is the first-ever use of the Nordalf Warrens that I’ve seen. Those are murder-holes, and while stuffed with treasure, they’re a rough go because while nordalfs (think goblins, small ones) are tiny, there’s always lots of them. And they can use their fae veil and ways in and out of the Svartalfheim fae realm to pop up all over a party with no warning unless there’s another fae-derived person present, like a half-elf or elf.

The other, though, was that the party involved killed the high alfar / Winterfae who was the source of all of this. They did it in a few rounds, and didn’t suffer much for it.

That’s all good, and puts to rest a real pest.

But this particular Faerie, Elunad, isn’t really a fighty-combatant. She also has the entire Mind Control college at Skill-30; her lowest spell colleges are at Skill-22.

And I think the “only” thing she did was throw down a Darkness spell. My NPC notes give her some totally cheating abilities, like two power items rather than one, and something like 175 Fatigue Points on tap if she’s well-rested. And she’s unencumbered with DR 10.

But Charm-30, Mass Daze-30, Mass Sleep-30, or Terror-30? Compartmentalized Mind 1 so she can fight AND cast each turn. And Great Haste so she gets two maneuvers per turn?

This is a problem, and it’s my problem. I don’t think I gave enough ‘do this first’ advice to prospective GMs for using a foe that powerful. Elunad should virtually drown her foes in magic, likely two to four times per turn. Doing so from under cover of Darkness? Sure. But she could also do a pretty good Invisibility, a powerful Windstorm, or with so many FP on tap, throw a hell of an explosive fireball if she wanted to. At Skill-30, her energy costs are reduced by 4 anyway, I believe.

But ultimately, for foes like Elunad and Ynfalchiawn from Citadel at Nordvorn . . . I need to provide some go-to advice for GMs who might not have the entire spellbook memorized or lots of time to prepare an epic fight. Pyramid #3/61 (“Way of the Warrior”) has an article by me on “Takedown Sequences,” which are basically well-drilled self-defense moves. If I’m going to put in a villain who relies on specialty magic with huge amounts of energy reserve to play with, the GM needs more help than “start with Great Haste.”

So also, lesson learned.

Game on!

 

Some of you may notice your blogs stopped showing up in the GURPSDay Feed.

I found the problem and fixed it – the stream was pulling from “oldest” and not “oldest in the last three weeks.” Regardless, I’ve asked it to grab posts from new to old again, which put my own feed back on the charts, as well as some other frequent posters.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.

I got to talk with Che Webster for the third time about a month ago. We talked about adventure design and a few other topics of interest.

As always, Che is a delight. The interview started at 6am my time, so he helped me focus. Some. That was important.

604 Adventures With Douglas Cole

While we’re all sitting at home, Gaming Ballistic has not been idle. Lots going on in the background, some of which I can talk about, some I can’ or it’s not yet time.

Confirmed and Upcoming Projects

In the immediate future, I’ve got three things on my horizon, though some of them may break into smaller bits.

More Perilous Journeys (2020)

The first thing up, and sooner rather than later, is the next installment of projects for The Fantasy Trip from Gaming Ballistic. It features more works by the same author group as last time, and features five more books.

Two are solos by David Pulver. I should be getting the first draft of one of them Any Day Now, and he’ll turn to the other immediately thereafter.

Three are the continuation and conclusion of the Jok Sevantes adventures by Christopher R. Rice and J. Edward Tremlett. I have read and reviewed all three of their submissions. One is in editing with me, the other two went back for revision to the authors with extensive feedback. That is a very normal part of the writing process, and I definitely think that if we can pull off the shared vision of agency, action, and freedom of choice that the revised books promise, they’ll be really fun to play.

One thing I’m going to do a little differently for this project is to have the “books” part of the project run differently than the “stuff” part. So counters and cards that appeared in the Four Perilous Journeys project are still on the docket, but staggered so that the “books” and “stuff” supply chains don’t cross. I think, overall, this will make the projects go more smoothly.

I also have a thought in mind for that “stuff” project, and I’ll bring that up later.

Norðlond Bestiary (2020)

With the bestiary, called the Norðlondr Ovinabokin (Nordlond Enemies Book), I hope to provide a resource for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG that allows folks running games set in Norðlond to just play. Coming up with good adversaries can be very time consuming, and being able to just pick from a list is really handy. That Other Game has had the Monster Manual since I was eight years old – it was published in 1977 – and having that for inspiration and reference was quite handy.

Most readers of the blog know that originally, “The Book of Foes” was written for my stand-alone RPG Dragon Heresy, and has incorporated many of the creatures found in the SRD, eliminated others, and plussed up the sections on regular flora and fauna. Perhaps a third, maybe fewer, of the monsters appeared in the bestiary section of the Dragon Heresy book. But every word of fluff text was new, or modified, to fit the setting.

So there’s a LOT done already, and the biggest job is monster stats. As envisioned, this will be a mighty tome. Lots of critters, lots of stats, lots of art. It’s going to be a big lift and I hope that folks help me by backing the project heavily!

Mission X (2021)

If you were at virtual FnordCon 2 and attended the GURPS panel discussion, you may have heard the wonderful news (for me, anyway!) that SJG has agreed to allow me to create a stand-alone RPG using the GURPS core. It is technically a “Powered by GURPS” product much like the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

Tentatively titled “Mission X,” though it may change by the time it launches, it will be a modern-day action-oriented game featuring a party of trained operatives heading off into the great beyond to obtain technology and intelligence from a hostile universe. If you read my writeups and notes from my Alien Menace campaign (short-lived due to the arrival of my second daughter), you can see that it grabbed concepts and missions from diverse sources, but featured modern weapons, gear, and tactics plus a “kill aliens and take their stuff” theme to help it feel like “the Dungeon Fantasy RPG in space.”

Mission X is going to be more than that, though. I’m envisioning a setup that allows a GM to run modern day Special Ops or SWAT missions, super-spies, and other genres that involve guns. Lots of guns.

My vision for the series is evolving, but I want a faster “on-ramp” for new players, but I also want folks to look and see my imprint on the game, as I finally get some real ballistics in the Gaming Ballistic product portfolio!

Stay tuned. I have to get through quite a bit before I really turn my mind to this, and until I have my own outline for what needs doing, announcing titles or contents of books is premature. Even so: there are several worked-example books already to give the overall ‘what does this need to look like?’ feel. The Dungeon Fantasy RPG obviously; the Dungeon Fantasy GURPS series, Action (the gift that keeps on giving; read my reviews here), Monster Hunters, and After the End all provide a structure that I would be remiss to ignore.

But there are also things I’ve written for Pyramid that are very on point, and other things written by Sean that are even more so. My mandate to borrow is pretty wide, but not all-inclusive. I can’t hardly wait to get started on it, but first things’ first.

Other Projects (2020 and 2021)

There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes, too. While the three items above represent the BIG projects already announced, there are others in the works.

  • I’m chatting with my authors about at least one Nordlond project. All are short-ish, featuring about two dozen pages, providing drop-in flavor to the setting, but exportable outside of it with little work. Some stuff. Some people. Not tied to a particular location or adventure, but rather ready-to-use help in running free-form campaigns. Or inspiring new adventures.
  • I’d also like to port Nordvorn, Forest’s End, and the Dragons of Rosgarth to Dragon Heresy. They’re pre-written and filled with art already, so expanding the ability of folks to play the Dragon Heresy game – with its blend of 5e and GURPS concepts – is handy.
  • There’s another big project still in the discussion and development phase; so much so I can’t discuss it at all. Next year maybe.
  • Venture Beyond is under discussion again with David. We both want to do it and it’s a matter of time and priority. It’s a full-on RPG, and not based on any existing system! Nothing firm as to timing, but it was well advanced when it was back-burnered.

Alternate Crowdfunding Platform

I intend in late 2020 to explore other crowdfunding options more tailored to the RPG space. Some of the post-mortem from 2019 showed that while Gaming Ballistic is capable of producing many volume projects at once (Four/Five Perilous Journeys and Nordlond Sagas), tying them all together in a bundle is complicated and doesn’t allow the kind of delivery flexibility that my backers deserve.

So I’m going to look at Game On Tabletop for at least one project, as the platform combines the crowdfunding capabilities of a Kickstarter with an integrated pledge manager and add-on capability, as well as phased approaches to handling shipping. I want to start small, so I get a feel for the platform on my end, as well as ensuring that the slide over to a new spot that’s not Kickstarter or IndieGoGo doesn’t put too much at risk.

 

I thought I’d try something new: an “unboxing” video for the new adventure books. Overall, I’m quite pleased with how they turned out!

 

That means I now have all four of the Nordlond Sagas physical products in hand. They should be arriving in the UK for shipping Real Soon Now, but overseas transport probably means another 4-6 weeks for the US.

Now there are seven Dungeon Fantasy RPG products by Gaming Ballistic . . . with still more planned.

With the world currently pressing the “pause” button, many conventions have been cancelled, Steve Jackson Games’ FnordCon being one of them.

Originally scheduled April 3-5, it has been re-imagined as a Virtual Convention, to be held on Discord.

The schedule is firming up, and I’m sure SJG will have more to say about it in the coming days.

Virtual FnordCon

April 17-19 on Discord

Gaming Ballistic will be there! I’ll be on a few panels (TFT and GURPS), and my understanding is that there will also be some sort of dealers’ room, with a dedicated channel for dealers, pinned links, and plenty of opportunity to interact with the creators.

In any case, put it on your calendars…and drop on by when the time is right!

I joined Che Webster this morning on his Roleplay Rescue podcast.

He’s in the UK, so the best time for us both was 6am for me, noon for him. It is, after all, a work day.

This means there were a few times I lost the thread; too much blood in my caffeine stream. But by and large, we had a great chat.

Topics?

  • We talked about the Nordlond Sagas adventures
  • This lead into sandbox vs railroad/roller-coaster [1] discussions
  • We touched on The Fantasy Trip and the adventures produced by the Four Perilous Journeys campaign
  • There was a lot of discussion on how RPGs are not TV, and while adventure movies and television have great elements to be mined, translating that into RPG awesomeness requires a different lens

The conversation was pretty wide-ranging, and there were some really fun moments; Che’s a good interviewer and the topic was interesting to both of us.

Look for it in about a month.

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Reviews Starting to come in!

Over at GreysonWHY, we have

Quick Review(s) of The Dragons of Rosgarth, Forest’s End, Norðlondr Fólk, and Hand of Asgard from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG

Then high praise over at Don’t Forget Your Boots. To the North!

If you write a review, let me know. If you use the character-building books, let me know. If you play the adventures, link up your session summaries if you write them!

If you’re interested, you can find the books set in Nordlond on the GB Store:

Adventure/Setting

Rules/Supplement

 

After much toil, four new books in the Norse-inspired Norðlond setting for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG (Powered by GURPS) are now available on the Gaming Ballistic web store in PDF form.

The Dragons of Rosgarth

A dragon has come again to Rosgarth Castle. He hopes to ascend, becoming an Elder Dragon. They ruled the world for countless thousands of years. He believes he has found the way to do it. He may be right.

In the Norse-inspired realm of Norðlond, 100 miles south of Rosgarth, signs and portents, rumors, and reports all say the same thing: If brave thegns do not stop the threat of the dragons of Rosgarth, a new Ragnarök threatens.

112 pages. Full color.

Forest’s End

Far beyond the safety of Audreyn’s Wall, the ambitious noble Dalmar, his wife Freythor, and their lifetime friend and lieutenant Tobias carved a new settlement out of the dragonkin-infested wilderness. The planning and struggle is to come to fruition with a grand celebration in front of the King’s representative. Dalmar will offer up the Konungsgjöf and petition to be named Jarl of Skógurenda: Lord of Forest’s End.

Skógurenda is in peril and does not know it. The only questions are if external or internal threats rip the town apart first … and if a party of adventurers, newly come to the town, are mighty enough to save it.

96 pages. Full color.

Hand of Asgard

Within the book, you will find

  • Customized cleric templates for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, one for each of the Aesir
  • Suggestions for modifying the holy warrior traits to better suit each god, whether they serve the Queen of the World, the Lawgiver, or the Snow Queen
  • More than 20 new Holy Might powers, available to any cleric or holy warrior
  • A guide to the major festivals celebrated during the Norðlond year, honoring each of the Lords of Asgard

16 pages. Full color.

Nordlondr Folk

Inside Norðlondr Fólk, find a whole new world of playable races for your character!

  • 16 templates to supplement and enhance those from Dungeon Fantasy Adventurers.
  • Alternate versions of elves, dwarves, and other races specific to the Norðlond cosmology.
  • Honor your gods: Take on the visage and abilities of their totem animal.
  • Become one of the many hybrid races walking Nordlond: the half-demon eldhuð, dragon-blooded, and more.

16 pages. Full color.

A Word of Thanks

The Nordlond Sagas Kickstarter campaign offered all four of these books. Production was delayed a bit, and then the COVID-19 pandemic made things even harder. Hard-copy versions of each book will be made available, but printing and shipping are probably going to stretch out until May or June at best. The wonderful backers of the project allowed – and in many cases insisted – that the PDFs be made available even without the print books being shipped. So thanks to them for understanding!