I’m starting to really see the end of this.

What I’m trying to get done this week:

  1. Backgrounds. Want to get them done, at least to first draft status. (finished 6/15)
  2. Shields. Want to make these decisions, revise the rules, publish them in advance of next month’s games. (conceptually finished 6/15, will ripple changes later Wed)
  3. Character subclasses and multi-class options. Decide what they will be, and start with populating them. (starting Wed night)
How am I doing?

There’s a lot below the break – this is pretty major status report.

Based on the dominating behavior of the shields in last Friday’s game, I knew I needed to revise the rules. As it turned out, I’d confused myself a bit in play, and was running them a tetch wrong. The way I should have been running them made them still good. but much less special than the “U Can’t Touch This” dance that my orc bandit was doing against poor +Tim Shorts. My first revision was fun, and good, but ran into a few problems with application when it seemed that what was good about arrows also applied to true warhammers – what 5e would call a ‘military pick.’ That wasn’t really where I wanted to go.

So naturally I started with special cases, and “this doesn’t apply to X” type exceptions. Well, great. Now you need to break out a freakin’ flowchart or something. And was it really that realistic? This is an SRD5.1 game . . . why is the word “realistic” even in my damn lexicon?

So this morning I just said “forget it. This particular special ability – two of them, actually – makes shields cool enough to be going on with, they’re easy to remember, and everything else just works like the core rules.”

That felt better, the “default” way of playing will then be “it works like everything else,” and you can get on to rolling dice, eating pizza, drinking beer (or the beverage of your choice – for me, it’s Apothic Red), and killing monsters and taking their stuff.

So I think one more editing pass and the shield rules are done.


I’ve got, um . . . 18 of them, which are each wide enough to accommodate tons of things. The Artisan can be a mason, smith, woodworker, or anything like it. The Combatant has a background in organized violence, like a mercenary company, praetorian guard, or grunt soldier. The Ruffian is more personal, less organized. She might have been a gladiator, town guard, bouncer, or thug. Broad enough to allow creativity, defined enough to make it clear that they’re different from each other.

Each of them is pick from the following list of skills . . . with the top choices in bold, but with a few more to round out in case you will already get one of those with your race/class choice.

As noted earlier, I refined my “point allocation” method and inserted that into the text, and have usefully used that to balance, more or less, these backgrounds. That the Acolyte, the one background in the SRD, works out exactly right using this method was not a coincidence.

I have populated Ideals for all of them, as well as the “stat block,” which are the skills, languages, tools, and class feature. Now I have but four more to finish Personality Traits, Bonds, and Flaws. Then I’ll tell my playtest team “Make ’em better” and hopefully get some suggestions of “swap this out with that,” with the notion that once I’ve done the job of actually putting stuff on paper, “change this to X” is a hell of a lot more fair request to make of a playtest team than “invent X for me.”

Subclasses and Multiclasses

The SRD5.1 has the main classes already defined. One of those, though, has been the subject of huge amounts of discussion on the net, and taking that to heart, I found an alternate version that I really like. That meant that an ability usually associated with that class was orphaned, so it migrated over to another class and that defined the second subclass for that one, killing two birds with one stone.

My rogue class picked up a “this is the way people play this anyway” subclass, and since some of the other subclasses feel more like job descriptions to me, I don’t miss their loss. 

I’ll be using what I will call “explicit multclassing” to demonstrate how to get the feel of some of the missing material. I think the half-dozen examples that I’ll put in the book will work out well.

I think this will be a challenging section to write for me. Finding original or at least not-too-badly stolen class abilities, and then balancing them so that they’re appropriately cool for the level, is a new skill for me (“What? I get BASKET WEAVING as my 17th level Druid ability?”)

What’s Next?

Well, if I can get all that done, it’ll be a fantastic week.

What else?


If you’ve been on this blog at all, you know I like to write grappling rules. Given the amount of crap various systems get for them, at worst I’ll be indistinguishably bad, at best they’ll stand out. I’ve already seen in playtest that they work, and since you’ve seen them before if you’ve been paying attention, I know that they should be closer to “stands out” than “lost in the piles of suck.” 

That doesn’t mean people won’t hate them. There hasn’t been a rule published that someone doesn’t hate. But since I try and constantly refer to my rules for grappling rules while revising them, hopefully I won’t go too far astray.

But I did do a fairly substantial pass, based on playtester feedback, on these rules this week, as a parallel effort to the shield and background work. I think I’ve got one or two things left to resolve, mostly in scaling. Two pixies, for example, who are STR 2 and DEX 20, had a hard time resolving their little pixie wrestling match (“In this corner, we have Tinkerbell . . . in that corner, her nemesis Vidia. Let’s get ready to rumble in the sands of Neverland!”) in a way that wasn’t stupid. I think I have a line on fixing this, and that should solidify those rules.

Plus a new Feat that I really should call the Georges St-Pierre, which is actually called Weapon Grappler, that gives people a bit more ability to use their weapons while grappling, as well as enabling certain “sword-taking” moves by making it easier to get in close to an armed foe. That’s such a cinematic classic that I wanted to enable it explicitly. Optionally (because Feats are optional), but explicitly.

Feats, Stunts,  Techniques, Maneuvers . . . 

The question of Feats, and the recent (and excellent) Unearthed Arcana on them, really brought home one thing – make sure that if you’re writing a feat, that it doesn’t carve out something anyone should be able to do and make it only available if you have a certain thing. 

Anyone should be able to Disarm, Trip, perform a takedown, or even choke someone into unconsciousness. Studying it should make you better, but anyone can play.

So I’ll be including a list, likely in the “optional rules” section, that hopefully provides advice on how to structure such things, and a list of examples. I don’t want to call them maneuvers, I like the idea of a nod to GURPS by calling them Techniques, but may wind up calling them stunts. All are accurate.

Spell List Revisions

I’m dreading this. But the changes to the rules – even though I like ’em – make me have to go through a lot of the combat spells and tweak ’em to better fit within the rules structure of the game. This is tedious, repetitive, formulaic work, but needs to be done. 

It’s one of the reasons, actually, that this is a full RPG book and not just a 20-40 page “here’s a rules hack” document or even a blog post. Stopping play to do math because the spell needs to be tweaked to the new concepts? No way. That’s my job to work it out ahead of time for players and GMs, and with the SRD publication, I can do it for my audience’s convenience. 

Setting Details

I have a great history for the setting that gives a lot to hang the games on, and makes “go forth and murderhobo in the wilderness!” not just something you wink at, but an explicit setting feature. A few other things are done that way too – take the conventional RPG tropes and make them setting-supported.

I’ve contracted with a talented cartographer, the first real money I’ve laid out for this, but it’ll be worth it. I already like where it’s headed, and as she says, she hasn’t even started with the real drawing/art yet.

I suspect that I will be pulled between “release the setting as a separate product” and “put it all in the main book” in terms of how I do it. I will likely reach out to industry pros and get their thoughts on this one.

Oh, and I’ll likely have to work out treasure tables and rewards for the setting, since some of the assumptions in that part of the book might not be straight outta the standard guides.

Monsters and Foes

Again, this could be “here’s the setting-specific monster book!” since just the foes in the SRD works out to be 60,000 words long. That’s a lot of stat blocks. 

What I’ll do is likely put in a good cross-section of foes into the main book, so that it’s stand-alone, and then integrate specific regional foes – literally ‘There Might Be Giants here in this part of the wilderness” into the setting book. That way the core book has enough to start, and if you want more detail done for you, you can get it. If you want to go all “it’s my sandbox and I’ll play like I want to,” booyah, I think that’s great.

Magic Items

One of the setting conceits has to do with magic items, and I won’t go into detail. But they’re not sitting on every shelf in every store in the land. So I need to cherry pick.

This, of course, will not be “thou shalt not,” because GMs are going to do what they want – and should – no matter what. But while you can always pull stuff from wherever, having certain things be ‘yeah, this fits’ and certain others be ‘well, that’ll be different-but-cool’ is part of what I think I need to do as a designer.

Optional Rules

There’s been a lot of “wouldn’t it be cool if . . . ” from my playtesters. Some of that I have just said “no.” Some I have included in the primary text. Many more I say “nice, but I don’t want that level of complexity required to play the game, so Optional.”

Then I go and design the primary rule to be the mid-point of where the optional rules will be.

Primary example: shields. The medium shield is the only shield in the SRD. It’s the only shield in D&D5 as well, I believe, though I’m sure somewhere there are rules for other types, because it’s an obvious reality to emulate.

But the primary rules have just the medium shield. The optional ones will include light shields (bucklers, for example) and large shields (tower shields) with rules for those. Great flavor, easy to picture in your head, but “I want a sword, I want mail armor, and I want a shield” is part of the simplicity I’d like to enable in the game, while still giving the nod to more.

It also keeps my focus on easy assimilation of the game, which is a good thing.

Finishing Touches

After that, the primary writing is done, and we’re into pre-production!

  1. I get to work hard(er) with my layout guy to get a preliminary layout with holes for artwork
  2. I have to provide draft art direction for each hole. I’ve been engaging in some conversations with artists, and have generally been pleased. My goal is to put public domain or donated art in the pre-pro draft. I’m not wealthy enough to lay out the estimated $30,000 I’ll need to do the entire book under self-financing a priori. Alas.
  3. Again, post preliminary layout I will also conduct a recruitment drive for phase 2 playtesting, where I ask probably 50 people to play the game as written in the PDF, and come back to me with comments. 
  4. With a prelim layout and more feedback in place, I can engage an editor and an indexer to do professional jobs with this. I can guarantee, though, that my index will be: “Equipment, p. 99; (see also Gear, Crap, and Treasure)” rather than “Equipment: see Gear.” If you can anticipate enough how someone will want to look for something to have an index line for it, you can include a freakin’ page number. 

At some point I will crowdfund with Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. But my goal is to only do this step when I have a PDF that could be sold as is, though perhaps not with the full production values I’d like. Then the crowdfunding effort is “Make it pretty” rather than “finish it, hopefully, one day.” 

I’d hate to incur the Wrath of +Erik Tenkar, after all. 

And I have a title for the game, but have been coy about sharing it. I wonder when the right time is?

I’m looking for links and pointers to any of the following things

  • Verified public domain black and white and color with fantasy themes.
  • Images that you own personally but are willing to donate
  • Images that you own personally and are willing to defer payment on until a crowdfunding event at a later date

In the second two cases, I’d be looking for a non-exclusive use licence. Go ahead and sell it to someone else if you want. If I actively commission a work (which again would be post-funding or under the premise of deferred compensation), exclusivity would be negotiable on a case-by-case basis.

Anyway, my general philosophy is that you can’t eat exposure, but you can certainly die of it. So I want to pay my artists. In fact, I insist on it. But reality, for the moment, suggests I rely on public domain and donated art as placeholders, eventually to be replaced as I can afford based on crowdfunding.

And the sooner I can start working with actual images, the better.

Thanks for any help!

As the light at the end of the tunnel becomes clearer, it appears that to make the book I want to make, I’m going to need art.

Lots of art. (“a Picasso or a Garfunkel!”)

I’m far enough along in the writing process that while I can clearly see that I have a lot to do, it’s a very bounded lot to do. I have setting ideas and I need to put them to paper. I have some more character classes and backgrounds to work out. I have a couple rules to finalize, but mostly they’re done. I have to migrate a few things that my first-round playtesters have brought up (like variant shield sizes and more-detailed rules for relative strength of creatures) into the alternate rules appendix in the back of the book.

+Luke Campbell pointed out a neat alternative to Microcope that’s both free and a bit more on-point for what I want to do for the history part of the project too, called Dawn of Worlds (that link is a direct download, not a landing page – fair warning).

So now I need to start thinking about money. Because for a book that will likely be 200-250 pages when done, sourcing full-color artwork (plus some monochrome) is going to be expensive. So while I’m thinking about budgeting, I started thinking about where other Kickstarters can and have gone wrong. I’ve got a good source for that in +Erik Tenkar, of course, who has kept track of enough kickstarters that he can probably give me a good list of “don’t do X” behavior.

One thing I think I know to avoid is the promise of “goodies” like custom dice or T-shirts. I may well eventually do that, but I think that my first crowd-funding option will be simple. Judge interest, establish a funding base for a company and secure the right IP for what I want to do, and give me the right budgetary outlook so I can look at printing the books. Lulu is clearly an option, but I have to imagine that a full-on printing house will do it for less money, which helps everyone. My (hopefully existent) audience, because a lower price offering will be under more people’s casual spending threshold, and me, because I can still ensure that a profit is made from this, even if it’s a low one. But with nigh-on 100 pieces of artwork needed to fit the bill for the kind of game I want to make, that’s looking like a near five-figure art budget.

I do OK in my day job, but not so much that I can just shell that out casually on my own hook. Well, unless my job lays me off and they give me “a package,” but that opens up an obvious other can of worms. As the old joke goes, the best way to make a small fortune in the games publishing industry seems to be to start with a far larger fortune . . . 

The other thing that I will need to look at is things like indexing. While a good index seems to provoke a satisfied nod from the buying/gaming public, a bad one brings out packs of deinonychuses. Hungry ones. And deservedly so, because nothing is more frustrating than having to look up a rule, checking the index, and then spending the next five or ten minutes of game time bouncing from place to place and just not finding what you know is there somewhere.

I’ve got a good partner in layout, and his preliminary efforts have been very good. We’ve got a suitable first-round cover that I think can be improved but probably doesn’t need to be. 

So I’m kicking off a game, run by me and with as many of my first-round playtesters as possible. The rules aren’t “frozen,” but at this point we’ll be playing the existing 130,000-word draft as-is, with notes on rules changes only impacting the play of the game if the entire table says so, because the current draft is 6.5.7, and the players deserve a non-shifting set of expectations to play in.

But it’ll let me see what the team wants to do. Do they want to hang out and adventure in town? Guess I need a town. And residents. Try and make it through the early levels using the town or nearby fort as a base of operations? That seems reasonable, and so I’ll need maps, bad guys, and a few areas of play. What about if they want to either bring on hirelings or, perhaps, become hirelings themselves? I’ll need some of both in the NPC chapter, then. 

I’m even tempted to break that into two games, running every two weeks interleaved, so that I can see what more than one party will do.

Then, as things get fleshed out, eventually I’ll want to let other people take what can only be described as a beta release and play it without my help or direct consultation. That will probably coincide – or even be part of – the Kickstarter process, where either heavy contributors, the first N contributors, or some combination of both become my broader playtest pool. I won’t be able to get 100,000 playtesters like Fifth Edition, I suspect (and if I do . . . gulp), but a few dozen to even as many as 100 would be spectacular. 

But putting my day job skills to use, the process/project will go according to a definite schedule that I expect to hit, with beta copies, art, layout, and final copies and printing and delivery like clockwork, because project management is what I do for a living, as a manager of $5M capital equipment design and build, process transfer and troubleshooting. I’m not afraid to ask for help and advice (and if you get the feeling that this post is doing exactly that in places, you’re not wrong) from a wide variety of people, and I expect to act on that advice. 

So buckle up, because this is going to be a wild ride. 

I posed a question on Google+ the other day, asking if a blog is to update content at the same time on any given day, when would readers prefer that content to appear.

By a ratio of 66:1, people took the question in the spirit with which it was intended, which was to the good.

Here’s the quick results, which haven’t really changed shape as the tallies went from 25-40 votes to over 60. I doubt more will change it that much.

So, basically 8 in 20 probably would like to see their content appear before they wake up in the morning, so it’s the equivalent of  reading the newspaper at breakfast. This may well be “let me mark things I want to read later by +1’ing them, or noting interest somehow.” 

The next chunk about 5 in 20 – and this did change hands a bit – is the “before noon” crowd, which probably says “I read blogs during lunch, so get your content up before that.

Combined 6 in 20 are afternoon or night-time readers. So really, that 4pm to midnight range is not when people want new content showing up.

But only 2 in 20 look for new stuff from lunch to the end of work. They’re busy in the afternoons, whether it be weekend or weekday.

So “in the AM” is where it’s at. I’m going to assume that midnight to 2am isn’t really in the running, but I’ll ask a more-specific question about when people sit down to read from about 2am through noon, and see what gives. 

Thanks for participating so far.


In other news, I’m going to try and hold to a rough schedule for Gaming Ballistic in 2016. I’ll be playing in more games than last year, which is great. Two GURPS games and maybe a D&D game, each week. Not sure if I can keep up that full pace, but regardless, here’s what I’m hoping to do:

Reloading Press
GURPS Supers Write-up
GURPS-Day, Melee Academy, GURPS 101
D&D Write-up or some other system notes
Sunday Review

The “open” days will either be blank, or if I have an idea that doesn’t fit into another category, I’ll throw it down there. We’ll see if I can keep it going.

Well, here we go, Last day of the year.

So, where did I go in 2015?


I wrote 211 posts in the last year, or about one every 1.75 days. That’s about on my dsired pace of 4 posts every 7 days, so mission accomplished there. 


I only got one or two Firing Squad videos out, and those early on. I had made arrangements to get two more and utterly failed to deliver my usual and desired pace of one every month or two. So that was a miss.

I started playing, and blogging about, D&D Fifth Edition in 2015. Unsurprisingly, these posts utterly dominated my “best posts ever” list due to the huge player base in D&D. My post on the probabilities and math behind The Standard Array rose to become my highest-viewed RPG post. The next-best? Exploring the Advantaged/Disadvantaged mechanic. Two more D&D-themed posts, one on grappling and another using my Horcpower calculator, round out my top 10. The rest are Firing Squad interviews, and the top is a comparison of two real-world pistols on a real-world range. Yeah, there are GURPS stats there, but I think I drew in a lot of people deciding between a Walther PPQ and a Springfield XDM. To quote Tony Start: “Is it too much to ask for both?”

I started to get tired in a blog sense in about June, and I even wrote about it. My daughter was just getting over (or in the middle of?) colic about then, I was travelling a lot, and generally having a rough time. So volume started to decline a bit.

I published a few articles in Pyramid this year – only three, though. They’re fun – Dire and Terrible Monsters was co-authored with Peter. On Target might be my favorite rules hack ever. And Schrodinger’s Backpack was a rare “let’s do less with specificity, rather than more.” I’ve got one more article in the slushpile, but nothing after that, though I’m starting to write a novel alternate set of rules for damage and injury, but I suspect it’ll be quite a while before I up my efforts there. 

I did, however, write 13 posts on comparative RPG design that seem to be well thought of. They were a bloody ton of work to complete, but they helped me flesh out my thinking on RPG combat mechanics, to see where rules matter, where they help, where they hinder, and what works for me from both a design and play perspective. 

I still didn’t get around to finding a Fate, Night’s Black Agents, or Savage Worlds game to try out, which means that some of the writing above was just theoretical.


I’m currently either playing in, or about to play in, two GURPS games and one Basic D&D game. 

I would love to get in on another D&D5 game. I enjoy that system, and the Majestic Wilderlands game that +Rob Conley was running was great fun. Real Life killed that one for many of the players, and we’ve not made the effort to restart it.

The GURPS Castle of Horrors game is struggling a bit. The game is very house rule intensive, and some of the mechanics (Path/Book Magic, a new system for determining number of hits for high-rate attacks, Technical Grappling) require a certain amount of mastery to pull off smoothly. Plus the interface (combo of MapTool and Skype) often leaves something to be desired, and a lot of silence due to lack of clues. And we rarely finish a combat – we tend to call it as “the tide has turned.” This can be frustrating, and we’re in the process of figuring that out. 

Plus,  more philosophically, I think I have an issue with “fish out of water” campaigns in general. I designed my own character, of course, but I made a fairly mundane former special ops, SWAT, private investigator type. He’s got some melee skills, is very, very good with a rifle, and he’s one of the few with Tactics (which we always forget to roll). But this makes for very bimodal fights. Three 7d6 attacks against any mundane creature is pretty much “deader than hell in one round.” Any non-mundane creature tends to be immune, and that puts me in the “flailing around with limited armor – though we fixed that recently – and a sword that I’m not great with.” 

The upcoming game will be +Christopher R. Rice running a Supers game, also in GURPS. This is going to be very eye-opening for me. The highest point totals I’ve played or GM’d with in any GURPS 4e game top out in the 250-400 point range. As a player, I think Cadmus the Warrior Saint was the highest. 

My PC in the upcoming game is just shy of 900 points before he straps on a powered armor suit that adds about 300 more. I’ll probably write more about him in the future, but I want to play a few games and let that settle out.

The final Basic D&D game is with +Jonathan Henry, and it’s got a strong nostalgia factor. Basic D&D has few hard-and-fast rules, so there’s a lot of GM arbitrage. Characters are very fragile, which is part of it. So that one’s just like buttered popcorn to me.

I hope to get my daughter into RPGing this year. Maybe a Fate superheroes game, which would give me a chance to play/run Fate, and the rules-light nature of the system should allow her age group to rock out. More boardgames with her as well – she’s taken to Pandemic like a fish to water, and we were gifted with King of Tokyo, Rampage, and Castle Panic for Xmas this year. Maybe get her into X-Wing Miniatures, since she loves Star Wars too.

Looking back at 2015, it feels like it was worse than it was. I mean, +Jeffro Johnson hit me with the #3 spot in his Blog-olympics for the year (I was #1 in 2014 on the strength of the Firing Squad interviews, and #3 for Violent Resolution), so there was something valuable there. I had some of my most widely-read posts as well, thanks to branching out into D&D. 

But with a severe injury setting in for the last quarter (I blew myself up on Oct 6, 2015), sitting at the computer has felt like a chore. I did write 37 posts in that time, or about 2.5 days between posts. But that’s why it seems slow, I guess – that’s a significant slowdown from my usual pace.

I think I need to return to my prior habits. Two gameplay writeups a week, and two or three RPG content articles. The Melee Academy and GURPS 101 (maybe expand that to Gaming 101?) series were quite fun and popular, and those haven’t seen real attention for a while.

So, 2015 felt like a loss of focus. 2016 needs to get it back.

Challenge accepted. Happy New Year!

When I wrote Technical Grappling for GURPS, I had a basic design philosophy: use the same concepts as a striking roll – attack, defense, damage – to inflict a variable amount of effect on your foe. In this case, the effect is control and restraint, rather than injury.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto liked the concept enough to strip it down a bit and use it to great effect in his Dungeon Fantasy campaign.

I wanted to see if I could break into the D&D world a bit, and when I saw that Swords & Wizardry, my reintroduction to the D&D world courtesy of +Matt Finch, has some mechanical issues with the grappling rules, and that D&D5 was interesting but not that much better, I decided to collaborate with Peter and see if we could bring TG to D&D.

We decided on the OSR and Swords and Wizardry rules because they’re simple. One can extrapolate from S&W to other editions of D&D because you can add stuff. Feats if you’d like, treating monsters (which in S&W have a fairly minimal stat block) like characters, or using D&D5‘s Conditions to define results? All of those can be added to the system, but stripping them out to play S&W would be quite difficult on the fly.

In any case, Peter’s big on just enough rule for the job, so he’s a perfect compliment to my tendencies to the reverse.

I hope you like Gothridge Manor #8 – go, um, grab it, wrestle it to the ground, and let us know what you think!

New blog alert!

+Michael Eversberg II is blogging, and covering topics near and dear to my heart. Weapons, guns, fighting, GURPS, and he’s got d20 stuff in there too.

Go check out his stuff, and you’ll find longish, well thought out posts covering a lot of combative stuff.

Chain Link and Concrete. Go read it.

This was far too long in coming, but in January, the Firing Squad welcomed +Brian Engard, and we discussed game design, self-publishing, and how to broaden the gaming market, among other topics. It’s about a 90-minute interview.

I interacted with Brian first as a contact about the interview with +Steve Jackson, only to discover that Brian has a ton of notches on his belt, from design work with +Leonard Balsera on Fate Core, as well as Spirit of the Century and Shadow of the Century, and Strange Tales of the Century.

He’s also self-published a very different kind of game, called Becoming, which is part improv theater, part RPG, and likely different than anything that you’ve seen before.

Give a listen!

MP3 Audio File

Text Transcript

Douglas Cole (Gaming Ballistic): Good evening and welcome to Gaming Ballistic’s Firing Squad. Tonight we are joined by Brian Engard. Game designer and marketing guy for Steve Jackson Games. Brian, welcome.

Brian Engard (Steve Jackson Games): Hi. How’s it going?

Douglas: Good. Thank you for joining me. One of the reasons why I jumped in and wanted to chat with you is because I saw your Daily Illuminator, where you talk a little about yourself and your games. I didn’t really put all the pieces together until I went and got my copy of Fate, and “Ha! There you are.” I know that Leonard was very much involved. Tell me a little bit about Fate, Shadow of the Century, Spirit of the Century, and what’s your history with Fate, Evil Hat, and Spirit of the Century? Continue reading “The Firing Squad welcomes Brian Engard”

On December 28, 2012, I made my first post to this blog. My first year seemed to go pretty well.  Looking back, over GB’s second year, how did I do? Was it worth it, and is it still?


Well, start with my own content. Including this one, I’ll have made 474 posts total, or an additional 224 posts. Slightly off pace, but averaging 1.6 days between posts, or 4.3 posts per week. That still exceeds my goal of about a post every other day, so that’s fine.

I tried to to continue my posting of one or two actual play reports, and a couple of gaming articles, and some entertainment/inspiration pieces. The birth of my second daughter in June threw me off my pace for a bit; as well, work heated up and I have not had as much time in the evenings to sit down and really focus on content creation. Still, my posting velocity seems good, so it’s really been other things that have suffered. A project that should have been completed a long time ago needs to be polished off, and I’ve got a few articles and books I’d like to write that are still in the “when I have time” stage.

The Melee Academy joint blog posts still occur, as do GURPS 101-type posts. I’ve thrown down a few “opinion” pieces (but not many), which generated a lot of response/discussion/argument. All well and good. 

I’ve also started some commentary and reporting on D&D-flavored games, both S&W as well as D&D 5th edition. Given the overall size of the D&D and derived segment relative to GURPS, it’s no surprise that they are among the favorite posts of all time. In my Top 10 since the blog’s inception, five are Firing Squad interviews, one is my Walther PPQ range report post, one is Technical Natasha, and the remaining three are two posts on D&D5 and one on the S&W B-team – an actual play writeup that hit over 800 views.

That’s not to say my GURPS content is unappreciated, but it’s clear that the market is dominated by D&D.

The big add, and dominating my Top 10 list, has been fourteen additional interviews on Gaming Ballistic’s Firing Squad. These are tremendous fun to do, and get very good response when I do them. They aren’t going away any time soon, though I can always use suggestions – or volunteers, for that matter – for people to interview. I’m hoping that they’re popular enough that I can score a few more big names. I did get Ken Hite and Steve Jackson in the last year, and that was great.


I increased my readership over the prior year. While in my first year, Blogger put me at 125,000 pageviews, this year I increased that to about 318,000, which at 193,000 more is more than a 50% increase in pageviews using their algorithm. 

Google Analytics clocks in lower. It puts me at about 101,000 pageviews in the prior year, compared to just shy of 70,000 for my first year. And from 14,000 to 43,000 “users,” which is a 200% increase. That’s good growth for any business. 

Using the number of “sessions” launched, I increased that from 108 to 175 per day. Great growth, but still a modest total. My best week ever was when I threw down some numbers and thoughts on DnD5’s Basic Set, which earned me something like 300 sessions per day for a week. Again: market matters.

I about doubled the number of comments received, but that doesn’t count people who only comment on Google+. The comments made there are good stuff, but not captured in my records. A brief flirtation with all G+ commentary using that feature on the blog proved unsatisfactory to me.

The big news for the year was that I got some recognition. +Charles Akins pegged mine as one of the Top 10 blogs everyone should be reading in a guest column over on ENWorld, This says something given that a lot of my content is GURPS. +Jeffro Johnson also did me the honor of naming mine the Best Gaming Blog of 2014, thanks in largest part due to the Firing Squad interviews in general, and my interview with +Steve Jackson in particular. I’ll note that his #2 was +Peter V. Dell’Orto, who’s content probably beats mine, but Jeffro’s interest is captured by the “journalism” that I do.

The Future

Once again, I’d like to get back to both running and playing games in 2015. I had a brief campaign going, Alien Menace, which spawned some really good ideas and fun play reports. Also got me involved with VTTs as a GM rather than as a player. I remain convinced that sanctioned VTT support in some or all of the major programs would do a ton to bring people into using GURPS. You don’t need it, but having played some really cool D&D style games on Roll20, it can really help. Even if you’re +Tim Shorts and are a strange attractor for quantum 1’s.

My interview pace was good this year, clocking in more than one per month on the average. They do tend to be “bursty,” and I’ll land a few, and release them pretty much close together, and then pause to catch my breath. I’ve gotten the form and format down better, but the transcribing, even with +Christopher R. Rice‘s able help, takes a long time. Plus, I’ve started adding more “post-production” work to the video itself, as seen in my interviews with +Steve Jackson and +Hans-Christian Vortisch . I like the look of that very much, and will continue to do it – though it makes for several-to-many late nights, plus taking nearly overnight to spool to the final MP4.

I’ll try and get back to a couple play reports per week. I’ve joined +Ken H‘s DnD5 group, and they seem to not hate me. I jumped in at 5th level with a Fighter, so my character is simple but it gives me a good feel for the basics, which is what I wanted. I’ll also continue to play, in all likelihood, in a weekly GURPS game. 

I still wish to join someone’s FATE game, as well as Night’s Black Agents, for enough time to get used to the system. I want to take a look at the most popular games over the last few years and get familiar with them, because if I’m going to continue gaming journalism, I want to be more broad than GURPS and D&D. Though I have played Pathfinder in the past, and participated in a brief Trail of Cthulhu game, both with +Jeromy French at the helm. But there are other games/systems I should probably be more familiar with.

In terms of my other writing projects, non-blog related, I continue to collaborate usefully with +Peter V. Dell’Orto, and will continue to do so, I hope. There are a few other things in the works, and I’ve got, oh, maybe four to six Pyramid articles already in to Steven, if not yet with any sort of idea as to when they’ll be published. Three of them I really can’t wait to get into print; they represent some really good tinkering. A few more are just fun. One big one needs to figure out what it wants to be.

There’s one honest-to-goodness book I’d like to write or help with, as well, that I think would be a hoot. Plus, there’s a short article for another game system that I think could really be a thing

Oh, and one more: I got invited to contribute a freakin’ column somewhere. I have a title/concept, and I’m working some thoughts on topics. I’ll build up a head of steam, a buffer or slushpile, as it were, and then start releasing them. Look for that in 3 months or so, ’cause you know I’ll be talking it up when it comes out.

Parting Shot

Thanks to all those who read (and share!) this blog with me. I’m certain had I not gotten such good feedback from everyone, I’d have just stopped doing it. I hope to grow and grow the blog’s scope and content, and I’m always looking for a line on fun interviews.

I love hearing from people, and even criticism is quite useful, as are suggestions of what to look at next. I’m always itching for more topics! Thanks for coming by, and here’s to another great blog year!

+Jeffro Johnson put together his list of best blogs of 2014, and much to my surprise (especially since I had no idea this was being considered) Gaming Ballistic was his top choice.

He was quite clear on his reasons, though: #1 on the list was my interview with +Steve Jackson, and the rest of the Firing Squad journalism a close second.

But I also have to give a proper shout-out to +Peter V. Dell’Orto, who (if you check back to 2012) got me into blogging just shy of two years ago. His content on Dungeon Fantastic is uniformly interesting, and from the perspective of a very experienced GM and writer of fun, playable rules. In fact, his touchstone post, “Has That Problem Come Up In Actual Play?” is such a good read and bit of advice when thinking about starting a Forum flame war that I try and refer to it as often as possible, both in my commentary on replies to mechanics questions, as well as when I write rules.

I’ve benefited tremendously (and still do) from my collaboration with him – in fact, we have at least two or three co-written projects in the hopper right now.

Anyway, once again: thanks to Jeffro for tapping my blog as interesting, and I’ll be sure to make more use of the Recommend pathway to link to my stuff in the future! Be sure to go read all the stuff on the list, though – uniformly good, and as +Kenneth Hite noted in my interview with him, being widely and deeply read on any subject is its own reward.