I’d been looking for a long time to find a source of very thin hide to try and face-and-back a shield. I had been told by my instructor at Asfolk Viking Martial Arts school that the evidence for a hide-faced shield was hit and miss; some were most likely raw wood, some were rimmed with hide and stitched, some may have been faced, etc. As with most things Viking, the relative paucity of physical artifacts means that every new find brings new and exciting information.
Nonetheless, if you’ve been following this blog at all, you’ve seen my learning the craft of making shields bit by bit, and that I also offer them for sale. One thing that always eluded me – mostly due to a lack of a good source for the hide – was the “parchment-thick” hide that my instructor says would have been used. I use goat hide claimed at 1 oz thickness (about 0.5mm thick) for the edges, but those hides are not large enough to cover a full-sized shield.
My existing “red” shield has been in use for quite a while now, and the edging, though one of my earlier trials, has held up well. I also made a pair of “three fox” shields, one as light as I could make it (less than 5 lbs!) of aspen, with a very light stainless steel boss (5 oz) so that the jarl of the Viking Encampment at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival could march with it, and a much more robust one of poplar, edged in deer hide, with a too-thick robust boss. Even so, that one came in at 7 lbs, which was several pounds lighter than her prior shield, which was too heavy for both performance and parade use.
Bit by bit, I’ve been working out how to improve my viking shields. My poplar edged shield that I made for myself is 5.75 lbs and about 34-34.5″ in diameter, and is still holding up strong after probably a year. Even so, there are issues with it that later commissions have fixed, but not for this one. It was my first attempt using goat hide for edging, and I hadn’t gotten the trick of keeping the edging flat and flush with the edges. The stitching is far too wide per stitch, and of course I re-used a boss that I had with a terribly wide flange, probably making the thing 1/2 lb heavier than it should be.
We had a great day yesterday, driven largely by another stalwart joining the ranks of the Skjald-hirð. He’s asked for a sweet, sweet paint job on his shield, too. Dark blue background, with a gold torc, one boar-head, one deer-head, holding the Ingwaz rune between them. All of these symbolize Freyr, who is Yngwi Lifegiver in Dragon Heresy.
This is a personal shield project I just finished, and except the boss (which I used because I had it; it’s too heavy and too large by far), is a good example of what the shields will look like. The heads here are dragon heads. I can do boars, ravens, dragons, bears, stags, and wolves.
In the background things are moving in terms of production. I got the first edits from Vince in the mail yesterday, looked them over, and found them worthy. He’s tightening up my language and poking at holes in the thought process.
The entire pre-production team: layout, editing, and indexing, is now being brought in on the communications so we can parallel process the assembly and finalization of the book.
That being said, there are things yet to do, by me, from a writing perspective.
I’ve got a neat idea for a way to differentiate between combat prowess and reputation and status. Think of it as an alternate take on “gold for XP” from the old-school days.
I am determined to write and add a small section on flyting – a poetic ritual exchange of insults common in viking lore and culture that provides another avenue to victory other than murder-hoboism. Between fisticuffs, weapons, grappling, and flyting, there are many options for dispute and challenge resolution in Dragon Heresy, which is outstanding.
Finally, I’m going through the monster section and adding “Identify Fiend or Foe” blocks, where the GM will be provided suggestions for tactically useful elements that can be known about monsters and other foes based on background and skill level.
All of this will be worked into the book, and much of it is already budgeted in terms of space and layout, so that won’t change the basic 256-page book size.
As of me typing this, the campaign is just shy of $700 off the $10,000 “more content” stretch goal. If we pass it, I’ll send out a survey to backers with some options of what I can include, which will push the size of the book upward a bit.
I’m not quite ready to formally re-arrange my published stretch goals yet . . . but some quotes came in from printers that were very compelling. Very.
This has led me to look at options for standard and deluxe printing for the Jarl and Styðja tiers that may take a few more days to lock down.
I’ll tell you this, though: the numbers $12,000 and $16,000 are very significant. There’s another point at about $14,500 that’s significant to me as a publisher but not so much to y’all as backers.
I’m iterating with a few different folks on super-cool things to add for your pledge to the $100 tier. Faux-leather covers, or custom slip-cover, or just a deluxe printing with a dust jacket are all being considered. No decisions yet, and being that it’s bearing down hard on quitting time in the EU (all of the super-aggressive bids are from either the UK or Latvia) on a Friday, I might not be able to confirm much before early next week.
But I’m looking for ways to make both the Jarl and Styðja levels even more appealing. Skjald-hirð backers will get anything the Styðja level gets, of course!
The Final Countdown
This it is, and we’re into single digits. Now it’s in the hands of the Norns.
We’re tracking to around $14,000 if things keep on as they’ve been and we hit an uptick the last few days, which is typical. I still hope we can see enough acceleration to hit that offset print goal – I won’t lie to you: I dream of holding that book as specified in my hands!
For now, have a great weekend, and may all your raids be profitable!
If you pledge at the Skjald-hirð level between now and the end of April 15th, you will receive a $50 credit in Backerkit once the campaign ends.
These are pretty close to what the skjald-hirð level gets. The one on the right is my new personal shield, with an extra-large boss I happened to have on hand due to a mistake of the “measure twice, cut once” variety early on in my career.
The one on the left is about 31″ in diameter, good for someone about 5′ – 5’6″, and will be donated to a charity fund-raiser. I’ve got another shield in the works that’s a lower-level model than these (no rawhide edging, but yes stitching) that will also be donated.
I was on a lot of podcasts this week. All different. Our discussion with Eric F on “martial arts in old-school games” was a different type of discussion than the “get deep into the mechanical weeds” with Chris S. Matt and David were both very interested in specifics on shields, while the second part of my discussion with Derek was about getting into, and staying into, the game design space.
A friend of mine told me that he was impressed I managed to cover substantially the same general territory with enough differences to make each podcast worth listening to without being repetitive.
Of course, that has a lot to do with my hosts . . .
Each of these is pretty worth listening to, even if I say so myself.
First, I was on The Established Facts with Derek Knutsen-Frey, whom I’ve gotten to know through the IGDN. We had a long chat divided in two parts: a bunch on Dragon Heresy, and then 45 minutes on game publishing as a business.
Over the weekend and the last few days, I filmed a bit of “Doug talking, mostly about Viking” as something like a “Designer’s Notes,” or really, just talking about the inspiration for the game.
In this particular case, shields had to be more useful than the +5-10% decrease in hit chance that game stats show. I decided to try and find some Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) classes local to me to find out, and lo and behold, I found Asfolk. Not only was it “using a shield,” it was “using a Viking shield,” which fit in with the themes I was exploring for Dragon Heresy.
I think you’ll find Dragon Heresy adds just the right amount of cool options to go along with the shield in the game.
A Nice Compliment
David Pulver is a prolific game writer, and we’ve corresponded about things for a while. Heck, he’s working on a game with Gaming Ballistic, called Venture Beyond. In any case, he has seen some of the early rules and layout work, and he dropped this nice little compliment on my blog. I repeat it with his permission:
“I’m very pleased this is happening at last!
When you showed me the manuscript, one thing besides the new combat options that I was really impressed with was the new rules you added to 5e for marching, exposure, hunting, and so on – I liked the strategic options (trading speed for stealth, etc.) which is good game design. They seemed a lot more detailed and interesting then I recall from D&D (and a lot more playable than anything similar in GURPS). I suspect I might use them even if I wasn’t running a Viking game…”
Next Stretch Goal
Well, we’ve pretty much crushed the $3,500 basic funding goal. I like crushing goals.
The next two are kinda out there. The $10K goal is definitely within reach, and while projections are always uncertain, if we have a few more good days like we just did, we’ll pass the “more content” goal mid-campaign.
If we do, I’ll send out a poll and let folks force-rank what additional inclusions there will be. There are three more extra races, at least a dozen backgrounds, and of course both classes and archetypes/sub-classes ready for inclusion in that sweet spot from Level 1-5. If the time comes, the backers choose the new content!
Beyond that, there’s the offset color print run, hanging out there at $16,000. Truth be told, that’s the one I really want to hit, because I’ve always dreamed of Dragon Heresy getting the kind of quality print job that Symbaroum, ACKS, or the Dracula Dossier’s Director’s Handbook got.
An update: turns out I had more wood than I thought.
1x Poplar experiment. Could be up to 36″ in diameter, good for someone up to 6’4″ tall.
2x 33.5″ aspen. Good for 5’5″ to 5’11”
4x 35.5″ aspen. Good for 5’9 to 6’3″ tall
The smaller shields are going to be donated to the Cyprus Classical Academy silent auction. I will paint one with the Cyprus Logo, and the other in purple, white, and gold, and call it Vikings Squared.
Leave a comment or drop me an email if you’re interested. Tons of pictures of prior examples below the break, as well as a few details on materials.