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.

For all that, it’s a good shield. Still: I want to try a new one. Why? Read on. Continue reading “Viking Shield Upgrade Experiment”

What Now?

Breathing is good and important. It’s been a real sprint here at Gaming Ballistic since April 1. That day, SJG and Gaming Ballistic announced the conversion of Lost Hall of Tyr to the Dungeon Fantasy RPGand the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set went live on Kickstarter.

Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment

A month later, I’d met the goal for an offset print run, and got busy – very busy – finishing up the PDF for Dragon Heresy. The PDF went out to backers on June 17; the printable PDF (higher resolution but flat file with no hyperlinks) went to AsiaPacific Offset on June 18. The Hall of Judgment Kickstarter launched June 19.

That one was my best Kickstarter yet. More backers than any of my prior projects by a long way, and frankly, a better “mix ratio” of print to PDF than other projects as well. Nearly 2/3 of backers wanted a physical copy of the book. My best estimates put that mix at 50%. Also: there were 1,587 backers of the box set RPG: 1/3 of that number is 529, which is coincidentally exactly the same number of backers that Hall of Judgment got. Since the typical group seems to be about 5 people including the GM, really anything more than a 20% hit rate is amazing, and Hall of Judgment did quite a bit better than that!

Fulfillment

The Dragon Heresy books are “on the water,” and should arrive at Studio 2 on October 8. I’ll get a sub-shipment of 320 books a few days later, so by the end of that week, I hope to have all domestic books in the mail, which means that with little room to spare, the “October” promised delivery date for all rewards will be met.

The first two cartons of Hall of Judgment (about 120 books) arrived at my house yesterday, and all of them but a few have been boxed up and mailed off already. The remaining five cartons should arrive at my house by noon today, and I will begin the process of finishing up shipment there. Folks will start receiving their books next week, then, and might extend into the 3rd week of September. The promised delivery date for rewards was August; some of our not-the-USA friends did actually get their physical copies in the trailing days of August, and I apologize to the US crowd for the month of delay. I do think, however, having finally held the book in my hands, that you will be pleased.

That does mean, though, that I’ve been hard at it for six months straight. It’s been a wee bit of a sprint, especially with a day job. But now my kids are back in school again and my schedule should be normalizing. I hope. That means my breather, such as it is, is over. Continue reading “A Pause to Breathe: OK, that’s done”

This will likely be the most eventful two weeks of Gaming Ballistic’s existence, as physical fulfillment begins on two core products.

Lots of things going on, all at once.

Dragon Heresy

Printing is complete. The final tally was 1,530 books printed, which is 2,219 kg of books. Two and a quarter metric tons.

Of that total, perhaps 250-300 are currently spoken for between the backers of either Dragon Heresy or Hall of Judgement, plus the comp copies for contributors.

To deal with that, I entered into an agreement with a distribution company to push the books into retail! This is exciting for me, and the terms are good. Soon, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches and the books are in hand, we might start seeing Dragon Heresy on store shelves.

Speaking of which I dropped by Mind’s Eye Comics here in Burnsville, and the new owner Chris and I hit it off pretty well. I suspect I’ll be a regular fixture there, as my daughter loves comic books, and enhancing the presence of gaming and comics in Burnsville, specifically the Burnsville Center Mall, seems like a win to me.

But . . . there will be one-week “get all the paperwork straight” hold, then the books will go three places. To my house (320 books), to Dice Latte in Korea for international shipments (50 books), and the balance into distribution. I will also begin the process to get things carried on Amazon.

Based on probable outcomes, I suspect everyone will have their books by mid-October. Not early, but not late. A Wizardly kind of pace, I suppose.

Hall of Judgment

As anticipated, today I got pinged by the printer in the UK about what to do about the books. I was ready, and closed the pre-orders for Hall of Judgment in Backerkit, delivered the list of “not-the-US” backers and my home address to Kixto (fulfillment company, also in the UK), and provided the required addresses and contact information to get 500 books from the UK to the UK, which really ought to be in the “not hard” category.

I will have a cost estimate by the middle of next week, and shipping should begin by the end of next week. The international books (107 books to 103 backers) will thus start their journey. Some may arrive the first week in September – there are 24 backers in the United Kingdom and there’s no real reason why Royal Mail should take that long to get things in place. Beyond that, it will be a bit of a random number generator, but most international folks should get their stuff in September.

For US backers, let’s assume it takes the better part of a week (first week of Sept) to airmail the stuff to me and then take delivery at my home; most of that is likely paperwork related, since actual travel time from fulfillment to airport to airport to my house is probably 12-24 hours. In any case, once they arrive, I’ll do the Backerkit postage thing (I’ve got my label printer all ready) and get those in the mail. From there, Media Mail is usually less than two weeks. So the US books should arrive in hand by mid-September as well.

Dungeon Grappling and Lost Hall of Tyr

There are perhaps 50 folks that ordered hardcopy of Dungeon Grappling and Lost Hall of Tyr along with the other two kickstarters. I will begin shipping all copies of these books to international backers this week. Those that ordered hardcover will get them fulfilled through DriveThruRPG premium, as that’s the best way to get it to you for not-ridiculous money.

The rest will ship out with HoJ or DH orders, packed together.

New Plans

The next move for Gaming Ballistic is to look into some new projects. I’ve already got at least four concepts being worked, and more news on that when I can say something.

Next I convert Hall of Judgment into Lost Hall of Tyr (Second Edition). This brings all of the work done on Hall of Judgment back into the Dragon Heresy fold. It converts backwards from the Dungeon Fantasy RPG and makes LHoT into a more sandboxy experience instead of the convention-style linear adventure. There are some things I have to work out – the LHoT original layout was 8.5×11, while HoJ was 8×10, for example – but once those decisions are made I should be able to convert HoJ to LHoT(2e) fairly quickly.

Anyone with a PDF of Lost Hall of Tyr (first edition) will get an upgrade for free. The new 2nd Edition upgrade will more directly support Dragon Heresy by tweaking the challenges of the adventures into the 1-5 range supported by the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set.

Not sure the timeline on this, but since books are probably arriving in October, well, that seems appropriate, doesn’t it?

It was the moment I’ve been waiting for, and it arrived today. The first six copies of the fully-printed, smyth-sewn, entirely freakin’ awesome Dragon Heresy Introductory Set arrived today by FedEx.

I am utterly blown away. This is a book I think anyone would be proud to put on their shelf. Even better, to take out and play. The production values are ridiculously good. Yeah, I know, it’s my book, but wow.

I’ll put two pictures above the fold, then a bunch more below.

As I said to a backer on my Discord channel: I pulled out all the stops for this book. Every time I had a choice to make between “awesome” and “merely satisfactory” I went with awesome.

I don’t regret it one bit. Neither will you.

(If this looks like something you want on your game store shelf – and you know you do – please contact me directly and we’ll make that happen.)

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy Advance Copies Arrive!”

Just for giggles, after a quick conversation with an interested party on Facebook, I decided to see how much it would take – cost and price wise – if Gaming Ballistic were to produce a boxed set similar to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

I used an online quote generator to look at the cost of standard boxes. One thing about this: there’s usually a good correlation between availability of an online quote generator and not being the best pricing you can find. Even so, upper bound.

I looked at custom-sized boxes. No. Don’t go there. Wow. So we look at 10.5 x 10.5 x 2″ box, and find that in quantities worthy of making a boxed set (1,000-1,999) we’re dealing with about $4 each for the box itself.

Hrm. OK. Looking at prior quotes of mine, and assuming either a 96-page book or a 128-page book, with good production values in 8×10 size. Hrm. The actual production cost is about $2 per book (slightly less at 96 pages, and slightly more at $128), but the place where you get bit is shipping the books to the publisher, which itself is about a dollar per copy pretty much regardless of size.

Let’s say we need four books, averaging about 112 pages each (so right in the middle). A characters book, an action book, a technology book (let’s say we’re doing a modern action game), and a foes book (a hypothetical Bug Hunt-ish game similar to my Alien Menace campaign would need information on worlds and aliens; alien tech would have to be squeezed in somewhere too). Four books at $3 production cost each. That’s $12 for books, $4 for the box. $16 total cost. Scope creep might push that higher if the books get thicker. An extra dollar per book would say $20 total cost.

So to survive a distribution model, that means a price tag of $80-100 for a “complete setting and rules set in a box” that would be a slimmer, books-only thing comparable to the DFRPG. No dice, nothing that can’t itself be sold as a book with an ISBN on it for Reasons (taxes, inventory, etc; “books” or “collections of books” are exempt from VAT in many places, but throw not-books in there and you make things more challenging).

Interesting. If the fan base would groove on it ($80-100 is still less than the three comparable books at full retail for DnD5e, and about what you can get the three books for at Amazon – $88 all told) it seems like a viable option.

The costs to produce it would be high. To get component prices in the right ballpark, you’re dropping about $16-20 x 1500 sets: $24,000-30,000 right there. You’re also notionally making about 400-500 pages of material, and PDF development costs as I’ve noted are $100-150 per page. So $40,000 to as high as $75,000 to make the thing. Total spread of production costs: $65,000-105,000.

Even at $100 per box, that’s 650-1050 backers required to get there.

That’s still a big lift. Not insane, but not yet proven: my best-ever crowdfunding has drawn about 550 paying customers. I’d need to double that, which means a very large interested mailing list. Probably double or triple what I have now.

Still . . . not out of possibility. But not right now.

Fold and Gather samples for Dragon Heresy are here!

So, it’s one thing to look at individual pages. It’s one thing to look at a PDF on the screen.

It’s quite another to get the entire book very nearly as it will appear in my hands.

Without further blather on my part: pictures.

OK: one bit of blather. I cannot wait for the proofs and finals to be ready. This is going to be a book of which folks take notice. And y’all made it happen.

Lots more pictures below the break…

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy: Fold and Gather samples arrived. Wow.”

There are some parts of the production of a book that are just no fun at all.

I’m in a few of those parts.

Hall of Judgment

Oh, sure . . . it’s getting done. Bit by bit. I should have another major revision to Hall of Judgment done either late tonight or tomorrow. Hopefully tonight (assuming my cat gets off my manuscript, but there are fairly sure-fire fixes for that).

But this is the part where you read . . . each . . . word . . . carefully to make sure things are just right, and you still manage to miss stuff.

But what’s going on and changed from last time?

  • Lots of revisions to the Backer Credits
  • Updated the front matter to hopefully include all my contributors
  • Updated all of Glynn’s maps to tweak out a few things, like labels
  • Lots of final editing and small corrections
  • Removed some DnD-isms from things
  • Rewriting some descriptives to ensure they jive with the evolving monster bits
  • Completely re-did the cover . . . and got word from the printer that it looks pretty good

There might be other things too. But I still feel like I’m on track to deliver the finished product to backers next week, on schedule.

Dragon Heresy

We’re in a bit of a dead zone here. The “F&G” (Fold and Gather) milestone “should be” coming up by Friday. If those are OK (and I’m not sure if I get samples or no), I give the “OK to bind” with the first advanced copies of the book arriving to me at the end of the first full week in August. If that’s what I think it is, it’ll be the first time I hold Dragon Heresy as it’s meant to be (well, as the Introductory Set is meant to be!) in my hands. That will be a good day.

Other Things

As with many others, I was saddened to hear that business conditions have led to the shuttering (at least temporarily, but plan for the worst, hope for the best applies) of Pyramid Magazine.

I got my start there, and in a very real way, a succession of Pyramid editors taught me how to write and organize text. I list my 13 Pyramid articles proudly on my resume, and in no small part, I know that my history with Pyramid plus my playtesting org skills got me the nod to be the first third-party publisher for the DFRPG.

It served as a garden where the seeds of future authors were sown and watered, and those of us that had been published there would frequently go out of our way to help others. For 25 years, it was a monthly dose of GURPS and Powered by GURPS.

Alas, and farewell.

Hall of Judgment Character and Monster Templates taking shape

I’ve been working on the writing, which is now in the “I have something for everything” stage, and now turning to editing and converting from Fifth Edition/Dragon Heresy to the DFRPG/Powered by GURPS stats and difficulties. That starts, well, now.

The other big thing I did was structure the creature and pre-gen templates in InDesign. This was (and will continue to be) laborious, but there’s nothing to be done about that.

In any case, here’s a preview. Starting with one of the Pre-Gen characters that will appear in the book, using the Wrestler template from Pyramid #3/111

And a sample monster, with bonus stock art from the always excellent Dean Spencer

Things may indeed shift around, but I kinda like ’em both.

This update will be quick, because I’ve got writing to do today. Plus, you know: day job.

Hall of Judgment: We passed $10K this weekend, passed the total number of backers and pre-order backers from Dragon Heresy, and that’s amazing. Keep it up! In terms of forward progress, I can say that I’m basically down to writing the encounter descriptions for the last half of the ruins, and filling out encounter details for the two bonus mini-dungeons. Glynn and I had an actual video call last night to chat about doing something cool with the mini-dungeon maps but respecting the boundaries of scope. Scope creep makes for unhappy artists, and I like my artists happy. I have two finished maps in hand, one in progress, and I need to provide sketches for the final two. After the encounter descriptions are done, it’s all mechanical conversion work: stat blocks and difficulty tests and skill level penalties. The most difficult part here will likely be doing a visually interesting but still fairly simple presentation for monsters and characters from a layout perspective; I have ideas and sketches, but I’m not an Illustrator or InDesign professional and that will be, mostly likely, a full day of pain for me. Once it’s done, though: lather, rinse, repeat. Then some final playtesting, comments, etc. I’m talking to printers and fulfillment services in the UK; I think I can manage to get “not the USA” shipping down to a flat $15 or so. That’s not spectacular, but it’s not horrible. Still working it. I don’t like $15 shipping for a $25 book, though. UK shipping from the UK would still be about $8. It’s all very complicated.

Dragon Heresy Introductory Set: I pushed the very truly final PDF to backers and the 300dpi/200MB PDF-X/1a file to the printer. I received “wet proofs” of the cover (gorgeous!) and digital proofs of specified pages (mostly outstanding; two key images were too dark for my taste and I asked them to adjust). They forgot to send me wet proofs of the color end sheets, and are rectifying that. I suspect we’ll be out of proof phase by next Monday, which means into print phase. From there, it would be a few weeks to print and validate the books. Once I finalize what is to be printed, I will need to lock down addresses and make arrangements to split the order for international backers. That’s on me, though, and I have a plan.

Venture Beyond: No link for this one (yet), but David and I had a few exciting conversations about Venture Beyond, and things are moving again. That’s good news.

Other Product: I will probably take a short breather when I get DH and HoJ finished. There are things I’ve been putting off a bit that need to happen at home. But after that, I have at least two Dragon Heresy/Etera (and maybe Norðlond?) modules to write, and one of those, The Citadel at Northwatch, has enough done on it already that it should be a fairly quick writing job. The pattern I’m using for Hall of Judgment – details about a town or towns for expanding the background, local color, and important personalities, followed by the adventure, and then a bestiary if needed, is a good outline and I intend to repeat it. I had a conversation with an old friend who reminded me of a campaign I ran a while back, and how it would be amazing as a stand-alone RPG. So it would. I’ve got at least five (including Venture Beyond) concepts or projects on the “let’s consider this” burner that are written by not-me.

Gaming Ballistic: I have to say it: with revenue from Dragon Heresy and the HoJ Kickstarters looking to be something on the order of $25,000 between the two of them, it would appear that on a single-year basis, we’re steaming towards being profitable in 2018. If DH and/or HoJ (especially DH, since I will have over 1,000 books in my basement) moves successfully into distribution, Amazon, and other vectors, that could get even better, perhaps erasing the net-negative total cash flow since GB was started. It usually takes 4-5 years for this transition, and I’m looking good for doing that on schedule. Knock on wood and all that, but 2018 feels like an inflection point. We shall see.

We hit $10,000!

I mean, the trajectory and usual Kickstarter behavior (where your last two days are about 60% of the first two days) suggested this anyway, but still, seeing it is astounding. We also surpassed the total number of backers for Dragon Heresy, my full 288-page RPG, which was 328 during the campaign itself, plus a few pre-orders. We’re at 334 as I write this, which means no matter what, we’ve passed both.

The next “can we get there” milestone is to pass Dragon Heresy in terms of funds raised, which is a higher challenge. Our first two days were astounding: $6566 raised! Then we kept up at a $440 per day rate for the next 6 days, and since then, the pledge rate has leveled to $200 per day. The final two days can be up to 70% of the first two . . . or they can be “just another day.”

That means that at the low end, the next 13 days of the campaign could bring in another $2,500 and 85 people . . . which is awesome no matter what. Or they could bring in another $7,300. Who knows! The key will be getting the word out, and that depends on you more than me.

In any case, the campaign has already been very successful, and each day makes it more so.

Printing and Shipping

I had a question come up on the SJG Forums, and I thought I’d open the kimono a bit more about where we are, and where we might go.

I have four vendors I use for printing. DriveThruRPG, Publisher’s Graphics, a UK company that does short-run, high-quality digital print (Call it Company C), and a Hong Kong company that only deals in 1000+ quantities (call them Company D).

DriveThru and PubGraphics both have online quote generators open to all. DriveThru uses Lightning Source for printing, which has a UK branch; this means “not the USA” uses Royal Mail for shipping, which is much less expensive to y’all. A full 30% of backers to this project fall into that category (double the usual!) so this is a real consideration; the lowest cost to get a package out of the US to London by USPS is about $25. Royal Mail does that for $5-6.

But printing! The basic factor here is the quality and cost per book. I find PubGraphics quality superior to DriveThru. The paper is a bit better, the binding MUCH better, and the color more vivid. They’re also roughly 2/3 the price per book, but charge a setup fee. In short, somewhere between “I order 8” and “I order 32,” it’s cheaper to order from PubGraphics even including the ridiculous shipping cost to get it out of the USA.

But I will be ordering a minimum of 200 books, because you guys are great.

Let’s hit the other extreme. I can’t order fewer than 1,000 books from Company D. So that’s a dollar amount threshold, full stop. That, however, means that I will have something like 700 books sitting in my house. If I can sell them? FANTASTIC. That’s extra revenue, and the cost per book easily supports a distribution model. That’s an additional $7,000 in revenue (with associated licensing fees to SJGames!) over time, though not front-loaded like the Kickstarter.

In the middle, between 345 orders and about 720 orders, we have Company C. Their stuff is going to arrive with much thicker paper (140gsm vs 105gsm; 93# paper vs 70# for us Americans) and still be perfect bound like DriveThru and PubGraphics. Originating in the UK means that the costs for international shipping are lower, though I will need to find a good partner to split off 30% of the orders and get them to international folks.

So where are we for printing? We’re just at the cusp of kicking over into the wide territory where Company C wins the cost/quality battle. If I wind up ordering about 50% more books than actual print backers, then once we hit 230 print backers, we upgrade to the thicker paper. At 475-480 print backers, we get the sewn binding.

I’m working now to find a good partner for this in the UK. If you know of one (a game store that also fulfills international orders at a reasonable cost, perhaps), please let me know.

Nerdarchy!

I was on Nerdarchy on Friday, and we had a good conversation. There was a lot of stuff on shields and D&D, because that’s the crowd. I tried to keep the conversation at least mildly focused on Powered by GURPS and the DFRPG, though!

Progress

Writing continues, as does map creation. I just did a quick layout trial, and the current text – with no maps or art of any sort – runs over 75 pages. Add on the “Thegn of Your Own” backers, five full-page maps, six half-page encounter maps and we’re at 88 pages with zero artwork. Given I like to put something every spread or two, if we budget a quarter-page of art every four pages you’re dealing with another five or six pages of art.

And there’s a lot of dungeon and wilderness encounters and lions, tigers, and bears, oh my yet to do. (No tigers, actually. But lions and bears play prominent roles, so there is that). “Town” itself is 18 pages long, which makes for a nice, robust starting place with lots of things to do, and good embedded culture and entry points for adventurers to explore.

So we’re definitely trending to the 96 pages or more endpoint, which is fun for a book that started at 64.

Today is a “write all day” budget, so by day’s end, hopefully I’ll have most of the prose done. That would mean the big job is converting to Powered by GURPS numbers and stats. That’s a challenge, but it’s a direct one.

So I’m going to get to it. In the meantime, a bit of “yay, team!” on social media would not go amiss.

Thanks!