Daniel over at Mailanka’s Musings has a nice post on Map-Making in Theory and Practice. In short: a million times yes. I have to echo his throughts on Maps and Inspiration: a good map is really, really inspiring.
Started with a Map
It works both ways, too. In my Torengar/Nordlond setting for Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment and Lost Hall of Tyr, the map came first. I set up a history using Microscope and another “game to play a game” kit that I can’t remember anymore that helped set up the long prelude to the current state of the main realm. I drew up some key terrain features that appeared to be important, and then commissioned Cornelia Yoder to make me some maps.
I have since been leveraging those maps heavily in making the details of my setting sing. This is particularly true of the mini-setting I’m working on for what will hopefully be my first-quarter Kickstarter: The Citadel at Nordvorn.
Featuring the titular town of Nordvorn with its adjoining citadel, there are also three other important towns and villages of note, one of them destroyed.
The town of Ainferill (Riverbend) sits about 40 miles south of Nordvorn on the Jotunnain (a river; áin means river; I think properly conjugated it should be Jotunná, but I have it as “fun” that the northern areas use áin and the southern areas use á, as sort of a regional accent thing). It’s a town of about 1,000 souls, or about 200 families, give or take. It’s the seat of a Jarl, the second tier of noble, but they still have to get the king something like $10M per year in GURPS moneys, or about 200,000 gp in D&D moneys, as a Duty to keep the title.
Just north of Ainferill is the slightly smaller (750 people) town of Vegghofn (Sallyport), which marks the last easily-accessible break in Audreyn’s Wall (think in between Hadrian’s wall and the Great Wall of China) until the other side of a mountain range that the wall jogs around for Reasons.
Anyway, point is: I am detailing these three settlements. What are the important guilds? Why have guilds at all? What industries or products make each town unique? Why should there be a town here at all?
This is my realm map. What can I say about it? Well, it’s got heavy forest, plains, and lightly wooded or intermediate areas. These divide out nicely into “logging and forestry,” “grazing lands,” and “farming” when it comes to surplus products for more than just surviving. It’s a high-level thing, but it’s informative.
The cities cluster densely in the farming area (blue). More food, better climate, more trade, higher population density. The capital is also there.
A Slice of Nordlond
Hey, what do we have here? A slice of Nordlond/Torengar, with Isfjall from Hall of Judgment in the west, and stretching to Midgard in the East.
Northwatch is Nordvorn – one means the other. But it’s maybe 250 miles east of Isfjall, so it’s a hike if you walk it. But why would you? Take a boat and sail down the Wodenain to Nethanfoss, then it’s maybe 50 miles along the “Palisade Road,” which isn’t shown on the map. That should be an exciting trip, since the area to the Northwest of the Palisade is called The Hunted Lands, home to marauding faerie and more than its fair share of monstrosities, undead, constructs, and other things that wish to eat you.
But the map informs this. How long will it take to get there? Well, big rivers tend to move at a few miles per hour, 1-5 mph not being unusual. So the 200 mile trip on the river could be as fast as 40 hours, or two days, or as long as a week. Plenty of time in either case for a few encounters with river raiders or river-dwelling monsters, but not so long that the game will drag.
That last 50 miles to Northwatch from Nethanfoss is probably a few days hike as well, and while the path/road is guarded, it’s still dangerous lands.
That makes Nethanfoss a very interesting market. It has access to both grazing lands, water, and abuts the Einmanna forest. And it’s a crossroads, being the natural departure point for goods to come east from the settlements along the Wodenain.
All this from the map.
Now we venture south from Nordvorn, because there’s been a rumor that the Jarl is hiring adventurers. Or maybe killing them. It’s Nordlond: perhaps it’s both.
In any event, what’s going on at the Riverbend? Well, it’s got woods. It’s adjacent to a metal-rich mountain/range. It’s got grazing land. And it’s at a convenient stopping place for ships coming upriver to rest and get ready for a hard pull into the faster-flowing stretch of the river from Ainferill to Nordvorn.
If you do a bit of line work, you can see that the Jarl probably controls about 265 square miles of land, and about half of that is grazing land – ideal for sheep – that is mostly plains. The other half, to the north and west, is lightly wooded, leading to thicker woods in the Einmanna Forest.
OK. So we have wood, metal, wool, and cattle and goats. This is a shipbuilding town. It’s also one of the towns (the two south of Ainferill and west of Jarngardr are two more) from which a whole lot of sheep are raised and turned into wool, cloth, clothing, and other products.
This is a jarl whose income depends on wool, cattle, ships, and trade. That’s what he’s going to care about, and that’s where threats to his power – or extensions of it – will come from. Does he mine in the hills just across the river? Does the hajarl of Midgard resent this? Ainferill could sit in the demesne of either Northwatch or Midgard – are the jarl’s loyalties solid, or being tested?
What about bandits? Or monsters? If you do the work, something that between some expert help and the Adventurer Conqueror King books domain rules make easy, you can see that monsters or monstrous people killing or taking livestock will really honk off our jarl, as as much as 25% of his Duty – maybe more – can come out of the income stream from wool and cloth.
But . . . karls (freeholders) own their own lands. How does that work? Well, that’s where the guilds come in. That worked out nicely too.
I spent a lot of time last night working with the map, agricultural data, and conversing with some experts to turn this slice of Nordlond into a living world. Not only is it living and hopefully provides some immersive detail, but it becomes something from which you can really see how folks might wish to bring an adventuring party on board to deal with problems.
Suffice to say that the tie of personality, economics and trade are all made more obvious with a good map. A map, a knowledge of what can be grown and made with certain natural resources, a feel for the personalities of the leaders and citizens and what they care about . . . and the adventures flow easily. Especially when the area in question has recently undergone some . . . rather dramatic calamities.
Stay tuned. Hopefully you’ll see this one pop up in the first quarter of this year!
I’m busily writing The Citadel at Nordvorn, Gaming Ballistic’s next return to the world of Nordlond (known as Torengar in Dragon Heresy). This one’s a mini-setting, focusing on the events and interactions between important players (including the characters!) in the lands surrounding this vital town. I am having ridiculous fun putting these towns together.
I just finished the description and detailing of Nordvorn itself. I am moving on to the other two important towns in the book, Ainferill (Riverbend) and Vegghofn (Sallyport).
The compact nature of the towns – Ainferill and it’s roughly 1,000 inhabitants sits on a chunk of land and water about 25 acres in size. That’s a circle about 350m in diameter, which is basically the size of The O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) in England. That is, the entire village would fit inside it.
Even the much larger keep and town of Nordvorn is only 7,500 residents and its longest dimension is only three times that of Ainferill.
These are little places, relatively speaking, which means they can truly come alive with detail.
I certainly hope that you enjoy visiting them as much as I am writing them.
Some fun bits from the draft. Subject to change, of course. Presented entirely lacking context or structure.
The “lift road” is named for its terminus at the great lifts coming from the docks and the lower market and shipyard. After one leaves the market proper, one can find all sorts of ironmongery and shipfitting crafts: Sailmakers, blacksmiths, armorers, brassworkers, and weaponsmiths. The armorers and weapon-makers are closest to the Ring Road, mostly to reduce the noise. Any goods coming upstream, or going downstream, by ship must pass through the lift. As such, some call Lyfta Road “Skattgötu,” or “tax street.”
A name like that invites hubris, but the Eilífur Brú has the chops to merit the name. The walls are over 20 feet thick, the columns, supports, and span magically melded with the strong rock of the river gorge. It has stood up to wind, weather, and thrown boulders from trolls and hill giants, as well as projectiles from siege engines.
The bridge begins with a massive structure known as The Terrace Gate, which as its name implies houses a series of massive doors each on a different level of the structure. The Terrace Gate actually enters a hundred feet or so below the top of the eastern gorge wall, and the winding staircase with interlocking gates, murder-holes, and other defensive emplacements is called The Spiral.
The town side of the Eternal Bridge ends in a large walled enclosure as well. There are barracks, training grounds, and defensive emplacements, and the entire structure would rank as one of the notable fortifications in Nordlond if it weren’t immediately adjacent to the Citadel itself.
The Hunting Gate
The closest tower and sallyport to Little Rock. Even more than the other city gates, the Hunting Gate is constructed to be used, and frequently, for war. It is staged to allow sorties from within the Lower Town when needed, as well as the point of departure for those thegns, huskarls, and Wardens who attempt to keep the people and goods coming out of the Hunted Lands safe. Or at least safer.
Thievery is forbidden. Sneaking around and taking someone else’s property is punishable by outlawry and thralldom. However, challenging someone to combat over a coveted possession, or facing them in some sort of fight, real or provoked, allows the victor vast leeway in claiming spoils of battle (in some cases this can include property and in older times, even family). Property obtained in this manner is called sigurtakn, (“victory token,” or “trophy”) and is considered honorable. Well, at least valorous. Dangerous, perhaps? A man bedecked head to toe in armor and weapons that are all sigurtakn is a man to be kept at arm’s length. Such people are called dýrð-óðir, or “glory-mad,” (behind their backs) and given the same sort of respect you give a scorpion, venomous snake, or feral dog – admiration for their deadliness, but not someone you turn your back on. Ever.
I am making slow but steady process on The Citadel at Nordvorn, my first of three upcoming supplements for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. It’s set in the same world as Hall of Judgment, but will easily be portable to any other game world with the right tweakage. I can see Nordvorn as it takes shape, and each area of the Lower Town, and the interesting places the PCs can visit, is plunking down on the map with ever-increasing certainty.
Citadel is not an adventure, as such. It is a web of locations and interactions, in which the players can find adventure. So it’s more of a mini-setting.
But it is, by far, the most detailed and specific thing I’ve done. Not “detailed rules,” because it’s not that sort of supplement. But the GM and players will know/can find out where to find all sorts of stuff. I was impressed when Rob Conley had all the rich descriptions of what shops and trades we were walking by in his Harn-inspired city that we played in way back when.
I think Nordvorn will be like that. I’m really looking forward to the maps.
In a few days, I’ll launch the Kickstarter for Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition).
This is a somewhat unusual crowdfunding effort, in that there are really only two or three things I’m trying to do here. The order of the funding goals for the campaign changed while I was thinking about it, in order to maximize success and deliver the best product folks want.
Upgrade the digital/stock asset combat maps with Glynn Seal’s stylistically great pen-and-ink drawings
Upgrade from POD to high-quality digital printing
A large-scale, softcover print run from an offset printer
If possible, a large-scale hardcover print run so the books match the Dragon Heresy core book
In short, the purpose of the campaign is to make a spectacular print run, worthy of the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set‘s production values. And provide a companion module to sit on the shelf on stores next to the Dragon Heresy core book.
Why a Second Edition
Quite simply, the expansion of Lost Hall 1e into the Dungeon Fantasy RPG version “Hall of Judgment” made the book better in every way. Art. Maps. Setting details. The publication and distribution of Dragon Heresy meant that I had a great core book out there with no support. Lost Hall 1e made for a great convention scenario but not a great long-term campaign.
So I’m reformatting the new content for the 8.5×11″ form factor of Dragon Heresy, and revising it for the Dragon Heresy rules.
Got the Lost Hall PDF already?
If you have already purchased the Lost Hall of Tyr 1st Edition PDF, you’ll be getting a copy of the new edition for free. If you got it on DriveThru, you’ll likely get a link on DriveThru. If you bought it from my website, you’ll get a link from there, or an email.
This crowdfunding effort is only for the print copy. It’s going to be a great looking book, especially in hardcover. I’ve selected 105#/157gsm matte-coated art paper for the interior, and 2.5mm boards. The overall 112-page book will likely thus be about a half-inch thick, and will in all cases have either a lay-flat and smyth-sewn binding.
The book will also have a new cover – and a first-pass of it can be seen to the right. Juan wasn’t entirely happy with it, though, so it’ll be revised during the Kickstarter to make it even better.
I’m allowing lots of time in case we actually hit the stretch goals to do the maps and hit the offset print run. That’s really it. I hope to have it sooner than June, but Dragon Heresy took a long time to get done. The results were worth it, but they were time consuming.
This is the intended schedule.
December 2018: Kickstarter campaign
January 2019: Funds settle, Backerkit phase; prelim PDF distribution for error proofing; new maps worked
Feb 2019: PDF finalization and print order submission; final PDF distribution
March-May 2019: Print overseas; transit to warehouse; fulfillment
June 2019: Delivery of hardcopy product to backers
Retail and Bulk Order
The top tier is four copies each of Dragon Heresy and the new Lost Hall of Tyr. This is designed for stores, but thinking about it . . . if you want lots of them, you can have lots of them. I’m not closing this off from personal purchases: if you’re a store? Great. Please let me know! If you’re a person and you want to buy a bunch of them for whatever reason? Awesome.
Please Support Gaming Ballistic
I’ve got big plans for 2019, and Lost Hall 2e is the first of four products I hope to release supporting the Dragon Heresy line. Three of those four are being written right now, and two of them are from “not me,” which means other authors are stepping up to the plate. Support for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG will continue as well, with each adventure being available in two versions (not dual-statted), with an appropriate form factor for each line: 8×10 softcover for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, and (ideally, with your support), 8.5×11 hardcover for Dragon Heresy.
Please help spread the word, let your local gaming stores know about Dragon Heresy and this Kickstarter, and with your help, 2019 is only the beginning.
This morning I dropped off about 40 books into the mail, which means that all but one order – and that one is an international order – is complete. I’ll take care of that one with TheDiceLatte in Korea over the next day or so.
Including today, this means that the usual 10 days of media mail will bring us to Halloween. October 31 . . . meaning that I can chalk Dragon Heresy as my fourth “on time or early” Kickstarter, preserving my 100% hit rate.
Thanks to everyone for supporting this project.
I’ve been getting some nice emails or quick Tweets about the book, which of course, I appreciate greatly. Even better would be a fast review on a social media site or forum, even better attached to a play report. It’s a non-trivial ask, I grant, but the more folks curious about Dragon Heresy and who buy books, the more support I can give to the line! (More on that later.)
Favorite Local Heretical Gaming Store
As a result of breaking through to the last stretch goal, I’m in possession of about 1,300 copies of Dragon Heresy that I’d obviously love to move out and get into folks’ hands. So bring your own copy by your Favorite Local Gaming Store, and they can either order from me directly or the books will be available via Studio 2 come December. I think the books will have great shelf presence, and if your game store owner contacts me, we can work out an appropriate retail discount if you want to order from be before then.
Well, the very first thing will be to provide a bit of adventure support. Originally, Lost Hall of Tyrwas a convention module I ran for 5e at GENCON 50, and then published it as a 64-page supplement.
I approached Steve Jackson Games about converting it to The Dungeon Fantasy RPG (Powered by GURPS) and to my surprise and pleasure, they said yes, and we announced Hall of Judgment for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG in April. In doing the conversion, I also expanded it to be more of a micro-setting rather than a linear convention romp. It grew to 128 pages, with more detail around the city, three additional dungeons/locations, and tweaked-out new rules.
Well, I’m going to be converting the larger version of Hall of Judgment back into Lost Hall of Tyr, 2nd Edition (for Dragon Heresy). I’ve already got a preliminary layout, and the new edition will support play at Level 1-5 for Dragon Heresy. Any who already have the PDF will get a free upgrade; I can’t upgrade the print copies, as I’m sure you understand.
I’ve also been asked about mid-tier play. Well, there’s good news and a challenge there. The good news is that I’ve got another two races (elves and gnomes), several classes that didn’t make it into the Introductory Set (Ranger, Paladin, Warlock, Monk, Sorcerer), 16 more backgrounds, and of course the spells lists that go along with them. Those need to be edited and laid out, but they already exist.
The challenge is art. I’ve used and re-used quite a bit of the original art I’d had commissioned for my first four products, and I’ve had quite enough of that. So there will need to be new art to go into this expansion. I’d also like the product to sit next to the Introductory Set on retail shelves, which means an offset print run!
Those would require money. I’ll rough out what it would need, and see if we can fit a crowdfunding campaign into what is shaping up to be a very exciting and busy 2019.
Fit in? Yeah. I’m not ready to announce yet, but expect even more support for the world of Dragon Heresy in 2019, and not just written by my hand. I can’t wait for the announcement, but a few things are pending that need to happen first.
So stay tuned . . . and I hope that I can continue to make things happen over the next 14 – 18 months for you.
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.
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 RPG, and 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!
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”→
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.
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.
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.
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’ awesomeDragon 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.)