Sorry for the extreme dearth in posting. I’ve been in Thailand since last Monday morning, and I’m still there, for work.

These trips are almost invariably two weeks long, and quite draining. Work hours are regular, but one tends to get very, very sleepy right after dinner, so it’s hard to focus on much, and certainly not focus on rules.

Still, good news: I have a draft of the Venture Beyond ruleset. I have edited and commented on all chapters but the core rules, which I’ll be getting to Real Soon Now, hopefully starting tonight.

We’re going for a fairly rules-light approach. No classes, no levels, though there’s a strong “profession” type notion running through the game. It will feel a bit like a hodge-podge of Fate, the old d6 Star Wars, LBB Traveller, plus a dose of more modern design concepts. Point-buy is primary, but we’re trying to see if there can be some random chargen and maybe even life-path options; that might need to come later.

I’m looking forward to hitting the rules section hard, because I’ve got a chance to try and avoid some of the issues or quibbles I have with other game systems, including my own Dragon Heresy, but also GURPS and others. So it should be fun, and David’s given me a solid core to work with. Once the editing and rules settle, then it’s Kickstarter time, I guess!

Not too much going on.

It’s ComicCon (technically Wizard World Minneapolis) this weekend, and unlike most times when we spend the entire weekend there, my family was helter-skelter this weekend, with my wife in Chicago, me needing to attend a few Viking planning sessions to build curriculum for classes, and generally playing single-dad with young kids in activities. Plus the toddler/preschooler being . . . her charming self when balked.

This phase really can’t end soon enough.

Anyway, I did see minor progress on the game building front. Venture Beyond saw some discussion, and Michael continues to work art for the covers in the background. His prelim sketch and coloring work is very much in the Dungeon Grappling style of brushing, but obviously different subject material. My feedback to him was very brief, ’cause he’s on point with nearly everything. One comment about how to hold an axe (and I need to get him a reference picture) for fighting, one more about foot position when using a viking shield, and a suggestion but not a correction on a dwarf spear-tip. One comment about overall coloration. But it’s going to look good, and I can’t wait to see how the final covers turn out.

Still waiting for writing and editing on both projects.

Otherwise, it’s about time to go swoon and blush and act like a complete fanboy in front of Charisma Carpenter, and introduce my daughter(s) to Nichelle Nichols. My wife will probably have palpitations over John Barrowman (fortunately for me, he’s not his character).

Onward!

It’s time for an update on Gaming Ballistic!

Dungeon Grappling

Great sales in March, thanks to the GM’s Day sale on DTRPG have been followed by lackluster sales in April, with four copies sold (though two print copies, which I love seeing – not because of all the extra money, an extra few dollars per book, but because I do think it’s a good book to hold in your hands).

At this point, with only two sales, I can conclude “The Art of Dungeon Grappling” as a failed experiment. Alas.

I’ll be bringing a bunch of stock with me to the Independent Game Design Network’s booth at GenCon, though, as well as shipping some stock over to their warehousing team.

I’ve not heard much from play reports, though. I’m hoping folks that use the game in play do give me feedback, and session reports. Consider this a request!

There’s also an error that’s come up twice in questions that is, thus far, the only errata that’s been reported to me. In the 5e example, while Thorfirr’s STR score is called out correctly, I made a typo in his attack roll, and so the paragraph introducing him on p. 41 should read as follows, with a 1d20+3 replacing the mis-typed 1d20+2. I’ve bolded the stuff that is relevant.

THORFIRR. A second-level fighter, and keeping his stats from the PFRPG gives STR 16 (+3), DEX 11 (+0), CON 11 (+0), and WIS 16 (+3). His AC is 16, he has 16 HP, his attack rolls are at +5, but lacking Athletics proficiency, he only grapples at 1d20+3. His Grapple DC is 13, from his Strength (Athletics) bonus of +3. His Control Maximum is 20 (his STR of 16, no DEX bonus, and 2× his +2 proficiency bonus).

Venture Beyond

We are very, very close to having a complete manuscript. The last reports I have had from David show a level of optimism about how the rules are coming together.

Unsurprisingly, it’s coming in at the longer estimate of wordcount, and so I’m going to predict the book will be about the size of the Fate System Toolkit, with the adventure books each being fifty or sixty pages each. That’s not really a change, but it is a confirmation.

Once I have the manuscripts in hand, things should go fairly quickly. I’ve got some mockups of kickstarter graphics banners that I did myself, and Juan took a look at them and thought he could improve them (doubtless true). I’ll post a preview there when I have them, but for now, my first effort is shown above.

The look is designed to be “retro-tech,” and as does the book’s layout, it features a Hubble space background, and block, easy-to-read text with a raster-scan look to it. The space to the right is to hold some art.

Dragon Heresy

I spoke with Ken a few days ago, and we chatted about the perils of big projects during a busy time for successful freelancers. Anyway, things are more clear, and I can anticipate getting edited manuscripts bit by bit as April turns into mid-May.

I’ve also got some amazing preliminary sketchwork from Michael. My original concept for the covers got tweaked just a little, but frankly it’s better the new way, and I think everyone will be really happy when they see it. I’ve been sending him images and art direction based on some of the recent Viking stuff I’ve been doing and seeing, and it’s paying off. I know that’s a bit of vague-booking, but I don’t want to give the game away on this one – it’s going to be a great reveal, though.

I also hope folks are enjoying Monster Mondays. There’s a decent amount of info in those posts, and they show off the flavor of how critters will look and act in Dragon Heresy.

Project M

Regardless of that, there’s some movement going on in the motion tracker around an expansion for Dragon Heresy that fills one of Ken’s observations, which is that settings are better when the rules are written around the setting (this is the GUMSHOE method), rather than the rules left static and the setting painted over.

Dragon Heresy takes this about halfway – there are a lot of changes and improvements to the melee combat rules, but by and large the magic stuff was left alone. But I’m learning a bloody ton about Viking magic and sorcery, and have some ideas for something optional that would really make for a fun “try it this way instead.” Need more time on that one, but honestly I think it’ll be really cool as an expansion if Dragon Heresy is given what I hope is a warm reception.

Project X

I’ve always had more things in mind for the Dragon Heresy game, and based on some conversations I’ve had with a few people, what that will be is starting to firm in my mind. There will be a vast amount of downtime when the DH art is being created, and that time will be used to create the next iteration of the Dragon Heresy project. I know a whole bunch of folks that will be pleased with the results.

The Blog

With a bit of flutter happening over at Steve Jackson Games over the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, as well as me getting back into the “write content nearly every day” mode, my traffic is starting to creep back up. I had a bunch of ballistics-related posts, some Dungeon Fantasy RPG posts, and at least one Viking post. More of that this weekend, actually!

One thing I desperately need to revitalize are my “index pages.” I have well over 1,000 posts, and some of them are great stuff, especially for GURPS players when we were doing more regular Melee Academy posts. Right now, if you click on each header you get a date-sorted list of all posts in the category. I need to add an option that takes you to a simple list of clickable titles.

This will be needed for at least the Melee Academy, GURPS 101, and Firing Squad sections, plus the Reloading Press. The rest can wait, but I need to figure out how that’s done Real Soon Now.

 

 

Reasonable behind the scenes work going on.

Game Development

Venture Beyond is heading towards a complete manuscript, with some darn nifty concepts threaded through. Took note of recent threads about how old games could fairly easily port in a reader’s favorite authors’ works, and how too-detailed settings and starmaps can eat the wonder from a setting because there’s nowhere for your cool stuff to go. So noted. And easily accommodated. This game is designed to have enough help to make it coherent and playable, but enough empty space to somewhere between encourage and demand improvisation and GM/player control. We’ve had great discussions like “Pirates are awesome, and space piracy is awesome, so how do we ensure piracy isn’t precluded by setting assumptions?” If we have tramp freighters and independent agents in ships that are not so expensive that the ability to buy one is the ability to live like a zillionaire, how is that viable at the same time as the equivalent of a container ship is viable? We want to emphasize the sheer fun of getting out there in the fringe, and making your own way. The feel of Firefly but with a much bigger scope, Traveller without quite so much inertia of pre-existing (though frequently cool) canon to fight if you want to tell stories that are more your own.

Anyway, I really like how things are shaping up, and we’re taking the time to do it right.

For Dragon Heresy, editing is happening. Art is also happening, and I have started to make the banner graphics with help provided by Michael Clarke:

So I have the outline for what I want to do, and now I just have to write the pitch. Should be easy with 425,000 words under my belt, right?

Not a huge update, but not every one will be. By the end of April, things will start to pop, I hope.

The Blog

I’ve been good – or at least better – about populating the blog with actual content.

It’s been fun writing again, and as any author will likely tell you, it’s a skill you have to practice. And as you practice, you get better, and it comes more easily. It’s been good to get back to some ballistics stuff, and I owe y’all a post from yesterday on 5e . . . and since I saw a thread on facebook on Guns and 5e (“No, no, please, no!” was a fairly typical response), I thought I’d indulge in a bit of “what if?”

It’s Monster Monday, where I highlight a creature from the upcoming Dragon Heresy RPG. Today we have a devilishly good time, and I’ll throw down a monster you’ve seen before – on the cover fo Dungeon Grappling! The Marilith demon. Demons are of the “burn it all down” school of evil, and while some of them are mighty and powerful, in the cosmology of Etera, they reside on the middle planes of Asgard, called The Realms of the Field.

Marilith (demon)

One of the most feared combatants in stories filled with fierce fighters, the marilith is known by many descriptive names: deathsnake, lady of blades, and the elvish Cuisin Ar, this six-limbed demon is one of the most deadly sword-weilders ever encountered.

The marilith has the lower torso of a serpent, and can use the serpentine tail for both mobility and on the attack. The upper body is inevitably a beautiful female form, often appearing elvish or human, but with slightly off-color skin (reports always differ as to precisely what color it is) and six arms. Each arm carries a longsword (oversized for medium creatures), and each longsword is invariably magical.

The marilith is quite intelligent, and for a creature bent on the destruction and wonton torture of all life, engages in a remarkable amount of long-term thinking. Almost alone of demon-kind, she will ally with others to bring larger plans to fruition, and there is much subtlety in their conception. Mariliths are not shapechangers or spellcasters, however, so they must work through proxies and cultists if they wish to influence Etera without giving themselves away.

In combat they are direct and deadly, wielding their blades with blinding speed and deadly accuracy. The first attack is nearly always with her nearly prehensile tail, seeking to grapple and restrain a foe. This can vastly increase the effectiveness of the six blade attacks that follow. If hard pressed, the marilith will teleport out of danger, regain her bearings, and then teleport back into the fray. The marilith will often sport a contoured magical breastplate for protection.

Tentacled Marilith. Some rare marilith demons were formed with one or two pairs of their human-like arms replaced with a pair of (very) long tentacles. Such creatures still have six attacks, but may use their tentacles for either grappling or bludgeoning. Continue reading “Monster Monday: Marilith Demon”

I’m not big on the April Fools Day thing, so just take it as a coincidence that the GB update falls today.

Things have been more active on the blog this last week or so, something I hope to continue. I’ve re-established a posting schedule, and am sticking to it. Tomorrow, for example, is GunDay Sunday, and while I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing, I have a lot of options, including a Reloading Press, which I’ve not done for a while.

Schedule

The short version: everything’s late or delayed, and that’s just how things go.

I’ve got some Dragon Heresy artwork still pending, I’ve got editing hopefully being done on that same manuscript, which is about a month behind schedule. Venture Beyond is probably two weeks behind, which was somewhat expected, though there are some issues that if they’re not worked out will pose an issue for me. I was hoping to have VB ready to rock by summer, and Dragon Heresy by late fall . . . but some of that’s up in the air.

Still, it’s not like I’m holding other people’s money on this one. So those delays are irksome, but don’t represent a break with customers. And it’s not too late to yank things back on track, so we’ll see.

Pyramid

The Pyramid Wish List has been updated, and it’s fairly inspiring to me for the first time in a while. I can think of a few article I’d like to write, plus one that I made a major breakthrough on yesterday that will be fun to finally put to bed. I think there’s at least two issues it could fit into. Maybe three.

Sales

As noted in the March update, sales for Dungeon Grappling were very strong in March, thanks to the DriveThru’s GM’s Day Sale. 39 orders through them, and 3 more through my own web store. Not bad.

Week in Review

Some disappointing speed bumps, but still, more progress can be made. I can start work on the background for the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter, which can wrestle in priority with Venture Beyond in terms of which Kickstarter happens first.

It’s not like good things haven’t been happening, but they’re “below the waterline” stuff. I had a great discussion on cover concepts with Michael, and I think the final product is going to blow folks away. I’ve been learning some more InDesign, and I think I have made some progress into being a bit more self-sufficient. The graphics work that’s been done sets me up well to make slow but steady progress on getting the Kickstarter ready to launch, and I think that I’m probably a short stretch away from having all of my pre-launch art done that should set up previews of the layout, the races, the maps. Even the cover templates are view-worthy, and that’s even before the final illustrations are done.

So this is the sort of week that the business owner takes a deep breath, and decides that next week is a fresh start.

Here we are again, this Saturday, end of March, marks roughly the seventh month, sort of, since Gaming Ballistic was incorporated. While that might be the official incorporation date, it probably makes far more sense to date the birth of the company from roughly October 1, 2016, which is when I really decided that Dungeon Grappling needed to happen, and proceeded to plan and launch the Kickstarter by November.

In any case, what’s been going on?

Mostly trying to get back on to a regular posting schedule again. I got very, very head-down on working some of the projects I’ve been working, and noticed that I’d not written any real content on the blog, certainly not much of value-added nature, in weeks. Well, frack that.

My new intended posting plan is something like this:

So tomorrow I’ll either review the latest Pyramid, or I just got a copy of Cirsova Magazine #5, and I can throw down some game-inspiration notes from that. Means I need something OSR/ACKS-ish for Monday . . .

Beyond that, the only real question right now is which project gets far enough along to Kickstart first. Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic – March Update”

Well, another month has come and gone, and what’s happened? More and less than one would think. I’ve been so head-down in doing the projects that my blogging and general evangelism has fallen off a bit.

Dungeon Grappling

Well, the book came out, well ahead of schedule, and in addition to those sales I made during the Kickstarter campaign (about 300), I moved about 24 more. Mostly PDF through DTRPG (15 sales there), and nine more – a healthy mix of print and PDF – personally and through my web store. I sold two copies of The Art of Dungeon Grappling, which is disappointing but perhaps unsurprising, despite the benefit to both charity and the artists.

The reviews have been very positive to date, so I can’t complain about that. Word will hopefully get out, especially as I broaden the applicability of the system and offer more products. Most folks probably just have been so burned with bad grappling in the past that they might not be interested. That was to be expected, I think – it’s a niche product. It’s a good product, but niche.

I will be running a few Dungeon Grappling Smackdown events at GenCon via the Independent Game Designer’s Network. More on that in coming months.

I also released Dungeon Grappling through CreateSpace. That was a bit of a chore, as I actually had to lay out the book again to meet Amazon’s margin requirements. But it’s available as both a softcover and a Kindle book (I’ve sold one Kindle version, and no CreateSpace print copies).

Dragon Heresy

Looking over my blog, I see I’ve not said much about Dragon Heresy. Well, things are moving. Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic, LLC – February Update”

It’s like a moth to flame with me. First there was GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling. That one  was my first full-length book for anyone: 35,000 words of fairly detailed subsystem that was my first attempt at taking grappling rules and put them on the same scale and mechanical basis as striking with fists or weapons. It’s where I created and put to paper the concept that one should treat wrestling with the same level of abstraction and the same mechanics as other methods of fighting.

Then I got involved a bit in a Swords and Wizardry game. This deliberate throwback to the original Dungeons and Dragons rules took me back to the red box and AD&D days, and had the same brutal and elegant simplicity that I recalled, but also was found more rarely in later games. An entire party of folks could sit down, roll up characters, and begin play in less than an hour. Maybe less than 15 minutes. West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game has that same feel. Few others since have managed it (Fate Core and Accelerated do a very nice job as well. They should: Leonard Balsera quoted WEG’s Star Wars as one of his primary influences when designing the game).

So when my S&W group and I got a few games under our belts, Peter Dell’Orto encouraged me to take Technical Grappling and strip it way, way down and apply it to S&W, and by extension to all of the games based on the old-school D&D rules. We took that on together, and the results appeared in Tim Shorts’ zine, part of Manor #8. Peter and I took everything that wasn’t strictly required and threw it in the dustbin. Doubly so because the old games’ monster writeups mostly did not include much in the way of statistics. You would get Hit Dice, Armor Class, and Hit Points. That was about it. Size? Strength? Yeah. Make it up. Continue reading “Dungeon Grappling – Designer’s Notes”

The manuscript is done

Final tally is just shy of 425,000 words, which will wind up being about 780 pages laid out. Likely split into two or three books.

Now final ‘scripts are off to Ken Hite for editing, and I’ll be looking at my current and extended contacts for a layout pro to make this every bit as pretty a book as Dungeon Grappling is.

Now . . . sleep, perchance to get eaten by kittens.