Sean Punch, also known as Dr. Kromm, works for Steve Jackson Games. He joins Geek Gab’s Game Night (during the day!) along with me (Douglas Cole) to talk about Dungeon Fantasy RPG and Cole’s new adventure for the setting, Hall of Judgment!
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.
The always-awesome James Introcaso hosted me for a while on Table Top Babble, and we mostly talked about Dragon Heresy
Chris Sniezak and I got deep into the depths of the game mechanics
Jason Hobbs had me and Eric Farmer on at the same time, and our take was more broad. Can you do “martial arts” in Old-School systems? What does that even mean?
Matt Finch and I had a great chat, and he was absolutely enthusiastic about the materials, construction, and use of period weaponry, and egged me on effectively.
Finally, I was on with Nerdarchy Dave for a live discussion and chat, and I had a great time talking with him and taking questions
Derek Knutsen-Frey and I chatted a lot about Dragon Heresy in a prior interview. It was a great chat. We also spent another hour (ish) talking about the business of game design. Even if I do say so myself, it’s a very good discussion.
. . . it’s real.
More details and cool stuff will be discussed as things develop, but I can confirm:
- The adventure will be mildly de-Norse’d, in keeping with the generic nature of the DFRPG
- There will be 8 pre-gen characters
- The wilderness travel rules I wrote will be converted to DFRPG
- The short section on grappling will also be converted to DFRPG, and will reap the benefit of years of play and learning
- The bestiary will be converted to DFRPG; I’m already working on some thoughts and layout options
- The map will be modified to give an actual location and travel direction to the Lost Hall
The original Lost Hall adventure was designed as a demonstration of the Dungeon Grappling rules for 5E. It was also designed to be jammed into a single, one-shot, two-to-three hour game at GenCon 50. Certain liberties can be taken with a design like that that are not appropriate for a modular adventure to plunk into an existing campaign.
So it’s going to get better.
That’s all I have to say about it for now . . . but I’ve got the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set Kickstarter to launch at 10am Central today. That’s an entire game in the same world as Hall of Judgment, and you can also imagine that I will be needing to focus and write more support material for that.
Gaming Ballistic is pleased to announce that the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set will be coming to Kickstarter in April 2018.
Dragon Heresy is a Norse-inspired setting and supporting roleplaying game. It is built around a fantasy representation of the Nine Realms, where the Aesir, fae, dragons, and fiends all vie for control of Etera in the mortal realm of Midgard. The PCs are looking to become mighty heroes, and venture north into the ancient lands of the former demense of the Elder Dragons to find fame, fortune, glory, and magic.
It builds off of the excellent SRD5.1 game engine, but with adjustments and additions made to match the feel of the setting and provide more nuance to combat and struggle
- Division of HP into wounds and vigor for a more coherent treatment of rest and injury
- Shields are way, way cooler
- Enhanced use of existing mechanics to add nuance and risk to combat
- Grappling rules that don’t suck
The Dragon Heresy Introductory Set is a fully playable game, covering character creation, adventuring from Level 1-5, combat, gear, and challenges. In the book you will find:
- Choose from Fighter, Berserker, Cleric, and Wizard classes
- Humans, Dwarves, Half-elf, and Dragonborn available as races
- Norse-inspired culture, cosmology, and mythology
- Deadly and tactically interesting combat Rules refined from the 5th edition of the world’s most popular fantasty RPG
The book will be approximately 256 pages, with major sections for
- Character creation – including races, classes, backgrounds, equipment, and spells from Level 1-5
- Core Mechanics – what’s the same, and what’s different, from SRD5.1
- Running the Game – example rules for survival and overland travel in a hostile wilderness, risks and rewards, a random treasure generation table suitable for the levels in the book
- Combat – all you need to live and die by violence, including melee weapons, new rules for shield use, grappling rules that don’t suck, and more. Fights are not driven by attrition, integrating morale and the potential for sudden incapacitation
- Injury, Rest, and Healing – Dragon Heresy differentiates strongly between wounds, vigor, and exhaustion to make resting vs. healing a meaningful distinction.
- Spellcasting and Spell Lists from spell level 1-3
- A brief introduction to the Norse-inspired world of Etera
- Over 100 monsters custom-modified and rewritten to suit the mythology and cosmology of the Nine Realms
Read on for more details!
Another quick use of GREP
Find Style: Topic (my header style)
Change to: $0================>
The key thing here is the $0, which is InDesign for “grab whatever you just found.” The equals signs and greater-than sign are actually what I get when I paste the graphic that Michael built in to my template.
What that does is find every instance of my Topic Paragraph Style and selects the entire line. It rewrites the line exactly, and then adds the graphic afterwards:
Since once one determines this works, it takes seconds to make the switch, being able to do things like this is a big deal.
There’s still occasionally some formatting I have to do. But by and large, this sort of thing is a ridiculous time-saver for things.
Working with Tables
No way ’round it. They’re annoying.
But . . . one thing I found out the hard way is that working with a table there are several different ways you can do it, and they’re all different, and all needed.
- You can use the select tool, which picks out the frame.
- You can use the Text tool and click inside the text, which works with the cells
- You can also use the text tool to highlight entire lines of cells, which is slightly different
This next one was the big reveal for me
- If you right-cursor or manage to click so that the cursor position becomes the ENTIRE left side of your table, that allows you to use centering and other things to keep the table within your frame, or indent it, or whatever.
This was a huge deal for me, because for whatever reason, I kept having my tables offset from my frame, which meant that lining up the frame with the columns did me no good.
Working with InDesign is subtle. It’s like a Wizard that way, and the program is quick to anger, and publishers apparently taste good with ketchup.
But I was able, with a bit of consultation from Michael and a lot of “Oh. Oh! OH!!!” moments over the weekend, lay out in good form the entire non-monster portion of the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set. 150 laid-out pages for about 94,000 words.
This is a huge deal for me. It probably means that at worst, the intro set will be 272 pages, which is more than I’d like but not crazed. If the new monster format I worked out with Michael comes in at 550 words per page it means the thing will nicely fit into my original 256-page “shoot for this” scheme.
If I can hit the same word density as the first bits I’ve laid out already, we’re on target for 240 pages, which is in my mind the ideal target. But really, anywhere between 240 and 256 works for me.
Next up is collecting all of my existing art assets in one place and seeing what art holes naturally exist in the document. I didn’t purposefully add any, and removed quite a few. I’m violating some layout rules in the Intro Set to keep page count down. But overall, I should be able to use and re-use most of what I have (and some is original to Dragon Heresy in general) and keep things restrained.
That means I can probably Kickstart the thing in April. Watch for it!
Last few days or a week or so I’ve been laying out the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set. The manuscript is done, cut down from 410,000 words to about 149,500, and 55,000 of those are completely awesome monsters.
But InDesign, basically the industry standard layout package, is a CAD program for words. It is ridiculously functional, but what it is not is a word processor. Certain things, like “line spacing,” are not really things in layout. Oh, they exist, but line spacing is all sorts of things, mostly “leading,” (named for the strips of lead placed between lines of text), but there’s space before, after, during, around the side . . .
Anyway, two minor victories last night.
First, columns and frames. I didn’t like the way my spell lists were coming out. I wanted it to be more clear what spells were what level. It took a lot of manipulation, but I finally got it.
Hint 1: Turn Text Threading On
To solve the presentation issue, I wound up having to create at least three to five different frames. It took a bit to get the size right. The only way I could rationalize it all is to keep the text thread viewer turned on. That’s the blue lines that connect how the text flows from frame to frame. Out from one arrow, into the other. Whenever something wasn’t behaving right, keeping this on solved the issue two times in three for me.
(Note: whenever it doesn’t work, it’s my fault. InDesign doth not guess what to do. It does what you tell it, even if you tell it wrong.)
So turn on Text threads from the View–>Extras–>Show Text Threads menu stack, and you’ll see blue lines (mine are blue, anyway). They help.
Hint 2: GREP, GREP, Baby
My second issue was poor spacing for spell descriptions. Words are pages, and pages are money.
I started with a poor spacing issue, probably because my No Spaces style in Word did not import properly into the RTF when I round-tripped the file to InDesign for style cleanup.
So I had too much space in the spells.
It was a slog, but eventually I figured out how to fix it. I made a Character Style called Spell Statistics with the leading set to 50% instead of 120% of the character font size. I then used Find/Change (CTRL-F) and the GREP function in the menu with this command
That selects everything between the lead-in word Range: (with the colon) to the forced line break/paragraph mark (\r). For the replace, I replaced the existing character style with Spell Statistics. Click Change All, and boom – 104 replacements in a matter of seconds.
Repeat for Components: and Duration: and it was all done.
Hint 3: Round Trippin’ Across the Universe
The final bit is a commonly-used tactic to clear out the copious amounts of crap from the Word styles menu. Short version, Place the doc file in its own new text frame in a brand new document, with all other documents closed, just to be sure. Ignore that it will overflow the frame. Click in the text somewhere (this is important) with the Text tool, then Export. It will come up as RTF, and you re-save your file this way.
Now, close everything. When you Place into whatever your working document template is in InDesign, and you do Style Mapping, ONLY the styles you use in your document are going to come in. In fact, I might have even lost a few (see above). But I once had 83 ToC entry styles and if you don’t exclude them, you have to map them to something (or nothing) one by one, which is irksome.
Nothing New Under the Sun
These hints are not me being original or clever. I found tutorials on the web, or talked to experts, or (with the particular GREP thing) used a google search for regular expressions to find the right wildcards.
But they helped me, and so I record them for posterity’s sake.
Earlier I went through and took a stab at what it costs to develop an RPG book. One can consider these, in somewhat imprecise terms, economic costs, rather than an accounting or cash-flow cost, in that it’s not required to write checks for all of them. Further, the costs presented represent doing everything on a contracting basis, and everything bespoke, meaning created for your game from scratch.
This is not remotely the only way to do it. It’s probably not even necessarily the best way to do it.
So I’m going to muse here on ways to reduce both the economic cost as well as the cash cost of RPG development. Continue reading “Economizing on RPG Development Costs”
Just a quick note on some behind-the-scenes stuff that’s exciting to me.
First, I’ve nearly completed one of my Styðya-tier backer character sheets and illustrations. Michael Clarke made this 5e version of the Dragon Heresy character sheet for me, and Rick Troula provided the illustration for this particular backer. I’m quite pleased with how it’s all turning out.
You have seen a slowdown in the blog recently. This has been related to game production activity for Gaming Ballistic, LLC as a company, rather than as a blog.
I’ve been furiously editing Dragon Heresy. I am determined to get this into shape this year, and by “in shape” I mean “into gamer’s hands.”
This will take two forms. The first is a product that will cover level 1-5, with limited selection of race (humans, dwarves, dragonborn, half-elves), and class (the classic four, limited clerical domains). Basic monster selection, plus humanoid foes of various persuasions. No new art to speak of, though I do have two or three dozen images from Dungeon Grappling, Lost Hall of Tyr, and some pre-purchased art for Dragon Heresy itself. The editing will be done by me. The rules will be stripped to the minimum needed to play the game.
This “ashcan” or “Basic” project will use the layout that Michael Clarke has developed, which is freakin’ gorgeous. It will likely use one of the covers for the book – probably the Book of Heroes – though I might take a GURPSy approach to it and make a cover with excerpts from the covers I’ve already got.
This will get things in front of people, and finally put Dragon Heresy in the public square for consumption. I think it’s a great SRD5.1 modification and playtesting went very well. The “ashcan” will not be a small book, but I’ll be shooting for maybe 128-160 pages. I’ll hopefully use the funds from that product to offset and accelerate the Big Set, mostly things I like to have done in advance, like professional editing, layout, and indexing.
From there, I will look to Kickstart the full three-volume set for art, and stuff as much as possible into the book.
I have big plans for Dragon Heresy and the core engine for the game, but none of that can start until it’s out there.
The Hunted Lands
The hunted lands will be a starter adventure that will support the Dragon Heresy game, and especially the Basic rules. I’ve got some great ideas in mind here, and the adventure will be geared towards starting adventurers.
I’ve got something like six to eight major concept axes that I’m working with, involving challenges from various factions within the game. Some involve internal politics in Torengar, most are external threats. The adventure is more a mini-setting or setting slice than anything else. Adventure seeds in a mapped-out locale, in the manner of the Midderlands or other books like it. Based on what I have in mind, this volume could easily be as large as the Basic rules themselves.
Lost Hall of Tyr
As of this writing, the last I heard from Publisher’s Graphics, the remaining physical books were at the bindery. This means both the covers and the interior have been successfully printed, and so “any day now” I expect to get notice that the books are shipping to me. I have already prepped the mailing boxes, and will print out the shipping content pages. I expect to have a fairly short “packing party” and then get the books to the backers. The European backers’ copies are already starting to arrive. The book is on sale on DriveThruRPG and has even made a few sales (I’ve not promoted it heavily yet; I want my print inventory in hand before I do that).
The only unfulfilled promises in the Kickstarter have to do with my two high-level backers that are getting character portraits done. Those are “due” by April, so there’s still plenty of time, and I’ll be getting that started quickly as we run into January.
Other Games, Other Authors, Other Products
I’ve mentioned David Pulver’s Venture Beyond before in these updates, and that is still being worked. I’ve also been in contact with two other game designers who have shown an interest in publishing through me, though it’s at the “hey, that’s interesting!” rather than “here’s a contract stage.”
I’m also going to be selling shields – hand-crafted by me – through my website to domestic customers. I’ve been pretty happy with the ones I’ve made recently, and they’re better than most of the others out there. Not all of them, but most of them.
Finally, you might start seeing some non-game reference works on the site, though I’m not sure if that’ll happen this year or not.
There are only so many hours in the day, and editing a 400,000 word manuscript takes up most of them. I do have a few things in my noggin on GURPS that I want to write down, and it’s always fun to do reviews and whatnot. But right now, the push to get my own work out there really eats up “let’s write for fun” time.
Even so, GURPSDay needs a shot in the arm. We’ve got nearly 100 bloggers, but most of them don’t write each week, or even at all. I’m hoping to work with Christopher Rice to throw down some challenges and topics to encourage the group to get more out there. Some of that will be regular GURPS, some will be the various sub-lines of GURPS, and some will support the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.
Some of the more-regular features I used to do, though, will probably return. Monster Monday and GunDay are both things I can spend focused time on, and were quite popular.
I want to try and get into a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game – and right now there’s one brewing under Christopher’s helm. I’m slated to play in it, and we’ll see how that goes. With my schedule, I need something with a low out-of-game burden, and the last two games were not that.
I also would really like to get into a DnD5e or Swords and Wizardry game that plays regularly.
Ahead to 2018
My year-in-review for 2017 showed me that I did more last year than, by the end of the year, it felt like. My goals for this year are to increase the number of products I put out under my publishing imprint. In 2016 and 2017, I put out one each. This year, I wish to do at least two, and “one per quarter” would be a good goal. Eventually, I really need some sort of new release each month, but I don’t think that’s a 2018 goal. One thing that I have in mind is a gear catalog with an Etera flavor to it. Loadouts and equipment that make sense for the game, with the right theme and inspiration.
The blog needs a shot in the arm, and a regular “every other day or so” schedule is the best way to do that. So I’ll work there.
The “alternate projects” like creating shields will be interesting, and if I can move some of those, will be a huge boost to my ability to create games due to the revenue influx, which for hand-crafted physical items like this can be non-trivial. I also love making them, so that’s good stuff for me.
I really need to consider a Patreon or other method to let folks help me move projects forward other than Kickstarter, and if the Big Dragon Heresy Book is to be as successful as I’d like, I need to grow my mailing list by roughly 10x. That is quite a bit. That’s a bit of Catch-22, also. I have a few ideas on how that might work, and one or two low-probability irons in the fire that would help.
Time to get to it.