The Blind Mapmaker was a big backer – he got his own character – on Hall of Judgment. He also does great reviews.

His review of Hall of Judgment  was complete, criticized where warranted and praised what he liked.

So I offered him the opportunity to get a preview of what was done already: This was his report.

Preview of The Citadel at Norðvörn powered by DFRPG

So, today’s Adventure seed features Draugr. Lots of them. Obviously, these would fit into Norðlond, because draugr. But did you know that (at least according to the Viking Answer Lady), it was expected for the groom to retrieve an ancestral sword from a barrow.

Let me quote the passage in full:

Originally by Viking Answer Lady

Since men did not wear a visible token of their bachelor status, the symbolic removal of their old identity followed a much different ritual from that being followed by the bride. The groom was required to obtain an ancestral sword belonging to a deceased forebear for use later in the wedding ceremony. There is a string tradition in the sagas of breaking grave-mounds in order to retrieve a sword belonging to a deceased forebear, to be given to a son of the family, and Hilda Ellis-Davidson finds evidence for the importance of such a sword at the wedding (Hilda R. Ellis-Davidson. “The Sword at the Wedding,” in Patterns of Folklore. Ipswich UK: D.S. Brewer, 1978. p. 123). This would indeed be a powerful ritual of separation and destruction of the man’s identity as a bachelor, with the descent into the grave-mound to recover the sword serving as a symbolic death and rebirth for the groom. If an appropriate barrow was not available, the ancestral sword may have been concealed by the groom’s relatives in a mock-tumulus (Ibid., p. 109). This would provide an opportunity for the groom to be confronted by a man costumed as a ghost or aptrgangr of his ancestor, who might elaborate on the young man’s instruction by reminding him of his family history and lineage, the importance of tradition, and the need to continue the ancestral bloodline. On the other hand, the sword which the groom had to obtain might instead be gotten from a living relative, complete with the lecture on family history: the sagas are not clear on this point and nowhere actually describe grave-breaking as a part of the wedding ceremony.

So, in order to get married . . . a vital part of the society . . . our young viking had to go on a dungeon delve. Sure, it’s likely one a one or two room dungeon, but in Fantasy Norse Thegn Land, you have a very, very real expectation of finding a dead guy (or gal!) at the end of it, and that corpse was really possessive about their stuff.

If it is a true ancestor, perhaps you could get by with a test of mettle, or suffering through a lecture on marriage and the undead’s expectations of his living ancestors. Or perhaps that was her favorite sword and she feels she needs it in Valholl, so get yer grubby mitts off of it.

Things like this, plus the deep mythology of the culture, some of which we’re all familiar with (it’s likely that the words wraith and wight came from raiðr and vaettr, pronounced, you guessed it, wraith-urr and vight-urr; not to mention Tiw’s Day, Woden’s Day, Thor’s Day, and Freya’s Day/Frigga’s Day), were one of the reason that, after a quick playtest session using the Norse myths, I quickly settled on that culture as the basis for my future world.

It’s DEEP. And between marriage customs, the expected behavior of its inhabitants, and that the Viking culture got its name from the practice of venturing out, killing people, and taking their stuff, and the deep pervasiveness of magic and rune lore . . . it made it simply a natural for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

Go back the Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2/Boxed Set Reprint campaign, and while you’re at it, throw in for The Citadel at Norðlond too, and put this particular seed to work for you immediately.

Today is an unusual “GURPSDay.” Unusual because there are two Kickstarters going on that influence the future of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG specifically, and GURPS more broadly.

So this is going to be a bit of “rah, rah” and a tetch of hard sell.

Let’s start with the big one.

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2/Boxed Set Reprint

This one’s important. It’s being used to judge latent demand for the game, and the boxed set does that. The Monsters book is something that we’ve all been asking for. For a long while. If you’re neither following the campaign nor pledged, please do one or both.

The Citadel at Norðvorn

Thanks to beautiful synergies with the DFM2/DFRPG campaign, we got a much-needed and much appreciated kick in the pants these last few days, and are only $1800 from funding. There are 275 folks following the campaign who have not yet pledged. If 60 come in and pledge, we fund. If you ALL came in and pledged, we’d hit two stretch goals and the book would be 128 pages. We’d need 150 people past that to hit the offset print run goal.

The common denominator for both campaigns is (a) they haven’t funded yet, and (b) early funding is actually really important. Once you fund, you can start confidently writing checks for things.

In my case: while I took a financial risk (but not a competency one!) doing so, I hired an editor last night. More on her in an update later today. But for my art, which is the lion’s share of the cost of my book, I am not reaching out to artists, and committing their time, until we’re funded. If we funded tomorrow, I’d start talking with my artists – and especially my cartographer! – immediately.

From SJG’s perspective: I can’t say. But once it funds, I have to assume that there’s a bunch of folks that can be put on duty making the game happen. For now, they’re working other things. Or so I speculate.

In either case: early funding is always important, and if you can manage to throw in early, please do so.

Share Early, Share Often

As noted above, the key to success for both campaigns is new folks. In particular, retail stores and bulk orders are really key. They are more likely to bring in new players, and they tend to order many copies, which helps push up the numbers for print runs, and large print runs are better on a marginal cost basis. That means more financial success for the line, which means we want to do more, better, and faster.

So, what can you do?

  • Reshare this post. Seriously.
  • Jump over to this thread on rpg.net, and let folks know about Citadel (the new set discussion starts on p. 88). Tell them about Hall of Judgment, if you have it or have played it, or point them to reviews if you haven’t.
  • Share this Facebook or this tweet. The more folks see it, the more attention, and the more backers we can get. This has knock-on effects! More than one site, like Kicktraq, uses the number of comments and the general buzz about a project to decide how to feature it.
  • Do the same thing for the Boxed Set. I can’t stress this enough: without the Boxed Set and continued interest and support from both backers and Steve Jackson Games, there’s no product line for me to support. Share play stories. Talk to your local game stores this weekend. Both the Boxed Set and Nordvorn have retail levels where you can get more than one copy of the game at a significant discount.

Back to GURPSDay

GURPSDay is starting its sixth – GURPSDay started in February 2013,  a year after I started Gaming Ballistic. Things have slowed down a bit, and I’ll be considering how to revitalize this weekly activity. I’d like to see an average of 100 posts here per week – one per blog, ish – so we’ll see what we can do to get creative juiced flowing.

If you just started a GURPS blog – and I know that some of you have – email me and get on the list! With the advent of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPS, there’s even more reason to write.

How? Two action items: post more, recruit more. It’s really that simple. More posters is more posts, and more interest in GURPS.

Below you can find the blog activity for the last week. There’s a whole lotta awesome GURPS going on. Read all the posts.

Not every blog posts about GURPS every week, but some are ridiculously prolific! The list is randomized, so different bloggers will be highlighted at the top of the post each week.

As always, if you’re interested in having your blog consolidated here, navigate over to The Instructions Page and drop me a line. Take special note of the RSS Settings Fix if you’re on WordPress.
Continue reading “Thursday is Back the DFRPG Kickstarters Day”

Morning! As we head into what will be a heavy writing weekend for me on Citadel at Norðvorn, I wanted to leave you with two podcasts.

Roleplay Rescue (Che Webster)

Che and I talk for about an hour, and cover gaming stuff both old and new.

Game Night on Geek Gab

I return to their show for the third time. We cover what’s gone on at Gaming Ballistic since HoJ, being nice to customers, and group stealth rolls . . . plus a bunch of Nordvorn sporadically through the show.

Gaming Ballistic was one of the hosts of the RPG Breakfast Club this past Sunday. It’s a live podcast also rebroadcast on Anchor.

Topics covered in the ‘cast were: Introducing Kids to RPGs/Marketing, and Introducing children to RPGs,Expanding the audience in general, and possibly pricing books and pdfs in the industry.

My voice is very quiet, for some reason.

https://anchor.fm/…/episodes/RPG-Breakfast-Club-Ep–1-e2urf1

Look for more episodes each week!

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?

Greater Torengar/Nordlond

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.

From Isfjall to Midgard and beyond. Still copyright Cornelia and licensed to me.

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.

Ainferill

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.

Parting Shot

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!

Glynn is hard at work on new maps for Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition), and below you can find a bit of history on the old maps, how he and I got to collaborate, and some WIP he’s willing to show.

Maps and Expenses

When Lost Hall of Tyr (1st Edition) was being made, I budgeted for a Kickstarter that equaled my first: about 300 folks. I also spent a bunch of money on a really prime piece of artwork that was (and still is) the most expensive single image I’ve yet procured.

(It is really awesome though.)

Even so, I couldn’t afford bespoke maps. Bogie Maps – and Dan was a pleasure to work with – had stock maps in hand, and was able to mildly customize a few for me using assets he already had.

As an example, he created a generic location for “Rival Claim” using a stock map. The advantage was obviously cost. The disadvantage was that it had no real tie to the adventure description: it was just a big map.

That has its charm, as it’s portable. And the full-scale combat maps are still part of the book package. But when I got the opportunity to upgrade content of the book for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG as Hall of Judgment, the project required more maps. Specific maps, that would let the linear convention-style demonstration adventure – Lost Hall’s purpose was to demonstrate the concepts in Dungeon Grappling – turn into something much more non-linear and sandboxy. Not a true sand-box; it is a quest adventure, after all. But something with more geography, and a lot more detail and options on the approach.

Glynn Seal’s The Midderlands

I got to know Glynn through his Midderlands kickstarter(s). I was impressed by his high production values on the book, and also with the quality of his cartography and artwork. Very evocative, and really brought the feeling he was going for to the work.

 

When I decided to produce new maps, and new locations, from the Village at Logiheimli to the Goblin Warrens (two of them!) to make mincemeat out of adventurers . . . um, provide a suitable challenge for adventurers . . . I reached out to see if he was available for commission.

Well, he was.

Logiheimli; an Easy Choice

He was (and remains) extremely easy to work with. I sent really, really coarse sketches of what I was looking for – I’m a stick-figure kind of guy when it comes to de novo art creation, though I’m a fair hand at digital compositing of existing work.

He turned it into something glorious, which is of course included in Lost Hall 2nd Edition.

So when it came time to upgrade the maps such as Rival Claim to something better as part of the Lost Hall 2nd Edition conversion . . . Glynn was the obvious choice.

I sent him some art notes, and of course he has a copy of Hall of Judgment since he worked on it (and super-easy to get it to him, since the books were printed in the UK).

Now that the New Year is here, he’s already hard at work, and has documented his creation of the new Rival Claim map on his blog.

I can’t recommend Glynn enough as a creator and a collaborator.  You can see the first of seven new maps below . . . stay tuned for more, and of course please help steer your friends and Favorite Game Store folks to the Pre-Order page!

Thanks for staying with me!

Update on Surveys

The “Smoke Test,” which vets the survey for effectiveness and function, is nearly complete. I will likely send it out to all backers shortly.

It will run for three full weeks, during which time I hope you’ll help me get the word out, as the Pre-Order Store is open, and if we can hit extra stretch goals during that time, I’m all for it.

I should be seeing the initial Kickstarter campaign funds settle sometime between today and Sunday. That will allow me to, in earnest, get cracking on the finalization of text, maps, and printing.

That’s it! Hope you guys had Holiday breaks that were eventful in only good ways.

Also, if you’re curious to how 2018 treated Gaming Ballistic, read about it below and see what’s coming next.

Gaming Ballistic 2018 Year in Review

I got back into D&D after a long, long time with GURPS (though I did not, and will not, stop creating for that system) by joining Erik Tenkar, Peter Dell’Orto, Tim Shorts, Joe the Lawyer (I never actually got his whole name), and several others in Erik’s “B-Team.”

We played once a month, and compressed a whole lot of gaming into 2-3 hours. We used the Swords & Wizardry system, a retro-clone that showed me how much fun rules-light gaming can be, and helped me appreciate Fifth Edition a bit more when it came out.

S&W taught me to think simple, think fast, and think light. It helped me shape my grappling rules into something anyone would want to pick up, and could either “play easy” or add as much modular awesome as they could.

I got to know Matt Finch through Erik, and I believe other than the Wednesday night Tavern Chats, we started to get to know each other when he started “ambush interviewing” me for his D&D Neighborhood YouTube shows. While the first interview was me chatting with him about Dragon Heresy and related stuff, he tapped me for a few other shows like “How to write a player’s guide.” He’s a good guy, drives a good interview (maybe the legal training), and runs a good game, which I got to experience at GameHole Con in November of 2018 (this past year).

When it came time to introduce this second edition of Lost Hall, I asked him if he would be willing to contribute a Foreword, and he agreed.

Here’s the laid-out Foreword for your image perusal, followed by the text and a link to a PDF as well.

Foreword to Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition)

by Matt Finch

Some longish time ago, I was talking with Doug Cole via Google Hangout. As the conversation went on, it started to dawn on me that he was sitting in the middle of what looked like a small armory of blades, axes, and shields—all of them made of wood. So after a while, of course, I had to ask about this clutter of weaponry piled up all around him. Now, anyone who knows Doug already knows that “enthusiastic” only vaguely succeeds in capturing the essence of Doug. Seconds later, I was looking through my computer screen at a sword-wielding, shieldbearing warrior in fighting stance, delivering an energetic lecture on the proper way to use a Viking-type shield. As the lecture evolved into methods of using the sword in concert with the shield, I started to realize why there’s no furniture anywhere near his computer. Or, at least, what happened to it if there once was. As I’ve said, “enthusiastic” doesn’t quite capture it.

Doug manages to infuse his writing with the same effervescent energy, making for a wild ride through his game world and the adventures to be found in it. Since I’m no expert on Vikings or Norse mythology I can’t speak to how much of Doug’s exploration into the wyrd, wild world of Viking adventure is based on history and how much of it is just a sheer, fantastic Norseplosion of adventure. It doesn’t really matter, of course —this book is a mix of pure mystery and adrenaline for RPG gaming, and that’s what counts in the long run.

One is always tempted to write a long foreword to a good book, sprinkling spoilers here and there in an effort to tell the reader how to enjoy what they’re about to encounter in it. But I don’t think that’s the purpose of a foreword. A foreword is for setting the mood: giving the reader that last deep breath before the plunge into strange worlds and vivid imagery. I can assure you, even though the world of Norse adventuring might seem familiar on the surface, what lies beneath that surface is strange and mythic indeed. And so, consider that last, deep breath to have now been drawn—it’s time to turn the page and let yourself go a-Viking in the rich sea of ideas you’ll find beyond!

 LINK TO PDF FILE

Jason Hobbs, of Hobbs and Friends of the OSR, linked me in to a grappling duel that he was going to run in an ongoing game he runs. You can see it here, from about the 5 minute mark to about 10 minutes, maybe a bit longer. He used concepts from my book, Dungeon Grappling, to execute the duel.

Check it out. I’ll wait.

A few things about it that struck me, or that I really liked:

  • First, Jason looked at the rules ahead of time, trimmed them to his needs, and clarified the function with the other player in the duel
  • He made them his own: dividing the HP of each fighter into a few bins of a size that made sense to him. There seemed to also be a “no effect” zone up to a certain level, too
  • He eliminated modifiers to the damage roll: “just roll your Hit Die for control damage.”
  • He made the contest one-way: no way to counter-grapple. The player asked about it, and was informed not to worry.
  • It was fast, and especially in the duel, the “miss, miss, hit/damage, miss, hit/damage, etc” sequence was as fast as it should be, with no bizarre lookups.

That’s the point, really: everyone who plays any version of D&D knows the hit roll vs AC/damage roll paradigm. It’s basically in our blood. And with the relatively low number of HP in Old School games, using HP as Control Maximum is equally well understood.

The player was able to ask for things to do: “get in and take him down.” That was glossed over, but it could have been attempted as soon as the fight moved from “grabbed” to “grappled.” Make an attack roll, spend the CP to represent the effort of throwing him to the ground, and poof. He’s now prone (and presumably embarrassed) on the ground. Easier to hit, harder to hit you, and worse Dexterity-type saving throws.

I liked what I saw, and as the players and the GM get used to it, I can easily see adding some of the optional detail for more fun.

For what it’s worth: Dungeon Grappling is on sale until January 2, 2019!