I joined host Che Webster on his podcast Roleplay Rescue. The entire subject was GURPS and the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.
I joined host Che Webster on his podcast Roleplay Rescue. The entire subject was GURPS and the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.
A friend of mine forwarded this to me, taken at Source Comics and Games in the Twin Cities.
A whole rack, all mine! Dragon Heresy prominently displayed, plus both of the new Dungeon Fantasy RPG products!
I think I need to go there and get a selfie of, as a Discordian put it, my “nice rack.”
As I continue to work towards the closure of various Kickstarters, I thought I’d take a moment to work down the list of what GB currently offers, and its status. I’ll do this in the order they were published for active products, and then talk about a few things I’m retiring or deprecating.
One quick note: unless I screw things up badly, and in business, that’s always possible, 2019 is going to be the best year to date for Gaming Ballistic. Not only is revenue up already by 2x over 2018 (and there’s still likely another KS in the near future this year), but GB is strongly trending to a profit as well. Even formal break-even would be amazing – covering 100% of all costs – but having something left over to fund future work or (gasp) reimburse my own inputs is a great thing, and very good for Year 3 of a business.
Anyway: to arms!
Dungeon Grappling was my first product, and the one that set the tone for Gaming Ballistic and Kickstarters. It’s also sold well: Since creation, Dungeon Grappling has moved 654 PDF copies and an additional 358 print copies, for what was my first title with over 1,000 sales.
It is, even if I do say so myself, very good, and achieves its mission of unifying the grappling mechanics and feel in S&W and 5e; I think it falls short on Pathfinder a bit. Other folks think so too.
I recently found myself having to re-order 100 copies of my print version, having run out. I’d need to do a well-received crowdfunding campaign that scored at least 500 (and ideally 750) backers to reprint this in a way that could go do distribution, though. Unless that happened it’s going to have to stay POD.
Honestly? The demand should be there. It really adds to games. Perhaps if I continue to grow revenue and income I’ll invest and take the inventory risk. That can be a 2020 goal.
The crown jewel, in a way, of my RPG line, this was the reason I got into RPG publishing in the first place. This is, bar none, the highest production value book I have made, and competes favorably with any other book on the market from that perspective. Heavy weight cover (3mm board), 128gsm (85#) matte-coated paper with a sewn binding, done by offset printing. In the last 15 minutes of the Kickstarter, I got a $1,000 pledge that pushed me into “offset print run” territory, and I committed hard, ordering 1,500 books.
Well, I still have a lot of those left, but my recent experience at CONVergence gives me hope – it was my strongest seller in numbers and dollars, at a convention where basically no one shows up to buy RPGs (that’s not its purpose).
To date, Dragon Heresy has moved 414 PDF and 309 Print copies. There have been perhaps 30 distribution sales into retail, and 8 direct-to-retail sales. Folks that have played it – really played it – have commented favorably on the blend of tactics and options without being overwhelming. OSR players that have experimented with it talk of it as “the only version of 5e they’ll play.” At the convention, when asked, I not-entirely jokingly said “Well, this one time, GURPS and 5e got drunk at a convention, and disappeared to a room for a bit. A year (maybe two?) later, Dragon Heresy was born.”
There will be more Dragon Heresy support coming out in the future, and should things pick up more, I have levels 6-20 already written, with vastly more monsters, classes, races, and spells, all tuned to the game.
An enhanced version of the original Lost Hall of Tyr based on the doubling of the page count that we did for Hall of Judgment.
It includes a lot more on the city of Isfjall, which is a great viking-flavored location for any D&D game (and is presented in mostly system-neutral terms anyway, which means it’s a great location for any game). It’s moved about 91 PDF and 118 Print copies, so not a strong seller yet. I’ve got an idea about that, but it’ll be late 2020 I think before I can pull it off.
My first license for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, it was, at the time, almost my best Kickstarter to date (since eclipsed by both Nordvorn and Four Perilous Journeys). It was the expansion that added 64 pages to the convention-driven Lost Hall of Tyr (1st Edition) and added new maps.
The success of Nordvorn meant I could revisit it for distribution, and I did. Sewn binding, excellent paper, and upgrade maps, plus errata fixes. And a cost to produce that’s low enough to support sitting with pride next to Nordvorn and (hopefully . . . retailers get on it!) the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set.
Folks that have played this with me at conventions have loved it. Play reports and reviews have been very positive. Inspired by Dungeon Fantasy: Caverntown, it delivers what GURPS fans have been asking for: a full-color, high production value treatment of their favorite game, and adventure support to boot. In print.
It also includes a preliminary version of “Fantastic Dungeon Grappling,” which was later expanded into its own stand-alone release. Taking the concepts from my SJG-published book GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling, and refined in Dungeon Grappling, it distills the core down to about four pages.
It also includes over 30 monsters and 16 pre-generated DFRPG characters, which means it has more monsters in it than the excellent DFRPG Monsters 2 book.
To date, Hall of Judgment (both editions) has moved 717 PDF and 541 Print copies, for 1,258 total sales! Over 120 of those came from the Nordvorn Kickstarter as the second edition version . . . and THAT book just arrived at Studio 2 on August 6, which means it should start heading off to backers Real Soon Now.
Note that until I run out, Hall of Judgment 1st Edition is on sale at both my website and Warehouse 23 for 50% off. So if you want a print version of the book but don’t want to pay as much, you can nab it for about $12.50.
While Dragon Heresy has – by virtue of being a hardcover – ostensibly higher production values, I am ridiculously proud of Norðvorn.
Front to back, it’s a gorgeous book. The art team over-delivered, and the setting screams to be used. As a mini-setting, it’s not an “adventure” so much as it is a playground. A great, glorious, full-color playground that lets you go romping around Nordlond dealing with men, faerie, and dragonkin in a strongly interlinked set of issues. It provides a relationship map that will allow GMs to improvise responses to their players’ actions, and I have used that map on more than one occasion to improvise four- and five-hour play sessions.
Nearly all the sales have come from the Kickstarter, and it’s not yet available for wide release. It arrived at Studio 2 in TN for distribution the week of Aug 6, and will hopefully be in all backers’ hands by the end of the month.
Thus far, even so, it’s sold 587 PDF and 432 Print copies, for 1,119 total.
Yeah, I write a lot of grappling rules. But rarely have I had an opportunity to play, refine, rewrite, play some more, play with other people, and then finally commit to print such a concise, fun-filled short work.
I won’t lie, folks: this is the grappling product you want. It is better-written, fully tested, and simply an improved version of Technical Grappling, done in 8 pages rather than 50. Why? Because as it turns out, you don’t really need more. Now, I could certainly take TG and do each technique as a worked example using the concepts presented in Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. But for the DFRPG, well, those techniques don’t exist.
This is my most-played concept. I and my fellow GM friends have used these rules in actual play over multiple campaigns, and they add a lot of flavor and fun to the game with minimal overhead.
It moved 272 PDF copies and 171 Print copies through me during the kickstarter . . . and, well, at least 1,000 more because it was included in the DFRPG Boxed Set Reprint. That was something I never expected SJG to do, but they did, and it means in terms of number of copies floaing out there, this is my #1 product, ever.
The following products are currently in the final stages of development and production. They are all part of the “Four Perilous Journeys” crowdfunding campaign and were developed for The Fantasy Trip, with rules under license from Steve Jackson Games.
These products are being finalized and are due to go live, and be sent to the printer, before Aug 18. They will also have NPC/Monster cards available – but ONLY through the Kickstarter/Backerkit Pre-order – that are compatible with the Decks of Destiny. And full-color 1″ counters to go with each adventure. And more.
This was my most successful Kickstarter in backer count and funding level, with only a few dollars shy of $50,000 raised before fees and licensing and whatnot. These are going to be very, very pretty on the inside, and the color cover/greyscale interior aesthetic is being put to great use by the art team. These will also go into distribution!
The Kickstarter moved 608 PDF copies and 432 Print copies of each volume, making it an instant 1,000+ club member.
These mostly move through my Kickstarters as super-high-end tier products, and (due to a house move that disassembled my workshop) I still have four in the queue to make. I’ve maybe sold 10 . . . but they get better and more historically accurate with each one, and they’re an awful lot of fun.
I’ve gotten better supply chains and so they’re more affordable, and the materials (hides, cheese glue or hide glue, milk-based paints, quarter- or rift-sawn poplar that I cut down and dried myself) are top notch.
There are several products that are going to be de-emphasized or retired completely.
For obvious reasons, these “first edition” products are being replaced by their improved versions. Accounts at Warehouse 23 and other places will be updated with the new versions where possible, but they’re new ISBNs for the new editions as well.
Even if I do say so myself, the fact that all of my DFRPG products have moved 1,000 copies or more impresses me. In fact, the only books of mine that haven’t moved more than 1,000 copies (though that does add together print and PDF sales independently) are Dragon Heresy and Lost Hall of Tyr.
I have more stuff on the way, as well. I’m contracted with authors to provide the equivalent of six 16-page TFT books (which will likely be another 32-page solo and four GM’d adventures). I’m also looking for more authors, and I hope to find a way to release a lot more of these 16-page and 32-page books in the next few years.
The next project that launches will be a pair of Nordlond expansions, The Dragons of Rosgarth and Forest’s End, each of which will be 64-80 pages long and further flesh out the northern border of the Nordlond Setting. Look for that in late August or September.
So . . . that’s what’s going on with my books. Take a look. Maybe buy a few.
We just pillaged the $20,000 stretch goal for 128 pages. This makes me happy. Not the least reason for which is the unfinished draft lays out at 115 pages on a 112-page budget. So . . . I don’t have to cut anything. Thank you all for making this my strongest Kickstarter ever.
As both Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 and The Citadel at Nordvorn enter their final hours (fewer than 12 for DFM2, about 60 as I type this for Nordvorn), it’s time to check and see if what you’ve got listed is really what you want, and (if it’s not) push the proejct to the offset print run by adding what you want NOW rather than in Backerkit.
Make sure you’re at the most efficient levels. If you’re interested in both print and PDF of both Citadel and Hall of Judgment, the Viking Raider and Retail Viking levels make more sense. If you’re interested in being a sponsor and want both books, you’ll pick one of the sponsor levels, and then plus-up with add-ons.
This is especially important for Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. At least one person has said they want that booklet and nothing else. The best way to make that happen is to pledge at the No Reward level, and make your pledge $4 for PDF, $7 for Print, and $9 for both.
The process for purchasing add-ons is one of adding sufficient “credit” to your pledge to cover your purchases once the Backerkit pledge manager phase goes online – shortly after the KS closes and cards are charged.
Once there, you’ll find your reward level already in your cart, and an option to buy add-ons. Add what you want just like you would on any on-line shopping experience. Shipping (if any) will be applied, and then your credit subtracted and then any balance can be paid with your credit card or other payment scheme accepted by Backerkit.
Plenty of folks want PDF for games because they’re searchable and don’t take up shelf space. Those are great reasons.
But for those who would love to have a physical book, but are nervous about international shipping, I’ll remind you that I do two print runs for non-offset books. One here in the USA, and another in the UK or EU. In fact, even if we DO an offset run, one of the printing locations for quality offset print is in the EU. So we’ll see!
So if shipping makes you nervous about physical goods . . . Hall of Judgment was $6 to the UK, $9 to the EU, and $12 to everywhere else. These costs are unpredictable, but avoiding the “ship it out of the USA” step helps a ton.
So consider print!
If you missed the Hall of Judgment Kickstarter, and want all the Dungeon Fantasy RPG that Gaming Ballistic has to offer, you’re looking at getting:
So if you want everything, select Viking Raider, and then pledge $77 (one bookmark) to $109 (25 bookmarks)
Four copies each of Hall of Judgment and Citadel at Nordvorn. Combined with a Retail pledge over on Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2, and you’ve got months of entertainment in a box, with more on the way later this year from Gaming Ballistic!
Bring that to the attention of your Favorite Local Game Store (but do it fast! DFM2 ends at just after 5pm Central Time!)
You can always buy stuff without adding money here in Backerkit. But if you add now, you help achieve stretch goals.
You will have the options to add the following cool stuff in Backerkit:
The last goal that’s within reach (unless we add $10,000 in the next three days!) is the offset print run. Based on past Kickstarter performance . . . it’s not crazy. However, it’s a LOT of books, so the best way to get this done is to ensure lots of physical copies of Citadel are on the list. At some point, stretch goal or no, it’s just cheaper to go for the nicer printing . . . but I need to be ordering well over 600 books to make that work.
But it’s not crazy. 150 folks are PDF only. Nearly 380 people are following the campaign but have not yet backed. That’s an “actual plus latent” amount of nearly $35,000. So even that last stretch goal of 144 pages is not out of reach.
I was a guest this evening with Matt Finch, talking about my Top 5 DM Tips.
I had a rough week, so I had little time to prepare. That made it pretty easy, in a way: the only thing I could think of was the most important stuff. I took a few notes, and I think we had a great conversation!
You tell me. It’s about an hour.
Gaming Ballistic started as a blog in late 2012, and then became a company in its own right in October 2016, as the company formally launched its first product, Dungeon Grappling.
This year, 2018, marks the second full year of the company’s operation. It still has but one person doing all of the administrative work: me. During 2018, Gaming Ballistic existed as a vehicle to deliver Douglas’ game ideas, but that will change in 2019.
Gaming Ballistic is a producer of games and entertainment.
In 2017, Gaming Ballistic posted a nearly $20,000 loss. This was mostly expected, since I made big investments in 2017 in Dragon Heresy, and my product focus was on small releases.
My stated goals for 2018 were
That was a tall order. How did I do?
To hit the highlights:
Gaming Ballistic, oddly enough, makes games. Roleplaying games, to be precise. Ultimately, making and selling such things are why GB exists.
Fortunately, this year I managed to get three products into the launch tube.
The big goal after 2017 was to hack down my monumental manuscript for the Dragon Heresy RPG into a single book. I got this done, Kickstarted it, and the project went very well. I did not blow the doors off the house and attract 1,000 backers and $100,000 . . . but I did, at literally the last few minutes of the campaign, smash through the $16,000 stretch goal that got me an offset print run! As a result, I managed to print 1,500 copies of what is one of the best-looking games I’ve handled. Most people who see it comment very favorably on its production values. That was a well-run campaign, and I spared no expense in getting the book done.
The really big news for 2018 was that Gaming Ballistic was granted a license to convert Lost Hall of Tyr, a 64-page adventure for 5e, into Hall of Judgment, a mildly de-Norsed adventure for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. The project went incredibly well, crushing my prior record for number of backers, and making very nearly as much money (short by $1000) as the far more expensive Dragon Heresy. This one was, and remains, profitable, and it has been very well reviewed.
This went very well. Very well. It went so well that as Sean noted in his foreword to the upcoming Citadel at Norðvorn, it changed the course of SJG’s intent for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, and landed me three additional projects to boot.
I also hit my first convention since GenCon in 2017. I ran Hall of Judgment twice, played games with Matt Finch, and Steve Jackson, when I asked how Gaming Ballistic could work more with SJG, said “Write for The Fantasy Trip.”
More on that later. I missed out on a booth there for 2019, but I’ll be going back.
The viking shields were a case study in research and improvement. I sold six to eight shields in 2018, including during my Kickstarters. Mostly, in fact, during the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter. But I also made a lot of investment in time and experimentation, eventually producing a pretty darn awesome hide faced-and-backed shield that even my picky Viking Martial Arts instructor approved for use in class. The pure satisfaction of making these right is a joy to me.
I also dabbled in making wooden wasters – practice swords – for class. These were not for sale (yet), but they were a big hit. As soon as I get a breather I’ll be making a bunch more of these for my Asfolk classmates.
This is cheating a bit, but I launched and funded a third Kickstarter in December 2018. While financially, it did not meet the goals I set for it mentally, even if I couldn’t fund an offset print run, the book that came from the campaign is beautiful. Glynn did a remarkable job with the maps. All 1st Edition backers got the upgraded PDF for free, as promised.
It was also my first chance to test out the dual-print-run strategy I’d concocted to beat international shipping. Thus far, it’s going well. I’ll tell you more in a month.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but as of the end of 2018, all of GB’s Kickstarters were delivered on time or early. People are saying nice things about me in that regard.
Each year brings opportunities for improvement, and some missed steps.
The big stuff that I feel I didn’t do well is increase my blogging of new content, really extend my marketing reach, and move Venture Beyond along.
Companies live and die by the number of folks they can draw into their products. I’ve got some great stuff on offer, but my mailing list and ability to attract new customers was not what it needed to be by the end of the year.
I took a hard look at my prior Kickstarters for Dragon Heresy, Dungeon Grappling, and the original Lost Hall. I identified over 200 people that had backed Dragon Heresy but not the original Lost Hall. Then there were a bunch more that had backed Lost Hall in PDF only, and still more that had only gone for Dungeon Grappling. I figured I could hit the $6,000 softcover, lay-flat binding easy. The only real question was if we could scare up the 300 backers at $25 each (ish) to hit the hardcover printing.
Well, apparently the real question was something else. Roughly 131 folks, which is about 1/3 of the number that backed Dragon Heresy, came on board. We got a great digital print run (and I discovered a great domestic short-run printer to deliver it domestically).
But LHoT2e was a great example of coming back down to earth. I missed the market on this really, really badly.
I launched Hall of Judgment the day after the PDF for Dragon Heresy went to the printers. I delivered both on time or early. Then I launched Lost Hall of Tyr 2e, thinking I’d step up my volume game, and it fell pretty flat. Sales of Dragon Heresy seemed lukewarm at best.
I really considered just hanging it up at that point. But then I got word from SJG that they were giving me a pretty awesome license to write TFT projects, and of course I had Nordvorn and two more projects in the hopper . . . So I committed to going full throttle in 2019.
Gaming Ballistic overall was not profitable in 2018, losing about $6,250 over the year.
Let me tell you why this is a tremendously good thing.
First up: GB took in over $41,000 in sales and other income in 2018, more than 5.5x the prior year.
Actually, that’s pretty much it. I had tremendous revenue growth this year. New goal to beat! The good news/bad news is that I’ve got something like 1,200 copies of Dragon Heresy left to sell. Every single sale goes right to profit; they’re sunk costs at this point. One good review in the right place, and those can move quickly. Good potential here, but my watchword was revenue for 2018, and I hit that mark.
My costs went up too, but much of that was in buying books. It took nearly $19,000 to bring Dragon Heresy home (and nearly 2/3 of that was printing the thing and getting it to the USA, and shipping it to backers).
I also spent nearly $2,000 in 2018 on Lost Hall 2e, and the maybe $5,000 to $6,000 in revenue that came from Kickstarter and Backerkit hasn’t come in yet. So 2019 is already looking nice.
Places to improve: I dropped a lot of money on raw materials for shields, backing other folks’ Kickstarters, and I spent quite a bit setting myself up with a computer worthy of graphic design and layout.
Adobe is still bloody expensive ($660 per year!) and I am strongly considering a move to Affinity Publisher and Photo. One-time fees for the win.
A company’s business is to make money doing cool stuff. I lost money doing cool stuff, but I lost a LOT less, maybe 3x, than the prior year.
I’m going to be brief here.
That’s it. 2018 was much improved from 2017 . . . and 2019 could be amazing.
I’m going to be on two more shows in the next two days!
I will be one of the hosts tonight at the RPG Coast to Coast at 9:00pmEST//8:00pmCST//7:00pmMST//6:00pmPST.
Topics for tonight include discussing Longevity of D&D, Art not the Artist, How Best to Promote your Product, and whatever else strikes our fancy.
It’s going to be held in the Tenkar’s Tavern Discord chat.
How do I get to The Tavern Discord? Follow these Steps:
OK, not really. I reached out to him. 🙂
Even so, we will be chatting on his D&D Neighborhood channel at 6pm Central time, Saturday Feb 23. We always have fun.
Che and I talk for about an hour, and cover gaming stuff both old and new.
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.
And so it begins.
If you still want to get in on Lost Hall of Tyr – which is native to Dragon Heresy, but can be run in straight-up Fifth Edition, or with Swords & Wizardry – it’s not too late! We are perhaps $450 in non-shipping pre-orders and add-ons from being able to upgrade to the offset print run, which will get still-heavier paper for the book, deliver a sewn and lay-flat binding, and print up enough copies to push the book into retail shelves to sit alongside of the Dragon Heresy core book.
Granted, that last one is mostly important for me, but the best way to see more Dragon Heresy product is to help people find it, play it, and talk about it!
Unarmed combat is a bit of the bastard stepchild of D&D games, and deservedly so . . . at least relative to weapons. While a dagger does 1d4, at least in Fifth Edition (and therefore in Dragon Heresy), unarmed strikes do a single point of damage, modified by your Strength bonus. That can be non-trivial, of course: a strong unarmed blow by a STR 18-20 will do 5-6 points of damage, equivalent to a weaker person (STR 10) with a 1d10 weapon.
Monks, of course, subvert this with their martial arts damage: their strikes are weapons. Equivalent to daggers at low level, and versatile longswords at high. That’s cool. It also puts most of the focus where it should be: fists are, by and large, inferior weapons relative to purpose-built killing devices. Having an unarmed blow do 0-2 points of damage (1d3-1, for example) makes sense.
Problem is, that makes all combat lethal: why do only one point of base damage when you can do 2d6? Worse – from a reality perspective – is the concept of beating the snot out of someone with a fist or sword somehow being “non lethal” or “subdual” damage, where it doesn’t hurt much. One of the selling points of Dungeon Grappling is that it enables some quality unarmed combat, and interesting bar brawls that don’t have to be lethal.
Reality aside: during the Tavern Chat last night, I got into a fun discussion with Smokestack Jones about the requirement for nonlethal unarmed combat in games. Especially cinematic fantasy games like D&D variants. A spot of fisticuffs in a bar, perhaps adding grappling, perhaps not, is a staple of the genre. Reality aside – and we’re talking elves and half-dragons and hobbits here, so yeah, reality aside – having entertaining unarmed combat is kinda important.
We compared a few other game mechanics. He mentioned one (whose name I forget) that used two tracks: wounds and bruises. Well. That reminded me of wounds and vigor from Dragon Heresy, but mechanically, vigor is all the defenses and luck and not getting hit that you do in a fight, not shrugging off blunt trauma and non-lethal blows.
We also talked about Champions/Hero System, where if you rolled a 6 on the dice, you took 2 body, 2-5 was 1, and 1 was none – so every STUN attack had a bit of a body component to it. That made all kinds of sense to both of us too.
So. An alternate wound track. Spill-over from non-lethal to lethal damage. Good, good. Nice concepts here, well tested in other games. Oh, also: ideally, no extra rolls. Extra rolls slow things down.
I’ll mostly talk about this for Fifth Edition, as it’s what I’m most familiar with. I’ll refer to Swords & Wizardry as we go. Continue reading “Unarmed Combat in D&D”