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 . . .

Podcast Palooza

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.


Other links:

RPG Development Costs

Economizing on RPG Development Costs

I was on The ESTABLiSHED FACTS podcast with Derek Knutsen-Frey the other day, and it just went live.

The Established Facts Podcast

We talk about all sorts of thing

  • How I got into the business
  • The Dragon Heresy system
  • The Kickstarter (now funded!)
  • Gaming and Game Design
  • Gaming as a Business
  • Getting into game writing
  • Vikings

and a lot more!


It’s taken a bit, mostly because I was working personally with two busy folks, but all Kickstarter rewards have now been delivered: the two character sheets with portraits were finalized and delivered for my Styðja-level backers last weekend.

It was a fun ride. As I noted before, I indulged in a bit of extravagance by splurging on a piece of art that took the project to date from break-even to a bit of a loss. However . . .

There’s more coming for Lost Hall of Tyr. I wish I could discuss it . . . but look for an announcement on my mailing list and blog in a week or two.

I’ve also been hard at work on the next voyage into Etera – a very important one. The core rulebook for the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set is in layout and final assembly. Sometime this coming weekend, I should have the chapters on Foes (80-125 pages and about 100 critters, depending on how it lays out) added to the 140-150 pages of core rules for level 1-5. That’s right down the pipe for what I wanted.

Here’s an image of a sample of interior layout:

And another WIP of the cover:

I expect you will see this in Kickstarter some time in April. Early April if things go well.

Thanks for joining me for Lost Hall of Tyr!


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”

I tend to be pretty transparent here at Gaming Ballistic, perhaps even too much so. Still, it came as a surprise to me – though it was, in a Rumsfeldian sense, a known unknown – just what it took to make a game. For example, I had always thought that print games were simply much more expensive to design and produce than PDF, and the casual derision occasionally flung at PDFs on some boards reinforced that.

Turns out that with modern publishing methods, at least for me, the only difference between “make it a PDF” and “make it print” is your InDesign output settings. Exaggeration? Perhaps, but not by much. The print costs are non-trivial, true. But they’re also not nearly the bulk of the cost.

There was a discussion of “Production Values” on the SJG Forums, where I offered to lay down what my estimates of costs were to make a game. It’s not universal – every company is different, I’m sure. There will be a lot of “from X to Y” in it, because sometimes you pay what you have to, and sometimes you pay what you want to. It’s also going to include some things that many small companies don’t “pay” for, because they do it out of sweat equity. I do this myself, and it’s probably not smart.

Linear and Non-Linear Costs

Many of the things here are what I’d call linear costs. They scale very directly on a per-word basis, or indirectly, in that you don’t technically pay by the word, but you might pay by the page, or have an average number of things you have to do based on layout, which will put a certain number of words on a page.

I’m going to use Lost Hall of Tyr as my primary example in most cases. Mostly because start to finish, it’s completely done, and I have a very good idea of what I spent on it, having maintained my spreadsheet and updated it as “projected cost” turned to “real cost.” If you really wanted to get good, first make your budgetary sheet, and then copy it and lock it, and make “actual expenses” a separate tracking item. Continue reading “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.

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy and Lost Hall Progress”

DM Guild Logo links to DM Guild on OBS/DriveThru

Rob Conley over at Bat in the Attic just put up an important post for those considering using the DM’s Guild as a vector for publishing.

Here it is, complete with provocative title!

OBS Content Program is terrible and it is now not just an opinion

Basically, the net/net of it is that if you publish in the DM’s Guild, you’re basically doing a bit of retroactive Work for Hire. You can reuse your own stuff, but only on the DM’s Guild. Others can re-use your stuff, but only on the DM’s Guild. If you want to incorporate pre-written or pre-published content into your DM’s Guild work . . . don’t, because the content on DM’s Guild is exclusive to the DM’s Guild.

I had considered using DM’s Guild as a vector for my Dragon Heresy work, but even without Rob’s recent clarifications, the “no Kickstarters” rule scared me away, as I wanted to develop my own look and feel and layout and fill my stuff with cool art. Can’t do that on DM’s Guild.

Not saying DM’s Guild is all bad all the time. If you want to create content and have it released once and for all into the WotC ecosystem and only in that ecosystem, it might still be a great thing for you. But do so with your eyes open: content created in this program is theirs, not yours, after you put it on that platform.

One might say, and be correct, that this is the price one pays for having all of the Product Identity, from Beholders to Tiamat to the Forgotten Realms and others, at your disposal. And that’s true. If that’s your thing (and fine works spring from it), than that’s great. It’s a reasonable vector for things as long as you realize that once on DM’s Guild, your stuff is not yours anymore. It’s part of a shared IP gestalt that’s available in and through the DM’s Guild infrastructure and that’s all.

For me, it was never an option, because Kickstarter. But if you ever think “Hey, my setting would do well in [Some Other System],” then the  DM’s Guild is not for you. If you want your own brand to be important, then DM’s Guild utility is much lower (you can’t put your logo or brand identity on the outside of the work, only on the inside).

It’s a good set of Q&A, and Rob’s right: his musings aren’t opinions anymore. They’re policy. Read it, ask your own questions, and if you want to go into the DM’s Guild (and there are many fine products available through it), do so with your eyes fully open.


I’m thrilled to be able to report that Lost Hall of Tyr physical copies have been mailed to the backers that ordered them, and I now have stock of the softcover on sale through my web store.

Lost Hall was a grand and fun experiment. It was a GenCon scenario designed to show off both Dungeon Grappling and peek into the Etera setting that will be more sharply featured in the upcoming Dragon Heresy RPG.

In both respects, the peek was successful. Reviewers commented that the inclusion of Norse and pseudo-Norse elements were well done, while both convention games went quite well, and of the fifteen people that played it, even the one I thought based on body language was going to have harsh negative feedback had nice things to say. Those that walked away with a comment all noted that the system made grappling fun, for the first time in many cases.

I still have a few things to do before I can post my final “tale of the tape” for financials. As noted, my splurging on a piece of art by a top-shelf artist was a risk I took gladly, and it’s a gorgeous image. Net/net on release, though, it probably cost me about $500-1000 more than I brought in from the Kickstarter to make the book. All things considered, that’s not bad, and once again I delivered PDF and physical rewards months ahead of time. PDFs were delivered two months early, and updated with tweaks and fixes since then, including a full bookmarking pass. The Physical copies were not promised until April, and so were a minimum of three months early.

So: Lost Hall of Tyr. Go get it. It’s available for 5e and Swords & Wizardry, and includes a Dungeon Grappling quick-start for those curious.

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.

Dragon Heresy

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.

Playing Games

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.