James Introcaso asked a simple question.

What is the kindest thing a player can do for a GM? #DnD #RPG

The answers are well worth reading.

A few things spring to mind here, many of which are doubtless repeated in the thread.

Show up on time

If you’re not going to show or are going to be late, let folks know ahead of time. As far ahead of time as possible. A decent GM can plan for almost anything. “The Key Guy” didn’t show up? Not so much.

Play the game, not the rules

Metagame rules discussions are a hoot, and I enjoy talking game mechanics. Everyone that has ever heard me on a podcast or been part of a discussion with me on a forum like Tenkar’s Wedneday night Tavern Chats knows I loves me some game mechanics.

But the rules aren’t the game, any more than a skeleton is the person, or the riverbed the totality of the river. They support the game, give structure and guidance to it. Provide the framework in which amazing journeys can be taken. All that stuff. But the game’s the thing.

The rules set expectations and give the players and the GM guidance to what the result might be when “anything can be attempted.” Depending on genre, some things are sensible (“Wonder Woman lifts the tank over her head!”) where in other genres, that same thing is not just implausible, but stupid (“You give yourself a hernia trying to lift the tank over your head. Seriously, what are you thinking?”).

This can get dicey when you’re playing games with a strong tactical or wargamey feel, such as DnD, GURPS, and many others. Still, by and large, save or table detailed discussion for after the moment. Continue reading “Nice things to do for your TTRPG Group”

So . . . close

I’ve spent a good few days working on the proof copy as well as the digital files. I posted an errata list on my blog, and have managed to adjust all of those. I also went through and tweaked some things – such as ensuring spell names were in italics, re-inserting some em-dashes where space-endash-space was used, and unifying the look of hyperlinks with the print and PDF files. I’m happy with the print file at this point, and have re-uploaded it to DriveThruRPG. If that’s accepted (sometime next week) I will lock down the physical copy and get things moving for international deliveries.

For US-deliveries for print, the internal file is the same as DriveThruRPG, which is easy. The cover file is not, because the templates for the printers are different. I’ll finish that up tonight, and order a proof copy from PubGraphics. Because the files aren’t exactly the same, it’ll make me feel better to have a physical one before I mass-order.

Also this weekend, I’ll go through and add/validate bookmarks for the PDF.

Speaking of PDF, I want to draw attention to something wonderful Todd did at my request, but he pulled it off wonderfully.
Continue reading “Lost Hall of Tyr: Inching Towards Final Release”

I hope y’all have been waiting for this day as I have. But I have locked down those who responded to the survey (all but 17 of y’all) and distributed files to those folks. I will next examine those that have not filled out their survey . . . and if it looks like things are in order for the transfer from Kickstarter and that each of these folks will get what they asked for during the campaign proper, I will release those as well.

As such, 225 people should have received their digital files, or at least an email saying that they’re ready for download. Some of the files are very large, as one would expect from such graphically intensive work.

So, the countdown begins. Please read, inspect, and ask questions, and post your comments in this blog post.

Yes, this one, please!

In any case, read it, play it, let me know what you find. If there are errata (and there always are), please post them to the blog thread, and Todd and I will see what we can do.

Note that an erratum is something like a typo or grammar error. Things that are preferences or suggestions can only be entertained if they don’t break layout, and will be given a somewhat gimlet eye even then: the purpose is to finish the work, after all!

Thank you so much for coming along with me on this journey. I appreciate your faith, trust, and pixie dust.

Douglas Cole

Gaming Ballistic, LLC

Just a very quick update.

Todd rocks. He’s done everything that needs doing for the prelim release. This means three things.

  1. I will be locking down everyone that’s submitted their survey between 3pm and 5pm on November 24th.
  2. Everyone that has ordered digital files – Lost Hall, Dungeon Grappling, The Manor Collection, and Bogie’s Map Pack should be able to download it that day. All files that will be distributed have already been uploaded to Backerkit’s digital distribution hub.
  3. I submitted Lost Hall for a preliminary proof hard copy a few days ago. The files are in prep; hopefully I’ll be able to order the hardcopy Real Soon Now, or receive word of changes.

What might those changes be? Usually something with bleed (stuff that runs over the place where the pages are trimmed) or Total Ink Coverage. If the colors in an image are too dark, they can flake or not stick. That happened to me before with CreateSpace (which is why I’m not going with them at all this time around).

But if the files are approved and the proof looks good, I’ll let y’all know and then start a 10-day countdown clock. That’s when you guys can read your digital files and let me know if I missed anything.

Then Todd and I will make final changes, submit those files to the two printers, and start the clock ticking on orders. I find it likely – but not certain – that folks will start to get physical copies of Lost Hall and Dungeon Grappling in January. February at the latest.

Ironically, because printing through DriveThru/Lightning Source through the UK has a lot of print volume behind it, my international backers are very likely to get their product before my domestic backers. I will keep everyone informed of exactly where we are in the process though.

Again: mad props to Todd, John, Juan, Gerasimos, Michael, Rick, and Cornelia for meeting or beating all deadlines laid before them, which allowed production to go as smoothly as it has (to date, anyway). We’ve done very well, schedule-wise, and that kind of performance requires a great team.

The Lost Hall post-campaign goings-on still go on, and they are going strong.

Backerkit, Huzzah!

This one’s all on y’all. So far, in one day, about 60% of backers have filled out the surveys. This is good. I’d like everyone to do it, of course, but if you are one of the 115 backers that expects to receive Lost Hall of Tyr or Dungeon Grappling as a physical product, I must have your shipping address, and I’d very much like it through Backerkit.

I’m also quite gratified at the number of you guys that are electing to procure some of the cool Add-Ons that are available. I’ll note that the Manor Collection is a great deal, and if you’re an OSR fan, you’ll dig it completely. Dan’s map collection is very cool, and if you play via VTTs you’ll appreciate being able to drop in a new encounter at short notice.

Stythja Still Available

Just a shout-out for this one. The top-tier pledge was the styðja, or patron level. It features the following three things:

  • The opportunity to generate a character that will effectively be a “pre-gen” for Lost Hall
  • The character will be visualized as an epic figure by one of the artists who worked on the project.
  • Finally, part of this process is a preview of the Character Generation, Races, and Classes chapters of Dragon Heresy, my forthcoming SRD5.1 full RPG.

Here’s a peek inside:

I can tell you I had a lot of fun with these, and there’s a lot more in there than just what appears in the SRD. History, different takes on the races and classes, entirely new clerical domains based on Norse mythology, new abilities and fighting styles, and more. I can tell you this: shields are going to get way cooler.

It’s still a work in progress . . . but there’s been a lot of progress and playtesting, so while it’s not perfect, it will give a feel that captures the kinds of characters that will fit easily into the world of Etera, and provide what I hope is an exciting glimpse of what’s to come.

I will be contacting those that have elected the Styðja character levels shortly after the Backerkit phase ends and distributing the required digital files at that time. The PDF collection of characters thus created will be available prior to April 2018, as promised in the Kickstarter rewards section.

Production Progress

Todd emailed me what looks to be the final file (maybe one change pending), and I’ve approved it. This means that he can start building the Table of Contents as well as hyperlinking the document.

The result of his hard work, and the excellent responsiveness of the editing and art teams, is that unless something drastically horrendous happens, the penultimate version of the digital product will be in your hands within the week after the Backerkit phase closes.

As noted in the prior update, two things happen during this phase. Firstly, I send the files to my two print vendors for proofs (actually, this is likely to start happening this week or next). Just as importantly, you guys review the heck out of your document and find what we missed. There’s always something. Check spelling, clarity, and layout issues. Test all the hyperlinks. Head to the blog post on Gaming Ballistic’s website and leave a comment in the thread that will be started for the purpose and I’ll update the “Errata” list with notes on whether we can accommodate the request. Feel free to suggest other hyperlinks that you feel will be useful.

Map Pack

The maps for the adventure are provided as 8.5×11 full pages in the back of the adventure. They are also provided at a lower (more screen compatible) resolution of about 200dpi, and are 32″ x 40″ in size at that scale. They will come as a compressed file of JPEGs so they can be pulled into your Virtual Table Top program of choice, or you can have them printed as posters or anything else.

They are full color, and have no grids or scales on them, so that for those that do use the VTT’s native grid functions, you don’t get the case where either you can’t quite match up the map grid with the program grid, or for folks like me that like hexes, have to deal with a hex overlay on a square grid.

I am working with Bogie maps on a few fun extras to make choosing between grid options easy, but no word on those yet.

Endgame and Next Projects

So that’s where we are. Thanks for coming with me so far, and please do take advantage of the “share” functions of the various forums. Give the project a re-share from Kickstarter or Backerkit. Even better, throw down a nice comment or two on the usual places: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit, or the various DnD-flavored groups or RPG forums.

This won’t be my last product. I expect that within the month I’ll take delivery of a 115,000-word manuscript for a completely original Sci-Fi game that I cannot wait to get started on, which includes core rules and three short scenarios. If that goes well, the author has 27 more adventures ready to go.

And of course there’s Dragon Heresy, and I hope that I’ve convinced you that I have the project management chops to deliver even a very large project on time. The only reason that one isn’t out already is that I want to do the same quality job with it that I have done (says me) on Dungeon Grappling and Lost Hall of Tyr. That means art . . . and lots of it. The Dragon Heresy draft that went to Ken Hite (yes, that Ken Hite) for editing was roughly 400,000 words, or approximately 800 pages in 3 volumes. I’ll need anywhere from 200 to 400 pieces of art to do it how I want . . . and that requires a very successful campaign.

When it comes time, I hope you’ll help me with that.

Until then, back to the wilds of production for me!

Last night Kickstarter processed the funds for the campaign – everyone’s payments cleared but one, which is a darn good percentage.

This morning, I sent out the Backerkit surveys. Each of you should have received an email as follows:

“Thank you for supporting the Lost Hall of Tyr Kickstarter!

The primary goal of the survey is to collect shipping and email information so that we can get you your physical and digital rewards. There are also a few “marketing and interest” related questions that I would love to get feedback on so that I can better tailor products to suit, and improve Gaming Ballistic’s customer experience as the company grows.

Thanks for your pledge, and for your time!”

I actually wound up dispensing with the marketing survey part, because you were forced to answer the questions, and I wanted minimum fuss.

In any case, you’ll be asked if you want your physical copies, if any, signed. You’ll go to a page that has pre-added your rewards, and you’ll either show a shipping fee, or possibly a credit if you pledged more than your reward.

You can add stuff if you like, and allocate your money or even buy more if you decide (for example) that you want several physical copies or that you want one or more of the custom characters. In that case you’ll be asked to pay the balance.

The Backerkit phase will run until November 24th. Then it’ll close down and that’s it.

Pre-orders are also open! This means that folks can order Lost Hall, and just for simplicity, they can do so at the Kickstarter discount. Retail price of the PDF will be $10; Print will be $20, and the bundle of both will be $25 . . . so if you have friends that want in, send them to the Pre-Orders Page!

Progress Update

So . . . I don’t want to jinx things. But Todd and I expect to finish the final PDF within a couple of days. That means in all probability, the PDF will be ready to distribute the day the Backerkit phase closes.

So digital distribution of Dungeon Grappling (if you ordered it) and Lost Hall (why you’re here) will occur on Nov 25 or so.

However! That won’t be the final file. I’ll be ordering proofs for print copies, and you guys will have a week or two to read the digital file, ask questions, and point out errors. If you find any, we’ll note them in a spreadsheet that I’ll maintain on my blog, Gaming Ballistic.

Once that’s done and I like the print file look, I will incorporate any clarifications or fixes that don’t break the layout that the backers notice, submit and order final files, and order print copies. Then I’ll order International copies from DriveThru, and take delivery at my home of the US orders, pack ’em up, and ship ’em out.

So . . . things are looking good in terms of schedule.

Schedule

This is just a reminder of some administrative dates and estimates for the Lost Hall campaign.

The Kickstarter funds usually take “about two weeks” to settle, which means some time between today and something like Monday or Tuesday (Nov 13-14), everyone’s cards or other payment options will be charged.

As soon as that happens, I will make the Backerkit process live. A link will go out and your balance from your pledge will transfer over. Your reward amount is usually automatically added, and you might have a balance if you upped your pledge for add-ons.

Regardless of that balance, you will then pick the add-ons you want, and the shipping charges for your reward level will also be added. That final total will be charged at the end of the Backerkit portion – which is also where I’ll get the address information and a few other things.

The Backerkit portion will go until November 24.

Once that closes, I will start the process of assembling “lists” or “segments” for digital and physical distribution. If you bought a PDF copy of Dungeon Grappling, you’ll get that immediately.

Lost Hall Final Layout and Proofing

I’m pleased to say all the final art assets are in my hands, and Todd showed me a preliminary final layout yesterday. We’re not done by any stretch, but things are strong.

The way I did Dungeon Grappling, and the way I’ll do this campaign, is that when we have a final PDF, we’ll distribute it to backers, and then order proof copies of the product from the two printers we’ll be using. Getting proofs (physical ones) can take several weeks.

During that period, I’d ask for your feedback. It’ll be entered into a spreadsheet like this one, and I will discuss with Todd which if any changes can be accommodated. The only ones that can go in at that point are things that don’t break the layout. Reasonable requests will be accommodated, but at that point we’re mostly checking clarity, typography, and grammar.

Add-On Highlights

I’m pleased to report that Bogie Maps (Dan Roy) has completed all the maps for the add-on map pack. Some samples below:

 

 

There are three more as well, and you’ll be able to see them when the Backerkit goes live.

The other two add-ons are a excellent collection of OSR zines by my friend Tim Shorts, and of course Dungeon Grappling, which is available in both PDF and Print+PDF.

We’re coming down to the end, and things are going very well at this point. I’m much farther along than even for the Dungeon Grappling project, and that one delivered substantially ahead of schedule.

We had a fantastic day yesterday, and the weekend in general was wonderful. We pushed well past the original $3,500 stretch goal (though that’s now irrelevant because we’re getting that anyway) and there’s still 15 hours to go – the campaign closes at 10pm CST.

As we head into the final hours, a reminder:

  • Gaming Ballistic will handle PoD printing through PubGraphics. I’ve raved about their qualitybefore.
  • It will of course be made available on DriveThruRPG
  • It will have Swords and Wizardry support baked in, with conversion notes either in boxes or sprinkled through the rules as appropriate
  • It will probably still feature maps as art in a few places, but I’ll have to look at the final economics of the entire thing and see.

So that’s it – spread the word and let’s see if we can have a great last day!

If you haven’t pledged: the Lost Hall of Tyr is waiting to be found!

 

We’re in the last weekend of the Lost Hall of Tyr Kickstarter!

The project has funded and the stretch goals have been consolidated and pulled in.

The project was reviewed a few more times, with favorable comments: Three Good Reviews.

And Roland Warzecha completed his full-page mural that will lead in the two-page grappling quick-start. If you like bad-ass female vikings beheading hobgoblins (with Roland’s wife and Roland used as figure models for the warrior and hobgoblins, respectively!) this is worth checking out.

I’d like to draw particular attention to the Stythja (“Patron”) levels. For your $200 pledge (more for Roland’s images) you and I will work out a character suitable for the adventure using a preview of the Dragon Heresy RPG rules (the setting of which informs and drives this adventure as background), and one of the artists will provide an illustration of your character. The illustrated characters will be published in a (free to backers) book of pre-gens, and I assure you . . . they’ll appear again one day!

In any case, this is a great side-quest (says others, not me) that will provide 4-8 hours of play and can be easily transported into other settings or even systems (a friend of mine who was given a preview copy even converted it for GURPS).

The project gets very cool as we hit stretch goals. OSR conversions, more art, and if we somehow hit 375 print copies, a true offset print run.

Please throw in!

Howdy! I’m back from possibly the worst travel itinerary I’ve had inflicted on me in my 17 years working at my company. From Thailand to Minneapolis, I sat in hotel rooms or airport layovers for 36 hours, while actually moving from place to place in cars and airplanes for perhaps 24 hours. I am pretty much a wastoid right now, but soldier on anyway.

In any case, we’re entering the last six days of the Kickstarter. I was greeted by three reviews or pieces of commentary on my return, and all paint a favorable picture of Lost Hall of Tyr. I’ll present them in the order I read them, and quote them in full where appropriate.

Actual Play Report

The best feedback is “I played the game and it worked for me.” That’s the summary of this report by Anders:

Lost Hall of Tyr” is Douglas Cole’s adventure for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, made to showcase his Dungeon Grappling rules. It is set in Torengar, a country heavily inspired by the Old Norse and the goal is to regain lost books supposedly penned by one-handed Tyr, god of war, law and sacrifice.

I ran the adventure with seven 5th-level characters (which is probably more than it is recommended for) and it took about four hours to run. Cole has done a good job of capturing the flavor of Norse mythology and blending it with the Dungeons and Dragons feel. The adventure contains plenty of both fighting and non-fighting challenges. We had a lot of fun with the game, although I’m a little worried about how the final challenge would go with a less powerful party. You might have to adjust for that.

The adventure comes complete with a map of northwest Torengar and encounter maps for all the challenges that require them. It is excellent quality and I would recommend anyone interested in 5th edition to pick it up and play, and (obviously) to back the Kickstarter.”

I should note that his players didn’t engage with the grappling rules at all, which was good proof for me that in fact you can just run it straight. They went full hack-and-slash through the entire thing.

I will put in some advice about the final encounter, though, into the section on Alternatives for that fight. There are some things that aren’t entirely obvious about the big fight at the end that make it easier, and a few switches that can be thrown if the party is truly understrength.

Eric Diaz (Methods and Madness)

First impressions on +Douglas Cole’s Lost Hall of Tyr, based on the 52-page, yer unfinished, PDF:  

It seems like a very genuine exploration of Norse culture and conditions. It uses not only norse gods, it seems, but norse religion, with beliefs, rituals, folklore, etc.

It has detailed (and very reasonable) rules on cold, starvation, dehydration,e etc.  

The adventure itself if more focused on overland travel than the actual Hall. It is a very straightforward adventure, with branching paths, multiple ways to solve each encounter, and so on.  

The art I’ve seen so far is very good to – above average IMO. It also contains rules for Dungeon Grappling, Douglas’ last supplement – which I reviewed and enjoyed quite a lot. The PDF is $5 with this kickstart and I would DEFINITELY recommend getting it too.

If you want a realistic, norse-themed adventure, with support for overland travel, check this one out.

Justin Folkerts (Kickstarter Reviews)

Lost Hall of Tyr: a 5e Adventure

So this one, I’m conflicted about. not about the project – looks awesome. not what I would purchase because I don’t tend to get adventures unless they are HUGE and mega (wink wink).  

But, D&D has this dungeon masters Guild http://www.dmsguild.com/ which is EXACTLY suited for this sort of project, and a location that is desperate for high quality products like this one obviously appears to be.

Ideally, and with synergy, a KS project like this would follow the below arc:  

  • Stage 1: kickstart the project to fund it, get it built to the quality standards you are looking for. this pays for the upfront costs of art and cartography and editing etc.  
  • stage 2: kickstarter funders get the opportunity to purchase a dead tree version or some other exclusive as a reward for funding this project  
  • Stage 3: once published and released to the funders, IMMEDIATELY put this project for sale on dms guild for general release. make it PDF only, or because dm’s guild it run by drivethru, have a POD option.  
  • stage 4: help grow the dm community via releasing top notch content.

Good luck to this project. its already funded and not heading into stretch goal territory. I know that many game companies started out this way. Frog God games, Kobold press, Goodman, etc, but honestly, I’d like to see the tools that already exist be used for both amateur and professional products to help raise all ships. just my $0.02

Commentary

Anders’ report (I know him from the GURPS boards) is of the most interest to prospective backers and players, because it answers concretely (if anecdotally) a few things:

  • It took four hours to play
  • It was playable in “hack and slash” mode
  • It played well enough that it didn’t engender a list of things that needed horrible fixin’
  • The scenario will prove challenging to overstrength parties, and I might need to rescope the bottom end of things a bit.

In truth, the GenCon experience was done with six or seven 4th level characters, and it wasn’t a cake-walk. I’ll probably recenter this one a bit.

Eric and Anders (who is Swedish, I believe) both said nice things about fidelity to Norse mythology, which makes me happy.

Justin brings up some questions about why not the DM’s guild that bear answering, and it can be summarized in two lines from this page.

The two in question are “publish my original campaign using 5th Edition rules,” and “print and sell my 5th Edition…product on my own.” Both of which are answered “no.”

I’m not sure if it’s always been there or was a clarification, but I used to think if you published on the DM’s Guild they had claim on your IP. This has been addressed formally:

Does Wizards own any unique IP that I create in my DMs Guild publications?

Wizards does not own any of the unique IP that you create in your publications. Wizards does own the IP that they contribute, plus the DMs Guild agreement will grant Wizards and other DMs Guild authors a license to use your IP. That said, if your work merits incorporation into canon, Wizards will contact you about purchasing your IP outright.

Ultimately, this adventure and the Dungeon Grappling product are part of a creative universe that encompasses my “Etera” Norse-inspired campaign world. I definitely want to print and sell it on my own, and should this Kickstarter suddenly sprint to the finish and get 375 print backers, getting a high-quality offset print run of this or future books is something I very much wish to do.

Anyway: the news is good, so spread the word!