Mid-Campaign Ulcers and Status

Of the book. Not the ulcers.

I won’t kid you guys – seeing the Lost Hall of Tyr pledge total move up and down as it has has not been good for my stomach lining. As I mentioned in the comments, all of the withdrawals to date have been legit life reasons, but it’s certainly painful to watch.

We’re still funded, though, and the book is progressing well. I just sent Todd a pretty thorough edit of the manuscript as a last look before we really start assembling the thing, corrected a bunch of typos, and made a few edits for clarity of writing.

I have received the promised art that I commissioned from the team in four of the five cases: the cover, Roland’s piece, and two of the other pieces. The last one is on schedule. All the maps are done. I’m in the process of commissioning the remaining art assets for the basic book. Things are on track.

Stretch Goal Adjustment

I took a hard look at what the goals of the campaign were, and I’ve made some adjustments.

No adjustments have been made to reward levels; if you’ve pledged something, you’ll get what was promised.

So what changed:

  • I have decided to fulfill all physical product through a high-quality POD company, PubGraphics. I was very impressed with their work on Dungeon Grappling, so the books that come out of this Kickstarter, and any future orders through my website, will come from them. The product will, of course be available through DriveThruRPG as well.
  • I have merged the “More Art” and “S&W Conversion” stretch goals, which will both happen at $6,000.
  • Additionally, I have spoken to Alex Macris of Autarch Publishing, and I will also commit to an Adventurer Conqueror King System conversion of Lost Hall. That one might take some reframing, but he has agreed to give me some advice there.
  • This allowed pulling in the “more art from Roland” levels to $8,000 and $11,000 respectively

Both of the conversions would be delivered when the print books have been promised: April of 2018 (or before).

What about Delivery? Later?

No.

My initial scheduling was done assuming we hit all the stretch goals and I was commissioning all the art that might be needed. So the changes above don’t impact anything.

The Swords and Wizardry conversion pull-in was the result of doing a hard look at what was required to do it, and it’s less work than I had planned.

Finally, ACKS is awesome, and I have wanted to do a Dungeon Grappling tuning of ACKS for a bit; it’s not that different than Swords and Wizardry at the core, and the proficiency-based capability system is similar to the various skill and feat systems in 5e. So it’s a fairly easy conversion. I will discuss with Alex the right way to execute this in terms of his product line, and get working fast.

So I have confidence I can execute this.

Stythja Tiers

A bit more about those tiers.

As part of the reward level, each backer at this level will work with me to create a character for the scenario. You will also receive a preview copy of the Dragon Heresy races and classes chapters, from which the Etera setting is drawn.

We’ll work up a character together, then I’ll make art notes, share them with the backer for review, make any tweaks required, and then fire off the art notes to the artist whose reward level you’ve chosen. Those characters will then appear in a separate PDF file that will be distributed along with the physical rewards and conversion material. Kind of “pre-gens” for the scenario.

Onward to the Finish

We’re headed into the last week of the campaign. Thus far, we’ve seen two reviews of the product:

Fantastical Beckelhimer and Follow Me and Die! both liked it. They also saw the ease of conversion to other material and appreciated the setting details as well as the value the Dungeon Grappling system brings to the table.

I’ve also been on four podcasts to talk about the work:

  • Table Top Babble where the topic was also Kickstarter advice
  • Geek Gab Game Night where we talked a lot about adventure design
  • Delve Podcast which focused pretty hard on the Lost Hall details
  • Shane Plays (forthcoming) about 10 minutes on the adventure

These are good places to point folks for more details about the game. There is, of course, also my blog, which has a category for Lost Hall.

So, with that . . . I hope that folks continue to get energized about Lost Hall of Tyr, and invite others to do so. To the finish line!

I was on the Geek Gab Game Night podcast just a few moments ago. Nearly two hours on adventure design and other topics – we didn’t hold ourselves tightly to a particular theme. As always, it was a hoot interacting with my gracious hosts, and it definitely plays out as a conversation rather than a lecture!

Give a listen, and of course, support Lost Hall of Tyr!

Last week I sat down with James Introcaso again, and spoke for more than an hour on grappling, Dungeon Grappling, how to publish a game, and how I approach running a Kickstarter, especially as a newbie.

It was a fun interview, and James is a great interlocutor.

Check it out!

TableTop Babble – 040 – 5e Sci Fi and Kickstarter Advice

A mailing list is a key part of any company’s outreach strategy. In short, it’s the first line of defense against stagnation and starvation. It’s the folks that have come to you, and either expressed interest in, or outright purchased your stuff.

It’s probably criminal that I haven’t set one up by now . . . a crime against good business.

But I’m rectifying that.

  • There’s now a sign-up bar at the top of the page. If you’re interested in getting emails on current and future products, progress on projects, or generally wanting to be informed as to (say) when a Kickstarter of mine will launch, please sign up.
  • If you’ve purchased something from me before, I’m going to proactively add you to the list . . . and then immediately remove you upon request, of course.

You can probably look for an email from me maybe every two to four weeks, and no more. I don’t want to spam you, and it’ll be a bit before enough happens in every given week to merit such a thing.

But please: if you’re interested in Gaming Ballistic as a company that sells products, rather than just a nifty blog, sign up!

Wow. Big month.

Went to GenCon. Can find blog posts on that kickin’ around. I learned a lot, gamed a lot, and networked a lot. I still have to catalog the mighty stack of artists’ business cards I got.

I sold about 10 copies of Dungeon Grappling. That was good; more would be better.

To rectify that, I am hurtling towards releasing my adventure scenario that I ran at GenCon as a product. It’s designed to be used with Dungeon Grappling, but will be a viable 5e scenario on its own. I will almost certainly Kickstart it, and it will almost certainly be relatively low buy-in. There’s a high upper end on what I’d like to do with it (full color art is always a goal of mine), but even as-is, I can use the Dungeon Grappling layout template and re-use existing art. I have some outdoor maps, and will be needing some encounter-level maps as well. But more is better, and the fun thing here is that I can work with some of the exiting new artists I met at GenCon. Look for that pretty soon. Of the roughly 15,000-word budget I’ve given myself (32 pages), 14,000 are already written. I’ve got an editor lined up, with a mutual agreement on the work, and that’s exciting too.

Dragon Heresy continues to make progress. So does Venture Beyond. VB is getting closer and closer to “first complete draft” though it’s way over wordcount estimates. That’s not horrid, but it might change how I go about things. It might not, though. Plus, there’s the option of seeing what folks groove on and what they don’t in playtest/blindtest. It’s going to be a very, very cool product line, but “we serve no fries before their time” applies. I have a day job so I don’t have to worry about publishing before things are ready.

Otherwise, I’m cranking hard on the adventure writing, and hope to get that into editing and more playtest soon.

Also: I took delivery of more inventory from CreateSpace. But much of it was flawed. 8 of 25 had mistakes on the cover (was cut wrong), and all of them were only so-so binding quality. So once I get that replaced (they’re printing and shipping them now), there will be a buy one from my website, get a second (flawed, but signed!) physical copy free offer that pops up for the classic “limited time only.”

Reading an article on the differences between Pathfinder and Starfinder.

Well, I guess I was on to something with the Dragon Heresy Wounds/Vigor split.

I’m sure Starfinder has been in development for a long, long time. And I’m also sure I came up with Wounds/Vigor independently, though someone later pointed it out that Wounds and Vitality had long been tucked into an optional rule in the PFRPG Core book.

Still: let me echo that I think it’s absolutely the right call. Differentiating between “stuff that makes you bleed” and “reserve of skill, stamina, luck, and divine favor” as hit points were described on p. 82 of the original Dungeon Masters’ Guide by Gygax is, to me, incredibly useful and helps solve some real problems, especially when you push the game engine into the firearm era.

For now: yay, parallel evolution.

Also: Clearly Starfinder came out first, because, well, Paizo has resources and staff and I’ve got me. But Dragon Heresy, that rough beast, continues to move forward, slouching towards Bethlehem to be born, etc.

 

I was invited by Jasyn Jones and John McGlynn to join them on their Geek Gab podcast to talk about Dungeon Grappling, after I posted my GenCon reports about the playtest.

Well, yeah, we covered grappling. But we also covered GURPS, the DFRPG, game design principles, and many other things, including HEMA and how useful first-hand research can be if you can do it. Roland Warzecha’s Dimicator videos got honorable mention. We talked a lot of 5e, some Pathfinder, a bit of Fate, and WEG’s d6 and GUMSHOE got a nod. I talked quite a bit about Dragon Heresy.

I had a great time, and we spoke for about 75 minutes. I talk kinda fast, but I don’t think I was incoherent, so yay.

Anyway: enjoy!

So, GenCon has come and gone, and I got a lot of business done while I was there. Some of this will be reflected in what projects GB is working on.

The Tower of Justice – Adventure Scenario

The brief scenario that I over-prepared for (two hour session, but I wanted to ensure we didn’t run out of fun) went over very, very well. I can confirm that 15 folks, from newbies to grognards, went through it, and despite grappling appearing constantly, everyone was engaged and had fun. The give and take of control damage was as compelling to them as it was to me.

The scenario is built around the Dragon Heresy world, and the strong undercurrent of Norse-ish mythology that flows through it was well received.

The “do we or don’t we go this way” puzzle that was supposed to be one of the scenario forks (which one needs for a con game, though much less so for a campaign) was so compelling (and frankly, not hard enough) that both parties just got it. I came up with a good re-arrangement of things that will resonate better with sandbox play, as well as providing larger exposure to more potential resolution pathways.

So . . . I’ll be publishing this, for real. The GenCon folks that were at my table will get free copies and playtest credit, if they email me. Otherwise, I will work it up for 5e and Swords and Wizardry, at least, plus of course Dragon Heresy.

There’s a ton of work done already, and turning it into a short adventure supplement should be fairly quick. I suspect that I can re-use a lot of art I’ve purchased for Dungeon Grappling. I may even re-use the Dungeon Grappling layout template, which will push my InDesign skills to grow and improve.

In short, I don’t think I’ll need to crowdfund this one. We’ll see. I could also Kickstart it when it’s basically ready and see if folks have enough interest to help me fund custom art. That way, I’d be able to work with some old and some new artists – many of whom I met at GenCon – on a very short project with little risk. Test out working relationships and whatnot, and keep in practice for crowdfunding. Besides . . . I love generating new art (well, paying others to do so).

What about Pathfinder? I will need to consult my oracles; I’m not as good with this ruleset than others.

The adventure itself stands at 11,500 words – roughly 23 pages as-is, which would grow a bit with maps and fleshing out all parts of something designed for “until it’s done” rather than “cram into two hours.”

Dragon Heresy: Starter Set?

I watched “Ashcan” versions of various games in development fly off the shelves in the Indie Game Designer’s Network booth for four days. The 5e Basic Rules were pretty popular.

So, I’ve got a project that will be in editing for a while, but is fully playable. The system plays well and has some neat tweaks to it. The setting is compelling enough, and has loads of room to support adventures.

So I’m pondering and chopping a very, very limited version of the game that only covers Level 1-4, ditches all optional rules, and is otherwise a nice intro. I’m shooting for something like 60,000 words, which is about 15% of the total three-volume set.

I’ll see how far I can distill it. There are advantages to doing this that solve some issues I had with my Kickstarter planning, too.

The full game is still progressing! And again, with the artists I chatted with, I’m very hopeful I could go from “funded” to “done” in a reasonable time period through the glory of parallel processing. But . . . I think I can get something fun out there that’s playable, and will only improve with time as Ken does his magic on my writing.

Venture Beyond

Just for completeness’ sake, David and I are closing in on a first-complete-manuscript. We’ve nailed down a lot better where we’ll be conventional in business development process, and where we’ll take risks for the sake of time to market.

I’m feeling good about where we are, at least for now. Not much of an update, but as with a lot of “below the waterline” stuff, there’s a lot to unpack in the words “making progress.”

Saturday was packed for me. I was busy from 9am until 10:30pm with good important stuff. Sunday, the last day of the con, was basically open for me – a free day – until the show closed, at which point I was to help tear down the booth.

The Big Day

Well, I awoke realizing that I’d left my battle-mat in the booth. No big, assuming it was there. I beat feet over before, it turned out, that the convention hall opened, which was 9am. So I went over to my gaming room, set up early, then chatted with some of the IGDN members there. I described my grappling system to Sarah at the booth, and another member sat down, and “oohed” and “aahhed” over my book, which was on the table. She opened it up and started avidly reading. I just grabbed a pen, signed it, and made a gift of it to her. If she’s that enthusiastic, she can have one! Continue reading “GenCon: The Big, The Free, and The Teardown”

Today was eventful as hell, from a personal level, as well as a professional one.

Dungeon Grappling: Tower of Justice

So, I ran the Con Scenario that was shorthanded Grappling Smackdown but is formally called The Tower of Justice.

The seats were supposed to be filled; I had three initial no shows, but then three folks showed up and really wanted to try. So full house . . . and then the actual three showed up, which meant I had to ask the newcomers to leave. All were gracious about the entire thing. One player had his young son along, and it was very clear he was going to sit and watch. No frickin’ way. I asked “will your son be joining us?” “Can he play?” “You tell me . . . can he play? If he can, he’s very welcome.”

So seven seats for a six-player game. The young one was an Evocation sorcerer. Dad was a dragonborn bard. We had a human paladin of Tyr, a Thief/Rogue, another dragonborn bard (but he said that testing the new grappling rules was the ONLY game he insisted on playing; this guy was a dream player/playtester), a human ranger, and a young lady who had never played DnD before who took her hand at a half-elf fighter.

All played well, engaged in the scenario, and were gracious about learning the new rules.

I started by making them write down their grappling stats, which were not on the sheet. I did this deliberately so I could teach them the key levels and what they mean.

Your grapple DC is 10 + whatever. It’s your hit roll for grappling, and will nearly always be lower than the Armor class.

Your hit roll for grappling is 1d20 plus your athletics skill bonus.

Your damage roll for grappling is your hit die type, plus your strength bonus.

Write down the following levels: Grabbed; Grappled; Restrained; Incapacitated.

Calculate your restrained max, your grappled max, your grabbed max. Incap is higher than restrained by one.

There are things you can do with your control points. Here’s a list. If you think of anything else cool, let me know and we’ll adjudicate it on the spot.

So . . . what happened?

Highlights

  • They quickly figured out the puzzle that gave the directions to the back door of the Tower of Justice, and I figure that if I let the group tomorrow find the same puzzle, they’ll also go that route. I may just railroad ’em into the main way, to test the other half of the scenario. I have a reason why this isn’t completely lame, I swear
  • the fight with the hobgoblins between the waybridge and the tower went very well. I needed more monster tokens, but otherwise, the players were determined to grapple as much as possible, and so were the hobs. The fight went well for the players, and though a few wounds were taken, it wasn’t bad.
  • The climb of the 150 foot cliff ran into a major design issue that I know how to fix, but I saw the problem coming soon enough. More on that later.
  • The big fight with the Glabrezau demon (four attacks, pincers, fists) opened with the PCs deciding to whittle away the demon’s HP from behind a magical barrier. That would have been tedious but effective. Then someone (the Dad bard, actually!) decided to Leroy Jenkins the demon, several others followed suit. The demon grabbed the paladin for 45 control points, turned that into 10d4 injury . . . and rolled abysmally, doing fewer than 15 HP of damage. So sad! I was hoping to rip him in half.
  • The players saw the never-played-before fighter grapple the demon . . . roll a crit and max damage, and restrain him. They dogpiled him by grappling, and incapacitated it! That meant they could kill it by fiat, which they did.

That took the entire time. I got some great feedback on the grappling rules. In short: they were playable and fun, useful but not complex. These WORK. And they work with strangers who were not (to my knowledge) game designers, unless the 10yo was a ringer.

The Lowlights

  • Swapping out players was a time killer, and meant that we got very close to running out of time at noon. This will be an issue tomorrow since I have to be on a panel at noon in another building.
  • The climbing rules were cool on paper, but as we were about to run through it, I realized this was going to be an insane number of dice rolls and tracking. I figured out how to fix it, now I just need to implement it. No worries there.
  • The tree puzzle is too compelling and will likely 100% of the time short-circuit the bridge and front-door approach. I’m not sure if that’s bad or not, but it’s an observation.

The Booth

I did another stint at the booth today, five hours. Heel wasn’t quite as bad, but I took care to walk around today (walking and running are both better than standing for me).

Highlights here?

Sold some Dungeon Grappling

I was a lot better at pitching other folks products

I really need to pick up Fragged Empire. The graphic design is a thing of beauty. Setting seems interesting too.

I also need to learn about the Apocalypse World engine. A lot of the games seem to like using it as their core system, and there must be a reason for it. I may or may not agree with the reason.

Had a polite disagreement with a designer who described tactical wargame elements in RPGs as pointless. I think they have their place, and enjoy the hell out of them. The perspective has merit I think, in that it puts an adminstrative overhead on both player and GM in terms of stats, rigor, and play speed that you have to understand, accept, and find fun.

He does’t. I do.

That’s cool for both, but there are two sides to that coin, and if you think only one of ’em has value, you’ll be a worse designer than if you understand at least the impulses that drive both points of view, and consciously address them. Even if that means ignoring one; at least do it with malice aforethought.

I reviewed a set of grappling rules in another designer’s system. Pronounced them very abstract, but since they were the same level of abstraction and used the same mechanic as his other conflict resolution systems, I pronounced that they obeyed the rule of ‘use what’s there’ and was thus satisfied.

Steve Jackson(!!) dropped by the Indie Games Designer’s Network booth. Turned out he wasn’t just looking around. He was there to see me.

(swoon)

We chatted about the DFRPG, the Kickstarter, and I showed him my Dragon Heresy flier. He responded by telling me something that nearly made my eyebrows crawl out of my head (not sure I can say what it is), but that will make GURPS folks very happy. There was also some egging on by me of the notion of a modern action boxed set, since (sez me) “GURPS has the best firearms rules currently in the market. Clean ’em up, simplify for speed, and you’d have everything you need to shoot folks and take their stuff, or any other plotline.”

I also talked with D. R. Lunceford, gigerman on the forums, about a great many things. He is responsible for the graphical look of the blog. We agreed it was time to start the web design for the dragon heresy website and page. We talked about a few blog improvements, and game design. And shields and grappling and shooting. Good times.

I also made arrangements to have drinks with Ken Hite to discuss Dragon Heresy progress.

Spoke in rapid succession with the folks at Thomson-Shore and KrakenPrint. Now I know of four potential vendors for my books, all of whom are reasonably priced for offset and make great looking books.

All in all, an excellent day.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is going to my equivalent of BUDS. Well maybe not. But it’ll be a busy, hectic day.

  • 10-noon: Second Dungeon Grappling demo
  • noon-1pm: I’m on a panel on how to get into the game industry
  • 1-5pm: DFRPG session with Sean, Christopher, Joseph, and others!
  • 7pm-?? First attend the Delta Green panel that Ken Hite is speaking at (’cause Delta Green is a great setting and I’m honestly curious), the go to drinks and talk Dragon Heresy

Sunday is all mine.