This is going to be a bit of a meta-post, in that I’ve been trying to work around an idea about running defensive-oriented combat in RPGs ever since I published the related article Unpacking Failed Attack Rolls in GURPS.

In it, I note in the On Guard! and What’s the Point? sections that RPGs tend to prioritize attack over defense, while the practice of fighting with sharps and other potentially-lethal activity tends to bias towards setting up a defense and actively working to maintain that, and then open up an opening into which you can strike freely, with no consequence to yourself.

This is for a pretty simple reason: Attacking is fun. It’s also an outgrowth of the abstract nature of Hit Points, which can easily be reframed as something exactly like maneuvering for position, until you can land that fatal blow that reduces the target to 0 HP or fewer (this is very much a D&D-ism, but has application elsewhere).

I’m going to muse on this for a bit, and see if I can come up with a good way of making a “defense primary” mechanic that doesn’t actively suck. I will do it in GURPS first, and then see what I can do for Dragon Heresy.

I’m ultimately not sure that this will work. “Proactive defense!” sounds great in theory, and it’s a fighting style that can be observed, but we’re playing a game here, and games prioritize and emphasize action, not reaction or even positive defense. Folks “spam the Attack button” because it’s fun, and a mechanical system is going to have to go a long way to help those defenses become exciting, and emphasize the “victory” of achieving superior position on the foe.

Armor Class has DEX modifier in it; that’s a bit of ‘proactive defense.’ Hit Points have long had that mix of “defenses and active exertion” that we’re trying to capture here, and the more abstract games probably subsume a lot of what I’m talking about. GURPS has a series of maneuvers or options that somewhat enable this (Evaluate, Feint, Defensive Feint, Wait, All-Out Defense, Defensive Attack, Retreat, Defensive Bonus) that do allow one to prioritize defense. Mostly I’ve not seen these used, but they’re there. Might be something as simple as my favorite game design maxim: “Use what’s there.”

Stay tuned. I hope to think this through in a series of posts. Some of which will be inevitably “Game X already does this.”

Gaming Ballistic is a publisher of roleplaying games, and this note lets you know where you can find Gaming Ballistic on the Web.

As a company, I support the 5e-derived Dragon Heresy system, D&D5e through the Open Gaming License (OGL), and OSR products, usually with a focus on Swords & Wizardry, especially since I’m getting to know the guys and gals at Frog God better over time. Zach Glazar, for example, is basically the guy who spent an hour or two of his own time to help me get my bearings in InDesign.

I am also a huge fan of the GURPS-related variants by Steve Jackson Games, and through the product Hall of Judgment, am one of their few license-holders, and to my knowledge so far the only one for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. Which is different from GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, itself a sub-line of the overarching GURPS portfolio.

All that said: if you can’t find me, you can’t play my games and buy my stuff. Buying my stuff lets me make nicer things for you.

Finding Gaming Ballistic

As seems to be required these days, you can find me all over the place:

Buying Stuff

To date, I have written four books through Gaming Ballistic, and one through Steve Jackson Games. They are Dragon Heresy (DH), Hall of Judgment (HoJ, for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPS), Lost Hall of Tyr (LHoT1e; for 5e and S&W), and Dungeon Grappling (DG; for 5e, S&W, and the Pathfinder RPG). I also wrote GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling (TG) and published a bunch of articles in Pyramid Magazine since 2002 for Steve Jackson Games.

Where can you find these fine products?

  • Main Web Store (DH, DG, LHoT, HoJ all formats)
  • DriveThruRPG (DG, LHoT in PDF and POD)
  • Warehouse23 at Steve Jackson Games (DG in PDF; HoJ; this is the only place to buy Technical Grappling!)
  • Studio2 (Dragon Heresy in Hardcover only; these guys are distributors; DH releases there in December)

The main web store is best for me, because I get a larger cut, and that means more wherewithal to make more games.

I absolutely support direct-to-retailer purchases, with a usual discount of 50%. If you are a buyer for a retail store, you’ll need to contact me (see below!) and I’ll get your store email address entered into my Coupon Code section, and I’ll get you a coupon that will let you get a 50% discount on orders direct from me; larger orders will get free shipping.

What’s this about “LHoT1e” you might ask? I am currently revising and refining Lost Hall of Tyr to directly support the Dragon Heresy game. That means pulling in all the worldbuilding stuff I did for Hall of Judgment (which is essentially LHoT pushed up to 128 pages from 64 and then opened up as a more sandboxy campaign rather than what LHoT was designed as: a convention one-shot), and making the challenges mostly suitable for a starting party of level 1-5 adventurers . . . but don’t count on all encounters being “balanced.” Some need to be avoided or you’ll get flattened.

In any case, look for a second edition. If you already own Lost Hall 1e in PDF form, you will get the Second Edition free of charge. Comp copies will be delivered by DriveThru to those who purchased there, and by the Gaming Ballistic website for all Kickstarter backers or direct-purchase customers who have an account on my website (and if you don’t have one but do want one, email me).

Contact Gaming Ballistic

I am easily accessible via email, Discord, and the Facebook Group.

In addition, I am a frequent contributor to the RPG Breakfast Club over at the Tenkar’s Tavern discord.

I tend to answer most questions on a “right the heck now” basis. Sometimes it might take longer.

I’m also increasing my convention presence over the next few years. I was at GameHole Con in Madison in Nov 2018, and will try and make appearances at Con of the North, Convergence (both in Minneapolis), GameHole 2019, and GaryCon 2020 if I possibly can do so!

You can also sign up for the Gaming Ballistic mailing list. I try not to use it much, to prevent spam-induced unsubscription, but I try and announce upcoming Kickstarters and projects there first. And if none of that suits, here’s a contact form:

GameHole Con 2018 – Con Report

Well, I survived! This was the first convention that I’d attended since my journey to GenCon 2017, as part of my first foray as being part of the con as Gaming Ballistic, LLC. I was, more importantly it turned out, also there as part of my Kickstarter rewards for backing the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Powered by GURPS) at the “play the game with Kromm” level.

That’s important for this journey to Madison, Wisconsin for two reasons.
1. I played through what would turn into the linear adventure Lost Hall of Tyr (for D&D5e) there for the first two times
2. I got to know the Dungeon Fantasy RPG for the first time

My mission for this Convention, then? To demonstrate and run Hall of Judgment, the first licensed adventure or supplement of any kind for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. To talk with the SJG folks (Phil and Steve were both there) about further ideas for supporting GURPS. To get to meet in person folks like Matt Finch, Erik Tenkar, Jason Hobbs, and many others whom I’ve interacted with – and who have helped me so much – in getting my games off the launch pad. I simply could not have done what I did on Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment without an absolutely crucial hour or so with Zach Glazar, who pumped an incredible amount of InDesign Starter information into my head.

I also was hoping to sell a few copies of my product, which was a secondary goal but a real one.

Let’s recap. Continue reading “GameHole Con 2018 Trip Report!”

Dragon Heresy is in the hands of backers at last, having shipped out all copies to those who backed the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter, and by this time tomorrow, I’ll have gotten all of the DH copies out to those that added it to Hall of Judgment as well.

As folks have received it, it is my sincere hope that they do as The Mixed GM did, and review it. His review is short, sweet, and to the point, which allows me to make some useful commentary along the way.

First Go Read The Review

“Now that’s a cover! (Please excuse my phone camera and lack of camera skills)”

He likes the cover. The art is by noted Western Martial Arts instructor and historian Roland Warzecha. He told me that he had so much fun embellishing and making the drawing that his wife (whom I believe is the warrior pictured) had to nudge him to stop spending time on it. Read about the details of the composition here on the Dimicator Patreon page.

“Honestly, it feels like a halfway point between 5E and the OSR.”

That, of course, was deliberately intentional. I like the OSR games for their speed of play, their reliance on the GM and player skill, and the open-endedness where rules are only invoked when needed.

I like 5E as a delightfully modular system that attempts – mostly successfully – to unify the basic mechanics of a very large amalgamation of various accumulated rules and ideas into a coherent whole. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of the 5E games I’ve played.

It’s also, as he notes, a hack – it adds a small number of subsystems (grappling, social standing, flyting) and rules tweaks (wounds/vigor, Threat DC/Hit DC, and Damage Reduction for armor) that I think add to verisimilitude and enhance epic play.

“Hopefully, the ‘X’ will be Kickstarted soon…”

I’ve been asked about this a few times by enthusiasts, much to my delight. Yes, I have further plans. Yes, Level 1 through Level 20 is already written.

But the art – all of which really ought to be new going forward – is going to be expensive, and I’d really like to see significant interest from the market at large before I do another big one like the Intro Set. I’d like the next book to be full-color hardback, with the same production values, just like the Intro Set was. That takes serious funding, which takes serious backer interest.

“Removed the Thief/Rogue Class”

It’s true that the thief/rogue is gone from the Dragon Heresy Intro Set! But perhaps not for reasons why you might think.

Thievery in general was a great way to get yourself outcast in Viking society. In Egil’s Saga, Egil, a loud-mouthed, distemperate and ridiculously effective fighter (berserker/barbarian, really) and raider, goes on a raid. His force gets captured, but by virtue of prodigious strength, he escapes (by lifting up the main pole of the longhouse that he’s tied within!).

They grab their weapons, some loot, and head back to the ship. Midway, Egil stops, and says that he cannot do this. He refuses to be so dishonorable as to steal. They go back, and I believe set the target’s longhouse on fire, and kill those who emerge.

See, stealing is bad. But setting a house on fire and killing the men as they emerge? That’s perfectly cool.

In any case, I had to make some hard choices when reducing my overall manuscript from 750-800 pages for my full three-volume original intent to 250-300 for the Introductory Set. Certain classes had to go. Berserkers had to be there; too Viking to not be. I added Skald (bard) back during the Kickstarter.

But there just weren’t very many Viking thief stories, and for an Intro Set, I had to make choices. So Thief, Druid/Trevinur, Ranger, Paladin, and Sorcerer went by the wayside.

They exist, though. So do some very cool “explicit multi-class” options I wrote. Maybe in a Character Building expansion; that would add back the missing classes, and push the levels covered from 1-5 to include maybe up to 12 or 13.

Builds in the grappling rules from ‘Dungeon Grappling’

I’m glad he listed this as part of “The Good!”

Interestingly enough from an historical perspective, the Dungeon Grappling rules existed first as part of the Dragon Heresy manuscript. When I got advice that no one in their right mind would fund a three-volume set from an unknown guy (true advice, if hard to swallow), I broke out the unique grappling rules as my first product.

They improved over time, and honestly improved again when I modified them for the Powered by GURPS supplement Hall of Judgment for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, and then were inserted back into Dragon Heresy, where they exist in their present form.

Grappling is now very intuitive and easily blends with regular combat. The way it should be.

FULL COLOR ART EVERYWHERE

Yeah. Won’t lie, I’m proud of that. And while he’s kind enough to ‘respect my IP’ by not publishing more images, here are a few more.

I really had a lot of fun specifying the art, and my art team: Juan Ochoa, Ricardo Troula, Christian “KrizEvil” Villacis, Roland Warzecha, Michael Clarke, Cornelia Yoder (cartography), Gerasimos Kolokas, Elizabeth Porter, John Blaszczyk, Gennifer Bone, Erin Arik, Dean Spencer, and Rick Hershey did amazing things with the book.

The Viking-ish world is baked into every aspect of the game, from class section to monsters

This is vital to the book, and to the world. I did everything I could – and given that the SRD is mechanics only, I had to do quite a lot – to ensure that everything tied to the world, to a viking/Norse feel, and had a reason. Even the Tieflings and other half-human, half-creature races, are tied to the world. There’s a reason that those exist (half-elves, half-dragons, half-fiends, half-Asgardians) and a reason the Dwarves have no half-human parts.

A Vigor and Wounds system that is a little deeper than just hit points

This bit was important to me, as it both makes being dogpiled quite dangerous, but it also resolves some weird edge cases. It’s also in keeping with the Gygazian notes on p. 82 of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, where he notes that it’s ridicuous for a high level combatant to be robust enough to only be killed by 10 sword strokes that land home, where a 1st level guy only takes one. Humans are fragile. With wounds/vigor, so long as you keep your wits about you, you can probably take most attacks as vigor. But once wounds start accumulating? Beware the death spiral, and consider strategic withdrawal.

Playtesting revealed this was a lot of fun, and produced an element of risk in fights that those that enjoy games like GURPS will recognize and enjoy. Anyone who has had to blaze through a foe with 150 HP in an unadulterated battle of ablation will appreicate it as well.

The Bad:  It is based on 5E, so if you hate 5E and 5E-based things with a burning passion, this may not be the game for you

This is simply true . . . but depending on what you don’t like about 5e, you might find I’ve addressed some of it. Shields are way cooler. All battles aren’t a slog of HP ablation. Grappling doesn’t suck, and is in fact pretty fun. Monsters that grapple are terrifying. Vikings.

There’s a lot to like here, even if I say so myself.

The Ugly: It has Tieflings. I don’t like Tieflings

I have no response to this except an image of gratuitous Tiefling art courtesy of Juan Ochoa.

Parting Shot

The Mixed GM’s review is considerably shorter than my response to it. He definitely hit the highlights: if you like 5e, there’s a world to explore, some fun rules tweaks, and it’s a very pretty and well put-together book.

I hope you are encouraged to pick up a copy and see for yourself!

And we’re done!

At least I hope so!

This morning I dropped off about 40 books into the mail, which means that all but one order – and that one is an international order – is complete. I’ll take care of that one with TheDiceLatte in Korea over the next day or so.

Including today, this means that the usual 10 days of media mail will bring us to Halloween. October 31 . . . meaning that I can chalk Dragon Heresy as my fourth “on time or early” Kickstarter, preserving my 100% hit rate.

Thanks to everyone for supporting this project.

A Request

I’ve been getting some nice emails or quick Tweets about the book, which of course, I appreciate greatly. Even better would be a fast review on a social media site or forum, even better attached to a play report. It’s a non-trivial ask, I grant, but the more folks curious about Dragon Heresy and who buy books, the more support I can give to the line! (More on that later.)

Favorite Local Heretical Gaming Store

As a result of breaking through to the last stretch goal, I’m in possession of about 1,300 copies of Dragon Heresy that I’d obviously love to move out and get into folks’ hands. So bring your own copy by your Favorite Local Gaming Store, and they can either order from me directly or the books will be available via Studio 2 come December. I think the books will have great shelf presence, and if your game store owner contacts me, we can work out an appropriate retail discount if you want to order from be before then.

What next?

Well, the very first thing will be to provide a bit of adventure support. Originally, Lost Hall of Tyr was a convention module I ran for 5e at GENCON 50, and then published it as a 64-page supplement.

I approached Steve Jackson Games about converting it to The Dungeon Fantasy RPG (Powered by GURPSand to my surprise and pleasure, they said yes, and we announced Hall of Judgment for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG in April. In doing the conversion, I also expanded it to be more of a micro-setting rather than a linear convention romp. It grew to 128 pages, with more detail around the city, three additional dungeons/locations, and tweaked-out new rules.

Well, I’m going to be converting the larger version of Hall of Judgment back into Lost Hall of Tyr, 2nd Edition (for Dragon Heresy). I’ve already got a preliminary layout, and the new edition will support play at Level 1-5 for Dragon Heresy. Any who already have the PDF will get a free upgrade; I can’t upgrade the print copies, as I’m sure you understand.

I’ve also been asked about mid-tier play. Well, there’s good news and a challenge there. The good news is that I’ve got another two races (elves and gnomes), several classes that didn’t make it into the Introductory Set (Ranger, Paladin, Warlock, Monk, Sorcerer), 16 more backgrounds, and of course the spells lists that go along with them. Those need to be edited and laid out, but they already exist.

The challenge is art. I’ve used and re-used quite a bit of the original art I’d had commissioned for my first four products, and I’ve had quite enough of that. So there will need to be new art to go into this expansion. I’d also like the product to sit next to the Introductory Set on retail shelves, which means an offset print run!

Those would require money. I’ll rough out what it would need, and see if we can fit a crowdfunding campaign into what is shaping up to be a very exciting and busy 2019.

Fit in? Yeah. I’m not ready to announce yet, but expect even more support for the world of Dragon Heresy in 2019, and not just written by my hand. I can’t wait for the announcement, but a few things are pending that need to happen first.

So stay tuned . . . and I hope that I can continue to make things happen over the next 14 – 18 months for you.

Thanks again!

I got word from Studio 2 that 1,510 copies of Dragon Heresy arrived there yesterday, and before the day was over, 320 of those were on their way to me here in Minneapolis.

Delivery to me is scheduled for Tuesday. I expect to print labels and start shipping the following day. So all books should be in hand by the end of October, as promised.

We’re coming down to the end of this one. Now I just need to determine what, if anything, is next.

I heard from a backer in Sweeden that he just received his hardcopy of Dragon Heresy. So “international” backers should look for theirs this week or next, ideally.

Last I heard, we’re still on schedule to have the bulk of the US order arrive at Studio 2 on October 8, which hopefully means will see inventory at my house later that week, and then into media mail for the USA. Hopefully that means US folks should have their games by Oct 21.

If your address has changed since the Kickstarter, ping me at gamingballisticllc@gmail.com and I’ll change it in Backerkit. Once the books arrive at my house, I’ll print postage via the Backerkit online system – that worked beautifully when I did it for Hall of Judgment – and that, as they say, will be that. 186 copies of Dragon Heresy, plus assorted other copies of Lost Hall and Dungeon Grappling, are in the queue for distribution. A few of you ordered 3-4 of them.

I think you’ll be pleased with the books. We’re almost there!

It’s been a long time coming, but the first hardcovers are going into the mail. As seems to be amusingly the case, it’s the international books that go out first. Roughly half the books went out last week, and the rest will go out next week. Postal service is Korean air mail, so it should be pretty much everywhere in about two weeks. Hopefully everyone will have theirs by Oct 6 or so, certainly I hope by Oct 13.

For the US folks, I expect October 8 (ish) to be the date that something like 1500 books arrive at Studio 2, and then it’ll take a few days to get 320 books (about half a pallet) to me in Minnesota. I’ve already got the packing materials, labels, etc, and so will be able to process the US books and get them into the mail in a matter of days. After that, it’s the usual 2-10 days for USPS to get it there, so everyone should have their stuff by the end of October, as promised.

Shipping internationally was unpredictably expensive. That’s on my end, and it will figure strongly into “lessons learned” for the future.

What Now?

Breathing is good and important. It’s been a real sprint here at Gaming Ballistic since April 1. That day, SJG and Gaming Ballistic announced the conversion of Lost Hall of Tyr to the Dungeon Fantasy RPGand the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set went live on Kickstarter.

Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment

A month later, I’d met the goal for an offset print run, and got busy – very busy – finishing up the PDF for Dragon Heresy. The PDF went out to backers on June 17; the printable PDF (higher resolution but flat file with no hyperlinks) went to AsiaPacific Offset on June 18. The Hall of Judgment Kickstarter launched June 19.

That one was my best Kickstarter yet. More backers than any of my prior projects by a long way, and frankly, a better “mix ratio” of print to PDF than other projects as well. Nearly 2/3 of backers wanted a physical copy of the book. My best estimates put that mix at 50%. Also: there were 1,587 backers of the box set RPG: 1/3 of that number is 529, which is coincidentally exactly the same number of backers that Hall of Judgment got. Since the typical group seems to be about 5 people including the GM, really anything more than a 20% hit rate is amazing, and Hall of Judgment did quite a bit better than that!

Fulfillment

The Dragon Heresy books are “on the water,” and should arrive at Studio 2 on October 8. I’ll get a sub-shipment of 320 books a few days later, so by the end of that week, I hope to have all domestic books in the mail, which means that with little room to spare, the “October” promised delivery date for all rewards will be met.

The first two cartons of Hall of Judgment (about 120 books) arrived at my house yesterday, and all of them but a few have been boxed up and mailed off already. The remaining five cartons should arrive at my house by noon today, and I will begin the process of finishing up shipment there. Folks will start receiving their books next week, then, and might extend into the 3rd week of September. The promised delivery date for rewards was August; some of our not-the-USA friends did actually get their physical copies in the trailing days of August, and I apologize to the US crowd for the month of delay. I do think, however, having finally held the book in my hands, that you will be pleased.

That does mean, though, that I’ve been hard at it for six months straight. It’s been a wee bit of a sprint, especially with a day job. But now my kids are back in school again and my schedule should be normalizing. I hope. That means my breather, such as it is, is over. Continue reading “A Pause to Breathe: OK, that’s done”

It’s fulfillment week for two of my Kickstarters, whose physical product are coming due at roughly the same time. So: dual-wielding emails! (I picked up that proficiency/specialization over the last few months)

Other Books

If you are not in the USA and ordered Dungeon Grappling or Lost Hall of Tyr  as a physical copy from either the Hall of Judgment or Dragon Heresy Kickstarters, your books are now on the way. I placed the orders for six folks for Dungeon Grappling, and two more for Lost Hall (both of those from the Dragon Heresy KS). I have contacted the backers with a personal email with a copy of the info forwarded to me, as well as an order number.

Any issues, let me know. The UK product should show up within two weeks. Italy shortly thereafter. The Australia/New Zealand can take days or weeks, depending on when things fall together. But do contact me if things don’t move sprightly as things go forward.

Hall of Judgment

I’ve heard from Kixto in the UK, and they’re in the process of filling the HoJ orders for international folks, after which they’ll forward the rest of the orders to me via airmail. That still means that it’s not crazy-talk for me to see a pallet of books on my floor by the end of the week, or perhaps the weekend. This weekend is a holiday weekend in the US (Labor Day) and I’ll be at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival all three days doing Viking Martial Arts demonstrations . . . but as soon as it’s remotely possible, I’ll bundle your HoJ books and any other physical product that you’ve ordered into one shipping box and get them on the way by next week at the latest. So on schedule for Sept 15.

Dragon Heresy

The Dragon Heresy books are still going to be the last to leave. The books are done, and 50 books will head over to Dice Latte in Korea as soon as a few customs issues are sorted out and folks get back from vacation. Then the international copies for both DH and HoJ Kickstarters will go out. Sometime this week, I expect the books (nearly 1,500 of them) to move to staging at the shipyard, and then three weeks on the water to the USA. Then another week to get to Studio 2 in TN, and finally they’ll break the order into “keep ’em!” and “ship to Doug” and then I’ll do fulfillment from my house. So six to seven weeks until books are in-hand: first two weeks in October, I suspect.

Again, the US orders that have Dragon Heresy in them will be sent in one bunch. I will not hold Hall of Judgment waiting for a Dragon Heresy bundle, so if you ordered Dragon Heresy through the HoJ Kickstarter and you’re in the USA, expect two packages: one with HoJ and Dungeon Grappling and/or Lost Hall of Tyr (if you ordered those) and another with Dragon Heresy.

If you’re on the Dragon Heresy KS, you’ll get everything at once.