I’ll start with the obvious: content has been thin on the ground here for a while in terms of stuff that’s not just updates to my production process/crowdfunding efforts. This one won’t be much different, but it’s a bit of a download on what’s going on.

A Bit of Chaos

First thing, the last few months – maybe since April – have been very hectic. My family decided to move. Not far, still in MN, but we started the process. Found a house we liked. Bought it. And moved.

But we still hadn’t sold the old place yet. We’d put a lot of work into it, so we figured it would sell quickly. That didn’t happen. In fact, it still hasn’t happened. So things have been tight around here, and there’s been a lot of time and angst spent on the process. This past week, a buyer’s financing fell through, and so what we thought was a done deal was not. Exhausting, mentally.

The disassembly of my workshop also meant I stopped crafting for a while. That meant shields and promised goods for the Citadel at Nordvorn kickstarter were on the “to-do” list until my shop got set up again.

I also re-started training in Hwa Rang Do, so to spend more time with my wife, who’s an instructor. So my schedule changed quite a bit; again with less time.

This isn’t going to end with “so bad things for Gaming Ballistic, boo hoo.” It just has taken a bit to recover.

All the shields and swords are now done. My workshop is set up. Nordvorn is completely delivered, the physical copies from Four Perilous Journeys are due to arrive at Studio 2 before mid-November. And the Nordlond Sagas campaign . . . well, we’ll get to that in a moment.

GURPSDay

The first thing GB was known for, other than all the gun stuff and occasional forays into grappling rules, was GURPSDay. Before I got heavily into publishing, that was every week, like clockwork.

Now, with my schedule on Thursday being “get kids up for school early, and then get back from martial arts late,” it’s become irregular. I mostly get one out weekly, but not always. The 100 blogs (or so) that are part of the list are a bit more irregular too, and readership seems to have fallen off a bit. The giant spike in stats that I used to get isn’t nearly as impressive as it was.

I’ll still do it, but it needs a shot in the arm somehow.

Crowdfunding

Not any campaign in particular, but in general. Phil Reed has been (correctly) lamenting the state of the gaming industry for some time now. Too many projects, with too short a shelf life in folks’ minds. The usual timetable for how Kickstarter was “supposed” to work was

  • A roughly 30-day campaign, ideally suited to cover five weekends, so that there are at least two, maybe three, pay periods in there
  • Two weeks of “waiting for all the money”
  • Ten to 14 days for the primary Backerkit survey, which is there because one usually doesn’t know what shipping will look like until the thing is done

So that’s two full months of administrative time just getting the orders, sweating marketing, and hoping that folks will be using the power of social media networking to talk up your stuff. That doesn’t usually happen for the big guys, much less me.

Even if you’re completely on the ball and the entire project is done when Backerkit closes, the best you can usually do is send the PDFs out that day. You still have these steps to take, if you intend to go to print, which I like to do.

  • Have your backers check the PDFs for errors. They usually find some. That’s a nice 2 weeks minimum.
  • Assemble the final files, spool them out, and wait for art to be done. Again, that could be basically one day, could be more.
  • Send them to print. That’s a month. There’s a lot of surprisingly inactive time here.
  • Then move them around the world. I do a thing where my international books go to the UK, and ship out. That’s a week from Latvia to the UK, and then 1-6 weeks to arrive, depending on the quality of the post. For the USA, it’s supposed to be about a month more, but in reality seems to take more like six weeks, because things are always delayed. Always. Then it’s 2 more weeks for Media Mail to deliver stuff.

That’s another 14 weeks – three full months – before all stuff is in hand. Once the books go to print, though, the “I have so much stuff to do on Project X” period is really over. Starting a new project is not crazy at this point, but you will be paying lots of money for print, ship, and fulfillment during this period. So while the workload is lower, the financial drain is maximum. The biggest individual checks one writes are for printing and shipping. The total project cost is higher for art, but that’s almost always spent on many artists.

Best case, you can do a project every 2.5 months; worst case if you wait for everyone to get their stuff before you start the next one? Two projects a year.

I can’t really turn Gaming Ballistic into a self-sustaining main job at two projects a year. Even five per year isn’t awesome unless each of those gets roughly 2.5-5x as large as they are now. Doing MORE requires something else. I can parallel process more books at once than Kickstarter will allow me to do, since my project management skills are up to the task.

What to do? Well, I’ve got two options here.

One is to explore alternate options. GameOnTabletop is intriguing. One thing is that all the add-ons and whatnot are available right away, in addition to pledging. You know exactly what folks are getting, they’re just set up as items. So the “add a new thing in the middle” that happened with both Four Perilous Journeys and Nordlond Sagas is much easier to handle. I’m getting a better feel for shipping, too. I mean, it still sucks, and costs too much, but I can probably guess what it’ll be in advance of the projects these days, since I now can calculate the weight of books easily due to experience in actually getting them. So it’s a bit of a one-stop shop for that. Cards are charged right away, too, and the fees are lower. Cash flow should be superior to Kickstarter, and you need money to pay writers and artists right away when the work has already begun.

The other possibility is to bring it all in house. There’s a crowdfunding app on WooCommerce. No rules but the ones I make for myself. If I have an idea, I can put it on there and say “pre-order it, and it gets made if we hit the goal.” This provides a powerful market tool, in that if I’ve got several books I want to make, the backers will vote with their dollars on which ones they like, and which ones they don’t. It means I can have rolling funding drives, too. It’s sort of the bastard child of Kickstarter and Patreon. All the IT burden falls on me, but there are real advantages to this method. I may try it out with a single small project to work the bugs out.

Even so, the actual process of crowdfunding is a bit of a slog, since you’re bound to the rules of the other systems you use (KS, Backerkit, GameOnTabletop), and they take their cut. It may only be 5%, but that’s 5% that doesn’t go into developing new cool stuff. A few thousand bucks goes a long way at my scale.

Nordlond Sagas

Still working away at this. The block-and-tackle of Kickstarter and Backerkit should be done. The two small books – Nordlondr Folk and Hand of Asgard – are looking really good. Layout is finished, art is underway. Now it’s time to turn the effort to full-on editing the adventures, which is a big job. Writing tight, technical, entertaining prose takes work, and so the authors and I are in constant contact helping that out.

I’ve got about five weeks to edit and lay out the two adventures. That will get them in a state to have art done, I hope, by the end of December. I’ll admit it . . . that’s starting to look optimistic. Even so . . . time to get to it.

Next Year

The current project will run through the end of the year at least, and I suspect that I will slow down a bit on the back-to-back sprints that has been this year. Even so, there’s at least two major things happening next year, and maybe more than two.

More Perilous Journeys

The first up in 2020 will be the sequel to 2019s very successful effort. The logistics pathways and needs for counter sheets, card decks, and of course the adventures themselves are now well known. Shipping and production time scales and costs are known. I anticipate a much better planned effort this time. Hopefully with content that folks want. I hope that with a few more hoped-for solos, and lots more time to plan and execute the cards and counters, that this will be even more successful than the last one.

The Nordlond Bestiary

This is the big dog of the coming year. I wrote a huge amount of text for the Dragon Heresy RPG back in 2015 and 2016, taking most of the SRD and writing fluff text and stats accordingly for the Norse-inspired world. Well, those efforts have turned to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG…and the words are still there. This is going to be the bestiary folks in the GURPS sphere have been waiting for. A giant book of monsters, thematically unified by the Nordlond setting . . . but any GM worth their salt can port the critters to their own needs. It’s going to take a lot of work to do right, but I’ve got a great team.

Dragon Heresy

Speaking of Dragon Heresy, I do have plans next year of taking some of the existing work – Lost Hall, Nordvorn, Rosgarth, and Forest’s End and pulling them apart to turn them into two different books. One with lots of setting and flavor information, and one with the adventure content. I’m likely to crowdfund these to see if they can garner up enough interest for a profitable print run as well.

DriveThruRPG

I’ve avoided putting my stuff on DriveThru for a while; the bite they take out of revenue is large, and in most cases the print quality of their POD offerings is simply lower than the books I print in Latvia. But in 2020, all my PDFs will go up on DriveThru as well as through other channels. We’ll see what happens there.

Conventions

I’ll be at two conventions early in 2020. The first is Con of the North, here in Minneapolis Feb 14-16. So Happy Valentine’s Day. The second is FnordCon, down in Austin TX. That’s April 3-5.

Shields and Swords

I’ve refined my techniques on these, but they’re only going to be available by special order, through the website. I love making them, and have gotten much, much better at it. But they’re not really on point for the publishing business. Even so, if you’re interested, reach out. They’re not cheap, but the shields in particular are going to be closer to what you might have seen historically (based on certain finds) than most of what you see made of plywood online. Some of those plywood guys cost more than my planked, accurate ones!

Parting Shot

So that’s the recap for Gaming Ballistic. I’m not sure if the work above will be what folks want – I hope so – but it seems like a good plan for 2020. There might be one surprise – and it would be a big, cool one – that could show up later in the year.

It’s a full schedule, but less than I would be able to do if I could get the reach and interest to make my hobby job my day job. That, of course, is on me . . . and we’ll see how that goes. Maybe I’ll win the lottery.

 

A friend of mine forwarded this to me, taken at Source Comics and Games in the Twin Cities.

A whole rack, all mine! Dragon Heresy prominently displayed, plus both of the new Dungeon Fantasy RPG products!

I think I need to go there and get a selfie of, as a Discordian put it, my “nice rack.”

As I continue to work towards the closure of various Kickstarters, I thought I’d take a moment to work down the list of what GB currently offers, and its status. I’ll do this in the order they were published for active products, and then talk about a few things I’m retiring or deprecating.

One quick note: unless I screw things up badly, and in business, that’s always possible, 2019 is going to be the best year to date for Gaming Ballistic. Not only is revenue up already by 2x over 2018 (and there’s still likely another KS in the near future this year), but GB is strongly trending to a profit as well. Even formal break-even would be amazing – covering 100% of all costs – but having something left over to fund future work or (gasp) reimburse my own inputs is a great thing, and very good for Year 3 of a business.

Anyway: to arms!

Active Products

The following products are currently on sale at Gaming Ballistic and/or other places, and likely to remain so.

Dungeon Grappling

Dungeon Grappling was my first product, and the one that set the tone for Gaming Ballistic and Kickstarters. It’s also sold well: Since creation, Dungeon Grappling has moved 654 PDF copies and an additional 358 print copies, for what was my first title with over 1,000 sales.

It is, even if I do say so myself, very good, and achieves its mission of unifying the grappling mechanics and feel in S&W and 5e; I think it falls short on Pathfinder a bit. Other folks think so too.

I recently found myself having to re-order 100 copies of my print version, having run out. I’d need to do a well-received crowdfunding campaign that scored at least 500 (and ideally 750) backers to reprint this in a way that could go do distribution, though. Unless that happened it’s going to have to stay POD.

Honestly? The demand should be there. It really adds to games. Perhaps if I continue to grow revenue and income I’ll invest and take the inventory risk. That can be a 2020 goal.

Dragon Heresy Introductory Set

The crown jewel, in a way, of my RPG line, this was the reason I got into RPG publishing in the first place. This is, bar none, the highest production value book I have made, and competes favorably with any other book on the market from that perspective.  Heavy weight cover (3mm board), 128gsm (85#) matte-coated paper with a sewn binding, done by offset printing. In the last 15 minutes of the Kickstarter, I got a $1,000 pledge that pushed me into “offset print run” territory, and I committed hard, ordering 1,500 books.

Well, I still have a lot of those left, but my recent experience at CONVergence gives me hope – it was my strongest seller in numbers and dollars, at a convention where basically no one shows up to buy RPGs (that’s not its purpose).

To date, Dragon Heresy has moved 414 PDF and 309 Print copies. There have been perhaps 30 distribution sales into retail, and 8 direct-to-retail sales. Folks that have played it – really played it – have commented favorably on the blend of tactics and options without being overwhelming. OSR players that have experimented with it talk of it as “the only version of 5e they’ll play.” At the convention, when asked, I not-entirely jokingly said “Well, this one time, GURPS and 5e got drunk at a convention, and disappeared to a room for a bit. A year (maybe two?) later, Dragon Heresy was born.”

There will be more Dragon Heresy support coming out in the future, and should things pick up more, I have levels 6-20 already written, with vastly more monsters, classes, races, and spells, all tuned to the game.

Lost Hall of Tyr (Second Edition)

An enhanced version of the original Lost Hall of Tyr based on the doubling of the page count that we did for Hall of Judgment.

It includes a lot more on the city of Isfjall, which is a great viking-flavored location for any D&D game (and is presented in mostly system-neutral terms anyway, which means it’s a great location for any game). It’s moved about 91 PDF and 118 Print copies, so not a strong seller yet. I’ve got an idea about that, but it’ll be late 2020 I think before I can pull it off.

Hall of Judgment (First and Second Edition)

My first license for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, it was, at the time, almost my best Kickstarter to date (since eclipsed by both Nordvorn and Four Perilous Journeys). It was the expansion that added 64 pages to the convention-driven Lost Hall of Tyr (1st Edition) and added new maps.

The success of Nordvorn meant I could revisit it for distribution, and I did. Sewn binding, excellent paper, and upgrade maps, plus errata fixes. And a cost to produce that’s low enough to support sitting with pride next to Nordvorn and (hopefully . . . retailers get on it!) the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set.

Folks that have played this with me at conventions have loved it. Play reports and reviews have been very positive. Inspired by Dungeon Fantasy: Caverntown, it delivers what GURPS fans have been asking for: a full-color, high production value treatment of their favorite game, and adventure support to boot. In print.

It also includes a preliminary version of “Fantastic Dungeon Grappling,” which was later expanded into its own stand-alone release. Taking the concepts from my SJG-published book GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling, and refined in Dungeon Grappling, it distills the core down to about four pages.

It also includes over 30 monsters and 16 pre-generated DFRPG characters, which means it has more monsters in it than the excellent DFRPG Monsters 2 book.

To date, Hall of Judgment (both editions) has moved 717 PDF and 541 Print copies, for 1,258 total sales! Over 120 of those came from the Nordvorn Kickstarter as the second edition version . . . and THAT book just arrived at Studio 2 on August 6, which means it should start heading off to backers Real Soon Now.

Note that until I run out, Hall of Judgment 1st Edition is on sale at both my website and Warehouse 23 for 50% off. So if you want a print version of the book but don’t want to pay as much, you can nab it for about $12.50.

The Citadel at Norðvorn

While Dragon Heresy has – by virtue of being a hardcover – ostensibly higher production values, I am ridiculously proud of Norðvorn.

Front to back, it’s a gorgeous book. The art team over-delivered, and the setting screams to be used. As a mini-setting, it’s not an “adventure” so much as it is a playground. A great, glorious, full-color playground that lets you go romping around Nordlond dealing with men, faerie, and dragonkin in a strongly interlinked set of issues. It provides a relationship map that will allow GMs to improvise responses to their players’ actions, and I have used that map on more than one occasion to improvise four- and five-hour play sessions.

Nearly all the sales have come from the Kickstarter, and it’s not yet available for wide release. It arrived at Studio 2 in TN for distribution the week of Aug 6, and will hopefully be in all backers’ hands by the end of the month.

Thus far, even so, it’s sold 587 PDF and 432 Print copies, for 1,119 total.

Fantastic Dungeon Grappling

Yeah, I write a lot of grappling rules. But rarely have I had an opportunity to play, refine, rewrite, play some more, play with other people, and then finally commit to print such a concise, fun-filled short work.

I won’t lie, folks: this is the grappling product you want. It is better-written, fully tested, and simply an improved version of Technical Grappling, done in 8 pages rather than 50. Why? Because as it turns out, you don’t really need more. Now, I could certainly take TG and do each technique as a worked example using the concepts presented in Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. But for the DFRPG, well, those techniques don’t exist.

This is my most-played concept. I and my fellow GM friends have used these rules in actual play over multiple campaigns, and they add a lot of flavor and fun to the game with minimal overhead.

It moved 272 PDF copies and 171 Print copies through me during the kickstarter . . . and, well, at least 1,000 more because it was included in the DFRPG Boxed Set Reprint. That was something I never expected SJG to do, but they did, and it means in terms of number of copies floaing out there, this is my #1 product, ever.

Pending Products

The following products are currently in the final stages of development and production. They are all part of the “Four Perilous Journeys” crowdfunding campaign and were developed for The Fantasy Trip, with rules under license from Steve Jackson Games.

  • Ironskull Castle (16-page GM’d adventure by David Pulver)
  • Crown of Eternity (16-page GM’d adventure by Christopher Rice and J. Edward Tremlett)
  • Citadel of Ice (16-page GM’d adventure by David Pulver)
  • Curse of the Pirate King (16-page GM’d adventure by Christopher Rice and J. Edward Tremlett)
  • Vampire Hunter Belladonna (32-page solo adventure by David Pulver)

These products are being finalized and are due to go live, and be sent to the printer, before Aug 18. They will also have NPC/Monster cards available – but ONLY through the Kickstarter/Backerkit Pre-order – that are compatible with the Decks of Destiny. And full-color 1″ counters to go with each adventure. And more.

This was my most successful Kickstarter in backer count and funding level, with only a few dollars shy of $50,000 raised before fees and licensing and whatnot. These are going to be very, very pretty on the inside, and the color cover/greyscale interior aesthetic is being put to great use by the art team. These will also go into distribution!

The Kickstarter moved 608 PDF copies and 432 Print copies of each volume, making it an instant 1,000+ club member.

Viking Shields

These mostly move through my Kickstarters as super-high-end tier products, and (due to a house move that disassembled my workshop) I still have four in the queue to make. I’ve maybe sold 10 . . . but they get better and more historically accurate with each one, and they’re an awful lot of fun.

I’ve gotten better supply chains and so they’re more affordable, and the materials (hides, cheese glue or hide glue, milk-based paints, quarter- or rift-sawn poplar that I cut down and dried myself) are top notch.

Retiring/Idle Products

There are several products that are going to be de-emphasized or retired completely.

  • Lost Hall 1st Edition in all forms
  • Hall of Judgment 1st Edition PDF

For obvious reasons, these “first edition” products are being replaced by their improved versions. Accounts at Warehouse 23 and other places will be updated with the new versions where possible, but they’re new ISBNs for the new editions as well.

Parting Shot

Even if I do say so myself, the fact that all of my DFRPG products have moved 1,000 copies or more impresses me. In fact, the only books of mine that haven’t moved more than 1,000 copies (though that does add together print and PDF sales independently) are Dragon Heresy and Lost Hall of Tyr.

I have more stuff on the way, as well. I’m contracted with authors to provide the equivalent of six 16-page TFT books (which will likely be another 32-page solo and four GM’d adventures). I’m also looking for more authors, and I hope to find a way to release a lot more of these 16-page and 32-page books in the next few years.

The next project that launches will be a pair of Nordlond expansions, The Dragons of Rosgarth and Forest’s End, each of which will be 64-80 pages long and further flesh out the northern border of the Nordlond Setting. Look for that in late August or September.

So . . . that’s what’s going on with my books. Take a look. Maybe buy a few.

PDF Distribution

Anyway . . . all PDFs that were part of this Kickstarter have been sent out. In four cases, these are the “final” files: Fantastic Dungeon Grappling, Dragon Heresy, Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition), and Dungeon Grappling.

In two cases, Hall of Judgment and of course The Citadel at Nordvorn, I’m taking errata and comments until Apr 29 or so, when I send the final files in to the printer.

The Backerkit and pre-order phase of the project will be open until I send the order to the printer next week. After that, the PDF sales (and print-book pre-orders) will migrate to my website. Once both print and PDF products have been sent out, a quantity of all the books will be sent to Warehouse 23 and listed there, plus PDF sales. Of course it’s best for me if you buy them directly from my website . . . but as Guy Fleegman once said, “I’m just jazzed to be on the show, man!”

Say Things Please?

I’ve gotten a few nice comments as part of proofreading, for which feedback I thank you. That being said . . . if you have a review, initial impressions, or comments about the book, telling me is great. Telling Facebook, SJG Forums, RPG.net, Reddit, Twitter, theRPGPub, etc what you think is even better. If you feel strongly, you can always include a link to the hosted pre-order page:

https://the-citadel-at-norvorn.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders

The author saying “buy my stuff, it’s fun!” is all well and good. If I didn’t think it, I shouldn’t write it. But the backers saying “was worth it,” or even better “I’m going to run this/I ran this and it was fun!” is even better.

No Rest for the Weary

If you’ve seen the Gaming Ballistic publishing schedule for 2019, you’ll know I’ve got a lot going on:

The next on the docket is “TFT Group 1.” That will be four adventures for SJGames’ The Fantasy Trip.

I’m pleased to say that I took a break from Nordvorn to do a draft layout of one of the four adventures – I’ve got them all in hand already – and I’m pleased with how it breaks down. The complete adventure text, with reflow, comes in at about 11 pages or so, with some room for art. The remaining five pages are going to be tokens and maps, more art, and of course a title page and table of contents.

I like doing a bit of layout first. It’s somewhat silly, but it’s far easier for me to see things, edit things, and get a good drink of a draft if it’s on paper. Also: I need to do it eventually, and being able to directly import a file into something that looks good makes for a better Kickstarter presentation.

And while “April 19” has but a week left in it, the first two weeks in May is very possible for a crowdfunding launch. In fact, May 8 through June 2 looks like good dates for the campaign.

I’ve played a bit of The Fantasy Trip at FNORDCon and GameHole Con, and it’s a great little tactical combat game, and in the “old-school” fashion, is easily expanded into a “roll and shout” RPG with In the Labyrinth. 

The adventures being funded are not (yet) Nordlond adventures. I don’t have an issue with doing some! And I may well throw down a few Viking-esque adventures later (I’ve got an idea there, in fact, that would be a great short scenario).

Realistically, that puts crowdfunding completion and backerkit surveys finished in the first week in July, with The Dragons of Rosgarth launching in July, and Forest’s End in September/October. So there should be  three completely new books for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, plus Fantastic Dungeon Grappling and Hall of Judgment (2nd Edition) in 2019 for the Powered by GURPS crowd.

We’ll finish up the year with yet another project for The Fantasy Trip, and the authors are hard at work there as well.

Final Touches

Even so . . . I’ve still got a week to go on Nordvorn, and I assure you I will not be idle. The proofing and commentary has already proven valuable and continues to be more so, and those edits will be reflected in the released draft. A reminder on what you can help me with:

  • Spelling, typos, and errors in layout/formatting. Y’all are rocking this already.
  • Mistakes in monster stats. Gotten a few of these, and they’re vital.
  • Glossary Entries. “How do you pronounce this?” and “Oh, more Nordlond phrases” are both good reasons to stick an entry in the glossary. I’ve gotten one or two of these, but suggestions are welcome.
  • Index and cross-reference suggestions. Some of these are obvious: “see [Section Topic here]” will always get a link. Some are NOT so obvious. With PDFs, you can always just do “Find X,” but you can’t do that in print, and that’s where a good index comes into play.

And that’s that!

We just pillaged the $20,000 stretch goal for 128 pages. This makes me happy. Not the least reason for which is the unfinished draft lays out at 115 pages on a 112-page budget. So . . . I don’t  have to cut anything. Thank you all for making this my strongest Kickstarter ever.

As both Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 and The Citadel at Nordvorn enter their final hours (fewer than 12 for DFM2, about 60 as I type this for Nordvorn), it’s time to check and see if what you’ve got listed is really what you want, and (if it’s not) push the proejct to the offset print run by adding what you want NOW rather than in Backerkit.

Add-Ons vs Pledge Levels

Make sure you’re at the most efficient levels. If you’re interested in both print and PDF of both Citadel and Hall of Judgment, the Viking Raider and Retail Viking levels make more sense. If you’re interested in being a sponsor and want both books, you’ll pick one of the sponsor levels, and then plus-up with add-ons.

This is especially important for Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. At least one person has said they want that booklet and nothing else. The best way to make that happen is to pledge at the No Reward level, and make your pledge $4 for PDF, $7 for Print, and $9 for both.

The process for purchasing add-ons is one of adding sufficient “credit” to your pledge to cover your purchases once the Backerkit pledge manager phase goes online – shortly after the KS closes and cards are charged.

Once there, you’ll find your reward level already in your cart, and an option to buy add-ons. Add what you want just like you would on any on-line shopping experience. Shipping (if any) will be applied, and then your credit subtracted and then any balance can be paid with your credit card or other payment scheme accepted by Backerkit.

Let’s Get Physical

Plenty of folks want PDF for games because they’re searchable and don’t take up shelf space. Those are great reasons.

But for those who would love to have a physical book, but are nervous about international shipping, I’ll remind you that I do two print runs for non-offset books. One here in the USA, and another in the UK or EU. In fact, even if we DO an offset run, one of the printing locations for quality offset print is in the EU. So we’ll see!

So if shipping makes you nervous about physical goods . . . Hall of Judgment was $6 to the UK, $9 to the EU, and $12 to everywhere else. These costs are unpredictable, but avoiding the “ship it out of the USA” step helps a ton.

So consider print!

How to get ALL THE VIKING

If you missed the Hall of Judgment Kickstarter, and want all the Dungeon Fantasy RPG that Gaming Ballistic has to offer, you’re looking at getting:

  • Print and PDF of Citadel at Nordvorn ($35)
  • Print and PDF of Hall of Judgment ($30)
  • Print and PDF of Fantastic Dungeon Grappling ($9)
  • At least one FDG Bookmark. ($3 to $35, depending on quantity)

So if you want everything, select Viking Raider, and then pledge $77 (one bookmark) to $109 (25 bookmarks)

Not too late for Retail Viking

Four copies each of Hall of Judgment and Citadel at Nordvorn. Combined with a Retail pledge over on Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2, and you’ve got months of entertainment in a box, with more on the way later this year from Gaming Ballistic!

Bring that to the attention of your Favorite Local Game Store (but do it fast! DFM2 ends at just after 5pm Central Time!)

Add-on Options

You can always buy stuff without adding money here in Backerkit. But if you add now, you help achieve stretch goals.

You will have the options to add the following cool stuff in Backerkit:

  • Extra copies of Citadel ($14 PDF; $28 print; $35 bundle)
  • Fantastic Dungeon Grappling laminated bookmarks ($3 for 1, $10 for 5, $15 for 10, and $35 for 25; bookmarks in quantities of 5+ will be shipped in pages with five different pieces of art on them!)
  • Hall of Judgment ($12.50 PDF; $25 print; $30 bundle). There was an error on the original add-on listing; I’ve reduced the price.
  • Dungeon Grappling ($7.50 PDF; $20 Bundle). Finally, grappling rules that don’t suck for players of That Other Game (5e, OSR, or PFRPG).
  • Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) ($13 PDF; $26 Print; $33 Print+PDF bundle). This is Hall of Judgment pre-converted for you to the Dragon Heresy RPG.
  • Dragon Heresy Introductory Set ($20 PDF; $50 Hardcover Print; $60 Print+PDF bundle). The original system book for the setting being explored in Citadel at Nordvorn and Hall of Judgment. Gorgeous sewn-binding, 3mm cover . . . this is one of the best-printed books you’ll handle. If your friends play 5e but you want more tactical flexibility a la Powered by GURPS . . . this is your jumping off point. May be expensive to ship out of the USA, as all my inventory is in the States.
  • The Battle Shield of Torengar ($500). A hand-made shield made as close to the specs of actual finds as I can make it. Can be up to 35.5″ diameter, will be hide faced-and-backed, and likely 5.5 to 6.5 lbs total. This costs over $1,000 to ship outside the USA (yes, really), so it’s only available in the USA.

Offset Print Run Goal

The last goal that’s within reach (unless we add $10,000 in the next three days!) is the offset print run. Based on past Kickstarter performance . . . it’s not crazy. However, it’s a LOT of books, so the best way to get this done is to ensure lots of physical copies of Citadel are on the list. At some point, stretch goal or no, it’s just cheaper to go for the nicer printing . . . but I need to be ordering well over 600 books to make that work.

But it’s not crazy. 150 folks are PDF only. Nearly 380 people are following the campaign but have not yet backed. That’s an “actual plus latent” amount of nearly $35,000. So even that last stretch goal of 144 pages is not out of reach.

Wouldn’t that be something?

I was a guest this evening with Matt Finch, talking about my Top 5 DM Tips.

I had a rough week, so I had little time to prepare. That made it pretty easy, in a way: the only thing I could think of was the most important stuff. I took a few notes, and I think we had a great conversation!

You tell me. It’s about an hour.

Gaming Ballistic started as a blog in late 2012, and then became a company in its own right in October 2016, as the company formally launched its first product, Dungeon Grappling.

This year, 2018, marks the second full year of the company’s operation. It still has but one person doing all of the administrative work: me. During 2018, Gaming Ballistic existed as a vehicle to deliver Douglas’ game ideas, but that will change in 2019.

Gaming Ballistic is a producer of games and entertainment.

2017 Recap and Goals for 2018

In 2017, Gaming Ballistic posted a nearly $20,000 loss. This was mostly expected, since I made big investments in 2017 in Dragon Heresy, and my product focus was on small releases.

My stated goals for 2018 were

  • Release Dragon Heresy
  • Increase revenue and marketing reach
  • Write “The Hunted Lands,” a mini-setting for the DH Intro Set
  • Attend at least two conventions, in Iceland and Wisconsin
  • Make and Sell more shields
  • Five unannounced secret projects
  • Increase blogging of new content
  • Move Venture Beyond ahead

That was a tall order. How did I do?

2018 Executive Summary

To hit the highlights:

  • Gaming Ballistic increased revenue by over 450% in 2018 over 2017!
  • I still lost about $6,000 overall; I know where the losses were, and they’re understandable and OK for a company starting out
  • 2019 has over 15 products queued up, including one in Kickstarter right now, and could be amazing
  • Dragon Heresy, Hall of Judgment, and Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) are all gorgeous
  • I have launched and delivered five Kickstarters either early or on time

The High Points

Gaming Ballistic, oddly enough, makes games. Roleplaying games, to be precise. Ultimately, making and selling such things are why GB exists.

Fortunately, this year I managed to get three products into the launch tube.

Dragon Heresy

The big goal after 2017 was to hack down my monumental manuscript for the Dragon Heresy RPG into a single book. I got this done, Kickstarted it, and the project went very well. I did not blow the doors off the house and attract 1,000 backers and $100,000 . . . but I did, at literally the last few minutes of the campaign, smash through the $16,000 stretch goal that got me an offset print run! As a result, I managed to print 1,500 copies of what is one of the best-looking games I’ve handled. Most people who see it comment very favorably on its production values. That was a well-run campaign, and I spared no expense in getting the book done.

Dungeon Fantasy RPG License!

The really big news for 2018 was that Gaming Ballistic was granted a license to convert Lost Hall of Tyr, a 64-page adventure for 5e, into Hall of Judgment, a mildly de-Norsed adventure for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. The project went incredibly well, crushing my prior record for number of backers, and making very nearly as much money (short by $1000) as the far more expensive Dragon Heresy. This one was, and remains, profitable, and it has been very well reviewed.

This went very well. Very well. It went so well that as Sean noted in his foreword to the upcoming Citadel at Norðvorn, it changed the course of SJG’s intent for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, and landed me three additional projects to boot.

GameHole Con

I also hit my first convention since GenCon in 2017. I ran Hall of Judgment twice, played games with Matt Finch, and Steve Jackson, when I asked how Gaming Ballistic could work more with SJG, said “Write for The Fantasy Trip.”

More on that later. I missed out on a booth there for 2019, but I’ll be going back.

Shields and Weapons

The viking shields were a case study in research and improvement. I sold six to eight shields in 2018, including during my Kickstarters. Mostly, in fact, during the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter. But I also made a lot of investment in time and experimentation, eventually producing a pretty darn awesome hide faced-and-backed shield that even my picky Viking Martial Arts instructor approved for use in class. The pure satisfaction of making these right is a joy to me.

I also dabbled in making wooden wasters – practice swords – for class. These were not for sale (yet), but they were a big hit. As soon as I get a breather I’ll be making a bunch more of these for my Asfolk classmates.

Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition)

This is cheating a bit, but I launched and funded a third Kickstarter in December 2018. While financially, it did not meet the goals I set for it mentally, even if I couldn’t fund an offset print run, the book that came from the campaign is beautiful. Glynn did a remarkable job with the maps. All 1st Edition backers got the upgraded PDF for free, as promised.

It was also my first chance to test out the dual-print-run strategy I’d concocted to beat international shipping. Thus far, it’s going well. I’ll tell you more in a month.

Kickstarter Delivery

Not to put too fine a point on it, but as of the end of 2018, all of GB’s Kickstarters were delivered on time or early. People are saying nice things about me in that regard.

Off Target: Challenges and Missteps

Each year brings opportunities for improvement, and some missed steps.

Goals Not Met

The big stuff that I feel I didn’t do well is increase my blogging of new content, really extend my marketing reach, and move Venture Beyond along.

Companies live and die by the number of folks they can draw into their products. I’ve got some great stuff on offer, but my mailing list and ability to attract new customers was not what it needed to be by the end of the year.

Lost Hall of Tyr Goes Thud

I took a hard look at my prior Kickstarters for Dragon Heresy, Dungeon Grappling, and the original Lost Hall. I identified over 200 people that had backed Dragon Heresy but not the original Lost Hall. Then there were a bunch more that had backed Lost Hall in PDF only, and still more that had only gone for Dungeon Grappling. I figured I could hit the $6,000 softcover, lay-flat binding easy. The only real question was if we could scare up the 300 backers at $25 each (ish) to hit the hardcover printing.

Well, apparently the real question was something else. Roughly 131 folks, which is about 1/3 of the number that backed Dragon Heresy, came on board. We got a great digital print run (and I discovered a great domestic short-run printer to deliver it domestically).

But LHoT2e was a great example of coming back down to earth. I missed the market on this really, really badly.

Burnout

I launched Hall of Judgment the day after the PDF for Dragon Heresy went to the printers. I delivered both on time or early. Then I launched Lost Hall of Tyr 2e, thinking I’d step up my volume game, and it fell pretty flat. Sales of Dragon Heresy seemed lukewarm at best.

I really considered just hanging it up at that point. But then I got word from SJG that they were giving me a pretty awesome license to write TFT projects, and of course I had Nordvorn and two more projects in the hopper . . . So I committed to going full throttle in 2019.

2018 Financial Summary

Gaming Ballistic overall was not profitable in 2018, losing about $6,250 over the year.

Let me tell you why this is a tremendously good thing.

Revenue: Over 450% Improvement

First up: GB took in over $41,000 in sales and other income in 2018, more than 5.5x the prior year.

Actually, that’s pretty much it. I had tremendous revenue growth this year. New goal to beat! The good news/bad news is that I’ve got something like 1,200 copies of Dragon Heresy left to sell. Every single sale goes right to profit; they’re sunk costs at this point. One good review in the right place, and those can move quickly. Good potential here, but my watchword was revenue for 2018, and I hit that mark.

Costs: 85% Increase

My costs went up too, but much of that was in buying books. It took nearly $19,000 to bring Dragon Heresy home (and nearly 2/3 of that was printing the thing and getting it to the USA, and shipping it to backers).

I also spent nearly $2,000 in 2018 on Lost Hall 2e, and the maybe $5,000 to $6,000 in revenue that came from Kickstarter and Backerkit hasn’t come in yet. So 2019 is already looking nice.

Places to improve: I dropped a lot of money on raw materials for shields, backing other folks’ Kickstarters, and I spent quite a bit setting myself up with a computer worthy of graphic design and layout.

Adobe is still bloody expensive ($660 per year!) and I am strongly considering a move to Affinity Publisher and Photo. One-time fees for the win.

Net: Still Lost Money

A company’s business is to make money doing cool stuff. I lost money doing cool stuff, but I lost a LOT less, maybe 3x, than the prior year.

In My Sights: 2019 Goals

Well, if 2018 was the year of revenue, 2019 needs to be the year of profit and growth.

I’m going to be brief here.

  • I’ve got three Dungeon Fantasy RPG products in queue. The Citadel at Nordvorn is in Kickstarter right now, and 92% funded with two weeks to go.
  • The Dragons of Rosgarth, by Kyle Norton, and Forest’s End, by Merlin Avery will come out later this year. Both are more traditional adventures, and both will Kickstart
  • Fantastic Dungeon Grappling, a short independent take on the 4-page rules from Hall of Judgment, is nearly done. That one won’t go to Kickstarter, mostly because of bandwidth!
  • I have a licence to produce a minimum of 10 short adventures for The Fantasy Trip. David Pulver and Christopher R. Rice are hard at work, having completed one each and closing in on the second. That will Kickstart in April, and hopefully begin a series of once-a-month releases. We’ll see how the first KS goes, though
  • James Spahn is writing a viking-flavored OSR adventure for me. I can’t wait to see it.
  • I still need to do more original content publishing on my blog
  • I need to be profitable in 2019

That’s it. 2018 was much improved from 2017 . . . and 2019 could be amazing.

The print copies are on their way to me in the US, and will soon be on their way to my UK fulfillment house. That means print copies will arrive to all backers by the end of March for the Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) Kickstarter. Committed delivery date was before June. Am I pleased about this? Yes. Yes I am.

US Printing Complete!

I received notice that the US printing is ALSO complete. I expect to receive all the books by UPS Ground in the next few days, and it is possible that they could arrive before the weekend is out, which means, since my printer is in Iowa, only a 1-2 day ship time. So I should have them on Friday. Which means they’ll go into the USPS Monday.

Since it takes 2-10 business days to hit destinations in the USA: most everyone should have their copies by March 18.

Rest of World Proof received!

I also got the hardcopy proof from my UK printer today.

The Good

It’s a very attractive book. Putting my micrometer to it, it’s 8.2mm thick as opposed to 8.8mm for the US book. It’s about 90g lighter as well. It’s sharp looking and the color fidelity is good. Binding is good quality.

The changes I made to the cover were made properly.

The matte interiors on the silk-coated paper are legit nice. Under very strong lights in my dining room, they’re far easier to read than one would expect; even the ink doesn’t glisten/reflect much. It’s very nice.

Needs Improvement

I’d sent about 20 pages of corrections. Typos, missing formatting, and a few other things, on the inside of the book. These were not done, though the files were downloaded.

Where we Stand

I told them I would need to validate that the new pages were inserted, but that a digital proof would be acceptable for that. If they do this tonight (no reason they should not), then print approval for the not-the-US books will be given tomorrow (Thursday), and the print process beings. It’s only two or three dozen copies; it shouldn’t take very long.

I suspect fulfillment will begin on these next week, then. I’ll start working with Kixto to get quantities in hand, and print any other copies of books I need to deliver; there are only a few with multiple orders that will be challenging, so for the most part, not-the-US backers should have their stuff by the end of March.

Pix below the fold.

Flawless Victory?

This is the fifth book I’ve delivered early or on time. I am very pleased with that: no one wants to have to wait for their stuff longer than needed.

I’m running another Kickstarter right now. Set in the same world as Lost Hall/Hall of Judgment, The Citadel at Nordvorn expands the setting geography and lore. Check it out!
Continue reading “Lost Hall of Tyr: Print copies enter final stage”

I’m going to be on two more shows in the next two days!

RPG Coast to Coast

I will be one of the hosts tonight at the RPG Coast to Coast at 9:00pmEST//8:00pmCST//7:00pmMST//6:00pmPST.

Topics for tonight include discussing Longevity of D&D, Art not the Artist, How Best to Promote your Product, and whatever else strikes our fancy.

It’s going to be held in the Tenkar’s Tavern Discord chat.

How do I get to The Tavern Discord? Follow these Steps:

  • Step 1.) Go here https://discordapp.com/download
  • Step 2.) Click which is best for you Windows, Mac, Android, IOS, or Linux and download it.
  • Step 3.) Once it has finished downloading click the + button surrounded by a dotted circle on the left hand side
  • Step 4.) Click the Join a Server button and copy and paste this into it https://discord.gg/GaXW2TX

Being Stalked by Matt Finch

OK, not really. I reached out to him. 🙂

Even so, we will be chatting on his D&D Neighborhood channel at 6pm Central time, Saturday Feb 23. We always have fun.