Today two different podcasts dropped where I talk about Dragon Heresy and martial arts in RPGs in general.

Down with DnD

I was on Down with DnD with Christopher Sniezak, and the podcast just dropped. We spoke about the mechanics tweaks made to Fifth Edition to support a more-gritty, more option-filled viking play style that still keeps it light and fast.
Down with DnD sits down with Douglas Cole from Gaming Ballistic to chat about the mechanical changes to Fifth Edition for the Dragon Heresy RPG, now in Kickstarter.

DwD&D#142 – Dragon Heresy with Doug Cole

We had a pretty far-ranging conversation, and as always, Chris did his homework, looking over the preview copy of the game I provided.

Give a listen.

Hobbs and Friends of the OSR

Here I joined Jason Hobbs and Eric Farmer to talk about a more general topic – Martial Arts in RPGs, and in the OSR specifically. Is there room for “martial arts” in such a highly abstracted rules set?

Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic sat down with host Jason Hobbs and co-guest and podcaster Eric Farmer to talk about martial arts in the OSRMaybe, maybe . . .


The Dragon Heresy RPG

Dragon Heresy has been in development for a long time, and the Kickstarter is going very well – we’re sneaking up on 200% funding, and the big stuff happens around $16-22K.

Check it out, and if you can, pledge! If you can’t pledge, please re-share and link to it, so that word gets out.

New Goal, Big Book

In response to a few comments off line, the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter has added a stretch goal at $22,000 that will plus the book up to 304 or 320 pages.

This would follow the coveted-by-me offset print run, and therefore be affordable (a 320-page POD costs more than the current retail price of the book).

Classes like rangers, paladins, warlocks, and rogues would be on the menu of options (plus a few more).

Basically, if we hit this, I’ll put all of the content in a poll, along with wordcout. Y’all will vote, and I’ll fill the book up to a maximum page count starting with the most popular and working my way down until the allotted page count is filled.

Dragon Heresy Introductory Set Kickstarter has a retail option available for game stores that wish to sell physical copies of the product.Is This Likely?

We’re on a trajectory right now that is flirting with the offset goal. Right now, we’re sitting at $6,640, which means if we average just shy of $500 per day, we’ll hit the offset print goal!

That’s only 9 backers per day at the current average pledge level; only 14 per day gets us to the “Even More Content” goal.

Total backers required? About 300 and 400 respectively. That’s the same number that backed Dungeon Grappling for my first Kickstarter, and a bit more than that, and neither is the runaway success that 1000-2000 backers would indicate (more properly known as irrational exuberance given my current reach!).

So not only is it doable, it’s very doable. If you guys want to help, you can reshare the podcasts and updates, or say nice things in front of folks that will read it. The power of the network cannot be denied. Also: chat up your Favorite Local Game Stores, as the KS has a retail option available for five hardcover copies that gets especially appealing to all concerned once we hit that offset print run.

Dragon Heresy Podcast Week

As I’ve said in this space before, it’s kind of podcast week.

Last week THE ESTABLiSHED FACTS dropped, with Derek Knutsen-Frey

Today Table Top Babble went live. James Introcaso is always a great host.

For the rest of the week, you’ll see me on Hobbs and Friends, Down with DnD, and Uncle Matt’s D&D Studio, all of which were great conversations. I also pre-recorded a ‘cast that will go live on Apr 21 on Shane Plays, and will be speaking to Nerdarchy Dave later this week.

If there are any other shows that might be interested in talking to me about Dragon Heresy . . . let me know. I’ll find the time!

I thought it was worth explaining in more detail what’s actually in the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set.

Other Updates from the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter

  1. Welcome to Dragon Heresy! (blog/KS link)
  2. A Great Beginning: the first 24 hours (blog/KS link)
  3. Hail to the Shield-Guard! The Skjald-hirð carries the day! (FUNDED!) (blog/KS link)
  4. Designer’s Notes, and Shields with at least 12% more Viking (blog/KS link)
  5. The Established Facts Podcast (blog/KS link)
  6. Progress Report: Things moving along well (blog/KS link)
  7. Page Count, Cosmology, and first review (KS link)

I’m targeting a 3-5% wordcount reduction in the overall text during the editing stage to try and keep the book at 256 pages once the front matter, maps, Index, and ToC go in, so pages might shift a bit. But this will be a good guideline.

Not Exactly a Table of Contents

  • Introduction (1 page)
  • Core Mechanics (9 pages)
  • Generating Characters (1 page)
  • Character Races (11 pages)
  • Character Classes (11 pages)
  • Character Backgrounds (7 pages)
  • Beyond 1st Level (1 page)
  • Equipment (12 pages)
  • Campaigns/Adventuring (14 pages)
  • Rewards and Treasure (3 pages)
  • Magic Items (5 pages)
  • Combat (18 pages)
  • Damage, Rest, and Injury (6 pages)
  • Conditions (2 pages)
  • Magic (8 pages)
  • Spells by Class (25 pages)
  • The World of Etera (14 pages)
  • OGL (1 page)
  • Foes (100+ pages)

So that’s what’s in the book.

Cosmology Preview

There are a few things I’ve yet to do with this that will change a tetch by final entry, but here’s a brief glimpse into Etera and the Nine Realms.

The World Tree and pathway between worlds, Yggdrasil maps the ever-shifting flows of magic through the nine realms. One can move through the realms by tapping into and following the flows of magic, by being transported by Heimdallr’s Bifrost, or by stepping through a dimensional rift. The nine realms touched by Yggdrasil, the World Tree, are described below.

The branches of yggdrail run with the sap of magic, and touch all Nine RealmsRealms of the Gods

The highest branches of Yggdrasil reach into the heavens, and touch on the realms in which the most powerful beings in the universe dwell.

Asgard. The home of the Aesir, and the seat of power of Woden Allfather. Not all of the Aesir are on the level of Ziu, Donnar, Valfreya, and Skadi (to name but a few), and travelers can meet Aesir of varying power (See the Aesir section of the Bestiary). Transit between Asgard and the Realms of the Field is achieved via the Bifrost—a powerful teleportation circle over which Heimdallr of Asgard stands eternal watch.

Alfheim. This plane or dimension is the realm of the Archfae, and the home of at least the Winter Court. The Summer Court, if it exists at all, might be here as well. This plane is not the realm of the pocket dimensions of the lesser fae (svartalfheim), though access to that realm is much easier from Alfheim than other places.

Jotenheim. The “giant’s home” is the demesne of the elder dragons, where they undertake their journeys of mind and spirit as they slumber on their hoards. Even in their sleep, they are active—and very dangerous—in Jotenheim. Encounters with ancient and elder dragons can be expected, and their power is as great as their motives and desires are mysterious. It is called Jotenheim because that’s what the Aesir call it . . . and they were greatly disturbed when the Elder Dragons drove the giants from their Realm.

Realms of the Field

The middle branches of Yggdrasil contains the realms in which the powerful lords of creation play their games—the playing fields of the gods. This includes the world on which Etera sits, and possibly many others.

Midgard. The home of Etera and the physical world. The sun, moon, and the world are considered part of Midgard. The Astral plane, the realm of pure thought, interconnects the Realms of the Field like vines weaving through the branches of a tree. It is formally part of Midgard, as it cannot exist without the thoughts, perceptions, and guidance of the living minds of the world to create it.

Vanaheim. There is some mystery and argument over Vanaheim. The association of some of the Aesir, such as Yngvi Lifegiver and Valfreya with magic, nature, and the cycles of winter and summer are cause for debate over whether Vanaheim is the realm of magic itself, or if it is related to the spirts and natural phenomena of the world. The animating spirits of places and things that can be called forth that are not souls and elementals. Others—a distinct minority—feel Vanaheim consists of parallel worlds, similar to Midgard but different in some ways. The ethereal plane, the realm of alternates and interconnectivity between the physical and other, is part of Vanaheim.

Muspelheim. The plane of fire, and home to fiends. The Gods are much more powerful than even the lords of the tyrann and kvoldomur that rule over Muspelheim—at least on an individual basis. The fiends of Muspelheim are far more numerous than the Aesir, Elder Dragons, and Archfae, and pose a real threat to Midgard.

Realms of the Spirit

Here are the ephemeral planes and universes that stand in for archetypes and non-physical journeys.

Hel. The realm of death, over which Halja has dominion (but she commutes to work, and most often resides and can be found in Asgard). Here you may find the souls of the departed not selected to dwell in Asgard awaiting Woden and Valfreya’s need. This is also the realm necromancers contact and touch to create undead.

Niflheim. The realm of “ice,” so named after the first journeys to this plane found a cold and inhospitable space, filled with creatures of ice and frozen stasis. The name held, even when it was discovered that other elemental essences also were found here. This is where the fire, earth, water, ice, air and other elemental forces and archetypes originate.

Svartalfheim. The “home of the dark elves,” this is where the base fae create their pocket dimensions and personal realms. It is also an ethereal plane, and from here, a traveller may reach most other realms and worlds.

First Review

Follow Me and Die! posts reviews, discussion about gaming, and more

Larry Hamilton over at Follow Me and Die! likes reviewing my stuff. I like it when he reviews my stuff. It’s a good match. This is the first review published, but more are pending. So check out FMaD!’s review below


Well, the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter has funded. So that means that even with some “oops, I had a financial crisis” type stuff, we’re far enough in with long enough to go that I felt comfortable getting stuff moving.

Layout and Editing

As such, I have initiated the editing work. I’ve hired Vince Harper, who has worked extensively with Broken Ruler Games‘ Todd Crapper, to edit Dragon Heresy. He has all of the files.

(Todd did my layout on Lost Hall of Tyr, and we have become friends and collaborators.)

Anyway, that’s going on right now, during the Kickstarter. Speed is good.

I also got some nice work back from Michael on new layout for monsters, and I think I’ve got what we need.

This first one is a snapshot of the entry for Goblins. We’ve got smallish goblins, larger hobgoblins, and hobs bred for nothing but war and battle. The left column can support some art, as well as what will be a recurring theme in each entry: Identify Fiend or Foe.This will cover using the various skills (Nature, Religion, Arcana, Survival, History, etc.) that might provide tactically useful information, so that GMs and players can resolve some of that. These sorts of tidbits also provide insight into unique things about each creature.

Here’s a second one, on some undead:

You can’t really do Norse mythology without Vaettr and Raiðr. The Vaettr are dangerous, CR 3 foes, and that’s all by their lonesome. If they show up in groups, worry. If they show up in groups, with additional zombies they’ve created . . . run.

More Podcasts

I’m currently setting up two more podcasts and interviews. One with Matt Finch, who invited me on his show during the Tavern Chat yesterday.

The second . . . may be more interesting. No promises yet, but I’m working with the Delve Podcast guys and trying to see if we can do a short actual-play example.

Mostly, I want to try and kill ’em all. With Dragon Heresy, if they decide to just wade into the fray, I will certainly be able to do so.

Mwa. Ha. Ha.

Talk to y’all later!

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

The Established Facts Podcast

We talk about all sorts of thing

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

and a lot more!


Viking, Shields, and Design Intent

Over the weekend and the last few days, I filmed a bit of “Doug talking, mostly about Viking” as something like a “Designer’s Notes,” or really, just talking about the inspiration for the game.

In this particular case, shields had to be more useful than the +5-10% decrease in hit chance that game stats show. I decided to try and find some Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) classes local to me to find out, and lo and behold, I found Asfolk. Not only was it “using a shield,” it was “using a Viking shield,” which fit in with the themes I was exploring for Dragon Heresy.

I talk a lot about shields on my blog, both for D&D5 type games, as well as GURPS, and general principles as well.

I think you’ll find Dragon Heresy adds just the right amount of cool options to go along with the shield in the game.

A Nice Compliment

David Pulver is a prolific game writer, and we’ve corresponded about things for a while. Heck, he’s working on a game with Gaming Ballistic, called Venture Beyond. In any case, he has seen some of the early rules and layout work, and he dropped this nice little compliment on my blog. I repeat it with his permission:

“I’m very pleased this is happening at last!

When you showed me the manuscript, one thing besides the new combat options that I was really impressed with was the new rules you added to 5e for marching, exposure, hunting, and so on – I liked the strategic options (trading speed for stealth, etc.) which is good game design. They seemed a lot more detailed and interesting then I recall from D&D (and a lot more playable than anything similar in GURPS). I suspect I might use them even if I wasn’t running a Viking game…”

Next Stretch Goal

Well, we’ve pretty much crushed the $3,500 basic funding goal. I like crushing goals.

The next two are kinda out there. The $10K goal is definitely within reach, and while projections are always uncertain, if we have a few more good days like we just did, we’ll pass the “more content” goal mid-campaign.

If we do, I’ll send out a poll and let folks force-rank what additional inclusions there will be. There are three more extra races, at least a dozen backgrounds, and of course both classes and archetypes/sub-classes ready for inclusion in that sweet spot from Level 1-5. If the time comes, the backers choose the new content!

Beyond that, there’s the offset color print run, hanging out there at $16,000. Truth be told, that’s the one I really want to hit, because I’ve always dreamed of Dragon Heresy getting the kind of quality print job that Symbaroum, ACKS, or the Dracula Dossier’s Director’s Handbook got.

Talk to you guys soon!

And with a mighty pledge, backer Mark S takes us well into final territory!

That’s it. We’ve crossed the goal, and if we keep on this trajectory, I will begin letting contracts to get the work needed to complete the book going.

the “real” shields will be slightly different than the above:

  • I have secured an awesome source for more historically accurate bosses. Mild steel, proper weight, pressed rather than spun.
  • The hide edging will be 1oz goathide instead of 2-4 oz deer hide. More historical on the thickness and weight.

Thanks to you all for your contributions so far, and let’s spread the word and keep it up!

Well, this is April in Minnesota, so naturally I woke to find about six inches of snow on the ground. Sigh. This state . . .

We had a great 24 hours, with over 80% of required funds collected. It was an excellent first day!

Podcasts Fall Like Rain

Over the next few days, you’ll probably see podcasts drop: Table Top BabbleDown with DnD, and Hobbs and Friends of the OSR. I’ve got a few more planned, and I could always use a few more suggestions.

What’s Up Next

This week is all about monsters. Right now, the monsters section lays out to 110 pages, which makes 260 pages of as-is layout. Toss in a title page, Kickstarter backer page, one or two pages for a Table of Contents (call it two), and roughly one page of index per 50 pages of book (call it 5-6 pages), and that’s about 10 extra pages. Makes for a single 270-page book, which isn’t bad, though it’s a bit longer than I’d like. If we hit the $10,000 stretch goal, there are about 14,000 words of pre-written content I’d like to add . . . another 23 pages.

There’s a lot of extra white space in the Foes section, though. I’d wanted to try and get each creature type on the top of a page, for easy reference, and to avoid the statblock from (say) one creature on a left-hand column, and a new creature on the right. Potentially confusing.

The counter-argument here is that for all the benefits of this strategy, it’s very space inefficient.

For every layout example we have of this:

Ethlafolk (lizard folk) lay out pretty well
Ethlafolk (lizard folk) lay out pretty well

You sometimes get some thing like this:

Hrogn (demon spawn) and Illt Hundr (Evil Hound)
Hrogn (demon spawn) and Illt Hundr (Evil Hound)

These are about half-empty . . .

Rats. Of course we've got rats.
Rats. Of course we’ve got rats.

…with some that show empty columns, though in this case, I’d rather leave it there and start Humanoids on the next page.

Well, a giant would fit in that space . . .
Well, a giant would fit in that space . . .

This is not an insurmountable problem, of course, and there’s lots of time. But it’s where I am right now. If you’ve got suggestions, leave ’em in the comments!

Major Milestones

The biggest milestone here is, of course, to fund. That’s a double-tap, though, because if we hit the funding goal, it means that I am guaranteed the funds to pay my editor. He’s already been selected, and he’s committed to timely delivery.

Once that happens, the only major task left for completing the book is indexing, then assembling the book pieces into a final draft, with all the small bits that make it a complete book. Then, of course, the process of layering and hyperlinking and bookmarking the PDF.

The project is far enough along that, presuming we fund, I can more or less promise that each backer will receive a playable copy of the rules (maybe with editing, maybe now) the day the Kickstarter funds settle: sometime mid-May.

From there, you’ll get 4-6 weeks to play the heck out of the game and ask questions and suggest tweaks should they be necessary. The game was playtested pretty well, but you’ll find things. Those will be tweaked by the end of June, and then we’ll get a final PDF and printable PDF going. That will take a few weeks to get proofs, then the bulk order . . .

So, that’s the plan! Thanks for joining early. If you can, throw down some social media boosts where you’re able, and let folks know that Dragon Heresy is happening.

Have a great week!

The Dragon Heresy Introductory Set Kickstarter launched this morning at 10am!

We’ve had a great start, with more than 1/3 of the way to funding in two hours. I’m especially pleased at the interest in the color printing, and very grateful for it.

Of course, we’re not there yet, and the best thing folks can do right now, in this critical first 48 hours of the campaign, is get the word out.

I’ll be posting links to a few podcasts that I recorded over the last week talking more about both the setting and the mechanics, and will be appearing on a few more during the campaign.

If you want to chat with me real time, ask questions, or just hang out, drop on by the Gaming Ballistic Discord Channel.

Once I get back home from work, I’ll be making a few updates, as per requests in the Comments section.

  • I’ll be adding extra physical, black-and-white copies of the Dragon Heresy book as an add-on option for $40.
  • I’ll also be adding a Retail option to order some discount physical copies during the Kickstarter. Details this evening.
  • A short and hopefully amusing/fun Designer’s Intent video will go live in the next few days. I just have to edit it together.

With that . . . thanks for joining me on the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter!

Been head down for a bit. Kickstarter April 2.

Once the gawrsh dang video is in the can (tomorrow I hope), I can start actually breathing again.

Assuming my marauding cat doesn’t eat me. She’s hankering for some vengeance after the claw clipping, I think. She’s circling like a (Cat) Sith Lord.

Soon, I breathe again. Talk to y’all on the flip side.

And pledge to Dragon Heresy, because it’s going to be awesome.