It’s that time again, and on the first day of the New Year, it’s time to do a retrospective, a Gaming Ballistic 2018 Year in Review.

Summary

Here’s the skinny.

The Blog

  • Averaged 4.25 posts per week, 220 posts total for the year. Best year ever was 307 in 2016.
  • Lower unique content delivery in general, as things focused on the publishing end
  • Maintained good fidelity to GURPSDay
  • Need to re-energize the blog side of things in 2019

The Company

  • Ran three successful Kickstarters in one year! The first two continued my record of “on time or early” on my KS projects, making me four-for-four. The last one kicked off in December, and while it’s on schedule, can’t be considered early, late, or other just yet.
  • Dragon Heresy got published as a Level 1-5 Introductory Set, in what is the best-feeling RPG book I’ve ever handled. Really: the production values are stunning and compare with anything the big dogs (or anyone else) have made. It’s a great book with great content, and I’m very proud of it.
  • Hall of Judgment became the first-ever, and currently only, licensed product for SJG’s Dungeon Fantasy RPG
  • HoJ was run at several conventions, including GameHole Con by me, and was quite popular
  • HoJ was my most successful KS to date in terms of backer count (over 500), and post-KS sales have been good. Counting PDF and Print sales individually (which means if you bought a print and PDF copy, you get counted twice), Hall of Judgment has moved over 1,000 copies, making it my most popular product to date. GURPS folks have been good to me.
  • GB was profitable by a few thousand bucks (more on that in the coming weeks) in 2018. If sales of the Dragon Heresy core book take off even a little, this will provide a vital source of revenue to support ongoing work. I have since learned that what I thought were zero sales in December (true) was expected; first actual sales coming in January, with 25 pre-orders confirmed, with more expected! This is unexpected wind in my sails (sales?).
  • I received three additional contracts for more expansions for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG in 2019! The releases will be spread through the year. The first title will be The Citadel at Norðvörn and it should enter crowdfunding in the first quarter of 2019.
  • A second edition of Lost Hall of Tyr was successfully crowd-funded, but once again I was shocked at how few folks backed the project based on my pre-campaign market analysis.
  • Marketing and outreach needs to be a priority for 2019 if I’m going to successfully see “take-off” in the future
  • GameHole Con was awesome and I’ll return there, and try and generally increase my convention presence in the future; even so: day job limits the amount of time I can spend at such events.

The Man

  • I gamed less than I wanted to this year
  • I definitely felt singed running two Kickstarters back-to-back with Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment. These were successful, but wow.
  • Some major and positive life-changes in my household (my wife got a great full-time job in her area of expertise) were still very disruptive on my schedule
  • I need to exercise more, and force time for it. Day-job and schedule changes make this harder
  • Keeping track of many social media feeds is draining.
  • I’ve been enjoying the hell out of shield-building and wooden weapon-crafting for my Viking stuff, but there are issues to be resolved with it in terms of where my time is best spent.

Overall, it’s hard to argue:  2018 was a successful year for Gaming Ballistic. I just wish it felt more successful. The miss on the number of folks who would be interested in Lost Hall 2e is particularly painful. I’d pondered hanging up GB entirely in October-November, but then I got the three contracts for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG for 2019, which was uplifting. I hope that these three projects, plus a few more in the pipeline, provide the wind in the sails for 2019.

Dragon Heresy needs some actual play, some good reviews and press, and a bit of word-of-mouth. If it can get it, it can be a bit player overall and still make the difference in my being able to self-fund, rather than crowdfund, projects. I have more ideas from myself and others than I have cash-flow to support, mostly in the “it costs good money to get good art” category. I like going into crowdfunding with nearly everything complete, and that can’t happen just yet in 2019.

That’s the summary. More details below the break.

Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic 2018 Year in Review”

The campaign to bring a high-quality print run to Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) – the first (but not the last) direct support for the Dragon Heresy RPG – is coming to an end in 45 minutes, at 9:30pm Central time.

The campaign met its funding goal of $1,300 and went on to hit 300% funding. The books that will be printed will be nice, too: 93# silk-coated matte paper, with a glossy cover.

But it still could be better.

Next Goal: $6,000 for Offset Print

It’s true, it’s a reach. We need $2000 more . . . and yet that is only 66 more people. It’s a challenge, but it’s not crazy. Sure, there’s a bit of irrational exuberance in my projections, but we still have 134 following the campaign who haven’t jumped in. Plus there are 200 folks from this very campaign that have Dragon Heresy but nothing to play it with.

So the potential is there.

That version will be amazing. 105# paper will bulk up the spine a bit. Heavy softcover with a lay-flat binding.

And the book will be able to go into distribution and sit on retail shelves next to the core book.

That last one is probably more important for me than for you. But there it is: it’s the sort of thing that makes the game more accessible, more popular, and allows me to keep developing content in advance of any crowdfunding.

So: please share our victory with your social network, and invite them on board. It really does help! And if you can make it, please pledge!

But is this really the end?

Not quite. After a few weeks to let the Kickstarter funds settle, we’ll enter the Backerkit phase, which will allow pre-orders and Add-Ons to still be obtained. Including even better versions of the viking shields a few of y’all bought the first time!

The Kickstarter portion should finish Jan 4, and Backerkit will probably run through the 20th of January. After that, we’ll look for some preliminary PDF distribution for error checking, and then we’ll hit the printer sometime in February.

The Backerkit Revenue absolutely counts for how good the final print run will be. If we hit the stretch goal of $6,000 or more during the Backerkit phase, I write the check for the offset print run. So if we pass over the line after tonight . . . we still all win and get an even better book.

Please support the Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) campaign in its final hour

If you can support it later, that’ll be fine too! Just throw in a dollar so you’re on the list for the Backerkit phase and you’ll get carried with me through the rest of the ride!

Last night was brilliant! The Lost Hall 2e First Print Stretch Goal was achieved last night!

Digital Print Run: $3,500

The printing will shift from POD to a digital print run. This will still be a softcover, perfect-bound book, but the paper and print quality is upgraded to the same 140gsm/93# Arrow Silk paper used in Hall of Judgment.

The bottom is maybe 1mm thicker than the LHoT2e will be unless the book grows a bit, which I don’t think it will.

Next Goal: $6,000 for Offset Print

It’s true, it’s a reach. We need $2400 more . . . and yet that is only 78 more people. It’s a challenge, but it’s not crazy. Sure, there’s a bit of irrational exuberance in my projections, but we still have 138 following the campaign who haven’t jumped in.

So the potential is there.

That version will be amazing. 105# paper will bulk up the spine a bit. Heavy softcover with a lay-flat binding.

And the book will be able to go into distribution and sit on retail shelves next to the core book. 

That last one is probably more important for me than for you. But there it is: it’s the sort of thing that makes the game more accessible, more popular, and allows me to keep developing content in advance of any crowdfunding.

So: please share our victory with your social network, and invite them on board. It really does help!

Add-Ons

As a further enticement, a reminder of the add-ons available. I’m linking to my website for more information . . . but if you like what you see, please go to the Kickstarter to order them!

Dragon Heresy Introductory Set

($38 Print; $15 PDF; $46 HC+PDF)

The core rules supporting Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition), the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set is a substantially modified variant on the Fifth Edition ruleset (SRD5.1 under the OGL). It includes more details on Torengar and Etera, the background world for Lost Hall, as well as a complete, self-contained game for Level 1-5 play. The game introduces rules for wounds vs vigor to distinguish between blood and grit, great mechanics for shields and grappling, rules for flyting, social standing, and more. If you don’t have it, this is a great time to pick it up.

Note: this is a 3.1-lb book and they’re all in the USA; international shipping of a hardcover is likely to be expensive. You can see the print quality I’m shooting for below: my 288-page Dragon Heresy book is rather thicker and better put together than the 320-page comparison volume.

Dungeon Grappling

($12 Print; $6 PDF; $15 Print+PDF)

Gaming Ballistic’s very first product, and still the best grappling rules on the market (in fairness, it’s a low bar). Finally bring grappling rules that don’t suck to the table for Fifth Edition, the Pathfinder RPG, and Swords & Wizardry.

Dungeon Grappling makes grappling fun again, especially for the GM and their monsters, by introducing the “control” damage type and working throw how to apply it for both armed and unarmed grapples. And tentacles. And nets.

Seamlessly move between armed combat and grappling . . . just like they did in the old days of Fiori, Talhoffer, and other historical fighting manuals.

The Battle Shield of Torengar ($650)

Just for fun, I will hand-build for you a mostly-authentic viking-style center-gripped shield. Made of quarter-sawn poplar wood, with a hand-carved oak handle, mild steel boss, and faced, backed, and edged with goat rawhide, it’s put together with hide glue, and tapered at the edges. Who doesn’t want their own Viking-style shield, made to historical dimensions? Make an impression at your next staff meeting.

You’ll also receive print and PDF copies of all four of my printed books.

If you pledge at this level (or buy one as an add-on), I’ll contact you and we can work out the details of size and how you want it painted. The shield will likely weigh about 4.5-7 lbs, depending on our mutually-agreed-upon specs.

This is only available in the USA, because even inside the USA, this is horrifically expensive to ship!  

A few prior samples below. They are (and the plain black one, which is the hide-covered shield painted with authentic milk-based paint with charcoal pigment) my Asfolk training shields. Each weighs 6 lbs. 

Last Words

I’m so excited to see the first important stretch goal fall. The print run is huge for Gaming Ballistic, and I hope that some of the few hundred folks either following or who’ve bought my products in the past will come on board in this last half-day of the campaign.

Until then: you’ve made me happy and proud. You guys are going to get a great book.

We enter the final 23 hours of the Lost Hall 2nd Edition Kickstarter with:

  • $219 to go until the first “high quality print” goal
  • $400 per day for the last two days as a trend
  • 136 people following this Kickstarter who have not yet pledged
  • 200 backers of Dragon Heresy with no support in their hands who also don’t have Lost Hall 1e or Hall of Judgment

So much potential . . . please come on board!

While counting your chickens is famously unwise, we just passed $3,000, having picked up roughly $500 in the last day. We’ve also got something like 140 folks who are following the Lost Hall of Tyr 2e campaign but haven’t yet pledged. It’s been a great 24 hours or so for the Kickstarter. Where does that leave us?

We’ll hit the digital print run goal at $3500, which requires about 40 PDF pledges or only 16 people to come in at the print plus PDF level.

The $3500 level will turn it into a very nice book – same quality as Hall of Judgment.

The Big Offset Print Run isn’t out of reach, though a lot would have to happen in the next 24-36 hours. But if ALL 140 folks came in and went for a print and PDF book, well, that actually gets us the hardcover.

The number of backers required for “victory” here is quite small. 250 at the current average pledge of $30 gets us the hardcover. Can’t do it without you. Spread the word, and let’s make it happen.

I got back into D&D after a long, long time with GURPS (though I did not, and will not, stop creating for that system) by joining Erik Tenkar, Peter Dell’Orto, Tim Shorts, Joe the Lawyer (I never actually got his whole name), and several others in Erik’s “B-Team.”

We played once a month, and compressed a whole lot of gaming into 2-3 hours. We used the Swords & Wizardry system, a retro-clone that showed me how much fun rules-light gaming can be, and helped me appreciate Fifth Edition a bit more when it came out.

S&W taught me to think simple, think fast, and think light. It helped me shape my grappling rules into something anyone would want to pick up, and could either “play easy” or add as much modular awesome as they could.

I got to know Matt Finch through Erik, and I believe other than the Wednesday night Tavern Chats, we started to get to know each other when he started “ambush interviewing” me for his D&D Neighborhood YouTube shows. While the first interview was me chatting with him about Dragon Heresy and related stuff, he tapped me for a few other shows like “How to write a player’s guide.” He’s a good guy, drives a good interview (maybe the legal training), and runs a good game, which I got to experience at GameHole Con in November of 2018 (this past year).

When it came time to introduce this second edition of Lost Hall, I asked him if he would be willing to contribute a Foreword, and he agreed.

Here’s the laid-out Foreword for your image perusal, followed by the text and a link to a PDF as well.

Foreword to Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition)

by Matt Finch

Some longish time ago, I was talking with Doug Cole via Google Hangout. As the conversation went on, it started to dawn on me that he was sitting in the middle of what looked like a small armory of blades, axes, and shields—all of them made of wood. So after a while, of course, I had to ask about this clutter of weaponry piled up all around him. Now, anyone who knows Doug already knows that “enthusiastic” only vaguely succeeds in capturing the essence of Doug. Seconds later, I was looking through my computer screen at a sword-wielding, shieldbearing warrior in fighting stance, delivering an energetic lecture on the proper way to use a Viking-type shield. As the lecture evolved into methods of using the sword in concert with the shield, I started to realize why there’s no furniture anywhere near his computer. Or, at least, what happened to it if there once was. As I’ve said, “enthusiastic” doesn’t quite capture it.

Doug manages to infuse his writing with the same effervescent energy, making for a wild ride through his game world and the adventures to be found in it. Since I’m no expert on Vikings or Norse mythology I can’t speak to how much of Doug’s exploration into the wyrd, wild world of Viking adventure is based on history and how much of it is just a sheer, fantastic Norseplosion of adventure. It doesn’t really matter, of course —this book is a mix of pure mystery and adrenaline for RPG gaming, and that’s what counts in the long run.

One is always tempted to write a long foreword to a good book, sprinkling spoilers here and there in an effort to tell the reader how to enjoy what they’re about to encounter in it. But I don’t think that’s the purpose of a foreword. A foreword is for setting the mood: giving the reader that last deep breath before the plunge into strange worlds and vivid imagery. I can assure you, even though the world of Norse adventuring might seem familiar on the surface, what lies beneath that surface is strange and mythic indeed. And so, consider that last, deep breath to have now been drawn—it’s time to turn the page and let yourself go a-Viking in the rich sea of ideas you’ll find beyond!

 LINK TO PDF FILE

The Lost Hall of Tyr Kickstarter has funded and is striving to achieve its “high quality printing” stretch goals. It won’t take much, but I need your help.

Funded. Closing in on Stretch Goals

This is where it happens – the last two days of the Kickstarter are where it takes off and assumes its final form.

We’ve got the new maps. We’ve got a new cover (and I hope to be able to show you an improved version before the campaign ends!) and a lot more gameable material than the first edition. Now it’s time to make the physical product awesome.

If you’re a Dragon Heresy fan: This is your chance to support a fantastic adventure in Dragon Heresy’s native setting. The $3500 stretch goal is still a fine book: heavy paper (about 85# paper, a tetch heavier than what Lulu prints on) and quality printing, but I know we can do more. If we hit the $6,000 stretch goal, that will allow me to get adventure support alongside the hardback book into stores, so you can see them, point to them, and pick them up and play. It will also print on 105# paper and have a lay-flat binding, even in softcover.

This is the time: For everyone on this list, who has been interested in Gaming Ballistic material, I’d ask that you share out the Kickstarter link and make folks aware of it. This will be my fifth (of five) funded projects. Each was on time or early, and a high-quality affair. Help me do more by spreading the word if you can’t pledge, and pledging if you can.

Lost Hall 2e: The Final Hours

Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) is a mini-setting and adventure for the Dragon Heresy Roleplaying game. Dragon Heresy is a self-contained complete game in one volume, and the Introductory Set covers Level 1-5.

Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) contains

  • A non-linear adventure for 4-7 characters of Level 1-5
  • A detailed workup of the Viking-inspired town of Isfjall, suitable as either a home port for an extended campaign or a jumping off point for the adventure
  • Rules for overland journeys in the wild north, several adventuring locations, and of course the quest to rediscover the Lost Hall itself
  • A bestiary containing all the key creatures from the adventure, including the Dragon Heresy unique stats pre-calculated (Threat DC, Hit DC, wound and control thresholds, wounds, and vigor)

Lost Hall of Tyr is 112 pages long, in full color. The Kickstarter is to enhance the quality of the original combat/location maps, and fund a high-quality print run. 

Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) on Kickstarter

 

I was recently (like 30 minutes ago) interviewed on the Tenkar’s Tavern Designers and Makers podcast.

He asks me five critical questions (including such weighty matters as “Race as Class” and “what do you think of Save or Die – the die roll, not the podcast?”

I always love talking about gaming, so give a listen, and share it with friends! I talk Dragon Heresy, Swords and Wizardry and the OSR, and of course, Lost Hall of Tyr.

E218 – Designers & Makers – I Interview Douglas Cole (Gaming Ballistic) by Tavern Chat

I just wanted to make it clear, as I got a note that alarmed me about the Kickstarter:

This product is the 2nd Edition of the Lost Hall of Tyr adventure.

It is NOT for 2nd Edition D&D, which I believe I have played either once or twice, ever.

The native system is Dragon Heresy, which is based off of a tweaked version of Fifth Edition, that is: the System Reference Dictionary v5.1, under the Open Gaming License.

As seems to be frequently the case, when I’m in heavy writing mode there’s not much time for much else. The Citadel at Norðvörn needs wordcount!

Writing the Content

I’m trying to write an average of 1,500 words per day, which is non-trivial but I want to get this out there. I’m working from a healthy mind-map of the setting relationships, so it’s really a matter of picking one of the lines or dotted lines and expanding on each bit.

There are no pre-conceived outcomes here. Citadel is about a situation, and every group of PCs, along with the GM, will take this mini-setting and run with it.

The mind-map will be included in the adventure in some form or another, for easy reference. I was able to pretty much improv my way through a Dragon Heresy session with such a map, and with the creatures in the main DH book and those included in the adventure book if needed, plus the extensive guide to key personalities that’s going into the Citadel book, you can probably “just play.” That’s the goal, anyway.

Citadel, though, is the first of three planned Dungeon Fantasy RPG releases in 2019, so I want to get on it fast, so that my Inner Team can playtest it and see what holds up and what needs expansion (or trimming).

Right now I’m at about 8500 words into a document that needs a minimum of about 44,000 (roughly 80 pages) and a maximum of about 71,000 (128 pages). I think 80 pages will be the best based on the last Kickstarter’s performance, as a nice blend of “I can deliver an equally-good product” and “not go broke.” Still, if there’s more content – and there can easily be more content – and the KS does very well, I can add it.

Art and Maps

This one’s going to need some serious art help, though.

At least three city maps, likely four or five: Northwatch (Norðvörn) citadel, the lower city, and the towns of Ainferill (Riverbend) and Vegghofn (Sallyport). Probably a map – really an encounter location – for another village that forms a major nexus of conflict for the area.

Lots of character art. Not every NPC gets drawn up, of course, but some of the main ones need detailing. Lots of opportunity for folks that do character sketches here.

A few full- or half-page scenes of key conflicts. Like this one:

So please forgive me if my blog content is a bit muted, or only happens in fits and starts: I’m head down at the keyboard.

But if you really want to help me get a jump on things, especially the city maps, you might consider supporting the current Kickstarter for a shelf-worth print run of the Dragon Heresy version of Hall of Judgment. Every now and then, I get a short spell of orders for Dragon Heresy; that makes for some serious help in buying art, paying writers, and generally making more new content.