Juan Ochoa has been my partner in crime on a lot of the work at Gaming Ballistic. He did some of the original images on the pre-visualization art for Dragon Heresy long before the Kickstarter happened, and has contributed between “some” (Dungeon Grappling) and “a whole lot” (every other book) of art since, including the cover of the original Lost Hall, Hall of Judgment, and the update of the cover for the 2nd Edition of Lost Hall, the original version of which you’ve all seen. But now, the final cover image is in!
Here’s the first one:
He never really liked it though. The color balance was off, he didn’t like our spear-wielder’s face, and a few other things. We talked about it, and he said he didn’t like it enough that he didn’t want to look at it on the final product – he knew he could do better.
We chatted about the new version, and then . . . he went away.
And now he’s back, just in time to upload a new cover on this last day of the Backerkit phase. Good timing, that.
I like this one. I like the extra detail on the spear-wielder, the increased detail on the undead, and keeping fewer figures in the image.
I hope you like it too – this will be the one that goes to print.
Which reminds me: back to work for me!
We are less than $500 away from getting to a lay-flat, sewn-binding softcover book on glorious 105# (157gsm) matte paper. $1500 from getting it in hardcover. If you’re a retailer, there are some “buy two book-bundles” and “buy four book bundles” pre-discounted for resale. Ten four-book (4 each of Dragon Heresy and Lost Hall 2e) bundles get us the hardcover. Three or four get us the softcover. We are truly close.
This morning I locked existing orders and charged cards for the Lost Hall of Tyr expanded/revised edition. There were a few that didn’t go through, and there are still six or seven folks that need to complete their surveys. Even so: if your card was charged, you should find an email with your digital downloads for your PDF files in your mailbox. I have one or two more files to send out: the map packs for those that got Hall of Judgment in digital form, which will be tonight. I’ll also prep the map packs for the NEW maps for Lost Hall 2, and everyone will get those . . . they’re done, while the final checks on the actual game PDF will be my task this weekend.
And so it begins.
If you still want to get in on Lost Hall of Tyr – which is native to Dragon Heresy, but can be run in straight-up Fifth Edition, or with Swords & Wizardry – it’s not too late! We are perhaps $450 in non-shipping pre-orders and add-ons from being able to upgrade to the offset print run, which will get still-heavier paper for the book, deliver a sewn and lay-flat binding, and print up enough copies to push the book into retail shelves to sit alongside of the Dragon Heresy core book.
Granted, that last one is mostly important for me, but the best way to see more Dragon Heresy product is to help people find it, play it, and talk about it!
1) I will lock all orders currently placed, and start the process of charging cards.
2) For those folks whose cards successfully go through, I will immediately send out the electronic copies of all existing files: Dragon Heresy, Dungeon Grappling, and Hall of Judgment PDFs
3) I will get to work finalizing the last stages of the 2nd Edition of Lost Hall of Tyr, which mostly involves calculating experience point totals for encounters, a bit more DC conversion, and writing conversion guidelines and some flowcharts to help with Dragon Heresy stuff.
Then I’ll send out the pre-final PDF, and give y’all some time to look at it and comment on any typos and whatnot. When those are fixed, I’ll update, send out the final PDF, upload that same new PDF to DriveThru for sale, and place the print order.
At this time – though we’re only about $500 shy of the $6,000 offset goal – it appears that the print copies will be done by short-run digital printing. It’ll be a nice run, so no worries.
There are only ten people who haven’t yet filled out their survey, and maybe eight or nine of those have physical product coming, so I must have your information to get you your books.
In the Dragon Heresy game from last week, the GM had us eventually match up with Loki himself. He’d kidnapped Santa Claus, you see. We challenged Loki to a game of musical chairs. Yes, really.
A few things bore mentioning that were of interest to me. None of these were Dragon Heresy specific, just observations.
One of the players was reaching for her dice saying “I shoot him” with an arrow. Fortunately, that was never resolved. Were I the GM, it would not have ended well; either that, or Loki would have just waved his hand or phased around the shot at least the first time. But frack me, it’s Loki. Taking a pot shot at the Asgardian god of Mischief is an offense punishable by “it takes three days to find all the pieces of you squashed on the floor.”
The GM had us make a single die roll, and Loki rolled the lowest; we beat him on the first round, and thereby saved Yule/Ylir/Christmas. Afterwards, she expressed some disappointment that the contest was over that quickly.
It is likely she hadn’t statted out Loki fully; certainly she didn’t give him the kind of bonuses and proficiencies he should have had relative to a 1st level character . . . or maybe she did. If the Divine Mr L had Proficiency of +6 and a stat bonus of +7 or so, it’s a lower bound of 14. We all did roll very well.
I suggested to her that for things like this where you don’t want luck to completely dominate, you can tame the variability of a flat-roll 1d20 with several methods:
Roll 3d6 instead of 1d20, which will tend to actually center around 10, meaning the proficiency and skill bonus would prove the most important
Give Loki advantage: he’s a god for goodness’ sake
Break it up into two rolls, which will favor the one with the highest bonuses due to averaging. First roll is to realize the music stopped, which would be a Perception check. Loki almost certainly has high WIS and CHA, so on the average he’d probably be among the first to hear it’s time to lunge for chairs. THEN a Dexterity or even Acrobatics or Athletics roll, but made with disadvantage if you rolled a lower Perception check than Loki. Or just apply the margin of victory or defeat relative to Loki’s Perception check to the roll to grab a seat.
That last one is nice, in my opinion, because it’s multiple attribute dependent. You’ll want someone good at WIS and STR or DEX rather than just one; that should prolong the contest.
I also noted that there were, in fact, rules for a ritual exchange of insults (flyting) in Dragon Heresy on page whatever. Would have been apropos.
Daniel over at Mailanka’s Musings has a nice post on Map-Making in Theory and Practice. In short: a million times yes. I have to echo his throughts on Maps and Inspiration: a good map is really, really inspiring.
Started with a Map
It works both ways, too. In my Torengar/Nordlond setting for Dragon Heresy and Hall of Judgment and Lost Hall of Tyr, the map came first. I set up a history using Microscope and another “game to play a game” kit that I can’t remember anymore that helped set up the long prelude to the current state of the main realm. I drew up some key terrain features that appeared to be important, and then commissioned Cornelia Yoder to make me some maps.
I have since been leveraging those maps heavily in making the details of my setting sing. This is particularly true of the mini-setting I’m working on for what will hopefully be my first-quarter Kickstarter: The Citadel at Nordvorn.
Featuring the titular town of Nordvorn with its adjoining citadel, there are also three other important towns and villages of note, one of them destroyed.
The town of Ainferill (Riverbend) sits about 40 miles south of Nordvorn on the Jotunnain (a river; áin means river; I think properly conjugated it should be Jotunná, but I have it as “fun” that the northern areas use áin and the southern areas use á, as sort of a regional accent thing). It’s a town of about 1,000 souls, or about 200 families, give or take. It’s the seat of a Jarl, the second tier of noble, but they still have to get the king something like $10M per year in GURPS moneys, or about 200,000 gp in D&D moneys, as a Duty to keep the title.
Just north of Ainferill is the slightly smaller (750 people) town of Vegghofn (Sallyport), which marks the last easily-accessible break in Audreyn’s Wall (think in between Hadrian’s wall and the Great Wall of China) until the other side of a mountain range that the wall jogs around for Reasons.
Anyway, point is: I am detailing these three settlements. What are the important guilds? Why have guilds at all? What industries or products make each town unique? Why should there be a town here at all?
This is my realm map. What can I say about it? Well, it’s got heavy forest, plains, and lightly wooded or intermediate areas. These divide out nicely into “logging and forestry,” “grazing lands,” and “farming” when it comes to surplus products for more than just surviving. It’s a high-level thing, but it’s informative.
The cities cluster densely in the farming area (blue). More food, better climate, more trade, higher population density. The capital is also there.
A Slice of Nordlond
Hey, what do we have here? A slice of Nordlond/Torengar, with Isfjall from Hall of Judgment in the west, and stretching to Midgard in the East.
Northwatch is Nordvorn – one means the other. But it’s maybe 250 miles east of Isfjall, so it’s a hike if you walk it. But why would you? Take a boat and sail down the Wodenain to Nethanfoss, then it’s maybe 50 miles along the “Palisade Road,” which isn’t shown on the map. That should be an exciting trip, since the area to the Northwest of the Palisade is called The Hunted Lands, home to marauding faerie and more than its fair share of monstrosities, undead, constructs, and other things that wish to eat you.
But the map informs this. How long will it take to get there? Well, big rivers tend to move at a few miles per hour, 1-5 mph not being unusual. So the 200 mile trip on the river could be as fast as 40 hours, or two days, or as long as a week. Plenty of time in either case for a few encounters with river raiders or river-dwelling monsters, but not so long that the game will drag.
That last 50 miles to Northwatch from Nethanfoss is probably a few days hike as well, and while the path/road is guarded, it’s still dangerous lands.
That makes Nethanfoss a very interesting market. It has access to both grazing lands, water, and abuts the Einmanna forest. And it’s a crossroads, being the natural departure point for goods to come east from the settlements along the Wodenain.
All this from the map.
Now we venture south from Nordvorn, because there’s been a rumor that the Jarl is hiring adventurers. Or maybe killing them. It’s Nordlond: perhaps it’s both.
In any event, what’s going on at the Riverbend? Well, it’s got woods. It’s adjacent to a metal-rich mountain/range. It’s got grazing land. And it’s at a convenient stopping place for ships coming upriver to rest and get ready for a hard pull into the faster-flowing stretch of the river from Ainferill to Nordvorn.
If you do a bit of line work, you can see that the Jarl probably controls about 265 square miles of land, and about half of that is grazing land – ideal for sheep – that is mostly plains. The other half, to the north and west, is lightly wooded, leading to thicker woods in the Einmanna Forest.
OK. So we have wood, metal, wool, and cattle and goats. This is a shipbuilding town. It’s also one of the towns (the two south of Ainferill and west of Jarngardr are two more) from which a whole lot of sheep are raised and turned into wool, cloth, clothing, and other products.
This is a jarl whose income depends on wool, cattle, ships, and trade. That’s what he’s going to care about, and that’s where threats to his power – or extensions of it – will come from. Does he mine in the hills just across the river? Does the hajarl of Midgard resent this? Ainferill could sit in the demesne of either Northwatch or Midgard – are the jarl’s loyalties solid, or being tested?
What about bandits? Or monsters? If you do the work, something that between some expert help and the Adventurer Conqueror King books domain rules make easy, you can see that monsters or monstrous people killing or taking livestock will really honk off our jarl, as as much as 25% of his Duty – maybe more – can come out of the income stream from wool and cloth.
But . . . karls (freeholders) own their own lands. How does that work? Well, that’s where the guilds come in. That worked out nicely too.
I spent a lot of time last night working with the map, agricultural data, and conversing with some experts to turn this slice of Nordlond into a living world. Not only is it living and hopefully provides some immersive detail, but it becomes something from which you can really see how folks might wish to bring an adventuring party on board to deal with problems.
Suffice to say that the tie of personality, economics and trade are all made more obvious with a good map. A map, a knowledge of what can be grown and made with certain natural resources, a feel for the personalities of the leaders and citizens and what they care about . . . and the adventures flow easily. Especially when the area in question has recently undergone some . . . rather dramatic calamities.
Stay tuned. Hopefully you’ll see this one pop up in the first quarter of this year!
I got to play Dragon Heresy in a game run by a young lady my own system on Friday. She’d either never or rarely GM’d before. She decided to run in my book, as her dad was a supporter of both the original Lost Hall as well as Dragon Heresy. My take-aways?
The world is compelling and immersive. She grabbed on to the details and hooks provided by the map of Torengar every bit as much as I’d hoped.
Northwatch really is a compelling spot on that map, and I’m glad my upcoming release will detail the heck out of it
The grappling system, also available as a stand-alone in Dungeon Grappling, really is that good. Everyone got it, everyone used it, no complaints. Seamless.
It was amenable to fast play in a two hour session by a new GM. So very accessible.
The final confrontation was not combat; she ran a nifty scenario where we had to play against Loki himself. I showed her the flyting rules after the fact, and she really liked them.
To be Improved
The real area that stuck out as a stumbling point was a stumbling point on remembering that a swift attack (like an arrow from a bow) is quite nasty: it only has to meet the lower Threat DC unless the target has a shield.
It didn’t come up much, but the decision to employ a Frantic Defense to avoid taking wounds if a target is attacked and its Hit DC is exceeded happens before armor is subtracted.
The ranged combat tweaks in general are more extensive than melee.
There’s an obvious fix for this: a short flowchart. Ideally something that fits on a 3×5 or playing card. Once you get the system, it’s very smooth. But a quick reference for ranged and melee combat that would fit on the back of a playing card is now on my radar.
All in all, she designed and executed a two-hour scenario that finished in two hours, which is amazing for a new GM, so well done to her on that.
As for my part, I kept my promise. I answered questions where prompted, she ran the game, and I shut up and played my character.
The Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) Kickstarter campaign is in the Backerkit phase. You guys have done great for the surveys . . . and have been generous with the add-ons, which I appreciate. We’re over 4/5 – 82% to be precise – complete. There are 24 people who have not filled out their surveys, but of those, 17 have hard-copy material for which I need an address, so if you have already ordered, or would like to order, physical goods . . . I need a shipping address. We are also only 20 new orders from achieving the offset print run stretch goal . . . so we’re very, very close.
Those of you that have backed my projects before know I’m transparent in terms of where the money’s going. You backed me, you get the straight dope on funding flow. In this case, after Kickstarter fees, we brought in $3,675 from that part of the campaign. Backerkit has brought in about $940 in not-shipping fees, for a total of $4615 to date that can be applied towards the dual goals of the project: the maps, and the print run.
The offset print run and maps together require $5,275, so we’re about $660 shy of the goal.
Even as-is, the digital short-run printing with CPI in the UK will produce up to 400 books if I choose. In distribution, these won’t be self-sustaining at the cost-to-produce as they would with the offset run: That’s OK (It’s not ideal, but it’s OK). No matter what, there’s Dragon Heresy support out there, and more on the way.
The key to victory here is simple: 20 pre-orders of PDF and Print.
Glynn has already finished five of seven maps. I gave a preview of what they’ll look like a few days ago, but I like seeing it so here it is again:
He’s done something fun with the entrance to the Hall itself, which is to draw the outside and inside lower hall as a single map, split into two halves. This will allow a notional battle to rage between the two seamlessly, which was in the original adventure but not really reflected on the maps.
That means barring Real Life, the maps should be done and ready by week’s end. That will let me start finalizing the PDF. I’ve got a few conversion notes to put in, some stats and conversion notes for Swords & Wizardry to add, and an error check to do. Hopefully that will all be complete within the month of January; then we’ll get a preliminary PDF out so folks can look for errors and typos that always slip in.
Basically, I’m on schedule. The same schedule I posted originally in the Kickstarter campaign. This isn’t an accident: it’ll be the fifth Kickstarter that I’ve run that will be on time or ahead of schedule (that is, all of them). If we hit the offset run, expect your print copies in June (or before). If we don’t, you should get them 4-6 weeks earlier.
Don’t forget those surveys if you’re doing physical product! And as always, a little word of mouth (of Facebook? Of Twitter?) goes a long way. We’re about two dozen print pre-orders, or 10 “Starter Kit” with a copy of Dragon Heresy included, from the stretch goal that will both improve the book (thicker, heavier paper, lay-flat sewn binding) and get it out there in retail stores next to the core book.
Dragon Heresy made a few changes to things – notably in the implementation of Wounds and Vigor to make explicit what Hit Points leave abstract (you’ll have to grant me a bit of dispensation for utility here; I like it, and it helps with certain narrative-mechanical consistency issues). Wounds for Joe Average start at 10; a 20th-level Berserker (barbarian) with STR and CON 24 can have 31 wounds. Creatures that are very large (like dragons and giants) multiply calculated wounds; small creatures divide wounds. It’s easier to smush a pixie than a dragon. On my Discord channel for Gaming Ballistic, someone asked me about Sneak Attack. Since I’m about to release some direct support for the Dragon Heresy system via an upgrade to Lost Hall of Tyr, it’s very topical.
The formula for wounds is CON + the STR bonus. So with starting Strength and Con scores ranging from about 8 to a high of 16 for starting characters; characters with the standard array could start with CON 16 and STR 15 for 18 wounds; a 9 CON and 11 STR would be about 10 wounds. There might be ways to have lower, but starting characters will range from 10-18 wounds, with 14 being about in the middle for PCs.
If you exceed your wound maximum, you die. Over half your wound maximum and you risk unconsciousness. So even a few dagger thrusts or a single arrow can do you in, doubly so with a critical hit.
Wherefore art thou, Rogue?
That’s an inappropriate use of “wherefore,” I know, since in context is means “why” and not “where.” But much like the appropriate meaning for the phrase, Rogues are absent from Dragon Heresy. I had to cut somewhere – a lot of somewheres – as getting from my three-volume, 420,000 word initial draft to something I could afford to publish (a single, 288-page volume) required basically cutting two words in three from the draft.
So rogues, whose primary mission of sneaking around and stealing stuff is dishonorable in Viking culture, and which did not appear in some of the original source material, got the axe.
No, really. What about Rogues and Sneak Attack?
Without the Rogue class, the Sneak Attack debate could be shelved. That being said, during the game’s design phase we worked through multiple versions of Sneak Attack. This is the one that we chose. Some of the changes to the published rules might not be reflected in the version below, but this is what the starting point for revision would be. My design effort have been trending towards “simpler!” for a while, so at the end, I’ll go through and make some notes – but the changes, if any, are indicated in strike-through.
Beginning at 1st level, you know how to strike subtly and exploit a foe’s distraction. Once per turn, you can deal an extra 1d6 damage to one creature you hit with an attack if you have advantage on the attack roll. The attack must use a finesse or a ranged weapon. Advantage can come from any source, but the most common are striking from hiding and striking when the foe is flanked.
The amount of the extra damage increases as you gain levels in this class, as shown in the Sneak Attack column of the Rogue table (basically 1d6 every five levels, capping at 4d6 at the top tier).
Sneak attacks also have the following two benefits:
A sneak attack is considered a Swift AttackSurprise Attack, and scores a hit so long as the attack exceeds the Threat DC of the foe.
The DR of the foe is halved due to the ability to precisely target the weaker points in the armor. This does not stack with magical potency or damage type—armor DR can only ever be halved once.
If the rogue also wants to make a called shot to gain +5 to the critical threshold, she must give up advantage to do so. Giving up advantage for this purpose does not disqualify the attack from being a Sneak Attack.
Example: Eydis, an 11th level rogue with a dagger, has lain in wait for a guard that is barring the way to the treasure room of a dungeon chamber. At the right moment, she eases out from her hiding place, striking her target, who has Threat DC 12, 50 vigor, and a wound maximum of 18. The humanoid is wearing heavy armor with DR 6. As the blow is a Sneak Attack, any Threat will count as a hit to armor and wounds, with only frantic defense able to convert wounds to vigor.
Eydis chooses to give up advantage to also increase her critical threat range from 20 to 15-20 on her attack roll. She will normally do 1d4+4 piercing with her dagger based on her Dexterity 19 (+4).
If she rolls lower than 12 she will simply miss. If she rolls between 12 and 22, she will hit, and her damage roll of 1d4+4+3d6 will face DR 3 (absorbing this attack via frantic defense will take 16-52 vigor!). If she rolls 23 or higher she scores a critical hit and inflicts 2d4+4+6d6 damage (requiring 24-96 vigor to absorb!) against DR 3.
If the GM rules that the target is a “mook,” and is caught unaware, then if Eydis hits, she will deliver from 5-23 damage through the DR 3 armor, averaging 14, enough to render her target unconscious. If she critically hits, she will average 27 wounds, and the foe will start making death checks.
If the target is not a mook, and can avail himself of Frantic Defense, an average hit will drain 34 vigor, while a critical hit will result in a total vigor loss and 5 damage remaining—the armor will absorb 3, and the target will suffer 2 wounds and must make a morale check. Sneak attacks against “worthy” opponents are not auto-kills, but they drain vigor from the foe very quickly.
The core rules have changed a bit since this was written. Not a ton, but let’s break down the draft and see.
More Dice, Upon Advantage. This is the same rules basis for the SRD, and it hasn’t changed. If you can rack up advantage from any source, you can use this sneaky attack to add dice. This aids penetration of DR by virtue of extra damage, and your odds of a critical are higher, because advantage.
Surprise Attack. You lose reactions with a surprise attack, but the rules call out being able to use Frantic Defense, and you can’t use reactions (which Frantic Defense is) when surprised. The change for Frantic Defense to consume your reaction came late in the design phase. Rephrasing this as a Swift Attack, like bows, fixes this.
Halves DR. This is cool because it lets a rogue or someone else with this ability target foes in heavy armor, but doesn’t make them inherently more deadly by virtue of large piles of damage dice. That’s one of the benefits of the Aim/Evaluate action, so it’s basically getting that for free. You never quarter DR in the game, though; not yet. That’s for simplicity, just like “you can’t stack advantage.”
Can Increase Crit Threshold. You’ll have to trust me on this one: +5 to the crit threshold is about balanced with other things of similar ability. It’s not as overpowering as you’d think, even if you roll double dice on a 14-20 instead of just a 20.
Mook Rules. The example clearly has a “mook rule” where only heroes and important folks can avail themselves of frantic defense. The fact that the example is also a true surprise attack means that mook or no, in the current published version of the rules, they can’t avail themselves of Frantic Defense. To folks familiar with regular Fifth Edition, what this means is that facing a CON 16, STR 20 fighter with 85 vigor (read that as hit points) means if you hit, you’re attacking vs 21 wounds (so risking KO at 11 or more, death at 22 or more), and who cares how many HP they have?
In the End
So a thrust with a rapier from a Dexterity 18 rogue will do 1d8+4+Sneak Attack damage. At 10th level (since the fighter above might be 10th level) you’re looking at +2d6 extra and DR is halved. That’s 7-24 (16-17 average) on a normal blow, and 14-48 (average 31). That’s a strong possibility for a one-shot KO with a regular success, and on the average, dying with a crit (and possible instant death at more than 42 wounds, no saving throw, no death checks, just dead).
Even with “only” 1d6 and a +3 bonus at 1st level, that’s 5-17 points, 11 on the average; 10-34 on a crit (average 22). Still enough to lay low even a 20th level barbarian, with the maximum wounds available to a human in the game: 31.
So sneak attack is plenty dangerous when done from surprise, and a ridiculous drainer of vigor (because frantic defense absorbs damage as vigor as 2 vigor to 1 damage), and makes armor half as effective.
I did a bit of checking, and there are plenty of folks with physical product who haven’t completed their surveys – not surprising given the relatively low fraction of folks that went digital-rewards-only. If you can work that in today that will help.
On the flip side, we’re about $1,100 away from the offset print run stretch goal, though about 50% of that is related to a single backer who is interested in one of my viking-style shields. That’s really not that many folks.
(Which everyone should be. They’re awesome. Ahem. Sorry.)
While the adventure is Dragon Heresy . . . 5e is really just “turn Threat DC/Hit DC/DR into armor class” and this adventure can be played nearly as-is. A bit of cross-promotion will go a long way.
There’s a great opportunity for game stores to pick up Dragon Heresy and Lost Hall at a discount. Mentioning this to your Favorite Local Game Store would be helpful. And it only would take eight such orders to push us over the edge to the print run.
I should note that the prices in the pre-order store and add-ons reflect the sale that was going on when I launched the Kickstarter, effectively extending until Jan 25 the time that my stuff is 23% off.
Glynn is making great progress on the new maps, which are a heck of a lot more on-point than the more generic maps that used to be there. I’ll start inserting the images into the layout that I’ve got going starting today.
He’s got at least two maps completely finished, with more on the way. He’s knocking them down very quickly.
This shows a sample spread with “maps as art.” The maps are actually full-size for a page: 8.5×11, and will appear with scale bars and references for what a 5′ or 10′ square would be. These full-page maps will be available in the back of the print copy, as well as a separate file for drag-and-drop into your favorite Virtual Table Top.
I think the new style of maps integrates much better than the old one, especially when compared to the map styles Glynn did for the new Logiheimli section, as well as the broad area maps locating the Hall more precisely – something missing from the old edition of the book.
You can see that I still have a bit of conversion work left – eliminating references to Hall of Judgment for the Powered by GURPS Dungeon Fantasy RPG. In nearly every case, this sort of conversion is very easy: I can either look at my old 5e notes from Lost Hall (1st Edition), or convert on the fly. Lots of room in the book to accommodate layout reflow as well.
So things are going well and quickly, and I don’t see a reason to shift schedule at this time!