I think my first and only trip to GenCon was in 1994 or something. It was still in Milwaukee. West End Games was there, and I got to see Timothy Zahn and the WEG designers talk about Star Wars. Was cool.

Now, many (too many) years later, I’m GenCon bound again. I am kinda losin’ my mind about it.

First, the good: I’m playing in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG first-game experience with Sean Punch. That was a Kickstarter reward, and I expect it to be a hoot.

Next, the freakout. And while normally I’m good with crowds and pressure, this feels different.

  1. I’m a member of the IGDN and working the booth. I’m hoping that goes well, although there are things about it that are not optimal, it’ll be a good way to interact with a ton of folks coming by the booth, pitch my and others’ stuff, and see how things go.
  2. I’m running two games, the Grappling Smackdowns.
  3. The adventure I will run isn’t quite done yet. And I realized how much stuff I’d IDEALLY like to have to run a game (maps, tokens, lots of dice, all sorts of stuff) and how much I rely on my computer to run games these days.
  4. It’s been a while since I’ve GM’d at all; it’s been a while since I’ve GM’d 5e or Dragon Heresy in playtest, and that was with a very well-trusted group.
  5. I’m on a panel for the first time ever. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, I’m sure this will be a wonderful experience yadda yadda yadda. But my demo session isn’t nearly as complete as I want it to be (of course, I would have ideally finished it a month ago an playtested it eight times with eight groups), and my not-GenCon/not-writing schedule is packed today and tomorrow.

So . . . feelin’ queasy.

I’m working through my Grappling Smackdown scenario here, and setting the DCs for various tasks is a thing. I wanted to make a table to quickly inform me of roughly how hard something might be, so I figured I’d share the results. This isn’t a revelation, but it’s useful to me so it might be useful to you.

One useful tidbit from the post on The Standard Array: Joe Human PC with the standard array and who is proficient in a given task will sport a 13.5 attribute as a median, and of course have a +2 proficiency bonus. This makes the average starting boosts to the die rolls about +3.5.

I’ve picked out some example DCs. Obviously moving the DC up or down a point changes the odds of success (on the average) by 5%.

DC 6

At this level, a potted plant that isn’t proficient in the skill has a 50% chance of noticing something or accomplishing a task. I’m having to significantly question why bother rolling at all here. It’s a level that might get interesting if due to unfavorable terrain or darkness or something everyone gets disadvantage.

DC 8

A first level, proficient character with a 10 ability score will still succeed 75% of the time, or a non-proficient character with a 14, a solid but not exceptional DX, for example. This is a good level for a simple task which requires some talent or expertise to get through, but by and large will be a speed bump. Even my potted plant, above (-5 ability score, not proficient) if allowed a roll will succeed on a 13 or higher, 40% of the time.

DC 11

This is still an entry level task, where a completely non-proficient average guy can succeed 50% of the time. The median starting human PC will be succeeding on this by rolling an 8, so 65% chance of success. There’s only a 10% chance of failure for a typical proficient 10th level PC operating in the expert zone. A DC 11 means that it’s still expected most folks will do this well, but the odds of failure for the uninitiated are high.

At DC 11 and DC 12, a non-proficient character rolling against one of their lowest two ability scores (9-11 as a human) will more or less have a 50% chance of success. So it’s the dividing line for “requires some sort of atypical ability or advantage to succeed better than half the time.” Atypical for PCs, that is.

DC 14

Odds of a median first through fourth level PC who is proficient in the skill failing this roll is about 50%. At this level if you’re positing (say) a forked path for adventurers of 1st through 4th level (+2 proficiency), you’re basically saying “flip a coin.” I feel this is a pretty important DC level, as it sets the boundaries for making decisions in adventures. Want your “secret pathway” to come up about half the time? That’s about a DC 14 check . . . but you better be darn sure you have it in your mind that if everyone is allowed a roll, half the median party will fail, and half will succeed, assuming their attributes and skills are spread around a bit.

Anything harder than DC 14 will require advantage, high attributes, and high proficiency to make it a cake-walk. For example, a +4 bonus and +4 proficiency, given as a 10th level character with an 18 or 19 ability score, will still fail this check 25% of the time, although if they have expertise or can eke out advantage from somewhere, they’ll only fail if they crit.

DC 17

Now you’re into telling the GM and PCs you expect them to fail. A first level PC will need to roll 14 or higher to succeed here, and even our hypothetical +8 bonus 10th level proficient character will need to roll 9 or higher (60%). An untrained person using their “dump stat” of (say) 9 or 10 will have a 75-80% failure rate here. Only a true expert (has Expertise in the skill) at high proficiency with an outstanding ability score will be looking at this as trivial.

DC 17, though, is also the level where your low-level party expert (+2 proficiency, +4 in their chosen skill at 4th level due to an ability score improvement) has a 50% chance of success. So much as DC 11 or 12 is the dividing line for making it hard for the unskilled, DC 17 is the line above which only the truly exceptional will succeed more than they fail.

DC 21

Now you’re just being mean. You need +5 proficiency, +5 attribute score, and you have a 50% chance of making this. It’s the break-even for high-level, high-skill “this is still hard” tests. At low level, you’re saying “only a crit will get you here, and only if you have a bonus, at that.” Again, one has to ask why bother unless it’s something that you think the PCs might try but it’ll be pretty silly. Well, yes, you could leap the chasm, but it’s DC 21 . . . chances of success are low.

Parting Shot

So, hopefully this will be of use as a quick reference, if nothing else. Good ability score bonuses to keep in mind are probably +0 (dump stat), +1.5 (median starting character), +3 (expert starting character), and +5 (fully developed unless you’re breaking the 20-maximum rule, as some classes do). Proficiencies are +2 (starting), +4 (mid-level), and +6 (pinnacle). Figure out how likely you want success to be, and adjust from there. Ergo, a handy table. Well, handy for me.

Ability Score Proficiency 25% Success 50% success 75% Success
0 2 18 13 8
0 4 20 15 10
0 6 22 17 12
1.5 2 19.5 14.5 9.5
1.5 4 21.5 16.5 11.5
1.5 6 23.5 18.5 13.5
3 2 21 16 11
3 4 23 18 13
3 6 25 20 15
5 2 23 18 13
5 4 25 20 15
5 6 27 22 17

About a week until GenCon, so what’s kickin’ in the hopper at Gaming Ballistic, LLC?

Dungeon Grappling and the Grappling Smackdown

To date, other than the 300 or so Kickstarter copies of Dungeon Grappling, I’ve moved 87 more via DriveThruRPG, of which nine were physical product. I’ve also sold 20 through my website, with a much higher fraction  (50%) procuring physical copies. My participation with the Indie Game Designer’s Network has moved a few more physical books (four, I believe). I have not sold a single copy through Amazon CreateSpace, and given how much of a pain it was to re-do the layout to their specs for active text and bleed (very large pain, with no help unless you want to pay them for a consult), I may reconsider doing that again. The print quality of CS did not blow me away, though it was a lot cheaper per copy than DriveThru. Case by case basis, I guess.

The Kickstarter itself broke even by the time all was said and done. I made a great looking book with solid rules content, paid for it all, and got it all out on time. I then ordered $662 worth of inventory. My revenue has been just north of $900, I think – which means that overall, Gaming Ballistic made about $300 in profit on a project basis.

I am, of course, substantially in the red as a company, because of things like paying for InDesign, hosting, and the remarkably non-trivial money of my own that has gone into Dragon Heresy in particular.

Still: Dungeon Grappling’s all-in profitability is on the order of 5% on a project basis.

I am still of the opinion that the Dungeon Grappling rules are very good for what they do, or at least the least-bad option of any I’ve encountered (unless as with many groups, you simply ignore grappling, which is the ultimate in rules-light play, I guess).

Which brings me to the Grappling Smackdown.  Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic Update and GenCon Grappling Smackdown”

I’m not an artist, and I don’t play one on TV. Nonetheless, for Dungeon Grappling, and even more so for Dragon Heresy, I’ve taken it upon myself to fill the role of Art Director for my works. This is good, because it allows me to directly influence and drive how my works are presented to the public. It can also be very bad, because I’m not even close to a pen-and-paper artist, and so my art direction tends to fall into three categories.

  1. Text descriptions of what I want the scene to be. These can be quite long.
  2. Photo images that go along with (1).
  3. Stick figures

Yeah, stick figures. Continue reading “The importance of reference images (art direction)”

Dungeon Grappling is part of the DriveThruRPG OSR sale. I have also lowered the price of the print product on my own website.

From now until June 11, you can get Dungeon Grappling at a lower price:

  • The PDF has been reduced to $8.00
  • The Print Book has been reduced to $16.00
  • The Dungeon Bundle has been reduced to $21.00

Dungeon Grappling has been fairly heavily praised for making grappling, and grappling monsters, no longer suck. Show your players the real meaning of gripping terror with Dungeon Grappling.

I’ll be at GenCon this year, which means all of Gaming Ballistic, LLC will be in attendance. That second one sounds much more impressive.

My fate was sealed when I pledged to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG Kickstarter, and opted into the Saturday 1-5pm session with Sean Punch. Doubly sealed when I decided I’d try and go there under the auspices of the Indie Game Design Network, as both an exhibitor and table fiend.

But . . . that meant I could take the time to do a bit of hands-on demonstration, too.

Grappling Smackdown

From 10am to noon on both Friday and Saturday, I’ll be running a two-hour one-shot session designed to show off how Dungeon Grappling plays at the table.

Right now, each game will be using Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition rules. It isn’t PvP – it will be a normal romp through a limited dungeon, but designed to highlight the grappling rules as modified by Dungeon Grappling.

What does that mean?

It means that a gaggle of kobolds might score enough control points to worry a high level fighter. It means a web spell does control damage. And it means that a Barbarian or Monk got real interesting when optimized around the wrestling skills.

Grappling is Combat

Grappling never really gets the credit it should, because folks usually insist on invoking complicated or non-optimal subsystems to resolve it. Dungeon Grappling is both new and old, in a way that will become instantly apparent when you play.

Come find out what a smooth grappling system can do for a game. Sign up as follows:

Friday 10am to noon

Saturday 10am to noon

Even when GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling was published, there were ways to simplify it, and some of those were included in Pyramid #3/61: The Way of the Warrior. The basic premise is, of course, both sound and fun: why treat grappling that differently than other melee attacks, especially in systems (such as D&D) where the level of abstraction is very high already.

On the SJG Forums, a poster threw down a few simplified rules that also tried to bridge the distance between the fairly bland basic grappling rules of GURPS (all successful grapple attacks are a -4 to DX) and the full-on glory (ahem) of Technical Grappling.

They’re pretty cool, and I’ll quote them here (plus a follow-up) before I talk about some other things you can do to tame the system, some of which have matured and already been incorporated into Dungeon Grappling.

Gratuitous plug: both Dungeon Grappling and GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling are available in PDF format at W23, Steve Jackson Games’ web store. There’s no print version of Technical Grappling, but hardcopy versions of Dungeon Grappling are available at my own web store, DriveThruRPG, and CreateSpace.

Continue reading “Less-Technical Grappling (GURPS)”

It’s time for an update on Gaming Ballistic!

Dungeon Grappling

Great sales in March, thanks to the GM’s Day sale on DTRPG have been followed by lackluster sales in April, with four copies sold (though two print copies, which I love seeing – not because of all the extra money, an extra few dollars per book, but because I do think it’s a good book to hold in your hands).

At this point, with only two sales, I can conclude “The Art of Dungeon Grappling” as a failed experiment. Alas.

I’ll be bringing a bunch of stock with me to the Independent Game Design Network’s booth at GenCon, though, as well as shipping some stock over to their warehousing team.

I’ve not heard much from play reports, though. I’m hoping folks that use the game in play do give me feedback, and session reports. Consider this a request!

There’s also an error that’s come up twice in questions that is, thus far, the only errata that’s been reported to me. In the 5e example, while Thorfirr’s STR score is called out correctly, I made a typo in his attack roll, and so the paragraph introducing him on p. 41 should read as follows, with a 1d20+3 replacing the mis-typed 1d20+2. I’ve bolded the stuff that is relevant.

THORFIRR. A second-level fighter, and keeping his stats from the PFRPG gives STR 16 (+3), DEX 11 (+0), CON 11 (+0), and WIS 16 (+3). His AC is 16, he has 16 HP, his attack rolls are at +5, but lacking Athletics proficiency, he only grapples at 1d20+3. His Grapple DC is 13, from his Strength (Athletics) bonus of +3. His Control Maximum is 20 (his STR of 16, no DEX bonus, and 2× his +2 proficiency bonus).

Venture Beyond

We are very, very close to having a complete manuscript. The last reports I have had from David show a level of optimism about how the rules are coming together.

Unsurprisingly, it’s coming in at the longer estimate of wordcount, and so I’m going to predict the book will be about the size of the Fate System Toolkit, with the adventure books each being fifty or sixty pages each. That’s not really a change, but it is a confirmation.

Once I have the manuscripts in hand, things should go fairly quickly. I’ve got some mockups of kickstarter graphics banners that I did myself, and Juan took a look at them and thought he could improve them (doubtless true). I’ll post a preview there when I have them, but for now, my first effort is shown above.

The look is designed to be “retro-tech,” and as does the book’s layout, it features a Hubble space background, and block, easy-to-read text with a raster-scan look to it. The space to the right is to hold some art.

Dragon Heresy

I spoke with Ken a few days ago, and we chatted about the perils of big projects during a busy time for successful freelancers. Anyway, things are more clear, and I can anticipate getting edited manuscripts bit by bit as April turns into mid-May.

I’ve also got some amazing preliminary sketchwork from Michael. My original concept for the covers got tweaked just a little, but frankly it’s better the new way, and I think everyone will be really happy when they see it. I’ve been sending him images and art direction based on some of the recent Viking stuff I’ve been doing and seeing, and it’s paying off. I know that’s a bit of vague-booking, but I don’t want to give the game away on this one – it’s going to be a great reveal, though.

I also hope folks are enjoying Monster Mondays. There’s a decent amount of info in those posts, and they show off the flavor of how critters will look and act in Dragon Heresy.

Project M

Regardless of that, there’s some movement going on in the motion tracker around an expansion for Dragon Heresy that fills one of Ken’s observations, which is that settings are better when the rules are written around the setting (this is the GUMSHOE method), rather than the rules left static and the setting painted over.

Dragon Heresy takes this about halfway – there are a lot of changes and improvements to the melee combat rules, but by and large the magic stuff was left alone. But I’m learning a bloody ton about Viking magic and sorcery, and have some ideas for something optional that would really make for a fun “try it this way instead.” Need more time on that one, but honestly I think it’ll be really cool as an expansion if Dragon Heresy is given what I hope is a warm reception.

Project X

I’ve always had more things in mind for the Dragon Heresy game, and based on some conversations I’ve had with a few people, what that will be is starting to firm in my mind. There will be a vast amount of downtime when the DH art is being created, and that time will be used to create the next iteration of the Dragon Heresy project. I know a whole bunch of folks that will be pleased with the results.

The Blog

With a bit of flutter happening over at Steve Jackson Games over the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, as well as me getting back into the “write content nearly every day” mode, my traffic is starting to creep back up. I had a bunch of ballistics-related posts, some Dungeon Fantasy RPG posts, and at least one Viking post. More of that this weekend, actually!

One thing I desperately need to revitalize are my “index pages.” I have well over 1,000 posts, and some of them are great stuff, especially for GURPS players when we were doing more regular Melee Academy posts. Right now, if you click on each header you get a date-sorted list of all posts in the category. I need to add an option that takes you to a simple list of clickable titles.

This will be needed for at least the Melee Academy, GURPS 101, and Firing Squad sections, plus the Reloading Press. The rest can wait, but I need to figure out how that’s done Real Soon Now.

 

 

I’m not big on the April Fools Day thing, so just take it as a coincidence that the GB update falls today.

Things have been more active on the blog this last week or so, something I hope to continue. I’ve re-established a posting schedule, and am sticking to it. Tomorrow, for example, is GunDay Sunday, and while I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing, I have a lot of options, including a Reloading Press, which I’ve not done for a while.

Schedule

The short version: everything’s late or delayed, and that’s just how things go.

I’ve got some Dragon Heresy artwork still pending, I’ve got editing hopefully being done on that same manuscript, which is about a month behind schedule. Venture Beyond is probably two weeks behind, which was somewhat expected, though there are some issues that if they’re not worked out will pose an issue for me. I was hoping to have VB ready to rock by summer, and Dragon Heresy by late fall . . . but some of that’s up in the air.

Still, it’s not like I’m holding other people’s money on this one. So those delays are irksome, but don’t represent a break with customers. And it’s not too late to yank things back on track, so we’ll see.

Pyramid

The Pyramid Wish List has been updated, and it’s fairly inspiring to me for the first time in a while. I can think of a few article I’d like to write, plus one that I made a major breakthrough on yesterday that will be fun to finally put to bed. I think there’s at least two issues it could fit into. Maybe three.

Sales

As noted in the March update, sales for Dungeon Grappling were very strong in March, thanks to the DriveThru’s GM’s Day Sale. 39 orders through them, and 3 more through my own web store. Not bad.

Week in Review

Some disappointing speed bumps, but still, more progress can be made. I can start work on the background for the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter, which can wrestle in priority with Venture Beyond in terms of which Kickstarter happens first.

It’s not like good things haven’t been happening, but they’re “below the waterline” stuff. I had a great discussion on cover concepts with Michael, and I think the final product is going to blow folks away. I’ve been learning some more InDesign, and I think I have made some progress into being a bit more self-sufficient. The graphics work that’s been done sets me up well to make slow but steady progress on getting the Kickstarter ready to launch, and I think that I’m probably a short stretch away from having all of my pre-launch art done that should set up previews of the layout, the races, the maps. Even the cover templates are view-worthy, and that’s even before the final illustrations are done.

So this is the sort of week that the business owner takes a deep breath, and decides that next week is a fresh start.