Well, that was fast!

Today I received in the mail, by 2nd Day Air, the proof hardcopy of Dungeon Grappling. This means that we are solidly on schedule, since the things that must be corrected are fairly easy to do. That means that we’re one step closer from going from pre-orders to full retail sales.

The Ugly

There’s no ugly. If there were, there’d be delays. There won’t be.

The Bad

There are a few places that the title text encroaches on the border. Such as the following two pages:

 

This is trivially easy to fix – we’ll just nudge the title up into the middle of the border a bit. This will look better even for the short titles.

There are a few textual elements I want to change. I want to sub in the mathematical multiplication symbol × instead of the letter x when I have a multiplier. I think it looks better.

There might be a tweak I make to the index.

And then there are the errata that y’all identified. Those need to be validated as fixed.

The Good

This is a great-looking book on a few levels.

I selected matte paper and cover, and I think it makes the book easier to read under any sort of light. No glare.

I’m still in love both the cover and my 5e compatibility logo.

 

The colors look very good, and the color palette that Nathan and I iterated to works quite well.

No bleed issues, and the book is put together well.

 

The Next Steps

This is the home stretch. Nathan and I will work over the next day or three to finish this.

I made all of the errata corrections on the blog post last night . . . all but two. Changing “PFRPG” to “The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game” was never going to work layout-wise, and I tried it, and confirmed that it breaks the layout. One of the rules of the compatibility licence is that you either use the entire name, or you can use the non-trademarked/non-product-identify PFRPG, but you can’t just say “Pathfinder,” nor can you say “The Pathfinder RPG,” both of which might have fit. So we won’t be doing that one.

There was another conditional/weasel-word phrasing that I wanted to replace, and expected to be able to do so, but again . . . broke layout. So it stays.

Everything else on the list got changed.

Left to do

  • Change multiplication symbols from xN to ×N
  • Do a full spell-check just to see if I made any errors in anywhere
  • Nudge the running titles up so they don’t encroach on the border; might nudge the page numbers down a tetch as well
  • There are some “what level of the hierarchy is this?” errors (or maybe it’s only one) in the Table of Contents, and that needs to be fixed
  • There are some missing hyperlinks in the ToC, and we’ll check both the ToC and Index. Those are the only places you’ll find hyperlinks, though. We’re trying to not bloat the file size. Bookmarks are present and correct.
  • We’ll then re-export the PDF, re-create a new Print-on-Demand file to the same specs as the last one, and export an ePUB document.

The ePub and PDF will be distributed as soon as I have them. The new PODX file will be sent to DriveThruRPG, where they’ll do the same color correction they did last time (since it worked), and then I’ll re-upload that file (the cover is perfect).

Once it’s accepted for print, I’ll start fulfilling orders. If things go well, I will do that this weekend. It will probably take about a week to spit out the copies, and another 1-3 weeks to send by media mail, especially to the USA.

So at this time, I can, with reasonable confidence, estimate that the process of closing out the Kickstarter and delivering all promised rewards will be well underway by the end of February, which is pleasingly ahead of the “end of April” date I had originally communicated.

The Art of Dungeon Grappling

One of the comments that was made in Eric Diaz’s review of Dungeon Grappling was that the art was so good (in his opinion, he wished it were bigger).

Yeah, me too. So I laid out just the art in landscape format, using a lot of the same background and detail techniques we used to make the main book.

The product will be offered on my website to start, and the trick here is that nearly all the money – probably 85% of it – will go either to the artists themselves or as a donation to St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. I will need to take a slice to pay transaction fees and as a bit of a boost to overhead for my company, but I’m thinking I’ll be taking 35% and dividing it up to give bonuses to the production team (who did such a fantastic job), and 50% to charity. There will be several price points for the same product to allow more and more to go to St Jude’s.

 

 Thank You!

So here we are, at the end of all things . . . well, the end of this thing, anyway. I’m looking forward to getting the books you all funded into your hands, and I want to thank you again for trusting me with your money, and having faith that I will deliver something useful.

I still would like to ask for your help:

  • When you get your rewards, please review the product somewhere, anywhere. Link it back to me so I can advertise a bit. Grappling is disused in games because it’s always been so cumbersome and annoying. I think these rules go a long way to fixing that, and I’d like folks to understand that.
  • Please consider following me at Gaming Ballistic, and spreading word of what I hope will continue to be an exciting and expanding product line.
  • Support the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter when it comes around . . . and convince your friends to do so as well. I strongly suspect I’ll need on the order of 1,000 to 2,000 backers to make it happen. But if I do make it happen, it will be gorgeous, it will be hardcover, Smyth-sewn, and full color. And a few other surprises.

The next update will be when I can announce that shipping has commenced.

Pre-Order Dungeon Grappling on Backerkit!

Proof Ordered

This morning I got the note that the initial PODX file from DriveThruRPG had been approved by Lightning Source. I’ve ordered my proof copy and asked it to be sent 2nd Day Air. So it takes 2-5 working days to print it, and another 2 working days to ship it. So 4-7 business days means that sometime between next Tuesday and next Friday, I should be able to receive and inspect the printed book.

At that point, if it passes muster, Nathan and I will make the errata changes listed on this blog post – assuming the layout will accommodate these changes. Make no mistake, though, if the choice is “fixing something that was basically clear but could be tweaked, but the layout changes” and “do nothing,” leaving it as-is will win every time.

That being said, most of the stuff simply won’t change layout. Correcting “bttack” to “attack” isn’t going to alter anything. And many of the paragraphs that are slated for change have either room to move because of line justification or room to move because the paragraph has room to expand on the next line.

Schedule Update

Continue reading “Print Files Approved: Proofs on the way!”

There’s always something that gets away, and this release is no different. I learned from Steve Jackson Games, though, that there’s real benefit to waiting for a few weeks until the PDF gets a chance to be worked over by the meticulous, the curious, and the interested.

So here’s the current list of proposed errata that I am considering making before the PDF goes to print, gets turned into an ePUB, and then is re-uploaded and distributed to backers and pre-order customers.

If you sent me something and I missed it, respond here, and I’ll either say “no,” as with some of the suggestions where “this could be done differently” is operative instead of “this is a mistake in grammar, formatting, usual style for this game, or something that is badly wrong.”

I’m doing this here because the Kickstarter comment forums is simply terrible for this sort of thing.

But as they say at the airport, “If you see something, say something!”

The actual table is below the break… Continue reading “Current (Proposed) Errata for PDF of Dungeon Grappling”

With the PDF now shipped to customers, I have opened up pre-orders on Backerkit for those interested in jumping in on Dungeon Grappling at lower-than-retail prices.

Critical Reception (will be updated)

Peter Dell’Orto, who helped with the original concept of the rules for Manor #8, reviews the PDF of DG here.

Eric Diaz says very nice things about the PDF product.

Cameron DuBeers of Beer, Pretzels, and 20-sided Dice offers the ultimate compliment: “I will be incorporating these rules into my S&W based campaign rules.

Dungeon Bundles

You can pre-order as follows:

  • PoD Only: $20 (including shipping*)
  • PDF Only $7.25 (available immediately)
  • eBook Only $5.00
  • PoD + PDF: $23.50 (including shipping*)
  • PoD + eBook: $22.50 (including shipping*)
  • PoD + PDF + eBook: $26 (including shipping*)

If you order any item that includes the PDF, you’ll get that immediately, as it’s available now. The eBook should be ready in 1-3 weeks, and the PoD will be ready to ship in the same time period (they’re generated from the same file). Then it’s just “how long does it take to get to you,” and that’s 3 business days to 8 weeks (!) depending on country.

Note that the PDF is both layered and hyperlinked. If you want to save toner, open up layers, turn off background and images, and you’ll get text-only.

*Brazil is really expensive. I plussed-up: it’s $18 just to get a single copy there. So if you’re in Brazil, print copy bundles cost $13 more.

You can see preview images of the cover and interior here.

Update: Proof and Print Timing

I just uploaded the POD cover and POD content file to DriveThruRPG, after consultations with the reps there. The total ink amount was still higher than 240%, despite us setting it to 235% in Photoshop. Weird. They corrected it in about five minutes, though, and the changes aren’t noticeable. At least to me.

So it’ll take “about a week” for Lightning Source to examine and approve the file, and then I’ll order a proof, which I’ll presume takes another week. If it looks good, I’ll gather up all of the submitted errata and change text where appropriate*, and make a new PDF content file. DriveThruRPG promised another lightning-fast turn-around on color correction, as well as providing a custom Profile for us to use to ensure proper total ink coverage in the future.

Sorry for the “inside baseball” here, but I wanted to keep y’all informed as to where we are.

Short version: Two weeks or less to get a proof assuming LS approves the POD file. The team makes any changes to text (a few hours) and spits out an appropriate file (maybe a business day, depending on availability and timing). DriveThruRPG corrects the color if required, and then I upload final corrected files to DTRPG, and re-distribute the corrected PDF to you folks.

Y’all will get your ePUB versions at the same time as the corrected PDF.

I’d hazard that if things go well, you should start seeing books in hand within the first two weeks in February, roughly 10 weeks ahead of the promised deadline.

I sincerely hope you guys are enjoying the product. If you do, please post reviews, tell all your friends, and otherwise direct them to the Backerkit Preorder Link.

I have uploaded the finished file to Backerkit, and am pushing the buttons to distribute it to all that ordered the product.

Thanks for your generous support. If  you missed the Kickstarter, you can still Pre-Order through Backerkit!

If you find any errata, please email me at gamingballisticllc@gmail.com

Also, you’re going to get two emails. The second is because I think those that didn’t complete their surveys were excluded from the first one. I still need three folks to update shipping address, but that’s not critical for another few weeks.

Errata include

  • Typos
  • Grammar errors
  • Things that can be reworded for clarity
  • Improper page references
  • Factual errors or stat-block inconsistencies
  • Hyperlinks that should be there but aren’t

Not errata (but I still want to hear it)

  • This rule doesn’t work
  • I would play it differently
  • Major layout or graphical changes

The first set of stuff I can correct, and re-distribute. I will do this before the print copy goes to press, so that the best book can be had.

I will also wait (under advisement from my collaborators) to create and distribute the eBook until the errata are in.

I’m going to say please get comments to me in the next 7-10 days if you can; the “real” deadline will be updated when I hear back from DTRPG about when a proof can be created and sent to me.

Thanks again for all your support!

Current Status

We are so very close.

My team and I just spent about three hours adjusting color saturation and “Total Ink Coverage” as the “really, this should be the last draft!” file just . . . didn’t look right. Sure, it was pretty, but frankly, given the raw art files, it should be gorgeous.

So we should have restored that, and I’ll see a v3 pre-Final draft either today or tomorrow.

I’ll do a detail read, but I’ve done a few of those already, so I think we’ll be ready to go for that part. We’ll still need to add the internal bookmarks and hyperlinks, and get the eBook output. I’d say 1-3 days and we’ll be ready to push the PDF pre-Final copy to everyone.

The Manor Collection and Guardians

I’ve pushed the buttons, I think, that should enable you guys to download your digital copies of The Manor Collection (a .zip file) and Guardians.

If you can or can’t – email me at gamingballisticllc@gmail.com and let me know.

Let me know “it worked” so I can relax about getting that part done. But if it did not work, or isn’t working for you, also let me know, and I’ll get in touch with the Backerkit folks, who are supposed to be handling digital distribution. There are 21 copies of Guardians and 27 of  The Manor Collection that need to go out, and I want to make sure that happens.

Print Proofs

I’ve emailed a copy of the PDF template containing the freaking spectacular cover (sorry, when it comes to art, I’m both a novice and a fan, and Michael did fantastic work) to DriveThruRPG, and hopefully Chris will get that into the hands of whomever needs to look at it.

As soon as we have an interior section we’re happy with, we will also send that over for a preview and order a proof. That will test if our interior ink limits actually did what they’re supposed to do (prevent the pages from sticking together), and if things look good, I’ll place the order for everyone for whom I have a shipping address.

That is, all but three folks for whom I either don’t have shipping addresses, or I do but he has to hit “CONFIRM” to make it stick.

Three. People.

Please? With a cherry on top? I want to make sure you get your print copy!

Final Thanks

I probably say this a lot, but then, I can’t really say it too much: Thank You.

Naturally I ran into a few extra expenses. I needed some art fixes. I wanted a vector-art logo for 5e compatibility (and wait until you see it). I asked Juan to change a few of his pieces to fit better (and they do). But when all is said and done, the Kickstarter will have done it’s job: fund the creation of the book.

I won’t make any money on the campaign. Every dollar went into it (plus a bit more). But I have faith that it’s a quality product, and that folks will love it when they play it.

And even if I did, those funds would get plowed into Dragon Heresy anyway. There’s always another project!

I’ll let you know when I am ready to upload, so you can know to look for it. Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

Just a very quick Dungeon Grappling update

  • Received and responded to another round of layout.
  • 80% of my artists have completed their obligations with complete contracts.
  • I have reached out to Juan for some alterations to two pieces of his, which were not his fault but he’s going to get me altered art within two days anyway. My fault, not his, so he gets paid extra.
  • The cover is done.

 Backerkit Surveys Close Friday

It’s four days until Backerkit Surveys close. There are fewer than 30 of you guys that need to fill them out. If you don’t, I’ll use the name I have from Kickstarter to give credit, and of course you’ll get your stuff as ordered through Kickstarter. But it would be super-great if I could have the confirmation that your name is as you’d like it to be.

So please fill out your surveys this week!

General Impressions

In doing the final edits for the book, I got to re-read it. Twice. I think you’ll like the final version, and it is, quite simply, a gorgeous book. There were some extra art holes that I filled with close-ups from the cover (hope you’ll forgive me for that), and a few bits of grammar and clarity. Plus some updates for feedback from playtesting and reading.

But by and large, there are only a few things left to do.

  • Some of the graphics and logos need reworking
  • The final changed must be made
  • Artists and sponsors inserted where appropriate
  • Final art insertion, a few changes to the art due to layout
  • Table of Contents will be generated
  • MOBI and ePub files will be generated
  • Bookmarks and links will be added to the PDF file
  • Validate CMYK color saturation levels for print versions
  • Validate cover and interior art with RPGNow

Once those things are done, it’s complete. Can’t wait.

Christmas to New Years, I wanted to provide an update on where we are, and some thought I’ve had on the process.

Art

We’re down to the last few pieces for art. Of the 22 commissioned pieces, plus the cover, I’ve received painted/colored final images for all but five. Of those five, one is the cover, which you’ve seen is about 2/3 done. Two are actually painted, but needed tweaks – one was a tiny detail (some magical light coming from where Black Tentacles were emerging from the ground and walls), and the other needed an adjustment to the background in order for the image to make sense as a whole – moving from “warrior” to “gladiator” was narratively more coherent. I expect to have those in hand any moment.

The final two images are also close – one required a lot of discussion between the artist and myself because the art direction and the shape of the art space didn’t mesh well. We resolved that last night, and she’ll be turning that into a sketch and painted final quickly. The final image has an approved sketch as of yesterday too, so I expect that I’ll have it in the next few days.

After I get the finals . . . and pay for them – Gaming Ballistic uses a milestone-based approach so that as each artist finishes a piece, they get paid, and then they upload the high-resolution file . . . I will digitally play with each one a bit, to produce a torn-edge effect as seen in the p.22 preview. Those finished files will go into a repository that Nathan can pull from to insert into the final document. I’ve assigned those at the sponsor level to artwork which matches their contribution; most sponsors have been given more than one piece, because a $100 pledge goes a long way towards sponsoring art. The sponsor levels paid for all but five images, and the cover, of course, was my treat to us all. For what it’s worth, there’s room for four more Art Patrons at the $100 level if a sudden urge to sponsor artwork hits you.

Layout and Editing

With some distance between the last submitted draft and today, I went back, printed out a hard copy, and read it word-for-word. There were mistakes. Not a ton of them, but enough that I was very glad I did it.

What changed in the edit? First, what didn’t change: the content of the document rules-wise. No reviews were endangered by the edits. What got tweaked?

  • The title/credits page got adjusted, and the “S&W Compatibility statement” was added. Some of the new artists got their rightful due.
  • Grammar and clarity were adjusted throughout the document
  • The not-so-good writing that was part of the Pathfinder SRD explanations of the Grappled and Pinned condition (discussed in terms of being Restrained in this document, for consistency) was turned into a bulleted list. It reads better that way.
  • Some examples were fixed. I see what I did, I think, but I like it better another way. Also fixed two internal consistency errors. One was just weird, and the other was an egregious tense mismatch.
  • Some style elements were altered
  • Explicitly mentioned Swords and Wizardy/OSR in the appropriate places.
  • The grappled condition in 5e was weak sauce; I added “can’t make opportunity attacks” to it, which is a step in the right direction.

Overall, I’m still very pleased with the document, and the suggestion of adding reference pages at the back has grown until they’re 2.5 full pages of useful, consolidated stuff. The combat examples that were added – one for each rule set – add materially to how the information is explained and shows how it works in play. The new layout of all the information is clear.

Overall, these changes are good and worthy, and after Nathan gets them into the document, we’ll insert the images and then tweak the hell out of everything to get the final layout.

This may mean going back and commissioning more artwork. Thanks to your generosity and acquisitiveness on the Backerkit surveys, this will probably not injure the project’s financials at all.

Project Financials

On my blog, in my 2016 Review, I tucked in a quick overview of the Dungeon Grappling project as well as Gaming Ballistic’s revenue (all from this project) and expenses (from setup, Dragon Heresy, and Dungeon Grappling) this year.

When Dungeon Grappling completes, I’ll post a financial summary. What I took in and from what sources, and where the money went. As an example:

  • Kickstarter prep: about $400
  • Art: about $2,400
  • Indexing, Layout, eBook prep: About $750
  • Printing and Shipping and Fulfillment Costs: $1,500
  • Kickstarter and Backerkit fees: $600

So the costs were about $5650, while the revenue was about $5,400 ($4,850 from Kickstarter itself, plus another $550 from Backerkit). There were other expenses, but those aren’t directly allocated to the project. Legal fees ($775) for contracting and standing up Gaming Ballistic, and another $50 per month to buy Adobe Creative Cloud, which has already paid dividends in my ability to make mockups of product as well as to start to learn to make edits directly in documents.

So, net/net, I think Dungeon Grappling managed to be turned into what it will become for a net of $150 expense on my part, at least on a project basis. If you detect a bit of satisfaction that I managed to budget reasonably well, you’re not wrong.

Next Steps

The immediate next steps are in your hands. If you haven’t filled out your surveys – and there are about 40 who have not – please do so. I will be locking down survey collection on Friday, January 6, which will charge any extras you’ve plussed-up or rewards to your preferred payment methods. You will all be able to download your extras immediately (they’ve already been uploaded) via Backerkit.

Then, roughly the same time, or perhaps a week after (Jan 6-13), Nathan and I will hopefully finalize the PDF layout of the document, including any extra art I need to buy (some of my artists are very, very fast).

At that point, I will do two things: make the PDF available to y’all for download, and order a print proof via DTRPG. Hopefully I can get that in a week or two.

During that time, I’ll need your help again. During the week I’m waiting for the proof, I’ll need you guys to read the hell out of the PDF file you download, and report to me anything you think is an error at gamingballisticllc@gmail.com, with a lead-in title of [DG ERRATA] in the subject line of your email.

What’s an error? What isn’t?

It’s not “I don’t like this rule.” That’s valid, but it’s not a mistake. As an example, I got a playtest report from someone and his comment from a Pathfinder test was that he was going to alter the thresholds for each condition, because he wanted the low-Strength guys to not be hit so hard.

That’s awesome – he’s altering the rules to fit the game, like GMs have done and will always do. But it’s not a mistake, because another GM will say “if you don’t want your STR 7 wizard to get grappled to death by a dire wolf, stay out of their reach, silly.”

What are a mistake?

Yeah, that was. Grammar foul. Things that I can, and will, change?

  • Grammar and spelling mistakes
  • Clarity issues that generate confusion
  • Consistency errors (you say [blah] on p. 13, but on p. 34 it’s [different blah].

If you see any of those, let me know, and I’ll fix ’em in the PDF. I’ll also fix ’em before I order 120 print copies of the game and mail them out. That way, the book is as good as it can be before it hits hardcopy.

Once that’s done (figure the third week in January, maybe the fourth), I’ll place the orders for all the print copies, and they’ll start their journey to you all. Anywhere from three days to ten weeks (!) later, depending on location, you’ll get your copies, and the Kickstarter will be complete. Worse case lagging shipments should arrive, then, in mid-April. Most orders will be in your hands in February. I’ve resisted the temptation to publish this estimate beforehand, but it seems real enough to make an educated estimate at this point.

Note that pre-orders and retail sales will not ship until a week or so after the Kickstarter backers’ copies go out. It’s only fair. At roughly same time as the pre-orders ship out, I’ll open up for retail on my website, DTRPG, Tabletop Library, and Amazon. Spreading the word at that point would be very much appreciated.

Final warning: I have no visibility or responsibility for any customs duties that are charged for delivery out of the USA. I noted that in the Kickstarter verbiage, but I’ll say it again. Your shipping covers shipping, as I could calculate that fairly precisely using the tools at DTRPG. Customs or other duties are not included.

So . . . that’s it. The end seems in sight, and things are still moving at a good rate to conclusion. Thanks for bearing with me as we conclude this campaign!

It was December 26, 2012 when I first decided to start blogging. Four years later, I’d say that whatever 2016 held for me personally, and for the world at large, it’s certainly been the biggest year ever for Gaming Ballistic.

January

This was a big month. We started the Aeon campaign, I began the Reloading Press, and I did a few reviews. The Broken Blade appeared in Pyramid.

GURPSDay got recognized as a real thing by SJG, and started a strong, year-long tradition that hasn’t let up despite travel, injury, and toddlers.

Also, the very first posts in what would become Dragon Heresy appeared, with Hit, Miss, Armor, Shield showing up at the end of the month. This month sets my course for the rest of 2016.

February

More of the same. A few reviews, campaign logs, and more reloading press.

A bunch of alternate GURPS posts showed up too, from finding ways to give limited defenses despite using All-Out Attack, to some concepts for looking at Task Difficulty Modifiers and speeding up guns combat.

I also strongly intimated that I had started Dragon Heresy as a real product.

March

26 posts, a slight decrease from February’s 28, and Dragon Heresy saw its first playtest games to try out the rules. Kept on with my schedule of posts; I seem to recall my traffic increasing nicely about this time.

April

Finished up one of my better review series – the GURPS Action line. More reloading presses, including a fun one for April Fool’s Day on the M41 pulse rifle and its ammunition that was very well received.

The GURPSDay traffic on my blog started to increase wonderfully, at least in Blogger hits, though many of those were more than a bit bogus.

The Dragon Heresy manuscript hit 125,000 words, which is about 30% of where it is today. I also did a playtest with 6th level characters. I had a long list of “learned items” that I took away, which informed better writing. You can still see the results of this test in the current draft.

May

I was still keeping up with my blogging schedule at this point. I had delusions of polishing this into a real form by August 2016. I went looking for artists and cartographers – and did wind up spending a bunch of cash on maps.

A lot of good writeups and a lot of chaos in the Aeon campaign, as we worked out our characters and how to play them. As I was GMing a game and playing in at least one more, I started to fall off the pace of posting, with only 70% of days having a fresh post, down from closer to 100% in Jan-April.

June

It feels like June is the month my GURPS output really started to drop as I headed towards what would become a pretty major milestone in September. The writing stacks up some major to-dos, and at this point I’m still talking about “only one book.” It must be in July and August that it changed. I’m starting to make more noises about the project management side of things, talking about editing, art, cartography, and Kickstarter. I only got 2 Reloading Presses in, out of four that would usually happen in a month.

July

Ah, hah. I notice that my non-Dragon Heresy writing has tapered off, and apologize for it. I’m still in the “finish a complete publishable draft” realm of thought, even though the manuscript is now pushing 300,000 words. I’m aiming at September for a Kickstarter, even. I can see I’m very much lowballing the art, but that’s deliberate, and I haven’t seen how text flows yet, and how art holes show up naturally, and more of them than you’d think.

I’m really starting to think hard about crowdfunding here. I’m also thinking hard about self-publishing, and what that means.

August

Heh. On the first day of August I realized that the book had grown to the point where two 250-275 page volumes were likely . . . and that was likely because my “how many words per page” estimates were still using SJG estimates, which run from 700-800 words per page, which is roughly twice the wordcount I have on, for example, Dungeon Grappling. I was being deliberately art-heavy for DG, but still – the final project of 200,000 words per book, two books, each of something closer to 370 pages (550 words per page) hasn’t poked at me yet. I’m hoping for a Q117 release at this point.

GURPS hardbacks – Mars Attacks! and Discworld – are sent to the printers. This is a welcome change for those that love them some print-copy GURPS.

I start to flirt with how to do art direction. I can see, in hindsight, that my efforts are really underscoped in terms of what I’m providing potential artists.

I do some market research via polling, and learn that in the “one big book” vs “two smaller books” question, it comes down into two smaller books by about a 3-2 margin. Not huge, but reasonably decisive. There’s always the opinion that if your book(s) are that long, they must be poorly written.

I start to really go to down in worldbuilding, fleshing out each country on the map Cornelia Yoder built for me. Each realm has enough history and interest and differentiation to be able to site a campaign there, though I have no plans, as of yet, in doing so.

I do a post on printing costs for offset print runs that is one of my most popular posts ever.

The Dungeon Fantasy boxed set is announced for GURPS. It will Kickstart, and I host a Q&A with Phil Reed.

September

This is the month that things really changed on me.

I spent the first eight days and eight posts of September flogging and promoting the DF boxed set Kickstarter, including an interview with Sean Punch.

On Sept 9 I announced the formation of Gaming Ballistic, LLC to host my game, my sales, and keep liability for the thing away from my house. I take a look at The World of Aetaltis, a setting for 5e that had some pretty good fiction and biggish names in support. It seemed to have lush art, a whole lot of prework done, and a ton of stuff would come with it. Larry Correia and Ed Greenwood contributed fiction stories in the world.

It failed. Gulp. They asked for $70,000 (reasonable, if not low, given what they were offering), and got only 31% of the way there. It wound up with 189 backers, and Dungeon Grappling wound up with 294. While my book wound up with nicely high production values, World of Aetaltis had demonstrably high quality from the get-go.

Hrm. I start reconsidering the too-soon October Kickstarter. I also start the process to migrate from Blogger to WordPress.

I took a business trip to Thailand, jet-lagged the hell out of myself, and in the background Ken Hite agreed to edit Dragon Heresy. That necessitated pushing the Kickstarter to January. Even now, it’s likely to get pushed to February, and that’s feeling uncomfortably close to right the hell now.

I start quantifying just how nasty international shipping is.

I take delivery of the final copies of the Dragon Heresy maps. They’re very pretty.

I’m doing a lot of writing – bingeing on the monster fluff-text – and my blog output falls to 56% daily posting, which is pretty low. On the other hand, the monsters are getting loving attention. I finally arrive at two books, each of roughly 350-370 pages, as the most likely size of Dragon Heresy. I don’t think that’s changed.

October

I reached out in late September or early October to a fairly well-regarded launcher of Kickstarters. His advice to me about Dragon Heresy was basically “forget it.” Too big an ask, especially for a first timer. In order to get the backers I need, I’d basically have to get each of the folks that follows my roleplaying collection on Google+ (maybe 1,300 folks at the time) to give me $100.

That isn’t going to happen. So I decided in early October to do a small one first, and landed on grappling as the topic. I anticipated having a “pre-fund Dragon Heresy!” set of tiers, but I dropped that as I considered the Kickstarter, because “focus focus focus” was the right call.

I recognize the need for a boilerplate retail contract. I still don’t have one. This will be “yes, I will sell your stuff through Gaming Ballistic, and give you a large royalty on the sale.”

Near the end of October, I have a playtest in Pathfinder that confirms the “hit point problem,” and we fix it. The draft looks good for release, and I lay the foundation for the Kickstarter . . .

The website gets a major facelift, to the format and aesthetic you see today. I still love it.

By the end of the month, I’d seen a layout pass on the project, made suggestions to Nathan, and most of my time was spent in getting the Kickstarter ready.

November

I make my video, get some art from Emily Smirle to sell the book, and launch the Kickstarter. That basically consumes my blog and my life for the month of November.

On the other hand, it funds in four days, and passes the first stretch goal in a week. I go on Shane Plays radio as well as the Round Table. I get reviews of my project and post them, and they’re all positive. Eventually, I pre-commit to full-color artwork, since the trajectory looks good.

December

The Kickstarter closes on December 6, with me in Thailand again, having funded at $4,853, or 323% of my ask. My internals show I’m within a few dollars of hitting the full cost of a custom cover, and as I’ve shown, boy am I glad I did that. For what it’s worth, I have made a few hundred dollars more in Backerkit, and “officially” passed the $5,000 stretch goal anyway, so it was a good call for me to just place the order.

Blog took a bit of a snooze while I was in Thailand – I was sick and jet lagged and worn out. I did, however, keep up with my artists, and am on track to get most of my art in hand in the next week or two, which will allow me to assemble the final copy of the book. I also purchased Adobe Creative Cloud, which has allowed me to begin to do things like provide mockups of books, and play with images in a more sophisticated way. Also learning to make direct edits in InDesign, but I’m a few tutorials short on that one, and I don’t dare touch anything until I know enough to be slightly less dangerous.

The art I have and continue to get is gorgeous, and exceeds my expectations, even my wildest dreams. And I’m on schedule for delivery.

Dragon Heresy needs a renewed shot in the arm, though. I have to find time this week to seriously revisit the old manuscripts.

Parting Shot

It’s been a hell of a year, but a good one.

Dungeon Grappling probably won’t change my life by itself. It’s a small product, and while I suppose it could sell 50,000 copies or something crazy like that, that’s a nice shot in the arm, but it’s not a new career.

Dragon Heresy, though . . . if that goes well, it’s got legs. It’s the beginning of a solid game engine (one that Alex Macris has spoken favorably about in terms of Cyberpunk ACKS), carries with it the promise of supplemental material, and (even if I do say so myself) is a great setting that would be a lot of fun to play in.

I cannot wait to ship Dungeon Grappling to backers, and then start on what will be an even larger project, one that has the same strong team behind it, supplemented by some real powerhouses.

Onward!

Update: Financials

One thing occurred to me here, which was an update on the financial status of Gaming Ballistic, LLC.

think I’ve gotten all of the actuals entered into my sheet, but over the last year, Gaming Ballistic paid and received the following:

  • Donations: ($150)
  • Expenses: ($5,204)
  • Revenue: 4,544
  • Pending Expenses: ($1501) for art
  • Pending Revenue: $281 for Backerkit add-ons not yet received
  • Expected Net: ($2,030)

Note that above I show some pre-payments and investments on Dragon Heresy, and that amount was $1,390 in actuals and about $706 in pending payments, for a total of just under $2,100. Legal fees that are project independent are also included. I will also be spending $1,562 on printing and shipping Dungeon Grappling books and PDFs add-ons. There’s an unassigned “currency transfer” that is almost certainly Dungeon Grappling related.

Breaking it down, and assigning roughly 706 in pending expenses for Dragon Heresy and a net of $2,076 in expenses for Dungeon Grappling:

  • Dragon Heresy: Invested $2,650
  • Dungeon Grappling: Profit of $107
  • Administration and Setup of Gaming Ballistic: $903
  • Donations: Spent $150

So Dungeon Grappling as a stand-alone project is in the black. Dragon Heresy is in the red and will be for a while. Setup costs and donations are what they are.

Still not bad.