Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #9: “Boo!”

 

This is a fantastic (and spoiler-filled) snapshot at how you can use a powerful tricksy spellcasting fae as a long-term bad guy.

Go back to the prior writeups, using material from Hall of Judgment, and even Rosgarth and Forest’s End, to see how it came to this place.

Adventuring in Nordlond

We had the inaugural session of Kyle’s campaign, which he’s calling the Nordlond Sagas. Not Kickstarter related entirely, but not unrelated either. All the PCs wound up taking a racial package out of Norðlondr Folk. So we have no pure humans. We have an Elfàrd Wizard (me), a Himneskur (god-blooded) knight-ish character built with Five Easy Pieces , a boar-folk barbarian from the neighboring realm Brionnu (Celtic influence), a Raven-folk priest/rogue/face character, also from Five Easy Pieces, and a triger barbarian.

Note: Five Easy Pieces is from Pyramid #3/113, and gets a lot of use with this crowd.

My wizard (whose name is Daingeannruadh, and goes by Daingean…isn’t that much better?) is an exercise in me getting to know the magic system better. I tend to like fighty characters, but as an author, I need to be more aware of how magic works. And today was a great example of that.

We started on a ship bound for The Citadel at Norðvörn. That’s N-o-r-ALT240-v-ALT246-r-n for those curious. This is precisely how I started my own one-shot session for the playtest game of Citadel back in FnordCon 1, and for the same reason. We were on a gigantic knarr – a 115′ long cargo vessel, and we were attacked by a 45′ long longship filled with a captain and 15 attackers. I believe the final tally was the chieftain, 8 bandits armed with axes, 3 bowmen, and 4 spearmen. All were based on the bandit “template” from Hall of Judgment, I believe.

Short version: we wiped the floor with them. That’s not unsurprising. Some details, though:

  • We saw the other ship coming. That gave us about 30 seconds to prepare. Which means that our Raven-folk had a few spells to throw first, and so did the wizard. My spell list is a bit eclectic, but I led off with Grease, which wound up neutralizing quite a few folks in the prow of the ship. Lots of failed DX rolls and slipperiness, and those NPCs are on the steep end of the bell curve. A -2 to DX and -1 to defend goes a long way, and extra movement cost plus more penaties for unfavorable terrain when your friend goes down in front of you is a good way to start.
  • The three meaty folks (two barbarians and a knight) took the fight immediately to the other ship, which suffered from narrow confines (maybe 2-3 yards across at the widest, mostly 2), and pinned most of the raiders to their own ship. This prevented a lot of flanking and kept the number of bad guys who could take flank and rear shots to a minimum.
  • We got peppered with arrows to no avail, but the bowmen didn’t really figure in the fight much.
  • After building it up for a turn, I dumped a bolt of explosive lightning into the rear of the ship. It deep fried the primary target – who I believe was already down – rolling 9 burn damage, which left 3 in the second ring, and 1 in the third. There was a friendly in that ring, but his DR 1 bounced the zap. The rest – maybe four or five targets, had to check for stun, and I think two not-the-chieftain guys went down to physical stun. That’s basically “out of the fight” for many.
  • After that, I charged up a deathtouch and attempted to get close enough to use it. I wound up using it, but rolling crap for damage.

We cleared the ship, and claimed it as spoils of war. The captain of our own boat took slight exception to that and wanted (and got) a cut. We let the raven-folk with high Wealth deal with that; always let the face do face things.

Lessons learned as a wizard?

  • The battlefield prep spells are a good use of time.
  • I have a lot of stuff in my grimoire that isn’t combat related, which is fine, but once the fight is on, I have to be careful
  • Power Items are not Power Stones. They can only be recharged in town, and do not represent a free energy reserve. So my order of operations needed to be ER and FP first, power item last. The GM let me ret-con this.
  • I wound up burning through a total of 11 FP on the three spells. Technically I burned 14 FP: 2 for a 2d deathtouch, 6 each for 2-hex grease, 6 for 3d-3 explosive lightning, but 3 back because of skill level. That burned through my ER and all of my FP before I drop below 1/3 of FP to leave me reeling. That was efficient.
  • It also means that in combat, I get 1-3 key spells with which to shape the fight, and then I’m done.
  • I forgot to take shortsword to use my Wizard’s Baton, which lets me attack with things like Shocking Grasp and Deathtouch at Reach 1 instead of Reach C. My original plan was to use a spear and buckler, but I’m not really strong enough to do that, and you can’t use a spear as a Wizard’d Staff. So a bit of “oops” character sheet tweaking is needed
  • Before the game I made a grimoire of all the spells I know, by simply copying the stuff from spells into a word file, and printing that out. It saved TONS of time . . . but even better would have been to excise some of the rules. Area effect. Cost reduction due to high skill. And explosive damage. Huge time-savers to have that to hand. And this is why PDF also adds value beyond print.

Other fun bits? The Hrafnarfolk with the rogue specialty liked to backstab, and he used Wait to hold off “until the end of my turn” and then AoA, followed immediately by a return to his own turn where he could act normally. That’s a Kromm-approved bit of “how to backstab” and it comes with potential drawbacks. A Wait is always risky, as the situation can change. Anyone who can respond right then to the AoA can strike during a turn where he has no defenses. So if a nearby foe is also Waiting, or can respond with an attack that requires a defense roll or Quick Contest . . . Hrafnar gets tagged. Otherwise, he stabbed at least one person in the eye, and another in the neck.

The triger claimed the other ship as their own by peeing on it. I broke into a bit of Tom Petty: “and we’re pee . . . pee brawling!” But having a three-headed tiger person claim the ship via combat urination was inspired.

One of the bad guys crit-failed at least once, maybe twice, with their weapon. That left me pondering if one could have a weapon that was cursed that emerged in play. Like an Unlucky Weapon instead of a Named Weapon, though both of those things are not canon for the DFRPG. Daingean said he didn’t care that he wasn’t a bard, he was telling stories about the cursed sword.

“It was an axe.”

“Who’s telling the story here?”

“I’m just saying, it was an axe.”

“And it was cursed!”

“He dropped it.”

“It was cursed to be dropped!”

“He’d just had his leg pulped by Chuff.”

“That’s pretty cursed!”

“…okay, that I’ll grant.”

One last thing. Chuff, the triger-folk barbarian, hit one of the bandits on the head (DR 2, also DR 2 for the skull) for 20 points of damage . . . and rolled a double-damage crit. So doubled to 40, down to 36, ×4 for skull . . . 144 points of injury to the skull, which is a full 12× the starting HP of that target. That’s dead no saving throw dead.

All in all, a good starting session. Fights with many fighters last a long time, and it was tough to keep several communications channels going at once. MapTool worked flawlessly. Kyle brought some really good maps.

We also had a good chat about the ship itself as spoils of war. The thing was a 45′ longship (15m) in terrible condition. Even so, some googling gave an estimate of 28,000 to 40,000 hours of labor to make a 30m ship (The Sea Stallion) using traditional methods. That puts the cost of such a ship pretty far up there, and scaling down to a 15m vessel is probably on the order of “how much square footage reduction for the hull?” Half the size is about one-quarter the surface area. Fewer trees, fewer fittings, etc. Even so, new it’s probably 7-10,000 hours of labor. We looked in Low-Tech companion and decided that the prices there seemed well-enough underpinned; my initial estimates of cost were based on extrapolating from D&D books, and probably wound up high by an order of magnitude.

Even so: the ship would have likely been worth a whole lot, new. It’s portable (if also poorly maintained) loot. And apparently there’s a story behind it, which we’ll find out in due course. Maybe next session when we pull inti Ainferill.

Another Wizard’s Tale

Over at Don’t Forget Your Boots, they’re also playing in Nordlond. The latest recap features two things of note.

The first is the first-ever use of the Nordalf Warrens that I’ve seen. Those are murder-holes, and while stuffed with treasure, they’re a rough go because while nordalfs (think goblins, small ones) are tiny, there’s always lots of them. And they can use their fae veil and ways in and out of the Svartalfheim fae realm to pop up all over a party with no warning unless there’s another fae-derived person present, like a half-elf or elf.

The other, though, was that the party involved killed the high alfar / Winterfae who was the source of all of this. They did it in a few rounds, and didn’t suffer much for it.

That’s all good, and puts to rest a real pest.

But this particular Faerie, Elunad, isn’t really a fighty-combatant. She also has the entire Mind Control college at Skill-30; her lowest spell colleges are at Skill-22.

And I think the “only” thing she did was throw down a Darkness spell. My NPC notes give her some totally cheating abilities, like two power items rather than one, and something like 175 Fatigue Points on tap if she’s well-rested. And she’s unencumbered with DR 10.

But Charm-30, Mass Daze-30, Mass Sleep-30, or Terror-30? Compartmentalized Mind 1 so she can fight AND cast each turn. And Great Haste so she gets two maneuvers per turn?

This is a problem, and it’s my problem. I don’t think I gave enough ‘do this first’ advice to prospective GMs for using a foe that powerful. Elunad should virtually drown her foes in magic, likely two to four times per turn. Doing so from under cover of Darkness? Sure. But she could also do a pretty good Invisibility, a powerful Windstorm, or with so many FP on tap, throw a hell of an explosive fireball if she wanted to. At Skill-30, her energy costs are reduced by 4 anyway, I believe.

But ultimately, for foes like Elunad and Ynfalchiawn from Citadel at Nordvorn . . . I need to provide some go-to advice for GMs who might not have the entire spellbook memorized or lots of time to prepare an epic fight. Pyramid #3/61 (“Way of the Warrior”) has an article by me on “Takedown Sequences,” which are basically well-drilled self-defense moves. If I’m going to put in a villain who relies on specialty magic with huge amounts of energy reserve to play with, the GM needs more help than “start with Great Haste.”

So also, lesson learned.

Game on!

 

I joined Che Webster this morning on his Roleplay Rescue podcast.

He’s in the UK, so the best time for us both was 6am for me, noon for him. It is, after all, a work day.

This means there were a few times I lost the thread; too much blood in my caffeine stream. But by and large, we had a great chat.

Topics?

  • We talked about the Nordlond Sagas adventures
  • This lead into sandbox vs railroad/roller-coaster [1] discussions
  • We touched on The Fantasy Trip and the adventures produced by the Four Perilous Journeys campaign
  • There was a lot of discussion on how RPGs are not TV, and while adventure movies and television have great elements to be mined, translating that into RPG awesomeness requires a different lens

The conversation was pretty wide-ranging, and there were some really fun moments; Che’s a good interviewer and the topic was interesting to both of us.

Look for it in about a month.

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Reviews Starting to come in!

Over at GreysonWHY, we have

Quick Review(s) of The Dragons of Rosgarth, Forest’s End, Norðlondr Fólk, and Hand of Asgard from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG

Then high praise over at Don’t Forget Your Boots. To the North!

If you write a review, let me know. If you use the character-building books, let me know. If you play the adventures, link up your session summaries if you write them!

If you’re interested, you can find the books set in Nordlond on the GB Store:

Adventure/Setting

Rules/Supplement

 

Gaming Ballistic products are now on DriveThruRPG. One of my goals entering 2020 was to host PDF versions of my products on DriveThruRPG. The reach is so large that even with the cut they take, hopefully it will balance out. Of course, if you’re already here, you might simply go to my web store – we small-time publishers can use all the direct sales we can get!

On the flip side, Gaming Ballistic goes to great lengths for print copies to get offset print runs, or if the demand isn’t there for a full run, then higher quality digital printing.

With that in mind, the following titles are currently available in PDF via DriveThru:

D&D/OSR Products

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG

The Fantasy Trip

More will come later as the PDFs are finalized.

It’s another GURPSDay, and here’s the last few weeks of posts! My 8th Kickstarter, Norðvorn Sagas, launched on September 10, and funded on the 17th! We are now at 125% funding with more than three weeks to go. Given the trajectory of Kickstarters, we’re estimated by BackerTracker to hit over $30,000, well past the highest stretch goal. With help, we may even do better. This was helped a whole lot by a surprise addition.

The Hand of Asgard presents additional options and guidelines presented for Clerics who choose to devote themselves to the worship of just one instead of the pantheon as a whole. Also included are more than twenty new Holy Might abilities available for Asgardian Clerics and Holy Warriors to bring the word . . . or the sword . . . to those that need it. The book is 16 pages long, in 8×10 format. It is available as an add-on to a pledge level, rather than as part of an existing pledge.

 

In any case, we’re here for GURPSDay, so scroll all the way down (the random order is, well, random). Catch up and get some repeat views and if you missed some. They’re in reverse chronological order, so if you’re up-to-date, just skim off the top!

News for Gaming Ballistic:

  • The proof of Dungeon Grappling to finally finish all the physical rewards for Citadel at Nordvorn came in brilliantly (if months late). I got 100 of them printed, and the’re on the way to me (PubGraphics expedited the printing). They should be in the mail Tuesday. Finally.
  • I ordered all physical goods for Four Perilous Journeys except for the international card decks and counter tiles. Still working on CE Mark issues; need to chat with folks. Might have found a better option for the cards, but not the cardboard chits.
  • All five files for Four Perilous Journeys were accepted and the books will be ready to ship by October 4! 100 of each book will go to the UK for international distribution, and the balance come to the USA.
  • I announced the approval of the Nordlond Enemies Book (tentatively titled Norðlondr Óvinabókin) as my next approved Dungeon Fantasy RPG project. I’ve actually got an idea for a companion book that should be a very tasty treat.

GURPSDay is in its sixth – GURPSDay started in February 2013,  a year after I started Gaming Ballistic. Things have slowed down a bit, and I’ll be considering how to revitalize this weekly activity. I’d like to see an average of 100 posts here per week – one per blog, ish – so we’ll see what we can do to get creative juiced flowing.If you just started a GURPS blog – and I know that some of you have – email me and get on the list! With the advent of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPS, there’s even more reason to write.

How? Two action items: post more, recruit more. It’s really that simple. More posters is more posts, and more interest in GURPS.

Below you can find the blog activity for the last week. There’s a whole lotta awesome GURPS going on. Read all the posts.

Not every blog posts about GURPS every week, but some are ridiculously prolific! The list is randomized, so different bloggers will be highlighted at the top of the post each week.

As always, if you’re interested in having your blog consolidated here, navigate over to The Instructions Page and drop me a line. Take special note of the RSS Settings Fix if you’re on WordPress.
Continue reading “GURPSDay! Aug 30 to Sept 19, 2019”

A friend of mine forwarded this to me, taken at Source Comics and Games in the Twin Cities.

A whole rack, all mine! Dragon Heresy prominently displayed, plus both of the new Dungeon Fantasy RPG products!

I think I need to go there and get a selfie of, as a Discordian put it, my “nice rack.”

As I continue to work towards the closure of various Kickstarters, I thought I’d take a moment to work down the list of what GB currently offers, and its status. I’ll do this in the order they were published for active products, and then talk about a few things I’m retiring or deprecating.

One quick note: unless I screw things up badly, and in business, that’s always possible, 2019 is going to be the best year to date for Gaming Ballistic. Not only is revenue up already by 2x over 2018 (and there’s still likely another KS in the near future this year), but GB is strongly trending to a profit as well. Even formal break-even would be amazing – covering 100% of all costs – but having something left over to fund future work or (gasp) reimburse my own inputs is a great thing, and very good for Year 3 of a business.

Anyway: to arms!

Active Products

The following products are currently on sale at Gaming Ballistic and/or other places, and likely to remain so.

Dungeon Grappling

Dungeon Grappling was my first product, and the one that set the tone for Gaming Ballistic and Kickstarters. It’s also sold well: Since creation, Dungeon Grappling has moved 654 PDF copies and an additional 358 print copies, for what was my first title with over 1,000 sales.

It is, even if I do say so myself, very good, and achieves its mission of unifying the grappling mechanics and feel in S&W and 5e; I think it falls short on Pathfinder a bit. Other folks think so too.

I recently found myself having to re-order 100 copies of my print version, having run out. I’d need to do a well-received crowdfunding campaign that scored at least 500 (and ideally 750) backers to reprint this in a way that could go do distribution, though. Unless that happened it’s going to have to stay POD.

Honestly? The demand should be there. It really adds to games. Perhaps if I continue to grow revenue and income I’ll invest and take the inventory risk. That can be a 2020 goal.

Dragon Heresy Introductory Set

The crown jewel, in a way, of my RPG line, this was the reason I got into RPG publishing in the first place. This is, bar none, the highest production value book I have made, and competes favorably with any other book on the market from that perspective.  Heavy weight cover (3mm board), 128gsm (85#) matte-coated paper with a sewn binding, done by offset printing. In the last 15 minutes of the Kickstarter, I got a $1,000 pledge that pushed me into “offset print run” territory, and I committed hard, ordering 1,500 books.

Well, I still have a lot of those left, but my recent experience at CONVergence gives me hope – it was my strongest seller in numbers and dollars, at a convention where basically no one shows up to buy RPGs (that’s not its purpose).

To date, Dragon Heresy has moved 414 PDF and 309 Print copies. There have been perhaps 30 distribution sales into retail, and 8 direct-to-retail sales. Folks that have played it – really played it – have commented favorably on the blend of tactics and options without being overwhelming. OSR players that have experimented with it talk of it as “the only version of 5e they’ll play.” At the convention, when asked, I not-entirely jokingly said “Well, this one time, GURPS and 5e got drunk at a convention, and disappeared to a room for a bit. A year (maybe two?) later, Dragon Heresy was born.”

There will be more Dragon Heresy support coming out in the future, and should things pick up more, I have levels 6-20 already written, with vastly more monsters, classes, races, and spells, all tuned to the game.

Lost Hall of Tyr (Second Edition)

An enhanced version of the original Lost Hall of Tyr based on the doubling of the page count that we did for Hall of Judgment.

It includes a lot more on the city of Isfjall, which is a great viking-flavored location for any D&D game (and is presented in mostly system-neutral terms anyway, which means it’s a great location for any game). It’s moved about 91 PDF and 118 Print copies, so not a strong seller yet. I’ve got an idea about that, but it’ll be late 2020 I think before I can pull it off.

Hall of Judgment (First and Second Edition)

My first license for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, it was, at the time, almost my best Kickstarter to date (since eclipsed by both Nordvorn and Four Perilous Journeys). It was the expansion that added 64 pages to the convention-driven Lost Hall of Tyr (1st Edition) and added new maps.

The success of Nordvorn meant I could revisit it for distribution, and I did. Sewn binding, excellent paper, and upgrade maps, plus errata fixes. And a cost to produce that’s low enough to support sitting with pride next to Nordvorn and (hopefully . . . retailers get on it!) the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set.

Folks that have played this with me at conventions have loved it. Play reports and reviews have been very positive. Inspired by Dungeon Fantasy: Caverntown, it delivers what GURPS fans have been asking for: a full-color, high production value treatment of their favorite game, and adventure support to boot. In print.

It also includes a preliminary version of “Fantastic Dungeon Grappling,” which was later expanded into its own stand-alone release. Taking the concepts from my SJG-published book GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling, and refined in Dungeon Grappling, it distills the core down to about four pages.

It also includes over 30 monsters and 16 pre-generated DFRPG characters, which means it has more monsters in it than the excellent DFRPG Monsters 2 book.

To date, Hall of Judgment (both editions) has moved 717 PDF and 541 Print copies, for 1,258 total sales! Over 120 of those came from the Nordvorn Kickstarter as the second edition version . . . and THAT book just arrived at Studio 2 on August 6, which means it should start heading off to backers Real Soon Now.

Note that until I run out, Hall of Judgment 1st Edition is on sale at both my website and Warehouse 23 for 50% off. So if you want a print version of the book but don’t want to pay as much, you can nab it for about $12.50.

The Citadel at Norðvorn

While Dragon Heresy has – by virtue of being a hardcover – ostensibly higher production values, I am ridiculously proud of Norðvorn.

Front to back, it’s a gorgeous book. The art team over-delivered, and the setting screams to be used. As a mini-setting, it’s not an “adventure” so much as it is a playground. A great, glorious, full-color playground that lets you go romping around Nordlond dealing with men, faerie, and dragonkin in a strongly interlinked set of issues. It provides a relationship map that will allow GMs to improvise responses to their players’ actions, and I have used that map on more than one occasion to improvise four- and five-hour play sessions.

Nearly all the sales have come from the Kickstarter, and it’s not yet available for wide release. It arrived at Studio 2 in TN for distribution the week of Aug 6, and will hopefully be in all backers’ hands by the end of the month.

Thus far, even so, it’s sold 587 PDF and 432 Print copies, for 1,119 total.

Fantastic Dungeon Grappling

Yeah, I write a lot of grappling rules. But rarely have I had an opportunity to play, refine, rewrite, play some more, play with other people, and then finally commit to print such a concise, fun-filled short work.

I won’t lie, folks: this is the grappling product you want. It is better-written, fully tested, and simply an improved version of Technical Grappling, done in 8 pages rather than 50. Why? Because as it turns out, you don’t really need more. Now, I could certainly take TG and do each technique as a worked example using the concepts presented in Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. But for the DFRPG, well, those techniques don’t exist.

This is my most-played concept. I and my fellow GM friends have used these rules in actual play over multiple campaigns, and they add a lot of flavor and fun to the game with minimal overhead.

It moved 272 PDF copies and 171 Print copies through me during the kickstarter . . . and, well, at least 1,000 more because it was included in the DFRPG Boxed Set Reprint. That was something I never expected SJG to do, but they did, and it means in terms of number of copies floaing out there, this is my #1 product, ever.

Pending Products

The following products are currently in the final stages of development and production. They are all part of the “Four Perilous Journeys” crowdfunding campaign and were developed for The Fantasy Trip, with rules under license from Steve Jackson Games.

  • Ironskull Castle (16-page GM’d adventure by David Pulver)
  • Crown of Eternity (16-page GM’d adventure by Christopher Rice and J. Edward Tremlett)
  • Citadel of Ice (16-page GM’d adventure by David Pulver)
  • Curse of the Pirate King (16-page GM’d adventure by Christopher Rice and J. Edward Tremlett)
  • Vampire Hunter Belladonna (32-page solo adventure by David Pulver)

These products are being finalized and are due to go live, and be sent to the printer, before Aug 18. They will also have NPC/Monster cards available – but ONLY through the Kickstarter/Backerkit Pre-order – that are compatible with the Decks of Destiny. And full-color 1″ counters to go with each adventure. And more.

This was my most successful Kickstarter in backer count and funding level, with only a few dollars shy of $50,000 raised before fees and licensing and whatnot. These are going to be very, very pretty on the inside, and the color cover/greyscale interior aesthetic is being put to great use by the art team. These will also go into distribution!

The Kickstarter moved 608 PDF copies and 432 Print copies of each volume, making it an instant 1,000+ club member.

Viking Shields

These mostly move through my Kickstarters as super-high-end tier products, and (due to a house move that disassembled my workshop) I still have four in the queue to make. I’ve maybe sold 10 . . . but they get better and more historically accurate with each one, and they’re an awful lot of fun.

I’ve gotten better supply chains and so they’re more affordable, and the materials (hides, cheese glue or hide glue, milk-based paints, quarter- or rift-sawn poplar that I cut down and dried myself) are top notch.

Retiring/Idle Products

There are several products that are going to be de-emphasized or retired completely.

  • Lost Hall 1st Edition in all forms
  • Hall of Judgment 1st Edition PDF

For obvious reasons, these “first edition” products are being replaced by their improved versions. Accounts at Warehouse 23 and other places will be updated with the new versions where possible, but they’re new ISBNs for the new editions as well.

Parting Shot

Even if I do say so myself, the fact that all of my DFRPG products have moved 1,000 copies or more impresses me. In fact, the only books of mine that haven’t moved more than 1,000 copies (though that does add together print and PDF sales independently) are Dragon Heresy and Lost Hall of Tyr.

I have more stuff on the way, as well. I’m contracted with authors to provide the equivalent of six 16-page TFT books (which will likely be another 32-page solo and four GM’d adventures). I’m also looking for more authors, and I hope to find a way to release a lot more of these 16-page and 32-page books in the next few years.

The next project that launches will be a pair of Nordlond expansions, The Dragons of Rosgarth and Forest’s End, each of which will be 64-80 pages long and further flesh out the northern border of the Nordlond Setting. Look for that in late August or September.

So . . . that’s what’s going on with my books. Take a look. Maybe buy a few.

The first 3rd-party licensed product for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG is on sale until I run out (there are only 50 or so copies left) for the same price as the PDF: $12.50.

This doesn’t have some errata fixes, and the maps are the older style instead of the upgraded Glynn Seal maps.

Hall of Judgment (Softcover Print for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG)