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

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

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

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

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

Writing the Content

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

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

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

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

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

Art and Maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

One week ago, Gaming Ballistic launched the Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) Kickstarter. It is a short campaign: 17 days, running from a week ago Friday, Dec 7 through Sunday, Dec 23. This Lost Hall 2e Kickstarter Update provides the good news, a request for help, and some further details about what’s different, and what’s coming.

Read on!

The Good News

The good news is that we funded almost immediately: by the end of Day 2, we’d passed the basic $1,300 funding goal by 40%.

That means that what used to look like this:

now looks like this:

The new maps will be executed by Glynn Seal, who deservedly won the 2018 ENnie Award Gold Medal for Best Cartography for his work on his Midderlands setting. I’m really looking forward to this upgrade, as it will bring the book up to the artistic standard it deserves.

The Campaign and The Ask

The good news is that we funded. The hard part of this is that after three days of solid growth in day-to-day pledges, the last few days have been pretty flat. There is hope, however. There are about 130 people who are currently following the project but have not yet pledged. At anywhere between $13 and $33 for these folks, that’s $1,700-$4,300.

Well. Added to the $2,150 current funding level gives a campaign finish between “short run digital printing” and “softcover offset print run!”

A lot of potential sitting there!

The Ask

If you bought Dragon Heresy during that campaign, and are one of the 200 folks that don’t have any support for it: I’d ask that you seriously consider pledging to this one. You won’t be disappointed in the results, and you’ll have direct play support for the Introductory Set. It’s a great ruleset, setting, and adventure, and the updated version of Lost Hall of Tyr plays really well.

If you’re one of the folks following, I’d ask that you pledge sooner rather than later. It will allow me to get a jump on planning the printing, and help the campaign’s velocity, which always brings in more supporters.

Finally: if you’re a current backer or follower, please share out the link. It really helps!

See more details about what’s changing below the break! Continue reading “Lost Hall 2e Kickstarter Update”

December 7 marks Pearl Harbor Day in the USA, the famed “day that will live in infamy.” I have had the privilege to visit Pearl Harbor twice, and it was sobering and sad and . . . too many things. But you should go if you can. The first time I was there, the narrator on the tour was actually there, and had lived through it. That opportunity is vanishing quickly.

And yet! Thursday is GURPSDay! Read ’em all, check ’em out, and if you spot a GURPS blog in the wild, ping them and let them know they too can be on the list, so long as they, as Emmet would say, “follow the instructions.”

In personal Gaming Ballistic News: Two items.

  1. If you liked Hall of Judgment, and either also play or have friends that play Fifth Edition, I have launched the Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition) Kickstarter. This ports Hall of Judgment over to my 5e-derived Dragon Heresy RPG, and upgrades the maps. That part funded on Day 2, and those maps will be inserted into HoJ as well. But I’m trying to get to first the $3,500 level (print quality equal to HoJ), and then the $6,000 level that gets an offset print run (softcover, lay-flat binding, even better paper than HoJ). If you can, pledge. If you can’t, reshare. Show your D&D-playing friends, your FLGS, etc. The more I can get product out there, the better stuff I can do for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, as rising sales lift all boats.
  2. All of my RPG products are on sale until January 2. Whether as a gift, or for yourself, check ’em out.

GURPSDay is in its fifth year – 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.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPSIf 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 Summary Dec 7, 2018 – Dec 13, 2018”

Thursday is GURPSDay! It’s a good haul this morning, befitting the entry into the vast wasteland of productivity called the Christmas-New Year period. Read ’em all, check ’em out, and if you spot a GURPS blog in the wild, ping them and let them know they too can be on the list, so long as they, as Emmet would say, “follow the instructions.”

In personal Gaming Ballistic News: All of my RPG products are on sale until January 2. Whether as a gift, or for yourself, check ’em out. Additionally, for those who (gasp!) cross over into the lands of Dragon Heresy, I will be launching a Kickstarter tomorrow at some point to port Hall of Judgment over to the Dragon Heresy system. If it funds, I will certainly update the HoJ combat maps to the new style.

GURPSDay is in its fifth year – 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.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPSIf 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 Summary Nov 30, 2018 – Dec 6, 2018”

Thursday is GURPSDay! There’s still big news floating around the GURPS-o-Sphere today concerning the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game Kickstarter Update 102.   Phil Reed and Sean Punch have been active and firm on several points: The book’s scope will be tightly defined: The art is driving the monster inclusions. The boxed set reprint is linked to the Bestiary. The funding goal will (say it like in 300) not be small, not likely be progressive, and the scope of the project will be controlled and defined. Adding more tokens to a game book is not in the plan. Head on over to any of the forums (Kickstarter, GURPS Forums, GURPS North America Facebook Group) and let them know you’re interested if you are, in fact, interested.

In personal Gaming Ballistic News: All of my RPG products are on sale until January 2. Whether as a gift, or for yourself, check ’em out.

GURPSDay is in its fifth year – 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.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPSIf 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 Summary Nov 23, 2018 – Nov 29, 2018”

Gaming Ballistic Holiday Sale

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and buy my stuff! The Gaming Ballistic Holiday Sale is on!

Not subtle, but then, a sale really isn’t. All Gaming Ballistic RPG products are on sale on my website at 23% off until Jan 2, 2019.

That should allow you fine folks to either buy stuff for yourself or your friends, or after Christmas, to treat yourself.

I’m not wedded to the 23% number, but for obviously reasons Warehouse 23 is, so there we go!

Oh, and Hall of Judgment is also on sale on Warehouse 23 until December 19.

Furthermore, if you’ve been hankering for a hand-built viking shield, pricing has been updated and a new option added for hide facing and backing. Also: poplar is now the only shieldwood I am using; aspen is too brittle, and I got some actual trees cut down and seasoned that I’m turning into planks over the next few weeks.

 

 

Thursday is GURPSDay! And Turkey Day (hereafter called Sweet Potato with brown sugar and roasted marshmallows day, so as to focus on what’s important) for those in the United States. So may your tryptophan comas be pleasant! There’s big news floating around the GURPS-o-Sphere today, as the latest Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game Kickstarter Update 102 contained a preview of three monsters for a notional Dungeon Fantasy RPG Bestiary . . . and a reprint of the boxed set! While details of the project are being held close as usual, Phil Reed and Sean Punch have been active and firm on several points: The book’s scope will be tightly defined. The art is driving the monster inclusions. The boxed set reprint is linked to the Bestiary. The funding goal will (say it like in 300) not be small, not likely be progressive, and the scope of the project will be controlled and defined. Less certain but seemingly also in there was that adding more tokens to a game book is not in the plan.

The GURPS North America Facebook Group has a very active thread on this topic, and there are 77 comments on the kickstarter link itself, plus the “Future of the DFRPG” thread on the forums.

GURPSDay is in its fifth year – 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.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPSIf 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 Summary Nov 16, 2018 – Nov 22, 2018”

International Availability for Hall of Judgment

Steve Jackson Games just made an amazing announcement. They’re considering a Dungeon Fantasy RPG Bestiary, and hinting that they may also reprint the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set. In the highly-active comments section, a commenter noted that they wanted to buy a copy of Hall of Judgment, but shipping to the UK was nearly $25, doubling the cost of the book. International shipping of Hall of Judgment is always problematic from the USA.

Also, SJG obviously doesn’t control that. I do – it’s my book and my product line. Anyway, two key things for international customers:

  • There are still 8 copies of HoJ left in the United Kingdom, which can be shipped to the UK for about $6, the EU for $9, and “rest of world” for about $12; those were the Kickstarter prices and I don’t think Royal Mail has changed their prices lately.
  • Once those are gone, I’ve arranged to have the same printer, CPI, do print-on-demand softcovers for me. The quality of paper will be very nearly as good as the original batch (130gsm/86# paper instead of 140gsm/93#).

This is very exciting. The cost per book is competitive with DriveThruRPG. The paper quality is much better. And dealing with the same printer that did my original version means the handling of files is the same; no “surprise” changes due to tweaks in the export.

So: continuity of availability for Hall of Judgment for “not the USA” customers is assured.

What about the USA?

This is, obviously, easier.

SJGames probably has a few dozen copies at Warehouse 23. I’ve got maybe 60 here at home. After that, things will get more complicated, but I’m looking into options. POD runs into the same issues: finding POD companies with heavy paper stock is trickier than I’d like (willing to take suggestions, though!). Offset print here in the USA runs into minimum order quantities; I’d probably have to Kickstart or offer a new HoJ print run as a stretch goal to one of my upcoming projects (that has real advantages in the world of ‘and the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set is reprinting and heading to retail shelves again’).

I’m looking into options, but I’m also in far less danger of running out just yet. Stay tuned.

The control point based rules in my various grappling supplements are good. But they can be adjusted to taste in various ways to increase the fun in grappling at your table.

TG: The History

GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling evolved in the writing and testing, as all books do. Originally, DX penalties and ST penalties alternated with each increment in control points. First you’d lose a point in DX, then ST, then DX, then ST, etc. That was too complicated to track; the goal was “make each CP valuable” but this wasn’t the way.

Eventually, we decided that for two ST 10 foes (because you need to normalize DX penalties based on fraction of ST, blah blah) that every 2 CP was -1 DX and -1 ST. Because the more you’re grappled, the harder it is to apply your full ST effectively. The ST reductions were really important to the progression, and normalizing it (it took 4 CP to do -1 DX to a ST 20 creature) was also an important balancing act.

However . . . re-figuring ST on a point-by-point basis was cumbersome at best.

D&D and Dungeon Grappling

Making a super-simple application of the core control points principle for application in Swords and Wizardry, Peter Dell’Orto and I came up with the idea of control thresholds, based on ST. Each threshold had some impact on hit rolls, damage rolls, etc. But the advantage here was you only had to track breakpoints. This was lower book-keeping, each CP had value in your ability to spend them, and sped up play.

Applying this to D&D5e, the Pathfinder RPG, and fleshing it out and improving it for Swords and Wizardry was the point of Dungeon Grappling. I was able to make a two page “DG Quick Start” which appeared in Lost Hall of Tyr. So it was clear that at the core, simplifying a “Technical/Dungeon” grappling system for 5e (and therefore Dragon Heresy) was fun, fast, playable, and with the right approach, simply better than the existing stuff out there.

Fantastic Dungeon Grappling

When I got the license to turn Lost Hall of Tyr into Hall of Judgment, I also got permission to put in the simplified grappling concepts as alternate rules. I’d learned a ton about speed of play since 2011/2012 when I wrote Technical Grappling, and re-applying all of those lessons in a simplified form for speed of play at the table was both gratifying and, ultimately, successful.

The playtesters tweaked out the system until in most cases it ran smoothly. As always, when normal ST folks fight other normal ST folks, things work out OK. For most characters, Wrestling and the like are backup skills, but for “fighty types,” they tend to be in the 14-16 range. Credible but not dominating. Solid skill levels, but basically you’re looking at front-line ST (14-17) and Wrestling at DX or DX+1. That”s 1d to about 1d+3 control points per successful attack. Against a non-fighter type, a successful hit will mostly be in the -2 to -4 to DX range, with excursions to -8 if you get a good roll vs a weaker character. Against an equal-ST foe, it will take two turns to get to “Greater than CM” level.

Even so, it’s not that hard to have that first successful grapple take you from Wrestling-14 or Wrestling-16 to anywhere from Wrestling-6 to Wrestling-12; the upper one isn’t bad. The lower is in “death spiral” territory, from one attack.

Part of the reason the penalties were set the way they were is that the adjustment of ST was nixed. No longer would one be recalculating ST (and thus damage, encumbrance, etc) on a turn-by-turn basis. In fact, even the concept of adjusting ST at all was dropped, so that the answer to “what’s my grappling damage” is always “whatever it says on your character sheet” and even if that doesn’t work out, you can always just say “it’s your thrust, +1 per die if you have Wrestling at DX+1.”

If you have Wrestling or Judo at DX+4 or better, well, you really care about grappling and will have looked it up and written it down in advance. That’s “primary skill” level, not “close-combat backup.”

So the basic thought was -1 DX per Control Point, or ‘against typical DX, which is often in the 12-16 range, once you pass your control maximum you’re immobilized.’ So the upper bound was set at -16, which would immobilize just about anyone, even some of the characters I’ve seen played with weapon skills well above 20. Halving the penalties at each lower increment seemed good, it had a -4 (the usual GURPSy grappling penalty) in the realm of 4-8 control points (a fairly typical successful grappling attack), and it played OK in the tests.

That you maxed out at “you can’t apply more CP than your Control Maximum” helped a bit, but it was usually possible to get up to that point in a turn or two, and, well: death spiral. The point of grappling is a bit of back-and-forth struggle. And I hate “I win!” buttons. In many of the tests, “I win!” wasn’t present. But it didn’t take much to tip that scale.

Don’t Get Grappled?

Some of the things that we got rid of, like adjusting ST penalties, were for bookkeeping reduction. One of the things we nixed, which is penalties or bonuses to control points or effects due to size modifier differences, was a direct nod to the epic nature of the source material. Human-sized, mighty-thewed heroes could wrestle and contend with ogres, cyclops (cyclopses? Cyclopes!), and other giant creatures because they were epic, mighty-thewed heroes.

Having King Kong grapple you and poof you’re helpless is realistic. It’s believable. And it’s boring. It’s especially boring if the only response to fighting moderately strong creatures (or gaggles of small ones) is “don’t get grappled.”

So while the results on the as-published table aren’t wrong, there are many cases where fun can be increased by tuning things a bit.

Suggested Tweaks

If the existing rules don’t work for you, try the following:

  • Your Control Maximum remains unchanged, and equal to Lifting ST
  • Alter the Control Point Effects table as follows
Control Points DX Penalty
up to 1/10 Lifting ST
 Up to 0.5 x Lifting ST -2
>0.5xLift ST to 1.0xLift ST -4
>1.0xLift ST to 1.5x Lift ST -6
>1.5xLift ST to 2.0xLift ST -8
Greater than 2xLifting ST -12
  • You cannot apply more CP than your Control Maximum unless you All-Out Attack, which doubles your allowed Control Maximum

If you choose to not All-Out Attack, your CM drops and your applied control instantly drops to your CM if it’s greater, much like if you release a grapple to parry your grapple is instantly lost or diminished.

Take-aways

  • The penalties are gentler and extend to higher applied control totals. This will allow more back-and-forth between grapplers
  • Normal folks with 1d to 1d+3 control points per hit (1-9 CP, or 4-6 CP per attack on the average) will take four to six turns, or four to six seconds, of unopposed grappling to bring someone to -12 penalty, which will take most non-experts to either “can’t roll” or “you can only succeed in an attack if you crit or AoA)
  • King Kong or a Large Dragon at ST 50 will still be hitting you with 5d+2 control damage; that’s 19-20 points, which is enough to put most folks in the -6 to -8 penalty range in one shot; that’s believable
  • Maintaining dominating control of more than your Lifting ST requires All-Out Attacking; you’re certainly not doing anything else but “controlling the other guy.” This seems a worthy trade off for totally immobilizing someone of basically equal to your ST
  • The lower penalty rates will give an opportunity to counter-grapple. That’s not always present in these contests, and it should be.

More Tweaks

  • The -6 penalty line can simply be deleted. More than your Lifting ST in applied control points, and you’re at -8 to DX. Then for each additional multiple of your Lifting ST, take an additional -4.
  • You could halve the penalties, but at the -2, -6, and -12 levels (which would be halved to -1, -3, and -6), apply a -1, -2, or -3 per die penalty to control point damage on a successful attack. That would make a lot more ebb and flow in control points, as experts will be removing some control much of the time, and truly immobilizing someone is a constant struggle. This puts fiddle back, and “no, you’re just screwed” is a legit part of some grappling holds
  • Fantastic Dungeon Grappling is designed to work without many of the more complex grappling options from GURPS Martial Arts. Instead of All-Out Attack, things like Arm Lock might be required to increase control beyond the CM, so locking a joint opens up truly large penalties.
  • Applying pain, from Martial Arts, would be another way to apply large penalties without increasing CM, so that by moving up to your Control Maximum and then applying a Pain affliction to the foe, that would compound the effects without requiring All-Out Attack. Since Arm Lock and the like default to flat grappling skills anyway, “make a successful attack to apply pain” would not even be a deviation from the rules – you just can’t buy it up with the (non-existent in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG) Technique rules.

Parting Shot

Right now, the emergent behavior from the rules as written tend to be “who grapples first grapples best,” “don’t get grappled by big, strong foes,” and “bring friends,” since you might need their help to escape from grapples. Also, grappling is as fast and decisive as getting brained by a swung sword.

You’re just as “Save or Spectate” if a ST 21 guy with a two-handed sword and weapon master hits you: Swing damage for that is 4d-1, +3 for the sword and +8 for having your primary weapon at DX+2 or more. That’s 4d+10, or 14-34 points of cutting damage. That’s a one-hit kill on a human. Strong guys with grappling or strong guys with weapons are very dangerous, period. You can’t armor yourself much vs grappling, but it’s thrust-based, not swing based. Balances out.

None of these things are wrong or bad.

However, if you want grappling to be decisive but still allow for some good back-and-forth, try some or all of the tweaks above . . . and let me know how they go.