Mid-Campaign Ulcers and Status

Of the book. Not the ulcers.

I won’t kid you guys – seeing the Lost Hall of Tyr pledge total move up and down as it has has not been good for my stomach lining. As I mentioned in the comments, all of the withdrawals to date have been legit life reasons, but it’s certainly painful to watch.

We’re still funded, though, and the book is progressing well. I just sent Todd a pretty thorough edit of the manuscript as a last look before we really start assembling the thing, corrected a bunch of typos, and made a few edits for clarity of writing.

I have received the promised art that I commissioned from the team in four of the five cases: the cover, Roland’s piece, and two of the other pieces. The last one is on schedule. All the maps are done. I’m in the process of commissioning the remaining art assets for the basic book. Things are on track.

Stretch Goal Adjustment

I took a hard look at what the goals of the campaign were, and I’ve made some adjustments.

No adjustments have been made to reward levels; if you’ve pledged something, you’ll get what was promised.

So what changed:

  • I have decided to fulfill all physical product through a high-quality POD company, PubGraphics. I was very impressed with their work on Dungeon Grappling, so the books that come out of this Kickstarter, and any future orders through my website, will come from them. The product will, of course be available through DriveThruRPG as well.
  • I have merged the “More Art” and “S&W Conversion” stretch goals, which will both happen at $6,000.
  • Additionally, I have spoken to Alex Macris of Autarch Publishing, and I will also commit to an Adventurer Conqueror King System conversion of Lost Hall. That one might take some reframing, but he has agreed to give me some advice there.
  • This allowed pulling in the “more art from Roland” levels to $8,000 and $11,000 respectively

Both of the conversions would be delivered when the print books have been promised: April of 2018 (or before).

What about Delivery? Later?


My initial scheduling was done assuming we hit all the stretch goals and I was commissioning all the art that might be needed. So the changes above don’t impact anything.

The Swords and Wizardry conversion pull-in was the result of doing a hard look at what was required to do it, and it’s less work than I had planned.

Finally, ACKS is awesome, and I have wanted to do a Dungeon Grappling tuning of ACKS for a bit; it’s not that different than Swords and Wizardry at the core, and the proficiency-based capability system is similar to the various skill and feat systems in 5e. So it’s a fairly easy conversion. I will discuss with Alex the right way to execute this in terms of his product line, and get working fast.

So I have confidence I can execute this.

Stythja Tiers

A bit more about those tiers.

As part of the reward level, each backer at this level will work with me to create a character for the scenario. You will also receive a preview copy of the Dragon Heresy races and classes chapters, from which the Etera setting is drawn.

We’ll work up a character together, then I’ll make art notes, share them with the backer for review, make any tweaks required, and then fire off the art notes to the artist whose reward level you’ve chosen. Those characters will then appear in a separate PDF file that will be distributed along with the physical rewards and conversion material. Kind of “pre-gens” for the scenario.

Onward to the Finish

We’re headed into the last week of the campaign. Thus far, we’ve seen two reviews of the product:

Fantastical Beckelhimer and Follow Me and Die! both liked it. They also saw the ease of conversion to other material and appreciated the setting details as well as the value the Dungeon Grappling system brings to the table.

I’ve also been on four podcasts to talk about the work:

  • Table Top Babble where the topic was also Kickstarter advice
  • Geek Gab Game Night where we talked a lot about adventure design
  • Delve Podcast which focused pretty hard on the Lost Hall details
  • Shane Plays (forthcoming) about 10 minutes on the adventure

These are good places to point folks for more details about the game. There is, of course, also my blog, which has a category for Lost Hall.

So, with that . . . I hope that folks continue to get energized about Lost Hall of Tyr, and invite others to do so. To the finish line!

I was on the Geek Gab Game Night podcast just a few moments ago. Nearly two hours on adventure design and other topics – we didn’t hold ourselves tightly to a particular theme. As always, it was a hoot interacting with my gracious hosts, and it definitely plays out as a conversation rather than a lecture!

Give a listen, and of course, support Lost Hall of Tyr!

Last week I sat down with James Introcaso again, and spoke for more than an hour on grappling, Dungeon Grappling, how to publish a game, and how I approach running a Kickstarter, especially as a newbie.

It was a fun interview, and James is a great interlocutor.

Check it out!

TableTop Babble – 040 – 5e Sci Fi and Kickstarter Advice


I was invited by Jasyn Jones and John McGlynn to join them on their Geek Gab podcast to talk about Dungeon Grappling, after I posted my GenCon reports about the playtest.

Well, yeah, we covered grappling. But we also covered GURPS, the DFRPG, game design principles, and many other things, including HEMA and how useful first-hand research can be if you can do it. Roland Warzecha’s Dimicator videos got honorable mention. We talked a lot of 5e, some Pathfinder, a bit of Fate, and WEG’s d6 and GUMSHOE got a nod. I talked quite a bit about Dragon Heresy.

I had a great time, and we spoke for about 75 minutes. I talk kinda fast, but I don’t think I was incoherent, so yay.

Anyway: enjoy!

So, GenCon has come and gone, and I got a lot of business done while I was there. Some of this will be reflected in what projects GB is working on.

The Tower of Justice – Adventure Scenario

The brief scenario that I over-prepared for (two hour session, but I wanted to ensure we didn’t run out of fun) went over very, very well. I can confirm that 15 folks, from newbies to grognards, went through it, and despite grappling appearing constantly, everyone was engaged and had fun. The give and take of control damage was as compelling to them as it was to me.

The scenario is built around the Dragon Heresy world, and the strong undercurrent of Norse-ish mythology that flows through it was well received.

The “do we or don’t we go this way” puzzle that was supposed to be one of the scenario forks (which one needs for a con game, though much less so for a campaign) was so compelling (and frankly, not hard enough) that both parties just got it. I came up with a good re-arrangement of things that will resonate better with sandbox play, as well as providing larger exposure to more potential resolution pathways.

So . . . I’ll be publishing this, for real. The GenCon folks that were at my table will get free copies and playtest credit, if they email me. Otherwise, I will work it up for 5e and Swords and Wizardry, at least, plus of course Dragon Heresy.

There’s a ton of work done already, and turning it into a short adventure supplement should be fairly quick. I suspect that I can re-use a lot of art I’ve purchased for Dungeon Grappling. I may even re-use the Dungeon Grappling layout template, which will push my InDesign skills to grow and improve.

In short, I don’t think I’ll need to crowdfund this one. We’ll see. I could also Kickstart it when it’s basically ready and see if folks have enough interest to help me fund custom art. That way, I’d be able to work with some old and some new artists – many of whom I met at GenCon – on a very short project with little risk. Test out working relationships and whatnot, and keep in practice for crowdfunding. Besides . . . I love generating new art (well, paying others to do so).

What about Pathfinder? I will need to consult my oracles; I’m not as good with this ruleset than others.

The adventure itself stands at 11,500 words – roughly 23 pages as-is, which would grow a bit with maps and fleshing out all parts of something designed for “until it’s done” rather than “cram into two hours.”

Dragon Heresy: Starter Set?

I watched “Ashcan” versions of various games in development fly off the shelves in the Indie Game Designer’s Network booth for four days. The 5e Basic Rules were pretty popular.

So, I’ve got a project that will be in editing for a while, but is fully playable. The system plays well and has some neat tweaks to it. The setting is compelling enough, and has loads of room to support adventures.

So I’m pondering and chopping a very, very limited version of the game that only covers Level 1-4, ditches all optional rules, and is otherwise a nice intro. I’m shooting for something like 60,000 words, which is about 15% of the total three-volume set.

I’ll see how far I can distill it. There are advantages to doing this that solve some issues I had with my Kickstarter planning, too.

The full game is still progressing! And again, with the artists I chatted with, I’m very hopeful I could go from “funded” to “done” in a reasonable time period through the glory of parallel processing. But . . . I think I can get something fun out there that’s playable, and will only improve with time as Ken does his magic on my writing.

Venture Beyond

Just for completeness’ sake, David and I are closing in on a first-complete-manuscript. We’ve nailed down a lot better where we’ll be conventional in business development process, and where we’ll take risks for the sake of time to market.

I’m feeling good about where we are, at least for now. Not much of an update, but as with a lot of “below the waterline” stuff, there’s a lot to unpack in the words “making progress.”

As I was writing about the keyed monster list, I had cause to generate a random dungeon as an example using the generator over at donjon. The example that popped out was fine . . . but I did notice that nearly all of the fun threats in that particular output were from random encounters – the Wandering Monster table was far more interesting challenge-wise than the encounters that were in place.

Perhaps that makes sense in some cases, but it got me thinking about the why of wandering monsters. Why might monsters wander, and what kinds of wandering are more likely to provoke violent encounters?

I wonder why I wander

Brainstorming a bit:

  • Travel from place to place – migration, resettlement
  • Hunting for food
  • Patrolling territory that has already been established
  • Scouting new territory for home, food, mates, or resources
  • Scouting new territory for fun
  • Looking for an encounter for a specific purpose – rite of passage, hunting for sport rather than food
  • War party, genocidal or punitive expedition
  • Investigating strange goings on (loud noises, sounds of a struggle, cries of a wounded creature)

I’m sure there are others.

One interesting divide here is that some of these are more appropriate for sapient beings than sentient ones.

A tiger will set up a territory. It will patrol that territory on very regular intervals. It will hunt for food within that territory, and within reason, it will defend the territory from incursion. It uses spray, urine, feces, and scratch markings to not only signal the territory, but to purposefully signal its patrol pattern. So it’s likely to share territory at the borders, so long as other animals don’t encroach during patrol hours, so to speak.

A band of traditional orcs, who are aggressive, warlike, and sapient, may be wandering from place to place, and if they are migrating, they will do it in very large numbers – a clan or tribe (thinking on it, regular migrations will frequently be in force). They may engage in many of the listed activities, and can be counted on doing so with (relatively speaking) great creativity. Their patrols may be more random and less signaled. They may hunt for sport as well as for food.

In a dungeon environment, or any sort of encounter really, it may help the GM or encounter designer pondering a wandering monster or chance encounter table to consider the kinds of encounters that might be had. Continue reading “Purposeful Wandering Monsters”

Wodensday Wonderings is a new feature where I will discuss and comment on things that have sparked my interest of late. Sometimes (like today) it’ll be an animated discussion over mapped vs. mapless combat. Sometimes it might be a game design discussion. Or thoughts about why and why not of firearms and the like in fantasy gaming (to pick on a heated topic I saw on Facebook). More food for thought than “folks should do this,” this is my weekly free association column, so to speak. With that:

I was reading a Google+ post about using mapless/gridless combat, and the poster and commenters were musing about what was basically the tendency of players to precisely place their area effect spells for maximum effect. I’ve seen this too in GURPS games with both spells and grenades.

A quick fix – Random Location

It adds a die roll or three, but there’s an easy way to handle it. Assign scatter to every area effect spell. You can use either d6s or d8s. Continue reading “Spell Targeting – Margin of Error (5e, GURPS, others)”

ACKS of Dissection

So, I’m new to the ACKS game, in that I’ve now got a bunch of the books (Core Book, Player’s Companion, Domains at War, and one other). I’ve also developed a hellishly amusing friendship with Alex Macris, the author of ACKS and proprietor of Autarch, the company that publishes it.

Why hellishly amusing? Has to do with how we got to know each other. It was all very friendly, but one of those things where he was aware of my work through the ballistics part of gaming ballistic, and I was aware of his through Google+ and his publishing of an open gaming licence alternate rules set to his published domain rules. We discovered a mutual and growing admiration for each others’ design work.

Well, now I’m reading the ACKS Player’s Companion, and my admiration for his work is not a whit smaller for it.

One of the neat bits of the basic ACKS system is that it takes the table-based and fairly rigid Basic/AD&D schema and deconstructs it. Not literary deconstruction, where one looks for the inherent contradiction that weakens or undermines a general theme, but in actual “let’s take this apart” methodology. So perhaps “dissection” is a better phrase. Not just because he did cut it apart, but because hey, this is DnD, so taking things and rules apart with bladed objects is in genre.

I will doubtless be returning to this theme, because the work he did in ACKS is going to need to be repeated for the inevitable sequel to Dragon Heresy. I need something for my envisioned “next project” that has the kind of flexibility and kit-bash capability that Alex built into the ACKS system via the Player’s Companion.

I will also be returning to this theme because the number of puns I can make since ACKS sounds like “acts” and “axe” and “asks” depending on enunciation and accent is just vast, and I cannot resist drinking from that trough. You’ve been warned. Continue reading “A Class ACKS”

It has literally been one month since any sort of “real” content post on Gaming Ballistic. That ain’t right.

There are good reasons – or they seemed so at the time – but still, there has to be more to the blog than an occasional play report and a “work was done” update about the two RPG projects that are eating my time and some of my creative energy.

Make a List: Bad Guy Rosters

Starting small, though: I endorse fully Peter’s notion of Bad Guy Rosters from his post a few days ago.

I’ve used these myself, and I find there are two ways of doing them that just rock on toast.

The first is the simple spreadsheet list, but organized in such a way that the order has meaning. In short, if you’re mucking about in a room killin’ monsters and takin’ their stuff, then you’re probably making noise. Lots of it. The blood-curdling shriek of a fallen hobgoblin. The whoosh of air as it escapes from lungs the size of forge bellows as an ogre’s throat opens the wrong way. The dull but powerful woomph of a detonating fireball.

All of these should instantly alert neighbors that fouble is a troot. At least one “nearest neighbor” should go on high alert, and if these dwellers have any sort of communications system (and I don’t mean cell phones, though magical equivalents are great – I mean runners and messengers) the entire dungeon will soon be on alert.

The key information in a bad guy roster is pretty obvious: what’s in a room, notable things in the environment that must be noted, distance to next rooms, and nearest-neighbor connections.

The easiest way to do this will be with an example. Continue reading “Benefits of a Keyed Monster List”

Not Good, but Profitable

That’s become our motto. Tim Shorts got a great writeup done, and Peter followed. They covered everything, so I’ll restrict myself to comments about the system itself.

I like Swords and Wizardry. It’s a fairly rules-light system even in its Complete version, though some simplification or rationalization of game mechanics could still be done. That’s more a result of hewing to the original source material, which was of course a design mission for the game. But Erik, Tim, Peter, and others have played S&W Complete through many adventures.

Sword and Wizardry Light, and now it’s “Extra” version, which adds material rather than being Extra Light, is a rules skeleton by design. It’s got a bit more – such as the ranger and paladin classes – than the basic four of the SWL set. But it really does work best when all of the concepts in playing D&D are already reasonably well known, and also when the players are not shy about roleplaying disadvantageous ability scores with no mechanical support.

You roll 3d6, either in order or assign as you like. We’d decided on race/class before the game started, with Peter an Elf/Mage, me an Elf/Ranger, and Tim a Halfling/Fighter. I rolled 3d6, mostly hit 9-12, but picked up two 15’s, which are good for +1 to something. In my case I did DEX (for my bow) and CON (for HP).

The system only uses 20-sided and 6-sided dice, and d20s are only used for attack rolls and saving throws. Everything else, from Hit Dice to initiative to damage, are d6s. I’m cool with that. I play GURPS. Continue reading “Swords and Wizardry Xtra (Light) – B-Team Makes Friends”