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.

I was a guest this evening with Matt Finch, talking about my Top 5 DM Tips.

I had a rough week, so I had little time to prepare. That made it pretty easy, in a way: the only thing I could think of was the most important stuff. I took a few notes, and I think we had a great conversation!

You tell me. It’s about an hour.

I’m going to be on two more shows in the next two days!

RPG Coast to Coast

I will be one of the hosts tonight at the RPG Coast to Coast at 9:00pmEST//8:00pmCST//7:00pmMST//6:00pmPST.

Topics for tonight include discussing Longevity of D&D, Art not the Artist, How Best to Promote your Product, and whatever else strikes our fancy.

It’s going to be held in the Tenkar’s Tavern Discord chat.

How do I get to The Tavern Discord? Follow these Steps:

  • Step 1.) Go here https://discordapp.com/download
  • Step 2.) Click which is best for you Windows, Mac, Android, IOS, or Linux and download it.
  • Step 3.) Once it has finished downloading click the + button surrounded by a dotted circle on the left hand side
  • Step 4.) Click the Join a Server button and copy and paste this into it https://discord.gg/GaXW2TX

Being Stalked by Matt Finch

OK, not really. I reached out to him. 🙂

Even so, we will be chatting on his D&D Neighborhood channel at 6pm Central time, Saturday Feb 23. We always have fun.

Unarmed Lethal Combat

Unarmed combat is a bit of the bastard stepchild of D&D games, and deservedly so . . . at least relative to weapons. While a dagger does 1d4, at least in Fifth Edition (and therefore in Dragon Heresy), unarmed strikes do a single point of damage, modified by your Strength bonus. That can be non-trivial, of course: a strong unarmed blow by a STR 18-20 will do 5-6 points of damage, equivalent to a weaker person (STR 10) with a 1d10 weapon.

Monks, of course, subvert this with their martial arts damage: their strikes are weapons. Equivalent to daggers at low level, and versatile longswords at high. That’s cool. It also puts most of the focus where it should be: fists are, by and large, inferior weapons relative to purpose-built killing devices. Having an unarmed blow do 0-2 points of damage (1d3-1, for example) makes sense.

Problem is, that makes all combat lethal: why do only one point of base damage when you can do 2d6? Worse – from a reality perspective – is the concept of beating the snot out of someone with a fist or sword somehow being “non lethal” or “subdual” damage, where it doesn’t hurt much. One of the selling points of Dungeon Grappling is that it enables some quality unarmed combat, and interesting bar brawls that don’t have to be lethal.

Speaking of Bar Brawls

Reality aside: during the Tavern Chat last night, I got into a fun discussion with Smokestack Jones about the requirement for nonlethal unarmed combat in games. Especially cinematic fantasy games like D&D variants. A spot of fisticuffs in a bar, perhaps adding grappling, perhaps not, is a staple of the genre. Reality aside – and we’re talking elves and half-dragons and hobbits here, so yeah, reality aside – having entertaining unarmed combat is kinda important.

We compared a few other game mechanics. He mentioned one (whose name I forget) that used two tracks: wounds and bruises. Well. That reminded me of wounds and vigor from Dragon Heresy, but mechanically, vigor is all the defenses and luck and not getting hit that you do in a fight, not shrugging off blunt trauma and non-lethal blows.

We also talked about Champions/Hero System, where if you rolled a 6 on the dice, you took 2 body, 2-5 was 1, and 1 was none – so every STUN attack had a bit of a body component to it. That made all kinds of sense to both of us too.

So. An alternate wound track. Spill-over from non-lethal to lethal damage. Good, good. Nice concepts here, well tested in other games. Oh, also: ideally, no extra rolls. Extra rolls slow things down.

I’ll mostly talk about this for Fifth Edition, as it’s what I’m most familiar with. I’ll refer to Swords & Wizardry as we go. Continue reading “Unarmed Combat in D&D”

I got back into D&D after a long, long time with GURPS (though I did not, and will not, stop creating for that system) by joining Erik Tenkar, Peter Dell’Orto, Tim Shorts, Joe the Lawyer (I never actually got his whole name), and several others in Erik’s “B-Team.”

We played once a month, and compressed a whole lot of gaming into 2-3 hours. We used the Swords & Wizardry system, a retro-clone that showed me how much fun rules-light gaming can be, and helped me appreciate Fifth Edition a bit more when it came out.

S&W taught me to think simple, think fast, and think light. It helped me shape my grappling rules into something anyone would want to pick up, and could either “play easy” or add as much modular awesome as they could.

I got to know Matt Finch through Erik, and I believe other than the Wednesday night Tavern Chats, we started to get to know each other when he started “ambush interviewing” me for his D&D Neighborhood YouTube shows. While the first interview was me chatting with him about Dragon Heresy and related stuff, he tapped me for a few other shows like “How to write a player’s guide.” He’s a good guy, drives a good interview (maybe the legal training), and runs a good game, which I got to experience at GameHole Con in November of 2018 (this past year).

When it came time to introduce this second edition of Lost Hall, I asked him if he would be willing to contribute a Foreword, and he agreed.

Here’s the laid-out Foreword for your image perusal, followed by the text and a link to a PDF as well.

Foreword to Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition)

by Matt Finch

Some longish time ago, I was talking with Doug Cole via Google Hangout. As the conversation went on, it started to dawn on me that he was sitting in the middle of what looked like a small armory of blades, axes, and shields—all of them made of wood. So after a while, of course, I had to ask about this clutter of weaponry piled up all around him. Now, anyone who knows Doug already knows that “enthusiastic” only vaguely succeeds in capturing the essence of Doug. Seconds later, I was looking through my computer screen at a sword-wielding, shieldbearing warrior in fighting stance, delivering an energetic lecture on the proper way to use a Viking-type shield. As the lecture evolved into methods of using the sword in concert with the shield, I started to realize why there’s no furniture anywhere near his computer. Or, at least, what happened to it if there once was. As I’ve said, “enthusiastic” doesn’t quite capture it.

Doug manages to infuse his writing with the same effervescent energy, making for a wild ride through his game world and the adventures to be found in it. Since I’m no expert on Vikings or Norse mythology I can’t speak to how much of Doug’s exploration into the wyrd, wild world of Viking adventure is based on history and how much of it is just a sheer, fantastic Norseplosion of adventure. It doesn’t really matter, of course —this book is a mix of pure mystery and adrenaline for RPG gaming, and that’s what counts in the long run.

One is always tempted to write a long foreword to a good book, sprinkling spoilers here and there in an effort to tell the reader how to enjoy what they’re about to encounter in it. But I don’t think that’s the purpose of a foreword. A foreword is for setting the mood: giving the reader that last deep breath before the plunge into strange worlds and vivid imagery. I can assure you, even though the world of Norse adventuring might seem familiar on the surface, what lies beneath that surface is strange and mythic indeed. And so, consider that last, deep breath to have now been drawn—it’s time to turn the page and let yourself go a-Viking in the rich sea of ideas you’ll find beyond!

 LINK TO PDF FILE

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

Jason Hobbs, of Hobbs and Friends of the OSR, linked me in to a grappling duel that he was going to run in an ongoing game he runs. You can see it here, from about the 5 minute mark to about 10 minutes, maybe a bit longer. He used concepts from my book, Dungeon Grappling, to execute the duel.

Check it out. I’ll wait.

A few things about it that struck me, or that I really liked:

  • First, Jason looked at the rules ahead of time, trimmed them to his needs, and clarified the function with the other player in the duel
  • He made them his own: dividing the HP of each fighter into a few bins of a size that made sense to him. There seemed to also be a “no effect” zone up to a certain level, too
  • He eliminated modifiers to the damage roll: “just roll your Hit Die for control damage.”
  • He made the contest one-way: no way to counter-grapple. The player asked about it, and was informed not to worry.
  • It was fast, and especially in the duel, the “miss, miss, hit/damage, miss, hit/damage, etc” sequence was as fast as it should be, with no bizarre lookups.

That’s the point, really: everyone who plays any version of D&D knows the hit roll vs AC/damage roll paradigm. It’s basically in our blood. And with the relatively low number of HP in Old School games, using HP as Control Maximum is equally well understood.

The player was able to ask for things to do: “get in and take him down.” That was glossed over, but it could have been attempted as soon as the fight moved from “grabbed” to “grappled.” Make an attack roll, spend the CP to represent the effort of throwing him to the ground, and poof. He’s now prone (and presumably embarrassed) on the ground. Easier to hit, harder to hit you, and worse Dexterity-type saving throws.

I liked what I saw, and as the players and the GM get used to it, I can easily see adding some of the optional detail for more fun.

For what it’s worth: Dungeon Grappling is on sale until January 2, 2019!

Gaming Ballistic is a publisher of roleplaying games, and this note lets you know where you can find Gaming Ballistic on the Web.

As a company, I support the 5e-derived Dragon Heresy system, D&D5e through the Open Gaming License (OGL), and OSR products, usually with a focus on Swords & Wizardry, especially since I’m getting to know the guys and gals at Frog God better over time. Zach Glazar, for example, is basically the guy who spent an hour or two of his own time to help me get my bearings in InDesign.

I am also a huge fan of the GURPS-related variants by Steve Jackson Games, and through the product Hall of Judgment, am one of their few license-holders, and to my knowledge so far the only one for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. Which is different from GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, itself a sub-line of the overarching GURPS portfolio.

All that said: if you can’t find me, you can’t play my games and buy my stuff. Buying my stuff lets me make nicer things for you.

Finding Gaming Ballistic

As seems to be required these days, you can find me all over the place:

Buying Stuff

To date, I have written four books through Gaming Ballistic, and one through Steve Jackson Games. They are Dragon Heresy (DH), Hall of Judgment (HoJ, for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Powered by GURPS), Lost Hall of Tyr (LHoT1e; for 5e and S&W), and Dungeon Grappling (DG; for 5e, S&W, and the Pathfinder RPG). I also wrote GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling (TG) and published a bunch of articles in Pyramid Magazine since 2002 for Steve Jackson Games.

Where can you find these fine products?

  • Main Web Store (DH, DG, LHoT, HoJ all formats)
  • DriveThruRPG (DG, LHoT in PDF and POD)
  • Warehouse23 at Steve Jackson Games (DG in PDF; HoJ; this is the only place to buy Technical Grappling!)
  • Studio2 (Dragon Heresy in Hardcover only; these guys are distributors; DH releases there in December)

The main web store is best for me, because I get a larger cut, and that means more wherewithal to make more games.

I absolutely support direct-to-retailer purchases, with a usual discount of 50%. If you are a buyer for a retail store, you’ll need to contact me (see below!) and I’ll get your store email address entered into my Coupon Code section, and I’ll get you a coupon that will let you get a 50% discount on orders direct from me; larger orders will get free shipping.

What’s this about “LHoT1e” you might ask? I am currently revising and refining Lost Hall of Tyr to directly support the Dragon Heresy game. That means pulling in all the worldbuilding stuff I did for Hall of Judgment (which is essentially LHoT pushed up to 128 pages from 64 and then opened up as a more sandboxy campaign rather than what LHoT was designed as: a convention one-shot), and making the challenges mostly suitable for a starting party of level 1-5 adventurers . . . but don’t count on all encounters being “balanced.” Some need to be avoided or you’ll get flattened.

In any case, look for a second edition. If you already own Lost Hall 1e in PDF form, you will get the Second Edition free of charge. Comp copies will be delivered by DriveThru to those who purchased there, and by the Gaming Ballistic website for all Kickstarter backers or direct-purchase customers who have an account on my website (and if you don’t have one but do want one, email me).

Contact Gaming Ballistic

I am easily accessible via email, Discord, and the Facebook Group.

In addition, I am a frequent contributor to the RPG Breakfast Club over at the Tenkar’s Tavern discord.

I tend to answer most questions on a “right the heck now” basis. Sometimes it might take longer.

I’m also increasing my convention presence over the next few years. I was at GameHole Con in Madison in Nov 2018, and will try and make appearances at Con of the North, Convergence (both in Minneapolis), GameHole 2019, and GaryCon 2020 if I possibly can do so!

You can also sign up for the Gaming Ballistic mailing list. I try not to use it much, to prevent spam-induced unsubscription, but I try and announce upcoming Kickstarters and projects there first. And if none of that suits, here’s a contact form:

About the Author


Howdy! I’m Doug, though my author credits are always listed as Douglas H. Cole

I have been role-playing since 1981 – starting with Holmes Red Box and AD&D, sampling many systems along the way, and started heavily playing GURPS since 1988. I’ve been an active playtester and author for both Third and Fourth Editions for a while; I started while I was in grad school at Northwestern.

I’m an occasional but avid target shooter and movie-watcher, I love postponing woodworking and home improvement projects, and I’m an inveterate GURPS rules tinkerer. And now I run my own company – Gaming Ballistic, LLC. But since you’re here, you already know that.

I have earned two doctorates: a real one from Northwestern University in Materials Science and Engineering, and a cool one in GURPS Ballistics from Illuminati Online University, based on an article I wrote a while back.

I currently live near Minneapolis, and work for a hard-disc-drive company as my day job. All the rest of my time is spent either working on products for Gaming Ballistic, or with my family – outnumbered badly by my wife and two girls.

More on Gaming

I started playing GURPS in 1989 with 3rd edition. Since then, I’ve done a lot of playtesting for 3e and 4e, plus LP for the Fourth Edition High Tech and Tactical Shooting. I’ve published about six articles in Pyramid, and I’ve an e23 book (GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling) that was the first GURPS release, on Sept 5, 2013, after the Big Damn Ogre got out of the way.

It is my secret desire to have the notation in TV Tropes for grappling rules say “Averted, in Fantastic Dungeon Grappling.

There, now that I’ve said it, it’ll never happen. But . . . that won’t be my first mention on the GURPS page of TV Tropes. It’ll be my THIRD.

First: the mention of “the closest thing anyone got to deriving the system the authors used goes on for pages,” referencing an old article I wrote in Pyramid on “Interior and Terminal Ballistics for GURPS.” The second is a nod to my “Nasty Transcendental Equations Table” in Pyramid #3/33, the article on bows called “The Deadly Spring.”

And in fact, TG is mentioned in TVTropes already, but no opinions on averted or not are given. Alas.

Access is one of the more jealously guarded privileges in hierarchical systems, and social standing reinforced status, but also kept the big dogs ideally focused on the issues they need to be concerned with. Details of policy and realm health, maurauding fae raids, and magical curses. The important stuff.

The rules below are a revision of a new insertion to the Dragon Heresy set, and seemed like a good idea when in my recent streaming play the 1st-level characters seemed bound and determined to head off to see the hajarl or a merchant prince personally. I deflected it in play by having a lower-rank NPC, who happened to be related to the merchant prince, take the call instead. Why pick up dice if you don’t have to?

But some sort of guideline for whether or not an influential person will take the PCs request seemed wise.

Plus: if you’re wondering, this is basically an equivalent of “you get XP for gold.” The wealthier and more successful you are, the more ships, fortresses, and troops you commend, the nicer your armor, weapons, and clothing, the more you look the part of the mighty hero. It’s also a good way to look at how a sheltered offspring of a powerful noble might be a 1st-level or lower character, but still be worthy of dealing with seriously: good Persuasion due to charisma and practice, plus tremendous status and resources. Suddenly not all lords have to be 15th level fighters or mages (though many will be)!

The rules here aren’t final. I may flip it around a bit and instead make the Social Standing a passive check, and recast this as a 2d10 or 3d6 roll for a “reaction” with relative standing as a modifier (so it’s a single, player-facing roll instead of a contest). A passive score will also allow a quick comparison: “no, you’re more than 20 lower than Lord Robert; the best way to get the hajarl’s ear is to approach Lady Alina, the newly-appointed jarl of one of his vassal towns; she’s a jarl, but of lower standing and might treat more equally with you, and SHE can bring your petition before Robert.”

None of the concepts below should replace good roleplay, but they will help guide things. I may yet flatten things out a bit; pretty much anyone could step in front of the Thing/Althing to speak, and the kind of disparity in social standing was a continental thing more than a viking thing. But the core is there, and this basic concept is easily portable into other games: apparently this works out fairly well using ACKS’ native level tables as well.

So there we go. Here’s the Dragon Heresy version of “XP for gold.”

As the Kickstarter winds down, today I’m going to write rules for “flyting,” a ritual poetic contest of insults. That will complete the “alternate rules work” that I want to do to provide options for conflict and conflict resolution that don’t involve pointed sticks. Between flyting and grappling and access restrictions found below, there are plenty of ways to challenge the party without relying n always breaking out weapons.

From here, I will get busy with writing “Identify Fiend or Foe” advice for my monsters, and ensuring that some of the “I’ll do this later” parts of the ms are finally complete.  Continue reading “Dragon Heresy Rules Excerpt: Social Standing”