Earlier I went through and took a stab at what it costs to develop an RPG book. One can consider these, in somewhat imprecise terms, economic costs, rather than an accounting or cash-flow cost, in that it’s not required to write checks for all of them. Further, the costs presented represent doing everything on a contracting basis, and everything bespoke, meaning created for your game from scratch.

This is not remotely the only way to do it. It’s probably not even necessarily the best way to do it.

So I’m going to muse here on ways to reduce both the economic cost as well as the cash cost of RPG development. Continue reading “Economizing on RPG Development Costs”

I tend to be pretty transparent here at Gaming Ballistic, perhaps even too much so. Still, it came as a surprise to me – though it was, in a Rumsfeldian sense, a known unknown – just what it took to make a game. For example, I had always thought that print games were simply much more expensive to design and produce than PDF, and the casual derision occasionally flung at PDFs on some boards reinforced that.

Turns out that with modern publishing methods, at least for me, the only difference between “make it a PDF” and “make it print” is your InDesign output settings. Exaggeration? Perhaps, but not by much. The print costs are non-trivial, true. But they’re also not nearly the bulk of the cost.

There was a discussion of “Production Values” on the SJG Forums, where I offered to lay down what my estimates of costs were to make a game. It’s not universal – every company is different, I’m sure. There will be a lot of “from X to Y” in it, because sometimes you pay what you have to, and sometimes you pay what you want to. It’s also going to include some things that many small companies don’t “pay” for, because they do it out of sweat equity. I do this myself, and it’s probably not smart.

Linear and Non-Linear Costs

Many of the things here are what I’d call linear costs. They scale very directly on a per-word basis, or indirectly, in that you don’t technically pay by the word, but you might pay by the page, or have an average number of things you have to do based on layout, which will put a certain number of words on a page.

I’m going to use Lost Hall of Tyr as my primary example in most cases. Mostly because start to finish, it’s completely done, and I have a very good idea of what I spent on it, having maintained my spreadsheet and updated it as “projected cost” turned to “real cost.” If you really wanted to get good, first make your budgetary sheet, and then copy it and lock it, and make “actual expenses” a separate tracking item. Continue reading “RPG Development Costs”

This post initially appeared on Michael’s Google+ feed, but I liked it so much I asked him if I could repost it on my blog. He agreed.

Since disadvantages are unofficial topic of the week I’ve been thinking about our storied history of disadvantages and I was writing a HUGE response to Douglas Cole and realized it wasn’t really even on topic. So I decided to post separately.

For the longest time we had religiously made characters with 40D 5Q. We fell into some very predictable patterns because at that range we all had favorites. We may try a different disadvantage that fit the character but Chris always had Bad Temper, Nate Always had Sadist, Alex always had Sense of Duty, and as much as I like to pretend I’m the Alpha roleplayer, a lot of my characters had Impulsive. We just found things that worked better for our play style and personality as roleplayers but that turned into a rut. Players anticipated that we’d make these characters and they built characters on that assumption. We didnt’ try new things or grow very much.

We had also done those insane games with 100points in disadvantages, but we weren’t used to that scope so we didn’t have that balance of disadvantages that Douglas Cole talks about. We’d go all in on big-point disadvantages or have just a huge laundry list of disadvantages that we couldn’t manage to roleplay well. And we’d invariably choose those favorite Disadvantages again too. Continue reading “Disadvantages: An argument for template (guest post by Michael Wolf)”

Just a quick note on some behind-the-scenes stuff that’s exciting to me.

First, I’ve nearly completed one of  my Styðya-tier backer character sheets and illustrations. Michael Clarke made this 5e version of the Dragon Heresy character sheet for me, and Rick Troula provided the illustration for this particular backer. I’m quite pleased with how it’s all turning out.

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy and Lost Hall Progress”

Inspired by Douglas’ cool post on organization of disadvantages, I also follow a certain way of thinking about disadvantages.  Buckets of Points (Pyramid 65) presents an option for giving players different amount of points for different amounts of positive traits, skills, attributes, advantages etc.

While I do not strictly budget disadvantages, I have for a long time regarded them in the same way, and believe that it helps to keep in mind three buckets when choosing disadvantages for a character, allowing a character that has characterization but is not a menace to society for DM or player!

  1. DM facing Disadvantages – These are disadvantages such as Enemies, Weirdness Magnet, Klutz, Unluckiness, Dependents . . . disadvantages that rely on the DM having something happen to the character.  These are the first sort of disadvantages I felt needed to belong in a bucket of their own for two reasons
    • Being DM facing, they place an extra level of burden on the DM keeping up with them across an entire party of characters, and I could feel swamped as a DM when to many of them reared their head.   
    • Since they are something the DM directly implements, they are a nice tool the player is kindly providing to the DM to help guide, flesh out and make interesting scenarios in the game!
  2. Player facing Disadvantages – These are disadvantages such as Intolerance, Lecherousness, Honesty, Bloodlust . . . disadvantages that are reliant on the player roleplaying them to be implemented, rather than on the DM.   Since these are roleplaying focused, they add quite a bit to the flavor of the character, but can add quite a bit of load to the player to keep track of playing a lot of them.   The DM can of course fit challenges appropriate to these disadvantages into the game, but they are dealt with by the player and thus can be far less of a load on the DM.  This is the second category I felt stood out, and in one of my campaign notes I specifically requested players take primarily ‘player facing’ disadvantages, which at the time I considered everything not DM facing!
  3. Game facing Disadvantages – These are disadvantages such as Reduced Stats, Vulnerability, Maintenance, Bad Sight – disadvantages which are primarily in terms of game mechanics which just exist, not reliant on the DM putting them into play, nor reliant on the player roleplaying them.   They can provide interesting challenges to the player to deal with, and the DM can incorporate them into scenarios, but since they are straight game mechanics they add very little load to player or DM.   They are often not as interesting for guiding the game or characterization however.   I originally considered these to be ‘player facing’, but now believe they fit into a category of their own.

One consideration is that disads can jump boundaries based on the perspective of the DM and implementation, a particular example being Vulnerability.   I tend to view Vulnerability as pretty much Game facing and as a DM do not worry about it, as I figure that in the course of DMing I will throw a miscellany assortment of damage types along, and that Crushing, Fire, Unholy, or Antimagic or what have you will come up in due course.   But for other things, particularly lower frequency items such as say Silver or Jade, the DM must remember to actually appropriately outfit enemies with them as suited to the commonness chosen for the vulnerability.   Thus it can also be DM facing.   

While I have never advocated a particular budget of points between the three buckets, I believe it can be important to keep a balance between them, and that the balance can shift between different games.   For instance, with a large party, fewer DM facing disadvantages might be chosen, as with several party members the DM could well get swamped.   The opposite with a smaller party . . . . a single solitary PC could do well to have Enemies, Dependents, and so forth oh my!

For a decent sized party, I would recommend no more than a couple DM facing disads for any given party member.   Several more player facing disads can be appropriate can be proper for each character as the player is focused on their own character.   Game facing disads can be added pretty freely, as they help make things interesting without loading anyone down . . . . having played and DMed in a number of games with more generous disadvantage limits I find them quite indispensable in such situations.

Since that is rather dry, let us look at an example of an actual character I’ve played.   Said character was expected to be played in a party ranging from 2 to 5 or so party members.

DM Facing Disads

  • Duty (Council of Archmages)
  • Flagrant Aura
  • Supernatural Features, overly warm

Player Facing Disads

  • Obsession (Become a member of the Council of Archmages)
  • Callous
  • Honesty
  • Truthfulness
  • Curiosity
  • Overconfidence

Game Facing Disads

  • Dependency, Mana, Constantly
  • Increased Consumption
  • Restricted Diet, Mundane Food
  • Vulnerability DN, Antimagic  x2
  • Lowered Per/Will
  • Lowered ST

Thus, following the ideas of breaking the disads into the three buckets, you can arrive at a fairly well characterized character with all manner of interesting bad things about them, but without burning out the DM or player with the load of them all!  This approach is based around sharing the load between DM, Player, and leaving it up to the game system, and I think it works out pretty well.

I would like to thank starslayer for looking at the first draft of this and helping me improve it, and in particular for bringing up the vulnerability issue.

Two of the backers chose illustrated character sheets for their reward levels. I thought I’d show you guys a Work-in-Progress view of one of them.

The backer chose to use the Dragon Heresy character classes and backgrounds, because Dragon Heresy is going to be awesome. He’s a Berserker following the Path of Lausatok, which is basically a grapple-barbarian in 5e terms.

He’ll be 5th level when he’s done. Michael Clarke, who did my cover on Dungeon Grappling and has done the covers, layout, and graphic design on Dragon Heresy did the character sheet template.

Berserker of Lausatok WIP
Berserker of Lausatok WIP

The Path of Lausatok’s initial ability is:

Expert Grappler

Starting when you choose this tradition at 3rd level, your study of unarmed combat begins to focus on grappling and wrestling. You gain proficiency with Athletics; if you were already proficient, you gain expertise. Additionally, you gain the following benefits:

  • You have advantage if you are making a grappling attack against a foe but have not yet achieved any Control.
  • If you have a creature grappled and they attempt to counter-grapple either to reduce control or establish control on you, you may use your reaction to reduce their effect by 1d4 plus your Strength or Dexterity modifier, whichever is better.

The next boost, which will come at 6th level (so only one more!), is called Weapon Wary, which makes it easier to lunge in on armed opponents to secure a grapple (opportunity attacks when initiating a grapple have disadvantage), and you get to give yourself resistance (if you’re not raging) or immunity (if you are) to mundane bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing damage for one turn, once per short rest.

The Dragon Heresy RPG is the next step in my mission to bring the world of Etera to life for gamers. I have 425,000 words written, and 300,000 of those have been subjected to a first-round comprehensive copy editing pass.

When that’s done, hopefully in the next few weeks, I’ll hack it down to 256 pages (maybe 140,000 words) and present a Kickstarter to develop an introductory set that will cover level 1-5 for some of the more classic races and classes, to get folks used to the world and the new rules concepts.

I’m working out how that’s going to go. I’d love to do the entire three-volume full set at one go; that will be expensive to do as I’d like. So I’m going to follow The Big Dog and bring out an intro set first, followed by The Hunted Lands, a mini-setting tailored to the intro rules. Those two will then pave the way for the deluxe full-spectrum books.

If you’ve been following my 2017 Year in Review and my Financial Updates, you’ll see I’ve pre-invested a rather substantial amount of money in art, layout, and editing. So the barrier to produce the intro set should be fairly low. There are still things I want to do with it (a professional copy edit, and an index, and paying my layout partner for the actual work to do this for real), but those are relatively speaking lower ticket items.

Stay tuned for more!

I’m gearing up to play in a DFRPG/DF game (I think DF) with Christopher Rice. My character will be a classic Elf Scout, with an extra 100 points baked in from the start for Reasons. He’s definitely a bad-ass.

That being said, the way that you pick disads in GURPS can be rough. You need a lot of them even by default at 250 points, with the basic templates calling for-50 points in disads, which could be as few as 3 15-pointers, or as many as 10 5-pointers. That can be a lot of boolean menu-picking.

The issues usually comes in, for me, in the number of them I have to play. The current guy has about 100 points of disads. Some of them are racial and have to do with the campaign background as an elf. Some are job-related as not just a warrior, but a leader of warriors. Some of them are pure characterization. Each one adds something to the character, but there’s a lot to keep track of, and many are similar.

Aspects of Pointless Dungeons!

This won’t surprise anyone. Similarly-themed disads are a LOT like Aspects in Fate. They define how you act, both good and bad. In “Pointless Looting and Slaying,” Sean Punch put in “Heroic Flaws,” of which you take five. Each is a short, pithy statement that is basically a weak Aspect. As I know Sean either plays or has played Fate, I’m somewhat sure this was intentional.

But the concept of having 3-5 things that drive your character makes a lot of sense if you’re forcing yourself to write down or codify your behaviors for the purposes of tracking in a point-buy system. If OSR guys find themselves grunting “just roll 3d6 in order and go kill some orcs, for f**k’s sake,” this is me acknowledging the value of your character is what your character does, go play it.

Still, what I realized as I looked at my paper dude is that he really has a few archetypes going on here.

Duty and Honor. He feels honor-bound to respect, protect, and watch out for friends and foes, within limits. As a soldier, he trusts  comrades in arms with your life, and expects the same. He will fight to kill any enemy, but respects opponents nonetheless, acting with honor even among extreme violence. His blood-kin are his lifeline and reason for living, and strives to be worthy of the respect they’ve given you”

High Strung and Lethal. Combat is for keeps, and he’s been born and bred for it. He’s impulsive and bloody-minded, and has run into too many foes that regenerate or otherwise won’t stay down to not ensure that each foe is down, permanently. Living and training among a society of powerful magic-users means he uses injurious techniques without much thinking about it, since, well, when he was a kid, the training master was a ridiculously powerful mage that would just make it all better.

Damn Elf. Dragons and their kin hate me, and I hate them right back. I glow with unmistakeable power, and that power makes me think I can do anything, and especially do more than those damned city-dwellers. I’m right, of course, but with patient teaching, one day they’ll learn something. One day. For some reason, this attitude rubs folks wrong. Who knew?

The first and third each encompass something like 40 points in traits; the middle one is maybe 20. But they’re a darn-sight easier to remember than the traits that make them up individually.

Pointless Redux

Sean’s article from Alternatte Dungeons (Pyr #3/72) may be one of my favorite GURPS articles of all time. The general concept in reducing the required granularity of choices by making each one more meaningful (and “Under the Hood,” the component GURPS parts are all there) is something I would have LOVED to see as a different way to approach the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

For Disads, treating each Aspect or Heroic Foible (to borrow both from Heroic Flaws from #3/72 and a term for something similar Christopher used in the Ceteri campaign) as basically the equivalent of a 25-point cluster of disads, and scoping them so they’re about that influential, means that you can create memorable characters with a minimum of fuss.

Indeed, the division in Pointless Looting and Slaying of stuff you can do into Major and Minor abilities (roughly 20-25 and 10 points, respectively) keeps the flexibility and modularity that is GURPS, but greatly reduces the front-loaded chargen for which it’s justly (in)famous.

I liked it then, I like it now, and when it comes to sitting at the table, I know that I will be able to reflect my character’s actions in the three traits above in every scene and interaction.

Now I can go slay some dragons. Best if I find ’em and do ’em first. I’ve got my Elvish Longbow chucking quarter-pound arrows for 2d+5 impaling damage each. Or I bring the armor-piercers at 2d+5 (2) pi.

It’s the only way to be sure.

This is a shout-out to all 1,600 or so folks that backed and received the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

Why am I shouting? I want your war stories.

As far as I can tell, Sean and SJG did a great job condensing the GURPS rules into “just what’s needed for dungeon delving.” The fact that various folks each have a slightly different “but I’d have included X” comment speaks to hitting the bulk of the answer.

There are a lot of hidden gems in there. Extra explanatory detail on (for example) how All-Out or Move-and-Attack interact with other combat options.

That’s all well and good, but the quality of a game is how it plays on the table, not how it reads.

So I want your stories. Write up session reports. Note cool things that happened. Tell the adoring public what fun was had, and where you’re going with the game next time.

If you have a blog, throw it there and contact me at gurpsday@gmail.com and get on the script list to have your stuff summarized. If you don’t, contact me or someone whose blog you read and have them host it for you.

But pony up your actual plays. Let’s see what’s going on in that beautiful black box.

Welcome to GURPSDay 2018, and the fourth year – GURPSDay started in February 2013, only a year after I started Gaming Ballistic.

We’re currently drawing content from 96 blogs. We’re still picking up some feed issues with them, but once they’re solved, we’re that much closer to having 100 GURPS blogs.

We still need your help. And 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 Summary Feb 16, 2018 – Feb 22, 2018”

Gaming Ballistic started as a blog in late 2012, and then became a company in its own right in October 2016, as the company formally launched its first product, Dungeon Grappling.

This year, 2017, marks the first full year of the company’s operation. It still has but one person doing all of the administrative work: me. And thus far, Gaming Ballistic exists as a vehicle to deliver Douglas’ game ideas, but with luck and planning, that will change.

Gaming Ballistic is a producer of games and entertainment.

2017: Executive Summary

The year started off with a frenzy of activity completing promised deliveries for Dungeon Grappling, the first product Kickstarted and delivered by Gaming Ballistic. All rewards were delivered ahead of schedule – physical product was 3 months early, PDFs were delivered a month early. Not bad for the first Kickstarter for GB.

The Gaming Ballistic website and blog site were completely revamped, and look and work very well. A lot of below-the-waterline work on several projects consumed most of the company’s time and money in 2017 to no real outcome in terms of “product that GB can sell.”

GB did hit GenCon as part of the Independent Game Designer’s Network booth, and I was also there as part of a reward package for backing the Dungeon Fantasy RPG by Steve Jackson Games. That was inspiring but expensive, with relatively little to show for it in terms of market presence or sales. I did, however, write and run a scenario whose purpose was to demonstrate Dungeon Grappling. Fifteen people from ages 10-50 played through that scenario to good success.

The combination of leveraging some of the Dragon Heresy background material and the existing write-ups allowed GB to write and launch its second Kickstarter, for a linear demonstration adventure eventually called “Lost Hall of Tyr.” That Kickstarter also successfully funded, and primary rewards were again delivered three months ahead of schedule.

Expanding into physical stuff a bit, GB also researched and constructed mostly-authentic Viking-style shields to match the Dragon Heresy theme. A single shield was sold at the end of the year, which capped off a lot of building and trial-and-error to get the process down. Larger plans for such crafting have been scoped out.

The year ended with the return of certain parts of the Dragon Heresy manuscript to my primary control, and new plans being laid for that product that will hopefully bear fruit in 2018.

Continue reading “Ballistic’s Report for 2017”