When putting together some of the cities and towns in Dragon Heresy, I used an article by S. John Ross called Medieval Demographics Made Easy.

It’s pretty much what it says on the tin: a tightly-presented metasystem and consolidated research finding on the population of medieval towns, villages, and cities. It provides die rolls, tables, and other necessities to quickly understand how many of what profession are going to be in a given place, as well as talking about castles, agriculture, and more.

When S. John restructured his website, The Blue Room, it became convenient for him to offer this file to host on other blogs, and I asked if Gaming Ballistic could be one of them.

I intend to keep using this for Dragon Heresy, and I recommend it strongly, if for nothing else to avoid the trope of medieval villages that feel like 21st century suburbs and strip malls.

Enjoy!

Full File Here:

Medieval Demographics Made Easy (by S. John Ross)

Introduction to Medieval Demographics Made Easy, by S. John Ross
Introduction to Medieval Demographics Made Easy, by S. John Ross

Thursday is GURPSDay, wow, the kiddos all over were recovering from what was clearly a most excellent sugar rush, accompanied by the following sugar manic and sugar crash. Chaos all over this morning, with empty parking lots at work, clearly due to vampiric action.

Yesterday I tested the Perception skills of the children coming to my door. I posed as a draugr and didn’t move much. Most of the children and nearly all of the adults assumed I was a statue, and one group’s reaction to my movement as they attempted to pillage the candy bowl at my feet was . . . both memorable and satisfying.

GURPSDay is currently pulling from 104 blogs on the roster.

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 Oct 26, 2018 – Nov 1, 2018”

Foreword (Douglas)

This continues the actual play report by Simone De Bellis, the first session of which was transcribed here in a prior post (mildly edited by me), and here in the GURPS North America Facebook group, which thankfully is used by folks well beyond North America.

As before, he takes what I gave him in Hall of Judgment and makes it his own. Some of the changes – such as making the thurs (a kind of fae troll-kin) into minor jotuns are pretty inspired. The other is using the natural freedom of the setting to plunk down needed resources, such as a village he needs for reasons to be revealed later, I suppose!

It’s great to see someone so obviously having fun with the material.

Read on for details! And pick up a copy today – either from Warehouse 23, or my own webstore. Continue reading “Actual Play Report: Hall of Judgment 2 (Simone De Bellis)”

It is now less than two weeks to Hall of Judgment at GameHole Con.

AAAAHHHHH!!!!!

I mean, it should be easy. I’ve got Hall of Judgment. I’ve got maps. I’ve got pre-gens. And my Saturday even, from 8pm to Midnight, is filled up!

Friday, though: Friday never changes. Wait, no. Wrong movie.

There are still seats open for the Friday game of Hall of Judgment, which will be held in the DorkStock mini-con area. Not only will John Kovalic be there, but Steve Jackson and I believe Phil Reed will be in residence.

Plus, you can meet me, if that’s of interest. I don’t really have a firm schedule other than the two games I’m running. I deliberately did this so I can wander the con, chat with folks, and play any RPGs that strike my fancy, assuming seats are open.

In any case if you’re going to be at GameHole, and are looking for something to do on a Friday:

Hall of Judgment (4 hrs)

  • Fri 4 PM
  • Role Playing Game | GURPS | Mendota1 – 7 Some Gaming Experience | Teens and Up (13+) | $4.00
  • Presented By : Dorkstock featuring Douglas Cole

I hope to see you there!

Foreword (Douglas)

Hall of Judgment was a successful Kickstarter that produced a – even if I do say so myself – fine, playable, good-looking product. Even so, it’s nice when a creator gets feedback, and my ego appreciates stroking as much as the next man. Even better than compliments on the book itself is that most Fremen of compliments: “Your plan worked, Muad’Dib.” In short, as Peter Dell’Orto would say: “Did it work in Actual Play?” So what follows is a bit of an instigated post. Simone De Bellis posted that he was playing Hall of Judgment with his group, and had gone through several sessions worth. I nudged him to write up a play report, and he willingly obliged. So here’s a Hall of Judgment actual play report!

He posted the results on the GURPS North America Facebook Group, and I’m reproducing that here. He’s not a native English speaker; I believe he’s from Italy, and I’ve done some editing, with his permission, for clarity.

What follows is an example of how to play Hall of Judgment while dropping it into a very unique and self-sculpted campaign world. He didn’t feel the need to conform to my assumptions of the world of Norðlond, and did things his own way.

This is as it should be.

Read on for details! And pick up a copy today – either from Warehouse 23, or my own webstore. Continue reading “Hall of Judgment: Actual Play report (guest post)”

Thursday is GURPSDay, and, well, yesterday I was here to kick butt and tape packages, and I was all out of tape. I even ran the script, but forgot to post it. So here’s GURPSDay, a day late, but always in our hearts. GURPSDay is currently pulling from 104 blogs on the roster.

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.

Refplace (Rory)

The Collaborative Gamer (Joseph Linden)

The Gaming Musings of a Mad GM (Ken DeLyzer)

Dr. Kromm’s GURPS Livejournal (“Sean “”Dr. Kromm”” Punch”)

DF Whiterock (dripton)

RogerBW’s Blog (Roger Bell-West)

Mailanka’s Musings (Daniel Dover)

Generic Universal Eggplant (Enraged Eggplant)

Above the Flatline (Timothy Ponce)

Noh RPG Group (binn05)

Gaming Ballistic (Douglas Cole)

Let’s GURPS (Pseudonym)

Dungeon Fantastic (Peter Dell’Orto)

Dragon Heresy is in the hands of backers at last, having shipped out all copies to those who backed the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter, and by this time tomorrow, I’ll have gotten all of the DH copies out to those that added it to Hall of Judgment as well.

As folks have received it, it is my sincere hope that they do as The Mixed GM did, and review it. His review is short, sweet, and to the point, which allows me to make some useful commentary along the way.

First Go Read The Review

“Now that’s a cover! (Please excuse my phone camera and lack of camera skills)”

He likes the cover. The art is by noted Western Martial Arts instructor and historian Roland Warzecha. He told me that he had so much fun embellishing and making the drawing that his wife (whom I believe is the warrior pictured) had to nudge him to stop spending time on it. Read about the details of the composition here on the Dimicator Patreon page.

“Honestly, it feels like a halfway point between 5E and the OSR.”

That, of course, was deliberately intentional. I like the OSR games for their speed of play, their reliance on the GM and player skill, and the open-endedness where rules are only invoked when needed.

I like 5E as a delightfully modular system that attempts – mostly successfully – to unify the basic mechanics of a very large amalgamation of various accumulated rules and ideas into a coherent whole. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of the 5E games I’ve played.

It’s also, as he notes, a hack – it adds a small number of subsystems (grappling, social standing, flyting) and rules tweaks (wounds/vigor, Threat DC/Hit DC, and Damage Reduction for armor) that I think add to verisimilitude and enhance epic play.

“Hopefully, the ‘X’ will be Kickstarted soon…”

I’ve been asked about this a few times by enthusiasts, much to my delight. Yes, I have further plans. Yes, Level 1 through Level 20 is already written.

But the art – all of which really ought to be new going forward – is going to be expensive, and I’d really like to see significant interest from the market at large before I do another big one like the Intro Set. I’d like the next book to be full-color hardback, with the same production values, just like the Intro Set was. That takes serious funding, which takes serious backer interest.

“Removed the Thief/Rogue Class”

It’s true that the thief/rogue is gone from the Dragon Heresy Intro Set! But perhaps not for reasons why you might think.

Thievery in general was a great way to get yourself outcast in Viking society. In Egil’s Saga, Egil, a loud-mouthed, distemperate and ridiculously effective fighter (berserker/barbarian, really) and raider, goes on a raid. His force gets captured, but by virtue of prodigious strength, he escapes (by lifting up the main pole of the longhouse that he’s tied within!).

They grab their weapons, some loot, and head back to the ship. Midway, Egil stops, and says that he cannot do this. He refuses to be so dishonorable as to steal. They go back, and I believe set the target’s longhouse on fire, and kill those who emerge.

See, stealing is bad. But setting a house on fire and killing the men as they emerge? That’s perfectly cool.

In any case, I had to make some hard choices when reducing my overall manuscript from 750-800 pages for my full three-volume original intent to 250-300 for the Introductory Set. Certain classes had to go. Berserkers had to be there; too Viking to not be. I added Skald (bard) back during the Kickstarter.

But there just weren’t very many Viking thief stories, and for an Intro Set, I had to make choices. So Thief, Druid/Trevinur, Ranger, Paladin, and Sorcerer went by the wayside.

They exist, though. So do some very cool “explicit multi-class” options I wrote. Maybe in a Character Building expansion; that would add back the missing classes, and push the levels covered from 1-5 to include maybe up to 12 or 13.

Builds in the grappling rules from ‘Dungeon Grappling’

I’m glad he listed this as part of “The Good!”

Interestingly enough from an historical perspective, the Dungeon Grappling rules existed first as part of the Dragon Heresy manuscript. When I got advice that no one in their right mind would fund a three-volume set from an unknown guy (true advice, if hard to swallow), I broke out the unique grappling rules as my first product.

They improved over time, and honestly improved again when I modified them for the Powered by GURPS supplement Hall of Judgment for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG, and then were inserted back into Dragon Heresy, where they exist in their present form.

Grappling is now very intuitive and easily blends with regular combat. The way it should be.

FULL COLOR ART EVERYWHERE

Yeah. Won’t lie, I’m proud of that. And while he’s kind enough to ‘respect my IP’ by not publishing more images, here are a few more.

I really had a lot of fun specifying the art, and my art team: Juan Ochoa, Ricardo Troula, Christian “KrizEvil” Villacis, Roland Warzecha, Michael Clarke, Cornelia Yoder (cartography), Gerasimos Kolokas, Elizabeth Porter, John Blaszczyk, Gennifer Bone, Erin Arik, Dean Spencer, and Rick Hershey did amazing things with the book.

The Viking-ish world is baked into every aspect of the game, from class section to monsters

This is vital to the book, and to the world. I did everything I could – and given that the SRD is mechanics only, I had to do quite a lot – to ensure that everything tied to the world, to a viking/Norse feel, and had a reason. Even the Tieflings and other half-human, half-creature races, are tied to the world. There’s a reason that those exist (half-elves, half-dragons, half-fiends, half-Asgardians) and a reason the Dwarves have no half-human parts.

A Vigor and Wounds system that is a little deeper than just hit points

This bit was important to me, as it both makes being dogpiled quite dangerous, but it also resolves some weird edge cases. It’s also in keeping with the Gygazian notes on p. 82 of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, where he notes that it’s ridicuous for a high level combatant to be robust enough to only be killed by 10 sword strokes that land home, where a 1st level guy only takes one. Humans are fragile. With wounds/vigor, so long as you keep your wits about you, you can probably take most attacks as vigor. But once wounds start accumulating? Beware the death spiral, and consider strategic withdrawal.

Playtesting revealed this was a lot of fun, and produced an element of risk in fights that those that enjoy games like GURPS will recognize and enjoy. Anyone who has had to blaze through a foe with 150 HP in an unadulterated battle of ablation will appreicate it as well.

The Bad:  It is based on 5E, so if you hate 5E and 5E-based things with a burning passion, this may not be the game for you

This is simply true . . . but depending on what you don’t like about 5e, you might find I’ve addressed some of it. Shields are way cooler. All battles aren’t a slog of HP ablation. Grappling doesn’t suck, and is in fact pretty fun. Monsters that grapple are terrifying. Vikings.

There’s a lot to like here, even if I say so myself.

The Ugly: It has Tieflings. I don’t like Tieflings

I have no response to this except an image of gratuitous Tiefling art courtesy of Juan Ochoa.

Parting Shot

The Mixed GM’s review is considerably shorter than my response to it. He definitely hit the highlights: if you like 5e, there’s a world to explore, some fun rules tweaks, and it’s a very pretty and well put-together book.

I hope you are encouraged to pick up a copy and see for yourself!

Last night, despite the fact that I had a headache that was grinding on me like a dentist’s drill, I played in our weekly GURPS Ceteri Campaign. Ceteri is effectively a monster-hunting campaign, with a fun cosmology lovingly crafted by Christopher R. Rice, our GM. We’ve just returned to this world after a few jumps to other campaigns, but we’ve got good characters and a good background.

A Well-Meaning Impulsive Decision

Last night we came across a situation. We’d pretty easily defeated the physical challenges in the encounter (more on that in a later post), and were investigating the source of our issues. A giant tree into which had been carved horrific runes. A demon’s name, and more.

As was typical last night, we leaped before we looked. My character, a paladin in all but name, grabbed a holy water flask and poured it on the tree. It reacted like any sentient evil beacon home would react, and the demon itself manifested. That left us with this:

We know pretty much nothing about this creature. We don’t know what it wants, how it fights, or, well, anything. We’d defeated some of its bird-like manifestations, and then fought some scarecrows, learning that other than my Divine Favor (Smite) power, we had not a lick of ability to take on Diffuse/Unliving creatures.

We were screwed. One player started talking about his character, and we realized a few things. But one of those was that he had Danger Sense and a bunch of other prophetic-type stuff that would quite literally have resulted in “I saw this coming.”

Thinking about it, most of us realized that what had happened was actually kind of fun. We said that the game from the point where Gabe (my character) was going to pour the holy water on the tree until the image above was, in fact, a prophetic vision. Kamali (Merlin’s character) then shouted out “Wait! Stop!” and we rewound the situation to that instant.

I was very satisfied with this. Danger Sense is one of those advantages that’s easily forgotten in the heat of play because it’s plot-altering. The player and/or the GM both have to stop, collaborate, and (no, I’m not going there) decide if the advantage applies, how it applies, what sort of warning to give, etc.

But GURPS has other metagame currencies – such as Tactics rolls and Luck rolls. Having Danger Sense be effectively a “do-over!” button that rewinds a scene to an ill-fated or ill-considered decision that would have been interruptable? That’s playable, if annoying. With limits on it set by the GM and accepted by the player, you have what is basically an Omega-13 device.

Activate the Omega-13!

This lets you undo one decision, probably “per day” (which I’m not as fond of) or “per session” (which I am). It turns it into a leveled disadvantage, too: each 15 points, which is on par with Luck, lets you undo one decision instead of forcing one roll. It’s got a lot in common with Luck (Defensive), and even more so with Precognition (25 points). The two together (Danger Sense and Precog) is 40 points worth of “is this going to be stupidly fatal,” but adjudicating that is hard.

I have to wonder if we should just keep running it that way. The team has to identify a particular inflection point (in this case, when Gabe was about to pour the holy water on the tree). The consequences must be immediate and linear – water makes the demon come. No “Oh, we’re going to rewind five sessions ago” stuff.

But that might be a nice way to keep it out there. You just game through what might happen, and if the immediate consequence is something you might have gotten a whiff of, you ret-con it to that moment.

That’s what we’re doing for Ceteri, by mutual acclamation. Instead of accidentally summoning the demon, we’re going to back off and go into research mode, hopefully containing the evil in the tree by performing a holy and magical ritual. We’ll come back after we actually, you know, know stuff about what we’re fighting.

Oh, About That Smite Thing

Smite is basically an “I Win!” button against certain creatures. When it’s effective, it tends to be very, very effective. We were fighting eight animated scarecrows. They were susceptible to fire, diffuse, fast, and unnatural creatures. 2d of cosmic fire damage was basically a “you dead, boy!” button, and I caught seven of eight crows in the aura radius.

It was not satisfying. For anyone. Even me, as Gabe’s player. I took the “Pin” out of Technical Grappling and Dungeon Grappling and Fantastic Dungeon Grappling because I dislike “I win!” buttons.

The weasel-word in Smite is “malign supernatural entity.” Problem is, in Ceteri, the amplification that “malign” means “opposed to the belief system of the god to whom you’re praying” is a very, very wide purview for smackdown. Christopher and I are working through that, making Smite cooler in some ways, and more restrictive and less inevitable in others. More on that later, but for now: “I win!” must go.

 

Prelude

I’d been looking for a long time to find a source of very thin hide to try and face-and-back a shield. I had been told by my instructor at Asfolk Viking Martial Arts school that the evidence for a hide-faced shield was hit and miss; some were most likely raw wood, some were rimmed with hide and stitched, some may have been faced, etc. As with most things Viking, the relative paucity of physical artifacts means that every new find brings new and exciting information.

Nonetheless, if you’ve been following this blog at all, you’ve seen my learning the craft of making shields bit by bit, and that I also offer them for sale. One thing that always eluded me – mostly due to a lack of a good source for the hide – was the “parchment-thick” hide that my instructor says would have been used. I use goat hide claimed at 1 oz thickness (about 0.5mm thick) for the edges, but those hides are not large enough to cover a full-sized shield.

My existing “red” shield has been in use for quite a while now, and the edging, though one of my earlier trials, has held up well. I also made a pair of “three fox” shields, one as light as I could make it (less than 5 lbs!) of aspen, with a very light stainless steel boss (5 oz) so that the jarl of the Viking Encampment at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival could march with it, and a much more robust one of poplar, edged in deer hide, with a too-thick robust boss. Even so, that one came in at 7 lbs, which was several pounds lighter than her prior shield, which was too heavy for both performance and parade use.

Nonetheless, I wanted to try one of my own.

Continue reading “Crafting: Hide-faced Viking Shield Experiment”

And we’re done!

At least I hope so!

This morning I dropped off about 40 books into the mail, which means that all but one order – and that one is an international order – is complete. I’ll take care of that one with TheDiceLatte in Korea over the next day or so.

Including today, this means that the usual 10 days of media mail will bring us to Halloween. October 31 . . . meaning that I can chalk Dragon Heresy as my fourth “on time or early” Kickstarter, preserving my 100% hit rate.

Thanks to everyone for supporting this project.

A Request

I’ve been getting some nice emails or quick Tweets about the book, which of course, I appreciate greatly. Even better would be a fast review on a social media site or forum, even better attached to a play report. It’s a non-trivial ask, I grant, but the more folks curious about Dragon Heresy and who buy books, the more support I can give to the line! (More on that later.)

Favorite Local Heretical Gaming Store

As a result of breaking through to the last stretch goal, I’m in possession of about 1,300 copies of Dragon Heresy that I’d obviously love to move out and get into folks’ hands. So bring your own copy by your Favorite Local Gaming Store, and they can either order from me directly or the books will be available via Studio 2 come December. I think the books will have great shelf presence, and if your game store owner contacts me, we can work out an appropriate retail discount if you want to order from be before then.

What next?

Well, the very first thing will be to provide a bit of adventure support. Originally, Lost Hall of Tyr was a convention module I ran for 5e at GENCON 50, and then published it as a 64-page supplement.

I approached Steve Jackson Games about converting it to The Dungeon Fantasy RPG (Powered by GURPSand to my surprise and pleasure, they said yes, and we announced Hall of Judgment for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG in April. In doing the conversion, I also expanded it to be more of a micro-setting rather than a linear convention romp. It grew to 128 pages, with more detail around the city, three additional dungeons/locations, and tweaked-out new rules.

Well, I’m going to be converting the larger version of Hall of Judgment back into Lost Hall of Tyr, 2nd Edition (for Dragon Heresy). I’ve already got a preliminary layout, and the new edition will support play at Level 1-5 for Dragon Heresy. Any who already have the PDF will get a free upgrade; I can’t upgrade the print copies, as I’m sure you understand.

I’ve also been asked about mid-tier play. Well, there’s good news and a challenge there. The good news is that I’ve got another two races (elves and gnomes), several classes that didn’t make it into the Introductory Set (Ranger, Paladin, Warlock, Monk, Sorcerer), 16 more backgrounds, and of course the spells lists that go along with them. Those need to be edited and laid out, but they already exist.

The challenge is art. I’ve used and re-used quite a bit of the original art I’d had commissioned for my first four products, and I’ve had quite enough of that. So there will need to be new art to go into this expansion. I’d also like the product to sit next to the Introductory Set on retail shelves, which means an offset print run!

Those would require money. I’ll rough out what it would need, and see if we can fit a crowdfunding campaign into what is shaping up to be a very exciting and busy 2019.

Fit in? Yeah. I’m not ready to announce yet, but expect even more support for the world of Dragon Heresy in 2019, and not just written by my hand. I can’t wait for the announcement, but a few things are pending that need to happen first.

So stay tuned . . . and I hope that I can continue to make things happen over the next 14 – 18 months for you.

Thanks again!