Interview with Goodman Games – Part 2: And the rest

Sec­ond part of the inter­view with Joseph Good­man and Harley Stroh. The first part you will find here, the trans­la­tion of the Ger­man part one there. Part 2 in Ger­man will fol­low today evening.

Arga­mae: What was the ini­tial spark for Good­man Games? What was your rea­son to estab­lish a role­play­ing company?

Joseph: Well, let me answer one step before that. My brother and I cre­ated an inde­pen­dent mag­a­zine for Warham­mer 40,000 many years ago. We did that because we played the game con­stantly and had amassed a wealth of mate­r­ial that we had cre­ated. Good­man Games was sim­i­lar: I’ve always worked on games, I’ve always writ­ten quite a bit, and frankly it’s in my blood. If it hadn’t been Good­man Games it would have been some other gam­ing project.

Arga­mae: How did you get onboard with Good­man Games, Harley?

Harley: After col­lege, my home gam­ing group parted ways. Some of us got mar­ried, oth­ers moved away for work, and I quickly found myself with­out any­one to run games for. Even though I didn’t have a gam­ing group, I still missed run­ning games, so I wrote an adven­ture for one of my old friends and sent it to his new group. That adven­ture turned out to be my first DCC, Legacy of the Sav­age Kings.

Arga­mae: What is your gen­eral posi­tion towards the old school move­ment and the many games and blogs that flour­ish in its wake?

Harley: I’m a big fan of the OSR, retro­clones and the old-school blogs. These are gamers that design, write and pub­lish for the sheer love of the game. Their pas­sion is inspir­ing and true to the ori­gins of role play­ing games.

Joseph: I think the OSR is a good thing. I hope that it con­tin­ues to be a pos­i­tive force, and the occa­sional argu­ment doesn’t over­whelm the com­mu­nity. This is a group of fans united by a com­mon inter­est, and enjoy­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ties for dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing in the sand­box of one’s youth. Let’s enjoy our com­mon inter­ests and keep pro­mot­ing them.

Arga­mae: What Good­man Games prod­uct lines are you pri­mar­ily involved with?

Harley: I’ve been lucky enough to con­tribute to a num­ber of the lines. I’ve writ­ten for the 3.5 and 4e Dun­geon Crawl Clas­sics, writ­ten the first adven­tures for the Mas­ter Dun­geon line, and the first adven­ture for Age of Cthulhu. But now my work is pri­mar­ily focused on writ­ing adven­tures for our upcom­ing Dun­geon Crawl Clas­sics RPG.

Arga­mae: Apart from your own prod­ucts what other role­play­ing games do fancy the most?

Joseph: I play a lot of games but most of my RPG activ­ity is cen­tered round DCC RPG and other vari­ants of DD. In the broader pool of games I’m a big fan of Euro board games, par­tic­u­larly Puerto Rico, Car­cas­sonne, and oth­ers of that ilk. I love Star Wars minia­tures and Risk 2210 AD. Lately I’ve been play­ing Banana­grams and Gob­blet a lot with my fam­ily. My favorite con­ven­tion is GaryCon, in large part because of the heavy empha­sis on open gam­ing. Last year I played a lot of DCC RPG and then a LOT of board games down in the open gam­ing area — it was great fun.

Harley: I’m a big fan of the Warham­mer uni­verse, though I’ve never had the time to col­lect or play any of their war games. I’m still on the hunt for a clean, ele­gant sys­tem war game that I can play with my old gam­ing crew in an afternoon.

Arga­mae: How many TPKs did you expe­ri­ence in your own gam­ing groups?

Harley: While there is always the risk of a TPK, I don’t like see­ing them at the table … the game is sup­posed to be fun after all. But yes, while playtest­ing new adven­tures, I usu­ally have at least 1 TPK per mod­ule. We had some ter­ri­ble ones early on, with dou­ble digit char­ac­ter deaths in some of the 0-level DCCs.

Joseph: Quite a few, actu­ally. The lower lev­els of DCC RPG involve a lot of char­ac­ter deaths and the occa­sional TPK. But a TPK shouldn’t be the end of your game. If all the char­ac­ters die, send them to Hell or one of the outer planes, where their souls then have to fight their way back to the mate­r­ial plane. DCC RPG is about that kind of adven­ture – quests and jour­neys to raise your character’s power level, not sim­ply rules.

Arga­mae: Which was the most mem­o­rable mon­ster you ever encoun­tered in one of your role­play­ing sessions?

Joseph: The spongerhi. I was always the DM in my home group grow­ing up. In my mid­dle school gam­ing group, I sent the play­ers to an island cav­ern occu­pied by the dread spongerhi. It was this gigan­tic two-headed dragon that would absorb spells cast against it, then use that magic against the caster. Like a sponge – get it? I thought it was very clever when I was in mid­dle school.

Harley: A dra­col­ich, early on in the days of ADD. In a sin­gle sur­prise round it killed the entire party except for the pal­adin, who was left with 3 hit points. We rolled ini­tia­tive for the next round and the pal­adin won. He pulled out his ring of wishes and wished the entire world back in time, sav­ing the party from cer­tain destruction.

Arga­mae: What would you say is the focus of the Age of Cthulhu adven­tures: inves­ti­ga­tion or combat?

Harley: Inves­ti­ga­tion. Com­bat hap­pens when every other option has failed … or when the old pro­fes­sor goes mad.

Joseph: A lit­tle of both, as you can prob­a­bly tell from the adventures

Arga­mae: How much pulp is okay for Cthulhu? Do you think that Lovecraft’s tales “ticked all the boxes” for clas­si­cal pulp fiction?

Harley: I enjoy pulp in my Cthulhu, but I know this isn’t to everyone’s taste, which is fine. But, for my own per­sonal san­ity, I need to bal­ance the unre­lent­ing hor­ror of an uncar­ing uni­verse with a bit of lev­ity. Oth­er­wise the grind­ing hope­less­ness is just too much.

Joseph: Lovecraft’s fic­tion is a very spe­cific style that cer­tainly isn’t as dra­matic as much of the “clas­sic” pulp fic­tion. But some of his sto­ries do have their dra­matic moments. For exam­ple, the final con­fronta­tion in The Case of Charles Dex­ter Ward (which I just read recently and have top of mind). Just as there are dif­fer­ent styles of play for DD, I believe there can be dif­fer­ent styles of play for Call of Cthulhu, which empha­size dif­fer­ent styles of his fic­tion and dif­fer­ent player pref­er­ences for game play.

Harley: Love­craft was the mas­ter. He tapped into hor­ror of the present to extract cul­tural themes that res­onate to this day. While I will always pre­fer Lieber or Howard, there is no deny­ing the mas­tery of Lovecraft’s works.

Arga­mae: What inspired you to make Xcrawl and its adven­tures? How was it received from gam­ing audiences?

Harley: XCrawl is an amaz­ing game, but it’s not my brain­child. Joseph will have the answer this.

Joseph: I wish I could take credit for Xcrawl, but the genius behind it is my friend Bren­dan LaSalle. Xcrawl has the best kind of ori­gin story for an RPG: Bren­dan cre­ated the con­cept as part of his ongo­ing DD cam­paign, more than a decade ago, and the pub­lished game is actu­ally the out­growth of his per­sonal style of play. Xcrawl has built a ded­i­cated fan base and we have no inten­tion of let­ting them down. My next major project after DCC RPG is Max­i­mum Xcrawl, which is Brendan’s next-generation vision for the game. This will be a Pathfinder-powered ver­sion of Xcrawl that stream­lines the whole game from start to fin­ish. Bren­dan has been play test­ing the Pathfinder ver­sion for about two years and sub­mit­ted the final man­u­script to me recently. It’s look­ing very strong and I think it will be a big hit. Of course I have to get DCC RPG put to bed first, so it will be a year or so before gam­ing fans get to see Max­i­mum Xcrawl, but it’s some­thing to look for­ward to and I believe it will be very popular.

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  1. Inter­view with Good­man Games – Part 1: About the DCCs
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