Publisher Interview: Joseph Goodman of Goodman Games

The “Old School” gaming movement continues to impress me with the enthusiasm of the gamers and game companies supporting it. One of the games many gamers are excited about in 2012 is the Spring release of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game (or DCC RPG) from Goodman Games. And though they could go it alone, they’ve gone as far as licensing the system to encourage third party publishers to also create new content. The “Compatible with DCC RPG” logo will appear on new products from Chapter 13 Press (Tales from the Fallen Empire), Sagaworks Studios (Lands of Legend: Cloudmaker Mountain), Thick Skull Adventures (Attack of the Frawgs), Land of Phantoms (Transylvanian Adventures & The Transylvanian Grimoire), and Purple Sorcerer Games (Perils of the Sunken City, The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk, and A Gathering of the Marked).

Though I’ve only taken a brief look at the DCC RPG beta rules PDF, it takes me way back to my gaming roots in the early 1980s playing 1st Edition AD&D, with a mix of art and text guaranteed to evoke the “Old School” feel yet give you a sense of the game style and rules in a single book. Plenty of random tables, descriptive tables, full- and partial-page artwork, cartoons, combat mechanics, magic, and monsters to fire up any DM or GM with a fondness for classic gaming.

Joseph Goodman, the main man behind Goodman Games, was kind enough to answer a few questions about DCC RPG and other topics…

[GKR] The early reactions to the beta rules of DCC RPG have been fairly balanced from what I’ve seen, with people liking the system and disliking the system equally. Have you been surprised by the varied responses or pleased by the broad spread of opinions?

The target audience for DCC RPG is one person: Joseph Goodman. I have been publishing RPG products for more than a decade now, and long ago learned that the road to happiness as a publisher is to follow your gut. As long as one person likes how the game turns out – and that person would be me – I will be satisfied. If a couple thousand other people also like it, well, that would be nice, too. When the book hits game stores in a couple months, we’ll find out.

[GKR] Why release a new RPG instead of continuing with any one of the previous editions of D&D or other systems available? Or has one of your goals since founding Goodman Games to have a unique system under your publishing banner?

Is there any other game on the market that is explicitly based on the spirit of adventure as expressed in Appendix N? DCC RPG really is a different game than anything else on the shelf right now. There are a number of extant retro-clones, and several great games based on old-school principles. But there is no other game authored by someone who has read Appendix N in depth and specifically sought to create a game based on pre-D&D fantasy. DCC RPG goes one step further back into the origins of the genre than anything else on the market. The result is an RPG that is a tremendous amount of fun to play in a manner that conjures up your fondest memories of the “mystery” you experienced when you first played D&D as a child. 1970’s Appendix N fantasy: dig it!

There is another reason DCC RPG will set itself apart, expressed very easily in three letters: A R T. When you see the published version of DCC RPG, you will understand why I pursued my own game. I have a longstanding interest in the aesthetics of D&D, as well as a deepening interest in the illustrative history that preceded it. Virgil Finlay, Frank R. Paul and the other great pulp artists, the art of 1970’s Marvel/Curtis magazines, EC comics, Hal Foster and Prince Valiant, Al Williamson and Alex Raymond, Bernie Wrightson and Creepy: there is this beautiful prologue to Appendix N, and the artistic history of D&D, which can be found in the pulp / sci-fi / fantasy illustration of the first 70 years of the twentieth century, before D&D was ever published. And that tradition continues into the early era of D&D through ex-TSR artists like Jeff Easley, Erol Otus, Jim Roslof, Jim Holloway, and Jeff Dee, and is then bridged into the modern era with Doug Kovacs, Stefan Poag, Peter Mullen, and others who are part of the modern OSR illustration scene. I have not seen any other old-school publisher deliberately emphasize the aesthetic experience of the game to the extent that DCC RPG does. When the book is released you will be able to clearly see what makes it different.

[GKR] Obviously there has been a ton of discussion about the Zocchi dice in the game. Even I was surprised at the use of odd dice in an industry which has kept to the traditional set (d4 through d20) for all of my time as a gamer. Can you explain the decision to use these odd (d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, d30) dice in DCC RPG?

I like funky dice. Therefore, the game includes them.

[GKR] The artwork in the beta book is simply stunning, not only in its execution but in its sheer volume. Do you have any favorite pieces that were commissioned for the book?

Thanks, I am glad to hear you appreciate the art. The beta is nothing compared to the final published book. I hope DCC RPG will eventually be recognized not only as a gaming milestone but as an artistic milestone as well. I’m sure you’ve also read the Dungeon Alphabet, the layout of which was a test
run for the style of layout that I’d like to include in DCC RPG. DCC RPG is too large a work to seamlessly integrate art and text throughout in the same manner as Dungeon Alphabet, but there are portions that work quite well, and the overall book feels as “tight” as Dungeon Alphabet. The book feels like a cohesive project, not a series of illustrations, so I would have to say my favorite piece is the entire book as a whole.

[GKR] Though the system has yet to be officially released (beyond the beta rules), I have to say I’m impressed with the number of 3rd party publishers who have answered the call for modules and supplements, each of which seems to have a unique spin on the whole “swords and sorcery” genre (even going so far as using good old monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster). Have you been surprised by the response so far? Any early personal favorites?

The response so far has been very positive. What you’ve seen so far is, I suspect, the tip of the iceberg; there have been several others who have signed the contract and not yet announced anything. The OSR is noted for its desire to self-publish; if anything, the OSR is as much a collection of fans as it is self-publishers who express themselves in the sandbox of their youth. I expected that some of this prolific community would appreciate an opportunity to publish as part of the “DCC RPG family,” so to speak.

[GKR] Will there be new numbered modules of the Dungeon Crawl Classics line specifically for DCC RPG coming out in 2012 or will you continue to support the various editions of D&D in your other new products?

With DCC #67: Sailors on the Starless Sea, the Dungeon Crawl Classics line converts to DCC RPG rules. This will be the third chapter in the DCC line, as the series has followed 3E, 4E, and now DCC RPG rules. The DCC RPG rules set is loosely derived from the D&D 3.5 rules and is easily ported between other rules sets that share that lineage. You can find posts on my forums from gamers who have played DCC RPG rules with C&C adventures and Pathfinder adventures. It goes very smoothly.

[GKR] As a long-time gamer and someone who’s been in the industry professionally for 10+ years, what’s your take on the current state of the RPG industry? Is it strong and growing? Weak and contracting? Is the D&D edition war hurting the industry?

I’m just here to play games, man. As far as I’m concerned, my gaming life is at its peak. DCC RPG is a tremendous amount of fun to play and has re-fueled my interest in gaming to a multi-decade peak. There’s an energy in my product lines, in my fans, in my gaming partners, that just continues to build. We’re on to something big. Everyone who plays DCC RPG walks away energized. I think things are looking good.

To comment on the recently announced “elephant in the room”: I’m very excited about 5E. What we’ve seen so far is the start of a very positive trend. The intentions behind this game are very positive. I think WotC will genuinely pull this one off and release a game that is not only a lot of fun to play but also a “great unifier” of the fan base. I can’t wait for it to come out. It will be good for the industry, good for the fan base, and good for Goodman Games.

[GKR] What was the best moment of 2011 for Goodman Games? And beyond DCC RPG what are you looking forward to in 2012?

The release of the DCC RPG beta rules, and the Free RPG Day module that went with them, was the high point of 2011 for me. I am very much looking forward to the publication of DCC RPG, currently on track for April 2012.

For more about the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game, be sure to check out the DCC RPG website! And of course for more about Goodman Games, check out their home page as well!

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A huge thank you goes out to Joseph Goodman for taking the time to answer my questions and I am looking forward to reviewing the DCC RPG book in a few months, first in PDF form and then in print! Best of luck to Joseph and his family with the impending birth of his son as well!

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