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Interviews: Goodman Games

Interview by Allan Sugarbaker

Riding into the d20 market on dinosaurs and blaster-wielding Confederates, Goodman Games has left a unique impression on the gaming scene over the last year or so. Company founder Joseph Goodman takes a few minutes to tell us about the company's upcoming projects, his views on the industry, and bumping off relatives to earn a living.

Please introduce yourself and Goodman Games.

Hey, I'm Joseph. Nice to meetcha. I run Goodman Games, which specializes in d20 products. If there's one thing you should remember about Goodman Games, it's this: "We do d20 different." We are not a me-too company. You'll never catch us being the fourth company to do a dwarf sourcebook, or the fifth company to do a sea battles supplement. The topics we write about – be they dinosaurs, aerial adventures, doppelgangers, or the many secret projects we have scheduled for 2003 – will always be interesting market holes that no other publisher has addressed. And we do our best to give these topics an original spin. Take dinosaurs, for example. People have said many things about Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex, but nobody has ever said it's not original.

How did you get into the game industry?

I started playing D&D in middle school, as most of us did. When I was in high school and college I was really into Warhammer 40,000. My brother and I had reams of house rules and homemade army lists, so we decided to publish them. That's how we ended up producing our own 40K magazine, The Dark Library. One day I mailed a copy to Heartbreaker Hobbies & Games asking them to advertise. By sheer coincidence, it turned out that Heartbreaker's office was only a mile from my college. They hired me on as the Editor-in-Chief of their magazine Forge: The Magazine of Miniature Gaming, and suddenly I was on the inside of the gaming industry.

What was the inspiration behind Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex?

Mushrooms, and lots of them. No, just kidding... though living near Haight Street in San Francisco certainly helped. No, no, I'm still kidding. Really, it was three comic books. The first was Age of Reptiles, Ricardo Delgado's fantastic dinosaur comic. He's a great artist and a great storyteller, and that comic blew me away. It left me wanting to do a game about intelligent dinosaurs. Then I picked up Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, by Mark Schultz. Man! It was cool. So now I wanted the pulp C&D feel, but I wanted the dinosaurs to be intelligent, too. But I didn't know quite how to get it. Then, months later, I was reading Blueberry (the classic western series by Charlier & Moebius) – and wham! it hit me. I had this image of a Confederate soldier riding a tyrannosaurus rex with the rebel flag flapping in the wind as he charged a Union hovertank. I don't know where it came from. But there I had it, the core idea. The entire game world was then constructed in order to explain how the hell that core idea could come to be.

By the way, Age of Reptiles is still in print by Dark Horse as a trade paperback. If you haven't read it, do so! It's awesome. Cadillacs & Dinosaurs and the Blueberry series are both out of print and rather hard to find, but they're some of the best comics I've EVER read. I highly recommend them.

Tell us about the Complete Guide to Velociraptors. Are similar Broncosaurus Rex products in the works?

Well, the Complete Guide to Velociraptors is actually a sneaky little transitional book. Notice that it doesn't have the Broncosaurus Rex logo anywhere on it. It's a sourcebook about dinosaurs that fits right into the B. Rex world, but the book is intentionally world-neutral so it can also be used in any other d20 campaign setting. That's the idea behind the Complete Guide series – stand-alone, world neutral monster sourcebooks. Although the series starts with dinos (velociraptors are out now, and T-rex are coming in October), we'll soon be moving into fantasy creatures. We have doppelgangers scheduled for November release, wererats for January 2003, and more after that.

Have you been able to collaborate with other D20 companies?

As far as creative pursuits go, I haven't asked for any collaboration, so the answer would be no. At conventions we're all friendly and we've put together some promotions and such that benefit everyone. I admire companies like Green Ronin and Paradigm Concepts, whose OGL Interlink was an excellent solution to conflicting release schedules. I hope the rest of us can work together in similar ways.

That said, I also think collaboration can be a bad thing. Too much contact breeds too much similarity. One of the problems with in-house design studios (a fixture at many game publishers) is that it creates a company culture, and soon that culture dictates design, and everything the company does "feels" the same. Too much collaboration breeds too much similarity. My long-term goal is for Goodman Games to NEVER have an in-house design studio. Rather, I want freelancers in separate cities writing separate products and never collaborating, so that their ideas remain fresh and independent.

One of the product lines we're adding next year – which I can't talk about in too much detail, not yet – is being created with almost no input from me. The author and artist have 95% control (my 5% essentially consists of vetoing any naked women they decide to put in there... and naked men, too, I guess, but I doubt that will happen). I like that, because it means Goodman Games will publish games that AREN'T solely the product of how *I* play or what *I* would produce.

What can we expect from the Aerial Adventure Guides?

Hot chicks, fast guitars, and the virtues of milk. Oh wait, that's Apocalypse Cow, the weird T-shirt they sell at Dragon Con. Boy, do I need a break from all these cons. Focus, focus... OK, Aerial Adventure Guides. Well, you can expect two things.

First, new vistas of adventure. You hear that phrase all the time, but this time it's real. How many times have you played a campaign that never once touched the ground? Probably never. The Aerial Adventure Guides really do offer a different kind of adventuring from that which most people play. It's your chance to build yourself a sky ship and see what's been floating overhead all these years you've been crawling around in dungeons.

Second, a great series of books, in all regards. We print in 10 point type with tight margins and minimal white space, so you always get your money's worth on our books. This series in particular is written by Mike Mearls, whose prowess in the d20 field is widely acclaimed. The art is by V. Shane, who has carved out quite a rep for himself, as well. The books are a great read and visually engaging all the way through.

What else is in the works at Goodman Games? Anything on the drawing board?

Oh, yeah. By March of next year we will have 5 major product lines – Broncosaurus Rex, Complete Guide, Adventure Guide, and two more that aren't announced yet. For me personally, the big news will be at Gen Con next year, when we release our sixth product line. I had another idea, kind of like with Broncosaurus Rex (except this time I was reading Campaign Magazine when it hit me... go figure). It's another cross-genre world that, like Broncosaurus Rex, and is quite unique. It incorporates a lot of fantasy elements, but a lot of sci-fi as well. I'm not saying any more right now, because I don't want to give it away (as far as I can tell so far, it really is unlike anything else out there). In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for "Dinosaurs That Never Were", our next Broncosaurus Rex supplement. It's scheduled for early 2003 and will be the first monster manual ever to feature nothing but fantasy dinosaurs. It's very cool!

As a GM who loves to trick his players, I'd love to hear more about next month's Dopplegangers supplement. What can you safely reveal to us?

"Safely" is a good choice of words. Every GM I've ever talked with about doppelgangers tells me they use them in the same basic way: there are a couple doppelgangers who impersonate an important figure, and they may be involved with the thieves' guild. The Complete Guide to Doppelgangers sets out to develop doppelgangers into something more than that. Although there are some very entertaining new rules (such as the Protean Warrior shapechanger prestige class, and feats that let the doppelganger extend his limbs like Plastic Man), my favorite part is the background material.

Keith Baker (the author) answers the questions about doppelgangers that have never been asked, much less answered: Why do they want to impersonate people? What do they get out of it? What is their society like? And the scariest question of all: How many doppelgangers are out there? The ones you hear about are those who impersonate the king or run the thieves guild... but what if they're just the fall guys, to distract us from the entire neighborhoods that have been replaced by doppelgangers impersonating mundane shop keepers and farmers? And what about the rustic doppelgangers, who impersonate bears and deer and other mundane creatures? Once you understand a doppelganger's motivations, you realize that impersonating the king is more important to us than them.

Wererats are shapechangers of a different sort, but some general, broad-application shapechanger rules might affect the Dopplegangers as well. Are there any plans for more general rules that loosely tie the products together?

To some degree. Part of the doppelganger manuscript included the Firebrand prestige class, which is devoted to hunting and exposing shapechangers. Because it applies to more than just doppelgangers, we decided to release it as a separate article (you'll find it in an upcoming Knights of the Dinner Table, and eventually on our web site).

If you can remember, please describe the best (or worst, if you prefer) death one of your characters fell prey to.

Actually, I'm almost always the DM! I don't have any good character death stories. I do have a good Risk 2210 AD death story, since I just played that the other night. I put all my troops into Asia and took it on my first turn... but couldn't hold it (as usual). My friend playing Australia refused to ally and insisted on breaking through my borders, and in doing so didn't provide any opposition to my brother, who took North America. Then my friend in Australia suddenly realized his mistake. We allied but it was too late. I eventually had to retreat to the moon while North America swept the world. Does that count?

While I'm at it, here's one of my favorite PC stories. It wasn't the death of a mere character; it was the death of an entire campaign. This happened quite a while back. There were three characters in our campaign who could never get along: a dwarf fighter, a human rogue, and a human wizard. The rogue was always stealing the fighter's axe, just for kicks, so the dwarf would charge into battle and discover his axe was gone. The rogue would give it back but still, it pissed off the dwarf's player. Well, the party buys a boat to set off on a seaborne adventure. Hmm... this story is going to go downhill fast, because I can't remember the exact series of events, but the wizard got pissed at the rogue about something, then the dwarf took the wizard's side (to annoy the rogue), and the whole thing escalated and before I knew it the wizard had fireballed their newly-purchased boat just to piss off the rogue. That was pretty much the end of that campaign.

What are your thoughts on GenCon moving to Indianapolis next year, and on the new GenCon SoCal in San Diego?

Gen Con SoCal is a good idea. It will help us reach new fans in the unsettled wildlands of California. Plus the San Diego zoo is awesome. As for Gen Con Indianapolis, I think it should be held opposite the Indy 500 so we can reach yet another new group of fans. ;)

How does a small d20 company survive these days? Does a rich uncle have to keel over just to keep the products coming?

Well, it takes three rich uncles, and they don't just keel over without, uh, certain forms of provocation. It also helps that I moved back in with my mom, and I work out of my dad's spare bedroom. I also work part-time at the corner of 5th and Main. Come by and toss me a quarter!

Are you playing anything other than d20 these days?

Yes, mostly Risk 2210 AD. I got it for my dad last Christmas, but it's like when you get your wife a bowling ball: I couldn't wait to play it. I also have a Playstation with Command & Conquer, which I can never get out of my system. Anyone else out there love Herzog Zwei on the old Genesis? That's another one I can never get too much of. I've also gotten into some card games with my fiancee... we play a lot of Gold Digger (which is great), and some Blink and Uno (which I am not ashamed to admit that I love). And finally, there's Repel, a very fun Australian variation on Connect 4 (sort of) that someone gave me at the Alliance Open House. It's a lot of fun.

Thanks for the interview, Allan! Just make sure this never makes it into the court transcripts, OK? =)

Will do, Joe. Thanks!

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