Joseph Goodman is the founder of the busy Goodman Games publishing companies. Goodman Games produces several d20 lines including, but not limited to, Broncosaurus Rex, the Complete Guides and Dungeon Crawl Classics. Goodman Games have partnered Zeitgeist Games to do a d20 version of the first ever D&D campaign setting – Blackmoor. GameWyrd’s questions appear in strange blue, Joe answer in typical black.
1) Intelligent space dinosaurs and cowboys? Where on Earth did that idea come from? Er, if “Where on Earth” is an appropriate phrase to use.
It was a combination of comic books and Vicodin (a very powerful pain killer). I’d fallen in love with several great comic series: Moebius’ Blueberry, Delgado’s Age of Reptiles, and Schultz’s Xenozoic Tales. For several months I was working on a wargame (for my own enjoyment) that featured Civil War factions riding dinosaurs. Then I needed surgery, and they prescribed Vidocin. Somewhere along the way, it all clicked: the dinosaurs became intelligent and the setting moved to another planet. I typed furiously during my two weeks of convalescence and finished most of the manuscript before I could even walk again.
2) What did you do to get kicked out of Scotland? Didn’t you like our beer?
No matter how much I like Scottish beer, I could never possibly compete with you people! I’ve never seen people drink so much alcohol on such a regular basis. They ought to call it the LUK – Liquored Up Kingdom.
Seriously, though, I was writing for Alternative Armies at the time. They’re based in a small town south of Glasgow (Kilmaurs, Kilmarnock if you’re familiar with it). I’d spent two months there on the premises writing miniature wargames when I took a planned trip “across the pond.” AA assured me that they’d take care of my return visa. When I got back to the Glasgow airport a few months later, I pleasantly informed the customs agent that my employer had taken care of my visa. Of course… they forgot. If I’d simply declared myself as a tourist I would have gotten through, but it was too late for that. I was put back on the plane and shipped out with a big, nasty stamp on my passport. I’ve never met anyone else who has one of those stamps.
3) How did setting up Goodman Games compare to publishing the Dark Library? Did the OGL make it a far less intimidating procedure?
You’d think the OGL would make it less intimidating, because it obviates the need to get permission from a game’s publisher to use their trademarks. However, I never got permission to use any of GW’s trademarks when I did the Dark Library, so the OGL hasn’t made a lick of difference. The Dark Library was really a college-student fan publication that accidentally became professional, but it was the key that opened the doors of game publishing to me. Goodman Games was fairly easy by comparison, because I knew what I was doing this time around.
4) Do you think there are now too many d20 companies for the market?
Depends on whose market. As a publisher, sure, it would be nice to have less competition. As a gamer, no way, dude! There’s nothing wrong with lots of choice. No matter how long I’m in business, I want to make sure I always stay in touch with my “inner 14 year old.” When I was 14, I wanted more cool games, not fewer. So I can’t bring myself to advocate fewer companies. Less crap, perhaps – there are some companies out there producing some pretty bad products – but not fewer products or companies.
5) What does the partnership with Dave Arneson and the Blackmoor setting mean to you? What does it mean to Goodman Games?
To me personally, it’s a chance to be part of a legend. I mean, Blackmoor is one of gaming’s oldest properties (possibly its oldest – there are different opinions on whether it or Greyhawk came first). When I was 14, I never thought I’d be publishing something like Blackmoor.
For Goodman Games, it’s also a chance to strut our stuff to a new fan base. I think our products are top-notch, and I hope a lot of old-timers will see that in Blackmoor.
6) Goodman Games started out with Broncosaurus Rex, which must be one of the most original settings for d20, moved into the Complete Guides and then to the retro Dungeon Crawl Classics. DCC #1: Idylls of the Rat King sold really well. Was this move from the outlandish to the familiar the result of your market analysis, the demands of game buyers or just the way things worked out?
It is a mix of both. It’s hard to come up with ideas like Broncosaurus Rex on a regular basis, so there has to be more traditional material to fill the time between such ideas. We approach the traditional topics with new angles (or at least, we try), so they stay fresh: for example, our latest release, Complete Guide to Liches, focuses on the human side of liches rather than the dank, dark, evil stereotype. But there will be more of the original material. Right now I’m working on Dragonmech, a world of medieval fantasy mechs powered by steam, magic, or the labor of a thousand slaves. When it finally sees publication, I think you will agree that it is a very original setting. As for Broncosaurus Rex, only the surface has been scratched. Wait till you see the comic book…
7) If you could go back in time and re-take a key decision for Goodman Games what would it be?
Good question. Hmmm… I would have thrown a left hook instead of that right uppercut in the ’65 fight with Jersey Joe. Er, wait, wrong daydream. I can’t think of anything material. The few decisions I would label as “bad” have all paid their dividends in experience. Perhaps I wouldn’t have gone to this one convention in particular, where traffic was quite slow. But nothing major.
8) What do you see yourself doing in five years time?
Driving a beat-up red pickup truck, just like Sam Walton. Heh heh.
9) If we can imagine that there’s someone out there who’s only just considering buying d20 products that aren’t produced by Wizards of the Coast what can you tell them to make sure that they try a Goodman Games’ product first?
Well, first I’d remind them that Goodman Games isn’t right for everyone. If you want to run a stereotypical, standard fantasy campaign, look elsewhere. We focus on quality execution of original topics. If you’d like a gaming experience filled with new ideas for adventure – whether they’re new takes on fantasy, or entirely new worlds like Broncosaurus Rex – then we might be right for you.
10) If you could have anyone else from the RPG industry writing for Goodman Games, who would they be?
It wouldn’t be one person. There’s a difference between writers who have ideas, and writers who construct sentences. I want to work with the writers who have ideas, and those writers aren’t the same from one month to the next. You have a good idea, then you develop it for a while, then you chill out… then maybe you have another good idea two years later. Some people only have one good idea their whole life; other people have new ideas every week. I’d stay in contact with a wide range of idea-havin’ writers, and ask them periodically if they’d had any great ideas. Then I’d recruit good editors and sentence-construction writers to polish those good ideas into great RPGs.
(GameWyrd notes – We’re in the Out of the Box section now. A couple of unusual questions for which we expect unusual answers!)
11) A wild-eyed fan ambushes you in a convention and insists that everything you write is coming true in an alternative dimension, a dimension’s he’s only just escaped from in order to convince you to write about flowers, puppies and peace from now on. What would you do?
I’d write a story about how my powers to change alternate dimensions extend into my own reality. Then, imbued with the ability to change reality at will, I would make the world a perfect place. And remove Jar-Jar from the annals of time.
12) You receive an email from yourself. The email contains an attachment which your virus software warns against opening but which the text of the email promises you contains all you need to write the best roleplaying game of all time. Do you open it? Why?
Well, there are a couple easy answers: forward the e-mail to an old, worthless computer and open it there (where the virus can’t do any damage), or, of course, forward it to myself in the future when I have better virus protection software, then open it. But if I’m getting mysterious e-mails from myself, then that opens up other laws of physics by which to solve this problem. I would wait until the wild-eyed fan ambushes me from question 11, then I would use my newfound powers to read the e-mail in its binary form without opening the attachment.
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