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 D&D. 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 AD&D. 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 D&D, 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 D&D 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.