An Interview With Joseph Goodman

Our partner Akileos Publishing is currently crowdfunding the French edition of DCC RPGwhich we strongly encourage you to support—and they recently posted an interview with Joseph Goodman, owner of Goodman Games. Akileos posted this interview on their crowdfunding site as an update in French, but it was conducted in English—and we thought you might like to read it yourself.

Here is the English version of the interview for those who would like to see what’s going on in the head of the Dark Master these days!

Bonjour, Joseph! Thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions for the horde of French DCC fans. Could you first introduce yourself and tell us your background, how to came to play RPG then become a publisher?

Hello everyone! I have been playing games of all kinds since I was very young. I first played D&D sometime in grade school. My first game was with my brother and his friend on the back porch steps. At the time, I thought monster hit dice were the number of dice the monsters rolled to attack. My main memory of this game was that the monsters won every encounter because they were rolling 3d8 or 4d10 to attack, based on their hit dice, while the PCs were only rolling 1d20. Oops! Misinterpreting the rules is a shared memory for many of us, I think.

Like most gamers, I have cycled through many different gaming experiences at different times. I spent about four years obsessed with Bolo, which was the first real-time internet-capable multi-player game. This was way back in 1993 before most people had e-mail addresses. (Any old Bolo players out there in France?) Prior to that, my brother and I spent several years playing Warhammer 40,000. We set up a gigantic 8’x8’ wargaming table in the basement where the space marines battled orcs for many years.

It was this Warhammer 40,000 experience that led me to publishing. I had always written down my ideas, starting with a self-designed role-playing game called Mental Players & Machine Guns, which I played with the neighborhood kids in middle school for a year or two. My brother and I generated reams of new WH40K material during our extensive campaigns. In high school, I decided to submit this for publication. I experienced multiple dead ends for a variety of reasons. I attended a high school with a journalism emphasis and was taking classes on layout and editing. One thing led to another, and I self-published The Dark Library #1, a WH40K fanzine written, edited, laid out, and illustrated by myself and my brother. I printed 200 copies and eventually sold them all. By issue 4 we had distributors, advertisers, subscribers, contributors, and a print run of 2,000 copies.

A lot of people helped me along the way, and I learned to respect the value of experience. The best business advice I ever got was, “If you want to have a successful business, start 10 years ago.” That’s really true. Experience is the best teacher, and partnering with experienced successful professionals – while learning from them and building your own experience set – is a time-tested approach. From The Dark Library, I hopped, skipped and jumped to several other publishing projects, and eventually ended up founding Goodman Games.

How did the idea of developing your own game come about? What were your inspirations?

If D&D is a series of dynasties, the Gygaxian, Cookian, and current Mearls-ian dynasties are for the ages. It was the interregnum between Cook and Mearls that inspired DCC RPG. That period after D&D 3.5 was a Dark Era. Goodman Games launched an extensive campaign to support 4th edition. But 4E ultimately failed, as did all the 4E initiatives by Goodman Games. The marketplace for RPGs was in shambles, as D&D 4E collapsed and Pathfinder had not yet come to be. I remember asking myself, “Well, if I’m not going to make money publishing RPGs, I might as well have fun to do it. So what’s the best way to do that?”

The best way to have fun playing RPGs is to produce the RPG that YOU want to play. “You” in this case was me, so that’s what I did. I partnered with some of the wild minds I had met along the way. There’s a dedication on the credits page of DCC RPG: “Special thanks to Doug and Harley for joining me on the expedition out of the Underdark.” 4E was the Underdark, and DCC RPG was the path out.

We traded inspirations for several years. Old novels, Savage Sword of Conan, comics, art. All three of us believe in “experiencing” the real world for inspiration. Doug and I at the time were at a place in our lives where we could explore, so we went on some gaming-heavy camping trips. Deserts and mountains, some forest. There was some inspirational music. The OSR was blossoming at this time, and I found a lot of that rediscovery of classic D&D influences to be refreshing. At some point, I realized I needed to go back to the roots of the game. That’s when I started reading all the books in Appendix N. Wow! That was a breath of fresh air. I lived in San Diego then. I used to go to the beach and sit in the sand and read. Later on, I brought my laptop and jotted down ideas. I tried to capture the spirit of the novels in rules. I loved weird dice and at some point, I rediscovered all of Lou Zocchi’s crazy dice. That got thrown into the blender too. I wanted to rediscover that feeling of wonder when I first played D&D. Somehow I managed to do that with the writing, the inspirations, the dice, the adventures. Then I started hitting small cons in LA and San Diego, running this game with no name. I started up a game group at a local game store, running this game with no name. Everybody loved this game with no name. The more I played this game, and the more I witnessed players loving the sessions, the more I realized I had something real. And most importantly, I personally loved playing it. Somewhere we came up with a name for it, and I guess there’s more to the story after that. But that’s enough for now.

If you had to sum up the principal qualities of DCC, what would they be?

The first rule of DCC RPG is that there is no DCC RPG. There is only the game that you want to play. DCC RPG is about capturing your own personal sense of wonder. Run the game you want, and have fun doing it.

DCC is labeled an OSR game meant for old (school) players but I’ve always felt it can work wonderfully with newcomers to RPGs. Do you agree? If so, why?

I don’t think DCC is an OSR game. It was influenced by the OSR movement but at this point, the vast majority of sales happen in places where no one knows what “OSR” means. And a large chunk of the customer base is too young to remember D&D before 5E or maybe 4E.

I probably shouldn’t say this as a game designer, but I think some people can really overthink the concept of “game design.” One of my favorite games is Monopoly. Why? Because it’s fun. Every kid goes through a phase of loving it. My core design principle is FUN. Forget balance, math, blah blah blah. If the game is fun, that’s all you need. I think DCC RPG is fun.

I will say, when I run games now, I rarely consult the book and probably vary a lot from the printed rules. That’s the whole point of the game. The game should be what each judge wants it to be.

The game is now 7 years old, with many printings and over 30 modules not to mention 3rd party material. What are the plans for 2020 and beyond?

More cool stuff! There is so much in the works. We have a license from the estate of Jack Vance, and DCC Dying Earth is in editing now. It will be a boxed set. We have another license from the estate of Fred Saberhagen, and the DCC Empire of the East hardcover is in layout now. Harley wrote DCC #100, a huge project with spinning maps, and that’s also in editing. Tales From The Magician’s Skull is on issue #4 now, with more great sword-and-sorcery fiction. I’m planning DCC Day for May 2020, which will offer a lot of new materials to DCC fans. The Greatest Thieves of Lankhmar will be a boxed set based on our Gen Con 2019 team tournament, and we’re working on our 2020 team tournament design now. Of course, we also have a number of non-DCC projects, including Original Adventures Reincarnated, which reprints classic TSR modules, and a new Judges Guild big book” as well as a new Metamorphosis Alpha adventure. To top it all off, Brendan LaSalle is close to finalizing the next DCC-related setting, Xcrawl Classics. There is a lot going on!

Thanks again. Anything special to say to the French players?

I try to be aware of what material “goes into my brain,” since ultimately as a creator the influences you imbibe are expressed in your output. There is much great modern fiction that I deliberately never read, lest it lends too modern a feel to what I publish. In the same sense, I think that DCC RPG can’t help but be American in nature, because it’s based on the English works in Appendix N as they were digested by an American set of creators. I am eager to see what a French mindset can produce. I think it would be really commendable if the French RPG population took DCC RPG and started designing third-party publications that merge what makes DCC great with uniquely French influences. This could yield a fresh perspective on the rules and adventures therein. I hope we get a chance to mix DCC with French influences and see what comes of it. Enjoy DCC, gamers of France! Perhaps we will meet at Gen Con soon.

Author: jmcdevitt

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