A Year in the 5E Driver’s Seat for Chris Doyle
In late 2020, Chris Doyle joined Goodman Games full-time as the Director of Product Development for our 5E lines. It’s hard to believe he’s been with us for a full year now! With Michael Curtis coming on board to handle DCC product development, Chris is now his own half of a supercharged design leadership team, and it looks like Goodman Games has great things on the horizon. We recently cornered Chris to ask him a little bit about what this first year of full-time design work has been like.
Chris, you’ve been Director of Product Development for 5E at Goodman Games for a little over a year now. What have been the highlights of that first year?
CD: Where to start? I enjoy the flexibility of working remotely. In my previous career, I had to travel all over the Northeast. Many days I’d spend 5 or more hours driving to and from a site, or sitting in traffic before my “workday” even started. It’s great to get all that time back. Another highlight was putting out an open call for 5E writers and editors. We received over 100 applicants from one web post! Culling through them was a task, but we ended up with a solid team of 5E contributors. And, of course seeing Temple of Elemental Evil through editorial, artwork and layout was rewarding. I can’t forget the joyride that was the Crypt of the Devil Lich, from the 5E conversion to all the playtests, and then an exciting Kickstarter campaign.
Tell us about a day in the life of Director of Product Development. How much do you game, how much do you write, how much time do you spend in meetings?
CD: I’d say I spend an hour or so each day in Zoom meetings, corresponding to emails and lurking on discord. Its most of the latter two, with very few Zoom meetings. The rest of the day is spent writing, planning, and reviewing others content. Some days I spend six hours or more writing, other days it’s more project planning, Twitch Show Prep, scheduling, etc. when I was a freelancer, there was always a crunch to get things done, due to real-life intruding on design. Now, I have the freedom to plan, write, do more planning, tweak things, etc. It’s a much more conducive creative process, which is refreshing. Playtesting is probably the best part of the job. I’ve played more 5E the past year than the previous 5 years combined! Nothing grows your foundation in a rules system than seeing the rules in action.
What big projects are taking up a lot of your time right now?
CD: Right now, it’s all about finishing the 5E conversion of Dark Tower. So many NPC stats that need 5E write-ups. I underestimated those, despite Jennel’s warning. And Dungeon Denizens is moving along through the latter stages of editorial and artwork. Plus, directing a team on the early stages of Project Stomp.
I understand you like to give code names to future products. Can you tell us about anything that’s still in the code-name phase?
CD: I love to give future products code names. It adds a certain level of mystique. For OAR #1, its code name was Project Into the Unknown. Back in the day, Castle Whiterock was called Project Black Osprey, a play on words from Greyhawk. Generally, the project name has something to do with the theme. Project Stomp, for example, prominently features giants.
Everybody keeps asking about Dungeon Denizens. What’s the latest update there?
CD: I’ll be honest, a full-color book of 500 monsters (in dual rules systems), with 18 authors and 3 editors, is probably the most aggressive project Goodman Games has ever attempted. All monsters have been designed, and are through the first editorial pass. We are currently in the second pass of editorial and deep into the artwork stage. I’ve seen and approved sketches for several hundred monsters so far, and we just brought on some new artists to keep moving in the right direction. The DCC conversion is beginning in earnest as well. I never would have been able to handle a project of this scope as a freelancer!
You lead an extensive team of writers, designers and editors. Tell us what that’s like.
CD: In my previous career, I had extensive experience recruiting talent, and mentoring biologists, many right out of college with little to no experience. Many of the writers we’ve recruited via the open call have lots of experience, but some have limited experience. And of course, none of them were familiar with doing it “the Goodman Games way”! So that’s my role at Goodman Games: find talented 5E writers and editors, and guide them along our defined standards. And then, put them in positions to succeed. Believe it or not, I get lots of energy leading teams on large projects.
In your “spare” time, you also co-host the popular show “Talking TSR” on the Goodman Games Twitch channel. Now that you have one year under your belt, where do you plan to take the show in the coming year?
CD: Doing a regularly scheduled Twitch Show diving into the old classic modules with my co-host has been rewarding. After 20+ episodes, I feel we are hitting our stride and have no lack for new topics. We have lots of ideas and concepts to try out. You will probably see more guests, and of course, we have several classic series of modules yet to tackle (such as the A’s, the G’s, and the U’s). We are also discussing several ways to increase the production values of the shows.
When you were 12 years old, did you ever think you have a job as cool as this?
When I was 12, I wanted to work at Sea World. Even though I got to be an aquatic biologist on a much smaller scale for decades, the whole time, I remained very passionate and active in the tabletop game industry. But not just as a freelance writer. I was always very interested in the inner workings of a game company, first with TSR (through my work with the RPGA), then WEG, and finally with Goodman Games. Working game conventions such as GenCon, attending GAMA, and even spending a wintery 12-hour day driving around Indiana visiting game distributors and game stores with the Dark Master himself, gave me insights I still use today. I believe I’ve found my calling, and I’ve cherished the opportunity for the last year to work in an industry with fans that share my passion. I look forward to many more years!
More About Chris Doyle:
Since the release of 5E, Chris has written several Fifth Edition Fantasy titles for Goodman Games (#2, #3, #5, #6, #8 and #14). He was the lead designer on four of the six Original Adventures Reincarnated books (#1, #2, #4, and #6), all of them 5E conversions of classic modules from the late 70’s and early 80’s. He has a passion for all things old-school gaming, and considers it an honor to be part of the legacy to revise classic adventures to modern rulesets.
Chris has been freelancing in the tabletop RPG industry for 30+ years, and has been an old school gamer for 40+ years. He cut his teeth on the Moldvay boxed set, before moving on to 1E D&D and other game systems. Prior to joining Goodman Games, Chris spent nearly 30 years as an aquatic biologist, first as an aquaculture lab supervisor, and then as a lake manager/director of biology for a nationwide lake management consulting firm. He lives in New Jersey his wife (also an avid tabletop gamer), son, and two adopted cats.