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
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
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
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
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!