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Sunday 4 August 2019

Goodman Games Gen Con Annual II

Since 2013, Goodman Games, the publisher of  Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game and Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic has released a book especially for Gen Con, the largest tabletop hobby gaming event in the world. That book is the Goodman Games Gen Con Program Book, a look back at the previous year, a preview of the year to come, staff biographies, and a whole lot more, including adventures and lots tidbits and silliness. The first was the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book, but not being able to pick up a copy at UK Games Expo this year, the first one to be reviewed is Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book. (If Reviews from R’lyeh obtains a copy of Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book then it too will surely be subject to a review…)

The Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book comes with three scenarios, the first of which is ‘Transatlantic Terror’, a scenario for Call of Cthulhu as part of Goodman Games’ Age of Cthulhu line. Probably one of the last few scenarios to be written and published for Call of Cthulhu, Sixth Edition, Jon Hook’s ‘Transatlantic Terror’ takes place aboard the R.M.S. Adriatic with the investigators taking a trip across the Atlantic in the grand tradition of ‘The Mauretania’ from The Asylum & Other Tales. That said, professionally, I am unable to review it as I edited it (in fact, I had no idea it was even in the Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book).

Jobe Bittman’s ‘The Emerald Enchanter Strikes Back’ is a sequel to DCC #69: The Emerald Enchanter and designed for eight to ten characters of Second Level. In that scenario, the adventurers penetrated the lair of an emerald-skinned sorcerer who had been abducting and experimenting upon nearby villagers, and of course, put an end to his nefarious plans. Initially spurred on by a desperate villager, the adventurers learn that the emerald sorcerer’s reign of terror may not be over and so must track him down and put an end to him. Again. This is a wilderness adventure, a mini-sandbox in which they will have to follow the clues to locate the sorcerer’s now mobile headquarters—and then fight their way into as it battles them! This is a fun short adventure, a decent sequel, even if a slightly bonkers change of tone.

‘Coming of Age: An Introductory Adventure for Metamorphosis Alpha’ is an adventure for Metamorphosis Alpha: Fantastic Role-Playing Game of Science Fiction Adventures on a Lost Starship written by its designer, James M. Ward. This is a rite of passage adventure intended for players with little experience of the setting, a deadly maze which the characters will need to find their way through and survive. It is a nasty affair, leavening its often deadly combat with a good mix of roleplaying encounters, many of them randomly determined from a given list. It works also as the first scenario in a campaign, imparting to the players and their characters the deadliness of life aboard the Starship Warden.

The ‘DCC Bonus Encounters’ are not full scenarios, but single encounters which came on postcards sent out to customers who pre-ordered particular scenarios and which are intended to be run before or part of a particular scenario. These include DCC 80: Intrigue at the Court of Chaos, DCC 81: The One Who Watches From Below, and DCC 82: Bride of the Black. There are elements here that the Referee could extract and add them to her game, but really they do fit their original scenarios. These are a nice bonus without invalidating the collectible aspect—and Goodman Games supports its community with a lot of things like this—of the original postcards, whilst also making them available in print. 

The Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game is well known for its artwork and its cover gets its own spotlight in ‘The DCC Cover Design Process’, which showcases how Doug Kovacs works to bring that cover to fruition. The same is done for his ‘DCC Core Book, Gold Foil Cover’, and then again with ‘Covers for “People of the Pit” and “Sailors of the Starless Sea’ and ‘Cover for “The One Who Watches from Below”’. If there is a downside to these sections, it is that they should in colour, because the covers to these books, The One Who Watches from Below, are gorgeous and Doug Kovacs’ art deserves the spotlight.

‘The ABECEDARIAN Adventurer’ adds to another supplement and then previews another. All by Michael Curtis, the first is ‘O is also for Omen’, an addition to The Dungeon Alphabet: An A-Z Reference for Classic Dungeon Design that will be of use to the Referee which wants to add divinationary elements to her campaign. The previews are ‘A is for Android’, ‘B is for Breath Weapon’, ‘C is for Crossbreed’, and ‘X is for Xenotransplantation’ , all for The Monster Alphabet: An A-to-Z Reference for Classic Monster design. They are accompanied by some great artwork and all work as solid pointers and ideas generators for the Referee.

C.L. Werner pens the single piece of fiction in Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book. ‘Too Tough to Die’ is a short story describing a dungeon run in the world of Xcrawl, Brendan LaSalle’s updating of classic dungeon crawls into a multimedia sporting event. It is a short nasty story about a short nasty dungeon run by a nasty professional Dungeon Master and nicely showcases the difference between a standard Dungeons & Dragons-style game and an Xcrawl game where there is a Dungeon Master who is actually opposed to the professional dungeon crawlers.

The look back at the year just gone begins with ‘Tales from the Road Crew’—the report from the ‘DCC RPG Worlds Tour’, Goodman Games’ demonstration team—a couple of members offering notable events in games they have run the previous year. It is accompanied by a gallery of photographs of some of those games. Other look backs include a reprint of the ‘2014 Mailing Labels’ used on Goodman Games’ packages, again nice to see them all in place and a showcase for the little touches that the publisher uses to strengthen its identity.

And then of course, there is the silliness. For example, there is ‘Dear Archmage Abby’, an agony column aimed at players and Referees of Dungeons & Dragons and Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game who have questions and problems, whether that is about a particular rule, unrequited love between Dwarf and Elf, or an Anti-Paladin’s poor career choices. It is all very tongue in cheek, though there is a useful answer or two in amongst the silliness, which continues with ‘The Curse of Many Faces’, photos of many of the Goodman Games Road Crew with their faces in a cardboard cutout of Hugh, the swankily be-trousered mascot for Goodman Games.  Hugh himself is seen in action in some photos of ‘The Battle of Gary Con’. The Road Crew come under the spotlight with ‘D40 Questions: The Goodman Gang’ with randomly determined questions from the given table. Informative in an entirely random way.

Rounding out the Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book is ‘Coming Soon for DCC RPG’ a preview of forthcoming titles. These have all come to print, so the previews are now moot, but what is interesting is the designer notes which accompanies each preview. These are nice tough and make the previews a bit more than just advertising. Lastly, there is Joseph Goodman’s ‘The Vandroid’, the stats and write-up for a classic 1970s Ford custom van as killer android, all inspired by the Dark Horse Comic of the same name. This a weird addition, useful for any time a Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game campaign jumps to an alien world.

Physically,  the Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book is well presented. The writing is engaging and the book is profusely illustrated by the publisher’s stable of artists.

Essentially, the Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book is an annual. A book of bits and bobs, the silly and the seriously useful, an eclectic mix of the useful and the ephemeral, all illustrated with some great art. Fans of Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game will definitely enjoy this periodical—though fans of other Goodman Games games will like it too—getting the most out of the support for the roleplaying game as well as look behind the publisher’s Referee’s Screen.

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