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Saturday 25 April 2020

Goodman Games Gen Con Annual I

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 from Goodman Games when they first attended UK Games Expo  in 2019, the first to be reviewed was the Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book. Fortunately, a little patience and a copy of the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book has been located and so can be reviewed.

After having reviewed Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book, it is clear that there have been changes between its publication and that of the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book. It is slimmer at just sixty-four pages, but as subsequent entries in the series have appeared, they have got thicker and thicker with ever increasing page counts. Nevertheless, the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book set the template and is still 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. What is radically different between the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book and the Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book, is that the silliness in the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book begins with the first page! So we have a ‘Gen Con Luck Chart’, a table of prizes and benefits to be rolled for when the attendees might have won—or even lost—when they purchased the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book. This is followed by ‘Bios of the Band’, fun filled biographies of many of the luminaries who were writing and drawing for Goodman Games in 2013—and still are in 2020. They include Doug Kovacs, Brendan Lasalle, Michael Curtis, Brad McDevitt, and of course, Joseph Goodman. These are nice snapshots of the team behind Goodman Games and it is indicative of the strength of the team that they are still working together today.

Art has always been a major feature of titles from Goodman Games—of course, it is with any roleplaying book—but Goodman Games has placed a certain emphasis upon it and its Old School Renaissance style. So it features in ‘We’re with the band’, a look at the band of adventurers whose story has been told through their appearances in successive titles for Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, from the core rulebook and through each of the adventure modules. This is essentially a run of Easter eggs for the observant and adds a nice little level of detail through the series. The we are on to ‘What’s Next for DCC RPG?’, ‘What’s Next for Age of Cthulhu?’, and ‘What’s Next for Systems-neutral Sourcebooks?’, each section highlighting releases then forthcoming in 2013. Most notably, they include two notable boxed sets for Dungeon Crawl Classics, both of them—Dungeon Crawl Classics #83: The Chained Coffin and Dungeon Crawl Classics #84: Peril on the Purple Planet—now highly sought after. This all takes up the first third of the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book. Then we are on to the volume’s adventures.

The first of these is Michael Curtis’ ‘The Undulating Corruption’. The first of two adventures for Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book, designed for player characters of Fifth Level and parties which include a Wizard who has been corrupted by his use of magic, which as the adventure points out, is all too likely by the time he reaches Fifth Level. By various means, this Wizard has learnt of a means to expel the corruption from his body—the Crucible of the Worm. The exact location is up to the Judge, but wherever she places it, what the Player Characters discover is a disaster area, which instead of being free of corruption has been blighted by it, and not only that, whatever is the cause has now left a trail as it heads off across the countryside. So this sets up a chase for the Player Characters to take as they track down a very nasty threat to them, the countryside, and potentially, a nearby city. Designed to be played in a session or so, the scenario pleasingly picks up on a mechanic in Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game and builds a good adventure around it. Although it has a specific set-up, this is a good adventure to slip in between longer larger affairs and gets the adventuring content in the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book off to a good start.

If ‘The Undulating Corruption’ was a good start, then the second adventure, ‘The Jeweler that dealt in Stardust’ is even better. Harley Stroh’s scenario is designed to be played by Third Level characters is a heist, a raid by thieves upon the house of Boss Ogo, jeweller and one of the many fences of stolen goods in the city of Punjar. Unfortunately, he has not been seen for a month. Fortunately, this surely means that something must have happened to him—probably dead if no one has seen him for a month—and represents a opportunity to grabbed. That is, to break in and steal everything worth taking—or at least portable—and do it before anyone else does. His premises are famously said to be heavily trapped to trick and kill those foolish enough to attempt to burglarise him. The fully mapped building is full of traps and puzzles and clues as to Boss Ogo’s recent activities… The question is, just what has happened to Boss Ogo, but importantly, where is his loot?

This is a great scenario with plenty of detail and flavour. It is a really good scenario for Thief or Rogue type characters, and despite being set in the city of Punjar, would also really work with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set, a setting in which every Player Character is a thief—whatever their character Class.

The third and last scenario is actually a preview for the then forthcoming Maximum Xcrawl. This is one of the most original settings for Dungeons & Dragons-style roleplaying. It is set on an alternate Earth which was a Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy world and in modern times is dominated by a Roman republic in North America. Like any Roman empire, it has gladiatorial games, but in modern times they take the form of dungeoneering as of old. Essentially, this combines the pizzazz and showmanship of World Wrestling Entertainment with classic dungeoneering and turns it into sports entertainment, complete with arena events. Written for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, ‘What’s next for Xcrawl?’ introduces the setting and the setting’s take upon Dungeons & Dragons-style gaming.

The introduction includes backgrounds for three of the Xcrawl Races—Dwarves, Elves, and Gnomes—as well as a list of Xcrawl Classes to enable players to create their own characters for the setting. To be fair, to get the most out of the accompanying scenario, ‘Maximum Xcrawl: 2013 Sudio City Crawl’, the Referee and her players will need a copy of Maximum Xcrawl. The scenario is designed for characters of Sixth to Eighth Level and showcases the type of dungeon to be found in the setting. It combines game show elements with combat and showmanship—characters can gain rewards for grandstanding—and very room and encounter is a test in itself. This leads to an intricate design for every room, whilst the modern sensibility enables plots to run inside and outside of the dungeon arena and ‘Rules Lawyers’ to take on a wholly different meaning.

Rounding out the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book is a selection of photographs taken on the ‘World Tour’ that the Dungeon Crawl Classics Judges team takes each year around various conventions. These are all North American conventions in the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book, but in the seven years since this book, the tour has expanded beyond those borders.

Physically, the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book is very nicely put together. It is tidily presented, the artwork is good, and the editing decent. However, there is a problem with the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book and it is that even in 2013, its gaming content was not new. So both ‘The Undulating Corruption’ and ‘The Jeweler that dealt in Stardust’ appeared in the Free RPG Day release from Goodman Games in 2012 and then ‘Maximum Xcrawl: 2013 Studio City Crawl’ appeared in the Free RPG Day release for 2013. What this means is that if the Judge or Game Master has either of these, then the truth of the matter is that the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book is not going be of greatest use to her. The rest of the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book is fun, but not useful, so if the Judge already has these adventures, then the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book is really just a collector’s piece.

Now the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book did set the template for the Goodman Games Gen Con Program Books to come—Goodman Games having published one each year since. Of course, the format would evolve from book to book, as evidenced by the Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book, but many of the same elements would be retained from issue to issue. And if the Judge does not have any of the three scenarios in the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book, then it is definitely worth her time. Whether she is running a standard Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, a Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar campaign, or an Xcrawl campaign. The Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book is a fun silly book, but its gaming content is still as good as it was in 2013.

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