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Saturday, 6 August 2022

Goodman Games Gen Con Annual V

Since 2013, Goodman Games, the publisher of the 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 was located and reviewed, so now in 2021, normal order is resumed with the Goodman Games Gen Con 2016 Program Book.

The Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book is a slimmer, more focused edition than in previous years, with a double combination of source material and scenarios, not once, but twice, another scenario, as well as the usual mix of Goodman Games community content. The first of the source material/scenario combinations is ‘Dinosaur Crawl Classics’ and ‘The Return of Scravis’ both by Marc Bruner, adapts an earlier setting published by Goodman Games to the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. This is Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex, the setting which Goodman Games published for the d20 System back in 2991. This is a Science Fiction setting in which mankind went to the stars in a timeline where the American Civil War ended in stalemate and two factions—the Federal Union of Planets and the Confederate States of America—are the leading powers. When dinosaurs are discovered on the Earth-like world of Cretasus, they rush to exploit it. Adventurers come for the wealth and glory; industrialists for the mineral wealth; colonists for the new world; and hunters for the biggest game of all—dinosaurs! Putting aside the fact that the setting draws from the American Civil War for some of its background, the obvious problem with ‘Dinosaur Crawl Classics’ is that it is a Science Fiction setting and Dungeon Crawl Classics is not. ‘Dinosaur Crawl Classics’ does not wholly address this as it is only a partial adaptation. What it suggests instead is using Cretasus and ‘Dinosaur Crawl Classics’ as a ‘Lost World’ a made mage’s experiment that perhaps the adventurers from a Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign end up on. However, that is not the default set-up in ‘Dinosaur Crawl Classics’.

In ‘Dinosaur Crawl Classics’, the players take the role of Velociraptor tribesmen! Options are given for playing at Zero Level, perhaps in Character Funnel, but the primary focus is on the five new Classes. These are Velociraptor Warrior, Velociraptor Tactician, Velociraptor Shaman, Velociraptor Exile, and the Wild One. These are mini Classes, just five Levels each. The Velociraptor Warrior is like the Warrior Class of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game; the Velociraptor Tactician lays traps, uses stealth, and can co-ordinate others in battle with tactics; the Velociraptor Shaman knows alchemy, casts Clerical spells, and can often predict the actions of a creature with natural premonitions; the Velociraptor Exile live apart from any tribe and have a greater understanding of the wider world and human technology—both of which the Velociraptor Shaman does value them for; and the Wild One is a human who feels a tighter bond with nature than with technology, has a greater understanding of nature, and is uncomfortable around other humans. The Velociraptor Shaman also has ‘Ways’, reflecting how they bond with one particular type of dinosaur, like the ‘Way of the Tyrannosaur’, Way of the Triceratops’, and ‘Way of the Pteranodon’, which grants them spells and other abilities. There are notes too on human technology and writeups of various dinosaurs.

‘The Return of Scravis’ is the accompanying scenario, written for use with Second Level Velociraptor Player Characters. The Player Characters are members of the L’dena tribe whose hunters have reported that their traditional hunting herds in the East Valley have been disrupted from their traditional hunting grounds. The scenario is quite short, a mini-sandbox, which shows off the potential of the ‘Dinosaur Crawl Classics’ setting. Hopefully Goodman Games will find the time to revisit this entertaining update of a title deep out of its back catalogue.

The second of the source material/scenario combinations in the Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book is ‘Lovecraftian Monsters for Dungeon Crawl Classics’ and the scenario ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ both by Jon Hook. The author of course has history with Call of Cthulhu, in particular, the Age of Cthulhu line. With ‘Lovecraftian Monsters for Dungeon Crawl Classics’ provides stats and descriptions for twenty-two of the classic Lovecraftian creatures, from Byakhee and Colour Out of Space to Star Vampire and Yithian. In terms of fantasy, this is a good treatment of them, though of course it does lose some of the horror elements traditionally seen in their gaming versions. Nevertheless, this opens up options for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game and the Judge who wants to take her game into Cosmic Horror.

The scenario, ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’, is for Third Level Player Characters and sees them entering the Black Moss Woods and heading for a landmark known as the Screaming Ash to find out why local farmers were slaughtered and kidnapped. In the caverns below the Screaming Ash they discover the lair of a dread cult dedicated to the Great old One, Nyogtha. The cavern complex is relatively short and firmly steps into a territory that would normally be eschewed by roleplaying games of Lovecraftian investigative horror—the Cthuloid dungeon—because the result is invariably a Mythos mishmash. Here though, it works because of the format and the fact that the Player Characters are better equipped to handle monsters, whether of the Mythos variety or not. ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ though, is a nasty and weird slice of pulp, fantasy horror.

The third and final scenario in the Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book is ‘Sisters of the Moon Furnace’ by Marc Bishop. This is a classic Character Funnel, one of the features of both the Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game and the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game—in which initially, a player is expected to roll up three or four Level Zero characters and have them play through a generally nasty, deadly adventure, which surviving will prove a challenge. Those that do survive receive enough Experience Points to advance to First Level and gain all of the advantages of their Class. Here the Player Characters awake to find themselves atop a strange complex amidst the clouds, from which they must descend to find out where they are and what they are doing there. There is the sense that they are being gently manipulated and then rewarded and penalised for their choices, suggesting perhaps that the Player Characters have a special destiny. The Player Characters need not fulfil the destiny in the scenario, and the likelihood is that it will be interesting if they do not, especially if the scenario is being used as a campaign starter. ‘Sisters of the Moon Furnace’ is an excellent example of the Character Funnel.

Also included in the Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book is more of ‘The Dungeon Alphabet’ by Michael Curtis, exploring particular aspects of dungeon delving and encounters and providing a table for each of ideas and encounter possibilities. Thus, we have ‘Q for Quests’ and ‘U for Underwater’ and simple tables for each that the Judge can pick and choose from. As expected, Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book very much focuses on the community aspect of being part of the Goodman Games family. ‘2016-2017 Mailing Labels’ by Stefan Poag and Brad McDevitt highlight the artwork which appeared on the mailing labels for anyone who ordered from Goodman Games; Doug Kovacs’ ‘A Visual History of the Band’ continues the history of the characters who continue to appear in Dungeon Crawl Classics scenarios, this time running from Dungeon Crawl Classics #68: People of the Pit to Dungeon Crawl Classics #93: Moon Slaves of the Cannibal Kingdom; and ‘Goodman Games Poster Contest’ by the Goodman Games Community collects all of the entries from the Road Crew Flyer Design Contest 2016.

Three entries in the Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book capture the energy Judges Crew and the Goodman Games community. ‘Real Life Adventures: The Alamo’ by Marc Bruner takes some inspiration from history and backs that up with several suggestions on using the Alamo—or situation like it—for the Judge, whilst Company owner Joseph Goodman recalls the ‘Real Life Adventures: The Goodman Games 2017 Creative Retreat’ and the ‘Con and Event Recap’ by the Goodman Games Community provide a fantastic range of photographs of both events. These bring the Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book to a colourful close, with the ‘Con and Event Recap’ giving a great feel for what just a little bit of Gen Con can be like.

Physically, the Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book is a slim softback book. It is decently laid out, easy to read, lavishly illustrated throughout, and a good-looking book both in black and white, and in colour.

On one level, the Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book, as with other entries in the annual series, is an anthology of magazine articles, but in this day and age of course—as well as 2016—there is no such thing as the roleplaying magazine. So what you have instead is the equivalent of a comic book’s Christmas annual—but published in the summer rather than in the winter—for fans of Goodman Games’ roleplaying games. The Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book differs from previous entries in the series, there being no gaming history or previews, instead focusing on solid gaming content, whether revisiting an old setting or taking fantasy in the direction of cosmic horror. The Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book is leaner and cleaner and all the better for it with some entertaining gaming content.

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