Harley Stroh (Goodman Games) Interview

I recently asked Harley Stroh, line editor and developer for Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics as well as author of the Master Dungeons series to take a few minutes from his busy schedule and answer a few questions. -Red Jason

You just got back from D&D Experience, it was amazing I'm sure....

So what exactly did you do at the convention?

We ran previews of our upcoming adventures, shared our newest releases, and had a chance to meet gamers from around the world. We met folks from Australia, Canada, the UK and all across the United States ---- an amazing, diverse bunch. But mostly, we did what we do best: run exciting 4E adventures.

Goodman Games is pretty much in the thick of releasing a bunch of cool things with your name on it, you must be having a blast right now?

Absolutely. Having the chance to write for Goodman Games is a lifelong dream come true and with the new edition, the door has been cast open wide. There's a world to explore and we've only just brushed the surface.

The products we've released, and the products we have coming up in the next 7 months are really exciting, to both write and play. Ultimately, we (the Goodman Games writers) are gamers --- the products we release are the same adventures, settings and supplements we are hungry for in our own games.

So Mists of Madness looks quite enticing, can you give a little info about the plot?

I was doing research for my Age of Cthulhu adventure at the same time I was writing Mists so there is a fair bit of thematic overlap. The culmination of Mists isn't true to the Cthulhu-mythos, but the overlap will be obvious to anyone with a passing familiarity with Lovecraft and his peers.

Where did the initial idea for this come from?

A few years ago I picked up the phenomenal H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society's silent film: Call of Cthulhu. When I was working on Mists, I put the DVD on repeat and soaked in the atmosphere. From there, I mixed in a little nostalgia from Gygax's Tomb of Horrors and the rest wrote itself.

I really think that the $2 module is a brilliant piece of marketing, helping introduce the DC
C line to new players, in fact my first official experience behind the screen was running Jeff LaSala's $2 The Transmuter's Last Touch (3.5 edition) and I've been solely running Dungeon Crawl Classics for my gaming group ever since. What made you decide Mists of Madness was going to be the 4E $2 module?

Joseph Goodman calls the shots. He asked for a $2 adventure, and we jumped at the chance to write it. Mists was a natural fit --- shorter than many of the other adventures we are publishing, but long enough to for an intense few sessions. And of course, it is set in the swamps just outside Punjar, a city close to my heart.

Then we have Curse of the Kingspire, the second of your Mast
er Dungeons titles. For those that don't know, what is the Master Dungeons line all about and how is it different than the Dungeon Crawl Classics line?

The Master Dungeon line is all about high adventure, exotic locations, and epic deed done by great heroes (regardless of level). If the DCCs draw their inspiration from heroes like Gray Mouser and Fafhrd, the Master Dungeons look to Elric and Beowulf. Master Dungeons take place on a grander stage than the DCCs, with a broader, more sweeping scope. When you've finish a MD adventure, the world should be a changed place.

I picked up Dragora's Dungeon when it first came out and I totally agree with the EN World fan reviewer that said this would make a perfect sword and sorcery style Conan novel, you must have had a great time writing this one?

Absolutely. I've long believed that the key to writing a good adventure, true to the heart of D&D, is to go back to the source texts --- Howard, Moorcock, Tolkien, Leiber: the greats that laid the foundation for the worlds of fantasy we enjoy today. The first two MDs reflect my admiration and love Howard and Moorcock, respectively.

And speaking of 'sword and sorcery', soon we will be seeing the release of The Adventures of Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan. How were the seeds of this project sown? This module will be closely based on the comic book series of the same name produced by Image Comics won't it?

The chance to write Shadows of Mirahan was a dream come true, and like most of our good ideas, it came from Joseph Goodman. He and I are both big fans of Image's Frazetta line, and adapting the comics to D&D was a natural fit. I had a lot of fun living into the world created by Jay Fotos, Nat Jones and Joshua Ortega --- they did a phenomenal job bringing Frazetta's visions to life. But we also worked hard to capture the raw, visceral violence of Frazetta's Deather Dealer paintings, which meant coming up with some new rules that make 4E combat quick and brutal. Living up to Frank Frazetta's artwork is an impossibly high standard, but we did our best and I think we did it justice.

It must feel great to be so closely connected with such pulp fantasy history and be able to bring that into the new edition...

I've had a love of pulp fantasy that stretches back to my childhood. Right now, at my writing desk, Tolkien, Moorcock, and Lieber are within reach, along with an old Gord of Greyhawk novel and some Mike Mignola Hellboy collections. In many ways, the advent of 4E blew the doors open wide --- suddenly adventures and settings like Death Dealer and Punjar seem that much more vibrant, dangerous and real. For better or worse, we had all acquired a passing mastery of 3.5 --- there was very little that could instill true fear into a player any longer. But 4E wiped that slate clean, and suddenly we're in unknown territory again. Suddenly we're adventuring again. We don't know what's around that next mountain pass, or in the heart of that fetid swamp ... but with a good sword arm and a chain hauberk, we're willing to find out.

So do you have a 4th Edition home game going right now? If so tell me about it...

Home game, yes. Home campaign, no. I abuse my poor players by forcing them to playtest all our upcoming adventures. It's a good night when we have fewer than 2 TPKs. I've promised them the chance to play something that lasts more than 4 sessions, set in the slums of Punjar and they leaped at the chance. Of course, little did they know this is just another chance to playtest an upcoming product ...


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