New releases at the Goodman Games table, including the magnificent Tales From the Magician’s Skull
In Part I of my Gary Con 2018 report, posted here yesterday, I talked about one of the great pleasures of walking the Exhibit Hall: meeting the creative masterminds behind the most dynamic companies in old-school RPGs, like Goodman Games, North Wind Adventures, Troll Lord Games, Black Blade Publishing, Frog God, Kobold Games, and many others. Today I want to talk about the other great pleasure of a truly rich Exhibit Hall. Namely, all those marvelous gaming treasures.
I do a pretty good job staying on top of the newest releases in the adventure gaming industry. More than that, I have a staff of top-notch game writers — like Andrew Zimmerman Jones, Bob Byrne, M. Harold Page, Howard Jones, Fletcher Vredenburgh, and Gabe Dybing, just to name a few — who constantly keep me informed. And yet virtually every step through the Exhibit Hall was filled with surprises. Anyone who’s ever visited the Exhibit Hall of a major gaming con or science fiction convention knows what I’m talking about. That sense of having stepped into a virtual Cave of Wonders, packed with a dozen lifetimes worth of magical discoveries.
You can’t recreate something that overwhelming with a simple blog post. But what the hell. I’m going to give it a shot anyway. To do that, I’m going to focus on the experience of walking around a single booth at Gary Con. In this case, the largest and most well-stocked one at the show, the joint Black Blade/Goodman Games tables at the entrance to the Hall. The sixteen photos below attempt to capture a few of my delightful discoveries — as well as give you a taste of the countless tantalizing items I had to hurry past in my efforts to be a gaming journalist. Prepare yourself.
[Click the images for Gary Con-sized versions.]
Goodman Games’ massive Judges Guild Deluxe Collector’s Edition, Volume 1 definitely
catches the eye. But don’t neglect that Swords & Wizardry supplement in the top left.
Any truly great convention booth brings an element of mystery to the table, and this one was no exception. In this case the mystery was right up front: whose booth was this, exactly?
It was composed of 6-8 tables arranged in a semi-circle right in front of the main entrance. All the signage was for Black Blade Publishing, publishers of OSRIC and supplements for Swords & Wizardry, but most of the tables were covered with a wide range of titles from Goodman Games.
That was something I never really figured out. But what was crystal clear was that both publishers had been extremely busy. I started with Goodman Games, whose products were chiefly up front and on the right side of the booth. Dead center in the middle was what amounted to a new releases table for Goodman (see top image above), with their sharp looking Adventurer’s Almanac by Michael Curtis; the gorgeous Tegel Manor, a high-quality reprint of the 1977 Judges Guild original; and The Hyqueous Vaults, a site-based dungeon for use with OSRIC/1E, among others.
But by far the most prominent item was the first issue of Howard Andrew Jones’ new sword & sorcery magazine, Tales From the Magicians Skull. I received a pair of review copies just before I left for Gary Con, and it is truly a magnificent achievement. This issue — containing stories by Bill Ward, James Enge, John C. Hocking, Chris Willrich, C.L. Werner, Aeryn Rudel, and Howard Andrew Jones — is sure to be a collector’s item, and at $14.99 per copy, it won’t last long. I suggest you act now to secure one yourself.
Customers checking out the latest Dungeon Crawl Classics from Goodman Games
To the right of the new releases table was one of the most interesting items in the booth — the massive Judges Guild Deluxe Collector’s Edition, Volume 1, an oversized archival collection of 1970’s-era Judges Guild RPG publications, scanned from the original publications and digitally restored, including issues of The Judges Guild Journal and the legendary adventure modules Citadel of Fire, Tegel Manor, and Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor. Given that the reprint versions of those titles sell for around $30 each (see below), shelling out $100 for this omnibus might be the economical way to go. In any case, this is the kind of book that (assuming you have a lap big enough to support it) could keep you occupied for months.
Equally fascinating — to me, anyway — was a more slender volume above the Judge’s Guild book: Supplement VI for Swords & Wizardry, The Majestic Wilderlands. Originally released in 2009 and now out of print, this 140-page display copy was wonderfully reminiscent in tone and design to the Original Edition D&D supplements Greyhawk and Blackmoor. It wasn’t for sale, but once I got home I did manage to track down a new edition from Bat in the Attic Games at RPGNow.com, priced at just $7 for the PDF and $11.99 for the print edition.
A glorious assortment of new Dungeon Crawl Classics from
Goodman Games, including a handful of Lankhmar titles by Michael Curtis
Of course, you can’t visit the Goodman Games booth without checking out their latest Dungeon Crawl Classics. There was an embarrassment of riches on display, including the latest edition of the DCC role playing game, and recent adventure modules like #88: The 998th Conclave of Wizards, #91: Journey to the Center of Aereth, and #93: Moon-Slaves of the Cannibal Kingdom.
There was also a selection of new Lankhmar releases by Michael Curtis, including Through Ningauble’s Cave and The Patrons of Lankhmar. There have been a number of attempts to adapt Fritz Leiber’s famous setting to RPGs over the decades, from publishers as diverse as TSR and Pinnacle Entertainment, but there’s a dark, gritty appeal to these books, and I like the look of them. I will definitely be giving them a try.
More Dungeon Crawl Classics than you can shake a stick at
Goodman Games had announced several highly anticipated new releases for Gary Con:
- Original Adventures Reincarnated: Into the Borderlands
- DCC #80: Intrigue at the Court of Chaos 2nd printing
- DCC #96: The Tower of Faces
- DCC Count Dante T-shirt
- Blood for the Serpent King con-exclusive module
- Advance copies of Mutant Crawl Classics
- preview copies of Tales From The Magician’s Skull #1
Possibly the most highly anticipated was Into the Borderlands, a Fifth Edition conversion of/homage to B1: In Search of the Unknown and B2: The Keep on the Borderlands.
This 384-page hardcover includes a 16-page full color cover gallery, high-quality scans of the original adventure modules, commentary from Luke Gygax and Mike Mearls, stat conversions, and brand new additional adventure locations to further expand and develop the Borderlands.
Sadly, I didn’t see Into the Borderlands in the booth. Very possibly it was sold out. In any case, I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for it.
You can’t get more old school than Metamorphosis Alpha
The first true RPG I ever purchased was Dungeons and Dragons. The second was James M. Ward’s Metamorphosis Alpha (TSR, 1976). Set on a vast generation ship lost in deep space long after a cataclysmic event has killed most of the crew, Metamorphosis Alpha was the first true science fiction RPG, and a precursor to the post-apocalyptic Gamma World, released two years later.
I’d heard that Goodman Games had breathed life back into the game with a re-issue of the original rules and some new support material, but I had no idea how extensive it truly was until I saw the display in their booth. Metamorphosis Alpha fans have never had it so good. The complete line includes new adventures by James Ward, Michael Curtis, Jobe Bittman, and Jon Hook, plus sourcebooks, a GM’s screen, and even a solo adventure by Ward, The Long, Hard Mile.
As long-time Black Gate readers know, I’m a sucker for a good solo adventure, and that was one of the more irresistible titles for me.
I’m not sure how I missed Epsilon City, a complete city for
Metamorphosis Alpha. But I definitely want it.
One of the most intriguing Goodman Games releases was hidden away beside their larger displays: Epsilon City, a complete city for Metamorphosis Alpha. This huge boxed set, written by James M. Ward, and Jobe Bittman, Michael Curtis, Jon Hook, and Jim Wampler, contains a 272-page spiral-bound hardcover setting book, three 11”x17” maps, a 20-page cyborg supplement, and a 56-page adventure supplement. I’m not sure how I managed to miss its initial release, but I’m definitely very interested.
See all of Goodman Games’ Metamorphosis Alpha products here.
Goodman Games’ Fifth Edition Fantasy
At least I was vaguely aware of the new Metamorphosis Alpha line. Tucked down at the end of the Goodman Games booth was a tall display absolutely stuffed with recent releases in a line I was completely unfamiliar with: Fifth Edition Fantasy.
According to the website, Fifth Edition Fantasy is a line of ready-to-use adventure modules “fully compatible with the fifth edition of the world’s first fantasy RPG, and ready to play in your home campaign!” Eleven have been released so far; each is priced at $9.99.
Goodman has gone for more traditional fantasy art for these books, and I think it’s really been successful. Overall this one of the most attractive and appealing set of releases Goodman has produced, and I’ll definitely be adding them to my collection — especially that last one, The Archmage’s Lost Hideaway. Who can resist a rampaging beholder on the cover?
Check out all eleven titles here.
A Fabled City of Brass by fantasy author Anthony Huso, one of two linked gaming titles
I didn’t have time to examine most of the books on display, of course. But there were a small number of titles that demanded to be picked up and fondled. One of them was A Fabled City of Brass by fantasy author Anthony Huso, author of The Last Page and Black Bottle.
This was an absolutely gorgeous full color paperback, detailing one of the most famous settings in Original D&D, the city of djinn featured on the cover of the Dungeon Masters Guide. A Fabled City of Brass is one of a pair of books; the second, City of Brass Appendices, looked sort of like a matching Monster Manual. While they were expensive ($35 and $10 respectively), they looked well worth the money. If I’d had to limit myself to walking away from the booth with a single book, it would have been A Fabled City of Brass.
They’re a tough find outside of conventions though — neither Amazon nor eBay currently have copies listed. You can read more and order copies directly from Lulu:
Tales of Peril by John Eric Holmes
Another nice surprise was Tales of Peril: The Complete Boinger & Zereth Stores of John Eric Holmes. This was a very handsome hardcover collection of tales that would look very much at home in any library of pulp fiction.
Yes, it’s a fiction collection in the middle of a gaming booth. But trust me, it fit right in.
Assorted new releases from Goodman Games, including American Survival Guide and Xcrawl
Taking pictures of the table displays turned out to be surprisingly useful. The Exhibit Hall was fairly crowded, and I didn’t have nearly as much time to loiter as I would have liked. I’ve made nearly as many discoveries looking over the pics as I did in the Hall itself.
The table above is a great example. As I rushed by I totally missed Volume Two of The Dungeon Alphabet and the Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Guide, which I certainly would have stopped to examine if I’d noticed them on Saturday.
Plus, now I’m wondering just what those enticing Dungeon Crawl Dice tubes in the middle of the table were all about. I wish I’d paid more attention!
This display brought me right back to 1979
Still, the most meaningful display for me was the one above, which featured half a dozen high-quality Judge’s Guild reprints. A single glance transported me right back to my local gaming shop in Ottawa in 1979, Fandom II. It was a powerful dose of nostalgia, for sure.
Judges Guild released some 250 titles in the 70s and early 80s, and these are some of the very best. Goodman Games has curated an excellent selection of their finest adventures, including Dark Tower and Paul Jaquay’s The Caverns of Thracia. Although they’re a little pricey ($19.99 – $29.99), the reproduction is top-notch. These adventures are a worth a look for anyone seeking to recapture the spirit of old-school Dungeons and Dragons.
The Black Blade Publishing side of the booth — including OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord and Advanced Adventures
On the left side of the booth we finally came to Black Blade Publishing. Although it didn’t seem possible, Black Blade was offering an even more diverse range of titles than Goodman, including support materials for OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Advanced Adventures, and many, many more.
In fact, they were selling far more product than is currently listed on their (rather sparse) website. Near as I can figure out Black Blade seems closer to a distributor than a publisher, at least here. Whatever the case, they had a huge variety of Old School Renaissance and First Edition (1E) titles from dozens of different publishers.
Combined with the Judges Guild display five feet the the right, the effect was uncannily like stepping into a well stocked gaming store in an alternate universe in 1979. That alone made the entire drive to Lake Geneva worth it.
I could have spent hours looking through this display. As it was, I only had a few minutes. The titles that most grabbed my attention were The Original Bottle City by Robert J. Kuntz, part of the Lake Geneva Castle and Campaign from Pied Piper Publishing, and Malevolent and Benign: A First Edition Bestiary by Joseph Browning.
More marvelous treasures in the Black Blade Publishing booth
Goodman Games had more than a few surprises on their side of the booth, but the Black Blade Publishing side was all surprises. Their displays were absolutely packed with fascinating items I’d never encountered before, including Original Fantasy RPG, Warriors of the Red Planet: Mechanized Men of Mars, Colonial Troopers Hard Sci-Fi Space Adventure., and Barrowmaze Complete, a classic fantasy megadungeon by Greg Gillespie.
If you came to Gary Con seeking pure Old-School Renaissance, this is where you needed to be.
The far corner of the Black Blade Publishing booth
All good things must come to an end, and eventually I reached the end of the booth, where one more surprise waited for me: a lovely display of modern and reprint support materials for M.A.R. Barker’s great creation, the world of Tekumel.
Empire of the Petal Throne, back in print again
In the many decades since TSR released the original boxed set of Empire of the Petal Throne in 1975, it has seen many editions and has never been out of print for long. Here on the table were several editions, including what looked like a brand new title — at least, it was brand new to me: Bethorm: the Plane of Tekumel RPG from Uni Games, with over 100 illustrations by classic AD&D artist Jeff Dee. Read more about Bethorm here.
Learn more about Black Blade Publishing at their website.
That’s it for my photo-walkaround of the Goodman Games/Black Blade Publishing booth at Gary Con 2018. Hopefully you found a title or two that tempted you to reach for your wallet. Most of the publishers represented above are small outfits that could really use your support. If you like what they have to offer, do them a kindness and buy their wares.
Stay tuned for Part III of our Gary Con 2018 report, in which we delve ever deeper into the beckoning corridors of the Exhibit Hall. Bring your iron rations and a 10′ pole.
Our previous coverage of Gary Con includes:
2010 – Gary Con II Report
2012 – Gary Con IV Report
2013 – The Exploding World of Castles and Crusades
2014 – Explore an Old School Mega-Dungeon with Pacesetter’s The Blood Cult
2018 – Old School Role Playing, and Pathfinder by the Pound: Gary Con 2018 Report, Part I
See all of our recent Games coverage here.