Interview with Oscar Rios, President of Golden Goblin Press, about Tales From the Crescent City

It’s nice to have options. Although Chaosium is one of the oldest tabletop gaming companies still around, it’s also a very small one with a staff of less than a dozen people. That’s where licensees come in. We had Miskatonic River Press until it shut down. We have Arc Dream Punlishing who puts out The Unspeakable Oath and pieces like The Sense of Sleight of Hand Man. Cubicle 7 puts out their Cthulhu Britannica line. Sentinel Hill Press has The Arkham Gazette. There are others like Pagan Publishing and Innsmouth House Press too. So on and so forth. Together all these companies keep Call of Cthulhu going at a much higher level than if Chaosium was going at it alone, and for a big fan of the game, this is an awesome thing.

Well, in 2013, a new company joined the fold. Golden Goblin Press kicked things off with a bang by having a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. 325 backers gave GGP nearly $14,000 dollars for The Island of Ignorance – The Third Call of Cthulhu Companion. It came out in October, 2013 and my review heaped good deal of praise onto it. Of special note was the collection of adventures in the Companion. They were so good, the book went on to win our “Best Adventure (Collection or Campaign) award in the Diehard GameFAN 2013 Tabletop Gaming Awards. Well, Golden Goblin is back with another Kickstarter campaign. This time it’s Tales of the Crescent City: Adventures in Jazz Era New Orleans. Already the success of this campaign has surpassed that of The Island of Ignorance. with more than a month left, they have achieved 446 backers and raised almost $23,000. That’s pretty awesome. The campaign is currently active, and if you missed out on The Island of Ignorance, you still have plenty of time to get in on this one.

To help promote the campaign, Oscar Rios, Goblin King of GGP talked and decided to do an interview on Tales of the Crescent City. Of course with both of us being crazy busy, it took about a week from the original questions being asked to getting the answers fleshed out and formatted. He has a Kickstarter campaign to run and I’ve been doing some stuff with Onyx Path, Troll Lord Games, Harebrained Schemes and FASA. The end result is an interview we did using Facebook’s Messenger system rather than more traditional methods, but I think you’ll find it to be a highly informative and entertaining read (although the Stretch Goals question is a bit date due to the time delay). If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like starting up your own indie RPG publishing company, how to run a smooth and successful Kickstarter campaign, or you just wanted the two of us to talk about our favorite tabletop RPG, then keep on reading…

Diehard GameFAN: Oscar, you started out doing the occasional freelance piece for Chaosium and now you’re running your own licensed imprint. How different does it feel now that you’re in charge of EVERYTHING and/or being a licensee rather that working directly with Chaosium?

Oscar Rios: I have to say that I do enjoy it. It’s crazy a lot of the time, like being in the center of a hurricane while trying to do a tap dance and juggle at the same time. The best part is working with all the wonderful and talented people in this industry to put together what I, as a fan, consider my dream projects. You go from saying as a fan, “I wish someone would put out something that…” to saying, “It would be cool if we put out something…” For an anal retentive control freak like myself it’s a wonderful and welcome evolution.

In between being a Chaosium freelancer, I worked at Miskatonic River Press pretty much from their first couple of months of operation until just before they shut down. During that time Tom Lynch and I learned a lot from the company’s founder Keith Herber. After his tragic and sudden passing we learned even more from the school of hard knocks trying to carry on after our mentor’s death. So forming and running Golden Goblin Press wasn’t as sudden or as scary as you might think.

Diehard GameFAN: Like The Island of Ignorance, your current project, Tales From the Crescent City is a campaign on Kickstarter. What made you decide to do the crowdfunding approach instead of the more traditional means of RPG publishing?

Oscar Rios: Kickstarter worked very well for us the first time so we were completely comfortable going that route again. While Island of Ignorance was successful it didn’t raise enough money to also put out Tales of the Crescent City, which is a bigger and more complex project in almost every way. Quite simply we didn’t have a war chest big enough to launch such an ambitious project while maintaining total creative control over it. Lastly, I feel that Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites are where gamers now do a great deal of their shopping. You can focus your marketing efforts directly to your fans and if they like what you’re trying to do you’ll fund. If you do a good job and your backers are happy they’ll return for your next project and likely bring friends with them.

Diehard GameFAN: Both projects involve a wide range of writers, many of whom are known to longtime Call of Cthulhu players. How do you decide who will write for your releases and what they will pen? Is it more of an open call or do you give them specific guidelines to work with?

Oscar Rios: I am a big believer in pitching a publisher an idea for approval, so I select the authors I want involved with a project and ask them to submit their idea. If I like it, then they get the green light to proceed and if I don’t, I tell them why and ask them to send me another pitch. Sometimes I contact specific authors for specific ideas, like calling Kevin Ross and telling him I want a sequel to, “Tell Me, Have You Seen The Yellow Sign?” Sometimes authors will say, “Just tell me what you need”, and I tell them. There are always guidelines after that, so many words, so much time, marks to hit and/or avoid. I’m fortunate to know an amazing group of talent, very professional authors and every year that group gets a little bit larger.

Diehard GameFAN: Your first Kickstarter Campaign, The Island of Ignorance: The Third Call of Cthulhu Companion was a pretty big success. What sort of things did you learn from that first campaign (both good and bad) that you’ve applied to this one?

That’s a big question without a short answer, but I’ll try to give you a few items. We learned that communicating often with your backers and delivering your project on or close to your projected delivery date is very important. We learned that taking a step back towards the classic themes and styles of Call of Cthulhu’s “Golden Age” (the early 90’s) while updating the format, layout and writing to current RPG standards was a great choice and something fans enjoyed. On the negative, we learned that international shipping rates are like German Wolf Packs in WWII. It seems their ultimate goal is to cut off all commerce between North America and Europe. It’s really sad for fans and a nightmare for small producers like Golden Goblin Press. We are finding ways to make it a little less painful thanks to our good friends at Chronicle City (our UK re-distributor). We learned that without a sense of humor and a huge amount of flexibility you’re not going to be able to keep your project in focus or on schedule. Lastly, we also learned what our backers wanted by listening to them. This current campaign is much better structured to meet their needs.

Diehard GameFAN: Tales of the Crescent City is a collection of adventures set in 1920s New Orleans. What made you choose that backdrop and time period for this collection?

Oscar Rios: I wish I could say it was some well thought out decision based on careful market research but that would be a lie. I just love Kevin Ross’ scenario from The Great Old Ones entitled, “Tell Me, Have You Seen The Yellow Sign?” After I ran it for my home group, we moved our campaign to New Orleans for over a year using The New Orleans Guidebook (now called Secrets of New Orleans). So I felt the fans (myself among them) deserved more New Orleans scenarios and especially needed a sequel to, “Tell Me, Have You Seen The Yellow Sign?”

Why New Orleans? I’m fascinated with the place, its rich culture and its colorful and often heartbreaking history; there is something both mysterious and tragically beautiful about the place. It’s one of those cities that aren’t really a part of the world. New Orleans is its own unique reality, much like my like my home city of New York. The rest of the world exists outside of places like these. There is no other place on Earth anything like New Orleans.

Diehard GameFAN: One of the more impressive things about your previous campaign is that you actually released your project by the original projected delivery date. That’s a huge rarity for crowdfunding projects. Any tips on how you managed to stay on track to help out other crowdfunding projects?

Oscar Rios: I can come up with a few. Work on it, every day, even if it’s impossible. For example, it’s 4:15am while I am writing this. I’ll sleep eventually, but not right now. Tell everyone you know that you aren’t going to be around much for about five or six months because you’ll be working on your Kickstarter. Reach out to your friends and find out who can and will help you. It might surprise you what some of your fans or gaming convention friends do for a living. Your RPG friend might be a copy-editor, your LARP friend might be a graphic designer (both were true for GGP). Keep on top of everyone involved in the project and email them constantly if need be. Just one weak link in the chain can add weeks, if not months, to how long it takes your project to be finished. Choose your team, especially outside suppliers, VERY carefully and be mindful on how many moving parts you have. Figure out how long you need to put your project out and then add on three solid months for everything that will go wrong because trust me things will go wrong. Put it in your mind that the finish line is NOT the end of your crowdfunding, or even the delivery of your project. Your finish line is when everyone HAS their rewards and all of your staff has been paid. That’s when for you it’s really over for you. Love what you are doing and treat it with respect, especially when it’s hard and you’re wondering why you ever tried to do this in the first place. Think about a product you couldn’t wait to get your hands on as a fan which just kept getting delayed over and over again. Every gamer has at least one. Keep the memory of your frustration and helplessness in mind and do everything you can NOT to put your backers through that. Never forget that it is an honor to serve this community. People are counting on you so don’t let them down.

Diehard GameFAN: You’ve got a wide range of physical merchandise this time around including a King in Yellow medallion similar to the Ithaqua Medallion Chaosium did with their Horror on the Orient Express campaign, a Voodoo doll, some more Golden Goblin Idols and even Mardi Gras beads as a stretch goal. Where did you come up with ideas for the ancillary items?

Oscar Rios: I’m a Cthulhu nerd, I like stuff and I know I am not alone. If I really want something then I am fairly certain other Cthulhu nerds will want it too. Most of the ideas come from someone saying, “You know what would be cool…” For the amulets we’d worked with Joe Broers on our first project and really wanted an iconic image to represent the book. We knew he could certainly deliver one. For the King in Yellow Voodoo Doll, my wife and I perused the Cryptocorium booth at Necronomicon. They had on display a Cthulhu Voodoo doll, which made me gasp with delight. When I later asked Jason if he could do a Hastur version he was thrilled with the challenge and put together something truly beautiful and frightening. Oh, and the Golden Goblin Idols aren’t “more.” The ones being offered are all that remains of the original dozen created for the Island of Ignorance Kickstarter promotion. No other Goblins will ever be made publically available; it’s a VERY limited and exclusive item (only four remaining).

Diehard GameFAN: Speaking of stretch goals, you’ve given hints as to what they may be on your Kickstarter page. Care to flesh any of those out for our readers hearing about the campaign for the first time through this interview?

We’ve already met a few of them, enlarging the project by additional art, a neighborhood guide and PDF scenario from New Orleans Mythos (check them out), and an additional scenario! The book will now have a new, longer, and much improved version of the classic scenario which started this all – Kevin Ross’s masterpiece, “Tell Me, Have You Seen The Yellow Sign?” The core book may again be enlarged, twice. We hope to include an article by Scott David Aniolowski on Etienne Laurent de Marginy, a New Orleans character created by H.P. Lovecraft. We also hope to add a SEVENTH scenario by a talented and established scenario author. I can’t (and by that I mean won’t) say more on that at this time.

We are also producing a PDF of scenarios called Legends of New Orleans, featuring non-mythos adventures based on the area’s urban legends and folklore. This PDF will be a backer exclusive for at least six months after delivery, and we hope to have that out in the fall. Many of the authors in Legends of New Orleans will be fairly new to the fans and we are really looking forward to introducing our backers to their work.

There are loads of other stretch goals we have in the works too, so rest assure, we intend to keep up with this growing campaign.

Diehard GameFAN: Like your previous campaign, Tales of the Crescent City is for use with Sixth Edition Call of Cthulhu. With Seventh Edition about to come out (sometime in 2014 anyway), what made you decide to release for a previous rules set rather than the new one Chaosium is trying to promote?

Oscar Rios: This project was started years ago by Miskatonic River Press, before anyone was even considering a Seventh Edition. About 40% of the core book was already written in Sixth Edition when Golden Goblin Press inherited the project. Our five core scenarios were all written and in house at GGP before the Seventh Edition was released as a PDF. So it wasn’t really so much of a choice as working with what was available at the time. Yes, weird as it sounds, this book was already written and in editing BEFORE we launched the Kickstarter. From what we hear about Seventh Edition, converting Sixth Edition scenario should be a simple thing. Also, we may be able to produce conversion stats, much as we did for Island of Ignorance with regards to the Trail of Cthulhu RPG. Don’t worry; we Goblins have plans within plans, and there is a LOT of campaign to go. Conversion Stats will likely become a stretch goal at some point.

Diehard GameFAN: What’s next for Golden Goblin once this campaign has run its course? I believe there are rumblings of a Cthulhu Invictus campaign

Oscar Rios: Golden Goblin Press’ next project is called De Horrore Cosmico and is a collection of scenarios for the Roman Era setting of Call of Cthulhu, called Cthulhu Invictus. I find it to be an amazing setting for the game and one I’ve written extensively for (check out The Legacy of Arrius Lurco from Miskatonic River Press). My home group has really enjoyed this setting and we’ve had an active Cthulhu Invictus campaign since 2004 (when the setting was first released as a Monograph before being greatly expanded as a full title in 2009). The theme of De Horrore Cosmico is classic Lovecraftian themes told in the time of the Roman Empire. For example – A Greek physician tries to restore life to the dead with a potion he’s created, his results prove both disastrous and horrific (AKA “Herbert West-Reanimator.” And NO, this isn’t the topic of one of our scenarios, this just an example – although that would be cool, wouldn’t it?).

We have some truly amazing authors on this project, such as Mark Morrison and Penny Love, Stuart Boon, Jeffrey Moeller, a new author I am thrilled to introduce the fans to named Phredd Groves, and the creator of the Cthulhu Invictus setting himself, Chad Bowser. I’ve got a scenario in there too (or is that two?). I am very happy to say that the book is 100% written and in house at Golden Goblin Press. Once the dust settles on Tales of the Crescent City-Adventures in Jazz Era New Orleans, the Goblins will be heading back in the time of to bring fans death and madness to the Roman Empire.

There you go. Remember that the Kickstarter campaign for Tales of the Crescent City is still active. There is more than a month to go, meaning there are many more stretch goals to be had. Click on through to visit the campaign and of course, back the project if you like what you see. Don’t forget to visit the official Golden Goblin Press website or to “like” the company’s Facebook page. Of course, we’ll definitely be reviewing Tales From the Crescent City here at Diehard GameFAN, so don’t forget to come back and read that. If TFtCC is even half as good as The Island of Ignorance, this will be a must own for Call of Cthulhu fans. In the meantime, feel free to scroll through our archives of roughly FIFTY Call of Cthulhu reviews and previews, including a five part look at the upcoming Horror on the Orient Express remake.



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