Goblins are synonymous with Pathfinder, so there may be no third party publisher of Pathfinder content more appropriately named than Little Red Goblin Games. Today we speak with Little Red Goblin Games producer Scott Gladstein.
Third Party People is a twice monthly series on the people behind the third party publishers that innovate new options for the Pathfinder Roleplaying game, and provide hungry young freelancers a venue for their creations.
PC: What is Little Red Goblins all about?
SG: Well, we started out as a bunch of college kids with game development degrees saying, “hmmm… we could probably do that” and we’re not about two years into it and it’s been a wild ride. We’re a group of way overqualified 20-somethings writing our passion into every product we put out.
PC: What three products embody Little Red Goblins’ raison d’etre, and why?
SG: That’s a very hard question. Some of our earliest books (Tome of Ingenuity for example) were fantastic pieces but looking back- we’d love to do some revisions to them with the experiences we’ve learned since then (and we do plan to). Tome of Ingenuity introduces some really out there mechanics (morale damage, the skirmisher’s unique dice mechanic, etc). Our Legendary Levels line really showcased that we had the capacity to produce larger books. Our Heroes of the East book was really just fantastic to work on. We got to introduce some fun things and it had a lot of flavor.
PC: Who makes up Little Red Goblin Games?
SG: Well we have a somewhat rotating cast. I serve as the producer. We actually have two parts to the company. A little over half work on video games and the other team (the one you guys are more familiar with) work on RPG material.
Caleb Alysworth has been my constant companion as the leader of our hobbyist game team. He’s been there since day 1 (the first employee after me of the Hobby side) and he is probably the best designer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. We had a designer (editor/writer/playtester) named Maverik Bishop (Tome of Munitions, Rogue’s Gallery, Deific Bestiary, etc) who worked with us up until last week. Jeremiah Zerby joined us a few months back and has been invaluable as a designer. We had an intern, Matt Basset, for a while who took over formatting from me on a few books.
Our art staff has shifted quite frequently but Andrew “Viking” Bortniak has been the artistic force for the company since pretty much day one. Viking is our art director. We have just started using a few freelancers but I’d say about 90% of our art up until this point is totally in-house. We’ve had the pleasure of working with past art superstars like Alissa Mathiasmeier, Sayla Barnes, and Jon Achey. We are currently working with a new artist Deanna Roberds (War Journal, Tome of Leaf and Thorn).
Beyond that we also have our Marketing Manager, Kayla Baynes, who has probably been pestering 1/2 the podcasts & sales venue out there.
PC: How has Little Red Goblins separated itself from the other third party publishers of Pathfinder content?
SG: Well we come from the video game side of things. We have a very strict production schedule (a release every 15-20 days) based on SCRUM production methodology and we’ve only ever missed one deadline (by 4 days due to a new artist). We want to bring a more professional face to the hobby game industry- particularly the 3rd party field.
PC: What is SCRUM production methodology, and how has it worked for you thus far?
SCRUM methodology is a form of agile development. Basically it’s a way to organize tasks and people from a production standpoint to work on an easily adaptable, quick turnaround, incremental schedule. It’s a great way to run game projects and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We also utilize the Assembla software suite to keep track of progress and store things on an SVN. That helps a great deal with organizing production schedules and keeping everything visually at the fingertips of distance collaborators (they have a free version! Check it out!).
PC: What is your gaming background, and how did you come to be so invested in the Pathfinder RPG?
SG: I’ve been roleplaying since I was old enough to type. I was writing stat sheets for a homebrewed game in middle school before I even knew D&D existed! I eventually started playing D&D (3.0 & 3.5) before I did Pathfinder. From the professional side of things I have a Bachelors of Art in Game Development from the University of Advancing Technology here in Tempe Arizona.
PC: What are the greatest challenges you face as a third party publisher of the Pathfinder RPG?
I found a lot of the older companies have an easier time launching products than we do because of their existing promotional networks and established infrastructures. Telling someone you are a “3rd Party Pathfinder Developer” really doesn’t get you as far as you think.
PC: What can you tell us about the Pathfinder Wrestling Federation?
SG: Oh! That was a joke we conceived when we were writing our King of the Ring book during one of our playtests. It became the name of the thread we used to advertise the product in advance on Paizo.com.
PC: Oh… Then what can you tell us about King of the Ring, and why you got our hopes up for wrestling’s answer to Blood Bowl only to absolutely and unceremoniously crush them?
SG: Oh it can totally be that! We actually had a very amusing playtest that ultimately culminated in a Blood Bowl style battle between a four-armed minotaur wrestler and a dwarven sumo.
PC: How has being a third party publisher impacted your home game and other design work?
SG: We have a policy in my home game, any Little Red Product is automatically approved. That’s come back to bite me in my butt a few time. I learn REAL fast if our playests were adequate when a player introduces a PC with levels in one of our classes. A few of our races ended up in one of my home games and some stuff from my home game has ended up in products.
PC: What have you done about the options you’ve released that had had inadequate playtesting?
SG: Any major release gets playtested. In the past if we felt something wasn’t up to our high standards we have released errata. (We are planning on releasing a revised version of some of our early base classes as a hard cover book this spring as well) To be honest no company, big or small, has perfect releases every time. I am a firm believer in the saying, “It’s not whether you make a mistake or not, but how you handle it”.
PC: How often do you run or play in games, and how have your products impacted your games?
SG: I was in 2-3 games a week for a while but now I’m only managing to attend the game I run on Friday nights. We have a lot of designers from various companies in it so it’s a lot of fun. 3rd party content gets brought up a lot.
PC: What comes first: an idea or a mechanic?
SG: Sometimes one, sometimes the other- but we don’t like to release anything that doesn’t embody both. Sometimes we will marry a good mechanic to a “cool idea” we had bumping around.
PC: What lessons have your experiences taught you about publishing and about Pathfinder?
SG: I honestly had NO IDEA about publishing prior to this. I just kind of held my nose and jumped right in. I made some mistakes. I did some things right. Steve Jobs, in a commencement speech at Stanford, said “Stay Foolish, Stay Hungry”. As a new 3rd party publisher, I started as both. Now, we’ve learned how things go and we’re really starting to get traction.
PC: What do you look for in a freelancer, and where have you found your strongest freelancers?
SG: We’ve only really worked with freelancer artists. They allow us to work on things in advance. We haven’t yet accepted any freelanced material from writers- but we’ve received several pitches. It’s not like we’re hard on designers (ok we are…) but we demand a lot from them. Something submitted to us should scream “THEME”. If it lacks flavor- I don’t care how good your mechanics are, no one will care. Honestly, my designers have all bombarded me with interesting ideas (either conceptually or mechanically) to the point where I am just in awe of them.
For artists, if you show me anime I won’t even look at the rest of your work. Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy a good anime from time to time but it doesn’t demonstrate an advanced understanding of artistic principles very well. We look for dynamic poses, a strong understanding of values, and a good grasp of human anatomy.
PC: If you could change one thing about Pathfinder, what would it be?
SG: Don’t get me in trouble with Pazio please…
Just kidding. To be honest, I’m not madly in love with Golarion. It seems like a great place to set an adventure but that’s really because it feels like a patchwork of tropes to me.
PC: What is a highlight of your experience as a third party publisher?
SG: A little while after Maverik Bishop (yes that’s his real given name) published the original game Doodle Dice Monsters with us we came across this review. It’s the sort of feedback that makes you smile from your soul. A dad playing this game with his kids? Awesome. We were glowing for weeks after that.
A close second was the launch of Legendary Levels. We had kind of expected it to be a decent seller. About a week later we realized just how many people had bought it and were totally floored. Paizo mentioned us in a blog post, we got all sorts of reviews on it, and a lot of praise came to our email. It dawned on us then that this company might just be crazy enough to work.
PC: And now that Paizo is answering the demand for “epic” content with Mythic Adventures, how does that affect the future of the Legendary Levels line?
SG: We’ve actually read over a lot of the Mythic material and we think it’s a great option. To us though, it doesn’t have the same feel as Legendary Levels material. It honestly feels a lot more like gestalt play. I’m a huge fan of Joseph Campbell’s work (“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” in particular) and a lot of Mythic Adventurers are based on that. Paizo handled it in a very graceful way from what I’ve seen but the two system are separate ideas. We saw a niche and we decided to fill it. Legendary Levels has got some great feedback and we hope to expand on it one day if the market is still there for that. I don’t know if Mythic will impact it negatively though, if anything I expect it might have the opposite effect. It could serve as a whetting of the pallet for higher level/power play. By the time you are a high level Mythic character you can approach the level of a Legendary character. It would be a very fun, almost Exalted-like, campaign to run Legendary Mythic characters. (It would actually be rather fitting!)
PC: One day you wake up and all your goals for Little Red Goblins have been met. What does that day look like, and where do you go from there?
SG: Done? Work doesn’t end. I run a company. I don’t get to be “done” 🙂 I don’t get to sleep. We’re one of those companies who really is motivated by its own passions.
But if LRGG ever really ended? I’d probably start another 3rd party company and start all over again 😉