2019 ENnies Nominations

Today is a big day for the 2019 ENnies and for me. The 2019 nominations and Judges Spotlight winners were announced this morning, which means my work as an ENnies judge is 95% complete. If I weren’t going to Gen Con I’d be completely finished. Since I am attending there are the small matters of spending some time at the ENnies table while I’m there, as well as giving a short speech about my Judges Spotlight pick, plot ARMOR.

That short speech is why I’m not going to wax poetical about the game here. Except to say, if you want to check out a smart, challenging, single-player story game by one of the smartest folks in the industry right now, head to itch.io at the link above and pick it up. Then grab everything else dungeoncommandr has available. Then follow them on itch.io (which I realized I hadn’t done and hastily fixed) so you don’t miss anything else. You won’t be sorry.

A big congratulations to everyone nominated this year. Submissions were excellent this year and there was some pretty fierce competition out there. Our job as judges was tough as a result, but I think we put together a solid nomination list. Now, of course, it’s up to the members of the hobby to cast their votes and see who wins. I’m looking forward to the announcements at the award ceremony.

A huge thank-you to Hans and Stacy, and all the volunteers that keep the ENnies ticking along. As hard as we judges may have worked this year, all of them worked as hard or harder keeping everything running smooth so we could focus on the judging. I hope the ENnies continue to grow under your stewardship.

Last but not least, thank-you to my fellow judges, Alex, Ben, Brian, and Chris. I’m going to miss our Sunday morning conversations about gaming and the submissions. I learned a great deal talking with you all and I hope my fifth of the conversation was at least as interesting. Best of luck to those of you hoping to continue on for another term!

And now I’m going to take a little break from reading gaming books, maybe get started on some novels and comics that have gone by the wayside over the last year. After all, I need to cleanse the palette for all the new games launching at Gen Con.

ENnies Thoughts

As I’m spending my Easter long-weekend reading through the many, many ENnies submissions we have received so far, I thought it was a good time to take a break, drink a coffee, and talk about a few of my thoughts for this year.

First, the deadline for submissions this year is May 4 (details on the ENnies website). That means the office has to have your digital submission by end-of-day, or your package has to be postage/shipper marked that date in order to still qualify. We get so many submissions every year that this is not something the office makes exceptions about, so if you’re planning to submit please don’t play chicken with this deadline. As busy as I am cramming everything in my eyeholes, I’d hate to miss out on something amazing because it missed the deadline.

And there is a lot of amazing this year! I prided myself on a wide and varied diet of TTRPG reading before becoming an ENnies judge. But this past year has been a rich smorgasbord of game material, both from the usual industry contributors, as well as independent writers and publishers. To everyone who submitted: thank-you for that. As a judge, it has been an absolute joy to read everything we have received. As a Game Master, everything we received has and will continue to inform my gaming sessions for a long time to come.

Thank-you especially to the folks in our community who are or feel marginalized, and submitted. That couldn’t have been an easy decision to make, and I know many have chosen not to submit to the ENnies for various good reasons. But I appreciated the submissions we did receive, and I can say that without exception your submissions not only broadened my perspective on what TTRPGs can be, but brought me such joy to read. The imagination and fierce vulnerability on display is a an example of the best of TTRPGs.

So if you are a marginalized creator in our hobby, and you have something that otherwise meets the ENnies submission criteria, please please please send it in! We want to see it, and speaking for myself, I’m hungry for it. Please note, I’m purposely not defining what “marginalized” means in this context. I don’t feel it’s my place to do that, and if I were to just partially list the groups I think are marginalized, someone could take that as a reason to self-exempt themselves (“Well my group isn’t listed, so I guess the %&$hole didn’t mean me!”).

One thing I’m finding it the hardest to select for is the Judges Spotlight. Every year at the ENnies, each judge gets about 10-15 minutes to talk about a single product that was a stand-out for them. It can be for any reason, and that freedom is actually the problem. There is so much that stands out to me for various reasons and I’m having a hard time narrowing it down to just one. I mean, I’m going to have to, but ugh! Why did you all have to make such good games?!

Okay, I came up for air long enough to urge folks to get submissions in. Now it’s back to cramming TTRPG goodness in my eyeholes. And earholes, a good chuck of today is giving the podcast submissions a good listen. If you want to shoot me questions or comments, you can do that below, or over on Twitter. My DMs are open, or you can publicly message me and I’ll respond as best I can.

 

Big News and RPGaDay Catch-up

It’s almost become tradition at this point, I have to make a catch-up post for RPGaDay. Surprising no one.

But first, some exciting news! The ENnie Awards were Friday night, and they announced the judges for 2019. I made it! I honestly thought it was a long shot, so thanks to everyone who voted for me! I look forward to looking at a bunch of excellent gaming material, and I hope I can do some good around nudging the awards (and the gaming industry) toward inclusivity and accessibility. I’m excited to get started.

What Gives a Game ‘Staying Power’?

I’m going to assume this means why do some RPGs keep getting new editions, while others fade away. I think there are some games which are just iconic to their genre within RPGs. Dungeons & Dragons is the obvious example of this. I don’t think there will be another fantasy RPG with as wide-spread appeal as D&D. Paizo came very close with Pathfinder, and as a result created a truly excellent game and setting. But D&D, especially in its current edition, strikes an excellent balance between simplicity of entry to play for new players and enough complexity to allow veteran players some crunch. The game encapsulates (for good or bad) what we’ve come to identify as the fantasy genre in RPGs, and whether we do it consciously or not, we compare every other fantasy RPG to D&D. Other games, like Call of Cthulhu and Shadowrun, have a similar standing in their respective genres. While they may not be the best games from a mechanical standpoint (I personally find Trail of Cthulhu‘s mechanics superior to CoC), there is no question they are best at evoking the feel of their particular genre.

Most Memorable NPC?

This one is a bit of a spoiler for the Rise of the Runelords adventure path, so if you haven’t played that but are planning to, look away. There is a dungeon under Sandpoint which really is supposed to be like a reasonably quick sidequest. It gives the characters their first exposure to Ancient Thassilon and Runelords, and clues them in that maybe something bigger is going on. The BBG is just an imp, which any party of the right level should be able to take down fairly quickly. Not this time, though. For whatever reason, my party struggled to deal with this imp, and I delighted in having the imp taunt and toy with them every time they came back to “play”. What should have been an evening’s adventure stretched over three sessions and seven different forays into the dungeon. After one such foray, the party limped out of the dungeon with the barbarian carrying both the (dying) cleric and the rogue, while the fighter limped out on 1 hp. And the characters had just entered the dungeon twenty minutes previous. In game, I had the townsfolk talking about the horrendous monsters which must be down there; when they party was finally victorious and came back to display the 2-foot tall body of the imp, the townsfolk were less than enthused. But I loved playing that imp to the full! And it taught me a valuable lesson as a GM: easy on paper does not always mean easy in play.

Favourite Recurring NPC?

Right now I’m having a bunch of fun with the Ghast Queen, one of the main NPCs in a D&D campaign world I created and am running. She sacrificed her humanity five hundred years prior with the best of intentions: she wanted to ensure her people had someone to lead them through the dark days of the Cataclysm and help them survive and rebuild. Unfortunately, the Ghast Queen has some very extreme views on recycling, and after after five hundred years the city of Graveport is a blend of the living and the undead. And the Ghast Queen is quite, quite mad. I look forward to how the party chooses to deal with her.

ENies Voting Starts Today

Today voting opens for the 2018 ENnies, awards given to designers and companies in the TTRPG industry to celebrate the work they’ve done in the past year. You can see the entire list of nominees  and then cast your votes if you are so inclined.

And I’m hoping you are, because for the very first time I’ve put my name in the running to become an ENnies judge. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but due to my work with one game company or another I wasn’t eligible. But as of this year I have enough distance from my work with any one company to qualify as a nominee, and so I’m in the running to be a judge for 2019. I’d love for you to vote for me, so let’s talk a bit about why I want to be a judge.

I love tabletop role-playing games. I’ve been in the hobby pretty much non-stop since I was ten years old (that will be 39 years, for anyone keeping score at home), and I have loved every minute of it. I have a passion for finding and devouring new gaming material, which is great because the TTRPG industry has kept that passion fed.  I’ve been lucky to be on hand for some pretty major cultural shifts within the hobby, and even though there are still issues to deal with our hobby has tended to trend toward inclusion.

Let’s look closer at the, “…still issues to deal with…” part of my statement. There is no question we still have some very specific problems to overcome around inclusion and accessibility. While I was excited to see DOTS putting out a really solid set of braille dice this past year, one of the first things I thought was, “Wait, no one had done that already?” Asking that question led to me to wonder about audio versions of TTRPG books for the visually impaired, and whether someone could make an ASL manual for common TTRPG terms. And those are two very basic questions, but the answers would open the hobby up to so many new players, game masters, and designers. Making our hobby more accessible takes nothing away from the gamers who don’t require it, but gives everything to the gamers who do.

And inclusion? We’re moving in the right direction, overall, and I think the rise of streaming has definitely had a positive influence in that regard. But we can do better, and all levels of our hobby must work to that end. We need to include more people at the table, but to encourage them to sit down they need to see themselves in the stories and books in the hobby. And for that to happen, the industry needs to welcome more creators from traditionally marginalized groups into our hobby. At the same time, we need to pay more attention to the independent creators already putting out excellent work in our hobby.

That’s where I see my role as an ENnies judge coming in to play. As a judge I intend to encourage previously marginalized creators to submit their work to the ENnies for judging. I can’t make anyone do it, of course, but I can make them aware of the process and encourage them. And once submitted, I’ll judge the work on its merits and champion the ones I think deserve to move forward.

In hand with that, I’ll be looking at all the material that comes my way through the two lenses of inclusivity and accessibility. Obviously all the other criteria by which I would judge a game also apply, not least of which is, is it fun? But also things like, does it explore something new, something we haven’t seen in TTRPGs before? If I’m presented with Retroclone RPG, you’re going to have a hard hill to climb to convince me it’s worthy of an award.

So that’s how I’m coming at ENnies judging. I’ve been in this hobby long enough, and I’ve read and played the myriad ways folks that look like me approach the hobby. I want to hear from folks who are not me, because I think that is how our hobby grows and gets stronger. I want more diverse ENnies judges, and I’ll be vocal about that whether I succeed in my bid this year or not. I recognize that part of challenge of that is simply that being a non-cis white male on the internet is harder than I can know, and becoming a judge would give one more avenue of access to the more toxic elements of our hobby. I hope I can help effect some changes to make that an easier prospect.

All of that is to say, please go to the ENnies voting page and vote. Vote for the games you’d like to celebrate, and if you are so inclined, please vote for me as a 2019 ENnies judges. I’m hoping to do good things with it, but I need your help to get the chance. And spread the word to your friends and encourage them to vote as well.

And thank-you. Whether I get the job or not, I’m looking forward to another year of gaming, and I’ll still be writing about everything I talked about above.

Summertime, and the Gaming is Easy

Another hot day on the Canadian Prairies, so it seemed the perfect time to sit inside with the AC and give a quick update on goings on in my life, gaming, and the site.

Big news right off the top: I put my name in the running to become an ENnies judge! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but because I was repping one TTRPG company or another over the last several years I wasn’t eligible. This was actually the first year in a decade I could sign up, so I made the plunge. I’ll make a longer post on the day voting opens (Wednesday, July 11, so limber up your clicking fingers) to talk about why I’m invested in becoming a judge and how you can help (the hint was “voting”), but if I succeed in getting a spot you can expect to see a metric tonne of product reviews and discussions here. Plus you should just go vote in the ENnies because there is a lot of really great stuff nominated this year, and these awards are one way (besides buying the product) we can show some love to the designers.

Whether I become a judge or not, though, you can expect to see some changes around the site leading up to the fall. I took a step forward and upgraded to a paid site here on Worpress, complete with the shiny new domain renaissancegamer.ca. You can update your links as you please, but I am assured both the new and old URLs will get you here so it isn’t a panic. A paid site gives me some more options for layout and design, as well as e-commerce options which may become handy in the future. Plus it allows me to lock in the Renaissance Gamer domain name. I could have gone for .com, but I’m Canadian so .ca seemed appropriate. Plus it allows that person focusing on Renaissance era dice and card games to have their shot at a site.

I’m still posting once a week over at The Rat Hole, every Monday. Ish. Okay, sometimes Tuesday because both Dave and I are busy dudes and it may take a little while to post the articles I submit totally on time and never late ever. Between The Rat Hole and here, my goal is to post three times a week minimum, with more content if I have more to say.

Work on the Canadian Library of Roleplaying Games proceeds apace. I’m exploring database options while the collection is relatively small, so I don’t find myself 10,000 books deep in a database I realize doesn’t do what I want. I’m also building out a website so I can move the Library’s main presence off Facebook, as I’m in the process of minimizing my connection with that site. And of course I’m expanding the collection, hitting book sales when I can and following up on leads from friends who know what I’m up to. I’m also developing contacts with as many small publishers I can so I can pick up and add their work to the library. As much as I enjoy collecting the old gaming material I also want to be proactive and add new material to the collection so I stay on top of new games.

Somewhere in all that I’m also finding time to play and run games. Never as much as I like, but that is the bane of anyone who’s interests in the hobby also extend outside just the playing. I’m happy with the games I’m in and my players seem to be happy with the games I’m running, so I’m content.

That’s it for now. You’ll see a post on Monday over at The Rat Hole, and I’ll have a post here on Wednesday, with another one on the Friday/the weekend. Until then stay cool or hot, as your local weather dictates.

ENnies Voting is Now Live!

That’s right, fellow gamers, RPG award season is upon us and 2016 ENnies voting is now live. I don’t have a horse in this race at all, so this post is not an endorsement of any of the nominees. But it is an endorsement of voting for your favourite games. If you’ve really enjoyed a particular product and want to show your support, this is a great way to do that. The nominee’s list is also a great way to discover things you might have missed, as it has links to the nominated products and companies. I always find some games which have slipped through my radar on the nominee list, and the ENnies always manage to expand my game library.

Check them out, and let me know what some of your favs were in the comments. Maze of the Blue Medusa got a lot of my votes, for instance.