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Nineteenth Session (10 page pdf) – “No Substance But Horror” – The party finally finds the bosses of shadow Boroi Manor – and are promptly defeated and enslaved. But maximum kill always finds a way!
So they bust in to kill Nicasor and company but they get a little caught up in murdering the mostly harmless fetchlings lounging around. This gives the bad guys a couple rounds to get ready, which means Nicasor’s up and ready and his summoner friend Elenuta is invisible and already has her eidolon ready and a summon in progress.
It goes bad for the PCs. Sindawe natural-1’s a save and goes down suffocated by the shadowy snake eidolon. He has to spend an Infamy Point to come back into the fight (“I was feigning death, like a 1st edition monk!”). But the snake gets Serpent as well and Nicasor cuts Sindawe down again, and Sindawe has no choice but to surrender or die.
But Nicasor doesn’t want these pirates dead – he wants the Heart dead so he can get out of this damn dimension. He lets them heal and herds them down to fight the Heart for him. It’s a tenebrous tendriculos! I didn’t beef that up from the actual module because I figured they’d be beat to hell by then.
They kill the Heart, and then they turn on Nicasor and Elenuta and get the better of them this time. They break the mirror and are out. When it comes time to demand their shadows back they notice Serpent already has one… And it’s Chmetugo the shadow demon! He’s free and back on the Prime Material. He skedaddles to leave the pirates to decide if they should kill everyone in the county or not. After a moment of it hanging in the balance, they decide not.
And then they tend their wounds and plan their trip to froghemoth country! And they decide to take Rucia the waitress with them, lest she be discovered and tortured to death for being chosen by Desna.
Now here’s a bonus for you – all the bad guys for the whole thing, as I statted them up in Hero Lab, in PDF! Nicasor, Elenuta, the Heart, etc.
Eighteenth Session (12 page pdf) – “Shadowland” – The shadowy version of Boroi Manor is full of horrors. But they find Wogan’s sister and nephew!
They actually negotiate with Nicasor the shae, the boss in here. They’re not real happy with Baron Stepan so they are not sure who to throw in with (or just kill everyone, but they figure they’ll defer that decision a little while).
Then it’s more haunted house. Furniture comes to life and attacks, shadows come out of pictures, the usual.
My favorite part is how they go to a room full of keys, with one magical key that looks like a tuning fork. They get it and escape as the rest of the keys turn into a swarm and attack; they get out and slam the door and it only turns their summoned cat into gelatin. And then what do they do? “I wonder what this key does…” They hit the key and of course it’s a chime of opening and the door holding back the key swarm swings open. Oh, I laughed and laughed. You can’t plan stuff like that if you try.
Serpent starts showing disregard for loot, which starts a very long-running gag within the group where they suspect him of being a doppleganger. He’s usually a very “and don’t forget to take their boots” kind of guy.
They find Anya and Marek and try to go get out, assuming Stepan was lying about them having to destroy the Heart to escape. Sadly, he wasn’t. But they still think he’s lying. Nobles, can’t trust ’em.
Since they can’t get out… Next step, go kill Nicasor and Elenuta! Not strictly required, but they were about ready to kill someone…
Seventeenth Session (8 page pdf) – “Beyond The Midnight Mirror” – The pirates venture into the Shadow Realm beyond the Midnight Mirror to rescue Wogan’s kin.
This is a good old shadow dimension dungeon crawl, where the shadow version of the manor house becomes more twisted from reality the farther they proceed. This fits into the general category of “haunted house crawl” that I’ve always found to be a player favorite.
They find Baron Stephan’s brothers, now turned into various kytons (which they refer to as Cenobites and variations such as sex-o-bites and hanging-o-bites). I needed to both amp up and horror up the adventure as written, as it was for fourth level characters and was PG-rated. Both unacceptable!!!
Anyway, some horror, some fights, and then they find the fetchlings that have been trapped in stasis here for like a thousand years, who are all full of Underworld vampire type lassitude. And that’s where we leave off…
I’m a sucker for the East Texas University setting and adventures, but my picks this year were also the winners, Zak S.’ Red and Pleasant Land (Silver) and the Call of Cthulhu Horror on the Orient Express (Gold), reissued as a big ass boxed set. Red and Pleasant Land is a significant step forward for RPGs as an art form and I voted it for Gold, just because Orient is a re-issue of an older adventure and that docks it a bit in my estimation. The Tyranny of Dragons 5e adventure was just kinda poor, and it looks like the voting reflected that.
I find it really hard to vote for these “random junk” categories. Is this dice set better than this CD of sounds? What does that even mean? But I know the Paizo Harrow Deck is good quality. It didn’t win, the CoC dice set got Silver (how good can dice be?) and the 5e DM screen got Gold.
Best Cover Art
Not a great year for cover art, I thought a couple of these were pretty generic. I love the Wayne Reynolds Freeport cover, but it didn’t win. Rise of Tiamat got Gold (that art style does nothing for me) and Achtung! Cthulhu: Rise of the Secret War got a deserved Silver.
Best Interior Art
Dreamhounds of Paris not winning Silver at least is a miscarriage of justice! The Strange’s very cool and profuse art got Gold and the D&D MM (Silver) is decent if workmanlike, but Dreamhounds is about impressionism and surrealism in art…
I’ll be honest, I don’t read any of these. I have tried year after year to get into Gnome Stew (Silver) because it always wins, but I never can. I don’t really like the “aggregator site” blog metaphor, it makes a lot of content but much of it of indifferent quality IMO (several of the others have the same metaphor). ConTessa got Gold, which is nice,well designed, and promotes women in gaming. It’s the only one that looks like a Web site from this decade. From checking out the nominees I also like DMDavid, as it’s a simple but consistent blog with good articles.
Hm. My picks were the period maps in Horror on the Orient Express and the “pretty modern computer game” maps of Ninth World (Gold). The Glorantha book got the Silver instead; it’s a good book but I don’t know about the cartography per se, they seem pretty… Simple? Lots of indistinguishable green expanses?
Best Electronic Book
The D&D 5e free Basic rules are certainly notable and deserve the Gold. Ken Writes About Stuff vol. 2 got Silver which is also deserved, though his writing is often not my cup of tea (Suppressed Transmission just gave me a headache… “What if the local WAL-MART is staffed by SNAKE PEOPLE who serve CHUPACABRA SANDWICHES to the MORLOCKS in the loading dock…”), often coming across to me like crypto-conspiracy Mad Libs. I like his actual games though.
Best Family Game
I voted Doctor Who, since it’s the one that I got my 12 year old daughter and she actually tried to run for her friends. Atomic Robo, which I hear great things about, got Silver and the D&D Starter Set got Gold.
Best Free Product
Well of course the Basic D&D rules get Gold here. Silver went to the 13th Age Archmage’s Orrery but I liked the Doctor Who Arrowdown adventure, a 15 page pro-quality adventure. Orrery is 64 pages but not pro quality layout.
No surprise, we all knew D&D 5e was getting Gold and The Strange was getting Silver.
Best Miniature Product
I agree with this – the WizKids D&D prepaints got Gold and the innovative Paizo Pawn set (real module art, hundreds of pawns for $40) got Silver.
Achtung! Cthulhu’s Terrors of the Secret War got a deserved Silver and the D&D 5e MM got Gold. The Strange’s bestiary really did deserve something too, but it was a tight race. I’m not sure if the 5e MM is really as good or just got the “D&D 5e bump,” it’s a fine MM but it’s much like MMs of years past – not that that’s bad, but is it award-winning?
I didn’t like how most of these podcasts were very narrowly focused. I voted Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff for Gold (the one of these I listen to regularly) and it won, the Miskatonic U podcast got Silver. Since I’m not hip deep into CoC or The Strange or whatever I probably won’t be starting in on any of these others, except maybe NPC Cast, I’ll check that out.
Best Production Values
The D&D Starter Set got Gold and Horror on the Orient Express got Silver, which is bizarre if you open up both and compare them (Horror is like a chest full of cool shit).
Best RPG Related Product
Usually I give this category a big “bah” because it’s an even weirder grab bag than Best Aid/Accessory, but this year’s Designers and Dragons books that are a history of RPGs are certainly notable and deserve their Gold. The Temple of Elemental Evil board game got Silver.
D&D 5e got Gold and it’s pretty well deserved IMO. Mutant: Year Zero got Silver, a game which was nominated in lots of categories and I have never heard mentioned until these awards (and I’m pretty active online).
Red and Pleasant Land got Gold here, and The Strange got Silver, which is all well and as it should be, both of these were true innovators. Dreamhounds of Paris was also good and my friend Bruce is doubtless cutting on himself right now since the Glorantha book didn’t get anything here (though it did get the Diana Jones award, so he’s actually pretty gloaty about it).
Gold to Roll20, Silver to Hero Lab – finally we have truly outstanding pieces of software in the RPG space. I use Hero Lab all the time and would use Roll20 all the time if I did much online gaming.
Gold to the 5e DMG and Silver to Pathfinder Unchained. (Is the DMG really a supplement and not core rules? Most games have that in their core rules nowadays). Anyway, taxonomic complaints aside, good picks. Paizo continues to innovate inside the 3.x realm with Unchained.
Look can someone explain this to me. Every year The Escapist gets nominated and usually wins, this time getting Gold. Go click on that link. It’s a dead Goddamned site. Forums, closed down. Features, not in a decade. Archives, end in 2011. Blog, exactly three posts this year. WHAT THE FUCK? Am I missing some large and active part of this site amidst all the dead links? I have to be missing something because as best as I can tell it’s a DEAD GODDAMN SITE GETTING GOLD EVERY YEAR. Politics? Money? Sex? How is this happening? I mean, they do tweet I guess, is it just because of their Twitter stream? Then be honest and link to that! (And maybe they should put a tweet-stream on their front page if that’s the real draw!)
Tabletop Audio, on the other hand, is a proper Web site that got a deserved Silver.
Red and Pleasant Land took Gold and the D&D 5e PHB took Silver. I’m not sure I think “Writing” when I read the D&D PHB. Best Rules yes, but Writing, I mean, technically it is writing, but I expect “Best Writing” to be like, good and not just rules explanation (like in Red and Pleasant Land). Or Designers & Dragons, which is also nominated here despite only being “RPG Related” in category (?)
Product of the Year
The D&D PHB in Gold – I mean, it’s a new D&D release, you gotta expect that. What’s more surprising is the dark horse indie Red & Pleasant Land getting Silver, bringing it to 4 ENnies and one of them being in the most prestigious category! I hope this means less business as usual and more innovation – even a lot of Kickstartered stuff is “here’s just another FATE game” and more real out of the box stuff (which to be fair Numenera and The Strange also are, as well as adventures like Dreamhounds of Paris).
Fan’s Choice for Best Publisher
Gold for WotC and Silver for Paizo! Quite an upset because Paizo is very beloved by all their fans. Mearls and Crawford did a yeoman job in dragging D&D/WotC’s reputation out of the shitter this year (come on, I think that’s fair to say) by being accessible even while not delivering on some things fans care about (like licenses). Increased transparency has helped a lot here – I’m not sure WotC has gotten better than Paizo in an absolute sense but they sure get a gold star for “most improved,” that’s for sure!
How about you, what did you want to win that did (or didn’t)?