Like my fellow bloggers, I encourage everyone to vote for the 2010 ENnie awards! Mad Brew and others only told you how they voted, but I will go one step further and tell you how to vote! You are all commanded to adhere to this right thinking agenda without deviation.
I’ll start by just noting that I’ve disqualified Catalyst and Shadowrun this year due to their adoption of “criminal conspiracy” as their new business plan. Once the men responsible are rotting in unmarked graves, Shadowrun can win an award again. Till then, I’m not going to bother even mentioning them below.
P.S. The nominees page has links to more info on all the products, I’m not gonna bother to link the products here.
1. Best Cover Art
Ah, an interesting field. I am not in love with any of them even though they’re all technically decent – Pathfinder art is usually excellent but I don’t think the Bestiary cover is the best example of it, going over the line into a bit cartoony/goofy. Rogue Trader’s is a decent example of that style but strikes me as a bit too “staged.” I really don’t like the style they use on Gathering Storm; I’ve seen that style (or even the artist, who knows) on novels and some other game products and it seems too busy for me. “I got a deal on wisps!”
That brings it down to Rough Magicks and Eclipse Phase. I really like them both, especially the audacity of the Rough Magicks cover. In the end it seems a little too Photoshopped to me though, so I give lead honors to Eclipse Phase – even though their cover art doesn’t cover all that much of their cover, which seems like a bit of a waste. Anyway, Magicks is at #2, then the rest.
2. Best Interior Art
Here, it’s no shame to anyone else, but the Pathfinder Core Rulebook internal art is just super. Copious and excellent. Why, I can tell that Seoni the sorceress wants me just by her depiction in the book. They clearly get my #1. (And yours! No exceptions!)
Rogue Trader and Warhammer have good if varying internal art – Rogue Trader goes from really good to “blobule-derived” in places.
And a surprise nominee from “so indie I haven’t heard of it” land, Escape from Tentacle City, with a striking stylized black and white approach. I give it #2 for not making me say “meh!”
3. Best Cartography
The Paizo maps are all awesome. In fact, I figured this was a total sweep until I saw the Maps of Mastery – those are shockingly bad ass. Apparently that guy used to do the good maps in Dungeon and now has his own thing. I will allow you to choose freely between the two for top honors, as I am magnanimous. I chose the Paizo Pathfinder City Map Folio maps though as that extra “it’s directly relevant and useful to me” factor overcame the sheer technical niceness (though see the Minis category below).
4. Best Writing
I really like the Eclipse Phase writing. Top billing. I haven’t read Kerberos or Victoriana, but “oh another pulp or steampunk game” doesn’t thrill me at this point – about a hundred of them have come out over the last couple years. I’ve leafed through FantasyCraft and its writing isn’t what comes to mind, seems like a strange nomination, would be better in Best Rules. And I’ve leafed through the Native American game too and it’s pretty good but not as good as Eclipse Phase.
5. Best Production Values
This one’s hard. This year saw a lot of great produced games, and they’re all on here. Give it to Warhammer because of all the gewgaws they shipped with the game? Hmm. In the end I interpret “best” not as “most expensive” but “makes the game reading/using experience really nice” so I’ll have to go with Pathfinder, but that may be my “prefer less board game in my RPG” aesthetic talking. If you vote for Warhammer I won’t excommunicate you (but don’t think I’m getting soft).
6. Best Rules
Hmm, another hard one. Many of these rulesets aren’t new per se but are variants on previous ones. Hero – I had a brief fling with it but it’s just too much rules for me. BASH is very nice, but sometimes I think maybe that’s too little rules for me. Voting for Diaspora is really a vote for FATE and a vote for Wild Talents is really a vote for ORE, both of which are fine systems. The v6 engine of Atomic Highway didn’t seem that notable to me when I read it; I mean, it’s fine, but I wouldn’t have selected it for a rules nomination over the 100 other games around. On the balance, I guess BASH#1 and ORE #2 but I feel conflicted about that. And do I really like BASH more than FATE, or is that “FATE burnout” talking?
7. Best Adventure
You can’t beat the Pathfinder APs in the adventure category. Just can’t be done. However, The Grinding Gear has made the old college try at it, coming in with #2. And a really honorable mention for the Armitage Files, that’s great too. Ah, I love that adventures are back to their rightful place of primacy in RPG products, having emerged from the decade-plus of “mouth breathers what love their rules supplements” ghetto. Keep up the good work, all of you.
8. Best Monster or Adversary
A lot of good stuff here. I really like the Aces & Eights offering, and it’s extremely helpful for a more “subtle” game (not monsters, just all Wild West people, so it can get stale without great NPC ideas) and the Pathfinder and Hellfrost books are good too. I’ll have to give a tough #1 to the Classic Horrors Revisited though – it’s more than just “here’s a bunch of monsters,” it takes its time on how to use each of them.
9. Best Setting
Although Ken Hite has been known to turn me off (I find Suppressed Transmission’s “schiophrenic consipracy theorist gobbledygook” approach grating rather than charming), The Day After Ragnarok is the best setting this year. Audacious and entertaining. Kerberos Club suffers from being pulp game #20 over the last 2 years; Judge Dredd is entertaining but I’ve read it before; I don’t believe in awards for a second edition. The Rome setting looks really interesting; I haven’t read it though, same with Goblin Markets.
10. Best Supplement
Lucha Libre Hero is great stuff. Usually Hero is way too rules heavy for me, but I have played it on occasion, and this supplement excited me the first time I heard about it. I’ve got a soft spot for psychotronic stuff. I also like Hollow Earth Expedition – though pulp in general has gotten overexposed, something with a specific focus like this still gets me. I’m not sure why the Rebellion Era product is a “supplement” and not a “setting”… I don’t know much about the rest of the field here.
11. Best Aid or Accessory
This is another category where “they’re all good.” My top billing has to go to Hero Labs though – I did a roundup of char creation software earlier this year and it was way better than its competition (PCGen, RPGXplorer) and was so good I bought it, and it’s come in very useful. Second is the Pathfinder screen – it’s the highest quality screen ever! Textbook-cover thick. I like the idea of the Gaming Paper, and it’s cheap – the problem is, no one here has it, and buying it from the Paizo store doubles its price once shipping & handling is added on. The Battlegraph dry erase “puzzle pieces” are nice and avoid the “have to erase that because we’re moving off the table” problem. And I like the idea of the Campaign Coins, I really wanted coins to use in my campaign for Infamy Points and ended up having to go with plastic party favors, but I wish that in execution they had gone more “historical” than “looks like what a WoW gold piece would resemble.”
12. Best Miniatures Product
I don’t have the patience for elaborate metal mini construction and painting any more, so I’m not interested in the Alkemy, and the D&D minis used to be better but look like a first grade art project nowadays. I’ll give this one to Maps of Mystery to compensate for their whisker-thin second in Cartography.
13. Best Regalia
I hate this category. It means “other geek shit they sell as impulse buys in gaming stores, that isn’t really a game or mini.” Kinda. Though Grind is just a board game/minis game isn’t it? If they want a board game category they should sack up and have one. Similarly, two of these are fiction books – have a fiction category or forget it, how’s someone supposed to rate “random crap” against each other? It’s ridiculous. But for lack of anything better to do, vote for Lost Tales of Pine Box, Texas, as I encourage settings based in Texas, greatest nation on the Earth.
14. Best Electronic Book
The only product I’m familiar with here is The Devil We Know Part 1: Shipyard Rats, an excellent Pathfinder adventure. The others are probably lovely, though… There are literally thousands of electronic products so it’s really hard to do them as a popular vote kind of thing – if they were popular they would be in print :-P By their nature there’s going to be a small minority of gamers that have been exposed to any one of them.
15. Best Free Product
I have to give it to Wayfinder #1 – call me a Paizo fanboy, but that fact that this is a fan publication is impressive as hell. It’s fun (Ask a Shoanti is a hoot); my only complaint is it’s a little fiction-heavy for my tastes. Lady Blackbird is a nice little one-shot game in a box, with great art too, and gets my silver nod. The Pathfinder APG Playtest – is that really a “free product?” I guess it was semi polished,and Paizo’s dedication to public betas that are as good as full free product is impressive, but it doesn’t get my vote. I’m not totally sure what to make of the Warrior Cats game; I appreciate games being aimed at kids but I kinda feel like the practice of just using a normal traditional-but-somewhat-stripped-down RPG for it is lazy and never going to work out well. And I have to say – I am one of those “4e haters” that doesn’t like it’s “WoWiness,” so I wasn’t sure what to think of Combat Advantage’s “lets make D&D more video gamey!” approach. Initially I thought it would make me incontinent with rage, but after reading it I kinda like the boldness of them owning it and saying “Well… Let’s pretend we are not trying to be a realistic game at all, and just making an interesting variant.”
16. Best Website
Interesting. The two Pathfinder contenders are the d20PFSRD.org and the Pathfinder Wiki. d20PFSRD has all the rules, but way more than the old d20SRD site – they get everything up there in moments after it’s posted (beta stuff too); they have value added info, “Labs” stuff for house rules, etc. I use it all the time and it’s awesome. The Pathfinder Wiki is its counterpart that has all the setting info. It’s awesome that a company doesn’t mind this – it has more setting info that anything I’ve ever seen online. I do wish it had a little more comprehensive editing, but it’s good too. I have to give #1 to d20PFSRD.org, though.
Obsidian Portal and Epic Words are different takes on campaign Web sites. Epic Words is newer and has a slightly better design but it looks like Obsidian Portal still has the functionality edge; I do wonder why they are better than any other blog or Google group or whatever for the purpose, however. I guess there is the “community” aspect to it, though from going and surfing the sites it seems like if you wanted others to read you’d still have to go post updates in Story Hour forums and whatnot, they don’t really do a great job of surfacing active campaigns to casual readers. I’ve looked at Obsidian Portal from time to time but always return to just posting my campaign stuff on WordPress.
Pen & Paper Games seems OK, but I’m not sure why it’s not “just another” RPG.net/ENWorld “here’s some forums” RPG site. I mean, it might be; pretty much one forum site is like another, it’s about getting a critical mass of people there and then not having the moderation be a big self serving cliquey mess of goons, so it wouldn’t be hard to beat out RPG.net or ENWorld if you can just get the critical mass…
17. Best Podcast
I don’t listen to podcasts, so I have no basis from which to judge. I’m trying to start, but my limited time (and short commute) means reading is a much more concise way for me to consume content.
18. Best Blog
They’re all good, but in the end Critical Hits is the one I read the most especially since it joined several big blogs into one. I like Kobold Quarterly too but it needs some navigation help. I read the others from time to time too. Gnome Stew is in my blogroll and I slandered them by saying they had gotten 4e-focused and lost my interest, but upon further review that’s not true. Maybe I was thinking of another one of them. Anyway, all the RPG bloggers are great, and helping further the community of gamers.
The big thing missing here is any OSR blog. I’ll be honest, though I don’t play the retro-clones I find a lot of the discussion in the grognard circles to be more interesting and useful than the big mainstream ones, which seem to often have very short articles with about one little takeaway in them – “Did you know you could make your game more interesting by spicing up… <random roll> X in your game? Well you can! OK, thanks for reading…” As an experienced player and GM, I appreciate longer articles with more complexity to them.
19. Best Game
Pathfinder baby! It’s brilliant, I love it, my whole extended gaming group loves it. Best thing to happen to D&D since the launch of 3e and the OGL. The others are nice, but this one is awesome.
20. Product of the Year
Hmm, is it Pathfinder again? There’s some strong stuff here… Warhammer was a daring but controversial new direction for the franchise. Dragon Age is a computer game tie-in with a lot of promise. Eclipse Phase, with the “free but you can buy it if you want” approach, is innovative in business model and the game setting itself. I have to say, it’s a close run between Eclipse Phase and Pathfinder for me but in the end… Pathfinder is more of a major industry changer (spawning its own third party ecosystem, etc.)
21. Fan Award for Best Publisher
Paizo‘s the obvious choice for #1, but a lot of these companies are very good – open, innovative, good at communicating with and supporting their customers. I think Pelgrane Press and their games are underrated. Posthuman, Green Ronin, Cubicle 7, and many more – all good guys. There’s a couple high profile dumbasses in the industry – Catalyst, Outlaw, Palladium – but there’s a lot of people out there working hard and advancing the gaming community.
All right, you have your marching orders… Go vote!