Tag Archives: awards

The 2015 ENnies, My Analysis

The winners of the 2015 ENnie awards were announced at Gen Con this weekend.  Let’s see who won and who I wanted to win! Here’s the full list of nominees for comparison.

Best Adventure

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.

Best Aid/Accessory

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…

Best Blog

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.

BeSt Cartography

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.

Best Game

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.

Best Monster/Adversary

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?

Best Podcast

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.

Best Rules

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).

Best Setting

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).

Best Software

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.

Best Supplement

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.

Best Website

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.

Best Writing

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)?

Vote Now in the 2015 ENnies!

It’s that time again, vote for your favorite products in this year’s ENnie RPG awards!

ENnie Winners Announced

Here’s the list of ENnie winners from ENWorld announced at Gen Con.  Let’s see how I did on my predictions


My Best Adventure pick, Razor Coast, got Silver. For Cover Art I had Mythic Adventures but then Razor Coast again, which got snubbed for Achtung Cthulhu. I had Numenera and Inner Sea Gods tied for Interior Art, they got Gold and Silver. I nailed the Best E-Book, Emerald City followed by Broken Earth. I got the order reversed on Best Free Product, We Be Goblins and CoC 7th. Best minis, Wrath of the Righteous (twice?), same on Best Monster/Adversary, Bestiary 4 and Ninth World Bestiary. 

I picked Numenera for Best Production Values and Numenera as second for Setting (along with Razor Coast, which should have gotten more than one ENnie). Best Supplement – Ultimate Campaign, and I tagged Realm Works and roll20 for Best Software and FATE/Numenera for Product Of The Year. Of course Paizo gets fan favorite, that goes without saying.

So except for the categories where I deliberately didn’t pick, I was pretty darn accurate! I do think RC should have gotten a little more and Numenera a little less – I mean, there was a big buzz around it and yay, Monte Cook, but it’s one of those where I know a batch of people who own it, but no one who’s played it… But in any event, congrats to all the winners! 

2014 ENnie Nominees Are Here

The “Gamer Oscars,” the ENnie awards, are given out each year at Gen Con. And the nominees for this year are… Well, go read the link for all of them, I’m just going to chime in with the parts I have an opinion on. My picks are…

Best Adventure

  • Razor Coast: Heart of the Razor – Frog God Games. Because I helped proof it, because it’s good, because I’m running it in my pirate campaign, because it had an epic journey to finally come to life.  Though I really like that there’s a Dreamlands campaign (The Sense of the Sleight-of-Hand Man) in the running.

Best Aid/Accessory

  • I’m not big into trinkets. I’m also not sure how to reasonably judge some dice against cards against an advice book. Pass.

Best Art, Interior

Best Art, Cover

  • Razor Coast – Frog God Games immediately over Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Mythic Adventures – Paizo Publishing. For my money Wayne Reynolds is the Larry Elmore of the 2010’s. He’s basically competing against himself here and the Mythic cover is a little too busy; the Razor Coast cover is classic.

Best Blog

  • Haven’t read any of them except for Gnome Stew which I don’t get a lot out of.  After a quick read I like the feel of The Other Side the best.

Best Cartography

  • Hmm, no opinion.  The fact that there is a Map of the Flanaess is bad ass but it’s not the quality of some of these others. And I love Razor Coast but its maps are not its high point (they tend to be pretty but have some problems in play).

Best Electronic Book

Best Family Game

  • I have no context on any of these.

Best Free Product

Best Game

  • I don’t know.  I mean, it was originally the battle of titans – 13th Age vs Fate Core System vs Numenera. Huge sales, huge buzz. But I have to say, after getting 13th Age and Numenera – I read them, and that was it.  If someone was running a Numenera game I might play.  Not sure about 13th Age. And I have very much not enjoyed the FATE games I’ve played in.  So none?  Sad I know, and it’s not because they are small or bad games. Just none of them interest me. I’ll give Numenera the edge just because I’d play it if asked and might not play the other two if asked.

Best Miniatures Product

  • Pathfinder Battles: Wrath of the Righteous – WizKids Games/NECA. The Pathfinder minis are just beautiful.  I really don’t need any more but I can’t resist buying a brick every time they have a new set because they push the bar forward on sculpts, paints, and weird materials each time.

Best Monster/Adversary

Best Podcast

  • Hmm, I listen to a lot of podcasts but haven’t heard of these.  No RPPR or Fear the Boot?  Come on now! I’ll try out All Games Considered and Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Best Production Values

  • Numenera Corebook – Monte Cook Games, LLC. Can’t say anything against the production here, it’s first-rate.

Best RPG Related Product

  • As opposed to “Aids and Accessories?” Trinket category 2, pass.

Best Rules

  • I’m not in love with any of these. 13th Age and Fate Core System leave me mostly cold. Hillfolk is supposed to be all groundbreaking but I found Hamlet’s Hit Points to be pedantic and plodding as hell so I haven’t ventured it.  Shaintar: Legends Arise – “more stuff for Savage Worlds” is fine but I have a hard time pegging a “Best Rules” on it.  Makes me wish I’ve read tremulus because maybe I could vote for it here.

Best Setting

  • Razor Coast – Frog God Games, because I love pirates, followed by Numenera Corebook – Monte Cook Games, LLC, because it’s artsy and unusual if a little less accessible.

Best Supplement

Best Software

  • Realm Works – Lone Wolf Development and Roll20 – The Orr Group LLC. Gaming software’s come a long way since back in the day! I’m more likely to use Realm Works than Roll20 just because I’m a in-real-life guy.

Best Writing

  • Hmm, Numenera is the only one of these I’ve read so I can’t really judge.

Best Website

  • Why the hell is The Escapist nominated every year? It’s infrequently updated, a mass of 404s and “this is shut down now” – I go look at it every year when it’s nominated and try to figure out what I’m missing. Blog? No post in 3 months.  Forum? Shut down. Podcast? Dead 5 years. Escapist Interviews? 404.  What am I missing, because a casual survey indicates this is an old ass abandoned site?
  • Tabletop Audio is pretty and a cool idea. RPG Geek is a good reference site.  See Page XX is engaging, I read it once every 6 months or so, but it’s pretty tightly scoped so one every 6 months is enough.

Product of the Year

  • I assume Fate Core System is going to win just because squee, FATE. Or maybe Numenera on the basis of being the only game that’s not retreading well-trod ground.  Another Cthulhu game? We have enough, seriously. Razor Coast is the one out of all of them I plan to play…

All in all, not a year I’m super excited about. I got a couple fun things, which are mostly not on this list… I do like looking at the lists to see what I may have overlooked that could be good. I need to read tremulus sometime and see if it overcomes the “storygame effect” (entertaining to play – once). How about you, were any of these super winners in your mind?

ENnies Results – Paizo Wins Again!

Courtesy the sharp eyed folks on the Paizo forums…  The ENnies awards results!  Let’s count the Pathfinder wins…

  • Fans’ Favorite Publisher
    Gold: Paizo Publishing
    Silver: Wizards of the Coast
  • Product of the Year
    Gold: Advanced Players Guide, Paizo Publishing
    Silver: The Dresden Files RPG, Evil Hat
  • Best Game
    Gold: The Dresden Files RPG, Evil Hat
    Silver: Mutants & Masterminds Hero’s Handbook, Green Ronin Publishing
  • Best New Game
    Gold: The Dresden Files RPG, Evil Hat Productions
    Silver: The Laundry, Cubicle 7
  • Best Supplement
    Gold: Pathfinder: Advanced Player’s Guide, Paizo Publishing
    Silver: Space 1889: Red Sands, Pinnacle Entertainment Group
  • Best Adventure
    Gold: Pathfinder Adventure Path #43: The Haunting of Harrowstone, Paizo Publishing
    Silver: Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity, Arc Dream Publishing/Pagan Publishing
  • Best Setting
    Gold: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide, Paizo Publishing
    Silver: Dark Sun Campaign Setting, Wizards of the Coast
  • Best Monster/Adversary
    Gold: Pathfinder: Bestiary 2, Paizo Publishing
    Silver: Monster Vault, Wizards of the Coast
  • Best Miniatures Product
    Gold: Mousling Heroes, Reaper Miniatures
    Silver: BattleTech 25th Anniversary Introductory Boxed Set, Catalyst Game Labs
  • Best RPG Related Product
    Gold: Castle Ravenloft Boardgame, Wizards of the Coast
    Silver: BattleTech 25th Anniversary Introductory Boxed Set, Catalyst Game Labs
  • Best Aid/Accessory
    Gold: Hero Lab, Lone Wolf Development
    Silver: D&D Essentials: Dungeon Tiles Master Set – The Dungeon, Wizards of the Coast
  • Best Electronic Book
    Gold: Continuity, Posthuman Studios
    Silver: Shanghai Vampocalypse, Savage Mojo
  • Best Free Product
    Gold: Old School Hack – Basic Game, Kirin Robinson
    Silver: A Time of War: The BattleTech RPG Quick-Start Rules, Catalyst Game Labs
  • Best Rules
    Gold: The Dresden Files RPG, Evil Hat Productions
    Silver: D&D Rules Compendium, Wizards of the Coast
  • Best Writing
    Gold: The Dresden Files RPG, Evil Hat Productions
    Silver: Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity, Arc Dream Publishing/Pagan Publishing
  • Best Production Values
    Gold: Pathfinder: Bestiary 2, Paizo Publishing
    Silver: The Dresden Files RPG, Evil Hat Productions
  • Best Cartography
    Gold: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Poster Map Folio, Paizo, Cartography Rob Lazzaretti
    Silver: Bookhounds of London, Pelgrane Press, Cartography by Beth Lewis
  • Best Interior Art
    Gold: Pathfinder: The Inner Sea World Guide, Paizo Publishing, Art Direction by Sarah E. Robinson
    Silver: Dark Sun Campaign Setting, Wizards of the Coast
  • Best Cover Art
    Gold: A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide, Green Ronin Publishing, Cover by Michael Komarck
    Silver: Shadowrun: Attitude, Catalyst Game Labs, Cover by Echo Chernick
  • Best Blog
    Gold: Best Blog goes to Critical Hits
    Silver: Best Blog goes to Gnome Stew
  • Best Podcast
    Gold: Yog Radio: The Cephalopodcast from Yog-Sothoth.com
    Silver: Chronicles: The Pathfinder Podcast, d20 radio
  • Best Website
    Gold: Obsidian Portal
    Silver: d20pfsrd.com
  • Judges Spotlight Award from Mark Green: Wayfinder #4: The Mwangi
  • Judges Spotlight Award from CW Richeson: Smallville, Margaret Weis
  • Judges Spotlight Award from Wil Upchurch: Outbreak, Hunters Books
  • Judges Spotlight Award from James Surano: Fortune’s Fool, Pantheon Press
  • Judges Spotlight Award from Tracey Michienzi: Eat & Run, Brainpan Games

The way I count it, that’s 9 gold for Paizo directly and then 1 gold, 2 silver, one Judges Spotlight for other Pathfinder related products (Hero Lab is mainly for Pathfinder, really, then d20pfsrd, Wayfinder, and Pathfinder Podcast). Also good to see Green Ronin representing, and Dresden Files getting love (6!). Congrats to all the winners!

2011 ENNie Award Nominees Announced

The 2011 ENNie Award nominee list is up! Winners will be announced at Gen Con.

There’s some really good competition this year.  Sometimes it’s an obvious blowout in the offing. But you have interesting compares, like ICONS, Dresden Files, M&M 3e, and  The Laundry for Best Game.  Wizards and Paizo are represented but not overwhelmingly so – there’s a lot of indie stuff and solid showing by the midrange guys like Pelgrane, Evil Hat, Pinnacle, etc. Even better, I don’t read the list and think “WTF are all these I’ve never heard of them” like in some past years. All worthy nominees, and it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.  Good luck all!


Submissions Open For the ENnies

The yearly RPG awards are coming around again. Check out the list of nominees. If a good product you know isn’t in there, send this link to the publisher and get them to submit themselves – there’s only a bit to go, May 8 is the deadline. Last year Paizo humiliated all the competition but this year all they have submitted is paizo.com and the Ultimate Combat playtest for some reason so it’s an open field!

Pathfinder Sweeps the ENnies!

Well, it’s gratifying to see most of you voted like you were told.    Paizo is liveblogging the awards and they are winning and winning and winning.

  • d20pfsrd – silver for Best Website.
  • Kobold Quarterly – gold for Best Blog.  (They’re half Pathfinder!)
  • Pathfinder Bestiary – gold for Best Cover Art.
  • Pathfinder Core Rulebook – gold for Best Interior Art.
  • Pathfinder Chronicles City Map Folio – gold for Best Cartography.
  • Pathfinder Core Rulebook – gold for Best Production Values.
  • Pathfinder APG Playtest – gold for Best Free Product.
  • Great City Players Guide – gold for Best Electronic Book, it’s for Pathfinder by 0one Games.
  • PFS #29, The Devil We Know – silver for Best Electronic Book.
  • Pathfinder GM Screen – gold for Best Aid or Accessory.
  • Pathfinder 31 – gold for Best Adventure.
  • Pathfinder Bestiary – gold for Best Monster/Adversary.
  • Classic Monsters Revisited – silver for Best Monster/Adversary!
  • Pathfinder RPG – gold for Best Game!
  • Pathfinder RPG – gold for Product of the Year!
  • Paizo – gold for Best Publisher!

For those keeping track, they won gold or silver (or both) every category they were nominated in.

And it’s well deserved.  I do kinda hate to see anyone win it all, but if there’s a single game company that deserves it, both in a cosmic sense and because of the unflagging high quality and volume of product, and customer support – it’s Paizo and Pathfinder.  It really is great, among the very top handful of RPGs ever.  D&D 3.0 itself was the only previous game that hit my gaming groups with anything near this amount of excitement.  It’s a game meant to be played, supported by the best adventures since 1e AD&D.

And it’s great that other companies publishing for Pathfinder won too; yay third party ecosystem!

If you haven’t tried Pathfinder yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.  It really is great.

Here’s the full list of winners, now that it’s available!  Congrats to all of them.

And Don’t Forget The Indie RPG Awards

Sure, the ENnies are all well and good, but what if you’re not stuck in the D&D Ghetto and want to take a walk on the wild side?  Well, there’s a thousand games out there and many of them are small, daring enterprises known as “indie” RPGs.

The Indie RPG Awards are taking a look at the best games of 2009.  Some of them you saw in the ENnies list, like diaspora, Escape from Tentacle City, Atomic Highway, and Lady Blackbird. Others you may not have heard of.  Many of them are interesting departures from the traditional RPG format, and some sport features like no GM, no prep, collaborative storytelling, weird resolution mechanics…  Settings from the prosaic to the esoteric.  here’s some little sniblets to tempt your interest.

“Montsegur 1244 – A story game about burning for your belief.”

“In Ribbon Drive, we collectively create a story about a road trip.”

“Misery Bubblegum… helps you tell the stories of strong, sympathetic young teens dealing with the incredible difficulties of relationships and identity.

“DAWG is the role-playing game that lets you unleash the full canine experience. Here you can learn what it truly is to be the pinnacle of evolution that is dog.”

Yes, everything from zombie survival horror in Shotgun Diaries to the refugee experience in Last Train Out Of Warsaw to being a bad, bad schoolgirl in Hellcats and Hockeysticks.  Some of them are even free, like Ocean, 44, and Lady Blackbird, so check them out.

Playing some very different games, even if you return in the end to good old D&D, really helps your game.  You get to see all the different ways you can do things, and realize that some things you always thought “must be” that way aren’t.

The Correct Choices for ENnies 2010 Voting

Like my fellow bloggers, I encourage everyone to vote for the 2010 ENnie awardsMad 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 😛  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!

Indie RPG Awards Are In!

The yearly Indie RPG Awards have been announced.  I like these awards; you get to learn about  a lot of fringe stuff you may not have heard of, and a lot of it’s free.  I like the way they run the awards, too, they have a judge point system and they list the points each nominee gets so you can see who came in first, second, third, etc. and by how wide a margin.  Here’s the rundown:

Indie Game of the Year

  • Mouse Guard, by Luke Crane and David Petersen.  No huge surprise, this won three ENnies and at Origins!  Burning Wheel mechanics plus licensed comic plus lil’ mice equals goodness.
  • 3:16 Carnage Among The Stars, by Gregor Hutton, also an ENnie nominee, came in second.

Indie Supplement of the Year

  • Don’t Lose Your Mind, by Benjamin Baugh, for Don’t Rest Your Head comes in first.  They got the silver ENnie for writing as well.
  • Magic Burner, by Luke Crane, for Burning Wheel is a very narrow second.

Best Free Game

Best Support

  • Uncoincidentally, two of the award winners in other categories win here.  Mouse Guard comes in first and Don’t Lose Your Mind comes in second.

Best Production

  • The 900 pound gorilla, Mouse Guard, comes in first.
  • 3:16 Carnage Among the Stars comes in second.

Most Innovative Game

  • Being “Most Innovative” in the indie crowd means your game is probably weird enough to give D&D players hives.  That makes me happy.  The winner is Sweet Agatha, by Kevin Allen Jr.  No dice or anything, it’s a story creation game where the players cut up the game book/investigative journal.
  • In second is In a Wicked Age: sword & sorcery roleplaying by Vincent Baker.  Kind of a negotiating player conflict game like Amber.

Congrats to all!

2009 ENnies Winners – Questionable At Best

The winners for the 2009 ENnies, the yearly RPG awards, have been announced at Gen Con.  Let’s review and see how that stacks up to my picks.

Best Cover Art:

  • Gold: CthulhuTech, Catalyst Game Labs
  • Silver: Pathfinder #19: Howl of the Carrion King, Paizo Publishing

I had picked 3:16 for the win, though the CT art is nice enough.  There were a lot of good covers this year.

Best Interior Art

  • Gold: Dark Heresy, Fantasy Flight Games
  • Silver: Mouse Guard, Kinoichi / Archaia Studio Press

I had actually picked CthulhuTech for this category instead.  I feel like the winners for interior art, cover art, and production values are just assigned at random from the “pretty games,” not sure people really distinguish correctly.  In this case I like Dark Heresy’s production values, but the interior art is sparse enough I don’t think it deserves a win for this subcategory specifically.  What art there is splits between good and “black blob style.”  The good ones are really really good but… Gold is a stretch.

Best Cartography

  • Gold: Pathfinder Chronicles Second Darkness Map Folio, Paizo Publishing
  • Silver: Star Wars: Scum and Villainy, Wizards of the Coast

Exactly my picks in that order.

Best Writing

  • Gold: Kobold Quarterly, Open Design
  • Silver: Don’t Lose Your Mind, Evil Hat Productions

I had picked Don’t Lose Your Mind for the gold.  Nothing against KQ, it’s serviceable writing equivalent to Dragon Magazine of times of yore, but this is an instance where the “D&D popularity” factor overwhelms actually artistically superior work.

Best Production Values

  • Gold: Dark Heresy, Fantasy Flight Games
  • Silver: Mouse Guard, Kinoichi / Archaia Studios Press

Though all pretty, I thought the game Anima was actually higher in this all around area.  But it was a very tight field this year with many very deserving contestants.  Yay to everyone.

Best Rules

  • Gold: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Players Handbook, Wizards of the Coast
  • Silver: A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, Green Ronin Publishing

I had picked Dark Heresy for best rules.  Though it’s pretty, I don’t think its art should have won over other contenders, but its rules really are better than 4e’s.  “Of course I hate 4e so I’d say that.”  I like Green Ronin but don’t find the SIFRPG rules really that awe-inspiring; they seem more servicable as the line is more about the setting.

Best Adventure

  • Gold: Pathfinder #19: Howl of the Carrion King, Paizo Publishing
  • Silver: P1 King of the Trollhaunts Warrens, Wizards of the Coast

Of course Pathfinder for the gold, they make the best adventures hands down.  Not familiar with “Trollhaunts Warrens” but I never hear anyone talking about it online (while they do talk about Shadowfell Keep, etc.) so I’m suspicious on that count.

Best Monster Supplement

  • Gold: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Monster Manual, Wizards of the Coast
  • Silver: Dark Heresy Creatures Anathema, Fantasy Flight Games

Oh, major boner here in leaving out Freedom’s Most Wanted for Mutants & Masterminds.  And the MM has been one of the least well received 4e books, definitely no brilliant new monsters that will be part of everyday RPG conversation.  Well, the ENnies got their start coattailing on the 3e release so I reckon you can’t criticize them for sticking close to their roots.

Best Setting

  • Gold: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting, Paizo Publishing
  • Silver: Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, Atomic Sock Monkey / Evil Hat Productions

Golarion, the setting of the Pathfinder Chronicles, is the new Greyhawk.  It’s the clear winner, which is a little bit of a shame since the rest of the field is very innovative too – Hot War and Candlewick Manor I wouldn’t have minded seeing in a three way tie for second…  Setting and production values had a lot of very qualified nominees this year.

Best Supplement

  • Gold: CthulhuTech Vade Mecum, Catalyst Game Labs
  • Silver: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Wizards of the Coast

I had picked Clone Wars, definitely.  Good for Cthulhutech for grabbing the gold.  I just can’t get into the game, and this is from someone who has a huge shelf of Call of Cthulhu stuff. And I’m an Evangelion fan to boot.  You think those two would combine to make me love it but it just doesn’t grab me.  But I don’t begrudge it a win.

Best Aid or Accessory

  • Gold: D&D Insider, Wizards of the Coast
  • Silver: Kobold Quarterly, Open Design

Spare me.  The most delayed, incomplete, incompetent item on the list gets the gold?  Let’s give Boston’s Big Dig awards for engineering too!   (Well, people have in that case as well…)  I am willing to say maybe the 4e rules could win best rules but Insider is one of the worst things WotC has failed to deliver on.  They still haven’t delivered the stuff they said would be part of it at 4e launch!  You only have to visit any online forum to see people unhappy with their current functionality as well.

I had picked KQ for the win, as a post-rant aside.

Best Miniatures Product

  • Gold: Game Mastery Flip-mat: Waterfront Tavern, Paizo Publishing
  • Silver: DU1 Halls of the Giant Kings Dungeon Tiles, Wizards of the Coast

I gave silver to the Tavern but the E-Z Terrain cliffs are so much neater than both these 2d tiles!

Best Regalia

  • Gold: Battletech: The Corps, Catalyst Game Labs
  • Silver: Art of Exalted, White Wolf Publishing

I refused to pick a winner here because “Regalia” is a totally stupid category that’s a mishmash of totally unrelated products.  (I’m surprised the Gygax posthumous novel didn’t win out of sheer Gygaxity though.)

Best Electronic Book

  • Gold: Collection of Horrors: Razor Kids, White Wolf Publishing
  • Silver: Tales of Zobek: An Anthology of Urban Adventures, Open Design

I liked the other Open Design entry better since it’s by Nick Logue, but different strokes.

Best Free Product

  • Gold: Song of Ice and Fire Quickstart, Green Ronin Publishing
  • Silver: Swords and Wizardry, Mythmere Games

Sad.  There was actually a movement generated by this category; many of the entries were quickstart rules, which should not be in this category.  A company can spend their loads of money developing a game and them at no cost to them clip part of it out and release a “quickstart”.  This category should be only for “real” free games that are full games released for free, not advertising teasers.  The ENnie judges apparently don’t see the wisdom in that even though a lot of the community does.

I like Green Ronin but they don’t deserve a win in this category for this reason.  I had picked S&W for the win.

Best Website

  • Gold: Obsidian Portal
  • Silver: Kobold Quarterly

I like Mad Brew Labs more but these are great sites too.

Best Podcast

  • Gold:  All Games Considered
  • Silver:  Order 66

I don’t listen to podcasts, so have no opinion.

Best Game

  • Gold: Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, Wizards of the Coast
  • Silver: Dark Heresy, Fantasy Flight Games

Dark Heresy was my pick here!  (I am disregarding 4e because it’s a plant, see below.)

Product of the Year

  • Gold: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Players Handbook, Wizards of the Coast
  • Silver: Mouse Guard, Kinoichi / Archaia Studios Press

Mouse Guard was my pick here!  (I am disregarding 4e because it’s a plant, see below.)  But this one is even more egregious.  Mouse Guard is a) a complete game, b) uses innovative rules, c) merges with a rich licensed setting…  The D&D PHB, even if you like 4e, is just player rules and is nowhere near a complete game.

Best Publisher

  • Gold:  Wizards of The Coast
  • Silver:  Paizo Publishing

And this boils down the suck-up nature of the ENnies to a clear point.  The company that bungled the 4e launch, failed to deliver on D&D Insider, pulled all their PDF products off  the market permanently, alienated the industry with the GSL and the fans with website shutdowns and failure (till after voting) to deliver a fansite policy – they’re “best publisher?”  It’s OK to like 4e, but to pretend that WotC has done anything but fuck one thing after another up this year – this ENnie is like Pres. Bush giving the Medal of Freedom to George Tenet, or passing up Metallica for Foghat [edit: Jethro Tull] for a Grammy, it simply degrades the award’s worth in the future.

Conclusion – 2 Strikes For The ENnies

ENnies – you are on warning.  Two strikes this year – allowing quickstarts to win in the Free Games category and in blindly allowing WotC/4e to win categories that they are clearly not contenders in (electronic product, best publisher especially).   How is someone else supposed to feel good about their award when it’s clear so many of the decisions reward the *antithesis* of the award category?

Again, sure, maybe the 4e PHB wins best rules.  But the across the board 4e/WotC wins in clearly laughable categories?  What’s up with that?