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Sunday, August 05, 2012

The 2012 ENnies

In the nick of time…
Not just D&D anymore
Voting closed a few days ago in the 2012 ENnie RPG Awards. I don’t play D&D in any of its variants and Gen Con Indy is a bit off my patch, so the build up to this year’s voting had completely passed me by (yeah, yeah, I know that this information would’ve been spread far and wide across the adventure-gaming internets, but all that somehow passed me by too!). Still, I did pick up on the announcement of the opening of voting on July 20th. Why not, I thought? At the very least I’d get some material for an article here at RD/KA!. It turned out that I got that and a whole lot more to boot. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Awards, what are they good for?”
It’s fairly easy to assemble a self-appointed panel of judges to pronounce on the year’s output of a sector of the adventure-gaming industry via a set of awards; easier still, in this internet day-and-age, to establish fan-based awards; and easier even than that to scorn any and all such exercises as piss-pot ego-stroking on the part of hole-in-the-wall special interest groups. So, what are the ENnies actually worth?

Two more bearded sages from history
First off, it must be said that the ENnies are obviously worth a lot to the winners. This surely means little or nothing in terms of revenues, but that’s not the point in any case. After all, it was none other than Abraham Lincoln who said:
“Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”
First Political Announcement
New Salem, Illinois
March 9, 1832 (via)
And Lincoln wasn’t even being all that original; eg. more than 2000 years earlier, the Greek philosopher Epicurus was teaching that “the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.”

So, those who would rain on others’ parades by heaping scorn on the ENnies- and similar awards in our adventure-gaming hobby; such people are saying more about themselves than the awards when they do so; and none of what they’re saying reflects well upon themselves.

Good awards and bad?
If some are good
and some are bad, 
which are the ugly?
All that said, I cannot but admit that some awards are worth more than others. I would go further and suggest that some might even be sufficiently worthless so as to fall under the naysayers’ category of “piss-pot ego-stroking”. This whole question- of awards’ credibility, seems to me to speak to 2 things:
  • Longevity.
  • Organisation.
2012 marks 12 years of the ENnies, so they score highly on the former category. And the credibility established by that good start is only enhanced by the way the awards themselves are organised:
Those are just the ‘highlights’ too. Reading through the ‘fine print’ it is plain to me that the ENnies’ organisers have gone that extra distance to make the most of the possibilities offered by the internet to make the entire operation as transparent and democratic as possible. I applaud them.

My 2012 ENnies Roll of Honour

Best Aid/Accessory
Square go then ya bass!
  1. Mutants and Masterminds GM's Kit (Green Ronin Publishing).
Green Ronin first hit my gaming table back in May 2005 with their frankly magnificent Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition. This was soon followed by  Mutants and Masterminds 2e, which is my sadly unplayed go-to superhero RPG (yeah, that’s a bit of a contradiction in terms, I know!). The niggling grief of the arrival of M&M3 (I’ve got a lot of M&M2 on my shelves) in 2010 was somewhat assuaged by that new edition being launched as DC Adventures: it’s just too cool to have characters like the Batman statted-up in my favourite SHRPG.

So, there I was, in this day of PDFs and internet sales, thinking about voting for GR and their stuff and- yes you’ve guessed it dear readers: I lashed out, just a bit. And so I can say with total confidence that the M&M3 GM’s Kit is a superb product. The emphasis is very much on the “kit”, with page after page of tables enabling players to generate quick and easy PCs/NPCs with a few simple dice rolls; a real boon for any RPG with a points-build character system.

On top of all that, GR deserve credit for fully recognising the nature of the technology PDFs represent: there is no DRM on their PDFs, meaning that GMs can use easily available freeware apps to extract just those pages they need for the purpose at hand. This is simply excellent.

Well done Green Ronin!

Honourable mentions
Best Art, Cover
“Come into my
parlour,” said the
spider to the fly
  1. Mutants and Masterminds Gamemaster's Guide (Green Ronin Publishing).
What could be more appropriate for the cover of a SHRPG GM’s Guide than the sight of a cabal of mighty supervillains archly ‘welcoming’ our interloping heroes into the very fastness of their lair? This neat concept (and perhaps a desire to assuage a degree of buyer’s remorse?) gave GR my vote here too.

Honourable mentions
Best Blog
  1. Gnome Stew (Gnome Stew).
The other 2 sites I voted for look very nice- and Gaming as Women looks particularly interesting, but Gnome Stew looks like it’ll prove most useful in helping me in my efforts to get some roleplaying rolling again sooner rather than later. I expect I’ll spend a lot of time there in the near future.

Honourable mentions
Best Cartography
  1. Mass Transit III (Maps of Mastery).
The Shadowlands Conversion Guide was the first entrant in this category to attract my attention: the map is nice, and you get free stuff- always a good way of winning voters’ favour, don’t you think? Then I saw Christopher West’s ‘The Nova Eclipse and Offworld Docking Port’ and my jaw dropped at the combination of utility and sheer beauty his work shows.
Poster-sized: the perfect set for an SF scenario
 The lure of free stuff was strong but it was only a matter of time before I did what I’d immediately known I’d have to do: give Maps of Mastery my #1 vote. If I was running an SFRPG I’d be giving Chris my cash too.

Honourable mentions
Best Free Product
Another big GR licence
  1. Dragon Age Quickstart Guide (Green Ronin Publishing).
I know that Free RPG Day is hardly new, but I am still amazed to see Pathfinder just giving away a product as beautifully produced as We Be Goblins!. My lack of interest in D&D and games of its ilk counted against Paizo though. On the other hand, I was intrigued by what I'd heard about Dragon Age when it was first published, the stunting mechanics in particular. So the chance to give this game a run with a Quickstart is very appealing. Another easy top slot for GR from this voter then.

Honourable mentions
Best Website
Once a geek
always a geek
  1. RPG Geek (BoardGameGeek).
I’m a daily user and long-time supporter of BoardGameGeek- I just can’t resist all the shiny little doodads which mean that my grinning greenie never looks as well dressed as he does when he pops up on BGG. Add the fact that this site is a simply unparallelled resource for adventure gamers and you have another no-brainer for yours truly.

Honourable mentions
Fans' Favourite Publisher
  1. Green Ronin Publishing
Surprise freakin’ surprise, eh?

Honourable mentions
Product of the Year
In the best tradtions of NPC collections of old
 Actually a wing of the Gnome Stew blog, Engine Publishing wisely put up a free preview PDF of Masks, which helped garner it an Honourable Mention in the Best Aid/Accessory category (it just couldn’t compete with GR’s M&M3 GM’s Kit, naturally enough). There was nothing else in this category which particularly interested me, and I wanted to vote for something really special for Product of the Year. Looking more closely at the Masks preview, I was impressed enough to jump in with both feet and buy their bumper PDF bundle. So there you go, another easy vote.

Afterthoughts
This year is the first time I’ve voted in the ENnies and I have to say that I enjoyed the experience. I picked up some nice new stuff which is helping to revive my desire to return to torturing and otherwise tormenting my friends from behind the safety of the GM’s screen. More importantly than that, perhaps, I got a renewed sense of exactly how healthy is the RPG industry.

I know it’s been de rigeur in some circles to pronounce the death of roleplaying. “You what?!” I say to that. Seriously, this just doesn’t make sense to me. I mean to say: go and take a look at the full list of this year’s ENnies’ submissions. I won’t even begin to count the number of companies- let alone products, but each numbers in the dozens. It matters not a jot how many of the companies on that list are ‘merely’ lone gamers working on their home computers to produce roleplaying materials as a hobby paying chump change. No, scratch that last remark: it matters a great deal how many of this year’s ENnies’ submissions and nominees are cottage-industry indies. Why?

First: every single collective human endeavour is always the better for having thriving grass roots, which is what this year’s ENnies’ submissions list shows in spades, surely? Moreover: all this electronic production and distribution is The Future; and it’s NOW! I noted way back in August 2005 the apparent paradox that this new technology was the key to the maturation of pencil and paper RPGs. I venture to suggest that this is what we’re seeing now, and that therefore things can only get better for the roleplaying industry and its customers, ie. us.

Last words
I voted in 8 categories this year. Green Ronin got my #1 vote in 4 of those. Good luck in the ballot, and keep up the good work all of you. ;)
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