Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ENnie Awards Nominees Are Up

I'm not a fan of ENWorld.  A decade ago, I was there a lot - but then I stopped buying d20 material, and the website became irrelevant to my interests.

Well, not quite.  But I stopped paying attention to them, because they were so very focused on d20 (and later Pathfinder).  To a great extent, they still are.

But, despite being (to me) a mostly irrelevant site, they spawned the ENnie Awards, which are the most relevant awards in gaming.  Mostly.

The nominees have been announced - and there's some really good stuff in there.

So here is how I will vote (when the voting goes live next week):

Best Adventure
There are some really strong candidates here. And only one Pathfinder book in the category - and it's a reprint of an older book - But Night's Black Agents is phenomenal.  So my vote is for The Zalozhniy Quartet by Pelgrane Press.

Best Aid/Accessory
I don't know Protodimension Magazine.  But I may have to check it out.  The Unspeakable Oath is a long-running quality magazine which is worth reading if you're at all into Call of Cthulhu.  Green Ronin is doing a great job with their Song of Fire & Ice game.  But The One Ring is amazing.  Just top-to-bottom stunning. And all of their supplemental materials have just floored me with their quality and appearance.  Including the Loremaster's Screen & Lake-Town Sourcebook, which gets my vote.

Best Art, Interior
I've flipped through Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms, and it's pretty.  I have Night's Black Agents - the included art is spare and disturbing and fits the game perfectly.  Night's Watch is also a well-illustrated book. But Shadows of Esteren is amazing.  And that's where my vote is going this month.

Best Blog
The only one on the list that I read is Gnome Stew.  I will probably check the other candidates out before I vote, but - if I were voting right now, Gnome Stew would get my vote.

Best Cartography
Such an old-school category. Really.  Following the d20 boom and bust, there was a lot of, "but I don't want a Battle Map!" from the players I tend to interact with.

But there are - again - some good things in here.  I find it interesting that The Lands of Ice and Fire isn't a game book - it is, in fact, an atlas which is designed to accompany the novels. It just happens to work with the game, too.  I'm probably going to vote for Sprawl Sites: High Society and Low Life, because I have a weakness for Shadowrun.

Best Family Game
I've seen a few of these.  Most of them are pretty lightweight, and all of them are good for gaming with children.  With that said, however, I'm not sure if my vote here would be right.  Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space is really good.  It's also the "heaviest" game on the list.  The least kid-friendly.

Best Game
Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea is a game I've heard some really good things about. Broken Rooms is (I am told) astonishing.  Iron Kingdoms is a beautiful book with a system to match.  Champions Complete is the crunchiest game in the bunch - and fans of the Hero system seem to really love it.  But I'm a huge fan of Night's Black Agents.  And that's where my vote is going next week.

Best RPG-Related Product
Some ... interesting things here.  But The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding is phenomenal, and has my vote.  But Eighth Day Genesis could be very good - I need to check it out.

Best Rules
Dungeon World. It took the Apocalypse World engine and tweaked it in several key directions that (in my opinion) make it better.  I like it better than Gumshoe - and that's saying something.

Best Setting
Of all the categories in the awards, this one shows the most Pathfinder-centrism - but part of that is because people who build "generic" settings have been making them either Pathfinder or Savage Worlds for a while, now.  And there are some very strong contenders here - but Midgard by Kobold Press is, in my opinion, far and away the best on the list.

Best Writing
This is certainly a diverse category - a supplement to a licensed game, a system-neutral book on worldbuilding, a system-neutral book on GM prep, and two complete games.  I have (or have read) every item in this category, and I have to say that Night's Black Agents should take the Gold here.  Ken Hite's terse prose ups the tension of the setting, lending it an urgency that might otherwise be lacking.

Product of the Year
From the list given, I'm voting for Night's Black Agents - but it's a very close race between that at Shadows of Esteren.  That said, I have no idea who will win.  I'm not at all representative of ENWorld's readers.  None of the products on this list are bad.

Astute readers will note that I didn't list every category in this post - it's because I'm either unfamiliar with or just don't care about a number of the categories.

Reminder: Voting opens on Monday.  This is one of those contests where the winner is 100% up to the gamers - distributors and retailers don't filter the content for us before we see it.

And that, I think, is why I find the ENnies to be relevant.  The Origins Awards are initially narrowed by a "select panel," and then further narrowed by retailers and distributors before gamers can get their say.  The Diana Jones Award is a small, select, secretive panel from start to finish - and sometimes it feels like they pick products solely because they want to recognize someone who was involved with those products, even if there are stronger products on their short list.

Don't get me wrong - I don't feel as though the ENnies are a perfect award.  The fact that anyone can vote means that better-known products and publishers are more likely to get more votes.  The fact that print submissions need to send in six copies for the awards committee makes it too expensive for many of the very small indies - but I think they're better than anyone else currently out there.

... and that, I think, is all I have to say about that.

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