Wednesday, July 12, 2017


I'm not a big fan of ENWorld. Never have been, really. I'm not a fan of the board culture. It's not a toxic cesspit like other forums I've visited - it's just not for me.

That said, however I do pay attention to the ENnies, because usually, they reward decent things. And, flawed though it is, it is the most relevant award in the RPG end of the hobby gaming pool. Although the Origins awards keep trying to course-correct, and I think they'll eventually get there again.

The ENnie nominees were announced early last week, and I wanted to take a quick post to highlight a few things in there, because there are some really good things in there. And some interesting gaps.

Let's talk about the gaps first. You can see a complete list of everything nominated right here.  The process for the ENnies is this:  Creators (publishers, bloggers, whatever) submit to a jury, who narrows it down to a Top Five in each category (other than Product of the Year). Then the general public votes on a winner.

Things that are underrepresented on their list:
  • Wizards of the Coast, with one short list nominee (out of four products submitted).
  • Paizo with ... one short list nominee (out of ten products submitted).
These are shocking to me, especially given ENWorld's history as a d20 forum.

Things that are overrepresented on the list:
  •  Lamentations of the Flame Princess has four different products on the list (spread across seven categories).
Sorry, guys, I just don't understand the love.  I have the game, I have a few supplements. It's not a bad game, but I don't find it great, either. It's like ENWorld: Just not for me.

Also, this being ENWorld, LotFP is likely to win in most (if not all) of the categories where it's nominated. Not because it's the best product in each category, but because the publisher (and writers) are really good at motivating their fans to vote.

So let's go through a few categories. I'm going to ignore categories where I haven't seen or read enough to make an informed guess or have an opinion. 

Because you all care what I think, right?

Best Aid/Accessory
We have the 13th Age Icon Tokens. They're really neat and very well-done.  The Kobold Guide series of books has, without exception, been fantastic. Midnight Syndicate appears to have created a great album for a terrible board game. The Call of Cthulhu GM Screen is a beautiful thing. And I haven't seen the pirate coins.

This category is a weird one, because it's props and atmosphere enhancers mixed with tools. The Keeper's Screen is the most useful item at the table. The Kobold Guide is the most useful item away from the table. The others are - like I said - atmosphere items (although the Icon Tokens do have an at-the-table use).  I'm going to vote for the Kobold Guide, personally, but I expect the Call of Cthulhu GM screen to win.

Best Art, Cover
These are all great examples of cover art, but Blue Rose definitely has my vote.

Best Art, Interior
I actually bought into Polaris because of the art from earlier (French-language) editions. And I was disappointed by the system, so there's that.  

The Baby Bestiary series has been absolutely amazing, and Andreas is a really cool guy. I've flipped through the others on the list, and they're good, too. There is no bad choice in this category, but there's also no standout choice.

When all other things are more-or-less equal, I always vote in favor of things that support people I like, so the Baby Bestiary has my vote here.  And I think it has a good chance of winning overall.

Best Game
Tales from the Loop looks really awesome. 7th Sea is very good (and is playable). Timewatch is both the GUMSHOE system (which I love) and is a nostagia kick, as it reminds me a lot of the Time Wars series by Simon Hawke that I read when I was a kid). Bubblegumshoe is GUMSHOE Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys/Scooby Doo. It's a simplified take that you can play with kids.

I suspect that Bubblegumshoe will win Best Family Game, and isn't likely to win this one as well. I'm voting for 7th Sea, and I suspect that it'll be the eventual winner. 

Best Rules
This is a crazy-diverse category. I'm likely to vote for Bubblegumshoe, here. But Veins of the Earth is probably going to win. 

Best Setting
Tales from the Loop looks fascinating, and I've read a lot of stuff about the setting (but I haven't ordered it, yet).  Numenera was ... okay. It didn't push any buttons for me that the classic Dark Sun setting hadn't pushed for me two decades ago (Its sister game, The Strange, struck me as being much like Planescape).  Atlas of Earth-Prime is a superhero setting, and those are always a tough sell for me. The Dark Eye is the German game that fills the same local niche as D&D does here. It always struck me as a bog-standard fantasy setting with the darkness turned up a few degrees.  Polaris is a post-apocalyptic undersea game. It was innovative when the setting was newer - twenty years ago. These days, it's almost a by-the-numbers setting. It's only hitting awareness now because it's only just been translated into English following a Kickstarter.

I may not vote in this category, but I'm guessing Tales from the Loop is going to win this one.

Best Writing
I'm a sucker for Unknown Armies. I love The Book of Changing Years. The One Ring has consistently been excellent. But neither has a patch on UA for me. The third edition steered further away from "Modern Urban Fantasy with Horror Trappings" and into "Modern Urban Horror with Fantasy Trappings." Honestly, it's a very subtle steering, but it's done so very well.

But there's LotFP product in this category, so the probable winner is clear.

... and that's my thoughts on the short list.

As to my thoughts on the award as a whole?  

I think it's backwards. I think that the general public should narrow down the short list and an anonymous jury (as impartial a jury as possible) should pick the winners. The ideal jury will include publishers, distributors, writers, artists, designers, and at least one fan. That reduces the "I have a lot of fans that I can motivate into voting" problem.

There is no such thing as a perfect award. "Good" games are not always successful games. It's like the movies. Avengers: Age of Ultron made a pile of money, but it clearly didn't win (or deserve) the Oscar for Best Picture.

The Diana Jones Award frequently comes close to perfect, but there is only one winner, so it's not a great measuring stick for outsiders to use to see what's new and good (and/or hot). And I'll be shocked if GenCon doesn't win this year.

The Origins Awards are trying. They're now basically a juried award, but they also give out "people's choice" awards for the products that are most popular among the congoers. That kind of split is, I think good. Separate "We're in the industry and we like this product" and "I play games and I like this product" awards is more work for the award team, but (IMHO) worth it in the long run.

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