2012 ENnies: What They Meant
Taking a break from techno-centrism for a second, I wanted to cover our other main focus: Role Playing Games. As any major fan knows, GenCon and the ENnie awards were this past weekend. As much as I love GenCon, I had to miss it this year for family obligations. Thankfully, the miracle of the Internet and Twitter let me keep up-to-date with pretty much everything I cared about (including a few things I definitely didn’t). Looking back now at the ENnie Awards themselves, they were…let me think of a politically correct way to put this.
Like a balcony in a fraternity house, I am pissed off.
Let’s start with Judge’s Spotlight. An award went to Mongoose Publishing’s Designers and Dragons. I won’t pick on them just yet, but the “and Dragons” part of that title will come into play later. The rest of the list includes Outrider Studio’s Edge RPG (advertised as a cinematic fantasy game), Basic Action Game’s Honor + Intrigue (a 17th century swashbuckler game), Galileo Games’ Shelter in Place (zombie survival), and Cellar Games’ Technoir. I haven’t played all of these games, but Shelter looks interesting, Technoir is incredibly fun, and Honor+Intrigue has received good reviews from those I know. But that’s not the point of this review; the running genre score I’m about to start keeping is.
Modern/Future: 1, Horror/Suspense: 1, General Adventuring: 2, and 1 for “Reminds Me Too Much of Dungeons and Dragons in Some Way”.
Next is Fan Favorites. The list is at least short and sweet. Evil Hat Productions is best known for Dresden Files and Atomic Robo, scoring another point for…I’ll say Modern/Future and Horror/Suspense. Paizo Publishing is best known for their Pathfinder RPG, which is basically the Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition for people who can tie their own shoes and count higher than potato. Score another for the “Dungeons and Dragons” category. All tied at two.
Product of the year is where the sinister trend starts to show and leave a sour taste in my mouth. Margaret Weis’s Marvel Heroic RPG snuck in at second place to…Paizo’s Pathfinder. Best Writing went to GURPS Horror 4th Edition and Investigator’s Guide to Occult London, which is to be expected from two successful suspense franchises. Best Website? Obsidian Portal and the Pathfinder Wiki.
If you’re still keeping score, that’s a new category, Superheroics, at 1, then Modern/Future 2, Horror Suspense at 4, General Adventuring at 3, and 4 for Dungeons and Dragons, Why Won’t You Just Go Away?
GURPS Horror and Cthulu by Gaslight take over Best Supplement. Cthulu by Gaslight is wonderful, by the way. Cthulu Britannica: Shadows over Scotland isn’t as good of a buy to me, but it and Ashen Stars (a space-exploration style) take Best Setting, and I couldn’t have agreed more.
More Marvel and Paizo in Best Rules (though Paizo did collaborate with Pelgrane Press for the award), followed by Wizards of the Coast’s Lords of Waterdeep and a game by Open Design that dared to mention Kobolds in its title. Best Production Value? More Paizo, and Cubicle 7’s The One Ring. Please don’t make me explain what The One Ring is about, or I’ll throw you into Orodruin myself. Another Wizards of the Coast Dungeons and Dragons supplement that I won’t plug here placed in Best Adversary, followed by Green Ronin’s DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains Volume 1. For those who don’t know, it’s basically the Green Ronin Mutants and Mastermind’s game, built around the DC Comics universe instead of the much better Freedom City setting Green Ronin had previously used.
Score Update: Superheroics 3,Modern/Futuristic 3, Horror 7, General 4, and Gygax’s Legacy continues help get that category to 8.
Wizards and Pathfinder both got their respective miniature products in, and Paizo also got Best Free Product, over Silver Award Winnter The One Ring. GURPS Social Engineering and Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Apocalypse Machine are actually good E-Books, but Best Cartography was once more divided between WotC and Paizo. One Ring got Best Interior Art, along with Green Ronin’s Dragon Age: Set 2, but Paizo wins Best Cover Art, beating Cthulu by Gaslight. Score?
Superheroics 3, Modern/Future 3, Horror 8, General 6, and “Oh My God Stop Making Dungeons and Dragons Tie-Ins” is now at 14.
Paizo gets second in Best Aid/Accessory for their Chase Cards (which are actually very useful), behind Engine Publishing’s Masks (also useful). Open Design’s Streets of Zobeck won Best Adventure (for Pathfinder), and WotC came in second. I just won’t link to any more WotC or Pathfinder products for the duration of this article. It’s more draining than being a wizard hit by Maximized Enervation, except sucking out your soul instead of levels or ability points.
After tallying it up, Superheroic gaming won a measly 3 ENnies, and I can understand why. DC Entertainment, Marvel Studios, and Disney have thrown so many superhero movies at us the last decade that frankly I may give up comic books for ever. More real-world based games didn’t fare any better, which kind of broke my heart. I really expected cyber-punk to make a comeback. Cthulhu made sure that the Horror genre fared well at 8 (as our watery overlord always does), and fantastic adventures that weren’t really related to Dungeons and Dragons were only one point behind.
But all tallied, products that were continuations, tie-ins, or basing a key component heavily off of Gygax’s baby boy totaled 17 ENnie Awards. I skipped Best Blog and Podcast, but trust me, they didn’t make feel any better either. Why are we still stuck on Dungeons and Dragons? This is a legitimate quest. Yes, it was the first commercially available RPG, but its overwhelming presence has lasted for nearly 40 years. There are radioactive explosions that have had shorter half-lives. Every year, every event, that I watch these particular games (mostly designed by WotC in the past) sweep, I wonder if the industry is letting a certain amount of stagnation settle in. True, D&D will always sell copies, but one day the world and the readers are going to change, and not just in their appreciation of the rules, but in their genre tastes. Or maybe they have already (I know few in my close gaming groups are huge D&D or Pathfinder fans), and we as an industry are just having a hard time getting the message out that there are alternatives.
I’m not entirely sure how to wrap up my point here, other than to say the RPG business needs a change that’s decades overdue, and I’m terrified of what’s going to happen one day when it doesn’t. That said, I do hope that you will check out the products here, support Kickstarters that really deserve your support (and avoid ones that don’t), and over-all, enjoy your gaming experience.
Even if that means playing a Paladin/Sorcerer with Still Spell and Maximized Fireball.
Josh Snow is a skeptical transhumanist and some-time freelance writer. He does some event coordination and security supervision for the geek community in his area, and hope you follow him on Twitter @ArkangelWinter, so long as you don’t talk to him about Dungeons and Dragons.