Sunday, July 22, 2007

My 2007 Ennie Winners

The Ennie award website is here.

Best Fan Site:

Check this site out berk. Well designed and tons of information on Planescape, the old 2nd edition D&D campaign setting where you walked the planes. It was part philosophy (implemented bizarrely, but workable) and part planar adventuring. It was immensely fun but it turned off most people (which can also be immensely fun when you're young).

My old Internet buddy Brannon Hollingsworth has done a great job on this site. It has a few of my older articles in the encyclopedia section. I used to run a site called Tale of the Bariaur for 2nd edition D&D. It had over 100 articles and two full downloadable books: The Bariaur Book of Belief and The Complete Book of Bariaur. You can read a tiny selection from the site by searching for my name in the articles section. I had way too much time on my hands back then. I think Brannon has most of those articles in his Mazed Archive, which isn't online yet (after about 7 years). I gave him the site when I moved on to other interests. This was in that limbo period when TSR was no longer around and D&D was languishing.

I personally spend most of my time on Monte Cook's, which I would have voted for if it had been nominated. has a lot of free articles, sample product downloads and a hopping message board. I'm a big Monte Cook fanboy.

Best Pod/Vidcast: Fear the Boot

It's 'cause I'm a D&Der. Have Games Will Travel is what I would vote for if I was more into board games. I download every episode but I don't have time to listen to most of them. 2d6 Feet would get my award if the award wasn't narrowly defined as "fan based."

Best Publisher: Paizo Publishing

A tough call. If you only published one book and it was good, is that enough? In that case I would give it to Malhavoc for Ptolus or Evil Hat Productions for Spirit of the Century. Green Ronin is the most consistently good publisher on the list, and I give them much credit for the Black Industries products as well. I sold cases of their Deck of Many Things.

Paizo, on the other hand, is on a tear. They seem incapable of doing wrong. They're not only prolific, but they seemed to have created an entirely new market in RPG accessories. I call them "just good enough products." They keep the costs low, the quality good enough (not great), and they have innovative ideas. Customers love them. As a D&D player, I find myself using a number of their products every session: Critical hit deck, combat tracker, and even the miniatures from the Compleat Encounter products, although they sold poorly in our store. Those were early efforts though.

Best Cover Art: Hollow Earth Expedition

Because it's really cool. It makes me want to pick the book up and start reading. The title block uses a font that screams pulp. Pulp is what's hot right now, with Pirates waning.

Best Interior Art: Burning Empires

OK, based on a graphic novel called Iron Empires, it's kind of cheating. But if it qualifies to be nominated, it clearly wins. Check out Qin though too. Pretty great artwork.

Best Cartography: Ptolus

Just amazing. The city maps are highly detailed. At times there will be pullouts of that map, or tour book like walking maps. Imagine a temple district map where you feel like you're walking down the street as you read the description and look at the map. Monte Cook used tour guide books from various cities as inspiration. The "dungeon" like maps are also well done and usable. The fans have taken many of the maps in this book and have used programs like Dundjinni to make "battle maps," 1-inch grid maps for miniature play. I've got a 7'x3' printout map of the rat warrens that one of the fans made for me on request. I think I spent about $70 on ink that day.

Best Production Value: Ptolus

This is a once in a lifetime product that could not be attempted as a planned product. Ptolus was the original 3.0 play test campaign by Monte Cook. The early WOTC designers went through this campaign setting and stretched the boundaries of what was possible. D&D 3.0 came into being here. Monte Cook is the guy who wrote much of the D&D 3.0 rules. He's a very good fiction author. He's the head of his own publishing company, Malhavoc. This perfect storm of rules mastery, story, and control of production means you get a unique, expertly conceived and executed game product. Nobody could undertake a project like this today AND have the chops to make it happen.

Oh yeah, so what makes it best production value? You've got a full color, 700+ page book, with a packet of color maps and player handouts. You've got a CD with several additional very good books that were previously published. If you pre-ordered, or even buy it from BDG today, you get the Night of Dissolution print adventure for free. You've got enough adventures in the book to go from 1st-22nd level, at least TWICE! There are numerous fully-fleshed side adventures, and many adventure seeds for the creative DM to turn into adventures. It's a full campaign setting as well, all for $120. Wow, big price tag you say, but what if you wanted to start a D&D campaign with adventures, what would it cost you? A campaign book is $40. A region book is $30. Say you want to run the best 1st-20th level adventure out there, Shackled City, that's another $65. You're already over the Ptolus price and you're getting a lot less without that tight integration.

Best Writing: ?

I haven't read any of those, so I have no opinion. Children of the Horned Rat is the one that customers rave about.

Best Rules: Spirit of the Century

An application of the Fate system (a Fudge variant) that's easy to pick up in just a few minutes. It's eminently playable, and re-playable, unlike some "story games." I just re-ordered nine, yes N-I-N-E more copies yesterday as they sold out quickly during yesterday's Spirit event. The only complaint from our group is that some house rules for character advancement would be nice. In my store, this book has outsold the D&D Player's Handbook in the period it's been around. How's that for the strength of indy RPG's?

Best Adventure: The honourable mention should probably get it: Age of Worms by Paizo.

Best Supplement: I don't like any of these. I would give it to Black Industries Renegade Crowns, a useful region building sourcebook for any fantasy game, not just WFRP.

Best Setting: Ptolus

See above for my fan boy rave.

1 comment:

  1. Lots of good stuff there and a few tough choices. The Ennie Awards are a neat deal, and anybody reading this who hasn't voted should go vote.

    Had to cast a vote for Chris Gonnerman of Basic Fantasy. It's a nice D20 interpretation of the clasic Basic D&D.