The ENnie nominations were actually announced last Friday, so I am ridiculously late with this, but the voting isn’t starting until the day after tomorrow, so I figure it’s not that bad.
Overall, it’s been a strong year for quality gaming material, and this is reflected in the nominations (translation: I bought a lot of this stuff). Here are some of thoughts on the categories where I could give reasonable commentary.
Best Cover Art
The category where judging a book by its cover is expected, and one where pretty much every nominee, the honourable mention, and probably great many books outside the shortlist would deserve to win. Personally, I am partial to the art in Eclipse Phase, though I think the interior illustrations are a fair bit more impressive. I’d give the gold to that and the silver probably to Paizo’s Pathfinder Bestiary, with its Wayne Reynolds piece.
Best Interior Art
I’m kinda surprised Eclipse Phase isn’t represented here, since this is a real strength for the book. I’m guessing this one is another category where you have more deserving winners than you have room on the shortlist, though. While it isn’t as easy to keep up the quality throughout an entire book (WotC’s 3.0 Deities and Demigods springs to mind – some absolutely stunning pieces of art side by side with positively hideous scrawlings), it’s still quite doable when the art director knows what he’s doing. I’ve got both Rogue Trader and Pathfinder RPG, and can verify that they are the prettiest ever, and will be probably voting for them. Then there’s this one that I’ve never even heard of, Willow Palecek’s Escape from Tentacle City. I know nothing about it except that it has won an award called Game Chef Golden Katana that Shoots Smaller Katanas Award for Game That Looks Like it Was the Most Fun to Write. This is awesome.
Not much I can say about these, since I never even got the obligatory Paizo product, Pathfinder City Map Folio. I suppose it’s possible even WotC has a good claim on this award, since their maps at least have always looked good. I must say I’m a bit surprised to see Death Frost Doom here. I would’ve expected to see it vying for the title of Best Adventure.
Finally, we get to the meaty part of the awards. I’m only familiar with Eclipse Phase (that one seems to be popping up a lot, doesn’t it?) and The Kerberos Club, and both are books with such engaging prose that I read most of them off my computer screen. Aloud, as I recall, in the case of Kerberos Club. Also up for nomination is an interesting game called Colonial Gothic that I know very little about except that a sourcebook for it was part of the Haiti Relief bundle on DriveThruRPG some months ago. Notable about it is that it’s coauthored by James Maliszewski of Grognardia.
Best Production Values
The “oooh, pretty book” category. I’d give the gold to Rogue Trader, because the binding on these books is something magical. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but a year or two ago, I dropped my Dark Heresy rulebook so that the entire binding was torn away from the spine and was only attached to the covers by the cover papers. Well, I pushed it back into place and tried to find a way to repair this, but then I found I could no longer separate the parts. It’s as if the book had regenerated. I can grab the book by the spine and shake it vigorously, and the pages stay in place.
A category where I have no first-hand experience with any of the works. However, Wild Talents 2nd Edition is based on Wild Talents 1st Edition, which is based on Godlike, and is therefore awesome. Likewise, Diaspora uses the FATE system, which is also used by Dresden Files, which is also awesome. I also like some of the things I’ve been hearing about Diaspora’s take on the ruleset.
Also known as “the Award That Paizo Publishing Will Probably Get Anyway”. While I’ll be voting The Grinding Gear (the first ENnie nominee ever that was produced in Finland, by the way) for gold, I don’t expect it to have enough popular support for even the silver. Don’t get me wrong, I think Stolen Land is also an excellent module, and what Paizo is trying with the Kingmaker Adventure Path is commendable. I am not intimately familiar with the other works in this category, though a Trail of Cthulhu adventure that has the name “Kenneth Hite” or “Robin D. Laws” somewhere on the cover is pretty much guaranteed to rock, and here we have two.
Best Monster or Adversary
Of this bunch, I’ve only read Pathfinder Bestiary and Classic Horrors Revisited. Both are excellent books for what they do. I especially dig what the latter book did with ghouls. There’s a bit of John Romero, a bit of Wolfgang Baur, a bit of H.P. Lovecraft… a lovely book, overall. The Bestiary is more of a utilitarian work, made to be used at the table, which is a task it performs quite well. While it is pretty much a retread of the old Monster Manual, it lacks some of the more annoying monsters like the allip and the tendriculos, and there’s something to be said for the improvements on the ruleset as well.
In this category, I’m only familiar with The Kerberos Club, which, as I mentioned earlier, is made of win and awesome. It’s a Victorian take on superheroes, in the vein of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Somewhat amusingly, one of the NPCs in The Kerberos Club is Christina Rossetti, who is the real-world author of the poem “Goblin Market”, from which another nominee, Goblin Markets for Changeling: The Lost takes its name and, I assume, significant inspiration.
Well, I think it’s amusing. Good poem, too. (And there’s also an adventure inspired by it in The Great Pendragon Campaign.)
I am not familiar with any of the products here, though I suppose the Rebellion Era Sourcebook for Star Wars Saga is probably pretty good. Also, this Lucha Libre Hero thing looks so insane that it has to be awesome. I am also just going to assume that Ascension for Dark Heresy came out too late to be nominated, because otherwise its absence is quite strange.
Best Aid or Accessory
Well, here we have the Pathfinder Game Master’s Screen, which is again one of those new, shiny and heavy affairs the thickness of rulebook covers. It deflects thrown dice, can be used to slap around unruly players, and also looks pretty good and has really handy tables on the GM’s side. The only complaint I have about it is that it didn’t come with a booklet of something, which seems to be the norm with GM screens. The Dark Heresy screen came with an adventure module, for instance, while WotC’s old DM screen for Forgotten Realms had random encounter charts for pretty much the whole Realms, and the Eberron screen had a big poster map of Khorvaire.
This is an odd one. It seems that WotC and Alkemy Minis have entire product lines up for nomination, while the others have single products. Very strange. Even stranger is that WotC is here at all since at the present their miniature work can be outdone by a six-year-old with some play-doh and finger paints. The quality peaked around Blood War and Night Below and for some reason plummeted at Desert of Desolation and the subsequent releases. The Alkemy miniatures look very good, but I am irritated by the lack of information on their website. When I buy miniatures, I buy them for roleplaying games. This means they must be compatible with the rest of my collection, i.e. they have to be the same scale as what Games Workshop is releasing, and I can’t find any mention of scale on the Alkemy website. They look like they’d be around 35mm, though.
Best Electronic Book
Yet another category where I haven’t read any of the products, though amusingly some of our local Pathfinder Society players did play The Devil We Know Part I: Shipyard Rats and declared it mediocre.
Best Free Product
Ooh, free swag! I think the best one here is Wayfinder #1, for the sheer size of the thing. The one I have substantial practical experience with is the Advanced Player’s Guide Playtest Document, with the playtest versions of new base classes from the upcoming book. I’m playing a summoner, another guy I know is playing an alchemist and there’s a cavalier in my Rise of the Runelords campaign and thus far nothing has been broken.
Interesting things here. The best is probably the Pathfinder Reference Document, but the ones that really catch my eye are Epic Words and Obsidian Portal, which are different takes on the concept of a campaign management website, much like the Finnish Mekanismi wiki that I’ve been using. I figure that if I ever need to do a campaign website in English, I might look at one of these, though they do seem terribly involved compared to the simplicity of Mekanismi.
Well, I like GnomeStew, and there’s something strangely compelling about One Geek to Another, even though I do not quite get the whole concept and feel it may be a subtle satire. The strength of Kobold Quarterly I feel lies in the magazine, not the blog, and the rest of the nominees seem to post little that I find interesting.
Pathfinder RPG, obviously. Wild Talents also rocks on toast, as does the new Shadowrun. While I can understand that the clunkiness of Eclipse Phase’s system may keep it out of this category, the absence of Rogue Trader is noticeable. I am a great fan of its party generation rules, among other things.
Product of the Year
And here we get to the Big Kahuna. The list of nominees is certainly impressive, with heavyweights like Pathfinder and Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, and innovative little works of art such as The Kerberos Club and Eclipse Phase. I figure this one goes to Pathfinder, though, and will be voting it for gold. I can’t really comment on the new WFRP, since I still haven’t had an opportunity to try it out. There’s something about the game that makes me deeply suspicious, though I am trying to keep an open mind. The new version of Shadowrun is also of interest, though I already have the third and fourth editions and I’m not sure if getting a third rulebook for a game I’ve yet to play is a good idea.