This is Audio EXP for the 1st of August 2020, and the title of this episode is ‘The ENnies and controversies’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #55]
I believe the expression is “It’s the morning after the night before”, except I can’t use that as I was up until well after 5am for my first ever Gen Con and ENnies award. I slept through what was left of the morning.
I’m still here in Scotland, and my attendance is only made possible through both events moving online. Traditionally, the ENnies are held at Gen Con.
The event finished at 3am, my time, and as you might expect, Twitter was ablaze with opinion throughout. What I thought might be useful would be to list the gold winners and tackle some of the questions from the night. There have been controversies this year, so let’s call them that.
First up, how did it go?
The opening few minutes had me worried. I feared for the hosts. Why? It was evident that there was only one sound channel and, at least to begin with, no apparent cue to tell a host when it was their turn to start speaking again.
In the opening minutes, this looked to be a significant problem as every single nominee who had made it this far had been asked to film a short acceptance speech which, if they won, would be aired.
But if the hosts couldn’t hear or see that video, then how would they know when to start speaking against?
Well, that awkwardness lasted only a short while and the hosts and the organisers, I don’t know how came up with a system that pretty much worked.
There was a blip or two when an acceptance video lost its sound, and I speculate that was someone in the IT team trying to mute the host’s microphones, but not the whole stream. I think it takes quite some stamina to sit for 2 hours and barely make a noise and that’s what the hosts had to do.
So, as well as saying congratulations to all the winners, I also want to thank hosts Misha Bushyager, Kenneth Hite, Robin D. Laws, Mike Pondsmith and Chris Spivey for what must have been a challenging gig.
And who won? I’ll go through the list in the order that they were announced but, as this is a short podcast, restrict myself only to gold.
Best Family Game / Product
Gold – Jim Henson’s Labyrinth by River Horse
Best Aid or Accessory
Gold – Deck of Many Animated Spells by Hit Point Press
Best Online Content
Gold – The Monsters Know What They’re Doing by Saga Press
Gold – Asians Represent!
Gold – Mordenkainen’s Fiendish Folio, Volume 1: Monsters Malevolent and Benign by Wizards of the Coast
Best Cover Art
Gold – Call of Cthulhu – Berlin the Wicked City by Chaosium
Best Interior Art
Gold – The Ultraviolet Grasslands by Exalted Funeral Press
Best Organized Play
Gold – Stygia Untamed by Greasy Snitches and Paul Gabat
Best Free Game/Product
Gold – TTRPG Safety Toolkit by Smooching Knife
Best RPG Related Product
Gold – Absinthe in Carcosa by Pelgrane Press
Best Electronic Book
Gold – New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley 2nd Ed by Stygian Fox
Best Layout and Design
Gold – MÖRK BORG by Free League Publishing
Gold – Trilemma Adventures Compendium Vol 1 by Trilemma Adventures
Gold – Thousand Year Old Vampire by Petit Guignol
Gold – MÖRK BORG by Free League Publishing
Gold – A Pound of Flesh by Tuesday Knight Games
Gold – Call of Cthulhu: Berlin the Wicked City by Chaosium
Gold – Delta Green: The Labyrinth by Arc Dream Publishing
Best Production Values
Gold – Thousand Year Old Vampire by Petit Guignol
Fans’ Choice for Best Publisher
Gold – Free League Publishing
Gold– ALIEN the Roleplaying Game by Free League Publishing
Product of the Year
Gold – MÖRK BORG by Free League Publishing
A Thousand Year Old Vampire appears twice on that list. That’s a solo play RPG in which the game guides your ancient vampire self through choices and memories. It’s very different.
The designer, Tim Hutchings, urged winners of ENnies to use their time in the limelight to help more marginalised designers. He also thanked Shut Up and Sit Down for their review, which helped relight attention on the game.
In the show notes, you’ll find a link to that review.
Free League Publishing’s Alien RPG won the best game. That’s based on the Alien movie franchise and has two modes of play; cinematic and campaign.
Free League Publishing write the cinematic adventures, providing the characters and you’re going to die. These encounters are like the movie. On the other hand, if you want to be an explorer or maybe even a hero in the world of Alien, then you can use the rules to run more traditional sci-fi adventures.
Geek Native reviewed the game last year.
The game that won many awards and took home the grand prize of “Best Product of the Year” is Mork Borg. I’ve not read that one, nearly backed it on Kickstarter and wish I now had.
Mork Borg describes itself as an Old School Renaissance style, but that means different things to different people. I’d describe it as visually stunning and with a straight forward system.
I think it’s the art and the writing that makes Mork Borg such a memorable game. It’s yellow and black. It’s an art RPG. It’s a doom metal album of a game.
I even have the doom metal tracklist put together by designer Johan Nohr for it, and yeah, you’ll find it in the show’s transcript.
I don’t think it’s a controversial winner.
But I did mention controversies and Twitter opinions, so let’s tackle some of those.
Now, I’ve decided not to name names. Last night, at about 5am, I had a collection of Tweets to share. One’s already been deleted. So, I suspect somethings were said in the heat of the moment and therefore take the following as anecdotal.
I saw people complaining that the ENnies was all about giving CIS white men awards.
Now, I think that’s a valid subject to raise. I think for any public event, the organisers should be made acutely aware that they have a responsibility to ensure the panel isn’t composed entirely of white men.
That’s not what I saw last night. Firstly, I don’t think any winner gave their pronouns. It’s entirely possible that rather than a he/him winner giving the acceptance speech that it was a they/them winner.
One of the indie companies that won a gold award is run and founded by a transexual woman. Okay, she didn’t appear on camera, but that’s just one very real example of why a brief encounter over a Twitch video isn’t enough to pigeon hole a person.
It’s also worth pointing out that Stacy Muth, the ENnies Director, is a woman.
The judges, equally, were a robustly diverse group. As were the hosts.
As the winners were announced, there were lots of white men, but it was not a whitewashing. I saw many people of colour.
In fact, the next time I’m in a fight with some vile racist idiot who things RPGs should be made only for white men because only white men play RPGs, I hope to point them at a video of last night’s event.
Predictably, the next controversy was over Wizards of the Coast. Many people in the audience were clearly not WotC fans.
That shows how far the roleplaying scene has come. This, after all, was a virtual Gen Con and virtual ENnies night. The EN in ENnies comes from the website “Eric Noah’s Unofficial D&D 3rd Edition News”. That’s better known as EN World, which has been run by Russ Morrissey from 2004.
So, while the ENnies and EN World are no longer related, the awards are originally from a D&D news site.
Gen Con was created by Gary Gygax. Gen Con, for a while, was owned by TSR.
I did not expect to see anti-D&D people at the event.
Wizards of the Coast had one nomination and took home one gold. That was for Mordenkainen’s Fiendish Folio, Volume 1: Monsters Malevolent and Benign.
Now, Wizards of the Coast did not provide an acceptance video. The online crowd didn’t like that. And, WotC probably should have.
However, they were not the first, nor the last company not to provide a video. If you’re going to criticise WotC for not doing one, then that criticism carries over, even if it’s just splash damage, to others.
I don’t think “bigger” company makes it easier to do a video. I think a bigger company would have all sorts of problems in filming an acceptance speech for an award that they had not won. Essentially, that’s what everyone had to do, but I can see how that would make PR handlers uncomfortable.
The bigger issue, though, is that a team of three authors worked on Mordenkainen’s Fiendish Folio, Volume 1 and one of those authors is Mike Mearls.
Mearls is not popular with a good chunk of the RPG community right now. Some gamers allege that Mearls failed in his duty of care when complaints were made against a game designer working on a D&D project. It’s a messy story, filled with conjecture, so I’m going to leave it at that, but I’ve certainly felt disappointed when I read through some of the claims against him.
However, Mearls was not the only designer who worked on Mordenkainen’s Fiendish Folio, Volume 1 and I don’t think it is appropriate to dismiss their efforts by describing the prize as Mearls’.
All in all, it seems like the real controversy came in the run up to the awards. Perhaps this is why some people were spoiling for a fight.
We talk about this particular drama in more detail in Audio EXP #51 on the 4th of July but, in short, one of the nominees from this year’s shortlist withdrew in protest over a winner from a few years back.
That winner was a Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure called Blood in the Chocolate. That’s an adventure that the author now disowns and admits was an attempt to be edgy. However, the publisher has the rights and insists on still selling it. DriveThruRPG has forced them to put a content disclaimer on the adventure which, mockingly, they have done so.
Now, one disclaimer of my own. I sat up until 3am to live blog the ENnies and produce the winner’s list. At the time this podcast is recording, the official ENnies site has not yet announced the list.
They did tweet the event, I have checked my list against their tweets, but if there are any mistakes made last night, then I’ll have captured them too, and if there are any post-ceremony changes to be made, I’ve not made them.
I used headers for categories, I used the strong tag to highlight gold and silver, which I then followed by a hyphen and a hyperlinked reference of the game or media and then, in plain text, I added the publisher or designer.
I grouped all the Judges spotlight winners together.
If you see another site using that format, then they may have copy’ pasted the Geek Native list. That’s okay, it’s not original content, but it means I’ve made a mistake or not captured a future correction, then they haven’t either.
Right, I don’t want this entire podcast to be about the ENnies so let’s squeeze in some more news. And let’s start with a related subject and data that Geek Native will publish later today.
Barely half of the regular convention-goers want to go to a geeky convention in 2021.
Last month, Geek Native had a copy of the card game 5211 to giveaway. To enter that competition you had to say whether you often, sometimes or never went to conventions and whether you hoped to go next year, hadn’t decided or weren’t going to.
When I look at the responses from people who said they attend at least one convention a year, only 52% of them wanted to attend one in 2021. 18% knew they didn’t want to, 29% were undecided.
Safe to say, this is not news that events like Comic Con, UK Games Expo or Gen Con want to hear.
In other news, Netflix’s The Dragon Prince is getting an RPG.
As I’ve previously speculated in Audio EXP podcasts, I think the waking giant in high profile franchises that go on to get an RPG is Fandom. They’re the company that runs D&D Beyond and which bought a RPG system called Cortex Prime.
The Dragon Prince: Tales of Xadia RPG will use Cortex Prime, but it’s too soon for me to crow and say “Told you so”. It’s only one game, but I think it’s an exciting development.
I imagine that Games Workshop is less than excited right now. They’ve launched an app and a subscription service to Warhammer 40K rules. However, the free Android app has been panned by reviewers, and the Apple app isn’t out yet. Apple has strict quality controls before approval.
The problem? The app seems just to be a wrapper for the free Warhammer 40K rules, in PDF, hosted in a Google Drive.
Another awkwardness was dealt with by Modiphius Entertainment this week. After a series of talks, former streamer Adam Koebel has resigned from Modiphius Entertainment’s Dune RPG project.
For context, Koebel became a controversial figure after running an abuse scene in a live stream. He stepped back from streaming, received death threats, but until this week remained part of the Dune team.
There’s a new Curse of Strahd edition coming. A revamped one.
This is Wizards of the Coast’s Ravenloft adventure for 5e. The original is popular but has some cultural sensitivity blunders in it. These missteps have been acknowledged by Wizards. Now, we’re all expecting the new edition to have been re-worked to fix those errors.
So, if Dune and Ravenloft have hopefully moved through a period of awkwardness, and Games Workshop is working through one, let’s look to the future and speculate on a new drama brewing.
We might see that with a trademark, or wordmark to be precise, application from Restoration Games who want to use the phrase HeroQuest Legacies.
As the name suggests, Restorations Games specialises in restoring games. HeroQuest, the one from Games Workshop and Milton Bradley, would qualify and is much loved.
However, Chaosium also has a HeroQuest game, and they’re still publishing it. I’m confident they’ll not be happy with a new HeroQuest popping up, even if it’s an old HeroQuest returning again.
If you don’t defend trademarks, you lose them. It’s a story to watch.
Let’s finish up with some quick-fire good news.
For the next little while, you can get the entire The Dying Earth RPG collection, all the supplements, in the Bundle of Holding.
You can also get plenty of Star Trek Adventures RPG goodies in Humble Bundle.
Fantasy Flight Games’ former RPGs look to be in safe hands, often with the same developers, in their new home at Edge Studios. The RPG manager, Sam Stewart, has strongly hinted that a new Twilight Imperium RPG is a project that they’ll be working on and that it’ll use the Genesys system.
Stewart also confirmed that Midnight for 5e is coming. Midnight: Legacy of Darkness is set in a Middle-earth-style world, except the dark lord won. In the game, players take on the roles of surviving members of the human, elf and dwarf armies.
Next week, we’ll catch up with Geek Native’s RPG Publisher Spotlight, the patron activities and new competitions.
And on that note, let’s call it a wrap. Keep safe, keep well and see you next week.
Leave your own remarks on this in the comment area at the bottom of this page.