The 2015 ENnie Award Nominees: Some Thoughts

Before I share my thoughts on this year’s nominees, let’s have a look on the categories and which products have been nominated this year:

Judges’ Spotlight Winners

Best Adventure

Best Aid/Accessory

Best Art, Cover

Best Art, Interior

Best Blog

Best Cartography

Best Electronic Book

Best Family Game

Best Free Product

Best Game

Best Miniature Product

Best Monster/Adversary

Best Podcast

Best Production Values

Best RPG Related Product

Best Rules

Best Setting

Best Software

Best Supplement

Best Website

Best Writing

Product of the Year

Wow! That’s a lot of nominees and there are a lot of awesome products on this list. But there are also a couple of surprises. Let’s start with the biggest surprise this year.

The ENnie awards endorse copyright and trademark infringement? WTF?!
This may perhaps be a pretty strong accusation, but in a way it’s true. Even though I love the work Don Mappin has done with his Mass Effect RPG (based on Fate), it’s basically IP theft. He uses Bioware/EA’s artwork and intellectual property to create a roleplaying game. I think most of us would consider this fair use, but I am pretty sure lawyers would think otherwise. But in most cases EA would probably ignore the existence of a fan product like this as long as no money is made and it flies under the radar. BUT for some reason unknown to me, the creator submitted his works to the ENnies. And more surprisingly the ENnies judges decided to nominate it. Unless Mr. Mappin has made some deal with Bioware/EA recently, the risk that EA’s lawyers will send him a C&D letter has risen tremendously. In addition to that the ENnies judges are sending out a questionable message if they publically endorse IP theft – even if it’s well-made and loved by fans all over the world.

D&D is back
Even though I am a bit burned out on all things D&D at the moment, it’s nice to see official D&D products on the nominees list. D&D 5th Edition is IMHO the best edition of D&D to date and it would definitely deserve a couple of ENnies.

I have to admit that I haven’t participated in ConTessa nor did I check out the website that often, but I fully support the decision of the ENnie judges to nominate their blog. The Role-playing games hobby has always been pretty male-dominated and getting more women involved in all aspects of the hobby is an important goal – and ConTessa has done a marvelous job so far. The blog is definitely worth checking out!

A Red and Pleasant Land
Zak S. may be controversial to some, but you can’t deny his creativity. What sets this book apart from regular RPG products is that it just doesn’t look like one. Zak’s artwork gives the whole book a distinct style unseen in RPGs before. The setting combines elements from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Worderland and Bram Stoker’s Dracula spiced up with the weirdness we already enjoyed in Zak’s debut title Vornheim. A Red and Pleasant Land is an exceptional book, definitely not for everyone, but it’s great to see it nominated!

Last but not least I want to share a few thoughts on Mindjammer. The original Mindjammer was a setting book for Cubicle 7’s Starblazer Adventures game. Eventually Sarah Newton released a 2nd Edition, a stand-alone Fate Core-based game, which has now been nominated in two categories. Mindjammer is also the name of the novel set into the same universe, which is one of the best-written Science Fiction novels I’ve written in a long time. And trust me, the game is as well written!

What are your thoughts on this year’s ENnies? Please share your thoughts below.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

7 thoughts on “The 2015 ENnie Award Nominees: Some Thoughts”

  1. I also like Mindjammer and am happy to see it on the list, though I’m not sure how appropriate it is for it to get a price for best rules when most of their rules are just Fate Core (though I must say a very good implementation of it with some interesting variations such as cultural memetic warfare and stuff).

    DnD5e deserves to be on there. I’m not the biggest fan of DnD, but I have to admit that 5e is a very well-designed game. I don’t agree with all the design principles, but I can’t deny that it achieves the goals it set out to achieve and that it does it really well. It’s just a good product.

    Finally I want to say something about Mutant: Year Zero. I don’t often see games from my native Sweden pop up in these kinds of international awards. I have to admit that I haven’t actually played Mutant: Year Zero yet (in either the Swedish or English language versions), but it’s supposedly very good and has received a ton of domestic praise (hence the English version). I hope it wins something.

      1. Now this is annoying. Now I’ll never get a chance to read it, and I love Mass Effect and would put up with Fate for a chance to play it.

  2. First of all, there’s no such thing as “IP theft”, that’s myth / propaganda. You might as well call it “IP murder” or “idea genocide” because it’s unrelated to all those things. It’s just plain old boring copyright infringement.

    The difference: you draw a picture. Someone grabs it and runs away, that’s theft. Someone draws a very similar picture without asking you permission, that’s copyright infringement. One doesn’t seem as bad as the other does it? Calling this “theft” is exaggerating to make this seem worse than it is.

    “Intellectual Property.” You can’t own ideas. But you can own the right to copy them for a short time in order to fund the development of new shit. That’s the law and “IP” is a misleading term unrelated to the law.

    As long as this is a non-commercial project, I don’t see the harm in it.

    I do see the harm in removing this. Especially, since if it’s winning prestigious awards, it could easily be one of the all time greats. A hidden gem. And illegal art.

    How is this different from fan fiction? Is anybody morally opposed to fan fiction? How could anyone be?

    I’m sensing some people have an axe to grind with the ENnies and will jump all over any opportunity to criticize them. Try not to throw our rights to read and think and create under the bus while you do it. If I didn’t know better I might think some citizens have Stockholm syndrome.

    No one who’s used “halflings” is in a position to throw stones anyway. (unlike the halflings themselves who have a +1 to throwing stones :P)

    1. The problem is that the guy didn’t just write a Fate based rules system for Mass Effect. He actually used art from the game and its related products. That’s a step too far, in my opinion. If it was just a document and complete fan work based on the setting of the property then fair enough I think but taking the works of professional artists and using it without their permission and most certainly without paying any royalties for it is an entirely different thing and not just legally but morally and ethically wrong by most standards I know.

      1. Back when the Mass Effect RPG first showed up on the ‘net I didn’t have an issue with it. Yes, the creator used Bioware’s IP, yes, he used unlicensed art. But that’s basically unavoidable if you create something based on someone else’s IP. But he crossed a line, when he submitted his works to several awards. In my opinion that’s just like begging for a C&D letter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.