Category Archives: Random musings

Podcast Recommendation: The Dungeon Master’s Handbook

This is a quick follow-up to my last post. I got in touch with Michael Shorten aka ChicagoWiz and asked him for advice on how to run old-school sandbox games. He pointed me towards the podcast he had been recording last year.

In the 17 episodes of “The Dungeon Master’s Handbook” he talks about how to run con games, how to design and run a sandbox campaign, and many more highly interesting subjects. What I particularly liked is the fact that each of the episodes is about 20 minutes in length. This is enough time to convey even complex ideas but short enough so that you can easily include it in a busy schedule.

I’ve listened to the first two episodes so far and I wholeheartedly recommend the podcast to everyone interested in old-school gaming. Unfortunately he ended the podcast after 17 episodes because of lack of audience and interest. I think it’s a shame because Michael has real talent and many DM’s could learn a thing or two from him. Perhaps some renewed interest in the existing episodes and some valuable feedback from new listeners might make him reconsider. Winking smile

From my reading list: ChicagoWiz’s RPG Blog

I really, really want to run a new game for my friends, but I am still not sure if I am a) ready for it and b) what I should pick. You know, I majorly burned out on running games. I tried to take up the gamemaster’s mantle several times during the last months and it always ended in me cancelling the whole thing after a few sessions.

So, instead of making concrete plans, I am looking for advice which might help me to get into running roleplaying games again and I also want to try out new things which will hopefully help me avoid old mistakes. One thing I have been eyeing for a while is a D&D-based sandbox campaign. Since I found 5th Edition too much of a hassle for me, I decided to give BECMI a try. I picked up a POD copy of the Rules Cyclopedia a while back, and I own the various boxed sets in digital form, so at least the mechanics side is covered.

I haven’t really run a sandbox campaign yet, but I’ve played in a long-running Mutants: Year Zero game, which has strong sandbox elements. I’ve also read various posts about how to run hex-crawls and sandbox campaigns, but I am still not sure how and where I should start with my preparations.

This is where I stumbled upon some posts written by Michael S. aka ChicagoWiz. He’s a veteran D&D GM and I worked with him in the past. Here are the posts I recently put onto my “to read” list, and I am pretty sure some of you could also learn from them:

By the way, these posts are on his old, inactive blog. For newer posts including a couple of three hexes campaign starters, check out his new blog!

F*ck the ENnies

Please excuse the click-baity nature of the title, but I thought it was the best way to get your attention. So what is the issue I am having with the ENnies? First let me state that I don’t have any beef with the people running the ENnie awards. But I think the ENnie awards are basically worthless. Let me explain.

Usually when someone gets an award you think it’s because of excellence in the field. Just think of the Nobel price. The best and brightest are rewarded for furthering human knowledge, culture, or working towards peace. It is not a popularity contest. Sure, even the Nobel Price committees got things wrong from time to time, but in general if you won this award you’re an expert in your field and you achieved something worth of merit.

The ENnie awards don’t work that way. Every person or company can enter their products as long as they were released in a certain time frame. Out of all the entries a small number of judges pick a couple of nominees the public then votes on. So, it’s a popularity contest. Usually the game, blog, etc. which wins an ENnie award has been highly successful and popular before. RPG products of excellent quality but which are not well known, usually have almost no chance to get an award and the publicity that comes with it. Even if the judges try to nominate niche products with excellent quality, in the end the public still votes for what’s popular.

Another issue is that companies or persons with a large following can easily make sure their products get the votes they need. I also assume that it should be quite possible to have people vote several times, or to automate voting, so the results get skewed even more. Personally I think the whole idea of having such a popularity contest is wrong. People already vote with their wallets, why should we – as the RPG community – then give awards based on popularity? Shouldn’t we instead promote quality?

Don’t get me wrong, some of the products winning an ENnie might actually be of extremely high quality and deserving an award. There may have been cases where the ENnies even managed to put an underrated product into the limelight. But in general the same companies, game lines and products get rewarded. For example, can you remember a year in which Gnome Stew didn’t win an ENnie? Sure, they have put out quite a few great articles over the years, but are there no other blogs worthy of an award? Or think of all the WotC and Paizo products nominated.

So in the end, an ENnie award is basically not that different to having a Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum Seller badge on DriveThruRPG. It’s just a more complicated and expensive procedure to get one.

In the past I submitted my blog to the ENnies a couple of times. When I tried for the first time I was actually hoping to at least get an honorable mention. Is it possible that I am now biased against the ENnie awards because of that? Yeah, that’s possible. But even if I were, my arguments still hold up. The message is clear: the ENnie awards are a popularity contest – nothing more, nothing less. Do we really need it? No. Is there a better alternative? I don’t think there is.

By the way, this post was inspired by the Grumpy Old Gamers podcast by jim pinto and Richard Iorio which recently had an episode talking about awards in general and the ENnies in particular. If you haven’t done so, you definitely should listen to it!