Category Archives: Random musings

The ENnies and Quick-Start Rules

Yesterday’s post and similar posts on other blogs started quite a discussion in the RPG blogosphere. It even lead to the start of a small campaign to promote the two products that are considered “truly free” by our standards. Rob Lang even created a logo for that campaign but was asked by Denise Robinson, Business Manager of the ENnies to cease using the ENnies logo in that way.

So, are quick-start rules that bad? No, of course not. As far as I understand it, nobody is against quick-start rules themselves, even if some of the posts we wrote sound like that. Quick-start rules are a great way to learn about new commercial games, perhaps even give the rules a try before buying the whole thing. I posted about several quick-start rules in the past and I will probably do so in the future. But quick-start rules are teasers, demos, advertisement if you wish.

Now to the ENnies “Free Product” category. Both completely free RPGs and free quick-start rules fit that category, no doubt about that. Heck, it’s a pretty broad category. If it’s free for the customer, it fits the category. And perhaps that is one of the main problems here. There are a lot of RPGs out there, that are given away for free, but not to advertise a commercial product, but as the real deal. Heck, there are even games out there released under a CC license, that you may freely share and use for your own projects. But alas only two made the list of nominees.

The probem is, that a lot of great games/websites/podcasts/etc. are missing from the list of RPG products that have been submitted to the ENnies. Why? I can only speculate, but I believe it’s because a) people don’t know that they can submit their stuff for consideration, b) they were discouraged by some of the submission terms and/or the legalese on the submission forms, or c) they just lost faith/interest in the ENnies.

And it’s not only the “Best Free Product” category that left me wondering what the heck the ENnies guys are smoking. “Best Website” is even worse. How can you put sites like Critical Hits (a multi-author blog), Dungeon-A-Day (a subscription-based service that provides you with roleplaying material like encounters, dungeons, etc.) and Obsidian Portal (a hosting service for you campaign site incl. wiki/blog/etc.) into a single category? The RPG blogosphere alone should get a category for itself. Especially since the ENnies have been funded by ENWorld in the past, I expected them to understand the web better. But alas they don’t.

So, what can be done to improve things in the future? I’ve seen a couple of good ideas already, including plans to create the categories before the submissions are sent in. It’s mindboggling that nobody has thought of this before. Another good idea is to allow 3rd party submissions, especially for the “Best Electronic Product”, “Best Free Product” and “Best Website” categories. Perhaps this would help to get more submissions.

Ok, that’s enough ENnies for today. Hey, at the end of the day it’s just another popularity contest. 😉

My thoughts on the 2009 ENnie Award Nominations

ENnies logoThe 2009 ENnie Award Nominations are live and of course everyone checks out the lists, interested to find out if his favorite game/setting/website/podcast/etc. was nominated.

I was pretty happy to see a few familiar names on the “Best Website” list. I think congratulations are in order! Two members of our RPG Bloggers Network were nominated: Critical Hits and MadBrewLabs! May the best blog win!

But there are a few nominations that seem at least a bit odd. The “Best Free Product” list includes two Quick-Start rules for commercial RPGs. Ok, they fit they category, but instead of products that could be considered advertising they should have nominated some more truly free games. Currently I am leaning towards voting for “Sword & Wizardry“.

It gets really strange when we come to the “Best Podcast” category. I would have expected podcast like Atomic Array, The Tome Show, Fear the Boot or Master Plan etc., but instead we get a list of five podcasts nobody I know has ever heard of. I don’t want to bash the nominated podcasts, perhaps I am just listening to the “wrong” podcasts and all the really cool geeks know the ones nominated for the ENnies.

So, what are your thoughts on this year’s ENnies nominations?

When your campaign has jumped the shark

Sometimes I get the feeling that my love for epic stories has got the best of me. And usually when I push my roleplaying campaigns to epic extremes I shortly thereafter notice that my campaign has jumped the shark. Usually jumping the shark denotes the point where an TV shows’ audience starts to lose interest in the show, usually after the plot veers off in absurd storylines. The same can happen with roleplaying campaigns.

In D&D this usually happened to me when I was to generous with the treasure I handed out as a DM. I remember one campaign when I allowed half-celestials and half-dragon player characters, something I usually avoid. Especially when I thought it would be a cool idea to grant the half-celestial paladin a pair of vorpal swords things went downhill. But probably things had been going downhill for quite some while already. The campaign was quite epic but from a certain moment I knew that I lost control of the campaign.  And a few sessions after that we decided to let the campaign end.

In the Ad Astra campaign I started recently my love for epic campaigns led me to introduce an “ancient enemy” (details haven’t been revealed to the players yet) and even an old ally of the Elohim fairly early in the campaign. Now I am struggling from keeping the campaign jumping the shark. When I created the campaign I planned to keep everything about the Elohim and why they disappeared and what caused them to grant some humans psionic abilities a secret. But when I actually started running the campaign I thought it would be cool to make the secrets of an ancient past the theme of the actual campaign. And now I am actually regretting that I didn’t start a bit slower this time. Luckily for me, my players still are enjoying the game…

So, what can you do to save a campaign that has already jumped the shark or is close to doing so. In the second case, you can try to make sure it doesn’t reach that state. In the first case a lot depends on your group. If you believe you’ve broken the campaign but your players are still comfortable with how everything turned out and as long as they are having fun, things are not as bad.

In any other case, you should think about what went wrong. It probably doesn’t hurt to talk with your players and ask them what they think. Sometimes your players have the ideas that will help to get your campaign back on track. And sometimes it’s better to bring the campaign to an end instead of prolonging the life until neither players nor GM enjoy the game anymore.

So, what are your thoughts on that matter? Have you run or played in campaigns that “jumped the shark” and how did you handle the situation?