Category Archives: Random musings

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?

Which fantasy writer am I?

Today when I was bored, I took the “Which fantasy writer are you?” quiz on and the result was:

Ursula K Le Guin (b. 1929)

9 High-Brow, -13 Violent, -19 Experimental and 13 Cynical!

The funny thing is that I never actually read anything by her, so probably I should go to the nearest bookstore or Amazon to check out her works.

Ursula K Le GuinCongratulations! You are High-Brow, Peaceful, Traditional and Cynical! These concepts are defined below.

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin is definitely one of the most celebrated science fiction and fantasy writers of all times. Her most famous fantasy work to date is the Earthsea suite of novels and short stories, in which Le Guin created not only one of the most believable societies in fantasy fiction, but also managed to describe a school for wizards almost three decades before Harry Potter. Although often categorized as written for young adults, these books have entertained and challenged readers of all ages since their publication.

Le Guin is no stranger to literary experiments (see for example Always Coming Home(1985)), but much of her story-telling is quite traditional. In fact, she makes a point of returning to older forms of story-telling, which, at her best, enables her to create something akin to myth. One shouldn’t confuse myth with faerytale, though. Nothing is ever simplified in Le Guin’s world, as she relentlessly explores ethical problems and the moral choices that her characters must make, as must we all. While being one of those writers who will allow you to escape to imaginary worlds, she is also one who will prompt you to return to your actual life, perhaps a little wiser than you used to be.

You are also a lot like Susan Cooper.

If you want some action, try Michael Moorcock.

If you’d like a challenge, try your exact opposite, C S Lewis.

Your score

This is how to interpret your score: Your attitudes have been measured on four different scales, called 1) High-Brow vs. Low-Brow, 2) Violent vs. Peaceful, 3) Experimental vs. Traditional and 4) Cynical vs. Romantic. Imagine that when you were born, you were in a state of innocence, a tabula rasa who would have scored zero on each scale. Since then, a number of circumstances (including genetical, cultural and environmental factors) have pushed you towards either end of these scales. If you’re at 45 or -45 you would be almost entirely cynical, low-brow or whatever. The closer to zero you are, the less extreme your attitude. However, you should always be more of either (eg more romantic than cynical). Please note that even though High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical have positive numbers (1 through 45) and their opposites negative numbers (-1 through -45), this doesn’t mean that either quality is better. All attitudes have their positive and negative sides, as explained below.

High-Brow vs. Low-Brow

You received 9 points, making you more High-Brow than Low-Brow. Being high-browed in this context refers to being more fascinated with the sort of art that critics and scholars tend to favour, rather than the best-selling kind. At their best, high-brows are cultured, able to appreciate the finer nuances of literature and not content with simplifications. At their worst they are, well, snobs.

Violent vs. Peaceful

You received -13 points, making you more Peaceful than Violent.  This scale is a measurement of a) if you are tolerant to violence in fiction and b) whether you see violence as a means that can be used to achieve a good end. If you aren’t, and you don’t, then you are peaceful as defined here. At their best, peaceful people are the ones who encourage dialogue and understanding as a means of solving conflicts. At their worst, they are standing passively by as they or third parties are hurt by less scrupulous individuals.

Experimental vs. Traditional

You received -19 points, making you more Traditional than Experimental. Your position on this scale indicates if you’re more likely to seek out the new and unexpected or if you are more comfortable with the familiar, especially in regards to culture. Note that traditional as defined here does not equal conservative, in the political sense. At their best, traditional people don’t change winning concepts, favouring storytelling over empty poses. At their worst, they are somewhat narrow-minded.

Cynical vs. Romantic

You received 13 points, making you more Cynical than Romantic. Your position on this scale indicates if you are more likely to be wary, suspicious and skeptical to people around you and the world at large, or if you are more likely to believe in grand schemes, happy endings and the basic goodness of humankind. It is by far the most vaguely defined scale, which is why you’ll find the sentence “you are also a lot like x” above. If you feel that your position on this scale is wrong, then you are probably more like author x. At their best, cynical people are able to see through lies and spot crucial flaws in plans and schemes. At their worst, they are overly negative, bringing everybody else down.