Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Final post: Pimping my new blog.

Okay, this is it for me here before I turn it over to the new caretakers.

I would have stopped already, but it occurred to me that some of the readers here might be interested in following my ongoing blogs, and I haven't posted links or taken the time to pimp them yet.

In my judgment is my gaming blog, where I'll post reviews, talk about design, and generally focus on my gaming life.

Life's Journey is just my personal blog, and not gaming related at all, but if anyone is interested that's where I'll talk a little bit about all the things that are important to me, my family, my work, and my faith.

Thanks to everyone who stuck it out with me for so long, and I hope some of you make the move with me. Good luck the the new crop of judges, and I really hope you take me up on my offer here.

Jeramy Ware

Changing of the guard

I changed the look and title of the blog today to reflect the change of contributors. I'll go ahead and reissue my invitation to the new judges, and hopefully you'll be seeing new content soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

GenCon report, and moving forward.

So, it's been a week since I've gotten home from GenCon, which probably makes this the latest report on the internet, but I honestly just kind of took the last week off. Not from work, mind you. I went to work the day I got back, and have been working since then to make up for the time I took off, but from games. With the exception of learning how to play the WoW card game I got as swag, I haven't opened a game book, taken a note, or typed a word on the campaigns I'm supposed to be working on. I basically took last week to decompress a bit and hang out with my wife and kids before school made our lives crazy again.

Anywho, I guess I had better start with talking a little bit about the awards. The ceremony was awesome, and best of all I got to spend a bit of time hanging out with all of the great people that I got to know on line over the last few months. There weren't a whole lot of surprises among the winners, though I sincerely wish that a few of the outstanding small press titles had gotten a bit more recognition. I really thought there would be at least a few more medals going out to them.

And then of course there were the announcements for the judge elections.

Since that night I''ve heard a huge number of people come out to tell me they were sorry that I didn't get elected, and how shocked they were. I appreciate that a lot, but it wasn't entirely unexpected. I was far more shocked that Jeff Ranger (who had been a judge in every previous year) didn't get elected. My election the first time was a fluke, and the result of a whole lot of hard campaigning, drawing from groups that most other judges simply didn't have access to. I hit local gatherings and nearly every gamer in central Texas looking for votes while the others campaigned among the people who could already be counted on to vote online. This meant that I got a nice little surge of votes, but it also meant that they went away as soon as I wasn't around to remind them to get online and vote for me. While everyone else was online, campaigning and answering questions like they should have been, I was on vacation with my family. I knew I was taking a chance with the election when I made the choice, and I don't really regret it.

This isn't, however, bad news. For the judging panel we got five qualified and excited people who came straight home with piles of books and got right to work. I think they're going to do a fantastic job, and I can't wait to sit back and see what they come up with. As far as what that will mean where this blog is concerned, well I have even better news. At least three of the judges told me that they are interested in blogging like I did, and together I know they'll do a far better job than I ever did alone. I have offered to give them this blog site, since it would be a bit disingenuous of me to keep using the enniejudge address, and hopefully they'll take me up on that. Even if they maintain separate blogs, a combined blog here might make for interesting reading. Liz also asked me to consider writing a guest column on occasion, which would be extremely cool, though I have no idea what I would talk about.

As for me, I accepted a staff position doing outreach for the Ennie Awards, and I'll be moving my private blog onto another feed just as soon as I figure out whether or not there is any way to transfer over all the stuff I've already written. I'll leave my entries here as well, but I wanted to archive them on my own site if possible. Beyond Ennies stuff, I'm thinking about starting a pet project. Dan Repperger told me that he believes that everything happens for a reason, and that he was able to speak far more for podcasting by presenting the award than he ever could have in a simple acceptance speech. That got me thinking, and though I personally feel the same way, I don't usually have many opportunities to apply that to gaming. Here perhaps I do. I have two RPGs that I have all but complete, that I never bothered to do anything with because I never had any desire to try and get them published. As a judge I never could have anyways.

Having met a lot of great publishers and writers at GenCon however, I begin to understand why people might want to put their stuff our there, even if they know it'll never make them a real living. So I think I may give it a shot as well. I'm going to take this year to try and get together at least an ashcan edition, and hope that the Ashcan Front has room for one more. I really loved what they were doing there, and it would be incredibly awesome to have the chance to be a part of that.

Anywho, enough of that. Let's talk about GenCon.

Maybe it's just been too long, or maybe I'm just older, but it sure seemed like GenCon was bigger and much more of a presence than it was in Milwaukee ten years ago. You couldn't swing a boffer weapon without smacking a gamer ("2 magic!"), and you couldn't walk down the street without meeting someone cool.

That's good, because I turns out that I am the worst GenCon planner ever. I went to the con signed up to run two unofficial games, and to play in one more. Beyond that, all I had to do was two shifts at the Ennies booth. That's it. Silly me, I thought I'd just find a few games when I got there.

I did, however, run Hollow Earth Expedition, and the players there made it the most fun I've ever had in a con game, and probably the best time I've had with any game in a really long time. I cannot express enough how much I love that game, and as glad as I am that it got a silver for Best Cover, I'm pretty saddened that it wasn't honored beyond that at the Ennies. It helps of course, that the people who make it are so completely awesome. Not only did they set aside a special copy of the limited edition Secrets of the Surface World supplement for me (number 10!), they gave me a copy of the GM screen for running the game at the con, even though mine wasn't an official game, and loaned me a ton of the extremely cool new style chips to use.

I also played in a game of Traveller20 run by Psion from the ENWorld forums. There I made the unfortunate choice of playing the pilot, and I basically spent the entire game sitting on the ship hoping to make myself useful. I'm sure I was a ton of fun for the poor other players who kept trying to encourage me to leave the ship, but the paranoid GM in me was sure that the moment we left the ship unoccupied it was going to take off without us. Yeah, it's tough switch from GM to player. If you guys are reading this, sorry if I was a stick in the mud.

Finally I managed to worm my way into Chris Hussey's Skies of Glass demo (the game written by the guys over at Fear the Boot). The game itself is still in early stages of development, but it looks really cool, and that demo adventure is the best written con game I've ever seen. It's really tough to write a game for a bunch of strangers. Doubly so for a group different enough to touch on all the features of a game, and that game was perfect. Everyone at that table had something to do, and we were all engaged the entire time. I can't heap enough praise that direction. Even if my best friend did betray me to the law and get me executed...

That's really it for my gaming experiences. Like I said, I just didn't plan well at all. I was really hoping to do some stuff that I never get to at home, play some board games, demo a few story games, and play in a LARP. Ever since I read the excellent new version of the Cthulu LARPthat was entered in the Ennies I've been dying to give it a try. Anywho, I never really got the chance. That's not entirely true. I did get to do a cool demo of Breaking the Ice, which was a huge amount of fun, but I was desperate to try out Dogs in the Vineyard and Prime Time Adventures, and I'm bummed that I never made that happen. Especially after hearing the latest Sons of Kryos talk about the great Star Wars game they played with PTA.

In spite of my terrible planning I did get to meet some extremely cool people. Wednesday night the guys from Fear the Boot took me out for a great dinner, and not only gave me a Baron von Badass mug, but introduced me to a new beer to fill it with. I also got to hang out with Jeff and Judd from the Sons of Kryos, though I never did meet Storn; Paul Tevis, who also introduced me to Ken Hite (sorry, Kenneth Hite in print); Jeff, Melissa, and the Exile Crew; Lenny and Fred from Evil Hat; all three of the All Games Considered crew, Jared Sorenson; Luke Crane; all the ENnies folks (Denise, Russ, Rich, Liz, Kennon, Michael, Gertie, Jeff, Stuart, Kevin...); the list goes on and on, but now I'm just listing people, so I'm going to stop while I'm ahead. Sorry if I missed anyone. I had such a great time at GenCon, and it was all because of the people I met.

So, I guess that's really all I did. I missed the Judges' Party Thursday night, so I don't have all the great stories everyone else does. I skipped it at first to run my HEX game, intending to show up late, but then promptly forgot about the party by the time the game ended at midnight, and went up to my room to sleep after my 20 hour drive earlier in the day. Other than that I spent all of my time in the dealers' room. You'd think that I'd have managed, in all that time, to get everything that I wanted, but I didn't. I don't have my stuff with me, but let me see if I can remember the list:
  • Play Dirty, by John Wick (Dude, if you stumble across this, you're my hero. Just throwing that out there.)
  • The Blossoms are Falling, by Luke Crane
  • Jihad, by Luke Crane
  • Cold City Companion, by Malcolm Craig (Who also gave me a second, signed copy, to give away at my game day next month.)
  • Monte Cook's World of Darkness
  • Hollow Earth Expedition: Secrets of the Surface World
  • Hollow Earth Expedition: Player's Kit (A cool little bag with Ubiquity dice and Style Chips.)
  • Hollow Earth Expedition: Game Master's Screen
  • Aces and Eights
  • Classic Battletech TechManual
  • Classic Battletech Technical Readout 3050
  • Shadowrun: Augmentation
  • Dogs in the Vineyard
  • GURPS: Martial Arts
  • Blackmoor: Clock and Steam (Which was given to me for review by the guys at Zeitgeist.)
  • and the guys at Eden sold me Forsaken Rites, Cryptozoology, and Atlantis Rising for Conspiracy X for $5 a piece on Sunday :)
I know I'm forgetting some stuff, but I won't remember any more until after I publish this I'm sure, so I'm going to press on. I guess the combination of crunchy and narrative games that I bought may make me the most eclectic gamer ever, but I just love new games. So long as they fulfill their design goals I'm willing to give anything a shot.

What's really notable is what I didn't get, mostly because I'm an idiot. In retrospect I'm angry with myself for skipping the new Battletech boxed set. I was already so far over budget I couldn't justify buying a starter set since I already had all of the regular books, but man I wish I had a copy. A similar thing happened with GURPS Supers, where I got money concious and started thinking about the likelihood that I would be playing a Supers game any time soon. Somehow I also missed three of the games that I specifically went into the dealer's hall to buy. Reign, Prime Time Adventures, and Dread were right at the very top of my too buy list, and I have no idea how I missed them. I went to the Forge booth to pick them up, got distracted when my inner fanboi took over and I went around getting my books signed, and managed to walk away without thinking about it. I didn't notice that I managed to leave without them until I packed up my suitcase Sunday night.

All in all however it was certainly the best four days in gaming. I can't begin to describe what a great time I had and how much fun it was meeting everyone. Next year I'll plan better, and I'll do all of my shopping Thursday in case I miss anything. Other than that, I have no regrets.

Thanks to everyone who made GenCon, and this blog, such a blast. Especially to all of those who voted for me or vouched for me when I was running for judge. I got a lot of love this year, and win or lose it meant the world to me.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Okay, I know I haven't logged on, but wireless coverage in Indianapolis is spottier than I expected.

I also promised to live-blog the awards, but due to limited internet access that didn't happen either.

So, here at least are the winners, congrats all, and thank you for your support of the ENnies and myself in particular.

Best Fan Site, presented by Russell Morrissey:
Silver: Planewalker
Gold: Dragonlance Nexus

Best PodCast, presented by Dan Repperger of Fear the Boot:
Silver: Yog Radio
Gold: Have Games, Will Travel

Best Cover Art, presented by Kevin Kulp:
Silver: Hollow Earth Expedition, by Exile Games Studio
Gold: Five Fingers, Port of Deceit, by Privateer Press

Best Interior Art:
Silver: Qin, by 7th Circle
Gold: Mutants and Masterminds, Ultimate Power by Green Ronin Publishing

Best Cartography:
Silver: WFRP GM Toolkit, by Black Industries
Gold: Ptolus, City by the Spire, by Malhavoc Press

Best Production Values:
Silver: Mutants and Masterminds, Ultimate Power, by Green Ronin Publishing
Gold: Ptolus, City by the Spire, by Malhavoc Press

Best Writing:
Silver: WFRP Children of the Horned Rat, by Black Industries
Gold: Five Fingers, Port of Deceit, by Privateer Press

Best Rules:
Silver: Spirit of the Century, by Evil Hat
Gold: Mutants and Masterminds, Ultimate Power, by Green Ronin

Best Adventure:
Silver: Mutants and Masterminds, Time of Vengeance, by Green Ronin Publishing
Gold: WFRP: Lure of the Liche Lord, by Black Industries

Best Setting, presented by Kieth Baker:
Silver: Five Fingers, Port of Deceit, by Privateer Press
Gold: Ptolus, City by the Spire, by Malhavoc Press

Best Supplement, presented by Kevin Kulp:
Silver: Mutants and Masterminds, Ultimate Power, by Green Ronin Publishing
Gold: WFRP Companion, by Black Industries

2008 ENnies Judge Election, announced by Richard Miller:
Kathryn -Gertie- Barden (Xath)
Elizabeth Bauman (Queen_Dopplepopolis)
Chris Gath (Crothian)
Zachary Houghton (Zachary The First)
Kevin Kulp (Piratecat)

Best Aid or Accessory, presented by Kevin Kulp:
Silver: GameMastery Combat Pad, by Open Mind Games/Paizo Publishing
Gold: Deck of Many Things, by Green Ronin Publishing

Best Miniature Product:
Silver: EZ Dungeons, by Fat Dragon Games
Gold: Game Mastery: Flip-mat Tavern, by Paizo Publishing

Best Regalia:
Silver: Liber Chaotica, by Black Industries
Gold: Order of the Stick, No Cure for the Paladin Blues, by Giant in the Playground

Best Free Product:
Silver: Classic Battletech Free Package, by Catalyst Games
Gold: Savage Tide Player's Guide, by Paizo Publishing

Best Electronic Book:
Silver: Magical Medieval Society: European Warfare, by Expeditious Retreat Press
Gold: Classic Battletech Free Package, by Catalyst Games

Best d20/OGL Product, presented by Rodney Thompson of Wizards of the Coast:
Silver: Five Fingers, Port of Deceit, by Privateer Press
Gold: Mutants and Masterminds, Ultimate Power, by Green Ronin Publishing

Best Game, presented by Rob Boyle of Catalyst Games:
Silver: Qin, by 7th Circle
Gold: Scion, Hero, by White Wolf

Product of the Year, presented by Peter Adkinson:
Silver: WFRP, Children of the Horned Rat, by Black Industries
Gold: Ptolus, City by the Spire, by Malhavoc Press

Fan's Choice, Best Publisher:
Silver: Green Ronin
Gold: Wizards of the Coast

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Next time, on a very special episode of In My Judgment:

I thought I'd go ahead and make a quick post about what's going on from my end. Since I'm leaving for GenCon Tuesday tomorrow's blog will be my last until Friday, when I will live-blog the awards ceremony, complete with pictures and winners as they are announced.

Tomorrow's blog will be a look back at my impressions of the products that were entered last year as a whole. It will likely be very long, and I've already started working on it a little bit.

After that, and the blog from the ceremony of course, what happens will largely depend on the outcome of the judge elections. When I get back from GenCon next Tuesday I will be starting my spotlight series, where I will go through products a couple at a time giving brief impressions. Whether or not those products are the ones I got this year or a sneak peak at what I'll be judging next year will have to wait and see if I get elected again.

If I'm not a judge I'll likely wrap up this blog once I finish highlighting my favorite products. If I am elected I'll shift my focus to the awards for next year. With any luck I'll bring a few entries home with me to start reviewing right away.

48 hours

Well, it's almost here. In just about 48 hours I'm headed to GenCon for the first time in a decade, and being the procrastinator that I am, I have yet to even begin packing.

I can't even begin to describe how excited I am. This year is going to be fantastic, and I'm really looking to meeting everyone.

Over at ENnies HQ things are in full swing. They just got the table layout a couple days ago, so the event organizers are finally able to get to work on seating arrangements and the like, not to mention packing up the booth stuff and all the other work that goes into throwing an event for hundreds of people.

Meanwhile, I of course am sitting on my hands. I feel pretty useless right now since my job at this point is mostly to show up and look pretty, and those who know me realized I'm going to fail at least half of that. Meanwhile I sit back and watch everyone else put a ton of time and effort into putting the presentation together and making sure that everything is done and ready to go.

Personally I can't wait. The location, the Indiana Roof Ballroom is amazing , and just around the corner from the convention center, which is very nice, especially since I won't have access to a cap in Indiana.

Anywho, I guess that's about it for now. Judge voting ends today, so if you haven't, please get out and vote. If you have, wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I am humbled

So, I'll admit that I have a Google alert looking for stuff about me and my blog. Yeah, it's vain, but I like to see what kind of job I'm doing, and I refuse to believe everyone is as positive as the guys are around here to my face.

Apparently I'm wrong. There has been an absolutely fantastic amount of support out there , and I don't even begin to know what to say. Thanks to everyone who took a moment to pass some good vibes my way. It really means a lot to me. I've gotten about a dozen hate e-mails and a couple of nasty IMs over the last couple days from people who are a bit upset about one of the decisions that was made (I'd really rather not go into it here if you don't mind), but every site that came up on my alert was not just supportive, but completely flattering.

I really appreciate it. I'm not sure if everyone came up on the alert yet, but let me at least thank Zachary (who commented here and on a number of message boards); Kevin Kulp, who gave me an amazing endorsement on his blog; Fred Hicks, who endorsed me on his blog and over at RPGnet, Christopher Richeson, who has been awesome on his blog and far more message boars than I myself frequent; Justin Jacobson, who took the time to drop me a complement over at Story Games; and everyone over on the Exile Games site.

You guys made my day.

I'm sure I missed some, and if I did, I'm sorry. You have my sincerest thanks.

Edit: I really need to add the guys at Fear the Boot to this. Despite great adversity they have been far better to me than I deserve.

Best d20/OGL commentary

In some ways judging the d20 products was very easy for me, even though it required a lot of work. The reason is simple of course, I'm already extremely familiar with the underlying mechanics. It's certainly a lot easier to judge a game when you can tell at a glance how it all fits together.

It's a lot of work, however, because a huge percentage of what we received was d20 based. I don't have my notes or anything, but I'd guess something like 2/3 to 3/4 of the entries used d20-ish mechanics I say "ish" because I'm lumping in things like True20, Passages, and Mutants & Masterminds.

Here is one area where I definitely can't complain about the outcome. I don't usually share my votes for fear of betraying how other judges voted, but on this one it seems safe, since every vote I cast ended up on the list. Here at least you can see exactly how my tastes line up.

The choices I made here fell into place pretty easily. Like other categories I find myself wishing that there was room for a few more outstanding products, especially taking into consideration how many d20 products we received, but when it comes down to it the products that were selected were nothing short of amazing.

The Warlords of the Accordlands series was likely the most pleasant surprise of the entrants this year. I hadn't heard much about it going in, and most of what I did hear wasn't very flattering. I don't know anything about the CCG it's based on and of course I didn't have to put up with the delays that I know tend to frustrate fans, which left me a bit more open to enjoying the game for what it was, rather than what it wasn't. What it was is an incredibly good read, providing everything that a GM might need to run a campaign in a very compelling world. It offers some neat, new mechanical tricks, provides large amounts of world information, offers great cartography and art, and includes an interesting mega-campaign to take characters from first level all the way to 20. We combined all four of these books into one product for the purposes of the award, but any one of those books would make a great addition to this list.

Etherscope- Upload: Etherpunk is another one that I was only peripherally aware of before the awards, yet hits on every cylinder. It shouldn't be any surprise really, since Goodman Games is continuously churning out good products, but the Etherscope line in total has proven to be exceptional at every turn. I wish I had it with me so I could go into a bit more detail, but it takes the d20 Modern ruleset and tunes it in some very interesting ways. Even leaving off the great mechanics, you still find a fascinating world that cries out to be played in, compelling adventures, and strong reenforcement of its themes at every turn. No one should think of Goodman as just a company that has managed to bottle up the "old school" vibe and sell it. These products prove they have a lot more to offer.

Mutants and Masterminds: Ultimate Power has been nominated over and over again, so I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that it made it here as well. Everyone who knows d20 knows that Green Ronin consistently puts out some of the best products that the industry has to offer, and yet even in this year of very strong entries from their camp, Ultimate Power shines through. This book takes the already incredible Mutants and Masterminds second edition rules and really opens them up to the players. It makes power creation easy, quick, and comprehensive. I'd challenge anyone to find something it doesn't allow you to do.

Five Fingers: Port of Deceit got my vote first and foremost because it was quite possibly the single best book I read. Sure there are some books that do certain things better, but this one really grabbed me across the board. It's extremely well written, entertaining, visually appealing, and though it contains few rules, those that are there are short, easy to understand, and could pop right into any d20 game. I absolutely loved it.

I saved Helios Rising for last because I was asked to go into a bit more detail on why I liked it so much. Let me start by saying that this book is huge, and it's packed from beginning to end with gaming goodness. It doesn't waste any time jumping right in either. From the time you open it up you're getting advice on how to use it and what kind of campaigns to run. What really makes this book work for me though is the way it's laid out. Besides the fact that it's a good read to start with, or the fact that it provides excellent rules for playing everything that it presents, it's just so darn easy to find exactly what you need for the setting you're playing in. Each chapter is like a mini sourcebook with the history, geography, rules, and hooks you need to slip it right into your game. In short, the book takes everything that's great about the already fantastic Dawning Star setting, expands it, and makes it better. Any chapter in this book would make an excellent purchase, and as a whole it's phenomenal. Even if you don't use the Dawning Star setting, or don't even play d20 Modern, I'd say this would be a good buy. There is enough information and adventure ideas here to easily find inspiration for any number of sci-fi games.

I guess in retrospect that's not huge amount of extra detail, but I suppose that if anyone is interested I'll make a bit more effort when I get to work on the next series of blogs I'll be doing.

So, what didn't make the list, and why? The why part is easy really, and I already touched on it above. The things that were nominated were absolutely amazing. Even though some of the products that didn't make the list were amazing as well, the quality of the competition here can't be stressed enough.

Still, there are a few things that I can think of right away that need to be mentioned. First and foremost is the Honorable Mention, Ptolus. The vast majority of complaints that I heard this year revolved around how few nominations Ptolus received, particularly in this category. First I suppose I should point out that Ptolus did actually do very well for itself in every category where its strengths were really allowed to shine. It received nominations in Production Values, Setting, Cartography, and even Product of the Year, though it didn't fair quite as well in this category. Part of the reason for that is that Ptolus is really a setting book, and though it does present its setting very well, it already got a nomination for that. It's huge, and it's pretty, but it got a nomination for that as well. It's full of densely packed information, and among the best products released this year, but it got the nod for that as well. Hopefully everyone can see that it wasn't overlooked, it's just that, in the d20 category, we were looking for different criteria, and at it's heart Ptolus was built to tie existing d20 material together into a cohesive whole, not expand it in any meaningful way. It's a great book, and it deserves the place it got on this list every bit as much as it deserves the actual nominations that it received, but it just couldn't quite make the final list.

Another neat product was Passages, also brought to us by the same company that produced Helios Rising. This one is almost unique among d20 derived games in that it completely deconstructs the ruleset and rebuilds it until it's almost unrecognizable. Believe me when I say that I mean that in a very good way. The authors didn't bother with preserving the sacred cows, instead they took the clay it was built from and molded it into the form that fit their creation. Passages takes chances, it goes out on a limb, and throws out all of the old d20 stereotypes. It gives you the unexpected at every turn, and almost challenges you to call it "just another d20 game". Based on some of the finest literary works that the world has to offer, this book makes you a passenger in some of the greatest stories ever told. Any element of this book, its rules, setting, or writing, would make an excellent purchase. As a whole it is nothing short of extraordinary.

There are a lot more products that really deserve some spotlight time here, but I've been at this for two hours already, and I have work that needs to get done. Instead I'm just going to mention the next series that I'm going to do on this blog. I have one or two commentaries left in me, but beyond that I think I'm going to move on to a simple spotlight format. Breaking down each individual category always leaves me wishing I had taken the time to mention just a few more things, and the actual reviews I used to do were a bit too time consuming. Instead I think that I'll start putting out a post whenever I have the time with the highlights of a few products that I think deserve a second look. It won't be much, just a paragraph or two, but hopefully it'll allow me to share my thoughts in a less structured way. Let me know if there's anything you'd like to see me start with.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Judge voting is open

So, in case you are unaware, voting for the 2008 ENnies judges is now open. I'd really appreciate any votes I get, but even if you don't put me as your number 1 please take a second to vote. These are the people who choose the final nominees and a good selection is absolutely vital to the process.
If you feel strongly about any of the candidates I'd also like to ask that you take a moment to voice your support on any of the forums or blogs that you frequent. The process has been very quiet this year since it came so close on the heals of voting for the awards themselves, and that's not good for anyone.

Preparing for GenCon

I know I let it get slow again, sorry. One of the downsides to owning a small business is that every time you're not around to do something it simply doesn't get done. It just sits there waiting for you when you get back. After my last vacation I had a ton to do, and when that was done I decided to take some preemptive measures for my trip to GenCon. Toss that together with preparing to end the Shadowrun game that I've been running for around a year now, and writing three more games to start after GenCon, I just haven't had the mental space to blog.

Hopefully that's past me now, since the eminent threat of GenCon has me all excited again.

This year will mark my first GenCon in a decade, and the first time that I really go knowing people or excited about the people I'm going to meet. Always before it was strictly about the gaming, and there will be plenty of that this year as well, but it'll be nice to put faces to some of the people that I've been chatting with. Right now I have a dinner tentatively scheduled for the night before the con in St. Louis, which should be awesome, a possible podcast interview, and a whole lot of drinks I need to buy. If any vendors wonder why I have no money for the exhibitioner's hall, blame that.

Other than that I have no idea what I'm going to do. There's the podcast party and the ENnies of course, and I have two pick-up games that I'm scheduled to run, but beyond those I'll just play it by ear. Right now I don't even think I'm bringing any game books with me outside of my copy of Hollow Earth Expedition. If I'm elected as a judge this year I'm going to concentrate my energy on seeking out games that might be entered for the awards this year. What better way to get a jump start on seeing exactly what the game was intended to do? I have no idea what all is coming out or what to expect, but I know that if I don't get to thumb through Monte Cook's World of Darkness, Aces and Eights, Blossoms are Falling, Witch Hunter, Secrets of the Surface World, and the Cold City Companion I'm going to cry. I'm not sure if there is any chance they'll be at the con, but I definitely need some ConX supplements and the new BRP as well.

Sigh. There's no way I can afford all of those right now, so my only hope is that enough of them get delayed that I won't have to try and figure out which are immediate "must haves" and which can wait.

While I'm at it, I desperately need to find someone willing to teach me to play Prime Time Adventures, Dogs in the Vineyard, and Dread. The more podcasts I listen to the more it becomes a physical need to try my hand at them.

Anywho, I guess that's enough off-topic ramblings for now. If anyone has good advice on GenCon activities let me know. Also, voting for GenCon judges should start today, and I'd really appreciate any support I can get. I'm Jeramy Ware in case anyone was wondering. With my vacation and extra work lately I've done a terrible job of campaigning, so I could use all the help I can get.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Best Setting commentary

Best Setting is definitely one of those categories where you can't help but notice that things are missing. So much work and creativity is poured into the various game settings that they are easy to latch on to, and they form the core of many of the games and products that we reviewed. Everyone has their favorite setting, or some element of a game world that appeals to them, and seeing it missing from the list brings up the question of why.

Figuring out how to judge a game setting is tough. Rules are easy. Most long time gamers can look at a set of game rules, maybe play through them a bit, and see what makes them tick. Settings on the other hand are pure art, and art is hard to judge. Especially when the subjects are so different. Personally I think that measuring a city book like Five Fingers against a core setting like Qin is basically impossible to do fairly. That's why it's so important to judge each book on its own merits, rather than trying to compare them to one another. It's easy to read Five Fingers and see why it deserves the nomination, but it's much harder to figure out if it is "better" than something like Qin, which has to explain large sections of the world while leaving room for actual rules.

Unfortunately that does lead to some regrettable results sometimes. Every nomination in this category is a d20 product. That's a bit disappointing, and comparing products as a group might correct that a bit, but it would also mean that one of these very worthy products would have to be dropped to make room for something else for no reason other than it's system, which really shouldn't come into consideration in this particular category.

So, why these products and not some of the other great entries?

Mostly it falls back to the old excuse: there's only room for five. When it came down to it we had to pick the five settings that we felt were the absolute best based on their own merits, and the list we came up with was a good one. I may be a bit biased though, since there is only one product from my personal list of 5 that didn't make the final list, and in retrospect, I think that it may have been a bad choice anyways.

For me, these work well because, though they share a common system, they are all presented differently. Each really exemplifies a different design philosophy in a way that many other games just couldn't match. There were plenty of great settings entered, but in my view these made the cut because they weren't just great, they each did at least one thing in some extraordinary way. Who could deny that Ptolus is the most thorough setting book ever produced? It's well thought out, cohesive, and contains everything you will ever need to play for years on end. Five Fingers is a bit more open, choosing to instead paint itself in broad strokes, giving all the central information you need in a concise, entertaining fashion without weighing itself down with tiny details. On the other side of the scale, Helios Rising does an excellent job of presenting an entire star system and its inhabitants, giving GMs and players alike a ton of material to work with, and a variety of worlds to explore.

I guess the only really defining thing the nominees have in common is that they present real, living worlds, complete with enough information to sit down and put it all right to work.

That's not to say that they are the only ones who did that, however, they just did it in some way that made the five of us agree that they belonged as the top 5. There were a number of other exceptional entries, and though I don't have time to detail them all, I'd like to touch on a few:

I'll start with Burning Empires and go into a bit more detail here, since was the game that I originally put up that didn't make the list. I don't usually talk about my votes, but I think this is one that I have to mention, because I think it was wrong. Don't misunderstand, the setting for Burning Empires is fantastic, and very few games make you just want to sit down and see what you can come up with the way it does, but it doesn't really fit this category well. Sure, it has an overarching setting, but the real meat of the game is the setting the group itself makes. That's where the heart of the product lies, and though it deserves the nod because it makes that so easy and illustrates what can be done so well, stuffing BE into this category is like shoving a square peg into a round hole. You can't make it fit without shaving off a lot of what makes it unique. The setting provided for BE is fabulous, but that's not what makes it exceptional. It's the tools that help you make your setting that make it stand out.

Dictionary of Mu was another one that didn't quite make it in this category. Likewise things like Thieves' World, Qin, Tuala Morn, Golden Age, and Castlemorn were bandied about. The books themselves are fantastic, and do an excellent job of painting a picture of the world and the kinds of adventures that await the PCs, but they just didn't quite make it.

Also, since the role of PDFs in other categories was questioned I thought I'd point out that two products which received serious consideration were Fort Griffin and the Last Free City, which were both incredibly good products, but failed to make the list by a slim margin. Both make extremely good examples of how well a PDF can compare to print products in any category.

Well, I'm late heading home so I'm going to end this here. I know it was short and a little abrupt, but I'm still a bit exhausted from my vacation. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask and I'll go into a bit more detail.

Next up: Best d20/OGL.

Monday, July 30, 2007

My return and voting for judges.

I just got back from my family vacation this morning after driving the 18 hours straight from rural Tennessee to central Texas. I'm sorry I wasn't able to update while I was gone, but unsurprisingly wireless internet seemed a little harder to find out in the mountains than it is around here.

Tonight I'll get online, catch up, and start posting commentaries again. In the mean time, I wanted to say thanks to everyone who stuck with me, and remind people that the Judge voting starts one week from today. I'd appreciate the support, or if you could pass the word along, but even if you don't vote for me (Jeramy Ware) please get out and vote. Picking the right group of judges is just as important as picking the winners themselves. After all, it's the judges who decide which products are available for voting.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Slow news

If you're wondering about the lack of updates, it's mostly just my normal end of the week slow period. I'm getting ready to take a family vacation and there hasn't been much time for the internet.

I'm also running a little low on things to talk about. I think I've pretty much answered all the questions I've been asked, and there's really not a lot going on right now. Votes are coming in, and I don't think the judge nominations have stared yet, though I haven't been online much.

Hopefully that'll at least get going soon. We're running low on time for people to make an informed decision, and I'm going out of town at the end of this week.

Anywho, I'll try to get back to work on my commentaries late tonight or early tomorrow morning. Without the questions to guide me they may be a bit shorter, which might be a good thing.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Combining products

As a follow up to my last post I thought I'd discuss the argument in question (or at least part of it). From what I can tell the entire thing began because there was some offense take to the combining of different products into a single entry. The particular example used was the Battletech PDF entry, which was a series of free PDFs based on the newest iteration of the Battletech rules. I'm at work right now, so I don't have the actual entries with me at the moment, but I'd be glad to list them when I get a chance if there is interest.

So, here's my perspective on the matter. Please keep in mind that, though I was a judge for this year's awards, I am currently not affiliated with the ENies beyond my status as a volunteer and perhaps a few final duties during GenCon itself (I am, for instance, working the booth for four hours). With any luck, and a little support, I'll be a judge again in the future, but for now all I have is opinion, and the reasoning behind the choices I personally made.

The crux of the issue is this: Several products were allowed to be combined into a single entry, usually at the request of the publisher who entered them. I haven't done any work in previous years, so I might be wrong, but as far as I know it was first brought up in relation to the Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Paizo wanted to know if they would be considered separately, or as a group. This was brought to the judges, and as a group we decided that it would be best to enter the issues together as a single entry. This later became a non-issue because Paizo decided not to enter the entire line, but it did set the stage for what came after.

Next came the Battletech PDFs. I saw the Battletech Quickstart rules and fell in love. I became a huge fan of the newest itteration of the rules, and so I thought it was a shoe-in for Best Free Product. I said as much, and was then told that Fanpro wanted to enter the PDF versions (which included several additional free books, character sheets, and the like) as a single product. The precedent had been set by the Paizo entries, and the rules already had a somewhat related clause (a publisher's website could be considered as a single entry under Free Product), so to me at least it seemed acceptable.

Warlords of the Accordlands is another example. Here we awarded the entire four book line a nomination under Best d20/OGL. Clearly they are separate products, but they fit together so seamlessly that I could easily see them as a single mega-product like Ptolus.

Now here's why I think that's alright:

The Battletech Quickstart was going to get my vote under Best Free Product, no doubt. It's possible that some of the other books in the line may have as well. The Warlords of the Accordlands World Atlas was going to get my vote under Best d20. The Master Codex may have as well. What would be better, to fill up the lists with similar products, or to combine related products into a single line.

How fair is that?

To put it another way, let's say D&D 3.5 (PHB, MM, & DMG) was up for nomination this year. Each book wouldn't even qualify under Best Game. That category requires a complete system, it's why d20 books don't qualify for that award and have their own. What they would do, however, is dominate the Best Supplement category, possibly garnering as many as three out of the five available nominations. By combining the books into a single line, it qualifies them to run under Best Game (where it really belongs), and frees up two slots for other products.

What publisher really wants their own line competing against itself? What voter wants to look at a category full of the same books? Personally I think that combining the line (unless the publisher specifically chooses not to) is the only reasonable choice, so long as enough of the line is represented.

If there was any oversight, I think it's that more lines weren't combined. I wouldn't want that in categories like Best Supplement or Product of the Year, which exist to give props to a single product, but I could certainly see it for things like Best Game, Best d20, or Best Electronic Product. Maybe even Best Setting.

Of course, it's not ideal in every situation. Certainly there will be times when a line will be stronger than a single product that it is competing against, but for the most part I think it would serve to make more room for individual products, not less. In my opinion comparing multiple books against a single book isn't a whole lot different than comparing a 700 page mega-product against a 96 page indie soft cover. You have to weigh the product's individual strengths to see how good it is, not compare it against something else.

If a product was going to win just because it was more complete, had better diversity, or presented more information, you'd be seeing a whole lot more Ptolus on those lists. The awards are about how good a product is, not how well it compares against something else.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I took the day off yesterday. I know it wasn't a good time, since people are working on their votes right now, but I decided to take a day to think.

If you don't frequent ENWolrd you probably don't know, but my post on Best Electronic Book caused a bit of a scuffle that ended up with two people banned, one of which was a sitting judge.

It got me thinking about what purpose the individual commentaries serve. I had intended to just share a few personal opinions, but it seems that my thoughts are being translated into some sort of official position on the part of the awards.

That's not good, and it was never my intention.

I told another judge that I was thinking about stopping (the commentaries on categories, not the blog) but was told that I shouldn't. I'll get back to them tonight, but it's important that no one takes these posts as anything more than my perspective. If you have a question or concern please post it here, and I will try to clarify whatever I can.

I absolutely promise to answer any concern in a civil manner. I don't think anyone believes that there's absolutely no room for improvement.

Monday, July 16, 2007


If you voted for the Enies already please go vote again. An error made the earlier votes invalid.

Go vote!

This is it. The voting booth is up. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the products, and then go vote.

I'm off now to do it myself.

Best Game commentary

I've been dreading doing this one, but I'm going to go ahead and get to it.

Best Game is an easy category. Best Game is tough as hell. Both statements are true.

I'm sure that I said Best Game came easily to me at some point along the way, and I meant it at the time, but in retrospect that is a dirty, rotten lie.

I love games. Game systems are perhaps my absolute favorite thing to read, and so most of these entries went right to the top of the list. That made it easy. What made it hard was finalizing the choices.

As a rule most games do things their own way. It makes them interesting to read, but can make them hard to judge against one another. How do you measure the extreme coolness of something like Spirit of the Century against the fabulousness of Burning Empires? How do you measure the high-flying wuxia of Qin against the two-fisted action of Hollow Earth? I'll let you know if I figure it out.

So, failing any kind of objective measure, you go with your gut. Best Game is about the whole package, but focusing more on game play than the little details, that's what Production Values and the Art categories are for. It's easy because, honestly, who doesn't have one or two favorite systems? It's hard because there is just so much that it takes to make a game tick. This is the category where I did by far most of my playtesting, and I still felt like I needed to give things a bit more of a go before I was done. It's... complex.

How complex? Half way through the process I decided I hated a game that I had been advocating for weeks. I still owe the other judges an apology. Every time I played it I fell a little bit more out of love.

Week by week my top list changed. I liked this game, but that game over there has this really cool mechanic... Here's a little secret. See how all the categories have an Honorable Mention? Look at Best Game. It has two. That's right. We simply couldn't narrow it down any further. The only other category allowed two is Product of the Year, and that's only because it represents such a wide assortment of products. Best Game has two because there was no way one more would drop in any kind of timely fashion.

In the end I managed to take a deep breath, compare my notes, and lget down to business. The final list I came up with was strong, and though it was missing some of my favorites, everything on there was a credit to the hobby.

Here's where we get to the dread part, and I know this'll cost me some of the kudos I've gotten from a long time reader, but I feel like I'm partially responsible for Spirit of the Century not quite gaining a nomination. Don't get me wrong, I gave it a much-deserved vote, but I never really backed it the way I should have. It's a great game, brilliant even, but to be honest, I liked Don't Rest Your Head better. It simply fit my personal style more, and I concentrated on it more early on instead of backing the horse with better legs.

I mentioned once before that Paul Tevis made me fall in love with a game. That game was Don't Rest Your Head. I read it the first time at the end of a long night, and thought, "Cool, a game about insomniacs with interesting powers." Then I set it aside. A few weeks later, while working on the Podcast category, I heard Paul talk about a game he participated in, and it sounded incredible. So I sat down and read the whole thing again. I was hooked.

Publishers, never doubt the power of the podcasting community. Have Games, Will travel has sold me an RPG and two board games (and I'm not a board gamer). Godzilla sold me on two more RPGs, and Gamer the Podcasting sold me one. By sold I mean I literally ran out and bought the books as soon as possible. It would probably have been more, but I have a very extensive collection already, and let's face it, I had just gotten 239 of the best products the industry has to offer sent to me.

Ok, so tangent aside, here are my thoughts on a few of my favorite picks that didn't make it. I don't have my books or notes with me, so bear with me if I forget something you want to hear about. Let me know, and I'll be glad to discuss it.

I'll start with Cold City because it was the only game I published a review on with a perfect score. I absolutely loved this book, but it just didn't garner enough support. If you care about my thoughts though, feel free to read my review here. I'd link it, but I can't access my blog at work.

Next, I'll briefly mention Don't Rest Your Head. I already went over my unnatural love of this book, so I won't hit this in any kind of great detail, but it is so much more than I can convey with any kind of simple description. I'm a sucker for neat mechanics, and the system here is simple, but subtly powerful. Tough player choices result in a steady descent toward disaster. Players buy their own doom in the best tension-building mechanic I've ever seen. If you really want something badly enough you have these great little exhaustion dice to give you just the boost you need, but as the number of dice grows you have to wonder, "Is it worth it?" Ok, enough. Great setting, great system, crazy judge, you get the point.

Finally I'm going to touch on Burning Empires. There were a number of really great games entered that didn't get the nod, but this one stands out for so many reasons that I'm just going to take the easy way out and point out the the winner of the Origins award for this category didn't get a nomination from us. That doesn't mean we didn't like it. Far from it really. It was, after all, nominated in two categories, and it received votes in several more. This is one loss that surprised me as much as anyone else. It's a fantastic book, and I think it mostly just suffered at the hands of the other strong competition. I think that, with this being the most competitive category, it got lost as everyone tried to shore up support for their own favorite products. Perhaps more than in any other category this one felt to me like we all had a game or two that we really wanted to succeed, and anything that wasn't someone's absolute favorite just couldn't find room in the top 5. I'll likely touch on this subject again when I go over the Products of the Year, but this is a book very worthy of an award, it just couldn't get in among all the other worthy competition.

Best Electronic Book commentary

First and foremost, Best Electronic Book is a weird category, and for me at least it was one of the hardest to judge. You get a lot of different products that qualify, and many of them are of completely different types. It's really like a mini Product of the Year category, none of the other categories even come close to this level of diversity.

The reason for this is that other categories all have a theme. For Best Writing I look at text, for Best Rules I look at mechanics, For Best Game or Best Supplement I look at playability. Best Electronic Book has to take all of that in consideration. In my opinion that makes it one of the hardest awards to get, and I really think it should be up there with Product of the Year as being representative of some of the best that gaming has to offer. It tends to get a bad rap because many are put together without the same production standards as many top of the line print books, and that serves to keep them from being exceptionally competitive in the other categories (though at least one came very close), but really these things have to compete on a lot more levels than the printed products in other categories. Never assume that just because a product is a PDF it doesn't have great production values. There are some extremely well laid-out and attractive PDFs out there. The strengths of PDFs are different, not worse..

So, what makes the cut and why? That's the tough part, and it relates a bit to what I said above, Most of the products that got my vote were basically competitive in as many categories as possible. Good production values, exceptional writing, interesting mechanics, etc. That unfortunately means that several products that may have really stood out in one or two areas tended to get overlooked in favor of those that had a bit more to offer across the board. It's the same argument I make for why Ptolus got nominated for Product of the Year, but not Best d20. It hits on so many different levels, but when it comes down to the more specific playability categories it falls just a tiny bit short of the products that don't try to be everything. That's not a universal truth, and it may not be what the other judges were looking for at all, but that's what I was going for in nearly every case.

Of course, the hardest thing to justify is that some products just didn't grab me. There are two books in particular that I'm thinking of by the same company that were beautifully made, with great art and good writing, but they seemed... a bit formless. I don't know any other way to put it. One made my personal first list, but I just couldn't find room for it in my short list because I never managed to define it. I know I'm being vague, but it's intentional. I'm not a reviewer. It's not my place to condemn entries. People submitted their products hoping that we would share the best of what they had to offer, not point out every little flaw. The judges already provided the only judgment we had to offer that really means anything.

That's not to say that everything that didn't make the final cut was flawed in some way. In fact, before I posted my final 5/7 I had the list narrowed down to 9 products, and I couldn't figure out how I was going to decide which to drop. In the end it was a combination of the other judges' lists and what few online discussions I could find that narrowed it down for me. I already said I wouldn't give out my actual votes, but because a couple of products were asked about specifically I'll talk about some of my favorites that didn't make it.

In Harm's Way is a fascinating game based on naval warfare in the Napoleonic era. It's fantastically written, and contains tome great evocative text from a period source, which I loved. It actually made my list as an alternate, but it dropped off because its narrow scope aimed at (and squarely hit) a single, very specific type of roleplayer. If it's your type of game I whole-heartily recommend it, but I just couldn't find room for it in the top 5.

Blood & Guts: In Her Majesty's Service 2 is one that I'm not entirely sure why it didn't make it. I wasn't the only one with it on my list, so I suspect it only lost out because the five that did make it were just too hard to displace.

E-RPG is one that fell victim to that lack of theme for this category that I spoke of earlier. Mechanics and writing aside, it's very straight forward and to the point, not allowing much room for things like art and layout concerns. That doesn't make it a bad book, but it can hurt it when stacked up against some of the other great entires.

Finally, there's the Echoes of Heaven, which is another one that came within a hair's breadth of garnering a nomination, and I can only guess that it didn't get it because of the other strong entries in this category. This is going to sound a bit like pandering, especially since the author himself asked me about it, but let me say that if I had to recommend one single line that didn't make the list, this would be it. This line does a whole lot right, and I can't believe I didn't mention it earlier in the blog. I would say that my favorite part is that it is written for four different systems, meaning those who hate one particular game don't have to do the conversions themselves, but that wouldn't be true. I loved the setting. Besides, this product doesn't really rely a lot on rules to make its impression. It's all about comprehensive description, interesting concepts, and great writing. This is a product that would have gotten a nomination any other year. In fact, had Battletech not entered its line as a single product, or had this line been entered together, I think it would have made it easily this year.

Really that's something I should have thought about under advice for publishers. If you have a strong line of products that all tie together well, enter them together and let them feed off each others' strengths. It might cost you the ability to get multiple nominations in the same category, but it really reinforces the strength of the combined entry.

Well, I guess that's about it. I've been writing this thing for three hours now, trying to remember everything without access to my CDs. If you ever want to know why I make a better judge than writer, there it is. I can read a 256 page sourcebook in 3 hours, but it would take me years at the rate I type to write one.

The entries that made the list deserve their slots. They're well-rounded, yet exceptional in their own way. That's not to say that everything that deserved an award made the list however. It just means that we were limited in our number of choices, and the things that are there mostly represent things that we couldn't imagine not making the list. Had I included Echoes of Heaven on my list and left off Nevermore or Shadowcrag I'd be here lamenting their loss just as loudly.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

More advice to publishers (a little off topic)

Hire Fred Hicks as your publicist.

Seriously, dude, that's awesome.

There is a lesson to be learned here. If the judges should be passionate about their choices, the publishers, writers, and fans should be doubly so. Let people know you are proud of your nomination, and be sure that they know it's important to you that they vote.

Your turn

Ok, so I've sounded off about my thoughts, so before I return to the discussion of the nominees that I promised, I'd like to ask one quick favor of my readers.

I want you to give a little advice to whoever may be judging next year. How would you like to see it done? How could the process or system work better? Where did I or the other judges make mistakes? What did we get right?

Anything you have to give, give it. This is your chance to help make next year's awards even better. If I get significant response I'll merge it all together and post it on the judge recruitment threads.

Advice to potential judges

So, I promised to try and post some advice for those people who are considering running for a judge position for the 2008 Ennies. I guess I'll do the best I can, and hope that some of the other (or previous) judges have better advice to give, or perhaps the voters and publisherscan explain what they're looking for.

I ran on a pretty simple platform. I promised to work hard, play the games I could, and blog about my thoughts. For me, it worked. I should say, it worked well. Much better than I expected.

Part of that I think came from a fuss during the elections where some people complained that the ENnies were too d20 centered (I wonder if they'd make that claim this year?). I think there was a push to "throw down the old guard" and "put upsome new blood", which really helped some of us who wouldn't have otherwise had a chance. Not that I really think it was founded, but I think it certainly played a role, since we ended up with three brand-new judges, and I know that at least Stuart and I got first and second place in the actual elections.

So, how does that help you?

Well, be honest, but above all, be transparent. Let people know what you're thinking, and don't be afraid to hear what they have to say. Let them tell you if you're wrong or right, but don't let it dictate your choices.

Take a look at my post on the process to get an idea of how I handled actually reviewing products, then figure out how it would work for you, and how you'd do it better.

Fight for what you want. Believe it or not, the other judges are likely to be very reasonable people, and if you tell them you really want a nomination, they'll probably find room for it of there is room to be found.

Read reviews and actual play posts. Listen to what other people love about the product, and let it influence you. Not every game is for every person, but that doesn't make it a bad game.

Play the games. A lot of the products function a lot differently than you might think. Something that seems overly complicated in writing may play as smooth as silk. If you can't play, watch a game being played.

Get help. Something I forgot to mention during my discussion of the process was very important. I gave out a number of entries to my friends and members of my gaming group. After I got them back and read them, we compared notes. It's the next best thing to playing the game yourself or reading someone else's experiences. Talking things out with someone whose opinion you trust can really help you firm up your thoughts. More than one nominee got my vote because someone else convinced me that they deserved it.

Don't be defensive if people disagree with you. Voting comes down to opinion. That's it. When you ask for someone's opinion you're not always going to like what they have to say.

Beyond that, I'm not sure what I have to offer. The threads on RPGnet or ENWorld that take you here have my thoughts on things you should consider before throwing your hat in the ring, so I won't belabor the point. This is hard. Harder than you imagine, don't let the prospect of getting to read cool books fool you. Reading isn't even the hardest part. Still, it's very rewarding, and you get to meet some cool people along the way, so if you can, do it.

Oh, and don't take the free tickets to GenCon, buy your own. By the time you get a registration number everything will be booked, trust me :)

Advice to publishers

When I was asked what publishers could do to help their entries, at first I thought that I didn't really have anything to offer. In retrospect, that isn't quite true.

I've talked about some of this stuff before, but bear with me as I try to collect my thoughts into one place. These are only really things that apply to me, and may not be overly useful depending on the tastes of whoever judges next year, but they may be of some value, so I'll offer what I have.

First and foremost, don't wait until May. I received about half of the entries within the last month or so of judging, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that some stuff started to bleed together in the final push. Early on in the process it was easy to take a day off or set something aside so I could cleanse my pallet, but in those later days I just had to muscle through things, and it's likely not a coincidence that many of the things I really fell in love with came in the first couple months of submissions. Early on you have time to research things, get a feel for them, read about the experiences of others... That gives you a chance to see what a game has to offer even if it isn't precisely your own tastes. At the end of the process you're lucky to have time to read the book and maybe a couple reviews. I know it's tempting to gather things together in one big shipment, and I'm sure it saves money that a lot of publishers simply can't waste, but I really can't stress the importance of getting your products out as soon as possible enough. It'll help you, and it'll lighten the load on those who come after you.

Also, if possible, think about letting the judges know what categories you think you might deserve. I know you turn your entries in to the board, but the judges see very little of that, and while the board does make it available, it's not always handy right when we're reading through the book. I know it might be time-consuming, and you simply may not be able to, but consider a letter of introduction. I received one or two, and I have to tell you, it's nice. Let the judges know what you think is cool about your product. Don't be shy about pointing out specific pictures you'd like them to consider in detail, or some neat mechanic that really enhances the feel of your game. A paragraph or two would be more than enough, and it could go a long ways toward getting a judge excited about the product before he or she ever cracks the cover.

Also, don't be afraid to communicate with judges, but make sure to keep it public. I was extremely pleased to see so much publisher/writer participation in my blog and the threads I post to on various forums, but you always get a little nervous about private emails or IMs. I received a couple of very generous (and well-intentioned) offers of materials to help my judgments, ranging from questions answered by authors right down to PDF copies of the entries or the core books of their line (if they weren't submitted) to make my life easier. These were actually appreciated, but I didn't think it would be right to accept any offer made in private, so I turned them down. The one that was offered to all judges, and in a public forum, I accepted, and I'm glad I did, because the PDF in question really enhanced my understanding of the materials in the entry.

I don't really believe that there's anyone out there who would actually stoop to attempted bribery, but it's not my beliefs that matter. It's all about the appearance of propriety.

That said, don't let worry about baseless accusations keep you away either. Feel free to answer questions, or ask them yourself. Offer up a link or two to reviews that you think represent your product well, or maybe even an actual play post. If the judges think you're overstepping, I'm sure they'll let you know, but never be afraid to make someone's job easier. If there's not a blog or something like mine available next year, it might be a good idea for interested parties (fans as well as publishers and writers) to go to ENWorld and start a thread. That's where the judges deliberate, and I'm sure that they'll pop in if you let them know it's there.

Oh, and don't forget to let the judges know what you intend to submit if you're not going to be able to send it in right away. Sometimes the judges may already own a copy, or might be willing to look into doing a little advanced research at any rate. If one of the judges happens to be a reviewer that you trust, feel free to send them a copy to review ahead of time. Remember that publishers are not required to send a second copy out to a judge for review if they've already been comped a copy.

I guess that's about all I have to offer for now. I know Stuart and Liz check this blog, and strongly suspect the Kevin, Jeff, and Denise do as well, so perhaps they could add to what I have here if they get a chance. I'm sure it'll be different for everyone, and what I have to offer may not help at all, but I'm certain that it couldn't hurt.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

2008 Judge Selection

Well, if you pay much attention to the ENies you probably already know this, but starting Monday, July 16, the board will be accepting nominees for judges for next year's ENnie awards.

I'm very excited about this, and I've discussed it a bit before, but I'd really like to highlight it because I think it's a huge step forward for the process. The nominees will be posted July 30th, and voting will run August 6-12th. This will allow the new judges to be announced at GenCon, so who ever is elected can begin reviewing products right away.

As I've said before, one of the greatest barriers to fair judging is simply time. 240 books in 3 months allows for very little actual playtesting. An 11 month timeline will make careful, thoughtful review much more possible, and can only help the process.

This was absolutely necessary, and I've already seen a couple complaints about how quickly it follows last-year's nominations, but I really encourage the detractors to think it through. Change has to happen sometime, and it's going to be rough whenever it happens, so we might as well rip the bandaid off now. In the end the awards will be better for it. The time table is short, but it's the best possible solution. You've already seen the kind of choices this year's judges have made, so you can vote us out if you think we've lost touch with the community, and publishers can get any available products into the hands of judges as soon as possible, perhaps even taking time at the con itself to demo what they have and get things moving right away.

I love it.

That said, I've heard a lot of complimentary things lately, and while I'm not sure I deserve them all, I do appreciate them. So, here's my commercial:

I'd like to throw my hat in the ring again for next year, but assuming it works like last year, I'm going to need a nomination and a second. Last year I self-nominated, but I think doing so at this point is a bit too self-centered even for me. If you like what I've done here, if you want to see it happen again next year, and most importantly, if you like the way I voted, I'd appriciate someone popping into the nomination threads and dropping my name. Just as importantly, I'd like your vote when the time comes. I've seen it implied that my mobilization of people outside the online community last time was a little unfair (though, in my defense, they were all gamers), so I don't intend to do that again. That means I'm going to need all the help I can get. I'll participate in whatever election threads I can find, but apart from that I'm only going to ask my gaming group and my readers for their support. If I still get in, then I guess I deserved it.

That's it. No more bugging you about my nomination. I'm going to get back to my normal blog and try to actually get this thing done before the awards ceremony renders it unnecessary.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sorry all.

Sorry for the lack of updates today, and probably tomorrow as well. I have been overcome with exhaustion and can't think well enough for even my normal less-than-coherent posts right now.

For a little perspective on this week:
Go to work: 7:30pm
Get home: 8am
Take my kids to VBS: 9:30 am
Get home: 1pm
Sleep: 2pm to 6pm.
Eat dinner, get dressed, back to work.

Lather, rinse, repeat for five days.

Today was my day off, and after I got home from VBS I passed out. I'm taking a day of rest, and tomorrow I need to get back to work on my poor, unappreciated gaming campaigns. I'll get back to blogging after that.

So, my apologies, particulary to any new potential judges who were referred here. If I get any free time I'll try to get something out before Saturday, but no promises.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Best Podcast commentary

So, how do you judge a podcast?

That question came up pretty early in the deliberations. This is a brand-new category after all. One that didn't even exist until a good ways into the judging process.

I never asked, but I suspect that I may have been the only judge who listened to podcasts before I asked that the category be introduced. That probably made it a bit of an uphill battle for some of the judges. The time commitment involved here was huge. I was already in the process of catching up on several podcasts, and even still I was working on listening to them right up to the very end. There were 23 of these, and some have 100+ hours of content.

Not that it was unpleasant, mind you, it was just long.

So, how do you judge a podcast? Well, I think it starts with defining the things that make a podcast useful and enjoyable. Things like production values, value/utility of content, and sense of humor are very important here. It's a lot more like judging a fansite or art than the usual game book.

Still, there are no real guidelines here, and so we had to work it out as we went. If I do this again next year I think I'll ask the podcasters and their community what it is that's important to them.

Anywho, from here it was a matter of trying to find which shows best embody these traits. I tried to nominate a number of different shows, each strong in their own way. Fear the Boot for example has incredible production values, and is a heck of a lot of fun to listen to, while Sons of Kryos has some of the best gaming advice I've ever heard. I mentioned in an earlier post how much I enjoy the reviews Have Games, Will travel, and particularly how the very thorough early ones are directly responsible for selling me on a number of games, and helped to secure my support for a couple of nominees.

There are shows that didn't make it here that certainly had a place. Gamer the Podcasting didn't enter, but I always assumed they would have gotten my vote as well. Also, Dragon's Landing, which has been a center of the community didn't quite make it, which disappoints me a little. The list goes on and on.

Still, here more than anywhere I have no one to blame but myself. The other judges knew this was my baby, and they really stepped back and supported my choices. Four out of the top six are on the list directly because of my votes, so if you're unhappy with the choices, it's my fault.

I wonder if I can talk the board into asking Mick Bradley to present the award. From the outside looking in it seems that, if the podcasting community has a heart, it's that man, and I know he could entertain the crowd.

Anywho, I guess that's about all there is here. If anyone has any questions please leave a comment and I'll get back to you as soon as I'm able. Also let me know what you think of these commentaries before I waste too much time writing things no one is reading.

Best Regalia commentary

There was some discussion about commentary on specific products, and it got me thinking about how I would present such a thing. What I came up with starts here. My last article was designed as a starting place for the commentary to follow. I way of making the reader understand where I'm coming from, and a reference to how we came up with the choices we made.

I'm going to use a series of commentaries on the awards nominees to do much the same thing for individual products. I'll comment on the awards as a whole, and then if anyone ha any questions about a specific product beyond what is discussed I'll go into more detail separately.

I'm going to start with Regalia since I was asked about Murder in Marienburg specifically, and because it's honestly one of the easiest categories.

So, to start with, why is it so easy?

Well, it's a small category. I believe there were only 16 entries. Further, there's probably no other category whose nominees were so easily predictable. If I recall correctly, this is the only category where all five judges were so unanimous in their choices.

That's not to say there is anything wrong with the other entries, there were several really good entries, but those that were chosen were as close to a lock as you can get. A Murder in Marienburg, for instance, was the best of the Warhammer novels that were submitted, but few things could stack up against how much the judges fell in love with the Witch Hunter's Handbook and Liber Chaotica. Once they were determined to be Regalia (due to their lack of direct game content) they were all but assured nominations. The Order of the Stick comic was likewise a shoe-in. How many gamers don't love Rich Burlew's work? That only leaves two nominations left. Then you take a look at Classic Battletech, which doesn't qualify as a game since it's primarily played as a mini game, rather than an RPG, but does qualify for the awrds, since it enhances the Battletech RPG. That makes it Regalia, and it was so good it too was basically assured nomination.

So, with one slot left for all the various products we received the Art of Dragon Magazine, and one look at it should tell you why it got the nod. Years of the best that the industry's premier magazine has to offer, all contained in one, beautiful book.

There's no disrespect meant to the products that didn't get the nomination. In any other year, against any other competition, several of them would have been very deserving. This year however the competition was just too stiff.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The process

Before I go ahead and jump into questions or individual products I'd like to take a moment to discuss the actual process I went through to arrive at my nominees, as well as a few thoughts on what I'd change if I did it again.

First, when receiving a product I would usually give it a quick flip-through to get a feel for what it's about. Something much like what you might do when encountering something new and interesting at the FLGS. It's not a particularly necessary part of the process, but I believe it got me thinking about the book. Here I'm not looking for anything in particular, just impressions. That can come from anything, chapter titles, opening fiction, interior art...

After that the book gets separated into one of three boxes that are sill sitting around my living room (sorry dear): Read Now, Read Later, or Already Read. Any number of factors can play into which of the first boxes the product gets placed in. If it's for a setting I'm unfamiliar with (like Helios Rising was), I set it aside until I can do a little research. If it's for a game I'm unfamiliar with (like the WFRP products), it gets set aside until I can get my hands on a core book. And, if it's a product of a type of been over doing (like any number of adventures were) I set it aside until the products stopped bleeding together. Otherwise, it goes into the Read Now box.

From here it's a bit random as to when a book gets read. At any given point in the process I was usually reading two to four books at a time. Usually that would be one big one, a couple of small to average ones, and a little adventure or something so I could actually feel like I was accomplishing something. Books were generally read in the order they were submitted, but a couple caught my interest so much during that initial glance-through that they got moved to the head of the line.

The actual reading is, of course, the most time consuming part. For the most part I would get the first book in the Read Now box and just go through it beginning to end. That wasn't always practical, so often I would have books scattered all about. Like I said, I read more than one at a time. I usually kept a big book by the bed so I could make some progress before going to sleep, a couple of mid-sized books in the car for reading at work (and often a backpack full in the back seat during the later portions of the process), and something small at hand wherever I was so I could read during my free time.

During the reading I took notes. These might be neat rules or cool setting features I liked, perhaps some artwork that really clicked with me, or more often, how I felt about the book's writing and mechanics as a whole. If there was anything that I didn't like, that got written down as well. The notes for each book were then folded and stuffed inside the front cover for easy reference, and I would turn to my excel spreadsheet that I used to track the entries, and give each item a numerical score in any category it qualified for.

After that it was time for the leg-work. Wherever possible I would search for reviews, actual play posts, or commentary online. This helpe me to see things that I might have missed in a hasty read-through, and often helped to point out the things that made the game click for the people who enjoyed it. This helped me a lot with some games that I was struggling with, and really served to inspire me in a lot of ways.

At that point the book got moved into the Already Read box, and I moved on to the next product.

So, that's the review process from my end. I'm sure every judge has their own way of doing it, but that's what seemed to work best for me. From here we move on to the group efforts.

The judging forums started off pretty slow. There were three new judges this year, and I think most of us fumbled around a bit at first. Here is where I credit Jeff for really pushing things forward. He got us talking, and kept us going. It really broke the ice and got us discussing the entries in an open manner before we had to start really pronouncing judgments.

Basically someone would just hop online and make a post about an individual product. Not so much focusing on the awards at this point, but just our impressions. If it was something we liked, we said why, if it was something we didn't get, we asked for help. That, for me at any rate, was what started the bonding process between the judges and served to solidify some of our favorites early on.

As the end drew near discussion turned to the categories themselves. That usually started with some informal lists, things that might qualify, maybe one or two favorites, that sort of thing. As time passed those lists solidified into something more structured, and firmed up a lot. These eventually evolved into our top 5/7. Here each judge posted the top 5 products they wanted to see in each category, along with two alternates. At that point time was running short and things began to move quickly. Left with little time to haggle, we started tossing out alternative methods for choosing the finalists. When the other judges talk about the work I did, I can only guess this is what they meant. I started by asking everyone to choose their top 2 most-haves in each category. I still think this was a good idea, but there simply wasn't time to implement it.

Stuart then stepped in and suggested the method that really set the stage for our final deliberations. We compiled each judge's top 5/7 lists for each category into a single list that showed every nomination in order from most nominations to least, and listing the names of each judge that nominated the product beside it. Anything that all five judges nominated was locked into a category, everything else was open to discussion. We had an excellent fall-back plan for voting that Stuart suggested, but I think we were all committed to working this out amongst ourselves.

This is where the compromises started, which was both necessary, and the weakest link in the process. Sometimes this was handled very well, with individual judges sacrificing some of their choices for the choices that other judges were passionate about. Other times, especially as time grew short, we were left with little option but to back the choices that had the support of the most judges. I kind of feel like this was a bit weaker than the rest of the process just because it wasn't hugely different than actual voting, and I think that, given time, we probably could have worked it out better.

That's not to say there was anything wrong with it. Like I said, it was necessary, but it was a little disappointing because it wasn't what I felt we were shooting for.

That's about it really. We spent the last three days going through the lists and narrowing them down into what you have seen posted. In the end a surprising number made the list by unanimous decision, but a couple managed to fall through the cracks because there simply wasn't enough room for everything.

So, what would I change.

It's all about time. I was notified that I was elected back in mid-February. I received my firs products at the end of March. That's five weeks wasted. From there we had until the end of June to read the 239 entries, and less than a week more to discuss the final nominations. That's a little over three months to get it all done.

It simply wasn't enough time.

I know that there are plans, at least, to fix this in the future, which I find very exciting.

Second, I think I would have started my lists sooner. It would have been better, I think, to have a sort of active list for each category that I could compare each book to as I read it. It would be more time-consuming, but I think we'd end up with a more varied list in the end. It would make it a lot easier to judge the individual merits of every product in each category if the books were judged piece by piece, instead of as a whole.

Finally, I think I'd be a bit more passionate about products. I tried to remain more-or-less clinical about the process, but I think that hurt the chances of a couple books that I really loved, but was afraid to push on the other judges too hard. I used a terrible numerical rating system instead, which I wish I had just dropped. I was afraid to just trust my gut feelings, I didn't want to allow room for favoritism, but really that's what it's all about. There simply is no good objective way to do this, and I should have just embraced that. It all comes down to opinion in the end anyways. All the rating system did was screw up my thought process. If I gave something a high score I was forced to measure everything that came after against that, and the scores ended up meaning different things from the beginning to the end. Half way through I switched to a less granular system to try to fix the damage I had done, but Is should have just thrown it out altogether.

Given more time I would have really liked to try out the idea of each judge listing a couple must-haves for each category. I think that we would see a little more diversity, and more room for the products we really loved instead of just the products we agreed on.

So, what does this mean for the results.

It means that I made the whole thing a lot harder than it needed to be. It doesn't invalidate the final decisions, it just means that I went the long way around to get there. There's something to be said for voting for the things that have the most universal appeal, but I think the process could also be served well by giving into the things we are passionate a bit more. It might not change the results a huge amount, but it might lead to a little bit more personal satisfaction with the decisions I made on individual products.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Let's talk nominations

Sorry I didn't get this out sooner, as promised, I went out to eat with my wife and kids, and stayed later than intended.

So, here we go:

Best Fan Site
Dragonlance Nexus
Liber Fanatica
Modus Operandi
Plane Walker
Treasure Tables
HM: Flames Rising

Best Podcast
Fear the Boot
Have Games, Will Travel
Godzilla Gaming
Sons of Kryos
Yog Sothoth Radio
HM: Pulp Gamer

Best Cover Art
Dawning Star: Helios Rising, Blue Devil Games
Hollow Earth Expedition, Exile Games
Faery's Tale, Firefly Games
Lacuna Part 1, Memento Mori
Five Fingers: Port of Deceit, Privateer Press
HM: Mutants & Masterminds: Ultimate Power, Green Ronin

Best Interior Art
Qin, 7ème Cercle
Warlords of the Accordlands series, AEG
Children of the Horned Rat, Black Industries
Burning Empires, Burning Wheel
Mutants & Masterminds: Ultimate Power, Green Ronin
HM: Hollow Earth Expedition, Exile Game Studio

Best Cartography
Warlords of the Accordlands: Monsters & Lairs, AEG
Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay: Game Master's Toolkit, Black Industries
DCC 35: Gazetteer of the Known Realms, Goodman Games
Ptolus- City by the Spire, Malhavoc Press/White Wolf Publishing
Five Fingers: Port of Deceit, Privateer Press
HM: Campaign Cartographer 3, ProFantasy Software

Best Production Values
Qin, 7ème Cercle
Burning Empires, Burning Wheel
Mutants & Masterminds: Ultimate Power, Green Ronin Publishing
Ptolus: Malhavoc Press/White Wolf Publishing
Tales of the Caliphate Nights, Paradigm Concepts
HM: Knightly Orders of Ansalon

Best Writing
Qin, 7ème Cercle
Children of the Horned Rat, Black Industries
Hollow Earth Expedition, Exile Game Studio
Dictionary of Mu, Paka's Thread Games
Five Fingers: Port of Deceit, Privateer Press
HM: Scion: Hero, White Wolf Publishing

Best Rules
Qin, 7ème Cercle
Spirit of the Century, Evil Hat Games
Faery's Tale, Firefly Games
Mutants & Masterminds: Ultimate Power, Green Ronin Publishing
Esoterrorists, Pelgrane Press
HM: Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay: Companion

Best Supplement
Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay: Companion, Black Industries
Street Magic, FanPro
Etherscope: Upload: Etherpunk, Goodman Games
Mutants & Masterminds: Ultimate Power, Green Ronin Publishing
Thrilling Places, Hero Games
HM: Tome of Corruption, Black Industries

Best Setting
Warlords of the Accordlands series, AEG
Dawning Star: Helios Rising, Blue Devil Games
DCC 35: Gazetteer of the Known Realms, Goodman Games
Ptolus- City by the Spire, Malhavoc Press/White Wolf Publishing
Five Fingers: Port of Deceit, Privateer Press
HM: Thrilling Places, Hero Games

Best Adventure
Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay: Lure of the Liche Lord, Black Industries
DCC 34: Cage of Delrium, Goodman Games w. Midnight Syndicate
Xcrawl: Coney Island Crawl, Goodman Games
Time of Vengeance, Green Ronin
Thrilling Places, Hero Games
Dungeon Magazine: Age of Worms Ad. Path, Paizo Publishing

Best Miniature Product
The Deluxe Galleon, Dragonfire Laser Crafts
Modern Floorplans: All Saints Church, Fabled Environments
E-Z Dungeons, Fat Dragon Games
Conflict Chips
Game Mastery: Flip-mat Tavern, Paizo Publishing
HM: Hordes Line's Lord of the Feast, Privateer Press

Best Regalia
Liber Chaotica, Black Industries
Witch Hunter's Handbook, Black Industries
Classic Battletech Total Warfare, FanPro
Order of the Stick: No Cure for the Paladin Blues, Giant in the Playground
Art of Dragon Magazine, Paizo Publishing
HM: Astounding Hero Tales, Hero Games

Best Aid/Accessory
Deck of Many Things, Green Ronin Publishing
Hero Lab, Lone Wolf Development
GameMastery Combat Pad, Open Mind Games/Paizo Publishing
Game Mastery: Critical Hit Deck, Paizo Publishing
Promethean: Storyteller Screen, White Wolf Publishing
HM: Campaign Cartographer 3, ProFantasy Software

Best Electronic Book
Frontier Towns: Fort Griffin #3, Dog House Rules
Magical Medieval Society: European Warfare, Expeditious Retreat Press
Nevermore Gazetteer, Expeditious Retreat Press
Classic Battletech Free Package, FanPro
Castle Shadowcrag, Open Design
HM: Kitsunemori, Dog Soul Publishing

Best Free Product
Black Industries Web Site, Black Industries
Six-Guns: Lawmen- Earps and Mastersons, Dog House Rules
Nevermore Gazetteer, Expeditious Retreat Press
Classic Battletech Free Package, FanPro
Savage Tide Player's Guide, Paizo Publishing
HM: Scion: Hero- Of Shadows Yet to Come, White Wolf Publishing

Best d20/OGL
Warlords of the Accordlands series, AEG
Dawning Star: Helios Rising, Blue Devil Games
Etherscope-Upload: Etherpunk, Goodman Games
Mutants & Masterminds: Ultimate Power, Green Ronin Publishing
Five Fingers: Port of Deceit, Privateer Press
HM: Ptolus- City by the Spire, Malhavoc Press/White Wolf Publishing

Best Game
Qin, 7ème Cercle
Conspiracy X 2E, Eden Studios
Hollow Earth Expedition, Exile Game Studio
Faery's Tale, Firefly Games
Scion: Hero, White Wolf Publishing
HM: Esoterrorists, Pelgrane Press & Spirit of the Century, Evil Hat Games

Fan's Choice: Best Publisher
Arc Dream
Atlas Games
Atomic Sock Monkey Press
Avenger Enterprises
Black Industries
Burning Wheel
Chris Gonnerman
Contested Ground Studios
Creative Mountain Games
Dark Omen Games
Dog Soul
Dragonwing Games
Dreamscarred Press
Evil Hat Productions
Exile Game Studio
Expeditious Retreat Press
Fat Dragon Games
Fiery Dragon Productions
Goodman Games
Green Ronin Publishing
Hero Games
Ironwood Omnimedia Company LLC
Kenzer Co.
Malhavoc Press
Margaret Weis Productions/Sovereign Press
Paizo Publishing
Palladium Books
Paradigm Concepts
Pinnacle Entertainment Group/Great White Games
Precis Intermidia Games
RPG Objects
Ronin Arts
Tabletop Adventures
Troll Lord Games
White Wolf
Wizards of the Coast

Product of the Year
Qin, 7ème Cercle
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Children of the Horned Rat
Dawning Star: Helios Rising, Blue Devil Games
The Deluxe Galleon, Dragonfire Laser Crafts
Hollow Earth Expedition, Exile Game Studio
Mutants & Masterminds: Ultimate Power, Green Ronin Publishing
Thrilling Places, Hero Games
Ptolus- City by the Spire, Malhavoc Press/White Wolf Publishing
Dictionary of Mu, Paka's Thread Games
Five Fingers: Port of Deceit, Privateer Press
HM: Conspiracy X 2E, Eden Studios and Tales of the Caliphate Nights, Paradigm Concepts.