Friday, March 30, 2007

Missing box

How long does it take a package to get from Canada to Texas?

Apparently a while, since I'm still waiting on the first shipment that got sent out. Interestingly enough I've never had to wait this long for a package before. Even my new computer, which was sent from China, only took five days to get here. It makes me antsy.

Not that I really think it was lost or anything. I know at least one other US judge is still waiting for her package, but I do wish it would just get here so I can stop thinking about it.

Dear God, I think I'm OCD.

It's not like I don't have anything else to read or work on. I'm powering my way through a couple podcasts and I still need to put together some EZ Tiles. Not to mention the big box o' books from Goodman, but still...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reading Adventures

Apparently I'm useless during the week too.

Actually, that's not quite true. I spent the last couple days reading through Dungeon Crawl Classics. I'm still not done, but I've made a whole lot of headway.

Honestly, I'm a bit surprised. I was expecting the the nostalgia factor to be high, but some of these are really good adventures, nostalgia aside. Check that. Of the ones I've read, at least two are really excellent.

Not to say that they are all exactly my cup of tea, but the fact is, these things have a lot more going for them than I gave them credit for. I'm still working my way through them, but all in all I'm very happy.

The boxed set is a bit different. It has a couple adventures with it, but it's primarily a world setting that ties the various adventures together. It's well written and informative, and the maps are beautiful and remind me of the old Known World maps I grew up with (in a good way). The background is a bit dark, which a lot of people have complained about, but I didn't think it was as bad as many people claim. All in all I found it to be a neat product, and an interesting world for those who prefer an older-style, lower-level setting.

That reminds me. I'm a bit torn on boxed sets as a format for products. I love the presentation and all the little goodies that come along with them, but as a buyer I regret giving up the ability to flip through the books and see how much I might like the product before I buy. I had never considered that when I lamented to lack of boxed sets in modern gaming.

Not that it really applies here, but it's just something I thought about.

I'm currently taking a break from adventure reading so they don't all start to blend together. Right now I'm reading Mysteries of the Occult, though I'm not far enough in to comment on it. I will say that I really need a copy of Etherscope. I'm not sure why I don't own it, but it looks very interesting. Does anyone know if the new softcover is different than the older hard cover?

Anywho, some strong contenders here, and some games I am definitely going to play test with my home group. Overall Goodman seems to specialize in traditional products with a bit of a twist. The traditional elements make the product recognizable enough to grasp the concepts easily, and the twist adds depth. Color me impressed.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Got to love Goodman Games

I received a huge box o' books from Goodman today. So much for having free time while I wait for product to arrive.

There are a couple Etherscope books that look very good, though I haven't done much more than flip through them at this point. There is also a neat Judges Guild adventure and an X-Crawl Supplement.

Most notably, for sheer volume if nothing else, are the Dungeon Crawl Classics. There's an extremely cool boxed set, and a nice hard-cover adventure compilation, as well as around ten other adventures. One comes with a GM's screen, and another actually comes with a soundtrack on CD.

Like I said, I haven't actually read any of these yet, but I am looking forward to it. I've always had good luck with Goodman products, and I'm curious to see what the adventures look like. I don't often run pre-packaged adventures, but the nostalgia factor of playing some good old dungeon crawls is beginning to tug at me. Everything about the DCC series reminds me of the games we used to play 20 years ago when we just rolled some dice and had some fun.

I'm useless on the weekends

I know this blog is supposed to be updated daily, and once I have more product to review it likely will be, but for now I should warn you that I tend to be useless on the weekends. Let me 'splain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

I run (or am preparing to run) four separate games. I'm starting to put together a new GURPS mystical modern horror game for Thursdays. On alternating Fridays I run a post-apocalyptic Shadowrun game and a heavily tweaked D&D game. Finally, on Sundays I run a alternate history Legend of the Five Rings game. Together those take up much of my free time during the weekend. That, and I usually take Saturdays to work on the various games.

Of course, some of those will likely be set aside as time grows short. Or rather, shifted. I am blessed with players who share my fascination for new game systems, and I will be inflicting my play tests on them so I can get a feel for some of the new games. Already my Sunday group will be trying out the Scion demo next Sunday on the chance that White Wolf might enter it.

Anywho, there's my list of weak excuses for not getting my stuff done. Stay tuned next week for, "My dog ate my homework."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Starting the reading

Well, I'm feeling rested and refreshed.

More importantly, I read Dictionary of Mu lat night. It's an extremely well written book, with an interesting presentation style.

I can't really comment on how useful it is as a supplement yet, since I haven't read Sorcerer, but I ordered a copy at the FLGS so I'll revisit it after I get a chance to learn a little more about the system.

Still, it felt good to start reading product. With the fan sites I started reading were already ones I had seen before, and though they're great and useful sites, it's different to look through something completely new. Something I probably would have missed if I weren't judging.

Still nothing new to report. Still waiting on the original shipment from Canada. I'll probably take tonight off since things are still slow. I have to prepare for my home game tomorrow, but I'll try to get some time in of the Dungeon Tiles tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Exhaustion sets in

Not much in the way of updates today. I spent a lot of time yesterday looking through the E-Z Tiles and E-Z Dungeons CDs. Good stuff. After that I actually sat down and took some time to work on my own campaign.

Okay, like 16 hours.

Anywho, I find myself too tired to type, so I'm going to curl up with Dictionary of Mu and settle in for the night. Maybe even try to catch up on some podcasts. Anything that doesn't take energy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Early Arivals

I got my first two packages n the mail today. From Fat Dragon Games I got E-Z Dungeons and E-Z Tiles (Dungeon Starter Set), and from Paka's Thread Games I received Dictionary of Mu.

It's a bit early to give my first impressions of Mu yet, since I just started flipping through it, and I know nothing about Sorcerer, the game engine it is based on. It looks like I'm going to have to dig up a copy of that before I go much further. There you guys go again, twisting my arm to buy game books.

So I'll skip ahead to the E-Z Dungeons. This is exactly the kind of product that makes me glad to be a judge. There are things I never would have thought of had I not seen them, but now that I've had a chance to look at them the idea seems intuitive and interesting.

Basically they are CDs with PDFs of various (in this case) dungeon tiles on them. Presumably the other sets offer variant location types and objects. The idea is to print them up on card stock, a little shaping, and glue them to foam core, and you have everything that you need for simple, easy 3D terrain. Unlike ready-made products, these are neat, because you can basically print out as many copies as you want.

Now, I'll admit that I'm no modeler, so maybe my experiences won't be typical, but I'll try to head down to the local Hobby Lobby and pick up some foam core and card stock, and I'll give these a try to see if they're as easy to use as they look. If I can make them work I'll have to throw a dungeon into my D&D game and try these out.

The E-Z Tiles seem, at first glance, to be a slightly more advanced version of E-Z Dungeons. These have layers that can be turned on and off, so you can populate the dungeon with crates, or barrels, or treasure chests, what have you. It's a really neat idea, but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a way move the items around. Not a big flaw, but it would certainly be nice.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Austin Gameday

When I was running for my position as judge I was asked what I would do with the product I received. My answer was that I'd like to sponsor a local gameday and give away some of the books as prizes.

Today I took my first steps that direction.

I posted a thread on ENWorld looking for people interested in an Austin gameday toward the end of September (most likely the 29th). My intention is to give away some of the books I receive as prizes to the players and GMs that make the games interesting and fun. For my part I intend to run as many of my favorite Adventure category entries as possible.

Hopefully we can expose some players to the great products that are out there that they may have missed over the last year.

Come to think of it, it might be fun to do a mini version of this for side games at GenCon itself.

The entries pour in.

I still haven't received anything. I'm assuming it is one of the bad parts of living in the middle of no where with a small town post office. Heck, they don't even deliver packages to my door. When they do come in I'll still have to wait an extra day and go pick them up at the post office.

I digress.

What I mean to say is, the entry forms are starting to come in at a rapid pace, presumably to be followed by a steady flow of product. I had been trying to keep a list of what was entered, but honestly, that has become a bit too tedious. I will instead post as things actually arrive. There are simply too many entry forms to post every one. Goodman Games alone seems likely to keep me bust for quite a while, and I consider that to be a very good thing.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

New submissions

Got a submission form today from Evil Hat for their games Spirit of the Century and Don't Rest Your Head. Both games receive a lot of positive feedback, so I imagine they'll be good reads.

What interests me the most about these is that both represent what used to be niche genres that are starting to receive a lot more attention in recent years. Of course, it could be argued that horror became main stream years ago when the World of Darkness was first released, but I don't know, the new generation of games feels different. Every time I've played a WoD game it felt more political, with horror as a back drop, but in the last few years the horror genre has really started to revert to its roots, and I think that is a very good thing.

Similarly pulp games seem to have exploded over the last couple years, probably even more recently than horror. I know Adventure! was put out by White Wolf years ago, and there is no arguing that it is a true pulp game, but now they seem to be popping up on every side. To me this is a blessing. I've always felt that it was an under-explored genre with a lot to offer. Now if I can only convince my group that it'll be as fun and exciting as I know it will be.

Questions answered.

Over the last couple days I've gotten a couple questions about judging, one in person, and one on a forum, and I thought I'd take this time to post the answers in case anyone else is curious.

First, I was asked by one of my wife's friends (who I didn't even know was a gamer, go figure) what was going to win. I guess under the assumption I already had favorites picked out. To be completely honest, I have no idea. I really don't even know what will be entered. The list I posted the other day are the only products I absolutely know about, and I've only read four or five of those.

From what I've seen on the web I think there are some strong contenders on the list. Qin seems to be getting a lot of good press, as does Hollow Earth Expedition, so those may well be products to watch, but there are five nominees in each of 21 different categories, and I simply don't know enough about the entries to give good, informed opinions.

That's kind of why I made this blog. If you want to know what I'm thinking, I'll post mini-reviews of things as I read them. Hopefully then I can get a little feedback if I'm missing the point of a game or something. If you have something specific you think should be nominated, I posted a thread at asking people's opinions. Add your favorite game to the list and I'll make sure it makes its way to the top of the list if it gets entered.

The second question was what books do I hope get entered. For me that basically comes down to expanding the number of participating publishers. Obviously it would be nice to see WotC participate, but there are others that do a lot of good work. Steve Jackson in particular doesn't enter books, and I think they may well be a shoe-in for production values if they ever did. I can't think of another company who gets talked about in such a glowing light for its clean, clear text. Heck, I know a lot of people who use their books and don't even play their games. GURPS in particular makes for great research material. WEG is another one. I noticed just last night that there was a new Torg book out. Burning Empires, Ptolus, the list goes on and on...

I guess there is no good answer. There are so many good games out there that I simply don't know enough about. So I'm going to take this opportunity to educate myself on every single game that comes to my door, and I'm going to use this blog to pass what I learn onto others.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Slowly but surely

Added a couple new fan sites to my list (on the left) of sites that I've begun to review. I've also made some progress on the podcasting front. Two podcasts have applied for the ENnies and I'm holding out hope for more.

Still waiting for book deliveries. I have a tracking number, but either the shipment is held up in Ottawa, or the Canadian post office doesn't track shipments once they come to the US. Obviously I'm hoping for the latter.

Friday, March 16, 2007


So, my current mission is to try and expand the ENnies to include a couple new categories. The board of directors already added a couple this year, which is very cool, since a slight broadening of focus to include people other than traditional publishers will hopefully help to encourage the people who put out the various products that making gaming easier and more fun, rather than just 'possible'.

What I wanted to include was two more categories. Board games, which were decided to be outside the focus of the ENnies, and gaming podcasts. It looks like some game related boardgames may be allowed under the new Regalia category, which is awesome, but I think the podcast category is still up in the air. It basically comes down to the question: "Are there enough gaming podcasts to qualify for their own category." I believe there are, and so it is my mission to prove it. That's why I ask any podcaster out there to go to the ENnie Awards site, fill out an entry form, and send it in.

Having recently discovered a number of fantastic podcasts I honestly believe this may well revolutionize the industry in much the same way web forums and bbs discussions did before them. Audio is such an approachable format, and a lot of these podcasts have real potential. Even with all of my experience I have found new ideas and inspiration in just the month or so that I've been listening. I believe that everyone out there can benefit in some way from listening to the advice and experience of others, and these podcasts make that easy.

Okay, off my soapbox.

Book updates, such as they are: Still waiting. The first shipment was sent out four days ago, but it's coming from Canada, so I have no idea how long the postal service will take or if there might be customs issues.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I'm back

Well, my day off turned into a week off. Sorry about that. My intent here was to update this blog daily, so I'll have to make sure that doesn't happen again.

The problem here is that I'm still kinda stuck in "hurry up and wait" mode. I haven't received any entries, and the first shipment was just sent out Tuesday. With any luck that'll be here by next week.

In the mean time I'm back to checking out fan sites, and tonight I'll start reviewing books that I'm pretty sure will be entered. That'll hopefully keep me from falling too far behind and give me something more interesting to talk about here.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Taking the day off.

Well, I'm basically out of things to do for now.

I haven't received any books yet, I've gone over both entries for the Best Fan Site, and now I'm basically out of options. It sucks a bit, since I know that come May/June I'm going to have more to do than I can handle, but I don't really know what else to do about it for now.

The only thing I can really think to do is start reviewing things that might be entered, but before I start going that far I think I'm just going to take a break. I'm pretty far behind on my home games, and I'm going to take the next day or two to get caught up unless something else shows up for me to do.

Anywho, I'll be back as soon as I have something worth talking about I guess.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Judging fan sites.

I saw a post by Denise, the business manager for the Ennies, asking for sites to enter for the Best Fan Site award, and followed her link to a pretty great site. Needless to say, I spent the whole morning reading it from the beginning.

It occurred to me that it might actually take longer to read through websites than books. The next site I'm heading to after I finish this blog looks like it been running steadily for years. At least one article I saw was dated January 2, of 2002. Something tells me that I'll be running into that a lot.

It's interesting reading though. Until a few weeks ago I would never have considered spending a lot of time poking around someone else's website, but I discovered a podcast that did a great job of getting me excited about D&D again, and now I can't get enough.

Anywho, enough rambling. Back to work.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

A good problem to have.

The True20 Companion came out this week, and not for the first time, it got me thinking about the downside of being an Ennies judge.

"The downside of being sent copies of the best products gaming has to offer," you ask?

Yeah, I know, it's petty. The downside in question is that there are a lot of great books that either have just come out, or will be coming out soon, and I have no idea which ones will be entered or what I'll be receiving. Not having a lot of disposable income right now, and knowing that I may well have to pick up a few core systems so I can better understand some of the accessories that will be coming in, I can't really justify buying books that I may be getting for free any day now.

Being both a collector and a slave to my need for immediate gratification, this is going to seriously cramp my style. Luckily, in this case, there is a nice, cheep PDF option, and thus I have the best of all worlds. I can read it now and get a jump start in case it is entered, I don't have to lay out a lot of cash for something I may soon have a print copy of, and if it does get entered, I have a PDF copy for ease of use during play and a nice print copy for ease of every day reading.

The problem is, that won't always be the case. GURPS Ultratech, for instance, was recently released, and SJGames probably won't be releasing a PDF for a while. Of course, I'm probably safe there, since I don't think SJ has ever entered the Ennies before, but I hold out hope. No one can question their production values.

So, how many more of these silly little quandaries will come up? Who knows. Like I said, I know it's petty, but I can't help it. The practical side of me is deep at war with my need for gaming goodness.

Luckily it looks like the gamer side of me has won initiative. I'm going to buy a copy of the True20 Companion.

My excuse? I need to go grab a PDF of Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition anyways, since it looks like I'll be getting a copy of Golden Age in my first shipment.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Why a blog?

So, while I wait for my first shipment to arrive, I thought I'd explain why I bothered to make a blog.

The fact is, I felt it was necessary in the interests of transparency. A lot of people took a chance voting for me. I've never done this before, and I have only done one review. You know nothing about my style, what I like, and how I'll be making my decisions. I created this to give anyone who wants to a chance to see what I'm thinking, how I'm doing, and tell me what you think or if I'm wrong.

I feel qualified to do this because I know a lot about games. I've played and run dozens over the years, but no one can know everything. If I've missed something, or if I just don't 'get' something, let me know. I'll consider all opinions.


Now a bit of more interesting news. I still haven't received any products, but I do have a list of items in the first shipment. The good news is that I own, and have read, many of these, so I can get started right away. Items in bold are books I already own.

Mister Lincoln Experiment: Spontaneous Generation
Hobby Mat
Qin: The Waring States 7Cercle
Warlords of the Accordlands: Monsters & Lairs AEG
Warlords of the Accordlands: The Master Codex AEG
Legend of the Five Rings: The Four Winds AEG
Warlords of the Accordlands: The World Atlas AEG
Conspiracy X 2nd Ed Eden Studios
Hollow Earth Expedition Exile Games Studio
Ubiquity Chips Exile Games Studio
Ubiquity Dice Exile Games Studio
A Magical Society: Silk Road Expeditious Retreat Press
Shadowrun: On the Run FanPro
Shadowrun: Runner Havens FanPro
Ptolus Counter Collection CD Fiery Dragon
Ptolus Counter Collection Fiery Dragon
Crisis in Freeport Green Ronin
Bleeding Edge Adventure #1 Green Ronin
True Sorcery Green Ronin
Mutants & Masterminds: Golden Age Green Ronin
Serenity: Out in the Black Margaret Weiss
The Rifter #35 Super Swimsuit Issue Palladium Books
Rifts Worldbook 29: Madhaven Palladium Books
Tales of the Caliphate Nights Paradigm Concepts
Cthulhu Live Skirmisher
Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Sovereign Press
Dragonlance: Knightly Orders of Ansalon Sovereign Press
Blackmoor: Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor Zeitgeist Games
Player's Guide to Blackmoor Zeitgeist Games

Sunday, March 4, 2007

New Blog

Welcome to everyone who has found their way here.

I created this blog to chronicle my efforts as a judge for the ENnies this year. It's my first time doing this, and I'm very exited about the prospect.

First, I want to thank everyone who voted for me. You guys did a great job getting out there and making it happen in a big way.

I also wanted to explain a little bit about what made me want to be a judge. There is the obvious drive to be a part of something that I consider to be a real boon to the industry, and the chance to do something really interesting, but what made me actually take action is a bit different.

You see, I'm a classic lurker. I've been a part of many online communities for years, but my posting is very deliberate, and I don't really say much unless I have something that I think is really useful to interject. On ENWorld, for example, I've been a member for for going on five years, but have around 250 posts to my name. It's not that I don't read what people say, heck I check in several times a day, I just don't participate.

Here that changes.

I was on, listening to people complain about the ennies being too d20-centric and thinking that, if it really bothered them, why didn't they just run for judge and do something about it. That was when it occurred to me that I should take my own advice.

So I applied, and obviously, I was chosen. It's a huge honor, and though I know it'll be a lot of work, I'm looking forward to it. When else do you get to share your views on games with such a large audience? How many people really get a chance to steer other players to truly exceptional games?

Thank you to everyone who gave me the opportunity.