Monday, July 20, 2009

S&W Nominated for an ENnie

Swords & Wizardry has been nominated for an ENnie award in the category of "Best Free Product." Looking over the list of other products in the category, I notice that three of the five nominees seem to be "quick starts" -- essentially advertisements for other products rather complete games in themselves. Now, EN World can do whatever they want when it comes to the ENnies; these are their awards, after all. Still, I find something a bit silly and, dare I say, inappropriate in having a game like S&W, whose free version is every bit as complete as its retail version, competing against stuff like the Hunter: The Vigil quickstart, which is nothing more than an adventure with pregenerated characters and a stripped down version of the full rules you need to pay for to get.

On the bright side, it's fairly impressive to see an old school product appear on the nominations list at all. That's a definite victory for the old school movement and I hope it's the first of many more to come.


  1. A bit surprising to say the least.

    If I cared enough to follow the Ennies, I might be so inclined as to take a look at any nomination in the "free" category...after all, it's "award worthy" and "free." We'll see how S&W does against the may actually drive new business to the OS.

  2. I think this has basically been hashed to death so far - but what it comes down to is that very few free products were submitted to the ENnies this year, and even then I haven't checked out the judges this year, but in previous years at least a few of the judges stated in their election campaigns that they prefer print products over electronic - which gives the edge in the nomination process to free print products.

  3. Have been trying to put this news up on the TARGA Blog for about a week, nobody seems to be approving any posts there... and I cannot seem to figure out how to do it. Still, good news.

  4. Totally my fault, MJS. Still working through over a week's worth of email backlog and hadn't seen the automatic notification of a pending post. It should be approved now and I'm adding more privileges to all the other posters.

    Please accept my apologies for the delay.

  5. I think it is good news indeed. I used to frequent ENWorld around the 2002-04 timeframe but not so much anymore. However, I do pop in from time to time and have noticed quite a bit of threads pertaining to older editions of the game (or at least quite a bit more than when I frequented there). I think the OSR has made some mark.

  6. No worries, Jeff. Thanks for taking care of that!

  7. The second phase of the ENnies is the popularity contest, where there will be SERIOUS opposition from Green Ronin fans and (even more so) from White Wolf fans.

    I'm hoping to be able to rally old schoolers to vote for S&W; with the new-school vote being slightly divided between Green Ronin's product and WW's product, we could stand a chance if we can get lots of people from our community out to vote.

  8. I'm not sure that I understand how this is inappropriate. If it's a full game, compared to quick-start rules, then it should be at an advantage; but that's the nature of the thing. To be nominated, all a product has to be is an RPG related product that's free. Surely you agree that all of the nominees qualify in that regard? I'm not aware of any other qualities that the category requires.

  9. I'm not aware of any other qualities that the category requires.

    And that's what represents the sorry gap between the letter of the rules and the spirit of the rules. The category is made poorer by the fact that instead of seeking out great games that were made to be free, they also allow what amounts to the adware version of a commercial game.

    That's not even to say that those games aren't good games, but the 'free' part of them has more to do with getting you to buy the complete game.

  10. It's a newly-merged category as far as I understand, lumping an older "fan products" category into the existing "free product" category. Whether there ought instead to have been a new division between a "free teaser" category and a "free RPG" category is up for debate, and some bloggers (Rob Lang in particular) are starting this debate. One benefit of his approach is that he's campaigning on behalf of the two complete games. If it becomes clear that full games will reliably beat teasers and quick-starts, my guess is that the ENnies will divide those categories.

    That's for another year, though. Right now, the contest is fairly lopsided in favor of the quick-start versions of games that have been heavily promoted based on the commercial viability of their full-version products. Which is the counter-argument to the "full games have the advantage of being complete" analysis. In reality, the ENnies are a lot about which products have been heavily promoted. That's not a good thing, but it's reality. A quick start set of rules has a huge advantage over the average stand-alone free product, because no one spends money to advertise a truly free product. But the name of a quick-start game may have the benefit of a ton of advertising done for the underlying, full-scale rules.

    Regardless, I'm hoping that the OSR community will rouse itself to vote on this, even though many of us may not have been to ENworld in years. I certainly don't think the credibility of the OSR depends on winning an ENnie, but it would be another "firebell in the night," just like the two first-place lulu sales contest rewards won by the old school magazines.

  11. One might wonder if this new controversy will spur a revision of the entry criteria next year.

  12. For my purposes, a "product" has to be complete. It'd be like a category called "Best Free Book" and most of the entries consisted of only a few chapters of a larger book. Sure, all the nominees meet the explicit requirements of the category but I find it hard to consider a quick-start, pared down version of a larger to be a "product" in the way I usually think of them. Maybe that's just another example of my limited thinking, but there it is.

    I suspect I find it so galling because, frankly, there are so many awesome, truly complete free products out there nowadays that it's so unnecessary to include these ads-in-game-form at all. But then I suppose I should never underestimate the myopia of ENWorld.

  13. But then I suppose I should never underestimate the myopia of ENWorld.

    This is just my Devil's Advocate rearing it's horned head, but out of all the websites out there, I think (more of a speculation to be honest) that EN World is closest to represent the gaming mainstream. I find it hard to be too harsh on a constituancy that has a strong focus on the RPG industry when compared to the cottage-level hobbyists.

    I think they should try to do better in regard to the category next year, but I can see why the nominations turned out the way they did.

    It's happened again
    Word Verification: Ineptuo
    2nd level MU spell that causes clumsiness in the target.

  14. So who actually gets to vote for this and how do they do it?

  15. Well I'll make sure I get my vote in on time and encourage the other old school gamers I know to vote,

  16. Voting opens up on some day, and you can go to a voting page. I'll have to assemble those details so I can post up on every old school board I can find...

    I have the word of all time: "bandom." So many possibilities jump out from that one I can't even begin to create all the fake definitions it could have.

  17. Honestly, I have seen some “quick starts” that were better than some “full games”. e.g. 3/e GURPS Lite[sic] (Haven’t really looked at it much since 4/e was out, so I don’t know about that one.) So, I don’t really see them being in the same category as wrong.

  18. EN World is closest to represent the gaming mainstream.

    EN World may represent the current D&D mainstream "regime," but by no means represents what is fast becoming a fractured and dissident subculture of gamers learning from alternate systems, both new and old. I have kids learning how to RPG from older systems, whilst exploring easy alternate systems too.

    The categorization seems pretty irrelevant though since the ENnies has always seemed to be little more than a product popularity contest, not to mention an advertisement for the site and its sponsors. Doesn't stuff win when the right demographic shows up to vote? Why does anyone outside the gaming industry place any stock in the ENnies? Popular just doesn't equal quality, clarity or value.

  19. Popular just doesn't equal quality, clarity or value.

    I'm not a big fan of this myth, that popularity doesn't equal quality. It may not be the highest quality, but something popular is at least satisfying for those who identify with it. Most people who engage in something popular do not secretly hate it. Usually when people don't like something they won't be doing it for very long!

    But that aside, how about see it from a different angle?

    Popularity does equal acceptance. Acceptance in the right hands can also be the basis for a good sales pitch. It's also nice to know that you're appreciated. Awards are more about the people who receive them than the audience who witnesses it.

  20. "Why does anyone outside the gaming industry place any stock in the ENnies?"

    One of the major strengths of the ENnies (besides high visibility via their sponsors and GenCon) is that their gamer-selected juried nomination process. The jurors decide what products get nominations, so getting to the nomination list isn't a popularity contest. This same process occurs with the Origins awards, except the jury is made up of people from the industry, whereas the ENnies jurors are selected from non-industry-affiliated gamers through a public nomination and voting process.

    In the end this means that a team of five gamers, selected by the public, go through a huge slush pile of submitted products and pick out what the top products in each category are to receive nominations before it goes on to the popularity vote. That's why the nomination list is such a big deal, and where the ENnies get most of their credibility as being more than an industry tool.

  21. Popularity does equal acceptance.

    I'm content to agree to disagree, at least from a personal stand point. I select things that please me. The popular acceptance of a thing has very little to do with it. The idea that a thing is inherently wubbolous simply because it's popular is likewise mythical. It's the old 1950s sales pitch: "everybody's doing it!" I started playing D&D, in at least small part, because everybody wasn't doing it.

    You are right though in that people do buy things simply because other people are doing so. Acceptance is indeed the basis for many a sales pitch. Case in point: 4E. I no more accept 4E as D&D, based on sales figures, as a measure of popularity, than I would anything else. However, again from a personal stand point, I place far more stock in intelligent product reviews (such as those James offers) than in some a demographically skewed award slapped on the cover of the product or product web site.

    I'm likewise not a big fan of people who pick things just because other people are buying them too. Just look at the pet rock. :) I'm just a terrible consumer/capitalist.

  22. I guess I'm still unclear. QuickStart rules aren't necessarily "incomplete" and in fact I've never seen a set of them that I couldn't sit down with and have an honest to goodness RPG session with. The distinction seems to be ... well, I can't see that it's significant, with the exception that OSR folks somehow think they're being bilked by the lack of a distinction. I hardly think that's the case, and splitting categories even more than they already are just to make discrete, esoteric differences like that stand out more seems to be a pretty quixotic endeavor. As well as quite obviously being an example of favoritism towards certain products that would easily rise without much in the way of competition under such a scheme.

    Which is why claims of myopia at ENWorld coming from the OSR crowd seems... hypocritical, I suppose? It's very myoepic to claim that category splitting is needed when the only purpose it would serve is to give an obvious advantage to products that cater to a specific niche?

  23. It's very myopic to claim that category splitting is needed when the only purpose it would serve is to give an obvious advantage to products that cater to a specific niche?

    I believe it's just a sort of sad attempt to pattern it after the Academy or Emmy Awards. I looked at the categories when I voted today (okay, so James talked me into it despite being a "conscientious objector") and they didn't seem to make a lot of sense.