28 July–3 August 2020: The Diana Jones Award; The ENnie Awards; the Indie Groundbreaker Awards

It’s awards season in gaming and oh boy do we have a lot to go through: the Diana Jones Award makes a gesture toward acknowledging Black creators in the industry; Free League cleans up at the ENnies, but the surprise hit is a beautiful solo journaling game about a vampire; and the Indie Groundbreaker Awards showcases some wonderful hits from small publishers.

Gen Con also brings a host of new product announcements, including luxury gaming products from Wizards of the Coast and Paizo, a surprise one-on-one Call of Cthulhu release from Chaosium, and a new RPG based on the Hellboy comics.

There’s also a bit of “transmedia”, a bit of Tom Hanks, and $80 million. Let’s get to it!

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Awards

It’s Gen Con time, and even if Gen Con’s happening digitally this year, that still means it’s time for three major industry awards: the Diana Jones Award, the ENnie Awards, and the Indie Groundbreaker Awards.

Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming

The Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming goes to Black Excellence in Gaming. In place of its regular shortlist & award, the 2020 award honours 26 creators as representatives of the achievements of Black creators in the industry. In addition, the committee announces the introduction of the Diana Jones Emerging Designer Award to celebrate up-and-coming creators.

We’re… conflicted here. The people on this list deserve the recognition of awards like this. And “Black Excellence in Gaming” has been crucially ignored, and well-deserves this kind of attention. But we’re also a little sceptical.

The Diana Jones Awards have a share in the industry’s history of ignoring the work of people of colour. This gesture is a potentially powerful one, but it is only symbolic. Honouring the work of all Black creators is good — but we also hope it means that more individual Black creators will be winners in the future.

The introduction of an award for emerging designers is a promising move — one which could go some way to promoting underrepresented voices in the future.

Fundamentally, though, the Diana Jones Awards are opaque, secretive, and dominated by white, male industry insiders. They need to change. But the carelessness and tokenism displayed by the committee in Misha Bushyager’s account of why she rescinded her acceptance is strong evidence that, fundamentally, they haven’t changed.

Let’s see what these awards do next year.

ENnie Awards

The ENnie Award winners for 2020 have been announced.

Free League is once again the industry darling, winning Best Publisher, Best Game (Gold) for ALIEN, and Product of the Year (Gold), Best Writing (Gold), Best Layout & Design (Gold), and Best Game (Silver) for MÖRK BORG.

Petit Guignol’s lush solo RPG, Thousand Year Old Vampire, written by Tim Hutchings, takes Product of the Year (Silver), Best Production Values (Gold) and Best Rules (Gold).

The One Shot Network’s Asians Represent! wins Best Podcast (Gold), and Smooching Knife’s TTRPG Safety Toolkit won best Free Game/Product (Gold), which The Gauntlet called “a wondrous middle finger” to the reactionary movements against better representation and safe play in gaming.

Judges’ Spotlight Awards

Sleepaway, by Jay Dragon
Glitter Hearts, by Greg Leatherman
Refractions in Glasston, by the Taylor University Professional Writing Class
Knarls Candy Compendium, by Makenzie De Armas & Levi Phipps
Hit the Streets: Defend the Block, by Rich Rogers

Judge’s Spotlight Award winner, Refractions of Glasston, is the work of a collaboration between Chaosium and the Taylor University Professional Writing Class

Product of the Year

Silver — Thousand Year Old Vampire, by Petit Guignol
Gold — MÖRK BORG, by Free League Publishing

Best Game

Silver — MÖRK BORG, by Free League Publishing
Gold — ALIEN the Roleplaying Game, by Free League Publishing

Free League’s ALIEN wins Best Game.

Fans’ Choice for Best Publisher

Gold — Free League Publishing

Best Production Values

Silver — Humblewood Box Set, by Hit Point Press
Gold — Thousand Year Old Vampire, by Petit Guignol

Tim Hutchings’ beautiful RPG, Thousand Year Old Vampire, wins the Gold award for Best Production Values.

Best Supplement

Silver — Ironsworn Delve, by Shawn Tomkin
Gold — Delta Green: The Labyrinth, by Arc Dream Publishing

Best Setting

Silver — Arkadia — The Greek Setting for 5e, by Arcana Games
Gold — Call of Cthulhu: Berlin the Wicked City, by Chaosium

Best Adventure

Silver — Trilemma Adventures Compendium Vol 1, by Trilemma Adventures
Gold — A Pound of Flesh, by Tuesday Knight Games

Best Writing

Silver — The Monsters Know What They Are Doing, by Saga Press
Gold — MÖRK BORG, by Free League Publishing

Best Rules

Silver — Zombie World, by Magpie Games
Gold — Thousand Year Old Vampire, by Petit Guignol

Best Cartography

Silver — Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, by River Horse
Gold — Trilemma Adventures Compendium Vol 1, by Trilemma Adventures

Best Layout and Design

Silver — A Pound of Flesh, by Tuesday Knight Games
Gold — MÖRK BORG, by Free League Publishing

A page spread from Free League’s MÖRK BORG. A clear winner for Layout and Design.

Best Electronic Book

Silver — Uncaged Volume III, by Scribemind
Gold — New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley 2nd Ed, by Stygian Fox

Best RPG Related Product

Silver — Session Zero, by John C. Byram
Gold — Absinthe in Carcosa, by Pelgrane Press

Best Free Game/Product

Silver — Tunnel Goons, by Highland Paranormal Society
Gold — TTRPG Safety Toolkit, by Smooching Knife

Best Organized Play

Silver — Where Can She Be?, by Robbie Pleasant
Gold — Stygia Untamed, by Greasy Snitches and Paul Gabat

Best Interior Art

Silver — Strata, by Rowan, Rook and Decard
Gold — The Ultraviolet Grasslands, by Exalted Funeral Press

Best Cover Art

Silver — The Ultraviolet Grasslands, by Exalted Funeral Press
Gold — Call of Cthulhu: Berlin the Wicked City, by Chaosium

Chaosium’s supplement of Lovecraftian horror in the Weimar republic wins Best Cover along with Best Setting.

Best Monster/Adversary

Silver — Big Bad Booklet 1–6, by Hit Point Press
Gold — Mordenkainen’s Fiendish Folio, Volume 1: Monsters Malevolent and Benign, by Wizards of the Coast

Best Podcast

Silver — Red Moon Roleplaying
Gold — Asians Represent!

Best Online Content

Silver — RPG Writers Workshop, by Scribemind
Gold — The Monsters Know What They’re Doing, by Saga Press

Best Aid or Accessory

Silver — The Dungeon Books of Battle Mats, by Loke Battlemats
Gold — Deck of Many Animated Spells, by Hit Point Press

Best Family Game/Product

Silver — Kids on Bikes: Strange Adventures Volume 2, by Renegade Games
Gold — Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, by River Horse

Indie Groundbreaker Awards

The Indie Groundbreaker Awards winners have been announced. Humblewood is the only crossover from other awards, taking the Indie Groundbreaker Award for Best Art, and the ENnie for Best Production Value. However, Laura Simpson, author of the Game of the Year-winning, Companions’ Tale is also one of the Diana Jones Award honourees.

Most Innovative — If I Were a Lich, Man, by Lucian Kahn
Best Art — Humblewood, by The Deck of Many
Best Rules — Mazes, by 9th Level Games
Best Setting — Afterlife: Wandering Souls, by Angry Hamster Publishing
Game of the Year — Companions’ Tale, by Laura Simpson

Industry News

ICv2 estimates that roleplaying games sales grew 20% to $80 million in 2019.

Venturebeat interviews several key figures on the World of Darkness team about the brand’s “transmedia” strategy.

This piece is a bit of a slog — full of buzzwords and lengthy diatribes — but it is an interesting breakdown of what Paradox is trying to do with the franchise, and why. We remain sceptical about the scattershot approach of licensing the World of Darkness across so many companies, but the way in which the team is trying to drive discovery of the brand is pretty fascinating — even if we don’t like it. — Amy

Dungeons & Dragons’ Mythic Odysseys of Theros hits the Publishers Weekly Bestseller List.

Robert Bohl, who recently announced his retirement from RPG publishing, announces that his game, Misspent Youth, will be taken over by Fragging Uniform Games.

RPG History

Dicebreaker looks back at the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, which inspired 1982’s Mazes and Monsters, the classic made-for-TV movie about D&D driving Tom Hanks mad.

New & Upcoming Products

Dark Horse Comics and Mantic Games announce an RPG based on the Hellboy comics.

Wizards of the Coast announces Curse of Strahd: Revamped, a deluxe $99.99 edition of the 5e campaign. The edition includes promised changes to culturally insensitive material. Beadle & Grimm’s, the usual purveyors of luxury D&D box sets, are offering a $399 box version.

Beadle & Grimm’s, known for their deluxe adventure boxes for Dungeons & Dragons, are partnering with Paizo to create “Complete Character Chronicles” — a line of journals for Pathfinder characters.

And Paizo joins in with the luxury gaming products.

Free League announces Destroyer of Worlds, a box-set scenario for the ALIEN RPG, launching September 9th alongside the Starter Set.

Pegasus Spiele shows off the Talisman Adventure Fantasy Roleplaying Game.

Chaosium releases Does Love Forgive?, a one-to-one adventure for Call of Cthulhu.

Free League releases Crypt of the Mellified Mage, an adventure for Forbidden Lands.

Fantasy Flight Games announces Fields of Victory and Blood of the Lioness for Legends of the Five Rings Roleplaying.

Wizards of the Coast announces a D&D themed edition of the card game, The Great Dalmuti.

Bundles & Deals

Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of Star Trek Adventures RPG books and a bundle of Pathfinder second edition books.

Bundle of Holding is offering bundles of The Dying Earth, OSR, and Flash Gordon books.

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

The Shivers: A story adventure game with pop-up scenes, by Andy Logan — August 8th. This project has currently raised $416,000 from 4,900 backers.

It’s debatable whether this counts as an RPG or not, but it looks great. Popup scenes are an under-utilised resource for RPGs! — James

Dark Matter Starter Set: A quickstart box for a sci-fi campaign setting for 5e, by Mage Hand Press (Dark Matter) — September 7th. This project has currently raised $116,000 from 1,200 backers.

I’m a big fan of starter sets and it looks like Mage Hand Press have taken their time with this one, developing this book out of their previous Dark Matter project from a few years ago — James

Svilland: A reprint of the Norse setting for 5e, and an accompanying adventure, by Dream Realm Storytellers (Svilland, Corpus Malicious) — August 27th. This project has currently raised £56,000 ($72,000) from 1,200 backers.

5e & Pathfinder

Motherload: A three-part level 1–3 adventure for 5e, by BiteSizedGaming (Captain Hartchild’s Guide to Oceanic Depths) — August 5th

Condition Chips for 5th edition: A set of chips for marking conditions in 5e, by Airmail Adventures — August 19th

Not an original idea but these look very pretty and practical. — James

Arcana Notebook: A campaign journal for 5e, by Arcane Goods (Arcana Note: 5E Leather Journal & Adventure Kit) — August 28th

Fantasy

The Fantasy Trip: A zine and setting book for The Fantasy Trip, by Warehouse 23/Steve Jackson Games (The Fantasy Trip Adventures, Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS 2020 PDF Challenge) — August 10th

The Dark Eye — Gods of Aventuria: A sourcebook for The Dark Eye detailing religious customs, by Ulisses Spiele — August 12th

Urban Fantasy/Horror

Cthulhu Parlour’s “Hotel Lovecraft”: A box game for 1–5 players combining an RPG, a board game, and audio horror theatre, by Oliver McNeil (The StoryMaster’s Tales “Weirding Woods” Hybrid RPG, Fantasy Soundscapes, Cthulhu Soundscapes) — August 27th

This update was made possible by Eric, Keenan Collett, and the rest of our Patreon supporters.

Editor’s Note: this post has been updated to note that Laura Simpson, author of the Indie Groundbreaker-winning Companions’ Tale is also honoured this year by the Diana Jones Award.

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