By Christopher Helton
With Gen Con at the end of the month, award season for tabletop roleplaying games is in full swing. Last week the ENnies were announced, to no small amount of controversy, and today the Diana Jones Award shortlist has been announced. While, like with any award, the games included (or excluded) can generate controversy, but I think that the Diana Jones is the strongest award out there, even if I don't always agree with the winner.
This year's shortlist of nominees are:
College Of Wizardry. College of Wizardry is a LARP from Danish and Polish teams Rollespilsfabrikken and Liveform."The larp is a witches' brew of game design enabling free play, an ensemble of dedicated co-creative players, and the truly enchanting location of the Czocha castle, filled with secret passages. The participants played juniors, sophomores, and seniors, as well as teachers, ghosts, and a wide variety of magical creatures for three days at the start of the school year."
Designers & Dragons (2nd Edition). Designers & Dragons is a multivolume history of the tabletop RPG industry and hobby, from its origins in the 1970s up through the 2000s. Originally a series of online essays covering the companies and individuals who created the tabletop roleplaying industry, it eventually saw publication in book form, and relaunch (via Kickstarter) in an expanded second edition.
The Guide to Glorantha. One of the oldest setting in tabletop gaming, Greg Stafford's Glorantha first saw life as the setting to the fantasy board game White Bear and Red Moon. This new guide to the setting was written from the ground up by Stafford, Call of Cthulhu creator Sandy Petersen and Jeff Richards. Gorgeously illustrated and designed, this two-volume guide book gives gamers all of the information that would be needed to run a Gloranthan game using whatever set of rules that they desire.
Mysterium. Mysterium is Ukrainian card game that takes the murder-solving core of a game like Clue and takes it to new and interesting places. "One player is a ghost who must communicate the details of its murder to a crew of psychic investigators—the other players—through seven nights of dreams, represented by cards with surreal illustrations. The result is gameplay that's simple but brilliant: the ghost may be telling you about the general, the postman or the nun but your only clue is a picture of a chair on a tightrope. It is a game about the joy of over-thinking the obvious, and when you fail you curse not the cards, the mechanics, fate or your fellow players, but your own poverty of imagination."
Torchbearer. An ode to the early days of fantasy roleplaying byThor Olavsrud and Burning Wheel's Luke Crane, Torchbearer is a game about seeking fame and finding treasures before the monsters can kill you or your torches go out and leave you in the cold darkness of a dungeon.
One of these games will be announced as the winner of the Diana Jones Award at a private ceremony the night before the opening of Gen Con. I will be reporting the winner after the ceremony, so stay tuned for more information.
My choice from this shortlist, would be the amazingly well-made Guide to Glorantha. Not only is it a living history of our roleplaying hobby, but it is one of the bestdeveloped settings in tabletop gaming. It has been the backbone for board games, computer games and roleplaying games like Runequest and Heroquest. While I am a fan of depth of imagination in Glorantha, I will admit that I have myself never run games in it because I find the richness of detail to it to be daunting as a game master. But that detail is the source of its greatness for so many gamers over the years. From the important people to the societies to the religions of Glorantha, everything that you would need to start years of Gloranthan roleplaying can be found in the eleventy-billion pages of these books (note: these books are much shorter than eleventy-billion pages, and that number is probably just made up by the author anyway).
Christopher Helton is a blogger, podcaster and tabletop RPG publisher who talks about games and other forms of geekery at the long-running Dorkland! blog. He is also the co-publisher at the ENnie Award winning Battlefield Press, Inc. You can find him on Twitter at @dorkland and on G+ at https://plus.google.com/+ChristopherHelton/ where he will talk your ear off about gaming and comics. He also has a crowdfunding page to help offset costs of this summer's Gen Con coverage.