In which our intrepid hero states bluntly what he wants in a roleplaying game.

It’s that time of year again — voting for the ENnie Awards has begun.

For the uninitiated, the ENnies are like the Logies for roleplaying games. I check the ENnies out every year; it gives me some idea where the industry is headed, and it also gives me a tiny ego boost when I see products that I like short-listed.

This year, however, I realised that—with one or two exceptions—I didn’t own any of the nominees. This shocked me somewhat.

I’ve unconsciously limited myself to buying Call of Cthulhu, issues of Dungeon, WotC D&D hardbacks and the occasional Green Ronin or Malhavoc release that catches my eye. Part of it, I guess, is that I don’t have quite as much money to throw at gaming as I’ve had in previous years. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing—I still kick myself for buying Diomin, for example.

On the other hand, the industry seems to be in a bit of a creative slump. I think we’ve finally seen the die-off of d20 producers that everyone seemed to predict at the height of the OGL boom. The survivors are all pretty big names (in roleplaying industry terms, anyway), and most of the stuff they put out strikes me as very safe and samey.

Eberron, touted as the Next Big Thing, seems like Forgotten Realms with magitech; Arcana Unearthed/Evolved, despite early hopes to the contrary, doesn’t seem to do it for me either.

(I understand that there’s a lot of good non-d20 stuff out there, but none of the stores in Sydney are really willing to stock anything that isn’t d20 or Storyteller. Hence, I don’t play them.)

When I think of starting a new campaign in a prefab setting, I always seem to come back to a handful of options: 1920s Call of Cthulhu, Freeport or Nyambe. None of the newer offerings really catch my eye.

Perhaps if I had more disposable income, I’d be willing to take a risk, but given the overall rise in roleplaying prices, I’d rather spend my money on luxuries like food and rent. I already have a crapload of good campaign material—at last count, about seven linear metres of shelfspace devoted just to d20—and unless something new and interesting comes out, I don’t want to know about it.

It’s always been difficult to get newbies into the hobby, but what about the old grognards, like myself, who’ve been playing for nearly twenty years? I, for one, don’t miss the days of hack-and-slash. If I wanted to relive those early days of Pavlovian thrill-kill, mindlessly rolling dice, I’d play Warhammer Fantasy Battles or Battletech.

I want narrative, goddammit. I want that wonder of my teenage years when I could pick up a new product and be overwhelmed by the coolness of it all. I want to feel smarter than Magic: the Gathering players.

I don’t want seven hundred new feats, nor The World’s Largest Dungeon Crawl. I’m all crunched-out; all this crap is doing nothing to enhance my gaming experience.

In the latter days of 2nd-edition AD&D, TSR put out Planescape to reward the grognards’ loyalty. It’s about time that someone did this again. I’m not asking for much, just for some interesting, original background, with lots of cool hooks and the occasional tidbit that an omnivorous GM might use in their homebrew campaign.

I want value for my money. We grognards spend, too—and a lot more than newcomers to the roleplaying genre, as a rule.

(Apologies to Pink Floyd for the post title. You can have it back now.)