2018 Judge – Denise Robinson


Online Nicknames

MsD, dextra

Introduction and Platform

I care about games, gamers, and the gaming community. They’ve gotten me through rough times, and also made for some of my best times and friends as well. I care deeply about the ENnies: they’re a chance to recognize the often unrecognized hard work and quality product in an otherwise often thankless and misunderstood hobby.

I once won an ENnie for my product, “Portable Hole Full of Beer” at my first Gen Con (the last in Milwaukee). After that, I ran the ENnies for six years, growing it into “Gen Con’s crown jewel” as Peter Adkison called it. I’ve volunteered hundreds of hours to the Awards already, and have seen the judges various struggles and deliberations first-hand.

I know that I have the skills, support network, experience, passion, and time to be a great judge.

Why do you play/run RPGs?

When I was living in Germany, I used RPGs to teach English to grade 8 students. It was a fun way to develop language skills and encourage team efforts. My kids grew up playing RPGs, drawing monsters, improving maths and reading skills, and exploring creatively and cooperatively.

I love to have friends over to eat good food and laugh and tell stories. RPGs are the perfect vehicle for such things. They provided much-needed escapism as a teen, and offered me a social circle that I’d never had. Heck, the first time I ever lied to my mother was when I stayed out all night to play D&D in 1987 with some older punks!

I love stories. I love hearing them from friends and strangers alike, true, or fiction. I love telling stories. RPGs let me use my imagination to create new worlds and alternate personalities and explore possibilities. I love generating characters with back stories and personalities, and then seeing how they interact with others.

The majority of my best friends are gamers. We’ve gotten to know each other playing in other worlds, and support and care for each other in the real world.

The ENnies requires a major commitment of time and energy. What resources do you have that will help you discharge these responsibilities? Will your gaming group or other individuals be assisting you? Does your family support you?

I run a weekly gaming night that is always keen to try out new games. My math prof husband is an RPG fan who loves to read new games, and he’d be helping me with assessing and playing games.

As for family, my kids are grown and living on their own, but some may remember “the Gelflings” as the youngest award-winning artists for their “Kids Colouring Book of Critters” d20 book, or the multiple times they won the Talent portion of the Gen Con costume contest. My husband is a gamer, though not as hardcore as I am. My dad bought me the Red Box set when it came out. My mother thinks it’s a waste of time and money. So I’m fairly typical in that regard, I guess.

Judging requires a great deal of critical thinking skills, communication with other judges, deadline management, organization, and storage space for the product received. What interests, experience, and skills do you bring that will make you a more effective judge?
I’m a Canadian living in America. I can’t work while here, so have a ridiculous amount of free time for reading, participating on online fora, and gaming. Seriously. Make me a judge so I can have something better to do other than channel my inner 1960s housewife and start making weird meals with mayonnaise and jello.

I ran the Awards for six years. Since then, I’ve developed more patience and acceptance. I recently finished an online course (towards a B.Ed.–better late than never, right?) where I honed my communication skills, deadline observance, and organization skills. Once a deadline has been established, I will meet it, even if it means staying up all night to make it happen. If I commit, you get me 100%.

I’ve got close to a thousand gamer Facebook friends around the world. I would like to consult them as to what their priorities are (so long as it sticks to ENnies rules, especially about confidentiality): I think that democratic input shouldn’t stop with the election of the judges. Also, I’ll share my experiences as much as I can, since a certain amount of transparency is a good thing.

My life pretty much revolves around gaming, reading, and online time. I’m a perfect fit.

As for space, I live in a three bedroom apartment with my husband and two cats. We have room to spare, and an unfinished attic. I already get lots of deliveries, so the local drivers know me.

What styles and genres of RPGs do you enjoy most? Are there any styles or genres that you do not enjoy? Which games best exemplify what you like? Do you consider yourself a particular system’s, publisher’s, or genre’s “fanboy/fangirl”?
I pretty much enjoy anything that I can sit down and play with friends without having to be too encumbered with rules. I think the thing that bores me the most is shopping runs with munchkins trying to min/max their weaponry. YAWN. Let’s get to the story, and have some fun! (Don’t get me wrong, there’s something to be said for playing the system for all it is worth, but some people take it too far).

Least fave genres are detective/cop stories, though I’m interested in trying them again, especially in interesting settings like Dresden Files. I never got into superhero games, but I think I could if I could go for more stuperhero type stuff. The last time I tried playing some was V&V and TMNT, so that probably dates me a bit.

I miss VtM and Cyberpunk 2020. I still have yet to get past character creation in Shadowrun (dirty confession: I loved the old novels/setting). I look forward to running an Oathbound game using Pathfinder, and having my youngest daughter run me a game of D&D5E.

I really enjoy games that push the limits when it comes to rules, or how RPGs are played. A fave gaming moment was playing Fiasco with Peter Adkison in Seattle, the eldest Gelfling in Ottawa (Canada), and my hubby and I in Lisbon (Portugal) via Skype: great group, fun game.

Over the years of attending Gen Con, I’ve gotten to know a lot of publishers, writers, and artists and call them friend. However I’m not averse to critiquing their work: I’m THAT mom who can watch her kids dance with love and joy, and still note poor technique. 😉 I also have no fealty to any publisher.

What games have you played in the past year? List up to 10 RPGs you have played the most. Which ones, if any, have you loved or hated?

Recently, I’ve been building the world for a homebrew “Littlest Hobo in Spaaaaace” campaign using Microcosm.

I seriously love The Laundry. It’s a great setting and good system, and my family is currently playing a time travelling campaign currently set in The Village (of The Prisoner fame).

I played Bulldogs (FATE system) and had an absolute blast playing basically Futurama meets Firefly characters.

My local gaming group and I had a hoot with Fiasco, playing a Christian pop duo on tour.

I look forward to playing Chill soon.

Briefly summarize the criteria you will use for judging products in the different categories.
Overall, I’ll read through each submission (or listen to it, or use it). I’ll pass it along to my hubby. I’ll run it with my gaming group. I’ll start up an extra weekly game just to try out the latest submissions and invite local gamers from my fave FLGS to try ’em out. I love introducing people to new games!

When it comes to RPGs, I want a strong setting and role-playing possibilities. While I appreciate a finely-crafted rule-set, it can’t interfere with people being able to sit down and have some fun. That’s also why I created the best rules and writing categories way back when: because they are two parts of a whole, and deserve their own credit.

For Production Values, I’m looking at more than just a box set or ribbon book mark: I want strong editing and layout. I remember a heated discussion amongst the judges one year about whether value-for-money should be a contending factor, and I’m still undecided (and would be open to persuasion from the voting people).

For Podcasts or other multimedia: y’all best use some editing software, because if I have to sit through hours of pauses and uuuuuhhhs, you’re going to suffer.

How will you judge supplements or adventures for game systems whose core rules you are unfamiliar with or you believe are badly designed?

There aren’t a lot of systems whose core rules I’m unfamiliar with, but would hope that publishers might hook a sister up with a PDF to make the task easier. If not, well, you can still learn a lot from reading through a product. I’ve played a large enough variety of games over the years to be able to spot a dud or a gem. As for bad design, well, that’s the risk we all take, isn’t it? But it still deserves a fair shake: it may be ugly to me, but to the designer it’s the child of their time and creativity.

How would you like to see the ENnies change? What should remain inviolate?

It would be great to see higher visibility of the Awards at Gen Con and FLGSs, but I understand that a lot of that comes down to financial constraints. The ENnies are awesome, and should have more recognition.
I think that the format of fan judges–NOT industry pros–is important to maintain, and to keep things as democratic and open as possible. Integrity is key. This is a fan award, and while I may have some industry experience and connections from back in the day, I’m doing this as a passionate fan.

BONUS: (optional) If you were an RPG, what would it be and would you play it?
A mash-up of action and Jungian/Jodorowsky symbolism. Darn tootin’ I’d play it!

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