2019 Judge – Benjamin Adelman

Introduction and Platform
Hi. I’m Ben Adelman. I’m a former researcher and current online contractor. I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with my girlfriend. I first got introduced to RPG’s over 20 years ago when I “borrowed” my brother’s 2nd edition D&D and Palladium Robotech books. I cut my teeth on GMing with 3rd edition D&D in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, but the last 7-10 years have been the best of my RPG career. It’s been a veritable Golden Age with fascinating new systems, interesting worlds, and amazing art and writing. The growing up of the indie scene and the incredible innovation of the OSR has led to a ton of absolutely fantastic games. I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring us, and I would be honored to be one of your 2019 Ennies judges.

Why do you play/run RPGs?
I play RPG’s because they’re fun. It’s a blast hanging out with friends. Its a great way to meet new and interesting people. GMing is a fantastic creative outlet. Unlike boardgames, as a player its an opportunity at unbounded problem solving. Its a chance to tell stories and explore ideas in ways that no other form of entertainment even comes close. Sometimes its just pure and glorious escapism. It lets me use my imagination, create worlds, destroy monsters, and sometimes take a hard look in the mirror. There’s really nothing else like it.

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 have a wonderful girlfriend and a great gaming group willing to playtest anything new coming their way, 3 local game stores with a large RPG community, and a job with the flexible hours necessary to keep up with all the new products submitted.

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?
For most of my adult life my career has been in technology, research and analysis. Critical thinking and organizational skills are a necessary part of the job. Moreover, I’ve been playing RPG’s for nearly 20 years. I’ve played many different kinds of games and have continued to stay current with new trends and innovations in the RPG market. That gives me a good knowledge base for comparison. Storage space is not a problem.

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”?
My favorite genres are fantasy, horror, and sci-fi, but I enjoy almost anything with a good story and a good group to play with. I don’t consider myself a fanboy of any particular system or genre. I’m always open to new and interesting games, and I love spending the Con season finding new things to share with my local group.

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?
I’m currently GMing games of D&D 5E and Spire and am a player in a Palladium Fantasy game and a rolling PBtA group. Some games I’ve played in the last year, in no particular order are:

D&D(5E, Black Hack, DCC, LotFP, Labyrinth Lord)
Trail of Cthulhu & Cthulhu Confidential
Blades in the Dark
Dusk City Outlaws
Ten Candles
The Sprawl
Star Trek Adventures
Palladium Fantasy

Briefly summarize the criteria you will use for judging products in the different categories.
It depends on the category a product is being judged in, but generally I will ask the following questions:

How is the usability? Does the writing and layout help the reader or do you have to work to figure out what it’s trying to do? In a good product the art, writing, and layout work together to make it easy to learn and play the game.

Are the mechanics tied to the theme or do I feel like I’m fighting the system to immerse myself in the game?

Is it innovative? Does it have interesting new mechanics, or use old mechanics in interesting new ways?

How does it stand out from the rest of the crowd?

How will you judge supplements or adventures for game systems whose core rules you are unfamiliar with or you believe are badly designed?
If I’m not familiar with the rules I’ll learn them before taking a look at the supplement. Between 3 local game stores and the large amount of RPG pdf’s available online I should be able to find anything. If I think the core rules are badly designed I’ll judge the supplement on its own merits. It isn’t a rarity for a supplement to define or surpass its source material.

How would you like to see the ENnies change? What should remain inviolate?
I’d like to see a category for best beginner RPG, and more transparency in the decision process, but otherwise I’ve been pretty impressed with the Ennies the last few years. There has been a good variety of genres and play styles making it through the nomination process.

BONUS: (optional) If you were an RPG, what would it be and would you play it?
It would be a comedy of errors and I’d find myself playing it through a series of unexpected events.

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