2019 Judge – Brent Jans

Online Nicknames
Renaissance Gamer

Introduction and Platform
I love tabletop role-playing games, and I especially love how the hobby has evolved since I started playing and GMing over thirty years ago. I love reading and talking about new games and supplements, especially with an eye to their inclusiveness and accessibility. I think TTRPGs are for everyone, and I’m an especially big fan of companies which take that extra step to make sure as many people can see themselves in their game. This is my first time stepping up to being an ENnies Judge, and I look forward to evaluating games through an inclusive lense. (And I’m Canadian, so you’ll have to excuse the odd “u” in an odd place, or some odd spellings. The British influence never left our grammar.)

Why do you play/run RPGs?
I play TTRPGs because it is the single best way I know to have a connective, shared experience with other people. Movies and TV can entertain, and computer games can offer stunning visuals with their RPGs, but both are ultimately solitary pursuits. And even MMORPGs, while offering a good level of connected experience, don’t allow the players to influence and affect the stories and play of their fellow players in the same way a TTRPG allows.

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 currently run a blog for myself, renaissancegamer.ca, where I talk about gaming and issues related to the hobby. I have a few gaming groups which can ask to help me evaluate games and supplements, especially with regards to inclusivity. And I’m a single man, so family support isn’t actually an issue. However, I have an extensive friends network which is very supportive of my mad little hobby.

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 currently work as an administrator with my city government, so my organizational and time management skills are extremely high. I also currently freelance as a fiction editor, and have done for the last fifteen years, which has helped develop my critical reading skills. I’ve also started the process of creating a library of TTRPGs here in Canada, to collect and preserve our hobby. And I legitimately enjoy talking about TTRPGs.

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”?
While I do tend to enjoy fantasy over science fiction RPGs, I don’t really have a preference. There are no genres I stay away from, but I do tend to avoid products or games which focus specifically on trauma as part of their gameplay; I was an EMS volunteer for over twenty years, so I’ve seen enough of that sort of thing in my real life. If I had to choose games that exemplify what I most enjoy, the current edition of D&D would be on that list, along with Fate Core, Savage Worlds, Blades in the Dark, and Star Trek Adventures. I don’t consider myself a fanboy of any particular publisher or system, as I tend to whatever system best fits the game I want to run. Many of my blog posts do relate back to D&D 5e, however, because I’m currently DMing two campaigns and creating a campaign world for those games.

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?
In the past year I have played: D&D5e, Blades in the Dark, Undying, Kobolds Ate My Baby!, Start Trek Adventures, Pathfinder, Starfinder, Fate Core, Savage Worlds, and Skyrealms of Jorune. I have an enduring love for D&D because it was the first RPG I ever played, and I’m loving the new edition. Having only played a few games I am really enjoying Star Trek Adventures, for the way the mechanics of the game reinforce the feel of being inside a Star Trek TV show. While mechanically sound, I’m just not feeling a lot of interest in Starfinder. While I can appreciate the leap forward in the Pathfinder campaign world timeline, it just doesn’t grab me the way the Golarian setting did when I first started with Pathfinder.

Briefly summarize the criteria you will use for judging products in the different categories.
In the case of new games, does the game bring something new to the hobby, either mechanically or stylistically?
For supplements, does the supplement enhance gameplay or add a new dimension not present in the base game?
For adventures, is it fun? How much work does the GM have to do to get it from the page to the table?
And then generally, are the production values solid? Did the publisher take time with the editing, layout, art, and so on, or was it thrown together? And probably most important for me, is the game/supplement/accessory inclusive and accessible? Did the publisher include ways for PoC or non-binary folks to see themselves in the game, or is there a way for people with visual impairments to access the material, as examples.

How will you judge supplements or adventures for game systems whose core rules you are unfamiliar with or you believe are badly designed?
It’s relatively easy these days to get familiar with any game I haven’t at least read through, so in that case I would make sure to pick up a copy of the rules or access a SRD if there is one. In the case of supplements or adventures for games I feel are badly designed, I can still evaluate the material on its own merits, as well as how well it supports or enhances the game for which it was written.

How would you like to see the ENnies change? What should remain inviolate?
I’ve enjoyed voting in the ENnies for years, but I don’t feel any part of it is truly inviolate. The TTRPG hobby has gone through several changes, and I think it important that the ENnies remain flexible enough to change with it. I would like to see inclusivity become more of a standard for evaluation, but I have observed that happening slowly over the years and I’m confident it will continue.

BONUS: (optional) If you were an RPG, what would it be and would you play it?
If I were an RPG I’d probably be a Fate Core space opera, and I would definitely play it. Or run it.

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