James Surano

Online Nicknames
scholar, scholar99

Introduction and Platform
Hi, I’m James, or scholar depending on where from the internet you know me from, how’s it going?

So, this is where I tell you about myself to some degree, disclose some stuff, and in general start the process of convincing you to vote for me. Back in 2010 I was elected to be a judge for the 2011 Ennies, and found it extremely fulfilling to give something back to gaming culture. Then life got interesting. After a few years being out of touch with the Gaming World as I wrangled life back into line, I’ve reached a point where I’m back to reconnecting with friends through gaming, and gotten reconnected to the world, through gamedays and playtesting for author friends, and now I’m looking to give back to an industry that taught me so much that got me through some of the hardest times of my life.

Why do you play/run RPGs?
In many ways, I’m not exaggerating when I say that table top gaming probably saved my life. I started gaming in my late teens, and this changed my focus from running with a group that fell hard to recreational activities, and I can honestly say that having set gaming plans on Friday night kept me from a lot of those situations. The reason I chose gaming over the party scene was because it gave me the escape from my mundane life that I was looking for. Almost twenty years later, and my reasons have changed. These days, the escapism is still there, but it’s also a way to expand people’s awareness of representation in the world. There’s a quote that I’ll bastardize, and sadly can’t attribute, but it’s to the effect “ if we are making up new worlds, why should we repeat the mistakes of our own 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?
So, I have a few resources at my disposal. First and foremost, I have the physical space for the review product. Other than that, I have access to a large circle of gamers, and gaming groups, allowing reference material, and play groups for the reviews, all of whom have been supportive of my decision to run. The final resource is of course experience with how the Ennies Judge work flow goes through the year.

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?
So, first and foremost, my biggest asset is experience. While it has been a few years since my first time judging, I have done it in the past, successfully. After the experience factor, I have always had the ability to pick up new rule sets quickly, enough power gamer in me to find breaks in a system, and as previously mentioned, plenty of empty bookshelves at the moment (I recently moved and downsized a bunch of my possessions in exchange for digital copies).

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”?
This is probably the place my answers have changed most since last I filled one of these out. My love is very much for urban fantasy, or fantastical historic games, even more so than the traditional fantasy world, or hard far future sci-fi. Things like the World of Darkness, or Shadowrun will immediately catch my interest. Style wise, I have definitely found myself gravitating towards more narrative based games these days, over the standard crunch fest that gaming started as.

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?
D&D 5e
Shadowrun anarchy
10 candles
Gumshoe
Storytelling system
Hell for Leather( the tarot version)
Fate accelerated
and a slew of home brewed systems.

Briefly summarize the criteria you will use for judging products in the different categories.
So, the primary judgment criteria will always be “Is it fun”. For core rules and supplements, this means “will this increase my group’s fun at the table?”. For things like websites, blogs, and pod casts, it quickly becomes two part: the first is still the same, how will this affect my table? But there’s also the question of “ is this fun to consume”.

How will you judge supplements or adventures for game systems whose core rules you are unfamiliar with or you believe are badly designed?
So, going back to my Golden Rule of Judging, the Fun Factor is system agnostic. After that, if I absolutely need to reference back towards the rules, I have a large enough circle of gamers, and experiences with gaming, that I will be able to either recall, or borrow a copy of the core rule set as needed.

How would you like to see the ENnies change? What should remain inviolate?
My standard reply to this is to maintain and increase transparency in the process of the Ennies. I see no reason for this answer to ever change.

BONUS: (optional) If you were an RPG, what would it be and would you play it?
So, this answer has definitely changed. These days it would be a race to maintain balance and increase happiness while balancing a super rewarding job, a great circle of friends, and many amazing experiences each year( yeah, I play it daily).

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