Interview – Johnn Four (RoleplayingTips.com)

Starting off with a more personal question, RoleplayingTips.com has been running since November 1999. You started the site to improve your won GM skills. So what keeps you going? What keeps you enthusiastic about working in the RPG industry?

Great question. It changes over time.

Like you said, I started it to become a better GM. That’s still true. I’m always learning from reader tips, research and writing out my thoughts.

Around the mid-2000s I was so busy writing and working that I had to drop RPG for awhile. Roleplaying Tips helped fill the void and keep me going. Then on ENWorld I read a post in the publishers area.

I do not remember which publisher wrote it, but he said it was bad mojo for game writers to not play the games they’re writing about. That struck me as true. You need to be authentic when you write, because gamers are smart and know who’s actually facing the issues they are writing about at the game table, and who’s just touting theoretical stuff because they don’t play.

So I changed my priorities and have been gaming regularly ever since. Roleplaying Tips got me through that gaming drought because I chatted regularly with GMs by email. Still do.

In more recent times, I had a case of bad GM burnout. It felt like all the stories, situations and foes we were playing I had gamed before. And gamed many times. It got boring. Game prep became a chore.

I also found my reading interests have changed. I used to dive into every new rulebook and read them, cover to cover. Nowadays I cannot perform that kind of reading. It’s all procedural. Do this if that happens. Do that if this happens. Here are a bunch of properties and all the ways they can change. My brain rejects it now as boring and difficult.

So when we changed game systems, I had new rules to learn and I just could not read another rulebook. And that generated in-game issues. Fortunately, my players are great support and help me out with all that stuff.

But during my burnout period, Roleplaying Tips kept me enthused. All the fresh ideas and inspiration coming in from GMs sharing their stories and tips kept my head in the game. Ironically, I wrote tips years earlier about how to handle GM burnout, because I had had short episodes of apathy before.

This time I attacked the problem head-on by gaming more. Usually you want to change things up by doing different stuff and finding new sources of inspiration. But this time I just gamed harder.

I made extra effort to make sessions happen. And even when I knew I was not at my best because of fatigue, I kept on. And that strategy paid off. The enthusiasm and freshness returned. Roleplaying Tips helped me get through all that.

Nowadays, I’m going through an assessment phase of Roleplaying Tips. How can it serve GMs better today? The newsletter got bloated, so I’m making it lean and mean again. The site is a bit of a mess, so I’m looking at what I can do to make it serve game masters better.

In 2004, the Roleplaying Tips GM Encyclopedia was nominated for Best Aid or Accessory (Gold Winner) and Best Electronic Product (Silver Winner). The site was nominated for Best Fan Site (Gold Winner). What did you think of the ENnies when you found out that you were nominated and when you won?

I was very excited and happy with the awards. It’s great to get that kind of feedback from the community.

Did your nominations and wins affect short-term site traffic? How about long-term site traffic?

Subscriptions to the Roleplaying Tips newsletter for GMs shot up thanks to the great awareness the ENnies generated for the site. Many of those subscribers are still loyal readers to this day!

What projects do you have on the schedule; anything you can talk about?

Thanks for asking.

We just launched a 300 page GM Toolbook called Assassin’s Amulet. It not only gives you crunch for using assassins as villains, but it also teaches GMs how to create a killer assassin faction, how to run smooth encounters involving assassins, and even how to roleplay assassin NPCs well.

More info at http://legaciescampaignsetting.com.

We are also just about to launch the world’s first online course for GMs!

Called Faster Combat, it’s a 52 week course delivered by email and a special members-only website that teaches GMs step-by-step how to run the best combats of their lives.

More info soon at http://fastercombat.com.

Now that we’ve been around for over a decade, what do the ENnies mean to you both personally and professionally?

I think it’s excellent the industry has a way to surface great work through an awards program. I’ve enjoyed seeing the awards evolve over the years. I feel such awards offer us even more credibility as a hobby that was once much maligned in some circles.

Last question; if someone who had never heard of the ENnie Awards walked up to you today and asked, “So what are these ‘ENnies’ you keep talking about,” how would you answer them?

Roleplaying games are like interactive books you play with friends. And the ENnies are like the Oscars of roleplaying games.

For more information, you can visit them at www.roleplayingtips.com.

One Response to “Interview – Johnn Four (RoleplayingTips.com)”

  1. Mark Thyme says:

    Mr. Law,

    Hey there. I’m a new publisher and I would like to enter my product into the running for the Ennies. I have read all of the pertinent information on the website, and my question here revolves around the entry fee. My product is only available in PDF format, and so would require the $5 fee for entry.

    I’m having trouble linking my bank account to my paypal account (my bank is being absolutely silly about the process), and so I won’t be able to get the fee to you by the April 30th deadline. Will this be an issue as long as my entry is received by April 30th? Also, if I were to supply copies of my product on CD would that alleviate the need for a fee, since the CD’s could be auctioned off as easily as a book?

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  1. Friday Knight News - Gaming Edition: 27-APR-2012 | Game Knight Reviews - [...] Tony Law @ the Ennies site had a chance to interview Johnn Four of Roleplaying Tips fame this week. …