Interview – Martin Ralya (Treasure Tables/Gnome Stew)

Martin Ralya is currently the Gnome-in-Chief of the ENnie Award winning blog, Gnome Stew. He also started and ran the ENnie nominated website Treasure Tables and is the founder of Engine Publishing.

Starting off with a more personal question, Treasure Tables was a website that you ran from 2005 to 2008 and, recently, you started your own publishing company, Engine Publishing. What keeps you going? What keeps you enthusiastic about working in the RPG industry?

I like creating things. Writing is the creative pursuit I’m best at, and I’ve loved it since I was a little kid. I also love knowing that people actually use my stuff — that something that was once in my brain is now making other folks’ games more fun.

I’ve also always had an entrepreneurial side, and I’ve run gaming-oriented websites since 1999. Treasure Tables was the first one to carve out a niche and actually do pretty well, and Gnome Stew has gone further than I ever expected.

Jonathan Jacobs’ Open Game Table, Volume 1 was one of the primary things that inspired me to start Engine Publishing. I thought, “If he can publish a book from scratch so can I.” From there it was just a small jump to “Hey, I work with a great group of authors on the Stew, and we’ve just been sitting on our revenue from the site — we could actually make this happen.”

Freelancing, blogging, and publishing have all had their ups and downs, but I keep at it because it’s in my blood — and because there have been many more ups than downs. At bottom, I like working on stuff that my tribe — gamers — can actually use.

In 2007, Treasure Tables was nominated for Best Fan Site. What did you think of the ENnies when you found out that you were nominated?

I was heavily involved in the EN World forums for a couple of years leading up to TT’s nomination, so I knew the process and had a healthy respect for the ENnies. I submitted TT in 2006, as well, and wasn’t nominated, so I had some fire in my belly for a nomination in 2007.

Did your nomination affect traffic to your site?

Not really, no. There was probably a little spike when the nominations first came out, but things were also different back then: The Fan Site category was a grab-bag, and RPG blogs weren’t nearly as prominent online as they are now.

Did winning Silver for Best Blog in 2010 (Gnome Stew) open up any professional doors for you?

In the last three weeks? No. 😉 But I list my nominations on my resume, and my RPG industry work was instrumental in getting me my current position — one that I absolutely love. So I have no doubt that down the line, the Stew’s 2010 win will open a door or two.

Did you feel any different in being nominated in 2010 than you did for being nominated for Treasure Tables?

Yep — I felt like we (the gnomes) had a shot at winning. I learned a lot from the experience of not winning, and from watching what other successful nominees did, so I felt better-armed to muster the best voting drive we could without being dicks about it.

Personally, I’d say that it mattered more in some ways and less in some ways. Less because having lost before, I knew not to let it matter TOO much this time around, but more because the Stew has been more successful than TT by a long shot, because the awards are a bigger deal now, because I’d seen the power industry experience had to get me an awesome job, and because the Stew is a labor of love for all of the gnomes, not just for me.

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

They mean a lot to me. The ENnies have become one of the industry’s handful of major awards, and actually winning one for Gnome Stew was huge. The awards have had some bumps over the years, but so have the Origins Awards — the ENnies aren’t perfect, but I love the fact that they give fans, myself included, an outlet to support the products they dig.

On a personal level, I’ve been invested in earning the recognition ENnie nominations bring since 2006. I don’t need a nomination or an award to tell me that I’m doing good work, but receiving one DOES tell me I’m doing good work, and that’s incredibly gratifying.

Professionally, they’re good for the hobby as a whole. As the awards have gained stature, more people know about them, more people check out the nominees, more people vote, and more people are engaged critically with the gaming hobby as a whole. All good things!

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?

I’d say that they’re one of the RPG industry’s three big awards, with a juried nomination process and American Idol-style popular voting to pick the winners.

Thank you to Martin Ralya for taking the time to answer my questions. You can learn more about Martin by visiting his original website Treasure Tables, which is not updated but still very useful, at http://www.treasuretables.org. His current endeavor, Gnome Stew, can be read at http://www.gnomestew.com. For more information about his new company, Engine Publishing, visit the website at http://www.enginepublishing.com.

One Response to “Interview – Martin Ralya (Treasure Tables/Gnome Stew)”

  1. jonathan says:

    WOW! Thank you Martin. That’s a HUGE honor to be credited with giving you inspiration to start Engine. VERY COOL.

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