This interview is part of a series focusing on candidates in the running for the 2014 ENnie Awards. The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) are an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop role-playing gaming, with voting beginning 7 a.m. Central on Sunday, July 20 through 7 p.m. Central on Wednesday, July 30. The winners will be announced at Gen Con, the Grand Hall at the Historic Union Station on Friday, August 15. To vote, see http://www.ennie-awards.com/vote/. In this interview I spoke with friend of the site and frequent interview subject Martin Ralya, Owner of Gnome Stew and Engine Publishing.
Michael Tresca (MT): Sooo...how many ENnie nominations do you guys have at this point?
Martin Ralya (MR): Counting both Gnome Stew and Engine Publishing, we have six wins (five for the Stew, one for Engine Publishing's Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game) and an additional six nominations.
MT: What products do you have up for nomination?
MR: Gnome Stew is up for Best Blog and Engine Publishing's Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management is nominated for Best Aid/Accessory. Engine Publishing is also nominated for Fan's Favorite Publisher (along with many, many others!).
MT: What distinguishes your entries from your competitors?
MR: Gnome Stew has been posting system-neutral GMing material since 2008, and a few things make the site stand out: the subject matter (there's lots of stuff online for GMs these days, but much of it isn't system-neutral), longevity (six years is an eternity online), the team behind the Stew (veteran GMs, authors, designers -- a great crew), the fantastic community of readers and commenters that's grown up around the site (the signal:noise ratio in our comments, for example, is insanely good), and the volume -- over 2,500 free articles!
Odyssey, like Engine Publishing's other four books to date, is also a system-neutral resource for GMs. Written by Phil Vecchione and Walt Ciechanowski, who also write for Gnome Stew, it's the first book of its kind -- dedicated entirely to starting, running, and ending campaigns -- and one of relatively few gaming books out there that isn't for a specific game. It has something to offer new GMs and grizzled veterans alike.
MT: What products will you be producing for the remainder of this year?
MR: We just released Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters in July, which is an anthology of essays by 23 different authors, all industry veterans and experienced GMs. We've got one more product planned for this year -- the first time since I started the company, back in 2009, that we're shooting for two books in the same year. I'm not ready to talk about that one just yet.
MT: Have you participated in any recent Kickstarters? Are there any upcoming Kickstarters on the horizon?
MR: Of course! I love Kickstarter, despite the headaches backing projects sometimes entails. (My profile is under my real name, if anyone's curious to see what I backed.) My three most recent projects backed out of around 70 overall were Mouse Guard: Swords & Strongholds, Primetime Adventures, and Servants of the Cinder Queen. These days I don't pay attention to what's coming to Kickstarter anymore -- I just find it or learn about it when it pops up. There's just too much out there to worry about all of it.
MT: What do you think of the new edition of D&D?
MR: I haven't checked it out since the very first playtest packet, so I have no idea yet. My Starter Set is still in shrink, waiting for me to have a free evening to peek at it.
MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where? Will any new products debut at Gen Con?
MR: I won't, and I'm bummed about it! This will be my longest gap between Gen Cons since my first, back in 1997; the last one I attended was in 2012. But Engine Publishing's newest book, Unframed, will be at Studio 2 Publishing's booth, along with all of our other titles. It'll be Unframed's wide-release debut; currently it's only available in print directly from Engine Publishing. (Later this year, it will be available in retail stores.)
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
MR: I keep the Engine Publishing website up to date, and the company blog is a great way to keep up with news about our products. I'm also very active on Google+, and Gnome Stew and Engine Publishing both have a (quieter) presence there as well. (Gnome Stew of course, is a company and website all in one!)
MT: Anything else you'd like to share?
MR: I'd like to congratulate all of the other ENnie nominees: Congratulations! One of my favorite things about the day the ENnie nominations are announced is seeing the field, and the field this year is jam-packed with awesome stuff. I love it. Thanks for chatting with me, Michael, and happy gaming!