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 installment I interview Kennon C. Bauman, the Creative Director for TheIlluminerdy.com.
Michael Tresca (MT): What’s the Illuminerdy all about?
Kennon C. Bauman (KCB): TheIlluminerdy.com is a gaming blog dedicated to bringing new inspiring content to players, GMs, and aspiring writers alike, often with a conspiratorial flair. We also have regular columns focused on providing game-writing and game-running advice, and a few of our regular contributors have worked in the industry for companies like Pelgrane Press and Atomic Overmind.
MT: If I remember correctly you ended up winning a silver ENnie last year, right?
KCB: Yes! We were nominated for Best Blog for the first time last year, and ended up getting the Silver. We were all honored to have received so much support from our fans! We're hoping to stay in the fight this year, or maybe even snag the gold. So Illuminerdy fans -- please get out there and vote!
MT: Tell us more about The Illuminerdy.
KCB: I think our motto says it all: we conspire to inspire. Our writers are dedicated to RPGs as both players and GMs, and most of us have at least a healthy side interest in history (including alternate- and secret-history), conspiracy theory, forteana, and weird fiction. We started the blog a couple of years ago to try to turn some of those interests into something productive, essentially trying to lay out blueprints for players, writers, and GMs on how to take weird things about the real world and use them to make your game(s) better, more interesting, or whatever, in our first regular column: "Unreal Worlds". A lot of what you're going to see on the site are ruminations on using weird history and/or conspiracy theories as inspiration for your games or short fiction. We also occasionally drop some short (usually 100 words or less!) game-inspired (and hopefully game-inspiring) fiction of our own via "The 100 Word RPG Hook."
Our Editor-in-Chief and social media maven Elizabeth Bauman organizes a weekly chat about RPGs on Twitter, conveniently named #RPGchat, under the auspices of the Illuminerdy. Essentially, it's a topic-driven weekly forum for twitter-using players and GMs to share their ideas, problems, and advice. Since several of the Illuminerdy are currently living in Europe, Bill Paulson organizes a second installment of #RPGchat every week (in cooperation with Elizabeth) at a time friendlier to fans in the USA.
Way back when we first started the blog, I was doing most of the writing myself, but since then we've added additional regular columns and contributors, including Ruth "Cthulhuchick" and Professor Nakia Pope who cover more weird history, iterative setting design, and more recently rules mods to give games a Cthulhu mythos flair in our "Arkham Archivist" and "Dispatch Ultra" columns, respsectively. We've also brought on Andy Click for our version of the standard game-running and -writing advice column "Behind the Screen", to say nothing of the occasional guest post or feature from other contributors.
The site's name is meant to call to mind the famously conspiratorial Illuminati, and so a lot of our jokes -- and much of the site's motif -- is about hidden wisdom and shadowy cabals.
MT: What distinguishes The Illuminerdy from the other nominees?
KCB: While there are a lot of really good gaming blogs out there, there aren't very many that deliver regular new content to their readers, over and above the usual GM advice. We try to keep our inspirational delves into secret and alternate history appropriate to drop into any number of games and genres -- basically, we try to appeal to everybody from hard sci fi fans to the huge number of folks running fantasy games like D&D and Dungeon World.
MT: What does it take to produce a successful digital presence like yours?
KCB: The key ingredients for a successful gaming blog are (a) top-notch, interesting contributors, (b) a relatively regular post-schedule, (c) a unique point of view, and (d) some way to engage with your fans...often, in recent years, via Social Media.
MT: Any tips for newbies just entering the field?
KCB: The barriers for entry to game blogging are essentially nonexistent. If this is something you want to do, just start writing posts (and then tell your friends, gaming group, etc. where to find them).
MT: How’s your traffic to the site?
KCB: We've grown a lot since the Illuminerdy.com first started, but we're far from the biggest gaming site on the web. Our daily views are usually in the hundreds, but particularly popular posts may draw more eyeballs.
MT: What do you think of the new edition of D&D?
KCB: A couple of us were part of the early Alpha playtest, and then a few more participated in the Beta. I'm putting a new campaign together now based on the Basic set, and regardless I think we're all pretty big fans of D&D regardless of edition. Anything that brings people to the hobby is good, and D&D is still at the heart of this one. I'm looking forward to playing and running more of the new edition in the coming weeks and months.
MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where?
KCB: Several Illuminerdy stalwarts will be at Gen Con, but unfortunately I can't make it this year. The easiest place to track the rest of the Illuminerdy down will probably be the ENnies ceremony.
MT: Where can we find out more about your site online?
KCB: As always, the best place to go for gaming inspiration remains www.theIlluminerdy.com.
MT: Anything else you'd like to share?
KCB: For those going to Gen Con this year, enjoy yourselves! We'll see you in 2015!