The 2013 ENnies nominations have been announced and voting is now open. I caught up with Kennon C. Bauman, creative director at TheIlluminerdy.com. TheIlluminerdy.com is nominated for a Best Blog ENnie. Voting begins on Monday, July 22 and runs to Wednesday, July 31. The ceremony itself will be on Friday, August 16, in the Union Station Grand Hall at 8 pm with the cocktail reception beginning at 6:30 pm.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your company.
Kennon C. Bauman (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 at least SLIGHTLY 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, stronger, faster, etc. I think our earliest posts look a little like we were just trying to copy Ken Hite’s sadly defunct Suppressed Transmission column in Pyramid (which, in a way, we were), but since then we’ve developed some additional features and our “style” has come into its own.
At around the same time we started putting out articles, our Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth “@d20blonde” Bauman started organizing a weekly chat about RPGs on twitter, which she conveniently named #RPGchat. Essentially, it’s a topic-driven weekly forum for twitter using players and GMs to share their ideas, problems, and advice. She’s really built something of a community around the chats, and since we started them we brought in an old friend from the forums — who prefers to just be known as @Alpharalpha — to keep an archive of the highlights of the weekly chats on the blog itself.
We’ve added a couple of other new featured writers in the last year, covering more weird history and folklore as well as iterative setting design and research strategies for games drawn from real world events, but the vast majority 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 game-inspired (and hopefully game-inspiring) fiction.
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: Have you had any other products nominated for ENnies in the past?
KCB: This is our first nomination. Again, we are immensely thrilled with the recognition. Many thanks to the judges and the ENnies staff for recognizing our work!
MT: Why should voters vote for your site? What sets it apart?
KCB: There are a lot of excellent places to go to get gaming advice, but not a lot that are delivering regular content focused on inspiring GMs to pursue new stories, plots, and events. To be honest, theIlluminerdy.com isn’t really the place to go for advice on how to build and encounter, or to explore some of the more esoteric aspects of mechanical setting design. Our focus instead on providing a kernal of (often intentionally shoddy) research on an ostensibly real event and its gaming potential to give game masters who already know HOW to make a good game ideas on WHAT that great game should be about.
Our bias toward ostensibly real history I think probably skews our audience to those regularly playing or GMing “modern” games, but there’s inspiration here for just about everybody. Especially if everbody wants to run a game about early 19th century superheroes trying to stop Aaron Burr from secretly starting the War of 1812 at the behest of a coven of vampiric witches. Or something similarly crazy, anyway.
MT: How do you feel about the state of the gaming industry today?
KCB: The gaming industry is in a pretty good place, particularly considering the relatively shaky state of the economy in general. The kickstarter boom and the ubiquity of e-publishing has lowered the bar for entry into the industry, and I think we’ve seen an explosion of creative designs, new systems, and just general creativity as a result. Since we’re just running a silly blog about games and conspiracy theories the “state of the industry” isn’t hugely relevant to our lives, but it warms our hearts to see so many good games out there and available to be played. I think others have described this as a “golden age” of design innovation, and it’s really hard to disagree with that.
MT: How hard is it for a game publisher in this economy?
ECB: I can’t imagine trying to make a sole living from game publishing, but I know some people do. Since all our contributors have day jobs (or, as in Elizabeth Bauman’s case, sometimes do freelance RPG editing work on the side) we’re fortunate in that we don’t have to worry particularly about the blog’s “bottom line.” I cannot imagine trying to make game publishing a sole source of income, but good on anybody who can make it work!
In any case, because the barrier for entry into the industry is relatively low, I think we’re seeing a movement (maybe a return?) to what I’ll call hobby publishing — people who are writing great games in their spare time and then just putting them out there in the world. I think we see a less “unified” hobby as a consequence, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, either.
MT: How has Kickstarter changed or influenced your business model, if at all?
ECB: If (when?) we ever decide to put out a more formal product, we’ll be thinking hard about using kickstarter as a way to get the necessary initial capital. Not every kickstarter comes up roses, but as a way to involve your fans early and deeply in the production of any new game product, I don’t think it can be beat.
Of course, in our corner of the hobby, funding is essentially immaterial, so (so far) kickstarter hasn’t really changed anything except for how much we spend on games as fans!
MT: What’s next for your company?
ECB: More articles, more inspiration, and maybe some “real” games or game products in the not-too-distant future.
MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where?
ECB: Absolutely! I’ll be there to see friends, play some games, soak in the atmosphere, attend the ENnies and just generally enjoy being among my gaming peers. We’re running a seminar with Corey Reid — the creator of the Dino Pirates of Ninja Island RPG and the forthcoming comic book Reform School Ninja Girls — as well. It’s SEM1347133 “Making History: Alternate Timelines, Secret Yesterdays, and Your Game.” We hope to see some (all) of our readers there!
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
ECB: The best place to find out about us to check out the site — www.theilluminerdy.com. You can also follow the #rpgchat hashtag on Twitter or follow our Chief Editor @d20blonde, our key contributors @alpharalpha, @cthulhuchick, @profpope, and @kjbauman, or myself @theUniverseGM.
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