Thursday, October 27, 2005

On Being A Judge

This year, and for the past two years, I have been an ENnie Award Judge. I know what you are thinking, what the hell is an ENnie Award? The ENnie Awards are an annual award given to the best roleplaying games and game related products, as decides by the fan community.

The ENnies were first presented in 2001 during an online chat presentation, and for the past 4 years have been hosted by GenCon. The name ENnie comes from EN World, which comes from Eric Noah, who started the D&D/d20 community website.

The way the awards work is the publishers submit their products to the 5 judges, who read everything, discuss among themselves the pros and cons of various products, and decide on a short list of 5 products and an honorable mention for each of the categories. The 5 shortlisted products then go out to a public vote, and the 1st & 2nd place winners are announced at GenCon during an awards ceremony.

So, what are the benefits and drawbacks of being a judge? Well, the first thing that many people think of is that a judge received hundreds of entries, totaling several thousand dollars worth of game books, accessories, and PDFs. Yes, we do receive that much in entered products, but there is a BIG drawback to getting all that stuff. It ALL needs to be read over the course of a few months. It's pretty much a part time job for a few months. Another benefit is getting a free pass to GenCon, having publishers recognize and know you by name, and getting to shop the dealers room early as an exhibitor. Most of the judges also get free lodging at the convention as well, but the past two years I have decided to stay in a room with my friends instead of the judges room. This year, however, I may take the free room if my travelling companions (Tim, Nakia, Scott, maybe others?) have enough people to split a room among themselves without me.

Once the awards are over, there is another logistical probelm to deal with. What to do with all the books. In my case, I keep about 1/2 of what I receive, and divide the other half among friends, ENnie staff, and as door prizes at the various ENWorld Game Days that I attend throughout the year. Giving books away is a great feeling, I know that people always appreciate them, and knowing that I've been able to give somehtiong back to the gaming community that I find enjoyment in makes me feel great!

So, now you are probably asking yourself, how does one go about becoming a judge? The judges are voted on by the ENWorld community every year. Each candidate puts forth a "campaign speech" and then all the candidates are voted on over the course of a week. This year several judges are returning judges (Teflon Billy, Crothian, Cthulhu's Librarian(me), JoeGKushner) and one is new (Diaglo). Having worked with 3 of the others before (TB & Crothian twice) and knowing Diaglo online, I think that we have a great panel of judges again this year. I'm looking forward to starting the process and reading the best of what the RPG field has published over the past year. As the process goes along, I'll try to post some thoughts on this blog.

Friday, October 07, 2005

It's Only Rock & Roll But I Like It

Date: Oct 06, 2005
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia - Scott Stadium

Set List
Start Me Up
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll
Tumblin' Dice
Rough Justice
Ruby Tuesday
Sweet Virginia
All Down The Line
Night Time Is The Right Time
<set break due to bomb threat>
Miss You
Oh No Not You Again
Get Off My Cloud
Honky Tonk Woman
Sympathy For The Devil
Midnight Rambler
Paint It Black
Brown Sugar
Jumping Jack Flash
You Can't Always Get What You Want

That's where I was last night. Watching the Rolling Stones, in seats that cost us $180+ each, in UVAs Scott Stadium. And let me say one thing. It was worth every penny we paid for those seats.

The show was easily the biggest stage I have ever seen, far bigger than the Dead's stage, bigger than Pink Floyd in 86, bigger than Guns & Roses/Metallica in 93. And it was an event. Not just a concert, but a huge production. I'd go see them again in a heartbeat. When we originally bought the tickets, Laura & I were both thinking "We really can't afford to spend that much on tickets." But when we looked at each other with huge grins on our faces multiple times during the show, we knew we made the right decision.

The night started off at 7pm with Trey Anastasio, formerly of Phish, with his band. One tight, well done 30 minute set which included:
* Air Said To Me
* 46 Days
* Tuesday
* Come As Melody
* I Am The Walrus (The Beatles)
* Night Speaks To A Woman
* Shine

Originally, I was bummed out that Trey was going to be opening the show. Not that I don't like him, as I really do, and would probably have gone to see him if he came to town on his own. I've just seen him with Phish 20+ times, and solo 2 times. I was really hoping we'd get to see Pearl Jam, John Mayer, or Maroon 5 open the show, but Trey was who we got. As showtime got closer, I was getting excited to see him again. His new band is good, tight, and quite un-Phish like. He still is one of the most talented guitar players out there, and his new band has a more accessable, almost pop/rock sound that could make a nice showing on college radio.

After Trey's band left the stage, we waited until 9pm, when the lights went out. The Stones stage set was HUGE, towering over the end of Scott Stadium. Once they were on the stage, Mick Jagger never stopped moving. It's amazing watching him, jumping and prancing around, more energy that people half his age. And Keith Richards is another wonder to watch. Easily the most charismatic guitar player I have ever seen. Others may play better and have more flash, but he wandered the stage pulling out some of the best riffs in rock history, and it was amazing. After seeing him, it's obvious where 75% of todays rock guitarists get their image and moves. One thing that struck me more than anything else was how much of Keith's stage presence Slash copied. The way his guitar is held, the way he walked around, the way he stood, the crouching, the cigarette dangling from the lip, everything is completely ripped from Keiths stage presence. The other thing I noticed was how he knows how to position himself perfectly in front of the fans that were lining the stage in order to get the air to blow his shirt and hair back while playing his solos. Perfect rock god image every time.

Some of the show highlights were:
Start Me Up, the perfect show opener (and one I thought would be too obvious for them to do)
Sweet Virginia, great slow song, pulled out from nowhere, and the crowd loved it. They were selling UVA colored Stones shirts at the merch. tables-Orange shirts, blue tongue, crossed UVA Sabers underneith, and the back said "Sweet Virginia is for Stones Lovers" with the place & date underneith.
The moving mini-stage that travelled to the other end of the stadium where they played 4 songs on a second stage out in the middle of the crowd.
Sympathy for the Devil-Mick in long black jacket and top hat, stage lit only in red lights, and flames shooting 30 feet in the air from the top of the set.
Paint It Black-One of my favorite songs, and one I didn't expect to see.

The low point of the show was the bomb threat that caused an hour intermission in the show. We were afraid that was going to be the end of the show, but the band came out and proceeded to turn everything up even more, pulling out almost nothing but the biggest hits after that.

The closing combo of Brown Sugar and Jumping Jack Flash was wonderful, and then the encore of Can't Always Get What You Want followed by Satisfaction was just icing on the cake. And then, after the show was over, we got a 5 minute fireworks display as we exited the stadium.

Easily one of my top 5 concerts ever.

They may not be the tightest band onstage, but they don't need to be. They are playing songs that are classics, they have energy that is unbeleivable, and they are top caliber showmen. Even the rest of the touring band was top notch. We walked out with smiles on our faces and would be happy to do so again.

Mick, Keith, Ron, and Charlie-Thanks for a great nights entertainment!

A few more news articles about the show:

Daily Progress 1

Daily Progress 2

Photos from the show (will pop up new window)