The 2012 Award

The WinnerThe NomineesThe Award Ceremony

The 2012 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming has been given to Nordic Larp, a book by Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola.

Nordic Larp is a history of the Nordic larp (live-action roleplaying) scene, from its inception in post-D&D fantasy through experimental drama, historical recreation, and far-freaking weirdness, done as a massive and profusely illustrated coffee-table book, written by two gaming scholars. The book documents more than thirty larps that took place over 15 years, including ones with animatronic dragons and a space opera played out on a submarine.

The Nordic Larp book assembles photos, memories, and designer notes, allowing the reader to survey these fantastic and sometimes legendary events. These records are bracketed by an introduction that summarizes the recurrent elements of the larps and a final essay on Nordic larping as art, theater, and game. Nordic larping is a major, dynamic branch of the gaming family tree, fully deserving of this massive, beautiful book that takes larping and game history as serious business.

It is the opinion of the Diana Jones Award Committee, that Nordic Larp exemplifies excellence in gaming, and we are proud to award it our trophy for this year.

The shortlist for the 2012 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming has five entries. Listed alphabetically they are:

BURNING WHEEL GOLD

An RPG system by Luke Crane
Published by Burning Wheel

Burning Wheel Gold (BWG) is the newest edition of the Burning Wheel fantasy roleplaying game system initially published in 2004 by Luke Crane. If you’re looking for a big system that can stand up to long-term campaign play as well as D&D but is designed with contemporary design sensibilities, BWG is the game for you.

The Burning Wheel system has introduced a host of design innovations over the years. A few examples: with the fail forward mentality a missed die roll isn’t a failure, it’s an unexpected outcome; instead of the GM designing adventures, players direct the action by listing their beliefs and what they intend to do about them; players can make world-setting contributions by creating NPCs using the Circles mechanic or historical facts using the Wises mechanic; and players develop rich character concepts using an elaborate (and fun) Lifepaths mechanic reminiscent of Traveller.

The latest edition, BWG, cleans up old rules problems and brings together material from a number of different books into one comprehensive and attractive hardback tome.

CROWDFUNDING

When historians of the hobby-gaming movement look back on 2011, they will certainly note the production of several fine games and gaming products, including others appearing on this diverse, exciting shortlist. The truly defining shift, however, will be found in the introduction of crowdfunding. By combining consumer micro-capital and community-building, all to the ticking of a suspenseful pre-order clock, it truly warrants the overused label of game-changer.

Forward movements in art forms have always depended on the opened purse strings of a few key patrons. By democratizing patronage and widening the field of opportunity for all game designers, this broader market transformation well deserves recognition as a cauldron of present and future gaming excellence. Within this recognition comes an acknowledgment of the movement’s dominant force, Kickstarter.

NORDIC LARP

A book by Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola
Published by Fëa Livia

Nordic Larp is a history of the Nordic larp scene, from its inception in post-D&D fantasy through experimental drama, historical recreation and far freaking weirdness, done as a massive and profusely illustrated coffee-table book, written by two gaming scholars. The book documents more than thirty larps that took place over 15 years, including ones with animatronic dragons and a space opera played out on a submarine.

Nordic larps have become an elaborate art form, featuring detailed costumes, interesting settings, and varied plots. While these larps can be massive productions in terms of time, players, and material, they can also be maddeningly ephemeral, with no official or comprehensive documentation. Stories pass from community to community, but ultimately “I guess you had to be there.”

The Nordic Larp book assembles photos, memories, and designer notes, allowing the reader to survey these fantastic and sometimes legendary events. These records are bracketed by an introduction that summarizes the recurrent elements of the larps and a final essay on Nordic larping as art, theater, and game. Nordic larping is a major, dynamic branch of the gaming family tree, fully deserving of this massive, beautiful book that takes larping and game-history as serious business.

RISK LEGACY

A board game by Rob Daviau
Published by Hasbro Inc.

One does not expect to find ground-breaking innovation in a revamp of a classic family game from a market-leading publisher, but Risk Legacy produces not just one but three startling leaps forward. It is a board-game designed for campaign play; it does not allow players access to all the components, units and rules at the start of play, instead having in-game events unlock sealed sections of the cleverly built box; and it demands that the players permanently change the game, putting stickers on the board to alter it, and destroying other components. The game-world reacts to victories and defeats, and the game becomes a permanent record of its play, different for every group.

Risk Legacy combines these ideas into a brilliantly playable whole that’s recognisably Risk, yet something brand new. Rob Daviau and Hasbro must be applauded for such a risk.

VORNHEIM

An RPG supplement by Zak S.
Published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess

Vornheim radically strips the fantasy RPG city supplement to its foundations and erects dizzying Gothic buttresses of pure playability. Combining specific encounters terrible and wondrous with superb, table-tested techniques for on-the-fly urban adventure creation, Vornheim illuminates one fantastic city and all fantasy cities.

Literally not an inch of this book is wasted space: all of it provides game masters with tools, tables, and terrifying inhabitants perfectly suited to the powerful senses of possibility, wonder, and nightmare logic buried deep within fantasy gaming’s very nature. Zak S’s rococo, idiosyncratic production design and stark, febrile art brilliantly contain and present the mad glories within its covers – as with a proper necromancer’s tome, merely opening the book plunges the beholder into a world of demonic genius.

The winner of this year’s award will be announced on Wednesday 15th August, at the annual Diana Jones Award and Freelancer Party in Indianapolis, the unofficial start of the Gen Con convention.

The winner of the 2012 Diana Jones Award was announced on the evening of Wednesday 15th August, at the annual Diana Jones Award and Freelancer Party in Indianapolis, the unofficial start of the Gen Con Indy games convention. With the previous secret location (Jillian’s) having closed since the last event, the committee convened the party in a brand-new location, which proved to be a smashing success.

As one of the few publicly known members of the Diana Jones Award committee, Matt Forbeck revealed this year’s winners before the packed house. Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola were not at the show, but Emily Care Boss accepted the award on their behalf and made a short and enthusiastic acceptance speech. Afterward, the celebration continued into the night.

Special thanks to the sponsors of this year’s Diana Jones Award ceremony, especially Lone Wolf Development, which was inadvertently left out of the announcement at the event. The others to be thanked are:

Anthony GallelaAtlas GamesBully Pulpit GamesDriveThruRPG.comElfinwerks and Zvezda, Evil Hat ProductionsGalileo GamesGameratiGaming PaperGen ConHostile Work EnvironmentIron DieJanice SellersMagpie GamesMatt ForbeckNotting Hill GamesPaul Tevis, Phil Lacefield, Pinnacle Entertainment GroupRyan MacklinStannex.comStorm Bunny Studios, and Twin Suns Entertainment.