Aaron Harshman


I’ve been the tabletop gaming for about 20 years, attending gencon and other gaming conventions during that time. I have learned multiple game systems over the year, many times just to find out how a system worked and what parts of it were unique or valuable for me. I work as a lawyer and partner, and am accustomed to going through large amounts of information, and providing analysis of the of that information, and providing reasons for the judgments I make.

I currently play in 2 regular DND campaigns, one which I host. I have played many other systems including Star wars -multiple versions, exalted, d20, dragon age, and pre-release and independently produced games by anthropos games. I was an independent, credited playtester for Early Dark about a decade ago.

Why do you play/run RPGs?

I play because they are fun, and have the lowest barrier to entry to any game that exists. My favorite part is cooperative story building, and seeing other players getting excited by each others concepts to make the story cool and fun for everyone.

The ENNIES requires a major commitment of time and energy. What resources do you have that will help you discharge these responsibilities? Will your gaming group or other individuals be assisting you? Does your family support you?

My gaming group will help, as will my kids if the material is suitable for at least a 6 year old. As the owner of a business, I have several employees that I bring games to that are also interested in RPGs. All would support me in giving back to the hobby.

Judging requires a great deal of critical thinking skills, communication with other judges, deadline management, organization, and storage space for the product received. What interests, experience, and skills do you bring that will make you a more effective judge?

I am a currently practicing attorney with a civil and criminal docket. I train staff, work cases, and discuss complex subjects matter with clients regularly. I have an office set aside partially for board games, and the boxes are beginning to get anxious for new friends.

What styles and genres of RPGs do you enjoy most? Are there any styles or genres that you do not enjoy? Which games best exemplify what you like? Do you consider yourself a fan of a particular system, publisher, or genre?

I have played more DND than anything else, but in large part that is because they put out the most tools to accommodate play. I like it because it “has everything” but obviously that means that the DM has to. Make lots of decisions about when/what to cut to keep the fun at the table going. I actually prefer games that have a simpler narrative thrust (i.e., spirit of the century) which strips away the bulk and keep the intensity dialed up. I am a fan of lots of different systems for lots of different reasons.

My favorite system is the Judges system tested for John Calvin, anthropos games, which was never released. That is what I cut my teeth on in college.

List (up to 5) games you’ve played in the last 2 years. What drew you to playing them? Which did you like best and why?

Dungeons and dragons 5th edition – I had a friend that wanted to run it, so I used it to get my wife playing. She loves it!
Root RPG – I love the board game, and the setting.
Star Wars – I lives the connection to the setting more than the mechanics. I don’t know if any system will ever feel like ‘the force’ toe in the way I want it to, but the planetary exploration, military-political setting is just so fun.
Right now I like DND the best, but primarily because the group involves 3 brand new role players, and so I enjoy the experience of showing them the fun.

Have you been a game master in the past 2 years? If yes, what games have you run? What made you decide to run those games?

I’m running a DND campaign now. I’m running that because my wife knows the setting, and she is much more casual in the hobby than I am.

Summarize the criteria you would use to determine if a game deserves to be nominated for Best Game.

It should have accessible, compelling, and well-designed materials to introduce the setting, explain the game, and provide resources for obvious questions. It should have (or allow for) a setting that makes me lean forward in my chair.

It should provoke my imagination of what a DM/GM/player can create, and what everyone can experience, while maintaining the accessibility to ensure that you can leave your masters degree in English and Fluid dynamics at the door and still have a great campaign.

How will you judge supplements or adventures for game systems whose core rules you are unfamiliar with or you believe are badly designed?

First, I will learn the system and make every effort to understand why the design is the way that it is. I want to assume the stance of what the target fan wished to experience when they pick up the book, so I can judge the work of the designer to serve that fan experience.

Second, if I still cannot comprehend, then I will reach out to my (non-affiliated) community of gamers to try and catch feelings for the system.

Even if a product appears badly designed, it probably has some mechanic, or concept, or design element that is worth loving. I am reluctant to make any judgement until I can see some component that shows me why someone else might love it.

How would you like to see the ENNIEs change? What should remain inviolate?

I do not have any feedback on what the ENNIES should change. I may have opinions after I see the operating dynamics, but I am not involved enough to see new paths forward yet.

The ENNIES should always serve as a celebration of the work producing quality and innovative products for our enjoyment. It is an awesome fan-lead opportunity to highlight the producers making our hobby even better.