Online Nickname: ‘gingerreckoning’
My name is Amelia Antrim. I am one of the co-hosts of Character Creation Cast, a podcast that explores RPGs through the lens of character creation by sitting down with designers and experts to run through the process of making characters in a wide variety of games. We also have a series of episodes on how to become a better player at the table. I have been making the show for a little over five years, and have been involved in a number of other RPG and podcast projects over the years, including being an ENNIES Judge for two years in 2021 and 2022. I am in the process of designing my own game as well.
Why do you play/run RPGs?
RPGs are so much more than just games. They allow us to collectively tell stories, to inhabit characters that may be different than ourselves, and to explore situations we may never get to experience in our own lives. The unique marriage between mechanics and story, the way the rules of a game influence the emotions and narrative at the table are unlike anything found in other hobbies, and even in other kinds of games.
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?
I’ve been an ENNIES judge in the past, so I have a very good sense of the amount of work it takes, and I know I’m able to do it and able to do it well. I do not have a regular gaming group at the moment (as I fill out this application), but I do play with groups of friends and family whenever I’m able to. My family is extremely supportive of my involvement in the gaming community, and it is something that has brought me closer to my siblings, and has become an activity that we do together when we are able to!
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’ve been making my podcast for over five years now, and was previously an ENNIES judge for two years. Both of those experiences mean that I have gained an ability to quickly absorb and dissect information from RPG books. I know what I’m looking for when I read a book, how to find it, and I have a depth and breadth of gaming knowledge to draw upon when reading new games. My podcast also relies on interviews, often with designers of games, which means I’m very used to working with other people, and especially used to talking to other people about games!
In my day job, I am a regulatory coordinator for oncology research. I help manage over 100 ongoing studies in cancer research, which means I’m used to juggling lots of projects at once, keeping track of and organizing vast amounts of information, and communicating back and forth with people in every area of my field both inside and outside of my organization. I also have to keep up with changing norms and standards. The majority of my job is about making sure everything is organized, deadlines are met, and changes are communicated to everyone.
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?
One of the things I love about RPGs is the fact that there are so many different kinds of games. My favorite games don’t necessarily fall into a single style or genre, but are the games where the mechanics of play are meant to evoke certain feelings or reactions. Rather than just using what we often think of as “standard” mechanics (d20+stat, for example), I love games that use rules that match the style of play. Something like Slayers, where each character type has slightly different rules to make each one interact with the narrative a little bit differently. Or Pasion de las Pasiones, where answering a narrative question is part of your rolls. I enjoy games that really challenge what we think a game can do. Most memorably to me, the game Broken, in which players physically smash objects to represent a relationship falling apart.
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?
I haven’t gotten to play an extended campaign, but I’ve gotten to play around with so many games in the last few years, including Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons (of course), a number of Micro RPGs, several Powered by the Apocalypse games, and probably most notably for me, Nova.
As a general rule, combat is not the first thing I look for in a game. I’m not opposed to games that have it, but it’s usually toward the bottom of my list as far as things that interest me. Nova really challenged that. The mechanics treat combat not like a competition or challenge, where the goal is to be “better” than an opponent, but rather as a puzzle, where different abilities between the players can stack or key off of each other, and it becomes about finding the most optimal combination of abilities to defeat an enemy. It was a very different take on combat that played much more to my interests.
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 don’t really like being the GM when I can avoid it, but the one game I have been running lately is Arium: Create. It was an ENNIE nominee a few years ago and I fell in love with it when I first read it. I love the way collaborative worldbuilding can immediately create more buy-in from players when starting a new game. Arium is an awesome tool for that. But if you, like me, have friends that just love creating settings even if they never do anything with them, Arium lets you make a game out of it. I started running it with friends as a quick game when we all had some free time, or on a night when we were going to play a game but someone had to cancel. It was quick to learn, easy to play remotely, and was something that appealed to myself and all of my friends.
Summarize the criteria you would use to determine if a game deserves to be nominated for Best Game.
1) Easy to learn (it doesn’t have to be rules-light, but where the rules are clearly laid out and easy to understand)
2) Offers something new, either mechanically or narratively
3) Accessible (not difficult to find what you need in the book, clear headings, good layout)
4) Fun to play!
How will you judge supplements or adventures for game systems whose core rules you are unfamiliar with or you believe are badly designed?
In the past when I’ve been unfamiliar with the core game for a supplement, I’ve generally tried to find/read the core rules, or reached out to someone who was very familiar with the game to get a sense of how the game works, and then asked questions as I went through the supplement if necessary. One of the biggest factors in judging whether a supplement is good is how well it works with or improves upon the core game. So even if the design of the core game isn’t something I necessarily like, there are people out there who do, and a supplement should be looked at in terms of whether it would enhance their experience with the game, and if it accomplishes what it sets out to do (adding a new setting, more monsters, new character types, etc.).
How would you like to see the ENNIEs change? What should remain inviolate?
I know there certainly have been complaints, often justified, about how the ENNIES work. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen personally is with vetting nominees, and ethical concerns about people involved in the games. It’s something that the entire community is grappling with, and has been for a long time, and I don’t think there are easy solutions to it.
As far as things that should remain, I think having judges review submissions and create lists for public voting needs to stay. I know of awards where people are asked to vote from a list of every submission and it is beyond overwhelming trying to review everything during the voting window. I also know there are awards granted by a panel of judges with no transparency regarding what was submitted or reviewed and no public input on the winners. I think the ENNIES are an excellent combination of those two extremes.