My name is Fleming Barto, I am a 24-year-old service worker from Archdale, North Carolina. I have around 120 books in my collection and am working on self-publishing my first adventure on DriveThruRpg. I have been GMing at home and conventions for 6 years now, helping me form a foundation of knowledge and enthusiasm that would make me a great Ennies judge.

Why do you play/run RPGs?

The stories you can tell with dice and a sheet of paper are unmatched, the friendships I have formed playing games have lasted me a lifetime. Much of the RPG experience in my opinion is that bond found only in dice and paper.

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?

Much of my free time I spend reading RPG books, so it wouldn’t be much of a difference, for me or my fantastic support system. I may need my family to help me organize my thoughts, however much of the responsibility and opinion forming will be mine and mine alone.

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 have been in the restaurant industry since I was 15 years old, an industry that requires communication and organization skills. As well as this I keep an RPG collection totaling around 120 books, building this collection has given me the experience to discuss and form opinions on books from a wide variety of publishers and designers.

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?

A significant number of books in my collection are Chaosium books, including mostly Call of Cthulhu supplements. Horror and science fiction are most of what I like, however, I have no prejudice against any other genre.

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?

Fall of Delta Green, I have always been drawn to Cthulhu mythos games and Delta Green is one of the best, 1960 spy horror with gumshoe mechanics who could ask for more! The chance came when a friend of mine needed testers for his GenCon scenario.

Bunkerhill, my dad gave me a love for westerns like Stagecoach and High Noon. Bunker Hill is as old as TTRPGs themselves, and when a friend of mine said he was writing a scenario for the legendary game and wanted people to play, I had to volunteer!

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?

Fear Itself: A friend of mine gave me the rule book as a Christmas present, she told me she wanted me to run it for her birthday. Fear Itself is a game that uses the Gumshoe system, it was my first experience with Gumshoe and I loved it! Many of the rules in the system have a philosophy behind them, like what should and what shouldn’t be locked behind a skill check. I still use those lessons in my games.

Alien RPG: I learned about Alien from a youtube video a couple of years ago and was hooked! One of the biggest factors in that is how beautiful the game is, not just the maps and art. I’ve always loved games that allow the player to see the difficulty of their checks and let the GM focus on the story in front of them.

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

Mechanics, innovation, and design are some of the many things to consider when nominating a game for the illustrious title of “best game”, but the real thing to think about is how all these criteria speak to each other and how that affects the player experience. A mechanic and setting detail may be contradictory, a game must not allow art and layout design to be a detriment to the mechanics therein, inclusive not only within the game writing but within its world must be consistent. The best game should be the intersection between all of these factors, not looked at individually but looked at as a whole.

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

I would begin by familiarizing myself with how a system works and let the supplement/adventure speak for itself. I don’t believe a supplement is only as good as its system. I would speak to other judges or individuals who can help give insight on a supplement, I would also compare it to its contemporaries as well as its target audiences, and help myself form benchmarks and perspectives I may not have originally had. Ultimately I would discuss my experience with a system with my fellow judges as well as any issues I may still have with a supplement.

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

The RPG community has been fantastic about encouraging people to enter it, however, I believe the Ennis are missing a fantastic opportunity in not making a category for “Best Beginner Product”, it could be a broad category, including things like novels and starter sets to actual play series and guides. Showing people not within our world who may be interested that “this thing right here” is accredited by the foremost authority in RPGs helps point people in the right direction.