Online Nickname: ‘ludestro’
Hi! I’m Joe Wolz and I’ve been peripheral to the industry for quite some time. I’ve been playing tabletop RPGs for 30 years. I’ve had a regular weekly game going (of various games) for the past 20 or so years. I was co-host of a podcast from 2011 to 2018 called 2 GMs, 1 Mic wherein I reviewed games. After having a second child and my co-host getting a job in the industry, I was unable to continue doing the podcast. I’d like to be an Ennies judge because I read and buy RPG products every week, and am active on the RPG Pub forum as well as several discords. I have played or GMed 66 games according to an excel sheet I’ve maintained (I am happy to share it!) and have read literally hundreds of products, including doing 1 or 2 reviews per show when I did the podcast.
Why do you play/run RPGs?
I enjoy running games, but I also play, although I GM more often than I play. I love roleplaying games. As to why I love them, I would probably need to delve too deep into my psychological makeup to be brief, lol. I do love spending time with my friends and telling stories, though. It’s structured play, and because I never grew up or wanted to, I like to play!
I have a long lasting and abiding love of TTRPG culture and tabletop games in general, but specifically for RPGs.
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’m self employed, and have plenty of time to read. I almost always read all of the Ennie nominees as they’re announced, or at least as many as I can afford to in one go. I have the time and motivation to do the work. I wouldn’t apply otherwise.
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?
Well, I reviewed games professionally for the podcast, so I know I can do the work and communicate. I’m in a consultative role now as a job, with plenty of experience in communicating with people and performing on deadlines. I used to be a history professor, as well, so I know I am good in collaborative and structured environments. I can bring my own structure, for me, as well…I prove that every day by being self-employed.
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?
So I’m going to be nerdy with this answer: I like games that are well designed, where the system and setting are meshed in such a way that they make sense to each other. I like it best when it’s not an accident, discovering that chocolate and peanut butter go together is OK, but finding out strawberry and basil work together takes effort. So a well designed system and a brilliant setting working in concert are my favorite and most enjoyable games.
In regard to styles or genres, I have no particular preference. I’ve played games across the spectrum from almost freeform to very rules intensive. I probably enjoy “conventional” games the most, but have no qualms with experimental stuff. No genre is safe from my enjoyment.
Games I love are Castles and Crusades, 7th Sea (I like both editions, and have run and played both), Shard, Hunter: the Vigil, Unisystem, GURPS, and FATE (specifically Dresden Files, but I’ve played more than that). I have a much longer list of games I’ve run and played, and have thoughts on all of them.
I am a fan of Tabletop RPGs in general, and there are a few companies that I pay close attention to: Steve Jackson Games, Troll Lord Games, Evil Hat, Goodman Games, and a I follow RPG.net, RPGPub, and various subbreddits. I really only lurk, though.
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?
In Nomine is what I’m running now. I’ve been a fan since 1997 and finally got my friends to try it! It’s “The Prophecy” the RPG, basically.
Hunter: The Vigil is the game I’m playing monthly with my friends. I love how it’s like Hunters Hunted (a Vampire: the Masquerade supplement from the 90s). It offers a good, visceral personal horror experience. Our GM uses props a lot for crime scenes and clues, and it’s very fun! This is the third Hunter game I’ve played in (plus two I’ve run) across the two editions.
Castles and Crusades is my go-to fantasy game. I usually use my own settings in lieu of the official one, but it’s my OSR style game of choice. I’ve been running it for 20 years, and have played it as well many times. I like it because it’s way lighter than D&D (even lighter D&D 5e!) but offers me the same feel and more fun.
Fate of Cthulhu is one game I’ve only run twice, both games fizzled due to players leaving and the group changing. I like Cthulhu stuff and time travel, and this game combines those interests wonderfully!
Dresden Files RPG is my favorite version of FATE, and my introduction to the system. I’ve run two wonderful campaigns and played in two. It’s a great game, I’m a fan of the world and the books, although our games tend to clearly divert from the stories…we’re more pulpy.
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 am most often a GM, so I’ve run quite a few games. Our group tends toward playing defined lengths of game. We shoot for 12 sessions or so for a whole plot, then we switch games. I pitched In Nomine at the end of our Dresden Files game a few months ago. Before that I ran Castles and Crusades wherein the players were Vikings (of a sort) sliding through multiverse.
When I am inspired with a campaign concept, I write it down and go through them at pitch time.
Summarize the criteria you would use to determine if a game deserves to be nominated for Best Game.
A game needs to be innovative, fresh (or refreshing), and cool. For me, it would be a game that begs to be played, something that really stirs in me a desire to run this thing.
How will you judge supplements or adventures for game systems whose core rules you are unfamiliar with or you believe are badly designed?
I will judge a game on its merits, not its detriments. I be;ieve, when reviewing a product, to make sure the best parts are highlighted FIRST, with downsides only being listed if they are egregious or truly bad. A sommelier need not enjoy a wine to find it exemplary.
There are few sets of core rules of which I am totally ignorant.
How would you like to see the ENNIEs change? What should remain inviolate?
There is a bit of an element of fashion in the nomination process, and while “newness” is an important consideration, it should be balanced better with “what works.” I don’t think there are any big changes or issues that I’m aware of, and I’ve been paying attention since 2001.