Here are some thoughts on how the Italian Roleplaying Game of the Year award, that is the competition organized by Lucca Comics & Games, could evolve.
In recent days, registrations have been opened for two of the major Italian gaming competitions: the Game of the Year and the Role-playing Game of the Year.
We certainly don't have to come and tell you which ones and how many controversy have erupted (again) around the prize. In fact, in the various Facebook groups in the sector, there was heated discussion on the issue. And there has also been some questions interesting.
Because the supplements of other RPG systems, such as Brancalonia e History, can not compete?
Wouldn't it be a good idea to add new prize categories?
Does it make sense that games originally published years ago, but located in Italy within the time limits set by the regulation, compete with more modern games?
And how should we deal with chamber LARPs?
In short, once again this year we are wondering how and if this award should change. After all, the world of RPG has changed quite a bit since eight years ago (yes, 2013 was eight years ago!) The RPG of the Year was recreated by LC&G.
In this article we will reflect on how the Role Play of the Year award could evolve, including new categories. These reflections will be purely speculative and based on my personal impressions.
Since this issue always tends to generate heated discussions, I think it is appropriate to clarify one thing right away: this article is not controversial towards the Role Play of the Year award. Nor is it an invitation to those organizing the prize to change their evaluation methods. I don't pretend to teach anyone anything.
This article is purely a reflection on the undersigned would like to see such an award structured.
What is the Role Play of the Year award?
For the uninitiated, the Game of the Year and the Role-playing Game of the Year are organized by Lucca Comics & Games and reward the best board game and role-playing game released in the previous year. You can visit the competition site at this link.
The candidate games can be both Italian originals and Italian localizations of foreign games. Additionally, all nominated games must have been released between June 1st of the previous year and May 31st of the current year.
In the specific case of Role-Playing Game of the Year, LARPs and expansions of other RPGs cannot be entered. Instead, new editions of role-playing games can be registered, as long as their rules have been extensively renewed.
Candidate games are rated by two juries several, one for board games (Game of the Year) and one for role-playing games (Role-playing Game of the Year). The two juries have some members in common, but are otherwise different.
In the case of the Role Playing Game of the Year, each juror chooses their 8 favorite titles from among all the candidate games. The five titles (once three) with the highest score will be the finalists of the prize and the winner will be chosen from among them.
Why could the RPG of the Year award be changed?
It is known to all that, in recent years, the world of role-playing has undergone gods quite noticeable changes.
Kickstarter has revolutionized the way RPGs are published, giving space to many indie authors who would have struggled to spread their games before. Furthermore, with the success of online programs such as Critical role, also Dungeons & Dragons has seen its audience grow, with a huge success in its fifth edition.
But even the Italian market of role-playing games has changed dramatically. In fact, not only have numerous Italian RPGs been produced in recent years, but these titles have had international relevance and visibility. As it was said last year at Fab Con 2020, both bilingual (Italian / English) titles such as Lex Arcana, History, Nightfell e Brancalonia, both monolingual (Italian) as Not The End have had a notable success on Kickstarter. Indeed, in the case of The OneRing, we can speak of a real record.
In short, we are facing a growing and constantly evolving world. Not only does the market offer more variety today than it once did, but the RPG hobby itself is relatively less niche than it was ten years ago.
Furthermore, the Italian market has also changed. In fact, we are no longer primarily importers of RPGs, but we have also begun to be exporters of notable and internationally renowned titles.
How could the Role Play of the Year award relate to this larger and more varied world?
Role Play of the Year: an international category
Currently, Italian role-playing games compete together with foreign games translated into Italian.
This has led to situations like last year, in which together with the Italians Not The End e Lex Arcana, published in 2020, competed foreign games published several years earlier, such as Ryuutama e Blades in the dark, but located in Italy only the previous year.
In this sense, several doubts have arisen in the community. Indeed, it makes sense to evaluate a valid game, but released in 2007 (in the case of Ryuutama), making it compete not with other titles released in the same period, but with titles of thirteen years later?
According to some, a good RPG remains valid over time and deserves to be rewarded even after years of its release. According to others, however, rewarding a 2007 game, for when it is worthy, would have been anachronistic.
What could be done?
In my opinion, similar situations could be avoided by structuring the main prize, Role Play of the Year, in a different way.
In fact, in my opinion, it could be made to compete for this award only role-playing games released for the first time the previous year, however, opening the award also to international titles and, in general, not published by Italian publishing houses. In this way, the new Italian titles would compete together with non-Italian titles, but in any case their contemporaries.
In my opinion, the Italian RPG market and the Lucca Comics & Games event are prestigious enough to attract foreign competitors. At the same time, Italian role-playing games are now numerous and of quality enough to be able to easily compete with non-Italian titles, without therefore needing a prize reserved for an Italian Role-playing Game of the Year.
In this way, the Role Play of the Year award could achieve well-deserved fame international.
What would be the disadvantages?
On the other hand, however, the languages where the games can be written. In fact, the most convenient choice would be to set Italian and English as languages allowed in the competing games, so as to be sure that the judges are able to read them.
This, however, would end up excluding titles that may not have yet been translated into English. In this sense, therefore, if Ryuutama had been published this year in the same way as in 2007, ie only in Japanese, it would not be eligible for the RPG of the Year award.
However, it would also be difficult to find a jury of competent role-playing people who also know a large number of languages.
So even in such a premium it should go down to compromise.
Award to the Best Italian Edition of a role-playing game
With an international RPG of the Year award, Italian localizations of foreign RPGs would be excluded.
However, I personally do not believe that titles of this genre should be totally excluded from the prize. In fact, excluding them altogether, one could somehow get across the idea that publishing a foreign role-playing game in Italy is a less important or less worthy job than publishing an original title.
And this would be a wrong idea, since the Italian translations of foreign games render the latter accessible to all the Italian public, thus helping to create a culture and education for play.
Furthermore, several Italian publishing houses devote a lot of time and resources so that their editions of foreign games are not only well translated, but also potentially improved over the original edition. This is the case of all the Italian editions that update and make it easier to understand the regulation of the titles that localize, or that put the product in a better graphic format, with new layouts and designs.
We have already seen products such as The ballad of the cruel sea, The Cthulhu Hack, Offworlders and in the future, The guide to the lazy dungeon master.
What could be done?
Well, to enhance the commitment and the service made with these localizations, it could be interesting to have an additional award for the Role Play of the Year, thus establishing a new category: the Best Italian Edition of the Year. Therefore, they could only register for this award RPGs located in Italy during the previous year.
It would make sense that the works were judged on the basis of three factors: quality of translation, quality of graphics and layout (if new) and comprehensibility of the Italian text compared to the original text.
In this case, therefore, the jury it should be made up of people who not only have experience with RPGs, but are also proficient in translation, graphics and art. Therefore, most likely it should be an almost completely new jury, compared to that of the Role Play of the Year.
What would be the disadvantages?
Even in this case, however, we may encounter some difficulties.
First, translations of products that have no way or reason to be supplemented with new illustrations may be at a disadvantage, perhaps because the original manuals were already well illustrated. This would be the case with non-indie titles, such as D&D, Pathfinder e Vampire The Masquerade, for example.
Secondly, if you want to make a comparison with the original edition, in the case of titles whose original edition is not in English but in another language they could be more difficult or impossible to evaluate.
Personally, I believe that the international version of the Role-playing Game of the Year and the Best Italian Edition are the two prizes that would be most needed if we wanted to rethink the Role-playing Game of the Year.
However, since we are still in the world of fantasy, we could also think of some additional categories. After all, what harm is there to imagine Role Play of the Year a bit like it RPG Oscar?
So let's see what other additional rewards we might have.
Award for the Best Expansion of an RPG
Since already existing RPG expansions have multiplied in recent years, also produced by other publishing houses and often of excellent quality, it might be interesting to have a special category.
La Better Expansion it would therefore count first of all the adventures and settings based on the D&D 5e system, which are now very common and of quality. Similarly, similar products based on other gaming systems could also participate.
However, it should be defined more precisely what is meant by "expansion".
Indeed, what distinguishes, for example, Inferno (which has additional classes, rules and adventures than D&D 5e) from a manual like Tasha's Cauldron of Everything (which expands the rules of D&D 5e)?
Can we only accept manuals made by different realities than the one that originated the game system? Or can we just accept new environments, thus excluding simple expansions from the regulation?
Or we should do two separate prizes for the settings and expansions to the regulation? In this case, where would a manual like Courts of Stone, which expands both the rulebook and the setting of the The Legend of the Five Rings?
The setting should be self-contained and not refer to previous publications, thus excluding products such as Norse Grimoire, which expands the setting of Journey to Ragnarok?
The situation is certainly complex and it would be difficult to find a solution that satisfies everyone.
LARP of the Year
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not familiar with LARP.
However, in recent years I have been noticing how LARP has expanded to touch not only classic fantasy themes, but also more complex and difficult ones. I believe that, in general, LARP has all the credentials (international interest and new publications) to earn a separate award.
Obviously, the prize LARP of the Year it should be given by a panel of industry experts. Furthermore, it should, theoretically, follow the same rules as the International Role Play of the Year award, thus presenting both Italian and foreign titles, with all the difficulties seen above.
Some conclusive thoughts
In general, as much as pretty much anyone who has tried to reimagine the RPG of the Year award, it always comes back to bumping into the same problem in the end: it is almost impossible to create "perfect categories".
Whether it is due to the limitations of the judges (not knowing all the languages of the games) or the changing market (a game like First they came, for example, is it a LARP or a tabletop RPG?), there will always be titles that will not find a place.
It is therefore legitimate to ask what is better. Keep a single prize that manages to get around many technical problems at the expense, probably, of giving an updated image of the RPG? Or increase the categories to be more accurate, while sacrificing games that are not written in Italian or English?
If the decision were easy, it probably would have already been made.
For the moment, we just have to ask ourselves about these alternative possibilities and continue to wait for the five finalist games of 2021. Because the Role Play of the Year never pleases everyone, but always gives us something to discuss. That's why, deep down, many of us would miss it if it disappeared.
Why, my lady, what would we do without the drama?
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