A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.

The Ramanan Sivaranjan Awards for Excellence in Gaming

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on July 28, 2015

Tagged: osr dnd

Every year the Ennie’s come and go and I have no idea what half the games are about or how they even got nominated in the first please let alone win an award. Well no, I do know: these awards aren’t for me. The Ennies are a reflection of what people on EN World are into: stuff i’m not interested in. The Ennies feel like the Teen Choice awards of the RPG scene.

The Ramanan Sivaranjan Awards for Excellence in Gaming on the other hand are the sort of recognition a game publishers should feel proud to put on their CV. To that end, here are my picks for the best books of 2014, a half year late because why not. Winners were picked by myself, based on my mood this summer day. To qualify for contention your book must have been purchased by myself in 2014—I don’t give a shit when it was published.

The Ramanan Sivaranjan Award for Excellence in Gaming 2015

Best Writing: Patrick Stuart, Deep Carbon Observatory

Deep Carbon Observatory

Deep Carbon Observatory was by far the most affecting game book I read in 2014. The writing is beautiful, poetic and thoroughly unrelenting its bleakness. The fact it also happens to be a D&D adventure is a nice bonus.

The water of the river is ripe with life, over-full with predators and fish of every kind. Pike and strange pale squid flit to and fro. Cuttlefish can barely be seen; camouflage flows across their pigmented skin like paint.

Upriver, in the distance, rises a column of smoke or grey cloud. The only other signs to mark the sky are carrion birds. Columns of their moving forms make black signals in the grey air, sketching spirals over the accumulated dead.

That’s how you paint a scene! And that’s just random text from a random page. The whole adventure is full of that.

This book feels new, different, and completely unique. It is so much more than a simple module.

Best Art: Jez Gordon, Death Frost Doom

Death Frost Doom

That’s what i’m fucking talking about. That this book wasn’t up for a best art Ennie is why I am even writing this post.

Jez Gordon’s illustrations for Death Frost Doom are so completely on point, a perfect companion to the writing in the book. His stark high contrast black and white illustrations have been featured in a few books now, but the style really comes together in Death Frost Doom. The art capture the mood of the module perfectly.

The Ramanan Sivaranjan Excellence in Gaming Best God Damn Book of 2014: Zak S, A Red and Pleasant Land.

A Red and Pleasant Land

I have written at length about A Red and Pleasant Land so I won’t repeat myself here. This book was several years in the making and it shows. No one involved half assed anything. This book is 100% whole-assing. This is how you do it, people. (Jez Gordon should get some more recognition for the fantastic layout work he did on the book.)

Everything about the book is on point: great writing, great art, great layout, and even the god damn book as a real live thing is great. It’s one of the nicest books I own period, never mind gaming books.

I’m curious to see if anything coming out in 2015 can knock this book of its throne. Your arm’s too short to box with God.

Update 2019: my thoughts on this book haven’t changed much, but my thoughts about Zak have.

Honourable Mentions for the 2014

Scenic Dunnsmouth, Forgive Us, Evil Wizards in a Cave, The Excellent Traveling Volume, Wonder and Wickedness, and the new 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide are all books worth checking out. That Wonder and Wickedness, A Red and Pleasant Land, and The Excellent Traveling Volume all came out within a week or two of one another speaks to how solid a year 2014 was for gaming.

Finally, though I have no idea what’s up with Torchbearer I still find it strangely compelling. The actual book is quite nice as well.

Till next year. Booyaka! Booyaka!

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