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The Ramanan Sivaranjan Awards for Excellence in Gaming 2023

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on August 04, 2023

Tagged: awards osr

2022 was a slog from beginning to end. I was glad to be done with that year. Whenever my mood is sour I end up spending too much money: they call it retail therapy. My longlist of RPG books going into these awards was very long. My shortlist was anything but short. This has been another year where zeroing in on my final picks was a struggle.

The Ramanan Sivaranjan Awards for Excellence in Gaming exist to highlight truly standout RPG books. They sit in contrast to the Ennies, the teen choice awards of the RPG industry. In this way I am the Pepsi to the Ennies Coke-a-Cola, since they never talk about me, but I always talk about them. But honestly, we all know who the real thing is when it comes to matters of taste.

The books in contention arrived at my doorstep, or digitally in my inbox, during 2022. That’s a long while ago now, I know, but that’s really my only rule with these awards and I will stick with it. So, while Trophy, which arrived at my home in January, should clinch some awards at the Ennies this year, it will need to wait till next year to fight for its spot as Ramanan Sivaranjan Award for Excellence in Gaming winner. If I had backed it digitally, I’d have included it for contention this year. Simple, right?

Anyway, what are we fucking around for: you want to know who won.

Best Gaming Supplement: Gig Economy by Colin Sproule

Gig Economy Cover

I love this unassuming booklet. Gig Economy is 200 weird little NPCs to people your world with: retainers, rival adventures, townsfolk. There are no wasted words: everything is short and to the point. You can pick a random person and read what their deal is in seconds: great if you need someone mid-session. Each NPC has personality, some equipment, and a name. What else do you need? Nothing, that’s what.

Best Attempt at Distilling 800 Blog Posts into a Game: Errant by Ava Islam

Errant Cover

Errant is chonky book, the sort of book I would normally ignore because it’s so chonky. Ava Islam has tried to jam all of the OSR into one game. There is advice and rules for almost anything you can imagine happening in a game of D&D. Ava has documented her journey through the OSR, from a novice game master to one with plenty of experience and advice to share. I think for people who find the OSR opaque, confusing, or off-putting, Errant might be the game they are looking for: something that tries to be far more self-contained.

The Ramanan Sivaranjan Excellence in Gaming Best God Damn Books of 2022: Into the Odd Remastered by Chris McDowall, with art and graphic design by Johan Nohr.

Into The Odd Spread

Chris McDowall’s Into the Odd feels like a real masterpiece. In the years since its release Into the Odd feels like it’s become an impactful and influential game, a classic of the OSR. You can see the games influences in many modern OSR games. I had ignored this game when it first came out, more obsessed with OD&D and LotFP. I’m glad we all have a second chance to revisit and enjoy this game. Into the Odd Remastered is a beautiful book. Johan Nohr is a champion of graphic design, and this book highlights his versatility. (Of course, anyone paying attention to MORK BORG should have been able to see he’s a man of talent.) The collage art found throughout the book captures the weird aesthetic of Into the Odd perfectly. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Honourable Mentions

It feels like everyone is sleeping on Demon Bone Sarcophagus, the latest adventure from Patrick and Scrap Princess. I loved reading the book, and am disappointed I haven’t found the time to get it to the table yet. I also loved &&&&&&&& Treasure by Luke Gearing, ANNA-X66: Redux by Slade Stolar, The Book of Gaub by Charlie Ferguson-Avery, Evoro, The Furtive Goblin, Ivy H, John “Unlawful Games” Gregory, Rowan A. and Paolo Greco, Downtime in Zyan by Ben Laurence, Fermentvm Nigrvm Dei Sepvlti by Gord Cellar, The Frost Spire by Jacob Hurst and Joshua Alvarado, Skorne by Sam Doebler, Where the Wheat Grows Tall by Camilla Greer & Evlyn Moreau, and Wanderhome by Jay Dragon.