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2008 Diana Jones Award Announced

Posted on August 23, 2008 by Flames

Annual Award “For Excellence in Gaming” Locked in Second-Ever Tie

The 2008 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming has been given to two winners: Grey Ranks (a roleplaying game by Jason Morningstar, published by Bully Pulpit Games) and Wolfgang Baur and his Open Design business model. This is the second time the awards committee has locked into a tie over the winners in its eight years. The winners were announced at a ceremony packed with games industry professionals, from designers to publishers and distributors, held at Jillian’s in Indianapolis at 9 PM on Wednesday 13th August, the day before the opening of the games convention Gen Con Indianapolis.

Jason Morningstar’s roleplaying game of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, Grey Ranks, commands attention for many reasons, but it deserves highest marks for two factors. First, it is a game of inexorable tragedy, sacrifice, coming-of-age, mortality, and self-destruction. These truly mature literary themes are almost unexplored in gaming of any sort, and virtually unseen in roleplaying. If gaming is to approach the other arts in depth and richness, it will be games like Grey Ranks that make such an approach possible. Second, its emotional grid mechanic anchors a solid, powerful rules design that drives such themes home in play. Jason Morningstar has not created a game that lazily appropriates the historical horror at its heart, he has created rules that reveal that horror, rules that re-create that horror in its players’ hearts and minds. Aristotle said that all true tragedy must end in terror and pity. It’s hard to believe that Aristotle never played Grey Ranks.

Open Design began as an experiment in funding the development of roleplaying game supplements. Wolfgang Baur—a highly respected, long-time Dungeons & Dragons editor and designer for TSR and then Wizards of the Coast—went back hundreds of years to dig up the concept of patronage, add a few modern twists to it, and apply it to the problem. He posts a project and publicizes it along with a monetary threshold. When the funding his patrons chip in reaches that threshold, he starts on the project in earnest. Baur supplements his exemplary work by letting his patrons suggest various directions for each project and then allowing them to look over this shoulder as he works. Each project becomes a master-level class on adventure design for those privileged to be a part of it.

Also shortlisted for the Diana Jones Award this year were the Canon Puncture podcast, the Child’s Play charity, the Come Out and Play festival, and Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media edited by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin by (MIT Press).

Previous winners of the Diana Jones Award include Peter Adkison, former CEO of Wizards of the Coast; Jordan Weisman, former CEO of FASA and Wizkids; the games Sorcerer, Nobilis, My Life with Master and Ticket to Ride; the game supplement The Great Pendragon Campaign; and the generosity of the charity auctions at Irish games conventions.

A fuller description of the history of the Diana Jones Award and its extraordinary trophy, plus details of all the previous winners and shortlists, can be found at the award’s website: www.dianajonesaward.org

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