Engine Publishing and Gnome Stew was recently nominated for several ENnies, an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop roleplaying gaming. Voting began on Friday, July 20 and runs to Sunday, July 29. I spoke with Martin Ralya to find out why fans should consider Engine Publishing’s Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game for Best Aid/Accessory and Product of the Year as well as Gnome Stew for Best Blog.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your company.
Martin Ralya (MR): Engine Publishing is a small-press company dedicated to creating insanely good gaming products. I started the company in 2009 to publish our first book, 2010’s Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters, and with an eye to publishing other books in the future if that one went well. I run EP out of my home office, which doubles as my warehouse for direct print sales, in what I laughably refer to as my spare time.
Gnome Stew is a system-neutral game mastering blog written by 10 veteran GMs. The authors of the site, as well as our proofreader, have also collaborated on all of Engine Publishing’s books to date, so we pretty much live and breathe system-neutral GMing advice — and we love writing about GMing. (And actually GMing, of course!) As you can probably guess from the site’s name, we don’t take ourselves too seriously; we’re not pundits, or trolls, or pedants — we’re just a bunch of guys who like talking shop about GMing with other GMs.
MT: Have you had any other products nominated for ENnies in the past?
MR: This is the first nomination for Engine Publishing, but Gnome Stew was nominated for and won silver in the Best Blog category in 2011 and 2010 — we’re going for gold this year!
My work has also been nominated in prior years: Treasure Tables, the GMing blog I wrote before starting Gnome Stew, was nominated for Best Fan Site in 2007; and Bits of the Wilderness, to which I contributed, was nominated for Best Electronic Product in 2006.
MT: Why should voters vote for your product/site? What sets it apart?
MR: There’s a dearth of system-neutral material on the market today, and I think that’s a shame — so both Engine Publishing and Gnome Stew exist to rectify that situation, putting our collective money and time where our collective mouth is, if you will. Popular wisdom says that system-neutral material doesn’t sell, so we’ve tried to disprove that through the blog (which is free, but if no one wanted system-neutral stuff it wouldn’t get any visitors!) and our books.
Masks is the largest collection of system-neutral NPCs on the market, and it uses a simple but powerful template that features Appearance, Roleplaying, Personality, Motivation, Background, and Traits, Masks to provide the core elements of a thousand great characters. On top of that, it’s fully indexed, includes a “ribbon” of over 1,900 ready-to-use names, breaks down NPCs by broad genre and role, and includes lots of advice and tools to help you make the most of what’s the book. It takes a diferent approach than other NPC books, and it’s a massive resource that’s useful to many, many GMs.
Gnome Stew also focuses on system-neutral material for GMs, a niche that’s gotten more representation online in the past few years but which we still feel is underserved. We post a new GMing article every weekday — over 1,200 since 2008, all free — and we’ve worked hard to build up a friendly, knowledgeable community of GMs around the site (over 6,800 users and more than 17,000 comments to date). Readers can request articles, help other readers, and learn tips and tricks about GMing every day, all in an environment with an incredibly high signal:noise ratio, zero spam, and none of the vitriol that many online communities dissolve into.
MT: What’s next for your company?
MR: Gnome Stew will keep on posting new articles for GMs every day; we love doing it, and people seem to enjoy reading them.
On the Engine Publishing front, I’m at loose ends at the moment. Our newest book launched in July, and I usually take a couple months off before considering our next project — the luxury and curse of being a publisher as a side job, not doing it for a living, I guess!
MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where?
MR: Yes! Our books, including Masks, will be for sale at our fulfillment partner’s booth: Studio 2 Publishing, #419 in the Exhibit Hall. There are also two seminars focusing on Gnome Stew and Engine Publishing: SEM1232821, Gnome Stew and Engine Publishing – What’s Cooking?, and SEM1232479, Never Unprepared: A Discussion About Session Prep.
Almost all of the authors of Gnome Stew, and of Masks and our other books, will also be attending the con. We love meeting fans, chatting about gaming, and letting serendipity guide our gaming choices, so anyone who recognizes us should come up and say hi.
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
MR: Engine Publishing’s website is http://www.enginepublishing.com, and Gnome Stew is online at http://www.gnomestew.com. Both EP and GS also have an active Google+ presence: (EP) and (GS).
I also answer every email we get at both sites, and love to hear from folks who have questions or feedback: martin enginepublishing com.
MT: Anything else you’d like to share?
MR: I’d like to say thank you to you for featuring Engine Publishing and Gnome Stew, as this kind of exposure makes a big difference for small companies like ours — thank you! I’d also like to thank everyone who helps to make Gnome Stew such a fun place to talk about GMing, and who has helped to make Masks such a successful book. Thank you!
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