7th Sea was nominated for seven ENnies. Products I worked on have been nominated for (and won) ENnies in the past, but not all of the awards are things I feel I should get an award for. Like last year Urban Shadows was up for Best Rules and Product of the Year. If Urban Shadows had won Product of the Year, I would have gone out and gotten a copy of the medal because layout has to do with creating the whole product. It won Best Rules, which had nothing to do with me, so I am okay with no award for Thomas.

7th Sea‘s Mark Richardson, our staff cartographer, was nominated for Best Cartography this year. Discussing the nominations, we realized this is the only award with nominations for 7th Sea products that was as close to 100% a single person’s award. Mark may have had guidance and feedback from others on the John Wick Presents team, but it’s as close to 100% his sole work as anything else JWP put out there.

This stood out to me because we’re pretty much working as a team on the products. On Pirate Nations, there are dozens of people who made that book into a thing that could be nominated for Best Supplement.

If we look at Best Writing, if a 7th Sea book was nominated for that, we’d have a lead developer, about six writers, two “additional” writers, two to four editors and proofreaders, and even me involved, sharing the credit. (Although my contribution to the writing is more in line edits, where I have collaborated with the lead developer to rewrite short passages to make copy fit into the space the design allows. Minor stuff, really.) But if we look at Unknown Armies (which is nominated), I would say that at least 97% of that is all Greg Stolze with some edits from proofreaders and maybe some developmental editing. On Unknown Armies, that was a creator’s vision going through the product; on 7th Sea, we have a developer for the book guiding a stable of writers through an entire work.

So I’m going to look through the nominations for product I’ve worked on, and show you how much input your layout artist has on each of these.

Best Art, Cover: 7th Sea: Pirate Nations. I’ve developed the trade dress for the covers and provided the art director with specifications for the illustration. When the illustration comes in, I place that into the cover file, adjust the type for the book’s spine, back cover, and front cover tagline. Although someone else usually comes up with the front cover tagline, I help with word choice. But I feel this award is really about recognition of the illustration on the cover, not the entire composition of the art.

Best Cartography: 7th Sea: Map of Theah. All I do it resize it for the endpapers.

Best Free Product: 7th Sea Basic Rules. Created a separate trade dress for these, based off of the main line of sourcebooks. I also adjusted and manipulated the artwork, laid out the art, and worked with our project lead on adjusting copy in areas. Although this is just about the rules, it’s the whole package being recognized — I feel a stronger sense of ownership in this product than the above two nominations.

Best Game: 7th Sea: Core Rulebook. I created the trade dress for the line (with feedback from the bosses) and laid out the entire thing. While the award is about the game, the presentation of the game is an important element that is being recognized, so I feel like this is an award I have been partially nominated for.

Best Production Values: Unknown Armies Deluxe Set. This thing was massive. Cam Banks, our lead, said “Production values! That means you!” And to some extent, I’m thinking this is as close to the 100% mark as I’ll get. There was Aaron, who found all the wonderful images and commissioned the artwork for the front covers; we’re talking the deluxe case, so there’s Cam or Greg who pushed for the magnetic enclosure; and we’re also looking at Colleen and Greg’s crazy postcards that are in the book. But the way all that was presented, all those hours of handwriting number 3s and the stuff in the margins and the photography borders… This is the closest I think I’ll get to a “mine!” award.

Best Rules: 7th Sea: Core Rulebook. I did absolutely nothing — that’s a whole other team at JWP. Offhand, I’d say that’s Mike Curry, Rob Justice, Mark Truman, and John Wick. Perhaps some of the developmental editors. Honestly, that stuff happens way on the other side of a game’s cycle from me.

When we were at the JWP company retreat, I gave a talk about what layout actually is and what it involves. The thought was so other people who worked on the book in the early stages of the game could see what happens once it goes to that mysterious world called “layout”. But then I had the same questions about what happened at the start of the process — I only initially see stuff after it’s gone through dev edits. “So, what does Mike do here?” He’s our systems lead — turns out when someone writes down that there’s these giant monsters the size of villages in the desert, he’s got to see how to adjust/create rules to make those work with everything else.

Best Supplement: 7th Sea: Pirate Nations. This book I wanted to do, but we had multiple books hitting layout at the same time, we worked with Hal Mangold. So all I did was come up with the trade dress months and months ago, hand the book off to Hal, and did some minor adjustments to the layout when it came back. (The biggest change I recall was changing the typeface of a two-page spread of copy that was supposed to be a transcript or letter from something that was handwritten-like to something a touch easier to read.) Art edits on my end, and a few text changes, and exporting to print and pdf. Oh, and cover layout. Layout effort, this book is probably 95% laid out by Hal with just a little bit by me. If we win this, I’m not sure I’d be looking for a copy of the award.

Best Writing: Unknown Armies Deluxe Set. As mentioned above, this was Greg’s book. I may have changed a phrase or word to get things to fit better, but nothing as much as my input on structuring the 7th Sea work.

Product of the Year: 7th Sea: Core Rulebook. Wow. I’ve received a few compliments about this book’s layout with my honest favorite being “it gets out of the way”. Getting that book organized in a way that the layout doesn’t overwhelm the reader was one thing, but this book became the template for the line’s trade dress. In fact, the design elements for this took a lot of collaboration with the art director, line director, and the big boss hisself, that when we launched the Kickstarter, we had a temporary logo up for the length of the campaign. As for Product of the Year, I think it’s a fine book and part of a huge team (look at that credits page!). If we win for this, I’m more than happy to take home a medal, knowing I helped to get this beast into the hands of gamers worldwide!

A lot of collaboration up there.

If you haven’t voted in the ENnies yet, the 21st is the last day the vote is open. I would really appreciate it if you would head to the voting booth and make your voice heard![1]

  1. Especially in the “Best Production Values” category! []

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