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The NERDIE Award for the Most Excellent RPG EXPERIENCE of 2016

The Nerdies” are the end-of-year awards from Nerds on Earth. They are only awarded to the most excellent, and are selected by our writers, with input from readers via our Facebook page.

Our category today is “Most Excellent RPG Experience”, which is a little more loosey-goosey in terms of interpretation, so I’ll explain as I go. Let’s get to our slate of nominees!

The NERDIE Award for the Most Excellent RPG EXPERIENCE of 2016

Our nominees for the best RPG experience of 2016 are the following:

  1. Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition (D&D 5e)
  2. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (Pathfinder RPG)
  3. Online gaming platforms such as
  4. Visual performance roleplaying such as Acquisitions Incorporated.

Let’s go through these one by one.

D&D 5e WarlockD&D 5e had a great year in 2016, releasing Curse of Strahd and Storm King’s Thunder, a couple of great adventures. They also opened those adventures up to digital licensing deals, which we’ll get to in a moment.

And let’s not overlook the obvious when it comes to D&D 5e: the rules system is wonderful and that along makes it worthy of a Nerdie Award nomination. I, for one, hope D&D 5e lasts another 10 years.

But while D&D related some great products in 2016, their release schedule is measured. And although there is an abundance on material related via, the quality there is often pee pee poor. Did they do enough in 2016 to take an award that honors overall experience?

pathfinder core rulebook coverThe Pathfinder RPG continues to display great creativity and a consumer-minded approach to products, despite it being over a decade old, which in gaming years might as well be longer than the lifespan of an elf.

Pathfinder by Paizo is committed to producing pretty much any product that a gamer might be able to use at their table. But while this shotgun approach could flood a small market, Paizo continues to bring great thoughtfulness and creativity to their products. A book like 2016’s Horror Adventures could have been a sign that they’ve wrung every ounce of juice out of the turnip, but it’s just as fresh as some of the very first books they published.

Perhaps the volume of materials they produce for gamers, coupled with the continued excellence and creativity that goes into their products, is why readers voted Pathfinder as their choice for the 2016 Nerdie Award for the Most Excellent RPG Experience.

roll20_videoRoll20 is allowing more gaming groups to meet despite the physical distance between them.  Roll20 boasts tens of thousands of users who live in different cities or countries, yet can play roleplay together through video conferencing and a sharing digital tabletop (Roll20 relates usage numbers each quarter).

The digital tabletop allows users to be looking at the same map together as well as be able to move and manipulate their digital pawns. Us Nerds on Earth writers have rigged up a similar system that allows us to game together, despite many of us living in Atlanta and others living in Minneapolis.

Before I go any further, I should be clear that I’m lumping Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and other digital gaming platforms into a single pool. The intent here is not to elevate one platform over another, instead it is highlight that tabletop role players in 2016 are now able to play tabletop roleplaying games despite being separated by physical distance. Digital tabletops took a step forward to come into their own in 2016.

Acquisitions IncorporatedAcquisitions Incorporated has shown that it can be entertaining to watch other people play Dungeons and Dragons. Starting out as a pretty rough podcast, Acquisitions Incorporated (AI) morphed into being played live in a 2,000 seat theater at PAX (the full AI history is shared here).

But it turns out that watching players like the artists behind Penny Arcade, Patrick Rothfuss, Morgan Webb, and Wil Wheaton play D&D was super entertaining. So entertaining that their last live session at PAX was broadcast into movie theaters around the country.

Between AI, Critical Roll, and great podcasts like the Glass Cannon (GCP), we learned in 2016 that D&D is a spectator sport.

The 2016 NERDIE Award Goes to Acquisitions Incorporated

Indeed, the incredible popularity of watching others play D&D is the most excellent RPG experience in 2016. So…

This year’s NERDIE AWARD goes to Acquisitions Incorporated.

It was difficult to choose among a slate of four very deserving options, but 2016’s rise of spectator D&D was too important to ignore. D&D 5e continues to bring in brand new players, most due to the fact that anyone can watch a video like this one:

As can be seen in the video above, a two hour session of AI is funnier than any television sitcom and is more captivating than most big budget motion pictures. It’s no wonder that spectator D&D is drawing new players into the fold.

No doubt, D&D 5e will release new products in 2017 that will be just as brilliant as the adventures that were related in 2016. Acquisitions Incorporated will bring those adventures to a screen where hundreds of thousands of people will view them.

Pathfinder will release more incredible products in 2017 that will continue to be both creative and consumer-minded. In fact, Pathfinder was the reader’s vote winner on Facebook for the 2016 Nerdie Award. But while 2016 was another solid year for Pathfinder, 2017 will see the release of Starfinder. So watch out for Paizo next year.

Roll20 continued to gain steam in 2016, yet despite the gains, the use of technology in a small niche like RPGs isn’t quite on par with surrounding industries. Still, we’re thankful for the gains and look forward to more next year.

But in 2016 spectator D&D like Glass Cannon, Critical Roll, and especially Acquisitions Incorporated, both entertained long time role players, plus brought in legions of new players into the hobby. That along makes them the worthy recipient of the 2016 Nerdie Award for the Most Excellent RPG Experience.

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