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“Indie” is short for independent, meaning, “independently created and owned”. There is no broadly-accepted objective definition for what is independent. However, there is a defined spectrum. A fully non-independent game would be one where the designer(s) submit a manuscript to the company, and have no rights or control after that point. A fully independent game would be one where the same person or people did all steps of product, including art, layout, printing, and distribution.
In practice, most games fall in between those two extremes. Creators may go to a generic publisher such as Lulu.com, but they may instead go to some other partner for printing and distribution, such as another independent creator or a game shop such as RPGNow. The contracts for such partnerships vary. For purposes of these awards, I prefer to err on the side of including more games within the category of indie. There are two key benchmarks:
"Role-playing game" in this case means an in-person game with published rules where players take on roles of characters, as coined by Dungeons & Dragons. It includes both tabletop and live-action, as well as any other games of personal interaction between the players, but does not include computer games or online games.
To be eligible, the game has to meet our above definiton of “Indie RPG”, it must have been produced or sent to market between January 1st and December 31st in the year of the awards, and it must have been released in English. There are many excellent RPGs released in other languages, that I would encourage anyone to check out. However, the pool of voters for these awards are generally English-language speakers and cannot adequately review and compare games in other languages.
Many RPGs were and still are created by work where the author has no copyright or control over the product. Many game awards have listed only the company that produced the award-winning product, and not the people who designed and wrote it. This meant that a lot of independent works and their creators were not being recognized. Other awards are also important, but the Indie RPG Awards fill a niche not covered by other awards like the ENnies and the Origins Awards.
If it is before the voting period, and you have doubts about an RPG listed on the registered games - by all means contact me through the Contact Page. If it is for earlier years... well, mistakes or disagreements may happen.
There is one major award: Independent RPG of the Year. This sole award is the main focus of the awards ceremony. There are, however, a number of Sub-Awards. They include the following:
The definitions above are not black-and-white, nor are they air-tight, so there will be some games and creators that will fall into the grey area when it comes to consideration for the awards. Anyone who registers their games to be considered for the awards will have their games looked at on a case-by-case basis. If the game coincides with the above definition, it will be accepted.
This awards ceremony is not a general industry award. It is meant to celebrate the small- press RPG publishers -- people who sit down to write their own games from scratch, hammer out their own rules, go through the joys and pains of the process of design and publishing, and in the end try to get their praxis (in the “unalienated labor” sense) out to other fellow game lovers. If the game answers to the spirit of this award, it will be accepted.
This award is not meant to oppose the overall commercial RPG industry, rather to direct a little light at works that might not otherwise receive recognition.
Second editions of games published in earlier years, or upgrades to a PDF RPG (like 1.0 to 1.5, 2.0, etc) do not count for the purposes of these awards. However, this can be a grey area. If an RPG's second edition were to be a complete overhaul of the rules to a completely new system, or it includes 50%+ more original material/design that completely reforms the game, it may be considered for these awards.
A creator can submit up to two full games for the award. A creator can submit another two supplements for the supplement-oriented sub-awards as well.
For the main awards, there is no difference. A free RPG has as fair a chance of winning the award as a commercial RPG. However, free RPGs are also eligible to win the Free RPG of the Year award.
Essentially, in a move away from all the other RPG awards out there, these awards will be voted on only by peers of the winning authors - in other words, established authors of other independently-created RPGs, who have wrestled with the same problems and have a continued interest in the field. Anyone who has released two or more indie RPG designs (commercial or free) over two or more years should definitely be eligible. I and my predecessor have invited many designers to the list. If you wish to be added as a voter, please send a request via the Contact Page.
During voting, the voters receive three weighted votes: a 5 point vote, a 3 point vote, and a 1 point vote. They will put one of each of these votes in for the game of their choice in each category. At the end of the voting week, I tally the points and the highest point toal wins. All runners-up with significant votes also receive special recognition.
Because of the extended "research time" available, plus the fact that the peer voters come from all different backgrounds and experiences, we are confident that these awards will be as fair and nonbiased as possible. No "agenda" dominates the awards; rather we see about 100 different designers with 100 different backgrounds and interests pulling in 100 different directions -- and this friction and pulling tends to level the playing field. In other words, just because a game is sold at RPGNow, or often discussed on RPGNet, or has a following at Story Games, does not mean that it stands a better chance of winning. Because of the "100 Designers, 100 Different Directions", the games that are chosen were chosen because they were universally recognized as exemplary.
Registration is generally in the spring, while peer voting is in the week prior to GenCon Indy. See the Important Dates page for details.
Games that are already popular with the general public tend to be well publicized. The point of these awards is to give suggestions beyond what is already selling well and well known. I would encourage looking at what games are most popular as well, but these awards give a somewhat different view - much like how the Academy Awards in film give a different view than box office totals.
If the tie occours in the finals, the tied games will win the award and split any prizes equally.
Disclosure. In the end, after the awards are given, the final tally of votes per game, here. This is in the interest of keeping these awards fair, open, and to look on voting practices to see if the system can be improved for following years.
No. While many ideas regarding Indie RPGs and these awards came from discussions on The Forge (www.indie-rpgs.com), there is no affiliation with The Forge or other sites/groups. These awards, and their administration, are the original brainchild of Andy Kitkowski - as carried on by John Kim. I do not publish professionally, and have no ties to any RPG companies.
My name is John Kim. The Indie RPG Awards were established by Andy Kitkowski - a big fan of small press RPGs - as the best way he could give back to the community. I applauded his vision, and took over administration of the awards in 2006 when the work of that got to be too much for him.
If you have any questions, please contact me through the Contact Page.