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Words from the RPG Superstar Trenches

Thursday, January 12, 2012

As the four judges whittle down the RPG Superstar wondrous item “keeps” pile from about 60 to just 32 + 4 alternates, I thought we could take some time to hear from two of our guest judges for Round 1—Sean McGowan and Jerral Toi, who made it to the Top 4 last year. Take it away, gentlemen!

Sean K Reynolds
Designer and RPG Superstar Judge

∗∗∗

RPG Superstar has, over the past few years, become as much a part of my holiday season as any family traditions I may have grown up with. It’s just not a proper winter wonderland ’til there’s a big, pretty link to the Superstar forums on the left side of the Paizo page. (Plus, it serves as a reminder that I need to start getting some shopping done.)

Paizo has created a great annual event with this contest, and much like the Macy’s parade or the New Year’s Eve ball drop, I hope it never goes away, but just stretches on into the future leaving an infinite number of superstar winners in its wake. Leaving aside the fun factor (and that’s a lot to leave aside...) it’s a great experience to just be able to see new RPG writers developing.

The first two years of the contest, I had a blast just being a spectator and kibitzing from the sidelines. The next two years I was lucky enough to make it in as a contestant. As one of the Top 4, I was thrilled at getting the chance to write a Pathfinder Society Scenario for Paizo, and loved the experience. This year, I’m enjoying the role of guest judge for Round 1. I’m very much looking forward to participating in the contest in this new fashion, not least because I’m a deeply impatient person and getting to see the Round 1 entries a week before they’re public is awesome.

Sean McGowan
RPG Superstar Guest Judge

∗∗∗

2011 was a crazy year. The RPG Superstar contest was one of the most stressful, yet fun and exciting times of my gaming history. In the end, I placed in the Top 4 and was given the opportunity to start edging my way into game design freelancing. In addition to working with Mark Moreland on Pathfinder Society Scenario #3–09: The Quest for Perfection—Part I: The Edge of Heaven, I also infiltrated the kobold mines and snuck an article featuring alchemist archetypes into Kobold Quarterly 19. Right now, I am working on a series of steampunk-themed projects for Nevermet Press.

Publication, however, is only one of the many good things to emerge from competing. The contest forced me to reexamine several previously engrained thoughts and habits pertaining to writing and gaming. During the contest, the judges and broader audience shared a lot of information and advice about gaming, writing, and the RPG industry, as well as personalized and individual feedback. Where else can you get good and immediately applicable advice like this?

I am looking forward to learning even more in 2012.

Jerral Toi
RPG Superstar Guest Judge

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: RPG Superstar
Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

There's something infinitely cool about the way Paizo handles its fans. It is really rare to see a community fostered in such a natural and inclusive way. Neither overdone, nor lacking.

I'm keenly awaiting the results of RPG Superstar 2012's first round. So jealous of Sean and Jerall!

Silver Crusade Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

I hope to join your storied ranks. RPG Superstar is my favorite Christmas tradition too!

Shadow Lodge null - Palouse Games , Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Here's why I think RPG superstar is so important, sorry in advance for the storytime length.

Not everyone has the opportunity or the luxury of college, so having a community driven event gives fantasy writers a crucial creative outlet to practice and improve their craft

I was lucky enough to go to college and fortunate enough choose my own classes. But even in those upper division writing classes, when asked what I wanted to write, fantasy and role-playing games did not sit well with my professors. I ended up trashing a 50,000 word project my senior year because the atmosphere was so opposed to the genre.

Last year I read through the RPG superstar entries and was blown away with the level of decorum and hard work the community put in to helping entrants with their writing. The amount of back and forth and actual, tangible advice offered to writers on these forums is astounding to me; RPG superstar is more of a writing workshop than anything else.

Thank you, judges, for making this event possible for countless dreamers who've probably had people throughout their life telling them to do something else. People need to follow their passions, and I'm glad there's a place here where people can.

Anyway, just my thoughts.

Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

So are roughly 60 keeps normal at this point in the competition? How does that number compare to those of previous years?

I understand judges if you can't answer these questions for the same reasons you won't give us entrant numbers, it just seems like there would be more, given the criteria Neil listed earlier for gaining entrance to the "Keep" folder.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Nazard wrote:

So are roughly 60 keeps normal at this point in the competition? How does that number compare to those of previous years?

I understand judges if you can't answer these questions for the same reasons you won't give us entrant numbers, it just seems like there would be more, given the criteria Neil listed earlier for gaining entrance to the "Keep" folder.

Every year there is more feedback to help potential designers so there will be more items in the keep folder. Every year the bar is raised a little higher so there will be a few less items in the keep folder. I doubt Paizo has ever said, but ''roughly 60' sounds about right for this time of the contest.

Contributor

It's generally between 40 and 60 initial keeps. Some of them are "weak keeps" that we want to hold onto for a while, whether to give us something to chew on (as Neil puts it) while we go through the rest of the submissions, or because we think the designer may have potential despite some flaws in the item's execution, or because we have two or more similar items and want to be able to compare them later and select the better one.

Also, it's easier for us to end up with 40-60 and whittle it down to 30 than to end up with 20 and have to dig through all the rejects for another 16 to move to the keep folder...

Much of our conversation now is stuff like, "looking at the others in the Keep folder, I don't think this one's ready," or "I like this one better than the other one like it."

For those who were curious, we did get a spike in the number of entries in the last two days (which happens every year), and I think at least one of those got moved into the temporary Keep pile, so even if you submitted very late, there's a chance you're in. :)


I want to take this time out to thank Sean and Jerral for taking time out of there busy schedules to help support Superstar. I believe it is in its own way why this contest is so popular every year and continues to grow and I for one am proud to say I am a part of it win or lose. So thank you to all the judges for working so hard to make this an enjoyable experience for us all.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:

For those who were curious, we did get a spike in the number of entries in the last two days (which happens every year), and I think at least one of those got moved into the temporary Keep pile, so even if you submitted very late, there's a chance you're in. :)

Do those who submit late typically not make it into the top 32?


No Jay159, what Sean is saying is even if you enter late you still have a chance so people shouldn't be discouraged from entering an item in late.

Marathon Voter 2013

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Noteleks wrote:
No Jay159, what Sean is saying is even if you enter late you still have a chance so people shouldn't be discouraged from entering an item in late.

He's also saying that while the vast majority of the submissions were made in the last two days, only one of those made it into the temporary keep pile.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Actually, more than one made it through to the Keep pile in those last two days. I know, because I was crafting the spreadsheet we're using to track the items we're now sorting through for the Top 32. And, I had to add more than one item to it after already getting that spreadsheet started a couple days before the submission deadline closed. In fact, I had to add several. But there's no indication yet on how many of them will "stick" and make the final roster.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Cheapy wrote:
He's also saying that while the vast majority of the submissions were made in the last two days, only one of those made it into the temporary keep pile.

He also said "a spike", not "the vast majority" (though it could be theoretically).

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

I can confirm that the "the vast majority" (in terms of total number of items) did not come through in those last two days. At the same time, however, I can confirm that those two days did carry the highest 2-day volume we saw over any other 2-day period during the submission window. And it caught all of us a little by surprise. Essentially, it's evident that a lot of people waited until pretty close to the deadline before sending us their item. And, we kind of had to scramble a little there at the end to dig back out from under it. But we got it done and we're actually a little ahead of schedule now. Any slowdowns from here will be the result of hand-to-hand combat among the judges as we quarrel over selecting the final 32.

Taldor

Neil Spicer wrote:
But we got it done and we're actually a little ahead of schedule now. And slowdowns from here will be the result of hand-to-hand combat among the judges as we quarrel over selecting the final 32.

So does that mean I can give one of the judges a weapon as long as they make sure my item makes it through?

Marathon Voter 2013

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

My vast majority comment was probably due to misinterpreting a number of comments both in this thread and elsewhere. Sorry there!


Neil Spicer wrote:
Any slowdowns from here will be the result of hand-to-hand combat among the judges as we quarrel over selecting the final 32.

Just make sure get video footage of these fights so all can enjoy the chaos of Superstar, LOL.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Thanks for posting, Sean and Jerral! It's really great to hear from these up-and-coming Superstars what the contest means to them. Looking forward to your comments and participation throughout this year's contest. And looking forward to seeing everything you'll be writing in the coming months/years.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 aka artofcheatery

I'll assume that many people were like me and put aside the item(s) they were working to let them breathe, got caught up with the holidays, then realized the date and rushed to submit.
-X

Andoran Star Voter 2013

LoreKeeper wrote:

There's something infinitely cool about the way Paizo handles its fans. It is really rare to see a community fostered in such a natural and inclusive way. Neither overdone, nor lacking.

I'm keenly awaiting the results of RPG Superstar 2012's first round. So jealous of Sean and Jerall!

Agreed, something WoTC could never match if it tried.

Jerral, I am looking foward to GMing your Edge of Heaven at PaizoCon this year!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Jatori

1 person marked this as a favorite.
marv wrote:
Jerral, I am looking foward to GMing your Edge of Heaven at PaizoCon this year!

I hope you have fun. I'm planning to run Sean M's Defenders of Nesting Swallow early next month.

Superstar opened many doors for me. Internet connectivity willing, I'll be here every year. My summer isn't summer without RPG Superstar discussions around the fire.

Star Voter 2013

A lot of people, I believe, didn't submit until the final reminder email went out as well. It's amazing what a little reminder can do to enthusaism. ;)

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

As much as I'm hoping I'm in that final 32, being in that ~60 in the "close to the mark" pile would be pretty darn cool too.


artofcheatery wrote:

I'll assume that many people were like me and put aside the item(s) they were working to let them breathe, got caught up with the holidays, then realized the date and rushed to submit.

-X

I didn't know about the contest at all until a few days before hand. A friend of mine sent me the link.

EDIT: I had heard about the contest, but beyond that I was fairly clueless.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka Boxhead

I've generally held onto my submissions until the final week before the deadline. I like to let the ideas sit and cool while I revise them, and I always assume I may have some big idea a few days before the end. I assume I'm alone in this- the time is given, so why not use it?

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka John Benbo

Jerall Toi wrote:
marv wrote:
Jerral, I am looking foward to GMing your Edge of Heaven at PaizoCon this year!

I hope you have fun. I'm planning to run Sean M's Defenders of Nesting Swallow early next month.

Superstar opened many doors for me. Internet connectivity willing, I'll be here every year. My summer isn't summer without RPG Superstar discussions around the fire.

Summer?! I'm jealous. Actually, the severity of winter last year was a saving grace since it cancelled work a couple of times during the contest. This year, however, boo to winter.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Neil Spicer wrote:
Any slowdowns from here will be the result of hand-to-hand combat among the judges as we quarrel over selecting the final 32.

Neil and I are fighting. In a cordial and professional manner, of course. :) I'm actually not kidding. He's going to win, though, because he can manufacture the result he wants. He was a worthy adversary and I gallantly yield to my foe.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
marv wrote:

Agreed, something WoTC could never match if it tried.

Not to be pro-Wizards on a Paizo blog, but please keep in mind that a company is just the people in it and that can change over time. There was a time when Wizards would have done this kind of a contest. Heck, there was a time when they gave away D&D for free under the OGL. And in fact, a person from that time--Ryan--is one of the judges and many of the Paizo founders either worked for or were partners with Wizards. Of course, time changed them. Here's hoping they find their way back to being that kind of company again as they were when Ryan and Peter and Lisa and company worked there.

Andoran Star Voter 2013

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Clark Peterson wrote:
There was a time when Wizards would have done this kind of a contest. Here's hoping they find their way back to being that kind of company again as they were when Ryan and Peter and Lisa and company worked there.

Agreed, I was too flippant. It just saddens me how badly Hasbro has mismanaged the D&D brand.

I do feel that Paizo has done an impressive job of understanding this market and delivering consistent quality product.


Eric Hindley wrote:
I like to let the ideas sit and cool while I revise them, and I always assume I may have some big idea a few days before the end. I assume I'm alone in this- the time is given, so why not use it?

This was my feeling as well. I submitted on the last day of the contest, though I did the final edit of my submission a day or two before. I just wanted to make sure I didn't suddenly see some huge overlooked error or come up with an obviously better idea.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013 aka nate lange

i had planned on doing that as well- then i previewed some edits and hit submit instead of cancel cause i wasn't thinking about what i was doing. oops. i guess the up-side is that i got my item in before the rush (there were one or two things i probably could have improved though).

Taldor RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka primemover003

Clark Peterson wrote:
There was a time when Wizards would have done this kind of a contest.

I always did enjoy UNcon...

--Vrock Salt

Shadow Lodge Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Clark Peterson wrote:
marv wrote:

Agreed, something WoTC could never match if it tried.

Not to be pro-Wizards on a Paizo blog, but please keep in mind that a company is just the people in it and that can change over time. There was a time when Wizards would have done this kind of a contest. Heck, there was a time when they gave away D&D for free under the OGL. And in fact, a person from that time--Ryan--is one of the judges and many of the Paizo founders either worked for or were partners with Wizards. Of course, time changed them. Here's hoping they find their way back to being that kind of company again as they were when Ryan and Peter and Lisa and company worked there.

Funny thing is, even when Wotc was on the downslide, the fans made a difference there, the Master DM and very early Expert DM competitions gave me a lot of confidence. First one I judged (after winning) was

Spoiler:
design an organization.
It was 40+ entries and I remember how much work it was. Makes me have a lot of appretiation of the work you guys are doing.

marv wrote:
Jerral, I am looking foward to GMing your Edge of Heaven at PaizoCon this year!

Someone convince my husband to go to PaizoCon, please?

I love GMing, I love making stuff up on the fly, too. But it is difficult for me with three very active kids to make it to any Pathfinder events that are an hour's drive away. (Sorry Eddy! Not your fault!)

I just love the flavor that Pathfinder provides.

And... you know, it'll give me a chance to chat to other people about game design, etc. Something I need to do more of, but just can't seem to come out of my shell on forums to do. I'm much more comfortable chatting face to face.

*sagenod*

Odd in this world, I know.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8

"Hey. Amy's husband. Why don't you all go to PaizoCon? It'll be awesome."

With a small baby myself (and living in England) I won't be making it. You guys go instead. You'll have a great time!

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