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The Raven Black has the right of it, but I'll expand on that bit. Sure, NPCs can test much of the same stuff that designing a monster can, but it tests so much more. Making an NPC (like the popular villain round way back) can show a lot of creativity when coming up with motivations and backstory, but for the most part they are just going to be existing creatures with class levels. A brand new monster has to be designed from the ground up. You have to name it, come up with what it looks like, what kind of things it can do, in addition to origin and motivation/behavior.
Testing new writers with monsters is something I've done for the past few years I've been working here and hiring freelancers. It lets me see what people can do mechanically, creatively, and it lets me see their prose in a nice neat package.
Jarrett Sigler wrote:
I don't have any websites handy, but I do have a tiny bit of advice.
Focus on what the PCs do.
Many people spend a lot of time on backstory in order to set up their concept, but leave out the action of what the characters actually do in the adventure. Personally, I care more about leaping over pits of bubbling lava and fighting a flying ape at the top of a windy spire than I do about a long-dead wizard's scheme. (That's not to say a solid set up and backstory that makes sense isn't important, but don't spend half of your word count talking about it.)
Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
This is smart advice not only for the final round, but for pitching ideas to publishers in general. Make sure you know as much about the things they've published and plan on publishing so that you don't end up submitting something that's already been done or is in the works. Like Jacob says, we already have 2 APs in the works that are set in Cheliax, so we're likely not going to publish a Module set there. We tend not to do too much in one place too close to each other in the schedule.
As the guy who's been in charge of the AP back matter for well over the last three years, I like hearing things like this. :)
We have been somewhat inconsistent on this in the past (and heck we might be going forward too, but not if I can help it). Ideally, you'd use the name of the aura in the aura line, which is why when I develop a monster with an aura special ability I do my absolute best to change the name of the ability so that it doesn't start with the word "aura", because having the line look like this:
Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
Thanks for pointing that out Jacob. Everyone, disregard that part of my statement. :)
One of my big fears of judging this contest—and this round—is that I'm gonna slip up and make mistakes. I'm fine with me making a mistake, but I don't like when my mistakes affect other people.
Each year I judge the monsters, I make a spreadsheet to track things like CR, alignment, size, and type (and any subtypes). I like to see what was the most common choices folks made and see who worked to find a niche. I also just like seeing the data.
So, I'm going to share the most common choice in each category to whet people's appetites for what they'll get to see on Monday:
Challenge Rating—CR 7
Monica Marlowe wrote:
You're asking a paladin like Neil to convince me to be more evil? That'll never work! :)
As of about an hour ago, I've completed reviewing all of the submissions. I'm going to sit on my thoughts for the evening and enter my comments tomorrow. As it stands, my comments document is about 6,000 words. There are quite a few interesting monsters in this batch, and over all I'm happy with the quality of the submissions this year. Good job everyone!
That's a fair criticism of my statement.
We also provide rules for people to make their own undead player race in the Advanced Race Guide. That we haven't provided an undead playable race in print on our own speaks to the fact that such a thing isn't an angle we're interested in presenting in regards to the creative direction and design considerations for our campaign setting. Just because we can do something, doesn't mean that we want to.
Mark Griffin wrote:
When you lose a 5 dollar bet with yourself, where does the money go? Do you just set it on fire? If you win do you steal 5 bucks from Owen?
I get to keep it. If I feel like making a thing out of it I'll just move the money from one pocket to the other. I rarely gamble, so when I do, I aim to always win (even when I lose). :)
I agree on both counts. I've had a PC die in the second volume of Skull & Shackles and the second volume of Mummy's Mask. The "What Ifs" are my favorite part of the those articles. I like to explore possibilities without them actually being canon.
Well, I haven't read *yours* yet...
*induces a bit of panic*
... I'm only up to the ones that came in before I left work today.
Just joking around, Walter. :) I'm sure your submission will entertain me. It's a monster, right. I love monsters.
Fun fact—the first monster submission came in on Tuesday. I bet myself $5 that the first submission would come in by the time I went to sleep on Monday... and I lost the bet.
Draco Bahamut wrote:
Maybe we can create a thread in each adventure path forum with a discussion of "How did you continued the campaign" or something like it.
I'd personally like to see a thread like that.
I've been responsible for each of those articles since Skull & Shackles—with huge support from James and Rob of course (and with Jim writing the one for Giantslayer because I couldn't tackle it)—and I'm always curious if people actually use those to expand their campaign. So far it seems like the thing people respond to the most is the "What if the PCs lose?" portions of those articles.
It's pretty much a developer/designer job duty. :)
It's something that's very important to me, because I see how upset people can be when they get something expecting content that we never said a product would contain, which is why I try to clarify products I'm responsible for without giving too much away.
For the previous contestants: (Sorry current contestants, I'm not sure if responding would be against the rules or at least against decorum, so I ask that you refrain unless I hear otherwise from Owen.)
I'm getting ready to judge and review your monsters this weekend, and I was reviewing my judging method from the past couple of years. It got me wondering how it was received by y'all? For those that might not remember, I basically went through the item like I would be marking it up for further development, pointing out the things I'd fix while doing my normal job. I worried at some point that this method might hurt feelings, but I'm mainly wondering if it made sense to folks and if you found it helpful. I'd love to hear what y'all think.
Yeah, it's on the eastern coast pretty much directly across the ocean from Cheliax.
Brandon Hodge wrote:
I'm really excited for everyone to get their hands on this one! As we get a little closer to its debut, I'll be sharing some tales from playtesting, what elements you can expect to see from Occult Adventures, and what it was like to work with one of my best friends as developer!
The maps in the book are solely restricted to the individual locations, much like the maps in any of the rest of our city books, and don't show the surrounding countryside.