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Thomas LeBlanc wrote:
Staves and rod are not what I'm talking about.
I mean things like 'This pencil, which has many magical properties related to being a pencil, also functions as magical stabby +1"
The name of the round is "Design an encounter with map" so I'm not going to hold it against contestants who did not grasp that what the judges really wanted was a location that also had an encounter.
This seems to be a recurring problem in the contest (see comments on last year's entries, for example), so there's probably a better way to present the challenge to the contestants.
Right now I have Herold and Duval as favorites to win. They've been consistent every round.
Pruess has, to my mind, stepped up his game in each round, and may become the favorite if that trend continues.
As a few wildcards, I have de Mare, Fernandez, and Bell on the radar as possible breakouts. If they make it to the next round, any of those three have the potential to step it up.
I'm hoping Kowalke survives a misstep with his monster, his first two rounds were solid.
Oikarinen has potential too. I think he's gotten better each round, but not at the speed that Pruess has.
Because I know the contestants have been anxiously awaiting the tradition they love to hate!
I had 3 easy ins, 1 flawed but great concept, and 4 that took some thought. Some of the bottom 4 votes were based on previous rounds.
Flawed but great concept:
Naming: Pretty good. Monster name is decent, outside of needing to be singular. SA names decent too.
Cool Factor: I don't think these are quite as passive as others have said, since they attack if anything disturbs their silence (aka every party ever).
But this just doesn't gel for me. I get what it's going for, which could be pretty cool atmosphere-wise. But I don't think it gets there.
I think fighting it would just feel weird and random.
Naming: Don't take this personally, but the creature name is awful. "Cocktail" is entirely the wrong flavor, it's not even close. SA names are functional. Naming hurts this one.
Cool Factor: Happily, though, you managed to overcome that deficit and more with the sheer coolness of the monster. Great origin with a tie to the world. Weird toxic sludge ooze! That causes you to become addicted to being damaged by it! The addiction is top-notch superstar for all the reasons OSW mentioned. This creature is fun on either side of the GM screen.
Michael, I think this monster puts you in the top 2 or 3 favorites. Nicely done!
That's funny. I made several attempts to get something very much like this to work as a wondrous item (a book), but then decided that it was better suited for an Inquisitor archetype. If I'd made it through, I'd have had something along these lines!
Page 14 items!
Chronicler’s Boon - Basic problem is that it would drive a GM crazy, like most other see-the-history items. It's stuff they'll usually have to make up on the spur of the moment and will bog down the game. There's a few items like this every year, and while this is better done than most, it still has the same issue.
Swarmbane Gauntlets - There were a number of anti-swarm items, this probably got lumped in with them. Having said that, the basic approach of a vibrating weapon to attack a swarm is an interesting idea. The thing that likely hurt it the most was the damage to the weapon, it's too much of a drawback. I'm not completely sold on the idea that you needed a drawback at all, other than the -2 to hit. Nice description, economical and evocative.
Ego Shroud - Too niche an item. And it basically just removes drawbacks to certain weapons. Having it subject to damage if the weapon is used is good, but I dunno if it is enough to remove the feeling of getting around intentional limitations.
Codex Soma - Relies on specialized rules, which probably hurt with voters. Nice name, though, and the concept is interesting. The utility of the item is a little obscure, but it looks like it only really has value if it has spells I really want but don't know? Can I add spells to the book? Can I copy spells out of it? If so, why do I need it afterwards? I feel like I'm misunderstanding this item.
Mage’s Battlecloak - Name was a turnoff for me during voting. Created the wrong idea right off the bat. Once I got that it was a battlefield camouflage item I was more favorably inclined. It's a neat idea, though maybe a little too niche. I suspect the main issue for judges is that it isn't exciting enough in the end. It's a way to be unassuming, not a way to be really cool.
I will give general impressions, but with 3 areas of particular focus that suit my personal interests. Archetype and ability names: do they show flair? How closely tied to the River Kingdom is the archetype? And last but certainly not least, do I want to play this archetype?
Archetype and ability names: Average. The names are hit and miss. The deeds, however, are all well-named.
River Kingdom tie: Average. This certainly works in the RK, but could be from several other areas as well.
Desire to play: Above average. This is a misfire as written, but the target was a very good one. I'm not a fan of firearms in my fantasy games, but this makes a reasonable case for it. It would certainly be fun. I think Phantom Whistle might have played better if it magically summoned your actual mount to where ever you are. I agree that the archetype needed to do something with the mount at an early level.
Still, as I mentioned earlier, this is a missed attempt at something awesome. I'm going to vote for it over mediocre attempts at things much less interesting.
I will give general impressions, but with 3 areas of particular focus that suit my personal interests. Archetype and feat names: do they show flare? How closely tied to the River Kingdom is the archetype? And last but certainly not least, do I want to play this archetype?
Archetype and feat names: Primarily descriptive, though I do like Aquadynamic Bombs anyway.
River Kingdom tie: Strong. Abilities grow out of a unique place. The same abilities could easily have not done so, but you tied them in with flavor to make them seem natural. Well done.
Desire to play: Above average. Yeah, in its native setting I'd enjoy playing this. Some RP potential built in as well. I do think in a traditional campaign it would be less fun, but the idea is to tie it to the RK, and that's what you've done.
I've given most but not all of the archetypes a first pass, and this is my easy favorite so far. I think it's a great fit for both RK and the alchemist. So much so for the alchemist that it seems like it should exist already.
More important than any of that, I think this would be a lot of fun to play. A lot of the other archetypes just don't have that.
Trouble, my friends, right here in River City.
Yeah, I'd have me some fun.
Looking forward to the reveal. Round 2 is always the most surprising in some ways.
Some with middle-of-the-pack items will knock round 2 out of the park.
And there's always a couple who completely blow it.
And then there's a weird loopy entry that's actually kinda cool.
I'm hoping one of the rangers is an ally for civilized blink dogs.
The Hound Master from a couple years ago has 173 posts in its thread, and still gets comments hoping it becomes an official archetype. Will we have something that well liked and enduring this year?
Page 10 items!
The file I'm saving these in is called "mojo risin". I must be getting tired.
Wheel Caps of the Geist March - Never saw this while voting. The name is a little unwieldy. I wonder if voters thought it reminded them of real-world blingy hubcaps from the description. The fog effect is kind of neat, but ultimately minor. This item provides a nice atmosphere (thinking of old silent movie The Phantom Carriage, or the carriage in Dracula), but I don't think judges and voters go for items that are primarily atmospheric.
Chiaroscuro Astrarium - This was one of my favorite item names while voting. It made me happy every time I read it. I loved the item itself, particularly creating a ball of Dark Tapestry. I think it may have been too niche, sadly. Also, probably could drop the bit about scaling, just assume that it scales as necessary. Torn on the item only describing the universe to the extent the creator knew it. I see why it's that way, but a bit of a headache for the GM. The best parts of your writing are quite good. And I just like the image of an "illusory orrerry formed of starlight"
Firebrand of Grandeur - AOE taunt item. The phrase "erratic cacophony of flares" is a little awkward, but I do see this is one loud torch with the -8 to hearing checks. It's a little confusing seeing how this works. I think it's all explained eventually, but the text could be better organized. If I'm reading it all correctly, the user must continue to hold the torch, no? There should be some direct mention of that, along with possible downsides. Clean up the explanations and it might be a item-book-item.
CORPSE COFFER - The basic idea is good, but it's really just its basic idea. Last sentence isn't needed. It's a logical item, makes sense it exists in the world. But it's a little too utilitarian and needs the mojo twist.
Spirit Glass - Some good ideas here. I like imbuing people via reflection. I like that it expires when you hit sunlight. But there were a few spirit related mirrors this year (and every year), so it probably got lost in that. Probably an area to avoid unless you have something over the top amazing to do with it. Also, just imbuing with ghost touch doesn't seem like enough. And 10 uses per day is effectively unlimited.
Gnomish Humming Spanner - Basically a bonus item. Looking at tools as an underserved area was a good instinct. But it also makes it a little niche. Why does it make noise?
Record of the Fallen - Provides fine utility and I'm surprised we don't see more books in the contest. It does somehow fall a little short of what I'd want to see based on the name. I want something memorializing the fallen, but this is a way to cart around a bunch of dead people. Also, highly exploitable depending on who you keep in there.
Mantle of Terror - Name could use more oomph. I like that it the power depends on people being in a fear condition. There's a certain kind of NPC that would work very well for. Unfortunately, I don't think many PCs would want this evilevil item.
Gloves of the Eldritch Duelist - Kind of fun. Thematically coherent. Nothing really wrong with it, it's just niche. I generally voted for it, but it does need some excitement added.
Redeemer’s Sash - Multi slot options probably would have killed you with judges. That reduces hard equipping choices for the player. The mechanic is fine, but the fluff around it is a little wonky. Why does a sash absorb and then transfer damage? Seems like there would be a much more natural fit of item flavor for the mechanic.
Pacifier Manacles - Manacles didn't seem as common this year as in previous years. That said, the ultimate effect of these is a pretty common concept. I do like the flavor of how it accomplishes that, though. Put that kind of flavor into a unique concept and you'll do well!
Spectral Saddle - I like the flavor, and I like the 13 rounds touch. But it's sadly SIAC. :-(
Hand of Eternal Remorse - I didn't know unctuous also meant "greasy or soapy". Learn something new every day. Fireball poison isn't interesting, but the part about affecting a communities crime modifier and danger value very much is. I'd have focused on that. Maybe still too niche and this particular approach is evilevil, so you might lose votes anyway, but it would be much more interesting. I think there's something in that concept somewhere.
Page 9 items! There were a lot of them!
Shirt of the Sprightly Harlequin - You're right that it's too basic. Essentially a bonus item. Nice description, but turn up the effects-o-meter!
Spectral Mirror - Essentially a SIAC. The description is nicely written, but it's also the common ideas of a magic mirror. I think if you get a good idea, you'll be able to write it well!
Hunter's Collar - Superstar contest doesn't like unassuming items. Make it look special! The three abilities hurt it, pick one. Take those out and you have an item book item. But the more basic issue is that it's simple effects. It's not a bad area to be playing in, but find some way to twist the existing rules, not just enable existing rules in an item.
Cauldron of Undead Spawning - Maybe too much description. Evil items have a tough time with voters. Neat idea, but can I chop one body into a bunch of pieces and get an undead for each piece? Is that the idea, an undead multiplier? 48 HD seems like a lot, but they're limited to a 300 ft range, so maybe it's not too bad. I like the extra bit about being a desecrating altar. Nice touch.
Irrisen Sacrificial Athame - Blood item, hurts with voters. Name may have eluded some. The item makes complete sense, but lacks the mojo of the top items. Would find in an item book.
Weathered Quiver - Name is a little punny. Effects are a little SAK-in-a-can. There's probably something to be done with arrows shot into the air affecting weather, though. Hmmm.
Clark Peterson - Old skool judge. Very old skool avatar is in keeping with theme. Plenty of mojo, maybe needs more Spicer writing volume bonuses.
Arc Light of Spectral Reclusion - The coolness here for me is in the idea of a light that hides creatures from other types of creatures. I bet there's a winning idea in that somewhere. 50 charges of 30 minutes each seems like a lot, but I guess if you wanted it "always on" that's a lantern a day which would be cost prohibitive. Nice atmosphere.
Deathwalker's Maiden - This isn't a bad concept, and I like the idea that they have to overcome their fear to use it. But I suspect it suffered from anti-squick voters. If there's ever another Book Of Vile Darkness, this might make it in.
Amulet of the Selfless - I'm borderline on this one. On the one hand it seems natural, and the name makes me sympathetic to its goals. On the other, it's a little makes-combat-safer. I think the final sentence is not needed, it's enough of a downside that an evil creature simply won't wear it.
Monkey’s Paw - Too much about specific locations, RPGSS items should be assumed to be widely available. Overall, too much flavor, but only a bonus item as crunch. There's probably something really cool to do with the idea of a monkey's paw!
Bones of Ill Fortune - Thematically sound, but essentially a SAK. The first power is the strongest, look for a way to enhance that with more mojo.
Constable’s Garish Vestments - Concept is logical, but not exciting. It's like a taunt item from a MMORPG. "Garish" bother me for some reason, but could be personal taste. First sentence of second paragraph needs to be tightened. My item suffered the same way- in trying to explain when it would work I ended up with a monster sentence. Better to break it up.
Necklace of Otherwordly Transmutation - Wow! That's pricy. I normally don't pay attention to price, but you got my attention here. Far too high for +1 ac and 1 point of bleed. Aside from that, though, the effects are too basic. Push the concept beyond simple bonuses! Also, maybe ran afoul of the anti-attunement contingent.
Fogsmith's Teakettle - Never saw this in voting. Wait, this is not your real item! Heh. I like the elegance of summing up the mechanics. It's got mojo. But unless I'm reading it wrong it seems superduper cost-effective in that it makes potions and such area effect? I guess the tradeoff is that you have to wait for it. I might like this item. Maybe we'll find out in a few rounds. ;-)
Pixie-Power Vest - Name is a little silly. Thinking a happy thought to fly is a little too whimsical. SAK. Reduce the number of options and make those you keep cooler.
Mother Luna’s Forgiveness - Nice name. Item is a little niche, and it removes a drawback of a condition. Maybe that works, but it needs something else to make that idea really shine.
Lantern of Souls - Your alternate name implies a slightly different item that I think I might like better. Obi-Wan-In-A-Can has some appeal.
Lady Firedove wrote:
Thanks for the feedback! Yeah, the grossout factor was a serious misjudgment on my part. I talked myself into thinking it was ok since it was playing off an existing spell, put in retrospect there's no reason to think that just because a spell exists that it's popular!
As an aside, I think the skinsend spell itself is based on old legends of historical alchemy.
I debated with myself about the price. The spells involved are low level and I tried to trade off the power of using someone else's skin with a much shorter duration, but this was a case where I should have applied some art and boosted the price.
Page 5 items!
Cloak of Deepest Shadow - I think your analysis of it being a SAK is on target, though the abilities to fit the theme. The item also seems on the upper end of the price scale. Voters and judges are turned off by the "only then are its true powers revealed" construction. To give it a better shot, maybe focus on the incorporeal power, that's the most interesting. That alone would basically be a spell-in-a-can, but ask yourself what's cool about that power. What could be based on that concept that's got mojo?
Quill of the Tengu Sage - Pretty good item. I like the permanently used spell slot until the scroll is read. That balances it nicely. I wonder about the magic mouth requirement. Not a wide appeal item, but it does what it does well.
Ancestral Spirit Shroud - Sort of a neat idea, plucking arrows and then providing a bow to return fire. Not sure how that ties with the idea of ancestral spirits, though. Also like the idea of choosing where disarmed items land. That's kinda cooler in a way. Overall, the theme doesn't seem to mesh completely with the function.
Master Needle of the Fairie Artisan - I'd leave out the quote, voters and judges don't like them. The crafter aspects also don't hold much appeal in RPGSS. The heal is ok, but to me the most interesting concept is the part about using it to bind things. That's probably what should be the launching point for this item, drop most of the rest and build on that.
Clockwork Heart - Seriously cool visuals / mojo here. This totally should have been top 89 or higher. Maybe a little too much about the zombie aspects. The creature revives at half HP, I assume they are eligible to heal to full? Seems far too cheap. Also, would help to break text into more than one paragraph.
Jagged Cauldron - Probably ran afoul of the voters' anti-squickness. Expensive. Also, is it really worth sustaining damage until the potion is used? It doesn't seem like it would have many takers. The name is good fits your theme well.
Listening Stone - Basic problem is that it's a recording device, as you mention. The recording time decreasing with each use but then stopping at 1 hour seems odd. Might leave that mechanic out altogether. Would anyone throw a 60,000 gp rock as a weapon? The idea of a stored spell that can be thrown is maybe the most interesting launching point for a revision.
Brooch of the Dragon’s Hoard - The mechanic of substituting treasure no one wants for material components at a later date has some imagination, but it's basically a makes-adventuring-easier item.
Halfling Swingsaddle of the Gorilla - I confess I thought this was a joke item when I was voting. A little too whimsical for me, I guess. Beyond that, seems way too niche. Maybe there's a broader version of this that would work with a variety of animals/monsters.
Flask of Sudden Sanctuary - I wasn't crazy about this cathedral in a can. I wonder about a 4 story cathedral when summoning it only requires 50 sq ft of space. The priest seems to be a 10 HD outsider summoned just to make holy water? Seems overkill. There might be something in this if it was scaled way, way down. A small chapel perhaps, with a low level friar
Lady Firedove wrote:
Hmm. I see your reasoning there. Dragon's Breath might be the right spell in a practical sense, then dramatically lower the implied price since the item itself is only using one of the options, not all of them, and at a lower level. Part of that "art of pricing" leeway you get.
Page 4 items!
Fan, Dragonscale - Not a bad item. It needs more kick to reach the upper levels, but as is it's a perfectly fine book-of-items item. Burning Hands does seem like an odd spell choice for most of the types, though.
Hand wraps of Flesh and Stone - Description is a bit overdone in the background department. These seem on the surface to be pretty powerful, with the repeated dex damage or disenchantment. I get that it also affects the monk, and that seems to be a big part of the point, but I bet there's character build that can exploit it with a solid Fort save. Overall, the mechanics seem a little complicated to get to the Top 32.
Flask of Raging Waters - The visuals on this are great, but I'm not sure that what it actually does is enough. I think it needs a little more than a basic attack or basic AC bonus. Also, it's a little confusing in that it attacks "in the manner of a whip or tentacle", but then the stats are based on an unknown weapon with which the wielder is proficient. I get what you're saying there, but I bet there's a phrasing that allows for less ambiguity. Finally, who is the target user here? It seems like there are better options in most cases.
Gloves of the Confident Smith - Your concern about being too bland for superstar is probably correct. Also, why are they named and styled after blacksmiths when as written they apply to any skill? Also, any skill? That's a wide range of things that may not make thematic sense with gloves. It might be better to tone down the blacksmith connection and find an item that makes sense with a broader range of skills.
Dawnflower Ankh - There's a neat idea in here, but the mechanics seem off. I like the mini-oasis with endure elements idea. It generates a bathtub of water every hour, which isn't a huge amount, but could be troublesome in some locations. The extra damage to undead makes some thematic sense, but I think the extra healing is maybe a step too far. The main turnoff when I was voting was the bit about recharging in a very specific place. While there's another option, the specific place made it seem like a more unique, plot-specific item.
Paint of Discerning Demise - There were several items that let you find out how a corpse died. The problem is that there are low level spells that give the same info, so you get the SIAC syndrome. This particular item seems overpriced at 9100 gp for a single use of finding out how someone died.
Feybone of the Eternal Singularity - Hmm. So this will have the effect of pushing rolls towards the mean for one round. Natural 1s and natural 20s will become vanishingly rare for that round. I'm trying to figure out what the use case is. When would using this be the right strategy? It's an interesting idea if there's a use for it. Also, gate seems an odd choice for a spell. I get why given the description, but it still seems a little arbitrary given the actual effect.
Cloud of Gray - Neat idea and visual. Some mechanical questions- Gust Of Wind dissipates it, but what about other magical winds? Or natural winds? How high up does the effect go? Does it just start from just above head level?
Matryoshka of the Planar Cadre - I like the name, it's one of my favorites that I saw. Actually, I like the item itself. I don't know if it made the top 89, but it should have, it's easily in that league. I particularly like the giant and young creature templates touch. It's a simple thing that works well.
Mantle of The Flesh Bound Soul - It's got a powerful effect, but it's also taking up the chest slot. That's good, that means choices have to be made. It does seem like it may be too powerful in certain situations, with the immunity to "death effects, energy drain, and spells which separate the soul from the body". I almost think it might be a better item without those immunities.
Relativity Torc - On the one hand, this is basically a one sentence item. On the other, does it really need to be more? I liked this item since it provided an interesting tactical choice. I suspect there are ways to exploit it, but it does come with a reasonable cost. Mage's Lucubration seems like an off choice. I get the thinking, but it still doesn't seem to quite fit.
Sepllcycle Medallion - Sort of like Blink for seplls. (Heh, sorry.) It's a neat idea with some tactical use. I bet if it had been dressed up in a mojo-y package it would have had a shot.
Bracers of Daring Exploits - I liked these. They do what they say on the tin, they encourage daring exploits. Needs some showy packaging, and it would probably be better with limited uses per day.