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I utterly bombed the map round last year. Luckily I was an alternate and so my map was never seen by the public.
I made a number of mistakes, but the biggest was not planning ahead for actually entering the round. I believed in my open call submission, and I thought all along I had a legit shot at Top 32, but I was unprepared to move on in the contest.
If you're serious about the contest, practice your maps now. I'd never made a map that had to be above a standard of "Here's some vague shapes I'll tell you about so we can play." I can't draw, so I attempted to learn some map software as well as design my map in the few days of the submission period. That plan didn't work out.
In retrospect, I'd have been better off spending the time drawing by hand. Won't be the same for everyone, but at least I wouldn't have been trying to figure out software at the same time. At least by hand, I can make some shapes that look like what I'm thinking of.
The real lesson, though, was that I should have been prepared. I've spent some time since drawing maps and thinking about what makes a map interesting. Honestly, I still don't think I'd advance past that round, but at least today I wouldn't be embarrassed by what I sent in.
How come the participants from the Top 8 who did not win are barred from competing the following year?
How come the participants from the Top 8 who did not win are barred from competing the following year?
Garrett Guillotte wrote:
A "RPGDB" site isn't a bad idea. I should add it to my list of things I'll never get around to making. ;-)
The changes are all cool. Allowing 50 words of description on the map is a HUGE help, and I suspect it will lead to much more interesting maps.
The top 32 being all voting I'm a little mixed about, but it's worth experimenting to see what happens. It definitely shapes my thinking about what I'll enter.
I actually liked what you were trying to do. I liked all the interactions beyond just combat. I liked that you had several interesting characters to deal with. Your instincts to go in that direction were good. With more time for the execution, I have no doubt you'd have create a top notch encounter.
So far I've liked most everything about this year's contest.
I liked changing up the first round, I feel like we got a lot more diversity in the entries than we would have with wondrous items again.
I liked the map-only round. I think it's a great way to sort through 32 contestants of unknown ability. Making a map that's interesting in itself is a difficult task, and it's quite different from round 1.Those two rounds together should filter through to a strong Top 16, and it really did work out that way. The Top 16 and the Top 8 were as strong as they ever have been.
That Nar-Voth theme is cool too. It hasn't been done in a RPGSS and using for 2 (and possibly 3) rounds lets you see who can learn to adapt and who can't.
I'm not crazy about the requirement to use R3 monsters for R4, but it does allow for a sense of the contestant's ability to make good selections. If encounters were open to all bestiaries or whatever, contestants would try to surf on the coolness of the old reliables. What I don't like is that it does lead to some repetitiveness seeing the same monsters for 2 rounds.
As far as the fall off in comments... The contest goes on for months. It's just hard to hold people's attention that long. I don't know if much can be done about that.
I'm voting for 2 I think might fall a little short this round, but that I think deserve a seat at the final table given their work thus far.
R Pickard - The Crystallized Shrine
Kalvero in particular, good work in each of your three years of Superstar Top 32ness! Hope you make the final 4!
In other news, Brian, you completely dominated this round. Well done!
Whoops, I see I was confusing the Geomaw and the Blightburn, with the patterns thing. I was thinking the appeal of using something like the Blightburn would be to use the encounter to add to what people liked about it- the patterns. With the setting and story of an encounter, you could certainly do that, and maybe do it well. The risk would be letting the desire to do that take the focus away from the encounter itself.
What I did remember correctly is that the Geomaw is a relatively static creature, which limits the encounter design opportunities. The big risk with a Geomaw encounter is that the players might miss it altogether, or that it might not be much of a threat when it is revealed. Of the couple Geomaw entries I've read so far, those are indeed risks.
I think there's some of that same "pick it for the challenge" element at work there too...
I haven't read any entries yet, just look at Lady Firedove's summary of creature types.
If I had made an ordered list of expected choices, the Geomaw would have been 15th (Deep Desire at 16). I get the desire to both go with a challenging choice and to 'redeem' the monster by featuring the patterns, which everyone liked about it. But I thought the creature provided limited opportunity for contestants to show off as encounter designers, as opposed to monster redeemers, if that makes sense. Other creatures provided a lot more opportunity with their risks.
Well, time to read the entries. Maybe I'll disagree with the judges, won't be the first time!
Well, I'm not contesting, but I'm still obsessed with the contest this time around.
I've watched this contest every year, and I've entered most years, but I've never had the goal of becoming a freelancer. I had a competitive desire to get in the Top 32 (which I still haven't done, but oh so close), and that made designing and entering items fun.
But we got to the map round and I totally whiffed it. I turned in something, but it would barely count as a map. I had a decent enough idea. A dwarven gold mine structure, like you see on mountainsides in Alaska or the old west. A multilevel building, with all kinds of sluiceways and machinery running through it. But I lacked the skills to execute it. Believe me, my map was nowhere close to that, it was basically some boxes on a grid.
My biggest mistake was trying to learn some mapping software in the short time I had available. It wasn't the right time to get distracted with software, but I thought my hand-drawn style wouldn't be workable. Even if I had hand-drawn a map it would have fallen short of what I had in my head, but it would have been better than what I turned in.
And frankly, even the perfect version of what I had in mind wasn't great. I've just never thought about maps beyond sketching something out before.
Anyway, failing at that has strangely motivated me to spend a lot more time thinking about the contest and rpg design in general. I've been going through all the previous year encounters, for example, and reading them and the comments and thinking about what works and what doesn't. Thinking about what I'd do with each of the monsters of the last round, what makes them cool, how you could showcase that with an encounter. That kind of thing.
I've got a lot of work to do, but I would like to move toward freelancing in the long run. I really enjoy thinking about this stuff, and it would be great to do it on a professional level. If nothing else, the journey will be fun.
Steven Helt wrote:
Wow, has that happened before? Half the entries using the same monster?
Edit- Yep, the Ardorwesp in 2010.
I'm excited about round 4! This year was a golden playground of opportunity with the environment and the monsters available, and I can't wait to see what these guys did with them!
So now that all the entries are in, which of the top 16 monsters do you think was most used? Which would you have used?
I think Deeplit will be used more than once. There's just too much eerie atmosphere built into it to pass up, though I think it's also got some danger for the encounter designers. It would be easy to let the 'cool' of the encounter to come from the monster, so you have to work harder to make sure the encounter lives up to it.
I'd have used the Spiroskek. There's some ways to use it in a setting it prepared for itself that could be completely terrifying and memorable. You could showcase both monster and the unique environment of Nar-Voth. Plus you get to play with several senses at once. Total fun!
What does everyone else think?
Number 4 has tripped people up in past years. Not featuring the previous round monster as required is a deadly yet avoidable sin.
I think traps are the hardest thing to nail in this round. I suspect most encounters will look like they're sort of tossed in somewhere (as in past years), but if you can get it right, it will be a nice boost for you.
I was vaguely reminded of the Danse Macabre monster from the Skeletons of Scarwall AP, but Coryphae was different enough that it's its own monster.
I really do think regardless of the outcome of the contest, this monster is the one that needs a version in the official bestiaries. It's a niche of fae that should exist.
I was just looking at the overall situation, including past rounds, to see who I think the final 4 will be. Man, I think it's going to be the strongest final 4 in years, with no obvious favorite to win. In recent years I could spot the winner fairly early on, but this year is wide open from my viewpoint.
The 8 are going to have their work cut out for them, that's for sure.
Lady Firedove wrote:
I agree, the dance seems quite fey-ish to me. If there isn't another fey that does this already, this one should be added to the official roster.
The only reason I didn't vote for this monster is that I was sure enough other people will, and I moved a vote to one I felt might need the boost. I'm sure Scott hates to hear that, and I'll feel bad if it doesn't make it, but it really should.
Caught up, miraculously. Happy to respond to any comments or questions.
Spanwhammer - Mostly voted against. Really disliked the name. I appreciate the Golarian ties in the text, but gotta watch having too much backstory. The dispel mechanic could be clearer. I'd focus on that more than the sunder, and add some visual hook to the dispel too.
Blood Magic Dagger - Don't remember from voting. I get the idea of it, and if it was tightened up it could be a decent item. Needs something more for superstar. Voters have a bias against items with drawbacks, but that doesn't mean this couldn't work somehow.
Stormcrow Tomahawk - Mostly voted against. Just not that much excitement. It's got a decent visual, but not a lot else. An appropriate item for some NPCs for flavor, though.
Tormentor - Mostly voted against. Lost me at "chainsaw", whether it's in the rules or not. The evil-goriness of it probably lost the rest of the voters.
Staff of the Imperials - Don't remember it from voting. Hits my personal bias against one-of-each-element items. Feels like a SAK.
Rod of Brilliant Steps - Mostly voted for. I liked the theme, not sure I got why you'd be protected from cloudkill though. Also, similar to an item from RPGSS a few years ago.
Ring of the Champion - Mostly voted against. Background makes it seem unique. Item is cursed, and though this curse does fit rather well, it's still a curse. I like that you played with the cavalier rules, and did so in ways that made sense.
Ghostpike Longspear - Mostly voted for. I like the idea of it as a repositioning tool for the incorporeal. Probably needs better visuals for that, though, and something more. Not crazy about auto-warning of incorporeal in the area.
Bodyguard Armor - Mostly voted against. Yeah, the material explanation was wasted word count. Also buries the interesting stuff further down. As described, it seems a little too literally for courtly bodyguards, and would benefit from being more generally applicable.
Scimitar of Dancing Lightning - Mostly voted against. Second power doesn't seem like it would come up often. First power is essentially giving the weapon a ranged touch attack. Would have liked it to do more.
Ring of the Champion, the second - Mostly voted against. Takes up too many slots from the party as a whole for what it does. I like what it does, it just needs to be less slot-intensive about it.
Soulfire Band - Don't remember this from voting. Good visuals. Probably too eeeeevil for many voters. Seems like it's exploitable via the bag o' rats method.
Ring of Retrospection - Consistently voted against. Simply too metagamey.
Ring of Adaptive Weaponry - Mostly voted against. Text is almost all background. Effect is useful but too basic for the contest.
Rod of Bounding Flame - Voted for and against. I liked the ideas. Moving fire squares around could be useful. The pogostick of fireballs is cool too, but maybe a little goofy visual-wise.
Campaign Staff - Voted for and against. Name is a (likely unintentional) pun about political campaigns. Powers all tied to its theme, but nothing new or surprising. Workable staff, though.
Ancestor's Breastplate - Don't remember it from voting. There's something in the idea of the guiding hands of ancestors in your armor, but this item seems to just be a SAK. Pick one aspect of it and run with that.
Shield of the Eye - Mostly voted against. Never like autodetect, and this not only autodetects undead, it autodetects a lich's phylactery.
Catapulting Full Plate - Voted for and against. I admit, I liked the idea of suddenly turning into a rock and hurtling across the battlefield. I'm not sure it's very armor-y though. Some mechanical questions, and also feels like it's possible to misuse this horribly.
Staff of the Beast Within - Mostly voted against. Thematically tight, just a little bland. I liked the touch with calm emotions.
Scales of the Scarab - Mostly voted against. Actually kinda neat with the scarab flavor, but it suffers from the "only works when you're dead" problem.
Staff of Duergar Enslavement - Mostly voted against. I like that it looks like a stalactite. Spell list is appropriate, if grim. But why would a Duergar want to turn their slaves into Duergar? How would that help maintain discipline?
Blackmail - Mostly voted for. Looking at it now, it confuses me mechanically. I *think* the idea is that you can place any number of marks on any number of creatures, and then curse one at a time when you want (assuming proximity). The name is punny, especially given what it does.
Bonewarp Chain - One of my personal favorites. I thought the powers were thematically tight, useful, and visually evocative. Possible it was too squicky with voters, though.
Staff of Infiltation - Don't recall this from voting. Nice tight theme. I like that it makes no sound when it touches something. Always good to have the little details. Your original spell list is fine. This would be an ok item in a book, but it needs something more for the contest.
Rod of Divine Empowerment - Don't remember this from voting. I like the idea of it. I'm a little unclear about it working if you don't need healing. Feels like it could be exploitable if it works in that case. I think if this was tighter and maybe had some visuals it would have a shot.
Acanavore - Voted mostly for. Primarily because it was a magic polearm and we didn't see enough of those. Having said that, that power seems like it could get out of control fast. For one thing, the more it's boosted, the more likely it is to be successful at getting another boost. Whee! The mechanic is overly complicated in general, tracking it all would be a job in itself.
Impenetrable Pelt - Voted mostly for. I liked the theme of it, but felt it needed that next level to give it a chance.
Covenskein Net - Voted mostly for. I like nets. I like the flavor of this a great deal, could have used more of it. The killer flaw is all that strength damage with no save. Deadly.
Brother's Guard - Voted for and against. Stays well with its theme, the theme just needed a bit more spark. Nothing is surprising about it.
Molten Belcher - Voted for and against. Seem cheap for what it does. It does seem shield-y. But it's not too exciting. There's probably a good idea in here, it just needs to be pushed further.
Serpent's Tongue - Mostly voted against. I like the flavor about molding its shape. The mechanics aren't as clear as they could be. Also seems that the situation needed for this would be rare in regular play. They have to be stabbed and poisoned, and then hours later drink a potion. That's more likely to happen against the PCs than against someone they're stabbing (who will probably end the encounter dead, after all).
Ring of the Medic - Mostly voted against. Not crazy about the name. Tables kill you with voters, fairly or not. I think it implies a lack of focus for the item in people's minds. That said, the core idea of this is interesting, and ring-y. What got me was the bookkeeping for the increasing DCs. In practice, I suspect this would get lost in the shuffle. Package this a little neater and it might work.
Manticore Fist - Voted for and against. I liked the theme, but it's just not that exciting. It does what it sounds like it would do, but isn't surprising in good ways either.
Spelldrinker - Voted mostly against. I think I may have given this one less credit than it deserved during voting. The mechanic of causing a spell to be lost on a crit isn't inspiring, but there's some nice touches on the other side with what happens with that energy. Not superstar, but not bad either.
Glacial Crusher - Voted mostly against. A little too basic in what it does. There was another item that played with a cold resistance debuff that showed a more inspiring direction to explore.
Quill of the Peacock Spirit - Voted mostly against. Expensive for what it does. Like the Golarian-fu. Name may have hurt you with voters. Effects don't seem very suited for a weapon.
Heaven's Tether - Voted for and against. Like the visuals. Coherent theme. Special power seems useful on only limited circumstances, though, and isn't too exciting.
Up Chuck - Voted mostly against. Awful name, I'm sure it cost you many votes. Limited to halflings. Effect lacks mojo.
Ring of Insight - Don't remember this one from voting. Once per day rings will spend a lot of time in pockets instead of on fingers. Seeing the future is dangerous ground to tread, but you deal with it reasonably. I'd rather see the 1d10 roll happen at the time of the modified event rather than in advance.
Glitterbane - Voted mostly against. Name hurt it. Also, the two effects seem like a pretty random combination. I'm missing what this was aiming at.
Knife of the Consummate Chef - Voted mostly against. Felt it was borderline as a weapon. Description makes it feel unique. Scales based on a skill few PCs will have or want to take. "GM's discretion" is a phrase to avoid if at all possible. The impulse to go in this direction is fine, it's just wrong for this contest.
Scale of the Final King - Voted mostly against. Not sure where the name came from. Not a fan of a shield of whatever resistance you happen to need at the moment. Having said that, it is shield-y.
First of all, the general quality of these monsters was high. I think the previous rounds has mostly filtered the contestants quite well, and now we're seeing a level where the competition is quite stiff.
I want to vote for more than 4, but sadly 4 votes are all I have.
PAGES 8, 9
Ghost Moon Bow - Voted for and against. It's a neat idea, but needs some mechanical polish. I think there should be a range limitation on knowing where the target is, for example, as well as a duration. I think that was intended in both cases, but it's not expressed.
Sidereal Blade - Voted mostly for. Liked the name. Too much dmg vs outsiders. In the end, though, it's close to a spell in a can. Conjures some cool potential, but it doesn't live up to it.
Mithral Shirt of Concealment - Voted mostly against. Some nice imagery, but the effect isn't that interesting. At least it's something that would likely get used every session.
Rings of Shared Power - Voted mostly against. Personal biases against items that come in pairs (what if there's only one found? What if one is lost?) and against items that allow class feature sharing. Too meta for me.
Fraud's Rod - Voted mostly against. As you mention, there was a similar item in a previous year. Also, it's just not something that players would use often. More of an NPC item.
Broken Gambit Shield - Voted mostly against. I didn't like what it does. Sort of the idea behind it seems to be that the wearer would be attacked for looking weak, and then there's the compulsion to keep attacking them. Just doesn't feel heroic to me.
Coiling Poison Staff - Voted mostly against. As you say, class specific probably hurt you, but then it doesn't do much exciting even then. There's got to be a cool snake/staff idea out there!
Rod of Gravity - Voted for and against. One of several gravity items. None of them clicked for me, and I'm not entirely sure why. I think part of it is that this one does exactly what I'd expect it to do, and it doesn't really surprise me in any way.
Ring of the Deific Caster - Voted mostly against. An uncommon trigger the wearer can't control. Would be sort of annoying to use as a player, waiting for it to be triggered.