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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.
Kudzu Wrap - Usually voted for. Odd that it looks like a single wooden leaf when not worn. Something using kudzu should play off kudzu's extremely fast growth rate, and this kind of does that the the 'explosion' thing. I feel like it's a power that won't come up often in play, though. Not a bad start for an item, but needs something more.
Ring of Remembrance - Usually voted against. This is just a pearl of power. It is a ring-y idea, other than that.
Clangoring Chime - Usually voted against. Not a bad idea, I think I usually voted against it because it seemed like a really annoying thing to have in a party, always making noise. Not just stealth, but walking around town would be annoying. Needs clarification on any penalties "stowed and muffled" would have on readying time.
Counter Shield - Usually voted against. Another redirecting shield, and a basic take on the idea. The concept is one that readily comes to mind, so it really needs some serious mojo to click with voters.
Vestment of the Twin Soul - Voted for and against it. Not sure it's very armor-y. The idea of increased bonding is cool, but none of the manifestations of that idea here knock it out of the park. It basically just lets the bonded roam further from each other. Needs more.
O-yoroi of the Eternal Flame - Voted for and against it. Yes, it's super-expensive. But I think its main weakness was that the really cool power is activated on death. Players just don't want to spend that kind of money for something that only works when they failed. I also think the random round later resurrection could end up being very bad situationally.
Freebooter's Longcoat - Voted for and against. Too situational. Even if you're a pirate, it's only useful in very limited circumstances of pirating. And even then, when its big moment comes...it's not a very big moment.
Dagger of Dretch Dominion - Don't remember it from voting. This is even more situational than the last item. Seems very, very niche. Seeing it's from a former Top 16'er, I'm wondering if I'm missing something.
Corpse Thicket Javelin - Mostly voted for. I like the idea of it, and the images. Does a fair amount of ongoing and removal damage. I like the implied end result of a forest of trees after a battle.
Ghastly Plate - Mostly voted against. Too basic an idea. Nice name, probably worth thinking on that name and seeing what it leads you to that's worthy of the name.
Rod of Eldritch Horror - Mostly voted against. Somewhere along the line I've picked up a personal bias against Lovecraftian items. I feel like they're trying to leverage something that isn't theirs. Probably not fair of me. In any case, if your item is "of Eldritch Horror", I have very high expectations for it to meet. This doesn't quite get there, needs more...eldritch horror. I'd also cut the gibbering mouther. I get what that's going for, but it's the kind of thing voters don't generally like.
Dreaming Star - Voted for and against. Some nice imagery, would like that same feeling to carry over to its main power. The main power feels exploitable with the permanence factor, though I appreciate you tried to limit that via gold value. But I'm nearly certain players would find ways to take advantage of it that skirted around that limit.
Lash of Wild Roses - Usually voted for. I like the flavor and fluff. Not really a fan of specifying command words, these are items anyone can make. Probably should say the only way to escape is X. There are likely other ways that should work.
Foe Stitcher - Usually voted for. Neat idea, in some ways. But overly complicated in execution. I'd drop the whole drag aspect and focus on them not being able to move further apart. In a way, that implies some of the drag aspect. Seems relatively cheap for what you could do with it.
Pen of Mirado - Consistently voted against. Not a weapon, couldn't vote for it against anything. Background history should be avoided. Your idea isn't a bad one here, but I'm not sure there's a way to make it work. The Bardic Knowledge check mechanic seems off. DC 25 might not tell you anything about more obscure creatures. Way, way overpowered if it hits.
Motherly Love - Mostly voted against. This one was just weird. Singing, having to call it mother. Not sure why 'mother' and 'bow' go together. Just a strange mix of ideas.
Axle of Sky and Storm - Mostly voted against. Chariot-in-a-can. Is there a mythological basis for this one? If not, it seems an odd connection to make. Also seems much more wondrous item than a weapon. A great deal of text is dealing with the chariot, not the spear.
Eremite Rod - Mostly voted for. High blood n guts factor probably cost you votes, but I mostly liked the way this worked. Choosing the ability score for evisceration damage is maybe too powerful.
Hammer of Besting - Don't remember it from voting. The effect is a little basic, but at the same time those could be some big bonuses. Probably too big.
Ephemeral Staff - voted for and against. Like the idea and the imagery, but it's too basic. Needs a cool power to seal the deal. The spell list is kind of boring too.
Staff of the Auraboros - Voted for and against. The aura capture is the star here, but it feels underdeveloped. That idea is something worth exploring and finding the right cinematics for.
Staff of the Twinned Path - Voted mostly against. I like the shifting weight, and to some extent using that to allow a second attack. But I feel like it should have done more. An extra attack with a staff is rarely going to make much difference to anything. Run with the shifting weight allowing something else. Also, the spell list feels pretty random.
Cuirass of Distortion - Voted mostly against. Didn't like that the distorted misses auto-hit the attacker. Dimension door ability doesn't feel organic. This needed some thematic tightening. I did like the flavor of colors shifting at different angles.
Energizing Breastplate - Don't remember it from voting. I don't get what this is going for. I read it and it makes sense internally, but I'm not sure why it does what it does. A better name may have cleared that up.
Aegis of the Martyr - Voted for and against. It's a shield with a shield-like power. Feels a little too basic about it, though. Redirecting damage to the wielder is a start, but it's not enough for the voters. Has its place in the game, though.
Blade of Unabating Wounds - Don't remember it from voting. And a sword with sword-like power! Like the flavor of it. I like what it's aiming to do, though I feel like it needs some more care mechanically. Also, it needs another layer of mojo, another twist. There's something here, it just needs to be pushed a bit further.
Chakram of Cyclic Existence - Voted mostly for. I like what you're trying to do here. The theme seems strong, and you've mostly hit the notes it needs to hit. I just think it needs more than healing at a distance for a mechanic. The name promises something deeper, something about existence.
Demonmaw Gnasher - Voted for and against. I wasn't crazy about the core conceit. And why can't the target be put in a space that's intrinsically dangerous? How does the magic of the item know? Why take away that tactic?
Serpentine Staff - Voted mostly against. A staff that becomes a snake is one of the oldest tricks around. While this did so in a logical way, it didn't really add anything new. Feels pricey too, for what it does. Maybe if it didn't take a move action to command the snake it would be worth the price.
Staff of Strategems - Voted for and against. A thematic set of spells and power. Once per combat is sort of vague, as what is a 'combat' isn't defined. You're right about the visuals. Playing with the action economy will always cost you some votes, fairly or not. Your basic idea was a good one, but it needed to be realized in a more exciting way. Not just visuals, but a more exciting core power.
Sarenrae's Desert Caller - Mostly voted against. First impression was template-in-a-can. That's not wholly fair, but something about the idea of it turned me off. Not sure it's really a weapon doing weapony things rather than a wondrous item. The idea of something for summoners is cool, I'd just prefer it did it a way more suited to a weapon.
Housebreaker Bow - Mostly voted against. A bow/staff hybrid. Actually, I do like the idea of a ranged lockpick in the form of an arrow. That might have been the idea to run with here. The name is unfortunate, and "shh" as a power name is a little awkward too.
Blowgun of the Accursed Serpent - Mostly voted against. Spell in a can, essentially. I like the flavor of it, it just needed to do something else.
Blade of the Dark Betrayer - Mostly voted against. This felt really familiar, and I thought I'd essentially seen it before. Cutting lose shadows is a common enough idea, and that it provides flanking seemed like something I'd seen too. This may not be true, and thus unfair, but it felt that way.
Disruption Disc - Mostly voted for. I like the concept here a lot. I think you hit on areas of improvement in your notes, particularly increasing the failure chance per disc. The risk is that then 2 of them might mean a 50% chance of failure, yikes! It might be worth making the effect non-stackable. You still keep the cool core idea and lose a lot of the mechanical complication.
Traitor's Blade - Mostly voted for. An assassin's dagger that exists partially in the shadow plane is cooooool. I think two things hurt this- One, several other daggers with betrayal as a theme, even though they weren't like this one. Two, the damage to the wielder. I see what you were after, but I don't think it was necessary.
Rod of Resonance - Voted for and against. Logical item, but maybe a little too obvious. Needed an additional twist or two.
Rheumatic Rod - Mostly voted for. I liked the flavor, and the idea of aging creatures painfully is kinda neat. Needed to push that theme further with another idea or two, though.
Mimic Skin - Voted for and against. Thematically tight, but needed to step out of the monster in a can vibe. Needed more of its own unique flavor.
Norgorber's Lens - Voted for and against. I couldn't make up my mind about this one. Still can't. I'd drop the dimension door effect. The lens effect of being totally concealed by the item is cool. There's some mojo there, though the cone aspect of it is potentially messy in play. Some streamlining and you could get this to Top 32 material.
Thundering Shield - Don't remember it from voting. Feels pretty spell in a can, and not particularly shield-y. Also, a thunderous sound seems like it should affect more than a 15 foot cone.
Ring of the Forgotten Acquaintance. Mostly voted against. Skill bonus item, and only in limited circumstances. Those things have a hard time with voters. There's maybe a cool idea there, but it needs to be more than skill bonuses.
Tempest Bow - Voted for and against. Cool visuals. 100 feet is a long way! Feels like it could use a bit more to it. The basic idea is strong, but it needs another level.
Dynamic Staff - Voted for and against. I feel like this is violating the spirit of staffs somehow. I admit that's a fine line, and others will feel differently. But a staff that lets you store whatever feels a little to meta for me.
Staff of Thin Air - Mostly voted against. A dimension door item, of sorts. A bit too much teleporting for my taste. I get the escape theme from the spells, I wonder if the teleportation could be tied more closely to that idea somehow?
Skywalker's Cloth - Voted for and against. Unfortunate name, even though it's appropriate. I like the theme of it, but it's maybe a little too specialized. Mostly players would want this for constant air walk as that's useful most anywhere.
Sleeper's Vessel - Don't remember it from voting. I like all the Golarian flavor. What this does, though, is very specialized, to the point of being a plot device item. I don't know that it's a weapon and not a wondrous item. Three minutes seems like an awfully short time for its intended use. Not sure this could see a lot of in-game use.
Ring Of Utmost Need - Mostly voted against. As a general rule, skill boost items of any sort have a tough time in the contest. One that lets you pick any skill for emergency use will have an even tougher time. Personally, I don't like once per week uses, the bookkeeping is easily lost in the shuffle. Plus I'm only wearing this ring for a few minutes very week, then immediately replacing it until it recharges.
Cryohydra's Coil - Voted for and against. Nice flavor, but fairly run of the mill powers. What's the pilfering hand spell doing? This is a fun weapon, but needs an exciting twist to it.
Arroweater Shield - Mostly voted against. Feels overly complicated for a shield that destroys arrows. The effect of two of them close together feels exploitable. Maybe could be used to shoot around corners, etc.
Thriving Branch - Mostly voted against. Nice theme, but it needed more. Just not exciting. Would be worth exploring other idea with the same root theme.
Breakaway Sword of Beguilling - Mostly voted against. When would I ever use this in place of a real weapon? Should this actually count as a weapon? This feels like a very specialized plot device item. On the other hand, it's very cheap, for whatever uses it has.
Shillelagh of Legions - Mostly voted for. I like what this does, and it seems to all fit in its theme. It's maybe not the most exciting staff, but it fits well with its intended use. I think it needed a better capstone power and it might have had a shot.
Hermetic Armor - Mostly voted against. Doesn't seem very armor-y. Most exists to allow more alchemical attacks per day. The idea that comes to me reading is armor that gives extra protection against alchemical mishaps with bombs and such. Not that such things ever happen!
Riftcarver Bow - Mostly voted against. A lot of cool flavorful build up, then goes into...a ranged trip mechanic. Kind of a letdown. The second mechanic is better, but still not super-exciting. I do like your description, though. Good stuff.
Rerouting Shield - Mostly voted against. I had a similar idea for a shield, but it would reroute attacks to allies only. In any case, I felt it was a bit too obvious and mechanically messy, and the same things pretty much apply here. The second mechanic is more interesting, and with some development and flavor it might have done well.
Rod Of Illusory Casting - Mostly voted for. Very rod-ish. Neat, logical effects, but fairly circumstantial for their usefulness. Seems like there should be some sort of save to see through it. As it is, in the right circumstances, this could be a cheap way to a deadly effect at higher levels.
Dwarven Armor Of Exploration - Mostly voted against. A little hard to get excited about turning into mud. The powers are useful, but a bit too utilitarian and not enough flavor and/or mojo. There's probably something in this idea, but it needs a better theme.
Gnome Splat-Pelter - Mostly voted against. The name was a turn-off. Having said that, an ooze firing weapon has its place, it's just not exciting. I think the parts about firing other items are distracting, though if you tightened that up with some themes and some additional powers when you do that, it might well be the basis for a better item overall.
Black-And-White Sword - Mostly voted against. The text jumps around a bit and doesn't quite gel into a coherent whole. I think you knew what you wanted this to be, but I don't think it comes across on the page. Tighten this up and work at getting across what's in your head and you may have something.
Varisian Dancing Chain - Mostly voted against. I like what this is doing, and I like the implied flavor. It's not really exciting enough, but it's thematically strong. I think it might have benefited from making the flavor more explicit, and from adding on some additional thematic power.
Springheart - Mostly voted against. Wonderful description and flavor. I now this was a crowd favorite, but I couldn't get past it being a single use spell-in-a-can. You've got the mojo. Just channel it into something more exciting and you'll do very well.
Raw Meat Hook - Voted for and against. Thematically very strong. Very much an ogre weapon. Promises some very gory combat! And that might have hurt it. For whatever reasons, a certain percentage of voters don't like gore. It could probably use a bit more oomph that plays with the same theme.
Shield Of The Fallen - Mostly voted against. Two things seriously hurt this item. One is that its primary value comes from the player's death. As a rule, that's something to avoid. Two, it references real world Spartans. You'd have been much better off leaving that implied. Having said all that, it's a logical item, just mostly misdirected for this contest.
Warbreaker's Staff - Don't remember how I voted. Decent theme. Needs a better name, and some sort of capstone power than really drives it home. The sunder doesn't quite do it.
Ring of the Clockwork Sentinel - Voted for and against. It's a neat idea. I feel like a bit too much time is spent explaining the rotating combination rings. At first I thought it was alarm-in-a-can, but the compulsion to not steal the item is a nice add. The ability to locate the stolen item sort of works and sort of doesn't. It could be more elegant. Overall, the problem is that voters likely wouldn't find this item exciting enough. It's trying to avoid a nuisance problem.
Talon - Mostly voted against. The name seems a little more unique than it should, particularly engraved on the item. Also don't think the name suits what is essentially a ranged healing item. Along those lines, it just doesn't feel weapon-y overall.
Celerity Blade - Voted for and against. Not sure the main power is appropriate for a weapon, more like boots. Hiding the movement and the flat footed effect are interesting though. There might be a direction to explore there.
Outrider's Band - Mostly voted against. I see what you're going for, but the problem is one that's often been addressed in various ways in previous contests. Vocabulary probably hurt you too. I don't think this is too gonzo, I just think it's not 'cool' in the way that voters enjoy. There's a lot of text spent on things that make sense, but players won't find exciting.
Finally getting around to posting comments on every item. Haven't read other comments, so I may well be repeating them.
Man, the first couple pages are bears!
Windpath Razor- Mostly voted for this one. Like the name, descriptive but not utilitarian. I read this as a wuxia style item, but it looks more like it was intended to be Arabian Nights with the scimitar angle. One concern is the limitation that the power only works when the weapon is being drawn, so there's no mid-combat use of it. "Hovering" is a little misleading since players can move along the wind bridge. Speaking of which, could you use it to cross a chasm? It looks like the answer is no, since you can only be 1 foot off the ground, but the overall vibe seems like it should work that way.
Rod Of Versatile Channeling - Mostly voted against, but that's due to a personal bias against items that interchange positive/negative energy. They usually feel like they're working around choices than making players make new ones. I would move the bit about it working as initally described for neutrals and necromancers to the first paragraph. Keep the limitations with the powers being limited, for clarity.
Alchemist's Retort- Mostly voted for. I didn't like the name, it's a little punny for me. The item itself seems mostly like a way for an alchemist to get a free attack, but that seems pretty reasonable given the circumstances. The way it does it is clever, and I like the touch about the shield indicating what's in it. One of the better shields.
Enlightend Jian- Mostly voted for. Definitely has the wuxia vibe. Not the most imaginative, true, but fills a logical niche. My votes for it were mostly just because I like wuxia. Might work slightly better if the sword can not be used offensively while it's maintaining air walk, like it has to be pointed in a direction to move around, etc.
Mail Of Ash Woven Ramparts - Voted for and against. I liked the visuals on this one, but I don't think I ever got the "ash" theme behind it other than it would look cool. Why ashes? I like that it doesn't work quite like I expected, in that you can go in easily, it's getting out of an ash cloud that's hard. I also don't get why this is armor. It feels a little wondrous item to me.
Grave-Nettle - Mostly voted against. Essentially zombie-in-a-can. That said, the flavor of it is neat, and it's an item that makes sense to exist.
Staff Of The Vineyard- Sometimes voted for. I like the flavor of this one well enough. The berries are cool, and the entangle mechanics are clever addition. I think what hurt it was that it would mostly be used for the entangle, and as such isn't overly exciting to voters. It's a nicely made staff, though.
Angazhan's Bloodthirsty Spear- Mostly voted against. The name is a problem, X's Y items usually don't do well in this contest. Plus, is this really Angazhan's personal spear? Probably not. Some mechanical issues, with what looks like unlimited crit confirmation bonuses. Needs to define how close behind a pierced target the additional target needs to be. As it is, there's no limit, could be any distance. The increasing bonus weapon is a decent idea, it just needs a good twist to make it in the contest.
Chrysalis Carapace - I don't remember this one from voting. The flavor is very nice, though I worry about the butterfly wings feeling a little silly. Moth wings might have served better in this case, though that might seem a subtle point. Just less on the delicate side, you know? I like the concentration check mechanic, though it could use some flavor explaining why it's something this item can do.
Dirk Of Treachery - Voted mostly for. I think there were at least a couple of items along these lines, and I may have confused them at times. I remember this one as my favorite of the type, though. What does it mean to be unaware of its presence? If a victim has seen in sheathed on my belt, do I not gain that bonus? And I know the "gm discretion" probably cost votes, but I did like the additional damage to allies. It's the whole theme of the item, after all. I like what you were after with disguise self, but it probably was better left out since it's not mechanically there. Your idea about a bonus to hide it during searches is a good one.
Monastic Staff - Don't remember how I voted. This feels a little SAK. I get the general monk theme, but the staff itself just seems like random things a monk would like to have. It needs to be somewhat tighter in the theme and a more specific name. As an example, it could play off the idea of super-fast monk vibrations, building off the haste and blur. Add some to that line of thinking and it could work.
Skewer Shield - Mostly voted against. The core idea of loading a shield with a weapon didn't work for me. Firing the weapon out made this feel not like a shield, but like some sort of strange weapon-gun. I'd also remove the choice of returning or anchoring and make one or the other the permanent feature. Why does the shield not provide armor bonus after firing the weapon?
Catapult Ring - Voted for and against. I kept having the image of a gnome launching giants all over the place, and mostly laughing. This could be a very fun item, but it's probably overpowered. A touch attack to move and damage a creature seems too easy. Not particularly a ring. Still, the havoc would be glorious and maybe worth it.
Living Copperthread Net - Didn't see this one until late in the voting, was happy when I finally did. A fun item, and I like the active grappling that it does. The image of an animated net chasing people around seems a little cartoonish, though. That would suit some gaming styles and not others. Might have been better to focus more on the grappling than the chasing. Was glad to see a net item.
Shield Of Compassionate Radiance - Mostly voted for. I'm not sure the core tradeoff of laying hands for small heal bonuses is worth it. Seems like that would be very circumstantial. I also don't see why it should be limited from scrolls or wands. I get that this is a relatively low level item, but the benefits seem a little limited for what you're giving up. It does seem like an appropriate paladin shield, though, and nice job there.
Jailbird's Sweetheart - Voted for. I was a fan of this one. Circumstantial, but something that opens up certain options for stories. I like the touch that one side is a file. The kissing for attuning is fine, but saying that there's no indication of that seems needlessly complicating.
Weapon Trap Shield - Mostly voted against. The name is very utilitarian. As you probably know, there were several shields with this theme. Mechanically, this is one of the better ones, but it could use more flavor. I get what you were after with the polymorph any object, but it still seems an odd choice. The basic problem with this one was that it needed some mojo to stand out in its crowd.
Ragathiel's Regalia - Don't remember it from voting. Essentially a spell in a can. Might be armor of choice for certain paladins, though. Needed more to it, and at the price there was some room to add some minor things for flavor.
Perpetual Vortex Staff - Remember the item but don't remember how I voted. Reading it now, I see it's more themed than I thought. I like the description and its visuals a lot. The powers aren't really related themselves, but I see how the staff's concept connects them. They also aren't spells, so it's not really a staff in game terms. It's tough, I like what this is, it's just not what it should be.
Raven Leather - Voted for, mostly. I like the visuals, though it's probably better to say "transforms himself in to a raven-like mass of shadows and swirling feathers", as it reads now the first power seems like he becomes a flock of actual ravens. Also not sure this is really armor and not a wondrous item. It doesn't do much that's armor-like.
Wing Smasher's Hammer - Don't remember how I voted. The name tells you what it is. Main concern is it's a little one-note. It fills a niche, certainly, but it needs some more flavor and mojo. Also picturing it being a thrown weapon, and maybe needing the returning property.
Courtier's Solitaire - Mostly voted for. Nice flavor, and I'm always in favor of non-combat items. Nice name too. Non-combat items do tend to suffer in the voting, though. Now and then one gets through, but it's a tough hill to climb. Most of this item is some basic bonuses, which don't win voters. But then there's the automatic detection and surprise round actions, which seems pretty overpowered for the price.
Staff Of The Hidden Blade - Mostly voted against. Nicely themed item, but lacking excitement. Needs more flavor, and at least one interesting additional power. The ki substitution mechanic has potential.
Staff of Entwined Elements - Mostly voted against. I have a personal bias against items that blend all the elements. Allowing changing of energy types of the spells just excaerbates the situation. I'd strongly prefer that an item pick one and run with it. Otherwise it starts to feel a little SAK, trying to be all things in all situations.
Honeycomb Cuirass - Mostly voted for this one. Loved the flavor (so to speak). A perfect fit for druid-y armor. Laughed when I saw profession (beekeeper) in the requirements. Probably this needed something more, an additional cool power, but it was on the right track.
Deadeye's Shepherd - Mostly voted for. Like the name. Sort of an obvious niche for a bow, which helps and hurts. Probably would have left out the interaction with the ring. I get what it's going for, but that kind of thing usually hurts in the contest. If anything, I'd focus on expanding the central bull rush theme with additional related powers.
Rod Of Ghost Teeth - Voted for and against. Nice creepiness factor, but it's basically a dressed up magic missile in a can. The tongues is a nice touch. Not sure it's all that rod-ly.
Grandmaster's Plate- Mostly voted against. Personal bias against mass battlefield repositioning. Seems like there's a chess themed item for this every year. I get the appeal, but it's a little too meta for me. The particular mechanics of this item would incline me to use it for the extra damage alone in a key fight. Also, doens't seem particularly armor-y.
Sightstealer Rapier - Mostly voted against. As you mention, it's not exciting enough. Also not sure why it's a weapon, at least not as described. You made the right choice adding 'rapier' to the name. In the end, though, I just don't know that the benefit is enough to make it interesting.
Thieving Buckler - Mostly voted against. The basic idea is cool, and it works as a buckler where it would seem out of place as a shield. The text seems a little disjointed and unclear in places. If I snatch arrow or disarm on an attack, does the weapon go to the extra dimensional space? OK with the bit about it taking some time to find an item, but the time required for the item start acting like a handy haversack is trivial.
Dimensional Skewer - Mostly voted against. It seems in practice this effect wouldn't be very useful. An opponent who was skewered is more likely to be around your allies than theirs, so most of your potential targets would be your own allies. There are circumstances where this would be useful, but I feel like you'd always be trying to create them rather than just fighting as your normally would.
Phantom Guardian's Ring - Mostly voted against. Limited uses, so a ring to switch in and out of the slot. A lot of work describing an effect that's not super-exciting. Certainly useful, but it doesn't feel very ring-ish. I feel like this is better suited to a wondrous item, or even just a plain ol spell.
Mummer's Slapstick - Mostly voted against. Personal bias against jokey items. Pink flamingos and cartoon birds take me out of it. I like that hitting someone laughing keeps everyone laughing. I like the gems made out of paste. Just didn't click with the basic idea.
I think one of the ideas behind this monster that's kind of lost in the noise is that it would use silent image to mislead prey about where to position itself (near a pit or spiky wall hidden by the illusion, for example), then Bull Rush that prey into the trap. Maybe that's how those abilities are intended to play off each other.
Name- Deeplit. Not crazy about it, but it does work.
Description- I get the confusion about colorless flame, but it made sense to me right off the bat. The face in the flames is nice too.
Special Abilities- I didn't like this monster the first time I read it, but upon re-reading it, I really like the Palelight Aura. For me that's the best part. It captures the essence of their nature. Consume light seems like a lot of bookkeeping, and potentially very overpowered. Pattern Susceptibility feels tacked on.
Nar-Voth appropriate- Yes. These belong in caves, but not too deep. They have to be creatures who long for the light, which means there should be some hope, however thin, that they might reach it.
Mojo- I'm torn. The flavor and the Palelight Aura are quite cool. But the mechanics of the special abilities need work. Still, I admire the creativity at work here!
Will players remember in 6 months- Probably. Mournful light-stealing flameheaded undead dwarfs! That's why you go adventuring in caves!
Name- Occularictus. Requires proper enunciation to say out loud. But I get it's an eye-based monster right off.
Description- Quite vivid. I want to see the art for this!
Special Abilities- Synergize well together and fit the theme. Also, creepy. One thing to note, this isn't a TPK machine. It doesn't want to kill the party, it just wants their sight. Given that players are underpowered to resist at the appropriate CR, it seems a little plot-devicey, but not unforgivably so.
Nar-Voth appropriate- Somewhat. I like the explanation for why they would be near the surface of the Darklands, but I'm not sure they're inherently Darklands creatures.
Mojo- Quite a bit. Sight-stealing eyeball swarm shows some good imagination and flair. I like their motivation as well, but not everyone will.
Will players remember in 6 months- Yes, without a doubt. No one forgets the sight-stealing eyeball swarm.
Name- Wimblewyrm. A little too cutesy sounding for me. But I know what to expect.
Description- Sufficient. Art would be easy to create from it, might not be as unique in appearance as it could be. Probably should mention the acid dripping from the horn.
Special Abilities- Burrowing underground creatures are pretty common. At the same time, these abilities seem very strong against stone structures, maybe too much so. These guys could cause massive damage. The abilities do make sense for thieving little earth dragons.
Nar-Voth appropriate- Sure. They're right at home in the environment and make sense interacting with the existing creatures there.
Mojo- It does all feel familiar. It's all logical, and probably some fun to be had, but nothing really surprises me here. Maybe instead of Jumble Stone, something more focused on the thieving aspect.
Will players remember in 6 months- More than most, this one depends on how it's used. It could be just another encounter with a wily dragon, or it could be the monsters that flooded Derroville. That latter would be remembered for sure.
Name- Blightbore. Kind of literal, but gets the idea across.
Description- The patterns on its hide are the interesting part. Could make for some cool art.
Special Abilities- Neat, but basically playing off an existing thing, blightburn. Still, it's a natural niche to fill.
Nar-Voth appropriate- I agree it does seem more Orvian, but it seems reasonable they'd also be roaming around Nar-Voth.
Mojo- Some. A lot of it is mixing existing concepts, but there's something the idea of the patterns that could work nicely with some development.
Will players remember in 6 months- To some extent. You don't meet radioactive worms every day. Won't be the most fun memory, though.
Name- Spiroskek. Doesn't bring anything to mind immediately, but fits once you read the text. Unique name that works.
Description- The image stands out, but I'm not totally clear on it. Is it 'riding' upright on the wheel? How does the sphere rotate if it's attached to the rest of it? Art would clear this up of course.
Special Abilities- The special abilities are mostly combat manuever bonuses. Logical, but not super-exciting. The silent image interaction feels like it's the key there, but it's not quite gelling for me.
Nar-Voth appropriate- Not especially. The backstory helps, but the concept itself doesn't feel closely tied to the Darklands. In fact, a monster that make a unique noise as it moves is at a disadvantage there. On the other hand, a fast moving monster in Nar-Voth could cause a lot of trouble. A little counter-intuitive, but it's a niche that something should fill.
Mojo- The idea of it, yes. Certainly imagination and theme at work here.
Will players remember in 6 months- Probably. It's one of the weirder things they'll have come across.
Name- Aetherling. Not having read the playtest material, my first thoughts run along the lines of steampunk material more than fantasy.
Description- Not a lot to go on here, very generic description. Not enough for unique art.
Special Abilities- These blend well together, and you can see how the idea is spend a move action to keep the wall up and a standard action to cast force javelin. That said, this seems like a very standoffish kind of monster, and the battles with them could be more annoying than fun.
Nar-Voth appropriate- Not especially. If I understand the aether concept at all, it's not limited to Nar-Voth, so why would these guys be?
Mojo- Some in the abilities area, but not so much in the fun area. They feel like reclusive artists, and they need to be either more elaborate along those lines, or take a different, more aggressive approach.
Will players remember in 6 months- Maybe, but likely mostly in a frustrating way.