I'm still planning out my Reign of Winter Campaign (waiting for the entire AP to be released before starting) but the Black Rider's mantle seems a crucial point, particularly if a new character (or entire party) needs to be introduced.
From what I see, the issues involved and possible solutions are:
* The somewhat heavy-handed nature of the mantle that diminishes the PCs autonomy.
* The suddenly transferred nature of the mantle and how it is tied to the words and throat-cutting of the Black Rider.
* The absence of fore-warning in regards to Baba Yaga as anything other than the cold evil queen of witches.
* Have the PCs talk with the Black Rider; and then when the discussion is done have him remove his helmet for a nice Darth Vader reference. I think the picture of the Black Rider really plays this up too as he gets to view the world for the last time through his "own eyes". I think to see the humanity in one of Baba Yaga's servants is important if the PCs are going to buy-in to freeing Baba Yaga.
* With his mask removed, his death becomes imminent and irreversible. When he dies, perhaps his body dissolves into black wisps sucked into the helmet as well as the two keys; empowering each item with Baba Yaga's magic. [I think this might neatly parallel the nature of Baba Yaga's progeny and their relation to the Dancing Hut but I'm still not sure.]
* By doing this you can have the power of the mantle be attached to the PCs interacting with the helmet. They have the choice of accepting the benefits/geas or staying well away from it. Importantly for your original question this means that a new PC can tie themselves to the group by accepting the mantle (perhaps by performing a ritual involving the helmet). In the case of a TPK, you can have the helmet mysteriously appear somewhere with the entirely new party interacting with the helmet.
* Another thing I am planning is to provide a little more context for Baba Yaga. I plan to have the actual campaign in Snows of Summer start a little earlier than given. In particular, I want Old Mother Theadora to play an important initial role as the strange and eccentric "witch" woman. In her house, are many items relating to Baba Yaga (including that absolutely brilliant painting of Baba Yaga gifting the black rider with his helmet on p4). Perhaps this will motivate the PCs to ask a few questions of this strange entity that the Old Mother venerates while also being a pre-cursor of events to come. By presenting the "softer" side of Baba Yaga's nature, I hope to motivate the PCs (and the players) in their crucial decision to rescue her.
I'm hoping that such an approach will cover all the bases for the Black Rider encounter as well as the possible repercussions if a new PC or entire party are required to be introduced.
To each their own I suppose. What I'm guessing here is that people who love pizza with the works can't understand why someone would bother to order a pizza with the works and then painstakingly scrape off all the topping. If such is the measure of your pizza palate, go for it and eat with gusto - I don't believe there is a wrong way to eat pizza.
The character's behavior encompasses more an evil alignment than a chaotic one. Inquisitors may skirt the edge of right and wrong but followers of Ragathiel seem to be a little more black and white.
If I was role-playing this internal struggle, then I as the player would have discussed with the GM that my character is going to be shifting between these two aspects and thus losing abilities and regaining them (if such is allowed through atonement). I think this characterization angle would be pretty cool at the right table. If however, the player is just doing this for a triple deluxe cheese pizza with stuffed crust worth of goodies, then you most likely need to discuss the direction of the character with the player.
Cruelty is most certainly not what Ragathiel's lord of and so I think you need to address this first. If an act of vengeance of the character can be viewed as cruel (such as pulling wings off a sprite, burning them alive, etc.) then the player should expect their character to lose some of those obedience goodies.
I think as long as you clearly separate player from character when discussing this type of thing, you should be able to resolve it to everyone's satisfaction.
Practice in the shower. Seriously. Or in the car on the way to work.
Create lines that you could imagine the character saying in game and practice over and over. You'll pick out the words that aren't quite right and fix them. Do it enough and you'll be able to carry the accent more reliably.
Another idea is to listen to a stand-up comedian who has the accent you're after. I can remember honing my Scottish brogue listening to a heap of Billy Connolly. The big yin is absolutely brilliant!
I'm not worried about the travel aspects (I've described this as the Doctor Who Adventure Path - as a serious Whovian it is a main reason I wanted to run it) what I am worried about, a bit, is that the highly linear nature of the first book (and from what I've seen the next book as well) may grow boring for my players after a while - when they feel like there aren't many options for them to choose amongst.
Perhaps some of this comes down to the heavy influence of Nadya in book 1 and 2. If she wasn't there, or was there but in a reduced capacity, perhaps this would give the PCs more autonomy? Could this work?
I can imagine several different archetypes for Ranger that would nail the brief so perhaps it is not so clear-cut - the top 3 archetypes could all be rangers perhaps? I'm really hoping to see if one of the contestants has taken a risk with an Outsea-based archetype. I'm looking forward to seeing who has taken a risk in general and who has played it safe.
Thanks for taking up Neil's mantle this year. Super Cool!
Thanks for taking the time to give this a good read; I think my item really split the voters though. The writing in particular was appreciated by some but too densely crafted for the quick casual read that the voting format can tend to promote [reading so many entries can get pretty monotonous]. Unfortunately the effect was seen as too powerful by some or not powerful enough for the price by others. When you have voters divided on your mechanics as well as (or because of) how you convey them, your item is always going to struggle even though I think the core idea of this item is pretty solid.
I think this was a classic case of being so familiar with the item that I lost sight of how it reads. It forced readers to read it several times to fully grasp what was going on and you can't expect voters to do that.
Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
Here goes. I quite liked my item, but obviously was the only one, since no one's mentioned it yet at all (other than Eric's Big List o' Items).
I sympathize with you completely here. I thought my one was ticking every box I could think of... but obviously not as it has failed to receive one single piece of comment.
Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
I really like the concept; the problem you are attempting to solve. You nailed the description of the item - very impressive indeed. The first ability is a little wonky and I'm feeling it would be cool if it could be connected to the second ability in some way. The overall mechanics (basing it on initiative order), might not have been a premium choice. I'm not too sure though which direction to go. Perhaps forcing a target to delay while allowing at the same time another target to act at that point instead might have been interesting but then you have to be careful working around the multiple actions in one round thing (which is kind of clunky). [And perhaps not worrying about this might have been OK?] I think you made a good effort at this with the mechanics you did come up with but working with the initiative mechanics smoothly and clearly seems difficult to do. Definite props for giving it a go; this was certainly one of the better items in terms of concept, if not quite the solution it tried to provide.
I think this item was perfect for the boundaries you set for it. Essentially I would not change a single thing - the item was masterfully conveyed. Unfortunately, those boundaries might not have included enough "crunch" or "stuff" to convince the judges that you were the designer they were looking to top 32. I would have loved them to have given you that chance though. Reading that you were in the top 20 or so on public vote is certainly deserved. As an item, the Candle of Distant Reassurance "feels" like it should be part of the game. I'm sure it will end up in a future Paizo product somewhere.
Gentleman’s Ensnaring Cane
A miniature animate imp of carefully sculpted detail and paranoid disposition forms the handle crowning this 3-foot long cane of exquisitely polished mithral. Typically accompanied by the imp’s energetic protests and gesticulations, the holder finds a gentleman’s ensnaring cane clammy to touch, surprisingly weighty to heft, and slick to hold.
As a standard action, the holder activates the cane by thrusting it into the ground, holding it pinned. Upon impact, flailing ribbons of visible force coruscate out from the cane, ensnaring up to four target creatures of Gargantuan size or less within 100 feet (Reflex DC 20 negates). Fine threads of force tightly harness ground-based, underwater, and airborne targets: seizing them just above ground, submerged, and aloft respectively. Ensnared targets can defend themselves normally but are dimensionally pinned as though affected by a dimensional anchor spell and cannot through means mundane or magical shift from their ensnared position.
As a free action immediately before each ensnared target’s turn, the holder may twist the cane magically repositioning the target in a clear straight line to any unoccupied position within 100 feet of the cane (possibly generating attacks of opportunity). Then during the ensnared target’s turn, the target may perform actions unhindered, except attempts at movement are nullified.
At the start of the holder’s next turn, or if the holder prematurely unpins the cane or fails to maintain contact, the cane absorbs the desperately objecting imp and ends all magical effects (possibly causing falling damage).
The holder can only activate a gentleman’s ensnaring cane while the unabsorbed imp remains atop. If absorbed, the indignant imp sullenly reforms atop the bare cane at midnight.
Vomit in the bed and through a 3 year old's long hair at 2:00am and then again at 3:30am in the morning is not fun! [Washing hair and changing bed stuff and then still smelling it is the worst so I completely sympathize]. And your poor cat - I'm very sorry. :(
However, allow me to hopefully cheer you up. I reckon your efforts would not have gone unnoticed by Paizo staff as well as other 3PPs and I think they'd be crazy not to throw something your way. And further, there are lots of regulars here who would have something in common. When thinking about Anthony Adam, the image of that avatar would come immediately to our minds as well as a smile, thinking of the fantastic work you did that the top 32 are most likely utilizing. Hopefully a mountain of good will your way counts for something. :)
This is one of only three items I didn't get to see during voting that made top 32. While familiar, I think it is in a good way, similar to the Candle of Distant Assurance. It's something I could just imagine in a fantasy world; so very well done. I look forward to seeing your development across the competition.
This one was one of several favorites for me and certainly one of the best of the top 32. I think your online activity over the years means that your "name" is one that registers well for many regulars - I think definitely take it as a compliment of your online presence and input. I hope you do well in the coming rounds.
Well done Michael with your walking stick and ideas that I thought were neatly done and effective. I did a Gentleman's Cane (Walking Stick) and wrestled with the question of whether my item was actually a wondrous item or a rod too. Considering that a sword-cane had been published as a wondrous item, I thought that was kind of the all clear. In your design, the walking stick is pivotal to the overall concept and impression of the item, so I think you were on solid ground.
I think the item is a little under-priced but this is where you have to leave the pricing formula alone and compare to other wondrous items (rather than rods funnily enough). Imagine a character who would wish to use this and then compare it to other wondrous items that character would get or want access to. You'd most likely find it slightly higher (but not by much) than what you came up with but as the judges have said before, pricing is easily fixed and so not a make or break issue. You may not have got it right but I don't think you got it wrong (to quote Clark from that Superstar panel).
Anyway, looking forward to seeing what you come up with in future rounds and best of luck.
My initial top 6 from the judges top 32 (not in any order):
Icon of Aspects
This may change when I go through all the items but that's what coincides with my keep list.
Isaac Duplechain wrote:
My favorite was the birdcage of masterwork knives. I don't remember the name.
I think that was the Roost of Razors and that was certainly in my top 32 along with the Candle of Distant Assurance. Both of those were strong keeps for me.
Eric Morton wrote:
I kind of feel like poor map guy's missing half the ride though. Poor guy... must be feeling pretty bad... maybe...
Anyway Eric, best of luck and I hope you get that magic triple. I'm looking forward to seeing how many of the regulars make it in as much as my own fate. Best of luck everyone and see you all at judgment hour.
Clark Peterson wrote:
You know what is truly evil? Reading your posts and knowing which of you made it and which of you didn't. Hehehehe.
My routine for the last two years has been to look at my inbox, wait patiently until 5 past the hour, drop the head slightly, then go look at the Top 32. You can start laughing now Clark.
Clark Peterson wrote:
I'm guessing startling absence here (as strong presence might not be as much of a surprise) which means that [looks at voter status] ... yeah... OK... ummm... I'll start focusing on my round 2 archetype... maybe... ;)
You sir are evil (and must be loving this).
Joshua Allen wrote:
If an item fell too far down the list to get specific comments from judges (and I imagine that is the majority) would it still be possible to get a 'placing'? Eg. I start a critique thread for my item and get a simple: Your item placed 734/1100. Better luck next year.
SKR commented on this, to the effect that you either make top 32 or you don't. Clark has also commented that the top 89 are mathematically significant in terms of voting. I suppose the majority of people are going to learn more about design from actual feedback rather than just a number; a number won't help anyone improve is the vibe I'm getting.
I've entered twice before and been correctly rejected both times. On both occasions I felt like I had a chance but in hindsight I can easily see the mistakes. My first time was a classic plot device that mucked around with time travel (SKR posted his Hitler sword less than a day after I submitted and so I knew straight away I was toast, presumably having supplied him with a measure of inspiration). Last year I had some interesting wrapping but the core idea was not Superstar.
This time around I hope I've done it but I can't help but feel the pain of those first two rejections, hoping to avoid a third. I'm cautiously eager if that makes any sense.
...And, though I know Paizo will never release which items got passed over, I can't help but be curious which ones floated to the top that still got an instant-veto from the judges. (Please not me, please not me... :P)
If it was my item, I'd obviously be disappointed but at the same time, I'd love to read the feedback why it got rejected by the judges. I think it would be a fantastic opportunity for learning; even though "my" item was a success in the public voting, "this" is why the judges looking at it with an experienced eye rejected it. That would be a very valuable design lesson for the public. If the Critique My Item sub-forum gets up and running, hopefully the judges might pop their heads into a thread or two for such feedback.
Well done to everyone who voted with huge props to our three Champion Voters: Thomas LeBlanc, CHEERS and Feros. Completely awesome!
Gary, if possible can you say who had the most votes out of the Marathon voters? I think like a few, I got to Marathon and then eased up but are there any voters who went for Champion but didn't quite get there?
Orcus Of Undeath wrote:
I have one question. Does flavor text have to explain how the class is unique to the River Kingdoms? Is detailing on that topic necessary with flavor?
I think SKR used a better word than "unique": "native". It is best if an archetype is native to the River Kingdoms and I suppose the introductory paragraph is where people are going to be looking for that River Kingdom tie-in. However, if you can imbue River Kingdoms flavor into other parts of the submission as well (such as in an ability name) with minimal distraction, then that would be a good way of producing a cohesive flavorful River Kingdoms Archetype submission.
I saw my item four times (all post-cull) and voted for it each time. I was really proud of my item and the effort I put into it and so I think I would have really struggled to vote against it despite seeing lots of good items (I had 85 in my "keep" word doc) across the voting period.
Neil Spicer wrote:
...The only second-place prize is your participation, your education on game design, and your involvement in the Paizo/Pathfinder community and the industry as a whole.
I think this (as the whole post is) is an interesting perspective on RPG Superstar. I think Neil you are providing some very good advice for would-be competitors: don't get too wrapped up in the process, focus on the end goal - becoming a freelancer for Paizo. There were some excellent podcasts from Paizocon a couple of years back on exactly this topic where Wes in particular spelled out what Paizo needed from freelancers and what they didn't.
In the scheme of things whether you came 37th or 737th makes zero difference to that end goal where as learning from the process is far more important (and anyone who has spent time voting has assuredly learned lots on design). However, for people looking for encouragement to get more involved in the community, the Critique my item thread should be the place to go rather than seeking out a ranking number. The Critique my Item thread this year should be spectacular considering how many people will have seen everyone's entries and been forced to consider them. Whether you're doing this process to become a freelancer or just want to see how you scored, I think that thread will be gold.
Saint Caleth wrote:
I copy/pasted each item I saw into reject and keep word docs (I think I saw all but about 50 or so items based upon what a couple of posters are predicting). Once the top 32 have been revealed, PM the name and I'll PM it back to you if I've got it. Of course even better is if you make top 32, then Paizo will do this publically for you instead. Best of luck; hope for you it is the latter.
James Raine wrote:
My greatest hits list has forty two entries. Y'all are picky.
My "Keep" folder ended up with 85 items in it. I included numerous items that the judges would have previously described as a "weak" keep. I'll sort them into a 32 item list and post it when allowed.
Sounds like excellent practice for the top 32.
I think the biggest thing for me is that all the advice I have read and heard from the judges has been put into context. I see exactly what they mean.
The hardest thing for me though is the waiting; not only to see how many of the regular posters here make top 32, but to discuss some of the items that were so good, or others that could have been brilliant if only they had included this or more likely not included that.
So much fun ahead whether I make it in or not.
Anthony Adam wrote:
I am also looking forward to seeing everyone's top 5/10/32 lists (and most particularly the official one). I'd love to see if my item made any of the lists and I reckon there's about 50 items I have not seen yet based on other threads so there is curiosity for me from several angles for such lists to be legal after public voting finishes.
A thread playing by the following rules would possibly be OK in terms of keeping anonymous I think if they allowed it.
* You type your top 5/10/32 list labeling it [Ordered] or [Unordered]
However, if such a thread is against the rules [that is the voting period finishes when the Official Top 32 are revealed rather than when public voting finishes], or Paizo don't want us to do such a thread until the reveal, that is cool too. We've waited this long and got to see right behind the curtain and play judge ourselves so either way, I am and have been a happy camper. The whole process this year has been brilliant! :)
Amy Gillespie wrote:
I'm wondering if deep down, I'm in a similar place to you here. I think I'm one of those sporadic flashes of inspiration/imagination people and I might have had one of those moments for the Wondrous item round. What if I get in and I have to have another flash to stay in it, and then another and another? I think it would be an exciting ride but certainly very stressful. Perhaps you have to look within and focus on how much you want the huge opportunity this contest represents, and that keeps the fears and doubts away.
I've seen a lot of items with hyperlinks and it had no impact on how I voted. If two items were exceptionally close in quality, I'd prefer to tiebreak them on which one had the better name or which one was more original rather than which one did or did not include hyperlinks.
...That said, I don't flat-out think that complex words are a bad thing. It's a personal judgement call. For me, it boils down to this. Did they use the RIGHT word? Words have subtleties to them and they can invoke various imagery and connotations when used properly. Sometimes an obscure word is perfect...sometimes a simpler one carries more weight. If I have to look a word up, but I come away feeling like "Wow...perfect word choice," then good on you.
Very much this!
Jack Vance (one of my very favorite authors) is renowned for his florid style. His use of overblown language was fantastic at getting across the pretentiousness and/or intellect of many of his characters. However despite this and perhaps the reason why he could get away with it was his faultless diction. And while I have always appreciated a dictionary nearby when reading his stuff, such mastery of the English language is both beautiful and enriching to read.
In terms of RPG Superstar though, I think you you dance a very fine line when putting your vocabulary out there for everyone to see. Never use a complex word when a simple word suffices. However, riffing off of agirlnamedbob, the more correct word in my opinion is always better, even if it is the more complex word.
I think Adam was correct though to ding the item with the three words as they obviously distracted him from the item; and when you're looking for a reason to differentiate between two items, the reasons given were perfectly valid.
Jacob Trier wrote:
Now that was special. I hope you both make top 32 and he nails his archetype. All class!
Try the pathfinder wiki here. However, I have over a shelf of pathfinder books and the Guide to the River Kingdoms is certainly in my top 10 if not top 5 of the entire collection. My understanding is that the top 32 receive pdf copies so between the wiki and a free copy if you make it in, you'll most likely be fine. Alternatively, purchasing a copy is full of win too.
I haven't used the neither button yet and have mentioned before a preference that they trial blanking it for a day or two to see what happens. I kind of figure that if I'm trying to make top 32 and hopefully beyond, the least I can do out of respect for everyone else submitting their wondrous items is decide which item is better; even if the two items are effectively last in the queue. I haven't gotten tired of the process yet - I'm just loving playing at judge.
I'm still reading Guide to the River Kingdoms for ideas as well as working out what boxes need to be ticked to make an archetype superstar-worthy. I printed out all the judges comments from the 2011 archetype round and there's lots of subtle (and not so subtle) advice in there. A lot of of the top 32 that year struggled; where as this time with a lot more experience and advice around, I think competition will be fierce.
You are completely correct. I'm not much help when I get a simple example wrong. :(
Trying again, the passive (I think ;) ) would be:
The gold band is decorated by several glistening jewels
versus the active:
Several glistening jewels decorate the gold band
And thanks Sean for digging that particular thread up. It's a good discussion on active vs. passive where I think your advice is perhaps the most cogent:
Yes, there are times where passive voice is better or sounds better... but writing in passive voice is a trap for far too many writers, and recognizing both types and knowing when to pick one over the other is a step toward being a better writer.
Best RegardsHerremann the Wise
The active voice is where the subject performs the verb. The passive voice is where the subject receives the verb's action. The passive voice uses "is", "are", "have been" and other forms of the verb "to be". The active voice uses all the other verbs. [This is not to say that the passive voice is bad or inferior, just more suited to explaining things than describing them.]
For example (italicizing the verbs), compare the passive voice:
Several glistening jewels are on the gold band.
To the active voice:
Several glistening jewels decorate the gold band.
While a simple example, it highlights how the active voice is more direct, livelier, and concise; all properties of good writing. I think there was a good thread on this a couple of years back.
I blame the neither button. The better items always get voted on by everyone. However I'm sure there's a quite a few people who regularly use the neither button when two lesser items come up. As these lesser items get voted on less, the probability mechanism prioritizes these lesser items to get their vote numbers up to the better items. Combine this with the greater number of mediocre items to brilliant items and you have your reason why you see some items a lot more than others and the better items less so than the mediocre ones.