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Mike Olson's page

27 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


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CourtFool wrote:
With “Limited Freeform” magic, it seems that magic would be the skill of choice since it could easily substitute for any other skill. With the right group, you might avoid that. Did this cause any problems in the games you were in? Did anyone express concerns they had “wasted” their top slot for a substandard skill?

I'm not Joel, but I'll answer this anyway, since I ran the game and use a similar magic system in my own fantasy FATE game.

The short answer: No, it's fine.

The long answer: Magic can't really substitute for every other skill by default -- you're limited by the special effects of what your magic can do. For example, Joel's air-and-beast mage (an odd combo, I'll admit) couldn't use his air magic to be persuasive in a conversation, or use his beast magic to read an ancient language. He'd still use Rapport and Academics for those.

Another balancing factor is the virtual necessity to take certain penalties to your magic-related skill rolls -- for example, to target multiple enemies or attack them at range -- which probably means spending Fate Points to bolster your odds of success. You're welcome to blow all your Fate Points on a giant fireball or something, but it'll also mean being subjected to more aspect compels to earn those Fate Points back.

In practice, I haven't seen spellcasters dominate non-spellcasters in any significant way.


joela wrote:
Mike Olson wrote:
Hooray! People are talking about me!
Typical GM. Always wants to be the center of attention ;-)

I've never been this much of a GM in my life. I'm running our monthly fantasy FATE game in San Diego, a weekly (or bi-weekly) Fantasy Hero game in Huntington Beach, and this swashbuckling FATE playtest for however long it lasts. It's a little ridiculous.

BTW, re: the Gamex demo of Legends of Anglerre, that's a work-in-progress fantasy conversion of Starblazer Adventures, from Cubicle 7. I'm part of the development team, and unless I'm mistaken, that was the first time it'd been playtested.

My own FATE conversion material, for a few different genres, can be found on my blog, Spirit of the Blank.


Hooray! People are talking about me!


Darkjoy wrote:

At this point I am not telling, I am suggesting.....

Sorry -- I was under the impression (based on numbers two and three on your list) that you were outlining rules, since "SRD Only" is obviously not a mere suggestion.

If what you're saying is that you were "suggesting" a rule, then my point stands. The judges would be ill-advised to say, "And listen, guys, nothing too crazy, okay?" Within mechanical limits, the authors need to have total creative freedom, IMO.

The definition of "something I can actually use" is going to vary greatly from one person to the next. Look at Blink Dog Nation. Me, I'm not into it, but there was at least one person who looked at that and said, "Finally! A blink dog nation!"


Darkjoy wrote:
1) No Gonzo

This is a matter of personal preference. If you don't like over-the-top entries, don't vote for them, but telling the authors "Don't do anything too crazy" is kinda ridiculous.


alex wrote:

I _think_ this is the final version of my submission.

Non-rapier of Wooing

This is, as far as I can tell, a big glowing penis.


Patrick Walsh wrote:
The DMG reference was probably a killer for this contest, but not in a general D&D submission. RPGA mods I've written include these references to make life easier for the DM.

I didn't even think about it until long after I'd submitted it. Duh.

Patrick Walsh wrote:
There is some weakness in the writing when talking about the aura as you could have said the same thing but with fewer words.

Yeah, when I posted it here and re-read it, I noticed some fresh ambiguities....

Patrick Walsh wrote:
The fact that the aura lasts 1 minute and you take damage only if you are in the aura for one minute limits the usefullness of this to almost zero. I'd reduce this to a shorter time so players will find it useful.

That was kind of an afterthought. I was basing the ice sheet on wall of ice, which also causes cold damage after one minute of contact. Probably an unnecessary detail.

Patrick Walsh wrote:
I like the description of the freezing fog billowing out of the cloak. I'd increase the range of the effect as few things billow out and stop at five feet. ;)

Really? Not on the billowing -- on the range. Five-foot increments for the charges seemed too ideal to pass up. Upon reflection, though, I probably should've just gone with 10' radius, three times a day, one minute per use. Much simpler.

Thanks very much for your feedback -- I really appreciate it.


All right. Just for the hell of it, I'll post my rejected item, the brumal cloak. I think what brought it down were its rather bland utility, its Swiss Army Knife-ness, and maybe its name. Invoking the DMG, though, was probably a bigger no-no than I realized. Also, the last sentence of the actual description, I realize now, would have been confusing to someone who wasn't, say, me, so I've excised it, but I'll include it afterwards.

Mike Olson wrote:


Brumal cloak: This heavy, ermine-collared garment constantly protects its wearer from extreme cold, as if by the endure elements spell, as well as providing resistance to cold 5. In addition, the brumal cloak has three charges that renew each day at dawn. Expending one or more charges causes a chilling fog to billow out from the cloak, creating an aura of extreme cold that coats the ground in an ice sheet (DMG, p. 91), instantly freezes water within its area of effect, and sheathes the wearer's lower body in ice. The ice sheath hampers the wearer's movement such that he cannot move more than 5 feet a round in any direction without immediately dissipating the aura. The aura does not move with him, in any case. Otherwise, the aura lasts for 1 minute, regardless of the charges expended.
1 charge: 5' radius
2 charges: 10' radius
3 charges: 15' radius
Any creature which remains within the area of effect for a full minute takes 1d6 lethal cold damage.
Minor abjuration, moderate evocation; CL 7th; Craft Wondrous Item, endure elements, resist energy, wall of ice; Price 28,000; Weight 5 lbs.

The missing sentence: "The wearer is immune to the cloak's effects." Unfortunately, that seems to imply that it applies to the cold resistance and element-enduring effects as well, which, of course, isn't what I meant at all, but oh well.


Some pretty weak writing here. Grammar is a problem, as others have said, as is repetition. For example:

"Five years ago he discovered his son and only heir had slept with one of his servants and impregnated her. In anger he struck the servant causing her to have a miscarriage. When his son confronted him, he struck the Prince with his scepter. Soon after, while holding his son in his arms, his son died of blood loss."

That's four instances of "his son" in four sentences -- two in the last -- and the one sentence that's spared this phrase is missing a comma ("...struck the servant, causing..."). You called him "the Prince" once, but never again, and it doesn't look like he ever got an actual name. You had 36 words to spare. Why not name the prince and the servant girl? It makes them, and, by extension, your country, that much more real.

I expect/want whoever goes on to the next round to have better writing skills than that. Ideas are important, obviously, but so is execution.


As for "the American fixation" with the first three letters of the country's name, I'd just like to suggest that Japan definitely has us beat there.

Breaking a kingdom with a sudden change of topology is a great idea -- so why didn't you do it? Instead of cutting a city in half, why not the entire kingdom? You'd still have many of the same opportunities and themes, but it's much more dramatic to have it happen on a larger scale. I'd like to see the kingdom grapple with trying to maintain unity across a mile-wide, leagues-long chasm. I'd like to see denizens of the Underdark climbing up the sides of the chasm under cover of night to wreak havoc on the world above. Keep the city itself, but make it one of many features of a nation rent asunder. There just seems to be so much possibility there that I'm not sure why you kept it as limited as you did.

Also, the language is clearly an issue, and not a small one. That alone is probably enough for me to pass on this submission. But then again, I'm one of those guys who's like that. You know the type.


The signpost was a red flag for me. First of all, it's kind of a terrible idea, and sounds more like something out of a Choose Your Own Adventure (or Endless Quest!) book than a D&D adventure. "Here are the three things you can do. Enjoy your day's worth of food." Second, it was poorly organized -- giving each option its own line would've been better instead of running them all together with commas (although I get that the author really likes commas). Third, the language used is uninspired and not at all evocative of the setting. Is that really what it says on the signpost? I doubt it would be that dispassionate. And if it is that dispassionate, that's even worse.

Overall, it's a neat idea, but the goal here is to pick someone to write for Paizo, and based on this entry, I'm not interested in reading more of this author's work. It seems like a lot of people are saying, "Oh, I can overlook the writing deficiencies," but it seems to me that that's a dangerously short-sighted attitude.


It strikes me that this is a very external description of this place. We get the outsiders' point of view. I don't see why it's important how and who discovered the place. If the author had concentrated more on the country itself rather than its discovery by another country, something better could've been made of this.

And rainbow trees... yeah, I agree with the others on that. Not only is it kinda Care Bears, but I have a hard time reconciling "demon-filled jungle" with "rainbows."


My first thought wasn't Elric or Krull, but Brigadoon.

Joe Outzen wrote:
When the land arrives at its destination, any existing land, including plants, animals, and constructions, is harmlessly shunted to the side.

I'm having a really hard time picturing how this works.

Joe Outzen wrote:
Whenever the land moves, the merchants of Rimgate quickly extend their streets and buildings past the gate to cater to those who would not enter Moros Akalein itself. Sometimes the masters of these shops and inns are left behind when the land moves.

I love this. In fact, I'd limit the artifact to affecting only Tara Akalein, and it can only move around within a fairly limited area -- a few hundred square miles, tops -- of varied terrain. Whenever it moves, it tends to leave some people and structures behind (accidentally or otherwise -- either they're across the line, or the artifact simply doesn't transport any buildings less than X days/weeks/months old), which give rise to new settlements, towns, and cities. The collection of these cities in this geographical area, then, would be the Moros Akalein. Makes for a neat, present background and a lot of flexibility.

Joe Outzen wrote:

Unbeknownst to the citizens and goverment of Moros Akalein, the depths of the land hold an infestation of duergar, which is now spreading into the dwarven lands.

The ancient red dragon Heneraxic has become obsessed with making the map of Phoroneus the centerpiece of his collection. To that end, he has trailed the Wandering Nation for over one hundred years, gathering allies and waiting for his opportunity to strike.

Also love these two hooks, especially the first.


Erik Mona wrote:
I do wish there were more bits about monsters other than genies and wild animals, though.

Re: wild animals, I think it was pretty clearly implied that there is no genuine "wild animal problem" -- those are the druids, not the wildlife. I'd say that an entire order of secretly evil spellcasters qualifies as monstrous.


I like the concept of were-elephants. A lot. I was expecting (eagerly) a country inspired by Indian mythologies.

I'm confused about the race of lycanthropes, though (Ukuke?). It doesn't make sense to me that they'd all be were-somethings and still be able to infect others with lycanthropy. For them, it shouldn't be a disease, so why can they transmit it in any way apart from breeding? I'd rather see the infection thing removed from them entirely, even though that means cutting the bits about infecting someone else being punishable by death, etc. I appreciate the tension there, but it's not clicking for me for reasons of internal consistency.

Warning: As this thing goes forward, grammar and sentence-construction issues are not going to be minor concerns.


Erik, as weird as this submission is -- I may have muttered "Seriously?" when I realized exactly what you'd created -- I'd be more inclined to throw a vote your way if you weren't trying to ingratiate yourself with the voting public. All of this "Come on, gang!" stuff really turns me off. It's unprofessional. Let your work stand on its own merits, and let your supporters do the cheerleading.


This is a world, not a country. You can't say "Humanity's close to exinction" without applying that to an entire world, and it seems odd to me that Agregia would be humanity's only home.


Clark Peterson wrote:
"You had me at severed head."

Damn, stole my line.

I was really put off by the writing here. Evocative imagery and an interesting conflict, but unless English is a second language for you, there's no excuse for writing this awkward.

[UPDATE: Apparently, according to a reply of yours I didn't get to before I replied myself, English actually is a second language for you. Ah. Well, that's something of a comfort, I guess. Still, the writing needs work. Get a helper monkey if need be.]

While I love the whole severed-head-of-a-god thing, it's pretty clear to me that he isn't the ruler -- the council of divine spellcasters is. If anything, the god's head is (wait for it!) merely a figurehead, an authority figure whose name the council can invoke to do whatever they damn well please. I like that a lot, but it doesn't feel like that's what you were going for.


I'm trying to imagine why this submission is 300 words short of the maximum, and I'm only coming up with three possible explanations: audacity, arrogance, or a simple mistake.

If the subtext to this is supposed to be that under the LG veneer of Iolandis everyone is crapping their pants about the Wound, then I would've liked to have seen that brought out a bit more.


CNB wrote:
Mike Olson wrote:
I'm working on a little something called Vecna's Cursed Coin of Awesome Foresight for next year. Watch for it!
I'm hoping you're at least planning on calling it something innocuous like Magic Coin.

No, the cool name is essential. Mechanically, though, it gives you a +1 insight bonus to Fort saves. But its despicable curse is such that it imposes a -1 penalty to Bluff checks. Truly wondrous!


There is an entire cottage industry to be made from ransacking Vecna's body and possessions.


I'm working on a little something called Vecna's Cursed Coin of Awesome Foresight for next year. Watch for it!


I guess mine -- the Brumal Cloak -- probably suffered from having a rather bland name (well, not "bland," per se, as "brumal" isn't a word you see every day, but it makes for, at best, a serviceable name) and possibly a bit of Swiss Army Knife-ness, what with it granting cold resistance, endure elements vs. cold, and the creation of a localized ice sheet around the wearer. And maybe the pricing was off, but honestly, it was a tricky thing to price. For me, anyway. I wonder if a DMG page reference violated the SRD-only rule. If so, then man....

My cloak did not, however, constantly billow, so at least I can take solace in that.

Regardless, it was fun to participate, and I'm glad to see so much feedback from the judges. You guys're great. Thanks for putting this thing on in the first place.


propeliea wrote:
The thing I'm sensitive to is that any serious writer wants to know even if it is brutal. So I can see from that side.

Totally. If you're going to write, you're going to have to learn to accept and even welcome criticism.


propeliea wrote:
Some of the 32 have those comments ;)

Then again, even more reason: Clearly they're not concerned about bruising a few egos.


Jeremy Clements wrote:

I think they only made comments on the upper 100 or so items. THe ones they threw back and forth deciding on...

In that case, I stand by my position. *shrug* Let's see the top 100. My only concern with seeing them all was that maybe some of the ones on the bottom would have some embarrassing comments -- e.g., "Why can't these idiots spell?" -- but the top 100 should be free of that sort of thing.


gbonehead wrote:

They've said "no" a number of times, in various ways. In my mind that's the most frustrating part of the whole contest: no feedback == no improvment next year.

I was totally accepting of that -- figured it'd be extra work for them -- until I saw that they've already made comments on every item. It would just be a matter of letting us see them, which would be zero extra work.


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