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Silver Dragon

Neil Spicer's page

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor. Goblin Squad Member. Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 5,500 posts (9,189 including aliases). 1 review. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 17 aliases.



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RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

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So, it's certainly no surprise that I've followed along with the various threads here in the RPG Superstar forum (as I do every year), just catching up on some of the differences and nuances of this iteration of the contest, and it's always heartening to see a lot of newcomers and first-timers announcing they're giving it a go. It's also cool to see the eligible veterans returning to take another crack at it. Trust me, that kind of perseverence can pay off big-time! Just ask Mike Welham and Steve Helt. And yet, it's also possible that someone totally new to RPG Superstar (or even Pathfinder) can go pretty far, too.

But, before we see who makes the Top 32 (plus alternates!), there's the public voting round to help sort the better items towards the top of the list, and this is a necessary step which eases the burden on the primary judges who go on to select the actual competitors for the Top 32. As such, I think it's important to share a bit of carefully considered advice I have for everyone...and this comes both as a former-competitor of RPG Superstar, as well as my time serving as a judge for a few years.

If your experience while voting is anything like prior years...or, if it's anything like what the main judges went through when we sorted the submissions on our own...you're going hit a wall at some point which I like to call "The Wall of Voter Fatigue and Frustration." It's that point where you've seen a certain item you've downvoted time and time again, and you just lose patience with it. Or, it'll be an item which--from a design standpoint--just isn't quite ready yet. It may have mishandled certain rules or use of the submission template. It may be a joke item or an ill-considered one. Or a seemingly blatant rip-off of some intellectual property. And so on. Bottom line, it'll be situations like that which will continually try your patience and your sanity. But here's my advice...

Take a deep breath. Soldier on. Vent if you have to, but carefully consider how and where you do it.

Why?

Because it's as important how you conduct yourself during the voting process as it is in how you conduct yourself as an RPGSS competitor...or how you conduct yourself as an RPGSS judge...or how you conduct yourself as a future freelancer...or how you conduct yourself when representing a company you work for (like Paizo, hopefully). If you vent too harshly...apply too much snark...or simply fail to convey the wit you thought you were giving versus the venom it was interpreted to be...you risk reducing the esteem which others might have felt towards you, the contest, and themselves. And, perhaps more importantly, you run the risk of absolutely walking all over someone's dream with a total lack of sensitivity.

Now, some will say that's sugarcoating things for would-be designers who ought to learn here and now that they'll need some seriously thick skin if they intend to work as a freelancer in the RPG industry. However, consider this: Not everyone who enters RPG Superstar does so with the intention of becoming a freelancer. Some do it for fun and to feel a part of the Pathfinder/Paizo community. In addition, even if they do have aspirations of becoming a paid freelancer, you're not necessarily doing them the favor you think you are by blasting your feedback at them via a medium like the internet which does very little to carry any emotive content behind your words. What you thought was cute may be received as harsh, and not just by the one you intended to receive your commentary. Onlookers will develop an opinion of you, as well.

So, carefully consider how you conduct yourself during the voting process when you feel that urge to rail against a particular design or design choice. Even when veiled in as much vagueness as you hope to muster with your comments, there will be people out there who will endure a tremendous amount of stress wondering if your negative feedback applies to them or their item. And, even if you yourself are ready to take that kind of criticism, it doesn't mean you can assume everyone else is by extension. What's more, you run the risk of fostering an environment where others feel emboldened to take the criticism to an even higher level. And, unlike the judging forums where we used to hide that kind of rage-venting in the past, the voting public tends to air their views in plain view and in greater numbers. So, it can start to drain the life and enthusiasm out of the participants.

Therefore, if you take this contest (and your own design skills) super-seriously, you may want to start emulating that which you want to become...i.e., a professional freelancer...by demonstrating a professional demeanor in how you conduct yourself in the various feedback threads, voter frustration threads, and so on. Last year, we had a "Voters' Incessant Ramble" thread which kind of got super-negative and deflating for some contestants. It was eventually offset by a "Voters' Incessant Praise" thread, but not nearly to the same degree as the piling-on which took over the prior one. Eventually, there was even a "Critique My Item" thread which the voting public helped host as a nod towards the same kind of forum the primary judges used to host in the past. All three of those discussion threads are good places to practice the professional demeanor I'd like to encourage. And, if you can conduct yourself in that manner, believe me, people will take notice. And, if you don't conduct yourself in that manner, people will also take notice.

That's how life works. It's always easier to tear down something than to build it up. And people are always watching and judging you by your own public behavior.

So, it's my hope that, as people go into the public voting round, and as the judges put on their judging hats, and people start offering feedback to the competitors in whatever forum, that everyone goes into it with a commitment towards being as supportive as you can afford to be. Not to sugarcoat or handhold or give someone a free pass on a poor design. Rather, in spite of those things, to carefully consider the feedback you give so it doesn't damage the feelings of the receiving party in a way that totally ruins their ability to enjoy and participate in the contest and the hobby. Educate and build people up where you can. Bite your tongue and remain silent if you're completely unable to find anything positive to say alongside your critique. Basically, just focus on helping this contest continue as one of the best things going in the RPG industry right now.

And that's my two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

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Sweet! Love seeing Ultimate Rulership among the 3PP print products. Thanks, Liz!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Now available! :-)

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Congrats, Steven. From one Superstar to another, well done and well-deserved.

I also think the tea leaves were kind of pointing to this outcome based on your performance in prior rounds and the professional approach you brought to your designs. Now that it's official, however, I also want to remind you of a few things I recalled from your postings in the Superstar forums in 2010 when I put up a thread called "Advice For Those Who Missed The Cut"...

Steven Helt wrote:
I think maybe several of us submitted items we thought were great, and it's an awkward place to know you need to be polite and give the Superstars their due, while reading some items and thinking "really?"....I speak only for myself when I admit I read some items, I get locked out of the contest three years in a row, and I start to wonder if I just don't understand what a Superstar item even looks like....However - this contest is great for Paizo, great for the hobby, and really demonstrates the passion a lot of people have. It sucks to be balancing, "I deserve to be there" with "Obviously the judges didn't think so," but what is redeeming is that there are other ways to pursue work, and there is a great commuity here to join with and help cultivate Superstars this year and beyond. We are told over and over, it isn't about us....it's about one item at one time. It might be hard to remember that, but it's true. All you can do is be a good sport, wish everyone luck, and be a good-natured critic of ideas in coming rounds to sharpen the remaining contestants. And - design is fun. Talking about design is fun. Thinking about design is fun. Losing ourselves in that cheerfully makes the competition better for everyone.

So, now that you find yourself on the other side of all that, how do you feel now, man? :-)

Nothing worth doing (or accomplishing) comes easy. You paid your dues. You learned and adapted. Guys like you and last year's winner, Mike Welham, continue to serve as examples of what happens when you don't give up hope, keep trying and working hard, and bring your A-game when your opportunity finally comes. I was thrilled when I saw you'd made the Top 32 this year. And now I'm doubly so at seeing you take the prize. Hat's off, man. Well done.

My only challenge for you now is to see you take it to the next level. This is when the real game begins. And unlike RPG Superstar, it never has to end. You can keep it going for as long as you want it to...

Best wishes,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Who's ready for the harsh, stinging bite of winter? The malevolence of the evil, cold-hearted fey? And the utter cruelty of Irrisen's White Witches? Because, there's a storm coming. And you'd better bundle up.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.

To The Top 8 (And Anyone Else Interested In Reading Along):

I thought this might be a good time to reflect for a moment on just how far everyone's come in the contest...as well as the opportunity which lies before you. I'm not sure it's always readily apparent to everyone who's watching from outside the actual competition, but the RPG Superstar contest enters a much different phase when you make the Top 8. Look around at who's still standing there next to you. The field is a lot smaller than that long list of names you saw when the Top 32 first got announced. Recognize your brothers-in-arms, both those still standing there with you...and those who'll hopefully be back next year.

You're also going to notice that the pressure increases at this point, too. It's something you'll need to learn to deal with. A lot of those missteps and mistakes you made in prior rounds aren't going to be easily forgiven now. Everyone (the judges included) expects you to apply the lessons imparted to you...not just by the judges, but also the things the voters pointed out when commenting on your designs. This is also the place where the rubber really meets the road. You're doing encounter designs now, the basic building blocks in adventure writing. This is the round where everyone really gets a sense of how well you can put things together to create an entertaining, game-appropriate product they'd be eager to buy. So you need to put your best stuff forward now. There's no room for holding back.

I'd also like to point out that even as the pressure increases here, so too does the opportunity. Everyone's eyes are on you. That includes Paizo developer, Mark Moreland, the man who holds the key to granting you writing opportunities on future products. Other third party publishers are watching, too. And, even if you don't make it into the Top 4, a really well-designed encounter coupled with your prior work in earlier rounds can still serve as a compelling enough portfolio to give you an opportunity of your own making. Whether that's a shot at writing a monster for a future Paizo bestiary, a short PFS scenario, or a new PDF product from another publisher, you're standing on a field ripe with opportunity. What you do in this round can help determine how many of those opportunities come your way.

Some of us were reflecting earlier in the judges' chambers on how much stuff RPG Superstar alumni have gone on to write since the contest's inception back in 2008. It's quite a staggering list of accomplishments. Here are just the adventure-writing examples:

Spoiler:

Adventure Path authors:
Clinton J. Boomer (1)
Matt Goodall (1)
Rob McCreary (3)
Jason Nelson (4)
Neil Spicer (5)
That's 5 AP authors and 14 adventures from a contest that's been running 5 years.

Pathfinder Module authors:
Matt Goodall (1)
Jim Groves (1)
Rob McCreary (2)
Christine Schneider (1)
Neil Spicer (1)
Sam Zeitlin (1)
That's 6 adventure authors and 7 adventures...which will become 8 adventures once one of you goes on to become this year's RPG Superstar.

Pathfinder Society Scenario authors:
Dennis Baker (1)
Jesse Benner (1)
Benjamin Bruck (2)
Matt Goodall (1)
Jim Groves (2)
Hal Maclean (1)
James F. MacKenzie (4)
Rob McCreary (1)
Sean McGowan (1)
Neil Spicer (1)
Russ Taylor (1)
Jerall Toi (1)
That's 13 adventure authors and 17 adventures...which should increase by an additional 3 or 4 scenarios for those of you that make the Top 4.

That's not even counting the myriad contributions of RPG Superstar alumni to the Pathfinder RPG line, the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting line, or the Pathfinder Player's Companion line. Folks like Jason Nelson, Russ Taylor, and a whole host of others have been contributing mightily to all those products for years now. Open up your Inner Sea World Guide, the Advanced Player's Guide, Bestiary 2, Bestiary 3, Ultimate Combat, and Ultimate Magic and check a few of the names for those contributing authors. Look at all the softcover books published for those lines, as well. You might be surprised at just how many of those authors came through RPG Superstar.

That could be you.

Exactly half of the upcoming adventure path for Skull & Shackles...the premier, flagship product line for Paizo...was written by competitors from RPG Superstar. The same is true for the award-winning Kingmaker AP. Additionally, two RPG Superstar alumni were actually hired by Paizo and work there still.

That could be YOU.

This contest opens doors. A lot of them.

And they're really cool doors, too. Jason Nelson and I have written for Legendary Games. Clinton J. Boomer, Trevor Gulliver, and Matthew Banach have all done work for Rite Publishing. John Bennett has done work for a third party publisher, as well. And many others have found their work accepted in Wayfinder or Kobold Quarterly or Open Design. And all of them didn't win the contest's ultimate prize. But all of them did get bitten by the design bug as a result of this contest. And, they parlayed their experiences here into having their work professionally published.

So, I'd like to remind everyone still competing in this year's contest...and even those of you who landed outside the Top 8 or Top 16 or Top 32...to keep your eye on the prize. Not just the chance to write an RPG Superstar Pathfinder module...or even a PFS scenario. That's not the prize I'm talking about. The prize you want to shoot for in this effort is a sustained presence as a freelance designer...someone with multiple opportunities to write in the industry, no matter where that might be.

This round of RPG Superstar is a great launching pad for that kind of opportunity. You're not just writing for the voters now. You're also writing for yourself and that entire audience of publishers out there. And you want to convince them you've got what it takes. That you can do this...dependably, professionally, to a Superstar-worthy level. So bring your A-game, guys. The encounter round has many great examples from prior years of the competition which you can follow. Do your homework. Then, do your best. That's all we can ask of you. And that's certainly what you should be asking of yourself. Just keep your eye on the prize!

Sincerely,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.

In the Official "Critique My Item" Thread, I mentioned I'd be starting a separate forum in which to do a deeper-dive analysis on a handful of selected items which missed out on the Top 32. This will be the place where I do that. If any of you followed along last year, you probably already know my process. I basically go line-by-line through a submission, giving the same type of feedback you might get from a developer or an editor. I'm neither of those things, however. I'm just a guy who's gone through the contest before, who then went on to write some stuff for Paizo, and eventually came back to serve as a judge. I'll do my best to examine the pitfalls these items fell into...at least, in terms of why they didn't get pulled up into the Keep folder or stick around for the Top 32. But, anything I share here will still primarily be my own opinion...and it's just a single opinion...not necessarily a definitive one. Hopefully, you guys can take from it what you can, apply the lessons universally to your stuff (whether I select your specific item for a review or not), and then come back better prepared for next year.

Now, I also want to stress one other thing. I'm NOT going to be able to do reviews on every item that requested feedback. There's just too many and I'd go brain dead before I could even get halfway through them. In prior years, Clark and the other judges eventually had to abandon these larger reviews, because they reached their breaking point and the information you're conveying becomes very repetitive anyway. We should be able to talk about items which ran into the exact same pitfall in general terms by selecting and reviewing a single item to represent that particular problem. The trick for you guys following along is to assess the discussion of these items and determine how much the lesson-learned might apply to yours. And, quite frankly, you'll improve much more if you come to these realizations than if you just wait for the judges to point them out for you. That's because improving as a game designer (much like education, in general) is far more in your hands than just the hands of the one talking about a particular lesson.

So, one other thing before I get started. Once I post a review here, please don't attempt to engage me in a back-and-forth rules discussion or a bunch of clarifications. I'm not interested in justifying anything or being put in a position where I have to defend what I've posted. And I'm not interested in hearing your own justifications for why you chose to do something or why you disagree with the conclusions the judges drew. If these critiques are helpful to you, great. If they're not, that's fine, too. As I said, it'll only be one opinion on the things I think could have made your entry stronger. And, because I'll try to move through as many feedback requests as possible...and, due to my obligations to the current RPG Superstar competitors...I won't have time to come back and discuss your items in any more detail than what I manage to provide here for you. I hope everyone understands. It's my goal to be as helpful as I can, but I can't be all things to all people. And contrary to popular belief, I do have a life outside of RPG Superstar I'd like to pursue away from the messageboards.

Cool. Now let's begin.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

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Just curious. Every year, there's usually a lot of folks who indicate a favorite wondrous item among the submissions. Or, they may proclaim a grouping of favorites. I can tell you from prior experience, it's always a lift when you see a lot of folks indicating which items would make their Top 5 and yours makes their list. So, despite the fact that there's no voting in Round 1 by the general public, if you did have votes to spend, which items would make your Top 5? And why?

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

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Well, I'm glad to report the judges have established all the items receiving "automatic bids" into the contest and they're now in the process of spending "golden tickets" on the "at-large bids." Alternates are being designated in a similar fashion. We should all be on record by sometime tomorrow. Then, we'll review all our comments on each item and adjust them for readability and public consumption. After that, Ross and Gary will take over to get the forum ready. And, hopefully, the guest judges can get started a little early on their feedback for this year's designers.

I have to say, it's been an interesting mix this year. You can tell which designers have really applied themselves in not only trying to stand out with an innovative, compelling idea, but also those who tightened down on the presentation, professional polish, and thorough mechanics. Those are all very good design goals as they're ultimately what sets apart the Keep's from the Top 32. There's going to be a lot of excited folks in just a few days. Best of luck to everyone. The judges (and voting public) are eager to see all your names on the other side. Get ready to kick this contest into high gear. 'Cause, it's about to get real.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

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Good news, Superstar hopefuls! The judges have completed their initial pass through all the items in the submission folder. Everything is now sorted into its proper place...with a handful of promising items in the Keep pile and the others in the Reject pile. Now begins a process I like to term, "The Winnowing."

The Winnowing:

Spoiler:

This basically boils down to the judges going back over the Keep pile to reaffirm their individual votes on each item. Those which garner a strong Keep vote from all the judges quickly find themselves placed in a unanimous grouping. These are almost always universally destined to make the Top 32. After that, we group those which get at least three Keep votes from the judges. Then, there's another grouping with only two Keep votes. And, lastly, there's a much smaller collection of any items a judge may have marked for possible "golden ticket" status even though they may be the only one championing it.

Once we've got everyone on record, we'll double-check the Keep votes to see how many might be Weak Keeps...a term the judges use to denote something they weren't overly enthusiastic about, but deemed the item still worthy of consideration during review time. So, for example, if an item collected two strong Keep votes and two Weak Keep votes, that means it still might not be as strong as another item where three judges had strong Keep votes, but one judge voted to Reject it.

It's all rather subjective. And that's really what "The Winnowing" process involves. There's a lot of hyper-analysis at this stage. We hold up a number of items to compare them one another. And, we do a lot of looking past just the item itself to try and determine what its design tells us about the designer. Because, honestly, we're not interested as much in the items. We're looking for designers here. There's no collection of wondrous items we're expecting to insert into Ultimate Equipment guide. Instead, we're looking for 32 designers (plus 4 alternates) which we can take through the paces of the actual contest, where--round by round--we'll be coaching them and watching to see how much they grow and learn. That's the real goal of the contest. And all of you who submitted have taken your shot at getting your foot in the door so you can take advantage of this opportunity. Where else can you get this kind of professional insight into your designs all in one multi-week crash course of tasks intended not just to test your skills, but hone them as well?

Only in RPG Superstar, of course!

So, buckle in and strap down people! The judges are about to get down to the serious business of assessing your items now. And, if you're one of the lucky few in the Keep folder, you can rest assured we'll be looking at all those elements which help it stand out. In other words, the elements which make it...Superstar!


Best of luck to everyone,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

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I debated about posting this advice/rant/what-have-you, but I think it's important to get it out there. Basically, the title of this thread really says it all. What's the difference between a "wonderous" item and a "wondrous" item in the game terminology of Pathfinder? I can tell you that one is appropriate. And the other is not. It's become a real pet-peeve of mine. One which I brought up last year in several individual "Judges, Please Critique My Item" reviews.

If the RPG Superstar contest calls for a wondrous item submission as the litumus test for making the open call and joining the Top 32, that's what it should be. And if magic item crafting always includes the Craft Wondrous Item feat in a wondrous item's construction requirements, it should be called that. Not Craft Wonderous Item. Learn the difference. And live it.

Technically, "wonderous" is an acceptable spelling in certain dictionaries. It's synonymous with "wondrous"...but, I think a lot of people use "wonderous" not because they know it's a valid way of spelling "wondrous"...but rather, because they don't realize how "wondrous" is spelled. They just assume these magic items are filled with "wonder" and so it must be spelled "wonderous." Some spellcheckers mark this as an incorrect word. So that should be a clue right from the start. Others don't, however, but that's really no excuse (in my opinion).

The bottom line for me is that "wondrous" is right in the Core Rulebook. It's the given spelling for that entire category of magic items. And it's spelled out for you right in the submission guidelines for the first round of the RPG Superstar contest. "Submit a wondrous item in 300 words or less." On top of that, I called this out repeatedly last year in several critiques for folks. I even mentioned it in an entirely separate thread in the general forum discussions last year. So, if anyone misses this distinction, it tells me they don't know their game terminology or they haven't done their homework...whether looking through the Core Rulebook, the submission guidelines, or any of the advice/critique threads.

So here's the deal: I've seen items make the Top 32 last year with "Craft Wonderous Item" in the construction requirements (primarily because their mojo helped lift the core idea and editors could reasonably correct for a simple misspelling like that if this were an actual freelance submission). Regardless, I don't like seeing items come through that get this wrong. The other judges may feel otherwise, but I don't see it as a simple oversight or something that's too nitpicky to hold against a submission. If designers don't understand the correct game terminology of "wondrous" vs. "wonderous" what else might they miss if they went on to compete in RPG Superstar? It's got to be the most basic thing to this competition. You're designing wondrous items. They're called that in the game. The first round of the competition (for five years running) asks for wondrous item submissions. And people still call them "wonderous"...?

That's a problem. And it's one I'm personally marking people down for (even if just on a subconscious level)...

Thankfully, I'm only one of four judges. If the other three still want to elevate a wonderous item into the Top 32 and not judge it as harshly, that's well within their purview. I'm just letting folks know that I'm personally raising the bar on this one. And it's time for people to start meeting it.

My two angry cents,
--Neil

/rant

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Hey, guys...

I received my copy of The Brinewall Legacy and The Hungry Storm as part of my AP subscription. But, I seem to be missing my copy of Night of the Frozen Shadows. Can you double-check the shipment/delivery on that order? It was late arriving and I thought I'd finally received it when The Hungry Storm arrived. But I quickly realized I'd gotten part three when I was still expecting part two.

Help?
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Hey, guys. This thread will serve as a place to check in on the upcoming Fall After Pride game I'm running for PaizoCon. It's a Friday night session (6PM-11PM), though it might not take up the entire 5 hours. We'll just have to see how things go. I'll post up pregen characters here for everyone to review. That way, you can call dibs on a particular PC you really want to play or talk it through with one another. In the meantime, feel free to check in here and let everyone know you're in the game (as well as which PC you favor).

Here's the adventure synopsis as a reminder:

Spoiler:

Fall After Pride wrote:


Few citizens of Korvosa have known such grand favor from the gods as Pellius Abinor, a master weaponsmith with a reputation for the finest blades in Varisia. He's become a rising star among the city's elite, turning out the most prestigious weapons for the best fighting schools, well-heeled nobles, and even the Korvosan Guard. But his personal pride may have finally gotten the best of him. Orders have gone unfilled. No one's seen or heard from the weaponsmith or his family in nearly a week. Yet, smoke still rises from the stone-walled forge of his shopfront in the Midlands. What could he be working on? One of Abinor's patrons wants the PCs to find out.

This adventure is for 4th level characters, which I'll obviously provide. I've designed each one with less of an eye towards optimization and more towards what fits best for the story that should play out in the course of the adventure. Just about every class is represented, including a handful of new archetypes from the Advanced Player's Guide and Ultimate Magic. So give them a look and hopefully at least a PC or two matches your prefered playstyle. There's a decent overlap in abilities so the group shouldn't be overly dependent on a single PC and everyone can stay involved in each scene or challenge.

The premise of Fall After Pride also appears in this year's issue of Wayfinder, which Tim and Hugo will likely be handing out on Friday afternoon. Don't worry if you read through that scenario, though. I'll be giving you the director's cut of this adventure, which is considerably more fleshed out than what appears in those pages. All I ask is that anyone familiar with the writeup in Wayfinder do your best to keep that knowledge separate from what your PC would know.

That said, welcome to PaizoCon and welcome to the game!
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Well, it's been a long road, but we're finally here. The last voting round for RPG Superstar 2011 is about to commence and almost all of the judges' commentary is in place. I wrapped mine up last night and put some finishing touches (and elaboration) on a few points this morning. The competitors poured a lot of work and creativity into their proposals. Some landed pretty well with the judges and others didn't. I've recommended two for consideration of the final prize, but it'll really be up to the voters to decide what they want Paizo to publish.

Remember again that all of you following along still have a role to play in this contest. Your vote never counted as much as it does now, because it'll result in a finished product that will eventually sit on store shelves. Also, these designers will all be given an opportunity to write something, including three new Pathfinder Society scenarios. So, make sure you chime in and give them feedback. Their learning process continues through this round, and there are a lot of great minds out there with creative suggestions and individual insights the designers could use. Make sure you share them. But please do so in a respectful, supportive fashion. Constructive criticism should rule the day...

Best of luck to the competitors and I look forward to what the voters decide. In fact, I'll be casting a vote alongside them...as I want to see something awesome produced by Paizo the same as everyone else.

My sincere two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Well, the judges are all starting to compile their feedback on the Round 4 submissions and, as usual, I wrote way too much. But what's really interesting is that get the perspective of not one, but two professional cartographers this round. And that's an aspect of RPG Superstar which I think is so awesome. You really do get some fantastic insights into your design choices and skillsets from people who do all this for real. There's just no contest or forum where I've seen that kind of feedback before. So make the most of it, guys.

Just like last round, it's becoming very apparent that all of you continue to grow as designers. Each assignment has pushed you to learn and apply what you've learned. But, at the same time, everyone's creativity is really shining through. Some people took several steps forward this round, building upon everything they've done so far. And I felt like a couple of competitors also took a slight step back. That means the race for the Top 4 is going to get really tight this round and the voters (as always) will make the difference in who advances and who falls out of the competition.

All that said, this is one of my favorite rounds of the whole competition. Designing an encounter gives us a glimpse of what each designer would do in the course of writing a full adventure. I split my commentary into assessing everyone's descriptive writing, choice of location and villain pairing, mapwork, and finally the creativity and entertainment value of the actual encounter itself. To me, the result of all these assessments makes this the round for determining who's got the chops (and who deserves the chance) to compete for the final prize.

And the good news is that everyone who advances from here gets a chance to write an adventure of some kind. So, the voters need to weigh who they'd like to pen such a design for their personal use and enjoyment. I'd urge everyone to consider that as they head for the voting booth. Look at each competitors' body of work as well as how they put it all together for this round's challenge. And may the best designers win!

My two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

I've completed my run through the Round 3 submissions and figured I'd check in for those following along and awaiting feedback. Just like last round, we had some good stuff as well as some stuff that didn't quite register. It's very apparent (to me anyway) that you're all growing as designers. I purposefully tailored my feedback to assess a variety of things tested in this challenge. Most specifically, the flavor and potential of the villain based on its concept and descriptive text, and then the execution of the stat-block itself and whether it can support a reasonably memorable encounter with such a villain.

Looking back across my commentary, it's apparent to me that there's a fair amount of it which focuses more on the negative than the positive. But don't let that alarm you. This is all meant as constructive criticism, not a reasoned attempt to sway the voting community one way or another. Instead, this level of detail results from my own OCD and need for perfection. I've just always been that way and only know one "gear" in which to work or provide feedback. So, I've tried to identify any defects or flaws that caught my eye. And I've raised them in an attempt to help everyone learn and grow that much more.

All that said, this was again a very difficult challenge...just like last round's archetypes. The 600-word limit really constrained many of you...and that was evident in some of the hard choices you had to make. I've done this type of assignment for real on an upcoming Paizo product and so I understand the limitations you were under. That said, take heart that you've all faced some very realistic challenges in RPG Superstar. Regardless of the outcome, you'll come out of this crucible a much better designer. And I'm very much looking forward to establishing the Top 8 who will go on to do even more.

My two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Usually every year a thread like this pops up. And, though I've seen some folks indicate their favorite items so far, I haven't seen a thread dedicated to compiling this kind of simple, effective feedback to the Top 32.

So, step up to the mic (or messageboard thread) and indicate your Top 5 favorite wondrous item submissions among the Top 32...and why. This kind of feedback goes a long way in encouraging designers to keep putting their best stuff forward.

Let's hear what you think...

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