And then there were four.
As in previous competitions, this year started with hundreds of would-be superstars submitting their best wondrous items. The judges narrowed that down to their favorite 32 who showed potential.
Round 2 relied on a competitor's ability to describe an interesting monster without using game rules—just pure prose. The result was a horrid horde of stomach monsters, predatory felines, skinless underground cultists, and world-eating falling stars. The votes were tallied, and the Top 16 emerged for the next round.
Round 3 required a firm grasp of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules as the competitors created a stat block for one of the Round 2 monsters—with the not-unexpected twist that their entry had to be a monster designed by someone else. The real surprise was a hard limit of CR 6 for the monster, requiring skill to make a monster interesting without being overwhelming for low-level characters. The Top 8 showed they could think on their feet and deal with a last-minute twist.
Round 4 was a hard test. Not only did the competitors have to create a location in Paizo's world of Golarion and a map of that location, they had to detail an encounter in that location, and all in 1,200 words or less. Some aimed high and produced multi-angled maps, others provided round-by-round synopses of the encounter, and others fell by the wayside, leaving only the Top 4.
Monsters, maps, encounters, and traps... all of these are elements of a fun adventure site. But there's more to a great adventure than just these things. An adventure needs a story, a plot, a hook, a motivation for the players to finish the quest. Something that makes the entire experience memorable. An adventure that is really an adventure rather than just a series of linked encounters.
The Top 4 contestants are competing for the chance to write an original adventure for Paizo's Pathfinder Modules line. They're approaching the finish line, tired and a little bloody, but the fans are cheering, and everyone watching is on their feet in anticipation. It's not entirely a coincidence that this year's final round begins just after the Winter Olympics closing ceremonies. This is the pentathlon of game design, and the final four competitors known it's time to make that last push for the gold.
The winner of this contest—the 2010 RPG Superstar—gets to write an adventure module and get it published, in print, with his name on the cover. He supplies the text, Paizo takes care of the rest. In a world where the future of books is all about PDFs and e-readers, there's still a place for the visceral feeling you get from holding a book in your hands—a book with your name on the cover, something to keep on your shelf, to show to your friends and family. It's proof of design chops. Superstar mojo. Talent.
The final RPG Superstar challenge is to design a complete proposal for that winning adventure module, written for the Pathfinder RPG rules. As in previous rounds, the judges comment on each entry and the general public will vote on their favorites.
The author of the submission that receives the greatest number of votes is named the 2010 RPG Superstar.
The RPG Superstar gets a production deal for a Paizo Pathfinder Module. The intention is to publish the module outlined in the submission, so make sure what you present is not only popular with the general audience, but also publishable by Paizo. Paizo reserves the rights to make changes to the adventure during the editing phase, and will work with the chosen RPG Superstar to develop the best possible adventure product.
The winning module will be 32 pages in length, similar to one of Paizo's existing Pathfinder Modules (such as Masks of the Living God, Carrion Hill, or RPG Superstar 2009 winner Neil Spicer's Realm of the Fellnight Queen).
Your proposal should take the form of a general adventure outline that accomplishes the following two tasks:
1. Convince four professional judges, one of them the Creative Director of the company that will publish the winning adventure, that you have the stuff to provide a logical, exciting, sales-generating adventure that truly fulfills your promise as an RPG Superstar.
2. Garner the votes of the general public, who vote on the adventure they would most like to buy.
Accomplish this in no more than 3000 words. If you don't have to use that many words, don't. But for God's sake don't bore us.
The following topics are to be considered mandatory:
1. The Module's Name
2. The recommended starting level of the adventure, and the level most PCs will be when they complete it successfully.
3. An outline of the adventure's overall plot including information on the setup, summaries of important locations in the adventure, a few spotlight encounters (not necessarily all of them fights), important enemies, and at least one bit of intriguing, original treasure.
4. The concept for a new monster involved in some way with the adventure.
Like all Pathfinder Modules, the winning adventure will be placed in the Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting. If you feel comfortable enough to use Paizo-owned proper nouns feel free to do so, but this is by no means a requirement. We will adapt the module to fit our world during the writing and editing process. You do not have to use any element (wondrous item, villain, rule element, or lair) of any previous round of this contest.
One hint: Your adventure must fit in a 32-page book. It may be tempting to aim for something big and epic, but your adventure must fit this page limitation. A typical 32-page adventure has about 20 encounters (including non-combat encounters). If your proposal looks like it requires much more than that to get the job done, it's almost certainly too long.
Lastly and most importantly: Make the proposal awesome.
If this round's rules seem shorter than previous rounds, it's because they are—these basic requirements are all a Superstar should need to get the job done.
Proposals are due on March 12, 2010. Public voting begins on March 16 and ends on March 22, 2010. The winner of this year's RPG Superstar will be announced on March 23, and the winning adventure will be published in the 2011 calendar year.
Good luck to the four finalists! In just a few days, one of you will be the RPG Superstar!