Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #12: Item is a Joke


RPG Superstar™ 2011 General Discussion

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Contributor

(Last year I compiled a list of things that would instantly disqualify your item. I'm going to post them one by one as we approach Round 1 of this year's contest.)

12. Your wondrous item is a joke.

It's hard to write humor. Not everyone has a similar sense of humor, and something that's funny to you may not be funny to someone else. It may not be funny at all. While it's all well and good to have a humorous item in your game group, presumably created by a PC or a wizard with a sense of humor, RPG Superstar isn't about showing you can write something funny, it's about creating a cool, innovative magic item.

Whether the joke is in the description of the item, or something as blatant and obvious as a pun, it's going to show the judges two things:

1. You don't understand the purpose of the competition.
2. You're not taking the competition seriously.

This bit of advice also applies to items with silly names, including rhyming names. A magical gauntlet that lets you reroll a failed attack roll may be cool, a magical gauntlet that lets you create a cloud of fog may be cool, but neither item is cool if it's called a fist of the missed or fist of the mist.

This is not to say that your item can't be funny. We've had funny items in the competition, and they were items that were cool, innovative, or did something neat, and the humor was only part of that. They weren't simply a deployment mechanism for the humor.

Basically, it's okay for an item to be funny, just don't have your item be a joke. And if you don't get the difference, you should take a different tack for your item.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Monkey pants.

Dark Archive

Sexy Derro armor ;o)

Contributor

Monkey pants are damn funny. Notice that they're not tied to the monk class, and not called monk-ee pants.

Sexy derro armor is more horrifying than funny.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

So, it sounds like the difference is often how seriously the author approaches it? Something can be funny but still written and presented professionally (and puns are not really the way to do that).

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

My brief advice again, and actually in before Neil!

Spoiler:
This adds to Sean's comment about humor not being universal.

Look at funny monsters from over the years. Their coolness did not endure. In some cases, like the Nilbog (who only died when you force-fed it healing potions or healing spells), they were never cool. It got to the point that Paizo wrote a book to redeem some of these "funny" monsters. Even so, you'll note that Paizo strives to design interesting monsters that don't have to be 'redeemed' by future generations.

Now take that into the context of magic items. The 1st edition wand of wonder is a legacy and is iconic; but there is no need for another one. :)

As Sean said, it is one thing for an awesome item to incidentally be funny- its something altogether different to expect a funny item to be awesome.

Above and beyond Sean saying that this is an auto-reject, you need to consider that this is your one shot to get through Round One. Put that risk-taking urge into designing an item that does something really innovative with the mechanics, or satisfies a need that no-one has tried to fill before. Leave the comedy to the comics and the politicians.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

If you MUST write up a joke item, make or find a Gag items thread and post it there.

If you submit it to the contest, you're just wasting both your and the judges' time.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

My two-cents...

Spoiler:
I'll be real honest here. Joke wondrous item submissions to RPG Superstar are one of the few things that can actually make me angry. Why? It's not because I have no sense of humor. I happen to think many of the gag items are pretty hilarious, but those are outside the actual competition. Instead, I get angry because I believe individuals who submit a joke item make two fairly egregious mistakes...

First, they throw away a golden opportunity by trying to be cute, funny, or flippant. If I give them benefit of the doubt, I'd assume they were probably shooting for 'entertaining' instead, but this is a serious contest with a serious outcome. If you aren't in this for the opportunity to write for Paizo as a real freelancer, why are you submitting at all? Real freelancers know when to do serious work and leave the jokes and the easter eggs behind.

Secondly, those who submit a joke item pretty much waste the judges' time. And it's valuable time which they should be spending on folks who are taking the contest seriously. By taking time out to review a joke item that has no chance of making it into the Top 32, that's less time they could have spent assessing someone else who put real work into their entry and deserves full consideration for taking the contest seriously.

I also think a joke item (and many of these other glaringly obvious auto-reject, bad-item stereotypes) run the risk of putting the judges in a foul mood as they go through hundreds of item submissions. Do you really want to be the guy who submits a tongue-in-cheek joke item that ticks off the judges because they're slaving away afterhours during the holiday season and yours wastes their time by not taking things seriously? Then, after auto-rejecting it, they turn their attention to the next guy's with a far more critical eye...and maybe that one gets rejected, too, because they just mentally raised the bar.

The bottom line is that you need to act like a thoughtful professional. Submit a real item to the contest. And then, if you've still got another idea that would make a great joke item, seek out the gag item thread and have at it...


--Neil

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Jim Groves wrote:
My brief advice again, and actually in before Neil!

Yeah, yeah. I've had a busy day. :-/

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Neil Spicer wrote:
Jim Groves wrote:
My brief advice again, and actually in before Neil!
Yeah, yeah. I've had a busy day. :-/

We're not in competition friend. :)

You're the real deal and the proven professional. I'm just chiming in as things occur to me and a lot of my advice is "me too!" Though, sometimes I think I put a slightly different spin on it.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

I know, Jim. Didn't mean to come across as super surly. It's been a long day. So I didn't get a chance to chime in on Sean's latest advice thread when it first came out.

But I'll race you to the next one... ;-)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
So, it sounds like the difference is often how seriously the author approaches it?

Nope—the judges don't actually know how serious the author thinks he is. The difference is the judges' perception of how seriously the author is approaching it.

So it's just not wise to give them *any* reason to think you're not taking the contest seriously.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

I'll come in behind Neil and Jim and say that it is simply disrespectful to the judges.

Clark Peterson posted in a previous year about how angry he was when he saw a joke item. If you go back, you can see how angry he was.

Think about it this way, the judges have to read through hundreds of these items. It quite literally takes day, days of solid work. I have waded through the feedback threads and if you do too, you can get a small sense of how much work.

As far as I know, the judges don't get paid for their work, they are doing it for the good of the game. I honestly believe that this competition helps the entire RPG industry.

If you waste the judges time, you are just being annoying.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber
Jodi Lane wrote:
Sexy Derro armor ;o)

Planning next year's GenCon costume? ;)

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6

My two C-bills:

Spoiler:
It is possible to be inspired by a joke, but the item itself shouldn't directly reference the joke. Again, look at the tankard. (hate to keep self referencing, but it is directly related) I based it on the iconic fighter's mug, the stereotypical image of the duelist fighting while holding a mug and a Marx Brother's skit. There's a joke, but it's not evident in the item. Sure you can do the Harpo Marx vs the Nazi trick, (Or Robin Hood vs. Rottingham's guards) but 'getting the joke' is not required to appriciate the item. Also note that it's not called "Adolph's tankard" "Cup o'Marx" or anything cute like that.

Or to look at another angle, you don't need to know Exodus to get lower water, sticks to snakes, or a spell that creates a spring by hitting it with a rock. If you do get it, you appriciate it, but you're not scratching your head. Same thing for the item.

So no Grease paint of Marxing or Trenchcoat of holding or Chicolini's Hat folks.

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Matthew Morris wrote:

My two C-bills:

** spoiler omitted **

So no Grease paint of Marxing or Trenchcoat of holding or Chicolini's Hat folks.

I don't get the reference to Trenchcoat of Holding and I don't know who Chicolini is... so I suppose I'm good there eh? chuckle...

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6

Andrew Christian wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:

My two C-bills:

** spoiler omitted **

So no Grease paint of Marxing or Trenchcoat of holding or Chicolini's Hat folks.

I don't get the reference to Trenchcoat of Holding and I don't know who Chicolini is... so I suppose I'm good there eh? chuckle...

*sigh* kids these days.

Spoiler:
I was talking about my class reunion at work, and said how one woman was unchanged from highschool. I asked her, "So where are you storing the aging portrait?" My coworkers (except one) gave me blank looks. Half of 'em don't know why the skull on my desk is named 'Yorik' either.

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Matthew Morris wrote:
Andrew Christian wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:

My two C-bills:

** spoiler omitted **

So no Grease paint of Marxing or Trenchcoat of holding or Chicolini's Hat folks.

I don't get the reference to Trenchcoat of Holding and I don't know who Chicolini is... so I suppose I'm good there eh? chuckle...

*sigh* kids these days.

** spoiler omitted **

I’m not THAT young (40 in March)… chuckle… and I get the reference to Yorik. But I am not an afficianado of Shakespeare or other famous playwrites/novelists.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16

I do this sometimes without even realizing it. Not too long ago I sent in my turnover for "Haflings of Golarion" and Sean sent back a note about using jokey names for some feats I had written. They were part of a feat tree so I used portions of a well known phrase to link them together. Hadn't even occurred to me how that would look to someone who wasn't in my head.

It's definitely best not to do something that deliberately. :)

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

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Sean K Reynolds wrote:


Sexy derro armor is more horrifying than funny.

"Not if you're wearing it!" says Balazar.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Matt Goodall wrote:
Clark Peterson posted in a previous year about how angry he was when he saw a joke item. If you go back, you can see how angry he was.

That incident was actually in my head as I wrote my previous post in this thread. That was a case where I think the author didn't even understand that he was *making* a joke item. I think he thought he was being clever.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka A Man In Black

Sometimes you can get away with clever wordplay, though. I advanced last year with an item named Lyre of Truth=Telling. Just remember that your submission needs to focus more on how well you can design an item that will be fun to play with than how clever you can be.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I see a LOT of posts and comments along the lines of "don't do this, it will irritate the judges" or "if you do this, the judges will think you can't take things seriously", etc. and it really makes the judges come off as a bunch of surly, ill-tempered, humorless curmudgeons. I guess I give them a lot more credit than that. Most of the gamers I've met (and pretty much everyone at Paizo, as far as I can tell from these forums) are pretty good-natured people, so it's hard for me to believe that judging this competition would suddenly transform them into trolls.

Now I'm by no means arguing in favor of submitting a joke item.

But if I submitted such an item, and that item got rejected, I'd like to think that it was because it wasn't a great item. Or because it was poorly written. Or because it WAS A JOKE. All perfectly valid reasons. I'd hate to think it was because I'd pissed off the poor bastard who had to read it.

In my mind, if you've willingly volunteered to read through literally hundreds of wondrous item submissions, you probably know going in that at least a third of them are going to be just plain bad, for a wide variety of reasons. But that's part of the package, right?

(Speaking personally, if I was a judge, and found myself in the position of rejecting 9 out of every 10 entries that came across my screen, I'd much rather reject a well-written joke item than slog through 300 words of poorly-worded, misspelled drivel that didn't deserve the pixels required to display it)

If reading those bad entries actually causes the judges to become angry, that's a problem, and it's time to take a break. They should come back when they're less angry. If that means that Paizo needs to schedule more time for the competition, then so be it.

Because if it's not fun, then what's the point?

Silver Crusade

Matthew Morris wrote:


** spoiler omitted **

Missing the Wilde reference is regrettable, but forgivable. Not knowing Hamlet, on the other hand, makes my English Degree weep blood. "To be or not to be...," may be Shakespeare's most famous line, but Hamlet lamenting Yorick is equally iconic as a image. Hmm... I'm not quite ready to enter the contest, but let me ponder Yorick's Skull for inspiration for a magic item, nonetheless. Perhaps something related to calling spirits from the vasty deep. Ack! Where's my Complete Works?!

Dark Archive Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Monkey pants are damn funny. Notice that they're not tied to the monk class, and not called monk-ee pants.

For those wondering, here are the Monkey Pants in question, re-posted from the gag-item thread of RPG Superstar 2008. Truly, my finest moment as a game designer.

Pants of the Many Monkeys

This simple pair of khaki adventuring pants contains, hidden in its many goody-sized pockets, monkeys. Many, many monkeys.

Each day, upon command ("Monkeys!") the pants produce 3d12 monkeys (see page 267, MM). These monkeys are CRAZY monkeys, however, and no amount of training, yelling or stomping of feet will get these monkeys to stop it with their crazy monkey shenanigans. The monkeys are possessed both a limited magical 'hive-mind' and an overwhelming, capricious desire to perform acts of mischief and tomfoolery.

The monkeys will probably eat all the rations and poop in the bedrolls. They will pants the cleric and 'honk' the elf's boobs. Also, they like to trip people, drink ale, and steal hats. The monkeys speak French.

Moderate Conjuration; CL 5th; Craft Wondrous Item, Summon Nature's Ally III, Prestidigitation; Price 8,000 gp., 2 lbs.


Steel Horse wrote:
(Speaking personally, if I was a judge, and found myself in the position of rejecting 9 out of every 10 entries that came across my screen, I'd much rather reject a well-written joke item than slog through 300 words of poorly-worded, misspelled drivel that didn't deserve the pixels required to display it)

Personally if I was judging the poorly worded entries wouldn't bother me all that much. It's nice to see a person entering and trying to improve even if they very obviously aren't RPG Superstar quality yet. Sure something written in 'txt speak' or something like that would be very annoying, but I doubt many entries are received like that and I'm sure they would be auto-rejects too.

On the other hand a well-written item that was obviously intended as a joke would be annoying. The author clearly has talent, but apparently doesn't give two hoots about the competition and it's tough to see why they even entered. Bottom line at least the 'poor' entry was a legitimate attempt at the contest, it just wasn't very good. The joke entry might have been funny and in another context entertaining, but annoying to encounter when you're trying to judge entries actually interested in becoming an RPG Superstar.

Like Sean said though, being funny isn't a bad thing. It's when the situation spills over into being a joke that it becomes bad. As an example I'm not a game designer, but I need to give presentations and such at work fairly often. It relaxes me and gets the audience interested if I make a joke early and get them to laugh. But the humour needs to either be brief or it needs to relate to the topic at hand, preferably both. If I instead went into some stand-up comedy routine it might be funny, but I'd annoy all of the people who turned up to get a work-related presentation.


I drifted off topic from replying to Steel Horse towards the end there, so back on topic for a moment! I don't think the point of these posts is "don't annoy the judges, we don't want to be annoyed". The point is that "we've seen people make these mistakes often, don't make them if you want to advance in the competition". This is all good information to know. Being given a list of common mistakes might run the risk of seeming ill-tempered, but it's helpful to know what the judges aren't looking for.


I don't know. This one worries me. I thought the contest was supposed to be fun. Steel Horse voiced my fears a lot more eloquently than I ever could.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6

Freehold DM wrote:
I don't know. This one worries me. I thought the contest was supposed to be fun. Steel Horse voiced my fears a lot more eloquently than I ever could.

It is supposed to be fun. It's also a job interview. How you choose to approach that opportunity is telling.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Yes. It is supposed to be fun.
It's also supposed to be serious.
Contrary to popular belief, you can have fun while being serious.
The two are not mutually exclusive.

But there's nothing "fun" about wasting the judges' time with an entry that doesn't take the contest seriously. There's certainly a place for joke items. But, it's the wondrous item gag thread, which I notice some folks have started early on this year by incorporating as many auto-reject cliches as they possible can.

And that's funny! :-D

But they're also a bunch of items that aren't seriously being offered up as contest submissions. There's a distinct difference in that. One which a keen RPG Superstar would (and should) notice.

So, certainly have fun. You can even make a funny item. Just don't make it a joke item. How do you do one vs. the other? By taking the contest seriously.

My two-cents,
--Neil


Neil Spicer wrote:

Yes. It is supposed to be fun.

It's also supposed to be serious.
Contrary to popular belief, you can have fun while being serious.
The two are not mutually exclusive.

But there's nothing "fun" about wasting the judges' time with an entry that doesn't take the contest seriously. There's certainly a place for joke items. But, it's the wondrous item gag thread, which I notice some folks have started early on this year by incorporating as many auto-reject cliches as they possible can.

And that's funny! :-D

But they're also a bunch of items that aren't seriously being offered up as contest submissions. There's a distinct difference in that. One which a keen RPG Superstar would (and should) notice.

So, certainly have fun. You can even make a funny item. Just don't make it a joke item. How do you do one vs. the other? By taking the contest seriously.

My two-cents,
--Neil

In that case, I would suggest putting the distinction in the title, to make it seem more of a contest and less of a competition.

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Freehold DM wrote:


In that case, I would suggest putting the distinction in the title, to make it seem more of a contest and less of a competition.

I honestly don't see the distinction you are trying to make here.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Andrew Christian wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:


In that case, I would suggest putting the distinction in the title, to make it seem more of a contest and less of a competition.

I honestly don't see the distinction you are trying to make here.

Nor do I...


Never mind then. Perhaps I am the one in a less than humorous mood today.


Steel Horse wrote:
In my mind, if you've willingly volunteered to read through literally hundreds of wondrous item submissions, you probably know going in that at least a third of them are going to be just plain bad, for a wide variety of reasons. But that's part of the package, right?

There's a big difference between an item that is just plain awful, but is honestly submitted in the hopes of winning, and an item that is wonderfully written, but clearly isn't even trying to win. The first item is not a waste of time for the judges, because the author is trying to win. The second item is a total waste of time.

Wasting the judges' time is extremely poor form.


Zurai wrote:
Steel Horse wrote:
In my mind, if you've willingly volunteered to read through literally hundreds of wondrous item submissions, you probably know going in that at least a third of them are going to be just plain bad, for a wide variety of reasons. But that's part of the package, right?

There's a big difference between an item that is just plain awful, but is honestly submitted in the hopes of winning, and an item that is wonderfully written, but clearly isn't even trying to win. The first item is not a waste of time for the judges, because the author is trying to win. The second item is a total waste of time.

Wasting the judges' time is extremely poor form.

I would argue that perception is the issue at hand in this case. I'm sure there are many items from the former category that were submitted in the spirit of the latter, and vice versa. Still, I'm not a judge, and without the wonderful "Why Was My Item Rejected" threads, I wouldn't know much of their thought processes until now.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Freehold DM wrote:
I would argue that perception is the issue at hand in this case. I'm sure there are many items from the former category that were submitted in the spirit of the latter, and vice versa. Still, I'm not a judge, and without the wonderful "Why Was My Item Rejected" threads, I wouldn't know much of their thought processes until now.

Hence, it might be best that contestants avoid even the perception of submitting a joke item.

I'd recommend using the discussion of this auto-reject stereotype to guide everyone in reassessing their wondrous item submission. Is there a possibility the judges might interpret it as a joke? Are you flirting with the thin line between "funny and humorous" vs. "not taking the contest seriously by wasting our time with an item that would never be published because it's just a joke"...? If so, maybe you should revise the item. Or, even go back to the drawing board so you can submit something different.

The choice is ultimately yours. But this thread serves as a warning that there's definitely an auto-reject category wherein the judges interpret your item to be a "joke item" and they're not inclined to push those into the Top 32.

Also, please don't take any of my rebuttal or feedback here as negative criticism, Freehold. You're asking lots of very good questions. And I do appreciate your point of view. If anything, my verbosity in responding to this discussion is exceeded only by my desire to see folks avoid the auto-reject bin and bring the awesome for the betterment of the competition as a whole.

So, game on!
--Neil


I don't think the judges have ever gotten upset at borderline "joke item" cases. I'm talking about the obvious cases, such as the above-mentioned monkey pants. Those are obviously not a serious contest entry, despite being both well-written and an awesome item. Of course, far more likely is that the not-a-serious-entry joke item isn't even going to be particularly awesome or well-written, which just makes it worse.

As has been said more than once, funny items are fine. Items whose sole intent is to be a joke are not; this isn't a joke contest, it's a roleplaying game design contest. Your ability to tell jokes (good or bad) has no bearing on your ability to be an RPG Superstar. Your ability to take your assignment seriously does, however.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Zurai wrote:
As has been said more than once, funny items are fine. Items whose sole intent is to be a joke are not; this isn't a joke contest, it's a roleplaying game design contest. Your ability to tell jokes (good or bad) has no bearing on your ability to be an RPG Superstar. Your ability to take your assignment seriously does, however.

Quoted for truth.


Zurai wrote:

I don't think the judges have ever gotten upset at borderline "joke item" cases. I'm talking about the obvious cases, such as the above-mentioned monkey pants. Those are obviously not a serious contest entry, despite being both well-written and an awesome item. Of course, far more likely is that the not-a-serious-entry joke item isn't even going to be particularly awesome or well-written, which just makes it worse.

As has been said more than once, funny items are fine. Items whose sole intent is to be a joke are not; this isn't a joke contest, it's a roleplaying game design contest. Your ability to tell jokes (good or bad) has no bearing on your ability to be an RPG Superstar. Your ability to take your assignment seriously does, however.

Again, I'm not 100% sure on this. I've encountered a lot of items that, while hilarious on the surface, ended up having a deadly serious effect in-game that was both keeping with the spirit of the item and the game itself. Still, this isn't the gaming table, but a separate contest. Maybe I'm having an issue with contest hat vs. player/DM hat. Also, I'm not in favor of the anti-pun fiat, as a lot of magical items do have puns in their names.

Contributor

Freehold DM wrote:
I don't know. This one worries me. I thought the contest was supposed to be fun. Steel Horse voiced my fears a lot more eloquently than I ever could.

It is supposed to be fun.

And for the judges, it's a lot of work.

Let's do some math. Let's say that 500 people submit wondrous items for RPG Superstar (and it's more than that). Submissions start rolling in on Dec 3, and the last ones are in by Dec 31 when the submission window closes.

Winners are announced on 1/18, which really means all the info needs to be finalized by 1/17 (a Monday), and as we have guest judges who post comments on the Top 32, it means the judges need to have the Top 32 picked out by 1/14 (a Friday).

If the judges started reviewing submissions on Jan 1 and finished on Jan 14, that's 35 wondrous item submissions per day, every day (including weekends) to read and evaluate. That's over 10,000 words of magic items per day--roughly 16 pages. Every day. That's in addition to our normal day jobs (I don't get to take 3 months off to work as a Superstar judge, I still have books to develop). Trying to do that many reviews in that time period is too much to give each submission a fair review.

So the judges start earlier than that. We start reviewing them as they come in. If we start on December 3rd, that gives us another 27 days to spread out that work, which means we only need to evaluate about 12 item per day, or about 3500 words, or about 4 pages of material. But that's still every day, including weekends, including Christmas Day, including New Year's Eve, and it's still in addition to our normal work.

In other words, the judges are working their asses off from Dec 3 to January 18th, and for the rest of the competition we lose about every other weekend evaluating later rounds.

So when I'm home on a Saturday night evaluating wondrous item submissions, and some jokester thinks he'll be funny and submit the purple monkey statue of explosive monkeybutt butter, he's wasting my time with something he knows isn't going to make it into the Top 32. He's wasting my time just as if he had prank called me. I appreciate humor. I'm a pretty funny guy. But this is RPG Superstar, not Comedy Superstar. I'm involved in this competition because I want to find new, talented game designers, so I can give them work--with the expectation that I can trust them to take their assignments seriously.

Working for a game company is still work. Yes, I have minis all over my desk, and at 6:30pm once a week I go upstairs to run or play in a Pathfinder game in our big conference room, but most of the time at the office I'm working my ass off to get books done on time. When I assign Bob 3000 words on gladiator feats for Ultimate Combat, I expect to get 3000 words of serious game design, not 3000 words of slapstick feats, fart jokes, and toilet humor. Because Paizo is paying Bob for his words. If Bob's turnover includes a feat where a gladiator can sever the head of a fallen opponent and throw it into the audience for a morale bonus to his next combat, and if the morale bonus increases if someone in the audience catches the head, that's kinda funny, and I'd appreciate that. But there's a difference between a badass gladiator feat that happens to be funny, and a funny feat that happens to involve a gladiator.

There's a place for humor in the game, but as a judge I need to know if you can get the job done. The job in R1 is to design a wondrous item (that we could in theory publish) to show me that you have the chops to be a professional game designer.

I want the contestants to respect that the time I spend judging RPG Superstar comes out of my free time with my new gamer bride. I love being involved in RPG Superstar. I don't treat it like it's a joke. You shouldn't treat it like a joke, either--but that doesn't mean it can't still be fun for you and for me.

TLDR: I want you to write a magic item (which incidentally may be funny), not write something funny (which incidentally is a magic item).


Neil Spicer wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:
I would argue that perception is the issue at hand in this case. I'm sure there are many items from the former category that were submitted in the spirit of the latter, and vice versa. Still, I'm not a judge, and without the wonderful "Why Was My Item Rejected" threads, I wouldn't know much of their thought processes until now.

Hence, it might be best that contestants avoid even the perception of submitting a joke item.

I'd recommend using the discussion of this auto-reject stereotype to guide everyone in reassessing their wondrous item submission. Is there a possibility the judges might interpret it as a joke? Are you flirting with the thin line between "funny and humorous" vs. "not taking the contest seriously by wasting our time with an item that would never be published because it's just a joke"...? If so, maybe you should revise the item. Or, even go back to the drawing board so you can submit something different.

The choice is ultimately yours. But this thread serves as a warning that there's definitely an auto-reject category wherein the judges interpret your item to be a "joke item" and they're not inclined to push those into the Top 32.

Also, please don't take any of my rebuttal or feedback here as negative criticism, Freehold. You're asking lots of very good questions. And I do appreciate your point of view. If anything, my verbosity in responding to this discussion is exceeded only by my desire to see folks avoid the auto-reject bin and bring the awesome for the betterment of the competition as a whole.

So, game on!
--Neil

Not taking it negatively at all. If I seem to be getting a bit critical myself, it is because I'm trying to define boundaries(note- NOT test them). The only thing that I may be getting a little heated over is the plethora(okay, maybe not THAT many, but enough for it to be noticable) of items that are accepted that fly in the face of many of the pieces of advice given here. Don't get me wrong- I'm thankful for these threads because it gives me the chance to speak my mind and pick the judge's minds a little(read: a LOT), and I'm glad exceptions are made overall(sometimes you have to go with your gut).

But when it comes to exceptions being made, I think humor is the biggest one next to math(i.e. I don't think I'm going to fluff my pillow and get into bed one night only to discover a judge hanging from my celing ninja style with a kunai in his teeth to permanently remove me from the running because I forgot to carry the one- although that would be HELLA COOL. If this happens, I would like it to be Mark Moreland). I understand the distinction between funny item and joke item, but with a title like 'Auto-Reject: Item is a Joke' then, yeah, I am thinking that if my item makes a judge smile, even a little, it's going in the trash bin while a strait-jacket is being for the chuckling judge, as his more austere peers believe he has quietly gone mad.

Contributor

Freehold DM wrote:
Also, I'm not in favor of the anti-pun fiat, as a lot of magical items do have puns in their names.

What items in the Core Rulebook do you consider to have puns in the name?

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

I totally understand people being fearful that submissions they see as clever, or funny, or a serious effort to inject some humor into the mix might get the auto-rejected because the judges have no sense of humor. It's all a game, right? And this is all for fun, right?

But only sort of.

Sean is giving some crucial advice, and a lot of people are missing the point. The judges are people, and people get surly. And when you are a professional game writer (assuming you win this and decide to make that your career), you'll be dealing with editors, developers, and creative directors. Each of whom are people.

People who may get surly.

If you write the one item in 1,000,000 that is great even if it's a joke, and the greatness is clear before the joke turns off your editor/judge, you'll be fine. No editor throws out pure genius if they can help it.

But you can't count on writing that item. No one can. It may not be possible. And in a professional setting, your job is to provide something your editor/judge can use. even brilliant comedy items are, by their very nature, reducing the market they can be used in. Especially for something like magic items, the more fungible it is, the better. And humor is so subjective it's very hard to fit in places designed for more serious contributions.

Sean's giving you crucial tips on how to have the best chance. One of the reasons it's great advice is someone;s item is going to be read when the judge is tired, cranky, hungry, and behind deadline. And the same is true when you're a pro. That's part of the business. And there are tricks to minimizing the chance you'll tick off whoever is looking at your work, at any level of professionalism.

This is one of them. Jokes in spells, monsters, items, NPC names, and feats are really easy to miss, hate, or get annoyed by. Avoid them.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka DeathQuaker

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:
Also, I'm not in favor of the anti-pun fiat, as a lot of magical items do have puns in their names.
What items in the Core Rulebook do you consider to have puns in the name?

I'm not Freehold DM, but the Bag of Tricks comes to mind. ((ETA: Although upon 'Net research, apparently that's more of an IP violation, as the term originates in Felix the Cat).)

Also, though less directly punny but still playing on words: Eyes of the Eagle (they make you eagle-eyed), and Bracelet of Friends (a magic friendship bracelet). These are but few items however, to be fair. Oh, and of course Goggles of Night.

There's also a number of core rulebook items that violate other auto-reject rules as well, but understandably, I get the sense that the auto-reject criterion are to help designers avoid certain anti-innovation pitfalls.


Ross Byers wrote:

If you MUST write up a joke item, make or find a Gag items thread and post it there.

And this too has already begun: Breakin' the Rulez!

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
DeathQuaker wrote:


Also, though less directly punny but still playing on words: Eyes of the Eagle (they make you eagle-eyed), and Bracelet of Friends (a magic friendship bracelet). These are but few items however, to be fair. Oh, and of course Goggles of Night.

There's also a number of core rulebook items that violate other auto-reject rules as well, but understandably, I get the sense that the auto-reject criterion are to help designers avoid certain anti-innovation pitfalls.

Um, if I'm not mistaken, those aren't puns. The eagle eye thing is more animistic or shamanistic in nature, while the others are descriptive of what they do.


Andrew Christian wrote:
DeathQuaker wrote:


Also, though less directly punny but still playing on words: Eyes of the Eagle (they make you eagle-eyed), and Bracelet of Friends (a magic friendship bracelet). These are but few items however, to be fair. Oh, and of course Goggles of Night.

There's also a number of core rulebook items that violate other auto-reject rules as well, but understandably, I get the sense that the auto-reject criterion are to help designers avoid certain anti-innovation pitfalls.

Um, if I'm not mistaken, those aren't puns. The eagle eye thing is more animistic or shamanistic in nature, while the others are descriptive of what they do.

DeathQuaker already pointed out they were less than full-on puns, but I think they are examples of plays on words that, if presented to someone who was sensitive to puns, would register as them as such. In terms of eagle eye, you are very much correct in the original usage of the term, but after years of usage(perhaps some mangling along the way), it's become a pun in and of itself. Bracelet of Friends and Goggles of Night are good examples of fads that might turn something that was not originally a pun into a groan-worthy one.

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Freehold DM wrote:
Andrew Christian wrote:
DeathQuaker wrote:


Also, though less directly punny but still playing on words: Eyes of the Eagle (they make you eagle-eyed), and Bracelet of Friends (a magic friendship bracelet). These are but few items however, to be fair. Oh, and of course Goggles of Night.

There's also a number of core rulebook items that violate other auto-reject rules as well, but understandably, I get the sense that the auto-reject criterion are to help designers avoid certain anti-innovation pitfalls.

Um, if I'm not mistaken, those aren't puns. The eagle eye thing is more animistic or shamanistic in nature, while the others are descriptive of what they do.

DeathQuaker already pointed out they were less than full-on puns, but I think they are examples of plays on words that, if presented to someone who was sensitive to puns, would register as them as such. In terms of eagle eye, you are very much correct in the original usage of the term, but after years of usage(perhaps some mangling along the way), it's become a pun in and of itself. Bracelet of Friends and Goggles of Night are good examples of fads that might turn something that was not originally a pun into a groan-worthy one.

Perhaps your definition and my definition of what a Pun or a "play-on-words" is different.

If you name something so that the name references what it is or does (similar to eponymous or metonymy) it isn't a pun. It simply has a name that references what it is or what it does. There isn't a play on words or an attempt at word play humor going on here. There is no pun.

The first sentence in the Wikipedia entry for Pun...

"The pun, or paronomasia, is a form of word play which exploits numerous meanings of a statement, allowing it to be understood in multiple ways for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect."

...and none of the examples given above do this. They are what they are. There aren't multiple meanings or understanding in multiple ways. Eyes of the Eagle are glasses that let you see further, like an eagle. The pun version might be Rapere Iris that is a magical venus fly trap-like flower instead of Eyes (Iris) of the Eagle (Rapere:latin for Raptor). Although that's not really a pun either, because it isn't funny, humorous or rhetorical, even though it is a form of word-play.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Freehold DM wrote:
In that case, I would suggest putting the distinction in the title, to make it seem more of a contest and less of a competition.

If I were looking at RPG Superstar as a participant, I'd look at it not as a contest or a competition (whatever that distinction may be) but as a job interview. And I wouldn't show up at my interview wearing fuzzy bunny slippers and then expect to be taken seriously.

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