Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #14: Item is something we can't advertise due to mature or offensive content


RPG Superstar™ 2011 General Discussion

Contributor

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(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.)

14. Your item is something Paizo wouldn't want to show off as part of the contest.

This is a strange line in the sand. A core element of the game is combat, and it's okay to have a contest about magic items used to kill your enemies. Killing, in this context, is acceptable. Paizo's campaign setting contains mature themes, and you'd think it would be okay to base your item on some aspect of those mature themes. But in some cases, it's simply not a good idea.

I'm tempted to call this category "Item is potentially offensive," but that's so vague and subjective as to be meaningless. You really have to think about this from the perspective of a publisher who wants to use the competition to promote their company and the game in general. Which means that some subject matter is going to be off-limits because Paizo isn't going to want to use it to "advertise" the company, the game, or the competition. For example, ogres are incestuous torture-loving monsters that enjoy raping their captives. It's right there in the Bestiary. But you'd never see back cover text or advertisement text that spells this out, like "In this adventure, the heroes must destroy a family of torturing, incestuous, rapist ogres that have been attacking a nearby town."

So if your wondrous item protects the wearer against rape, or requires the wearer to rape someone to activate, or creating it requires a dead baby or stillborn fetus, or killing a child, mutilating your genitals, or similar things, we'll have to reject it, even if the item game stats are otherwise cool. Mainly for the reason that Paizo posts a press release and prominent link to the Top 32 finalists, and Paizo doesn't want someone to look at that list and say, "Really, one of the 'best' items they got in their contest was made out of a dead baby? Really?" If you make an item that protects your life force against level draining, that's cool, but if crafting it requires a dead fetus, it's not making it into the Top 32.

Some contestants go for the shock value in the hopes of making a strong impression on the judges. That's fine (though if we get a lot of those, it tends to get old, and shock value just for the sake of shock value doesn't mean your item is actually interesting on its own). But there's a difference between shock and bad taste, and we're going to err away from bad taste if at all possible.

Standard violence and drug use don't trigger this response, but sexual violence, pregnancy, abortion, infanticide, and harm to children do. Them's the breaks, folks--don't include these elements in your wondrous item design if you have any chance of progressing to the later rounds of the competition.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

My two-cents...

Spoiler:
I really detest these kinds of items. Shock value? Bad taste? It doesn't matter. To me, this whole category should be off-limits and an absolute auto-reject.

As much as putting out something like this can stir up conversation and thereby market your product (or your 'talents' as a designer), is that really the conversation you want people to be having about your submission...or the publisher who accepted it? Because, honestly, you should want to maximize your appeal as a designer. Not just in the RPG Superstar contest...but beyond. And, putting together something that borders on offensive themes, means you're going to split the general public (and hence, the consumer base) in how they receive what you designed.

To me, going for something potentially offensive or an inherent shock value, plays to a niche market or segment of voters...at best. And, yes, some of them may actually enjoy your item. But, I think an equal or greater number will not. Therefore, it isn't smart design. That's because smart design finds a way to appeal to as many gamers as possible. And it's supportive and protective of the publisher's reputation in the industry. RPG Superstars should recognize that and design accordingly, no matter their personal preferences or what kind of game they run.


--Neil


Gaming groups tend to set standards at their table without even knowingly doing it. When you have played with each other for a long time, you gain a sense of the other players' personal boundaries, and sometimes you can push things pretty far with violence, sexuality, and crass humor for an extremely entertaining night at your house game table. There's nothing wrong with that, just as there's nothing wrong with house ruling that gnomes come from the moon and anyone who rolls a natural one on a Perform check has to do the chicken dance IRL.

But all those things are a hard sell for a good marketing campaign. Distinguish carefully between the ick factor of you and your peers and that of the general public. Extreme violence, rape, and murder touch people's lives in very real ways, and for some of those people, or their friends and relatives, when you treat those issues casually with the written word, you guarantee bad word of mouth and a lost sale.


NFSW?:
So no Black Russian Codpiece of Enormous potential?


I'm not sure about this one. Not because items that are in bad taste should be put into a contest such as this(yes, there is branding to worry about, and as HILARIOUS as Xaaon's item is, I don't think I'll be seeing it any official products), but because yeah...ogres are cannibalistic rapists, and they appear in the bestiary AND at least one notable adventure. Still, I'll be keeping my item RSFW.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

Freehold DM wrote:
because yeah...ogres are cannibalistic rapists, and they appear in the bestiary AND at least one notable adventure

And thus you know Paizo will use such mature-themed ideas... where appropriate. Which means this auto-reject is really a sub-set of a general rule of freelance writing, "Thou shall match your publisher's needs."

This is one of the auto-reject rules I'm happiest Sean posted, because it's one a really good designer could miss for exactly the reason you mention. But just because these themes can have a place somewhere in some Paizo product doesn't mean they are appropriate for all Paizo projects. And Sean is outright telling you, this isn't one of them.

Honestly, I suspect ogres and their adventures exist in part as an outlier for Pathfinder, a "this far and no farther" mark developers and editors can use as a benchmark. And if they are the outer extreme, it makes sense that extreme won't appear as the front-and-centerpiece of a Paizo project.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Honestly, I suspect ogres and their adventures exist in part as an outlier for Pathfinder, a "this far and no farther" mark developers and editors can use as a benchmark. And if they are the outer extreme, it makes sense that extreme won't appear as the front-and-centerpiece of a Paizo project.

Well put. (And some of the ogre stuff might even be part of a "not even quite that far anymore" mark.)

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Would the goblin ears from the first year be too far now?

-Ben.

Contributor

No.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Goblin fetus ears on the other hand...

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

Mark Moreland wrote:
Goblin fetus ears on the other hand...

Or other parts...

OT Story

Spoiler:
When I was dealing with the first (abusive) wife, I had a bit of a powergamer and bloodthirsty character. At one point we are going through steading of the hill giants. We kill a hill giant and the halfling makes a joke about converting the dangly bits into a purse. Well I take the idea of taking his manhood and carrying it around. Everyone looked at me strange(r than normal). Next group of giants we encounter.

"Matt, what's your action?"
"Throwing IT at the giants and yelling "You're next!""


Hey it worked, and I'm in a much saner place now, thank you.

Sovereign Court

Mark Moreland wrote:
Goblin fetus ears on the other hand...

NOM NOM NOM


Vic Wertz wrote:
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Honestly, I suspect ogres and their adventures exist in part as an outlier for Pathfinder, a "this far and no farther" mark developers and editors can use as a benchmark. And if they are the outer extreme, it makes sense that extreme won't appear as the front-and-centerpiece of a Paizo project.
Well put. (And some of the ogre stuff might even be part of a "not even quite that far anymore" mark.)

I, for one, was deeply offended by the whole "incestuous hillbilly rapist ogres" theme. Offended enough that I put down my copy of Classic Monsters Revisited and also put off my plans to switch over from 3.5 for several months while I decided whether I wanted to support Paizo and their products.

Eventually, I came around (due mostly to the participation of the devs on the boards and the quality of their other products), but it was a really close call.


Mynameisjake wrote:
I, for one, was deeply offended by the whole "incestuous hillbilly rapist ogres" theme. Offended enough that I put down my copy of Classic Monsters Revisited and also put off my plans to switch over from 3.5 for several months while I decided whether I wanted to support Paizo and their products.

Huh. I wouldn't have thought a person existed who would both play a roleplaying game and be deeply offended by that. (No offense intended.) You learn something new everyday.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Dire Mongoose wrote:


Huh. I wouldn't have thought a person existed who would both play a roleplaying game and be deeply offended by that. (No offense intended.) You learn something new everyday.

I'll go on record alongside Mynameisjake. In the first three issues of the Adventure Paths, I was bothered or offended by material in two of them. I figured, "Okay, so 'Paizo', unshackled from their licensing agreements, means 'not-for-prime-time'. And I figured I wasn't the target audience, and planned to cancel my subscription after the first six issues. And issues 4-6 won me back.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder and Golarion, to me, seem to represent the logical evolution of RPGs and RPG campaign settings. I'll admit that certain things can be a bit over-the-top, but when you're trying to breathe new life into something that's over 30 years old, pushing the envelope of what to expect in an adventure or a monster that needs something new about it (or needs some of the older, forgotten stuff put back into it) is going to happen at one point or another.

Now, if everything that you do is completely shocking, horrifying, and distasteful, you're not going to end up with Pathfinder or Golarion, you're going to end up with...

NSFCa/oW:
Sociolotron

...or one of those "Worst Role-Playing Games Ever", and only sadistic or completely desensitized people will play your game.

Pathfinder/Golarion stuff seems to have come up with what I call the "wedding dress" formula for creating the game they want to play and we want to play: it has something old (previous versions of the game), something new (the most up-to-date changes and options), something borrowed (OGL), and something "blue" (ogres/Zon-Kuthon/Calistria/drow/etc).

Now, post-Pathfinder #3, I think there's more of an idea of where the "line" is about the "blue" stuff, but that hasn't stopped a lot of the content coming out since then from being mature (as in the literal sense of the word) or horrific. It has become more subtle, tasteful, and more of a read-between-the-lines than in-your-face thing, but those small details are the things some of my players love the most. One of the best thing about the evil in this game is that it is EVIL, and that makes your heroes shine all the brighter against such vile black-hearted villainy.

I think perhaps "offensive and immature" would be worse than "mature and thought-provoking", but I get the main point of the advice here, in that if you think shock factor is going to make you get anywhere past the first round, then you're entering the wrong contest.


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Dire Mongoose wrote:


Huh. I wouldn't have thought a person existed who would both play a roleplaying game and be deeply offended by that. (No offense intended.) You learn something new everyday.

Sex is okay. Violence is okay. Sexual violence is right out.

1 in 6 women will experience a sexual assault at least once in their lifetimes. Many will suffer multiple assaults. 1 in 30 men will be raped.

Paizo has made it clear that using threats of violence against children is both trite, overdone, and inappropriate. The same should be extended to the very real victims of sexual assault. Especially considering the majority of victims never come forward, and the vast majority never receive justice (only 3% of accused rapists ever spend jail time).

I would never, ever risk putting a victim of such abuse through the horror of reliving such an event, no matter how "realistic" I wanted my "world" to be. And, no, you probably don't know if someone at your table has been victimized by sexual violence. Males, especially, don't report it or even confide in their closest friends.

Add to that the fact that the perpetrators are depicted as thinly disguised regional stereotypes, and, yeah, deeply offended.


Just to be clear.

This means Nicolas Logue and Tim Hitchcock would have been auto-rejected if they had entered a RPG SS contest with material along the lines of AP #2 and #3?

What about topics like toture, mutilation, decapitation, anthropophagy, mental illness, mutation, physical handicaps, sexual intercourse, prostitution, drugs.

I am not trying to be argumentative; I just need more information on exactly what is acceptable and what is not.
I realize as well that how the topic is presented in each case may trigger different reactions.


The Grandfather wrote:

This means Nicolas Logue and Tim Hitchcock would have been auto-rejected if they had entered a RPG SS contest with material along the lines of AP #2 and #3?

I believe that is exactly what it means. But then, Nick and Tim probably would have closely reviewed the guidelines and not submitted material similar in theme to their ROTRL writing for this project. There are different standards between what they are looking for in RPGSS and what has been or what will be published for game products.

Just look at it as though it were a freelance assignment, and you are being asked to provide a targeted contribution. Every assignment comes with restrictions. For example, if they are putting together an Asian themed book, you wouldn't send an item based on a Navajo hide scrapper or a Mayan calendar. They are not asking for a "sky's the limit" entry; they are asking for the most creative and unique item/archetypes/etc. that you can create within the guidelines provided. Just like they would with a freelance assignment.

Shadow Lodge

The Grandfather wrote:

Just to be clear.

This means Nicolas Logue and Tim Hitchcock would have been auto-rejected if they had entered a RPG SS contest with material along the lines of AP #2 and #3?

Vic did say that the ogres and their actions from Runelords would count as being too far.


I find the Golarion Ogres highly amusing. I'll probably even have a pair of HillBilly clans having a feud over something long forgotten, the "Hatefilled"s and "Snakeoils" perhaps...

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6

Joe's RPG Superstar advice #1:

Don't design a test case. If you have to ask where the line is, you're probably too close to it.


Varthanna wrote:
The Grandfather wrote:

Just to be clear.

This means Nicolas Logue and Tim Hitchcock would have been auto-rejected if they had entered a RPG SS contest with material along the lines of AP #2 and #3?

Vic did say that the ogres and their actions from Runelords would count as being too far.

The next question is then; Does this apply only to Round 1 or will it limit the submissions for the following rounds as well.


The Grandfather wrote:
The next question is then; Does this apply only to Round 1 or will it limit the submissions for the following rounds as well.

Based on Sean's original post that started this thread and the explanation behind it (Paizo wants to show off the contest content, and they don't want questionable things for that) it's pretty clear that all rounds should have this in mind.

Shadow Lodge

Dire Mongoose wrote:
The Grandfather wrote:
The next question is then; Does this apply only to Round 1 or will it limit the submissions for the following rounds as well.
Based on Sean's original post that started this thread and the explanation behind it (Paizo wants to show off the contest content, and they don't want questionable things for that) it's pretty clear that all rounds should have this in mind.

And it's pretty simple. Would you let a five year old child read your entry? If not, scrap it and build something else.


Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
And it's pretty simple. Would you let a five year old child read your entry? If not, scrap it and build something else.

I understand and respect that, but in all fairness, there are hundreds of things in the Core Rulebook (not to mention other PF publications) which I would not expose a five year old to.,

:)


Dire Mongoose wrote:
Based on Sean's original post that started this thread and the explanation behind it (Paizo wants to show off the contest content, and they don't want questionable things for that) it's pretty clear that all rounds should have this in mind.

Either I did not read that, or forgot about it. But thanks.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

First, make sure you don't disqualify yourself. (See the list of violations that will get your entry booted.)

For the second round on, your principal customer is the voting public, rather than the judges. (I imagine the contestants as restaurant chefs, and the judges as waiters. They can make very persuasive recommendations to the customers, but in the end it is not they who place the order.)

Speaking as an individual voter, I'm not much interested in entries that push that envelope. Take a look at Booster's work. He can be a lewd and crass individual when the situation warrants. But all his entries blew off people's socks by their attention to game needs, dramatic punch, and awesomeness. He didn't feel the need to add R-rated stuff to his entries.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
The Grandfather wrote:
Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
And it's pretty simple. Would you let a five year old child read your entry? If not, scrap it and build something else.

I understand and respect that, but in all fairness, there are hundreds of things in the Core Rulebook (not to mention other PF publications) which I would not expose a five year old to.,

:)

Yes... but different authorship channels sometimes require different standards. The Core Rulebook after all, was not written in public, even if it had a lot of gamer input.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8

Does mature content refer to drug paraphernalia? I know there's drugs referenced in the APG and SRD but being a public contest how does the rules apply here?


What about say, storage of living food? For example, if an Ettercap decides to wrap up a few dwarves and hang them up to eat later?

Or if one of the more intelligent undead decides to keep a stock of humanoids in the same way those humanoids might keep sheep or cows and for much the same reason?

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4 aka Scipion del Ferro

HerosBackpack wrote:
Or if one of the more intelligent undead decides to keep a stock of humanoids in the same way those humanoids might keep sheep or cows and for much the same reason?

You mean exactly like the thralls in Geb?


Scipion del Ferro wrote:

[

You mean exactly like the thralls in Geb?

Maybe. I don't think I've read much on Geb, so I couldn't say for sure.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

We can't really answer specific questions here, partly because *asking* those questions brings up anonymity issues... but also because context and presentation are needed to give you a proper answer. (For an example, look at what Sean said about ogres in his initial post.)

We can't be much more specific than Sean's last paragraph. If that doesn't answer your question, I'd err on the safe side.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I'll guess I pushed this edge, but we'll see. Nothing good comes without risk.

-Ben.


I was thinking more in terms of villains and archetypes, but thanks anyway.


All that mature stuff aside, I guess we could produce a "Belt of Weapon Storing", which would allow a barbarian to pull his great axe out of his butt.

Just trying to throw in a touch o' laughs.


Vic Wertz wrote:

...

We can't be much more specific than Sean's last paragraph. If that doesn't answer your question, I'd err on the safe side.
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
... sexual violence, pregnancy, abortion, infanticide, and harm to children

Got'ya!

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Malafaxous wrote:

All that mature stuff aside, I guess we could produce a "Belt of Weapon Storing", which would allow a barbarian to pull his great axe out of his butt.

Just trying to throw in a touch o' laughs.

This would explain where Duncan MacLeod get's his sword from when he wears those tight jeans...

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