Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #17: Item is modern technology presented as magic


RPG Superstar™ 2011 General Discussion

Contributor

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

17. Your item is modern technology presented as magic.

Every year we get many submissions that are technological items presented as magic items. Cell phones. Radios. Personal data assistant. GPS. They're not innovative or exciting--in the same way that the goggles of night are basically night-vision goggles, and are neither innovative nor exciting as a magic item.

Arthur C. Clarke's third law is:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

By "inventing" a magic item that does exactly what a piece of modern technology does, you haven't really invented anything, you've just reskinned it. It's not superstar to design a magical train, or a magical telephone, or magical cold medicine.

This goes for near-future or theoretically-possible technological items. Spider-Man's web-shooters technically don't exist, but they're plausible enough that someone could invent them, therefore wristbands of the striking webs aren't superstar (they also run into #9, the intellectual property violation). Batman's utility belt isn't superstar. And so on.

Not to say that these items aren't cool, but being cool only gets you so far in RPG Superstar.

Shadow Lodge

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

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

17. Your item is modern technology presented as magic.

Every year we get many submissions that are technological items presented as magic items. Cell phones. Radios. Personal data assistant. GPS. They're not innovative or exciting--in the same way that the goggles of night are basically night-vision goggles, and are neither innovative nor exciting as a magic item.

Arthur C. Clarke's third law is:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

By "inventing" a magic item that does exactly what a piece of modern technology does, you haven't really invented anything, you've just reskinned it. It's not superstar to design a magical train, or a magical telephone, or magical cold medicine.

This goes for near-future or theoretically-possible technological items. Spider-Man's web-shooters technically don't exist, but they're plausible enough that someone could invent them, therefore wristbands of the striking webs aren't superstar (they also run into #9, the intellectual property violation). Batman's utility belt isn't superstar. And so on.

Not to say that these items aren't cool, but being cool only gets you so far in RPG Superstar.

Wow. Ok. I've been reading all your advice posts and you've seemed to rule out -everything- as a magical item (I know I'm exaggerating). Is there a list of last years Top 32 entries where we can get an idea of what you consider Tops?

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Card Game, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
wootersl wrote:
Wow. Ok. I've been reading all your advice posts and you've seemed to rule out -everything- as a magical item (I know I'm exaggerating). Is there a list of last years Top 32 entries where we can get an idea of what you consider Tops?

The old winners are chronicled, each with their own forum thread. If you click on the Superstar link you should find an option for past constests.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

For example, last year.

And the year before that.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

wootersl wrote:

Wow. Ok. I've been reading all your advice posts and you've seemed to rule out -everything- as a magical item (I know I'm exaggerating). Is there a list of last years Top 32 entries where we can get an idea of what you consider Tops?

Not to toot my own horn too much, but take a look at Seer's Tea from the first year. The only one of the auto-reject advice it fall afoul of is 'Proofreading' (there's a reference to augury that should be italicized, and the spell names shouldn't be capitalized.) And, frankly, that's the easiest category to get yourself out of.

Shadow Lodge

Ross Byers wrote:
wootersl wrote:

Wow. Ok. I've been reading all your advice posts and you've seemed to rule out -everything- as a magical item (I know I'm exaggerating). Is there a list of last years Top 32 entries where we can get an idea of what you consider Tops?

Not to toot my own horn too much, but take a look at Seer's Tea from the first year. The only one of the auto-reject advice it fall afoul of is 'Proofreading' (there's a reference to augury that should be italicized instead of capitalized.) And, frankly, that's the easiest category to get yourself out of.

Well, isn't that just a "Spell-in-a-can"?

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

wootersl wrote:
Ross Byers wrote:
wootersl wrote:

Wow. Ok. I've been reading all your advice posts and you've seemed to rule out -everything- as a magical item (I know I'm exaggerating). Is there a list of last years Top 32 entries where we can get an idea of what you consider Tops?

Not to toot my own horn too much, but take a look at Seer's Tea from the first year. The only one of the auto-reject advice it fall afoul of is 'Proofreading' (there's a reference to augury that should be italicized instead of capitalized.) And, frankly, that's the easiest category to get yourself out of.
Well, isn't that just a "Spell-in-a-can"?

If all it was was a use-activated augury, yes, but it also does something unique and new, when it acts as a special material component to transform one spell into a higher-level spell.

You only have a few hundred words to work with. Leaning on existing spells is a great way to use tried-and-true mechanics without bursting your word count. Simply invoking an existing spell doesn't make your item a SIAC. Making that all it does makes it a SIAC.

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

Ross Byers wrote:
wootersl wrote:

Wow. Ok. I've been reading all your advice posts and you've seemed to rule out -everything- as a magical item (I know I'm exaggerating). Is there a list of last years Top 32 entries where we can get an idea of what you consider Tops?

Not to toot my own horn too much, but take a look at Seer's Tea from the first year. The only one of the auto-reject advice it fall afoul of is 'Proofreading' (there's a reference to augury that should be italicized instead of capitalized.) And, frankly, that's the easiest category to get yourself out of.

Heck, I've been tooting my own horn... I think you're allowed to Ross.

Seriously, think about how magical items mimic tech.

Crystal Balls can be the satalite survalence of the fantasy world. Mirrors of Mental Prowess are the predator drones. (find them, step through, fireball step back). Look at all the 'castles are obsolete' stuff now.

Eberron gets (unjustly) a lot of flack for the lightning rail, but no one ever gripes about (pre-spellplauge) Realms portal happy methods. Heck, merchants use portals for caravans.

No one is going to look at a mirror of mental prowess and think 'predator drone', no one is going to look at a gate and think 'locomotive'

If you think you're taking something inspired by 'tech' try to decide what aspects you want of it and work backwards.

Spoiler:

Let's take the iPod. You want a fluffy item that plays previously recorded music. Well first, think that D&D characters wouldn't think of a little box that plays music. Instruments play music. So lets make a little wind up band that you can set to 'listen' to music then it plays it back. So you have a 'band in a box' that is, say two lute players and a drummer. When you wind it up, the three little figures come to life and play back the songs they've 'heard'. Now to make it a 'useful' magic item, lets say that it can cast an enthral effect and can be set (programmed) to end the enthral with the deadly finale spell, but it destroys the item. Now you have an iPod, but it also has other uses, and fits thematically. Not many people are going to look at the 'band in a box' and automatically think 'iPod'.

Edit: Now I've got to go home and write that up.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

Matt has the right tack here. Previous years of the contest have seen the submission of the iBard, magic items that were pretty clearly digital cameras, and the like. Often you can get away from these by using a similar mechanic with a different flavor. For instance, a magic telephone is bad, but the whispering lillies from the webfiction installment The Lost Pathfinder are pretty cool.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

My two-cents...

Spoiler:

Creating an item that fully mimics real-world technology...although often seen as innovative by the person designing it...is really intellectually lazy. As Sean points out, it isn't innovative at all. You're just taking something that already exists and reskinning it into a magical RPG version of itself. There's nothing Superstar about that. There's not even anything all that creative about it.

Now, that said...and I've pointed this out before...you can still take inspiration from real-world technology. And the same goes for stuff that might come close to infrining on intellectual property. The point is, you have to not simply reskin it. You have to change it...significantly...all so it stands out on its own as something much more unique than the real-world item that might have inspired it. Matthew has shown a reasonable approach. The whole iBard idea immediately brought to mind a music box for me, as well...something that could potentially record a bardic performance and then play it back at a set time, thereby freeing up a bard to do other stuff than strum his lute. In some ways, I think Sean McGowan's cacophonous monkey from last year kind of touched on this form of design, too (though I had my problems with the real-world nature of it even back then). Either way (music box or cymbal-clashing monkey toy), you can see that it's still different from how an iBard would be crafted and received by the judges.

So, get creative on these wondrous item submissions. Again, I've always cited selecting an item first and then figuring out what type of magical power or ability you want to assign to it. Others might come at it from the angle of what they want the item to do first, because they have a particular spell or class ability or feat or something they want the item to enhance or emulate. I just think that's often a weaker angle to come at it, though. I have to get tangible first (i.e., the object) before I start working on powers. And thus, when I'm sorting out the object, I'm much less likely to draw on real-world technology, because I'm immediately going to be comparing the physical object to what already exists and intentionally trying to do something different and innovative with it, rather than duplicating what it already does via some magical incarnation of it.


--Neil

Contributor

Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
Wow. Ok. I've been reading all your advice posts and you've seemed to rule out -everything- as a magical item (I know I'm exaggerating).

We've literally had people submit items that were GPS devices.

Or walkie-talkies.
Or common-channel earpiece radios (oh, except they were telepathic).
If I can imagine a company's logo on your wondrous item, your item is gonna get rejected.

But obviously, many other items aren't rejected. ;)

Just remember that someone could make a really super-awesome and clever wondrous item that breaks one or more of these auto-reject criteria, and make it into the Top 32. That's because someone who's truly superstar can take something average and put a really incredible spin on it.

Items with typos have made it into the Top 32.
As have funny items.
As have SAK/SIAC items.

And every single one of these exceptions were... exceptional. Ross's tea. Neil's leaves. Cacophonous monkey.

I'm posting these auto-reject bits to help you avoid common pitfalls. Just slapping an augury spell into an item is lame and would have been rejected. Adding another element to it (using the tea-leaves as a material component in an actual augury spell) made in interesting and more than just a SIAC.

It's like going to the tvtropes website... judging by all the links on that site, everything that has even been written is nothing but "tropes"... except people are still making awesome movies and TV shows, despite these "tropes." So if you're using a "trope," put a clever spin on it. Put that extra bit of thought into your item to make yourself stand out from the pack. And if any of this advice can save you from getting an auto-reject for a careless or dumb reason, then it has helped you!

Don't get disheartened. Focus on "I can do better!" or even "I can do better than some of the items that made it into the Top 32 last year!" We want you to do well. Heck, an ideal competition for me is one where I have a hard time narrowing down 64 really good submissions to the best 32. I want people to bring their A-game. I want people to make my job as judge a series of difficult choices. Remember that most of the people who get published have been rejected by a publisher several times. They learn from their mistakes and do better the next time. I'm trying to help you do better the first time. :)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
Wow. Ok. I've been reading all your advice posts and you've seemed to rule out -everything- as a magical item (I know I'm exaggerating).

By quite a lot. In fact, it's trivial to come up with an item that fits all of the criteria:

Jimmy's Knife of Stabby

Jimmy's Knife has a stabby ability. It can be used to make with the stabby. Jimmy would like it back when you're done. I know what you're thinking... pretty wondrous, right?

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #1: Spell in a Can

This item has no magical effect.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #2: Swiss Army Knife

It is not "Swiss Army" issue.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #3: Backstory/History/Description Item

Not much to tell about it, so no.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #4: Item Ought to be Not-An-Item

Pretty itemish.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #5: Item Fails to Follow Game Rules

It's definitely rules-friendly.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #6: Item is a Variant of an Existing Item

Well, everything is a variant of something. There are many knives, but this one is Jimmy's.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #7: Obvious Pricing Errors

Hope not.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #8: The Random Item

Not random at all.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #9: The Intellectual Property Violation

Can't find any references to it.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #10: Item isn't Spell-Checked or Proofread

I'll see what I can do, but my spell-checker is uncertain about "stabby."

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #11: The In-Character Quote

No quotes to be found.

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

If you joke about Jimmy's knife, Jimmy gives you the knife. You don't want Jimmy to give you the knife.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #13: Item makes you blind and not blind

It could poke out just ONE of your eyes...

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

Well, in Britain, you might have a problem. They're not cool with the violence.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #15: Item is unclear on how often it is usable

Usable once per attack roll. Very clear.

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #16: Item's name is a real-world item name

Jimmy The Knife said it was OK, I promise!

Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #17: Item is modern technology presented as magic

Neither modern nor technology.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
If I can imagine a company's logo on your wondrous item, your item is gonna get rejected.

You know, I was just being a smart-ass before, but now you're asking for it. I'm *this* close to submitting an item which is a magical logo. ;-)

Handermine's Magic Shop Business Card

Handermine's (pronounced hand-er-mins) originally opened in Korvosa. The small shop sold non-magical replicas of magic items that were recovered by adventurers in popular songs. Since these songs make the rounds between cities whenever a noteworthy exploit catches the imagination of the public, it seemed wise to cash in on the fascination and produce something wealthy patrons of the arts could collect to show how current their tastes were.

The cards were first commissioned by the shop's Absalom franchise when it opened. They are simple wood-fiber card stock with the company name, logo and address. In addition it lists the most popular item on sale. The enchantment on the card causes this name to update every time something becomes more popular.

Variant: Handermine's Omen Card

These cards look identical to the standard card, but there was a problem with one batch of cards (100 in all) which caused them to list the name of the location of the next item that will become Handermine's best-seller. Though it is usually not early enough for adventurers to use the cards to locate this treasure before someone else, many have pointed out that carrying a card with you while delving into the dark places of the Inner Sea might warn you when you've discovered something important. The cards are therefore sought after by many an adventurer.

I'll leave pricing an caster level to someone else, as this item clearly violates several of the rules. Still, it seemed like it had to be done.

Edit: That first line seemed kinda whiny and harsh without a smiley to bring it the appropriate level of gravitas. (i.e. none)

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I kinda see where some folks are coming from.

1) So far, you've listed 17 ways you could get auto-rejected. And so they immediately look at an item they want to create, and almost all of their creative ideas seem to loosely fit one of these 17 things.

2) There have been many authors and scholars of writing who have said that there are...

only three (or five depending on who said it) types of plots, and that nothing is unique anymore.

3) Everything we have in the way of technology today is based on all the historical mythology we've heard about (or Star Trek--which I suppose is based on historical mythology in its own way).

So all I want to say is this...

Please correct me if I'm wrong...

You are mostly talking about extreme examples of each of these categorical rejections.

I could probably list 7 to 12 of the top 32 of each of the past years that ostensibly (and commented on by the judges) broke one if not more of these 17 categories. But usually in a minor enough way, that all the gooey goodness of the item overpowered it.

So am I right in that people should just not worry so much that their item is going to get rejected because they might accidentally fall too close to the auto-reject line without realizing it?

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Jimmy's Knife of Stabby is not a wondrous item, considering it's a weapon. If it were Jimmy's Earmuffs of Stabby, then sure, since earmuffs are not inherently a weapon. Even that's pushing it on the backstory front, since you waste one word each time you say the item's name, and adding a possessive name to an item and then never explaining who Jimmy is will only confuse matters. So you need at least one sentence to say who Jimmy is, and then you've spent a whole sentence that could have been about the item and not about Jimmy.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

ajs wrote:
Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
Wow. Ok. I've been reading all your advice posts and you've seemed to rule out -everything- as a magical item (I know I'm exaggerating).

By quite a lot. In fact, it's trivial to come up with an item that fits all of the criteria:

Jimmy's Knife of Stabby

Entry is a Weapon, not a Wondrous Item.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Mark Moreland wrote:
Jimmy's Knife of Stabby is not a wondrous item, considering it's a weapon. If it were Jimmy's Earmuffs of Stabby, then sure, since earmuffs are not inherently a weapon. Even that's pushing it on the backstory front, since you waste one word each time you say the item's name, and adding a possessive name to an item and then never explaining who Jimmy is will only confuse matters. So you need at least one sentence to say who Jimmy is, and then you've spent a whole sentence that could have been about the item and not about Jimmy.

Jimmy is very sorry to hear that you will not be accepting his knife for your contest. Jimmy wants you to reconsider. Don't make Jimmy give you the knife. ;-)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Chris Mortika wrote:
ajs wrote:
Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
Wow. Ok. I've been reading all your advice posts and you've seemed to rule out -everything- as a magical item (I know I'm exaggerating).

By quite a lot. In fact, it's trivial to come up with an item that fits all of the criteria:

Jimmy's Knife of Stabby

Entry is a Weapon, not a Wondrous Item.

I was trying to push the limits of the contest. obviously, I violated the joke rule by using "wondrous" as a pun rather than as a type (wondrous items being defined in the rules as any item which cannot be fit into another category of magic item, yes, this is not my first tricycle ride) and by my tone. The word "stabby" is probably something I picked up from listening to too many Joss Whedon characters, and again could constitute a joke.

The item is also non-magical, which oddly enough isn't explicitly listed as a requirement for wondrous items, though we could argue that "wondrous" is a sub-set of "magic" in the rules and thus, we require that it be magic. To go further into this, the word "magic" does not appear on the main page for the contest, and appears in the FAQ only under the word-limit question. Kind of odd, eh?

I want to stress that none of these rules seem onerous to me. It's pretty easy to design wondrous items. They're the "special sauce" of magic items. As long as you've got some egg and oil in there somewhere, you can add just about any spice you like. Sadly, my first instinct was a SIAC, but given that I now know that restriction, I think I could probably come up with a dozen items today before I go into work, if I really wanted to. The hard part is making them "pop" off the page so that the judges remember your item.

Good luck, all!

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Andrew Christian wrote:


You are mostly talking about extreme examples of each of these categorical rejections.

I could probably list 7 to 12 of the top 32 of each of the past years that ostensibly (and commented on by the judges) broke one if not more of these 17 categories. But usually in a minor enough way, that all the gooey goodness of the item overpowered it.

So am I right in that people should just not worry so much that their item is going to get rejected because they might accidentally fall too close to the auto-reject line without realizing it?

Exactly. I think some are taking the "auto-reject" wording of the advice a little too literally.

There's a fine line between genius and madness, and I'm sure that many of the great items in this year's contest will bend or break "the rules" to some degree. It's about being bold and innovative, but most importantly doing so in a way that just works. The cliche that it's as much "art" as "science" certainly applies. :)

Shadow Lodge

So, general "Auto-Reject" question. When an item is submitted and it gets "Auto-Rejected" because it it plainly a severe violation of one of these topics. Will you let that person know so they can try to submit something else?

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Card Game, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
So, general "Auto-Reject" question. When an item is submitted and it gets "Auto-Rejected" because it it plainly a severe violation of one of these topics. Will you let that person know so they can try to submit something else?

I can answer this one: No.

You get one submission. Make it count

Shadow Lodge

Wicht wrote:
Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
So, general "Auto-Reject" question. When an item is submitted and it gets "Auto-Rejected" because it it plainly a severe violation of one of these topics. Will you let that person know so they can try to submit something else?

I can answer this one: No.

You get one submission. Make it count

Wow, harsh. But, good to know. Thanks.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

There's a very distinct reason for that.
You don't get do-over's after you've turned in a manuscript for something.
Instead, you lead with your best stuff.
And you make sure it follows all the guidelines you're given.

The RPG Superstar competition simulates that experience throughout every round of the competition. Thus, your wondrous item submission needs to avoid as many of these auto-reject cliches as it can, adhere to the submission guidelines, and bring the awesome. You do those things and you'll already have separated yourself from a significant amount of the pack.

Shadow Lodge

Neil Spicer wrote:

There's a very distinct reason for that.

You don't get do-over's after you've turned in a manuscript for something.
Instead, you lead with your best stuff.
And you make sure it follows all the guidelines you're given.

The RPG Superstar competition simulates that experience throughout every round of the competition. Thus, your wondrous item submission needs to avoid as many of these auto-reject cliches as it can, adhere to the submission guidelines, and bring the awesome. You do those things and you'll already have separated yourself from a significant amount of the pack.

Well, although your reasoning is sound, it's also flawed. You do get do-overs with manuscripts and everything else. If you submit an idea for a book or a movie, it's either accepted or rejected. If it's rejected, you go back to the drawing board and try again. But, for your contest, I can understand the need to restrict to one application per person. Otherwise you'd be flooded with ideas.

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Card Game, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
If you submit an idea for a book or a movie, it's either accepted or rejected. If it's rejected, you go back to the drawing board and try again.

You are not really offering a submission of an idea in this contest: you are being tested for your ability to write a finished product. Being able to brainstorm a great idea is different from the ability to actually produce a workable product.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
Well, although your reasoning is sound, it's also flawed. You do get do-overs with manuscripts and everything else. If you submit an idea for a book or a movie, it's either accepted or rejected. If it's rejected, you go back to the drawing board and try again. But, for your contest, I can understand the need to restrict to one application per person. Otherwise you'd be flooded with ideas.

I can tell you as a practicing freelancer that do-overs in the RPG writing business are practically non-existent. A developer or editor may come back to you with a question or a request for some refinement on a piece you left out. But you don't typically get your whole turnover back to you...or an opportunity to completely resubmit if you missed the boat. After all, if you totally messed up the first time, why would the publisher trust you to go back and create something better from whole cloth again?

Much more likely, they'll either wind up re-writing or fixing your manuscript themselves. Or, they'll turn to another freelancer whom they trust to do it right. Why? Because of their production schedule. In the RPG publishing business, that's a really crucial thing. It's why freelancers who reliably hit their deadlines with a properly executed assignment according to the guidelines given to them...are so extremely valuable and go on to receive repeat assignments.

Thus, I don't believe my reasoning is flawed at all in this case. My recommendation is to dive into the contest submission guidelines, frequently asked questions, all these advice threads, and every example of prior Top 32 entries that you possibly can. And then, make sure you avoid every pitfall, bring the awesome, and hit your marks. You do that and you just might have RPG Superstar potential...not just for this competition, but for the long haul. And if you're serious about getting into freelancing, that's where your focus should be.

Shadow Lodge

What if it's clockwork/steam technology presented as...clockwork/steam technology? I mean, I'd count that as a Wondrous Item, at least in the Golarion setting.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Kthulhu wrote:
What if it's clockwork/steam technology presented as...clockwork/steam technology? I mean, I'd count that as a Wondrous Item, at least in the Golarion setting.

I believe there have been clockwork wondrous items that have made the Top 32 before. The cacophonous monkey from last year, for example. So, it's do-able. It flirts a little with the real-world technology thing. But, as long as you bring the awesome and have some mechanically-sound (ha! I pun!) abilities woven into it that will enhance the game, go for it!

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Wicht wrote:
Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
If you submit an idea for a book or a movie, it's either accepted or rejected. If it's rejected, you go back to the drawing board and try again.
You are not really offering a submission of an idea in this contest: you are being tested for your ability to write a finished product. Being able to brainstorm a great idea is different from the ability to actually produce a workable product.

Yes, and you can do the same in this contest... for the next year.

There was one guy in 2008 who submitted an really, really awesome item, and made the top 32 (I'd wager he was in the top 5 of the top 32) and got rejected because he was 69 words or some such over the word count stipulation.

The judges suggested he rewrite it and enter it in the next years contest.

I don't think it happened, however.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Actually, it did happen. He fell out of the 2008 competition because of word count (which pulled up one of the alternates). And then he resubmitted the same thing in 2009. He also made the Top 32 again (after editing to meet word count). And then he went out in Round Two of that year, I believe.


Neil Spicer wrote:
Kthulhu wrote:
What if it's clockwork/steam technology presented as...clockwork/steam technology? I mean, I'd count that as a Wondrous Item, at least in the Golarion setting.
I believe there have been clockwork wondrous items that have made the Top 32 before. The cacophonous monkey from last year, for example. So, it's do-able. It flirts a little with the real-world technology thing. But, as long as you bring the awesome and have some mechanically-sound (ha! I pun!) abilities woven into it that will enhance the game, go for it!

Hm. Maybe a separate thread that goes over exceptions to various advice rules might be a good idea.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Freehold DM wrote:
...Maybe a separate thread that goes over exceptions to various advice rules might be a good idea.

If you want to see exceptions to the various advice "rules," do your research by looking over the Top 32 items from the past 3 years. There are examples in each competition of items that flirted with the auto-reject stereotypes, but had the mojo to succeed anyway. Now, that said, a few of those items may have made it based on a "golden ticket" whereby a single judge champions an item in which he saw some promise and wants to see what the designer would do in later rounds. But you shouldn't aim for getting a "golden ticket." Set the bar higher than that.

And don't think of these advice threads as "rules" either. Some of them aren't in the contest submission rules. Instead, they're mostly just advice on what causes a submission to swiftly go into the auto-reject pile. Thus, if you want to maximize your chances of getting into the competition, this is the advice you need to heed.

Also, I want to add one more thing with regards to all these advice threads. Everyone should realize that a lot of this stuff goes without saying. But Sean is doing a tremendous service just by putting together all these advice threads. Earlier years of the competition didn't have anything quite as in-depth as this to help guide everyone. And, in all honesty, there comes a point where a designer is expected to find their own way in navigating the hazards of wondrous item submission. The judges (and Paizo) can't spell out everything.

So keep in mind, Paizo is looking for an RPG Superstar...someone who goes above and beyond, applying their own motivation, skill, and self-determination to make it into the Top 32. I believe Sean has referred to that in the past as having "gamer chops." And that's what an RPG Superstar contestant needs to demonstrate in the course of crafting their wondrous item submission. Everyone who makes the Top 32 isn't going to come in fully-formed as a ready-to-go RPG designer. But it's equally unlikely that folks will make it into the competition without having some kind of internal compass that helps them succeed at these challenges...often gained by educating themselves on RPG design and what the judges were looking for in prior years of the contest.

There's a whole library of examples and advice out there to prepare yourself. But the judges (and Paizo) can't put out advice on everything. Eventually, a contestant has to demonstrate their own fortitude in learning and knowing what works in RPG design...and that starts with a very simple wondrous item submission...and then escalates from there.

--Neil

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
Neil Spicer wrote:
Actually, it did happen. He fell out of the 2008 competition because of word count (which pulled up one of the alternates). And then he resubmitted the same thing in 2009. He also made the Top 32 again (after editing to meet word count). And then he went out in Round Two of that year, I believe.

Which highlights another word of wisdom. When an editor ACTUALLY sends you back something for rewrite. LISTEN.


Yet another one I completely agree with. How many 2nd ed games was I in were half of the PCs had magic items from Star Wars and the other had magic items from Star Trek...?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Freehold DM wrote:
Hm. Maybe a separate thread that goes over exceptions to various advice rules might be a good idea.

No need. There's really only one exception that will let you break any of Sean's guidelines, and that is this: It must otherwise be so awesome that the judges are willing to overlook a minor flaw or two. Quite literally, the judges have to agree that even though you did something slightly wrong, they *really* want to see what you'll do next. (And if you did anything *very* wrong, even that won't matter.)

Do not count on that happening to your item, because it doesn't happen to very many at all.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:
Hm. Maybe a separate thread that goes over exceptions to various advice rules might be a good idea.
No need. There's really only one exception that will let you break any of Sean's guidelines, and that is this: It must otherwise be so awesome that the judges are willing to overlook a minor flaw or two.

Amen to that. In addition, I dare say that one of the key characteristics of a good and reliable freelancer is their ability to deliver great content on time with minimal supervision--which means dealing with ambiguity. If the good folks at Paizo had to supervise every last paragraph of a manuscript they might as well write it themselves.

Working out how to deal with these wondrous item auto-reject guidelines is something of a microcosm of that--successful entrants will be able to work within the guidelines while deciding which ones to bend; breaking one of them completely will most likely result in an auto-reject as suggested. Bending a guideline the right way is--to my mind--definitely the mark of a superstar.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Lachlan Rocksoul wrote:
Neil Spicer wrote:

There's a very distinct reason for that.

You don't get do-over's after you've turned in a manuscript for something.
Instead, you lead with your best stuff.
And you make sure it follows all the guidelines you're given.

The RPG Superstar competition simulates that experience throughout every round of the competition. Thus, your wondrous item submission needs to avoid as many of these auto-reject cliches as it can, adhere to the submission guidelines, and bring the awesome. You do those things and you'll already have separated yourself from a significant amount of the pack.

Well, although your reasoning is sound, it's also flawed. You do get do-overs with manuscripts and everything else. If you submit an idea for a book or a movie, it's either accepted or rejected. If it's rejected, you go back to the drawing board and try again. But, for your contest, I can understand the need to restrict to one application per person. Otherwise you'd be flooded with ideas.

Neil's already gone into this but I thought it might be worth addressing from a development point of view. While what you say about books and movies is true, that's not really the production model used in the RPG industry, at least not Paizo. Consider a television series. When the producer or show-runner assigns an episode to a freelancer, that's who's expected to produce workable content. By the time a bad script comes in, it's often too late to get someone else to write it or rewrite it in-house in time to get the episode produced on time.

In the same manner, if I as PFS developer assign a scenario to a freelancer (whether they're an old pro or one of the top 4 in this contest), I need to know that when their deadline comes around, that I'm going to get a turnover that requires the least amount of work to be what we need before publication. If I asked for a scenario in Absalom and got one set in Numeria, as cool as it might be, it's not what was assigned and it's going to need to be rewritten.

So when the judges see a submission in this or any other round that displays that the author can follow directions while still producing innovative and exciting material, that's the stuff we're going to recommend for the fans to vote on. Because those are the kinds of authors we want to work with in the future.

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