Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #25: Item is a child's toy


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 posting them one by one as we approach Round 1 of this year's contest.)

25. Item is a child's toy.

I have no idea why, but every year we get several items that look like children's toys. Jack-in-the-box. Doll. Spinning top.

It's weird and a little creepy. And maybe that's what the designer is going for. Unfortunately, it usually provokes an "oh, it's another toy!" reaction from the judges.

If your item's effect is related to its shape as a toy, it's been done before (for example, a jack-in-the-box that you can wind up to enthrall a creature or explode like a trap, or a doll that answers questions or protects children, or a top that emits a nauseating or enchanting spell effect while spinning).

If your item's effect is NOT related to its shape as a toy, then its toy shape is a just a gimmick (your jack-in-the-box that breathes fire could just as easily be a mask that breathes fire).

Scarab Sages

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Dammit, there go the hopes for 'Tickle-Me-Troglodyte'!

Contributor

Gavgoyle wrote:
Dammit, there go the hopes for 'Tickle-Me-Troglodyte'!

I had an pre-order in for one of those, too.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Ok, some of this advice is getting pretty sketchy.

"If your item's effect is related to its shape as a toy, it's been done before" sounds an awful lot like "everything that can be invented has been invented." If, on the other hand, the judges are actually prepared to consider an innovative toy should someone comes up with one, then it's not "auto-reject," now is it?

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7 aka Draconas

Darrin Drader wrote:
Gavgoyle wrote:
Dammit, there go the hopes for 'Tickle-Me-Troglodyte'!
I had an pre-order in for one of those, too.

That begs the question: does it come with authentic stench action whenever you tickle it?

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

And don't forget, Not all children's toys are created equal.

That aside, an item that is a children's toy usually hides a flawed design. I mean why does it have to be a child's rattle that causes fear? Why not chankana of chaos instead?

A jack-in-the-box that when you wind it pops a lightning bolt out instead of a clown is useful, it's not superstar.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

bugleyman wrote:

Ok, some of this advice is getting pretty sketchy.

This.

On the one hand, I'm sure everyone appreciates the heads up and advice being given. On the other hand, these auto-reject tips are getting pretty narrow and idiosyncratic. I can see how it would be tough to create a child's toy that is superstar material, but it seems pretty odd to call that an auto-reject item. The same goes for some of these other auto-reject item categories that have been identified. I could see "these types of items are not a good idea" or "this is not a concept that will generate an item that will appeal to the judges" but auto-rejection seems harsh. Is the official policy that these items will be auto-rejected, or is it just that it's a dumb idea to submit them given that one of the judges has already blacklisted them?

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

Sebastian wrote:
bugleyman wrote:

Ok, some of this advice is getting pretty sketchy.

This.

On the one hand, I'm sure everyone appreciates the heads up and advice being given. On the other hand, these auto-reject tips are getting pretty narrow and idiosyncratic. I can see how it would be tough to create a child's toy that is superstar material, but it seems pretty odd to call that an auto-reject item. The same goes for some of these other auto-reject item categories that have been identified. I could see "these types of items are not a good idea" or "this is not ta concept that will generate an item that will appeal to the judges" but auto-rejection seems harsh. Is the official policy that these items will be auto-rejected, or is it just that it's a dumb idea to submit them given that one of the judges has already blacklisted them?

It's just a dumb idea. Items have made the top 32 before that have broken these guidelines. But "Wondrous items that are bad ideas or we see lots of but can get a pass based on being really cool or being well designed in another way or overcoming the reason for caution but you really shouldn't count on that so be darn sure before submitting advice" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Ross Byers wrote:


It's just a dumb idea. Items have made the top 32 before that have broken these guidelines. But "Wondrous items that are bad ideas or we see lots of but can get a pass based on being really cool or being well designed in another way or overcoming the reason for caution but you really shouldn't count on that advice" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Fair enough, but the cumulative effect of this advice leaves the impression that RPG Superstar should be characterized as "a wonderous item that isn't superstar material will be rejected."

Well, duh.

What exactly is the issue with the children's toy idea? Is it that too many are submitted and they are uniformally bland? Is it that by their nature they are hard to integrate into a game?

I'm walking away from these advice posts thinking that the rpg superstar is about guessing which items do not provoke an immediate knee-jerk rejection for some obscure reason. I don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth, and advice about pet peeves is probably some of the best advice, but I don't think I'm learning anything about good magic item design from the last 10-15 tips. I'm learning what SKR doesn't like, and given that he's a judge, that's some pretty valuable information, but it's coming across as if these things are auto-rejects because SKR doesn't like them (which, again, is fine, he's a judge after all) rather than because of some design pitfall or other problem of which they run afoul.

I guess I want the illusion that the contest is based around design and what makes something well designed. These tips suggest to me that the contest is based around avoiding the pet peeves listed here (along with predicting the pet peeves that are not listed here).

I suppose that it's pretty difficult to describe good design in the abstract, and thus you get these more narrow categories, but I'd still like a little more perspective on what is generating these seemingly random auto-reject categories.

Contributor

I admit, we're scraping the bottom of the barrel, here.

But this is still valid advice. Child-toy items are dumb items. It's not heroic for a mighty warrior or thief to be playing with a jack-in-the-box. It's laughable for a powerful villain or dragon to be using a Raggedy Anne doll to intimidate or harm PCs.

And every year, we get some people who submit these items as if they're cool. Or innovative. They're not, and they're not. And these items get rejected.

Let's repeat that: every year, several people submit toy items that they think are their best work. And they get rejected for it because toy items are not cool or innovative. They're not Superstar. Isn't it better to point this out to them now, and give them the option to submit a different item, than to let them shoot themselves in the foot with an item that's not going to cut the mustard?

Last year I was really hard-line about letting competitors have enough rope to hang themselves by. I've changed my mind on that--I'd rather see 500 good submissions than 400 poor submissions and 100 good submissions, even if that means more work for me judging them. So I'm providing this info so people can avoid obvious problem items that aren't going to advance. I guarantee you that some people are going to ignore #25, or not see it because they're not reading the boards, and they're going to submit a toy item, and it's going to get rejected. But hopefully there are some people who were going to submit a toy, and they now realize they can come up with something better.

Heck, one of my notes for these auto-rejects was "item uses 'rouge' instead of 'rogue.'" No, we wouldn't really auto-reject anyone for that, but it would make the author look dumb. There are big mistakes, and there are little mistakes, and it's helpful to avoid making any of them.

But wait until you see advice #27.

Contributor

Sebastian wrote:
I don't think I'm learning anything about good magic item design from the last 10-15 tips.

16. Item's name is a real-world item. From this you should learn that the name of the item is important, and if the name implies one thing and the item does another thing, that's a poor name-item combination.

17. Item is technology in magic item form (PDA, cell phone, GPS, walkie-talkie/group radio, etc.). From this you should learn that just reskinning an existing item as magic doesn't mean you're making a good magic item.

18. Item makes wearer immune to being lost. The meta-discussion about this is summarized as "don't create an item that breaks the game."

19. Item involves vomit. From this you should learn that just because you can design an item, doesn't mean you should design an item.

20. Item makes the GM work harder. Seems pretty clear what you should have learned here.

21. Item gives a class ability or feat. "Don't steal from classes or feats" is a good lesson.

22. Item makes adventuring safe. Lesson: "don't add to the 'arms race' between players and GMs."

23. Item has a drawback that's actually a benefit. Lesson: "Think about all aspects of your item, how it can be used and abused, and whether or not a conditional drawback is really a drawback if the player can easily ignore it."

24. Item repeats the description of existing rules content of the abilities it grants. Lesson: "Realize when you're designing a magic item and when you're looting someone else's text. Designing is not copying."

25. Item is a child's toy. Lesson: "Avoid the gimmick item, especially when it's unheroic."

*shrug*

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4 aka Scipion del Ferro

27. Items who's description is made up of words wherein the first letter of each word spell out the lyrics from the theme of "Fresh Prince of Bel Air."

By the way I really appreciate the advice your handing out and I am excited that my item doesn't fall into any of these pitfalls!

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Sebastian wrote:

Is the official policy that these items will be auto-rejected...?

I mentioned this in the advice #8 thread, but it's worth restating.

There are a couple possible definitions of "autoreject." Certainly, there are entries that clearly fail to follow the basic rules, and any judge—or even a non-judge admin like me—would immediately reject those with no second opinion or discussion needed. (Over word count? Not in English? Not written for the Pathfinder RPG? Rejected.)

In these advice threads, Sean is usually talking about mistakes that will likely get you rejected with little or no comment by the first two judges to view your submission. That is, the judges' complete commentary on your item would consist of something like this:

Judge 1: "[basic flaw named, i.e. "Spell in a Can"]. Reject."
Judge 2: "Rejected."
(Judge 3 never sees it because it's already in the rejection bin.)

Now, it is certainly possible to come up with good items that go against some of Sean's advice, but it'd probably have to be pretty fantastic indeed for you to make the final cut.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

My two-cents...

Spoiler:
As a judge, I'm probably going to be a little more lenient in this category than Sean...but if I wind up seeing a bazillion magic toys, maybe I'll reconsider that stance. This type of item can start to border on the real-world item made into a magic something-or-other. And that means it's potentially not very Superstar if that's pretty much the extent of all it does.

But an innovative designer could still do something cool here. The cacophonous monkey, for instance, from last year's competition was basically a wind-up monkey with clashing cymbals and everything. But it brought some interesting mojo in what the clockwork construct could actually do for a bard. So, clearly, there's room to negotiate this potential pitfall category and turn it into something winnable. You've just got to have some serious mojo to credibly pull it off without seeming gimmicky.

And, to Sebastian and Erik's points, please keep in mind fellas that these categories (though labeled "auto-reject") are just that. There have been exceptions to these "rules" in the past. And I suspect there will be some exceptions this year, too. Despite that, Sean's doing yeoman's work here in trying to educate folks on what makes for a good design decision and what's questionable. And, if you leave the judges questioning your design decisions by flirting with one of these "auto-reject" categories, you're lessening your chances of making it into the Top 32.

So, bottom line: Instead of rebutting these categories, just look for the core lesson hidden in each one. And, consider that as you craft your wondrous item. There's nothing easy about making a Superstar design that stands out from hundreds of other submissions. But those that avoid as many of these pitfalls as possible, will.


--Neil

Liberty's Edge

Hello!

Having never really participated on the boards, and until this year, never participated in Superstar, my two-cents may not be worth much. But here we go:

Any advice given, especially by SKR, is incredably valuable. I'm sure that the developers for Pathfinder have a vision for their system and Golarion. This advice should go a long way in understanding what they do and do not want to see in Pathfinder.

What this says to me isn't "all children's toy items suck", but "that's not the kind of item we want to see for pathfinder or this competition".

I don't believe in psychics, so I may be off the mark.

-T

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

I'm probably just being overly cranky about the toys and vomit auto-reject categories (maybe it's because I submitted a vomitting jack-in-the-box last year). I do appreciate the advice, it's just that some of it is coming across to me as "your idea is dumb and you should feel bad."*

*Futurama quote (basically). If you didn't know that, you should feel bad.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

I also might point out that if you come up with an item that breaks some of the rules Sean's posting and is still really cool... cool enough for Sean and the other judges to say, "You know what, this item breaks rule X, Y, and/or Z, but it's SO COOL that it should advance."

That's precisely something that a RPG Superstar could do—build an excellent item that, even though it breaks one of the "rules" Sean's listing, is still excellent.

None of that changes the fundamental fact that it's not the wisest course to deliberately go against the grain and, say, design an item that is a child's toy that makes you vomit all the time but in so doing allows you to follow your trail of vomit back home so that you never get lost.

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Sebastian wrote:

I'm probably just being overly cranky about the toys and vomit auto-reject categories (maybe it's because I submitted a vomitting jack-in-the-box last year). I do appreciate the advice, it's just that some of it is coming across to me as "your idea is dumb and you should feel bad."*

*Futurama quote (basically). If you didn't know that, you should feel bad.

Overall I think many folks are taking these "auto-reject rules" too literally and much-more-so than necessary as gospel.

The intent, I think (and Sean can correct me if I'm wrong here), is more to give a set of guidelines. If you fall into one or more of these 25 categories, drastically, then chances are you will be auto rejected.

I mean, depending on who is subjectively looking at it, there are very few items that can't be considered a SIAC. But that advice post is more geared towards, don't make a wand, scroll or staff item that just casts a spell. Make an item that uses the idea of a spell in a new and innovative way.

I've been doing an analysis of the top 96 items from the last 3 years, and have gotten about 2/3rds of the way through 2008 (got sidetracked by Thanksgiving and finally writing up my own item). By my subjectiveness (in some cases it wasn't mine, the judges baldly stated as much) approximately 12 of the 24 items I've looked at have broken at least one rule in some fashion (even if it is fairly minor).

Don't feel like Sean and Paizo is creating a box from which you can't be creative or innovative. Rather, look at it as them defining the box you should be thinking outside of.

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
...design an item that is a child's toy that makes you vomit all the time but in so doing allows you to follow your trail of vomit back home so that you never get lost.

A revisioning of Hansel and Grettle(sp)?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Sebastian wrote:

I'm probably just being overly cranky about the toys and vomit auto-reject categories (maybe it's because I submitted a vomitting jack-in-the-box last year). I do appreciate the advice, it's just that some of it is coming across to me as "your idea is dumb and you should feel bad."*

*Futurama quote (basically). If you didn't know that, you should feel bad.

Well... one INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT skill that any RPG writer should develop is the ability to let criticism of his/her work, be it legit and constructive, or snarky and petty, not hurt his/her feelings. It's also something that RPG superstars need to develop as well, and is the main reason we try to help by saying "Don't reply to critiques!"

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Andrew Christian wrote:
The intent, I think...is more to give a set of guidelines.

To borrow a few phrases from Pirates of the Caribbean...

Spoiler:

"I think we've all arrived at a very special place. Spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically. "

"The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can't. But pirate is in your blood, boy, so you'll have to square with that some day. And me, for example, I can let you drown, but I can't bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy? So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not?"

"I thought you were supposed to keep to the code."
"We figured they were more actual guidelines."


;-)


If you think that toys cannot make awesome items, I think that just shows personal bias, and yes you are a judge, but you should still have imagination. There are many ways in which they can be cool, innovative, and awesome. Go watch Daywatch, and tell me the final action scene isn't cool because it uses a "children's" toy. Or that the Joker using explosive jack-in-the-boxes or shocking handshakes wasn't cool.

I think it's poor design and poor editing to disregard something because it isn't something you like. Which, unfortunately, is the reason why thousands of good authors are not published to this day. "Oh, your poem happens to be in a shape, auto-reject" (Not mine, but has happened to a poet friend of mine) and so on so forth. Or for example, hollywood auto-rejects most original films that could be quite amazing. I was under the impression the purpose of this contest was to be innovative and to demonstrate creativity in a nearly overly explored medium.

Pathfinder is an expansion of 3.5 rules, and there are books upon books of WoTC and third party created magic items. There are literally thousands of them, and the purpose is for us to come up with something better than what previously has been done.

But, my biggest question here is: "Why toy hatred?"
Do you dislike and auto-reject every other type of item that is redone? Are we going to auto-reject rings, amulets, horns, and other overly used items? What you do is just have people finding obscure objects to make into items, which stifles creativity. "Well this lyre of destruction would be awesome, but lets go ahead and call it a rhutebega instead."

I know we're trying to "win" a "contest", but this isn't luck based, it's skill based. And if you're autorejecting an item based on the fact it looks like a toy, then what's the point of this contest? You're looking for designers of items with good flavor and in game abilities, and there is no reason why a toy shouldn't be amongst them. I can totally see a bad-ass thief dropping down a jack in the box that releases a slumber effect or a bubble wand that creates thick bubbles that slow movement or a ton of other things. Now, I don't want to create a toy, I'm just saying...this kind of advice is more stifling of creativity and nitpicking over what you personally like and don't like then being real "Advice".

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

Actually, a ring wouldn't just be auto-rejected, it would be disqualified, because it isn't a Wondrous Item. It's a Ring, which is a separate category of magic items.

Sean is cautioning people away from this type of item because:

1) The judges get a LOT of these, which means its harder to stand out.

2a) It's usually not as cool as something else that could be done with that same effect. OR
2b) It's an item actually meant for children, not adventurers.

He's not doing these threads to stifle creativity or to tell people they're playing the game wrong. He's saying that these are things that the judges see EVERY YEAR that are, generally speaking, bad items. You shouldn't read that as "Your X happens to be a Y, too bad." You should read it as "Xs that are Ys tend not to be as good as Xs that are not Ys. If your X is a Y, you should be doubly sure that it is a cool X."

Contributor

Chris Chapman 60 wrote:

If you think that toys cannot make awesome items, I think that just shows personal bias, and yes you are a judge, but you should still have imagination. There are many ways in which they can be cool, innovative, and awesome. Go watch Daywatch, and tell me the final action scene isn't cool because it uses a "children's" toy. Or that the Joker using explosive jack-in-the-boxes or shocking handshakes wasn't cool.

I think it's poor design and poor editing to disregard something because it isn't something you like.

Let me me quote Captain Pike from last year's Star Trek movie:

"You know your father was Captain of a Starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives. Including your mother's and yours. I dare you to do better."

Or perhaps this:

Do you think you can write an awesome toy wondrous item, despite what I've said above?

Then do it.

Prove.

Me.

Wrong.

I want you to prove me wrong.

I want someone to create something that puts a new twist on something old and revitalizes the entire category. Maybe it's basically spell in a can, like Neil's last leaves of the autumn dryad. Maybe it's an item named for a real-world item, like James Martin's runcible spoon. Maybe it's a toy, like Sean McGowan's cacophonous monkey. Or maybe it's an item you have to swallow, and eventually you barf it back up or *ahem* let it pass, like Benjamin Bruck's steadfast gut-stone.

There are rules in this world. Sometimes those rules are there to protect you, like "don't drive over the speed limit." And there are some people who break those rules to win races, or to get to a burning house in time to save lives.

These topics are advice. They're not hard rules for the contest--those are listed elsewhere, and you shouldn't break or even bend those rules. But all of these topics I've been writing, they're just advice. Can you recognize what *advice* that's been given here can be skirted, or ignored entirely?

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

James Jacobs wrote:
Well... one INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT skill that any RPG writer should develop is the ability to let criticism of his/her work, be it legit and constructive, or snarky and petty, not hurt his/her feelings. It's also something that RPG superstars need to develop as well, and is the main reason we try to help by saying "Don't reply to critiques!"

Don't you be telling me what I should or shouldn't do from the safety of my glass house! How dare you!!!

*throws stone*

I appreciate the clarification provided in the thread, and particularly SKR's last post. That's more in line with the spirit I expected for the challenge. Plus, my toy magic item is different from all the others you've seen.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Sebastian wrote:
Plus, my toy magic item is different from all the others you've seen.

Just as long as it's not a little monkey action figure that throws a toy banana down your throat when you are poisoned, causing you to choke and vomit up the poison. That's my item.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I don't think a pony doll is gonna fly.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Sebastian wrote:
Plus, my toy magic item is different from all the others you've seen.

Is it a pony? It's a pony, isn't it? I think it's a pony.


I guess, one attitude would be: Once I've made it to the Top 32, this year...

I can try to creatively and pleasantly surprise the judges next year with something that flies against "convention".

But, please, please, please... if you feel like creating and submitting an auto-reject item, then do so.

Certain political personas would agree, "These folk cannot tell you what not to do... how dare they?!"

Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Adam Daigle wrote:
I don't think a pony doll is gonna fly.

Aw, you've ruined his item: Sebastian's flying glitter pony.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

gbonehead wrote:
Aw, you've ruined his item: Sebastian's flying glitter pony.

No, he'd totally ruin it himself if he puts his name in there. Sort of defeats the whole anonymous submission thing. ;-)


Ross Byers wrote:

1) The judges get a LOT of these, which means its harder to stand out.

This, to me, is the key part -- as a submitter you don't know what is or isn't cliched. In this case you may think you're submitting the only Jack in the Box with a demon in it but based on this rule, probably not.

Equally, I had come up with what I thought was an interesting regurgitation-themed item. I figured it'd be the only one of those. Not so much, so we'll roll with something else.

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Dire Mongoose wrote:
Ross Byers wrote:

1) The judges get a LOT of these, which means its harder to stand out.

This, to me, is the key part -- as a submitter you don't know what is or isn't cliched. In this case you may think you're submitting the only Jack in the Box with a demon in it but based on this rule, probably not.

Equally, I had come up with what I thought was an interesting regurgitation-themed item. I figured it'd be the only one of those. Not so much, so we'll roll with something else.

One of the judges favorite items from 2008 was the Nausea Pill. You swallow it and makes those that might bite or swallow you get a bad taste in their mouth, so to speak. If they failed their save, they would have to spit you out.

Now that was a vomit item, that wasn't based around vomiting. It was elegant, simple, and pretty cool.

So you can "break" the rules, as long as you don't make the stereotypically bad examples of said "rule".

Dark Archive

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
"item uses 'rouge' instead of 'rogue.'"

As a recovering MMORPG player, this is one of my biggest pet peeves.

"I'm a rouge LFG..."
"Are you red and French or something?"

...grabs box of Quietus from medicine cabinet... yes, it's time...

Contributor

You know, the objection to a jack-in-the-box as a creepy magic item is particularly ironic given the fact that jack-in-the-boxes got their start as creepy magic items. Look here:

Nancy Arrowsmith, 'A Field Guide to the Little People,' p. 135-136 wrote:
In very ancient times, Kobolde used to live inside trees. These spirit trees were later, as in the case of the KABOUTERMANNIKINS, cut down and carved into figures in such a way that the tree's sprite remained inside the figure. These doll-like carvings were shut up in boxes, locked and brought indoors. Once indoors, the Kobold could not leave unless he was sold to another master. His new master could only sell him for less than he had originally paid and was the only one allowed to open the Kobold's box. If anyone else opened it, the Kobold would escape, causing no end of damage. Children were warned never to go near the Kobold. To teach them this lesson, toys were fashioned, housing scary Kobold-like figures, which survive today in the form of Jack-in-the-boxes.

I think a jack-in-the-box like that should be exactly the sort of thing you find in the back of the witch's cottage, this glass casket holding this grisly little poppet carved out of a mandrake root possessed by the undead spirit of a murdered fey. And yes, you can only command it if when you open the box, you sing "Pop Goes the Weasel," but with a somewhat more macabre set of lyrics.

Star Voter Season 9

Quote:
These topics are advice. They're not hard rules for the contest--those are listed elsewhere, and you shouldn't break or even bend those rules. But all of these topics I've been writing, they're just advice. Can you recognize what *advice* that's been given here can be skirted, or ignored entirely?

I think that by now most people on these boards know what you mean, but in Chris Chapman's defense I would like to add that the topic titles do contain the word "auto-reject". This may suggest to some people that breaking these rules causes your item to not even be considered as a valuable entry.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Chris Chapman 60 wrote:

If you think that toys cannot make awesome items, I think that just shows personal bias, and yes you are a judge, but you should still have imagination. There are many ways in which they can be cool, innovative, and awesome. Go watch Daywatch, and tell me the final action scene isn't cool because it uses a "children's" toy. Or that the Joker using explosive jack-in-the-boxes or shocking handshakes wasn't cool.

I think it's poor design and poor editing to disregard something because it isn't something you like.

Let me me quote Captain Pike from last year's Star Trek movie:

"You know your father was Captain of a Starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives. Including your mother's and yours. I dare you to do better."

Or perhaps this:

Do you think you can write an awesome toy wondrous item, despite what I've said above?

Then do it.

Prove.

Me.

Wrong.

I want you to prove me wrong.

I want someone to create something that puts a new twist on something old and revitalizes the entire category. Maybe it's basically spell in a can, like Neil's last leaves of the autumn dryad. Maybe it's an item named for a real-world item, like James Martin's runcible spoon. Maybe it's a toy, like Sean McGowan's cacophonous monkey. Or maybe it's an item you have to swallow, and eventually you barf it back up or *ahem* let it pass, like Benjamin Bruck's steadfast gut-stone.

There are rules in this world. Sometimes those rules are there to protect you, like "don't drive over the speed limit." And there are some people who break those rules to win races, or to get to a burning house in time to save lives.

These topics are advice. They're not hard rules for the contest--those are listed elsewhere, and you shouldn't break or even bend those rules. But all of these topics I've been writing, they're just advice. Can you recognize what *advice* that's been given here can be skirted, or ignored entirely?

This is more like it. I like a challenge within a challenge.

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Card Game, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Vistarius wrote:
This is more like it. I like a challenge within a challenge.

I would like to heartily encourage all my competition to wholeheartedly embrace this philosophy and see how many of Sean's rules they get away with bending or breaking or bend in their entry. ;-)

Seriously though, don't do it.

Grand Lodge Contributor , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Ach, I suppose this means that I should not submit my Goblin Watchman, a doll that bites its nails in terror when there are undead creatures within 60' and licks its lips and giggles when there are animals within 60', and so on... =D

I'm kidding, of course. I'm taking Sean's advice seriously and I'm thankful for it, though many of these "auto"-reject things should be self-evident to Superstar class designers.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Ceylon Tom wrote:
...I would like to add that the topic titles do contain the word "auto-reject". This may suggest to some people that breaking these rules causes your item to not even be considered as a valuable entry.

And, in many ways it does cause your item not to be considered as a valuable entry, but not in the traditional way most people might think when examining the word "auto-reject."

Let me explain.

Remember how the judges have a very short timeframe in which to review hundreds upon hundreds of submissions? Like many an editor in the literary world, we'll be looking for a reason to stop reading your submission and reject your item as quickly as possible. Sound harsh? It's reality. You've got to stand out and maintain interest in your stuff right from the beginning or you could be in trouble. And there are any number of categories your item can potentially land in which cause the judges to stop reading and reach for the "reject" button rather than the "keep" button. It's a way of quickly sorting through the "close but not quite good enough" items and the "yeah, this has Superstar potential" items.

Now, once we get out of the early phase of separating stuff into the "Keep" and "Reject" piles, we'll go back with more of a fine-tooth comb over the keepers. But the rejected entries earned their "auto-reject" by quite often slipping into one of these categories and failing to bring enough mojo to pull them back out so a judge makes an exception either by reconsidering his stance or by using a golden-ticket to take a flyer on someone's potential.

And, yes, if we wind up seeing toy-item after toy-item after toy-item, eventually, we're going to go back and say, okay, how many of these toy-items are we really going to include in RPG Superstar? How many baby rattles, wind-up toys, and jack-in-the-boxes do we really want to see PCs and GMs using in the game? What's Superstar about having that many cute toy-items in the "Keep" pile. Let's go with maybe a couple of them and look at some of the other stuff so we can get a bit more variety.

So, yes, a toy-item could have a place in the Top 32. To do so, it can't be too much of a "joke" or "modern day" item, it's got to stand out from all the others that will likely get submitted, and it's got to bring enough mojo and make enough mechanical sense to warrant being in the Top 32 alongside all the other non-toy wondrous items. There are always exceptions to these auto-reject "rules." And a true Superstar designer with serious mojo may just demonstrate how to bend them while still bringing the awesome. If you can do that, more power to you. That's what we'd like to see. But if you bring the weak sauce on something in this category or fail to separate yourself from the pack of others who might also pursue such a course, know that you flew too close to the flame and that's why you burned the chance to compete in RPG Superstar.

Make sense?
--Neil


Sebastian wrote:

I'm probably just being overly cranky about the toys and vomit auto-reject categories (maybe it's because I submitted a vomitting jack-in-the-box last year). I do appreciate the advice, it's just that some of it is coming across to me as "your idea is dumb and you should feel bad."*

*Futurama quote (basically). If you didn't know that, you should feel bad.

DOOD!!! My bard totally would have BOUGHT that!!!!


Serpent wrote:

Ach, I suppose this means that I should not submit my Goblin Watchman, a doll that bites its nails in terror when there are undead creatures within 60' and licks its lips and giggles when there are animals within 60', and so on... =D

I'm kidding, of course. I'm taking Sean's advice seriously and I'm thankful for it, though many of these "auto"-reject things should be self-evident to Superstar class designers.

And my evil ranger would have totally bought this.

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Card Game, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Serpent wrote:

I'm kidding, of course. I'm taking Sean's advice seriously and I'm thankful for it, though many of these "auto"-reject things should be self-evident to Superstar class designers.

I totally agree with that. I think people who are not understanding the reasoning behind most of the advice need to really step back and analyze their game design theory and what they think this contest is really all about.


Wicht wrote:

I totally agree with that. I think people who are not understanding the reasoning behind most of the advice need to really step back and analyze their game design theory and what they think this contest is really all about.

I don't think that's 100% fair -- there are many items in the core books that violate auto-reject rules, and I don't think it's unreasonable for someone to have based their ideas of what's appropriate, in part, on what already exists.

Because Sean and crew have been kind enough to clarify that A) there are items in canon that they would toss and B) there are items in canon that they think are decent items but not fitting for this particular contest, it's clear why some of the auto-reject rules are auto-reject rules -- but I don't think all of them are intuitively obvious auto-reject rules for everyone creating a new item anywhere.

Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Dire Mongoose wrote:
Wicht wrote:

I totally agree with that. I think people who are not understanding the reasoning behind most of the advice need to really step back and analyze their game design theory and what they think this contest is really all about.

I don't think that's 100% fair -- there are many items in the core books that violate auto-reject rules, and I don't think it's unreasonable for someone to have based their ideas of what's appropriate, in part, on what already exists.

Because Sean and crew have been kind enough to clarify that A) there are items in canon that they would toss and B) there are items in canon that they think are decent items but not fitting for this particular contest, it's clear why some of the auto-reject rules are auto-reject rules -- but I don't think all of them are intuitively obvious auto-reject rules for everyone creating a new item anywhere.

And yet, most of us are either keeping quiet or agree with the general intent and sentiment behind the advice Sean is doling out.

Everyone keeps harping on the word “auto-reject” and not really reading all the responses.

I’ll leave my comment to that.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Dire Mongoose wrote:
I don't think that's 100% fair -- there are many items in the core books that violate auto-reject rules, and I don't think it's unreasonable for someone to have based their ideas of what's appropriate, in part, on what already exists.

It's been said before, and I guess it bears repeating here, that this contest isn't about finding the next figurine of wondrous power or crystal ball or broom of flying or any of a myriad other staples of fantasy that made their way into the list of wondrous items in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Instead, what this competition is about, is finding the next RPG Superstar...someone who goes above and beyond "what already exists" and crafts the Next Big Thing that doesn't already exist.

Borrowing some bit of insight from what's been designed before to help you understand how to properly craft your new wondrous item is fine. But expecting to make the Top 32 with something that could appear alongside everything that already exists in the game would be a mistaken assumption. You need stronger mojo than that.

Dire Mongoose wrote:
...it's clear why some of the auto-reject rules are auto-reject rules -- but I don't think all of them are intuitively obvious auto-reject rules for everyone creating a new item anywhere.

For anyone who has sufficiently done their homework...by following along with prior years of the competition, reviewing all the advice threads (not just these "auto-reject" threads, but all of them from years 1 thru 3), and applying their own self-education on the rules of the game and what items have it before, it actually should become far more intuitively obvious as to what makes a Superstar item stand out and what sends a less-than Superstar item to the "reject" bin.

So, if you're Superstar-ready, much of the information conveyed in these discussions should be readily understandable to you. And even if you're not quite Superstar-ready yet, those who apply themselves to understanding this information can most certainly become so.

My two-cents,
--Neil


Sean K Reynolds wrote:

I admit, we're scraping the bottom of the barrel, here.

But this is still valid advice. Child-toy items are dumb items. It's not heroic for a mighty warrior or thief to be playing with a jack-in-the-box. It's laughable for a powerful villain or dragon to be using a Raggedy Anne doll to intimidate or harm PCs.

And every year, we get some people who submit these items as if they're cool. Or innovative. They're not, and they're not. And these items get rejected.

Let's repeat that: every year, several people submit toy items that they think are their best work. And they get rejected for it because toy items are not cool or innovative. They're not Superstar. Isn't it better to point this out to them now, and give them the option to submit a different item, than to let them shoot themselves in the foot with an item that's not going to cut the mustard?

Last year I was really hard-line about letting competitors have enough rope to hang themselves by. I've changed my mind on that--I'd rather see 500 good submissions than 400 poor submissions and 100 good submissions, even if that means more work for me judging them. So I'm providing this info so people can avoid obvious problem items that aren't going to advance. I guarantee you that some people are going to ignore #25, or not see it because they're not reading the boards, and they're going to submit a toy item, and it's going to get rejected. But hopefully there are some people who were going to submit a toy, and they now realize they can come up with something better.

Heck, one of my notes for these auto-rejects was "item uses 'rouge' instead of 'rogue.'" No, we wouldn't really auto-reject anyone for that, but it would make the author look dumb. There are big mistakes, and there are little mistakes, and it's helpful to avoid making any of them.

But wait until you see advice #27.

No they are not. Read Eyes of the Dragon or some other stories. A good childs toy can be an amazing item. IMHO you have indeed scraped the bottom of the barrel and need to rething some of these ideas.

edit - OTOH, it would take a good writer to make a toy work, but by saying this you have limited both yourself and them.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Sharoth wrote:
...it would take a good writer to make a toy work, but by saying this you have limited both yourself and them.

I'll respectfully disagree. A lot of folks appear to be quibbling over these auto-reject "rules" by dealing in absolutes. And, with only a few exceptions (like automatic rules infractions and DQs), that's not how this contest goes.

In every instance, we've been up front in saying there are execeptions to these categories...that an item that's done well (i.e., put together by a "good writer" or designer) to make them "work"...will still have a legitimate shot at the Top 32. Nevertheless, there will be more items that fail by venturing into these categories than make it.

Plan accordingly.

Or, ignore this advice...damn the torpedoes...and let's see how far your full head of steam takes you.

I can assure you, as a judge, I'll have an open mind either way. And I don't think Sean's painting himself into any corners either. He recognizes something with promise when he sees it.

Liberty's Edge

Sharoth wrote:
Read Eyes of the Dragon or some other stories.

A dollhouse with a spindle that can weave an actual rope is hardly a wondrous item. It's a well-made dollhouse, that's all. Or maybe I'm missing the point. If so, my apologies. :-)

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

I've said too much already - my item may or may not be a toy pony.

On an unrelated note, do we have to submit our magic items via the Paizo website, or can we send in a physical representation. For example, if our magic item is, say, a magic toy pony (hypothetically), could we mail you a toy pony with the stats written on it? It's hard to convey the impact of the lavender scented mane of a toy pony via text.

Not that the item is a pony.

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