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RPG Superstar 2015

No Backstory!!!


RPG Superstar™ 2012 General Discussion

1 to 50 of 96 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

I've said it a thousand times, don't put backstory into your item.

No item should ever have:

"Crafted thousands of years ago in the Blornornian empire and created for the foul necromancers of the imperial legions, these cloaks are lesser replicas of those originally worn by Norvigern the Nonsensical himself. Many necromancers today wear these cloaks, particularly in Mergorvilav where the very mention of these cloaks strikes fear in the hearts of the peasantry."

Yeah, ok, I just made that up. But I have seen a couple items now with junk like this in them. Sometimes its in the first paragraph, and then comes the actual item. Other times, the author manages to write an actual item paragraph first and then includes garbage like this in the second paragraph. In either case, they were all immediately rejected.

There is not a single wondrous item in any published core book that has that kind of self-indulgent writing and backstory in it.

I know, I know, "but its cool and it shows I can write, and see how creative I am, and how well I know Golarion!" No it doesn't, and that stuff will come later in the contest. You've been told over and over and over and over and over (and now one more time) don't do that in this round. Seriously, restrain yourself. Don't make this mistake. Not only does it show you can't follow rules (since no other wondrous item has this in it), it shows you don't do your homework (listening to the "So You Want To Be A Superstar" seminar audio where we discuss this, for instance or reading any of the prior threads), it shows you can't constrain yourself to the task at hand, and shows you don't understand what we are doing here.

Please, for your sake, for your entry's sake, for the sake of the sanity of the judges, don't do this. Unless of course you don't want to be chosen, then feel free. :)

Clark

Star Voter 2015

Clark,

Thanks for the heads up.

So, basically even if we have a significant amount of left over words, you would discourage adding say a sentence worth of flavor from the beginning? Just more or less leave well enough alone for the first round?

Thanks again, your (and the rest of the judges) insight on the boards (and especially that panel recording) has been invaluable for this year!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

@Mike

There's a difference between 'a sentence' and what Clark is describing.

Let me take my tankard* as an example.

The 'descriptive fluff' is simply "This worn pewter tankard often bears the symbol of Cayden Cailean."

That's different than, "First crafted by Talalandros the mighty cleric of Cayden Cailean for his friend and cohort Rotund the fat, the tankard was later duplicated and the design passed down through the centuries, even surviving Earthfall..."

The first helps cement an image, the second is distracting.

Who is Talandros? Why isn't it Talandros' Tankard? Who is Rotund the fat? Why isn't it Rotund's tankard? Why should we care?

I also included a pun (rotund often being another way to say 'fat') and bad game world information (Cayden Cailean didn't exist before Earthfall) to emphasize the danger of mispracticing 'Golarion-fu.'

Even in my one sentence, I used 'often'. If I said "always" I'm sure I'd have been dinged for "Why doesn't always include a symbol? Do you have to be a follower of Cayden to use it? To make it?" etc.

Likewise with Clark's example, making the cloak "Made of spider silk died black in the style most associated with necromancers" does pretty much everything his example does, without making you wonder who the necromancer is, where the empire was, etc.

*

Spoiler:
Yes, talking about myself again, sorry. Even though it's Paizo's baby now, I still feel a Liefieldian ownership of it.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter 2014

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Mike Alchus wrote:


So, basically even if we have a significant amount of left over words, you would discourage adding say a sentence worth of flavor from the beginning? Just more or less leave well enough alone for the first round?

Keep in mind the goal is to write a Wondrous Item that is 300 words or less, not to write one as close to 300 words as possible. If you have an item that is awesome at 150 words, that means you should let it be awesome, not add 140 words of cruft that it doesn't need.

Star Voter 2015

Thanks guys, that is very helpful.

I'm going to go back and look at two versions one with and one without and see which "feels" Superstar. Then right after I hit submit, feel horribly and know I should have chose the other version :-).

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Here's another example of minimal backstory that can work. Note the last sentence or two.

Nicholas Quimby's Goblin Skull Bomb

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Matthew Morris wrote:
The 'descriptive fluff' is simply "This worn pewter tankard often bears the symbol of Cayden Cailean."

That's fine; in fact its great and isn't backstory at all. That is description.

Matthew Morris wrote:
That's different than, "First crafted by Talalandros the mighty cleric of Cayden Cailean for his friend and cohort Rotund the fat, the tankard was later duplicated and the design passed down through the centuries, even surviving Earthfall..."

That will likely get you kicked by me--it will certainly get you a likely reject vote from me and a long rant about "why can't people follow directions" and, as Sean knows and anyone who listened to the superstar seminar, my favorite: "show me one wondrous item in the core books that has that--you can't because there isn't one."

Even that one sentence gets under my skin. Now, I am less flexible on this than, perhaps, Neil. And I won't say its an autoreject to have one sentence. But it is a strike against you and will likely get me to reject you. Because its not a wondrous item anymore. Wondrous items don't have that. I challenge you--go find one that does. You can't.

Plus, please understand this: it doesn't help you in any way and it may hurt you. Not a single judge has ever said, "well I was on the fence on that one, but that great sentence of backstory just sealed it for me!" That has NEVER happened in the history of RPG Superstar. We've advanced items DESPITE their line of unnecessary junk, but we've never advanced an item because of it. So if you think that extra stuff helps you, it does not.

So don't do it.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

Clark Peterson wrote:
Even that one sentence gets under my skin.

Whoo hoo! I got under Clark's skin! and I didn't even need psionics to do it! :D

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter 2014

I'll add that backstory can also violate the anonymity requirement: If you make your item "Kyra's Scimitar of Smiting", and then describe how and why Kyra made it, and googling 'Kyra' finds your campaign website with a cleric character named Kyra who just crafted herself a magic scimitar, then we know its your item.

Star Voter 2013

It's been said before, and I'll repeat it again:
"If you didn't play in a game with Gary Gygax, your character name will never be on an item"

Leave characters out of it. Implying could be interesting. The last leaves of the autumn dryad implies a cool character, but never references them. myrabelle the autumn dryad's last leaves might not have made it even if it was the exact same item.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Sometimes I wonder if better advice wouldn't be to just do what I do when creating content for homebrew campaigns: Find a couple things similar done by Paizo, and follow the template exactly, by breaking it down into its component parts.

For example, here's the description of Gloves of Arrow Snaring.

Once worn, these snug gloves seem to meld with the hands, becoming almost invisible to casual observation. Twice per day, the wearer can act as if he had the Snatch Arrows feat, even if he does not meet the prerequisites for the feat. Both gloves must be worn for the magic to be effective, and at least one hand must be free to take advantage of the magic.

Which boils down to:

<descriptive sentence>. <frequency>, <benefit>, <clarification>. <additional requirements>.

So, using this format, more than one sentence of description would be right out, and really you should keep that length about the same. It then shows a reasonable order for presenting the rest of the information, and reminds you to put clarifications and special requirements at the end, after describing all the cool stuff the magical item lets you do.

So, an example using that format for Bracers of Distance Throwing:

These heavy bronze bracers, set with images of giants hurling boulders, clasp snugly around the wearer's forearms. For five rounds each day, which need not be consecutive, the wearer can act as if he had the Distance Thrower feat, or double the benefit gained if the wearer already has the feat. Both bracers must be worn for the magic to be effective.

Obviously, this is Feat-in-a-can and no wow factor at all, so no chance at Superstar for something this simple, but it illustrates how to find an item and follow the basic format.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Clark Peterson wrote:
There is not a single wondrous item in any published core book that has that kind of self-indulgent writing and backstory in it.

Perhaps not for Pathfinder, but it wasn't that uncommon in official 3e products. Typically they were setting-specific items, though, or else the name dropped was a useful reference to something else in the same book (not just a dangling name from some dude's homebrew).

That in no way makes it appropriate or excusable here, of course. But I really like how it was done in Ghostwalk, for example, or the BoVD, or the odd Forgotten Realms splat.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Clark Peterson wrote:

...

"Crafted thousands of years ago in the Blornornian empire and created for the foul necromancers of the imperial legions, these cloaks are lesser replicas of those originally worn by Norvigern the Nonsensical himself. Many necromancers today wear these cloaks, particularly in Mergorvilav where the very mention of these cloaks strikes fear in the hearts of the peasantry."

Clark

Ok Clark. Now I have to ask. Can I hear you call for a chicken?

Matthew Morris wrote:


I also included a pun (rotund often being another way to say 'fat') and bad game world information (Cayden Cailean didn't exist before Earthfall) to emphasize the danger of mispracticing 'Golarion-fu.'
...
*** spoiler omitted **

I am glad you clarified that... I kept thinking earthfall? earthfall? that sounds like something pretty big to miss. Crap how much do I suck for missing something as big as.... Oh. Oh, you meant THAT earthfall *phew*

Bork. Bork. Bork!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Ezekiel Shanoax, the Stormchild

Clark Peterson wrote:
Plus, please understand this: it doesn't help you in any way and it may hurt you. Not a single judge has ever said, "well I was on the fence on that one, but that great sentence of backstory just sealed it for me!" That has NEVER happened in the history of RPG Superstar. We've advanced items DESPITE their line of unnecessary junk, but we've never advanced an item because of it. So if you think that extra stuff helps you, it does not.

'Tis the truth. My first year's item (2009) somehow made it in DESPITE my erroneous, self-indulgent backstory fluff, and the comments repeatedly slammed me for the error. This year's applicants have been thoroughly warned.

As for character names and other fluff, my additional comment is this: make sure your embellishments do not detract from the item by limiting the imaginations of readers instead of inspiring them. What do I mean? Adding too much "context" to an item may pigeon-hole it into a particular use, use by a particular character, or in a particular region, etc. Like stressing that a pick is only for use by people hunting mutant necrotic frost giants - while 'mutant necrotic frost giants' is a neat idea, and may be the kernel of a great story, by stressing that concept you inherently exclude all others.

While each one of us is very imaginative, no single one of us is as imaginative as the dozens and hundreds of readers who will read the item and consider its possible uses - and where or by whom it might be used. Even if you envision your item being used by a rakish space cowboy, don't write it in a way that stymies someone who would've otherwise thought it perfect for use by XYZ, but that space cowboy thing just killed it... Regardless of what XYZ is, the fact that it is what your reader wanted to happen makes it inherently better than what you intended. You already like your item - you have to coax other people to like it, make it their own, and run with it into the wild blue yonder to places nobody else ever anticipated.

Hence, less is more.

Star Voter 2013

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
[a backstory] wasn't that uncommon in official 3e products. Typically they were setting-specific items, though...

There's your point right there. Campaign specific items can get away with it, because of that one little word. Specific. Well, and 'campaign', too...

If there is only one of the item, yes it better damn-well have a backstory. But RPG Superstar items aren't in that group. They are supposed to be Wondrous Items any adventurer might pick up at a store or find in treasure. Not something they recover specifically from the tomb of a specific long-dead wizard.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Yes, exactly. :)

And the fact is any GM can take any of the awesome items that have made it into RPGS and give them interesting stories in his or her own game. Storytelling is cool, it just isn't your task for this round.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Just sitting here looking through Relics and Rituals - which was produced by Clark - where every single item has at least a paragraph of backstory and wondering where this animosity is coming from.

...just kidding. i know it's a different situation, different company, different rules, and that's cool. on a personal level 'tho, i love the way the backstory was included in those books and wish Paizo felt the same.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013

james knowles wrote:

i love the way the backstory was included in those books and wish Paizo felt the same.

I don't have my copy of R&R handy, but was that book produced for use with a specific campaign setting? (the Scarred Lands, if I recall)? That might explain (among other reasons) the use for the backstory.

Personally, I prefer items -- other than artifacts, to a limited extent -- to be sans backstory. If an item comes with backstory built in, I sometimes have difficulty disconnecting the item from that backstory. The item feels like it doesn't belong in my world. This is just a personal thing, and I fully acknowledge it arises from how my brain works.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Sometimes I like backstory, but most of the time it bugs me. As a GM, I'm looking at items with a preconceived idea of where I can drop them as loot. As a player, I'm looking to buy something in a shop or craft it. In any of those cases, backstory has little to offer me, and can constrain my options if it's too heavy-handed.

Now, if you're writing a book about drow or about the worshippers of some particular god, that's where the backstory is handy, because as a GM I'm looking for items to give to drow or to a particular level of evil cleric. Now the backstory is useful to the guy or girl reading the book, so it's appropriate.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

It could be argued that all magic items in Relics&Rituals were artifacts anyway (they didn't even have prices, right?), and that for artifacts backstory is more traditional. Also, yea, Scarred Lands setting.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka Serpent

Caelesti wrote:

Which boils down to:

<descriptive sentence>. <frequency>, <benefit>, <clarification>. <additional requirements>.

Oh no! You've figured it out! Shhhh don't tell anyone! :D This is basically the format I used last year and I was one of the four alternates and did receive positive comments about the flow and presentation. So, I think this format works pretty well. :)

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Mark Hart wrote:
I don't have my copy of R&R handy, but was that book produced for use with a specific campaign setting? (the Scarred Lands, if I recall)? That might explain (among other reasons) the use for the backstory.

Absolutely correct. Unlike mainstream D&D that wanted to be world neutral, the guys at White Wolf and SSS wanted the world to be integral to the game, in a way even more than Paizo and Golarion. I am SUPER proud of my work with those guys and with the early 3P products I helped with (though truth be told, my producer credit on that had more to do with the OGL and working with open game content since very few people had expertise in that than in other products where I have producer credits, as in I was not the developer of the product and I certainly did not dictate the setting tie in for that product though I happen to totally agree with it). BUT as you say, the magic items in Relics & Rituals are NOT a good template for general wondrous item design. They SPECIFICALLY had to tie into the flavor and feel of the setting and gods of the Scarred Lands, which runs contrary to normal good item design. The items were a part of the overall uniqueness of the Scarred Lands and of early SSS products generally.

[sidetrack]

I don't want to gush, but I am going to. I have had the pleasure to work with some really great people in gaming. I love the Paizo crew. Lisa, Vic, Erik, James and everyone. Just great people. I have also had the pleasure to work with Steve and Stewart Wieck from White Wolf, and their amazing crew (and, in passing, guys like Monte Cook who is a genius). I can't tell you how much I respect and value working with them in the past. In fact, it was an out of the blue phone call one Saturday morning to me on my cell phone from Steve Wieck that really got me going. Necro was small and independent. Then I got a call, "Hi, my name is Steve Wieck, is this Clark?" That call started both a friendship and professional relationship that exists to this day. I have been truly blessed to work with some amazing, creative and great people. I don't suffer fools gladly and I won't tolerate lack of ethics. I don't believe in churning crap for the purpose of making a dollar and neither do any of the guys I have had the pleasure to work with (and those I encountered who did I jetisoned at the earliest possibility). Gaming is a small community and I am so pleased that so many of the main companies are populated with really great, ethical gamers. It really makes me happy to have been involved with so many of them. Believe me, I've been involved with lots of professions and very few are like this. It really is great.

[/sidetrack]


Wow makes me want to break into this field even more after hearing your sidetrack Clark. I believe that the people who you work with mean a lot even more then pay considering you work with them and spend time with them sometimes more then your own family.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2015

Thanks for the information guys.
Can I get a clarification on this rule using two examples?

A:
HERO X'S Quill of Clarity:
(first sentence) HERO X infused this quill with the essence of clear writing in an effort to counter a wave of unclear writing sweeping the realm.

B:
Quill of Clarity:
(first sentence) This quill was infused with the essence of clear writing in an era when unclear writing was rampant.

Are both of these auto-rejects? Or just example A?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

KestlerGunner wrote:

Thanks for the information guys.

Can I get a clarification on this rule using two examples?

A:
HERO X'S Quill of Clarity:
(first sentence) HERO X infused this quill with the essence of clear writing in an effort to counter a wave of unclear writing sweeping the realm.

B:
Quill of Clarity:
(first sentence) This quill was infused with the essence of clear writing in an era when unclear writing was rampant.

Are both of these auto-rejects? Or just example A?

I'd say that A is a clear auto-reject, but B is also problematic. Here is why:

Quill of Clarity:
This quill was infused with the essence of clear writing in an era when unclear writing was rampant.

A wondrous item is not unique (that would make it an artifact), and they can be crafted by anyone who fulfills the requirements, including PC's. And a quill my wizard made yesterday could hardly be infused with the essence in an era past, could it?

Edit: Example B is also problematic because it uses passive voice. And while it doesn't show up in Sean's auto-reject advice threads, it is something that has been warned against on multiple occasions.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

JaceDK wrote:

I'd say that A is a clear auto-reject, but B is also problematic. Here is why:

Quill of Clarity:
This quill was infused with the essence of clear writing in an era when unclear writing was rampant.

A wondrous item is not unique (that would make it an artifact), and they can be crafted by anyone who fulfills the requirements, including PC's. And a quill my wizard made yesterday could hardly be infused with the essence in an era past, could it?

Edit: Example B is also problematic because it uses passive voice. And while it doesn't show up in Sean's auto-reject advice threads, it is something that has been warned against on multiple occasions.

Item "A" isn't an "auto-reject" but its got some serious strikes. As Ryan said, unless your character (or the name of the character in your item) comes from Gygax's original home campaign, their name doesnt get to be in a wondrous item.

Item "B" is much better, but Jace's comments are well taken. Particularly the idea that an item is unique. It is NOT. Wondrous items, while perhaps not widespread, are NEVER unique. And good comment on the passive voice too.

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Here's a very general answer: Your R1 submission should impress us with your item, not who made the item, why they made the item, what classes are fond of using the item, or what the item is typically used for.

Who originally made the item isn't relevant, because Ezren can make a copy of it and that copy doesn't come with that backstory.

Why he made the item isn't relevant, because that's in the past, and the campaign is about what the PCs are doing in the present.

What classes are fond of the item isn't relevant because not all members of that class may think that way, and members of other classes or archetypes may also think the item is cool, so why bother spending words saying "class X really appreciate having this item" when you could be telling me about the item instead of its fanboys?

What the item is typically used for isn't relevant because (1) a cool item's uses are obvious, and (2) a smart player will use it for something you never thought of.

So, for the HERO X'S Quill of Clarity, it doesn't matter who HERO X is, or why they made it, or which classes like it, or what the item is used for. Tell me what the item DOES.

Think of it like selling a car. You can tell me about the car company's history of "precision engineering," you can tell me this car will recapture your youth and get you hot girls, you can tell me this model is driven in famous races. But that's all trappings--none of that tells me anything about the actual car. Instead, you can tell me how many people it holds, its MPG, it's acceleration, and its safety features... that's info about the car. RPG Superstar is telling me about the car.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
RPG Superstar is telling me about the car.

Exactly. Because in RPG Superstar the eternal youth, hot girls and riches already come with the territory. Seriously. So you don't have to tell us, because Sean and I already know. :)

[fist bump, blow it up]

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

LIKE A BOSS.


I wish I would have read this last week. =[


Backstory has never impressed me inside item descriptions. With artifacts, epic level items, yeah, it can manage to work, but honestly, I prefer a home-brew campaign anyway, and what GM, working on their own campaign, is gonna want some other world's backstory in their world's version of the item?!

GMs like this want items as "generic" as possible, so they can weave their own backstory around the item. (I include a whole section on "legend and lore" in my notes on most magic items. This includes what's publically known and what levels of Knowledge skills are required to "know" a particular detail about the item.) I always assumed that making backstory was each GM's perogative, not the designer's! 1st Ed and Gygax got away with it, but ONLY because he was writing the world's first roleplaying game, and he only had his own campaign to draw upon! (Plus TSR was pushing Greyhawk as THE campaign setting!)

Today, hopeful designers should take heed- listen to the judges, read the message threads, because it's all here waiting for you. Every thing you need to know to deliver a well-written wondrous item is right here. You need only supply the creativity and the initiative. Best of luck to everyone!


TSelf wrote:
I wish I would have read this last week. =[

Soo true... I have to admit I'm a little bit disapointed about Clarks statement, especially as nothing of this was stated in the Round 1 rules (http://paizo.com/rpgsuperstar/round1Rules).

Also there is a question in the Round 1 FAQ which is related to it and allows it indirectly

Spoiler:
Quote:

Can we refer to Pathfinder campaign setting material, such as nations, heroes, or gods, when describing our item?

Yes, but keep in mind that not all of the judges work at Paizo or have a strong knowledge of the campaign setting, and many of the voters are not regular Pathfinder readers. Contestants hoping to get an "edge" by including a bunch of Pathfinder and Paizo-related inside jokes may be shooting themselves in the feet.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter 2014

Tryn wrote:
TSelf wrote:
I wish I would have read this last week. =[

Soo true... I have to admit I'm a little bit disapointed about Clarks statement, especially as nothing of this was stated in the Round 1 rules.

Round 1 Rules wrote:

DISQUALIFICATION: Submissions may be disqualified for the following reasons:

Submission is not a wondrous item.
Submission is not anonymous.
Submission exceeds 300 words.
Submission does not conform to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
Submission is copied from a previously published source.
Submission uses rules, monsters, or copyrighted material from publishers other than Paizo.

That's because Clark's advice is just that, advice. (Well-heeled advice, since he's one of the judges, but still advice.) The rules of the contest are the actual rules that you are required to meet to keep it fair for all the contestants.

The 'Disqualification' items in the rules are all either actual rules violations that make an entry not valid (word count, anonymity, being a wondrous item, or being in the Pathfinder rules), or for obvious legal reasons (plagarism, using non-Paizo IP.) They're also fairly objective.

Backstory will not get you disqualified. But because this is a contest about writing a wondrous item, not the cool thing your character did with said item, it is highly likely to get you rejected. And even then, it's at the discretion of the judges. If you have a REALLY REALLY AWESOME item to go with your backstory, they CAN keep it if they want. (Contrast with a REALLY REALLY AWESOME entry that is 301 words: That's no longer up to the judges. It's not a valid entry in the contest.)

The judges have to sift through hundreds and hundreds of entries to find the 32 most promising writers. No possible set of rules can be expected to tell you exactly how to make the top 32.


Ok, then Clarks post is a little bit misunderstanding because of some of his phrasings.

It really sounds like "you have a background sentence in your item description, you're entry will be auto rejected!"


Tryn wrote:

Ok, then Clarks post is a little bit misunderstanding because of some of his phrasings.

It really sounds like "you have a background sentence in your item description, you're entry will be auto rejected!"

More likely it's "if your item's description is all about some guy and nothing about the item then I hit the reject button".

I can definitely see when Clark comes from though. This is a wondrous item contest, not a cool character contest and not an artifact contest. No wondrous item is really going to have "forged by the hand of Bob himself in the fires of Mount Awesome" in their description. Anyone in-game who has the requisite feats, spells, and skill can make an item whether or not their name is Bob or they're at Mount Awesome to forge it. Any description that implies an item is unique spits in the face of what a wondrous item is.

A description of "this item is made of pretty crystals that glow blue" says nothing about a guy or a uniqueness and is a description. It says nothing about who made it or why, only what it looks like. And it does not require your name to be Bob.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka DankeSean

Tryn wrote:
TSelf wrote:
I wish I would have read this last week. =[

Soo true... I have to admit I'm a little bit disapointed about Clarks statement, especially as nothing of this was stated in the Round 1 rules (http://paizo.com/rpgsuperstar/round1Rules).

Clark's statement here isn't doing anything more than re-stating advice that's been given since, literally, year one of this contest. If hashing through four years worth of contest threads is too daunting, then it's also explicitly spelled out and stickied at the top of this year's forum with SKR's auto-reject advice. Specifically, this article.

The Exchange Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

I think I'm okay, because the fluff helps explain some of the mechanics.

Either that or I just seriously messed up again and will have to wait another year because I was unaware of a mystery 'rule' (practically a rule if we're gonna get auto-rejected for it...) that wasn't in the Auto-Reject list.

Hard to jump through invisible hoops is all.

The Exchange Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Oh wait, okay. A little fluff is acceptable. Or is it? According the the SKR post a little fluff is fine. I'm so confused!?!?! Because if a little fluff isn't okay then we were basically lied to. Not intentionally of course, but the phrasing here is "NO FLUFF, RAWR!" and the SKR thread stats "NO EXCESSIVE FLUFF, RAWR!" which are two entirely different things.


Sean McGowan wrote:


Clark's statement here isn't doing anything more than re-stating advice that's been given since, literally, year one of this contest. If hashing through four years worth of contest threads is too daunting, then it's also explicitly spelled out and stickied at the top of this year's forum with SKR's auto-reject advice. Specifically, this article.

Sorry but for a contest all rules should be easily visible in the contest description, not somewhere hidden in blogs or old contests forum posts.

Clark is talking about "Not only does it show you can't follow rules" which rule? ther is not any rule on the contest page about this, not one word. This is why I replyed to this.


@The Sinister Chris: The judges obviously do not hold specific back story in high regard, for any number of reasons that have been covered in surprising depth on many threads. Back story is not the only form "fluff". Even so, as SKR's advice #27 points out, even if an item does not follow all of the judges' suggestions, it can still impress and be selected if other aspects of the submission shine. See the Seeds of the Spirit Totem from last year. It made the 32 despite its specific back story because the judges really liked other aspects of the submission, and is I believe one of the items Clark is referring to in his post on this thread where he states, in regards to back story, that it is not an "auto-reject" but a strike against you:

Clark Peterson wrote:

That will likely get you kicked by me--it will certainly get you a likely reject vote from me and a long rant about "why can't people follow directions" and, as Sean knows and anyone who listened to the superstar seminar, my favorite: "show me one wondrous item in the core books that has that--you can't because there isn't one."

Even that one sentence gets under my skin. Now, I am less flexible on this than, perhaps, Neil. And I won't say its an autoreject to have one sentence. But it is a strike against you and will likely get me to reject you. Because its not a wondrous item anymore. Wondrous items don't have that. I challenge you--go find one that does. You can't.

Plus, please understand this: it doesn't help you in any way and it may hurt you. Not a single judge has ever said, "well I was on the fence on that one, but that great sentence of backstory just sealed it for me!" That has NEVER happened in the history of RPG Superstar. We've advanced items DESPITE their line of unnecessary junk, but we've never advanced an item because of it. So if you think that extra stuff helps you, it does not.

@Tryn: Clark has stated one of his objections to back story specifically in the above quote; the Round 1 Rules do state "PRESENTATION: Use the presentation for magic items found in the Wondrous Items section of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook (page 496)." No wondrous item presented in the Core Rulebook has specific back story.

@Everyone: All in all I think the main point to consider is that every judge has stated that an item that they think is truly great can overcome flaws they feel it has. To say that an item should make it to the top 32 just because it doesn't break any of the rules listed in the official rules section of the contest is ridiculous, as more than 32 items would meet that criteria. The judges have been nice enough to give us a look behind the curtain and tell us at length and in detail what they like to see in an item and what they don't like to see, and the reasons behind these tastes. Try entering a beauty or cooking contest and see how much free, specific advice the judges will give you regarding their tastes, and see if subjective aspects like "being ugly" or "tasting bad" are listed as being against the contests' rules.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Tryn wrote:
Sean McGowan wrote:


Clark's statement here isn't doing anything more than re-stating advice that's been given since, literally, year one of this contest. If hashing through four years worth of contest threads is too daunting, then it's also explicitly spelled out and stickied at the top of this year's forum with SKR's auto-reject advice. Specifically, this article.

Sorry but for a contest all rules should be easily visible in the contest description, not somewhere hidden in blogs or old contests forum posts.

Clark is talking about "Not only does it show you can't follow rules" which rule? ther is not any rule on the contest page about this, not one word. This is why I replyed to this.

Once again, it is important to distinguish between actual hard-coded rules and advice that will help you advance in the contest.

There is no rule against including backstory in your item - it will not get you disqualified, like for instance going over the word count or submitting a weapon. But the odds of your item getting into the top 32 are reduced dramatically if you include backstory. This is ADVICE from the judges that has been repeated time and time again, including in a stickied post in the very top of the contest forum.

This debate is not new - it is there every year, and probably will be for as long as there is a RPG Superstar. It's just that there are always a few people who don't GET what this contest is about. It is HARD, and the only way to improve your chances is to do the work, including reading up on old forum posts and the like.

It is like thinking you can have a chance to get picked for an Olympic team because you have memorized the rulebook of the game. Knowing the rules is not enough. You have to do a heck of a lot of work AND show that you know the rules.

The Exchange Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

I guess I get a little nervous about sweeping generalizations in the forum from the judges. I spent months honing my item, as I'm sure many of you did as well, and I don't like the idea of being auto rejected because it had a minor flaw.

I know about #27, it doesn't stop me getting angry or nervous.

I guess part of it is that they wanted us to bring our A game, and while it was implied that the format should be similar to items in the Core Book, it was also stated that most of the Core items wouldn't make it in this competition. So do we make Core items or not? It's all very confusing. Especially considering some of the cooler items have back story when you start to digging deeper into the other books.

It is opening my eyes to the fickle nature of the game design world. Which is nice practice considering I'm actively working towards being a professional game designer, as I'm sure quite a few of us are.

The long and short of it is that while I don't want to be handled with kids glove I also don't like feeling like I was just sucker punched.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

The Sinister Chris wrote:

I guess I get a little nervous about sweeping generalizations in the forum from the judges. I spent months honing my item, as I'm sure many of you did as well, and I don't like the idea of being auto rejected because it had a minor flaw.

As you say yourself, rule #27 applies. And the sweeping generalizations should always be tempered by that. I find that the more I peruse the forum, and try to analyze the advice given, the more I get the logic behind the occasional RAARW-thread. And understanding just what about an item that ticks off the judges hard enough to make them vent on the forums is very helpful. To balance threads like this, look at some of the previous top 32 items, and see how they apply fluff - and read the comments. That goes a long way to show how to use fluff and how not to do it.

The Sinister Chris wrote:

I know about #27, it doesn't stop me getting angry or nervous.

Getting nervous comes with the territory in any contest with such fierce competition. And getting angry can be avoided by always remembering that the judges are always trying to HELP us bring our absolute best to the table.

The Sinister Chris wrote:

I guess part of it is that they wanted us to bring our A game, and while it was implied that the format should be similar to items in the Core Book, it was also stated that most of the Core items wouldn't make it in this competition. So do we make Core items or not? It's all very confusing. Especially considering some of the cooler items have back story when you start to digging deeper into the other books.

Look to the Core book for format, not content. A +2 stat boost belt is not a superstar item, but it is written in the correct format.

The Sinister Chris wrote:

It is opening my eyes to the fickle nature of the game design world. Which is nice practice considering I'm actively working towards being a professional game designer, as I'm sure quite a few of us are.

See, this is what I'm talking about in the post above - you GET this contest.

The Sinister Chris wrote:
The long and short of it is that while I don't want to be handled with kids glove I also don't like feeling like I was just sucker punched.

None of us do, but I don't think Clark or anyone else are trying to sucker-punch anyone. Again, the basic assumption that the judges are always trying to be helpful goes a really long way.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

My two C-bills,

People who are confusing 'backstory' with 'fluff' are missing the point IMNSHO.*

Take two of the items from the past. My tankard and the Goblin Skull bomb. Both have 'fluff' that tie them to Golarion. Neither is written uniquely. My Tankard doesn't say "Crafted by the high cleric Fred for his buddy Valeros' Nor does the Goblin Skull Bomb say "The bomb was crafted by Tugnutt of the Sewerswimmer clan.**" Neither distracts from the item itself, but both help add to visualizing the item. Talking about 'Fred' in the description or "Tugnutt of the Sewerswimmer clan." takes away from the item.

*

Spoiler:
Ok, new year, I'm going to be a little cocky about item creation in the competition. Deal with it.

**
Spoiler:
Cleaned up for the boards. The S$%*swimmer Clan was a clan of goblins, with blues in my Golarion that lived in big human cities in the sewers.

The Exchange Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

This makes more sense! Yeah, I wanted to do something that fit the world setting, so there needed to be some fluff.

This puts my mind at rest.

Even if I get DQed for too much fluff I'll just know for next year. I will continue to let this competition hammer me until I come out the other side reforged as a legitimate game designer!

As for the sucker punch thing, the thread came at me out of left field a couple days ago. So I freaked out a little. I'm calmer now.


Caelesti wrote:

Which boils down to:

<descriptive sentence>. <frequency>, <benefit>, <clarification>. <additional requirements>.

Awesome thank you for the help...I always wondered if there was some methodology behind how the information flowed in the descriptors. It's all too easy to read a hundred of them and never see the semblance of that form. Clearly there may also be exceptions to this format-style, but I think you hit the head on perfectly. Thank you again.

AMQ

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

Have to say I despise the term "fluff."

"Fluff" to me implies pointless, useless filler included to fill space; I use the term "flavor" when I want to describe the part of the text that is not "mechanics." That's not even sufficient, but it certainly is not as denigrating to me as "fluff."

Getting across the concept and idea of an object is often just as important (or more important) than the mechanics. Recognize this?

RPG Superstar wrote:

Reusable Potion

Aura faint evocation and conjuration; CL 5th
Slot none; Price 11,500 gp; Weight 1 lb. (empty)

Description
This item provides a +1 luck bonus to armor class. If held in hand, the bonus increases to +2.

Three times a day as a swift action, the holder can give the command word to create a potion of cure light wounds. The potion must be consumed in the next two rounds (a move equivalent action that draws an attack of opportunity) or the potion loses its magic.

Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, divine favor, cure light wounds, prestidigitation; Cost 5750 gp

That was one of my favorite items, yet what is it? A thing that makes potions and gives you a +1 or +2 to AC.

So calling it fluff is entirely unfair to how important it is.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

You forgot the 'drinks don't spill' from prestidigitation :P

But yes, it does do a good job of showing how important flavour is.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Matthew Morris wrote:

You forgot the 'drinks don't spill' from prestidigitation :P

But yes, it does do a good job of showing how important flavour is.

Heheh ... totally did not forget it. I suppose technically it's a mechanical aspect, but the way I saw it, it's one of the flavorful things that made it cool.

Perhaps I should have left it in and changed the name to "Weeble Potion Maker" :)

Paizo Employee Developer , Dedicated Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

gbonehead wrote:
Have to say I despise the term "fluff."

I'm right there with you, 100%.

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