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Top 32: How did we get there?


RPG Superstar™ 2012 General Discussion

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Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Wow, reading some of these backgrounds makes me feel like a real newbie!

Here goes my RPG superstar origin story:

My wife and I had played some Neverwinter Nights online in college, but after a brief brush with World of Warcraft, we went through an RPG dry spell. In the fall of 2009, I was complaining about how I missed gaming and she suggested I check meetup for RPG events. I found a local game store hosting two events on the same night-- LFR and Pathfinder Society. I did a little research online and then joined the Pathfinders. As it turned out, it was only the second or third time that PFS had been run at that location, and I got into GMing fairly quickly as attendance went up. It wasn’t long before my wife and I got invited to play in a home game using Rise of the Runelords, and since we finished that adventure path I’ve just started to GM Jade Regent.

I’d followed the RPG superstar competition for the last couple of years, but never thought I had enough time to enter. Early in January, I got an email from a friend encouraging me to submit an item this year. I have less time than ever these days, but I decided to enter anyway.

When I’m not saving the world from evil wizards (or creating them), I live in Apex, NC, work as a software developer at RIM, play with my 1 year old daughter, and occasionally pick out a few notes on a guitar or ukulele.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013

Benjamin Medrano wrote:
I grew up in Logan, myself, and don't really have much else to say about it. My life's been pretty boring, for the most part.

Well not any more, dude! You're an RPG Superstar! :) I like Logan, by the way.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Short version: Started at age 12 on Shadowrun and played it and Earthdawn through high school, with WEG's Star Wars on the side. Went to college and fell off the gaming map except for a piece of a 3.5 campaign and some freeform chatrooms.

I eventually saw the Kickstarter for Open Design's Journeys to the West and thought it was a cool idea. I knew I wouldn't be able to contribute much to the project without knowing Pathfinder, so I went to my FLGS and got the Beginner Box.

After a post to the OD boards, someone mentioned borrowing my idea for Superstar. I didn't know what he meant by Superstar, so I Googled it. A few months later...

tl;dr version:

Spoiler:
A friend whose parents took more trips into the city from the backwater Louisiana town I grew up in thought the cover of Shadowrun 1E looked awesome, so he bought a copy. SR2 and Earthdawn came out right after that and he bought those too.

I was the only person he knew who was interested in playing--I was 12, he was 16; his friends thought it wasn't cool and none of my friends had the patience. So we ran dozens of campaigns, just the two of us; he was always the GM, and with just one player we both also had multiple PCs.

Since I was one of the few kids with a dial-up connection, I'd abuse it pulling Adam Jury's Shadowrun Supplemental fanpubs, taking apart items and modding them for our campaigns; I learned page layout from putting together modules--making maps and stat blocks in the Yearbook Club's copy of PageMaker--from content I'd downloaded.

Eventually we added WEG's Star Wars, but after a couple years my friend graduated from high school and gave me all the books he'd bought. It wasn't until years later that I realized his SR1 book--we never used it--was signed by Shadowrun's devs. We never played again.

I ended up getting deep into FFRPG chatrooms on IRC and stayed with them until they started drying up a couple years ago. There wasn't much interest in college for anything but White Wolf, D&D 3E and EverQuest, and I didn't have much interest in any of those. (I went to one V:tG LARP and fell asleep.)

During my senior year my roommate's campaign lost a player and he invited me to roll a fill-in, but it only lasted a few sessions before the whole campaign collapsed for good.

Before graduation I started working as a newspaper copy editor, using the skills I got reformatting Shadowrun materials back in 8th grade.

I went to PAX in 2006 and went to the game pitch panel to watch. I got there a little late, and there was a line that I thought was to sit down. It wasn't until I was 7 or 8 people from the mic that I realized it was the line to pitch.

So I came up with something I thought didn't sound too stupid, got some laughs from the audience and grabbed a seat. I placed 3rd in what's now the second most surprising game-design related event of my life.

I got a prize table card from it and spent it on the fancy special-edition 3.5 PHB, figuring it'd sell well when I got back home. Instead, I read it cover-to-cover and scrambled (and failed) to find a game before the con wrapped, put the book on a shelf in my apartment and forgot about it.

One day before MechaCon in Lafayette, while I'm driving out of town for the weekend, I hear a Shadowrun line dev is the guest of honor. By the time I get to a computer, I find out it's Adam Jury. I don't make it back in time to meet him, but afterward I get back into SR, order the 4E Collector's Edition and grab some of their PDFs. I post some ads at the FLGS and on boards to start a group, but nothing happens.

After a few dry years of everything in Louisiana, I moved in 2010 from backwoods Louisiana to take a tech job in Boston. A friend of a friend puts me up in her apartment until another apartment opens up; two weeks later, we're dating; a year later, we're engaged.

In my first visit to one of my friendly and newly local game shops, I run into one of my old college friends. We strike up a PbEM thread that gets me sniffing around tabletop games once again; I subscribed to a bunch of blogs, started hearing about Pathfinder and FATE and all these new systems and old-school revivals. I'd all but slept through the d20 bubble.

One day, the Kobold Quarterly RSS feed mentions the Journeys to the West Kickstarter, which sounds like an extremely cool way to get more involved. I drop enough money to get patron status and poke around the forums, but it's quickly evident that I need to learn more about Pathfinder to participate.

So it's back to the FLGS, where I pick up the Beginner Box after reading all of its glowing reviews. On my way out I run into the Boston Venture-Captain and ask about PFS. He invites me to the next game, but I figure I need to learn the system better before I sit in on a session.

After running through the solo adventure, I check the OD forums, spot a brainstorming thread and post some ideas. Someone jokes about using one of them for Superstar, and I have no idea what he means.

I figure it's something to do with Open Design. After a quick Google search RPG Superstar comes up; I read the description and rules, plow through past years' threads, borrow my friend's PF Core and give it a shot. After a couple days of work on my item I hit submit, get super excited about Pathfinder and go to a Beginner Box Bash that weekend, playing my first games with a group since 2004.

A few months later, as my fiancee tries on wedding dresses, I stay up too late writing a long stupid post about it on the forums. :D TEH END

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka Epic Meepo

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Some time later, I learned to play D&D.

I was taught to play by my father when I was around eight years old, shortly after discovering an old red box (Set 1: Basic Rules) which my Dad had lying around. He was more into war games than RPGs, but obliged my enthusiasm with generous purchases of RPG supplements and quality family time spent sitting at a table, killing orcs. Before long, I was playing AD&D and exploring the Forgotten Realms.

Grade school was all about teaching friends to play D&D and running assorted campaigns. (And not so much about girls. Go figure.) I even got to play a character every now and again, despite That One Guy whose every character's sole purpose in life was to harass my character until I was forced to kill him in a duel. Again. At the same time, I began toying with game design, programming my TI-83 graphing calculator to display a scrolling setting map with "cut-scene" text battles against various monsters.

College was more of the same (minus the tricked out calculator, plus a few more girls). By then, I was winning an occasional design contest in Dragon magazine and getting a few articles published. With that as my springboard, I moved on to a d20 sourcebook published by Bastion Press. I then promptly fell off the radar, deciding to spend no small amount of time teaching myself to write novels. Many years later, I'm still learning.

In that time, I've maintained my fascination with RPGs and game design. I've dabbled in any number of systems, and met all sorts of great friends through various gaming groups. And I've discovered the Paizo boards, thanks to word-of-mouth advertizing for the open playtest of the Pathfinder core rules a few years back. I've been here ever since.

Which just about covers my gaming history. Well, except for the whole RPG Superstar thing. But it's getting a bit late where I am. So, if you'll kindly refrain from beheading Scheherazade and I for the duration of Round 2, we'll be sure to get back to you with the rest of the story...

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4

Ok, here's my story ...

Kinda long Tom Phillips bio:
I was an odd child. I was that blond-haired, dimple-faced kid who melted his army men with a stolen Bic lighter and painted their melted-down arm and leg stumps with my mom's streetwalker-red fingernail polish. I microwaved my Star Wars figures (sorry, Greedo ... Oh, and Han shot first!). I drew far too many images of stick-people being eaten by gigantic one dimensional monstrous horrors. It was the perfect foundation for a future would-be RPG designer.

I discovered D&D in 1981 with the Basic Rules boxed set and the Keep on the Borderlands module. My first character was the dashing and heroic Orgon Mileswood, a chainmail-wearing, 2-handed sword-wielding thief, who hacked and slashed his way through the Caves of Chaos, then the Palace of the Silver Princess, then the Isle of Dread.

I kept playing Advanced D&D sporadically though high school, meeting up with friends once a month or so in the back room of a local hobby shop (we didn't have very many real gaming stores in the mid-80s). I played a little more in college--by this time playing 2E--and continued to play less and less throughout the early and mid-90s. I dabbled a little in other games as well, and Call of Cthulhu is still a comfortable old friend, but D&D remains the king.

After a hiatus of a few years I cobbled together a new gaming group and we starting playing 3E. It was great to be back! We made the transition to 3.5 and played until 4E was released. We gave 4E the old college try, but it just didn't work for our group. Thankfully, Paizo blessed us with the Pathfinder rules and Pathfidner remains our group's game of choice.

I entered the RPG Superstar contest for the first time in 2008 and didn't make the cut. Then I missed the 2009 contest completely. I tried again in 2010, and made it to the Top 16. That got the fire burning, so I tried yet again in 2011. Lo and behold, I made the Top 32, but fizzled out in the archetype round.

So, now I'm back (miraculously!) for the third time and ready for more punishment. I'm enjoying every minute of the experience though. This is a great contest and the contestants and fans are overwhelmingly awesome. I learn something each and every year, and I feel humbled and honored to have a chance to share my dark, creepy, somewhat twisted creations with my fellow Paizonians.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4 aka OamuTheMonk

I'm old enough to have had the 1981 edition Basic Set (with the Erol Otus cover), but aside from a couple dashed-together games with the family, I didn't really play at the time. I did read and re-read the Keep on the Borderlands module dozens of times, and drew and redrew the monsters within. I always loved D&D as a concept, but didn't really get a chance to play again for two decades.

In 2005, an acquaintance invited my wife and I to play in a 3.5 campaign he was starting. The campaign was a great success, except for the fact that the party got TPK'd at level 10. I started GMing the next year, and we've shared the duty (playing with the same principal players) ever since. I'm incredibly lucky to have had only positive experiences with the people in my group.

With regards to game design stuff, I don't really have a system other than designing content for 100+ hours of gaming every year. The fact that 3.5 (and Pathfinder, by extension) had such transparent mechanics for designing monsters, magic items, everything--that was really made me enjoy DMing. I build every dungeon (although I strip content from published stuff), statblock every monster, and sculpt and mod miniatures to make sure I have the "right" creature (It's obsessive, I know, but I really like having, say, a Gargantuan Froghemoth if I need one) to drop onto the grid. I love the mechanical, tactical elements of the game. Consequently, I reflexively think in terms of stats and guts.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4 aka OamuTheMonk

Sam Polak wrote:
...I live in Apex, NC, work as a software developer at RIM, play with my 1 year old daughter, and occasionally pick out a few notes on a guitar or ukulele.

Apex, huh? I live in Raleigh, just off 540. You don't trade minis, do ya?

Andoran Contributor, RPG Superstar 2012 , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

I'm an hour and a half (or two hours) away from all the North Carolina action.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 4 , Star Voter 2014 aka MillerHero

James Olchak wrote:
You don't trade minis, do ya?

I do! Your name sounds familiar, I may have traded with you in the past on Wizards, Hordelings, or Maxminis.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

I'm starting to think NC is a hotbed of RPG design talent. Seems like there's been more people from my home state who make the Top 32 than any other location. Interesting.

Andoran Contributor, RPG Superstar 2012 , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Neil Spicer wrote:
I'm starting to think NC is a hotbed of RPG design talent. Seems like there's been more people from my home state who make the Top 32 than any other location. Interesting.

That is very interesting. Paizo should consider opening an office in North Carolina. Winston-Salem is looking to attract businesses. :)

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 4 , Star Voter 2014 aka MillerHero

Pathfinder Society in Raleigh is particularly blessed with RPG Superstar finalists. Sam Polak, Alexander MacLeod, and Bobby Nichols are all regular players/GMs. I've tried to contact James Martin in Durham to see if he would like to play, but haven't been successful yet.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter 2013, Champion Voter 2014

Neil Spicer wrote:
I'm starting to think NC is a hotbed of RPG design talent. Seems like there's been more people from my home state who make the Top 32 than any other location. Interesting.

Maybe its the weird pollen in the air. That yellow crud was pretty nasty when I lived there.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Thomas LeBlanc wrote:
Maybe its the weird pollen in the air. That yellow crud was pretty nasty when I lived there.

That's pixie dust, man!

"We can fly, we can fly, we can fly, we can fly, we can flyyyyy..."

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 aka Stormfriend

If they're on pixie dust we need a handicapping system as we're on coal dust over here. When I was a lad...

I started gaming when the Fighting Fantasy books came out (solo gaming admittedly). I was at school and Warlock of Firetop Mountain was like a bolt from the blue. That series had me absolutely hooked for years and I bought practically every single one of them, along with the Sorcery series, Dragon Warriors and a few others. Maelstrom was an oddity that I never got to play (except for the solo adventure) but never forgot. I wish I'd hung on to those first editions as they'll probably be worth something one day.

I toyed briefly with AD&D at school too, but never really got into it properly. The only real group we got going ended in the first session. There were three players and we decided I was the leader. At the first junction I decided to go left and the other two decided to go right. We then had a massive argument about the definition of mutiny. In the end we split the party and died shortly after. You can probably guess how old we were.

That was that, until 3.0 came out many years later and the rules actually made sense. I got into an excellent local group for a couple of years which reignited the flame and I've played solidly since then with one group or another. I discovered organised play in year 4 of LG and that fitted my lifestyle so well it became my only game (and organised play still is).

The introduction of 4e split the monstrously huge LG group we had and I went with LFR. It was a lot of fun at low levels, but in the end the constant rules changes and three hour fights at high level drove me away and I picked up PFS instead, which is where I've been ever since; although there are times when I find a druid rolling twice for TWF, whilst his cat companion is making a claw, claw, bite attack all in the same round that I long for Skill, Stamina and Luck. :-)

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

Neil Spicer wrote:
I'm starting to think NC is a hotbed of RPG design talent. Seems like there's been more people from my home state who make the Top 32 than any other location. Interesting.

I wonder which states or countries have the highest sales figures for Paizo's products... and it would be interesting to know if the number of top 32 contestants from different regions is proportionate to those figures.

RPGs and boardgames are fairly popular here in Finland, and it seems that Paizo and Pathfinder have grown pretty popular here over the last few years. So much even that last summer, Erik Mona was at RopeCon! (Finland's biggest RPG convention) He talked about Paizo, PF, the RPG industry in general, and lots of other interesting stuff. He also GM'd an adventure, though all the slots at the table were quickly filled and I didn't get a chance to play. :(

Anyway, RPG Superstar doesn't seem to have garnered much attention here. In fact I think the only Finns I've heard talk about it are the same people I play PF with.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013

Mikko Kallio wrote:
RPGs and boardgames are fairly popular here in Finland...

I'm curious; are you are aware if there are translations of Pathfinder materials available? I haven't heard of any, but your post got me to thinking about this question.

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

Mark Hart wrote:
Mikko Kallio wrote:
RPGs and boardgames are fairly popular here in Finland...
I'm curious; are you are aware if there are translations of Pathfinder materials available? I haven't heard of any, but your post got me to thinking about this question.

I've heard about an unofficial translation into Brazilian Portuguese, but I don't know if there are any official translations in any language.

Very few RPGs or computer games ever get translated into Finnish, it's just not profitable. And more importantly, young Finns are increasingly proficient in English, thanks to the education system and tv and... well the games that never get translated, so you have to play the original versions and learn the language. :P

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4 aka OamuTheMonk

Neil Spicer wrote:
Thomas LeBlanc wrote:
Maybe its the weird pollen in the air. That yellow crud was pretty nasty when I lived there.

That's pixie dust, man!

"We can fly, we can fly, we can fly, we can fly, we can flyyyyy..."

I am apparently viciously allergic to pixies.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4 aka OamuTheMonk

Steve Miller wrote:
James Olchak wrote:
You don't trade minis, do ya?
I do! Your name sounds familiar, I may have traded with you in the past on Wizards, Hordelings, or Maxminis.

Pretty likely, I did a lot of trading on the Wizards boards.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8 aka Ottovar

I was born and raised in Sacramento, CA, and just like the Credence song, I have actually been stuck in Lodi, which is about 45 minutes south. (Lodi's not that bad really, the locals are nice).

I started playing the "Elf" class in Basic in the classroom of my 7th grade English teacher. Then moved onto AD&D, Top Secret, Boot Hill, Gamma World, and Champions (insert trademark symbol after each).

I used to know my THAC0 (to hit armor class zero), now I can barely spell it :).

I have been lucky to game with some of the best players in the game, and had that one in million DM who was born with a set of polyhedral dice in his hands.

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

You know, quite many of us seem to have started with Basic D&D, and once this contest is over, I think we should run a short play-by-post adventure using the Basic Set, just for old times' sake... :D

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter 2013, Champion Voter 2014

Russell Vaneekhoven wrote:
I was born and raised in Sacramento, CA, and just like the Credence song, I have actually been stuck in Lodi, which is about 45 minutes south. (Lodi's not that bad really, the locals are nice).

I lived in Tracy, CA for 3 years and gamed in Stockton every Saturday while in HS (95-98).

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8 aka shiverscar

I appear to be the only Canuck in the pack... no relation to NC here! Only family I've got in the states are in NJ or TX.

My History:

I was introduced to D&D when I was handed a 2nd Edition PH and asked if I wanted to play. I was 9. I'd just started at a new school. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

I began as a thief. I attempted to backstab everything. In short order, I got knocked into negative hit points by a lizardman, spider, falling rocks, and a wight. That was the first adventure. If not for the entirely non-optimal set up we had of 3 clerics and two fighters, I probably would have stayed dead. Instead, the clerics blew a lot of cure light wounds keeping the thief out of trouble.

I was entranced.

Unfortunately the group foundered and died. I tried, unsuccessfully, to encourage new groups to grow. But, my school was small, and I had little luck keeping players on board. I started DMing as a necessity since I had a rotating stable of new players and I was the only person with any experience. I used APs initially, but the storyteller in me felt compelled to homebrew for more personal touches.

I spent a few years doing this before giving up. I found other RP opportunities and tried my hand at writing (really juvenile) novels. I played Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and even joined some private Ultima Online servers just to find the opportunity to roleplay.

A change of rule system revived my interest. I played Shadowrun for a few years, immediately after its 3rd edition came out (1998?) moving from pen and paper to pbp. I had good times and it definitely revived my flagging interest in pen and paper games.

When I moved away for university, I ended up changing towns a few times. I played 3.0 and eventually 3.5, Rifts, Shadowrun 4e, and a handful of White Wolf games. I dabbled in reading other systems, but I never really got the chance to play them. I started homebrewing a 3.5 game that continues to run with the same group of people to this day (2006-2012).

I settled back into my hometown of Toronto after school was finished and, as old friends started moving back as well, I started to get to play again, starting with a Shackled City game. A friend was very closely following the trials and tribulations of Paizo finding its feet and getting Pathfinder launched and gathered a few of us together to run Rise of the Runelords. We were still running 3.5, but we all had a blast and looked forward to the next game, Curse of the Crimson Throne. In CotCT we officially converted to the PF rule system and we were absolutely giddy about it. We kept finding new things to be excited about in terms of classes, spell mechanics, rule variations, and general improvements on the game we'd all come to enjoy.

Last year, my friend recommended I participate in RPG Superstar. I figured it was worth a shot. My submission, the Gauntlets of Icy Grasp, didn't get into the first round, but I got some positive feedback when I posted in the critique thread so I decided to try again in a year. In the past year I've been lurking and contributing on the forums where I can, which gave me a crash course in rules mechanics. The time spent on the forums was invaluable in getting me up to speed on so many aspects of Pathfinder.

All told, I've been gaming for about 18 (almost 19) years. Not that much when compared to people that remember Basic or the Red Box, but I've had a good run so far. I rarely run anything as written and I'm more prone to going off the rails as a player and a GM if the story seems more interesting in that direction. Largely, I'm in the game to entertain and be entertained, whatever that entails.

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