Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pathfinder Society

Pathfinder Beginner Box

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Comics

Pathfinder Legends

RPG Superstar 2015

Neil Spicer: Editors' Choice Judge


RPG Superstar™ 2012 General Discussion

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

7 people marked this as a favorite.

I just wanted to send Neil Spicer belated Valentines day wishes from the entire Paizo editorial pit*. Neil's exceptionally nuanced analyses of each contestant's work should be one of the highlights of this year's show for anyone interested in freelancing for Paizo--he's really giving away the secrets here folks. But, for me and all of the developers and editors on the Paizo staff, Neil's writing advice is worth its weight in gold, as it's the exact sort of feedback we give our freelancers.

It turns out that having awesome ideas isn't even half the battle of writing for RPGs (it's actually kind of expected). You've also got to make your ideas exciting to read and easy for your developers and editors to work with. Someone might have the coolest adventure ideas in the world, but if I have to rewrite every sentence, I'm never going to assign that freelancer work again. So, all you would-be designers out there, dust off your grammar books, read Paizo's published products and really consider the styles and formats you're seeing, and take a good look at Neil's advice throughout this competition.

Below I've copied a number of the comments that provoked all this gushing.

Our Favorite Judge wrote:

- Your use of the word "will" is also a sign of weak writing. Look for ways to avoid that. It'll strengthen your prose. Instead of saying a creature will do something, just say they do it. That makes your writing much more active and evocative.

- You're using a lot of passive voice, though. Try and avoid as many conventions of the verb "to be" as you can. So, go back and highlight just the places where you used "is"..."are"..."was"...and "were" etc. If the majority of your write-up is relying on those types of verbs, you need to work on replacing them with more active verbs to make your prose read better and come across as more evocative.

- Go back through and identify all the usages of the verb "to be" by highlighting "is"..."are"..."was"...and "were"...and you'll see you rely way too much on that to convey your ideas. Overall, your writing would be stronger if you can find ways to use more active verbs as you present your villain's backstory and the location's history. Sometimes, it's okay to rely on a "was" or "were" when talking about things in the past. But use them sparingly.

- On top of all that, you keep capitalizing non-game terms like goblin and ogre as proper nouns. That's not how those terms should be presented in a game product.

- You left commas out of your XP values.

- You've failed to italicize references to the Bestiary, Bestiary 2, and Gamemastery Guide.

- There are a lot of spacing problems in your writeup. Several words got jammed together...

- Missing an apostrophe

- More proofing problems

With all of that in mind, I strongly RECOMMEND Mr. Spicer advance to judge next year's competition**. Thanks Neil, from all of us in the pit!

* And we love the rest of you judges too. Just slightly less then Neil. (Unless you're Sean... screw that guy.)

** Sorry dude. No rest for the wicked.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter 2013 aka Evil Paul

How come Neil always goes first when it comes to the reviews. Does the submission date end, all the new entries flash up on the screen and the other judges head to the pub while Neil sits in a darkened room, his face illuminated by the glare from the screen and his table covered with open source books?

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

Penne Al Arrabiata wrote:

How come Neil always goes first when it comes to the reviews. Does the submission date end, all the new entries flash up on the screen and the other judges head to the pub while Neil sits in a darkened room, his face illuminated by the glare from the screen and his table covered with open source books?

Neil is built around a massively maxed out Improved Initiative feat chain. It's highly circumstantial (applying only to written online advice of 3,000 words or greater) but when it kicks in... man, he's got like a +80 bonus.

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

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Penne Al Arrabiata wrote:
... and his table covered with open source books?

The creepy thing is, Neil doesn't even own any of the source books. He skittered out of the womb with this knowledge.

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

Hear, hear! Although it should be painfully obvious to anyone by now, Mr. Spicer is indeed awesome, and both the quantity and quality of the advice he pours out is nothing short of mindblowing.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
Our Favorite Judge wrote:


- You're using a lot of passive voice, though. Try and avoid as many conventions of the verb "to be" as you can. So, go back and highlight just the places where you used "is"..."are"..."was"...and "were" etc. If the majority of your write-up is relying on those types of verbs, you need to work on replacing them with more active verbs to make your prose read better and come across as more evocative.

- Go back through and identify all the usages of the verb "to be" by highlighting "is"..."are"..."was"...and "were"...and you'll see you rely way too much on that to convey your ideas. Overall, your writing would be stronger if you can find ways to use more active verbs as you present your villain's backstory and the location's history. Sometimes, it's okay to rely on a "was" or "were" when talking about things in the past. But use them sparingly.

Pet peeve: Passive voice is not the same as using forms of the verb ”to be“.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lukas Klausner wrote:
Pet peeve: Passive voice is not the same as using forms of the verb ”to be“.

+1. The second myth about passive voice from here (since we've got the whole North Carolina thing going on):

Quote:

2. Any use of "to be" (in any form) constitutes the passive voice.

The passive voice entails more than just using a being verb. Using "to be" can weaken the impact of your writing, but it is occasionally necessary and does not by itself constitute the passive voice.

There's a difference between active vs. passive voice and action vs. state-of-being verbs. Neil's advice to use more action verbs in place of "to be" is indeed valuable but has to do with verb choice, not voice.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Lots of gp in there!

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

2 people marked this as a favorite.

On the passive voice topic: Over use and weak writing are over use and weak writing, and I'm not about to complain about the guy shoveling my stairs but not my driveway. Neil provides a great first look into a larger issue that I hope many writers just learning about this topic will be more aware of in their future work.

Writers interested in learning more about passive and active voice should check out the following links:

University of North Carolina Writing Center (which should appeal to several above)

The University of Texas Writing Lab

And especially the awesome Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka motteditor

I'll agree that while I've gleaned lots of advice from each of the judges' comments, I do find Neil's tend to be particularly helpful. I hope he gets locked into some sort of contract where he has to judge Superstar every year.

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Seeing as I taught Neil so well, looks like I can retire from judging, woo!!! HELLO, WEEKENDS!!!!

;)

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka motteditor

So then we could have a "So You Want to be a Superstar Judge" competition to fill the fourth spot before the next Superstar competition...

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Seeing as I taught Neil so well...

In truth, Sean (as well as some other industry veterans) really did teach me a lot about writing for RPGs. And it wasn't specifically during his time working at Paizo. Even prior to RPG Superstar, I knocked on every door I could find in terms of looking for freelance opportunities. That's how you get ahead in this industry. You go looking for opportunity. You don't just sit back and wait for it. And, along the way, you learn and you get better and better at your craft. One of the websites I frequented for awhile was Sean's old "Sean K. Reynolds Games" where he shared a number of articles he wrote on pet-peeves, writing advice, and various other ruminations on the in's and out's of the game industry. I applied myself to reading and absorbing as much of that information as I could, because I hoped to someday write for him and a half-dozen other companies if they ever gave me a shot. And, all that information really did serve me well in my first few freelance gigs.

Also, one of the very first things Sean sent to me after I won RPG Superstar in 2009 was his "Freelancer Punishments and Advice" article...which is equal parts humorous, informative, and full of warnings on "what not to do" when writing for Paizo...or else. Several of the topics covered by that document included much of the stuff I'd already read from Sean's original website. Some of it's just plain, commonsense. And other parts of it are elements he's honed over an entire career of writing according to the in-house standards of various RPG publishers (including Paizo)...and all of which, you'd do well to make a part of your own writing repertoire.

I think it's super-important that you learn those things and apply them to your writing as quickly as you can. Why? It puts you so far ahead of the curve in terms of making your developers' and editors' jobs easy. And if you make their jobs easy, they're going to give you more jobs as a freelancer. Conversely, if you make their jobs harder, they're going to give you less work. It's as simple as that.

Thus, it's in your own self-interests to learn as many of the valid writing conventions and in-house styles for Paizo that you can. Many of them are fairly standard across the industry no matter who you're writing for. And, it's the mark of a professional when you demonstrate you can pick those things up quickly and strengthen your writing with them.

As always, that's just my two cents,
--Neil

P.S. Thanks for the Valentine, Wes!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

With all of that in mind, I strongly RECOMMEND Mr. Spicer advance to judge next year's competition**. Thanks Neil, from all of us in the pit!

** Sorry dude. No rest for the wicked.

And here I was thinking maybe I should sit out next year and give you a chance to jump back in. ;-P

Marathon Voter 2013

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This thread has been very useful!

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Neil Spicer wrote:
And here I was thinking maybe I should sit out next year and give you a chance to jump back in. ;-P

Quiet you. I have plenty of opportunities in a year to cut ya.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Neil Spicer wrote:

In truth, Sean (as well as some other industry veterans) really did teach me a lot about writing for RPGs. And it wasn't specifically during his time working at Paizo. Even prior to RPG Superstar, I knocked on every door I could find in terms of looking for freelance opportunities. That's how you get ahead in this industry. You go looking for opportunity. You don't just sit back and wait for it. And, along the way, you learn and you get better and better at your craft. One of the websites I frequented for awhile was Sean's old "Sean K. Reynolds Games" where he shared a number of articles he wrote on pet-peeves, writing advice, and various other ruminations on the in's and out's of the game industry. I applied myself to reading and absorbing as much of that information as I could, because I hoped to someday write for him and a half-dozen other companies if they ever gave me a shot. And, all that information really did serve me well in my first few freelance gigs.

Also, one of the very first things Sean sent to me after I won RPG Superstar in 2009 was his "Freelancer Punishments and Advice" article...which is equal parts humorous, informative, and full of warnings on "what not to do" when writing for Paizo...or else. Several of the topics covered by that document included much of the stuff I'd already read from Sean's original website. Some of it's just plain, commonsense. And other parts of it are elements he's honed over an entire career of writing according to the in-house standards of various RPG publishers (including Paizo)...and all of which, you'd do well to make a part of your own writing repertoire.

This is a great thread.

Neil/Sean: is any of this old material still available? As a fledgling I'd like to start right!

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Oceanshieldwolf wrote:


This is a great thread.
Neil/Sean: is any of this old material still available? As a fledgling I'd like to start right!

You can find some of Sean's old 3.5 articles here. They are useful to read for the thinking behind them, and the topics that they cover, but some of the specific rules information does not apply to Pathfinder.

Of course, read through the Auto-Reject and Critique My Item threads, and the comments of the top 32's and later rounds as well. There really is a ton of useful information here that all the RPG Superstar judges have compiled over the years.

I especially like the different perspectives of the judges. Neil, Sean, Ryan, and Clark each approach the game from different places, and it's really interesting to see where they agree or disagree on a certain design choice. Of course, the submissions that get Recommends from all the judges are the cream of the crop since they appeal to different kinds of gamers and get all the little parts right as well.

And Neil's analysis of each submission is second to none. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty, spending hours and hours to help out future freelancers.

Star Voter 2013

Seth White wrote:


And Neil's analysis of each submission is second to none. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty, spending hours and hours to help out future freelancers.

Yeah, he has really raised the feedback process to both a science and an art form* I think we're all lucky that he's willing to put in so much effort.

*not to be confused with the novel**

**I kid :)

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Neil is THE MAN!


You just don't find that kind of commitment in other competitions--regardless of field. And if you do, it is very rare. We are all very lucky to be able to benefit from his commitment.

It really is quite remarkable.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'd like to point out that Clark and Sean are just as equally dedicated. Ryan, too, for that matter...and all the judges who came before. It takes a lot just to sort through all the initial item submissions for RPG Superstar. Providing reviews and constructive criticism on 32 400-word submissions for Round 2 in a single weekend is pretty tough, too. Same for 8 3,000-word encounter reviews in Round 4. We all do our part in supporting the contest and I think it's a labor of love for everyone involved.

Just look at Clark and Sean. They've done this 4 out of 5 years now. That's dedication for you. Sean is the rare volunteer among the Paizo crew to take this on every time he's had the opportunity. Clark would be 5/5 if he hadn't sit out a year. He's also my role model on how to be supportive and encouraging for the gaming community. And I guess I also feel little extra compulsion to give back to the contest. After all, many of you who compete (or just follow along) are the same folks who voted me through in 2009. And Paizo is the publisher who gave me my biggest break.

So, why not go all out? It's pretty much the only speed I know.


Kudos to Neil for some much deserved recognition. Having played along side you in PBPs for years now, it's been a real treat watching your career develop.

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

Neil Spicer wrote:
I'd like to point out that Clark and Sean are just as equally dedicated.

Neil, that is very gracious of you and is yet another reason why you are the best.

I've achieved a lot in my life. There are many areas where I can rightfully claim to be the best or among the best at what I do. So as a result, I can admit it when I am not the best. This is one of those times.

Neil, you are the best. The sheer amount of content you provide as feedback, your tireless dedication, your support, the frightening amount of time you spend over and above what is necessary.

I'm glad this thread was posted. For the public's information, I started a similar thread commending Neil in the Judge's Chambers over a month ago.

Neil, you deserve it.

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

Here is the thread title and time stamp for proof :)

Commendation for Neil •
Jan 8, 2012, 05:01 PM by Clark Peterson

And here is what I posted:

Clark wrote:

All the judges and Paizo staff work real hard on this contest. It takes lots and lots of thankless hours of work. We all put in a TON of time on this and we do so gladly with no expectation of anything more than a hearty "thank you" from our dear friends at Paizo.

But that said...

Let this post be my official petition that something special be done for Neil. I think Neil literally reivewed, in depth, EVERY submitted item. That is just crazy. I have a madman's dedication to this contest, as does everyone, but it pales to what Neil has done this year.

So I'm calling on Paizo to find a way to reward this guy. I don't know how. But please do something special for him. You won't hurt my feelings if you single him out for something special, recognition or whatever, because in my view he has outworked all of us by a large margin.

And don't listen to him when he comes in here all humble and says he doesn't want anything. That is just all the more reason to do it.

My post was met with unanimous approval for good reason.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Stop. This is getting embarrassing. Not to mention it also highlights my terrible OCD affliction for all the world to see. You've got to be a little crazy to plunge headlong into this role as an RPGSS judge. And, clearly, I'm overqualified in the craziness department. But I'm also in good company considering you're a 4-time member of that club. Same deal for Sean. So, we're all equally nuts in my mind.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

I hear Clark beat Neil in getting to all four final round submissions today..

I'm just sayin'.


Vic Wertz wrote:

I hear Clark beat Neil in getting to all four final round submissions today..

I'm just sayin'.

Everybody needs a goal.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Posh! I could easily have "beat" him in putting down a placeholder post for my final round commentary. But this is actually the one round where I don't like to go first. Even now, I could easily delete his placeholders and elevate mine, if I wanted. But I want to see where Jacobs stands on some of these adventure proposals first.

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Vic, age and treachery beats youth and skill every time :)

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

I was just sneaky enough to slip in a placeholder post that I could do back and edit later so that I could have the first post :) Hehe. That's an old Superstar judge trick. Full disclosure: Neil had all his reviews done and posted before all of mine were done, so even though my posts appear first he still beat me. Judges are competitive, too. :)

Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Publishing / RPG Superstar™ / Previous Contests / RPG Superstar™ 2012 / General Discussion / Neil Spicer: Editors' Choice Judge All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in General Discussion

©2002–2014 Paizo Inc.®. Need help? Email customer.service@paizo.com or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours: Monday–Friday, 10 AM–5 PM Pacific Time. View our privacy policy. Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc., and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Online, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.