CripDyke's page

RPG Superstar 8 Season Dedicated Voter, 9 Season Marathon Voter. 231 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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KC: when you use this language:

attacker gains a +1 insight bonus on the attack roll (to a maximum of +5) for each projectile

You are saying that it's possible to get +5 PER PROJECTILE. I don't think that's what you want. I think you just want to say

attacker gains a +1 insight bonus on the attack roll for each projectile (to a maximum of +5)

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Personally, I suck at maps.

The maps we've gotten this round - the ones I liked and the ones I didn't - have forced me to think.

When the round started, even though I had also looked at and voted on maps in season 8 of RPGSS, I wasn't even really clear on how I would go about judging a good map from a bad map.

I'll say that again: I wasn't clear on what I thought would make a good map or a bad map.

Q: How then would I design a "good" map in 48 hours?
A: I wouldn't have.

But now I have a better idea about what power I do and don't have when designing a map, what I might be able to accomplish with my rough map, and why I should prioritize some things over others when actually drawing the thing. It might be that immediately after the season 8 map round I'd also felt like I'd learned some of these same things...and then forgotten the. But that's why practice is so darn useful.

I've been through every map, and was frequently surprised to find that what I thought was a good map, the judges thought was middling or less, and what the judges would gush over I found poor.

These designers, all 32, open themselves up to public criticism in a way that is extremely uncomfortable, and who benefits?

Me.

Each and every person who looks at the maps and makes an attempt to determine good from bad - even if you don't read the judges' remarks, and you really should - will learn something. The less experienced you are at fantasy cartography, the more you learn. And the lessons aren't only drawn from "good" maps that one can then copy. To be a designer, you have to do more than copy. I'm very, very grateful to these 32 folks who are teaching me to be a more creative, more compelling storyteller.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Quote:
in that analogy...doesn't that put us at the top of the food chain? Rather disturbing if you think about it...

Nah.

It puts you at the top of the food pyramid.

Seems like I hardly need any servings of you at all!

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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@Trekkie90909 :

Thank you very much for the most thorough review of revealing ink I've read so far.

I'm heartened to hear you say

Quote:


There’s good mojo to this, and the descriptive text supports the mechanics with a glimmering of brilliance.

I put a lot of effort into mojo and theme.

This is my first time entering RPGSS. I've heard people talk over and over about mojo. I really wanted to nail that.

But before your review I had come to the conclusion that despite Paizo's 300 word limit, to really win the voter it needs to be down near 220 words or less. This was too long.

Also, I learned something important reviewing items that I didn't really like. The item type I'm talking about had good mechanics but didn't show off the creativity and imagination (read: mojo) of the designers to good effect. In several of these, this was because of extensive copying and pasting with minimal modifications for new use. I realized as I was trying to make sure I gave good reinforcement for the things done well that there's an excellent reason to copy/paste mechanics. There are tons of pathfinder related books. No one can learn and memorize it all. It's actually doing a favor to the GM, the players, and the game itself to copy/paste when you can do it without undercutting your mojo.

Then I thought about it and realized that in the context of RPGSS and snap-voting, even if your mechanics are good and tight and flawless (which mine weren't), if they're entirely new to someone they're not going to realize how good and tight and flawless those mechanics are until they think about it for a lot more time than they have to vote.

So potential problems are going to be raised by an item with really new mechanics ... and whether you've resolved them or not isn't going to be clear before it's time to vote and move on.

While if something about RPGSS meant you had to design an item that would be worse for the game to suit the voters, that would suck. But that's not what's happening here. What's happening here is that the same thing that's good for the game (building substantially on existing rules until absolutely necessary to shy away to avoid stepping on your mojo's toes) is inflated in importance in RPGSS.

=========

Given my conclusions, I knew I had to throw out the entirety of my mechanics if revealing ink was ever to be a decent item. And yet, with no real positive feedback yet, i really had no idea if my work mojo and theme and role-play was valued by anyone, or if revealing ink deserved the possibility of a rewrite.

I was left kind of wondering if I had succeeded at anything, since I realized I had failed pretty hard at both being reader/user-friendly and at mechanics.

This statement by yours gives me heart that I do indeed have some skills to build on.

Thank you.

==========

And, yes, your further treatment of my mechanics' deficiencies, especially with the addition of your suggestions for improvements, was also very valuable.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Trekkie90909 wrote:
CripDyke wrote:

May I ask for my edification?

Detailed, helpful analysis of consequences of resetting initiative.

Ah, got it.

Yes, I guess I was thinking about it only in a scenario where you're already fighting, so you're conceding a double action to your opponent in order to get 2 actions in a row later (and in separate rounds).

Put simply, this is a bit like something that guarantees you act in the surprise round ...and gives you a bit of extra control (not tons, but a bit) over the situation in a manner that makes it somewhat more likely that your opponent does NOT act in the surprise round.

That combination is very powerful.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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In order for the vial to be duplicated, you must put it in the bolt case, then load the bolt case into the crossbow.

Quote:

The bolt case ...may,... be filled with a single flask or vial.

...

Once the bolt case is loaded into the crossbow, this weapon duplicates [stuff] and may fire up to five total of any such item before running out and needing to be reloaded.

So before the magic is operant, you put the vial in the bolt case, the bolt case then is loaded in the crossbow.

Quote:

Any time the bolt case is removed from the crossbow, it is empty.

But when you pop the bolt case back off, Presto! It's empty. Note that this happens anytime you remove the bolt case, not merely after you've fired something.

So the bolt case appears to disintegrate any vial in it when the bolt case is loaded in the crossbow.

By magic however, it can fire off 5 of those things anyway.

But your original?

Just gone.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Davic The Grey wrote:
Davic The Grey wrote:

Staff of Perfect Harmony

Aura: Moderate Abjuration; CL13th
Slot None; Price 53,000 gp; Weight8 lbs.
Description
This +3 quarterstaff is made from entwined darkwood and ivory, capped on each end with a warding palm made of electrum. The wielder of the Staff of Perfect Harmony can sunder a spell that targets her or a spell that includes her in it's area of effect as an immediate action, as the barbarian rage power spell sunder. Instead of surpressing the effect upon exceeding the CMD of the spell, the wielder instead gains a +2 circumstance bonus on the save to resist the spell, or +3 if she exceeded the CMD by 5 to 9. If the effect would be completely dispelled it still affects other targets and creatures as normal. This ability is useable three times per day. If the wielder is a monk of at least 9th level, she can expend 3 points from her ki pool to use this ability instead.
Construction
Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Improved Sunder, Dispel Magic, creator must be a monk of at least 9th level; Cost 26,500 gp

Thanks in advance, feel free to rip me apart.

Slightly shameful bump. I know I got up to the fourth cull, so people definitely had opinions on it. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Hey, Davic, be shameless.

That's what this thread is here for.

Some people are going through every item, starting with Page 1. Those people might burn out before they get to you - sad but true. Having an item on page 2 or 3 can meeting waiting agonizingly for feedback.

But other people will just drop in, see where the thread is, and review anything that was posted recently. If they haven't already seen your item, they never will.

All that is to say that it's fine to give yourself a bump in priority. Stylistically some people giving themselves a bump might choose to link to the earlier comment where their item first appears, but whether you link or whether you reproduce the item I don't think matters much. It's all good and no one is selfish for asking for feedback in the middle of the thread whose point is to ask for feedback.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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wait, whoops. I thought there was more than one page to this thread. I guess I had been on the same page, but I was scrolling down from the top.

...I'm not helping myself here, am I?

Okay. I'll just find my way to the door.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Terminalmancer wrote:
Jacob W. Michaels wrote:

Well, my item's listed first, so I'm going to assume I'm No. 37. :p

I know, I know; it's alphabetical...

Next year my Open Call item (spell? archetype? villain?) is going to be aardvark-themed. I'll feel better at the end.

WaitWhatHuh?

Argh!!!! I've been ninja'd.

I swear i hadn't seen this. I hadn't even been on this page of this thread when I wrote my reply to Jacob.

Really. Yes, I know, the hyphen even. But it was totally independently conceived. Really!

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Here we go again.

CripDyke reviewing Dieben's Needlenose Arbalest:

Dieben wrote:


Needlenose Arbalest
Aura strong transmutation; CL 14th
Slot none; Price 51,050 gp; Weight 12 lbs.
Description
This sculpture of a monstrously articulated mosquito functions as a +2 impervious heavy crossbow, gaining the seeking special ability when targeting creatures with the bleed condition or who are below half their full hit points.

Once per week, the wielder may speak a command word to launch the mosquito's head at a foe within 50 feet as a ranged touch attack. The head remains connected by a length of rope stored within the crossbow. As part of the weapon, the rope benefits from the enhancement bonus and impervious special ability.

A successful hit deals normal damage and 1 point of bleed damage and the wielder can attempt a combat maneuver check to grapple the target as a free action. Each round the wielder successfully maintains the grapple, the target is pulled 10 feet closer to the wielder and dealt 1 additional point of bleed damage. This movement does not provoke.

If the wielder begins their turn adjacent to the target and successfully pins them, they may drop the crossbow as it animates into a giant mosquito (see the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 2), but without the disease special ability. The wielder is no longer grappled as the mosquito is now pinning the target. The mosquito acts on the wielder's next initiative, feeding on the pinned target. The mosquito reverts to its crossbow form once the grapple ends, the target is killed, or it deals 8 points of constitution damage, whichever comes first. If slain while animated, the mosquito reverts to crossbow form and may not be animated for a full month.
Construction
Requirements
Craft Magic Arms and Armor, bleed, blood scent, fabricate, make whole, true seeing, vermin shape II; Cost 25,700 gp

1. Name

Is the name so bad as to detract from the item?
Does the name have any potential for defining a theme to be developed later?

Absolutely not. Although arbalest is a synonym for crossbow, and it's hard to make a theme out of a "crossbow" I would never hold including the weapon type against the namer of a magical weapon.

"Needlenose" is a word that I don't think I've ever seen written in an RPG rulebook. If I have, it's been rare and it hasn't been tagged in my brain as having associations you would have to either cleverly exploit or overcome.

So you've got nothing against you in the name. But "needle nose" seems specific and evocative enough that you could probably integrate that into a theme.

It's a bit short of the ultimate goal, though. It doesn't actually **define** the theme. While it's got uniqueness going for it, I simply have no idea where you're gonna go with that. That's not bad, it certainly means the name is fresh (which, yes, is good), but though the word "needle nose" feels evocative, I don't really know what it's evocative of.

I expect to learn that later, but the best of names would set the stage rather than take advantage, retroactively, of a stage set by writing that comes after.

2. Glance top to bottom
Glance at the formatting to see if the entry pays enough attention to what Paizo wants that this item isn't throw-away worthy. Maybe glance at a couple of other things that seem like DQs to me - a CL of 21+, a cost of 200,001 gp or more (since that’s forbidden by Paizo), maybe something else I’m not thinking about right now.

Template appears well used. A few problems, cost/price mismatch for instance, but not so that you can't find information and not so that it looks like the designer didn't pay attention to what Paizo wanted.

3. Read for content
what does the item do? Is the item in an over-used design space?
Is the function understandable?

The item is a crossbow whose bolts swerve to strike bloodied opponents who would otherwise be protected by a miss chance.

Additionally, once per week, the crossbow shoots off a portion of itself, trailing a rope. The crossbow uses grapple rules to try to drag a struck victim back to the wielder.

Finally, if the crossbow drags the victim back, the wielder gets a chance to pin the already grappled victim. If successful, the crossbow becomes a giant mosquito and sucks blood.

yeah, I think I got it. There's nothing about what this does that's unclear to me. I probably even understand it well enough to use this description to make judgement calls if the party runs into crunch corner cases.

This is not at all an overused design space. It has shades of Mortal Combat's "Get over here!" (Scorpion, right?) but it is different. Some items I've seen are crossbows that connect their bolts to the weapon, but none animate in this way, none drink blood in this way.

This is also not the perfectly logical assemblage of pieces that were always destined to come together because they just make sense. This is a collection of powers that demonstrates creativity, even if the design space isn't completely out of the box, what with other crossbows that trail ropes and chains, this is a niche that might never have been filled without this designer.

Good stuff.

4. Read for crunch
Is the crunch understandable?
Is it complicated?
Does it use effects that will be a pain around the gaming table?
Is it overpowered comes into play here if it would be a bad item regardless of price. Otherwise it's an underpricing issue. This doesn't mean that the item has to be worth more than 200,000 gp. An item can be overpowered if its fair market value is only 3,000 -5000 gp if the only characters who would ever want to use it are first level characters (who can't afford it - so they have to be given it - so you see the problem).
NOTE: I don't have to particularly like the approach to the crunch that you chose, so long as it works.

understandable?

Yep. Absolutely. This item manages to be innovative while relying for its effects mostly on rulesets that already exist (e.g. grappling), established special abilities (e.g. seeking), and other sources with their own established details. This item grants those powers under special conditions or with specific tweaks and additions that are easy to understand, quickly described, clear in crunch, and at least occasionally enhancing the theme.

more complicated than it needs to be? Too complicated even though it's all necessary?
You want to make a complicated item? This item shows exactly how to do it. Relying extensively on the established permits the creation of a complicated item without going near 300 words. Careful attention to theme means the fact that these established sources don't end up undermining the them, but instead are mostly used in ways that either don't detract from the theme or actively add to it. This item has some really good stuff in the crunch.

If you started this item from scratch, trying to explain everything, you probably couldn't do it in 600 words (even if the mosquito still had its own bestiary entry).

I often write complicated stuff.

I don't do it nearly this well.

By having a great knowledge of a wide range of pathfinder rules and thinking seriously about how this would have to change to fit the theme, but not sticking in things that simply might be cool for that theme, this designer makes the complicated-item space accessible in ways that other designers can't manage.

Will it be a pain around the gaming table?
Oh, all the grapple checks won't be fun. You'll get into problems where the wielder keeps the rope taught and walks in an ark to put a fire pit between the struggling victim and the wielder...and that may require some judgement calls. But honestly, this isn't going to be more difficult than a lasso. I may not prefer it for the complexity, but even with all it's magic powers it's not more of a pain than a weapon that any of my first level characters might use at any moment.

I dock it minor points here, but other people might not knock any off at all.

Overpowered?

Why is the grapple a free action?

It really shouldn't be a free action. This bugs me. THere's no reason for it. Your theme is "needle nose", not "giant ape that has the mass to take care of this grapple all on my own". I get it that the crossbow animated sufficiently to send out its head, but that was just to hit. You've got someone on the end of a rope who really doesn't want to be there.

Why should I be able to make a full attack while controlling the creature at the end of the rope who is trying to get away?

I just see nothing in the theme, the construction requirements, what the item is actually doing, or anything else that tells me why this should be a free action.

For such a huge advantage (this is normally a standard action every round that you can't avoid) there needs to not only be something in how the item functions that tells me this needs to be a free action, but in addition the theme of the item better absolutely require that it function in this unusual, standard-action-saving way.

I just don't see that.

Oh, wait - I had to come back to this section because I remembered: The mosquito turns back into a sculpture when it has done 8 constitution damage.

Okay, that makes sense, but...

the attack does 1d2 constitution damage. What happens if the mosquito has done 7, then on the next attack rolls a d2 and gets a 2?

Does the magical transformation back interrupt the blood drain so that there's no time to suck out that 9th point? Or does the 9th point of constitution damage happen? If it's about the belly filling up, it seems like the mosquito might very well voluntarily forego the last point of damage.

But I just don't know.

Get this detail ironed out in the crunch for me, would you? It's a relatively small thing, but I'd appreciate it.

5. Reading for creativity
Is this new?
Is it blindingly why-didn't-I-think-of-that simple in execution?
Does it utilize themes in such a way that different aspects of the entry all tie together well?

Is this new?

Yep, this seems pretty new. Crossbows-as-constructs hasn't been done before that I know. There's a lot in here that's new, even though, as I said, it relies heavily on well-established rulesets.

Is it blindingly why-didn't-I-think-of-that simple in execution?

It's way to complicated for that...

BUT... it actually does get the points an item might get for that because even though I can't say, "Of course, it should just do this, and then this, and then this, and then this," I can say that each little detail, each change or addition to the established rulesets the designer references, each special tweak is simple, makes sense, and either prevents a conflict with the theme or works to try to enhance the theme.

Many of the little steps, then, each separately give me that "why didn't I think of that" feeling, even though there's no way i can say that of the item's mechanics or functions as a whole.

Does it utilize themes in such a way that different aspects of the entry all tie together well?

Okay, here's the thing. This item could have been in my top 32, but wasn't. There's a lot that I like about it, and so many design choices were made because the theme demanded it, not because it would make the mechanics easier or the item more powerful or something else that isn't about the item itself.

Just yum.

But in addition to a couple of writing problems that I'll get to in a different section, there are two significant problems. The first is simply something that fails to connect with the them, but doesn't really clash. The second one is a HUGE theme clash.

So, first: grapple. Mosquitos aren't known for grappling. Yes, technically it's part of the giant mosquito entry, but there's no imagery there that makes me think, Oh, yeah, they would totally use grapple quite often! I also strongly suspect that most mosquitos would use their grapple to pin someone to the ground (as the arbalest does when it turns into a mosquito) rather than using it to drag someone along the ground. In the very-very best case, you could imagine a super-huge mosquito flying off with someone, but not really dragging them along the ground. The imagery just really isn't working for me.

Second, the super-huge problem.
The item's name is "needlenose". The item is given not merely a blood-seeking theme, but a *mosquito* blood-seeking theme.

And...

...the impervious.

What the hell?

When I think of a mosquito's proboscis I don't think, "Wow, if that thing gets stuck in me I'm never going to get it out!" I don't think, "Jeez, that crossbow looks like a mosquito-sculpture. Look at that tiny wire mouth thing on the front! Man, I bet that thing is just unbreakable!

So much of what you do is driven by the theme, but then this one design decision seems made entirely out of fear. It doesn't enhance the theme, it contradicts it. But if the weapon was fragile, and you only get to do this special grappling thing once a week, dammit you just might never get a chance to make the weapon do it's whole shoot-drag-pin-HulkOut-suckblood cycle. If it was fragile, there's just too much going on there for everything to work out perfectly with a super-fragile mosquito-head, right?

I really feel like I have a good idea of why you wanted to go with impervious, but it's a choice that just kills your mojo.

I could write a lot more about how you integrated this aspect or that aspect of your theme. But you obviously know how to do it. Oh, heck, let's do a couple anyway:


  • the seeking ability only functions when creatures have the bleed condition or are under 1/2 HP.
  • the weapon that's going to turn into a mosquito actually is sculpted to resemble a mosquito - including (I think, we'll get to this later) mechanical articulations that should be delicate, like a mosquito.
  • the mosquito turns back into a crossbow if it's belly is full of enough blood

Actually, now that I look at it, it's not that there are so many things that cross-reinforce, it's just that the major ones all do ...except grapple and impervious.

With so much more tight integration than most of the other items, impervious isn't so dang frustrating here because now the item's horrible.

it's still well above average.

But you pine for what might have been.

No mosquito-construct should be "impervious".

Nothing that uses imagery that deliberately evokes the delicate (like "needlenose") should be "impervious".

If you want to go shooting people and having the bow drag them back for you, how about this:

Your new theme is Bloodhound.

The name of the crossbow doesn't even use "crossbow" or "arbalest". It's just, "The Bloodhound". Or, rather, in Paizo-style, the bloodhound. Bloodhounds track something down for you. They can grab it in a mouth and bring it back. You can still have the seeking on a bleed condition or low HP. And then make that short stocky dog impervious.

There ya go.

but there's lots you could have done with the needle nose theme as well.

What's really scary about those super-fine needle-nose probosces? The scariest part is when they slip inside you, but they're so fine, so sharp, you don't even notice.

You want a needle nose that uses the mosquito theme?

Instead of dragging back your prey like a hunting dog, a certain number of times a day or week you can shoot a crossbow bolt as normal, roll to hit as normal, roll damage as normal, but you add 10.

The bolt does no damage. The damage+10 total is the DC of the perception check to even notice you've been hit.

The hit deposits a 6" long needle proboscis in the body of your target. Every time the victim leaves one square for another the victim must take one point of damage that round (subsequent movement doesn't increase damage) per move action taken that round. Every time the victim casts a spell with a somatic component or makes a melee attack, the victim takes 1 hp damage, even if they've already taken damage from that source this round (yes, making a full attack is going to hurt you more than walking or running will).

As soon as the victim takes damage, the injury is obvious (no perception check) but there is no way to tell at this point where the needle came from.

Any heal check to remove the needle uses the same DC as the perception check, with a +1 bonus for every round since the shot was originally fired. HOWEVER, any failed heal check to remove does HP damage = to the number of points shy of the DC. Do you really wanna try it? Or do you wanna wait it out, hope that the victim can remain still long enough?

Ooh, that's dramatic tension that is.

The long and short of it is, your weapon acts like a cross between a bulldog and a bloodhound, has powers more fitting of a blood hound theme, and has at least one power that totally conflicts with the mosquito them.

If you want to stick with "needle nose," you're really going to have to let go of your fears about breakage. In fact, if you really want to stick with needle-nose, just embrace it!

If you really have to have the thing turn into a giant mosquito, do that without the long grapple first, so that there aren't so many opportunities for breakage. If you really have to do the long grapple, let it be easy for people to break the mosquito head and thus escape the grapple, but limit yourself to one SUCCESSFUL grapple/drag/HulkOut/Munch per week instead of one **attempted** sequence per week.

You have the potential here for a really sweet theme, but you abandoned it.

Trust yourself. Don't go out of your way to design defects and drawbacks, but if the theme is telling you your weapon is fragile ...well, make the weapon fragile. Let the theme decide. It might not end up supporting your original idea, but the final product will be so much better.

6. Reading for audience appeal
The job is to design game products that gamers will buy. So a very legitimate question is, "Will gamers want to buy the supplement just to be able to use this item at their table?" If yes, that's a good reason to up vote.

I honestly don't know how to evaluate this. I think people would like to be able to shoot something and drag it back. I don't know if the mosquito imagery takes it out of the running for too many folks.

Really, I'm not turned off by mosquito imagery. What got me was that you didn't fully embrace it. Create whatever theme you want, just embrace it, run all the way with it, don't leash it, that's what I ask.

But I'm not everybody. And I just haven't seen enough mosquito items to know how people will feel.

I wish I could give you more help here. I think strong and unique imagery helps to a point, but at some level when you're competing against other good items, will somewhat-strong, unusual-but-not-unique imagery win out if it happens to be different imagery, imagery that's not as creepy or that's more in fashion?

Damn, I just don't know. Sorry.

7. Reading for the joy of the word.
Did you write clearly?
I don't care about a typo or the misuse of a single piece of punctuation, but do you have errors or style choices that disrupt flow?
Do you have style choices that enhance the flow - are you creative with sentence structures and do you have the capacity to consider cadence when selecting from synonyms?
Does the mood of the writing reflect the mood of the item? Perhaps a droning monotonous rhythm would enhance certain items.
Have you thought through the theme of your item and made sure that every time you have an choice between two words or two phrases you select the one that furthers your theme and reinforces your imagery?
Do you add wondrous, unexpected depth under the clear surface, in which attentive readers may immerse themselves?
Most of the time this feedback will not focus on anything you've done wrong, but on moments where a designer misses an opportunity to do something amazing.

I have to be honest: sometimes your writing is great, other times it's not merely not a joy to read, it actively bumps me out of my reading groove.

Example:

Quote:
This sculpture of a monstrously articulated mosquito functions as a +2 impervious heavy crossbow,

THere's more than one thing.

Did you really mean to say, monstrously articulated mosquito? Is the mosquito not monstrous, but its knee-joints are? In short, is this mosquito

an articulated sculpture whose articulations/joints are monstrous

or is it
a monstrous sculpture that is also - wait for it- articulated, which gives it fragility and instability, which creates an odd juxtaposition with the sculpture's monstrousness?

The first one is a "monstrously articulated mosquito" sculpture

The second one is a "monstrous, articulated mosquito" sculpture.

It's not that you couldn't mean just what you say, that the articulations are monstrous, but the mosquito isn't.

It's just weird that you would have something significant to say about the JOINTS of the mosquito, but not about the overall appearance of the mosquito. What's even weirder, is that you're naming this thing "needle nose" and you don't take any time to actually describe the proboscis, no words to make us feel the understated menace of the blood-driking spike on its face. You're making the "needle nose" your theme by including it in the name (and, remember, as the only theme-worthy word in the name). But then I don't get any description of the needle nose at all!

No gory description of the sounds as the needle-nose penetrates the flesh of victims, no casual mention of the brown stains on the mouth-weapon. I don't even know what the "sculpture" is made out of ...but I know that the joints are really, really monstrous.

See it's that that makes me think it's not actually the joints that are monstrous, that this was merely written wrong.

If you really want it to be the joints that are monstrous, that's fine, but your theme isn't "joints" so you better spend more time on the mouth and head then you do on the joints, eh? Otherwise I'm left floundering around over-analyzing everything I read trying to make sure I find the description of the proboscis when the description was never there.

In that same first bit, it says the sculpture functions as a +2 impervious heavy crossbow,

Okay, now I know for a fact that this isn't actually a crossbow, because the only time you give a description, it clearly IS a sculpture, but it merely functions as a crossbow.

So does it have a string or cable at all? Does the mosquito shoot the crossbow bolts out of its proboscis by like a blowgun?

You never even tell me if this thing is wood or coiled wire or what. Sculptures can be made out of a lot of things in a lot of different styles. Is this a neoimpressionist sculpture of a mosquito? Is this something Calder might have made?

Telling me it's a sculpture that functions as a crossbow, not telling me what it's made of, and describing its joints more than its needle-nose are all things that are making this first sentence pretty hard for me. I'm starting to get in the meat of your entry, but just as I start in on the text that has a chance to develop flow and rhythm and reading joy (you obviously can't do that will Aura, CL, and Slot), I'm wondering about what you haven't written instead of enjoying what you have. And I'm still confused about that one thing with the joints...it's making it so I don't really trust you to get your own vision down correctly on the page. I want to trust you, but that monstrous joints thing is pulling at me. It might not be a mistake. You might be writing exactly what you mean. But I'm just not quite sure. So now everything you write is going to be questioned instead of absorbed and accepted.

Having this passage that so troubles me near the end would have been better, because maybe I would have at least read some of your entry smoothly, with joy. But a 300 word item is not enough for me to get my groove back after the rocky beginning. I read to the end without ever feeling like I can simply enjoy your words without proactively questioning to make sure I'm getting it, that there aren't more (any?) weird misunderstandings.

You're doing many of the right things - changing up sentence structure not in chaotic ways that disrupt flow, but simply in ways that prevent monotony and use the sentence structure to subtly direct attention and interpretive focus. You really have the skills that would let you create an entry that is a joy to read.

This one, however, isn't it. This is another clear case of a designer that has all the skills needed to make the top 32, but didn't manage to turn out a top 32 worthy item this time.

8. Rule checks:
is the item over-priced or underpriced?
What about caster level? Did you use 1st when Bane or Craft Wondrous Item has a higher level requirement?
Although the entire point of magic is to do things one could otherwise not do, nonetheless Pathfinder must have rules and I can't interpret every single conflict between an item and Pathfinder rules as simply a case of the magic of the item overcoming those rules.

Nothing to say here, you know your stuff. You're good with crunch. Your crunch descriptions were clear. They were economical and quick without being too short or too choppy. And, important for this section, they were just right.

You get the rules right. That's a big deal.

Still, I'm going to remind you here that the free action was really inappropriate. If you're grappling something on the other end of a line, you better be paying a lot of attention to it or you're going to end up being jerked around a lot more than whatever creature is at the other end.

9. The extra mile
This is all about making things easier for me as your reader.

See that thing you did with the hyperlink to the giant mosquito but NOT linking to every single spell in the construction requirements?

That was awesome. Thank you.

As for the rest of the text block, I keep feeling like it could use some friendlier formatting, but I'm not seeing anything right away. So I suspect that I'm just feeling left over "reader unfriendliness" from my reactions to some of your writing choices, not actually your formatting choices.

Mostly good. Possibly excellent. There's something nagging at me, but I honestly can't say what it is and I'm not sure it would belong in this section, I'm not sure I haven't already dealt with it. So we're letting it slide. But I'll let it bounce around my brain and if I think of something that I believe has the capacity to be helpful, I'll post it later.

================================

Overall verdict?

This is an item that contains no "mistakes" that are as simple as violations of a rule, misuse or nonuse of the format. No mistakes that are DQable, such as designing the wrong type of item, etc.

This item is creative in what it does and how it does it.

This item is likely balanced in most high-level game groups.

This item has an audience who will want to acquire and use the item. That audience will probably be big fans. I can't say, however, that that audience will be large.

The writing is clear in most respects, but odd enough in some respects that I found myself reading clunky, as if it were less clear than most of the text deserved to be judged. .

The crunch is clear in almost all aspects. Although something struck me as unclear about the mosquito transformation, other people might think the answer was either obvious or too unimportant to bother worrying about. Given the complexity of the item, despite this one thing that seemed unclear to me, the crunch was much more clear than I would expect from most designers attempting an item like this.

This item goes the extra mile for my ease-of-reading in at least one place.

This item does have a consistent theme that is synergistically forwarded by name, description, and what it does. Unfortunately, despite more synergies than the vast majority of items, there was a very, very large clash that undid much of your theme building for me. I wonder if a bloodhound theme would be a good switch or if you should alter the powers to embrace the weapon's thematic fragility and hypodermic sharpness.

I feel torn on judging the art of the writing. obviously it can't be great if the first sentence was so confusing and jarring to me. On the other hand, the first sentence was so confusing and jarring that I'm afraid of subjectively downgrading writing later in the entry that would have felt quite evocative or artistic or just damn good had I not been previously distracted. I'll just say that this design's creativity shows enough promise, and the basic clarity of communication shows enough promise, that I think you probably have the skill to create the writing that is simultaneously clear, creative, and fluid that would make an item a joy to read. This item wasn't there, but I believe that you can do it. I'd actually be interested in seeing other things you write to see if I can make more constructive comments from those examples.

This item was not in my top 32, but might very well have been if you embraced the fragility implied by "needlenose". I say this despite reservations about the art of your writing. This is fundamentally good design. If you had trusted your needlenose theme, I really don't doubt it would have turned out to be great design.

good luck next year.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

1 person marked this as a favorite.

By popular request...okay, by Nykidemus' request... the Courtesan's Locket is next up.

CripDyke's review of Nykidemus' submission: Courtesan's Locket:

Nykidemus wrote:


The formatting got hosed because ...[reasons]...

Courtesan's Locket
Aura moderate enchantment and divination; CL 9th
Slot neck; Price 10,000 gp; Weight .2 lbs.

Description
Originally designed by a famously jilted countess, the courtesan's locket has since been replicated by a variety of individuals and groups ranging from hostile diplomats to bored noble pranksters.

This gold filigree pendant has a teardrop shaped emerald at the center. The emerald twists open to reveal a reservoir of poison sufficient for 1 use per day. The poison loses potency after 24 hours outside the pendant.

When the poison is ingested, the target must make a DC 18 Will save or have their surface thoughts broadcast to the wearer of the amulet for 24 hours, up to a distance of 10 miles.

At any time while reading the poisoned target's thoughts, the wearer may speak one of the following command words to overwhelm the target with the associated emotion:

Lust - The target is compelled to rush to the person or object they most recently thought about and passionately kiss or caress that subject for 1d4 rounds.

Hatred – The target is compelled to verbally assault the person or object they most recently thought about for 1d4 rounds.

Guilt – The target is compelled to immediately confess to 1d4 wrongdoings. If they are aware of the presence of any people they have wronged, they must confess to those acts.

Using any of these options allows the target a DC 18 Will save to negate the effects. After the compulsive acts have been completed, or if the target saves, the mind reading effect ends.

Construction
Requirements
Craft Wondrous Item, Heighten Spell; Detect Thoughts, Unnatural Lust, Compel Hostility, Confess; Cost 5,000 gp

Before I start, I normally don't take into account text that wasn't submitted with your entry - because then I'm critiquing something that's not your actual entry and/or not critiquing your entry when I should. That's not productive for you.

In this case, I'll skip critique of formatting since you said your formatting got hosed. Note that if there were any mistakes in the original, since I'm skipping this I can't help you with any mistakes in that area.

=======

1. Name
Is the name so bad as to detract from the item?

Absolutely not. The name is simple, doesn't feel like you're trying too hard to give it a "D&D name" (as Noun of Verbing or Noun of the Modified Noun can both do), employs language that we flawed and biased contemporary speakers of english more readily associate with a monarchic, less technological past that suits many Pathfinder settings...

...yep, far from a bad name. No points for the name itself, this is just whether the name detracts. However, note the name will come up more than once in the analysis below. We haven't read far enough to really judge the name yet on things like how it evokes (or doesn't) your theme (if it exists).

For now, all we can say is you've given yourself a good opportunity for theme-building since you're using words that aren't in the title of must-have spells or the names of iconic monsters or the over-used descriptions of fantasy authors.

That means that people aren't immediately distracted by "courtesan" or "locket" with writing <i>other people did</i>. You aren't compelled to duplicate the effects of a spell or suffer from the disappointment of people who thought your title implied you would.

Nope, you've given your item the chance to have not only a good theme, but also to be judged entirely on your creativity, not others' expectations of an item or their feelings about someone else's spell, item, or trope.

We'll see how well you've done later.

2. Glance top to bottom
Glance at the formatting to see if the entry pays enough attention to what Paizo wants that this item isn't throw-away worthy. Maybe glance at a couple of other things that seem like DQs to me - a CL of 21+, a cost of 200,001 gp or more (since that’s forbidden by Paizo), maybe something else I’m not thinking about right now.

Hmph. This isn't at all throw-away worthy, but when it comes time to judge "that extra mile" at the end, I'll have to do the reverse: dock you points for the lack of bolding on "description" "construction" "requirements" and "cost".

***Edited to add*** oh, yeah. I was just writing about how you said your formatting was hosed. Okay. Forget this, but the formatting is on you next year, I can't help.

3. Read for content
what does the item do? Is the item in an over-used design space?
Is the function understandable?

It provides a "poison" that allows you to read a subjects mind for 24 hours or until you use one of the rider effects. The rider effects are all emotion spell effects, so you're reading a mind and playing with that mind's emotions.

The maximum number of minds you could ever be reading at once with this item is 3. Hmmm. I'll have to think about that. I'd prefer if it was a max of one at a time.

4. Read for crunch
Is the crunch understandable?
Is it complicated?
Does it use effects that will be a pain around the gaming table?
Is it overpowered comes into play here if it would be a bad item regardless of price. Otherwise it's an underpricing issue. This doesn't mean that the item has to be worth more than 200,000 gp. An item can be overpowered if its fair market value is only 3,000 -5000 gp if the only characters who would ever want to use it are first level characters (who can't afford it - so they have to be given it - so you see the problem).
NOTE: I don't have to particularly like the approach to the crunch that you chose, so long as it works.

Okay, most of the crunch is understandable. However, the crunch also falls down on the job.

How can both be true?

Well, let's contemplate lust for a moment, shall we?

Mmmmm, lust.

Okay, moving on: Your lust effect? It's pretty much exactly what is described by the spell unnatural lust in your construction requirements. Why don't you say that this is lust, as the spell unnatural lust? You're making me really, really wonder here. What FAQ or other weird detail of interpretation of the spell unnatural lust are you wanting to NOT apply?

Lust should be "as the spell" and hyperlinked to the spell.

Hatred (compel hostility): If the person last thought about is dead, is it sufficient to hike 10 miles to the gravesite and rant at the grave, or am I compelled to spend money to have a priest cast Speak With Dead?

If the person last thought about is overseas, must I immediately commandeer the fastest ship in the harbor, or is it okay if I wait 6 months for the hated person to come home and just berate them then?

As written, this just isn't thought through. Perhaps, "if the person is known to be unavailable (including by having died) a failed save results in immediate ranting to no one in particular about the object of hatred for 1d4 rounds. If the person might be nearby, a failed save results up to one full minute of searching. If the person is found within the minute, 1d4 rounds of ranting occurs beginning at that time, though the rounds of searching + the rounds of ranting cannot exceed 10 total. If the person is present with the courtesan's victim, a failed save forces 1d4 rounds of immediate ranting directed at the person. If the person attempts to flee, the victim must follow to maintain the rant for as long as the rant lasts."

Dang that's a heck of a lot of words, but you're making up your own spell effect, so getting it right requires contemplating all the possibilities. You can tighten it up by getting rid of some things. Maybe it just is 1d4 rounds of ranting whether the object of hatred is alive or dead, present or absent. You can choose how you wish to deal with these possibilities, but as currently written you haven't really dealt with them.

Heck, this can apply to an "object". How, precisely, does one "verbally assault" an object?

I really, really don't get that. I can rant about an object, but I can't actually verbally assault the object. Complete description fail. I honestly wouldn't know how to rule on this aspect of the crunch.

Compel hostility is a viable choice for construction requirements, but with this multi-function item by not choosing a spell that already does what you want, you put a burden on yourself to think about this hatred effect as thoroughly as if you were creating a spell just to cause this one hatred effect. In fact, it would probably be a good idea to do a whole write up of that spell, because doing that separately would help you figure out what you do and don't need to accomplish to get good crunch.

Now, you can't reference your new spell in the construction requirements, but you'll know what you need to do to spell out the effects of your item, won't you? I mean, seriously, if you were creating a spell to do that Hatred effect, you wouldn't consider your description of the hatred effect to be sufficient to make up the whole body of the spell's text, would you? Of course not. So this is not an adequate description of hatred in your item - unless and until you can hyperlink an effect hatred is supposed to duplicate.

Guilt
So your guilt bit is built around the inquisitor spell confess but doesn't operate in the same way. Would you build a spell from scratch to create your guilt effect and use your description here as the full text of the spell's body?

no, of course not. So you have development work to do here, as well.

First, I just want to note that all the spells you use as construction requirements are short range.

Although this is a wondrous item and not a wand or potion, using nothing but close range spells to create an item that reads every thought at a range of 10 freaking miles????

No. Just no. The range should probably be shortened anyway (though I will discuss ways to justify an increased range below) because the emotions of the item are all intimate emotions and 10 miles away simply doesn't fit with that. But even if there weren't reasons of theme and mood to shorten the range, you'd better find a thought-reading spell with a range of at least 1 mile if you want your magic item to have a range in miles. The fact that Detect Thoughts doesn't have a range of 1 mile or more is bad enough. The fact that it can't reach 100 feet for even a 20th level caster (and the CL on this is just less than half that, with a total range of 45') is just horrifyingly bad when you're trying to create a 10 mile range item.

As one example, what's with the bit about confessing sins committed against those present? Your text is:
"If they are aware of the presence of any people they have wronged, they must confess to those acts."

But surely if you've known anyone for a long time you've probably "wronged" that person any number of times. I have told my partner on the phone that the house was clean when it wasn't, then cleaned it up before she got home. That was a lie. i wronged her. But in the moment I was confident the house would be clean by the time it mattered, and I made sure I did that, and I didn't want to have a conversation about how I should prioritize my time.

What is one really expected to "confess" here? Moreover, although you start out by saying 1d4 sins, you never say how long that takes. I'm going to guess you intended it to be 1 sin per round for 1d4 rounds, but that's not what you say. If I committed a really big or hard-to-explain sin, do i sit there giving backstory for 2 hours so that people understand that this behavior that might not be sinful actually is, given the very special context?

Moreover, the sins against people present? Those aren't limited to 1d4 - or at least, they don't seem to be. You are changing the rules when you say, "If person of type X is present, then the effects aren't as previously stated: they are like this new thing." Why wouldn't that change not only the choice of sins to confess, but also the number?

I mean, I can think of reasons why it shouldn't, but the format of writing is too short to make me sure of anything. All you say is: First, the effect is this, but if X happens, the effect is different.

There's no limitation on how much different it is when in the presence of someone you've wronged. So inevitably what's going to happen is someone at some gaming table is going to point this out to the GM and make a stink over how this forces the victim to spend 72 hours confessing every sin against their mother they can even hazily remember. Then the GM (and the voter always fears they will be this GM when these types of problems crop up with an item) will have to rule and take personal responsibility for dashing the unreasonable expectations of this rules lawyer.

Again, the spirit of the item gives me good reason to rule on the crunch, but the situation is just no fun for that GM (and that GM might be me!) and can be prevented only by you, the designer.

So think through your item and prevent it.

It's really not that you're not clear about what you're saying, it's that there's too much you don't say. So many possibilities are left uncontemplated.

Take the time. Contemplate them. We're about to get into some things you've done really right, so don't get discouraged. Those things make me think that when you take the time to think things through you already have the skills you need to fix these problems and make a superstar item.

As a last bit, why does this item allow you to be monitoring the thoughts of 3 different people at the same time?

Remember: the potion is created 1x/day (not 24 hours after it's last been poured out.

The potion loses its effect 24 hours after being removed from the container.

So if it renews at dawn, I get up an hour before dawn (just to make sure) and rummage through my stuff to find an appropriate bottle, then pour out the potion.

15 or 16 hours later I slip the potion from the bottle into someone's drink.

1 minute later, I remove today's potion from the bottle and put that in someone else's drink.

10 hours later, at breakfast, I slip potion into the drink of a third person. The first 2 victims have more than 12 hours of thought-projecting left, each. The new victim will be going for 24 hours from breakfast, but for the first 12+ of that time I can hear 3 different victims all at once.

I always assume that an item works as the creator intended it to work, because look at the possibilities:
1) you wanted the item to do different things than I would want this item to do
2) most people would really prefer the item work the way I think is best, therefore I believe you really wanted it to work the way I think is best, but you simply don't have the skills to write what the item actually does in a way that equals what you want it to do.

The first is not an insult and can't reasonably even be interpreted as one.

The second really isn't *exactly* an insult - no one is required to play pathfinder and memorize its rules in order to get through life - but to a hell of a lot of people it sure sounds like one. Maybe I haven't said "you can't even learn" or "you'll never be good". And if you actually didn't want the item to do that, then it's even a factually correct description of the situation at hand.

But it feels yucky.

So I'm assuming that you carefully thought about this and you decided that listing to 3 people at a time was a good maximum, then engineered things that way.

This isn't something necessarily wrong with your crunch. But by being able to delay giving the dose for 24 hours AND THEN giving things a duration of 24 hours, a character who is worried about a particular event (royal conference, guild vote, whatever) can get up to 3 people at a time giving them multiple perspectives on the even and multiple possibilities to cause havoc at the event.

What happens, for instance, if two people experience Hatred for each other, under your effects, at the same time? Although the spell alone doesn't cause a physical fight, if you are feeling that emotion such that you just **have to** rant at the person...how would a good role-player reasonably respond to being ranted at back, when obviously you're the one who has the legitimate anger here, doesn't that horrible person realize?

you've costed this as a once/day item. But by "holding the charge" this is really more like a "3 times in 3 days, divided almost as much as you like" item. Anyone can tell you that 7 uses in a week is not the same as 1 use per day. Likewise the 3 times in 3 days, even though it's slightly more complicated than that.

The item isn't simply overpowered - it's not that there no character level and no campaign setting in which this item could find an appropriate and balanced home.

Thus we'll deal with that as an under-cost issue later. But the fix might actually be to change the crunch, not to change the price.

ooops - total postscript here. You've made this item a poison. This means that anyone immune to poisons is immune to this. This means all those special bonuses to poison saves that are lying around in the form of racial bonuses or items' bonuses all apply.

Is this really a poison? I don't think, as it currently stands, that you want this to be a poison at all.

That might change later, but really, think right now about why you chose "poison" instead of "potion" or "elixir" or even "brew". Did you mean to evoke all the crunch in every Pathfinder source that deals with poison?

If not, you shouldn't have chosen poison. I assume you did it for a reason, and that you intended it, but I won't actually come back to that until later when I discuss developing your theme.

5. Reading for creativity
Is this new?
Is it blindingly why-didn't-I-think-of-that simple in execution?
Does it utilize themes in such a way that different aspects of the entry all tie together well?

it's new enough. It doesn't strike me as blindingly creative. It's not off-the-wall, "how did someone get this idea" creative. But it's new.

The execution is not blindingly simple. It's simple enough that "how to use" issues shouldn't come up.

It doesn't evoke "why didn't I think of that?"

It's a bit of a swiss army knife, but the powers are related and you don't easily swap them out because you have to get someone to drink the stuff before you can use those powers. Swiss army knives are not items that wow me with creativity, and though this isn't an SAK, for the purposes of checking how much evidence of creativity we have in this item's creation, I can say that the way it works shows about the same level of creativity of a good SAK.

Ah, but utilizing themes????

here's where you start to climb the ladder...though hang on, there'll be some rough critique to help you make the most of this area where it seems your best talents lie.

What is the theme? Well, "courtesan" evokes intimacy, first and foremost, with high society and having many, many acquaintances and flirtatious, gossipy communication all evoked strongly, but less than intimacy itself. This item seems oddly to fail to do anything to take advantage of those things that are obviously attributes of the courtesan.

However, as we start going down our associations, right after public flirtations probably comes illicit affairs.

How do people respond to illicit affairs? Well, if you're a participant, first is the lust. After that, for a participant or someone betrayed, both anger and guilt would be common, perhaps the most common emotional responses.

You're really not getting the courtesan's main attributes here, but you do have a good, tight theme that revolves around illicit affairs. It was nice vision and nice creativity to get the theme this far.

The name isn't particularly on point, since the theme seems most closely related to illicit affairs and not to the courtesan's very public, very social, very flirtatious lifestyle (which may or may not include illicit affairs - maybe the courtesan likes honest, casual hook-ups with the unmarried? Or maybe the courtesan is married and both are swingers?). But even if the name isn't particularly on point, it's not far off point either, at least on the "courtesan" bit.

The description includes a perfect bit of language, "jilted". Even if there could be anger or guilt over an illicit affair without anyone trying to be a jerk, without anyone actively being spiteful, the undertones of revenge work very well for this item. Clearly you were thinking about illicit affairs and revenge. This theme isn't accidental, even if you don't focus on it as much as I'd like.

Then there's the selection of powers, and as noted these are where we first found the theme we're exploring. The selection of powers - often done without a theme with the them being built later to justify the particular choices - was clearly done with a theme in mind. Together they evoke this theme strongly and well.

The language you chose when writing your crunch will, with the best writers, still be evocative while not wandering from the path of explaining the rules of the item. However, all but the best writers struggle with this big time. Either they use purple prose throughout, which makes the crunch needlessly complex and confusing (I tend towards this error), or it simply doesn't occur to the designer that even when writing crunch you don't have to be boring and you shouldn't be forgetting about mood and rhythm in your writing.

I wouldn't put you with the best writers yet, but look at your guilt entry, that includes this language: "people they have wronged".

I've used "sinned" above. Coming from a Jewish background, i think of sin in the Jewish sense - missing the mark. It can be something serious or something minor. One can sin against God, but -unlike in Christianity- you can also sin against other people.

So any time you "miss the mark" by giving someone less than your best and/or less than that person deserved in a situation, you've sinned. I picked the word because I was just trying to be general - I didn't want to get too specific about what i assumed might be confessed by someone under this influence.

(in fact, that was the problem I was trying to explain, the language of the crunch doesn't have any good limits on which sins are too trivial to confess).

But this phrase, especially the verb form "to wrong" and how it manifests as "I have wronged" and "You have been wronged" while vague in the sense of severity actually evokes quite a specific mood.

The mood of this word is betrayal after sexual transgression. To really "wrong" someone doesn't absolutely require that the person knows they have been sexually betrayed, but the way the word is used strongly implies were talking about after the revelation has come out. Using it here in the guilt section implies the completion of this cycle. We're not expecting forgiveness, that's not what comes in the moment of confessing sexual betrayal. Although we **know** that the person deserves to know about our failure, we also know that our confession will cause that person pain.

And we confess anyway, because we want the relationship with that person to continue. Maybe we even want it to get better than it was before the sexual betrayal. But we aren't confessing because it will make the target of our betrayal happy, we're not confessing because it will make our betrayed one's life so much better. We kind of hope it will, in the long run, since if the relationship continues it's better it be honest. But the damage is immediate and guaranteed. At best, any benefit for that other person is a long way off.

And so the confession itself is frequently a selfish act.

>>In fact, that's how so many of us manage not to confess: we convince ourselves that it would be selfish and mean to confess...forgetting that it's also selfish to avoid our just punishments and it's also selfish to continue the illicit affair, which presumably wouldn't happen after confession, and it's also dishonest. For the record, selfish and honest is the right choice if the alternative is selfish and dishonest. Be honest in your relationships, everybody.<<

In fact, when discussing someone we have wronged, confessing to that person is how we complete the process of wronging that someone.

Oh, how deliciously cruel, spiteful, vengeful is this item! And what a perfect turn of phrase you've chosen to incorporate all these nuanced implications, "people they have wronged."

This is where you went really, really right.

Okay, so how do we take this item from "seems fresh, if not exactly truly 'new' or 'unique'" to something that really is new and unique?

How do we take the crunch from "yes, it's simple" in the sense of "i know the target has to ingest, then make a save, then blah, blah" to something fundamentally different: "This is simple AND intuitive AND yet I never thought of an item working like that - this is brilliantly, creatively simple!"

The answer to both of those is to refine the theme and take it more seriously.

Hang on tight, this might truly change how you think about your own item:

I like the name Courtesan's Locket. But it only evokes the theme with its tertiary associations as best. We now have to decide if we want to hold tight to the theme as we have it, and ditch the name Courtesan's Locket ... or if we want to take true advantage of the imagery in "courtesan," keep the name, and thereby obligate ourselves to change the theme.

I vote for changing the theme.

Why? Because your theme right now is "illicit affairs and their emotional consequences". This is all negative. Yes there are evil characters, but even more evil characters won't think of themselves as "bad". The theme as it is tightly groups the emotions you've chosen, but it really doesn't tell us enough about the rest of the item. Why is it a locket?

In fact, is it a locket? You've entirely failed to use any "locket-ness" anywhere in this item. It would be far better a "courtesan's vial" or "courtesan's ampule". Lockets don't hold liquid ad their thin sides don't really seem to afford any place to hold a liquid. And if it did allow some liquid in, it must be through a gem in the middle of the front of the locket, right? So the liquid would be contained in the front door of the locket? Where does that liquid go that doesn't prevent the locket from having the space to hold pictures and keepsakes when you actually open it on its hinge as one is supposed to do with a locket? This is really failing the locket-test.

Is a locket as jewelry somehow more connected to illicit affairs than other jewelry? No? Lockets might be more evocative of "emotion" than many other pieces of jewelry, but the emotions most easily evoked by the locket are love, separation, and loss. Since those aren't your emotion-powers, and since they don't easily conjure up "vengeful" which were speculating as a thematically appropriate motivation for using those powers ...
(even though the actual wielder needn't use them for those motivations, having that in the theme helps tell us why the original inventor created this item as it is)
...the "emotion" connection of lockets isn't presently of very much use to us either.

Does "illicit affair" tells us anything about what the range of the item's powers should be? Does "Illicit affair" answer our earlier question, "Should the liquid be a poison?" It makes it reasonable, but it doesn't provide and absolute answer. Also, I note that for a lot of low-level construction requirements, DC 18 is a pretty darn difficult save. Does "illicit affair" tell us why you're using such a difficult save when a lesser save would be appropriate?

What is our theme getting us, other than what we already have?

The answer is "not much".

That's why I want to broaden the theme, to really make use of "courtesan" in a way that helps us answer some of our unanswered questions and allows even the crunch to support our theme.

I take all this time because this is an item that I saw as not good enough to deserve the round of 32 but full of so much potential it's ridiculous.

I'm overtalking this. This feels a bit like an invasion, a taking of your baby. so i do it with reluctance, but it will be easier if I just rewrite the item and then talk a bit about why I did what I did. Ready?

Courtesan's Locket of Poisonous Whispers
Aura moderate enchantment and divination; CL 7th
Slot neck; Price 17,600 gp; Weight .2 lbs.

Description
Originally designed by a famously jilted countess later suspected of being the agent of a foreign power, the courtesan's locket of poisonous whispers has since been replicated by a variety of individuals and groups ranging from spies to diplomats to philandering-yet-jealous nobles.

This gold filigree pendant has a teardrop shaped aquamarine in its front's center. Most times the gem shines clear, light, and beautiful, but in other moments radiates nauseating, pale green. When first acquired, the locket bears no image. After enclosing an image or a bit of a humanoid, perhaps a lock of hair, the enclosed item disappears and that person becomes the object of the locket's powers.

The intimacy of the locket's connection permits the wearer to detect thoughts of the object at any range less than 10 miles if the object is on the same plane and one of the following: in the same building, in a location where the object has shared an intimate kiss with the bearer, in a location where the object was dosed with poison (see below), or in any case within 45 feet. Detecting thoughts this way requires full concentration, closed eyes, and reasonable quiet. If opened a miniature sculpture of light hovers between or above the locket's doors. If the object is in the locket's range, the image is so faithful that a DC 20 perception check allows any viewer to gain information about the object as the spell deathwatch. The object finds it hard to oppose the bearer, imposing a -5 circumstance penalty on the object during opposed skill checks between the two.

If the wearer whispers to the object's glowing figure words of faithfulness, lust, anger or guilt, the aquamarine immediately darkens to the hue of emerald venom and fills with distillate of that emotion. Held over a container and commanded, the gem releases a single dose of magical contact poison. The dose instantly loses potency if the locket's gem is filled with new poison, it otherwise lasts 1 week. The thick oil is nearly odorless, though hints of sweetness as long as it is potent, leaving traces of bile in the air when its magic is expended.

Used as lip lustre, the poison remains on the bearer's lips until the object's mouth is kissed as a full round action. Mind overcome by the kiss, the object must make a Fortitude save (DC 14). If the kiss is continued beyond a full round without the slightest interruption, the object must save again at the end of any second or third rounds. The results are the same no matter which save failed.

Used as massage oil, it loses potency if the first creature touched is not the object. After one full minute of massage, body relaxed, the object must make a will save (DC 14). The massage can be continued for up to 2 more minutes, forcing 1 save per minute if uninterrupted.

At any time before 24 hours has elapsed from dosing, while actively detecting thoughts, the locket can once cause the object to react according to its poisonous emotion. For lust, and anger, the bearer must choose a target of the emotion. Guilt may or may not have a target. When choosing a target of the emotion, the bearer must specify someone within line of effect and 45'.


  • Faithfulness: from the moment triggered, the object is unable to feel or even feign romantic love or desire towards anyone save the bearer. Those expecting love or desire from the object perceive the object's lack of these. This lasts the full remainder of the 24 hours.
  • Lust: The bearer chooses a target of lust. The object acts as if affected by unnatural lust toward the target, though for 1d4 rounds.
  • Anger: The bearer chooses a target. The object rants in language as foul and spiteful as the object has ever used in life about the target. The object tries get or remain face to face with the target. This lasts for 1d4 rounds.
  • Guilt: The bearer confesses one sin per round for 1d4 rounds. The sins confessed are always sins actually committed, and sins of betrayal, faithlessness, sexual immorality, or undeserved violence. If a target is chosen, the sins confessed are sins which would pain the target to hear aloud. Previously revealed sins are not confessed. Sins that do not risk others' revising their view of the objects' character are not serious enough to deserve confession, though the object may choose the order of sins confessed hoping the duration will expire.

If the compulsive actions would, on their own, be likely to cause the death, divorce, exile or imprisonment of the object or the object's spouse, a final desperate save may be attempted. The DC is 24, with a bonus of +2 if the object's original failed save came in the second round/minute or +4 if it came in the third. The object uses Fortitude or Will, whichever save was not previously failed.

For all saves the poison is considered mind affecting [emotion] magic.

When the locket is worn and has no object, the bearer gains a +3 profane bonus on diplomacy checks made while overtly flirting with the target. This bonus never applies to more than one person at a time. To purge the object, one must whisper to the open locket a vow never to see the object again immediately before sleeping 8 hours with the locket under a pillow. This vow need not be kept.

Construction
Requirements
Craft Wondrous Item, deathwatch, detect thoughts, minor image, suggestion, unnatural lust; Cost 8,800 gp

========
So, can you believe we're still on element 5, tying things together with creativity?

I won't explain all my choices, and I haven't counted words (though I'm sure it's too long), so there's a lot for you to think about and edit or play with.

But let me talk just a little bit about some of the things I chose.

Although courtesans aren't always engaged in vicious, backstabbing affairs, and although I still haven't managed to make the locket do anything at large parties that are often the heart of the courtesan's life, I've tried to incorporate a bit more courtesan flavor.

In the meantime, by alluding to the gossipy nature of the courtesan, I've given a good reason for us to use poison. Moreover, I've reduced the save DC but used a poison-like mechanic to force multiple saves over time. The save DC is the save DC of suggestion, which I've used as a good catch-all spell for inspiring behavior. Yet, dosing someone with the poison isn't easy. In order to get that chance to force multiple saves, you're probably going to have to do some good roleplaying.

The locket is now incorporated into the powers and the theme. Jealous spying, or even just the watchful eye of someone attuned to the dangers of high society, is an expected behavior of the courtesan class, and now it's facilitated by the locket using a non-magical locket's primary function: bearing an image of someone you wish to remember.

While the first paragraph could be cut entirely, look at the changes I made. The countess is suspected of being treacherous, but this isn't proven. Ah, and are these merely the poisonous whispers of the court which inspired her magic, or the horrible truths of someone who always had more goals than merely another sexual conquest? Which is more appropriate to the myth of the courtesan? Either! Both! ...note also that the diplomats no longer must be hostile, it's not evil for a diplomat to want to keep tabs on and even influence participants in a foreign government. It's expected - that's the job. The diplomat need not even be particularly sneaky or underhanded, provided one isn't using the Anger power. "Confess" can be used for noble purposes, no? Spies were added because they were clearly implied by your original. Lastly, the "bored nobles" aren't primary users anymore. No, the nobles who use this item are characterized by their sexual jealousy - a form of selfishness - not mere ennui. Those using this in service of a crown aren't necessarily evil, but let's be honest about the person who uses the powers of this locket for recreation.

In the second paragraph, the visual description joins the emotional theme. "Nauseating, pale green" - why would that be a color that flashed occasionally, but mostly hidden? For that matter, why is this no longer an emerald? Why is the color that most people see most of the time "clear, light, and beautiful"?

In who uses this and what it looks like we have two different elements both reinforcing the idea that this locket is an item with an attractive surface hiding ugly secrets. Possessive jealousy receives allusion in both paragraphs.

It's no longer possible to affect more than one person at a time with the locket. Detecting thoughts also requires blotting out the world for a time - and isn't that consistent with obsession (more than, say, love)? The range can be quite long in a large palace or if across the city from an object who is at home...where you have previously dosed the object. But the range is tied into the intimacy and emotional connections between bearer, object, and surroundings. In this emotion item, emotionally resonant places extend the range. Now your spy can do the 10-mile distant work you want to be able to do, but there's a thematic reason for allowing thoughts to be detected from so far away.

The deathwatch effect shows the complicated nature of the original creator: one can care for someone even as one is jealous or furious or envious or feeling betrayed. One can be in the habit of flitting from tryst to tryst like the woman of John Dunne's "Constant Lover" (and is she the "constant lover" or is the speaker? - that's the question that really makes that poem fun) and yet still fall in love...or at least develop a lasting obsession. The deathwatch hologram doesn't actually allow the watcher to spy on the object better. No. What it does is allow the bearer to moon over the object in private, and in moments of worry to reassure the bearer of health or to provide notice of the object's need. To moon over, to reassure oneself about, even to rescue the very object that the bearer is supposed to be callously using. Is this a violation of the theme, or granting the theme incredible depth and realism?

Dang, I so love this item.

Let's move on.

The poison once again evokes intimacy. In fact, it requires it. Despite being a contact poison by nature, to take control of the objects emotions you must engage in a full round - or more! - of passionate kissing, or massage the bare skin of your object for minutes. I left "bare skin" out of the massage description to save words and because as contact poison it already has to actually contact the skin, not the equipment.

How, exactly, are you going to get your object to smooch you ***before*** you gain emotional control? This item absolutely requires good role-play. Fortunately it also gives plenty of inspiration for good role play. The item does, also, make it a little easier: the opposed skill check bonus. This represents the fact that the object has not lost competence, and yet has this weak spot when it comes to opposing the bearer. Who among us hasn't failed to stand up to a mistake that a loved one was making? Though the crunch remains a mere numerical penalty, how the penalty is imposed in very particular circumstances implies all sorts of things that can inspire good role-play.

Now the poison. How often is court gossip described as "poisonous" or a courtesan's tongue as "venomous"? Oh, how that is so standard. But this item doesn't join a host of items exploring tired territory. No, this item takes hold of a stereotype that players will eagerly and easily believe and bends it to the creation of an item never seen before. The stereotype here is not old, it's not overdone, and certainly compared with these mechanics it's totally different.

Who hasn't spoken to themselves at night? Of course we all have. And though some of us just don't have it in us to think the worst of people, still sometimes people make the bad in themselves obvious enough that in our pain we complain about them in the dark. The locket, a piece of jewelry designed to keep your secrets, is now the place where you can whisper your complaints so that no one else will hear.

And yet, we don't pass out after our dark rants feeling closure - no. Talking in the dark lis an outlet, but it doesn't give us what we really want: the power to make things work out the way they SHOULD have worked out. To punish the person who hurts us, perhaps, but maybe also we just want the person back by our side -and loyal, this time?

With this locket, everything changes: our whispers in the dark, the words others call poisonous gossip, they aren't powerless anymore.

It isn't easy of course.

But we can use sex to overwhelm someone's will, bypassing it entirely, but the object may still be saved by unconscious strength and loyalty found in muscle and bone. We can tease the resistance out of the body, relaxing it until it is entirely subject to how we would manipulate it, and yet the object may still be saved by the mind if it stays clear, if its will is strong.

The dual nature of the saving throw presents great imagery, but also it presents interesting role-playing options. The temptation is to attack the weakest points of the object, though knowing that if we can manage it, it is better to overcome the strongest resistance first (if we wish to impose truly serious consequences later that might grant that second save).

The powers chosen by you were all kept, though I tried to think through the crunch a little more and make it less dependent on GM fiats later. But in addition to yours, I added Faithfulness.

Note how faithfulness is used in both literal and ironic ways. Is it faithfulness if the object no longer expresses love for a cherished spouse? Ah, but who cares what happens to the spouse who can see in the object's eyes the love lost? Me! The object clings to me! This is the locket's creator's twisted version of faithfulness, a faithfulness that is more about submitting to possessive jealousy than choosing to be honest and true and loyal - to anyone, really. Maybe others would dispense with the word faithfulness to name this power. Maybe it feels like we're being dishonest in the item description, when it is the characters who should be deceived, not the players.

Me? I still love how using "faithfulness" that replaces the love between spouses with estrangement and pain causes us to ask, "faithful to whom"? If the object can only find romance with the bearer, if the bearer doses the object day after day, will any rendezvous, any tryst truly be any evidence at all of "faithfulness" to the bearer? And yet, wouldn't a jealous courtesan be tempted to use this faithfulness poison, day after day, as often as possible?

The luck bonus isn't exactly an afterthought. I wanted to better incorporate the flirtatiously social. Noe that this is a profane bonus. Can you think of why this bonus would be considered profane even though neither the locket not the user are necessarily evil? yeah, I thought you could.

I also wanted that bonus to fail as soon as the locket acquires an object. That represents the failure of even the most experienced courtesan to flirt with the same skill when obsession takes hold. Nonetheless, if you have to cut something and you've already cut the first paragraph of fluff, axing this power may be the easiest way to reduce your word count a bit without sacrificing the core of the item. Yes, it does help flesh out the item by enabling the "hunting" that happens after the courtesan finally lets one object go. Yes it does call to an aspect of "courtesan" that is otherwise undeveloped in the item.

And if you want to use this item around your table or develop on your own a supplement of "magic items that tell stories" or some such that uses longer magic items that really focus on role-play potential ...well, then keep it all in.

But if you're going to submit to a publisher or to RPGSS, sometimes even a good idea has to go if it just makes the thing to darn long.

speaking of!

I'm really kind of exhausted here, so the next 2 elements get cursory attention.

6. Reading for audience appeal
The job is to design game products that gamers will buy. So a very legitimate question is, "Will gamers want to buy the supplement just to be able to use this item at their table?" If yes, that's a good reason to up vote.

I honestly think that you were hurt here. While women are a huge part of Pathfinder, it is still a majority men fan base. "Courtesan" is a femininely gendered word. I think it's a great word. I think it's got oodles of story waiting to come out of it.

But you are going to sacrifice part of your audience if you use femininely gendered imagery.

I am NOT saying don't use that imagery.

I AM saying that you should know your audience. Love the heck out of the items you create that are going to be seen by the fan base as feminine. There's a ton of psychological research about ethnical topics such as "priming" and "implicit bias" that tell us flatly: a huge number of men and boys that don't hold explicit biases, even ones that advocate for gender justice as best as they know how, will have an unconscious hesitation in various activities. Though obviously this particular contest hasn't been studied, the small time frame for voting, the frequent use of the criterion, "Would I use this item myself?" and other details of RPGSS put this contest squarely in the types of activities that are likely to be most affected by priming and implicit bias.

So you have a choice: when you know you have a good beginning - like this locket - and you know you're going to face implicit bias, you can either

1) save this idea for submission directly to a publisher auditioning talent who will see the talent without bias much easier because of the lack of time pressure and because the publisher has to be skilled at checking their own preferences so as to turn out books with broader appeal

OR
2) Love the hell out of the idea. Give it everything you've got for an entire weekend. Then set it aside. Then a month later pass it around for feedback. The time that has passed coupled with others' opinions will let you see it totally anew. Then love the hell out of the idea again. Don't let it go. Obsess over it. Take the idea with you. Check in on it often. Do a background check on the item and where it came from - could that spell really be its parent? What was its duration anyway?

Audience is a huge part of RPGSS. Although I really like where this item was headed, I suspect that audience factors don't help any version of a Courtesan's Locket.

If you want a good idea that isn't quite right for RPGSS to nonetheless represent you in RPGSS because you're proud of your work or for any other reason, your job isn't to compromise a good idea in order to please your audience. Your job is to polish your item so blindingly bright that the context around your item disappears and the voters have to look at your item on its own for a time.

The voters here are good folk, and more canny about the design process and other factors than you might expect from a random internet mob. They want to do the right thing. They want to pick the best items from the best designers. The effects of priming and implicit bias are simply an artifact of how the human brain works, it doesn't make anyone here ill-motivated. So if you polish up that item that isn't targeted to the most widely shared impulses of RPGSS voters, if you force them to really look at your item for a bit, they'll see the quality of your ideas and the quality and quantity of your work and vote accordingly. This is true whether you think you might push item outside easy reach of the most popular impulses by using feminine imagery, by designing for 15th + level characters, by riding the edge of what seems "fair play," or by any other design choice.

No, you're not designing to appeal to the broadest possible audience if you use feminine imagery ...but if you're a superstar, there isn't a regular poster here, and not a large percentage of silent voters, that won't recognize that in even the most outside-the-box item.

7. Reading for the joy of the word.
Did you write clearly?
I don't care about a typo or the misuse of a single piece of punctuation, but do you have errors or style choices that disrupt flow?
Do you have style choices that enhance the flow - are you creative with sentence structures and do you have the capacity to consider cadence when selecting from synonyms?
Does the mood of the writing reflect the mood of the item? Perhaps a droning monotonous rhythm would enhance certain items.
Have you thought through the theme of your item and made sure that every time you have an choice between two words or two phrases you select the one that furthers your theme and reinforces your imagery?
Do you add wondrous, unexpected depth under the clear surface, in which attentive readers may immerse themselves?
Most of the time this feedback will not focus on anything you've done wrong, but on moments where a designer misses an opportunity to do something amazing.

I'm pretty much entirely skipping this section. Things that might be said here somewhat overlap with using a consistent theme and making sure that different imagery and word choices develop and promote that them.

That was covered before.

Here I could talk about things like rhythm and cadence, but I'll let you work on that. I already talked about how to develop rhythm, cadence, and flow in another review. If you read all my reviews you'll get that advice anyway.

8. Rule checks:
is the item over-priced or underpriced?
What about caster level? Did you use 1st when Bane or Craft Wondrous Item has a higher level requirement?
Although the entire point of magic is to do things one could otherwise not do, nonetheless Pathfinder must have rules and I can't interpret every single conflict between an item and Pathfinder rules as simply a case of the magic of the item overcoming those rules.

Nothing was particularly bad here, certainly not bad enough to remember, though there may have been something.

I did disagree with the pricing. While I reduced some powers (like you can only listen to one mind at a time now, and there's no way you could ever manipulate the emotions of 2 different people at the same time), others that have a large and real monetary value stayed the same - plus I added deathwatch. By limiting the emotion to something you have to pick in advance, but by giving you 1 more emotion to choose from, I think that bit stayed the same or even got a little less powerful. When all that was done, I ended up changing the price by increasing it about 75%.

We weren't very close on pricing, but I doubt you would have gotten to many down votes for it. This item is different enough (whether your version or my version) that play testing might be necessary to get the best possible idea of the item's value.

There are reasons I think it was terribly undercoated: reading minds from 10 miles away for 24 hours at time kinda makes the "one charge a day" restriction irrelevant. Just an "always on" detect thoughts is pretty costly at CL 9.

9 * 2 * 2000 = 36,000 gp.

There are reasons that this is effectively worth less than that. That cost would be for an item that costs Detect Thoughts at will - which would mean you could change targets at a whim, etc.

Also, frankly, CL doesn't really add much value to detect thoughts. In that situation, you really want to think about bringing the CL down as much as you dare.

Craft Wondrous has a prerequisite of CL 3, but detect thoughts is a 2nd level spell so we couldn't go lower than that anyway. Using CL 3 we get:

3* 2* 2000 = 12,000 gp.

So this is the base cost of "always on" detect thoughts. Being able to go out to 10 miles when it's normally close range - that benefit is hard to calculate as a cost, but it's major. The fact that it's limited to close range unless certain other factors are present makes it even more fudge-y (but remember that you original item wasn't limited in that way). Given that you have to "attune" the item to one particular person and can't easily change it (It requires at least a night of sleep, and that's assuming you have someone else's body parts ready to go!) and that you must fully concentrate on that one task, entirely unable to do anything else while listening but that it's at will, etc. ...this really seems like a 8k - 12k power all on its own.

As a side note - it's hard to determine the exact value of an item, especially one that strays from the original functions and limitations of its source spells. But once I got in the ball park of 16-19k gp, I thought,

"How can I use the price to further my theme?"

Well, if you note, the price is 17,600.

One mile is 1,760 yards. Ten miles is 17,600.

I'm still not satisfied that I know where the 10 mile limit comes from - only you know that - but now, even if it was completely random and not something that logically fits the them, it at least ties in with something else in the item.

Note that if the item would be appropriately priced somewhere near 50,000 gp, I would have done the exact same thing. The price would be set at 52,800 - the number of feet in 10 miles. If I felt it was properly priced in some other range where it was really, really tough to to find a logical connection with 10 miles (which was the one thing that stood out for me as having no logical connection to the them, to the construction requirements, to anything) I would have changed the range as little as possible to get it work out in its new price range.

7 miles could be 36, 900 feet or 12, 320 yards. 12 miles, well, you get the idea.

My point here, is have everything tie in with something. Sometimes it's just the rule - you've used a spell in construction, and you're using that spell's range. But if it doesn't have an obvious connection, it's your job to create one.

No loose ends.

You will win RPGSS next year.

Do it.

9. The extra mile
This is all about making things easier for me as your reader.

First, about the bolding: I'm was going to dock you but then remembered that you said formatting got hosed (and implied I should ignore that). Okay. No points docked. I hope you remember to get the formatting just right when you submit for realzies, however.

Read this section in others' reviews. You didn't do much that really helped me out as a reader. By referencing specific spells for duplication of their effects and then hyperlinking, I've done a bit of work to try to help the reader, but there's probably more that could be done. I've just spent like 3.5 hours on this review already, so I'm not going to try to edit for that.

=================

Blah. I'm exhausted. Hope it was all useful and I never got too harsh.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

2 people marked this as a favorite.

My review of the Crossbow of the Embracing Vine.

With the reminder from Kalindlara, I'm placing it behind a spoiler since it's just as long as the others.

Thank you, Kalindlara, this is the only place I comment that really uses spoiler tags and I tend not to remember they exist. You were right that they should be used.

Here we go:

Review of the Crossbow of the Embracing Vine:

metid wrote:

Crossbow of the Embracing Vine

Aura Moderate Evocation and Transmutation; CL 7th
Slot None; Price 56450 gp; Weight 8 lbs.
Description
This +1 heavy crossbow is entirely created from deep, red wood. Vines are carved into the crossbow, twisting along all of its surfaces, enhanced with a light scattering of dim gold flecks in its leaves. Its string shares this golden sheen. Attached to the front of the crossbow is a small wooden grip.

As long as the crossbow is wielded in two hands, a red vine with golden leaves grows from the weapon and wraps comfortably around both of the wielder’s hands, giving the wielder an additional +1 on attack rolls with the weapon.

At will, the wielder can extend the grip and plant it into solid terrain. Taking root, the vines grasp the wielder’s arms and legs, stabilizing them. This whole process takes 1 minute of concentration without moving from the starting position to complete. The user can crouch or lie prone while using this ability.

When this is done, the crossbow’s range increment increases by 25 feet, the bonus to attack rolls increases to +3, and the crossbow gains a bonus to damage equal to half of the wielder's dexterity modifier. The wielder also gains a +2 bonus to their CMD against bull rush attempts. Finally, the wielder cannot move and loses their dexterity bonus to armor class. As a full-round action, the wielder can unroot the crossbow, returning the vines and grip to their normal position without affecting the terrain in any way.
Construction
Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Cat’s Grace, Control Plants; Cost 28050 gp

1. Name

Is the name so bad as to detract from the item?

Nope. I don't like names of this form (Noun of the Adjective Noun) because they feel overdone to me. Some names of that form are bad enough to detract if they don't have any evocative imagery (or at least no coherent imagery, or if the imagery created by part of the name conflicts somehow with imagery created by another part of the name).

That's not this item. The name's form feel tired, but the word choices themselves do not. Therefore name it as thou wilt.

2. Glance top to bottom
Glance at the formatting to see if the entry pays enough attention to what Paizo wants that this item isn't throw-away worthy. Maybe glance at a couple of other things that seem like DQs to me - a CL of 21+, a cost of 200,001 gp or more (since that’s forbidden by Paizo), maybe something else I’m not thinking about right now.

Commas missing from the prices stand out. I'd always been taught that if the thousands are in the single digits you can dispense with the comma for that 4 digit number ...but I've never been taught you can dispense with it in 5 digit or longer numbers. Therefore that looks more like a careless error than omitting a comma from a 4 digit number which might be generally acceptable but violates Paizo's style guidelines. I'd rather the error come from simply not knowing a specific piece of a specific company's style guidelines. A careful person will incorporate the new information and the mistake will only be made once. A careless person? Who knows how many mistakes they might make in the future and where those mistakes might turn up?

In general, however, this is well formatted. I make that point only to show that some types of errors are preferable to other types of errors. I do not make that point because I think you're particularly careless or that you're careless to the point of causing a problem.

This passes the glance test.

3. Read for content
what does the item do? Is the item in an over-used design space?
Is the function understandable?

The item converts someone proficient with a crossbow into a skilled sniper.

Sniping is definitely not an over-used design space. Even ranged weapon enhancements don't necessarily touch on actual sniping.

The function is clearly communicated. I have a solid idea of what it's supposed to do if a player wants a ruling on a corner case relating to the crunch of how it does it.

4. Read for crunch
Is the crunch understandable?
Is it complicated?
Does it use effects that will be a pain around the gaming table?
Is it overpowered comes into play here if it would be a bad item regardless of price. Otherwise it's an underpricing issue. This doesn't mean that the item has to be worth more than 200,000 gp. An item can be overpowered if its fair market value is only 3,000 -5000 gp if the only characters who would ever want to use it are first level characters (who can't afford it - so they have to be given it - so you see the problem).
NOTE: I don't have to particularly like the approach to the crunch that you chose, so long as it works.

The crunch is actually unusually clear. You've reduced "being supported in your sniper fire by a loving, symbiotic vine" to specific bonuses that apply in clearly defined situations. You also avoid swift and free actions, which isn't necessary but does avoid the pitfalls of those choices which frequently break the legs of unwary items. Frankly, I love the fact that you make uprooting the vines a full round action. Bold choice, and it very much works with your theme.

It's not a SAK, in my opinion, because it does one thing that has multiple effects (and the effects are greater or lesser depending on whether you allow the vines to root, but still, same basic effect of steadying the wielder). It doesn't do multiple different things that each have an unrelated effect.

5. Reading for creativity
Is this new?
Is it blindingly why-didn't-I-think-of-that simple in execution?
Does it utilize themes in such a way that different aspects of the entry all tie together well?

Yes. This is new. Even if another crossbow did "magic steadying" I can't remember any item using plant growth to steady a character for any reason.

Is it intuitive in its execution? Heck yeah!

Does it utilize themes in such a way that different aspects of the entry tie together well? Heck yeah!

Name: vines
Description: vines
Effect: vines grab you, sometimes root, and use their own plant-slowness/plant-stability to slow down and stabilize the wielder.
Crunch: I don't see anything. Your good use of clear, simple bonuses make it harder to integrate the language of the crunch itself into the theme. Remember that although this is crunch, and keeping it simple and clear is good, if you can use a broad vocabulary to express the rules in such a way that they remain simple and clear while still exploiting the imagery of your theme, that's even better.

One example? You say that the "bonus to attack rolls increases to +3" when the vines take root.

Why wouldn't you say that the "bonus to attack rolls grows to +3"? You've got a plant theme growing here. Keep it alive. Don't make your crunch a confusing thicket but do keep the language you use for the crunch as integrated with your theme as a branch to a trunk.

these aren't the best examples, but you see what I'm getting at. "Grows" is only a small part of the work you could do to make the entry more consistently evocative of your theme, but getting things to that level of detail will take time. Just having name, description, and effect all support each other as well as they do is much better than most of your competition.

Apart from the language in your crunch (like choices between synonyms), there was one other obvious way that you could have integrated the theme into the crunch.

Yes, you're getting steadied, and yes all your bonuses can be readily justified by that. But part of the job of a sniper is to become part of the environment so as not to be noticed.

How much more part of the environment can you get than having the vines literally grow from your weapon? I mean, dang. This weapon should grant camouflage bonuses in natural areas. It just should, dammit.

The takeaway from this section, even if I do have suggestions for some amount of improvement?

You are obviously creative, and it shows.

6. Reading for audience appeal
The job is to design game products that gamers will buy. So a very legitimate question is, "Will gamers want to buy the supplement just to be able to use this item at their table?" If yes, that's a good reason to up vote.

Oh, yes. There's definitely an audience that would like to ambush opponents from range. There's definitely an audience that likes sneaking to avoid risk. While some urban characters or other characters with a strong theme that doesn't work with entangling vines might choose not to try to acquire this crossbow even if they are interested in sniper's work...I swear that a ton of sneaky characters would be interested in tweaking their characters in order to make them more compatible with this weapon. Your imagery isn't the absolute most magical and compelling in the ever, but your creativity is very strong and your imagery is good and your theme well-connected. There are a good number of players who will see such a crossbow as enhancing their character's cool as well as their character's abilities.

i don't play snipers and am unlikely to. I know that I'm not the audience for this item in that sense. But heck yeah I'd be happy to have one of my NPCs use this when I'm game mastering.

I kind of feel like the cool factor of this item is a bit shy of outrageous or amazing. I feel like I've seen other items with as much cool and in a few cases even that bit more that makes them stand out for sheer cool.

But this item is nearly there AND it has good powers AND they are in an under-used design space AND the crunch won't turn off any DMs or players.

This is a very marketable item.

7. Reading for the joy of the word.
Did you write clearly?
I don't care about a typo or the misuse of a single piece of punctuation, but do you have errors or style choices that disrupt flow?
Do you have style choices that enhance the flow - are you creative with sentence structures and do you have the capacity to consider cadence when selecting from synonyms?
Does the mood of the writing reflect the mood of the item? Perhaps a droning monotonous rhythm would enhance certain items.
Have you thought through the theme of your item and made sure that every time you have an choice between two words or two phrases you select the one that furthers your theme and reinforces your imagery?
Do you add wondrous, unexpected depth under the clear surface, in which attentive readers may immerse themselves?
Most of the time this feedback will not focus on anything you've done wrong, but on moments where a designer misses an opportunity to do something amazing.

You write clearly. Moreover, you really think through your ideas and concepts, you think through the implications of your crunch, and you use that thinking to create an item that feels complete. Your writing also flows. It's not got the best flow ever, but it's above average. It never takes you out of your reading rhythm because of confusion with one thing or the mis-punctuation of another.

The imagery still feels a step shy of awesomely evocative, which is, of course, where you'd always like to be.

Nonetheless, its within a single range increment of awesomely evocative. You can get there from here. Really.

You've thought through your ideas, now step back from your writing long enough to see it afresh. Read it again. Are there any opportunities to wrap your theme more tightly around the item? Is there any language that doesn't work? Are there any conflicts between some things you say and other things you say? Even if they can be resolved by rereading, we don't want people to have to re-read.

We want people to want to re-read for the sheer joy of it.

So let's take one thing that I noticed:

Quote:


This +1 heavy crossbow is entirely created from deep, red wood.

conflicts with

Quote:

Its string shares this golden sheen.

It has a string? The string isn't wood? The string isn't red?

It seems like what you really meant, but unfortunately didn't say, was:

Quote:


This +1 heavy crossbow is created from deep red wood, and golden vines (with green leaves?).

(as an aside, first notice that I removed the comma between deep and red. Yes, when you have two adjectives modifying a noun, you separate them with commas. But you don't separate an adverb from the adjective it modifies. Here, with the comma you're saying the wood is red AND the wood is "deep", whatever that means. Without the comma you're saying the wood is a deep red. That makes more sense.)

First, you don't want the "string" of the crossbow made of carved wood. So now you're in a position of whether it should be something like twisted bark or whether the string should itself be a vine. I vote decidedly for the latter.

Next, why should the vines be carved into the crossbow? When the crossbow was "entirely" wood, that made some sense. I mean, it didn't make sense why you'd said "entirely", but given that you had, it was absolutely appropriate for you to stick with the choice you'd made and describe the vine as a carving.

Now, however, we need a living, flexible vine to be the crossbow string, so we might as well make all the vines decorating the crossbow to be living vine.

I suggest the green leaves because the red wood you see only after stripping a tree of its bark, and sometimes not even until you cut in to the heartwood, isn't associated with the capacities of plant growth. How could it be when you cut deep into the tree before you can find that solid wood? Vines grow, and grow quickly, true. But remember that plants get the food for their growth from the photosynthesis of their chloroplasts. The vines themselves aren't green, so the energy for growth has to come from the leaves.

So make the leaves green.

I mentioned that nothing takes the reader out of the flow, but neither do you have a good intrinsic rhythm to your prose here. I suggest trying to read it aloud. Tinker with it. Make the flow and rhythm even better, even smoother. Then try to sing it. Fit it to any song you want. Change songs with the paragraphs if you need to do so, but not within a paragraph. Make the changes you need to make singing this entry as effortless as it is possible for you to make it.

Now you're approaching an entry that isn't merely easy to read, but joyous to read.

I'm suggesting you take on even more here than I've suggested for others in this section of my reviews.

Why?

You're doing well here, but you can do even better. i believe in you.

8. Rule checks:
is the item over-priced or underpriced?
What about caster level? Did you use 1st when Bane or Craft Wondrous Item has a higher level requirement?
Although the entire point of magic is to do things one could otherwise not do, nonetheless Pathfinder must have rules and I can't interpret every single conflict between an item and Pathfinder rules as simply a case of the magic of the item overcoming those rules.

Nothing about this strikes me as breaking the rules. I'd have to look into how big a difference +25 feet to range increment can really make. That sounds like it might be a bit much, but honestly I couldn't make that decision without play testing a bit, so you've done as much as you can there - the publisher can schedule some play testing if the supplement is big enough and important enough. In any case, it's not something that simply breaks Pathfinder. It doesn't violate their design rules.

In fact, the brilliance of your item is really the conservatism you bring to crunch, the respect you have for Paizo's work and rules and expectation, being combined with a truly new, uncontemplated effect. There's no spell designed specifically to help snipers that you could use as a template for the crossbow's powers. But you go ahead and design for the space anyway. You know that action economy is place of consistent pressure, and you design an item that makes the most out of being slow. Good snipers shouldn't be in a hurry anyway. Being able to see and then choose that design space that's new but that doesn't challenge Pathfinder's rules or spirit, and then exploiting that design space with a truly new effect that doesn't need more than a bit of description and some easily enumerated bonuses and penalties?

Dang, that's good.

There is a weak point, though. You consistently use untyped bonuses. This just should not be.

The range bonus should be an enhancement bonus. The CMD bonus should be a circumstance bonus.

You can do this, but you also need to do this. There's nothing prohibiting untyped bonuses, but you shouldn't use them unless you have a very good reason. Even choosing a bonus type that usually stacks with other bonuses of its type - like a circumstance bonus - is much better than leaving a bonus untyped.

9. The extra mile
This is all about making things easier for me as your reader.

You didn't exploit any hyperlinks or methods of organizing information visually or other tricks to make the text communicate more than the word count would imply.

This is another area you could learn to exploit.

=============================

Overall verdict?

This is an item that contains only a very few "mistakes" that are as simple as violations of a rule, misuse or nonuse of the format, designing the wrong type of item, etc.

This item is creative in what it does and how it does it.

This item is likely balanced in most game groups.

This item has an audience who will want to acquire and use the item.

The writing is clear.

The crunch is clear in all aspects, but the failure to specify bonus types - while being clear in its effect - is probably inappropriate.

This item does not go the extra mile to make it easy for me to read and grok.

This item does have a consistent theme that is synergistically forwarded by name, description, and what it does. This could be enhanced even further by carrying the theme through the language of how the item does what it does, and by systematic creative choices (such as between synonyms).

This item is close to having writing such that simply reading its entry is a pleasure, but it's not quite there yet.

This item was in my top 32. I felt that in all areas you were just shy of "awesome". While never quite getting to "awesome" might seem bad, getting close to awesome every single time (except maybe for the name, which I don't really grade on unless it's terrible) creates a very high average. An item that gets to awesome in one or two areas but is only average in two or 3 generally loses to your item.

The really scary thing is that there's substantial room for improvement and evidence that you can make that improvement if given a chance. This was a very good effort and I really wanted to see what you would do in future rounds.

maybe next year.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Nykidemus wrote:
CripDyke wrote:
*snip*
Wow, that was thorough.

yeah, I don't really know how to do it any other way. Anything else seems like it's not representative of my thought process.

Of course, it means that I can't review as many items, but hopefully the designers whose items I do review will a lot more from seeing my whole thought process.

I actually got the idea from the "How do you vote?" thread. That really is, more or less, how I go about voting for items, though some steps get skipped if I don't need them to distinguish between a certain pair of items. Nearly every item gets every aspect of this analysis when I first encounter it, however. Since I'm only making a binary comparison, I don't have to put it all in words the way I do here, but the format, the process seemed a very useful structure for performing a review.

So here I am. Doing very thorough reviews.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Twisted Path wrote:


Replication Hammer
Aura strong divination and evocation; CL 13th
Slot none; Price 36,324 gp; Weight 6 lbs.
Description
This polished warhammer is crafted from a single piece of cold iron. Wielders not proficient with this weapon use it as a +1 warhammer. Proficient wielders use it as a +4 warhammer when attempting to sunder a melee weapon that possesses a special ability.

If the weapon targeted by the sunder is destroyed in this manner, the wielder of the Replication Hammer may allow it to absorb one special ability of that weapon. This does not change the Replication Hammer's enhancement bonus. If the weapon that was destroyed had more than one special ability, the wielder of the Replication Hammer may choose which ability to absorb. Upon absorbing a new ability, it loses any absorbed ability it currently possesses. The Replication Hammer always retains the ability to absorb other abilities. the wielder of the Replication Hammer may choose not to absorb an ability.
Construction
Requirements Str 13, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, shatter, limited wish; Cost 18,324 gp

1. Name

Is the name so bad as to detract from the item?

No. "Replication" is not a word that I see over and over in Pathfinder. It has a clear meaning. We're good here.

2. Glance top to bottom
Glance at the formatting to see if the entry pays enough attention to what Paizo wants that this item isn't throw-away worthy. Maybe glance at a couple of other things that seem like DQs to me - a CL of 21+, a cost of 200,001 gp or more (since that’s forbidden by Paizo), maybe something else I’m not thinking about right now.

Formatting is good. Everything I see - making a weapon in a contest asking for weapon, shield, armor, or wondrous item; following format; even a glance at the match between CL and Aura strength - makes me confident that the little things are taken care of correctly.

Ooops, I spoke too soon. The name of the item is capitalized in the body text when it should always be lower case (save the first word of the name if the item begins a sentence).

Everything else being fine though, I don't grade you down for this. The fact that everything else is so good makes me think that if you were just told the rule once, you'd get it right in the future more-or-less every time.

3. Read for content
what does the item do? Is the item in an over-used design space?
Is the function understandable?

It sunders, then if a sundered item is a magic weapon, it steals an enchantment unless the wielder decides to keep the current stolen enchantment. It purges any old stolen enchantment every time an enchantment is newly stolen, but not every time the wielder has an opportunity to steal an enchantment.

There are always some sundering hammers, but it's not what I would call an "over-used" design space. I think I have a good handle on the intent of what this item is doing. Well done here.

4. Read for crunch
Is the crunch understandable?
Is it complicated?
Does it use effects that will be a pain around the gaming table?
Is it overpowered comes into play here if it would be a bad item regardless of price. Otherwise it's an underpricing issue. This doesn't mean that the item has to be worth more than 200,000 gp. An item can be overpowered if its fair market value is only 3,000 -5000 gp if the only characters who would ever want to use it are first level characters (who can't afford it - so they have to be given it - so you see the problem).
NOTE: I don't have to particularly like the approach to the crunch that you chose, so long as it works.

The crunch is understandable but lacking. For instance, I don't know what the weapon's enhancement bonus is.

We know that
1) non-proficient users wield it as a +1 warhammer. Okay. That's obviously a special case and it doesn't say what the enhancement bonus really is, just what its treated as in the special case of someone who doesn't know how to use it picking it up.
2) proficient users "use it as a +4 warhammer when attempting to sunder a melee weapon that possesses a special ability." Okay, that's obviously a special case, and the use it as language once again doesn't tell us what it IS, just what it's treated as in this special case.

So in the vast majority of cases where a proficient wielder is using it for anything other than "attempting to sunder a melee weapon that possesses a special ability" - which obviously includes even the vast majority of sunder attempts - it's got to have some sort of enhancement bonus, but what the heck is it?

It seems unlikely that the enhancement bonus would go **down** when doing it's special thing. Also, if the normal enhancement bonus was +5, the cold iron weapon would cost over 52,000 gp, which this doesn't. The enhancement bonus could be the exact same as +4, but no, it really can't be that or you wouldn't be "using it as" a +4 hammer. You'd just be using a +4 hammer.

Likewise it can't be a +1 hammer in its default mode.

So is it +2 or +3? And why am I spending all this time trying to figure it out when you could just tell me?

Arrrrrrrrgh.

Other than this, the one thing that is really wrong with the crunch is halfway forgivable because I think Weapon Qualities, Special are understandably different from Weapon Special Abilities in Paizo land. The problem is that not everyone is so fluent in Paizo-speak that an uncapitalized use of seemingly-generic words like "special ability" is going to lead to a lot of people thinking that they can steal the "deadly" quality from a non-magical katana or the "reach" quality of a non-magical spiked chain or even the "monk" special quality by sundering a non-magical stick.

I don't think this item does allow those things, but by not coming out and stating this, by not saying what you mean is a magical special ability, you're offshoring some of the design work you're supposed to do, and guaranteeing that some inexperienced gaming groups are going to think breaking a stick with this hammer allows monks to use it with flurry of blows. This is just a matter of not thinking things all the way through to their end use. You've got a clear idea of what you want to do, mostly (one more problem coming up). And you communicate the limits of that ability, I assume, in a way that is probably effective with the long time gamers. But not all gamers are long-time gamers.

Finally, besides never telling me what the enhancement bonus of this hammer is, the big sin of the crunch is that I don't know if "special abilities" (since the official term is "Weapon Special Abilities") includes the magic powers of specific magic weapons or if it includes things like "vorpal" that normally can't be given to a blunt weapon. Can the "binding" ability of a "blade of binding" be stolen? I know that "qualities" are different than "abilities" and thus you can't steal "monk" or "deadly" or "brace" or "blocking" from non-magical weapons. But just "special abilities" alone, without a link or an example or something, means there's no reason to think that I couldn't make this a monk weapon by sundering a blade of the sword saint.

Can you smash a dagger of venom to get a warhammer of venom? Why not? And what about that vorpal enchantment? Paizo says to "reroll" if you get vorpal on a weapon that doesn't deal slashing damage. So if you absorb Vorpal, does it work? Does it fail utterly? Does it cause you to absorb an ability determined by a random roll on the Weapon Special Abilities table? What in your crunch prevents any of these bad outcomes from happening?

I don't see anything, which means I'm going to have to deal with rules lawyering from a player, eventually, if I give out this weapon.

i don't need that headache when you could easily make this clear in the original item.

Last but not least - can this weapon absorb the Brilliant Energy special ability? As Paizo says, "A brilliant energy weapon ignores nonliving matter." The weapon can still be destroyed by attacking the handle (likely out of combat). But if it absorbs this property, it can never be used to sunder again.

Failing to address this one particular case isn't really "bad". But thinking your concept all the way through so you notice this problem before anyone has one in a game and write the solution into your item from the get go? To the point of noticing Brilliant Energy and sundering really conflict and can't co-exist? That's the kind of thinking things all the way through that takes crunch from competent to excellent.

5. Reading for creativity
Is this new?
Is it blindingly why-didn't-I-think-of-that simple in execution?
Does it utilize themes in such a way that different aspects of the entry all tie together well?

Last year there was an item that allowed you to destroy one magic weapon to pass on some or all of its magical properties to a new weapon. I think that was an anvil or hammer, not sure. So no, this isn't the most unusual item in the ever. But yes, it's very much a fresh design space. Good job.

The execution of the special ability is quite simple. Use the normal sundering rules. When you destroy something, chose to steal an enchantment or not. If you steal, the old one is lost. yay!

As for the creativity of your themes and imagery, you're not getting points from me. There is no description other than that it's forged from a single piece of cold iron. That doesn't preclude a leather hand-wrap. That doesn't preclude being painted bright blue. It doesn't preclude a lot of things. So it's cold iron, sure, but I have no idea what it actually looks like.

"Replication" is also problematic for me. Yes, there's a sense in which "replication" might be accurate, but the fact that you have to destroy a melee weapon with the hammer for the hammer to gain a property of that weapon ...well, if you have to destroy the old to get the property for the new, that's not creating more of something. It doesn't "duplicate" because you don't end up with twice as many of those enchantments as before. The old one is just gone. If you have to destroy the old to make the new thing just like the old, you're engaging in extraction not duplication or replication.

So while you can argue that there's a sense in which replication works, in its most obvious sense "replication" is terribly misleading.

Frankly, to me, **all** the creativity of the item is used to give it an interesting power with crunch that makes it easy to use.

Certainly those things are priorities, and it's not like you're showing no creativity, but you need to take some of the creativity you used for the power concept and the crunch and replicate it in your ability to put together a theme, in your naming, in your imagery, in your writing. Really replicate it - don't steal time from developing concept and crunch that you need to make sure those things display your creativity. Don't destroy what works in your item to fix what doesn't.

You've shown imagination in your design, but not throughout your design.

This is a middle of the road to slightly less than middle of the road performance on creativity, it seems to me.

6. Reading for audience appeal
The job is to design game products that gamers will buy. So a very legitimate question is, "Will gamers want to buy the supplement just to be able to use this item at their table?" If yes, that's a good reason to up vote.

The average player won't notice the problems with this item - like the questions surrounding sundering a dagger of venom - and will likely presume that the item works in one way or another. I think that whether the players do or don't think that they can steal enchantments from specific magic weapons, they will see this as a desirable item. It's cost is high, but you can get at least some properties at a discount by making this item then destroying another weapon.

You seem to know your audience well enough.

7. Reading for the joy of the word.
Did you write clearly?
I don't care about a typo or the misuse of a single piece of punctuation, but do you have errors or style choices that disrupt flow?
Do you have style choices that enhance the flow - are you creative with sentence structures and do you have the capacity to consider cadence when selecting from synonyms?
Does the mood of the writing reflect the mood of the item? Perhaps a droning monotonous rhythm would enhance certain items.
Have you thought through the theme of your item and made sure that every time you have an choice between two words or two phrases you select the one that furthers your theme and reinforces your imagery?
Do you add wondrous, unexpected depth under the clear surface, in which attentive readers may immerse themselves?
Most of the time this feedback will not focus on anything you've done wrong, but on moments where a designer misses an opportunity to do something amazing.

I don't have much to say here except what I've already noted - the writing lacks imagination, lacks imagery, and lacks flow.

Just writing clearly is important, and I think you mostly do that. I think that where things are unclear (like the enhancement bonus) it's not a matter of an inability to write clearly, it's a matter of taking the time to think things all the way through.

I could make specific suggestions, like swapping "Replication" for "Lodestone" since the enchantment is reproduced, but merely clings to the hammer after the destruction of the original item, and never "gets inside" the hammer, since the property is lost the moment another property sticks.

But really, you seem just not to have taken the time to craft your writing with skill and imagination the way you crafted the hammer's power or its crunch.

Take the time. It will make a big difference.

8. Rule checks:
is the item over-priced or underpriced?
What about caster level? Did you use 1st when Bane or Craft Wondrous Item has a higher level requirement?
Although the entire point of magic is to do things one could otherwise not do, nonetheless Pathfinder must have rules and I can't interpret every single conflict between an item and Pathfinder rules as simply a case of the magic of the item overcoming those rules.

I think it's a bit underpriced. I'd probably make the enhancement bonus +1 for anyone, then make the special enhancement bonus +4 for all sunder attempts. The ability to absorb magic doesn't seem connected to properties that make a weapon particularly good or bad for sundering. So, sure, you can only absorb Weapon Special Abilities from a magic melee weapon that you sunder, but if you want to use the hammer to bash a lock off the front of a chest the fact that the hammer can't absorb the special magic ability of having a bonus to the Open Lock DC doesn't make the hammer any worse at pounding the lock to pieces.

9. The extra mile
This is all about making things easier for me as your reader.

Nothing here to give you bonuses. Honestly with this item there aren't a lot of opportunities to go the extra mile, but there were some. Hyperlinking to the "Weapon Special Abilities" tables would have done a lot to clarify certain things (like the exclusion, if this is what you intended, or inclusion, if you provided an additional link to the table of specific magic weapons, of abilities unique to specific magic weapons). The link would make it obvious which abilities are able to be stolen without using up a lot of space listing them. That's the kind of thing that might have gotten you points here.

===========================

Overall verdict?

This is an item that contains only a few "mistakes" that are as simple as violations of a rule, misuse or nonuse of the format, designing the wrong type of item, etc.

This item is creative in what it does and how it does it.

This item is likely balanced in most game groups.

This item has an audience who will want to acquire and use the item.

The writing is usually but not consistently clear.

The crunch fails to clarify at least some of the ambiguities of concept

This item does not go the extra mile to make it easy for me to read and grok.

This item does not have a consistent theme that is synergistically forwarded by name, description, what it does, how it does it, and systematic creative choices.

This item does not have writing such that simply reading its entry is a pleasure.

This item is at the low end of middle of the pack items to me.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

3 people marked this as a favorite.
edduardco wrote:


Bloodseeker Sword
Aura Strong necromancy and transmutation; CL 18th
Slot ─; Price 84,815 gp; Weight 4 lbs.
Description
This crimson blade is a +1 wounding blood crystal longsword, it has a disturbing aura that evokes hunger, the pommel and cross-guard is full of thorns with dried blood. Each time the wielder strikes a blow that deals damage with this weapon, the wielder gains temporary hit points equal to the amount of damage dealt. Temporary hit points bestowed by the bloodlseeker sword last for 1 minute. The wielder can give of his own blood to make the bloodlseeker sword more deadly, as a swift action the wielder may pierce himself with the thorns and inflict any amount of bleed damage he wants, the bloodlseeker sword gain one of the following properties according with the bleed damage inflicted:

Keen (2 points)
Impact (4 points)
Speed (6 points)
Brilliant energy (8 points)
Vorpal (10 points)

This property last for 1 minute. If the wielder uses this ability again, the first property immediately ends.
Construction
Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, bleed, bull's strength, circle of death, continual flame, gaseous form, haste, keen edge, vampiric touch; Cost 43,315 gp

1. Name - Is the name so bad as to detract from the item?

Bloodseeker sword. Hmm. Not overdone, but it uses "blood" so nothing original either. It could be the start of an excellent theme if you really use the "seeker" part. The "seeker" part is the only part of the name that's really open to developing an excellent theme.

I mean it either is or isn't a sword. And the "blood" part isn't really ambiguous. Plus all swords are intended to draw blood, so it's hard to make "blood" alone into an entire them.

And maybe you could, except you now have added "seeker" and that part will go neglected if you work on the "blood" theme alone. Then I'll wonder why this is a "bloodseeker sword" and not just a "blood sword".

2. Glance top to bottom
Glance at the formatting to see if the entry pays enough attention to what Paizo wants that this item isn't throw-away worthy

Template used. If there are any errors, they're typos or other things that shouldn't count against the item. Writer is either using the template perfectly or well enough that I can see that the writer is trying to write according to the assignment and not ignoring what the customer wants.

This item is not throw-away worthy.

3. Read for content
what does the item do? Is the item in an over-used design space? Is the function understandable?

The item ...is a wounding blade (okay, there's some blood theme there) that allows you to inflict bleed on yourself in exchange for temporary weapon enhancements.

The design space isn't overused per se. There are lots of attempts to get a weapon that will change its properties so you can always have advantageous properties that are particularly well suited to the problem at hand.

But that's mildly against the spirit of how the item enchanting process works.

The function is perfectly understandable ...except also seems overpowered. If you want me to interpret the item to have more complex restrictions, then obviously your crunch is incomplete. If you don't want me to do that, then in a later evaluation I'm going to dock you some points.

I chose to believe that you knew what you were writing and intended the item exactly as written. I feel its less insulting to assume you didn't know how to make the crunch do what you wanted than to assume you wanted to avoid restrictions on the item's power that I think are necessary.

very mild points off for having a theme that is mildly contrary to the spirit of enchanted items. You want to do lots of different things any time you want using enchantments that are normally permanent and always-on while staying within the spirit? No. Can't happen.

You can buy lots of one-shots, but that's more expensive, right?

Now I note that "seeking" is nowhere in the powers or description of your item. So double the very mild points off for having a blood seeking sword that doesn't seek anything - you set up a theme that just doesn't exist.

4. Read for crunch
Is the crunch understandable?
Is it complicated?
Does it use effects that will be a pain around the gaming table?
Is it overpowered comes into play here if it would be a bad item regardless of price. Otherwise it's an underpricing issue. This doesn't mean that the item has to be worth more than 200,000 gp. An item can be overpowered if its fair market value is only 3,000 -5000 gp if the only characters who would ever want to use it are first level characters (who can't afford it - so they have to be given it - so you see the problem).
NOTE: I don't have to particularly like the approach to the crunch that you chose, so long as it works.

Some bad wording in the crunch, but it's still something that can be figured out:

Quote:
wielder may pierce himself with the thorns and inflict any amount of bleed damage he wants, the bloodlseeker sword gain one of the following properties

So, I can do 2+4+6+8+10 = 30 points of bleed damage to myself if I want to. Or 1 point. Or 7 points.

But I can only gain one power at a time, so my ability to do myself 57 points of bleed damage is pretty irrelevant.

Also, I'm very sympathetic to using swift or move actions to create movement-only effects (not polymorphs whose only game mechanic specifically listed in the crunch is a movement effect, because there's still the matter of having changed your appearance). I'm also very sympathetic if you are using swift or immediate actions to modify a single attack.

To turn on a magical ability that lasts for 1 minute and that can be used more than once per round any time you have a full-attack and BAB+6 or have haste or get off an attack of opportunity or...? That should be a standard action.

So some points off for crunch, solely because of the use of a swift action to create an effect that lasts more than a round, ESPECIALLY because the power so activated is usable multiple times per round (and not just as a passive defense, like turning on a resistance bonus to saves).

The truth is, however, that lots and lots of people make this mistake, and so in head to head voting it doesn't hurt you that often until after the later culls.

The SuperStars, however, generally don't make this mistake. They limit their swift actions to things that last 1 round or (preferably) less and/or are entirely about movement and the swift action must be used in conjunction with a move action to have any positive effect. Because of this, this is a mistake that - even if everything else that's amenable to mechanistic right/wrong evaluation were perfect, and even if all the subjective stuff was at least good - has the real possibility of keeping you out of the top 32.

Ah, but now some real hurt:

This items gives you temporary hit points. To use this item's powers you have to lose hit points. Nothing in the item description says that you have to lose any **real** HP.

Moreover, now is where the swift action seems like cheating. Seeing the fight coming, you can of course spend HP to power-up. But with a swift action, you don't need to. You can't get this weapon until you have multiple attacks anyway, so use your first hit or two (hopefully they come in the first round - and they definitely will if you have the option of smacking a hench-creature or other low-AC target. Because you'll take that option, every time. Smack a little guy a time or two, use the temporary HP to grab Vorpal or Brilliant Energy and use that to take down the baddie.

Worse? Nothing says it has to be YOUR HP.

Have a party member that gets their own temp HP? Have them hold the sword until combat is almost here, then they do bleed to themselves and pass the blade off to you.

And now you have someone in the back ranks with bleed where the bleed can be tended without any real difficulty.

Even SUPER-WORSE???

Nothing says that you have to take the damage more than one time. Fast Healing doesn't make you immune to bleed damage, so you'll take it. Once. Then you'll never take it again. This dramatically limits the drawback, doesn't it?

I don't like this crunch.

I would much prefer crunch that the bleed damage of the sword bypasses any and all temporary HP from any source.

But even more than that, I would prefer to have the thorns on the hilt, doing a specific amount of damage every time you make an attack. This isn't bleed damage, so you aren't limited to taking it once in a round, nor will all future damage be prevented by Fast Healing 1. You'd have to halve the damage, probably, so instead of 10 points bleed damage to turn on Vorpal for 10 rounds, it would be 5 points damage per attack, whether it hits or not, whether it decapitates or not. This makes it a slightly better value for Vital Strike enthusiasts, but not grossly so as Vorpal benefits from crit fishing. On the other hand, 4 points per attack to have permanent Brilliant Energy kicks a lot of butt, and brilliant energy isn't more useful with lots of smaller attacks than it is with fewer big-damage attacks.

Add back in the swapping out powers
- though make it one charge to change enchantments or to return to no extra enchantments, but no damage either
- and you get one charge per day, or you get one charge every time you take your max HP in non-temporary HP damage AND the weapon cannot store more than one charge
- and you'd still have a rockingly powerful weapon that can go Vorpal when you're attacking the non-living and the outsiders but go brilliant energy pretty much all the rest of the time.

If you're using the quickness power, it would probably make sense to have the first attack do no damage, but all subsequent attacks that come before your next turn (the attack from quickness, if you choose to use it, attacks of opportunity, etc.) deal 3 pts damage per attack to the wielder, just as Vorpal or Brilliant Energy or any other power does its damage on every single attack.

In this scheme, the damage automatically comes off every time you make an attack - it's not an action at all - and changing powers wouldn't usually be done in combat, but you can make it a swift action to use a charge to return the weapon to "no additional enchantment". It would still need to take a standard action to turn on an additional enhancement or to switch from one to another.

Frankly, 1 minute per swift action, with "bleed" damage that can be (and will be) regularly assigned entirely to temp HP and/or another character in the back ranks, I don't like this crunch at all.

All-in-all, I don't like the crunch. It frankly comes across to me as designed specifically to come across less powerful than it is by making it seem as it you're going to be taking 10 pts of damage every round to get that property. But you won't. If you had a weapon that really worked this way, you'd be stupid not to make Fast Healing 1 resources a priority right away.

I prefer my players not be stupid, therefore I presume that no one is ever going to take 100 points of damage to get a full minute of vorpal power.

ON TOP OF THAT - even before my player gets around to accessing something that grants fast healing 1, the temporary HP will suck up almost all that damage. So no, you're not getting all the temp HP you wanted, but you'll get a lot as soon as you get that Fast Healing 1 item. AND in the meantime what it ***really*** means is that there's no cost to using the let's-pretend-we're-getting-damaged enchantment swapping because all the damage goes right to your temp HP, which the sword itself conveniently already provides you.

The sword's drawback masquerades as worse than it is.

It's already bad to try to use a drawback to get a huge power you wouldn't otherwise be able to get. It's worse when it's set up so that the drawback can't possibly be as bad in practice as it sounds on paper.

Lots of points gone.

I'm sorry if I'm coming across as a hater, but Temp HP =>mitigates Bleed => which won't happen anyway after you've had the blade for the remainder of one adventure + the time to get back home, it's the drawback that isn't.

Subjectively I'm feeling like my intelligence is insulted. "The writer really didn't think I'd notice the bleed comes off the Temp HP and the cost is thus negated?????" my evil-distrustful limbic brain wonders.

Yes. I noticed. If you had either made it super-clear you wanted the drawback to not be a drawback (like stating specifically, "Bleed damage can come from these temporary HP just as temporary HP from any source can be subject to bleed damage"), I would still have the issues of overpowering the thing, but I wouldn't feel personally insulted.

At that point, my evaluation would be entirely objective in the sense of - Oh, this person wants a cost, but it's really just an opportunity cost of getting fewer temp HP than they otherwise would. That makes this overpowered, I'm fairly certain.

Right now, I'm feeling actually eager to down vote your item because of the subjective sense of slight.

In actual voting, I'd probably get over that feeling before the time came to press the button. I probably wouldn't feel eager to down vote the item - I'd just be honestly pressing the button for the better of whichever items were before me.

But seriously, putting the voter in an insulted frame of mind is a dangerous action if you actually want that person's vote.

5. Reading for creativity
Is this new?
Is it blindingly why-didn't-I-think-of-that simple in execution?
Does it utilize themes in such a way that different aspects of the entry all tie together well?

yeah, it's new, but not that new. lots of people sacrifice blood to get power. That part is boring. Some people have proposed weapons with swap-able powers that would normally be permanent enchantments. So that's not new, but it's not boring. Putting the two elements together is new to me, but it also seems...something less than fresh. Mainly in the sacrificing blood to get power part.

I won't go out of my way to down vote this item on creativity grounds, but it won't be that hard for other items to feel more creative to me than this sword does.

6. Reading for audience appeal
The job is to design game products that gamers will buy. So a very legitimate question is, "Will gamers want to buy the supplement just to be able to use this item at their table?" If yes, that's a good reason to up vote.

I think gamers will want it. It has audience appeal to munchkins, and there are many of them. Blood items are not very original, not super-fresh and therefore using blood doesn't prove to me how creative the writer can be.

BUT there's a reason that we've seen a lot of blood items. The audience is clearly into them.

This is where not being too outside-the-box creative actually helps.

Swords are always a popular weapon. Blood is always a popular visual. The wounding and blood crystal pursue that with determination.

Yep. No reason to think you don't know your audience. If it comes down between this sword and some other item that re balanced on every item of analysis except audience appeal, you're very very likely getting the up-vote.

7. Reading for the joy of the word.
Did you write clearly?
I don't care about a typo or the misuse of a single piece of punctuation, but do you have errors or style choices that disrupt flow?
Do you have style choices that enhance the flow - are you creative with sentence structures and do you have the capacity to consider cadence when selecting from synonyms?
Does the mood of the writing reflect the mood of the item? Perhaps a droning monotonous rhythm would enhance certain items.
Have you thought through the theme of your item and made sure that every time you have an choice between two words or two phrases you select the one that furthers your theme and reinforces your imagery?
Do you add wondrous, unexpected depth under the clear surface, in which attentive readers may immerse themselves?
Most of the time this feedback will not focus on anything you've done wrong, but on moments where a designer misses an opportunity to do something amazing.

Okay, before anything else, since this is about good writing: please note that the first sentence is actually 3 independent clauses separated only by commas and employing no conjunctions. You could have used 2 semi-colons instead of the 2 commas here and at least have been grammatically correct in your creation of a single sentence out of 3 independent clauses. But really I'd prefer that at least one of these independent clauses be converted to a dependent clause, then hack off just one independent clause to become its own sentence, so you have 2 sentences where now you have only 1.

In any case, it's a detail of grammar that didn't particularly take me out of the reading - so it doesn't count even moderately against you, for sure, but it probably was lurking in my subconscious even before I noticed it consciously. Written as it is, it simply doesn't flow as well as it could. While not automatically bad, you've missed an opportunity to make it good.

Moving on.
What color is the blade? "This crimson blade"
What color does Paizo use to describe blood crystal? "Unfed blood crystal has a pale pink hue, darkening toward deep crimson as it becomes saturated with blood"

So this is cribbing off paizo rather than your own description? "Crimson" is certainly not as boring as red. Certainly it's a better word for a blood item. And yet, it's not wowing me with the imagery either. You don't even have to be someone who dislikes the vague "red" when compared to "crimson", you just have to be able to read Paizo's description of blood crystal and copy.

I'm not saying you did, of course, I'm just pointing out why this doesn't wow me.

We go farther with the description, and find:
"it has a disturbing aura that evokes hunger"

Well, okay. I don't really viscerally feel - "yeah, I'd feel hungry!" or even "yeah, I would sure feel disturbed if I felt hungry in that moment" - but having the item evoke an emotion is thinking well beyond just reciting its appearance.

But this word "hunger" is gnawing at me: then I figure it out. Why isn't the emotion evoked a restlessness or a directional focus? This is a "seeking" blade, right?

But really, in no way is it a seeding blade save the name. Suddenly I'm thinking that to wow me with your writing, a better approach would have been to name the sword "bloodhungry" and then - to make sure you're not just repeating yourself in a way that can come across as boring at worst and at best would fail to take advantage to show off your vocab and creativity - when describing the aura you, yourself, speak of hunger without naming it. Evoking it, if you will.

For example, you might have tried:
"Every time it is drawn, this crystal blade shines a different shade of the same bloody hue, always more pale the longer it has gone without gorging in battle. This +1 wounding blood crystal longsword feels lighter than its expected weight when the blade is pale, but seems to compensate for its lost mass with an aura of starvation and want that burdens the wielder's soul."

Holy Heckfire, that sword wants to EAT ME!

And with a description like that, the sword's willingness to grant me power if I feed it my blood (or withhold its power until I lose my blood to it - take your pick) really seems to manifest as part of a theme, as part of the personality of an item you may not wish to trust, instead of merely "a cool power a player would want".

In general, this item wasn't created with SuperStar writing.

But it's got this very important thing going for it: it's clear.

You don't have any bad writing habits that cloud your ability to communicate. That's amazing. It's hard just to get that far with your writing skill, since so many of us write as we speak...while forgetting that with speech we have tone of voice, cadence, body language, and other communication aids that clarify words and phrases that would otherwise be confused.

Having said all that, I'll just address one more thing that's bugging me, otherwise you get the ideas I'm trying to communicate and you're not going to submit this same item with a bit more violet in the prose next year. So it's not worth it poring over it for details.

Just this. Just this one more thing that's bugging me:
"the pommel and cross-guard is full of thorns with dried blood. "

Actually, the pommel and cross-guard ARE, not is.

But here's the climactic thing: Thorns?

Really?

You're kidding me?

You've got a crystal item and a word, shards, that perfectly describes what the wielder is going to see, but you use thorns instead.

Without the sword growing, without the hilt-wrap being crafted in the form of a bramble-vine, without something that communicates "plant", thorns just makes no sense.

And since the weapon is all about blood - and blood is a feature of animals not plants - there's no reason to veer away from the "shard" imagery (even if by being the more expected word one might also concede it is the less creative word).

This is blood and crystal. Plants have neither. Why are their thorns? Shard isn't necessarily a really creative word. Others might come up with a more creative word. But it would be correct and would not push me away from your theme. I really can't reconcile thorns with either blood or with blood-drinking. Sure they're damaging. Sure they're piercing. Sure that can result in getting blood on them. But thorns don't {b]drink[/b] blood the way the crystal does. Thorns don't give you power in exchange for blood. There's just no reason at all to make this thorns. It's driving me batty, like you had some additional plant theme and then cut that out for length but forgot to change thorns.

In any case, it's writing that doesn't evoke the weapon you've actually described, so it's not superstar.

But as I said, you don't have any bad habits with writing. You really write clearly. You communicate your intent very well.

The part you're missing isn't communicating your intent, it's communicating your creativity.

8. Rule checks:
is the item over-priced or underpriced?
What about caster level? Did you use 1st when Bane or Craft Wondrous Item has a higher level requirement?
Although the entire point of magic is to do things one could otherwise not do, nonetheless Pathfinder must have rules and I can't interpret every single conflict between an item and Pathfinder rules as simply a case of the magic of the item overcoming those rules.

I previously mentioned the swift action causing an effect that lasts longer than 1 round. I also mentioned the swappability of normally permanent weapon enchantments.

But these are not beyond the capacity of magic, and they were clearly intentional. A CL of 18th is high enough to make a weapon Vorpal, which is the highest CL needed. Because of the obvious ways to circumvent ongoing bleed effects that one can acquire between adventures and the ways temp HP function even when you first find the item, I think the sword just doesn't work as written because of the powers themselves. Therefore, there is no loss of points for the weapon being "underpriced". In fact, the rules seem to have been well followed.

Where methodical checking can be used to help an item (or to stave off errors), you seem to have done very, very well. There aren't even little errors that leave open the question, "typo, or is this a place where the designer doesn't get what is wanted from the assignment?"

Nope. Based on this work, I'd expect the next item you turn out to be just as well formatted and just as carefully attentive to rules - at least rules that can be easily "followed" or "broken" without worrying about anything in between, like a violation of the spirit of the rule which can happen in some cases, and which I feel did happen in this item, particularly with swift actions.

As an editor, I already see great promise and good current work. This is important because you'll be a much better designer if you can edit your own work before turning it over for a last edit/proof by the publisher. They'll love you for this skill.

9. The extra mile
This is all about making things easier for me as your reader.

You don't hyperlink any spells, but if they only appear in the construction requirements and the item doesn't actually directly reproduce all or some of the effects of the spell in a way that can be lifted right from the spell entry, there's no reason, really, to link them. In this case, since none of those spells has any effects duplicated per the spell entry, you're actually being kind to me by not linking. The blue color would be distracting, would call my eyes, would make me want to click, and then I would find ....nothing relevant. If you consciously chose not to link the spells for that reason (and I always assume when someone does the right thing that they've done it on purpose), that is going an extra distance for me. Maybe not a mile in this case, but certainly a couple hundred yards.

On the other hand, the weapon properties could by hyperlinked to the Paizo PRD. You would be going the extra mile for me by doing that and missed the opportunity to do so.

One place where you truly shine with your choices affecting readability is in the use of the bullet list. By setting this off, apart from a paragraph, you make the increasing HP cost pattern immediately apparent, and for those of us familiar enough with the game to recognize keen is a +1 ability and Vorpal is a +5, we quickly guess that the cost is always exactly 2* the equivalent enhancement bonus. And it turns out we were right. If we were wrong, you might get points docked for misleading me. But no, we're right, which means that your formatting itself communicates information like extra words you don't have to type and we need not take the time to read.

That's gold. That's what this section is all about. That's the extra mile.

============================

Overall verdict?

This is an item that contains no "mistakes" that are as simple as violations of a rule, misuse or nonuse of the format, designing the wrong type of item, etc.

This item is clear about what it does, and the crunch effectively backs it up.

The item is clearly communicated through effective writing.

This item does go the extra mile to make it easy for me to read and grok.

This item is not particularly creative, but neither does it show no creativity.

This item is likely overpowered in any game because of the particular combination of powers.

This item does not have a consistent theme that is synergistically forwarded by name, description, what it does, how it does it, and systematic creative choices.

This item does not have writing such that simply reading its entry is a pleasure.

This item is a middle of the pack item to me.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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To be fair, Banner smash all links when Banner is angry. No chain survive Hulk.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

1 person marked this as a favorite.

For 24 hours or more t's all about taking some time to give due attention, congratulations and respect to our advancing RPGSS crew. So go go give them some love, eh???

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Wow - on reading through the names?

I've discovered 26 of my top 32 made it through in the top 32+4.

24 of my top 32 made it through to the top 32 flat.

AND one of my alternates is one of the 2 actual RPGSS alternates that I didn't pick for my top 32.

AND I didn't see Bottled Cloud in my voting marathon, but I like it. Hard to be completely impartial about it, but it would have had a very good chance of being in my top 32 if I had seen it.

I'm liking this field.

Really, really liking this field.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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@Jessie Scott:

That's really how you feel?

That seems too bad to me. I'd rather you had faith that you'll have multiple original ideas over the course of a year that are all of a level worthy of polishing up for RPGSS. And I'd rather you have faith that people who can't come up with their own ideas will never beat out someone who can.

Okay, a few items each year break that "rule", but someone without real creativity will never get out of round 3, and typically won't get out of round 2. I remember last year some of the maps were...uninspired. That doesn't necessarily say anything about the designer (some of them may have wanted to participate, but the round 2 timeframe fell during a period in which the designer simply had no time to think or draw, other things that might be about the designer - like stage fright - do tell you things about them, but don't reveal any real limitation to do design work, only very, very public design work with 4 days notice). But whether the problem was the competition or the designer, it was obvious which people had had the ideas vs. which people didn't have the ideas...whether that was due to time or not. People who didn't have a decent map idea simply never got to the round of 16.

In any case, if you have ideas, you'll make it farther than someone who doesn't. Even if someone gets lucky with plagiarizing just the right thing for one year's RPGSS zeitgeist and gets into the top 32 on public votes, track their performance every year and it simply won't compare to someone creative who uses each year to hone skills (like template use or whatever) whose lack might have kept you down. The rest is down to voting whim.

Practice creating new ideas rather than hoarding old ones. Have confidence in yourself.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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So, this is in the order of a timeline, (which things do I do first) not in the order of which things I believe are most important.

1. Read name of item.
If it's terribly corny/cheesy/seems too Noun-of-the-Verb-ish, that might play a role in voting, but the odds are low that this will matter at all, and even then only as a tiebreaker. Really. It's very, very hard to be bad enough that this comes into play as a tie breaker, even when I don't like the name.
It is, however, worth noting that I don't think I've ever used a good name in a tiebreaker as a reason to up vote.

2. Glance top to bottom - how's the formatting?

If everything exists and is placed where I expect it to be, this passes. Missing bolds throughout or other things that tell me that the available formatting text wasn't used is mildly annoying, but it's never used consciously to tiebreak. I'm self-aware enough that I realize if you make me work harder to read it, I'm likely to unconsciously down-rate your item. For that reason, if you're missing bolds and have all-capped your item name (as some folk weirdly do) but have everything in the right place, I make an extra effort to read your item through carefully to make sure that I don't fail to give credit to something that's there (like good writing) that I'm more likely to notice when I'm feeling receptive and open to something.

3. Read for content - what does the item do?

Is the item in an over-used design space? A wondrous item that is a candle that gives magical light just isn't very wondrous. Candles give light, that's what they do. Making magical light is like giving a sword an enhancement bonus. Okay, it's magic, but it's certainly not showing anything new or imaginative.

Is the function understandable? If I encounter a corner case where the crunch breaks down, do I feel like I have an understanding of what the writer was trying for so I have some basis to say that something is in the spirit of what the item was trying to do? Or do I only have crunch, and when corner cases come along I just have to rule on the basis of whatever works best for some other reason without any connection to the item's them? This is just another way of testing whether or not I have a feel for the item, and for what the writer was trying to achieve.

This is the first step in "reading for mojo", but it's not the last.

4. Read for crunch - how does the item do it?

Is the crunch understandable? Is it complicated? Does it use effects that will be a pain around the gaming table? People say that they don't have biases, but we all do. If I think an effect is going to be a pain around the table, I'm less likely to use it. Gravity effects are a good example: what happens when the water from the stream flies up in to the air? The area effect of gravity-changing magic doesn't have a stream bed. What about coins? What about dust? Gravity effects that solely affect a creature and not an area are much better, but even they might be unexpectedly complicated, so I make sure to give them a good read. This doesn't mean I down vote gravity-effect items (or anything else) on some auto-downvote basis, but I want to think about whether or not you've thought through the effects of your item, and some effects require more thought than others. If there's a potential difficulty, I want to see some crunch to help deal with that difficulty around the table. I don't even need to like your solution as long as you identified the problems that are likely to crop up and provided a solution that uses Pathfinder-friendly mechanics.

Reading for crunch is also when I decide if something is over-powered or underpowered. Over or under powering an item can get an instant veto from me, if it's extreme. If it's not extreme, it probably won't come into play at all. If it does come into play without getting a veto, it's as a tiebreaker, when other methods aren't working to distinguish the two items.

Seeing if you've really thought through your idea is step 2 in "reading for mojo". Part of reading for crunch is making sure your crunch works -that's separate from mojo- but part is seeing how completely you've conceived of the idea, how seriously you take your own magic item. That part is reading for mojo.

5. Reading for creativity: Let's actually break this down a bit more:
...5.1: Is this new? Can it still be identifiably "Pathfinder" in its execution while being identifiably something-never-done-in-Pathfinder-before in its concept?
...5.2: Is it blindingly why-didn't-I-think-of-that simple in execution, so as to preclude rules lawyering not out of fiat, but because everyone simply agrees, "yeah, of course this is how this works"?
...5.3: Does it utilize themes in such a way that different aspects of the entry all tie together well? The most creative designers will have the look of the function tied to the theme as much as the powers. Some amazingly creative items still leave one without any particular reason why the item had to be a sword, or a hat, or a ...? Does your item have to be a ....? If it just **has to be** the form that it is, then you've better integrated the theme into your item than most. Some designers will even have things like Caster Level tied into the theme. Is it a luck item? Did the designer use a caster level of 7 (or, perhaps, 13)? When I see luck, I start looking for 7's and 13's. If it's an Asian-themed item (especially a Chinese themed item) I start looking for 8's for good-luck items. A hand-held fan of lucky winds? Is the price 8,888 gp? Now we're talking.

These are all more parts of reading for mojo.

6. Reading for audience appeal:

The job is to design game products that gamers will buy. So a very legitimate question is, "Will gamers want to buy the supplement just to be able to use this item at their table?" If yes, that's a good reason to up vote.

This, however, doesn't get as much up-voting power as one might suspect, however. Some things that gamers consistently want, gamers already have. If your artifact is Yaba Baga's Holy Hovel, and it functions as a secure home to stash your riches that can also move across the landscape and attack your enemies, sure gamers will want it - but they've already got it. The truth is that we each want our character to be special, but some powers are things everyone wants. We get around that by having multiple items that do the same thing. But for my voting purposes, being coveted for what you do alone isn't enough. Being coveted for what you do that nothing else does is better. Being widely coveted for exactly how you do it, even when players are declining many other methods of achieving the same effects - that's worth up voting.

This is definitely more looking-for-mojo.

7. Reading for the joy of the word.

Be an excellent writer. Turn a phrase like record, baby. Conjure imagery for me. Better yet, and far more difficult, use the magic of suggestion to make my own brain conjure your item's imagery. Include references that don't **look like** references. The other day I said (when I thought -correctly- that my item had been culled) something about how I was certain the grapes they serve in the RPGSS greenroom to the top 32 would have been sour anyway. The words "sour" and "grape" don't exist next to each other in this statement, but it's obviously a reference to Aesop when you think about it.

But here's the thing: you don't have to think about it. The statement stood on its own. The imagery doesn't depend on anyone reading Aesop - it's just enhanced if someone happens to have done so. That reference (and the sentence in which I embedded it) isn't necessarily an example of good writing, but I hope its an example of one thing that can tell a person you're dealing with good writing. Make sure your writing stands on its own, but also give it some depths that won't be plumbed by everyone. You detail every area on the map even if your adventure party isn't going to end up taking part in every possible encounter. In the same way, your writing should reward exploration without dogmatically insisting everyone get each and every one of your references or sub-points.

If I enjoy reading you and feel compelled to use your imagery in my game, that's another major reason to up vote. With some items I'm happy to use them in my game world, but the decorations on the item change, the material of the hilt-wrap is different, a bastard sword becomes a long sword, an inscription is added or removed, alchemical silver is switched for cold iron, etc. With other items, I don't want to change a thing even as I'm taking it from a context-free internet contest to a specific game world with a specific history.

Write entries whose items' details are simply unchangeable. Not even (at this point) because it fits a theme, as in step 5.3. At this point, make me want to prevent any and all tinkering with your item because the imagery has too much cool to risk anywhere near a forge.

8. Rule checks:
If the two items are in the same ballpark, now is when I check the rules: is the item over-priced or underpriced? What about caster level? Did you use 1st when Bane or Craft Wondrous Item has a higher level requirement?

9. The extra mile
This is all about making things easier for me as your reader.

You might earn points with me by hyper-linking to spells in the construction requirements or description sections. If you reference universal monster abilities you gain some points with me by hyperlinking those as well. I don't want everything hyperlinked, of course. Don't hyperlink every skill. Don't hyperlink "DC" to the paizo glossary of Difficulty Class.

Do your paragraph breaks come at the right time? Do you consistently italicize the name of your item and the names of spells and consistently capitalize the names of skills?

This might be a tie breaker, but truthfully it often can boost an item that is in close-but-running-behind position to the front runner. This isn't a huge effect, but I do value the writers that work hard so that their readers don't have to.

==============

Ultimately pre-first cull my vote is often determined by step 2 because of items that simply don't have everything required - there's no construction requirements, or they don't use the template at all, or some other major error(s) are present that would make the thing hard to take seriously as a finished item worthy of my vote.

2nd and 3rd cull, my votes are often based on steps 3 & 4, with a decent minority focused on step 7.

Later in the game - after the 3rd cull and especially after the 4th/5th - steps 5 & 7 are the biggest determiners of my votes.

I don't know that that tells you that steps 5 & 7 are less important because they actually swing my vote less in the early rounds. I don't know that it tells you that step 2 is more Important since you can't get past the first cull without it.

I'm telling you how often my vote comes down to one of these, and whether that's in earlier or later rounds, but they're all important. Some are easier - and thus tend to separate the amateur that takes things seriously from the person tossing an entry in without any thought at all. Some are harder to master, and thus tend to separate the experienced from the amateur. Others are my personal biases and thus only separate the items I love from the items I like - but my biases not being shared, they don't necessarily translate into "items that have a good shot at the top 32" and "items that don't".

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Lorathorn wrote:

Good to see you around, CrypDyke. Glad to have you back!

Oh, thanks Lorathorn. I don't have a long history around here, but just as I started writing more frequently, I ran into an eye surgery that appeared to go well before suddenly I needed a 2nd eye surgery (really, I guess it went too well, cuz it revealed a new problem). Also, I have 2 kids, and suddenly the summer was gone. Nice to know that someone noticed me here (and gone). Hopefully now that the eyes can look at light as bright as a computer screen without me screaming like Bela Lugosi I'll be around more regularly - though I'm in law school and the new term will make it so I'm not here **too** much.

@Tothric...

Tothric, responding to my accurately-characterised wall-of-text wrote:


Hey CripDyke;

As a person who gave feedback on peoples items before the competition, I feel as if I'm partly responsible for your frustrations. Because, perhaps you are correct. Perhaps work-shopping with other potential voters may impact voting.

Perhaps it was unfair on a competitive level, and perhaps it was unethical.

I'm not an unaffected outsider, so I don't feel qualified to make that call. I do think this needs to be a discussion, and perhaps; work-shopping is unsportsmanlike.

I don't really make that call either. Workshopping it with your gaming group off-line seems hardly different than just running it past a copy editor. You might get more/different feedback than a good copy editor might give, but you might not get anything useful at all.

I know that I saw items in the voting that were items I recall being discussed on the boards earlier. They weren't necessarily in the same final format, but they were clearly being discussed on the boards. Some were unoriginal (though you don't **know** that people got the idea off the message boards) but whaddayagonnado? Others were ideas that I know were advocated by specific people, not just predictable ideas that might recur.

I chose not to look back through the threads and refresh my memory as to the exact person discussing such an idea, but wandering around the boards saying, "Don't you think we should have a Ring of Cool Idea #5626?" 17 times when no one else is advocating that* -- and then seeing a Ring of Cool Idea #5626 actually in the voting 3 or 4 months later seems to violate the spirit of the anonymity requirement.

That kind of thing, well, I do think that borders on unsportsmanlike...either unsportsmanlike in that you're ripping off an idea that's not yours and benefitting from someone else talking about it online, OR you're coming close to violating anonymity rules.

Even if workshopping as actually envisioned by Paizo happens entirely privately (Blazing 9 is not "workshopping" in the sense Paizo intends), this is the kind of accidental/borderline violation that wouldn't really matter if you were kicking ideas around with some offline or IRC friends and not on the message boards of the company who actually hosts RPGSS.

I don't know. I certainly don't see workshopping as envisioned by Paizo as bad -ethically or practically. I'm certain that all the actions that they take are consistent with trying to give help to budding designers. And that's a very good thing: for those who will never make a dime, at least their own games (and presumably their own fun) will be enhanced. For those who currently run publishers, they get a crop of new designers who (hopefully) will have different ideas by virtue of being different people than the ones who came before. And for those new designers, they make a bit of cash doing something that they clearly are motivated to do anyway. It's always nice to get cash for your hobby.

It's good all around, I just am the type of person to obsess about where the ethical lines get fuzzy. While I don't think I'm in a position to criticize anyone's ethics here, I think the need to encourage people to talk and chat and get ideas from each other - all things that have been proven to enhance creative processes and were talking about an endeavor that falls squarely within the "creative" bailiwick - creates a conflict with the rules of fair play that require anonymity in RPGSS itself.

And so I get all wishy-washy about the right thing to do and have basically decided that - for myself only - any/all workshopping needs to be done with non-Paizo-messageboard-persons for me to feel comfortable with it.

That's all, just my own feeling of comfort with my choices, not a general indictment of anything/ anyone.

All of which is another wall-of-text to say, don't worry about you causing my discomfort. I'm not an east-coaster, but it's all very east-coast-jew typical. Or, I could just go with

Wash, talking to Mal, wrote:

Zoe's out on a deal I always worry. So, it's not out of my way.

I fuss over such things. It's what I do. It's not out of my way.

======================
*in part out of simple respect if it really was an original idea, I don't mean to suggest the idea is bad when I say that no one else was repeating the idea.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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I did submit.

i didn't tell anyone I was submitting and I didn't workshop any items I was considering submitting. Although I consider Blazing 9 (and Russ, yes, Lorathorn **did** know that it was named for the 9 months. That comment was specifically because there weren't 9 months between season 8 and season 9, not because season 9 was the ninth season) a tremendous help, I consider workshopping an item to be, well, a violation of the spirit of the rules.

No, of course I don't buy into the conspiracy theories. Yes, I get it that humans are social creatures.

It can also be good to talk about your ideas - at least enough to make sure it's not the meth talking when you decided the coolest idea in game design ever was when you realized your +7 double-keen laser-falchion of super-decapitation could be 4 sizes larger than your size and do all that extra damage with no penalty to hit because, "Hey, Lasers! No weight!"

But still, it feels different to me to cultivate feedback here instead of with your local game group - or even friends you meet other places on the internet.

So I didn't workshop it here. I thank Blazing 9 for giving me a couple of chances to tinker with ideas of both items and creatures. But it felt to weird (to me - I'm not criticizing anyone else) to use anyone here or that I met here to help me improve an item I might actually submit. But no, I wanted no one to even know if I submitted. It felt better and easier that way.

It was the first time I did, in fact, submit an item and I was off the internet for most of the summer, so it wouldn't be weird for me to not submit. Next year it might be harder to take the pose of disinterested observer, but if I do submit next year, I once again probably won't say anything until I think I've been DQ'd or culled. If anything, I may not mention it until later. Although I ended up being right about being culled, more items were added to the "seen" list after I decided I was likely done than I had expected. If I'd known 40+ more items were yet to be added, I would have held my tongue (or, well, keyboard) a lot longer.

As for being sad I got culled, it's curious. I knew the odds were very poor for me to get through to the final 36, but I know how to use a template, I chose an under-utilized design space, I gave the thing some flavor...and I couldn't make it to the top half of entries.

And that still wouldn't have bothered me except that there are a number of items remaining that just have nothing "special"* about them at all.

but my item did do something special (in the sense of new). It took advantage of under utilized design space and offered up an item that could be used by any character class **and** depended for its use at least as much on role playing as dice rolling. It's no worse at using the template. It's long, using more than 90% of the space allowed. That might hurt it in some head-to-heads. But still. New. Role-playing required for use (and even those items that lend themselves to role-play don't always **require** role-play). It has foreseeable utility. Can be used by anyone of any class. Yes, some characters might have some advantages in using it, but still that's more character-based than class-based.

And then there are items kicking around that seem to have nothing new to offer at all.

That's what gets me. I will clap for every item in the top 32. This is a popularity contest, and I get that. I even wrote something on another thread (pre-3rd cull) about how after Monday's 3rd cull anyone could win because there's only so much you can do - the rest is voter's tastes

But argh - I just can't get a few items that are still around out of my head.

Let it go, I know. But if I knew what could get an item with nothing new to offer past the 3rd cull, I feel like I'd know something very profound.

==================================
*I decline to use "mojo" because I don't want to assume my item does have mojo... I hope I'm talking mojo, but objectively all I can talk about is whether or not it's distinctive, whether or not it's new. A new way to set your arrows on fire to add 1d6 to your damage isn't "new". People have been lighting their arrows on fire for thousands of years before role-playing games as we know them existed. Using a platinum-plated refillable butane lighter to set your arrows on fire to add 1d6 is an idea, possibly even some might think it's a cool idea. But it seems like it couldn't possibly have mojo, could it?

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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@Chris Shaeffer:

Interestingly enough, I noticed that I was getting a more limited supply of items last night, but random doesn't mean patternless: look how easy it is for children to see shapes in the clouds.

So, with no announcement and with the sure and certain knowledge that all culls are officially announced, I went on believing no cull had happened on Monday, despite my prediction on Thursday that one would happen on Friday or monday, and that if one happened Friday I would expect to see one on Monday as well b/c of all the weekend voting.

I had a mild sad that my prediction did not come to pass, and yet! Here we are. I had a better roll on that augury than I thought.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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I'm still seeing a lot of bad-template ones...but they aren't a MAJORITY anymore.

I'm expecting a cull on monday, based on what's been happening so far and that they are unlikely to be working over the weekend, but casual voters will vote more over the weekend.

I calculated earlier that we were down from 693 to 44X (I can't remember) which turned out to be a little over 35% culled.

By tuesday afternoon, latest, I expect another cull to take us to about 50% culled, 50% remaining.

There's still time for a couple culls after that, though, and we might be down to 150-250 items a week from now (saturday the 29th) as we vote the final order that will determine the 32 (+4, we presume) that make it through. [though I think that there's a very good chance the 3rd cull will simply be the last and we'll have 300 or so items vying

While you still only have a 1 in 6 shot with 200 items remaining (assuming yours is one of them), it seems to me that the time to get your map on is Monday/Tuesday night, even though you'll probably be competing against 300+ and have only a 1 in 10 chance.

With 50% of items gone, if yours has survived, your basic design skills are good enough that at that point voters' idiosyncratic tastes will go a long way to deciding who ends up in the top 32. Too many fire items this year? Your fire item might go down in flames, sure. But on the other hand, maybe that's because it's the year for fire items and you'll nova your way to the round of 32.

There's no telling.

So after this next cull when the weekend is done, it's time for those who have items in the competition to think seriously about what comes next.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Feros, your aura shows you to be enchanted by a word-wizard named Terry Pratchett.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Me?

I'm partial to the bladed weapon.

And that one Armor that provides some protection of some kind? That one was awesome.


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It really has to be the fighter.

Emphasis on explorer, but not a ranger. How many of the great stories feature a mage-hero? Sure, mages, but mage-as-hero?

It's the fighter, the possibility that any child with a stick or a toy bow made from willow could become the next Hector or Hippolyta that drove fantasy story telling for centuries.

Do it right. Do the fighter.


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Wow, this is a weird conversation. People almost get to the right place, but then completely veer off the rails:

Mighty Squash said:

Quote:
The lazy naming all around is a bit bothersome, but I think I may be more bothered by catfolk existing at all (especially as a player race) than by their name in particular.

KingmanHighborn responded:

Quote:

I could say the same thing about humans too, lazy name, and more infectious in a world then the bubonic plague.

That said Catfolk have just as much a right to exist in a world as elves and dwarves. And especially humans.

I'm not exactly sure what bothers Mighty Squash about cat folk existing, but it's in keeping with being annoyed at laziness. If you're trying to be imaginative, saying, "Hey, it's just like if something had half the characteristics of you...and half the characteristics of something different, but with which you are terribly familiar because it's part of your everyday life!

yeah, not super imaginative.

KingmanHighborn starts to really get it though: having humans and elves and dwarves is not **less** lazy than having catfolk. I mean, seriously, what could be more lazy than,

Quote:

GameDesigner1: We've got this whole universe with entirely different rules, that are so strange to us we would call them magic! What kind of cool creature would inhabit such a place?

GameDesigner2: Ooh, ooh! I have a cool idea! What if there were intelligent creatures that could think in symbols and express those symbol-ideas using either or both of sound-symbols and visual symbols? They could give birth to live young and - get this! - be bipedal! If we wanted to go all out with the creativity, we could put their sense organs on a specialized limb we could call a "head" at the top of the bipedal body, so that in it's normal walking position it would be as far from the ground as possible. Wow, it would be totally freaky just trying to figure out how to create rules for the perception skill with such a strange positioning of sense-organs, but we could do it? What sorts of senses should we give it?

GameDesigner1: Well, I was thinking we could give it one or two chemical senses - maybe one for sensing airborne chemical sense and another for chemically sensing ingested substances? Then we could give a sense that detects fluid vibrations from about 20 or 30 cycles a minute to about 15,000 to 25,000 cycles per minute. Maybe some sort of electro-magnetic wave based sense as well?

GameDesigner2: Oh, I like it, that's wicked original. What do you think we should call these things?

GameDesigner1: What do you think of ...humans??

The point, of course, is that if you think "Catfolk" is boringly unoriginal, why aren't you even more annoyed at the inclusion of orcs, elves, halflings, and, especially, humans?

Some people here seem to think "Catfolk" is lazy thinking, but "elves" is somehow...not. And humans being in a world of magic is completely overlooked as an issue by too many.

So kudos to KingmanHighborn for at least attempting to make that point.

Then, what happens?

Atarlost sees that people are annoyed at the lazy lack of creativity implied in "Catfolk" and adds this in reference to KingmanHighborn highborn's statement on Catfolk's "right to exist" in the face of people insisting Catfolk are a "lazy" game design choice:

Quote:
No, they really don't. They're a lazy anthropomorphism.

Okay, so Atarlost is on board, right? Lazy = bad, and cat folk are a lazy game design choice, thus their inclusion is condemnable.

I think I've got it.

But just for clarity, Atarlost continues:

Quote:
Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, and the various oriental and Indian races have a mythological basis. If anthropomorphic cats and rats had a mythological basis Paizo would have used the mythological terms like they did for the Indian races that many people don't recognize.

Umm, now I'm a bit confused. They're a lazy anthropomorphism ...that I grant. KingmanHighborn was saying that as well. But "Elves... have a mythological basis," is just another way of saying, "Elves have been used in lots of stories and other creative endeavors. No one attempting game design had to come up with them."

And, sure, Atarlost is correct about that. Elves do have a mythological history. They've been included in stories and games before. How does this make the case that Catfolk, being a lazy design choice, don't "deserve" to be in games as much as elves?

How can this really be read as anything other than, "Catfolk suck because lazy. But elves? Even more super-lazy, because you don't have to create nothin. Not even from such uninspired choices as JustLikeMe, but with cool abilities that I see everyday in a common domesticated animal I might even have been looking at while trying to come up with game design ideas. Nope, you just read the work of people whose highly derivative stories about elves were written 200 years ago, long before even more derivative stories came out. No imagining which abilities are appropriate to add to the humanoid form - it's already been done for you! Super, extra lazy! Therefore, the Catfolk, who are merely lazy design choices and not super-extra-lazy design choices do in fact, as aforementioned, suck."

but Atarlost isn't done:

Quote:
Halflings and Orcs at least predate D&D and halflings can be justified by runaway sexual selection.

Runaway sexual selection leads to luck bonuses? Who knew?

And, um, "they predate D&D and/or are logical outcomes of well-known processes operating on things we can see exist because they is us" isn't exactly making the case that they are any less lazy than Catfolk.

At least Atarlost is almost done, maybe we will finally see the point in all this verbiage arguing condemn-Catfolk-for-being-a-lazy-design-choice, but-don't-condemn-Paladins-or-Elves-or-Longswords-as-lazy-design-choices:
It's okay to have modern anthropomorphic races, but they're hardly in the "you can't have a wide market fantasy game without them" territory that humans and elves fall in, nor do they come with the respectability of Asian mythologies.

Ah. Humans and elves are so overused that you literally can't have a wide-market fantasy game without them.

Catfolk aren't.

So I guess the point is,

Quote:
Wow, humans and elves and magic spells and longswords all super-duper-suck because SO BEEN THERE DONE THAT, but I can't condemn them because genre. But I'll take this pent up rage about being unable to complain about choices truly lacking any imagination at all and apply it to things that have enough imagination to be new to the genre...but not enough to blow my mind with newness. Because, why not complain about imagination that's got some tether to the real world when what really is depressing a person is that other things are even more tethered?

Sorry, Atarlost, I can't go there with you.

The idea that we would end up with lactating hairy-but-not-too-hairy bipeds who mumble incantations to manifest effects without physical cause is soooooo lazy that there's a whole genre for it. I'm not going to condemn someone for including lactating hairy bipeds that are substantially more hairy than the other bipeds because, look, they can jump farther in comparison to their body size than I can and that is a trait of this hairy thing over in the corner of my apartment!

The creativity isn't in humans or elves or Catfolk. None of them are creative.

The creativity is in designing them all in such a way - pointy ears or not, long-jumping or not - that thousands of people can close their eyes after rolling a 14 on a d20 and visualize just what that hairy-verbal-symbol-user accomplished.


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Oh, hell, so much for me lecturing anyone on editing for detail.

When identifying the haunt example here:

Quote:

Examples:

How about page 22/ Numbered Page 24 (both versions) where two - TWO - of the six haunts are missing a Caster Level.

I totally messed up my own system.

it should read

Quote:

Examples:

How about page 24/ Numbered Page 22 (both versions) where two - TWO - of the six haunts are missing a Caster Level.


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There's just a lot of bad analysis going on here.

ElterEgo, quoting LoneKnave:

Quote:


Quote:


You guys keep ignoring the volume of stuff a teleportation circle can carry.
It takes (or could take) a fleet of ships weeks or months to carry as much stuff a teleportation circle could carry in a day.
A teleportation circle doesn't replace 1 ship, it replaces all of them that go to the target destination.
Ships could be useful for short voyages where you make many stops along the way I guess, but teleportation circles can move an incredible amount of stuff incredibly fast.
You are absolutely correct, IF you are shipping a whole bunch of stuff from one location to just one other location very often. However, that isn't what usually happens with trade routes. Trade ships at that approx. level of tech would sail down the coast stopping and trading at each location.

They stop at each location BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO, to get food, fresh water, etc. They do trading while they are there because why not?

If they could go 1000km quicker than they currently go 1 km, you can bet your boots that trading and traveling patterns **would also look different**. The world would simply be different. There's no need to stop at least every 3 days, so highly profitable trade goes quickly between large centers. This in turn changes the economic opportunities available near those centers, concentrating population.

"Trade ships at that approximate tech level" AREN'T at that approximate tech level. Magic is a tech all its own.

This thinking is unbelievably bizarre. Permit me to paraphrase:

Quote:
teleportation wouldn't work that way because in the real world shipping patterns don't conform to teleportation-friendly patterns.

Roll me in dough and call me a biscuit! Real world trading patterns aren't like the trading patterns we would expect in a world of multiple teleportation circles? You don't say! How wise! How insightful!

Sigh.

==============
As for security... really? You think this is more vulnerable than a ship that sinks in a storm? Where do you think you're going to put this teleportation circle?

You do realize that more than a few monarchs can be taken out with a single fireball - much less 20 fireball-attempts. EVERY SETTLEMENT IN THE WORLD ALREADY HAS THIS SECURITY PROBLEM.

The good thing is that you can place more than one target within the same security net, protecting your monarch and your teleportation circles with the same funds, the same security resources, and the same people.

Also...

...trade is good for **everyone**. The more things cycle through different communities/places/markets the more people make money. Every market in the loop makes more money. If you are a nation, you don't want your neighboring nations' trade routes disrupted unless and until you actively go to war and need to deny a specific resource. The threat to these circles is overstated by those who think it would be frequently targeted, and the resources needed to protect them are overstated by those who fail to perceive that any wealthy community will have multiple attractive and vulnerable targets within its borders already.

========

My takeaway? Ships of some kind still exist, though metal ships might be much more available than one would assume. The primary purposes of such ships, however, are not transport of goods between markets. No, one would primarily have resource extraction ships (fishing boats, etc.), escorts (to protect the fishing boats, etc.), troop carriers (to engage in offensive military operations), and war ships (to defend against troop carriers and also against foreign war ships).
========

More later if I have time.


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77. Character is driven to do favors for the deserving needy. Anytime the character stays in a locale maintained by others (no matter whether guest at an isolated farmhouse or paying customer at a large city's busiest inn) for more than 24 hours, the character feels compelled to ask around in a nonchalant/ circumspect way about which good folk seem down on their luck. The favor is usually done in such a way that either it cannot be traced back to the character or the circumstances simply don't allow any opportunity to be thanked or paid back. (A bit of coin left under a pillow or a silent/stilled cure disease might be typical acts of some of these characters.)


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@Rusty -

I got the coupon-links from you. Thanks so much.

Kids will be home in a half-hour, so probably nothing immediate, but I've glanced at both and I'm liking what I see so far.

I have, already, however, noticed one beautiful, but missed, opportunity:

Quote:
the other ogres are absorbed into the ranks of the Ravenous ...

you say at one point.

I read that and found myself groaning at the truncated sentence that i was just sure was supposed to read

Quote:
the other ogres are absorbed into the ranks of the Ravenous, one way or another.

Is it so wrong of me to consider the sentence unfinished without those 4 words?


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And the two captains have the problem licked.

Though ninja'd by kirstov, a special call-out to captain yesterday who has been a magnificent help **twice now**, the first time helping me recall the Blackfire Adepts' name that I had, at the time, forgotten.

Y'all are good people.


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Some people were worried about the 50-100 words. I know I was.

But in addition to Mikko & Jacob telling us that a bit longer was fine, I also took the liberty of word-counting Mikko's sample villain pitch. The result?

126 words.

Curiously, that's about what I was getting for my first 2. (My last one is longer, but hasn't been through editing. What? I have a couple days!)

None of this is to take away from what Mikko said before, however:

Quote:

There's no hard limit, and I don't think 100-200 words is too much by any means. ...

It is, however, advisable to make every word count. The pitch isn't just a summary of the concept, it's also a writing sample.

Ideas are one thing, but you have to write like you care about this one job more than anything else on your plate right now.

Good luck, all.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Also...

Your +5 bonus is untyped.

Although costing a +1 enhancement probably makes it worth it, I'd probably specify "circumstance bonus" (since they generally stack) or otherwise make it clear that it would stack with, say, competence skill bonuses from other items.

If you were running up against word limits, it IS untyped, so you might let that stand. As short as this is, there's no point in not being clear.


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This is exactly why sun rods in my pathfinder setting are an inch long, provide less light, and last for 10 or 20 seconds.

Also, I don't believe that tanglefoot bags exist in the really real world...therefore I ban tanglefoot bags in my pathfinder campaign.

Oh, and the Urgrosh.

And spells - magic spells don't work in the really real world, so they don't work in my pathfinder setting either.

On the other hand, shark cartilage cures disease almost instantly with a single dose. Really! it works!

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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To my surprise I hadn't yet congratulated Monica.

I do so now, and add a heartfelt respect for the 3 other finalists and everyone who took the contest seriously.

Christopher, I hope you have a chance to flesh out your module for someone - Paizo or not.

Good luck to all.


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Okay, so despite the apparent confidence at the beginning, there simply is very little consensus here over the course of the 75+ comment discussion.

Let me reframe the discussion (and summarize what we've learned) so we have a chance to get some agreement:

1. Off hand can go first. Primary hand can go first.

2. With the Primary hand, all attacks must be in BAB order.

3. The extra attacks gained from the I/G feats in the TWF chain must be taken in order, the basic TWF attack first, the ITWF next, the GTWF third.

4. No rule constrains the way a character alternates between primary and off-hand attacks. A character could take all off-hand first, or just one or two, then take a primary attack, then one or two more off-hand, etc. O+11/ O+6/ P+11/ P+6/ P+1/ O+1 is a valid order for attacks gained through BAB plus the attacks gained for fighting with a second weapon and for ITWF and GTWF. A haste attack, by RAW, could be added anywhere in that sequence.

Now, the arguments, as I understand those others have made and as I extend them with my own:

With "extra" attacks - from haste, from TWF, ITWF, GTWF, etc., the order of the extra attacks isn't specified.

HOWEVER, the "penalty" from ITWF is written like so:

Quote:


Benefit: In addition to the standard single extra attack you get with an off-hand weapon, you get a second attack with it, albeit at a –5 penalty.

It never says "-5 penalty to BAB". It says "a second attack ... at a -5 penalty". The attack is penalized, your BAB isn't.

Thus there no BAB rule that orders your off-hand attack. It does say a "second" attack, and that could be reasonably interpreted as second temporarily, not merely "you get a gold piece and a second gold piece because your service was good" where, as your patron is leaving, you receive 2 coins dropped into your hand and supposedly one is the "second" coin, but they fall into your hand at the same moment - there is no temporal distinction.

This is a reasonable argument for freedom within RAW, but I think it's very likely that RAI ...especially given that primary attacks are ordered by BAB... is that the attack at a -5 penalty comes sometime after the off-hand attack without the -5 penalty.

Greater TWF is written the same way:

Quote:


You get a third attack with your off-hand weapon, albeit at a –10 penalty.

I agree with Weirdo above, also, when Weirdo writes:

Quote:


You read, as far as I can tell, "You can strike with either your left or right hand first."

This is not informative; striking with your right or left hand is not meaningful in PF. In order for this statement to be complete and meaningful, you have to add a rule to it, namely: "The first weapon you attack with becomes the primary weapon." There's no way that the sentence "If you are using two weapons, you can strike with either weapon first" includes within itself a restriction on which weapon is primary. If no such restriction can be found in print, you are adding a rule that does not exist in order to force this interpretation to make sense.

Note that the lack of the restriction is not likely to be accidental. There is no reason to say "you may strike with either weapon," intend for that choice to designate your first weapon as primary, and not state that restriction.

I would add another argument for Weirdo being correct. Remember that in the rules, if the off-hand weapon is light, both off-hand and primary-hand gain a benefit that cancels out 2 points worth of penalties. It does not state "if both weapons are light". Therefore someone wielding a

lead cudgel of really, really heavy smashing in one hand
and a
tiny pin of effortless poking in the other

takes -4/-4 if the tiny pin is the primary-hand weapon but -2/-2 if the tiny pin is the off-hand weapon.

Remembering the real life example used to illustrate how other meanings of the phrase would be deceptive (which we assume the devs aren't:

Quote:


saying "You may return your rental at any time Tuesday" if you mean "You may return your rental at any time Tuesday, but if you return it after noon you will have to pay a late fee." That's not an accident, that's being intentionally deceptive

Saying,

Quote:
You may begin your attacks with either weapon

while leaving off

Quote:
But off course if you choose to attack with the tiny pin first, your GM will subject you to 2 points of penalties you did not expect, bwahahahahahaha

is just stupidly mean and deceptive.

I choose not to believe that about the devs, therefore I accept Weirdo's argument that off-hand attacks can go before primary attacks

OR
primary attacks can go before off-hand attacks. Either way is fine, with no effect on which weapon you name your "off-hand" weapon.

However, I also agree with the argument that your off-hand attack @-5 from ITWF must come after your off-hand attack from TWF and before your off-hand attack from GTWF.

This looks like a good understanding of the actual rules to me.

Also, the stuff earlier about the previous FAQ all looks irrelevant to me- it was written to answer a very different question, and the devs have been clear that a FAQ answers only the question asked.

So are we good here?

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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I picked the 4 that continued. First round that I've been perfect - heck it's the first round that I've even had my official votes all get through, much less my "top half" all get through. But with fewer to pick from, it does get a little easier.

If I've discovered one thing following this - and this is the first time I've really even noticed RPGSS, I've only known of its existence before, not actually read/followed/voted at all - it's all about dashes.

No, wait. I've discovered another thing: I'm not a SuperStar. Had I known about this contest early enough, I think I could put together a very well written item under 300 words. It's not at all clear whether it would have been popular enough to make it to the top 32, there's a lot of luck and sales there, but I don't doubt that I have the chops to make a 32-worthy entry. (Maybe I sound arrogant here, but I've published and I don't feel like the work I've published has been flukey-good. I know that I have some level of facility with the English language.)

And, looking at the maps, I don't doubt that I have the ability to make it to the top 16 if I make the top 32 - not that I **would** make it, but that I'm not so limited by my skills that I couldn't make it. No, I think I have the chops to make it to round 3. Especially since it's quite obvious that some of those round-2 entries were severely limited by time or other factors - not everyone who has time to make up a magic item once a year is really ready to work to deadline in the contest. They might very well be better than me if they take the time, but some work in round 2 showed that some folks simply weren't planning on taking the later rounds seriously and got caught unprepared to do the map-work.

But I honestly don't know if I have the **chops** to make it INTO round 4, and reading these encounters and the ones that didn't make it, I don't think I even **could** make it to the final round. These 4 entries are all better than anything I think I would come up with in the kind of time constraints a person has during this contest. Sure I'm a parent and blah-de-blah. But other people have constraints on their time, too, and we have 4 turning out work this good?

No, I might submit an item for the first time next year. And I think I have good chops given an infinite amount of time to play with an idea before the deadline rolls around, but I'm just damn impressed with everyone in the top 16's abilities to work not merely well, but work well to deadline.

Allow me to use this occasion to salute you all again: the top 32 did a good job, and the top 16 have all impressed me quite a bit.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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@Owen KC Stephens.

That's okay.

I mean, it's not superstar. Superstars work to deadlines all the time. But it's fine and not disqualifying or anything...

;-)

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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My bête noire?

Quote:

...but its TRUE power...

Oh, please.

So it doesn't actually do that other thing you just said it does? That's its false power? What?

Worse, if possible, are "...but its real power..." and "...but its actual power...".

It turns out my REAL power as a voter was to down vote every item that used this.

Lots of items have multiple functions. Inevitably, most functions will be different in power. This does not make one more "real" or more "true" as a power than any other. Frankly, this was a quirk of one or a few writers in Advanced D&D that has been reflexively (and, IMNSHO, regretfully) been carried forward.

If you really think that the other power isn't "true" or "real", fine. Why did you include it? Did you make it clear that the item just tricks its owner into thinking it does that?

If you really think that the other power is "true" or "real" or "actual" and you used this phrase anyway, it says that you haven't even thought about what the words you are writing actually mean.

If you can write an item without thinking, well, I compliment you on possessing this odd ability, but it's not remotely something I would consider "superstar".

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Of course I've already congratulated the top 32+4, but I will say again, that I'm glad for all of you. Each and every one of you taught me something.

As for the top 16, well, the maps are potentially interesting, but not what I've been waiting for. My plots don't always permit the adoption of others' sites. And while others' monsters are likewise unlikely to become a **feature** in my game, they can (and I'm sure will) make appearances - especially in the CR 4-7 sweet spot, which, given the contest rules, all the new monsters must fit within. Bwahahahahaha. (A bit sad to see the CR4 neglect, b/c they really make the perfect capstone BBEoLs for the level 1-2 characters and thus tend to define "terror" for the bulk of common folk, but really, I'll live).

So rock on, congratulations, let's see something spectacular that I can use in my games!

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Rats are doing the Conga for you, all over Golarion. Good job.

Like Cthulhudrew, I hadn't noticed a couple of things that the judges did. My bad for that.

But your good was that I think I didn't notice them because I was just damned exited about the rod itself. This thing is **cool** with a capital **oo**.

Problems? Okay, the judges have ID'd some and I won't gainsay them. They're right. I was wrong not to pay more attention to some of those things. But I see mojo in this for sure.

Good luck!

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Rats are doing the Conga for you, all over Golarion. Good job.

I truly appreciate an item that can be useful to NPCs and PCs alike. I can see a city guard stationing these shields at each major gate, with the watch officer carrying it and passing it on to the next watch officer. Given everything that goes into building a solid gatehouse (and guarding it) a city ought to be able to afford this for its gates.

But PCs too can use it in many circumstances. I just like it.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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Rats are dancing the conga all over Golarion for you. Good job.

It's a lot of smashing and not a lot else, but hey, there's a reason "Hulk SMASH!" has made it into the popular culture.

I think people will have fun with it. I'd be happy to see it in a game.

@Liz:
"Another "X of Y" item! I feel like i need to play a game of Rampage after this."

I feel like that after any item that uses some variant of the phrase,

"but the TRUE power of this X is..."