For myself, I read them all without looking at the judges comments. When i was done i went back through the list, looked at the names and if I could remember what they were about, they made my short list. From there, I re-read the ones on the short list and decided from there. In no particular order:
I personally think there is more subtlety here than people see at first glance
I agree with Section8in this respect.
I feel that with the obvious errors aside (Malar = FR diety? I didn't know that either??, DM not= Dungeon Master???), this entry has a lot to offer a party in terms of intrigue and depth of play. Just getting into the country is a great way to start off the campaign.
Refering to the inhabitants as LN gives a good indication that the "DM" would be free to put as mundane or monstrous a face on the hobgoblins as they see fit. In any LN society you would have the good with the bad. By declaring the entire state as a "monstrous" country, we are assuming that EVERY hobgoblin must be evil. Why not take the stance that the evil hobgoblins we see elsewhere are the refuse of the Malarite society that have been kicked out to make their own way in the world? I personnaly think it was a very bold move to make this the "homeland" of the hobgoblin and allows for a lot of DM creativity with the local NPC's.
This was the first coutry I reviewed and frankly, I am giving it a vote simply because I liked the hobgoblin "slap" that came half way through. It really hooked me at that point. None of the others that I have read have had such a BIG hook right at the point where you really needed it.
I like this item because it would allow the non healer type characters to take care of the healer in case they get taken down in combat. I don't know how many times i've seen our mage or cleric go down to a hit that wouldn't phase my barbarian and the barbarian standS about saying "Uh... you okay?" lol!
I love the item. It has all kinds of nasty uses. Drop it in a treasure horde and watch the fun!
Unfortunately, without the aforementioned association with the box, i still feel that this is a monster, not an item (but then again, i'm not a judge am I!!) LOL!
IMO, a work that is supposed to be entirely original should not "draw" a name from any source. I do like the simplicity and usefulness. Clerics the world over would like this one! Good luck in the next round.