A little advice for the finalists...


RPG Superstar™ 2009 General Discussion

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

You're so close... sooooOOOOO CLOSE!!!

You can almost taste victory!

But how do you make sure you don't trip over the finish line?

Well... you can't. You can put together a proposal that you think rocks hard, but people will like it or not like it, and add it with what you've done before, and you might win or you might lose. But big congratulations for making it this far. Still, a few final words might be helpful to keep in mind to make sure all 4 of you put out the best thing you can, so without further ado I provide Uncle Jason's Seven Secrets for the RPG Superstar Final Four (not that they're secret, and why listen to me since I didn't even win it anyway, but hey, take em for what they're worth!):

1. Rein in the size and scope

Rob, me, and especially Boomer all got nailed on this one - that our adventure proposals were simply way too big to fit into a 32-page adventure. Some said Boomer's was more a whole campaign than an adventure. You definitely want big IDEAS, but resist the temptation to try stacking the deck by trying to make your adventure do too many different things.

I went through a bunch of the Paizo modules and thought I had calibrated a pretty good number of encounters, social and combat, to what was the average, but a lot of folks didn't agree, and "a lot of folks" are who is voting. If you think your adventure pitch sounds like it has too few encounters, you're probably a lot closer to "just right" than you think.

2. Don't hand-wave non-combat encounters

Sure, we all like a good dungeon crawl, but nowadays we like chances for interaction and dialogue with NPCs and non-combat events. The thing is, those are ten times trickier to run than combat encounters, so if you include them (and by all means you should if they fit with what you're doing), give a little bit of meaty detail in the description to describe how you'll handle them.

The same is true for other kinds of non-combat encounters - things that require skills or puzzles to overcome.

3. Don't use shorthand

Sure, it seems like a good way to save on word count - use numbered lists, bullet points, and common gamer shorthand - but find some other place to save and don't skimp here. Don't bury yourself in purple prose, but keep it narrative. It shows your skills as a writer and it makes it feel more like a proposal and less like a shopping list. For some reason, the second half of my proposal ended up like this last year; I don't recall now if I ran out of time or if I ran into a word count issue or what, but I don't think it served me well. I think I'm a pretty good writer, but I messed this part up last year, what should be the simplest part of all.

4. Avoid extraneous encounters

Red herrings, tricks, dead-ends, and side-treks are fun to use in an ongoing D&D campaign, but when you're up against a word/page count, you probably won't have time or space to include things that are irrelevant to the main adventure. You can have things that derail PCs to one side or the other, but there should be a connection that brings them back to the main event. I had a neat encounter at the start of my adventure that in the first draft was connected more tightly to the plot but in the editing process ended up getting cut off. It was still neat, but now it was extraneous and stood out as such. That was a mistake, and ironically one that might have come from having TOO MUCH time to think about the adventure - you start to out-think yourself...

5. Find your big beginning

Journalism 101 is "don't bury the lead" - leave the most important and interesting part of the story till somewhere in paragraph 5. If you haven't grabbed the reader by the throat in paragraphs 1 and 2, they'll never get to 5. You can have backstory and a LITTLE BIT of prelude, but get the PCs into the action ASAP. Find out where the adventure REALLY begins and start there. You waste too much time on preliminaries and the reader/publisher starts to lose interest. This was another mistake I made - taking too long to get to the "James Bond with genies" part of the adventure. Sure, that stuff at the beginning was nice enough, but too big a piece of the proposal compared to how important it was to the overall adventure.

Sure, part of publishing adventures is for DMs to read, so there is a value in putting some stuff in there that is realistically only for the DM, but that's what you can put into the finished MANUSCRIPT. In the PROPOSAL, focus on the action that's going to happen at the gaming table, and only put in enough backstory and preamble/DM background to frame the story. The action of the adventure should be able to tell its own story.

6. Find your happy ending

Beginnings are important, but so are finishes, and your adventure needs a climax, and that climax needs for the PCs to be the stars of the show. People dinged Rob last year for an "Elminster" ending, where the climax had the PCs release a super-duper good guy to fight the super-duper bad guy. Which is cool in a way, but a lot of people objected on the basis of the NPC ally really being the star of the final encounter and the PCs were reduced to spectators or cleaning up the mooks below the "real" battle. Fair or unfair, perception is reality in a voting competition.

7. For Heaven's sake, make it AWESOME!

This is, of course, the most important rule of all, and one that is spelled out plain and simple in the guidelines for this round: Don't be boring.

Whatever you turn in, make sure that you love it. If you're gonna go down, go down swinging and bring something to the party that you love! Win or lose, you went down with your best stuff and if that wasn't good enough then a big thumbs up to the winner and it was a heckuva fun ride getting to the Final Four.

Hope this helps, best of luck to everybody. You have all done great stuff to get this far, and I hope you all bring it big time in the final round.

Grand Lodge

S
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One last thing you missed, Seoni needs to be in them. basically she the El of golarion. ^^


Good advice from the OP- and I'll second his call for awesomeness.
Obviously, y'all's submissions need to work as adventures, and your grammar has to be correct, and your word-count, and alla that- but- come on, you guys are the Top 4 this year- you all know what not to trip over in terms of basic basics. (And the OP gave great advice re. additional pitfalls).
But that said, you - you the competitors - also have to be having FUN too. If your submission is boring YOU, chances are good that we'll be bored too.

Last year, I always liked Christine's entries because I always thought she was mining some deep poetry from her heart-(and yes- she also had *excellent* game design!)- and ditto goes for my fave contestant for this year. Don't be crazy and gonzo just for the hella of it- but please, please have PASSION. Again- if you're bored, chances are, so will I be- and if you're painting-by-the-numbers- I'll probably sense that too.

What I love about Paizo's offerings is the fun, the passion, the juice, the zest they have.

In short: Be tangy, and ENJOY yourselves!

Here endeth the lesson.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 4

I promise, if it was up to me, Seoni would be on the cover with mirror image up! That my friend, sales adventures.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

That's good advice...

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Yeah, I agree that's good advice.

Looking back, I think even Christine's proposal was in the "too much stuff going on" department, so this year it's going to be even more difficult to get through by simply cramming in as many awesome ideas as you can imagine.

Sean K Reynolds developed "Clash of the Kingslayers," and I know one of the most agonizing parts of that process was cutting material that simply didn't fit within the 32-page package size. As he's one of the judges, I suspect he'll be paying special attention to this aspect this year.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Erik Mona wrote:

Yeah, I agree that's good advice.

Looking back, I think even Christine's proposal was in the "too much stuff going on" department, so this year it's going to be even more difficult to get through by simply cramming in as many awesome ideas as you can imagine.

Sean K Reynolds developed "Clash of the Kingslayers," and I know one of the most agonizing parts of that process was cutting material that simply didn't fit within the 32-page package size. As he's one of the judges, I suspect he'll be paying special attention to this aspect this year.

AND: Since I'm also one of the judges for that section, and I was at Ground Zero in trying to make sure that Christine's adventure retained everything it needed to retain to still be her adventure while still fitting into those 32 pages... he won't be the ONLY judge looking at the four entries with that kind of critical eye this time around! :-)

Jason's advice is GREAT advice. Especially the part where he mentions, "If you think you've probably got too few encounters, you're probably right where you need to be."

The Exchange Kobold Press

Great advice, Jason. And yet I can't help but point out that Vault of the Drow is only 32 pages long....

Having written Crucible of Chaos not so very long ago, I swear to you that there's really enough room to pack a TON of material in. But you have to choose carefully how you build it out -- you can handwave entire new cities of drowfolk or entire fallen civilizations.

Keep the number of action and roleplay encounters reasonable. Make the scenery memorable and dramatic, but don't overdetail it.

And just remember that it only takes three simple elements to make dynamite.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Excitement, JJ on Good Times, and....?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Erik Mona wrote:

Excitement, JJ on Good Times, and....?

No, no... that's dyn-o-mite!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Great advice, Jason. And yet I can't help but point out that Vault of the Drow is only 32 pages long....

True... but not every writer is Gary Gygax. :P


James Jacobs wrote:
Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Great advice, Jason. And yet I can't help but point out that Vault of the Drow is only 32 pages long....
True... but not every writer is Gary Gygax. :P

Stat blocks left much more room for other words in those days, didn't they?

Edit:
The closest thing I've seen to an 'old' module is only the reprint of Tomb of Horrors in the Return to the Tomb of Horrors boxed set, but I assume that to have been a faithful re-production and it had dozens of simple illustrations in to show the players, besides the mechanics of all those TPK traps...

Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Erik Mona wrote:
Excitement, JJ on Good Times, and....?

Smurfs, of course.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

To help everyone out on this...

Dynamite.
Dynomite.
Dyno Mutt.
:-D

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Great advice, Jason. And yet I can't help but point out that Vault of the Drow is only 32 pages long....
True... but not every writer is Gary Gygax. :P

Stat blocks left much more room for other words in those days, didn't they?

Indeed. When frickin Eclavdra has a stat block that's probably less than 200 words, most of which is her spell list, it's a whole different kinda party. All of those drow NPCs... aiyiyi...

But still, Wolf is right - you gotta be strategic and tactical with how you build what you write.

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Edit:

The closest thing I've seen to an 'old' module is only the reprint of Tomb of Horrors in the Return to the Tomb of Horrors boxed set, but I assume that to have been a faithful re-production and it had dozens of simple illustrations in to show the players, besides the mechanics of all those TPK traps...

I liked the illustration booklets and thought they were a great feature, but I think only Tomb of Horrors, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan had them (I think Ghost Tower of Inverness may have had a couple of pull-out pages for illos, but not a full booklet). It's cool to have illos that you can show the party without having to fold up your adventure or flash the text at them along with the pic.

I don't know if that kind of thing would be cost-prohibitive nowadays, or if we as gamers are too jaded to expecting painted full-color art vs. B/W illustrations, but I thought they were great stuff.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 , Dedicated Voter Season 6

Wolfgang Baur wrote:
And just remember that it only takes three simple elements to make dynamite.

Four :) Glycerin, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, and a stablizing medium such as sawdust or diatomaceous earth.

And this little off-topic drift has me back on the DHS watch list...

Oblig. on topic: I'd appreciate more detail than Vault of the Drow gave, it takes a lot of DM work to make that classic gem shine. But Crucible of Chaos is indeed a nice example of what you can pack in, as is Entombed with the Pharaohs.

Really looking forward to this year's top four. I'd offer advice, but I'm obviously not in that league :)

Star Voter Season 6

Wolfgang Baur wrote:


Having written Crucible of Chaos not so very long ago, I swear to you that there's really enough room to pack a TON of material in. But you have to choose carefully how you build it out -- you can handwave entire new cities of drowfolk or entire fallen civilizations.

Crucible of Chaos is one of my very favorite modules of third edition. It is, indeed, amazing what you can do with 32 pages.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 9 aka Zynete

Jason Nelson, I think that you might need to update your profile, or tell me where I need to go to vote for you, because I don't know where to vote for you!

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Zynete wrote:
Jason Nelson, I think that you might need to update your profile, or tell me where I need to go to vote for you, because I don't know where to vote for you!

Ummm... yeah, I suppose I should update it, since I'm sure I haven't touched it since I made one at the outset of last year's RPG Superstar.

You can vote for me anytime, anywhere, for anything! I'm an excellent write-in candidate!


For those of you who missed it, I posted a demented 'vote for me' ditty/song on Neil's Round 4 thread. :)

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Tarren Dei

Jason Nelson wrote:
Zynete wrote:
Jason Nelson, I think that you might need to update your profile, or tell me where I need to go to vote for you, because I don't know where to vote for you!

Ummm... yeah, I suppose I should update it, since I'm sure I haven't touched it since I made one at the outset of last year's RPG Superstar.

You can vote for me anytime, anywhere, for anything! I'm an excellent write-in candidate!

Congratulations, Jason. You've just been elected president of Scott Allan Witmer. It was a close election but with Scott Allan Witmer's legal troubles, support for him as president of Scott Allen Witmer dried up. I hear that even Scott Allen Witmer's wife voted for you saying, "Scott's so screwed up. Jason certainly can't do a worse job."

Good luck in your new position.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Tarren Dei wrote:
Jason Nelson wrote:
Zynete wrote:
Jason Nelson, I think that you might need to update your profile, or tell me where I need to go to vote for you, because I don't know where to vote for you!

Ummm... yeah, I suppose I should update it, since I'm sure I haven't touched it since I made one at the outset of last year's RPG Superstar.

You can vote for me anytime, anywhere, for anything! I'm an excellent write-in candidate!

Congratulations, Jason. You've just been elected president of Scott Allan Witmer. It was a close election but with Scott Allan Witmer's legal troubles, support for him as president of Scott Allen Witmer dried up. I hear that even Scott Allen Witmer's wife voted for you saying, "Scott's so screwed up. Jason certainly can't do a worse job."

Good luck in your new position.

That rules! It's the bestest country to be president of - very portable, yknow!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Gamer Girrl

Jason Nelson wrote:
Tarren Dei wrote:
Jason Nelson wrote:
Zynete wrote:
Jason Nelson, I think that you might need to update your profile, or tell me where I need to go to vote for you, because I don't know where to vote for you!

Ummm... yeah, I suppose I should update it, since I'm sure I haven't touched it since I made one at the outset of last year's RPG Superstar.

You can vote for me anytime, anywhere, for anything! I'm an excellent write-in candidate!

Congratulations, Jason. You've just been elected president of Scott Allan Witmer. It was a close election but with Scott Allan Witmer's legal troubles, support for him as president of Scott Allen Witmer dried up. I hear that even Scott Allen Witmer's wife voted for you saying, "Scott's so screwed up. Jason certainly can't do a worse job."

Good luck in your new position.

That rules! It's the bestest country to be president of - very portable, yknow!

But the fumes, man, the fumes! Sounds like the country might be a bit on the toxic side :)

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 4

You could always start mining and barreling all those fumes. I'm sure car will be running of it soon enough and then you'll be a key exporter in North American.

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