Advice for Round One


RPG Superstar™ 2010 General Discussion

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Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

For those about to put together a submission for Paizo's RPG Superstar 2010 contest, I thought it might be worthwhile to offer a bit of advice and insight into what I think makes an eye-catching Top 32 wondrous magic item. Keep in mind, I don't offer any of this advice because I have some puffed up sense of self-importance...or because I think I know everything about the perfect way to design an entry for RPG Superstar. I'm really grateful I made it in last year and was quite surprised that I did. So this is just an attempt to share with everyone the thought process I went through last year...why I made certain decisions...what goals I set for myself...and how I set about trying to achieve them...all in the interests of maybe helping someone else get their foot in the door. So, with all that in mind, here goes:

Spoiler:

Familiarize Yourself With What's Been Done Before:
If this is your first time participating in RPG Superstar, take the time to review the archived messageboards for the previous two competitions, particularly the threads where Clark Peterson reviewed items that got rejected (and why). That will help you know what to avoid, but it'll also help you identify what might have been a "good" idea, but not quite a "great" enough idea to make the Top 32. Secondly, make sure you look through all of the winning entries from the last two contests. Pay particular attention to not only what the judges liked about them, but also look through the comments that came in from the voting public. Notice what caught everyone's eye. This will help you know what to strive for in your own design. Also, look through some of Paizo's current products. Skim through them to find the sidebars or appendices that cover new magic items. Absorb what you can about their presentation style and uniqueness. Try and duplicate those approaches in your design. And, as you start to educate yourself on these things, you'll improve your submission...as well as your chances for making the Top 32.

Find the Road Less Traveled:
Another important approach I tried to apply last year involved selecting an item that no one else would do. Why? Because you don't want your work to be compared to someone else's and have one that's slightly better than yours edge you out simply because the judges saw too many items of the exact same theme or object. For example, "coin" items...particularly coins that helped with divination magic...showed up aplenty in RPG Superstar 2008. And, while someone may have designed one of those coins really well, if it wasn't you...you're out that much more quickly because your item is immediately (consciously or subconsciously) compared to the others. So, try and find a way to stand out.

How do you go about this? For me, I simply walked through all of the ideas I had in mind and if it involved a cloak, a pair of bracers, a helmet, a pair of boots, etc., I seriously considered not writing that one up as my submission. Of course, if I had an absolutely killer idea for one of those things that I felt for sure no one else would potentially duplicate, then yeah...I might have gone ahead and done it. But, as long as I could come up with an equally killer idea for an item that wouldn't involve one of those things, I preferred that one. And, in fact, that's what I did. My submission last year was a magic leaf. How often have you seen a magic leaf show up in a book of magic items? Almost never. Now that in itself, wasn't enough to make me select the magic leaf for my item. I had to have a killer idea to pair with it. And by tying it to the abilities granted by the last leaf of the autumn dryad, I felt like I had something eye-catching and unique enough to champion it over any other idea I had at the time.

The most important piece of advice here is really, "Be Creative." Don't just go for an item that duplicates a spell. Otherwise, your item will get labeled as a Spell-in-a-Can and get passed over much more quickly because it shows an extreme lack of creativity. Now, granted, there are plenty of great magic items that have become staples for the game which do exactly that...i.e., they just duplicate a spell effect. And that's okay. They're good, useable magic items. But that's not what RPG Superstar is trying to discover. Instead, the goal in the wondrous item round is to come up with something that's "not been done before" or "hasn't quite been done this way before" in such a manner that it gets people talking about it.

How do you know if something's been done before? Well, for starters, check the magic items in every sourcebook you own (the 3.5 DMG, the Pathfinder RPG core rulebook, the Magic Item Compendium if you own one, and as many Paizo adventure modules and Dragon magazines as you can thumb through). Personally, I relied primarily on the 3.5 SRD for magic items, the previous RPG Superstar competition, the Magic Item Compendium, and a handful of Pathfinder adventure modules. If nothing in those entries seemed to duplicate my item, I knew I had a reasonable chance of crafting something unique...and unique enough that other contestants probably wouldn't create something similar to it.

One other mental trick I performed while searching out ideas for a wondrous item involved thinking through all the everyday, normal, mundane items and objects I could imagine. Boots, hats, cloaks, belts, etc. are certainly examples, but as I said before there are plenty of these types of items already...and unless I had a killer idea for one, I wanted to avoid those. So, what about other stuff? Lanterns, coins, musical instruments, boxes or chests, ropes, grappling hooks, chalk, etc. A lot of these items appear in the Equipment list. If you can select one of those items and come up with a new effect to place on it, you can start exploring some things that others might be less likely to duplicate. How about rocks, leaves, sticks, snowflakes, vials of pure water or sand, an animal's claw or skin, etc.? All of these objects occur naturally. What kind of magical effect could you weave around one of those? I went through an examination of objects in this manner to try and find a physical manifestation for my wondrous item that would be unique. Hence, that's where the last leaf of the autumn dryad got its beginnings. From there, I still had to go through the mental exercise of what type of power it might have...and a backstory for how it came to be, of course...but sometimes, you get your greatest jumpstart on a new wondrous item just by selecting the physical object first and then imagining who might have a magic version of it and what it might do.

Name Your Item Something Really Cool That Oozes Flavor:
I've said this elsewhere before, but I really think names and titles for any submission are super-important. Why? Because it's the first thing anyone reads. It will paint an immediate mental picture for the reader and has the potential to hook them right away by making them ask questions and want to read further. So make it something great! Something evocative. Something "magical" and almost legendary that grabs on and won't let go. Don't create a campy, generic, run-of-the-mill name. That tends to come off as uninspiring and pedestrian...or, worse, demonstrate you have a lack of creativity. And you don't want to leave that impression, believe me, or it will put you behind your fellow competitors in the minds of the voters/readers even if your item does make it into the Top 32.

Use the Proper Format:
Read the rules. Right now. Go back and read them several times. They give you the guidelines on how you should format your item. They even make reference to seeing how wondrous items are currently presented in the Pathfinder RPG core rulebook. Here's the template:

ItemName
Aura ZZstrength ZZschool; CL ZZth
Slot ZZslot; Price ZZ gp; Weight ZZ lbs.
Description
ItemDescriptionParagraph
Construction
Requirements ZZfeats, ZZspells, ZZother; Cost ZZ gp

Don't rely on previous years of the competition. New rules have been published since then. New creation guidelines exist. Paizo has new products that have come out, too. And the rules could always change slightly from year-to-year. I'll also tell you another reason why this is important. It demonstrates early on whether you a) pay attention, b) can follow instructions, and c) have the organization skills to make sure your work is always crisp and clean, thereby allowing your editors and developers to do their jobs better. So, if you can hit your marks on proper formatting, that's an immediate plus in your favor. It shows you have an attention to detail. But miss this mark and you do so at your own peril, because it runs the risk of showing the voters/readers that you don't pay attention, you can't follow simple instructions, and you're not very organized or thoughtful in how you craft your stuff. Miss this one badly enough and the voters won't ever get to see your item to realize you lack these skills, because the judges won't select you for the Top 32 anyway.

Shoot For Making the Top 5 Favorites, Not Just the Top 32:
I think it's pretty important to come charging hard right out of the gate by making a wondrous item that doesn't just catch the eyes of the judges enough to select you for the Top 32...but, rather, catches the eyes of the voting public (who don't actually have a vote until later rounds) to see your item as being in their Top 5 favorites. Why is this important? Because, if you can get that kind of attention as a contestant early on in the competition, it gets everyone excited to see what you'll do next. They'll eagerly await your Round Two entry, and having that kind of audience anticipation can be a great thing for your confidence and future success. Now, you still have to deliver in Round Two with something equally as great as your Top 32 item. But, the mere fact that you have already captured everyone's interest in your designs is definitely a boon. Try and take advantage of that potential following, if you can, by selecting an idea to base your wondrous item around that absolutely rocks!

It's true that each round of the competition "resets" as a new assignment comes. And, the voters generally evaluate you on what you put together for each specific round. But, and I think this is important, you're also building a portfolio of work. Many voters assess that when it comes time for them decide on who to assign a vote when they have multiple submissions they like equally well. By building an early body of work that's really strong, you set yourself up for success in later rounds of the competition. And, though the voters don't get to select your item for the Top 32, it is most definitely a part of your portfolio throughout the entire competition.

Don't Forget the Crunch and Don't Forget the Flavor:
It isn't enough to just have a creative idea for an item and flowery text that describes it and paints a vivid picture. It also has to be mechanically-sound and harmonize with the rules rather than clash with them. Don't duplicate a class ability and undermine the importance of playing a particular class. Don't create something that requires a whole new set of rules to adjudicate how it would function in relation to other aspects of the game. Likewise, don't create an item that focuses too intently on something mechanically cool (e.g., the cleric's channeling power) and forget to design some compelling text around it that summons up great imagery for the reader and gets them excited by already envisioning how they'd use your item in their own game. Find a blend between these two elements. Showing you can do both demonstrates your versatility as a designer. And, in truth, every designer needs to be fairly good at both these things...and hopefully, excellent at one or both of them as well.

I struggled in this area last year, and thankfully, my submission had strong enough flavor to compensate for some mechanical weaknesses. So make sure you think through your "great" idea by imagining all the ways it could be used or abused by players and various classes within the game. Make sure you don't confuse or contradict the way your item works within the rules. Be clear, be concise, and be specific...all in tune with the rules-as-written. This shows you know your stuff at the same time you're demonstrating your skill at painting vivid pictures with your words.

One other bit advice for this category is to look for items that allow you to develop something mechanically interesting about them. Drawing upon some less-used skill mechanics, combat maneuvers, class ability, etc. can be a good way to empower how a device works...or how it works more effectively in the hands of someone better suited to use it. These kinds of approaches to your design can also help set it apart. And, if done really well, you can take home the prize for most innovative concept, which could set you within the Top 5 favorites of a lot of people.

Don't Overdo Your Item:
Watch out for power creep and glomming on too many abilities and functions. You might logically think some chain of powers makes sense for your item, but if you include all of them, you could turn it into a Swiss-army knife with a major lack of design focus. Instead, once you've put together all the abilities of your item, try stepping back from it to gain a better perspective. If it seems to do too much, it might be worth paring the abilities back a bit...or even discarding the idea as "good, but not great" and starting over. I went through this process in Year One of RPG Superstar by crafting an item that simply put too many abilities into one package. It was both a Spell-in-a-Can and a Swiss-army knife. And I learned from that experience to come back for RPG Superstar 2009 by making sure I didn't overdo it again.

Another good litmus test for your item is to playtest it or imagine what the most munchkin, powergaming player might try and do with it. If the item has game-breaking potential, it should become evident pretty quickly...unless you're a munchkin, powergamer yourself, of course...if which case you need to compare your item to those that already exist and make sure you're not one-upping the Helm of Brilliance or outdoing the Cubic Gate.

Show Someone Else Your Work and Get Feedback:
This is a lot different than collaborating on your design with someone else. Rather, simply show your item to a friend or describe it to someone who doesn't even know about RPGs and ask them what they think. You'll be surprised how some of their reactions are different than your own, because you're too close to it to see it the way they do. Or, how some of their questions help you find immediate gaps in your design and things you overlooked or just assumed were obvious. Personally, I found it useful to talk about the item to my wife (who knows nothing about RPGs) as well as my gaming group (many of whom had gamed for a long, long time). That way, I got feedback from a complete novice as well as the veteran roleplayers who'd seen everything already. If I could come up with an item they both thought was interesting, I knew I was onto something.

Okay. That's just a few of the things that spring to mind for me as I look back at what I went through while designing a submission for RPG Superstar 2009. Maybe some of the other contestants from previous years can offer some other advice, too. Please keep in mind, I don't offer up any of these suggestions or advice as a sure-fire way to make it into the Top 32. Only you have control over that. There isn't some magic formula that works everytime. But I do think by applying some of what I've shared above, you can increase your chances over those who miss out on some of these things.

So, in conclusion, best of luck to everyone. I'm really, REALLY excited to see what you create for the competition this year (not just in the wondrous item round, but throughout the whole contest). And I hope no one gets too discouraged by not making it in. Game design is a learning process. And, just by prodding yourself to give it a try and get involved, you're already learning how to get better at it. And you're also miles ahead of those who didn't bother to try.

Best regards,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Gamer Girrl

NSpicer wrote:

For those about to put together a submission for Paizo's RPG Superstar 2010 contest, I thought it might be worthwhile to offer a bit of advice and insight into what I think makes an eye-catching Top 32 wondrous magic item. Keep in mind, I don't offer any of this advice because I have some puffed up sense of self-importance...or because I think I know everything about the perfect way to design an entry for RPG Superstar. I'm really grateful I made it in last year and was quite surprised that I did. So this is just an attempt to share with everyone the thought process I went through last year...why I made certain decisions...what goals I set for myself...and how I set about trying to achieve them...all in the interests of maybe helping someone else get their foot in the door. So, with all that in mind, here goes:

** spoiler omitted **...

Neil, you'll want to correct the template, the second "Aura" should be "Weight" :)

And thank you for the awesome advice!

Liberty's Edge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2012 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9

Excellent advice! Thanks, Neil!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Thank you Neil!

Paizo Employee CEO

Gamer Girrl wrote:

Neil, you'll want to correct the template, the second "Aura" should be "Weight" :)

And thank you for the awesome advice!

I fixed that for him. :)

-Lisa

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

Indeed - great advice, Neil. Especially the very basic - FOLLOW THE RULES. Don't get caught up in being an artiste, that the rules shouldn't apply to you. Part of doing professional writing is taking feedback and edits with elan and working with it.

Some people have skated through on ideas when their adherence to the rules was perhaps a little sketchy (e.g., the Migrus Locker in 2008). Others didn't fare so well (e.g., the Elric the Miller "spirit" villain in 2009).

It's a tough contest, with a lot of smart and creative people involved. You could have a good idea and still not make the top 32 and beyond, but the last thing you want is to get booted on a technicality.

And what Neil said, don't just shoot for the top 32, it's true. Once you are IN, everybody has got a shot. Don't wring your hands wondering if you're good enough, roll the dice and take your chances, and if you make the cut look at yourself in the mirror and say, "Any one of us could win it; so hey, why NOT me?"

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Lisa Stevens wrote:
I fixed that for him. :)

Thanks, Lisa. I thought that had already been fixed by the time I copied/pasted it...but apparently not! I need to proofread better. :-)

And, hey! That's probably another useful piece of advice. Proofread your submission. More than once. Proof it one time...then walk away from it for a few days before proofing it again.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Neil and Jason,

In future advice posts, I'd love to hear some inspirational advice about forum demeanor and attitude.

I don't in anyway kid myself that I'd make the first round, other than doing my best work, listening to good advice, and hoping I'd be selected. However, the entire first round is anonymous and dependent solely on the quality of your entry.

Beyond that, your personality starts to play a factor. It is not an anonymous contest any longer.

I actually worry that if I made it past the first round, how I'd keep up a positive attitude, and friendly, likeable persona. Already I'm starting to second guess everything I'm writing in other threads.

Do I post too long?
Am I too condescending?
Do I tell people they're wrong too often?
Do I tell people they're wrong too often when it ends up they're not?
Am I jerk that nobody would vote for?

Now, to some degree I'm writing to be funny. However, I realize that I haven't always been as charming as I could have been. :(

Once the 32 have been chosen, I'd love to hear some advice on how to conduct yourself during the rest of the contest (other than observing the rules on not talking about and promoting your own entry). How not to self-sabotage yourself, and come off as a real potential professional.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

I'm thinking later on, I'll look into a separate thread for "Advice on Round Two" and touch on that subject, Watcher. But, in general, you've already made most of the pertinent observations. As in life, conduct yourself the way you would want to be treated by everyone else. And in a public forum over the internet where the nuances of context and voice inflection are totally absent, that goes double.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Thanks for the advice, Neil! It's always good to hear from someone who has been through the proverbial gauntlet before.

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

Best advice is Rule -1 (that comes even before Rule 0): Don't be a jerk.

Don't be thin-skinned when people critique your item or any other entry. Thank people for their support.

Whether you want to offer comments on other people's entries is a touchy subject for some people. During the first contest Gary Teter encouraged all of us to "establish a presence" on the boards. I had been mostly a lurker on the Paizo boards before then, but I started posting a lot.

There were a few folks who said they didn't like people commenting on other contestants and held that as a mark against you, with an implied presumption on your part that you're qualified to be a commentator, as though you are above them. Maybe that's fair, maybe not, but you'll need to weigh whether you think it's more important to placate folks with that sentiment vs. making yourself visible through posting more.

For me, I think it's all good to talk about other people's stuff, though the old saying applies: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." There are plenty of other people on the boards who will be happy to offer opinions positive and negative. As a contestant, I'd keep myself on the positive side.

You also have to decide whether you want to explain design decisions and answer questions and critiques after each round of voting ends (whether you think you'll advance to the next round or not). It was my personality that I liked to do that, but not everyone does.

I suppose for THAT round it's a moot point cuz voting is over, but as Neil pointed out, you are competing in an individual round but you are also establishing a portfolio of work. Some people judge round to round. Others judge on body of work, and most people factor it in if a decision is close.

Overall, I'd say dial up the good manners and dial back the snark. Saying "that's just who I am" isn't going to win Miss Congeniality, and a cutting remark here could very well cost you a vote there.

Other than that, just be you, the best you you can be, and let the chips fall where they may.

Marathon Voter Season 6

First of all I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to give their advice - it's greatly appreciated.

I had a mechanics question for the first round which may have been answered in one of the previous contests (if so, I would be ever so grateful if someone could point me to the thread as I'm getting nowhere with the search).

My question is about the math calculation for the costs of the Wondrous Items. In the Core book it says to use table 15-29 as a guideline for creating a wondrous item but that seems to be inconsistent with the items that are already published.

For a continuous spell effect it gives the formula "spell level x caster level x 2000" with an extra provision for the duration.

Using this formula a simple bag of holding using the secret chest spell (lvl 5) and a caster level of 9 you'd get 9x5x2000 = 80,000 but the highest level bag is only 10,000.

Am I using the wrong formulas or using them incorrectly? Obviously I'm missing something and as a new Pathfinder player who is entering for the first time I would hate to have my submission disqualified for terrible math when that could so easily be remedied. I can only imagine this would be a question that other first time entrants would have as well.

Thank you for your help.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

First of all a great big thank you to Neil for beginning this thread,
thanks also to Jason Nelson for giving his thoughts on the matter as well.

Watcher, I may not have always agreed with you, but I always understood where you were coming from. ;) (Good Luck btw.)

MidnightDiamond... I gotta agree with you on the magic item math question as well... and I wasn't even half as industrious as yourself... I didn't try the math with an existing item. (Well done.)
But... my item as written... using the math/creation charts... it's pretty costly... and as Neil suggested I'm going to talk to my game group about it, see if they have insights I'm overlooking. (And good luck to you as well.)

I'm really excited by the advent of RPG Superstar 2010... like many others I've been waiting for this. (I'm also a little nervous about the "secret challenge" nature of the following rounds... y'know except for the final round.)

Good Luck to each and everyone of us!

Sincerely,

Dean Siemsen; the Minstrel Wyrm.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Gamer Girrl

MidknightDiamond wrote:

First of all I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to give their advice - it's greatly appreciated.

I had a mechanics question for the first round which may have been answered in one of the previous contests (if so, I would be ever so grateful if someone could point me to the thread as I'm getting nowhere with the search).

My question is about the math calculation for the costs of the Wondrous Items. In the Core book it says to use table 15-29 as a guideline for creating a wondrous item but that seems to be inconsistent with the items that are already published.

For a continuous spell effect it gives the formula "spell level x caster level x 2000" with an extra provision for the duration.

Using this formula a simple bag of holding using the secret chest spell (lvl 5) and a caster level of 9 you'd get 9x5x2000 = 80,000 but the highest level bag is only 10,000.

Am I using the wrong formulas or using them incorrectly? Obviously I'm missing something and as a new Pathfinder player who is entering for the first time I would hate to have my submission disqualified for terrible math when that could so easily be remedied. I can only imagine this would be a question that other first time entrants would have as well.

Thank you for your help.

In one of the conversations about this last year (going from memory here) it was said that pricing is part math, part art. One thing to do is look at items that are "similar" to the one you're designing to get a base range on pricing, as well as using the formulae.

Now, looking at the bag you're doing, there is a step that you're missing :) Secret Chest has a duration of 60 days or until discharged. With the footnote on continuous items, it says that if the duration is 24 hours or more, you divide the cost in half. So that lowers the cost dramatically.

My guess is that the costs are more based on the material component used normally for Secret Chest and judging the usefulness :) It's also an item that has existed since 1e, and that will make some items majorly not fit any formulae ... hence, pricing art.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

Maybe-useful general comments on the previous years' items here and here.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Neil, that is some good stuff. People should check out what he said. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why Neil is the man.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Oh, here is another little tidbit:

Creativity and all that is awesome. But professionalism matters.

Formatting. Spelling. Writing. Proper submission form.

Why? Here's why. Keep in mind what we are doing here. Paizo is trying to find a person who gets to publish a module. In other words, someone they will have to work with professionally. It is a huge red flag (we learned this big time in the first year) to see great submissions that are mondo-creative but that fall down in the professionalism department.

So make sure you do all the stuff Neil said. But don't skimp on the presentation, editing, spelling, formatting, etc. That is as much a part of being an RPG Superstar. Don't neglect it.

Or, as they told us in grade school, neatness counts. :)

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Starglim wrote:
Maybe-useful general comments on the previous years' items here and here.

Great links. Those threads had some great discussion and really are a good starting point for people wanting to do their homework.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Since the reaction has proven generally favorable on this advice thread -- and some further questions about wondrous item design have popped up -- I thought I'd do a little deeper dive on the advice. Again, none of this is a sure-fire way to get an item into the Top 32. You never know exactly what's going to appeal to the judges' collective eyes...or where there may be a certain glut of similar themed items. But, in general, I'd like to go through an examination of a wondrous item line-by-line through the formatted template provided.

So here goes:

Spoiler:

Contest Template wrote:
ItemName

I touched on this earlier, but right off the bat I think you've got to find a really creative and cool name for your item. Something that inspires a really fantastic mental image. Or something that draws on some powerful words that evoke an emotional reaction from the reader. If your title can immediately make people start asking questions or want to read further, you've got them hooked and you're well on your way to a winning entry.

Are there any examples of what I'm talking about? Well, I'll go back to the entry I used last year and contrast that with my first attempt to get into RPG Superstar. Obviously, one item worked to get me in...and the other didn't. My first item's name was "The Bracers of Life and Death." Let's face it. There's nothing super-cool about that. It relies on the age old phrase of, "It's a matter of life and death..." And that's just not getting it done. Major lack of creativity in the name.

Now, examine the name of the item I submitted last year that got me into the competition. The "Last Leaves of the Autumn Dryad" immediately makes you think of two concrete items...i.e., autumn leaves and a dryad. Both those items work in harmony with each other. Everyone knows what autumn leaves look like. And everyone knows what a dryad looks like. So, you immediately get a mental image based on the name alone.

But, I also called them the "Last Leaves"...which gives it a sense of wistfulness. It hints at that time when autumn changes to winter, a very magical time in nature. And so it immediately gives you lots of ideas about where this item's actual description might go. In addition, I also used the adjective of "autumn" to describe the dryad. Again, that makes you start asking questions like, "If there's an autumn dryad, does that mean there's other seasonal dryads out there? What makes the autumn dryad and her last leaves so special? Why are they her last leaves? Did something bad happen to her? Or did she give away these leaves as some sort of magical gift to someone?"

Regardless, you can see that a name like that makes people start imagining things and asking lots of questions in their own mind...and that sets them up for the additional information you'll provide in your actual description of the wondrous item. But a great name is only a starting point. Over the past two seasons of RPG Superstar, there have been some really great names for items that just didn't deliver on the promise they held forth. I remember Clark once commenting on an item that cited Baba Yaga (no, it wasn't her hut, but it was another item supposedly belonging to the old witch). And he indicated that if you name your item and weave in a legend as powerful as Baba Yaga in the name, your description and the capabilities of that item had better deliver on the promise you're holding forth.

So, keep all that in mind as you work on the name for your item. Don't go overboard with it. Find certain nouns that give concrete images for people. Use adjectives to enhance those nouns that further complete the picture. And string all that together so people will ask questions that make them want to read further.

Sheesh, adjectives and nouns. I'm getting flashbacks of Schoolhouse Rock all of sudden. Anyway...

Contest Template wrote:
Aura ZZstrength ZZschool; CL ZZth

Okay. When defining the aura for a magic item, I always found it most useful to examine the spells necessary for its creation, as well as the spell or spell-like effects it duplicates when its power is tapped. For my item from last year, it temporarily changed the user into a tree via tree shape and let them scry on faraway places by letting a magical wind blow its leaves in whatever direction the user wanted, similar to arcane eye and it let them speak through the leaves by forming a three-dimensional "face" similar to whispering wind. The tree shape and whispering wind spells are transmutation effects, while the more powerful arcane eye is a divination effect. So, right away, I knew I wanted transmutation and divination in my item's aura.

But what strength should the aura have? Well, I don't think there's a hard and fast rule there, but I use two rules of thumb when deciding if an item should have a faint, moderate, or strong intensity. First, I look at the spell levels of the effects involved and divide them into bands: 1st thru 3rd level = faint, 4th thru 6th level = moderate, and 7th thru 9th level = strong. Now, arcane eye is a 4th level spell and tree shape and whispering wind are 2nd level spells. So, you can see early on, I started contemplating a moderate divination aura for my item, because of arcane eye. And, when I have a number of low level effects grouped together from the same school (e.g., both tree shape and whispering wind are transmutation effects), I give serious weight to bumping up the strength of that school's aura. So, I considered giving the item a moderate transmutation aura as well.

In addition, I also use another rule of thumb when deciding on aura strength for a wondrous item. And that's the overall pricing that decides whether it falls within the price range of a minor, medium, or major wondrous item. For the last leaves, I knew it was essentially duplicating a lot of the ability for a crystal ball, so I took a hard look at where a crystal ball is priced. The basic crystal ball (i.e., without any additional powers) is 42,000 gp, which makes it a major wondrous item. Given that, I considered whether I should bump up my auras any further. Checking the aura assigned to the crystal ball in the rules, I saw it only has a moderate divination aura. So, I knew I didn't need to bump it up any further.

Okay. Enough about an item's aura. What about the caster level? Again, I don't believe there's a hard and fast rule here. But, in general, I wanted to make sure I gave my item a high enough caster level to cast all the spell effects needed for the item's creation. It needed to be high enough to qualify for the Craft Wondrous Item feat (not always, but in my mind, I wanted it to be that high). And, I wanted to have a caster level at least as high as any other magic item that reasonably duplicated (or came close to duplicating) its powers. So, I made the caster level for the last leaves identical to what's required for a crystal ball...i.e., CL 10th. After all, a crystal ball is primarily based off the 4th level scrying spell. And my item was going to use a 4th level arcane eye spell. So, I felt justified giving it the same CL.

Contest Template wrote:
Slot ZZslot; Price ZZ gp; Weight ZZ lbs.

Okay. Let's move on to the next few categories. An item's slot is really dependent on whether you need to wear it or not. You've got lots of examples to draw from if it does. Obviously, helmets use the head slot. Boots use your feet. And so on. If your item isn't meant to be worn, however, you can get away with a slot of "—"...which is an em-dash (a term, I've had reason to learn of late). It basically means the item has no slot. And, if that's the case, it has pricing ramifications later on.

So, let's talk about price, since that's the next item in line. Pricing a wondrous item is exactly as GamerGrrl mentioned. Half-science, half-art. The pricing guidelines and table certainly helps. But it isn't the be-all, end-all of wondrous item pricing. Quite often, you have to do a lot more ballparking. And, even if you do have an easy way of formulating a price off the given chart, I still go back and look at any existing magic items for a price comparison. I pay particular attention to magic items that have appeared in Pathfinder modules, because I know Paizo recognized early on that several of the prices for pre-existing magic items were a little "off" at times.

Some things are overvalued just because a certain spell effect happens to be included in an item. But, if the item is only rarely ever going to see game-use (because whatever effect it generates just doesn't come up very often), it's not an item players (or their PCs) are going to be beating down the doors to the local wizard's shoppe to have him make for them. So, keep that in mind as you put together your pricing.

I'd also recommend that you pay extra careful attention to the "Special" sub-section on the table for "Estimating Magic Item Gold Piece Values." Stuff like "No space limitation" (i.e., it doesn't take up a slot) increases the price. And the "Charges per Day" applies as soon as you dictate your item can only be used "once/day" or even "3 times/day." Also, if you've got multiple or different abilites in play on your item, consider whether you need to apply a modifier for that, too.

But, even after all that, you've got to go back and compare, compare, compare your item to other stuff that costs around the same amount as your final pricing results seem to indicate. I think when I finished pricing my last leaves, they came in a little higher than a crystal ball. And that felt odd to me, because my item was going to include a maximum range, the possiblity the leaves could be lost or destroyed, and the fact that the user had to turn himself into a tree for as long as he planned on using them. By comparison, a crystal ball has a much further range, cannot be destroyed or lost simply because it reached too far, and a user didn't have to change shape at all in order to use it. So, I tugged my pricing back down to bring it more in line with what a crystal ball would cost. Is that an accurate reflection of what its price should be? To be honest, I still don't know. But I became confident enough in my own justification for it, that I ran with those figures.

Now, lastly, let's talk about the weight indicator for your item. If you're creating a magical version of something that already exists on the Equipment list, you should look up how much it weighs and go with that figure. For me, a bunch of leaves were weightless enough that I made it a negligible "—" again. But, if it's a pair of manacles, they weigh 2 lbs. on the Equipment list. If it's a bullseye lantern, they weigh 3 lbs. If your item isn't included on the Equipment list, check to see if one already exists. If it's a cloak, well, a cloak of elvenkind weighs 1 lb. Same for a pair of boots. If your item still doesn't appear among those things, look it up online to compare it to how much a real-life item of that kind might weigh and go with that.

Contest Template wrote:

Description

ItemDescriptionParagraph

Okay. What about your item's description? At last we get to the meat of it all. This is where you need a perfect blend of descriptive text that paints a great mental image of your item. And, you need to explain its abilities in harmony with the mechanics of the game. For me, I took a page out of reviewing how previous items have been described, both in the DMG/SRD as well as previous Paizo Pathfinder modules. The latter gave me some really good insight into how Paizo freelancers, developers, and editors craft a magic item's final description.

Quite often, a wondrous item's description starts off with an examination of its physical appearance. You want to state what the item is right away. And, if its got special distinguishing characteristics about it (e.g., constantly changing colors for a bunch of autumn leaves), you should mention that as early as you can. Save the explanation for what they do until after you've explained to the reader what it looks like.

Next up, describe its abilities. Make sure you indicate how often the item can do its thing. Include any restrictions or bonuses it might have, particularly with regards to certain classes, alignments, etc. As you describe these things, look for ways to continue painting the picture with your words even as you're discussing the raw mechanics of how it works, because that maintains the illusion you're creating and inspiring the reader with.

What about things to avoid in your item's description? This is important. Don't spend your precious word count delving too deeply into the history of your item. You'll quickly run the risk of making the item sound like something straight out of your home campaign and that you're spending too much time talking about the campaign and item's history than the item itself. Keep your text focused. Keep it simple. But keep it entertaining and interesting. Use the pre-existing magic items for examples of how to do that.

Another thing to avoid is over-explanation. I believe some folks who failed to make it into the Top 32 have been cited before for taking the time to define a word or concept for the judges. They're professionals. Odds are they'll get what you're describing without a definition of something. And, if you actually have to define something for your item, maybe it's not the best item to be putting forward anyway? Besides, your word count is precious. Spend it wisely! Don't waste it on stuff that isn't actually contributing to the awesomeness of your item.

Lastly, check your word count when you're done. Check it in multiple word-processing applications if you have to...but know that Paizo relies on Microsoft Word for the official count. Don't go over your word count! Don't include lots of designer notes. They count towards your word count! In fact, everything counts towards your word count. And its your responsibility as a designer to not exceed word count. Additionally, you really don't want to be the guy with the most awesome magic item idea ever who gets disqualified because he couldn't follow the rules and keep it under word count. Missing out on the Top 32 because your item was "good, not great" is far more preferable than "great, but over word count" because you're going out on a technicality, not because you don't have what it takes to become a professional freelancer.

Contest Template wrote:

Construction

Requirements ZZfeats, ZZspells, ZZother; Cost ZZ gp

Alright. We're almost home. Let's talk about the construction requirements for an item. This is one of those areas where you get to demonstrate your rules-fu again. Obviously, the requirements for crafting a magic item under Pathfinder rules is a bit different than under 3.5 rules. You get to include additional requirements like a certain number of skill ranks in a skill that might pertain to the item. You get to include other feat requirements besides just Craft Wondrous Item. And, of course, you need to include the spells necessary for creating it in the first place.

Typically, I look at whether there's a profession related to a Craft skill that might be needed to make a masterwork quality item on which to base the magical effects. If you're doing a magic shawl, for instance, maybe you should include Craft (seamstress) or (weaver) or something with sufficient ranks to demonstrate a high degree of skill in making the item? If you're doing an elixir, maybe you want to roll up Craft (alchemy) or even Brew Potion into the construction requirements (though elixirs typically don't require Brew Potion). But, more importantly, look at the spells your item is either duplicating or that it might need to rely on in the course of its creation.

For the last leaves, I knew I wanted an item that would turn someone into a tree (aha! tree shape), let them scry on faraway places as its leaves blew away (hmmm, should probably go with a mobile arcane eye over scrying), and that would allow them to communicate with a dry rustling of the leaves by forming into the user's face (hmmm...ghost sound?...sending?...no, whispering wind! Perfect!!!). You have to distill your magic item down to its most constituent parts and determine which spell effects contribute to them. Then, you'll know what spells to include.

Now, when you list out your spells in the construction requirements, make doubly sure you make them appear like they normally do for pre-existing magic items. This demonstrates an attention to detail that will serve you well. So, always lower-case the spell names and italicize them. And list them in alphabetical order. Use these spell effects as the basis for pricing your item, too.

Lastly, what about the cost requirement? It's pretty much always exactly half the price amount. And, of course, you should round where necessary. Other than that, this element of your wondrous item should be one of the easiest to calculate. It's just a derivative of another value you've already established.


Well, that's an in-depth look at deconstructing how I try to go about designing a wondrous item. I'm not sure I succeeded on all of those things I mentioned above. But, sometimes you don't have to. If you succeed at enough of them...and your idea is compelling enough already...it can still land you in the Top 32. Just be sure to compare your item to what's been done before...both in prior years of RPG Superstar as well as published magic items that are already out there. Imitation may be the greatest form of flattery, but it's also a valid way to learn how to craft your designs. Hopefully, some of this advice proves useful. And, again, best of luck to everyone.

Another two-cents,
--Neil


Thanks for sharing these tips. :)

I was a little confused at first about how to do the pricing for a new Wondrous Item, but comparing the item to both the formula (science) and existing items (art) really helped.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6

I'd add that 'designer notes' are a double edged sword.

Looking back at my bracelet, I noticed that some of the judges hated the explination of how I arrived at the cost, others appriciated it, and still other commenters found the mechanic novel enough that they thought it worth emulating.

That said it was a risk, and fortunately it didn't shoot me down.

And I'll add to the above advice. Get the format right. If you have a friend who's not competing, have them proofread (Note, proofreading won't save a poorly executed concept, see my round 2 entry for proof of that!)

Spoiler:
and don't come up with your idea in the shower and then immediately sit down, write it up and send it off.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Matthew Morris wrote:
I'd add that 'designer notes' are a double edged sword....Looking back at my bracelet, I noticed that some of the judges hated the explination of how I arrived at the cost, others appriciated it, and still other commenters found the mechanic novel enough that they thought it worth emulating.

Personally, I feel like if you've got designer notes to explain how you went about crafting an item, save them for when you're actually selected into the Top 32 and you can help others understand how you did the costing. In the Open Call round, the judges are going to examine whether you did the costing right. And their opinion is all that matters in that regard.

But, if someone has questions about your item after you make the Top 32, you're free to generally comment on it at that time. You don't need to waste word count on such an explanation in your actual wondrous item entry, because the voting public aren't the ones voting on it that round anyway.

But that's just my two-cents,
--Neil


I'm new to this, but I think the idea is to create an entry for a Wondrous Item that you could imagine finding in a published book. Those don't have designers notes or explanations for how you did the costing... so your entry shouldn't either. :)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Exactly, Stuart. You're right on it!

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

NSpicer wrote:
Don't spend your precious word count delving too deeply into the history of your item. You'll quickly run the risk of making the item sound like something straight out of your home campaign and that you're spending too much time talking about the campaign and item's history than the item itself.

I'm thinking of adding a few brief words to support the history of my item. How do the judges feel about dropping the names of Golarion-specific places and races? Is this a no-no? Should we keep our entries generic?

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Tom Qadim wrote:
I'm thinking of adding a few brief words to support the history of my item. How do the judges feel about dropping the names of Golarion-specific places and races? Is this a no-no? Should we keep our entries generic?

I believe the FAQ answers that question, Tom. But, in general, the addition of Golarion-specific places and races won't help or hinder. At best, you'll be cited for crafting something that works really well with Paizo's campaign setting. And, at worst, you'll waste words delving into your item's history moreso than its physical description and what it does.

My recommendation would be to focus on the latter parts first. Then, if you've still got the luxury of extra words you can use to reference Golarion, knock yourself out. Otherwise, drawing on Golarion-specific stuff is way down the totem pole of things you need to tick off during a good wondrous item's design.

But that's just my two-cents,
--Neil

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

NSpicer wrote:
Tom Qadim wrote:
I'm thinking of adding a few brief words to support the history of my item. How do the judges feel about dropping the names of Golarion-specific places and races? Is this a no-no? Should we keep our entries generic?

I believe the FAQ answers that question, Tom. But, in general, the addition of Golarion-specific places and races won't help or hinder. At best, you'll be cited for crafting something that works really well with Paizo's campaign setting. And, at worst, you'll waste words delving into your item's history moreso than its physical description and what it does.

My recommendation would be to focus on the latter parts first. Then, if you've still got the luxury of extra words you can use to reference Golarion, knock yourself out. Otherwise, drawing on Golarion-specific stuff is way down the totem pole of things you need to tick off during a good wondrous item's design.

But that's just my two-cents,
--Neil

Yeah, that's about what I was thinking. I was mainly curious to know if it hurt a submission. Thanks for your insight, Neil!


NSpicer wrote:
For those about to put together a submission for Paizo's RPG Superstar 2010 contest, I thought it might be worthwhile to offer a bit of advice and insight into what I think makes an eye-catching Top 32 wondrous magic item...

Great stuff Neil and thanks!

One note though. I have followed the first two years pretty closely. We have substantially different judges now (other than Clark). Clark is only one vote. I think there may be a more wide-open field here that is not quite as predictable in terms of tastes. :)

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

NSpicer wrote:
Tom Qadim wrote:
I'm thinking of adding a few brief words to support the history of my item. How do the judges feel about dropping the names of Golarion-specific places and races? Is this a no-no? Should we keep our entries generic?

I believe the FAQ answers that question, Tom. But, in general, the addition of Golarion-specific places and races won't help or hinder. At best, you'll be cited for crafting something that works really well with Paizo's campaign setting. And, at worst, you'll waste words delving into your item's history moreso than its physical description and what it does.

My recommendation would be to focus on the latter parts first. Then, if you've still got the luxury of extra words you can use to reference Golarion, knock yourself out. Otherwise, drawing on Golarion-specific stuff is way down the totem pole of things you need to tick off during a good wondrous item's design.

But that's just my two-cents,
--Neil

Exactly right.

Flavor and Golarion linkages are cool, but it's the garnish on the plate. Focus on the food, and leave the decorative touches to sprinkle around the outside.

Now, Golarion stuff can provide you with your theme - like the Threefold Triptych of Desna (or whatever the exact name was) last year. It drew upon a Golarion deity and used that as the guiding theme of the item, and it came off really well IMO.

What that item did well, though, was that it referenced Desna and used that as a framing device, but it didn't waste a whole paragraph on history and lore. If you want a rule of thumb, if you've got more than a sentence on the background of the item, it's probably too much.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

varianor wrote:
I have followed the first two years pretty closely. We have substantially different judges now (other than Clark). Clark is only one vote. I think there may be a more wide-open field here that is not quite as predictable in terms of tastes. :)

Actually, I don't think that's really an issue. The judges are all pretty consistently applying the same kinds of evaluation to an item. And, if there's contention over something, they hash it out pretty well in their off-screen discussions.

Frankly, trying to spin your wondrous item submission to try and catch the eye of a judge you might know or know his preferences and interests doesn't have a lot of pay-off. In fact, in the past two years, they singled that out a fair amount in the "Bad Item Stereotypes" discussions and so on. Basically, the judges were on-guard against entries that seemed designed to appeal to their known interests. Like, I think Wolfgang mentioned watching out for steampunk-related stuff. And so on.

Even so, you're right on where it comes to judges having a more critical eye towards certain things. But still, I don't think it's nearly as big an issue to concern yourself with. A great item is a great item. And it'll be really clear, really fast if an entry meets that criteria, regardless of a single judge's preferences or criticisms.

--Neil

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Tarren Dei

Tom Qadim wrote:
NSpicer wrote:
Tom Qadim wrote:
I'm thinking of adding a few brief words to support the history of my item. How do the judges feel about dropping the names of Golarion-specific places and races? Is this a no-no? Should we keep our entries generic?

I believe the FAQ answers that question, Tom. But, in general, the addition of Golarion-specific places and races won't help or hinder. At best, you'll be cited for crafting something that works really well with Paizo's campaign setting. And, at worst, you'll waste words delving into your item's history moreso than its physical description and what it does.

My recommendation would be to focus on the latter parts first. Then, if you've still got the luxury of extra words you can use to reference Golarion, knock yourself out. Otherwise, drawing on Golarion-specific stuff is way down the totem pole of things you need to tick off during a good wondrous item's design.

But that's just my two-cents,
--Neil

Yeah, that's about what I was thinking. I was mainly curious to know if it hurt a submission. Thanks for your insight, Neil!

Beyond the wondrous item round, I'd keep it even more genre-light. This contest brings people to the Paizo boards who aren't as familiar with Golarion as you are. The playtest is going to make that even more the case this year. (When did the PFRPG playtests start? It's all a blur.) Relying on them to get you Golarion stuff may be frustrating and derail the conversations during the commentary and voting stage. And, you will not be able to pipe up to explain.

Grand Lodge

NSpicer wrote:
For those about to put together a submission for Paizo's RPG Superstar 2010 contest, I thought it might be worthwhile to offer a bit of advice and insight ...

Neil

Thanks a lot for all the advice - thanks also to all the other people who have been contributing here. I'm now on the third version of my idea. Looking at all the entries from last year as well as googling a little bit I hope what I came up with is novel.
Scary enough - while I couldn't find references to existing wondrous items that are similar I did find quite a few related to real life and even ancient rituals 'using' my item. Spooky.

I'm now fine tuning - thanks for the explanation of CL - I need to check mine as I just entered a number from a related class of items.

The big question now is - I do have around 160-195 words. Do I rewrite, use the remainder for background, design notes, alternatives or do I rather keep it short.

Thod

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

Thod wrote:
NSpicer wrote:
For those about to put together a submission for Paizo's RPG Superstar 2010 contest, I thought it might be worthwhile to offer a bit of advice and insight ...

Neil

Thanks a lot for all the advice - thanks also to all the other people who have been contributing here. I'm now on the third version of my idea. Looking at all the entries from last year as well as googling a little bit I hope what I came up with is novel.
Scary enough - while I couldn't find references to existing wondrous items that are similar I did find quite a few related to real life and even ancient rituals 'using' my item. Spooky.

I'm now fine tuning - thanks for the explanation of CL - I need to check mine as I just entered a number from a related class of items.

The big question now is - I do have around 160-195 words. Do I rewrite, use the remainder for background, design notes, alternatives or do I rather keep it short.

Thod

Firstly, I would NOT include any kind of design notes. Published magic item descriptions don't have them, and neither should yours.

Secondly, less is more. You can score bonus points with a fair number of folks for economy of language. Make sure you say everything you want to say, but once you have, let it go.

The funny thing is, even if you have a rock-solid item at 180 words, if you say "hey, I have 120 words left for flavor text" and you fill them up, you'll get a lot of folks saying "geez, this is waaaayyyy too much description," and they'll get distracted by that rather than focusing on the 180 words that really count.

Thirdly, putting in alternative versions is an interesting notion that I don't know if anyone has done in the contest before. Like a horn of valhalla has different versions, or ioun stones, it's clearly fair game as a wondrous item (though there could be a slight risk of being dinged for using that method to submit several items in one rather than a single focused item).

That last one could be done if you have a good idea of how to do it in a way that is internally consistent with the item. Might be worth an official inquiry to make sure, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that idea at all.

Sovereign Court

There's some amazing advice in this thread, and I just wanted to chime in to thank everyone!

I'm going in full-tilt this year, and I'm sure all of this advice will come in handy. Now, back to brainstorming...

Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

NSpicer wrote:

... -- I thought I'd do a little deeper dive on the advice. ...

** spoiler omitted **...

Because 10 pages is not deep enough?

*grin*

Seriously though: thanks Neil.

I would like to re-iterate the second set of eyes. I too had my mate (non-gamer) and my gaming group read it and then had a couple folks from paizo pbp (thanks Fakey and Realtom). All three found different things that helped me improve my item (not top 32 improve, but top 35 at least :)

all the rst is mute if somethin semple slipsed by you you.

Liberty's Edge

Thank you Neil, and everyone else, for the advice. It was monumentally helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to compile thoughts and provide insights on the contest. It really shows how great this community can be.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

What's the community for if not to support one another? And truthfully, many of the people I either know or have met in the gaming industry have always talked about how everyone knows one another and supports one another. The community here at Paizo is no different. And that was even more evident at PaizoCon and you can see it on the messageboards and in the open playtesting and everything else. So, I'm glad some folks found it useful. Now go craft a wondrous item that's truly wondrous and worthy of RPG Superstar. I'm eager to read and review some really great stuff!

Contributor

FYI I'm reading this thread (and all threads in the RPG Superstar board), but I'm avoiding giving advice in response to peoples' comments because (1) I could spend all day here, (2) I updated the rules and FAQ to cover the basics, and (3) as a judge I feel that NOT giving advice helps keep me neutral and (4) lets people fall into obvious traps that stronger competitors know to avoid.

For example, I haven't told anyone "don't submit items based on modern real-world people or items" because if you're hoping to write for Paizo, you should know that we're not likely to publish the dancing skull of Benito Mussolini or a Lamborghini of plane-shifting, and someone that submits such an item to this competition isn't what we're looking for.

However, I do like that previous finalists are weighing in with some excellent advice. :)

And remember... have fun! :)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

NSpicer wrote:
You have to distill your magic item down to its most constituent parts and determine which spell effects contribute to them. Then, you'll know what spells to include.

At this point, I'd like to remind folks that, according to the Round 1 rules, "Reference to non-Paizo rules or monsters may be grounds for disqualification." So if you name-drop a spell from a Wizards of the Coast book or other third-party source, there's a pretty good chance that the very first judge to look at your item will automatically reject it. It happens every year—a lot.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

varianor wrote:
One note though. I have followed the first two years pretty closely. We have substantially different judges now (other than Clark).

Not really. Two out of three 2010 judges were also 2009 judges. Last year's Top 4 will be adding commentary only after those three judges have selected the Top 32 (and a few alternates). The Top 4 will not have any input into the selection process—that will all be done before they arrive on the scene.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

I'm with Sean. I think I've been pretty clear in past threads on some of the pitfalls to avoid. Nothing more to rehash that hasnt been said.

Though unlike Sean it appears that I am insane enough to not mind getting stuck here all day. Wow, I read some of those old threads. I must not have ever slept. Oh, that's right, I don't.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

Jason Nelson wrote:
Thirdly, putting in alternative versions is an interesting notion that I don't know if anyone has done in the contest before. Like a horn of valhalla has different versions, or ioun stones, it's clearly fair game as a wondrous item (though there could be a slight risk of being dinged for using that method to submit several items in one rather than a single focused item).

Actually, my item from 2008 included a greater version, so it can work. I think the key is that it's okay to include variants or improved versions, but probably not a good idea to have multiple items that just fit into a category, such as figurines of wondrous power. I'd look at two different figurines as two different items, but something like the varieties of the horn of valhalla or strand of prayer beads are essentially the same item, just with different power levels for use at different levels in the game.

Marathon Voter Season 9

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
dancing skull of Benito Mussolini

Is it a bad sign that I want this?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
...we're not likely to publish the dancing skull of Benito Mussolini...

...which is clearly an artifact and not a wondrous item anyway...

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

JoelF847 wrote:
Jason Nelson wrote:
Thirdly, putting in alternative versions is an interesting notion that I don't know if anyone has done in the contest before. Like a horn of valhalla has different versions, or ioun stones, it's clearly fair game as a wondrous item (though there could be a slight risk of being dinged for using that method to submit several items in one rather than a single focused item).
Actually, my item from 2008 included a greater version, so it can work. I think the key is that it's okay to include variants or improved versions, but probably not a good idea to have multiple items that just fit into a category, such as figurines of wondrous power. I'd look at two different figurines as two different items, but something like the varieties of the horn of valhalla or strand of prayer beads are essentially the same item, just with different power levels for use at different levels in the game.

I sit corrected. So there you go: It can work and get you into the Top 32! We have proof!

But like Joel says, make sure it's two versions of the same item, not two different items that just kinda go together.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Vic Wertz wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
...we're not likely to publish the dancing skull of Benito Mussolini...
...which is clearly an artifact and not a wondrous item anyway...

Lol

I can see an entire thread of "Bad Submission Ideas"

Example: Flawed Manual of the Golem

Paizo Employee CEO

I just wanted to add one note on the topic of doing lots of Golarion-specific history for your item. It is a potential trap, because if you do it in a way that doesn't mesh with Golarion, then Wes and Sean will boot it out. I can remember last year there being some Golarion fluff in wondrous items and the fluff got facts wrong about the world, or created history that wasn't right for a specific area or race or whatnot. Nothing will get you booted from the first round faster than putting Golarion fluff into an item and getting it wrong. So if you do it, be sure you do it well—or don't do it at all!

-Lisa

Marathon Voter Season 9

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
FYI I'm reading this thread (and all threads in the RPG Superstar board), but I'm avoiding giving advice in response to peoples' comments because (1) I could spend all day here, (2) I updated the rules and FAQ to cover the basics, and (3) as a judge I feel that NOT giving advice helps keep me neutral and (4) lets people fall into obvious traps that stronger competitors know to avoid.

That seems a bit hypocritical. Isn't the whole point to get people to get better at this, and to bring out new people? If someone doesn't know what you're after because they're new, they might submit something that's doomed rather than something that might be really good. I'm sorry, I just have trouble seeing 'thin the herd' as a good reason to withhold critique.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
we're not likely to publish the dancing skull of Benito Mussolini or a [i]Lamborghini of plane-shifting[/i

Though a Mutants and Masterminds crossover into Golarion would be all set. I'm thinking this could actually be the setup for an adventure or two. :D

Contributor

Kobold Cleaver wrote:
I'm sorry, I just have trouble seeing 'thin the herd' as a good reason to withhold critique.

I've provided the proper magic item format in an easy-to-paste block of text, I've explained the purpose of the contest, and its rules, and what materials are out of bounds, and that contestants shouldn't wait until the last minute to submit your entry. I've tried to make it all as clear as possible for everyone.

But I have to draw the line somewhere about how much help I provide, otherwise the FAQ ends up a book in itself. You see how much advice Neil Spicer has written; should I do exactly as much as that, or more?

Some advice is just obvious. Spell-check your submission. Don't use profanity in your submission. Don't present your submission in the form of a haiku. Or in rhyme. Don't submit an item that is deliberately rude, insulting, or offensive. The writer who understands those things without me having to say them is worth more to me than an equally-talented writer who needs to be told those things.

James Jacobs was 15 years old when he submitted an adventure to Dungeon--and it got published. He didn't have a dialogue with the publishers, he just read the hell out of Dungeon and created a cool submission that matched their style. That's initiative. That's gamer chops.

Neil Spicer handicapped himself in the later rounds of last year's competition by deliberately choosing the hardest, weirdest, unsalvageable creatures, characters, and lairs--and he made them work. As I described it to other people here at Paizo, "it's like he's wearing a backpack full of rocks and running in a footrace... and he's still keeping up." That's initiative. That's gamer chops. And he won..

Which is the better human interest story, the guy who was handed everything on a golden platter and created something incredible, or the guy who started with nothing and had to learn the ropes on his own and created something incredible anyway? Both of their creations are incredible--but Hollywood makes a movie about the second guy.

The flaming liberal in me wants everyone to have a fair chance. But there's a difference between a fair chance and hand-holding. The later rounds are going to be tough. Contestants are going to have three days to come up with a solid submission. We're going to have a twist. They're going to need to be able to think on their feet. They're going to earn every round they advance. And I think that's awesome and admirable.

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