Seven Towers Observatory

Round 4: Design a Golarion location

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Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4


Thanks for that awesome gift! I don't even mind sharing it with everybody. You have been thanked ten thousand times, but let me thank you again. I hope in 2011 people will be able to find a lot of pearls of wisdom by going back over this year.

Heck, I hope to add to them next year!

Jim Groves wrote:
Hi there!

Ouch - just read this where you go in detail on your tooth/nerve ordeal.

Hang in there - it's not over yet but my money's on you.

Good luck!

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Yeah, I can sympathize, having spent an entire weekend waiting for Monday morning when I could finally get a root canal done.

Discovered some real nifty things about Motrin that weekend :)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Thanks everybody! I won't let you down. :D

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka Benchak the Nightstalker

Jim! Congrats!

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Congrats Jim! I'll confess that I found the Observatory to be good, but a bit over-done and confusing wth monster placement. Nevertheless, glad to see you move on and show us what you can do!

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Congratulations Jim! I'm really looking forward to seeing your adventure proposal.

Good luck going forward Watcher! Congratulations on making it to top 4. I'm excited to read your entry...

Congratulations on making the top four Watcher. As I've said elsewhere to the contestants generally, going into the last round you need to keep in mind that your audience isn't you home group(s) or other close friends/family who will automatically know what you mean or are thinking. You've consistently had some pretty good ideas throughout this contest, but you haven't always communicated them as effectively as you might have done. If you could keep an eye on that please?
I'm fairly confident that you'll present a proposal which could be fit into 32 pages, and not mess with canon. Keep that tooth under control though, so it doesn't interfere with this coming Round 5 entry. :)
Best of luck.

Charles Evans 25.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

First entry? Seducer's Bane. There were no flashes, explosions, dancing monkeys or flying flower petals here, but it was nevertheless a great item. It played around in that fun space between "magic" and "social interaction", where the fantasy element meets the human element. The impression I got was that the designer was a thinker, and that he knew how the game was played.

Next, enter the Skintaker. Now, this guy wasn't a vampire imprisoned in golem battle-armor. It wasn't a two-headed rat lord with terrifying psychic powers, and it wasn't a sadistic giant eagle that could see the future. It was a pitiful minion, yet it (like the aforementioned battle-armor) was a run-away favorite. The imagery was really great (the brain with eyeballs attached by nerves is still stuck in my head), but I think it was the haunting pathos that made the creature really resonate, and then the way its abilities (even though similar abilities have been done before) tied into and supported that was what REALLY made it superstar design.

Then your take on the ardorwesp, which rounded out your reputation more than anything. It showed you could come up with cool, solid mechanics, but more importantly it showed that you were still using your head, paying attention to the issues fans were thinking about (like "why does it associate with humans?" and "why doesn't its population spiral out of control?").

And finally, this round. You bombed the encounter, no dancing around it. But you came up with a pretty cool, well-considered (perhaps over-considered) location, along with some very interesting social circumstances that make a good setup for your villains. The problem with that setup is that you never mention how the Harbingers interact with the heroes. Overall impression is that you could definitely spin an interesting tale, but I don't know if you can deliver fun or climactic encounters (Yes, I know you were out of commission for half the writing period, but just the same).

What I'm getting at is, your stuff hasn't been explosive. You haven't been doing the sort of bombastic "F***-YEA" rip-roaring action fantasy that tends to get votes here. But you've been getting tons of votes just the same, because your material has been smooth, imaginative, and most of all intelligent all the way through.

Don't get me wrong: you're freaking good, and you know your fantasy. But when I see a guy like you advance to the finals, my fear is that you're going to spend a ton of effort weaving together this gorgeous backstory, awesome locations, and fascinating interactions between sympathetic and believable characters, but then it will all fall flat because it has no immediacy to the PCs.

Which would be a shame, because man oh man could you deliver one heck of a social/sandbox adventure if you got it right.

Now, I don't want to box you in here. Maybe you're just itching to throw us into a boomer-esque madhouse of crazy-awesome encounters and high-seas action, blowing all expectations out of the water. That would rock too. But based on your work that's how I as a voter see you right now, and no matter what you're doing, I think it's useful to know how the fans see you.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4


Just to give you an idea of the impact, when I woke this morning I had an e-mail waiting for me from a friend that said, "You need to go read what Nicolas Quimby wrote this morning in your thread. Because I think he just told you what you need to hear."

And I've been struggling with this, even before Round 4. I see the votes come in, but I've also read a fair number of comments in the exit polls that tell me that I'm just not "doin' it" for some folks.

I love all the feedback, and it's all useful. A lot of it has been technical, which really helps me polish up the Round we'd just finished. However not too long ago someone posted that my stuff was good, but they just never voted for me. Ever. At the time it wasn't appropriate for me to post a question directly to them, and also the post was not in my thread and I wanted to be aware of boundaries. Similarly, I didn't want to put some innocent voter on the spot and call them out. I mean, they're entitled to feel that way, god bless 'em, and calling somebody out isn’t going to make them change their mind.

The only shame of it is/was that they weren't telling *me* why they weren't voting for me, even while they acknowledged that the material had some quality to it. Granted, a lot of that is a matter of just thinkin' the other guy was flat out better. And that's fair! However when a voter doesn't use even half of their votes and they're not telling the other contenders why- we have very little chance of figuring out what would make you happy. All we know is that you didn't like it. We're left to guess what would excite you, and hope that we get it right.

I always respect plain spoken words that get to the heart of the matter, so let me tell you what I'm hearing, frankly and with candor:

I'm like your girlfriend's favorite foreign movie, complete with French subtitles. After which you go to some dark little cafe and drink an $8 cup of coffee. You don't want to question Cannes or the Sundance Film Festival, but deep in your heart you're craving some John McClane, circa 1988 from the first Die Hard. “Yippee-ki-yay mutha!”

:D Am I wrong?

This would be where I would normally say-
"I won't let you down!"
"You won't be disappointed!"
"Thank you for this chance to show you what I've learned!"

But I'm not going to blow myself up out of proportion. That's an easy recipe to fall on my face.

What I will say is that I’m listening.

I'm going to be doing my damnedest not to bore anybody, while still delivering an intelligent, original, and smooth story that works well in the Campaign Setting. Something that will really fire up your imagination, especially this final round.

Heck, I'm shooting for "thrilling". I'm praying that I pull it off too! Lol.

Anyway, thanks for this Nicolas. I need to get back to work, but I really wanted somebody to lay it on the line and get to the heart of it, because I need to know what I have to do in order to close the deal.

Because Paizo is looking for talent, but the winner has to be the one that can sell the product.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

I'd actually say that there has been a lot of Die Hard in the past few years, and in this case, I'm kinda digging the Sundance bit. ;)
That said, yea, that's probably pretty close. If people are complimenting you but not voting, that might be what they're thinking.

"This is good, but it doesn't grab me."

If you're asking me, I would say you've mostly found your groove, and I hope I haven't talked you into totally rewriting your act. Jim Groves has gotten you this far, and what I really want to see is more Jim Groves. But I want it louder.

At this point you can't just have cool stuff happening in the background, where a PC might see it, if the DM is with you. You need that stuff happening UP IN THE PC's FACE. If you find yourself putting together something awesome, stop and ask yourself "Where are the PCs right now? Why does this matter to them? If they're here in the middle of it, then why, and if not, then how might they find out about it?"
And if the PCs aren't around, start asking yourself how you're going to drag those little bastards into it.

That one or two lines about captured skintakers are exactly what I'm talking about. Before that, the entry was good, the creature was creepy and sympathic, and in this case you probably had the reader's attention anyway. But those lines- and the implication of a skintaker tied up shamefully explaining his existence to some adventurer- just took the whole thing and shoved it in the reader's face. It put the backstory a little closer to the front, made it that much more immediate.

At the same time I'm not trying to say that you can't/shouldn't have layers or mystery or distant backstory or whatever you're feeling should be a part of this. I'm just saying, keep the players (and readers) in mind. Cater to them. Pay attention to the foreground. And yea, if you're shooting for "thrilling" then it sounds like you've understood me perfectly.

It's become a cliche, but I've just got to say it:
Always be awesome. :)

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Tarren Dei

I haven't had as much time as I would like to participate in these forums, Jim, but I think you've put together some very impressive work and I'm really rooting for you.

(edited, tidied up)
What do the public in general want? Hmm. Tricky. The best entry, I would say. The trouble is, what is 'best' varies from person to person.

Strong imagery I think may play a big part in it for a lot of people. Things which get/provoke a reaction, whether humour or awe or terror or adrenalin or revulsion or <dot dot dot dot dot>. It doesn't have to be rocks falling out of the sky - there was a notable lack of rocks falling out of the sky killing everyone and blowing everything up in the Skintaker entry, yet that was very popular. (Not that rocks falling out of the sky aren't bad, if done well.) Overdo it and people will notice and accuse it of being cliché or jokey or something worse. I think that as far as many of the voters are concerned, you're telling a story in highlights of your module*, and they want to get glimpses, feel for themselves something of the wonders and terrors which they and their characters might feel in-game.

The judges, on the other hand, are hardened industry professionals and will be looking at things such as if your proposal will fit in 32 pages, if you drive a regiment of elephant cavalry through canon, and how good your spelling and grammar are? If you really make a mess of that side of things, the judges will say so, and if it's bad enough it won't matter how strong your imagery is, because the general voting public do pay attention to the judges and take notice if all the judges pan something without reserve.

And there are some things which will irk both judges and public. Part of roleplaying games is choice or at least the illusion of obvious choices, for the characters of the players; forcing something on PCs or introducing those deus ex machina things which makes whatever PCs do seem too little and insignificant is thus bad, or at any rate in large quantities. Somewhere I once heard something along the lines of 'in a good story an author is allowed one coincidence', and I think that the same in a manner of speaking may hold true for adventures. There's a limit to what you should try to force, and everything else should just flow naturally.

I don't know if that's any sense to you, or if it helps at all, but you asked. :)

* being able to communicate yourself effectively here is important!

The Exchange

Good Luck, Jim.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

French Wolf wrote:
Good Luck, Jim.

Thank you French Wolf. I did my very best. Deep in my heart, I had some reservations about the Observatory. I have none in the Final Round. Only my hope that people like it and see potential in it.

And on that note, I'm going to hush up. :D

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