Isn't this supposed to be RPG superstar?


RPG Superstar™ 2010 General Discussion

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

First of all let me state I am not an avid poster, but have been following the contest for years and I no way planned to post this year, but unfortunately during the final round I found myself annoyed enough to post.

This is a design contest of for the best designer pure and simple. Unfortunately this year Matt McGee was repeatedly dinged by the judges because a similar module was going to be released in the near future. That has no place within the structure of this contest. I understand this is a Paizo run contest and having similar products are sub-optimal, but if you name a contest "RPG Superstar" and use it as a marketing ploy you have to stick with it and vote for the best proposal.

At this point this is no longer a contest about who had the best module and about which module fits best into Paizo's release schedule. I suggest if that is the case the contest name is changed to Paizo Superstar or Golarian superstar to reflect the true nature of the contest.

Anyway that was my 2 copper and I hope my criticism is actually taken seriously and not seen as troll or a reason to start a flame war.

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

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

It's certainly about the best ideas in part, sure.

But Paizo is a business, after all; it's not unreasonable to think they're interested in how something is going to sell, since that's how they make their living.

Paizo Employee CEO

I should also add in here that if the customers want to vote for a module that is similar to something on our schedule, then that is fine with us. Afterall, we want to give the customers the adventure that THEY want to play, not what we would like to produce. So while the judges might have brought up the similarities between the two adventures, the voice of the customers is the one that will have spoken in the end. And we will make that adventure to the best of our abilities.

-Lisa

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

I agree, Victor. I don't think ESP should be a requirement either.

(Yes, I know it's been stated that the related adventure has been out for a little while, but who has time to read everything?)

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

Richard A. Hunt wrote:
(Yes, I know it's been stated that the related adventure has been out for a little while, but who has time to read everything?)

You'd be surprised.

Honestly though, I think a large part of being a professional game designer (and thus a Superstar) is knowing what not to design, and one way to do that is to know what's been done before. If you're given an assignment and then turn over something that conflicts too much with an existing or already scheduled product, that makes more work for your editor/developer. It's not even a matter of reading everything from cover to cover, but having a general idea of what's out and what's on the horizon is the responsible thing to do when working in someone else's sandbox.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

Point taken, but I don't think Matt was irresponsible in this particular case.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

Richard A. Hunt wrote:
Point taken, but I don't think Matt was irresponsible in this particular case.

I don't think so either, and his proposal is certainly in the running for my vote despite this issue, I'm just saying that the judges aren't out of line to mention it.

Dedicated Voter Season 6

yoda8myhead wrote:
Richard A. Hunt wrote:
(Yes, I know it's been stated that the related adventure has been out for a little while, but who has time to read everything?)

You'd be surprised.

Honestly though, I think a large part of being a professional game designer (and thus a Superstar) is knowing what not to design, and one way to do that is to know what's been done before. If you're given an assignment and then turn over something that conflicts too much with an existing or already scheduled product, that makes more work for your editor/developer. It's not even a matter of reading everything from cover to cover, but having a general idea of what's out and what's on the horizon is the responsible thing to do when working in someone else's sandbox.

You do realize that the sheer volume of material out there makes having a really solid grasp of the mounds of product 'out there' very nearly impossible?

I do agree that perusing Company So-and-Such's forecast product line - as in, what is being advertised as 'in the pipeline' (coming soon, however you like) - is a wise idea before pitching a module concept.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

Turin the Mad wrote:
You do realize that the sheer volume of material out there makes having a really solid grasp of the mounds of product 'out there' very nearly impossible?

That's something I have yet to grasp. I hope I never do.

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

*shrug* Even the entries themselves though tell us a lot about 'superstar'

I mean my proposal would have been right around the 8th level rating, since that's the upper end I'm comfortable writing right now. So that wouldn't have 'stood out'.

Ebon Destroyers and Shadow Thieves stood out to me because of setting (Ebon) and intrigue (Shadow). I've been looking for a good Indian based campaign setting to steal from.

In the end, if it is a project that got my attention that's a plus. That's 'superstar' to me.


Turin the Mad wrote:

You do realize that the sheer volume of material out there makes having a really solid grasp of the mounds of product 'out there' very nearly impossible?

I do agree that perusing Company So-and-Such's forecast product line - as in, what is being advertised as 'in the pipeline' (coming soon, however you like) - is a wise idea before pitching a module concept.

There's a difference between "what's out there" and "what has been discussed on the bulletin boards in the past couple years and has been commissioned".

Fifteen and twenty years ago, all a query to Dragon got you was "We have already got X number of similar manuscripts. Thank you for your inquiry."

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

I would suggest that it is probably not a big ding if you don't remember every adventure or plot used in every adventure a company has made.

However, if you ends up very reminiscent of a previous adventure, the fact that your adventure is good does not change the fact that the company has just done (or is about to) this adventure.

If you are not aware of the products the company you are submitting to is making, you might be a good designer, but I would suggest that you are not a Superstar.

Lets say, for example, I were submitting a Pathfinder Society Scenario that involved the party running into a museum where a recent exhibit, a mysterious magic item, had spread it's curse upon those who were working at the building.

Submitting this, I should immediately take a big ding for submitting a proposal for an adventure that is very similar to scenario released in season 0. The adventure I would be submitting, for the most part, already exists and they would rather have a new adventure than a repeat of an old one.

Same thing for upcoming releases. If you submit something that covers the same ideas as an upcoming product, then you should lose points.

Again, if you don't know what the company you are submitting to has made or is making, you are not a Superstar of any area.

Liberty's Edge

It would definitely be a good idea for next year's contest to keep this in mind for the final round.

And I'm sure someone will toss together an easy to browse list(if one doesn't exist already) of previously, and announced, adventures and paths. (even if this would dilute the 'Superstar' quality needed to know this already)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Victor Miller wrote:
First of all let me state I am not an avid poster, but have been following the contest for years and I no way planned to post this year, but unfortunately during the final round I found myself annoyed enough to post.

Hi, Victor! Don't be a stranger. I believe all opinions are welcomed. This is most of all, a contest decided by the voting public. So step up to the mic and let your voice be heard. I'll spoiler my response to the conversation you've started (because, as usual, it's quite lengthy):

Spoiler:

Victor Miller wrote:
This is a design contest for the best designer pure and simple.

Not exactly. At least, I've never viewed it that way. Let me explain...

I won RPG Superstar 2009, but I actually don't think that means I'm the best designer. Aside from the fact that it would require a tremendous amount of hubris to claim that, I think all you can really say is the ultimate winner of RPG Superstar is a good designer. And that's it.

He or she stands alongside everyone else at the end, and it just so happens their adventure proposal is the one that gets selected by the voting public to be published. Does that automatically make them the "best" designer? No. All it really means is they had the best idea for an adventure and presented it in such a way, it made the voters (and hence, the customers) want to see it made.

Pretty much everyone who makes the Top 4 goes through a crucible that hardens them into a good designer. But the competition isn't really about who's the best. Frankly, there are plenty of people who don't even make it into RPG Superstar, who I'm convinced are equally good designers. They just didn't craft the right pitch with their wondrous item to convince the judges to let them in the competition on that single submission.

It's the same way in the final round. The only difference is that the Top 4 are trying to catch the eyes of the voting public. And, although that single adventure idea might not win over everyone on that particular day, it in no way means the other three who don't take the title aren't equally good designers. In fact, some of the runner-up's go on to become even more prolific and dependable as a freelance designer than whoever wins the whole thing.

I've got a tremendous amount of respect for guys like Eric Bailey, Kevin Carter, Matthew Stinson, Clinton Boomer, Rob McCreary, Jason Nelson, Russ Taylor, and so on. They're all good designers. They've all gone on to freelance for Paizo and write some amazingly good stuff. And that's what actually matters in RPG Superstar. It's not the final prize. It's the opportunities that follow after the competition that truly determine who's a great designer. And, from that point, the "best" designer is subjectively determined by each fan's preferences.

So, as someone who's gone through the experience (and I hope others who have done so would agree), the final round of the competition isn't like the previous rounds. In the early going, the contestants sort themselves out by demonstrating who has the design chops to be a serious freelancer on Paizo projects. And, if you make the Top 4, you've survived far enough to indicate you're among the best of that year's competitors. From there, however, I think the contest changes. The final round isn't about who is the best designer. It's about who gives you the best adventure proposal. It's an appeal to the voting public so they'll fall in love with your adventure idea enough to select it as the one they want Paizo to publish so they can buy it. End of story.

Now, is that a reflection that the guy who proposes the winning adventure is somehow the "best" designer? I don't think so. The finalist with the greatest skillset could still turn in an idea that doesn't resonate with the voters on that given day...and for a variety of reasons -- some controllable and others not so much. And really, everyone who reaches the Top 4 is capable of designing a good adventure. They've proven that during the previous rounds by demonstrating their abilities with all the little pieces which comprise an adventure. So, in my mind, everyone is mostly equal in that final round. Everyone has an equal shot to pitch an idea for an adventure and convince the voting public to greenlight it.

Everything that came before matters much less...except for the fact that it helped put four qualified people in a position to take their shot. And, granted, if two or more adventure ideas come off equally strong and equally appealing, voters will rightly turn to examine the previous body of work and awesome ideas that appeared in earlier rounds to determine which designer they trust the most to deliver on the end-product. But a finalist has to clear that initial hurdle first. They've got to pitch a solid adventure idea that captures everyone's imagination...or a majority of voters' combined imagination...to win them over.

Victor Miller wrote:
Unfortunately this year Matt McGee was repeatedly dinged by the judges because a similar module was going to be released in the near future. That has no place within the structure of this contest.

Of course it does. The judges are in their right to comment on anything they perceive as problematic or concerning about an adventure proposal...and that includes its subject matter if such content is going to retread ground another module has covered...or will cover.

When I first looked into freelancing and writing for RPGs several years ago, I attended a number of seminars at conventions put on by guys who were already actively publishing in the industry and/or freelancing for publishers in the industry. One of the first things they always, always pointed out was to become knowledgeable about a publisher's product line. If you want to write for someone, know what they've already created...know what's on their schedule...and know as much as you can about their campaign settings, writing style, and content subject matter as you possibly can. That will help you a tremendous amount in not only capturing their eye, but assuring them you can be trusted to write for their products in a supportive way that doesn't break or duplicate anything.

That's important. Because even though some people view RPG Superstar as a "fun exercise" and sometimes enter it on a lark just to see if they'll make it in...the heart of the matter is that this is a golden opportunity to have a chance to write for Paizo. That's the purpose of the contest (not just for the ultimate winner, but also those who make it far enough to show they've got the chops to be a freelancer). As such, I think it's imperative that anyone who comes at this contest do their research on what's expected of a freelancer in the RPG industry. Don't just assume it. Know it!

Lastly, with respect to the judges "dinging" anyone, it's their job to make observations such as these. It's the same deal when a finalist pitches something way too big to fit into 32 pages. That's a subjective estimate, but the judges (who have actual experience in knowing what can fit in 32 pages) are ideally the best people to comment on that. Otherwise, the public votes for something that won't look anything like the pitch promised because the designer will have trouble packing all of it into the final manuscript. Trust me. I learned that lesson with Realm of the Fellnight Queen. I thought I had it pretty well planned out, but there was plenty of stuff that still hit the cutting room floor. And now I'm better educated on it.

Victor Miller wrote:
I understand this is a Paizo run contest and having similar products are sub-optimal, but if you name a contest "RPG Superstar" and use it as a marketing ploy you have to stick with it and vote for the best proposal.

I don't know anyone who isn't...because, even after setting aside the similarity of From Time's Depths to From Shore to Sea...I still didn't think Matthew had the best proposal. He injected lots of nifty ideas, but there were still a fair amount of plot-holes as well, many of which were commented on extensively, both by the judges as well as the voters.

Even so, that doesn't mean the voting public wants to see another adventure in the exact same level range dealing with very similar subject matter as an adventure they already know their Pathfinder module subscription will bring them. Some may. Most won't. And thus, the cool aspects of Matthew's proposal faced an uphill battle in swaying enough people to give him their vote. That's just a result of the choice he made...not a result of the judges pointing it out.

Regardless, as Lisa pointed out, if Matthew's proposal had convinced everyone to vote for it anyway, Paizo would honor their decision and publish it. That's because unlike any other Open Call or product announcement on Paizo's schedule, this one gets decided by the customers. And, that too, is one of the things I really like about RPG Superstar. It gives the four finalists a chance to throw out the adventure idea they've always wanted to write...or that they've always wanted to see someone publish. I know I felt that way with Fellnight Queen and I'm glad the voting public supported it so such an adventure could be made. I expect Christine may feel the same way about Clash of the Kingslayers. And, hopefully, whoever wins this year's contest has a chance to pen the adventure of their dreams, too.

Victor Miller wrote:
Anyway that was my 2 copper and I hope my criticism is actually taken seriously and not seen as troll or a reason to start a flame war.

No problem, Victor. I certainly didn't take your comment as trying to spark a controversy or anything. It's a legitimate point to raise and consider. But I think how people view such a thing really depends on how they view the contest as a whole. Your perception of it is different from mine, I think. So, don't take any of my commentary above as a hard rebuttal of everything you expressed. It's just an effort to try and explain why I view it differently...and why others might as well.

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

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

Voting for the "Superstar" in the final round is very subjective business, and it's a twofold thing. You can vote for:

A. The proposal you like the best and the adventure you would most want to buy.
B. The contestant you like the best and whose game writing (of all types) you would most want to buy.

Really, it's a matter of do you vote for a contestant's entry solely based on THAT round, or on ALL of their previous stuff. I think in the preliminary rounds there may be more of an inclination to vote on the (B) side, but in the final round it's different. You're not just evaluating the quality of a contestant's ideas in general, you are now voting on that *AND* what you think about this specific idea, because while everything they've written before may never show up in print, if they win, this one definitely WILL. Is this an adventure concept or location or set of characters that you'd like to see added to the Golarion canon? Is this an adventure you think would add something cool and new to the Pathfinder library of adventures?

That's why it matters whether it's similar to something already out there. When people come to their shelves, they don't want 10 variations of Keep on the Borderlands. They DO want KotB, but they also want Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and Against the Cult of the Reptile God and Secret of the Slavers' Stockade and Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and Ravenloft and Gates of Firestorm Peak and on down the list. A spread of themes, a spread of levels, a spread of monster types, a spread of environments or locations, a spread of the combat/puzzle/investigation and every other element that makes an adventure interesting.

I say all that to say I don't fault the judges at all for bringing up the similarity to a product coming out soon from Paizo. From Shore to Sea has been announced for several months, so it's not a secret project, and Neil is absolutely right - if you want to freelance for somebody and pitch a product, you need to know what's already been done *AND* what's in the publicly announced pipeline. Stuff you don't know about because it hasn't been announced; well, you can't know that, and sometimes you may just get bad luck.

I mentioned on another thread that a few months ago I pitched a high-level mod to Paizo. Things were busy and it went to the back burner for comment, but in the meanwhile the new product schedule shows up and on the schedule is a module from Monte Cook with some similar themes - higher-level adventure in mountains with giants. Sure, the adventures have a lot of differences in plot and such, but that basic similarity might result in my adventure pitch getting the "sorry, we just did that" treatment. It wasn't announced so I had no way of knowing... but too bad. It happens. Those are the breaks sometimes.

BUT, if I had known that Monte's module was on the schedule, if they had publicly announced it, and I went ahead and submitted a similar adventure idea anyway, that would be a pretty bad choice on my part. Could it still get accepted? I suppose anything is possible, but I would definitely be hurting my odds by pitching a parallel project, whether on purpose or as a result of not familiarizing myself with the upcoming products.

If you think it's unfair that the judges dinged for that, I'll tell you from experience that it's part of the freelancing and publishing game, and if you wanna roll like a pro, get used to it.

Now, all of the above stated, I voted for Matthew McGee not because he had the best final proposal (he didn't; in fact, it was probably 3rd best), but because overall I liked his body of work the best and thought he would make the best general purpose freelancer for all aspects of game design and writing of the four finalists. They all had talent and creativity and writing skill and all of them did things I liked in the contest, but I thought his stuff was overall the best.

I voted for Matt not for (A), that his proposal would be the best, but for (B), that I thought the stuff he would write for Chronicles, Companions, future adventures, etc. would be the best.

I guess you could say I voted for him for the TITLE of Superstar, not for the ROLE of "writer of the Superstar contest-winning adventure." Last year, I thought that was the same person (Neil) who warranted a vote on both counts. This time, I probably would give the Matthew Goodall the nod for best adventure submission, but I think Matthew McGee had the better contest from start to finish.

If this were a boxing match, Goodall wins round 5 but not by a knockout, and when we go to the judges scorecards McGee wins a split decision on points.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

CTSamuraiX wrote:

It would definitely be a good idea for next year's contest to keep this in mind for the final round.

And I'm sure someone will toss together an easy to browse list(if one doesn't exist already) of previously, and announced, adventures and paths. (even if this would dilute the 'Superstar' quality needed to know this already)

PathfinderWiki lists all products from the day they are announced and updates its descriptions as more final information on their contents are released. The site is also a good resource for potential freelancers to familiarize themselves with world elements that aren't detailed in the Campaign Setting, or at least know what other books they might wish to pick up for research purposes.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

yoda8myhead wrote:
PathfinderWiki...is also a good resource for potential freelancers to familiarize themselves with world elements that aren't detailed in the Campaign Setting, or at least know what other books they might wish to pick up for research purposes.

I'll ditto that. When I put together my proposal for Realm of the Fellnight Queen last year, I made a point of visiting the Pathfinder Wiki to research each and every product where the fey and the First World had seen publication, just to make sure I didn't make any false assumptions about anything before I chose to include those Golarion elements in my pitch.

For instance, I already had a copy of Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale so I knew about the roseblood sprites. And, although I had thumbed through a copy of Carnival of Tears and knew it had used fey, I wasn't familiar with the exact nuances Tim Hitchcock had applied to them. So, the Wiki helped me make sure I learned as much as I could about how they'd been portrayed...as well as whether or not other products existed (like PFS scenarios) which might have dealt with them outside of the actual PCCS.

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