Wondrous Item auto-reject advice #24: Item repeats existing rules text in its description


RPG Superstar™ 2011 General Discussion

Contributor

(Last year I compiled a list of things that would instantly disqualify your item. I'm posting them one by one as we approach Round 1 of this year's contest.)

24. Item repeats existing rules text in its description.

If your item grants the bearer darkvision, you don't need to copy-paste (or worse, paraphrase) the rules for darkvision.

If your item lets the wearer become incorporeal, you don't need to explain the rules for being incorporeal.

If your item lets the wearer use spell X once per day, you don't need to repeat the effects, range, or duration of spell X.

Racial abilities.
Feat descriptions.
Class abilities.
Combat rules.
And so on.

People know how darkvision works. And how incorporeal works. And how spell X works. And if they don't know, they should know where to look it up. By repeating that text, (1) you're wasting words, (2) you're introducing the chance that you're going to make a mistake in those rules, (3) the reader may think you're including all that text to show how this ability is slightly different from the standard version, such as a customized darkvision that lets you see color, (4) you're not being innovative or creative--by definition, copying or paraphrasing someone else's text isn't creative.

If you find yourself re-explaining existing rules text in your item, stop, delete it, and use those words for something else.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

My two-cents...

Spoiler:
This lesson bears learning early. Your word count is precious. Don't waste it retreading ground that's already been covered or rules that have already been polished down to a fine sheen. The rules are already there. Lean on them. Don't regurgitate them.

That said, I'll single out this bit of text from Sean's list for extra consideration:

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
...(3) the reader may think you're including all that text to show how this ability is slightly different from the standard version, such as a customized darkvision that lets you see color...

If you find yourself in a situation where you are including a variation of a spell, feat, class ability, etc. in your item, make sure you single out how it's different. That's what separates this type of item from a Spell-in-a-Can, a Feat-in-a-Can, a Class-Ability-in-a-Can, and so on. Now, even that doesn't mean you should rehash the entire rules text. If your item provides darkvision, but it lets you see color...say that. But you don't have to go on to describe everything else about darkvision. Same goes for a spell and all its normal effects. Just highlight the part that's different and say it works like the spell in every other way.

So, bottom line: Be smart with your design. Select your words carefully. Make sure your item mechanically works within the rules without breaking anything. And don't waste space on undue explanation for stuff that can be found elsewhere in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook or Advanced Player's Guide. How do you make sure you avoid this pitfall? Know the rules. That's what an RPG Superstar should be able to demonstrate.


--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka Tetujin

This has me wondering. A couple years ago I submitted a mask that let the wearer swallow whole, and in the stat block I basically repeated most of the text of swallow whole, because it's the sort of ability that while it has name and description in the rules text, you still need to specify in some way the capacity ("X Huge, or 2X Large ... creatures can fit."), as well as the AC and HP of the inside to see how hard it is to escape.

If someone were to submit a item with an ability that has a similar rules status would it be acceptable to just say "This item grants the user the Swallow Whole ability of the Purple Worm" (or T-Rex, etc) and let the players figure out on their own what that actually means?

Would this also apply for abilities which are unique to a given creature or situation? For example "This item grants the user Achaekek's Unweaving Aura ability"?

Contributor

For swallow whole, I'd say "allows the wearer to use the swallow whole ability on a creature of up to its size."

If you're referring to a common monster ability, like a UMR, then a short reference is fine. Something more obscure (like a prestige class power, or that of a monster found only in an AP), probably would require more explanation and shouldn't be a superstar submission.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Casey Smith wrote:

This has me wondering. A couple years ago I submitted a mask that let the wearer swallow whole, and in the stat block I basically repeated most of the text of swallow whole, because it's the sort of ability that while it has name and description in the rules text, you still need to specify in some way the capacity ("X Huge, or 2X Large ... creatures can fit."), as well as the AC and HP of the inside to see how hard it is to escape.

If someone were to submit a item with an ability that has a similar rules status would it be acceptable to just say "This item grants the user the Swallow Whole ability of the Purple Worm" (or T-Rex, etc) and let the players figure out on their own what that actually means?

Personal opinion: No. In that case, you're well-served by specifying the unique variables of that special ability. We don't need an entire regurgitation (pardon the pun) of all the swallow whole rules. What we do need to know are exactly the things you specified (i.e., how many creatures, the AC inside, the damage inflicted, etc.). Basically, the information that would appear on the stat-block line for a creature's Special Attacks.

Casey Smith wrote:
Would this also apply for abilities which are unique to a given creature or situation? For example "This item grants the user Achaekek's Unweaving Aura ability"?

Where there are no variables to distinguish, I think it's perfectly fine to reference the creature itself...as in, "this ability works just like a...blah-blah-blah..."

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

There are a number of spells in the PRD that have game mechanics for conditions in their description (ie: daze, confusion).

Since you'd rather not see existing rules text in our wondrous item submission, would it be enough to just say something like "the beam of light dazes the creature" or "the eel of impending horror causes the target to become frightened?" (These are made-up examples - I don't have any plans to submit an eel of impending horror, as awesome as that may be)

Should we assume if we use a word that is a game mechanic (bleed, blinded, confused, cowering, dazed, etc), the reader will understand we refer to the mechanic? That frightened means the frightened condition, not scared; and confused means the confused condition, not befuddled?

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Card Game, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Seth White wrote:

There are a number of spells in the PRD that have game mechanics for conditions in their description (ie: daze, confusion).

Since you'd rather not see existing rules text in our wondrous item submission, would it be enough to just say something like "the beam of light dazes the creature" ...

One trick to keep in mind is the proper use of italics. There is a reason for putting spells and magical effects in italics. "The light dazes the creature," is, because of the italics, a direct reference to the spell. Though if you merely write, "The light dazes the creature," and forget the italics you leave the effect open to greater interpretation as people wonder whether you are referencing the spell or just showing off your vocabulary.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Wicht wrote:
Seth White wrote:

There are a number of spells in the PRD that have game mechanics for conditions in their description (ie: daze, confusion).

Since you'd rather not see existing rules text in our wondrous item submission, would it be enough to just say something like "the beam of light dazes the creature" ...

One trick to keep in mind is the proper use of italics. There is a reason for putting spells and magical effects in italics. "The light dazes the creature," is, because of the italics, a direct reference to the spell. Though if you merely write, "The light dazes the creature," and forget the italics you leave the effect open to greater interpretation as people wonder whether you are referencing the spell or just showing off your vocabulary.

Wouldn't the proper use be: the caster dazes the target with daze? From what I can see, it looks like conditions themselves don't get italicized or capitalized, which I think makes them a tad more confusing (not the condition) than spells or feats.

To your point, maybe it's best to add in a couple extra words so it's clear: "the redacted dazes the target, as if the wielder cast daze" or something to that effect?

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

When you use the spell name as a verb, Paizo prefers that you don't italicize it. When you use it as a noun or adjective, then yes, you always do. So, Neil teleports into the room using teleport rather than greater teleport or a teleportation circle...is how you'd want to phrase it. Or Neil dazes the target with a quick daze cantrip would work too.

As for the other question about referencing conditions, take your cue from items in the PRD that already do that. They either say the item duplicates a spell effect (such as scare or fear) so they don't have to specify the various conditions of shaken, frightened, panicked, etc...OR because a magic item functions very differently from a spell, they DO reference the appropriate condition without having to specify all of the numerical effects defined by the rules for them.

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Card Game, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Neil Spicer wrote:
When you use the spell name as a verb, Paizo prefers that you don't italicize it. When you use it as a noun or adjective, then yes, you always do.

That's good to know. Thanks.

Liberty's Edge

Neil Spicer wrote:
Neil dazes the target with a quick daze cantrip

1d20 + 1 ⇒ (15) + 1 = 16

I resist your cantrip, sirrah. Assuming that you don't have an Intelligence score higher than 23, or Spell Focus: Enchantment, or some other such nonsense.

Contributor

If you're ever unsure, look to the Core Rulebook and follow the format it uses.

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

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Sean, thanks so much for these threads.

After reading these I realized that the item I was intending to submit, would break (or go against) a couple of these very "auto-reject" advice pieces. As much as I really liked said item, I'm too concerned about having it rejected, and I have moved on to one of the other items I have in the "idea hopper" as it were.

So, thanks for helping me (and all of us I hope) to see what is and isn't a good idea in presentation, formatting, word usage, etc.

Now of course I only hope my item (which I haven't submitted yet) is one of the lucky 32. (Or maybe an alternate). :)

Regards,

Dean; The_Minstrel_Wyrm

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Jeremiziah wrote:
I resist your cantrip, sirrah. Assuming that you don't have an Intelligence score higher than 23, or Spell Focus: Enchantment, or some other such nonsense.

::narrows eyes::

Would you prefer I cast crushing hand or implosion instead?

Liberty's Edge

Take note, everybody - intimidate doesn't always require an opposed roll! LOL!


Jeremiziah wrote:
Take note, everybody - intimidate doesn't always require an opposed roll! LOL!

But it does take courage my young friend :)

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Neil Spicer wrote:
When you use the spell name as a verb, Paizo prefers that you don't italicize it. When you use it as a noun or adjective, then yes, you always do. So, Neil teleports into the room using teleport rather than greater teleport or a teleportation circle...is how you'd want to phrase it. Or Neil dazes the target with a quick daze cantrip would work too.

Well if you're using a helm of teleportation, it looks like you teleport into the room, according to the item rules text. All other times, you just teleport.

::ducks imminent daze/crushing hand/implosion::

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Seth White wrote:
Well if you're using a helm of teleportation, it looks like you teleport into the room, according to the item rules text. All other times, you just teleport.

::shrug::

That's the exact wording out of the original D20 SRD, which got inherited into the Pathfinder PRD. Doesn't mean that's Paizo's preferred style. All I know if Sean's been very up front with information for all of us freelancers. I used to italicize the verb forms of spells, just assuming they should be. He's singled it out as something they don't want to do at Paizo. So, I've retrained myself not to do it.

::casts message::

Spoiler:

"You'd do well to do the same."

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