|David Ludwig RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32|
Headquarters: Whibey Manor, Almas
Leader: Garnet Whibey
Structure: Loose association of like-minded fellows
Resources: Little beyond individual members’ personal assets
A grass roots movement dedicated to the de-commodification of magic, Essentialist ideology is gradually taking hold around the Inner Sea. The movement is the brain child of the moneyed Garnet Whibey, who a decade ago began noticing various of his contemporaries sporting enchanted possessions and only the rudest understanding of their function. Upon voicing his discontent at magic being used as a status symbol, Whibey soon discovered others who shared his distaste for what they came to refer to as the commodification of magic. In the last five years their cause has found sympathetic ears scattered about the Inner Sea, and while currently without any clearly articulated plan of action the Essentialists are aggressively growing in number.
Structure and Leadership
Garnet Whibey today is at most a figure-head for the movement, though many Essentialists don’t even recognize him as that. They consider themselves equals within the struggle for magical de-commodification. Initiation into the organization involves nothing more than pronouncing one’s self an Essentialist. This has led to countless scattered and unconnected splinters of the organization—though for now Whibey and the Almas Essentialists are satisfied the message is spreading.
As an organization Essentialists have nearly as many goals as they have members. The only unified goal is to spread the word and gain members. The larger goal of de-commodifying magic is, at best, poorly defined. Some interpret it to mean seizing and destroying all magical items, others simply limiting access to magic items to those familiar enough with the craft to construct their own. Many Essentialists rail against the evils of commodification not just of magic but mundane goods as well, others distinguish between arcane and divine forms of magic. There are those who seek to force their will on others, and many more who honestly expect people to hear their message and voluntarily reduce or eliminate dependence on magic items.
The public is largely unaffected by the Essentialists, whose mission has more bearing on the adventurous, entrepreneurial or wealthy. Frequently Essentialists are dismissed as mad or comical, but as their numbers grow those who depend on magical items are beginning to take wary notice.
|Neil Spicer Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut|
Welcome to RPG Superstar, David. The contest takes on an entirely different spin at this level. As judges we're here to help guide you and comment on your work, both in the hopes of helping you hone your design skills, and also to assist the voting public in assessing how you measure up. With that in mind, I'm going to talk a bit about what you did well here, as well as some areas I think you can target for growth. So, pull up a chair and let's see what we've got...
Your organization name gave me pause when I first saw it. My brain wanted to translate it into "Existentialists" which conjures up a whole different set of imagery. As "Essentialists" I'm not sure what that means. If you drop that name into a game reference somewhere outside of this write-up, the reader would be hard-pressed to gain much from it in terms of immediate inspiration or any kind of clue as to what they're about. Instead, they'd have to go off and look up your organization to get the skinny on them. It's a far better trick, I think, to put more work into your names, particularly for organizations. Much like an adventure's title, you want the name to hint at the possibilities of what that organization entails. Not so much that it gives away the whole farm. But just enough to tantalize. I think you missed an opportunity here with "Essentialists." And so, I thought it was worth mentioning. And I think it's a lesson everyone should sort of incorporate into their thinking, as naming things is one of the hardest (and sometimes frustrating) skills to master. Even the development staff at Paizo has had to sequester themselves for "naming" brainstorm sessions from time to time. So, don't take what I'm conveying here as a huge critique or anything. It's just an important point worth examining here, because naming is going to pop up again and again over the course of this competition. And, in fact it alread did in the wondrous item round, too. So, I'm hoping everyone will take note by delving into the issue a bit here with your organization name.
So, let's set that aside and look at the core of your idea. If you'll pardon the pun, we're "essentially" looking at a philosophy which spawned a loosely defined organization or movement against the magic item industry. I've got to admit, I'm a little vexed by your creation here. It's kind of a head scratcher. Your write-up itself indicates "...the larger goal of de-commodifying magic is, at best, poorly defined." And that's kind of how it left me. The goals of this organization feel poorly defined. Increasing their membership and spreading their philosophy are both kind of throwaway goals. Every organization is pretty much going to pursue those things. The larger goal of de-commodifying magic is what matters. You've intimated that the organization is too fractured in its interpretation of that goal to have much consistency. Some want to seize and destroy magic items. Others just want to control access to them (kind of like gun control in the modern age, I guess). But, are those really goals you want to build an organization around and drop into a magic-rich, fantasy campaign setting? The whole premise feels at odds with Golarion rather than complementing it.
Now, I can see what you're going for...and the introduction of a secret society or philosophical movement that's anti-magic or for greater control of magic is fine. But is it enough to base an antagonistic organization around? I don't know. I suppose it could be. It's just a lot less inspiring to me. Or, maybe you just didn't take it far enough and put enough definition around it to achieve buy-in from me. I can see the seed of your idea working in certain circles. Dropping it into Andoran doesn't necessarily work that much, though. Alkenstar, maybe? A secret society of wizards and other magic item crafters across Avistan who have vowed to sell their products only through controlled channels? Even then, they'd have a pretty long, uphill battle to make much of dent in the rest of the magic-producing economies of the world. Either way, the actual goal of eliminating or limiting magic from the world feels like a goal few would ever champion, given the impact it can have in making everyday life more tolerable, enhancing a nation's military might, enabling trade, etc.
Despite all that, I think you generally write very well. Your description of the Essentialists and the philosophical movement is presented in an understandable fashion. I'm not sure you were able to layer in enough elements to sell it very well as an antagonistic organization. Some examples of their activities rather than such a focus on describing the philosophy might have helped the reader/GM understand how to more effectively integrate it into a campaign.
But, as described, I think your core idea is a miss, and I DO NOT RECOMMEND this organization to carry you through to the next round.
We'll have to see if the other judges and voters agree. Your basilisk's eye sight caught the interest of a number of folks and some even put it in their Top 5 favorites. So, maybe the strength of that idea, coupled with your work here, helps move you forward. Best of luck in the exit polls.
|Clark Peterson Legendary Games, Necromancer Games|
David, welcome to Round 2!
What you are getting from me in this critique: This round is all about conflict and story. I think the best organizations create interesting and compelling groups that will come into conflict with the PCs. My comments, and my recommendation, will focus on how well you do that. My comments will also focus on writing and use of your allotted content in achieving your goals. What you won't get from me: I don't have the total Golarion-fu that Neil and Sean do, so I will leave to them whether you got the nitty gritty details of some of the setting stuff to them (though apparently I did have enough Golarion-fu to know its Pharasmin not Pharasmian, you know who you are).
So here we go!
Initial Impression: This is a belief system or philosophy, not an organization.
Ordinarily, I would stop here. If there was an “auto-reject” this round, this would get one. But some years ago I did just that and it was alleged I was “unfair” for not doing a “full review” for all entries. So, learning from that, here we go…
Concept (name, title, is it an organization?, overall design choices, is the organization and antagonist and does it create direct conflict for the PCs?, playability): D
“loose association,” “like-minded fellows,” “grass roots movement,” “Initiation into the organization involves nothing more than pronouncing one’s self an Essentialist,” “Essentialists have nearly as many goals as they have members,” pretty much sum this up. It’s a way of thinking, not an organization. And even that way of thinking isn’t defined. As such it fails to meet the minimum criteria of this round. Another submission this round created an actual organization but it wasn’t an “antagonist” as required by the rules. This isn’t even that. This is simply not an organization. Its just some people who share a similar belief. That's a belief system. Not an organization. An organization implies some type of network or structure even if loose, which this doesn't have.
Execution (quality of writing, hook, theme, organization, use of proper format, quality of mandatory content, did you milk your idea for all it was worth? did you use your allotted space well?): D
“The larger goal of de-commodifying magic is, at best, poorly defined.” If you don’t know, how are we supposed to know?
Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor, are you showing Superstar mojo?): D
Sorry, this one is a miss.
A poorly defined individual belief system that is not an organization.
Recommendation: I DO NOT recommend this organization submission for advancement.
David, sorry about the above review. I thought you showed a lot of ingenuity in using the blank canvass of design space for your sight. I was hoping to see you answer some of the concerns we had and really hit this one out of the park. The fact that I don’t think you did, though, doesn’t mean you didn’t. It’s up to the voters, not me. I don’t know what happened here. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn you felt up against it and tried a bold move to go with something really different and somehow just wound up going way off track. In any event, I wish you the best of luck!
|Sean K Reynolds Contributor|
This isn't an organization, it's a philosophy, and one without a unifying goal. Even the stated goal is (according to the org description) is "poorly defined." If the author doesn't have a firm grip on what these guys are about, and the writeup says it doesn't have much of an impact on other people, what is there to motivate a GM to use this group?
I do not recommend this to advance.
You turned a fan-boy crusade against a design feature of the Pathfinder game into a SuperStar submission?
I do not recommend that you vote for this designer.
EDIT FROM SEAN: Competitors, remember this item from the Round 2 FAQ, which reminds competitors about the rule against commenting about their own submissions. We're pasting this reminder into the last judge comment for every organization just to make sure all competitors see it and remember.
|Thomas LeBlanc RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9|
So they are the Rabid Eco-friendlies of our society today.. Only with magic. Very interesting.
Although Thomas above makes a great point about their potential of being antagonists, they don't seem like that to me. They seem more like the Green Party. They're there and yeah they talk about us breaking from our co-dependency on foreign oil, but no one really listens to them. That's the Essentialists. And some players may even say, that members would be just butt hurt cause they can't do magic themselves.
Status: No vote--would make a great ideology in Pathfinder, but not a good organization.
|Ben Iglauer RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka moon glum|
|1 person marked this as a favorite.|
There is potential here. Occupy the trade outposts of the Multiversal Guild of Magic Using Beings! Distribute magic items amongst all creatures! Bandits and robin hood types that some players will feel that they should be allies with, but wait! They want to take your magic items! It could be fun.
I am on the fence.
Starting out, this looked like it could be just the sort of group that would antagonize any group of PCs, because magic items are what PCs are all about. Then I got to the organization section and discovered it wasn't an organization and started to get quite disappointed. With every member running off on their own and doing their own thing, it doesn't leave a lot to make the PCs think that someone is more than some loony nutjob who tried to take away their enhancement bonuses.
I do honestly feel that if you'd built this up to be an organized group (as organization implies) that had actual far reaching plans to collect/dispose of magic items in the possession of those who are "unworthy" you would have had a homerun idea, but this ultimately leaves me a bit flat.
|R D Ramsey Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water|
Like everyone else has said, this is much more of a philosophy than an organization. An organization is just that, it's organized. There's some sort of hierarchy to it. With that said, I could easily see this being turned into an antagonistic organization. Something on par with a thieves guild since I can't think of a real world comparison.
As much as I would have liked to vote for the guy from my hometown (well, very close to it at least), I can't.
|Power Word Unzip|
I feel a sort of "Anonymous" vibe running through this entry, which is kinda cool I suppose, but I concur with the judges - there's not much here for me as a GM to use if I want to introduce a new organization into my ongoing game.
If I want to take magic items away from my PCs, I can already do that with things like disenchanters and rust monsters instead of a loosely organized cabal of crazy bookwormish mages. I'll pass.
Sure it is a philosophy, but look:
Group: "So these guys wanna take my ring of sustenance?
Group: "Kill 'em all and salt their lands!"
They could provide lots of fun, but it'd mostly come from work done by the GM and not the actions of the organization.
Good luck :).
|Caineach Star Voter Season 6|
I don't get the terrorist vibe so much as an elitist one. I've met people who say you shouldn't drive a car unless you can maintain it yourself. I see these guys as similar. But there is no organization here. If they were structured more, you would have gotten my vote. They seem CN to me, and I feel like they would be better suited as LN. Have them trying to take over a magical commodities market, unionizing and perhaps using aggressive tactics. I'm not familiar with Almas, but I would center them in an area of decadence, like Taldor, where fads come and go and you could argue nobles are resorting to things like Hats of Disguise to deal with minor blemishes, wasting valuable resources for mundane purposes.
The lack of organization makes this group feel pointless and impotent. Thats not really what you should be going for.
As presented it really does look like more of a philosophy or a conversation point than an organisation. What do they actually do? How are they, well, organised?
I think that, as others have alluded to, there is a potential for conflict here if this group’s goal was a militant confiscation of magical items or something similar, but as presented it’s hard to see if that is the group’s goal, or how they could go about it if it was.
Good luck David.
|Kris Newton Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka OwlbearRepublic|
I agree with the consensus on this one. More than its disorganization, though, this entry turned me off with its anachronistic feel. More than one entry suffered from this problem, so here's a brief explanation of what you did to rub me wrong.
It's fine to crib from the impulses and the primary values of modern ideologies when you're writing for Golarion. The people of Golarion are, after all, recognizably human. However, you've got to separate that kernel of essential humanity from the distinctively modern ideas that shape real world politics. You can have a worker's revolt in Golarion, but not Marxism; middle class resistance to taxation, but not the Tea Party; etc. With decommodification, you crossed the line. Even if people had a problem with magic items in Golarion, I can't imagine that it would take that form. Once you've lost suspension of disbelief, there's no getting the reader back.
My advice for the future (to all of the contestants) is to further distill your ideas into something more universal. For example, you could boil decommodification down to a resentment against systems that deny necessaries to the underclass. Give me a group of impoverished urban laborers who riot against for-profit vendors of healing magic, and I'm in.
|Ask A RPGSupersuccubus|
Headquarters: Whibey Manor, Almas
Leader: Garnet Whibey
Structure: Loose association of like-minded fellows
Disclaimer:You should know the drill by now, but in case you missed it the first time round, Ask A RPGSupersuccubus is posting from the point of view of a CE aligned succubus:
There’s a difference between late and fashionably late. The former is what most other beings manage. The latter is what sophisticated, (very advanced) succubi manage.
First impressions always being important, do members of this organization wear nifty robes or uniforms when out on formal business?
It's not indicated, so I'm going to assume no.
Does membership of this organisation seem likely to involve regular tea or dinner parties or other appropriate social occasions?
Alright, now this is an organization I could imagine possibly holding such functions, but again it's not indicated it does, so I assume no.
Is the cost of being a member of this organisation likely to be acceptable to a succubus?
No indication is made of any kind of membership fee or requirement. Lesser mortals are apparently expected to give up magical items, but let's face it, succubi aren't either lesser (except in the sense of some cute, archaic, classifications of Tanar'ri) or mortal...
This organisation has a certain potential if nudged in the direction of 'only the worthy (ideally succubi and their servants/allies) may have magical items, and others must surrender their items to the worthy at once', but it needs to be better led and motivated.
Organizations are not being rated except under special circumstances.
Congratulations on making the top cut in Round 1. Obviously at this point it’s now apparent that you won’t be progressing any further this time around, but that means you can at least now relax, sit back, pick up a voodoo doll of your least favourite arch-devil, and start sticking silver pins in…