Tip: Avoid "Prized by..."


RPG Superstar™ General Discussion

Designer

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From my Freelancer Advice and Punishments document...

“PRIZED BY...”
Far too often, an item is described like this “This item is prized by necromancers,” or “Often prized by bards,” or “Adventurers prize this item,” or “A favorite of blahblahblah class.” There are even items in the Core Rulebook described that way.
Well, stop it. Stop using that phrase and others like it. When you’re describing an item, tell me about the item, not about the class who really likes the item. I don’t care if the item is especially liked by necromancers, or summoners, or fighters, or whatever. If it’s useful to that class, the reader is smart enough to figure it out. And odds are, the reader also has ideas about how useful the item is even if they’re not thinking about that particular class. Don’t box in their thinking.
It’s also just fluff filler text that pads out your word count. The description text for a shovel doesn’t say “greatly prized by people who need to dig a hole,” it just tells you what a shovel does.
And when you’re in the middle of combat and want to know what the item does, this sort of text is just more useless junk the reader has to wade through to get to the meat of the game mechanics. Don’t make them read two sentences when one sentence will do. An item description is not the next great American novel, it’s a condensed format for conveying the item’s game-utility information to the reader. Don’t waste the reader’s time giving them fluff; save the flavor text for monsters, adventures, and locations.
Other phrases in this category include “valued by,” “highly regarded by,” “treasured by,” and so on. Does it give the reader a better understanding of what a strange item does? If the answer is “no,” then cut it.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8

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This thread is prized by entrants.

Contributor

Hurmph! Sigh...

Now I have to go back through and edit stuff out of my work on a yet to be announced product! Bah! ;)

...

(not really)

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka carborundum

Todd has a yet-to-be-announced product? Whoo! :-)

And on-topic, thanks for the tip, Sean. It's weird how the line between classic and cliché sneaks around when you don't pay attention :-)

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Standback

Not that I'm arguing, but I see where this comes from. I think this is less a mistake or poor writing, and more a common tool that's been so easy it's grown to feel overused, cliche, and hollow.

IMHO, a "prized by" snippet has the advantage of providing an initial "frame of mind" before you get through all the description and mechanics. It helps orient readers: "OK, folks, this here is a CRYSTAL BALL and it's good for SAMURAI who like DRINKING WHISKEY. Still with me? Great, then this item's for you!". Consider, in comparison, frequent exhortations to have the question "What item is this? Is it a chair? Is it a cat? Or what?" answered right in the item title - even if you could have a "cooler" name, and even if the text answers the question clearly. Some info you want to come through loud and clear.

The old saw on good presentation is "Tell them what you're going to say, then say it, then tell them what you've said." This phrasing is kind of that. I think it can be particularly useful when the creator feels that the utility isn't immediately clear - he sees it being used in a certain way, but is worried people might not pick up on it. (That's going to be particularly nasty this time round, since it seems the Top 64 items will be voted on without any public discussion! SCARY.)

None of this should be taken to mean that I disagree with Sean. The convention for magic items has been to whittle them down as much as possible to describing what they are and what they do. And that's for good cause - players are a clever, crafty bunch; they don't need to be told what to do or how to play with their toys. And in almost all cases, it's precisely as redundant as Sean says (often to the extent of: "The alchemist's inhaler of communal psoriasis is particularly prized by asthmatic alchemists," natch!).

The thing to do, IMHO, is always try and interweave your flavor within the existing, required elements. You can (and should) be using your physical description to "set the scene," and to tweak stark mechanical descriptions to provide the information and "feel" that you're aiming for.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Standback

Thread hijack, if you're already offering tips, Sean:

I remember an old, old post of yours where you mentioned the possibility of referring to the item's user as "you," like in spell descriptions, instead of third-person, where the interaction between item and user makes it tough to avoid passive voice, and requires awkward references to "the user" or "the bearer."

For example, a typical PRD item, which uses passive voice and the problematic "owner" reference:

Immovable Rod - PRD wrote:
When the button is pushed (a move action), the rod does not move from where it is, even if staying in place defies gravity. Thus, the owner can lift or place the rod wherever he wishes, push the button, and let go.

To fix this, we could try:

Immovable Rod - Fixed wrote:
Pushing the button (a move action) causes the rod to remain where it is, even if staying in place defies gravity. Thus, the user can lift or place the rod wherever he wishes, push the button, and let go.

But switching to second-person would give us the simpler:

Immovable Rod - Second-Person wrote:
Once you push the button (a move action), the rod does not move from where it is, even if staying in place defies gravity. Thus, you can lift or place the rod wherever you wish, push the button, and let go.

Is this kosher? I mainly ask since I specifically recall you posting about it, but I can't find the original.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

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Gold Coin
This small round piece of gold is prized by fighters, alchemists, wizards, cavaliers, inquisitors, witches, rogues, rangers, monks ....

Grand Lodge

... Paladins, socerors, barbarians, and every class under the sun.

Marathon Voter Season 6

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....but especially NPC classes, for whom a single gold coin represents a greater percentage of total individual wealth.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

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Standback wrote:

Thread hijack, if you're already offering tips, Sean:

I remember an old, old post of yours where you mentioned the possibility of referring to the item's user as "you," like in spell descriptions, instead of third-person, where the interaction between item and user makes it tough to avoid passive voice, and requires awkward references to "the user" or "the bearer."
Is this kosher? I mainly ask since I specifically recall you posting about it, but I can't find the original.

Magic items don't use "you," it's one of the annoying holdouts against my second-person crusade. The writer should use "the user/bearer/wielder" as appropriate.

If an entry did use "you," I'd point it out as an error but it wouldn't be something that would disqualify the entry (any more than failing to italicize a spell name merits disqualification).

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

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Magic items don't use "you," it's one of the annoying holdouts against my second-person crusade.

Where can I sign up for that crusade? Can I throw my spare ship full of virtuous children at it?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Standback wrote:
(That's going to be particularly nasty this time round, since it seems the Top 64 items will be voted on without any public discussion! SCARY.)

The statement about the judges selecting 32 of the Top 64 was an error, and has been removed. The judges will go from the highest-ranked entry down until they have 32 solid entries. If it takes more or less than the top 64 entries to do that, so be it.

Liberty's Edge

Vic Wertz wrote:
Standback wrote:
(That's going to be particularly nasty this time round, since it seems the Top 64 items will be voted on without any public discussion! SCARY.)
The statement about the judges selecting 32 of the Top 64 was an error, and has been removed. The judges will go from the highest-ranked entry down until they have 32 solid entries. If it takes more or less than the top 64 entries to do that, so be it.

So really the public voting is a ranking system in which the judges use to determine which item they look at first, and whether that item makes the top 32 or not, on its own merits?

What if they allow 32 of the top 45 in, but the 56th item, as voted by the public, never got looked at by the judges, but was one they wished they could have looked at once everything was said and done?

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

I don't think we want to get into the exact details of how the judges will select the Top 32 out of the highest-voted submissions, as that involves (ta daa) judgement calls from the three judges, and each of us is going to have different criteria for what makes a better Top 32 item.

Ideally, the 32 highest-voted submissions will be so awesome that the judges agree they are the best items and instantly approve them. :)

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

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Come on everyone, how the voting is done is really not an issue. All you need to do is to bring the awesome. I'm an entrant, I am also a voter. Wow me. Earn my vote. Forget the voting system, you can't change it. You can change your focus to where it should be.

1) I will be measuring you against the auto rejects because I had to measure myself against them.

2) I will be looking at my item pairs in depth, do the items bend rules in interesting ways but not overtly break them?

3) Do I think the item is desirable, fun to use or have written on my character sheets? As a GM, would I want to place it into my encounter rewards?

4) If it's consumable, is it overpriced. If its permanent, does it scale as I level? Does it have game longevity?

5) Is there good attention to detail and execution of the template. I won't ding you for the odd mis-step, but if you have many errors, it will make me question how much effort you have put into the submission.

6) I won't go to the depths of writing style as other might, so long as I can see the core idea, whether it's cool in my mind. There are people who do have degrees in writing in the audience, so as long as I (and they, no doubt) can see you tried your best, then that's all we can ask of you.

7) Does it show me your potential? Subjective, but that is the deciding factor quite often. So make it "ohhhh, shiny!"

These are the things you need to think about... a high proportion of your voting public will be people who have also entered, who have worked hard on their item. Expect them to be as critical on your item as they will likely have been on their own.

That is where your focus should be. So bring me the awesome. Wow me.

Make me nod my head and move my mouse to vote for your item.

THAT is your goal.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Hodge Podge

Yup, guilty! I did this last year:

"Often in the possession of priestesses of Calistria..."

I'm not totally convinced that this way of presenting an item is necessarily inferior. Let's take a stethoscope as an example. I might very naturally say "Doctors often use these to listen to their patients' hearts and lungs."

Is it definitely better to say "This tool is often used to listen to a patient's heart and lungs"? That's a point a preference, I think, but the imagery that the word "doctor" carries makes me prefer the former in this case.

But looking at it from a competition perspective, you want to differentiate your entry as much as possible, and this is SO common that maybe changing this one little thing can be a serious boon to any contestant in that respect.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

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Feel free to disregard my advice. It's not like I'm a judge for this competition. ;)

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Hodge Podge

Actually...

Looking back at my item, I changed the descriptive sentence in my rewrite and it was So. Much. Better. In fact, if I could go back and entirely remove the Calistria reference from that rewrite too, I would, and it would have been even more desirable. A cool, tangible description of the item itself was way more powerful and the flavor didn't suffer at all.

...

*Heel-face turn complete. :D*

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Can it be informative? Yes.

Is it overused? Yes.

That's why I advise against it.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Feel free to disregard my advice. It's not like I'm a judge for this competition. ;)

Don't listen to him! He wants you to fail!

Spoiler:
;)

Liberty's Edge Marathon Voter Season 6

Vic Wertz wrote:
Standback wrote:
(That's going to be particularly nasty this time round, since it seems the Top 64 items will be voted on without any public discussion! SCARY.)
The statement about the judges selecting 32 of the Top 64 was an error, and has been removed. The judges will go from the highest-ranked entry down until they have 32 solid entries. If it takes more or less than the top 64 entries to do that, so be it.

So what if a judge, while voting with us plebes spots an item he really likes that doesnt get publicly rated well, can he elevate it to the top 32 anyway?

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

Coridan wrote:
So what if a judge, while voting with us plebes spots an item he really likes that doesnt get publicly rated well, can he elevate it to the top 32 anyway?

In previous years the Judges were able to select "golden ticket" items. They might do that this year too.

However, as far as RPG Superstar is concerned, the voting public is a canny lot. If the public pans a wondrous item you can almost guarantee that there's something horribly wrong with it.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Locke1520

Chris Shaeffer wrote:

Yup, guilty! I did this last year:

"Often in the possession of priestesses of Calistria..."

You were not the only one. Also guilty.

Andrew Marlowe wrote:
Cayden’s cups regardless of ornamentation are suitable as holy symbols for the clerics of Cayden Cailean, and other mead hall gods, but many non-clerics desire one of these treasures as well.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

Magic items don't use "you," it's one of the annoying holdouts against my second-person crusade. The writer should use "the user/bearer/wielder" as appropriate.

If an entry did use "you," I'd point it out as an error but it wouldn't be something that would disqualify the entry (any more than failing to italicize a spell name merits disqualification).

What about third-person pronouns? Should we avoid them, or use "he", "she", or "he or she"?

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

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Hi Greysector, third-person pronouns are ok to use. As a rule of thumb, follow this: the gender you use should match the gender of the iconic Pathfinder character that is most likely to use your item.

So, if you are making an item that is somewhat targeted at oracles, use "she". If you are designing for a wizard, use "he".

That's just a general guideline. I asked the same thing in last year's RPG Superstar chat with the judges and this is what they said, IIRC.

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

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I just spotted Sean's very subtle light blue "From my..."

So I did a search

There's a very interesting MP3/podcast to which he may be referring here - it's a very good listen ;)

It's around 53 minutes, so get comfy when you do :D

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

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John Benbo

This bespectacled, sentient flesh golem is prized by cats. Three times per day when the command word is spoken in Catfolk, it produces food per the create food and water spell. Additionally, on a successful DC 10 Diplomancy skill check, it will pet any cats in a 10 ft. radius for 1d4+1 minutes.

But seriously, I checked my item from 2011. Yep, "prized by..." Doh!


Woo! I avoided it, but I did make an arguably similar error which for obvious reasons I will not elaborate on.

I figure there must be quite a few if SKR felt the need to comment on it. I haven't particularly noticed it myself but 1) I'm not a judge with years of writing under my belt and 2) I'd never let the flavour text guide my efforts to find new uses for an item. ;)


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Feel free to disregard my advice. It's not like I'm a judge for this competition. ;)

Came into this competition pretty late. Wish I could go back and time and read all of your advice. AND I wish I could go into the future and read everyone's comments on my entry. Heck right now I am just hoping that my entry is comment worthy.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka primemover003

I too utilized the accursed "Prized by" in my entry in 2011. Sometimes its works, but like Sean said it may be overused.

--Vrock the Vote!

Dedicated Voter Season 6

Anthony Adam wrote:
There's a very interesting MP3/podcast to which he may be referring here

Is there a clearer copy somewhere out there? Maybe it's my connection but the quality of the tape is terrible.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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My bête noire?

Quote:

...but its TRUE power...

Oh, please.

So it doesn't actually do that other thing you just said it does? That's its false power? What?

Worse, if possible, are "...but its real power..." and "...but its actual power...".

It turns out my REAL power as a voter was to down vote every item that used this.

Lots of items have multiple functions. Inevitably, most functions will be different in power. This does not make one more "real" or more "true" as a power than any other. Frankly, this was a quirk of one or a few writers in Advanced D&D that has been reflexively (and, IMNSHO, regretfully) been carried forward.

If you really think that the other power isn't "true" or "real", fine. Why did you include it? Did you make it clear that the item just tricks its owner into thinking it does that?

If you really think that the other power is "true" or "real" or "actual" and you used this phrase anyway, it says that you haven't even thought about what the words you are writing actually mean.

If you can write an item without thinking, well, I compliment you on possessing this odd ability, but it's not remotely something I would consider "superstar".

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka DeathQuaker

CripDyke wrote:

My bête noire?

Quote:

...but its TRUE power...

Oh, please.

So it doesn't actually do that other thing you just said it does? That's its false power? What?

Worse, if possible, are "...but its real power..." and "...but its actual power...".

It turns out my REAL power as a voter was to down vote every item that used this.

Lots of items have multiple functions. Inevitably, most functions will be different in power. This does not make one more "real" or more "true" as a power than any other. Frankly, this was a quirk of one or a few writers in Advanced D&D that has been reflexively (and, IMNSHO, regretfully) been carried forward.

If you really think that the other power isn't "true" or "real", fine. Why did you include it? Did you make it clear that the item just tricks its owner into thinking it does that?

If you really think that the other power is "true" or "real" or "actual" and you used this phrase anyway, it says that you haven't even thought about what the words you are writing actually mean.

If you can write an item without thinking, well, I compliment you on possessing this odd ability, but it's not remotely something I would consider "superstar".

This post is valuable, as is this thread, no matter when it had originally been created. Advice like this always needs to be reviewed.

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