Things I've learned about game design by voting...


RPG Superstar™ General Discussion

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RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

1) The name of the item really is THAT important, the name really sets the tone of the item for me as a voter.

2) Keep it simple stupid! 8.5/10 times I end of voting for the item with the shorter word count. The items are easier to understand and generally written with more polish.

3) Formatting, SAKs and SIACs do suck, OMG they just are so uninspired...

4) Reasonable prices are really important, going too lower is definitely a deal breaker for me.

5) Know whats out there. So many items so far have resembled things I've seen in other games, I give benefit of the doubt but come on be original. First step to that is know what's out there.

6) Weird is not by any means equal to good, or for that matter original.

Star Voter Season 6

Agreed!!! I would drink to that.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

7) If you bore me, I stop reading and don't start again. Sometimes this happens with the name or the very first paragraph.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I'll give them the benefit of the doubt even if the name falls flat. Sometimes names are hard.

However...

8)If you're going to write something that involves a particular rule subset, then bone up on those rules.

Dedicated Voter Season 6

9) Consider world that the item is supposed to fit in (High Fantasy) and try to pretend that you care.

Star Voter Season 6

Plot twist. Maybe the contest is not about the item we submitted....but the way we vote.

Scarab Sages

10) Stop using "prized by..." phrases. I think I've seen it three times already.


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11) If the item name makes me reach for a dictionary, at least pretend to have a theme that matches the word I just learned.


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Gores wrote:
10) Stop using "prized by..." phrases. I think I've seen it three times already.

Only three? Lucky you.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

11) I'm going to call this "The Worn Bias." For some reason I'm about twice as likely to vote on an item that's worn vs an item that can be randomly stowed in a backpack ect. Partly I think because worn items like capes, gloves, boots have a frame of reference.


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12) Don't invent new words.

Star Voter Season 6

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13) If you have to include "For example" or any variation thereof, your item's mechanics are too complicated.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka MythrilDragon

14) While an item that lets you do A and B and C and sometimes D might be awesome for your character, it is not necessarily a good magic item, Especially if A,B,C,D are not thematically connected.

Star Voter Season 6

GM_Solspiral wrote:
11) I'm going to call this "The Worn Bias." For some reason I'm about twice as likely to vote on an item that's worn vs an item that can be randomly stowed in a backpack ect. Partly I think because worn items like capes, gloves, boots have a frame of reference.

A lot of slotless items aren't priced properly at all. Oh well.

Star Voter Season 6

15) Word Count! If you can say it in 10 words, don't say it in 20.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8

"17. Your item is modern technology presented as magic."
"22. Item makes adventuring safe."

I'm seeing a lot of these


A) the item that is better than something that exists for less than the current item.

B) the item that is so expensive and worthless it appears you misplaced a zero.

C) Listen to the judges, they've done this for 5 years...their advice it RELEVANT!

D) SPELL CHECK!

E) Puns...really, I love puns, but not in Superstar Design, April Fools yes.


Craft refers to a particular profession, not item. Craft (Alchemy) not Craft (Bombs)...

note: that is not the actual one I saw.

Silver Crusade Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Defining an item's limitations is fine. Putting a harsh penalty for using the item is not fun design. You want people to wear an item. Don't punish them for doing so.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 6

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I have to admit that I have voted for several items that have almost no tactical value whatsoever. They just seemed like amazing things to enhance roll play and character.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

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You guys are finally starting to feel our pain :) There is a reason we say these things over and over and over.


My wife and I are both voting, so we've been discussing stuff, and laughing like crazy at some of the images we imagine when we think of what else the items can be used for. I'd say which item had us rolling, but I can't *sadface*.

I can't say how many times I've groaned at an item, growled at formatting, and had a "headdesk" moment.


Clark Peterson wrote:
You guys are finally starting to feel our pain :) There is a reason we say these things over and over and over.

Except you only have to see the horrible item once...not 3 or 4 times...

;)

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

Indeed, the judges who can simply crap-can an poor item and never have to look at it again have it easy :P

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

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Well, you do have several years of judging trauma to make up for... ;)

Silver Crusade Star Voter Season 7

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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Defining an item's limitations is fine. Putting a harsh penalty for using the item is not fun design. You want people to wear an item. Don't punish them for doing so.

But what if it's prized by masochists?

Silver Crusade Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Mikaze wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Defining an item's limitations is fine. Putting a harsh penalty for using the item is not fun design. You want people to wear an item. Don't punish them for doing so.
But what if it's prized by masochists?

They already get their fix by participating in the voting process ;-)

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 6

Aha! So the nefarious plot is revealed! This isn't some *new* voting technique or about saving the sanity of our beleaguered judges. This is about REVENGE for all of the thousands of entries suffered through in past years!

I love me a good revenge story. :)

Sovereign Court Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

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I would not be surprised to see a major uptick in submission quality next year as a result of the voting process.

Even though I feel I have at least a decent item submitted, based on what I am seeing I know that I will be approaching next year with a greatly expanded perspective.

I read all the advice threads, listened to the podcasts but seeing it in action is a whole different ballgame.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

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Xaaon of Korvosa wrote:
Except you only have to see the horrible item once...not 3 or 4 times...
cwslyclgh wrote:
Indeed, the judges who can simply crap-can a poor item and never have to look at it again have it easy :P

However, it should also be pointed out that you guys haven't had to see the sanity-robbing items that immediately got DQ'ed for rules violations. Some of those are easily up there with the pain of having to review a mere "bad" item 3 or 4 times. Like, way up the insanity scale...

No, really. O_o

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

If they need actual vengeance, then maybe they need to take a break from judging and pass it on to other game pros with thicker constitutions. ;)

This kind of thing's going to have a load of chaff and a tiny bit of wheat (and if I submitted an entry, I'm sure it'd be more likely to be the former than the latter). Nature of the beast. Ya gotta be ready for it and suck it up.

I agree with the OP that the voting experience is teaching me a lot about what makes a well-designed item, and the whole thing is extensively valuable on that alone. I'll definitely put up with some poorly proofread writing and items that force you to take three lefts in order to allow you to make a slight right for that opportunity.

I know the judges still have a lot of hard work ahead of them though, that we won't even see.

ETA: I should note, I used to be a writing tutor. It really takes a lot for me to be actually shocked or frustrated at something I read, even if that's what I have to do all day. I had to develop this skill or become a drooling vegetable.

Shadow Lodge

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I don't know. Names where NOT at all that important to me. It's way to much of a personal preference in my book. And I didn't mind the longer entries at all. I would rather have a long text that fully explains an item than a short one that leaves a lot of wholes or room for abuse, (way too many of those, sort of the equivelant of throwing a Folding Boat/Castle into a smaller room and killing everything in one shot old school style). So I would add

23.) Understand and think of the ramifications your idea allows outside of the box.

24.) Actually study what spells do and go with the one that actually appropriate to what your item permits, AND THEN go with that regardless of if you want your item to cost x10 more (or rarely less).

25.) Check out the Zero level spells. . . (Countless apps out there for quick refernce above and beyond SRD and similar sites).

This ones (possible 26) may just be me, but an item in the 2,000 - 15,000ish range is a lot better than an item in the 75,000+ range. One will likely ever be used and enjoyed and the other will probably not.

27.) Make sure you actually state what the item ACTUALLY DOES. I've seen a few that actually forgot to put in the function of the item, caught up in the fluff. Not kidding at all.

joke example:
Hampster Wheel of Koolness: Prizd by duelists for its secret utility and Batmanishness, as well as Ninja's and other frontline warriors, this miniture Hamster Wheel fits into the palm of your hand, though a one handed weapon can be wielded through the tredwheel normally. Construction: Haste, Bless, Miracle, Fireball, Creator must be a Half-Orc. . .


I have yet to see an item that does nothing. Am I lucky?

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

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Check your price compared to your caster level.

Check your price compared to what level a party of adventurers would find this item.


More things I've learned:

If the item theme ties into an established culture (real life or in game), please display a rudimentary understanding of said culture.

Transportation / Camping / Eating / Drinking are often boring aspects of the game. These items are an uphill battle because you have to first convince people to care.

Usefulness and creativity are king.

Mechanics alone cannot save an item.

Paizo judges have vast reserves of sanity.

We should be thankful that SKR's list of design traps & advice stops at 27.


Drejk wrote:
I have yet to see an item that does nothing. Am I lucky?

I saw an item that wasn't so much a wondrous item as a plot device. We've been warned against those.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka michaeljpatrick

I saw an item that was not a wondrous item but rather another type of item altogether. It was even in the name of the item - like say a "Wand of Yapping Dogs" (the item in question was not a wand, but I don't want to give any info away unnecessarily). Isn't that an auto DQ?


michaeljpatrick wrote:
I saw an item that was not a wondrous item but rather another type of item altogether. It was even in the name of the item - like say a "Wand of Yapping Dogs" (the item in question was not a wand, but I don't want to give any info away unnecessarily). Isn't that an auto DQ?

I saw an item similar to that. It used another type of magic item as part of its name, but reading the description, it was actually something else. I think the author was trying to be descriptive, but that's a bit of a faux pas, not to mention confusing.

If my wondrous item were a baton, I would not call it a "Wand of Authority," even though batons and wands are similarly shaped, because wands are already a category of magic item. If it doesn't function like a wand, it's not a wand.


I voted against one item solely on the basis that it screamed for more meta-gaming and rules lawyering.

I find I am judging more from the DM point of view than the player point.

Does the item help the DM tell great story? If yes, vote up.

Does this make the player too powerful and limit story telling? (e.g. Ball of Death hits on +10 range touch attack, no save....) If yes, vote down.

Given these new insights, I'd change some aspects of my submission if I could go back in time.

Sending a huge Thank You to SKR for pulling together his very helpful list. How did so many people who submitted either ignore his advice or not read it in the first place?


Zeeboo wrote:
Sending a huge Thank You to SKR for pulling together his very helpful list. How did so many people who submitted either ignore his advice or not read it in the first place?

TL;DR

Shadow Lodge

I attempt to DQ one that was essentually a staff. A few others have realllllllyyyyy cut it close, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt. For me though, the issue seems to be many more cases of "this isn't a WI, it's a bloody artifact", no go.


Shadowborn wrote:
Zeeboo wrote:
Sending a huge Thank You to SKR for pulling together his very helpful list. How did so many people who submitted either ignore his advice or not read it in the first place?
TL;DR

Or they honestly thought their item was good enough to go against his advice. And that's ok. It's worth it to sift through all the failed attempts to find the few who pulled it off.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

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Shadowborn wrote:
TL;DR

I'm beginning to feel that way about a lot of the items I'm shown.

Dark Archive Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

It's really interesting to see how many items have been created for specific 'slots', or if a non-slot item, what purpose they have. There's a pretty cool variety, and even when an item goes against the listed rules you can still usually see the flash of inspiration behind these things.

Truth is, someone felt passionate enough about their items to take the time to 'stat them out', and that alone earns my few seconds of reading.


shujan wrote:
Shadowborn wrote:
Zeeboo wrote:
Sending a huge Thank You to SKR for pulling together his very helpful list. How did so many people who submitted either ignore his advice or not read it in the first place?
TL;DR
Or they honestly thought their item was good enough to go against his advice. And that's ok. It's worth it to sift through all the failed attempts to find the few who pulled it off.

There is that possibility, yes. However, considering that several people have posted to say they didn't read the rules before submitting their item, I'm thinking there are a lot more that did the same thing. If they didn't even read the official rules, chances are they didn't bother with advice threads either.

Webstore Gninja Minion , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

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I dislike items that make the GM's job harder with item-specific rules subsets.

The Exchange Marathon Voter Season 6

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So I know that everyone looks for different things, but I just want to put something out there. When I look at two items, if one is properly formatted using the wondrous item template, and one is not, then my vote automatically goes to the properly formatted one. It might be a little harsh, but the template was clearly given and intended to be used, and I don't know how many times the judges have told us to check and then re-check our times.


Celeador wrote:
So I know that everyone looks for different things, but I just want to put something out there. When I look at two items, if one is properly formatted using the wondrous item template, and one is not, then my vote automatically goes to the properly formatted one. It might be a little harsh, but the template was clearly given and intended to be used, and I don't know how many times the judges have told us to check and then re-check our times.

And I'll counter that by saying once again that I'll vote up a cool and imaginative idea that makes formatting mistakes over a dull, vanilla item with perfect formatting.

RPG Superstar 2014 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7 aka Belladonna Blue

I tend to use formatting as a tiebreaker, all other things being equal. Along with things like italicizing spells, using real slots, getting construction requirements right, etc. But whichever item is clearly a more interesting and well-thought out item than the other will get the vote every time.

But if they're equally great or mediocre or terrible, then yeah, whoever can follow the guidelines properly gets it.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

It's best to nail both the idea and the execution, obviously. Even the best idea man who consistently gets the mechanics/formatting wrong isn't worth it. Likewise, those who can follow a template, but lack creativity just don't appeal either. Do them both passably well and you're on the right track. Do them like a Superstar and you can kick in the door.

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