How about an online class about item and monster design?


RPG Superstar™ General Discussion

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

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I'm strongly considering an online for-pay class where:
1) A designer writes a wondrous item and sends it to me.
2) I read it and create developer notes for that item.
3) The designer and I have a live Skype chat discussing the item, its successes, and its problems.
4) I provide feedback about where the designer can improve their magic item design chops.
5) Repeat steps 1–4 for designing a monster.
6) Give the designer a week to revise their wondrous item and monster.
7) I develop the revised wondrous item and monster and have an editor edit it.
8) I'd have classes for multiple designers in a certain period of time (say, 5 in the month of August). Once all the items and monsters for these 5 designers were revised, developed, and edited, I'd compile them into a PDF and publish it (for free), with full credit to the designers.

Benefits to the designers are:
* One-on-one interaction with a developer/designer/former RPG Superstar judge who's been in the D&D/Pathfinder game industry for nearly 20 years.
* Increased understanding of magic item and monster game design for Pathfinder (which hopefully will improve your chances in the next RPG Superstar competition).
* A published game design credit, developed and edited by professionals.

Benefits to me are:
* Continued interaction with new faces in the RPG industry.
* Free PDFs to encourage people to look at my other books.
* A small amount of income to make it worth my time.

Drawback for the designers is:
* You won't be able to use that item or monster as a submission for RPG Superstar (as it's no longer your solo work, and has been published).

Drawback for me is:
* I could no longer judge (or probably host) RPG Superstar because of possible conflicts of interest.
* Possible accusations of stealing others' work (because the designer is "paying me to publish it," when actually they're paying me to develop it; hopefully releasing it as a free PDF will assuage these concerns).

So, given all of the above:
* Would you be interested in this sort of class?
* Any suggestions as to how I can improve this idea?
* What do you think is a reasonable cost for a full session (steps 1–8) of this class?

And yes, if I decide to do this, I'd do it with plenty of lead time before RPG Superstar 2015 (which I assume will start in Nov or Dec this year).

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

I think it'd be a great idea!

What about a true class session? I definitely see the benefit of keeping it always 1-on-1 but for the class you could schedule a mass class session where you go over some fundamentals. I know there are classroom hosting options like Sakai, but I'm not sure if you have to .edu affiliated to use it. Then for homework the attendees write an item/monster/whatever the class is about and then you can do steps 2-8. I understand this could be a little more time consuming but then you can try to get to a critical mass point of people scheduled and you could potentially charge slightly less than the always 1-on-1 as you would likely have to develop the homework slightly less than just having the attendee design and submit THEN get feedback. This could also alleviate some of the concern about "pay Sean to publish" since it is a class and the final class project is a published pdf containing your submission.

Depending on how much time you would be planning on spending on each submission I could see this ranging from $15 - $50. I would probably be REALLY enticed to take a session $25 or even $30. But it would really depend on how much time you would be spending as you don't want to short sell yourself (which you know already).

It is super cool to offer the classes projects as a free PDF as part of your lineup. You could make the class very collaborative as well which would help teach attendees about working with other freelancers within a publisher's guidelines. You could also evolve it to have someone who is interested in Editing, Layout, Project Management, etc. learn those portions while creating the PDF as part of the class.

Yes, this is a very interesting idea!

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Sean, overall, I think it's a great idea. After all, I learned more than 50% of what I know about wondrous/magic item design by reading your posts, so I'm sure you have a lot to offer especially in the 1-on-1 discussions where you can give more targeted feedback and it's easier to ask and comment on things.

Some minor concerns / things to consider, though:

If it was me offering advice to people, I'd be worried I'd have to say quite often "here's how you can improve your entry but I'd recommend starting over". That's exactly what I have to tell myself to do about more than 60% (or 80%, 90%?) of the ideas I come up with. Some/most ideas just aren't salvageable, or will at best only become "items for a magic item book".

And if the item is not up scratch, and therefore gets heavily edited by a team of professionals, it might be slightly awkward to give full credit to the designer. Lastly, some people may be disappointed when they don't make the top 32 in RPGSS despite taking your design classes.

Anyway, I'm intrigued by the idea of coaching people for RPGSS, (and have already promised a number of people to comment on their next year's R1 entries before submitting) so I'd really like to see this idea realized. Good luck, and by the way, thanks for all the advice you've given over the years!!!

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Yet again you break new ground with your thinking!

I suspect you will need some sort of booking system and rotation system because, based on the voluntary feedback threads, you could get overwhelmed / booked out quite quickly.

My only other worry for contestants trying the Superstar route is whether being published in the free release might disqualify them if their names are on the front cover. I think we are okay on that because it's free and pdf only, but thought it worth double checking.

p.s. Nice to see you on the boards again - are you all moved and settled in your new home now?

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Interesting.
I could see something akin to this as a convention or pre-convention workshop as well.

I've never done one, so I'm not sure how worthwhile the rates are for the experiences, but Dragon*Con, for instance, has several for-pay workshops each year, so here are some examples of this year's line up for D*Con for comparison: 2-day writer's workshop with Jody Lynn Nye, 1-hour Tai Chi workshop with Erin Gray, 4-hour acting workshop with Richard Hatch.

-TimD

P.S. no, this not JUST a veiled attempt to get more RPG industry folks to Dragon*Con and ply them with booze...

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This would definitely be something I'd consider if I were shooting for RPG Superstar again. If you could get one or two other people to also give notes/comments (to allow for multiple viewpoints) I think it would be a stronger offering.

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Like Mike says, I think it sounds very intriguing. Even if I don't shoot for Superstar again, this seems like a way to improve my design chops. I like that you're proposing to do an item and a monster, as it expands the appeal (I feel pretty confident in my wondrous item design, for example, but I continue to work on monsters).

I think having you potentially not involved in Superstar is a loss for more than just you. Your advice has been hugely helpful over the years. That said, I'd think you could still be a Round 1 judge, considering it's anonymous, and chime in like anyone else in later rounds. Sure, I suppose some writers are going to have a distinctive enough voice that you can recognize them even without seeing their name, but with fewer than 300 words to work with, I think even the best editor would have a hard time being certain enough to compromise his/her objectivity.

As far as pricing goes, I think $20-$25 is probably your magic number. I don't know if that makes it worth your while, but that number makes me think "Yes!" and want to just slam down my bitcoins. More than that, I probably start hesitating a little bit more (though that doesn't necessarily mean I wouldn't take the opportunity, just that I'd be more hesitant about it).

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

TimD wrote:

Interesting.

I could see something akin to this as a convention or pre-convention workshop as well

I actually have one planned for GenCon this year, but apparently I submitted it after the normal deadline (I guess moving to Indiana delayed me... oops!) and they're trying to find a place for it on the schedule.

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On one hand I see the value as your experience and insight can be invaluable to a fledgling designer. On the other, you simply cannot teach talent.

To a certain extent you can teach a new designer how to format and present their ideas but you simply cannot teach someone to have cool ideas. I've seen guys with perfect formatting and excellent executions on simply dull ideas and I've seen the opposite. You can teach the latter if they have the will and are willing to work at it as to the former... if you can teach them you are a better man than I.

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I like the idea. Meeting with the developers/publishers is my primary reason for attending the one Con I can 'afford'. The workshops at PaizoCon are my favorite parts. Self-publishing companies charge more(?) for less.

Unable to participate would by one very big concern for me. I have already wondered if SKR would host/judge the next RPGSS, & the chance of your still being here is cool. I agree with Jacob in that this could be a loss for more than just you. If this was the only reason you couldn't judge, it is a drawback. If there are other reasons... that's your call.

If I was unable to compete in RPGSS I would consider it a win. :)

I think the 'pay to develop' would be clear to most of us. The only improvement I can offer is a workshop setting. It would be helpful to see the other X people's critique and feedback as well their improved designs during the process.

& I really need to get a webcam...

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I have been thinking on this some more, and although the time zone difference might exclude me from skype/video calls, i have found your critiques so informative that I would happily pay for a formal critique via email. So, yes, consider me signed up !

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Sean, I like your idea. I feel I have a good handle on designing an item, except the ever elusive "Superstar" factor. I would be more interested in monster design critiques. Possiblity of doing a class for each singlely?

I think this is a great idea. There are quite a few designers who back KS projects at the higher levels just to get their name out there.

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Can I just send you my paypal account number and get an open line of credit? =) I'm very interested!

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Sean, I think it sounds like a great idea. Consider me signed up (whenever it's allowed). It's been ten years since I've been in school, but this would be a decently awesome reason to start taking classes again :)

Contributor

I'll post here when I have more info ready for the public. :)

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Sign me up!! Where do I get in line?

Contributor

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Anthony and I are still working our way through the "playtest" of the design class. I expect I'll be ready to start actual classes in September.

Also, the Gen Con staff was able to find a slot for my seminar SEM1462186 Magic and Monster Advice for RPG Superstar on Sunday 12–2 (you'll probably need to log in to the Gen Con site to see the full info). It won't be the one-on-one sort of advice you'd get in my class, but it's a good opportunity to ask questions in person and get advice and feedback.

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I can say on the item part of the course that Sean is an excellent tutor ( we are just starting the monster design part, so Adam Daigle had better watch out ;) )

Sean has already shown me quite a few miss-steps I was making without realizing it! I feel so much more able to produce a quality design now, so much so, that I am this week drafting an intro covering letter to send to 3PP and Paizo touting for work, something I was not confident enough to do prior to this course.

I heartily and without hesitation recommend anyone serious about games design to consider and take this course. Don't worry about the material being Pathfinder related - that is just the vehicle that is the common ground for the coursework, and provides a solid platform for you to learn the ropes.

The lessons I have learnt can certainly be applied to any games design I do in the future for any system or publisher.

@Sean - if you have a laptop at your presentation, I am happy to skype in so people can ask me about my experience from the student side - let me know if you would like this ( I will have to double check the time difference for UK to Gen Con local time, but I am sure I can be awake for an hour or two on that Sunday :P )

@Everyone else, you can also PM me on the message boards here and I will get back to you and answer any queries you have as I can (usually the same day but at most within a day or two or your posting).


Sean I am certainly interested in this although my main question is one of prince. Would you be willing to record these conversations you have one on one and either sell them or put them up for free? It strikes me that although the advice would not be personalized it might be helpful in the way your advice post or your posts as a judge are. People can see the mistakes that some people have made and check themselves for them.

Contributor

The biggest obstacles to that, IMO, are

1) Unless we share the student's raw wondrous item or monster along with the video, the feedback they get might not make any sense to the listener.

2) Many students wouldn't want to share their unfinished wondrous item or monster with anyone but me.

3) There are confidentiality issues regarding the video, in that many people wouldn't want the entire internet to be able to see what's in their house. I could black out the video so it's just the dialogue, but that would require extra work and time on my part--time I could be spending writing something and paying my bills.

I DO think there is some merit to posting a public video of this nature, perhaps taking a few example, made-up items and doing a critique of them. Perhaps I could do a call for volunteers to make up items for such a thing.

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I like the idea of making a few examples. I'll volunteer to design an item for this thing.

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Sean K Reynolds wrote:
...I DO think there is some merit to posting a public video of this nature, perhaps taking a few example, made-up items and doing a critique of them. Perhaps I could do a call for volunteers to make up items for such a thing.

I too would be happy to help (& take the course of course :)

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Yeah, is there anyone who won't volunteer? (Which is my way of saying, me too!) :)

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*chuckling a lot*

FYI, I had already given Sean my permission to use my "before" and "after" as part of his course material as examples - and I made plenty of mistakes, so chances are I covered quite a few common problems that most budding designers fall foul of! :D

And for monsters, I am expecting a few more than "a few", more like a "bucket load", of problems, as I have to date created just 2 - yeah, lazy DM uses the APs and doesn't create them that often >.<

In case you were wondering:

One mistake I didn't make though was template use - consider yourselves warned :P

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I'll volunteer!

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I'll pay to volunteer! :)

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I I would love to be involved in something like this.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:

The biggest obstacles to that, IMO, are

1) Unless we share the student's raw wondrous item or monster along with the video, the feedback they get might not make any sense to the listener.

2) Many students wouldn't want to share their unfinished wondrous item or monster with anyone but me.

See I assumed the opposite. I figured most would know this helps the community and be comfortable but I can see it going the other way. Still your solution is definitely a great one.

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You can now purchase tickets to my RPG design class on my Etsy store!

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I'll volunteer as well! I'd love to take the course, but I have to see what my September work load looks like first.

Contributor

September's now sold out, but there are still October slots open. And I'll be adding November slots, too... once Gen Con is over. :p

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Sean K Reynolds wrote:

September's now sold out, but there are still October slots open. And I'll be adding November slots, too... once Gen Con is over. :p

Great, thanks! I'll revisit the prospect for November. In the meanwhile, where should I send my volunteer item?

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Hah! Something must have stuck in my noggin from studying under Sean, I have seen 3 volunteered items, and found things to feedback on all three! :D

Even better, I could see some of the things I used to fall over on in those items too. :)

So, do find the time to take this course if you can, it may not make you a superstar finalist, but it will make you a better writer and designer.

I am so glad I did this and I have every confidence that if you take the course, you will be glad you did too!

You could all do me one big favor though - don't complete the course before the next superstar competition, 'kay? :P

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I can attest that AA has made a lot of progress recently. Whatever SKR is doing, it seems to be working! :)

As for getting/giving feedback, no-one is above feedback, and everyone needs feedback, no matter how experienced or talented you are. It's also good to remember that good, useful feedback isn't just about pointing out (perceived) flaws, but also commenting on what works well. So when you say you found things to feedback on, I'll say there's always something you can give feedback on!

In fact, I often find that the better an entry is, the more detailed my comments are. Bad entries can be summed up as something like "Rife with formatting mistakes, lacking in mojo, inconsistent flavor, start again."

Finally, I'd like to point out that feedback tends to be subjective, especially when you go beyond basic things like formatting. As you delve deeper into it, it becomes more like art and less like science, i.e. more subjective. In other words, the number of "finds" doesn't automatically make your comments more relevant. Giving ready answers, while better than just pointing out flaws, isn't important either. What I think is important is to give the designer something that makes him think; something that helps him find the answers himself.

Eh, getting too philosophical here. :D Just my 1d4 cp, take it or leave it. :P

Anyway, have a good weekend everyone, and have a good time at GenCon whoever is going there!


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
You can now purchase tickets to my RPG design class on my Etsy store!

Sean - would you consider a similar class or workshop even for help with adventure design?

I stick with pre-published material - frankly because I get overwhelmed trying to get my own ideas to come together - I'd love a similar type of thing to pay for your time helping me organize a plot hook for my players - just wondering.

Contributor

I'll consider it, but developing adventures hasn't been a thing I've done much of for about four years now (even in the context of RPG Superstar, by the time we get to that round, I defer to the expertise of James Jacobs). I think Adam, James, John, Mark, and Rob would do a much better job of teaching it than I would.

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Ok, I checked your etsy site and cannot find the classes listed anywhere ... Or is October sold out and November has not yet been listed?

Contributor

Sept and Oct are sold out as of yesterday... but I had only activated 5 slots for October (just to give people a head start on getting their schedules ready). I've just activated the remaining 5 and you should be able to nab an October slot now. :)

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Sweet! Grabbed! :)

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So tempted, but I feel like with the wedding coming up at the end of October, it wouldn't be my smartest move. Just going to have to wait...

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Ckorik wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
You can now purchase tickets to my RPG design class on my Etsy store!

Sean - would you consider a similar class or workshop even for help with adventure design?

I stick with pre-published material - frankly because I get overwhelmed trying to get my own ideas to come together - I'd love a similar type of thing to pay for your time helping me organize a plot hook for my players - just wondering.

Although it wasn't part of the course Sean is doing, I think this course is a great lead in to adventure design. if you think about it (as I am doing more and more each day), the real hook behind an adventure design, the things that make it memorable, these are usually the things you fight and the things you loot.

Really good monsters with challenging abilities that scare the pants of your party and give you that adrenaline rush when you win - Sean's course covers monster design, so you do touch on this aspect of games design. The other thing about a memorable monster - they often give rise to the adventure idea, the encounter make up and setting, and the plot and theme.

Phat lewt - item design is the first thing you do on this course.

Two of the biggest contributors to a great and memorable adventure are the components of this course. This means that taking this course is great preparation for designing encounters, working up to full plots and adventures.

You will learn the foundations of good design and good writing - one word at a time :)

You get overwhelmed? Break it down into small manageable tasks - you don't have to write the adventure in full for your players - don't even tell them - continue as you are, writing in secret - one day you will suddenly realize you have your adventure complete - then you can spring it on them.

I need say no more I think :)

Scarab Sages

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What's the chance of this course resulting in a fresh wave of posters coming on Paizo, and informing the staff how they're doing it wrong?

Better still, backing it up with "And Sean says...yadda yadda...which means you're doing it wrong!"

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Well, Sean (and other RGPSS judges) have been giving us advice on wondrous item design, monster design, etc. for years now. That advice has been and still is available to anyone on the internet, while this course is limited to just a few people per month.

So, I wouldn't be worried. :-)


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
I'll consider it, but developing adventures hasn't been a thing I've done much of for about four years now (even in the context of RPG Superstar, by the time we get to that round, I defer to the expertise of James Jacobs). I think Adam, James, John, Mark, and Rob would do a much better job of teaching it than I would.

Hah - well fair enough - now just to convince *them* to do it :)

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Snorter wrote:

What's the chance of this course resulting in a fresh wave of posters coming on Paizo, and informing the staff how they're doing it wrong?

Better still, backing it up with "And Sean says...yadda yadda...which means you're doing it wrong!"

From my experience of the course, Sean provides you with the tools to be a good writer and designer without preventing your from developing your own style, ideas and creativity.

It is a fine line to walk, to be original and creative yet be within the confines of the Paizo product style.

You will also find, if you take the course, that Sean never "says", he "asks".

For example, you choose to do some ability in a different way - he wont say "ack, that's wrong", what he will say is something like "interesting, can you explain your thoughts behind". And you will end up discussing the reasoning behind the way of designing that sort of thing.

In short, you won't see hardly any of the above, what you are likely to see instead are things like

"When I design that sort of thing, I consider this... I can see why you did xyz, but have you considered this?..."

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And if you want to exercise creativity not within Paizo's purview...you can always write for a 3PP (like Flying Pincushion Games, LPJ Designs, Rogue Genius, etc.)

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Hi all

I have had a number of PMs and emails from a number of you about to embark on this amazing course and opportunity. So I am posting here the most important piece of advice that was common to everyone who messaged me.

It's simply this.

When choosing your items and monsters, try to choose the best you can, even if it means you develop a Superstar entry quality item or monster that you then can't enter into the annual competition.

Why?

Because the items and monsters of the course will be released in some sort of compiled "Class of" style pdf, which will be a pdf product that you can point to as evidence of your skills when approaching games companies for work! The better your item and monster in that product, the better the evidence you can show!

So don't shy away from using good ideas, if you can "wow" Sean during his course, then you should be able to do the same to the rest of us during the competition.

:)

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