Voting Trends & Personal Preferences


RPG Superstar™ General Discussion

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Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Am I the only person who thinks corn and farts could possibly show up in the top 100, if not the top 32?

Not sure if I'm allowed to publicly discuss my reasoning behind thinking that before the end of voting, though...

Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Brigg wrote:

Am I the only person who thinks corn and farts could possibly show up in the top 100, if not the top 32?

Not sure if I'm allowed to publicly discuss my reasoning behind thinking that before the end of voting, though...

Yeah we can't discuss the specifics as to why or wherefore.

I will say not a chance at Top 32. There is an adolescent silliness at the core of each of these items that will prevent them from being accepted as either Top 32 or alternates.

Could one of them make top 100? Possibly, but we can't really talk about why that is. :/

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8 aka Jrcmarine

I still haven't seen Corn which leads me to believe it is consistently being up voted. The fart item I have seen multiple times but I think it is being up voted as well.

On the brighter side, I have only seen my item once which leads me to believe it is being up voted... At least that is what I keep telling myself.

Marathon Voter Season 8

I like farts, but I hate corn. What a sentence.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Zahir ibn Mahmoud ibn Jothan

mplindustries wrote:
I like farts, but I hate corn. What a sentence.

Funny, because I'm just the reverse

Marathon Voter Season 8

I've also been downvoting technology and mythic items whenever they've been against items of similar quality, mainly because I think that they're too much of a niche and I'd never run campaigns where they would have any room.

Another thing that I don't really look forward to seeing are items whose main point is to give resistances to various elements. Most often those items are just plain boring, and thus not Superstar material.

Also not too crazy about items that sunder, steal or otherwise destroy stuff or that deal mainly around combat maneuvers. Again, a bit boring, and they're also quite often items that have a lot of potential for making combat unpredictable in the wrong way. No one likes a climactic battle cut short because the villain's sword gets shattered or because he just cannot break out of a grapple. But that's my personal preference.

What I do look for is something that gives the players new options or that has a certain cinematic potential. Sure the items has to be balanced, but there needs to be a certain flair to it. You could simply make an item that gives a boost to the base speed, or you could make an item that borrows the wearer the spirit of the gazelle, strengthening his feet for quicker movement. A cliched example, but there you go.

It's also always great to see two different things combined through a theme that allows them to come together naturally. As long as it's not trying to add together too many things, obviously.


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I won't rule any particular item type out. I wasn't crazy about most of the magical tech entries, but then I came across one that was really well done. Creative and well-written, with a solid them, and it's rules-savvy. I could not in good conscience vote another item over it just because "this is tech and the other one isn't." This is RPG Superstar. If a person takes a risk and pulls it off, that deserves some credit.

Whether or not an item is not my style or "too niche," isn't the point for me. The point is whether the designer showed me something cool. If the item is cool enough, then if they move on to the next round they can show me if they can continue to provide the coolness while moving into design areas that are perhaps more mainstream.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8 aka Jrcmarine

I am now posting updated numbers from my list along with observations. I will use my Top 32 List including the "borderline" items that I haven't decided on final placement and I will also include my "Keeper" list. That gives us a total of 61 items.

Armor: 11 (18%)
Rings: 5 (8%)
Rods: 9 (15%)
Shields: 6 (10%)
Staves: 4 (6%)
Weapons: 26 (43%)

The following is an interesting little list I made up while voting. I have or haven't...:
1. Haven't seen the Corn item, which makes me sad.
2. Have only seen my item once, which also makes me sad.
3. Have seen my top pick (my item doesn't count) 3 times.
4. Have seen my top 5 picks maybe a dozen times.
5. Haven't seen several items I know are in the competition.

For additional trends, glancing over my list- my top 5 items are all armor, shields or weapons. Out of my top 15 items, 9 are armor, shields or weapons. Out of my top 23 picks 15 are armor, shields or weapons. I wonder if those numbers match the numbers that were entered. I will have to check the Items Seen Thread. I think my ring and staff numbers are probably down but Rods are probably right in line with the number that were entered.

Marathon Voter Season 8

I am also biased against the technology items, but that is purely because I am unfamiliar with the source material, so I don't feel I have a good grasp on how to rate them. I still don't have a big problem voting for them if the other is definitely worse, but if the two items are pretty even, I end up going for the non-technology item 9 out of 10 times.

Marathon Voter Season 8

Gennerik wrote:
I am also biased against the technology items, but that is purely because I am unfamiliar with the source material, so I don't feel I have a good grasp on how to rate them. I still don't have a big problem voting for them if the other is definitely worse, but if the two items are pretty even, I end up going for the non-technology item 9 out of 10 times.

Pretty much what Gennerik said. If the technology or mythic item is clearly better then it gets an upvote, but if the other item is equally as good, then it's a tiebreaker.

And sure, perhaps the fairest thing to do would be to ignore my personal bias against those sorts of items, but Pathfinder is partially shaped by user feedback, including the voting trends in Superstar. So I don't feel too bad about it.

Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

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Thanks to the technology (and some other) items, I've spent some time digging around in the PRD and learning new stuff about the game. I'm not sure that I'll ever use that stuff, but, it's nice to see the work that was put into these ideas. I've tried not to let such things bias me against voting for an item. I'm not sure I've been successful, but, I've tried to remain aware of my biases as I vote.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

I'm completely biased against the joke items. I downvote them every single time, they rate at the very bottom for me.

In other contexts they're fine, but to me they might as well be DQs from this particular contest.

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

What a depressing thread.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Arkos

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Garrett Guillotte wrote:
What a depressing thread.

I stopped voting a week ago to take a break before the cull, but I keep reading these threads to keep a current tally of People I Have Disappointed and All the Reasons Why. It's like Lent, but I've given up receiving positivity and constructive criticism!

Somewhat kidding, but I'm really looking forward to this community shifting focus back to being helpful to anyone who asks with the critique my item thread. Because right now, this is kind of a dark place.

Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8

Rich Malena wrote:
It's like Lent, but I've given up receiving positivity and constructive criticism!

Snort! This, good internet stranger, made me debeverage. Thank you.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8 aka Jrcmarine

Garrett Guillotte wrote:
What a depressing thread.

Well now that makes me sad. I didn't mean for this to be a depressing thread. I wanted to try and understand how other people were voting and what criteria they were looking for when selecting items. As for downing guns and technology- well even though I am not the biggest fan of them, I have up voted 3 guns, all of which I set aside on my keep list. And for the technology piece, I know I am biased against it because it is so new to the game. I tend to stick with what I know. I used the Mythic items from last year as an example. Now that I know more about Mythic rules and campaigns, I am more than happy to vote for a mythic item.

I was just curious if others shared my trends and biases or if I was alone. Man... now I have to go do penance...

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

We can't talk about items we actually like in any meaningful way, because we like them for their unique qualities, pretty much by definition.

So we talk about what bothers us and what we don't like, since we can safely stay general with those topics.

It's the nature of the way things are structured.

Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8

Clouds Without Water wrote:

We can't talk about items we actually like in any meaningful way, because we like them for their unique qualities, pretty much by definition.

So we talk about what bothers us and what we don't like, since we can safely stay general with those topics.

It's the nature of the way things are structured.

I'm not out of order! The whole system is out of order!

And yet, the Awesome Item Thread of Positivity persists... almost as if it were conceivable to discuss items in a generic, yet upbeat way...

I really like it when I see items that, at first glance, I can't think of how to use - but I have a weird little hunch I can't justify that if I put some strategic thought into it, that item would wind up being really fun/awesome/cool. I've seen a bunch of those - in a way, they're a bigger gamble than an item whose use is apparent within seconds of reading, and I like seeing the former well done. Lots of people have done just that, and it has been a pleasure to see your work and try to come up with clever ways to use subtle and understated items to theatrically satisfying effect. Thank you.


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Garrett Guillotte wrote:
What a depressing thread.

Pfft. This is nothing. Should take a look at the one from last year.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

quibblemuch wrote:
Clouds Without Water wrote:

We can't talk about items we actually like in any meaningful way, because we like them for their unique qualities, pretty much by definition.

So we talk about what bothers us and what we don't like, since we can safely stay general with those topics.

It's the nature of the way things are structured.

I'm not out of order! The whole system is out of order!

And yet, the Awesome Item Thread of Positivity persists... almost as if it were conceivable to discuss items in a generic, yet upbeat way...

I said meaningful way. I like the awesomeness thread too, but it's mostly "I liked that staff", almost literally.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

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I regard the information in this thread as excellent insight into what many players expect in their games. Understanding your audience is paramount for anyone that creates content of any kind and many writers (myself included) love to see this kind of unfettered commentary about what people do and do not like.

That said, here are some of the things I consider when voting:

  • Does the designer of the item understand the importance of action economy and its role in game balance?
  • Does the item create options that weren't available in the game before, and do those options show creativity beyond simple combinations of existing item properties?
  • Has the designer considered the implications of what the item can do and been clear about the how the item functions in relation to existing game mechanics?
  • Can the item be used to good effect by an antagonist, and will the item be fun loot after the antagonist is defeated?
  • Does the item warrant consideration over items commonly accepted as "best in slot" items without being obviously better than those items? I want my players to be eager to keep an item even though there's probably mathematically superior items they could use gold to buy.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, Contributor , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka ChesterCopperpot

Brian Fruzen wrote:


That said, here are some of the things I consider when voting:

  • Does the designer of the item understand the importance of action economy and its role in game balance?
  • Does the item create options that weren't available in the game before, and do those options show creativity beyond simple combinations of existing item properties?
  • Has the designer considered the implications of what the item can do and been clear about the how the item functions in relation to existing game mechanics?
  • Can the item be used to good effect by an antagonist, and will the item be fun loot after the antagonist is defeated?
  • Does the item warrant consideration over items commonly accepted as "best in slot" items without being obviously better than those items? I want my players to be eager to keep an item even though there's probably mathematically superior items they could use gold to buy.

Well put, Brian. Your fourth point is very interesting. Probably not too many antagonists running around with holy longswords.

Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 8

Brian Fruzen wrote:

...

That said, here are some of the things I consider when voting:...

  • Does the item warrant consideration over items commonly accepted as "best in slot" items without being obviously better than those items? I want my players to be eager to keep an item even though there's probably mathematically superior items they could use gold to buy.
  • I agree with all you say.

    Don't you think "rules accountants" are just as bad as "rules lawyers"?

    Of course one has to make choices that improve the character but I've never seen the fun in continually hyper auditing/maximising stats/feats/skills/spells/combat options etc..seen far too many players roll out the same old same old for encounter after encounter because it gives a better possible average damage outcome by 1 ...dull, dull, dull and boring!

    An item that tempts players to try something different has to be a good thing...maybe even a Superstar thing!

    Dedicated Voter Season 8

    I have to say as a first time participant that I was expecting better formatting. I think I have a different method than most, and as this is my first year voting it has evolved over the first 500 votes.

    I read the better formatted item first, I don't automatically read the one on the left first.

    >90% of the time I am voting against the worse item rather than for the better one.

    I read everything through unless it is so badly formatted that I think no effort was made, and even then if both are this bad I read them both to see which one I like less.

    I compare everything to "best in slot" items. If you are more expensive and less useful that's bad, if you are better and cheaper that's worse.

    I really dislike exceptionally expensive items. I don't really care for swords +10 and staffs of Time Stop because by the time you have 200,000 gold the game is almost over. I don't even look at the more expensive items, if they aren't artifacts they might as well be.

    Joke items are not so bad and I have upvoted them sometimes, but not over something else I actually like. Like others have said, I doubt those contestants will advance.

    At the beginning formatting was bothering me more, but as I get a higher and higher percentage of repeats it isn't so annoying and I find myself letting the small stuff slide.

    Things that don't have attack rolls or saves have started to bother me more. Between flat-footed, regular and touch AC, reflex, will, fortitude and CMD there are plenty of defenses to target. Pick one or face much more scrutiny.

    I can't stand things that give away powers too early (read cheaply) because they become the new optimal way to do something.

    I love things that give new or altered powers that didn't exist before because they increase rather than decrease build diversity.

    I have played and GM'd enough that I consider each item from both perspectives, some items seem so cool until you put on the other hat and see the problem.

    Having typed all this out I feel like a mean jerk of a judge. I am not usually this critical of other forum posters, and I'm waiting for this round to end so I can offer helpful advice like I want to, but the contest rules make it really hard to talk about the contest.

    Marathon Voter Season 8

    Gregory Connolly wrote:
    Things that don't have attack rolls or saves have started to bother me more. Between flat-footed, regular and touch AC, reflex, will, fortitude and CMD there are plenty of defenses to target. Pick one or face much more scrutiny.

    I completely agree here. If I see "...automatically hits..." in your item, you better pray you're against an unformatted, incomplete, nightmare, no matter how cool your item is otherwise.

    I also forgot from my list, I hate the idea that death is a revolving door in Pathfinder, so, I also don't vote for items that bring people back from the dead, instantly kill them, trigger only when the user dies or when they're close to it, etc. Death need to be a serious, permanent danger, but not an arbitrary one where a single bad roll on a save does you in (or a series of bad rolls against permanent negative effects).


    Knowledge of rules mechanics is important, as is laying them out in the item description. It's all well and good to say "This Thing does this," but if I don't get told how, mechanically, to apply that effect, then that's a design flaw in the item. Attack roll? Effect with a save? Turns the character into a mushroom, but doesn't tell me how that affects the character's stats/abilities/function-in-game?

    This goes double for the items that don't have a limit on how often their abilities can be used (charges, times/day, etc) and those with automatic anything, especially if the price is too cheap for that kind of power.

    Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 8

    mplindustries wrote:
    ...I hate the idea that death is a revolving door in Pathfinder, so, I also don't vote for items that bring people back from the dead, instantly kill them, trigger only when the user dies or when they're close to it, etc. Death need to be a serious, permanent danger, but not an arbitrary one where a single bad roll on a save does you in (or a series of bad rolls against permanent negative effects).

    I agree...although I have in weaker moments been prone to threatening PC's with the old 10 ton block falling from the ceiling trick to ensure cooperation!

    Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Zahir ibn Mahmoud ibn Jothan

    It's a wee bit of a pet peeve with me when items that have some spell effect associated feel the need to describe durations, targets affected, etc. when you set the CL, all of that just happens, you can save some words on it.

    Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Zahir ibn Mahmoud ibn Jothan

    I will vote against an item that has the horizontal line formatting thing going on, because it claims 80% of the width of my iPhone screen and makes my eyes bleed when trying to read the other entry.

    It's petty, and punitive, I know.

    Star Voter Season 8 aka TealDeer

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    so I'mma talk about backstories here but actually offer advice along with talking about backstories.

    To people who have put backstories in your items...

    DO: come up with a backstory. That can often inform how the item works and its weird quirks. I know with my item, it not only has a backstory, it has a specific time and place it's created in and a specific use it is for. This caused it to have one ability on it that on reflection I PROBABLY should have taken out for simplicity's sake, but it really helped unify the theme.

    Once you've removed the backstory from your item, take another look at it. Is it boring now? Does it now make zero sense whatsoever because its abilities are so disparate and weird? If so, MAKE A NEW ITEM.

    When I was making my item, the first draft was boring and didn't make sense without the backstory, so I re-worked it with the newfound extra space to make it more universal and more interesting. It now has no backstory, though my hope is that its abilities would inspire a DM to come up with a backstory for it.

    DO NOT: include the backstory in the item's description. If your item's abilities are thematic and interesting, they should evoke a backstory in the DM's mind, and give them an idea of a place in their campaign. Maybe it's not the same backstory or place as your original idea, and that's OK, because a truly Superstar item would be one that many (maybe not all, but many) DMs would love to use, and gives them new and crazy ideas for how such a device would fit into their universe.

    DO NOT: make an item of which there is only one. Maybe your item is sort of rare or created for specific purposes, or invented by somebody, but there shouldn't be only one, that's not how magic items in Pathfinder work. If you want there to be ONLY OOOONNNNNEEEE go back and play Labyrinth Lord / Lamentations of the Flame Princess / Dungeon Crawl Classics, or jump ahead and play 5th Edition D&D.

    TL;DR -- backstory OK in drafting process, no good in final product. With a lot of these items if there's backstory I've been copy-pasting out the actual mechanics into a txt file and finding that without the explanation, it's super boring.

    Also also: I am not super hyper familiar with Golarion and Pathfinder mechanics (obv I have played the game and played in Golarion, I'm just not a super expert). Referencing Golarion / using PF mechanics = good. Making an item that only someone who has memorized every single splatbook Paizo has ever released would understand or care about = bad. If a totally new player can't pick up an item and find it cool / interesting, I honestly don't think it's a good item. Which means that if I look at your item and find my eyes glazing over because you've referenced 90 different obscure mechanics that only work for multiclass bard summoner alchemist half-android half-kyton space paladins, I'm not going to care what it is.

    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

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    I prefer items that facilitate gameplay. I don't care if it's a technical item. I don't care if it's a firearm. I want items that do cool stuff or let the me do cool stuff. I want to see if you can write an ability that works with the form of the item to produce a cool effect. This year's competition enabled many action-oriented type of items, so there's no excuse!

    Star Voter Season 8 aka TealDeer

    Garrick Williams wrote:
    I prefer items that facilitate gameplay. I don't care if it's a technical item. I don't care if it's a firearm. I want items that do cool stuff or let the me do cool stuff. I want to see if you can write an ability that works with the form of the item to produce a cool effect. This year's competition enabled many action-oriented type of items, so there's no excuse!

    Adding on, I want items that facilitate storytelling. It's not enough for the item to just be mechanically awesome -- +x whatevers of whatevering are a dime a dozen. There should be flavor and something that's more than just "Lets me do the thing I already do, but kinda better."

    As an example from the SRD, I ABSOLUTELY DESPISE metamagic rods. Are they useful? do they facilitate players doing cool stuff? Sure. Are they abjectly the most boring, stupid, lazy items in existence? Absolutely. See also: 3.5 edition's Nightsticks. I would much rather have something that did weird stuff in weird situations than a generic "you do the thing but better, I guess" item. Items like that -- "you do your Ki strikes, BUT BETTER!" "you do your sneak attack, BUT BETTER!!!" make me yawn and vote for the corny one it's up against.

    (this preference for flavorful but possibly useless whacked out insanity is probably because my first tabletop RPG character ever was a 2nd edition Wild Mage with 3 wisdom, and I had a lot more fun being useless but wildly erratic and entertaining... but that's another story, nevermind, anyway)

    Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Locke1520

    TealDeer wrote:
    Stuff worth reading about back-stories

    TealDeer and I clearly design items differently and would offer very different advice. If TealDeer's advice works for you excellent but I would advise against creating back-stories at all.

    You don't need it. At most you might want broad strokes like it was made by worshipers of X or dwarves or wizards but this can be worked on later.

    What you DO need is a theme or ability that captures the imagination and won't let go.

    Focus your creative energies on capturing your audience's imagination and developing your item from there.

    Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

    TealDeer wrote:


    TL;DR -- backstory OK in drafting process, no good in final product. With a lot of...

    Both items with and without a backstory can be superstar. If a DM doesn't like foreign ideas, the Core Rulebook is enough, really. The rules say make a magic item, not make a magic item appropriate for the Core Rulebook; just use the template from the CR. At this point, I would be shocked to find out that Paizo is looking for designers to create more items for the CR, rather it would make more sense to make items with backstories for themed publications, since that would cater to people who like to read more than just the CR.

    It's fine to say that "here's a +1 dirk that does an additional 1d6 damage to undead...", but an aspiring designer needs to know how to say that Solomon Kane used that dirk to cut open the bellies of 100 undead and since the weapon was magically enhanced to be so precise, he managed to decorate the Christmas trees in every London house with their insides.

    I don't know the exact criteria the judges will use in determining the winners, the mechanics are of course very important, but, personally, I wouldn't dismiss the backstory that easily.

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

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

    The problem with names and backstory on items is the impact on the GM. They have to work those names and backstory into their campaign, either replacing them with their world names and backstory or by adding the backstory into their game lore. This is why item backstory is generally discouraged, in order to keep items as setting and lore neutral as possible.

    It has been said pretty much every year, causing the GM more work is bad.

    It has also been said you can only put names in items if that was a character that played with or under the late G. Gygax.

    All the old hands who return every year have had these criteria drummed into them, and that is why backstory gets frowned upon... Because the backstory behind backstories has been to date, don't do it. Let the players build their own backstory by their exploits with the exciting item.

    In short, backstory causes more work and impacts campaign worlds.

    If an item can be exciting and setting neutral, it will invariably be upvoted over one that tries to jazz things up with extra names and lore.

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

    Put simply: very few items have backstory. If you want to create one to inform the meme vibrations within your creative mind to aid in the creation of your item's theme or purpose, then by all means do so. I think it a waste of time for a 300 or less words item. And you don't want to insert any of it into your item's text. In my opinion. I almost definitely don't want to read it.

    Some Golarion-specific items have links to Golarion. I would not call that "backstory".

    For a character or location in a novel - sure I do this. Not for an RPG item that by it's nature is not one of a kind.

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

    Because I think TealDeer had some stuff worth paying attention to, I want to draw particular attention to this from his/her post (emphasis mine):

    TealDeer wrote:
    DO NOT: include the backstory in the item's description. If your item's abilities are thematic and interesting, they should evoke a backstory in the DM's mind, and give them an idea of a place in their campaign. Maybe it's not the same backstory or place as your original idea, and that's OK, because a truly Superstar item would be one that many (maybe not all, but many) DMs would love to use, and gives them new and crazy ideas for how such a device would fit into their universe.

    The point is you have a storied, thematic item, but NOT a story in your item description.

    Just noting as some folks are saying "No backstory!" and I just want to be sure folks are clear the advice wasn't to actually include a backstory in the actual description's text.

    I recall a past judge... perhaps Neil Spicer? Talking about the fact that judges aren't looking, per se, for items (or monsters or encounters, etc.) but good writers/designers. The item is not just supposed to be a good item in and of itself, but rather a reflection of who the designer is and what they're capable of. I could be imagining it, but for the item round I vaguely recall a judge's advice along the lines of "the item should tell a story without actually telling a story." So basically, what TealDeer said.

    So I think TealDeer's advice about thinking about a story for the item--just NOT including it in the item description text--is a valid way of approaching it because it helps show your capabilities off as a storyteller (how DO you tell a story in "twice per day, this +2 bolas of turniping does this really cool thing...?" Hard to describe, but yet good items DO tend to evoke an imagine story behind them even though there may be no actual story behind it). And in fact I think the approach can help result in what Andrew Marlowe describes as "a theme or ability that captures the imagination and won't let go." (I think what both posters said complement, not contradict, each other's advice.) It's not the only way to get to that thematic-ness, sure, but is just one way to go.

    Other approaches to seek out and flesh out themes would be lovely to hear.

    And mind, I say all this when I know I've got a snowball's chance in the Infernum of making the top 32.

    Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Locke1520

    TotalAnarchy wrote:
    Both items with and without a backstory can be superstar.

    I'm afraid, while it is possible. It isn't likely.

    Not counting artifacts, relics (shameless plug), or otherwise unique items, there are very few magic items with elaborate histories in the game. Even in adventures unless a new magic item ties directly into the plot it rarely gets much more than "this is what this item does" in the write up.

    My point before wasn't to argue with TealDeer for some designers his advice was probably pretty useful. But for others crafting an elaborate backstory can be a serious design trap. I know from experience it can be hard trimming down an entry. Without fail some of your favorite words must get cut. It is often tempting to leave this or that in...but if those things are excessive description or an elaborate history it is unlikely they are helping your entry.

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

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    OK, I'll confess that my submitted item has a backstory.

    To justify its existence to me, there first has to be plausible reason and benefit someone would create it. So, backstory = yes. However, I specifically didn't include any kind of backstory in the item write-up. I tried to leave "velcro hooks" so that the GM (and the players) could probably puzzle it out on their own or hang their own backstory on it... or ignore the whys and wherefores altogether. Whatever.

    Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8 aka Jrcmarine

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    It seems to me the antagonists assume a backstory indicates an individual item's history. It is possible to have a backstory that involves a type of magical weapon, rather than a specific individual item. I would also argue that one or two short descriptive sentences about that background can be helpful.

    In this competition the background, if any is included, should be PF specific and not home specific. I don't have a problem with the description of the Treasure Hunter's Belt Buckle including a sentence or two describing Osirion nobles' needs to construct these items. Don't go overboard and don't beat me in the head with the obvious though.

    I don't think specific NPCs should be mentioned. Items associated with named PF lore tend to be specific to that character and/or tend to be over-powered to facilitate the story. Not every magic item IS a Legacy Item (stealing idea from 3.5), but every item has the potential to possess a Legacy. Adding too much backstory from the start negates the GM/Player's ability to create that Legacy.

    The best magic items from my long history of playing D&D had cool abilities that were descriptive but not overpowered. In fact some of my favorite items might not have been considered Superstar, but they were my favorites because they were useful and became associated with my favorite characters. My oldest non-retired character has a modified Gem Bow from 2nd Edition, and yes, I still play this character. A Gem Bow is a cool item but not a WHOA! item. That Gem Bow is my favorite item. This character has some other memorable and powerful items, a foreskin ring of masculinity (don't ask), twin hand axes made of Ruby that border on artifacts, a ring that does multiple things a thief would love, but my favorite item is that Gem Bow. Not only is it my favorite but it is my GM's favorite as well. At one point in our campaign the GM "cleaned house" of our too numerous magic item cache, we entered a room that continually cast Mordenkainen's Disjunction until you figured out how to get out of the room. My character had every item rendered non-magical except a +5 Stone Dagger. When the GM took an inventory of the party's remaining magic item cache and discovered the Gem Bow was among the casualties he was as distressed as I was and he used GM fiat to reverse the outcome for that item.

    I guess the point of this long rambling post is to say backstories are great, but let the GM and the characters create their own backstories. If creating a backstory helps in your item creation process then by all means, use a backstory. Don't include your backstory in your item's description. Let everyone create their own stories and they will love your item even more than you do.

    Star Voter Season 8

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I've found myself voting for items that tend to be pretty strait-forward and don't break verisimilitude. I also tend to downvote items that include backstories and lengthy descriptions because this is a tabletop RPG and the more fluff you hard-code into the item the worse it is for me, because as a GM, I prefer it when an item's appearance is more or less up to its creator (a goblin shaman's bag of holding might be a grimy leather diaper sewn into a bag, while a noble's might look like a designer bag or something).

    I also find myself shying away from items that do too much or are too complex. If a magic item needs a flowchart, all I see it doing is slowing down the game needlessly. Unfortunately I've seen a few of these types of items that have mechanics like:

    As an immediate action, do A.
    Enemies within 30 ft. make a saving throw (DC X + Y + Z). Enemies with more than 1/2 the HD of the wearer + the wearer's Charisma modifier are not affected. Enemies who fail their save are subject to B.
    Enemies subjected to B must make a saving throw each round or C.
    Each time an enemy fails their saving throw for C, it spawns a mutant pugwampy with the fiendish simple template.
    Also once per day as a free action you can become gojiira for one round plus one additional round for every round of rage, ki point, alchemical potion, arcane pool, time you pet your familiar, number of holy symbols pierced in your naval, and/or your Charisma modifier divided by your Strength modifier multiplied by your level in the Cleric class but minus your level in the Wizard class.

    ^ Will never get my vote. :|

    Also, while talking about clerics and wizards. I hate items that only function for one class and/or race. I will always downvote any item that does unless it's obviously superior in every other area of design to the item it is opposed to in the vote. I have no interest in wasting time on a magic item that is only ever useful to a single class in the entire world. If your item is Magus only, Cleric only, Wizard only, it's getting my wrath. If it's an item specifically anti-*this class here* it's getting my wrath.

    Finally, if it's a mythic item, I am less inclined to care about it for similar reasons. A good item can be used in both normal and mythic games just fine. A mythic item can only be used in a specific subset of games (mythic).

    Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8 aka Jrcmarine

    Ashiel wrote:


    Also, while talking about clerics and wizards. I hate items that only function for one class and/or race. I will always downvote any item that does unless it's obviously superior in every other area of design to the item it is opposed to in the vote. I have no interest in wasting time on a magic item that is only ever useful to a single class in the entire world. If your item is Magus only, Cleric only, Wizard only, it's...

    I have seen this sentiment echoed several times and don't really understand it. I understand favoring an "open" item over a "closed" item, but auto-downvoting an item because it is a "closed" item seems wrong to me.

    First of all, anyone can use an item via UMD. Secondly, there will always be items that only certain classes use and others won't. Do you hate all melee focused magic iems? Because most spellcasters don't benefit from those types of items. Even though the item itself may not be class exclusive, the very nature of the type of item it is does make it exclusive or discriminating.

    Most spellcasters aren't going to care about a +x sword that allows the wielder to do y and z combat related trick. In fact most casters aren't going to care about y and z even if y and z are non-combat related tricks because they can duplicate those effects with a spell. Why would I carry around this clunky heavy sword that does y and z when I can do y and z with a spell?.... Answer: I wouldn't.

    Most magic items are exclsuive in one or another because they give the user a power or ability they wouldn't normally possess. Most, if not all, of those powers/abilities can be duplicated with spells or class abilities, so the item will be less useful to a class that already has access to that power.

    Don't be so quick to downvote "closed" items.

    Star Voter Season 8 aka TealDeer

    For the record, it's "she" or the singular "they" for me, please ;)

    James Casey wrote:


    The best magic items from my long history of playing D&D had cool abilities that were descriptive but not overpowered.

    Absolutely. I'm thinking back to my favorite magic items from past games, and they included a pretty normal +1 staff from my very first game ever that I accidentally enchanted via Wild Surge such that on a critical hit, it triggered a Wild Surge as though I'd surged on a Wall of Fire spell. F+#@in Wild Mages, man. I'm sad that since I lost her character sheet and had to reboot her for a new campaign I don't have that item anymore (now I have a lot of much, much weirder s&&* because our games are weird)

    Dedicated Voter Season 8

    James Casey wrote:
    Ashiel wrote:


    Also, while talking about clerics and wizards. I hate items that only function for one class and/or race. I will always downvote any item that does unless it's obviously superior in every other area of design to the item it is opposed to in the vote. I have no interest in wasting time on a magic item that is only ever useful to a single class in the entire world. If your item is Magus only, Cleric only, Wizard only, it's...

    I have seen this sentiment echoed several times and don't really understand it. I understand favoring an "open" item over a "closed" item, but auto-downvoting an item because it is a "closed" item seems wrong to me.

    First of all, anyone can use an item via UMD. Secondly, there will always be items that only certain classes use and others won't. Do you hate all melee focused magic iems? Because most spellcasters don't benefit from those types of items. Even though the item itself may not be class exclusive, the very nature of the type of item it is does make it exclusive or discriminating.

    Most spellcasters aren't going to care about a +x sword that allows the wielder to do y and z combat related trick. In fact most casters aren't going to care about y and z even if y and z are non-combat related tricks because they can duplicate those effects with a spell. Why would I carry around this clunky heavy sword that does y and z when I can do y and z with a spell?.... Answer: I wouldn't.

    Most magic items are exclsuive in one or another because they give the user a power or ability they wouldn't normally possess. Most, if not all, of those powers/abilities can be duplicated with spells or class abilities, so the item will be less useful to a class that already has access to that power.

    Don't be so quick to downvote "closed" items.

    I can't speak for the others that feel this way, but I want to address this.

    I don't mind items that are meant for one class. I really do mind when they specifically state that class. If I was going to create an item for paladins for example I would tie the items use to lay on hands, aura of courage, mercies or some other paladin class feature. That way paladins with an archetype that trades away that ability can't use it while other classes with an archetype that gains that ability can use it. It lets form follow function and makes individual character builds matter more. It also allows room for growth if a new class or prestige class comes out at a later date that is supposed to feel somewhat like a paladin and has some previously exclusive class features. It isn't technically wrong to tie something to a class itself, but it is my least favorite way of seeing it done.

    Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8 aka Jrcmarine

    Gregory Connolly wrote:


    I can't speak for the others that feel this way, but I want to address this.

    I don't mind items that are meant for one class. I really do mind when they specifically state that class. If I...

    I totally agree with this sentiment, Greg. It seems to me there are some voters who have a problem even with the items you are describing. Granted it could be because the majority of these items seem to be Paladin focused and who doesn't hate those goody two-shoes.

    Star Voter Season 8 aka TealDeer

    Personally I'm seeing more items that use ki than Paladin items.

    Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Zahir ibn Mahmoud ibn Jothan

    James Casey wrote:
    Gregory Connolly wrote:


    I can't speak for the others that feel this way, but I want to address this.

    I don't mind items that are meant for one class. I really do mind when they specifically state that class. If I...

    I totally agree with this sentiment, Greg. It seems to me there are some voters who have a problem even with the items you are describing. Granted it could be because the majority of these items seem to be Paladin focused and who doesn't hate those goody two-shoes.

    My preference is that the item focuses on a detectable ability: smite evil, bardic music, channel positive energy, etc. rather than stating "for inquisitors..."

    Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mamaursula

    Lots of things to cover here!

    Backstory - have a reason for why your item should be created, maybe a nebulous inkling of its origin, but never EVER put it in your write up. You are designing an item for a Player or GM to take into their inventory and tell their own story with. It is not the place of the designer to Mary Sue themselves into the item, even in the write up.

    Wizard/Sorcerer/Cleric only items and refusing to vote for them - Seriously? I'm with Greg, it's best not to say it's for a single class, mostly because things change in the game, but that doesn't make an item not SuperStar potential. Vote how you like, it's your choice, I would just hope that you might take some time to look at how those items can be beneficial and positive in game play and accept that not every item has to be universal in it's application.

    Marathon Voter Season 8

    To add a humorous comment into the mix: It's actually a great deal of fun as a GM to give the players an item that only a certain class can use, because then you can watch them struggle with the decision of whether or not to multiclass. Sure they can always just sell the item - in most campaigns - but if the item is just so good, they may not want to.

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