Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Tale of Two Items, or Why I'm Not A Superstar

by Randy
@coffeeswiller on Twitter

Hey there! Has anyone out there entertained the idea of writing for their favorite roleplaying game? I have no doubt that a majority of you just said a huge "YES!" to yourselves. Well, I got news for you. Paizo Publishing, makers of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, have an annual talent hunt called RPG Superstar.

RPG Superstar is an excellent event, not just for the opportunity it provides, but also for the chance to see the creative contributions of other RPG enthusiasts. I have watched it from the sidelines in previous years, but this year I decided to jump in and try it out.

I'll bet you're asking, "Randy, how did you do? Are YOU a superstar?", to which I'm going to smile and reply, "Not even close!". And that's actually cool with me.

The competition is divided into several rounds, the first of which is to design a Wondrous Item. The actual rules are pretty simple. The item needs to actually be a Wondrous Item. It needs to be mechanically sound. It needs to be costed correctly. And it needs to actually be superstar material. Sure, every roleplaying game needs staples like crystal balls, belts of strength and what-not, but this isn't about making those things. It's about standing out. I'm paraphrasing the rules, of course... they're right here if you want to read them.

Anyway, here is the item I submitted:
Inspires the imagination, doesn't it? 

Orb of Aggravation
Aura strong transmutation; CL 10th
Slot none; Price 500 gp; Weight 1 lb.
This Orb of Aggravation is a 3 inch sphere of dull iron, favored by rogues (many of whom refer to them as Orbs of Escape). It is activated by throwing it at an enemy, to whom it flies unerringly. It then bobs and weaves around the target, striking sensitive areas and occasionally sprouting a hook to pull down trousers or sword belts, or ejecting dust to inhibit eyesight. It performs the Dirty Trick combat maneuver that round and for each of the following four rounds. It attacks with a CMB of +15, randomly bestowing one of the following conditions (roll 1d6): 1-blinded, 2-dazzled, 3-deafened, 4-entangled, 5-shaken, or 6-sickened. Each effect lasts for one round plus one round for each 5 points the CMB roll exceeds the opponent's CMD, and each may be removed with a move action. The orb does not provoke attacks of opportunity, but may be attacked. It has an AC of 16, a hardness of 5 and 10 hit points. After the last attack roll, the Orb of Aggravation crumbles into dust.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, Improved Dirty Trick, telekinesisCost 250 gp

I was going for something I considered a "design hole". In this case, it was taking a mechanic introduced after the core rules, the Dirty Trick combat maneuver, and using an existing item, the Whip Feather Token, as a template for a new one. I think I was moving in a good direction with this, but the end result was a rather lackluster item. Especially since it was practically devoid of meaningful, interesting description ("3 inch sphere of dull iron"? Come on!). I rushed my writing a bit, and discarded some good ideas (more later) that would have made it more eye-catching. Additionally, I should have more closely followed the sage advice of Sean K. Reynolds, one of the judges of the competition, a Paizo employee and an all-around nice guy, if you get the chance to talk to him in person.

So, that being said, if I could hop back into a time machine and re-submit this item, here what it would look like:
Scribbles by the author.

Harpy Egg
Aura strong transmutation; CL 10th
Slot none; Price 750 gp; Weight 1 lb.
A Harpy Egg appears to be an iron ingot the size and shape of a goose egg, criss-crossed with grooves in no apparent pattern. When thrown at an enemy within fifty feet, requiring a successful ranged touch attack, the egg separates at the seams to reshape itself into a rough-cast harpy figurine the size of a human fist. It then flies around the target, striking sensitive areas, pulling down sword belts, or spitting iron filings in eyes. For five rounds, beginning the round it was thrown, it executes the Dirty Trick combat maneuver against the creature it was targeted against with a CMB of +10, bestowing one of these conditions (roll 1d6):
The condition persists for one round plus one round for each 5 points the CMB roll exceeded the enemy's CMD, and may be removed with a move action. The harpy does not provoke attacks of opportunity, but may be attacked. It has an AC of 16, a hardness of 10 and 5 hit points. After the fifth round, the Harpy Egg crumbles into dust.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, telekinesis; Cost 375 gp

I think that makes it a pretty neat item with a reasonable amount of flavor. The orb was originally almost a "clockwork harpy", but I didn't want to address the "don't you need to wind it?" question, or add a "spend a move action winding it" clause. As it is now, it may still not yet be superstar material, but I like it. It's a straightforward one-shot item designed to harass an enemy briefly, then go poof! and leave no meaningful trace of its existence. I envisioned it primarily as an aid to escaping (imagine hitting a pursuing guard with it!), but it would also be very useful in combat to interfere with one opponent's action economy. I think that if you're a player of Pathfinder, you can come up with a few clever uses for it. By the way, if you do use it, tell me! 

Here's a great image I found on deviantArt that I thought would be a great illustration of how the Harpy Egg might look deployed (although good luck getting one to hold still long enough to confirm!). This is a work-in-progress piece by deviantArt user edsa-m, who was kind enough to give me permission to show this piece. For the miniatures enthusiasts among you (like me!), he made a great video on sculpting feathered wings here. I encourage you to check out his stuff!

Mcc Monster girl Harpy WIP by deviantArt user edsa-m

Another great harpy sculpture I saw is below by artist deviantArt user EvanCampbell. What I like about that one is the action and the face. The expression on the face is a lot closer to what I imagine the harpy looking like while doing her work. He was also kind enough to allow me to display his amazing piece here. Please consider popping over and seeing his work, as well!

Harpy by deviantArt user EvanCampbell

I would like to thank the wonderful members of the Paizo community who took the time to critique my item and offer constructive feedback. I'm not sure exactly how many items were submitted, but many active people spent a lot of their time looking over all those items and giving their thoughts. Even those of you like me who didn't make the Top 32 for RPG Superstar, you're all rockstars to me! I would also like to thank devientArt users edsa-m and EvanCampbell for allowing me to share pics of their Wondrous Items! Thanks, guys! Thanks and appreciation also goes to the site d20 PFSRD, to which all game rule links are pointing to.

Did any other readers participate in the RPG Superstar, either this year or in the past? Let us know in the comments!

The sculptor of the first piece above, edsa-m, liked my Harpy Egg sketch and decided to incorporate that into a piece he did! Here is a work-in-progress look at that piece:

MCC Monster Girls-Nagja the Gorgon WIP-details by deviantArt user edsa-m

So just to say it again... Edsa is a great guy, and I love his work. Please pop over and check out his stuff on deviantArt!

1 comment:

  1. I like your ideas. I don't have the pathfinder core rules yet, but I have my 30th a birthday coming up in a couple months, and the core rules and the bestiary are the only things on my list. I can't wait to try it out!