In 2012 what I wanted was to write that years RPG Superstar Pathfinder module. When I read my name on the Top 32 list I was thrilled and shocked! Suddenly I knew was only a few short weeks from . . . . Well, if not the Superstar then surely the Top 4.
Then I read the comments on my item. It was a cold shower. Sure I was in but I’d been nearly passed over. I knew I was entering an item, Cayden’s cup, that had some design parallels to an item in one of the books (both were cups dedicated to Paizo’s resident mead-hall deity) but I thought it should be a big enough design space that I could add another tankard to the game. What I hadn’t counted on was the tankard of the cheerful duelist from Mathew Morris in 2010. Suddenly it wasn’t parallel design with just one item but two and the second one had been a Top 32 item! Not a great start.
Now in my defense the 2010 contest began at the tail end of 2009 which had been an abominable year. It started rocky and by June had sunk to an all time low with the unexpected passing of my father. Even several months later I had little interest following Superstar and so missed Mathew’s tankard on its natural run. I should still have caught it in 2011 when I did my review of previous years entries to prepare for the 2012 season of Superstar but somehow I missed it. That oversight nearly cost me in the first round.
What followed is a blur. Me racing to complete each round’s assignment and struggling to not repeat mistakes from previous rounds. I remember feeling a sort of bond form with the judges. It was hard not to with Clark Peterson and Neil Spicer taking so much time to cover every aspect of each entry. Sean K. Reynolds’s commentary was much more terse but still effective. I was writing as much for them as for myself. Each round I would excite myself with a new idea and think this is it! then the judges comments would come crashing in and my hopes would be dashed but I’d win new design insights.
For me it all culminated in the hot mess that was the njaa’mende, my gonzo totally unwieldy intelligent trap building swarm monster with the unpronounceable name. In retrospect even it seems longer but I only lasted three rounds. I was a top 16 contender a far cry from my naive expectations of Top 4 but I ended very happy with my achievements. I even received my first freelance offers.
What I wanted was to write that RPG Superstar Pathfinder module. Turns out what I needed was to fail spectacularly. I wasn’t ready to be any sort of freelancer when I started my 2012 Superstar run. I needed the failures and the little victories to make the transition from bystander fan to contributing fan and freelancer.