Open Call has closed for the 2009 RPG Superstarcontest hosted by Paizo. I am sure that many contestants are beginning to question the quality of their entries and probably wish they had a look at Kobold Quarterly‘s [Open Design] The Kobold Guide to Game Design, Volume II: How to Pitch, Playtest, & Publish before they submitted their magic items.
I happened to have the opportunity to review a chapter from The Kobold Guide to Game Design, Volume II and was very interested to see what one of the RPG Superstar judges had to say about the design of a magic item. The chapter I was able to get a sneak peak at was entitled “How NOT to Design a Magic Item.”
I want to give a brief overview of the book before I leak some of the nuggets of magic item design wisdom. The Kobold Guide to Game Design, Volume II: How to Pitch, Playtest, & Publish is a 96 page the sequel to the first volume that compiled “advice from Wolfgang Baur, Ed Greenwood, and Nicolas Logue on how to think about different genres, how to improve your game as a DM, how to make a setting come alive, and how to use design compression to strengthen your work. ” 
Volume two is authored by Wolfgang Baur and Nicolas Logue and promises to help game designers in the areas of freelance, playtesting, and publishing. Its table of contents lists the following chapters (some of which have also been reviewed by the RPG blogosphere):
- Fortunate Accidents
- Lessons from Playtest
- Talent Won’t Save You
- Design Guidelines: Playtesting
- The Infinite Onion: Creating Play Depth
- Promises, Promises: The Art of the Pitch
- Challenge and Response
- The Mystery of Mysteries
- The Magic Bullet for Publication
- Maps, Monsters, and Bottom-Up Design
- How NOT to Design a Magic Item
- Design That Matters
The chapter is fairly short, weighing in at a mere five pages, but the advice is sound and points out some things that a burgeoning designer may not take into consideration. The chapter is written from the perspective of designing a competitive item for any contest, whether its for the RPG Superstar, design tests for industry jobs, or submissions to magazines.
The chapter starts out with the easiest way to destroy your chances, not meeting the format. When narrowing the field of entries, the easiest method is trashing all the ones that don’t comply to the format. It could be the greatest item ever created, but no one will know because the judges simply skipped it because of formatting. Format includes the system guidelines, spelling, and grammar.
I do not want to give away all the advice, but the other topics covered include boring item, spells in a can, swiss army knives, breaking class abilities, the gozo factor, the numbers game, and flavor. If you plan on doing freelance work, or you plan on winning next year’s RPG Superstar contest, I suggest you consider picking up The Kobold Guide to Game Design, Volume II: How to Pitch, Playtest, & Publish.
Want to read more about The Kobold Guide to Game Design, Volume II? Read on…
- Kobold Quarterly
- Capturing Fantasy
- Chgowiz’s Old Guy RPG Blog
- Musings of the Chatty DM
- The Core Mechanic
 Kobold Quarterly Announcement