At MACE 2012 Mike Welham, Paizo’s 2012 RPG Superstar, attended and ran some games for us. He took time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions we had for him.
Hello, Mike. Thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions.
MW: Thanks for taking the time to interview me.
Congratulations on the win for 2012 RPG Superstar. How does it feel to be one of the elite?
MW: Even 6 months after the fact, it feels a little surreal. I’m pleased that the voters saw something each round to push me into the next round, and I really appreciate Paizo doing this contest every year. Doom Comes to Dustpawn won’t be released for a couple of months, but I will be excited to see it in print.
What kind of gamer would you say you are?
MW: When I play a character, I like to create a slightly off-kilter hook for the character. It’s a lot of fun to come up with an unusual character and just throwing that out there for the others to interact with. At the same time, especially in “living” campaigns, I make sure the character can benefit the party in combat situations. My overall goal is to bring a little bit of laughter to the table, usually at my character’s expense. I primarily GM at home, and I run my campaigns a little loose, because I have learned that I can have a perfectly crafted plot for a night’s adventure, and the players will go off on completely different tangents, which have absolutely nothing to do with what I planned.
You are one of many RPG Superstar contestants that are from the Carolinas. Why do you think that is?
MW: That’s amazing, isn’t it? You’ve got Neil Spicer who won in 2009, and this year featured 3 North Carolina residents in the top 4. I believe the Carolinas have a lot of gaming communities that provide a medium for talent to develop. Also, with the sheer number of colleges and military bases in the two states, I think the gaming population is fairly substantial. Of course, conventions like MACE get people excited for gaming. I know when I’ve had a great convention experience, I am eager to contribute back to the community.
Is this your first time being a contestant?
MW: Far from it. I have entered every year Paizo has hosted the competition. I learned something new during each attempt, and I finally found myself in the top 32 this year.
Tell us a little about the RPG Superstar Competition and how you got involved?
MW: Paizo has run RPG Superstar for five years now. It is their way to find amateur designers who can potentially become regular contributors, which Neil Spicer has done. However, you don’t have to win the competition to become part of Paizo’s stable of freelancers.
The first round of the competition is always the same: design a wondrous item in the Pathfinder RPG format using 300 words or less. The judges choose 32 entries, plus 4 alternates in case one of the 32 drops out, and those 32 entrants have a week or so to create their entry for the next round. In 2012, the second round challenge was to create an organization, but previous years have had contestants create an archetype or a monster concept or something else. After the first round, contestants progress through votes cast by the community. The judges have their say about each entry, but the Paizo community at large determines who advances. Ultimately, in the final round of four contestants, the challenge is to submit a proposal for a 32-page adventure module, and the winner gets to write that module (with help from a Paizo developer), while the other three contestants get the opportunity to write a Pathfinder Society scenario.
What was it about Doom Comes to Dustpawn that you think put you over the edge?
MW: I think I lucked out and struck a chord with the voters by choosing to touch on the recently released Distant Worlds supplement.
Did you have an opportunity to see your competitions’ works after each round? If so, who impressed you the most?
MW: Each round I tried to take a look at what everyone else was doing. Since we couldn’t comment on our own entries, and some decisions for the next round had to wait until the judges released the full rules, I had time to at least skim my competitors’ entries. They were all good and made me nervous about my chances of survival. Overall, though, I felt Tom Phillips had the most consistent presence in the competition, and I thought he was a lock for the win. According to Mark Moreland, the difference in votes between the two of us was less than two percent, making it the closest competition in the history of RPG Superstar.
What inspirations kept you going in the competitions?
MW: I had two sources of inspiration during the competition: my family and the “Forums Are Way Too Long” group. My wife, Cheryl, is not a gamer, but she was extremely supportive during my run through RPG Superstar, as she has been throughout all of my freelancing career. My daughter, Rachel, patiently allowed me to bounce ideas off of her, and she volunteered to read the judges’ comments first for one of the rounds. The FaWTL group gave me a place to vent frustrations, and a couple of people from the group critiqued my entries. That’s definitely something I would suggest to anyone interested in the competition: find a couple of peers that you trust to honestly critique your work.
Once the complete Doom Comes to Dustpawn is published, what plans do you have in the future?
MW: I’ve already made my turnover for Doom Comes to Dustpawn, so I have already started on my next projects. I have work coming out from Butterfrog Studio, Clockwork Gnome Publishing, Raging Swan Press, Rite Publishing, and Zombie Sky Press. I hope to continue working with Paizo as well, but I am certainly keeping busy.
Thanks again. Looking forward to meeting you at MACE!
MW: Thank you! I am very much looking forward to meeting you and enjoying everything MACE has to offer.