Saturday, January 17, 2015

Interview with a Champion Voter: Thomas LeBlanc

Today's interview is with Thomas LeBlanc, who was one of the Top 32 finalists in 2012, when Jacob W. Michaels (one of A Sword for Hire's writers) and myself were also finalists. Like Feros, whom I interviewed the other day, Thomas is one of the very few three-time Champion Voters.

1. When you think about it, 5,000 votes means that you put in a minimum of 83 hours and 20 minutes, which is roughly equal to a part time job. What drove you to put in that kind of time?

Mild case of OCD mostly. Like playing pokemon to collect all of them or getting all the items in a Zelda game, I usually feel a need when doing something to get all the achievements. That's why I have to force myself not to play certain games or partake in certain activities. Voting was the same, I wanted to see everything. After the cull, I added 11 more items to the pre-cull list others had missed.
I also like to see the different ideas floating around. Many good ideas never make it past the cull. So I try to see as much as possible before a cull occurs to glean all I can.

2. What makes an item Superstar for you? What were some of your deal breakers that made you vote against an item rather that for its competitor?

A superstar item should have a great idea behind it. Sometimes the idea is not fully realized by the designer. A poor template, bad grammar, rules misunderstandings all serve to obfuscate an item that may be great at it's core.

The big deal breakers for me are usually the item's rule usage. Not having saves is a big no-no in my book for abilities normally have a save. Auto-damage/sunder to arms, free automatic hits against attackers, stonewalling casters, or teleporting creatures just to name a few. Quite a few items this year misinterpreted how charges in staffs work. Using the item to bypass restrictions/rules that the designer did not like fall into this category.

My next biggest peeve is item pricing. I wasn't too picky about being exact, but being close is important. Having the cost of the masterwork component in a magic weapon wasn't high on the list of faults. But pricing an artifact level of power at 30k was. Looking over the keep list thread, I saw a few items that I didn't like just because they were so under cost. In my opinion a bad price was worse than forgetting bold/italics.

3. What did you think of this year's twist? If you voted last year, do you think the quality of the items was better or worse than prior years?

I liked the twist. I am a procrastinator by trade and never get around to making my item until the contest is announced. I know quite a few people that made 10+ items between contests, playtesting and constantly rewriting them. Because of the twist I didn't feel as burdened to wrack my brain or over analyze/edit my item. I wish I had made another editing pass though. It's amazing how I would have rewritten my item by the time I finally saw it 1k+ votes in...

I think the items were of higher quality this year and I think the twist is responsible. Even pre-cull, the items were on par with the first cull of items for the previous years. Another metric, is this year I submitted 23 items for DQ submission, lower than the previous years.

4. This year's cull was controversial, what did you think of it? How much did it affect your voting?

Loved the big cull. I was starting to get burnt out before it happened. Voting was much better afterward, better than the previous years after the final culls. I didn't feel burnt out until I finally saw all the post-cull items, which happened a few days before voting ended. Seeing all the post-cull items assuaged my OCD tendency. 

5. If you could change one thing for next year's competition, what would it be?

More culls! 20% per week. I hope the massive cull this year was good for the judges. More culls equal more people voting to see if their item survived.

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