Meet the Judges

JACOB W. MICHAELS (All rounds)

Jacob W. Michaels has been gaming for 30 years, since he went on an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks in the third grade. He got into freelance game design after getting into the 2012 RPG Superstar competition, which was one of the most fun gaming experiences he’s had. Since then, he enjoys running contests and helping others get involved in game design. He reached the Top 16 of RPG Superstar again in 2014 and since then has had work published in several Paizo projects. In addition to writing or contributing to nearly a dozen five-star products from Raging Swan, he has published a module, Ironwall Gap Must Hold, with A founder of Swords for Hire Development, his work has also appeared in products from, Flying Pincushion Games, Jon Brazer Enterprises, Louis Porter Jr. Design, Outland Entertainment, Rogue Genius Games, Rusted Iron Games, and in several Wayfinders.

MIKE WELHAM (All rounds)

Mike Welham has been gaming since 1979 and began freelance design in 2010. He won Paizo’s RPG Superstar contest in 2012 and has written and contributed to a number of critically acclaimed works for Publishing, Jon Brazer Enterprises, Kobold Press, Legendary Games, Paizo, Raging Swan Press, Rite Publishing, Rusted Iron Games, and Zombie Sky Press. He regularly contributes a menagerie of monsters to the Mythopoeic Rambling blog ( Mike has served as a guest judge for the first round of Paizo’s 2013 RPG Superstar contest and as a judge for several of  Swords for Hire’s Here Be Monster contests.

KATE BAKER (Open Call)

Kate Baker began writing freelance game content two years ago. She was one of the co-winners of Green Ronin’s Talent Search in 2017, and has worked for Paizo, Legendary Games, Encounter Table Publishing, and others. Her most notable projects include Starfinder Society’s psychedelic space walrus adventure #1-08: Sanctuary of Drowned Delight and the upcoming Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-24: Beneath Unbroken Waves. She’s also an Organized Play Venture Agent in the SF Bay Area.


In the gaming world, Rep Pickard works as a freelance editor, having contributed to over a dozen Pathfinder and Starfinder products as well as some third party projects. She placed among the Top 8 in RPG Superstar 2015, and her monster, the spiroskek, was printed in that season’s winner module, Down the Blighted Path. She also has game design credits in Swords for Hire’s Villain Codex and in Wayfinder No. 17. An avid tabletop and video gamer for most of her 41 years of life, Rep has been actively GMing for over 16 years. “By day,” Rep works as a research editor and administrative coordinator at Johns Hopkins University. She has a master’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh. When not working or playing games, Rep enjoys singing and working within her local Quaker community.

STEVE HELT (Round 2)

Steven T Helt has been running games from behind the screen for more than 30 years. He’s won the Iron GM world championship twice and in 2013 kicked of his RPG design career by winning Paizo Publishing’s RPG Superstar contest. Since then he’s worked on Paizo’s core rules team as a freelance designer, as well as taken up the mantle of Famine for the Four Horsemen. Most recently, Steve wrote the mythic adventure Depths of Desperation for Legendary Games and presently works on a few other adventure products.

Steve lives in his townhouse in Tulsa, Oklahoma. By day, he disguises his love of role-playing and designing complex villains by working as an estate planner and insurance agent.


Ron lives in the rural hinterlands outside of Seattle, Wash., where he finds the climate a pleasant change from his native Illinois. He and his brave wife Stephanie are outnumbered by three delightful but mischievous children and their ever-increasing number of pets. After a lengthy career as a corporate attorney, Ron took a full-time position with Paizo Inc. as a developer, working with freelancers to create fabulous worlds and monstrous threats for the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games. He also designs games in his free time, creating a dizzying variety of perils, plots, and legends. Ron’s favorite RPG design work is adventure writing, to help others share exciting stories with their friends. Although his first game design credit came back in 1993, Ron has recently written for Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Ulisses Spiele, Open Design, Raging Swan Press, and many others. Ron also runs his own gaming company, Run Amok Games, which you can visit at


Rachel Ventura is the business director for Legendary Games. She has been a freelance writer for AAW Games, Battlefield Press, Jon Brazer Enterprises, Misfit Studios, Playground Adventures, and Total Party Kill Games. Previously she was the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Frog God Games. Rachel also serves on the board for RPG Creators Relief Fund, a nonprofit charity for game designers in need. In 2015, she was a Guest of Honor Industry Insider for Gen Con. She started gaming at the age of 6 when her older brother needed a rogue elf to play in his dungeon. Although her experience at that point mostly involved her searching for shinies her gaming style did evolve from table-top to LARPing to card games. Now a mother of twins, strategy and Euro games are much more her style. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics where she worked as an actuary for a few years before moving into marketing. She is a woman of many talents anywhere from training wolves for movies to teaching scrapbooking at Gen Con for SPA events.


Neil Spicer earned his industry stripes as Paizo’s RPG Superstar in 2009, penning the popular fey-themed adventure, Realm of the Fellnight Queen. He’s since returned for multiple stints as an RPG Superstar judge, and emerged as a consistent author for Paizo’s Adventure Paths. So far, he’s written for Kingmaker, Serpent’s Skull, Carrion Crown, Jade Regent, Skull & Shackles, Reign of Winter, Wrath of the Righteous, and Iron Gods—ensuring a gamer’s “hat trick” covering everything from vampires, ninjas, and pirates to witches, demons, and robots. Neil also serves as Executive Partner at Legendary Games, having recently funded a Kickstarter project called Legendary Planet to produce a third-party Adventure Path with sword-and-planet themes. He lives near Charlotte, NC with his wife and four children.