Every January and February, Lusternia has a series of ten contests through which many awards are given out, the ultimate one being that someone is ascended to a form of godhood that is almost unattainable otherwise. There are nine contests associated with the nine fundamental spheres of influence (Chaos, War, Justice, Nature, Knowledge, Beauty, Life, Death, and Harmony), and the winner in each can compete (supported by his or her allies) in the final battle. Of the nine battles, only one is explicitly about player combat (War), but many of the others boil down to it (Chaos, Life, Death, and Harmony) since you can kill other people to prevent them from progressing or even take away their scores. The final battle is very explicitly player versus player.
I might participate seriously next year (assuming I've been able to work on my combat system by then) but this year, as in the past, I'm only making a few casual entries which are mostly taking the tone of "why not join, it can't hurt". I participated in Justice (a contest of the game's debating system) that way, and if I happen to have nothing more pressing to do at the time, I might try Knowledge (a trivia contest); but Knowledge, like Nature (a treasure hunt), really depends on you being actively involved in every new area and every new event, which I don't do, because... they always come down to lots of player versus player combat.
However, Beauty is the wildcard because anyone can win even if they're first level and have no skills and no curing. The way to enter Beauty is to create an interesting design for something in the crafting system, then get it submitted and approved, and finally, get the cartel in which it was created to choose your design as their single entry. There's only one way, other than writing and designing talent, to boost your odds: and that's to own a lot of cartels of your own, or have friends who will let you use their cartels for their designs. Of course, even then you have to come up with ideas in each cartel.
This year, I have thirteen cartels available to me, which is quite a lot, perhaps more than all but a handful of people. One of those, I'm submitting someone else's design, so that leaves twelve. If I were really seriously interested in doing well, I'd be doing all new designs specifically intended for the contest. The type that tend to do best are ostentatious, complex, and heavily Lusternian in theme (for instance, including allusions to Lusternian history or myth), and so, are typically explicitly created for Beauty rather than being normal parts of one's design catalogue made to sell to customers. But I'm not seriously competing this year so I will probably use a bunch of existing designs I already made.
Or that's the starting plan. I went through the cartels at my disposal and picked out the best design as yet unsubmitted for previous Beauty Seal contests. A few of these I really like, but some aren't quite that great. However, several cartels were left that I hadn't developed anything in, so I've been trying to work on new designs in each of them, designed specifically for Beauty. If I finish those, then I'll try to make new designs to replace the weaker ones, but if I don't get any, no big deal.
As of this writing, I have five designs submitted, and two more just waiting approval to submit. I really like many of those, but I doubt they've got much chance. I always try to come up with a way to be elaborate without being gaudy, so that my design will stand out from all the "pile everything on" ones. Sometimes I go with a design where the actual product isn't that special, just the way it's described (for instance, a humble loaf of bread), but while I might be able to do a great job of designing it, the judges are still unlikely to be impressed. But it's a gamble: maybe after a list of twenty designs that are all extremely luxuriant and made almost solely of obscure synonyms for colors (you have never seen the words nigrescent, aureous, or viridian so many times in your life), a humble loaf of bread will jump out and catch someone's eye. But every year, the designs that win tend to be ostentatious more than elegant or evocative, at least to my tastes, so I probably won't do well, as I haven't every previous year (including one year where I spent many, many hours pouring my soul into a dozen designs).
What I'm stuck on right now is finding more jewelry designs. My character inherited five jewelry cartels from his mother, and it's really hard to come up with new ways to make jewelry interesting, when everything's been done. I've dredged a few good ideas out of my inspiration, but I'm still two designs shy. If I can get those, I have a tailoring cartel where I have a lot of designs I like, but none nearly fancy or complex enough for Beauty. I have several that are pretty good, but nothing that just shouts out Beauty Contender.
I don't really think I could win, because, even though many in the game consider me one of the best designers, my style doesn't seem to suit the judges as well as some others. Maybe it's just luck, maybe I'm not as good as all that, and maybe it's just that I don't want to do gaudy enough things. It would sure be nice to place, just for the recognition. Winning would almost be worse, since I'm not actually ready to be in the final competition and would feel obligated to do so. (Thankfully I wouldn't have to worry about being Serenwilde's primary contender since another Seren has already won a seal, so I'd just be supporting her. If I were ready to seriously compete, I might be able to garner more support than her because of my character's loyalty to Serenwilde -- she has left it several times. But she'll get the support for being a better combatant, period.) Mostly, though, it'd be some killer bragging rights, and possibly good advertising.
But right now I just need two more jewelry design ideas. Argh!