As I suggested I might, I'm going to give you the general guidelines for the mysterious "Create a Map" round the Top 32 will face starting Tuesday. This isn't official (the official rules will be posted Tuesday), but it's not a trick either—this is just a casual discussion of what we're looking for, and what we expect.
For Round 2, contestants will be asked to provide a full-page map, or a previously unmapped fantasy-themed location in Golarion. Submissions will need to be sent by email before the deadline. It needs to be 8.5" x 11", and approximately 150 dpi when submitted. Your map may be color, grayscale, or black and white, and may be hand-drawn or computer-generated.
The map itself is the entry, so it is important to make it interesting and creative. Above and beyond all the tips on making your map legible and having enough information for a cartographer to be able to create a publishable map from your entry, it's crucial you make sure you map something that really needs a map. If the map isn't needed to understanding what the area is like and how characters may move around in it, then it's a waste of space that could be used for something else. If the map is boring, no one will care about the location it represents.
No one needs a map of a 20-foot by 20-foot room with a door centered in the north and west walls, or of a forest that's six miles long and three miles deep with a single road and one town in the middle. Your map should be something that sparks the imagination, and leads to interesting encounters. It should also use the 8.5" x 11" space well. A map that clearly ignores half or more of the page will be disqualified.
Your submission need not be something that could be published, but it must be something that could be used by a GM to run a game set in the mapped location, and it must have all the information a cartographer needs to make the final map. Voters are asked to vote not on artistic talent, but on clarity, imagination, and usefulness.
Maps are incredibly important, and they are a skill we simply haven't emphasized enough in the past. A good map can get a GM or players excited about a location before they have read a single word, while a bad map wastes space and may even confuse people. Even very good adventure writers can produce maps that have to be entirely redrawn by our developers or (worse) be so incomprehensible we have to abandon them and rewrite an adventure to use a map we can create ourselves.
Freelancers able to create clear and imaginative maps that don't need us to do anything but send them to a cartographer have a huge advantage over those who can't (and may even get work to create sketches of maps we then hand to adventure writers).
It's a big challenge, but it's also part of what I was talking about when I said if you are a finalist this year, I want you to be confident you have the skills it takes to become a successful RPG freelance adventure writer.
Owen K. C. Stephens
Developer and RPG Superstar Host