|John Bennett RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Dedicated Voter 2015 aka John Benbo|
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I'm creating this thread so we can post our thoughts on the Round 2 maps and maps in general to help future contestants if Paizo decides to keep this component in further contests. My hope is to offer advice to help future contestants should this type of challenge appear again.
First, I have to say is that there were definitely more maps I liked than I had votes for, so excellent job 2015 contestants! Secondly, for me, maps aren't easy- I've done quite a few professionally to know this and I learned a lot from going through all the submissions.
As a voter, my criteria were
1. clearness and readability- could I understand the map.
2. story- was there a theme or hook that made the map interesting and made me want to use it.
3. usability- lastly, did you create a map that I could swipe for my home game? I own more gaming material than I can hope to run, but I've been known to take maps from published sources and tweak them for my own needs.
Breaking the maps into categories, here are some of my overall thoughts-
1. Mini-regional maps- the maps which detailed a small region were pretty difficult to get my vote this round (I had only one I voted for). However, I think a mini-regional map has great potential to get a story across. However, they need to be clear and list interesting locations that spark my imagination which I can flesh out later. Very "Old School Renaissance" which I appreciate but make sure that features are easy to read and offer interesting places for adventure.
2. Settlement maps- I've done a bunch of these myself and they aren't easy. When designing one, you need to make sure that the cartographer can easily determine what is he/she is looking at. A lot of the maps I've turned over professionally are often cleaned up and made nice looking by the cartographer and kept much of my detail. So it is important that they are well-detailed, defined, and look interesting. Also, the real important locations need to be labelled as these are the places players will be going to. Don't label half of them and leave us guessing as to the others. Out of my 8 votes, I only voted for two of these type.
3. Locations- I love the direction that Paizo has taken with many of their "Unleashed" Campaign Setting books- offering up mini-dungeons centered around a particular creature or NPC. If your doing a map like this, it is important to have enough details for the GM to use it. You are working on a smaller scale here and the details are important to help me, a GM without a lot of extra time, to run it. Also, it should not be something that I could come up with in 5 minutes with a piece of graph paper. Interesting structures and overall shape that fire the imagination help without making it too confusing to read or reproduce. Location maps received the rest of my votes (5) but the ones I voted for had a good story hook.
Noncontestants, please feel free to post your own thoughts.