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RPG Superstar 2011™ Round Four Assignment: Create a Golarion Location, Map, and Encounter

Describe a new Location in Golarion, a Map of that location, and a two-tiered Encounter for that location, all in 1,500 words or less. This location may be as large as a forest or undiscovered island, or as small as an old fort or section of a dungeon.


Altogether, your entry must be no longer than 1,500 words. You may divide this word count as you see fit between describing the Location and the Encounter (for example, you may spend 300 words describing an old castle Location, and 1,200 words describing a specific Encounter in the castle). Note that this year's Round 4 challenge has a higher word count than that of previous years because of the additional tiered encounter. All words in the provided format count toward this total, but the code tags such as [b] do not.

Note: if you hit the Preview button, the message board software will tell you what the word count is for your entry, which gives you a chance to edit it down if it's over the word count.


Your entry must be set in Paizo's world of Golarion. Non-Golarion locations, including those on other planets (such as Castrovel), other planes (such as the Plane of Fire or Pharasma's Boneyard), parallel dimensions (including the Shadow Plane and the First World), alternate timelines (such as "if Aroden hadn't died"), and time periods other than the present (such as "during the height of Azlant") are off limits.


  1. You must include a map.
  2. Your map should be either one half-page (8.5" x 5.5") or one full-page (8.5" x 11").
  3. Your map must be approximately 72-100 dpi.
  4. Your map may be color, grayscale, or black and white.
  5. Your map may be hand-drawn or computer-generated.
  6. Artistic merit of the map is not a factor, but submitted maps must be legible, readable, neat, and contain all of the necessary information from which a cartographer could create a professional map illustration for a published adventure. If your handwriting is hard to read, consider using the text tool on an image-manipulating program to create the text on your map; alternatively, print out the text on a separate page, cut out the text into small sections, tape it to the map, and create a scan of the tagged map.
  7. Your map must have a compass indicating north, and a scale (such as "one square = 5 feet").
  8. If your map has features that aren't immediately recognizable, consider adding a map key (¥ = pillar, o = barrel, and so on).
  9. Text on the map does not count toward the word count of the location description or encounter description (see below), but using excessive text on the map as a way to get around the word count limitation may be grounds for disqualification.


Your entry must include a villain from Round 3, which cannot be the villain you submitted.

Your encounter must be a tiered encounter. A tiered encounter is one designed for two different CR ranges that are 3 CRs apart, such as CR 3 and CR 6. The typical way of handling a tiered encounter is to add more creatures, replace a lower-level creature with a more powerful creature, or modify a lower-level creature for the higher-level tier.

For example, if a Tier 1-2 encounter (for 1st- and 2nd-level PCs) is with a CR 1 wolf, the Tier 4-5 encounter (for 4th- and 5th-level PCs) could be with 3 wolves (a CR 4 encounter) or a grizzly bear (a CR 4 encounter). If a Tier 1-2 encounter is with 3 1st-level goblin warriors (a CR 2 encounter), the Tier 4-5 encounter could be with 3 4th-level goblin warriors (a CR 5 encounter).

The Sample Location, Encounter, and Villain Format document shows how to format a tiered encounter.

The easiest way to handle a two-tiered encounter is to decide the CR for the lower tier, design the encounters accordingly, then increase that CR by 3 and create a second encounter based on that increased CR. The theme of the encounter and the general tactics used by the monsters/NPCs should be roughly the same in both tiers so they have approximately the same feel. For example, if the lower-tier encounter is with a brutish melee monster, the higher-tier encounter should not be with an elusive ranged-attack monster.

The possible tiers pairs are:

  • 1-2 & 4-5
  • 3-4 & 6-7
  • 5-6 & 8-9
  • 7-8 & 10-11


Entries must be submitted through the submission tool at beginning at 2 PM Pacific time on February 15, 2011, and must be received by 2 PM Pacific time on February 18, 2011 (maps must be mailed to and have the same deadline as the text submission). Voting begins February 22, 2011 and ends February 28, 2011. Paizo will announce the top 4 entries on March 1, 2011.


Use the Sample Location, Encounter, and Villain Format for your entry. The subject line of the submission form should contain only the name of the Location. The body of the form should include only the complete Location and Encounter text in the appropriate format (this means the Location name will be included in the body as well). Mail your map to


  1. If your encounter includes monsters that already have stat blocks from an existing allowed source (such as goblin warrior 1, ettercap, jabberwock), you may use the "shorthand" Paizo stat block for that monster (see the Sample Location, Encounter, and Villain Format document). For the sake of this contest, these are called "Standard Monsters."
  2. If your encounter includes variants of these "standard" monsters (such as an ettercap with extra hit points or a mutant goblin warrior with wings that give it fly speed 30), you may use the "shorthand" Paizo style of referencing that monster. For the sake of this contest, these are called "Variant Monsters."
  3. Do not use customized monsters or hazards that do not already have a stat block from a Paizo source if the effects of the variation cannot be summed up by adding one line to the stat block (such as a half-fiend ettercap, a goblin rogue 5, or an advanced hell hound)--normally you would include a complete stat block for such a monster, and you won't have room to do so within the 1,500 word limit for your entry.
  4. If a monster has specific tactics relating to your encounter location, include these tactics in your submission.
  5. You do not have to include the stat block for the Round 3 villain you are using. The first time you refer to the Round 3 villain, cite them as originating in Round 3 like this: Name (R3) as in "The mastermind of this lair is Crug Halfborn (R3)."


Apart from your own original content, you are limited to using or referring to the following sources:

  • Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
  • Pathfinder Roleplaying GameMastery Guide
  • Pathfinder Roleplaying Advanced Player's Guide
  • Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary
  • Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 2
  • Published content from Paizo's Pathfinder campaign setting
  • Content from the (Round 1) Wondrous Item round of this year's RPG Superstar contest (whether you created it or not)
  • Content from the (Round 3) Villain round of this year's RPG Superstar contest (except for the villain you created)
  • Content that is in the public domain (such as mythological references, etc.)
  • You may NOT use or refer to Open Game Content (or any other material) from other publishers.


Submissions may be disqualified for the following reasons:

  • Submission is not set on Golarion.
  • Submission exceeds 1,500 words.
  • Submission does not include a map.
  • Submission does not include a tiered encounter.
  • Submission doesn't use one of the allowed tier pairs.
  • Submission does not use the required format for presentation.
  • Submission does not conform to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
  • Submission is taken from a previously published source (though individual encounter elements may be from a previously published source as described above).
  • Submission uses non-Pathfinder rules, monsters, or copyrighted material from publishers other than Paizo.
  • Submission is not submitted by the deadline.
  • Submission does not generally use correct English.
  • Competitor adds to, expands upon, or clarifies the contents of his or her own submission during the voting period, whether this takes place on or elsewhere.

RPG Superstar™ 2011 Round 4 FAQ

Last updated: February 10, 2011.

Round 4 FAQ

If the judges or anyone else has questions about my Location, Encounter, or Map, can I post answers to their questions?

No! At least, not while voting is open. See Rule #5 on the Contest Rules page: "During public voting rounds, contestants are prohibited from any public discussion that could be considered as adding to, expanding upon, or clarifying the content of their current submission. This applies to (but is not limited to) interviews, personal blogs, and messageboard posts on or elsewhere, including the discussion thread for the entry itself. Any such discussion may result in disqualification, in the sole discretion of the judges and/or Paizo." In other words, your submission has to get by on its own, even if everyone has the same question and you could answer it with a single word. That's because if you write an encounter and it gets published, the book doesn't include a little copy of you to answer questions or offer suggestions, so you need to make sure your submission is clear on its own. Just grin and bear it--you'll be able to say as much as you want about it once voting is closed. In fact, you may just want to copy this safe-to-post statement: Thank you for your support and please vote for my encounter! If you have questions, I'll be happy to answer them once voting for this round is closed.

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What if someone else chooses the same villain I choose?

Then we'll see who can create the coolest Location and Encounter for that villain.

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In previous competitions, there has been a "secret twist" revealed when the round starts. Is that happening this year?

Yes. The "secret" twist for Round 4 is (1) you must use someone else's villain from this year's Round 3, and (2) you must present a tiered encounter for two different CRs.

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Why is having a tiered encounter part of this round's challenge?

Pathfinder Society Scenarios use tiered challenges so more PC groups can play through a particular scenario (a scenario for two tiers means twice as many groups could use it as part of a Pathfinder Society campaign). As the Top 4 competitors from this challenge all get an assignment to write a Pathfinder Society Scenario, having all Round 4 competitors practice this format helps them prepare for this assignment.

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Can I do a Location that contains just one Encounter, such as a campsite ambush?

Yes, but that wouldn't be a very exciting entry.

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Do we really have to use that Location and Encounter format?


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Do I need to include tactics for other monsters in the Location?

Be as descriptive as you feel is necessary; a mindless golem doesn't need detailed tactics, but a monster with abilities that interact with local hazards might warrant a line or two.

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Do I need to "show my math" for my Encounter stat blocks?


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I am not the best at maps. Can I have a friend or someone else do the Map for me?

No. The entire entry, including the Map, must be your own work. We realize that this rule is essentially unenforceable except by the honor system but we all believe in the honor system so we feel it is sufficient. There are many free computer programs that you can use to draw simple maps. Your map doesn't have to be beautiful, it just has to be clear enough that Paizo could hand it to a professional cartographer without having to revise or redraw it.

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So we can use software like Photoshop or MS Paint to draw our map?

Sure, so long as you do it yourself.

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