Round 5 Rules -- Your input needed


RPG Superstar™ 2008 General Discussion

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Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Hi again!

I'm finalizing the round 5 rules.

We are contemplating letting people use a map. Would you like to upload your own or have us post a selection of maps and then you could use the one you want? What do contestants and voters want?

How about stat blocks? Tired of them?

How about word count?

Any questions and discussion here would be great.


I would love to see some creative use of maps. I'm hoping you could let the contestants use one or more of the flip-maps for the encounter. The upside being, well, It's something we can run the next gaming session if we want to.

Stat blocks are OK, but mainly, I want a great encounter. And one of the main ingredients there is offering players multiple options to resolve the challenge.

Dark Archive Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4

Hi, Clark!

Okay, so: my biggest concern about this coming round is simply that I don't know, precisely, what an "encounter" entails.

Oh, I'm confident that you'll explain to us what you want, but I just want to be certain as to what we're discussing: an "encounter" one of those off-the-wall campaign moments like the random Vampiric Adult Silver Dragon who shows up late in the game during one of the Adventure Paths,

Spoiler:
It's in "Age of Worms", and maybe my DM added that himself because he's a total f*+* who just likes seeing us cry.

or are we looking at something like the old "Side Treks" from Dungeon, with all the goodies?

Por Ejemplo:

Here is the legendary creature known as "Encountor, the TPKer" - a powerful Monster X who has several levels of Class, a number of Monster Y minions & a super-cool lair. If surprised by PCs, Encountor will use Ability 1 to make his minions do stuff that hurts and/or distracts the PCs while he preps to use the dreaded Ability 2! He flees to the next room, and the PCs have to chase him.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Once the dread Encountor is killed, the following things happen: (turn to the next page, after his stats)

Note: Encountor is not a good "villain", because he spends 23.5 hours a day sitting in his lair, going "Lalalalalala, I hope I get to kill some PCs today!"


Chef's Slaad wrote:
I would love to see some creative use of maps. I'm hoping you could let the contestants use one or more of the flip-maps for the encounter. The upside being, well, It's something we can run the next gaming session if we want to.

I second this. I want to see what people come up with when using a pre-made map.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

Re: maps: I'm not a big fan of using maps in this round, because of the possibility of different quality maps that might skew voters' perceptions. Not to mention time that might be wasted trying to create a perfect map. A way to address that would be a selection of maps, but that could stifle some creativity. Por ejemplo (as Boomer says), if one wants to do an encounter inside the digestive tract of a kraken, and there is no kraken digestive tract map, one has a problem. Maybe a compromise would be to provide a selection of maps as well as allowing contestants to create their own, if they wish. Or just remove maps completely - no maps for countries, no maps for encounters.

Stat blocks? Perhaps. More importantly, I think it should be clear what monsters can be used. If it's SRD only, then no stat blocks should be needed. But it should be clear whether one can add class levels to an SRD monster, such as humanoids (in which case stat blocks should be allowed), or if one can only use 1st-level warrior humanoids as presented in the SRD (no stat blocks needed).

Word count: From this thread about Paizo's GameMastery Open Call,

James Jacobs wrote:
500 words per encounter remains a pretty good rough estimate method for an adventure. Check out, for example, Seven Swords of Sin. It's got 36 encounters, so that'd be 18,000 words right there, which leaves only 4,000 words for introduction, sidebars, new monsters, and the appendix.

If the ultimate goal is to produce an adventure, standard adventure encounter word length would be the way to go, IMO (whether that's James Jacobs' estimate or your own estimate). And maybe increase the word count slightly if no maps are allowed, to allow for location description.

This would also answer Boomer's question: an encounter (for the purposes of the contest) is an encounter as would be found in an adventure.

The Exchange

I would give the writers the opportunity to provide a map but not make it a requisite.

I believe that Paizo's own writers vary dramatically between artists and scribblers. Plus the key is the encounter that I want to run or I want to play in.

My guess is that the word count is already being discussed but what about the format. In the last round, it was quite rigid. Perhaps the last six should be allowed to let loose a little and maybe produce the encounter format of the future. Maybe not so give them a sample encounter format just to be on the safe side.

Cheers

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Clark Peterson wrote:
We are contemplating letting people use a map. Would you like to upload your own or have us post a selection of maps and then you could use the one you want?

Maps would be cool, but in practice the people writing the encounters are virtually never the ones making the maps, so having the contestants supply them would change the contest into something it's not.

I like the idea of supplying premade maps; 4 is probably a good number. Hell, I want the pre-made maps myself, I'm a sucker for maps. In fact, I think the contestants should be required to use one of the N supplied maps.

Clark Peterson wrote:
How about stat blocks? Tired of them?

Absolutely not. Love 'em.

Clark Peterson wrote:
How about word count?

I think the commentary above was relevant. Looking at the previous entries, any of the countries would be, frankly, a bit long for a single encounter, so less than that would be good.

Given that an encounter will have multiple creatures, I'd say that the length of the thematically linked creatures was about right. Go with that.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Now on to other material.

Please be sure, if there's a specific format defined, to allow for evocative description first. That's very important.

Also, to the contestants: I recommend very highly the "Spoilers" method of stat blocks - put the whole darn creature into a spoiler tag, that will allow the gestalt of the encounter to flow nicely, with the ability to see the detail as needed.

I might recommend a bottom level on the EL for the encounter. I think this encounter should be defined as being a climactic encounter for an event or module, rather than a side trek kind of thing. Perhaps defining it as a climactic encounter is sufficient, that way it would allow for both high- and low-level submissions.

I think that the creatures involved should all be standard, unadvanced SRD creatures (unless they're NPCs, in which case they'll have to have class levels, obviously), except for the 'boss' creature, which may be advanced. I do not think the creatures from round 4 should be allowed.

Dark Archive Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4

SargonX wrote:
This would also answer Boomer's question: an encounter (for the purposes of the contest) is an encounter as would be found in an adventure.

Thank you, Rob! Also: thank you for using "por ejemplo". That made me smile.

Now the question becomes whether you want people to just go WILD for this round, creating an encounter that would, hypothetically, occur half-way through an adventure:

By the time the PCs make it to Encountor the TPKer's room, it is assumed that they will have already passed through the God-Kraken's magical lymph-nodes - and dealt with the vampiric siren-merfolk who dwell within the Fasting Pools. If they have NOT obtained the Azure Key of Midnight from the Flesh Warden, presumably by trading the Bishop's hand-bell for it, this encounter will be much more difficult.
Either adjust Encountor's uses of "Ability 1" to 1/week, rather than 3/day, and reduce his Slam attack bonus to +6 or add three to his CR.

SargonX wrote:

Re: maps: I'm not a big fan of using maps in this round, because of the possibility of different quality maps that might skew voters' perceptions. Not to mention time that might be wasted trying to create a perfect map.

*SNIP!*
Maybe a compromise would be to provide a selection of maps as well as allowing contestants to create their own, if they wish. Or just remove maps completely - no maps for countries, no maps for encounters.

Seeing as how I cannot create maps, nor do I have any earthly clue as to I would go about creating one short of scratching out a rough series of hatch-marks & squiggles on the back of a Denny's place-mat and then walking over to Kinko's to have it scanned onto a CD for me and then, I guess, emailing it to Paizo, I'm gonna go with "provide a bunch of maps for the contestants."

My guess? It'll make the Superstars more creative: "How do I make THIS room interesting?" & "How does it connect to the OTHER room that I like?"

SargonX wrote:
Stat blocks? Perhaps. More importantly, I think it should be clear what monsters can be used. If it's SRD only, then no stat blocks should be needed. But it should be clear whether one can add class levels to an SRD monster, such as humanoids (in which case stat blocks should be allowed), or if one can only use 1st-level warrior humanoids as presented in the SRD (no stat blocks needed).

Personally? An encounter had BETTER have some damn stat-blocks, or it might as well be a particularly gripping section of a Choose Your Own Adventure book - that's why I bought the adventure! Honestly, the awesome "sword-priest" or "gates of yesterday & tomorrow" sections of Seven Swords of Sin would have been USELESS without a set of stats for the baddies. All the story-line stuff was wicked-slick, sure, but I would NEVER have run any of those if I had to build the entire thing from the ground up, after buying the book.

[off-topic]My favorite adventure I've ever run was probably "Riding the Rails", the low-level Eberron one-shot from Dungeon #143 - not just because of the extreme coolness of all the bits and pieces, but because it gave me a free low-level Artificer NPC that I didn't have to build, equip, stat-out and double check. Thank you, Dungeon![/off-topic]

Point is: if you tell me that the room is full of Swarm-Shifter Athasian-Zombie Displacer Beasts chilling out with a Reaping Mauler Mind-Flayer on an Advanced Hit-Dice Death Kiss Beholder mount, great.

Not SRD, but . . . TOTALLY AWESOME.

But I better have stats for it, or I'm flipping the page.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Clark Peterson wrote:
We are contemplating letting people use a map. Would you like to upload your own or have us post a selection of maps and then you could use the one you want? What do contestants and voters want?

I definitely think the contestants should have to turn over their own map as part of their submission in this round.

Why? As it's been mentioned in the past, some designers are better at map-making than others. And, to me, part of being a true RPG Superstar should mean that you can draft an encounter map that's legible, understandable, and creative. An RPG Superstar shouldn't just be a good author with a grasp of the game mechanics. He needs to be a good designer...and I think that holds true for creating new stuff like monsters and magic items, as well as designing a good map that synergizes with the text of his encounter write-up.

Such a map doesn't need to be "cartographer credit-worthy." An RPG Superstar isn't being asked to be the full-fledged cartographer on any particular assignment. But he or she should be able to create a decent map turnover that a true cartographer can work with...and that the editors can implement...to make an overall inspiring and intriguing encounter.

Rob McCreary wrote:
Re: maps: I'm not a big fan of using maps in this round, because of the possibility of different quality maps that might skew voters' perceptions.

Personally, I think that's the exact reason why they should be part of the contest. Voters should form perceptions based off an RPG Superstar's map turnover in relation to their encounter text. I think it speaks to the qualities that make them an RPG Superstar in the first place.

Clark Peterson wrote:
How about stat blocks? Tired of them?

I don't see any reason to exclude them, other than general stat block fatigue for the voters. In some ways, I think the contest would be better served to require them again this round. That way, we all get one more glimpse at a candidate's stat block execution. And hopefully, any lessons learned from the previous round can be demonstrated this time.

I think that kind of resonates well with the situation where an editor gives feedback and a designer makes adjustments in their next assignment anyway. And, if stat block fatigue is still a concern, just make sure they're spoilered to make for easier reading and analysis.

My recommendation would be to leave out any CR or EL guidelines this time, though. Let the contestants go as wahoo or low-profile as they desire with these encounters. The general purpose of this round should be to demonstrate an RPG Superstar's ability to put together an inspiring encounter. And that won't be measured in its Encounter Level. So there's no reason to restrict it, in my opinion.

Clark Peterson wrote:
How about word count?

I'd say (aside from the stat-block), go with the typical word count for an encounter. I believe industry standard runs between 750-1,000 words on that...but correct me if I'm wrong. At this point, you've only got 6 contestants remaining. So, at the most, we're talking 1,000 words per entry plus however many words are necessary for the stat block. That shouldn't make for difficult reading on the voter-side of things. And it still gives enough words for the contestants to play with their presentation and style.

My two-cents,
--Neil


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I would like to see maps used as part of the encounter design, where appropriate. I would also strongly favour the contestants having to provide their own maps, for two reasons:

- it doesn't restrict them so much in their choice of encounter;

- it's something they'll have to do when designing a full adventure.

However, to get over the inevitably differing levels of map-drawing skill among the contestants, I propose that all the maps should be re-rendered by someone else into the same style before posting them for judgement. Note that I'm not talking about a full-on Pathfinder-style rendering - just something functional, but uniform. With only six contestants, that shouldn't take too much time. Heck, I'll do it, if necessary!

I also think stat blocks should be included, where necessary, but spoilered out for readability.

Dark Archive Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4

NSpicer wrote:
As it's been mentioned in the past, some designers are better at map-making than others. And, to me, part of being a true RPG Superstar should mean that you can draft an encounter map that's legible, understandable, and creative. An RPG Superstar shouldn't just be a good author with a grasp of the game mechanics. He needs to be a good designer...and I think that holds true for creating new stuff like monsters and magic items, as well as designing a good map that synergizes with the text of his encounter write-up.

He's right, you know.

Oi. As absolutely terrified as I am of having to draw a map, the rules are clear: Paizo is looking for the best of the best of the best.

Of the Best.

If a REAL Superstar should be a moral, intellectual and physical superhuman who can draw a map, install a toilet, discuss obscure philosophers, seduce any single member of their own species, kill any 20 living beings, compute pi to thirty-six digits and fry an omelet, all at the same time, then . . . so be it.

Bring it on, Clark. Bring it on.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

gbonehead wrote:
I think this encounter should be defined as being a climactic encounter for an event or module, rather than a side trek kind of thing. Perhaps defining it as a climactic encounter is sufficient, that way it would allow for both high- and low-level submissions.

I think a problem with this is a climactic encounter for a module is the conclusion of a series of events or encounters, which won't be present here. It may not seem like a big deal, but I would imagine if you strip the final encounter out of a module and its context, you would have to add a lot more information to give it that context. Story makes an encounter climactic, the story from the module as a whole.

IMO, a simple encounter, such as you would find in the middle of an adventure, would be best. We already have villains, and villains can be added to an encounter to make it climactic. And we already have lots of crazy ideas, monsters, and countries.

But can a Superstar do a simple encounter, the "meat and potatoes" of every adventure, that expends 20% of the PCs' resources (as recommended in the DMG)? I'd rather see that.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

thatboomerkid wrote:
If a REAL Superstar should be a moral, intellectual and physical superhuman who can draw a map, install a toilet, discuss obscure philosophers, seduce any single member of their own species, kill any 20 living beings, compute pi to thirty-six digits and fry an omelet, all at the same time, then . . . so be it.

NOOOOOOO! I can't fry an omelet!

*curls into a ball and starts crying*


I think maps are a good idea if everyone is held to the same standard. However, I know that a color map rendered beautifully appeals to many people even if the black and white is better at conveying DM information simpler and better. So, maps should probably be out.

How about a stat block for part of the encounter that's not monsters? Restrict the critters to SRD only or SRD plus levels (at which time a stat block is okay). Give us something interesting about the encounter that fits in a block. Terrain? Movement? Conditions? Something unusual.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Core

Callum wrote:
However, to get over the inevitably differing levels of map-drawing skill among the contestants, I propose that all the maps should be re-rendered by someone else into the same style before posting them for judgement.

If any contestants want I'd be happy to turn chicken scratch into straight-forward rendering. I've done several maps for various projects. As long as it is within the rules and all that. Here is the last one I did: http://canecorpus.com/ilim%20map.gif

This was for a PHP game, I used Yithnia in Round 2 which was inspired by the game, upper right corner.


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

I assume that when your writers create adventures, they are creating the initial drafts of their own maps - therefore, I'd like to see maps of the encounter areas as part of this contest. However, I am afraid that if one contestant is a really great artist, that would give them an unfair advantage.

I would prefer that the maps be re-done by someone into the same style, if at all possible, possibly by taking Callum and/or Samuel Kisko up on their offers (above).

If that isn't practical for some reason, at the very least, I assume the judges will be making special commentary about the maps regarding ease-of-use. Personally, I'd prefer that maps be "judged" primarily on ease of translation into "real" maps, and clarity of what they are supposed to show. I'd prefer to see less emphasis on the creativity of the site map - that just encourages/rewards people who have enough artistic talent to translate a crazy concept (like the amazing vertical structure of the lower section in Age of Worms' "A Gathering of Winds") into a good image.

Actually, what would be really interesting (to me, at least) is if one of your "regular" cartographers were to come in as a "guest" judge for this round - their feedback relating specifically to how easy they would find it to translate the provided maps and so forth into a finished product. (Not actually doing the work, just writing a paragraph telling us about any problems they see with creating final versions of the provided draft maps.)


I think their should be a set of standard maps given to the contestants. Maybe something like - design an encounter from one of the 3 maps provided. This approach would keep the contestants on a level playing field and not give any single one an unfair advantage. It would also test thier creativity in showing us that they could work their design magic while in a set boundary established by the contest. Hope it helps.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

I think creating their own maps should at least be an option (though I think perhaps a map or two could be provided). Personally, at the risk of making Boomer weep, think there should be an element of map design involved. Perhaps a minimum of designing a single room or maybe two or three linked rooms?

Otherwise, might I suggest their are lots of random map generators our on the net, so perhaps even the judges might want to make use of them (assuming they don't want to draw their own out, since they've got enough of their own to do.) I would strongly suggest that using maps that have been used in prior products would not be the best thing to do; subconciously or not, if any of the contestants have seen them in use it may even subciously affect their creativeity. I think a blannk slate map would be best for all concerned.

Of course, all that assumes a dungeon-style encounter; a wilderness-type or urban encounter pretty much demands it's own unique map, which I think would have to be drawn by the contestants.


Quote:
Of course, all that assumes a dungeon-style encounter; a wilderness-type or urban encounter pretty much demands it's own unique map, which I think would have to be drawn by the contestants.

That is a very valid point. But maybe we can get the judges to design one map for each type of encounter mentioned above. I really want to see if the contestants can design an encounter that could WOW us by using a pre-determined area. They have all demostrated that they are extrememly creative thinkers. Now lets test that creativity in a controled enviroment. Can they WOW us when they have their creativety restricted by the maps provided.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

On the map question, I think I fall into the "provide several pregen maps, have entrants design an encounter for one of those maps" camp.

I can see good reasons for having peple come up with their own maps, including not just sheer open-ended creativity (though I think that has been pretty well established by this point) and the ability to place terrain, traps, and other such things as part of an encounter that would be hard to do if the map is already set. Heck, even just to make a BIG encounter (outdoors, with monsters who use mobility to their advantage), it would be hard to do if the maps are preset.

Overall, though, I think there are a lot of potential pitfalls in between the intended test (creating an interesting encounter field) and the actual test (artistic skill or facility with mapping software). The former is an important part of being an RPG Superstar. The latter is not. Honestly, unless you are a legitimately professional-credit-worthy cartographer (and maybe not even then), maps you submit along with your adventure documents WILL be redone by someone who is a professional. As long as your map is not a total train wreck and as long is it provides the needed information, that is what is required from the adventure designer.

Now, if the contest managers want to re-render map submissions so they are all uniform, I could maybe see it.


I'd say that to allo wmaximum creativity, the submitters put in a map. However, it shoudl be put in with the understanding that it's not a final product - it's the equivalent of what you'd give to the person producing maps for the adventure. So it should be clear as to what's where and how things work, but it doesn't need to be 'pretty.'

I hate the idea of pregen maps because that will constrain the nature of the encounters way too much.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

As far as the other questions in the contest. Hmmm...

1. Should we use entries from earlier in the contest? Interesting question, since that has been the precedent in each round, to allow that. I'm not sure whether I would extend it to this round, though, if only because I think the new monsters just created are unfamiliar enough to everyone but their creators that it would be hard to judge them against other kinds of encounters we have seen in the past. Sure, it gives an author a chance to take his or her creations out for a spin, show people what they can do in an encounter (rather than just a general tactics section).

But is the wow factor there just from showing a new monster in action, or is it from showing inventiveness in the creation of the encounter? Sure, one involves the other, but I think it's a bit of a cheat. When you design an adventure, you may have a new monster here or there, but it is less common for new monsters be the base monster for a whole adventure (yes, I know, there are plenty of exceptions, all the way back to Shrine of the Kuo-Toa and the whole Drow series, since they were new monsters at the time).

Of course, there is a metric ton of versatility within just the SRD, as previous rounds of this contest have shown, but IMO to test encounter-building skills we should stick with SRD. Make the fireworks come from the concept and skill using the SRD, not from the whiz-bang of seeing a new monster in action for the first time. If the judges go the other way, though, I'm sure I can come up with something sufficiently devilish using the new monsters.

2. Should this be a climactic encounter? If we have a 500-word limit and no context, I should hope not. With a thousand words, it's much more do-able.

3. What is the context of the encounter? Is this encounter meant to be purely stand-alone, or is it supposed to be part of a larger adventure? It's simpler for the purposes of the contest if it's a side-trek or micro-adventure (like the ones in Weapons of Legacy), because then you don't need to worry about connections.

4. Should there be stat blocks? Sure. For straight SRD creatures with no mods, there don't have to be; just a reference and hit points. If they are base SRD creatures with no difference but using a magic item (magic weapon or armor especially), just a note about adjusted AC or attack or save bonus or what have you, likewise if they are pre-buffed with spells in the encounter.

If they are class-leveled monsters or NPCs or advanced creatures or any other oddballs, then stat 'em up.

I had a 5th point but I'll be darned if I can remember it now. Oh well, maybe I'll think of it later.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka SmiloDan

I think maps are necessary. 98% of any kind of combat-based encounter is used with miniatures, and placing them in a map makes it a whole lot easier. Lack of miniature use is total chaos; it allows the DMs to caveat WAY too much.

I like the idea of Spoiler Blocked Stat Blocks. Great idea!

I think a variety of maps should be provided for the less artistic, with the option of the more artistic to create and provide their own maps.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Give them a word count limit, tell them to design "an encounter" and let them do whatever they want with that word count limit (including stat blocks if they want). And yes, I think they should be allowed to include maps and maybe hand-out images if they want as well -- but you could charge them out of the word count limit for each image, if you're feeling nefarious.

The RPG Superstar doesn't need to be told what kind of encounter, or be given an example encounter format to follow. He (or she) breathes encounters and eats adventure!

Sovereign Court Contributor

I think a map is part of the package. If you can't draw a good map, then the rest of your encounter better be stellar. Honestly, if I was an editor, and had to choose between two otherwise equal freelancers to assign a project to, and one of them made good maps and the other made bad maps, I'd go with the one who made good maps.

But that 'otherwise equal' is not a neccesary reality. You can make it through with better design. The map helps, but it doesn't make the encounter.

That said, if one of the contestants wanted to link their encounter to an existing map in the public domain or owned by Paizo, I guess I wouldn't mind. I would just weigh that into my voting choice.

Shadow Lodge

Drawing a map is part of the designer's job. Furthermore, accuracy in mapmaking and properly meshing the encounter text and the provided map are an essential part of solid encounter design. How often have we, as DMs, found a map inconsistency (everything from scale to missing features or inaccurate information) in a published adventure make an otherwise interesting encounter into a challenge for the DM to adjudicate or even to determine what the encounter text is referring to (e.g. How can the shaman hide behind the alter and cast a charm person spell on the first party member that enters the temple given that the map indicates the alter is 60ft from the door and the shaman is of insufficient level to cast the spell that distance - or there is no alter shown on the map at all and no clear place to put one!)?

A true RPG Superstar will need to provide a rough map as part of their submission. I would like to see these maps translated competently (not professionally mind you) by a cartographer to level-set the playing field and avoid any bias that might creep in concerning one author's graphic design skills over another's. It is true that cartographers make mistakes but the three Judges could correct any such issues if they are found with a simple posting (e.g. the map fails to show the alter in its proper location. This is a mistake in map translation, the submitted map showed the alter positioned correctly; a corrected map will follow shortly).

The submission should follow the standard Gamemastery encounter design submission standards for length, content, stat blocks, headings and so-forth. After all, the ultimate RPG Superstar will be contracted to write for Gamemastery, so now is a fine time to demonstrate the ability to comply with that format. In my mind, those getting my vote will be those authors that can submit a challenging, well-written encounter that for all purposes could have appeared in a Gamemastery module, right down to the provided map.


amusingsn wrote:
The RPG Superstar doesn't need to be told what kind of encounter, or be given an example encounter format to follow. He (or she) breathes encounters and eats adventure!

No, a Superstar doesn't need to be told. However, part of writing for a company is also following guidelines or outlines and creating something within that limited framework. Creativity often goes up, not down, with limitations.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

varianor wrote:
amusingsn wrote:
The RPG Superstar doesn't need to be told what kind of encounter, or be given an example encounter format to follow. He (or she) breathes encounters and eats adventure!
No, a Superstar doesn't need to be told. However, part of writing for a company is also following guidelines or outlines and creating something within that limited framework. Creativity often goes up, not down, with limitations.

I agree. I would like to see what they come up with without any significant limitations, however. There's a layer of meta-creativity that has yet to be tested.

Dark Archive

I'd like to see them design off of pre-made maps. I like seeing what multiple people do with the same blue-print.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

varianor wrote:
No, a Superstar doesn't need to be told. However, part of writing for a company is also following guidelines or outlines and creating something within that limited framework. Creativity often goes up, not down, with limitations.
amusingsn wrote:
I agree. I would like to see what they come up with without any significant limitations, however. There's a layer of meta-creativity that has yet to be tested.

Very true, but before I suggested that they use a fixed set of maps, I took a look at the final round of the contest, which will exhibit exactly that sort of creativity.

Given how impractical it will be for the Big Eight to all have equal access to the ability to provide maps, I'd rather see them provided.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Jason Nelson 20 wrote:
Overall, though, I think there are a lot of potential pitfalls in between the intended test (creating an interesting encounter field) and the actual test (artistic skill or facility with mapping software). The former is an important part of being an RPG Superstar. The latter is not. Honestly, unless you are a legitimately professional-credit-worthy cartographer (and maybe not even then), maps you submit along with your adventure documents WILL be redone by someone who is a professional. As long as your map is not a total train wreck and as long is it provides the needed information, that is what is required from the adventure designer.

I disagree, Jason. Not to be argumentative (because I've voted for your stuff on multiple occasions now)...but rather on principle as to what I assume an RPG Superstar (or any RPG designer, really) should be expected to do...as well as what I would expect this particular contest to check for in each candidate's work.

Basically, the way I see it, we all know that RPG designers have to pen not only a knock-out manuscript, but also a decent map turnover. And this stage of the contest should most definitely test both of those abilities. The tools that you use to actually render your map...are really irrelevant...much as they would be to a Paizo editor. They don't care if it's colorized. And neither do I as a voter. I don't care if it's done using map generation software. And Paizo accepts it on paper, too.

Ultimately, what I do care about...and what I think the judges should ascertain during this stage of the competition...is that your map is legible, creative, and enhances the encounter write-up. That's all. And I'd expect the voters not to be swayed simply by someone's sweet cartography skills. We're voting for a designer, not a map-maker. But a designer is expected to provide clean map turnovers for his writing projects. So, RPG Superstars should be tested on that.

Just providing a host of pre-made maps to pick from and asking contestants to design an encounter around it, isn't how a designer is expected to perform his work in the real world. So, if the judges decide to take that route, I think it diminshes what this round of the competition should be testing. Basically, it would only test your ability to creatively use a pre-existing map...and write an entertaining encounter around it...with useable game mechanics. And I don't see that as enough to determine that you could do the real job as a designer when it requires that you sketch your own maps first.

But that's just my very respectful two-cents. And it may be far too late (in terms of the alloted time for the contest submissions) to require maps. It's really the call of the judges to determine what they can squeeze out of this round anyway.

--Neil

Dark Archive

DangerDwarf wrote:

I'd like to see them design off of pre-made maps. I like seeing what multiple people do with the same blue-print.

That's almost genius, right there.

Give them the same number of eggs and see what comes out of the kitchen when the screaming is done.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Set wrote:
DangerDwarf wrote:

I'd like to see them design off of pre-made maps. I like seeing what multiple people do with the same blue-print.

That's almost genius, right there.

Give them the same number of eggs and see what comes out of the kitchen when the screaming is done.

It's not Iron Chef

or Iron DM

It's "Iron Game Designer"

And the secret ingredient is... dragon eggs!


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

re: maps. nspicer has already stated an excellent reason why the contestants should provide their own maps so I'll just echo his sentiment without repeating it. :)

re: stat blocks. Yes, if necessary, but spoiler tag them. We've already seen how the contestants can create new stat blocks. I want to see how they create an encounter. Yes the stat block is part of it, but I don't necessarily need to see it again in the full write-up. Spoiler blocks would work just fine for it.

re: word count. 500 or 1000 sounds right for an encounter. It depends on whether it's a middling encounter (which sounds like the prevailing sentiment) or a climactic encounter.

re: using earlier entries (monsters, etc.). I don't see why that shouldn't be allowed. It's a gamble since the voting public may not be as used to something recently created as say a dragon, but I think that should be up to the contestant to decide.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6 aka Eyebite

Set wrote:
DangerDwarf wrote:

I'd like to see them design off of pre-made maps. I like seeing what multiple people do with the same blue-print.

That's almost genius, right there.

Give them the same number of eggs and see what comes out of the kitchen when the screaming is done.

I third that notion. Sounds really interesting, and it eliminates the appearance of unfairness if they all have to work from the same map.

It would be very interesting to see what they develop separately.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

NSpicer wrote:
Jason Nelson 20 wrote:
Overall, though, I think there are a lot of potential pitfalls in between the intended test (creating an interesting encounter field) and the actual test (artistic skill or facility with mapping software). The former is an important part of being an RPG Superstar. The latter is not. Honestly, unless you are a legitimately professional-credit-worthy cartographer (and maybe not even then), maps you submit along with your adventure documents WILL be redone by someone who is a professional. As long as your map is not a total train wreck and as long is it provides the needed information, that is what is required from the adventure designer.

I disagree, Jason. Not to be argumentative (because I've voted for your stuff on multiple occasions now)...but rather on principle as to what I assume an RPG Superstar (or any RPG designer, really) should be expected to do...as well as what I would expect this particular contest to check for in each candidate's work.

Basically, the way I see it, we all know that RPG designers have to pen not only a knock-out manuscript, but also a decent map turnover. And this stage of the contest should most definitely test both of those abilities. The tools that you use to actually render your map...are really irrelevant...much as they would be to a Paizo editor. They don't care if it's colorized. And neither do I as a voter. I don't care if it's done using map generation software. And Paizo accepts it on paper, too.

Ultimately, what I do care about...and what I think the judges should ascertain during this stage of the competition...is that your map is legible, creative, and enhances the encounter write-up. That's all. And I'd expect the voters not to be swayed simply by someone's sweet cartography skills. We're voting for a designer, not a map-maker. But a designer is expected to provide clean map turnovers for his writing projects. So, RPG Superstars should be tested on that.

Just providing a host of pre-made maps to pick from and...

Sunnovab... post-eating gremlins ate my last one!

Well, thanks for the votes and, to recap briefly:

1. I agree that creating interesting maps is an essential part of designing an adventure. I also think there is a wide range of "that will work fine" in between "crap" and "professional grade," and that while all of the "that will work" stuff is functionally identical in how a game designer does their work and equally (as in 100%) likely to be redone by a pro cartographer before final product, in being judged some might bias "that will work" program-generated maps over "that will work" drawn-and-scanned maps (like Boomer said, and for that matter what I would probably be submitting).

I'm also not sure, if the idea of having Paizo convert submissions into a uniform format is a possibility, how feasible that is given the tight schedule of the contest. Sure, it's only 8 encounter maps, but still.

2. As far as map specs, if we have open submission, I wonder if there is/should be a size limit on the maps. "Design any encounter you like within 100' square" or some such. Encounters with flying, swimming, burrowing, or incorporeal creatures would, I suppose, also entail a certain amount of inferred space above or below the 2-D map we submit, but that's really no big issue unless there is some specific feature above or below that would impede their movement.

3. On another note, an 'encounter' does not necessarily have to be a combat encounter. BUT, for the purpose of the contest, it seems that the presumptive model is a fight, and it may be hard to compare a royal banquet, hostage negotiation, or hot-pepper-eating contest encounter with a full-on hack and slash throwdown. Perhaps this should be clarified in the contest rules.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

I'd like to see the contestants permitted a choice of several different maps, each as vague as possible, with nothing but a few numbers and lines. Perhaps those lines are the edge of a forest pool, or perhaps they show the cavern outline. Perhaps each square on the map is 50' and those are the empty village's buildings, or perhaps they are 5' and the rectangles denote a series of deadfall traps hidden in the shadows high above.

I would like to see stat blocks allowed, but discouraged: We've already seen the stat blocks these guys produce. If allowed, I'd like to see them hidden by spoiler tags.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Here is what we are leaning towards:

*Contestants must create and provide maps. Yes, you must draw a relevant map and email it to us (details will be provided).

*There will be no word limit, per se, but a strong suggestion that it be 1000 words or less (stat blocks not included)(and, yes, this could well be a trap for some people).

*Must calculate the EL.

*This is NOT a monster design round, we dont want new monsters or powers or abilites or things like that; use SRD monsters, adding class levels is ok and stat blocks are fine if needed, if not just reference the monster as per a published adventure (ie: "hell hounds (4)").

*An encounter means just that--a memorable encounter.

*An encounter includes conflict and interaction. It doesnt necessarily have to be a fight. It could have a strong roleplaying element to it.

*We want to see some boxed text/readaloud text.

*We want to see a reward (treasure, whatever, up to you)

*What this round is NOT: an encounter for this round is NOT the "boss fight" with Lolth, Orcus, Demogorgon, Tiamat, Kyuss, the big red dragon at the bottom of the dungeon, etc.

*A good example of what we are looking for would be the hydra pit in Shackled City Adventure Path. Or for those old school types, the mindflayer and wererat encounter at the start of Descent to the Depths of the Earth. Or the vampire/succubus from Vault of the Drow. We will provide some other examples.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

I think maps should be included, but not required, and if you do include them, defeinately don't require one of a selection of provided maps. I want to see what the contestants come up with, so the fewer limitations the better. As for format of the map, pencil on graph paper should be fine.

I'd like to see a word limit of more than 500 if that's average for an encounter, 1200 sounds good. That will allow for complex encounters that really show off, instead of more standard encounters that have less room for being creative.

Stat blocks should be allowed for templated creatures, non-standard equipment, NPCs, advanced monsters, etc, but anything standard should just be a monster name and hp.

Finally, I like the option to continue to allow previous round's material in subsequent rounds. The new monsters could make an appearance, and so could the villains and magic items, not to mentions references to the countries.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 , Dedicated Voter Season 6

Clark Peterson wrote:

Hi again!

I'm finalizing the round 5 rules.

We are contemplating letting people use a map. Would you like to upload your own or have us post a selection of maps and then you could use the one you want? What do contestants and voters want?

How about stat blocks? Tired of them?

How about word count?

Any questions and discussion here would be great.

I'm not a cartographer, would very much prefer to have a selection of maps rather than provide my own.

Stat blocks - can take or leave them. I'll likely use mainly canned stat blocks as a design challenge either way.

Word count - I trust our worthy moderators :)


If maps are allowed, then they should all be in the same format. Plain graph paper with a black pen. Rulers are okay. Computer drawing programs are not. :D

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

varianor wrote:
If maps are allowed, then they should all be in the same format. Plain graph paper with a black pen. Rulers are okay. Computer drawing programs are not. :D

I suppose that solves the "different formats" question in the other direction. As someone who will probably be using graph paper and a black pen, I'm all for it! :)

Now I just need to find my graph paper... uh oh...


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Clark Peterson wrote:


*There will be no word limit, per se, but a strong suggestion that it be 1000 words or less (stat blocks not included)(and, yes, this could well be a trap for some people).

Not naming any *cough* Boomer *cough* names are we? ;)


On the maps debate:
I would prefer to see a selection of maps made available by the judges (each with a grid superimposed, and a 'battleships' style labelling system with letters along one axis and numbers along the other, so that contestants can indicate where they would place features) for contestants to use or not as they see fit.

However if contestants are required (or allowed) to provide their own maps of any locations that they may use, then I like the approach of the common standard suggested by Varianor:

varianor wrote:
If maps are allowed, then they should all be in the same format. Plain graph paper with a black pen. Rulers are okay. Computer drawing programs are not. :D

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

We, as judges, have clearly decided that we are NOT providing maps. The contestants will have to provide them. Freelancers have to do this and its part of the contest. Its what they are going to have to do when the eventual winner writes a module, so we want to get a look now. The maps dont have to be pieces of art, they just need to be functional and coonvey the important info. The artistic quality of the maps is NOT a criteria, just their legibility and usefulness (aside from the coolness of the place depicted, of course).

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Clark Peterson wrote:
We, as judges, have clearly decided that we are NOT providing maps. The contestants will have to provide them. Freelancers have to do this and its part of the contest. Its what they are going to have to do when the eventual winner writes a module, so we want to get a look now. The maps dont have to be pieces of art, they just need to be functional and coonvey the important info. The artistic quality of the maps is NOT a criteria, just their legibility and usefulness (aside from the coolness of the place depicted, of course).

Works for me. Graph paper HOOOOO!!!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Clark Peterson wrote:
The artistic quality of the maps is NOT a criteria.

Not a criterion for Clark, perhaps, but it will likely influence some of the voting public, there's no way around that. Then again, if it looks like you "wasted" too much time on the map, that may adversely affect some voters as well.

Good luck, Superstar contenders!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Core

Clark Peterson wrote:
The artistic quality of the maps is NOT a criteria, just their legibility and usefulness (aside from the coolness of the place depicted, of course).

Considering the public has the vast majority of the votes I would say the maps have some weight. After all, as we get closer down the rounds I am supposing the entries will be more representative of the actual final product these folks will dole out.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 8

I'd suggest perhaps:

Option A:
Here's a map, design an encounter of EL X-Y for this map.

Option B:
Design an encounter EL X-Y using monster Z.

Or a combination thereof.

Scarab Sages

While I -have- been asked to write encounters based on existing maps in my freelance career (mostly for free adventures posted at Wizards), it's very much the exception rather than the rule.

I remember freaking out about the map I drew for an encounter design test I did for Wizards back in 1999. I knew I was a terrible artist, and was afraid my dreadful map would disqualify me. I got hired, so clearly it didn't.

Drawing maps is a critical freelancer skill. As has been said, the important thing is that they be legible. A cartograpoher will turn your vision into a DM-friendly map, but they (usually) won't add things you don't include. If you want a bed in the inn, draw a bed. If you want tables and chairs, draw tables and chairs.

It's fine to use symbols (an X for tables, for example), just make sure you include a symbol key. You should also make it clear what you actually want written on the final map, and what is designer notes. Be sure to include a scale (1 square = 5 feet, or whatever), and a compas rose (showing north).

As long as your lines are clear and you include those elements, you should be able to produce a "professional" designer map.

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