Question About Round 4


RPG Superstar™ 2012 General Discussion


It may a bit early to ask this, but this is the round that concerns me the most (assuming I even make it into the top 32, let alone the top 8!).

When we make the encounter with a map how professional does the map need to look? I make maps for my games but they usually aren't much to look but are functional enough for tactical play.

I'm betting that the answer is "As good as you can make it given the time and tools allotted.", which is fair response.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Look at the previous years rules/entries.

Some of the ones I personally liked (voted for), looked unclustered and not overly busy. They may have not had a professional appearance, but seemed more useable.

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Last Year's Round 4 is probably the best place to look at for what maps need to be, basically the priority is that it is clear enough to show all the details that a professional cartographer would need, and is interesting - not just a series of 20'x20' rooms.

Josh Frost posted what a really good PFS turn in is and SKR posted what he wanted from a Superstar map


Enlight_Bystand wrote:

Last Year's Round 4 is probably the best place to look at for what maps need to be, basically the priority is that it is clear enough to show all the details that a professional cartographer would need, and is interesting - not just a series of 20'x20' rooms.

Josh Frost posted what a really good PFS turn in is and SKR posted what he wanted from a Superstar map

Awesome! I'm not sure how i missed those threads... This makes me feel a little better about my own map-making. Most of the ones i saw are certainly of a higher caliber than my own, but nothing that a little wood-shedding can't compete with!

Thanks!

Dedicated Voter Season 8

To sum it into a few (for my usually wordy tendencies) words I think are central:

Clarity. If no one but you gets it, you have done it right.
Well-scanned/Computer made. Even good maps look horrible in poor scan.
Simple. No one cares for a map which details every last ounce of dust, etc.
Good-looking. The better looking the better. If you're not artistically inclined that probably means KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Match the encounter (well). I hate maps that match descriptions poorly.

And, as I believe I recall SKR specifying multiple places. Do not try to be the artist. They have those. Instead, give the artist clear, understandable guidelines as to what you want.

If you have issues with making maps, here's some thing I personally find (super) helpful.

- Checking maps (in the case of this competition in as many official PF documents as available). If those maps use particular indications for something as a rule, don't stray too far from that (without trying to act the end artist).
- Using all the basic tools. If hand-drawing that means use liners, different colors as available to indicate, say water, preferably black tusch every outline, to make sure they're clear. If using computer it means utilizing at least a decent program. Paint (on PC) actually keeps coming back tp me as preferable to most advanced programs. It so damn easy to get lines perfectly straight in that program.
- Don't over-color. It looks awful. If you do color, keep to stuff like: blue for water, green for trees. Brown for wooden tables or other wooden furniture.

Along those lines.
If you're crazy artistical with drawing, or don't have a decent scanner, but prefer to work in hand-drawing, make sure to spend a moment on a computer re-inforcing lines, clearing stupid white spot in the middle of color. I've seen loads of (even good to decent) scans give bad results due to enlarge the image a hundred times or such.

I hope this was of some assistance - at least it normally helps me make maps everyone it my group seems to like and comprehend (unless they're 5 second sketches, admittedly).

Sincerely,
Siv

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Since I stumbled upon this thread at the right time... here's a few more mapping tips that I just got frustrated by in an author turnover not 15 minutes ago:

1) If your map is of a house, make sure to study how houses are actually constructed—remember that rooms like to have windows and therefore hallways should not run along the edges of your house but INSIDE the house, allowing the rooms themselves to then fill the space between hallways and the outer walls so the rooms can have windows.

2) Keep an eye on the size of things. If you use a scale of one square = five feet, remember, for example, that a typical human's bed is longer than five feet, and as such in any room where a human would want to lie down (such as a bedroom) there needs to be ROOM for things like a bed—five-foot-square rooms are perhaps appropriate for dungeon cells, but not bedrooms.

3) If you have more than one floor in your building, don't forget to put stairs in. And when you put stairs in, make SURE that those stairs lead somewhere. Don't just have them lead up to a dead-end wall—the stairs on floor one should match the shape and position as they exist on floor two, including the direction in which the steps ascend and descend, with at least five feet of space at either end to ENTER the stairwell in the first place.

I've got a billion other map nit-picks, but those three are at the forefront of my head here and now. Had to get them off my chest.

Dedicated Voter Season 8

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Actually, seeing the things James Jacobs mentions, a few things come to mind that I often find myself wanting/reminding myself to add in maps.

1) Usually things are built to make it easy to move between the most used areas. Don't put totally useless rooms between very useful rooms. It makes no sense.

2) Actually think about how many people are prone to being in this room. If it is likely to have combat, more so. Unless you want close quarters, make ample room for a few extra people, some space to move, etc.

3) If you have an encounter where the opponent prefers range to close quarters, make strategic considerations. Even if the person does not expect to be challenged in the given location, it can still be large, to allow for loads of movement. If he/she does expect confrontation in the room, let them set the scene to play to their advantage. Likewise with close-combat focused opponents, but less so as spacy areas does not prohibit them from following the PCs, and moving constantly demands as much from PCs as from you opponent.

4) Consider doors between rooms, even though they're both accessible from the same hall-way. It makes for some interesting options, and it's not really that uncommon.

5) Don't think square. Most things aren't square. Rectangular are more common. Not the most usual for (especially) large buildings though.

6) Consider that buildings are often added to later on, as the need for new areas arise. Few things are built as they will eventually be at the first point.

7) Oh, and remember the laws of nature. I have, several times, had to explain why this was possible to stubborn nature-science interested players. It detracts from the game, and it isn't funny. If it weird and obviously supernatural, I want reason. Also, don't have a meteor crash or other natural catastrophe cause "too little damage" by said laws of nature. (I spent 4+ hours arguing over one such map).

Too add further to James,

Staircases must have room for everything occupying upper level to move down, unless things were placed there in another way. That means a very broad staircase, if you have a huge size creature nearby.


Cool! thanks for the tips!

When drawing stairs I've always used the series-of-lines-in-descending-and-ascending-order method like everyone else, but is there a preferred method? like, do the stairs go down in the direction these lines are "pointing" or up?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

If you've got the time and the resources... taking some architecture classes is REALLY helpful for would-be adventure writers. Even a basic architecture or drafting course will give you a lot of good tips on things like traffic patterns and hallway/room placement and the like. I took a few of these classes back in high school and one in college (back when I was thinking I'd end up an engineer), and they remain among the most valuable classes I ever took as far as generating locations and maps for RPG adventures is concerned.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka michaeljpatrick

Keep in mind that there are plenty of map making programs on the internet. I think some are even free or at least offer a free trial.

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michaeljpatrick wrote:
Keep in mind that there are plenty of map making programs on the internet. I think some are even free or at least offer a free trial.

While that's true... it's just as easy to make an illegible or ugly or useless map with a map-making tool as it is to do the same with a piece of graph paper and a pencil. In some ways, it's even EASIER to make a useless map with a map-making program, since a lot of those programs make it unfortunately easy to overcomplicate things.

Dedicated Voter Season 8

I don't know if there is a preferable method, but to achieve clarity, my approach has ever been to do lines, and either (if feeling artistic and in time for such, good looking details) add subtle shadows on the edges of each step lower than the top, closest to the edge of the top one (well, I don't know if that makes sense, or looks right, but it always did for me) or do arrows and writing in which direction the arrow points close to it (preferably along it). Often however it makes logical sense if a particular staircase goes up or down. It's just easier to have markers.

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Also dont forget that your maps usually get redrawn by professional artists.

So your number 1 over all is not how you draw, it's much, much more how clear it is to determine your intent.

If the rooms/features are labelled / indexed clearly, notes to the reader are sufficient to convey clear understanding.

That should score many more points for you than any drawing skill or lack of.

As a GM, I hate poor maps that are unclear, have duplicate room numbers, that show a right bend when the text clearly says left, or have a scale on the map that says the room is 30x60 and the text says 20x40.

Thats the other biggie for me.

Once you have your clear and easily understood map, make sure your descriptions align to the map with regard left/right, above/below, compass points, size of room to scale and size on the map.

Dedicated Voter Season 8

James Jacobs wrote:
michaeljpatrick wrote:
Keep in mind that there are plenty of map making programs on the internet. I think some are even free or at least offer a free trial.
While that's true... it's just as easy to make an illegible or ugly or useless map with a map-making tool as it is to do the same with a piece of graph paper and a pencil. In some ways, it's even EASIER to make a useless map with a map-making program, since a lot of those programs make it unfortunately easy to overcomplicate things.

Indeed so. I gave up on them after trying 3+. The good ones are too complex, or too specificallt made for modern things (there's loads of very well made fx. kitchen furnishing program), which just won't work very well at all with this contest.

I prefer a simple program such as Paint, if I must do computer made maps. It will accomplish everything needed smoothly, unless you're trying something complex, which no map generator will get right anyway. And really, it's so easy to use and get that no one should be unable to get it or something similar, and if they lack for artistic genes, it covers that perfectly.


So I hope I can make it round 4, since map making and myself have a long history...Woot here's to round 4 may the force..erm gods bid my journey long.

Contributor

This Paizo blog has a link to two ENworld pages with standard fantasy mapping symbols.

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Another quick tip, most players and gms have access to dungeon tiles, minis etc, so use them to get visuals on how your map would play out.

When designing your lair room, draw it to scale for the minis / use the dunegon tiles to build a representation - then add the "lodgers", then add a party of say 5 generic adventurers.

Then ask yourself

a) would I lair here?
b) does it fit with room for tactics and movement?

answer no to either and chances are, your lair is too small.


For those interested, the Cartographer's Guild hosts a number of professional map-making tutorials. Makes it easy to visualize the whole process, so you have a good idea of what kind of input the artists need.

Plenty of interesting discussion too, if you're into that sort of thing.

http://www.cartographersguild.com/


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
This Paizo blog has a link to two ENworld pages with standard fantasy mapping symbols.

Awesome! My mapping abilities just got a shot in the arm.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

The two cartographer judges last year seemed to like my map enough that they could turn it over pretty easily but it wasn't without flaws. One thing to consider, especially if you are doing unusual structures or things bigger than a house, is to consider wall thickness which when I drew the infamous "Apep's Head" for round 4, if you look at my map, the outer walls for a giant robot head were apparently eggshell thin when in reality you would thick it would be much thicker. I believe it was Mr. Spicer who pointed that out to me.


John Bennett wrote:
The two cartographer judges last year seemed to like my map enough that they could turn it over pretty easily but it wasn't without flaws. One thing to consider, especially if you are doing unusual structures or things bigger than a house, is to consider wall thickness which when I drew the infamous "Apep's Head" for round 4, if you look at my map, the outer walls for a giant robot head were apparently eggshell thin when in reality you would thick it would be much thicker. I believe it was Mr. Spicer who pointed that out to me.

I can't tell you the number of apparently impregnable forts i've created for my players where i forget to take this into consideration... I don't actually let them batter down the one inch thick stone ramparts but they always try...

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

Alex Head wrote:
John Bennett wrote:
The two cartographer judges last year seemed to like my map enough that they could turn it over pretty easily but it wasn't without flaws. One thing to consider, especially if you are doing unusual structures or things bigger than a house, is to consider wall thickness which when I drew the infamous "Apep's Head" for round 4, if you look at my map, the outer walls for a giant robot head were apparently eggshell thin when in reality you would thick it would be much thicker. I believe it was Mr. Spicer who pointed that out to me.
I can't tell you the number of apparently impregnable forts i've created for my players where i forget to take this into consideration... I don't actually let them batter down the one inch thick stone ramparts but they always try...

Hah! I'm the same way. I think my fault was that a wall's thickness is at my discretion so I didn't put in thick walls. Also, if you look at my map, I was getting tight on space. However, that was the best drawn map I've ever done and I was pretty happy with how it came out.

My last piece of advice-have someone else take a look at your map to spot any problems you might have missed. For example, the original map I drew of Apep had a a circular platform at top with a straight bridge running down to two rounded platforms on either side. I didn't notice it but my friend pointed out what I had inadverently drawn. If you still can't picture it, think of the end credit sequence of "Superbad." Luckily, I was able to correct it.

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This thread is awesome.

I personally draw all my maps in flash, which gives me the super-handy ability to reuse things as often as I want. Sure, a lot of chairs are still just brown squares and such, but reusing symbols is a really useful ability.

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