Map of Refuge

Open Call: Design a wondrous item

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RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6 aka Transylvanian Tadpole

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Map of Refuge

Aura strong conjuration; CL 9th
Slot none; Price 30, 000 gp; Weight 1 lb.


Constructed from thin strips of wood bound together by string and illustrated with faded inks, this map depicts a small, nondescript island lying in the center of an empty ocean. The map has no key or notations; there isn't even an indication of north.

If cast upon the sea (a free action) at least one mile from shore, the map sinks. 5d4 rounds later, an island roughly half a square mile in size rises from the depths where the map disappeared. The sea within 60-ft. of the island’s shore becomes shallow enough that a ship can drop anchor, and the island is easily accessible by small boat. On the island itself, fresh water can be found, plus trees sturdy and tall enough to be used in ship repairs. Foraging on the island reveals bushes bearing a strange but nutritious fruit; enough can be gathered to equal 100 trail rations, although after a week the fruit quickly sours and becomes inedible.

The island persists for exactly 24 hours before crumbling back into the sea. It takes 5d4 rounds for the island to completely break up, after which the map of refuge reappears on the now choppy seas. The disturbance caused by the island’s collapse makes the map difficult to find; unless a successful DC 40 Perception check is made the map of refuge floats away unnoticed to find whichever new owner the ocean currents deem worthy. Even if the map is recovered, its power cannot be used again for another month.

Apart from the fruit, materials removed from the island do not degrade; wood remains strong and water remains fresh.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, major creation Cost 15, 000 gp

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Well, well, well. Will wonders never cease? I am not only keeping but I am actually advocating for a map item! This is a fun item! It's like Mordenkainen's magnificent island. Stop it, I'm killing myself here! Seriously, I read the name of the item and I thought I was going to hate it because it was a map item. But as this item proves, you never know. Darn it, this thing is just fun with some creative and fun twists--like that it floats away to a new owner. That is just good, creative thinking. Very well done!

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Very cool item, mostly as a story item. Strong description and mostly clear mechanics (but what is a "sea" exactly? Need it be salt water?).

I rather like the one-shot nature of it, and it floating away to a new user. Using it once a month is a serious limitation.

Mostly, I think it's a fun way to update the Tiny Hut and Magnificent Mansion, but since I'm fond of seafaring adventures.... Yeah, this is a keeper.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Took the words out of my mouth, both of ya.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4

First of all, congratulations on making the Top 32! That in itself is a major accomplishment and it’s something you should take great pride in. You rock!

I agree with Wolf. This is an excellent story item. I can see a whole adventure centered around creating and then exploring this little magical island. And the built in 24-hour time limit helps maintain a sense of urgency for the whole gaming session. Very cool. It also ties in very well with Paizo’s recently released Skull and Shackles AP and Frog God's upcoming Razor Coast campaign, which from a marketing and a hey!-look-at-me! standpoint shows that you know what you’re doing. A huge part of this contest is self-promotion and your design choices should try and take advantage of that whenever you can.

Liberty's Edge Contributor , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9

Welcome to the Top 32, Mr. Tadpole!

This is a great example of an item that breaks one of Sean's "rules" (no "making adventuring easy/camping" items), but it does it in such a way that one can't help but like this. This has incredibly cool flavor, and I like that you chose to limit the usefulness of this, so players can't just go, "Well, it's nighttime...let's whammy up our private island." Additionally, your item's formatting is very clean (except for the very minor mistake of putting a space after the comma in your cost and price). Keep up the great work with the flavor.

Best of luck to you in the contest!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 4 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9 aka MillerHero

I am a fan of this Brigadoon on the ocean! As a GM, I would not be afraid to let the party find this and use it early in their carrier. A number of encounter ideas spring to mind that this item could be a part of. The DC 40 Perception check is nice, meaning that for low level parties it is a once and done; whereas, a high level party should be able to make the DC 40 and use it every month. The only thing I would add is a no retry clause on the Perception check.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

I did have this on my 28 item keep list! I just forgot it was a map cause it was so awesome.

This one has everything: flavor, workable mechanics, and pure mojo!

Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7

I KNEW IT! I knew it was gonna be this one as soon as Clark dropped the hint =D

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

1 person marked this as a favorite.

The coastlines of Golarion will never be the same again... All the Tsunami's will destroy the world as we know it.

Dedicated Voter Season 7

This was the first item I saw during the voting that made me think, "Actually, this one's pretty awesome!" Grats hombre!

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Yes, Clark put a map item in the top 32. Proof that all Sean's rules bow before the one main rule: make it awesome and the other rules don't matter.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase


I'm going to be the wet blanket this time :( I was not a fan of this item and it is one of the few that I did not have in common with the judges (which proves it is a GOOD thing they are still the final say).

100 trail rations for a week before spoilage...that's 21 per person to have 3 meals a day. A 5 person group basically gets fed for a week, which I just don't like, personally. I would have given it less rations and less time before spoilage, since it is fruit and trail rations have to be specially preserved to last a week.

But, the sinking and rising action is cool.

Glad the others got to comment first, I hadn't even thought about the DC 40 check, since most of my games tend to be lower level I thought it was too high, but Steve Miller convinced me otherwise with his point about it being intentional to limit uses.

I will be looking forward to seeing your next rounds' submissions. I have a feeling they won't make me react so negatively.


It's one of the items I liked the most. The only thing that bothered me all the time is high DC of Perception check needed to recover it. I might prefer a fixed percentage chance of losing it after use.


Liberty's Edge Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

2 people marked this as a favorite.

This one was also not one of my favorites, for several reasons.

First, it's a bit of a SAIC. Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion does essentially the same thing.

It's also a plot device and a camping item, useful especially when the ship is at sea and running low on supplies. Realistically, that would take months for a fully-stocked ship. That positively screams deus ex machine to me.

In addition it reminds me far too much of Kakishon, from the Legacy of Fire adventure path.

Finally, it's useful in far too narrow a set of circumstances, being only truly useful in a seafaring campaign, which got a few items dinged by the judges last year.

It was tightly put-together and did have a good theme, to which it stuck, but it was definitely not an item I would have thought was Superstar.

Star Voter Season 6

I'm looking at the top 32 in order. So far, I like this one most. Useful, but not excessively-useful (not overpowered), and a cool aesthetic. Thumbs up.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Yup, this is the map I thought Clark was talking about! I really liked your item, James. Congratulations.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6 aka Transylvanian Tadpole

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Phew! Way to make a Wednesday morning! I'm a happy man.

A very big thank you to all who voted for my item and pushed it towards the top of the pile. Thanks also to the judges for picking me.

I appreciate all your comments, both good and bad. Please keep 'em coming.

Just attaching the last bits of ... erm, filigree, to my archetype in preparation for submission. Looking about me, I see that the competition is fierce indeed. Best of luck to my fellow contestants!

Champion Voter Season 6

I thought it was a pretty interesting concept but to much of a nautical theme niche item, however it normally won out in the voting pairings.

I figured there is some mechanic trick I am not aware of to retrieve it after each monthly usage despite the high 40 DC or it was designed as a very expensive disposable or disappearing emergency plot item turning up and disappearing in an adventure not something one would normally pay to have crafted.

I expect your archetype will be interesting.

Dedicated Voter Season 6

AHA! It was the map I thought it was! ;)

I wasn't keeping a running tab of my personal Top 32, but this sprang to mind immediately when Clark mentioned a Map. I saw it several times and I know I voted it up more than down. I think, of all of the "summons a living space/house/hut/shed/oasis/what-have-you" items, this was probably my favorite.

I see the flaws that have been pointed out, but I did like the theme for the item and, at least to me, it had enough mojo to make it awesome. I was actually thinking about tweaking it and using it in a Pathfinder reboot of an old Pirate-themed DnD game I was in once upon a time.

So, congrats man!


Saw your item quite a bit during the voting, and it quickly grew on me. When Clark mentioned a map I was sure it was this he was talking about. It's a fun and useful item with some cool flavor. Congratulations and good luck!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Well done, James. I thought this was a pretty innovative idea when I encountered it during the public voting. Sure, there are spells like mage's magnificent mansion, but it doesn't summon an entire island for you in a seafaring campaign. This wondrous item has a lot of utility and value for the ship at sea. I like the creativity that went into the idea. Now, let's see what more you can bring in the next round. Best of luck!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Yup, like others, this was the map I was thinking of.

I'm of mixed feelings about it. I'm not crazy about what could well be a disposable for that price.

That said, I actually like this item more as a DM. I find nautical adventures very frustrating because I don't feel like I can really put the ship in danger as if it goes down, my PCs are in the drink and I'm forced to really pull something out of my butt to save them. This would give them time to try to come up with their own ideas or at least make it not quite so coincidental that some rescuer is coming along at just that very moment.

I think you could also have a lot of fun by having it be a treasure map of refuge with the PCs getting a chance to do some exploring on the island (which has some guardians set up) but also having to fend off the pirate that's constantly coming in search of it to get back his buried loot.

This is a great nautical reworking of the evergreen "summon a refuge" spells and items, with the huge plus of evoking story and mystery with the unlabeled map and the risk of disappearing with the current. Given you already have an awesome flavorful drawback, I would increase the frequency to 1/week. I know many people don't like "making adventuring easier" items but nautical adventures for air-breathers have disproportionally more challenges and fewer solutions to begin with.

I would like to see an additional cool effect – perhaps the classic buried treasure idea Jacob Michaels suggested, or fruit that grants strange effects, or something else that Sinbad would find on an island. :)

Final tiny nitpicks – "deems worthy" sounded too grandiose to me; and what happens if you toss a second map down before the first map has shown up as an island?

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Hodge Podge

It's the maaaaap! :D

I unfortunately didn't get to see this one while voting. It's quite nifty. I also think 100 days' rations seems to be a bit much, but I can forgive that in light of how truly awesome it is.

It just feels so... classic. And the story possibilities are pretty much endless. This is Superstar, for sure.

Also, Jacob's suggestion made me like it even more. Put a buried treasure on thar! Yarrrr!


RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4 aka OamuTheMonk

Sorry that I got to this one so late. It's thematically brilliant, and has a bright, storybook-like quality to it. I think that for the level of party likely to have such a thing , the DC 40 check is reasonable, not impossible. Recommended.

Star Voter Season 6

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Favorite Wondrous Item I've ever seen, INCLUDING currently published ones. No joke. It's so...COOL! A well-deserved advancement to the Top 32.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6 aka Transylvanian Tadpole

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Chris Shaeffer wrote:
Also, Jacob's suggestion made me like it even more. Put a buried treasure on thar! Yarrrr!

Me too actually!

For years Pinkbeard the Pirate uses the island to bury his ill-gotten gains, relying on the eagle-eyes of Roger ... ok, not Roger, how about Tim the Cabin Boy to spot the map before it floats away. One day Tim's too busy reading a movie magazine, wondering how many times Johnny Depp can play Captain Jack Sparrow before the pizzazz starts to fade, and he fails to spot the map when the island goes down. Cue the following;

PINKBEARD Whadya mean, yar lost it? Yer know what happens next, don't ya?
TIM THE CABIN BOY Erm ... gulp ... walk the ...
PINKBEARD Plank! Somebody fetch a plank!

Somewhere down the line, the PCs recover the map and the treasure. They're over the moon, sail back to Smuggler's Cove to spend their loot. Thus word gets out, reaches Pinkbeard, and the PCs have made a new mortal enemy (albeit one with delightful facial hair).

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

Lex Luthor would love this. I think it's great.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Phloid

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Hello, map. I knew it would be you.

I think this is a cool item, but when I encountered it in voting I became concerned that it would be used as a weapon in a seafaring game. A flying character could drop it in front of a ship to make the island rise up underneath it. Or what about if there was an aquatic city below it? NUCLEAR BOMB! It is cool and has a lot of mojo, but I think I voted against it for this reason at least once.

I'm sure you will be able to pull the mojo of this thing into the next round. Just don't use Outsea as the basis of your archetype. NUCLEAR BOMB! Good luck.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Locke1520

I only saw this item once and totally forgot about it when Clark tauntingly mentioned the map last night. I could nitpick this but I won't others have already voiced my concerns. Besides this is Superstar and you deserve this moment in the sun. I'm really looking forward to your archetype in round 2. Good luck.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Demiurge 1138

Congratulations on making it to the Top 32! I'll see you in Round 2!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

This item is so much fun! Well-imagined and a great idea to make it a single use item. Congrats and good luck!

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Tim the Cabin boy walks the plank. 5d4 rounds later, an enormous Tim arises from the sea to wreak revenge.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8

I was delighted to see this item make it to the Top 32, especially since it was one of the few items I got the chance to vote for...!

It really hits the nail on the head in almost every category. It's evocative, useful, balanced, engaging, and I daresay cinematic. As mentioned previously, it's one of those items a DM could build a story around (and thankfully doesn't come with one already attached). It has serious mojo without the consequential danger of wackiness which that sometimes entails. Splendid job!

An item like this shows a considerable amount of potential, so be sure to bring your A-game and dazzle us in the Archetype Round!

Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

1 person marked this as a favorite.

To hell with cannonballs, just shoot these at ships.

Star Voter Season 6

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I actually don't like this item and I saw it twice while voting and voted against it both times. While the map does some cool things, and is neat, I dislike that it is, essentially, a 30,000 gp 1-shot consumable. By the time most people can afford this item, they could probably repair/feed a ship in a much more efficient manner.

The other thing I dislike, is the DC 40 Perception check to find the item. For one, it's really high, for another, it's practically worthless.

Locate Object is a 2nd/3rd level spell for nearly all the casting classes and it would quite easily mitigate the need for a Perception check. The earliest access to the spell is a Wizard at 3rd level which gives the radius of the spell 520 ft or a 1,040 ft diameter circle. That's going to make finding the map ridiculously easy for anyone smart enough to prepare the right spell, or have it on a scroll for just such a use. As the other classes gain access to the spell, or the party grows higher level, the ease of which the map will be fine just increases, basically to the point where it comes a non-entity and the DC 40 Perception check becomes just a bump in the road for the item.

The only real drawback to the map is the 1/month useage, which is, consequently, the only real aspect of the item I agreed with.

This map also doesn't address things like, how do spells like Purify Food and Water work with the fruits gathered from the island? Will Purify extend the duration of the fruits? Or do the fruits go bad regardless of the methods of preservation? Also, what's to stop someone from simply cutting down huge swathes of trees, floating them in the water, then recovering them to repair multiple ships with ease? Same thing with water?

Honestly, I think this item works better as a lesser artifact than it does as a wondrous item. You have one spell (Major Creation) that is doing a huge amount of work. A half-square mile island is a phenomenal amount of material to create, and that's just the dry surface! Not only does it create a half-square mile of land to walk upon, but it also creates enough land to allow ships to berth in the shallow shores of the island, which means huge amounts of material are needed to create and disperse that much water. Then, you have all the water, wood and food created by the item as well. Wish and Miracle, two of the most powerful spells in the game, can't do what this item does using a much lower-level spell. This really bothers me because both spells can be used to mimic Major Creation, but neither spell can compete with this item, and Wish even comes with a material component cost almost as expensive as this item is.

All in all, I really did not like this item and I'm surprised it made it into the top 32. I guess people liked the Cool! factor of the item so much they were willing to disregard the other aspects of this item.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6 aka Evil Paul

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Probably my favourite item from my (500+) votes. It's just so cool.

I disagree a little bit with the judges (and others) comments that it is a one-use item. DC 40 Perception is far from difficult at the level where PCs can drop 30K on a non-combat magic item. Yes, it means that in a low or mid level game, it is likely to be one shot, but for 10th level or above (which lets remind ourselves is 1/3 of an Adventure Path), I can see groups saving up to get this for their nautical based campaign. Obviously Skull and Shackles is a fit here but other campaigns as appropriate.

It's a party-bought item rather than an individual one, and we don't see enough of those.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

James, you really swung for the fences here, and I think you hit it out of the park. You took an item that could have failed in a lot of ways, and avoided every one of the pitfalls, creating a very interesting, evocative and darn useful item. I'm impressed.

I think that you're going to be one of the ones to watch in future rounds.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka RainyDayNinja

This has got to be one of my favorite items from the Top 32. I love the flavor! My only quibble is that I don't like the recovery mechanic. I would have preferred that it either be slightly cheaper and a consumable, or more expensive and easily recoverable. Congrats!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

The Good: I only saw this item once in all my voting and I knew this was a superstar item. I could totally see this as a story element in a sea faring campaign and an item that makes me consider writing a campaign to use it is a rare acheivment indeed!.

The Bad: On one hand where are you ev er going to buy this, on the other 30k GP for a 1 use item. I fiund myself divided by your pricing but that's a nitpick.

The Ugly: This item makes me want to quit game design, its just too good. Kidding aside Cast level and prerequisites need some work, this should be harder to make.

All in all, congrats.

Editor, Jon Brazer Enterprises , Dedicated Voter Season 6

Yep, this is the map item I suspected was going to make it in when Clark posted his comment a few days ago, alright. It's the only map item I liked this year - and really, that's precisely because it isn't a magic compass-type item.

My only critical thought offhand is that a party with the right divination spells could find a way to get the map back every time they use it. I know find the path won't do this, but somehow I just see a savvy group of PCs figuring out how to get that darned thing back every time. Of course, that's all the reason to escalate things with a nasty sea monster encounter right after they leave the island!

Very minor editing nitpicks: Spell out distances and measurements in your description - "feet", not "ft." Also, you don't need to insert spaces after the commas that denote the thousand-place in a number like 30,000 or 15,000.

Star Voter Season 6

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I liked this item at voting time, however, I think it would be more appropriate if it resurfaced on choppy waters not as described, but as a "message in a bottle".

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

Richard Moore wrote:
My only critical thought offhand is that a party with the right divination spells could find a way to get the map back every time they use it. I know find the path won't do this, but somehow I just see a savvy group of PCs figuring out how to get that darned thing back every time.

Its only a DC 40 to find, I have a player that can do that without cheating with spells.

Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

It's really cool, but as others have said, it feels more like a plot device or artifact than something equivalent to an orange or pale green ioun stone.

I love the concept of the PCs coming across one of these in their adventures, but I'm really turned off by the image of them buying one in a major metropolis. It's too awesome to put a price on. There should be a very limited number of these things in the world. It's just flat better than other wondrous items in its price range.

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 can't say anything that hasn't been said about this one - it's super inventive and fun. While I was reading it, it reminded me of the giant turtles that sleep and let islands grow on them from Al-Qadim, and that's a good thing.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6 aka Transylvanian Tadpole

Once again, thanks to all for voted for this one and thanks for all your comments.

Luckily for me, I had no idea I was ‘the map-guy’ until I already knew I’d got through. I’d been following the thread it came up on, but stopped reading just a few posts before Clark ‘dropped the bomb’. That was fortunate, as I wouldn’t have slept as well as I did the night before with that one lurking in my brain. Plus it’s a good thing I didn’t know Clark was map-phobic, otherwise I probably would have submitted something else, and as a result probably wouldn’t be here now.

Now to address some criticisms:

Too many rations

My idea behind the large number of trail rations is that in many cases the PCs probably have a crew to feed as well as themselves.

Retrieval mechanic

With regards to the retrieval mechanic, my thinking was that for lower-level parties this would effectively be a one-shot, save the day kind of item, whereas higher level parties would find it relatively easily to get extended use from.

Weapon of mass destruction

With regards to the ‘nuclear bomb’ idea (throw beneath an enemy ship, which promptly gets a rising island up its keel), I included the 5d4 rounds island rising duration to mitigate the chances of that happening, though in retrospect 5d4 minutes might be more appropriate. That being said, it’s unlikely a party would have an arsenal of these items. I think if I were a GM and the party had the audacity to try such a manoeuvre I’d let them get away with it, especially as it probably leaves the map in enemy hands. As for the aquatic city beneath the waters, I don’t have an answer for that. Ouch!

Locate Object

Good point, although you could argue 1040 ft. is only 0.0001 of a mile, so there’s still a lot of surface area the map could potentially float to the surface on not covered by the spell. This decreases at higher level, but such are benefits of being personages of great power and ability.


Some good points raised on this. I must admit, when designing the item I was thinking more along the lines of ‘this would be cool to find in a treasure hoard’ rather than ‘this is something my PC would sit down and make’. It’s something I’ll be thinking carefully about in the future.

@ Wildebob; stop it, you’re making a grown man blush.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6 aka Electric Monk

I didn't see this in the voting, but it's cool,...... Very cool.

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