The Drowning Temple


Round 2: Create a map

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

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The Drowning Temple

Cartographer

Nice looking map reference here on first glance.

There is a compass rose and scale present on the map.

Nicely hand drawn map plenty of details represented.

Grid is a bit hard to see…

Cool looking map, seems unique and different I like it.

I do recommend this map to progress to round 3

Liberty's Edge Contributor

The Good
Strong, interesting shapes, with a lot going on in the central hub. There's obviously going to be a creative boss battle happening in that Sanctum. Water hazards are always a fun way to punish players.

There is a scale, key, and map.

The map is clearly labelled, and I could make a map from this without asking any further questions.

The Bad
There are a LOT of height changes here, enough to become confusing. If they're important to the story, then this map would have benefitted greatly from a side-view. Forty feet up seems to be the more-or-less "standard" height, so setting that to 0 and just having the entrance labelled "-40 feet" would also have helped.

A few of the rooms are a little blase, and there isn't a lot of exploration to be done here; just side-rooms off of a main chamber. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's a solid B instead of A+

My Judgement
Clear map of an interesting space. I do recommend this move forward to the next round.

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

Drawing from my blog on maps, and the rules for the round, I’ll judge the maps on a number of questions.
Is It a Full Page Map?
Yes.
Does The Map Have A Compass Rose and Scale? Are They Used Well?
Yes, and yes.
Is The Map A Place I Want To Adventure?
Apparently, and by that I mean there are a LOT of flooded and floating adventure locations in the maps! This is my favorite, so yes.
Is the Map Clear?
This is one of the worst offenders of the "pale grid club," though it's certainly not the only member. If you are scanning a map, either make sure you scan it darkly enough the grid is clear, or get it into a basic image editing program and add a grid over the top. The cartographer shouldn't have to do that.
Crystal is right about the altitudes, and I'd prefer a note pointing out the collapsed columns rather than a map key icon for them.
Is the Map Detailed?
Not particularly. There are beds, and not much of anything else. If you feel a map needs 5-foot squares, you should justify it with character-scale items to interact with.
Is the Map Imaginative?
This is a neat idea for a location. The execution isn’t perfect, but I like that is both has a lot of stuff going on, and then rubble and collapsed columns in addition to its original design.
I do recommend this map advance to round 3.


I love the front steps.

RPG Superstar Season 9 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Congratulations on the trifecta! I won't comment since my opinion is obviously biased, but best of luck to everyone!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

I gave Chris some early feedback on this map, so I'm not going to comment too much.

As I told him, I really like the main sanctum in this map; it's the star of the piece, and a place I could see a fun combat. The rest to me feels a little bit tacked on and if the main sanctum has the big fight, probably a little anti-climactic, though I do like the changing elevations and water depths in them.

Good luck, Chris!

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8 aka Jrcmarine

I like this map. There is some missing detail but the location itself gives a plethora of ideas for a GM to flesh out. I do think some more detail should have been given for the cartographer. As Owen mentioned, on the 5 foot scale grids you should show objects.

But I like this map enough to let those things pass.

Dark Archive

So rhetorical questions, maker do not answer lest ye be disqualified.
I think waaay to much about these sorts of things, but when the temple was originally built, how was it navigated?

Before the collapse of the pillars how did people get past the whirlpool?

Otherwise I really like this one!

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Darkjoy

31st map I have seen. your current rank is 15th.

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

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My criteria:
My Map-fu is weak compared to some of these contestants but I shall endeavor to give feedback. I'll be looking at the following:
Challenge: Is this map difficult to execute? Does it in my opinion demonstrate the characteristics of a Superstar designer?
Technique: Did the designer show some skill and consideration in the choices made on the map. Are the words used in the key wise choices that add to the overall utility of the map?
Utility: Can a GM/cartographer make sense of the map and make immediate use of it?
Overall:[b] I'll rate the Map as an A for strong recommends B for weak recommends C on the bubble D for weak rejects F for Do not recommends

Challenge: A water temple carved into stone? yeah that seems like a challenge
Technique: There's some visual appeal but mostly you have blurb shaped rooms that don't seem hard to draw.
Utility: It looks like something I could freehand without a reference with a marker.
Overall: C rating from me as I feel this is on the bubble. It's not a no brainer to vote for or reject...

Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

There's a lot of weird here. It took me a while to disentangle it all in my mind, but ultimately the dungeon struck a chord with me as a very classic fantasy location full of ice-entombed monsters, elemental traps, and magic. I'm not wholly keen on the layout: offering choice is all well and good, but connecting almost everything to the central location turns this into one of those "I wonder what's through the next door?" explorations. I'd prefer to go on a bit more of a journey through this location. Good work though!


This is a beautiful map. I can definitely see how it made the transition from reverent place of worship to dangerous boss battle zone. I also like this because whatever the PC's have to fight, they also have to be really smart about their surroundings, which could either help or hinder, depending on how they swing it.

I can't help but disagree with the suggestion that the side rooms don't add much to the map itself. Side rooms make a map more interesting for me visually, and more suspenseful, playwise. You never know what might be in there, and I feel like this map would give a DM a lot of places to hide surprises, both fun and fanged. The fact that some of the side rims are only accessible through secret doors makes them more inviting.

I find that this map also gives me a hook which is something that's very important to me, from a storytelling angle. I'm sitting here wondering, can the shrine be repaired? Can it be activated? Is there residual elemental magic that can be used in fights? Can ice prisons be melted and the prisoners made to fight? Did someone save the fish when the aquarium broke?

OK, maybe not that last one, but these questions make me really want to explore this place.


It seems evident to me that at one point, you could cross the whirlpool by either two or three bridges that go near the waterfalls. Or maybe the main area was once a lowered chamber, and the whirlpool filled it up after knocking over some columns.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Mark D Griffin

My favorite thing: I think my favorite thing about this one is the side rooms. They're quite varied in shape and I think there are some cool visuals, especially the shattered aquarium.

Other things I like: The big central room has some neat features too, and the map is generally pleasing to look at.

My least favorite thing(s): I'm not sure what the column on the right is resting on. Does that rubble pile really go from the bottom of the whirlpool to the top of the balcony? If so it travels 60 vertically in only 12 or so horizontal feet (which would probably make it quite unstable and very difficult to walk up). If not then how is that column floating 20 feet above the water?

Will I vote for it: I like the map but I don't love it, it is currently one of three maps in the running for my final vote.


Beautiful. Love it. +A.


BEEP BOOP for more information PLEASE SEE Kelizandri, the Brackish Emperor and elemental lord of water.

Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

This map is very clear and easy to read. Good use of colour to convey different areas and depths. Also the whirlpool mark is very cool and produces an evocative visual image.

The rounded rooms is a bit of a turn off. I see no reason for it. If they are natural caverns that have been expanded and inhabited, there should be some more variation in the overall shapes. If they are not natural, why have them shaped like that?

This is another one I hope gets through but I have eight others I like better. As a result I will not be voting for this entry.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

It's the water temple all over again! Seriously though, that's my biggest complaint about the map -- it looks too much like a Zelda dungeon. I don't mean that from a creative standpoint -- I'm not accusing you of stealing from a video game. Rather, it suffers the same problems that a dungeon from Ocarina of Time has. You got one giant hub area with linear branching paths that either lead to a dead end or loop back to the hub area again. So while the individual rooms look interesting , that makes exploring this dungeon rather dull.

I do like the map. It's clear, creative, and makes good use of color. Every room looks like an interesting location for an encounter. I especially like the secret ice prison room. That might be enough for a vote for me.

Marathon Voter Season 8

So it's a 60 ft. drop into the water? That seems excessive. Begs the question of why someone wanted to dig a pool that deep to begin with. Plus is the water surface at -20 feet, or is that the bottom of the pool?

Aside from that, I do like the location. The aquarium and the sacred pool are good evocative details, I like that it's so interconnected and as a whole it has enough variations and differences to make combat and exploration interesting. I have some questions about how one moved around in this before it fell to ruin - there seem to be no bridges or their leftovers to move over the whirlpool. Plus, was there really only one priest living here or are the cells really living spaces? Because if you use the word cell, I'm going to think prison.

I do like this. It's an interesting mixture of temple, luxury resort and prison while still maintaining functionality and ease of use. I kind of wish it had been a bit more tightly designed, what with most of the round rooms seeming to have been drawn in a hurry, but all around I see potential. Strong maybe.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

I really like this map. The rooms feel like they could have been carved with water out of the stone. The set up allows for many interesting encounters that could be of any level. Since most of my games are fairly low level that is important to me. The theme is maintained throughout.

I do wish there was a side view though, it would help with visualizing the temple.

Shadow Lodge Star Voter Season 6

Garrick Williams wrote:
It's the water temple all over again! Seriously though, that's my biggest complaint about the map -- it looks too much like a Zelda dungeon. .... Rather, it suffers the same problems that a dungeon from Ocarina of Time has. You got one giant hub area with linear branching paths that either lead to a dead end or loop back to the hub area again. So while the individual rooms look interesting , that makes exploring this dungeon rather dull.

I actually see all of that as a plus (except here you don't have to pause the game to switch out to Iron Boots and back).

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

Official Round 2 Note: On Map Resolution

We’ve had some comments on legibility of smaller type on the maps, and the contestants are (by the rules of the contest), not allowed to clarify anything, so I want to make a general statement about maps and resolution.

When we required all contestants to present maps at a specific dpi and size, we did so because in past years we’ve had some issues with maps (for the encounter round) being sent to us in different sizes, resolutions, and dpi, making it difficult to give them all a high-quality presentation for the contest. We found that asking for a higher dpi than we’ll use in the end allowed us to create a standard of presentation that kept all images crisp and clean. For encounter-round maps, this has worked well.

Unfortunately, since this round requires all text be provided on the maps themselves, many contestants used the dpi and size standards we required as the basis for making sure their text is clear, and otherwise tried to keep words as small as possible so as to not clutter their maps. This was done in the (reasonable) belief that the maps should look good at the size we asked for, rather than in any different size we might present on our website. When resized for smaller, high-quality images, this can result in words that aren’t clearly legible.

We’ve made a change to rescale everything to the higher end of maximum image size for uploaded images for all maps that were entered this round. This should allow for better legibility for voters when selecting their favorite maps to advance in the contest. It is our fault that this process was not properly communicated to our contestants, so consider this when adjusting or finalizing your selections.

Obviously, we’ll explain what is going to happen to the images of maps, and how to allow for it, more clearly in future rounds (and future contests). My apologies to any contestant with a map that has suffered as a result of how we handled scaling in this round.

Star Voter Season 8

Elevations, rubble, ice prison, giant whirlpool...enough going on in this map. I like it.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Morphemic

Here are my ratings for this map:

First Look: A
This is a fun looking mini-dungeon.

Interest Level of Location: A
There's a lot going on in all of the rooms. I could imagine something fun happening in each of them.

Tactical Depth: A
The main temple is set up as a fantastic tactical space.

Adventure Potential: A
There are enough hints about what's happening here to imagine a story. I could easily build an adventure around this.

Clarity: B
The elevations are a bit confusing, but this is otherwise clear.

Logic: C
It takes a healthy dose of "it's magic" to explain the water movement here. How did anyone enter the temple before the column fell? Some of the rooms appear to have been designed primarily to fit the map, rather than for logical reasons.

Overall: A-

Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Interesting locale and plenty of interest - ruined aquarium with possible denizen escape, a sanctum, some cultists - I like this a lot. The map is clear to me, and sure I'd like a cross section, but I think there is plenty here for the cartographer to work with and create one from what is detailed.

Makes me think of an old-school S2 White Plume Mountain feel, so extra points there. And this late in the piece I'm still liking it - this is the second last map I've seen.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

I love this map. It looks like a great place to explore and a cartographer could turn this into something special.
I have this ranked #1, good luck!


I agree with Grumpus, this is a really good one and it has my vote. It's in my top two with another map, but I haven't quite picked either of them as a sole #1.

Great job Christopher, and good luck!

Star Voter Season 8

First off: Congratulations on making Round 2, and the best of luck in the votes!

How I rate these:

Coolness: Do I look at this, and want to use it in a game? Does it provoke wonder or amazement? Does it hold potential for interesting encounters, adventures or roleplay? How much mileage does this map have in it?

Usability: How usable is this for me as a GM (being that GMs are actually the primary audience of most maps)? Is the legend clear and in logical order for play? Does it give me enough information to easily visualize the parts and wax poetic about the varied locations? Does it have the necessary details for me to run with it on the fly, or will it involve a lot of improvisation? Does it have any glaring oddities that stop me mid-breath to go "what the hell is that?!"?

Craftsmanship: Is it clear, legible and containing all the necessary bits and bobs? Does it make good use of the space? Is the scale appropriate for the detail (and visa versa)?

(I suppose you could also call them "Creativity, Functionality and Skill", but I like my terms better :P).

Coolness: B

  • Positive: Blending interior architecture and water? Ambitious and with no small amount of potential, and this map lives up to a lot of it: Sacrificial whirlpools, aquariums, prisoner popsicles (who could be alive, and thus give me ammo for my pokemon-collecting players), all lovingly detailed enough for me to really get a feel for the place and want to use it.
  • Negative: Unfortunately, it trips on a few hurdles. The central chamber is symmetrical with straight lines and a semi-elipsoid end, yet except for the aquarium the other chambers are rough and oddly shaped, which to me at least feels out of place; why use organic shapes for only some chambers? Similarly, why does the staircase go from 5ft wide at the lowest step to 55ft wide at the highest? More importantly: How did priests get to the back chambers when there is no route from the entrance to the rear that is not caused by fallen pillars? Given the size of the beds, was this temple built by small people? What are the half-mini-crevasse things in the northern chambers?
  • Verdict: This looks like it would be a very fun scenario, but with some game-halting oddities mixed in, which drops the coolness down to a B for me.

Usability: B-

  • Positive: The map is lovingly detailed, complete with elevations, a comprehensive legend and notes on the purpose of the individual chambers. Rocking so far.
  • Negative: Seriously, how did people get in and out before the aquarium exploded? At least give me a broken drawbridge or walkway or some other hint. What was IN the aquarium that would allow it to form a slope going down over sixty feet and into a whirlpool without being washed away? That is a massive amount of very dense material, much of which is at best a 76 degree slope (i.e. 14 degrees of vertical). Maybe it's just that I'm an engineer, but it is rather mindboggling that this formation exists, let alone is intended for PCs to climb up it. That rant aside, there are a few other niggles along the way, but that's the main one that I'd have to try and conjure up some reason for if I wanted to maintain any level of buy-in from my players.
  • Verdict: B- for a mostly great map with a couple of gaffs.

Craftsmanship: B+

  • Positive: This thing is wonderfully easy to read (except the slope, but I think I've beaten you up enough about that already), the scale is great and directly applicable for encounters, it makes great use of the space available and is generally awesome.
  • Negative: Adding seemingly random features (crevasse) clutters the map without adding meaningful detail. The cultist cells could do with being larger to leave less grey-space and having proportionate beds included (unless it IS a gnome temple, then nevermind). The entry stairs are a little comical; narrowing to 20ft from 55ft would be about as much as could be reasonably expected. Organic shapes, while fun, are horrible to transcribe from map to tabletop, and should be used sparingly and for good reason; I'm not seeing the justification for the ice prison or cultist chambers in particular as both are functional rooms rather than ceramonial.
  • Verdict: In my mind, a lot of skill and effort went into this, but there are some areas I think could use improving upon, making it a B+

Overall: B
I'd also offer the comment that an easy trap to fall into when designing buildings-that-are-dungeons is to design exclusively for the PCs, and neglect the fact that this building had to be (at one point) functional for those who built it. In this instance at least, it's not that hard to correct on the fly.

Scarab Sages

Jaragil wrote:
Plus, was there really only one priest living here or are the cells really living spaces? Because if you use the word cell, I'm going to think prison.

Cell is a common term for a monk's room, so I'd accept that as a valid description. But it may not be common enough knowledge for all readers, since I remember the 10-year-old me having to explain it to my players when they chased 'The Beast of Averoigne'.

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 am critiquing this without having read others' first:

A temple with some oddly shaped offshoots. At first glance that grabs my eye.

Nice depth markers.

Oooo a shattered aquarium causing all this!

Baths, high priest chambers, private sanctum, cells, glacial prison, shattered aquarium....this place is intriguing.

The layout feels pretty natural with the connecting doors and such.

Nice color use.

Overall, I really like this. I'm curious in a good way, there's story, and the layout is spiffy.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

Thank you so much to everyone who supported my entry, both by voting and providing feedback. I always look to learn as much as I can from this competition, and this round has been one of the most informative in the past two years!

I find it intriguing that all the criticisms this map received actually crossed my table while I was working on it. The grid lines are, indeed, very pale, and I tried darkening the final map to make them more present, but the map’s other details got much darker much faster than the grid did, making it look ridiculous, so I wound up changing it back crossing my fingers. In the future, I’ll simply use grid paper with bolder lines to avoid this problem.

As Jacob mentioned, he was among a handful of people who felt the side rooms were tacked on and simplistic. In essence, they were. This map was the final version of what was originally just the main sanctum area (first draft shown here), which was the central focus of the map (thus why it got the most TLC). I anticipated that the round was going to be to draw a map for a single encounter, like it has been in the past, but when I read the possible scope of the maps in this year’s rules I decided that I needed more real estate than just the one battleground. I came up with some other rooms (both interesting and mere practical) and added them to the main chamber once I had finished it. That said, I’m happy that the side rooms resonated with some voters (I’m looking at you Mark Griffin, Garrick Williams, and Harp Rose; thanks for the love)!

Those who mentioned that this map could have used a sideview, you may notice that my first draft in fact did have a sideview. However, given my need to add extra chambers described above and the fact that a sideview did little to help my map last year, I nixed it in favor of more area for other rooms. Curse you, space limitations!

My original idea was for the extra rooms to have a more natural cavern look to them, thus the strange room shapes. Upon receiving initial feedback I realized that it would have looked better as an entirely artificial layout, but by the time I learned that I simply didn’t have time in the week to go back and redo everything. Curse you, time limitations!

I also considered the way that priests would have initially crossed the gap between the altar and the main sanctum before the cave-in. I originally had a drawbridge-type mechanism between the central platform and the sanctum, which could be manipulated from the dais, but I couldn’t find a clear way of connecting the two images without cluttering the map (Brian Fruzen’s map showed me some things in that regard). Eventually I just concluded that the main bridge may well have been damaged or destroyed in whatever caused the rubble and collapsed columns, and since depending on who your cult leader is they could access air walk, fly, or water walk at pretty low levels, so crossing the gap should really be a non-issue (I always try to account for flying PCs and NPCs/monsters when I map).

As for the lack of PC-sized objects in an encounter-scale map, that’s something new that I learned this year as a product of the contest (which is one of the reasons this competition is so worthwhile to me!). I hadn’t even considered populating the map with stuff because I thought the focus of a map was supposed to be on the rooms. Even adding the beds to the cultists’ chambers was an afterthought for me, I did it mainly to show that they were sleeping areas. I considered putting more objects in the cells, but I kind of liked the idea of more monastic elemental clerics with few personal belongings (good catch, Snorter!), plus I didn’t want to gunk up the map with crude sketches or clutter the squares with obstacles should combat break out in the area. As for the other rooms, I could probably put something in the sacred pools but aside from that I tried to focus mainly on permanent fixtures (altars, columns, statues, etc.) rather than miscellaneous stuff the PCs could interact with (should have played more Skyrim for inspiration, I guess).

In any case, I’m thrilled and deeply grateful to have received such constructive and informative feedback from this round’s judges and commenters, so thank you all! Now I wait and hope that I advanced, so I can let one of my monsters out of its pen!

Star Voter Season 6

Nice map of an interesting adventuring site! :)

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