Sewer, Bridge, and Hypogeum Under Caliphas, Ustalav

Round 2: Create a map

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8

Sewer, Bridge, and Hypogeum Under Caliphas, Ustalav


Decent looking map reference upon first glance.

A compass rose and scale are present on the map.

Good use of the page space.

Plenty of detail on the map to make a finished looking map with minimal questions.

Not the most unique location but there is enough going on to make it a decent map.

I do recommend this map to progress to round 3

Liberty's Edge Contributor

The Good
This map is clearly labelled and I could make a final map from it without additional information.

It has a scale, a compass, and a key

There's some variety to the encounter space beyond rectangles.

The Bad
It's a sewer map. We've all seen a lot of them, and this one doesn't stand out compared to any other.

This is one or two encounter areas, which isn't much for a full-page map. It feels like a lot of wasted space.

My Judgement
An okay but small-scope idea, communicated well. Not superstar material. I weakly do not recommend this entry for advancement.

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, though it's hard to see why. The huge sewer chamber doesn’t have a lot going on, and the tomb isn't thematically linked. It's perfectly possible for an adventure to use both, but why place a tomb in a sewer and not have it be partially flooded, or have a secret underwater entrance, or a broken wall to a pipe, or a rat's nest, or just something that makes that location seem more integral to your tomb.
Does The Map Have A Compass Rose and Scale? Are They Used Well?
Is The Map A Place I Want To Adventure?
Maybe. A tomb in a sewer isn’t something I've played around before, and bridge encounters can be fun.
Is the Map Clear?
Not entirely. It would be easy to foresee a rushed cartographer deciding the thing I presume is a wooden board in the lower left is instead a small sewer pipe. There's a coffin shape in the tomb that might be a coffin, or just a lid. There's a boat that might have oars in it… or a corpse… or a giant pair of scissors. And I don’t know if it's tied to a single lone sewer mooring post, or a grappling hook, or what?
Is the Map Detailed?
Especially in the sewer section, where most of this map spends its valuable page space, no. Moss is fine, but you need more going on in the big empty stretches of water.
Is the Map Imaginative?
If a map is going to be of a sewer, a bridge, and an underground burial chamber, I don’t want 2/3 of it to be sewer water with nothing going on. The tomb is serviceable, but it's the smallest section of them map. The addition of sewer pipes doesn’t make a sewer interesting. The addition of a lot of stairs and a few statues doesn’t make a bridge interesting. There was an opportunity to make the bridge more exciting, or put more things in the water than moss. Rubble from the broken pipe forming little islands. A cracked pipe with a sewage-waterfall. An outgo drain forming a strong current. Something.
This feels like a missed opportunity, and with a little regret I do not recommend this to proceed to Round 3.

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

There's a good germ of an idea here- some sort of tomb in a sewer. However, whose tomb? What do the statues look like (even if notated as "demon statues" would give me an idea)? Same with the sacrophagus- I know nothing else about it to make me excited to use this as is.

I liked this map and it made the list on my first pass. But compared to the other entries, this entry just lacks oomph.

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

Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
... There's a boat that might have oars in it… or a corpse… or a giant pair of scissors.

That's a sarcophagas, Owen. Look at the key!

I wasn't sure if it was a runaway sarcophagas trying to flee the other sarcophagi or a large pair of scissors determined to cut the moorings on the boat so they could escape before rusting away in the sewer.

A lot of wasted space in this map. There are all kinds of cool things that could be done in the big sewer area but instead we just get a big blue area that isn't used because of the bridge.

And let's be honest... who stores dead bodies in a sewer? A necromancer on the lam? Ok, I can buy that. But would he go to the trouble of lugging sarcophagi down into the sewer to store bodies he plans on animating?

The map is not Superstar my friend. A good try but it needed a little bit more fleshing out and better execution.

Dark Archive

Aside from what's been mentioned I enjoy this map, reminds me of stories of finding a mausoleum in somewhere like Rome when they were expanding the sewer system.

I do like the large staircase descending down, makes the map a bit more tactical than at first glance.

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

26th map I have seen.

Statues in the sewer????

Your current rank is 13th.

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 like that you're avoiding traditional shapes, but my next reaction is there's a lot of symmetry. It's not perfectly so -- one side is a little ruined -- but it does detract (though I can understand it; I have to fight the temptation of symmetry whenever I map).

I learned a new word in hypogeum, which is cool. Like when gaming expands my knowledge and/or vocabulary.

I'm a little torn: I'm not really excited about playing in this area -- It's a large sewer and catacombs but there's just not enough going on here. That said, I suppose I could see a potentially interesting challenge if there's some sewer crocodiles or something and you expanded the plants/moss to really make it all slippery and more challenging to avoid falling into the nasty water, but I'm not sure I need *this* map to run *that* encounter.

I'm still on the fence on this one, but I'm leaning against voting for it. Sorry.

Scarab Sages

I like the map. I would like to see it in Module or scenario. Easy to read, the legend is clear, and if there were not a pre-made map, it would be easy to draw out on a blank map to use.
As for the statues, you find those in an underground temple, although I would like to see more in the actual temple not just on the approach. The moss and plants need to be more prevalent in the sewer.
One last thing, wouldn't part of the sewer be frozen if under Caliphas.
Just sayin'

And on that note, even with the bad,I would strongly recommend this map be considered to go forward to the next level.

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

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: 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 sewer bridge is nonlinear thinking... not hard mode but different approach
Technique: You drew a butterfly...
Utility: I wouldn't put a butterfly in the sewer.
Overall: F as in this doesn't get my endorsement...

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

There are a handful of things I liked about this map, and some I didn't.

First, the good:


I thought the map was clean and well-detailed. The key makes senses. Blackening in the solid areas of the underground map is a wise thing to do. And there's lots of little details to give the location some character.

I also liked the fact that it's a location in Caliphas. To me, that screams vampires, because I penned the Carrion Crown adventure Ashes at Dawn, and a key element of the Caliphas underground is that there's an entire society of vampires living down there. Not simply among the dank sewers, but also among what used to be the ground floor of a lot of the buildings constructed before the city raised its street level to create a sewer in the first place. I consciously modeled the Caliphas underground after the Seattle underground after taking a tour of that attraction at PaizoCon a couple of years ago.

So, that insider knowledge tells me this designer has done a bit of research into what a sewer in the Caliphas underground would need to include. Thus, putting a hypogeum (i.e., an underground temple/tomb) in the Caliphas underground, which has a long history of vampires, fallen knights battling the Whispering Tyrant, and so on...makes perfect sense to me, and I appreciate the design choice and thinking that went into the map for this location.

I also like the terrain choices for this map. There's a combination of elevations, both with the water below the bridge, as well as the increasingly elevated landings on the bridge. There's the potential to have a pretty epic battle with a vampire in this setting. And, judging by the one sarcophagus with the open lid in the southwest corner, I definitely expect some kind of powerful undead to show up.

Now, a few shortcomings:


It's mostly just a single encounter location. There's the potential for a couple of encounters within it...i.e., the bridge/sewer part vs. the tomb location...but I kind of wish there were a few more spots for PCs to investigate and adventure within. As-is, this location is kind of hard to showcase your design skill.

Even within the single encounter setup, the map itself doesn't quite have enough going on for it to distinguish it from any other underground sewer with an ancient tomb or other chamber off of it. The elaborate bridge and statues raises some questions, but by themselves aren't enough to raise the appeal. It's a serviceable map, just not necessarily the best choice or design to showcase your Superstar potential.

Lastly, I'm not a fan of using a compass rose on a map which places north in any direction other than "up." I've had to deviate from that a couple of times in my own maps, and I've just never felt comfortable with it. I didn't get the sense that there was a need for pointing north in the direction most people would assume is east unless they focused on the compass rose. Better to just go with the natural inclination to view "up" as north.

And, finally, what I think could be improved:


On the subject of giving the map a little more oomph, I'd kind of like to see the pipes themselves lead to some other rooms and passageways. They look wide enough that they could connect to something else important. I think a truly skilled designer would have realized that and shown the viewer that in addition to what's presented here. And, within those other passageways, we'd get more insight into just who (or what) uses this location as its lair...and for what purpose?

I'd also have liked to see something more among the monotony of the open expanse of water to either side of the bridge. How about a small "island" of rubble out there with something significant on it? Or, how about an indication of something just beneath the water's surface (such as a bit of treasure, a hidden clue, another monster lair)? Hints towards things like that would inspire even more in the mind's eye when examining this map and it would give even more insight into the type of encounter location setups you're capable of imagining and crafting.

You've got "moss/plants" growing in a couple of locations...specifically, a statue on the bridge and a few spots on the walkways around the sewer itself. Yet, I really don't get a sense of why that may or may not be significant. If you were using this map to define an encounter location, I'm sure you'd delve into more written detail about its significance, but you've kind of missed an opportunity here to give us hints just with the map itself. And that's what Superstar maps really do for you. They almost (but not quite) tell a story on their own. And I think that's what you want to strive for in showcasing your skills for the purposes of garnering votes and making it to the next round.

My two cents,

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

There are several cool ideas to this map that unfortunately fail to make a superstar map.

The sloped bridge and crypt are the most interesting parts to this map, but the crypt is far to easy to seal off for it to be used by an intelligent bad guy and the bridge could have used more moss.

An expanded crypt with a few secret entrances and a sloped bridge to enter could have gotten you my vote.

Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

This was in my initial keep list, and if there had been something in the water, I might have been in on it until the end.

I get the statues thing, I've played enough Skyrim to realize weird stuff is in weird places, but a binding theme would have been great.

Or maybe an ooze covered bridge, which is slippery and there's oozes in the water?

It just felt one piece short of a puzzle.


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: Oh man, I saw the name and got excited. I love overly complicated sewer systems under fantasy cities.

Other things I like: Caliphas! Ustalav is my jam and Caliphas is a cool city. I like the elevation change going down the bridge, and the idea of the bridge itself.

My least favorite thing(s): There is not enough going on here for a full page map. I like my sewers a little more haphazard and byzantine. Not a maze necessarily, but I like some weirdness to it. And there needs to be something going on with that water.

Will I vote for it: This map is just outside of my top 16, falling somewhere around 19 I think. It would take very little to bump this map into top 16 territory, but it definitely needs that little something more. I will not be voting for this map.

BEEP BOOP for more information PLEASE SEE

Caliphas, Ustalav's capital and largest city, and Lake Encarthan, the adjacent body of water that fuels Caliphas's lucrative trade.

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

Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Interesting use of colour along with a clear key. This location is very easily visualized and has some nice touches.

Overall though this has been done before. I am immediately reminded of the final dungeon in Neverwinter Nights 2 where you descend a staircase with water on either side to landings at the bottom that run the edge of the chamber.

I will not be voting for this entry.

Marathon Voter Season 8

I do like the elevation thing going on here, I can see lot of jumping into the water in my players' future, which is a definite plus for this map. Hypogeum is also an idea we don't get to see too often, and after reading Neil's post, I'm in love with the vampire possibility.

But I do think there could have been a bit more to this map to really sell it. Wooden docks crossing the water, a more elaborate tomb, multiple levels - it's a weird enough sewer already, why not make it more weird.

Then again, there are possibilities here. There's a lot of room for flying monsters, and if this is a low-level encounter, I could imagine the players suffering as they try to descend the stairs while being pestered by flyers. If only there was something in the water to make jumping less ideal an option. Perhaps the water could have been so low that you can only climb up in certain places. True, you can add those in the actual text, but an indication on the map itself would have been a good thing to tide you over this round.

All in all a nice base idea, but it's not spruced up enough to make this truly Superstar. I'll give it a weak maybe.

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.

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

I can't see the map for this one anymore. Was it accidentally deleted when the map resolution was upgraded?

Does anyone else see 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

Direct link to map file until the image at the top of the thread is fixed

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: B
The map looks fun, but there aren't very many rooms, and a lot of it is consumed by plain water squares.

Interest Level of Location: C
There are a few features that set this apart from a standard sewer map, but not enough to impress me.

Tactical Depth: B
The main area would be tactically unique, but it lacks room to move around.

Adventure Potential: C
So I guess there's vampires down there? Nothing in this map tells me much about the adventure.

Clarity: B
Mostly clear. But the big staircase in the middle is a little confusing. It took me a while to understand what I was looking at.

Logic: D
I wouldn't build a vampire lair near all that running water.

Overall: C+

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

This could be an exciting location, just needed something more. Lots of under-utilized space.

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: E

  • Positive: Delving through the sewers and tombs beneath Ustalav is a neat idea.
  • Negative: A straight staircase with some rooms at the end and a lot of sewerage. Sewerage is not cool.
  • Verdict: The yawning expanse of stair and sewerage overwhelms both nostrils and potential for coolness. E.

Usability: C+

  • Positive: The map gives terrain, features and the elevations are mostly included, plus I can tell what almost everything is intended to be.
  • Negative: I don't know what the height of the sewerage level is below the walkways, nor the depth of the liquid (why have that much of it, if it's not relevant for encounters?). Honestly though, what drags this down to a C+ is the fact that I would likely skip the entire stair case and just have the room at the end as an embedded thumbnail in the encounter text.
  • Verdict: C+. It's functional, but most of the map is unnecessary.

Craftsmanship: C-

  • Positive: The map is clear, the legend is mostly complete, the compass is there and the scale is appropriate for an encounter.
  • Negative: The majority of the map is wasted space, which drags this down from an easy B+ or A- to a C-, by virtue of having nowhere near enough "map".
  • Verdict: C-

Overall: D

The Main part reminds me a bit to much of a place i recenetly visit in an adventure path.

AP location:
RotRL chapter five, runeforge, the swamped recreational pool.

Also looks Quote empty.

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:

Encounter location, handdrawn, with some computer aided drawing on top of it.

Looooooooooots of stairs.

Sewer pipes, Oooo this isn't a temple!

A broken and rubbleified area. Nice.

Why is there an alter in a sewer area?

A cross-section would be nice.

I find it odd there's no indication of water (sewage) level. Is this empty? I see a boat though...weird.

Overall, this is a nice enough map but there's not much here besides a few fantasy staples, and not particularly interesting ones. Some of the layout doesn't exactly make sense. In a sewer there should be at least some refuse floating around. This is floating around the middle of the bottom 16 for me.

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

It looks nice, but the map is mostly just one giant empty room. There's not many features here to make for interesting encounters.

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8

Thank you to everyone who voted and offered critiques. I will post my reflection tomorrow after the winners are announced. ^_^

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