Caverns of Steam, near Dwimovel (Darklands, Sekamina)


Round 2: Create a map

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RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Amanuensis

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Caverns of Steam, near Dwimovel (Darklands, Sekamina)

Cartographer

Very nice looking map reference at first glance.

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

Good use of page space not too much wasted space.

Everything is nicely hand drawn and colored and labeled using a key.

This map would be very easy to work on and complete to a nice looking finished map.

I like it, overall the location is well thought out and clearly drawn

very nice map

I do recommend this map to progress to round 3

Liberty's Edge Contributor

The Good
A very clear and well-labelled map. I could easily turn this into a final map with no additional information

A nice variety in terrains and encounter areas; we could have standard subterranean threats, plant monsters, aquatic monsters...

The map makes good use of the scale, compass, and key

The Bad
This is a dragon's lair, but I don't see any signs of that in the map itself. No claimed areas, dug out nests, or hoard. Dragons aren't just wandering monsters, and they tend to develop the area around them

My Judgement
Good, clean design of a decent idea, communicated well. I do recommend this entry for advancement to the next level.

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?
Absolutely, and it uses the space to the fullest.
Does The Map Have A Compass Rose and Scale? Are They Used Well?
Yes, and mostly. The 10-foot-squares means large creatures can move around without squeezing, but the azruverda that apparently lived here couldn’t have.
Is The Map A Place I Want To Adventure?
Yep! Giant mushrooms, a magma vent with a dragon, and a nice water feature with a scalable column and enough going on to keep it from being dull make this look like a fun location for adventure.
Is the Map Clear?
Mostly. As a single aside, I'd like if the azruverda corpse was specially called out with a note, rather than just being in a location that says it's the final resting place. A cartographer may have no idea what an azruverda is, and could mistake those for more fungus. Also, I’d liemk altitudes marked for the rises and waterfalls and such.
Is the Map Detailed?
Yes. The different floor conditions are marked, there's a lot of neat protrusions and fungus terrain, and even a rock garden.
Is the Map Imaginative?
Not fantastically so, but it does a good job keeping things interesting within a fairly well-worn trop of fungus and underground lakes and dragon lairs. Also, the fact that magma vents and underground waterways form "the caverns of steam" is neat, and lends itself well to a fantasy adventure.
This map is well-executed, and the fixes it needs are minor. I do recommend this progress to Round 3.

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

I like this map. Besides being clean and easy to read, there's a lot of nice little locations for different encounters. Players have plenty of options on how and where to explore. I could easily grab this, populate it and be ready for a game session in about 30 minutes.

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

Love this. Great details like the spiral staircase down, the mushroom forest and troglodyte druid's standing stones.

Colors are great and as Rob and Owen said, nice use of space without wasting it.

I would disagree with Crystal - this ISN'T a dragon's lair per se, there just happens to be a dragon living in a ravine nearby. There may be an infinite number of reasons why that particular dragon lives there - could be injured, insane, lazy, immature, stupid or willingly leaving the surrounding area undeveloped.

My only nitpick would be to swap A3 and A2 as the CLoaker nest might not be encountered.

Nice design and creative design evident.

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

I like this one a lot. Love a cloaker nest! Fungus Forest? Yes please! And I agree with Oceanshieldwolf (hey buddy!), the Dragon lives in the ravine. Perhaps it is hibernating, perhaps it accepts tribute from the locals who inhabit the steam cave, perhaps there is another exit from its lair that isn't marked on this map.

This is a very good entry.

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

For both style and artistic merit (which I know isn't supposed to be a factor in the votes), your map is my favorite of the entries. Its not an overly "original" location, per se, but it feels really well done and I can imagine a half dozen different adventures to include this in, so that means its worth the effort of mapping too.


I think this mostly for its artistic design, and the fact that it has a very organic feel to it and looks like a fun place to run an adventure.

Dark Archive

I like it, but I want it to be in the Realm of the Mammoth Lords filled with dinosaurs and other ancient creatures. Might just be me though.

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

Commentary notes:
My favorite maps, regardless of setting or appearance, tell a story. Flatly colored simple maps of old AD&D boxed sets, Judges Guild hexploration packs, in-character world maps that are as inaccurate as they are truthful—I can work or play with any map that inspires adventure.

In my reviews of Round 2, I'm looking very narrowly at the stories each map tells.

You put a lot of care and effort into giving this map three dimensions and lots of levels of detail. The labels are clear, and you use just enough color to give lots of variation in terrain, something both welcome and difficult to do underground. It doesn't take much to think about how a story of adventurers who wind up here could play out.

This maps's story:
Shaking off the water and still grousing about giving up so many of your potions to bribe the vodyanoi tribe who surrounded you upon your descent from Nar-Voth, you look out from the moss-covered cliffs and slopes against the mushroom forest and over the currents pulsing and swirling through the cavernous lake. The pillar you climbed down into Sekamina twists upward toward home, your gaze not penetrating deep enough into the darkness to see what lurks in the cavern across the water that you glanced on the way down.

To the north, a slope of broken stone leads to the cold silence of an azruverda's tomb, perhaps still tended to by the vermin it once controlled.

Sneaking past the troglodyte druid tending her garden of rocks and gems and toward the sound of rushing water, plucking a carelessly tossed ruby from a dark corner where it won't be missed, you soon encounter the underground creek flushing into the basin. Clinging to the slick few feet of stepped stone, you climb upward and upstream until you reach what likely was once a natural stone bridge across the rapid waters to an even narrower passage.

Behind you, the pitched hissing screeches of that troglodyte grow louder, "Thhieeevesss, thhieeveesss of Mizzzri" ringing through the ragged walls, and with some quick and lucky effort you barely manage to cross over before she can reach you—and immediately regret it, as the salamander guardians pick up your scent, charge toward you, and pin you between them, the water, and the furious troglodyte without enough room for any two of you to stand side-by-side against them.

Eventually forcing your way past and into another chamber, you hear more clanking picks to the west, but it's the blistering heat blowing in from the east that sends both a shiver of fear through you and a fresh layer of sweat onto your brow—not a steady breeze but pulsing like breaths from bellows. The air quivers with the heat, fissures of steam squeezing forth from cracks in the walls, but the mound of magma-leaking black stone welted up in a volcanic gorge stirs on your approach, flaps of it emerging like wings, and in very little time the thought of running through scorching hot blasts of water and turning over a clan of angry magmins in search of another passage doesn't sound like such a bad idea...


BEEP BOOP for more information PLEASE SEE:

Nar-Voth, the Darklands region; Dwimovel, the secret svirfneblin city; cloakers, aberrant servants of old horrors; magmins, heat-seeking humanoid fire elementals; magma dragons, with a reputation for fiery tempers BEEP BOOP get it CLICKLICKLICKwhirrrrBOOP; troglodytes, lizard-looking Darklands slaves and raiders; salamanders, and not the cute crawly kind but the mean naga-looking outsider kind.

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

First I have seen, you set a high bar!


Congratulations on completing and submitting your map on such a tight time-scale. Very well done, you should take pride in that achievement!

Disclaimer: The review of your entry that follows is from a non-official source, I have no formal part of RPG Superstar, and the review thoughts are mine alone and so should be considered carefully bearing this in mind. You can choose to digest or not each part as it seems of best value to yourself.

Note for all: I am spending at least an hour per map in order to be as extensive and thorough as I can, so with other time demands and the like, you will only be getting one or two reviews a day. Sorry, but real life and freelancing work does take precedence when they crop up.

I am starting with map reviews this year while I brush up my knowledge of the different item types used for round 1. So let me begin...

Template
Yes, there is one, even for maps - it is the size, the compass rose, scale bars for each part of the map drawn at different scales, a key box describing the map elements, the map name on the map. The clarity of line and text also pays a part on this. Here is how you did...

Name: Present, but boring - caverns of steam for me is oh so meme. You should have had darklands in here somehow is my gut instinct.
Size: Good size, most of the page filled and typed labels for clarity, nicely done!
Compass Rose: Check - only one map with no inserts or expanded zones, so only one needed.
Scale Bar: Scale is present - only one map represented so only one scale needed.
Key: Split into two, but is present - however the green body / carcass from A5 is not in the colored component part of the key.

Golarion Tie-In
Everyone has their take on Golarion, guided by the products and supplements. This therefore is a scoring based on how I felt you had tied the Golarion world to your map, it's flavor, the feel of the map, is it generic or obviously. This is therefore a very personal view and evaluation of your entry and should be considered as such. Onwards my brave contestant...

The entry name mentions the darklands but they are not mentioned on the map! Ack!

So what Golarion tie-ins do I have?

Vulcotavorax and Azruverda. The latter is a creature from the bestiary, and a dragon's name doesn't really tie things to Golarion in a solid way.

Ahhh, but then I spot a reference to Nar Voth in the key - phew, that is a solid darklands reference - but - from the setting information... "For a cave system to be considered part of Nar-Voth, there must be a passage leading down to Sekamina". This is easily fixed though, the right hand edge of the map shows an area (A2), or at the top of the map, the bypass tunnel (A7) - either could be labelled as "to Sekamina" on the map edge.

Possible Areas of Improvement
Again, this is a personal evaluation of what, if anything, I think would improve the map and suggestions on things you could have done differently or added to the map. These are totally personal suggestions, but you might find something useful to consider herein...

Hot springs are mentioned, so does the small river steam near the hot springs end, does it obscure the passageway it bisects? Similarly for the waterfall/cateract - how deep does it fall? Does it also create a misty area at it's base potentially making the nearby passage slippery and partially obscured?

You could have used varying blue shades to indicate variances in depth of the main lake areas - also some of the open areas have a slope away and some parts of them do not - how high is the slope away and is there any localised flooding where the edge is at the same level of the lake surface?

I might have added arrows of varying thickness around the lake to show the water currents and relative speed of those currents. I might also have added some rocky bed design under the water (blue shading over the top of it) to indicate submerged reefs, rocks, etc to give the blue expanse a little more interest.

You fell into the old trap of compass rose alines with grid lines - it doesn't have to, it could have been drawn leaning slightly to the left or right - caverns aren't so "square-on" as other map types, aligning the compass rose with the grid lines isn't really necessary in this case.

I found the creature placement suggestions a little too diverse. For me a dragon, a predator, would have eaten the troglodytes and cloakers fairly quickly - the salamanders and magmin might worship the dragon, but there was just a little too much diversity in creature selection for what is effectively the demenses of a dragon. Bear this in mind if you progress to the encounter rounds, your areas should have much tighter selections of population - avoid predators being housed with food sources ;)

With troglodytes in the area, I would have expected some crude rope type bridges in a couple of places, one south of A4 connecting to the sandy unreferenced area at the base of the map, and a couple more linking that area, the small island and A1. Finally another rope bridge crossing the hot springs river south of A9. Failing that, a row boat or jetty could be placed at various points to allow the PCs easier access to all areas.

Hmmm, I now wonder if the river and the lake should be named like surface rivers and lakes are. I check the key, A£ sounds like a name, or it could be describing the water of the lake as having come from the Vodyanoi river or springs. This would be clarified if Vodyanoi was referenced somehow, either on the river or changing the hot springs reference to "from Vodyanoi (hot springs).

The dragon selected, being a magma dragon, had me expecting some lava pool or lava flow in the design, but there wasn't. The dragon's laior is only 30 feet wider at its widest - making an encounter with the dragon uncomfortably tight - 5 pcs plus a drgaon equals most of those squares populated. It also doen't allow for the dragons day to day life, moving, turning, sleeping, nesting, having the hoard indicated would be good too. I would have made this cavern area at least 50-60 feet wide to allow tactical combat and "living room" for the dragon, with some indication of vaulted ceilings - my dragons lairs have these with high ledges to catch PC's unawares below and to allow some aerial options to the dragon, even in its lair. Yeah, I'm evil when it comes to dragons.

My final thought is that the rock "walls" are likely some non porus rock, possibly granite, so a missed opportunity here is to make the walls appear rock like with fracture lines and boulder type shaping instead of a solid color.

Phew, I did say I was being thorough I think... checks... yes, yes I did ;)

Summary
I summarise my reactions to your submission here, stating if you are a definite vote winner, a potential vote winner or not. I am not
"scoring" the entries this year as I always struggle to maintain consistency in scoring, so I am now trying a more "gut instinct" summary. Here goes...

So on reflection, I have a map solidly tied into Golarion, in the darklands, an area that I really like. Score one for you.

Meme name, Elevation rises should have been stated on each slope and waterfall. Especially on the waterfall as goping from a6 to a9 I hit three slopes, which the waterfall falls in one, so we need the elevations for consistency. Score one for Template Fu - *munch*

A slight underspend on the dragons lair living space for me and I would have liked a access from zone to zone to have been considered a little more.

On the whole though, some very interesting encounter areas, in an easy to read map. I have added this map to my "want to vote for list", so depending on how many I end up with on that list, you are winning a vote at the moment. Well done.

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

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

A very easily read map that clearly demarks the shape and location of multiple encounter areas. There are some very cool vistas that can be imagined from even a quick perusal of the map. I like the dynamic movement of water and the multiple different paths that could conceivably be taken through this area.

I have only three concerns in regards to this map. First it really cried out for a horizontal cutaway to show the various elevations clearly. This would really help with understanding the relationship between the different areas.

Second you put a dragon's lair in almost as an afterthought. You can get away with this with minor dragons (like drakes and wyverns), but true dragons require more than just a dungeon room. They need an area or dungeon all their own to really keep the dramatic impact of one of the signature monsters in the game.

Third the descent from Nar-Voth isn't quite clear on first glance. It comes out of the ceiling of the chamber apparently, but the simple "it appears here" approach didn't feel like a well-made connection to another area. That said this last point is a minor quibble; I figured out what was what readily enough.

All-in-all a pretty good entry. The name could have been more interesting, but other than that this is a very cool location. I'm currently choosing this as one of my eight selections.

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:[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 natural cavern is tough to pull off and this manages that with color.
Technique: There's hardly a straight line on this and the shapes are both believable and organic looking. Word choices in the key and name of the map tell me enough of a story without going too far.
Utility: I couldn't draw like that but I could totally make use of this map. Some of the scaling seems a little off but I imagine a cartographer can fix that easily
Overall: Solid -A for me. I recommend voting for it.

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: All of it, I love the location and how all the little pieces fit into a fantasy cave I could believe existing (in a fantasy world)

Other things I like: The art and the key suggesting encounters. I don't have the same issues other people had with the dragon lair. I saw the size of the lair and assumed it was a rather young dragon, though if that's the case you could have included his age category along with his name (but this wouldn't be necessary in an actual module because we'd already know that).

My least favorite thing(s): I agree that a side view would be helpful (although not easy to do well).

Will I vote for it: This map gets my number 1 spot, well done.

Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Lots to like here. From a design perspective, I love that the dungeon is open, with most locations accessible from more than one position. Good use of water, and I dig the changing elevations. Overall though, the top portion around the dragon's lair feels squeezed to fit into the page, whereas it should probably take pride of place!


A solid A for me.

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

I really like this one. Clear, clean design, colorful, and it's evocative. The legend is nice and clear as well. Plus, it's a Darklands map, which appeals to me.

Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

I had a hard time picking only 8 entries, but never once did I waver on this this one. Well drawn and interesting, it reminds me of the Dale Lands map of the old Forgotten Realms campaign setting book from before 4E.

I would run a table through some encounters here and love it.

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

This is one of the prettiest maps of the round, so we're off to a good start, but I don't want to judge on artistic merit, so let's delve a little deeper.

I love the start of this -- I think it's really cool if PCs do descend from Nar-Voth that they find themselves in the middle of a lake. Now, maybe they'll be able to fly by this point or walk on water or have a folding boat, but I feel like there's a good chance they could have to swim. It's always fun to get PCs out of their element (pun intended), especially if you can do it without making it feel like you're railroading them. I like the waterfall, but I almost wish it weren't there so the PCs have more decisions to make about which way they want to swim...

I like that the caverns look like caverns, though as I said with Into the Glacier, that does leave me wondering a bit how you'd do with a more constructed dungeon. Still, these rooms feel a little more intentional than that map's, so that's not concerning me as much. The spaces seem big enough for a fight.

In terms of problems, I can see the complaints about the dragon's lair being small, but Mark Griffin's explanations do make sense there. This is certainly nit-picking, but I wish the keyed locations were just a touch bigger.

Still, that's a minor detail that doesn't detract from a strong map. I'm certainly considering voting for this one.

Marathon Voter Season 8

I really like the variety of spaces you've created, even sticking with the organic feel to all of the areas. Looking at the map, I immediately wanted to grab my friends and play the map which is a huge success in my book. I especially find the mushroom forest idea evocative and would have a great time exploring that with my characters. I also like that some of the mushrooms are growing outside of that one space which is a nice realistic detail.

The only thing I'm not fond of is the Smoldering Gorge. I agree with others that it feels sort of squeezed in at the top and doesn't feel the right size for a dragon. I would add that the shape is maybe a little too reminiscent of something that I don't really want to see in my RPG maps (but since no one else has seen it, maybe I'm just especially sensitive to seeing such things). Changing it the gorge be at an angle would give you more room, and making it less linear/more rounded would give the dragon/encounter more space and solve the shape issue.

Overall great work. :)

Dark Archive

Pretty :) The monsters fit together nicely and they make sense in the terrain.

The river runs from top left to bottom left, so it makes sense that the waters are quiet in the upper right corner of the pond and that there's a nest of some sort there. I like that.

Dedicated Voter Season 8

I like this map, especially for the artistic nature of it.

The Good- From a tactical perspective I appreciate that there are areas for large creatures, but also areas that medium and small creatures could use to their advantage in a fight. The river presents some interesting opportunities like rock falls given the implied steep nature of the rock surrounding it - I envision almost a canyon.

The Bad- I do think it could the scale should be larger- I know that cuts into the level of detail but with something this bit I want a sense of vastness that isn't present with 10' squares- meaning the width is about a football field.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Overall I really like this map. My few concerns are the lack of space for the dragon as mentioned by others and the relative closeness of all the creatures, I feel like you could have made the scale a bit bigger and delivered an even better map.

Marathon Voter Season 8

Probably the most well-drawn map this year, which is a nice plus and helps with understanding the map. To talk about the design itself, I do think it has a lot good qualities going for it. First of all, I love that it's so interconnected, allowing the players to tackle the encounters however they see fit. Depending on how you present this map to them, they might have no idea which way they are supposed to go, inducing a random element to it that's bound to keep it interesting and surprising for the GM as well, always a nice bonus.

The encounters and caves themselves are also varied enough to keep things interesting. I'm not crazy about the dragon addition, but all of the other things seem interesting. I also do think that the mushroom cave is a bit cramped, though at least there's enough room in between the mushrooms for the players and NPCs to have some room to change positions amongst themselves or to try and get into flanking positions.

And as others have stated, it would have been nice to see some signs of habitation in the form of bridges and the like. Not essential, but they wouldn't have been unwelcome either.

All in all I do think this has possibilities. Its story is not as apparent as in some other cases, but superior design and exciting possibilities make up for that splendidly. I'll definitely vote for this one.

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 giving my critique without having looked at anyone else's comments first.

Cave of Steam, expecting something to do with heated water.

Nice on the eyes up front, if you hand drew this and colored it well done.

Interesting look on A10...althought it needs some tweaking. It reminds me of a certain piece of anatomy. Good name though.

Salamander Overseers? Salamanders are that intelligent?

The water is all one shade of blue, which I understand why you did, but since this is the Cavern of Steam and the top left is from a hot spring...I would have liked to see some gradience to indicate relative temparture at different spots in the water.

Mushroom forest stands out and I really like it.

A refuge of a Troglodyte Druid...hmmm....why is it a refuge? Is he evil? Even though you couldn't include text to explain the map doesn't really do anything other than list some possibly interesting points...

Good interconnectedness, feels natural. Good variance in ground types. Pretty easy to read.

Overall, I like this map, but I don't get a story from it. At least not a clear one. I see a bunch of spots that could be written up to fit this...but the map itself doesn't tell me a story other than "here's a cool bunch of locations".

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Anne Sullivan wrote:
I would add that the shape is maybe a little too reminiscent of something that I don't really want to see in my RPG maps (but since no one else has seen it, maybe I'm just especially sensitive to seeing such things).

No, I think we were all trying to be mature. :)

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

Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
Anne Sullivan wrote:
I would add that the shape is maybe a little too reminiscent of something that I don't really want to see in my RPG maps (but since no one else has seen it, maybe I'm just especially sensitive to seeing such things).
No, I think we were all trying to be mature. :)

You guys are talking about how it resembles the Eye of Sauron, right?

Right?

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

Cthulhudrew wrote:
Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
Anne Sullivan wrote:
I would add that the shape is maybe a little too reminiscent of something that I don't really want to see in my RPG maps (but since no one else has seen it, maybe I'm just especially sensitive to seeing such things).
No, I think we were all trying to be mature. :)

You guys are talking about how it resembles the Eye of Sauron, right?

Right?

looks a little Georgia O'Keeffe but my inner middle-schooler is still focused on how hard it is to critique all the rods in the competition.

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

Turn it on its side and you have an entirely different image than the one you are talking about.


theheadkase wrote:
Salamander Overseers? Salamanders are that intelligent?

Yes, they are. Salamanders (the evil outsiders from the Plane of Fire, not the amphibians) have an average Int score of 14.

I may not get a cohesive story from this, but I do get a lot of mystery and a map that guarantees an eventful delve. It has a good organic feel to it, a lot of differences in terrain, and some interesting looking encounter areas indicated.

My only real disappointment is that there is a dragon indicated here, but all I get for a lair is a big crack in the ground.

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

I seen and played a lot of underground maps with mushroom forests and underground lakes. It takes some good design to impress me, and that's precisely what I see here. What sells the map is the variety of terrains. Every room is different. You got the lake with the spiral rock, the mushroom forest, a room with a dead bug-looking thing, a cavern with mostly rubble, and more. That's a lot of interesting places for a fight to happen. Best of all, there's obviously some kind of story here, with a druid lair, a magma dragon at the source of a hot spring, and the tomb of some kind of dead monster.

Well done.

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

Thanks for that Jeff, now that I think about it I haven't run any salamanders in PF and I didn't even realize they were outsiders! Totally makes more sense now...although it stills feels somewhat disjointed with the dragon.

Good knowledge learned! That makes a good day!

P.S. I really like this map, but I have a feeling this would end up differently from the initial submission or it would be sent back with notes to rework it to make it tighter. Not saying that's necessarily a negative (I haven't seen most of the maps yet), it will be a tiebreaker if it comes down to it.

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.

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka FaxCelestis

http://i.imgur.com/RH4quqd.jpg

Here is how your map appears to a colorblind end user. Your use of color coding is largely outside the visible spectrum for a deuteranope, which makes your map harder to read. Since roughly 10% of the populace is colorblind, this is something you need to keep in mind.

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: C

  • Positive: Good use of underground streams and pools to mix up the action, and the varied terrain prevents the all-too-frequent monotony of cave maps. Dragon lair!
  • Negative: Lair of a small dragon, which one has to read A10 to figure out, given the area and encounters don't indicate a dragon having dominated the caves. Where are the overpasses, underpasses, bridges, underwater passages? Not taking advantage of the 3D space afforded to underground caves feels like wasted potential.
  • Verdict: It's got some style, but it's very tried-and-tested stuff that I could find easily enough, putting this as an average "C" on coolness for me.

Usability: B+

  • Positive: All the points of interest are labeled in a mostly coherent fashion and the map flows logically. Terrain is all color coded, with features done using intuitive symbols. I can understand what is going on here clearly, and make good use of the encounters.
  • Negative: A dragon's lair is a whole ballgame of its own, and this map doesn't give me the tools to really do the beast credit, especially as its lair is immediately accessible to anyone with fly, spiderclimb or just a good Climb skill. This is particularly compounded by the lack of elevation or depth indicators anywhere: I don't know how high the slopes are, and so have to improvise key parts of the geography, which in turn help determine how the map can be progressed through. A note about what the difference between rocky and mossy ground would have been a little icing on the cake.
  • Verdict: Definitely usable, but with some work on the GMs part figuring out how to avoid gaffing the dragon fight and filling in some of the blanks. B+

Craftsmanship: A

  • Positive: This map is wonderfully easy to read, the information is clearly and logically displayed and every bit and bob needed is present. It also makes good use of the whole page, leaving virtually no space unused.
  • Negative: I'd question whether A9 should be before A7 and A7 sequentially, given the natural progression through the map, but that's a minor quibble at best.
  • Verdict: Solid A. There is a lot of skill on display here.

Overall: B

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 beautiful, classic map of caverns.

Interest Level of Location: B
All the things you would expect to find in the Darklands. Nothing is surprising, but everything is well done.

Tactical Depth: A
The use of elevation and terrain features would make some memorable fights.

Adventure Potential: A
There's a lot going in in these caves that I could build adventures around.

Clarity: A
No problems.

Logic: B
Suffers a little bit from "dungeon logic" where rooms that are very close together house completely unrelated monsters. But this is par for the course in a game like this.

Overall: A-

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

I enjoyed this map quite a bit, looks like a great place for an exciting adventure.
You were my 4th favorite. Hope to see you in the next round!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Amanuensis

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to comment and offer critique - you have all been very helpful and supportive!

No matter how it's going to turn out, I think I have a clear picture where I did well and where I could have done better. I'll post my thoughts on this entry once the round 2 results have been announced.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Anne Sullivan wrote:


The only thing I'm not fond of is the Smoldering Gorge. I agree with others that it feels sort of squeezed in at the top and doesn't feel the right size for a dragon. I would add that the shape is maybe a little too reminiscent of something that I don't really want to see in my RPG maps (but since no one else has seen it, maybe I'm just especially sensitive to seeing such things). Changing it the gorge be at an angle would give you more room, and making it less linear/more rounded would give the dragon/encounter more space and solve the shape issue.

Overall great work. :)

Now that the gag is off, can I just say that this post was for me the single hardest moment to keep my mouth shut this whole round? Once I read it, I scrolled back up the page to see what you meant, and when I saw it, I laughed out loud. And then couldn't UN-see it. :-p

Funny stuff, and something I'll try to keep in mind if ever I put a similar feature on my map. If I'm in a Freudian mood, maybe it will even be the dread Toothy Gorge.

Star Voter Season 6

Nicely done map! Very professional!

Marathon Voter Season 8

Scott LaBarge wrote:
Anne Sullivan wrote:


The only thing I'm not fond of is the Smoldering Gorge. I agree with others that it feels sort of squeezed in at the top and doesn't feel the right size for a dragon. I would add that the shape is maybe a little too reminiscent of something that I don't really want to see in my RPG maps (but since no one else has seen it, maybe I'm just especially sensitive to seeing such things). Changing it the gorge be at an angle would give you more room, and making it less linear/more rounded would give the dragon/encounter more space and solve the shape issue.

Overall great work. :)

Now that the gag is off, can I just say that this post was for me the single hardest moment to keep my mouth shut this whole round? Once I read it, I scrolled back up the page to see what you meant, and when I saw it, I laughed out loud. And then couldn't UN-see it. :-p

Funny stuff, and something I'll try to keep in mind if ever I put a similar feature on my map. If I'm in a Freudian mood, maybe it will even be the dread Toothy Gorge.

Hahahaha Toothy Gorge! I'm glad it made you laugh. I spent longer trying to word that one sentence than the entire rest of the critique. I had that "oh crap I can't unsee that now" moment, and considered not mentioning it, but... well I failed my will save.

Seriously glad to see you made it to the next round. :)

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Amanuensis

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I would like to thank everybody who voted for my entry - your support means a lot to me! I would also like to thank the judges for their recommendations.

I had mixed feelings about this map at first, because I thought the end result did not warrant the amount of time I had invested. In the end, I'm happy that so many of you liked it. I had to learn a lot of things on the fly while drawing this map, from the (to me) unfamiliar format (8.5'' x 11'') to the correct use of different line strengths. I totally underestimated the amount of time it took to draw this map and, at a certain point, I knew I had to submit my second draft, despite the fact that I had originally planned for a third and final draft. I made several mistakes that could have been avoided with more preparation and time at hand. Also, the fact that I don't have access to a photo editing software at the moment - at least none that I am sufficiently familiar with - hurt (the hatching turned out real ugly in the scan that I submitted). Still, alltogether, I should be content with my entry.

The story behind the map:

I wanted to create a darklands map with classic underground elements, but also make it interesting enough to stand out on its own. I guess I should have come up with a more interesting location, but when I starting planning the map layout, I already had a small adventure in mind. The main theme is captured in the title: a conflict between the elements, mainly fire and water (though the other elements are represented as well). I imagined the PC's descending into a cave of steaming water that evaporates into the cave, precipitating at the ceiling and forming beautiful stalactites while dripping down. The underground river also serves as the main water supply to the nearby svirfneblin city of Dvimovel – I wanted to show that the conflict in this cave goes beyond the local level and create a potential adventure hook.
There are basically four factions present in this cave:
the Vodyanoi (Water),
the Cloakers (Air),
the Troglodyte Druid (Earth), and
the Lava Dragon and his minions (Fire).
I chose non-evil creatures who, while not necessarily hostile, aren't exactly easy to deal with either. Vodyanoi are proud and territorial (they might have friendly relations to the svirfnebli downstream and as 'water salamanders' they form a great counterpart to the 'fire salamanders' in the east); Cloakers are mistrustful, mysterious and have a connection to aboleths; the troglodyte druid protects the Azruverdas corpse (her 'grove') against intruders (Mizri loves listening to the scuttling sounds of the numberless beetles that inhabit the cave. She has somewhat fallen in love with the dead Azruverda and continues to tend to its rock garden).
I chose extraplanar creatures for the fire faction to emphasize that they were the intruders (having traveled involuntarily through a planar gate) that threaten the balance of power in the cave. Volcanic soot and slag pollute air and water, and the bypass tunnel dug by the dragon's minions to reroute the underground river would endanger everyone living in the cave, as well as the deep gnomes that rely on the river as a water supply.
What is the dragon trying to achieve? Since Vulcotavorax is quite insane, there are several possibilities, but I thought that he would search for a way to activate the gate through which he came so he can return home (to the elemental plane of fire), using the adverse element to provoque a reaction from the portal. Of course, with a Lava dragon, you never know for sure – maybe he just can't bear the heat of his own body and wants to create a big pool for himself to cool off; maybe he wants to bully the deep gnomes into paying him tribute.

How the PC's interact with the cave-dwellers is up to them, but, while difficult, it wouldn't be impossible to form an alliance between the different factions against the fire creatures. With the aid of the cloakers (flying mounts!), the vodyanoi (water powers to cancel fire) and the druid (bug swarms and nature magic), the PC's can challenge a dangerous dragon that may be too powerful to tackle on their own. Resourceful PC's might even find a peaceful resolution to this conflict.

What I have learned from you:

From your comments I get that I should have chosen a more interesting place to map instead of reinterpreting a 'classic' location. The fact that I already had a story in mind may have hurt my creativity. In some regard, this round's challenge centered around the show, dont tell-rule that is so vital to many other design-challenges in this contest: the designer has to convey a story, but in a way that inspires the reader's imagination without telling too much. I think I struggled with that task.
Also, it seems that I may have erred too much on the side of simplicity this time. Since there was no precedent for this round's challenge, I was worried that including too much information would have hurt my map's clarity. Seeing how other entries fared, I think that worry was unjustified. I have to admit that I'm not a fan of elevation indicators (they give me headaches and I personally prefer this information to be included in the map reference text) but it seems obvious that many people expect elevation markers, so I will have to take that into consideration for the future.
Maybe the dragon was not an optimal choice for an adversary. My views on dragons seem to differ from some of yours. I don't think that dragon lairs make for very interesting adventure locations, no more so than the bedchamber of a villain (since it is basically the place where they sleep and keep their stash). Dragons are highly mobile airborne creatures that have a lot of tactical options - it seems like a waste to restrict them to a confined space. I would have expected the final battle to take place in the cave, where the PC's could use the terrain and their new allies (if any) to their advantage (using the rising steam as concealment, setting off explosions to cause stalactites to rain down from the ceiling, etc.).

Anyway, it seems like we stay in the darklands, so I'd better get started brainstorming some good monster concepts...

Lantern Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Black Powder Chocobo

Darn it, now I see it, too :P

I was going to say, your mind is already in the right place for a location for the monster! Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Amanuensis

Anne Sullivan wrote:
I spent longer trying to word that one sentence than the entire rest of the critique. I had that "oh crap I can't unsee that now" moment, and considered not mentioning it, but... well I failed my will save.

Yeah, I get it. I drew the map in the horizontal and realized too late that I should have chosen a less symmetric/regular form. Lesson learned.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, 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

Would this cavern happen to be in Nar-Voth? ;)

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Amanuensis

Chris Shaeffer wrote:
Would this cavern happen to be in Nar-Voth? ;)

Actually, Sekamina is the layer below Nar-Voth. You will find more useful information in Into the Darklands.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, 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

Ack, I'm dumb. I know what Sekamina is (now that I've read up a bit!), I just neglected to read the full title of your map...

Into the Darklands. Good to know. Thanks. :)

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