Smokemount Hold

Round 2: Create a map

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6

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Smokemount Hold


At first glance this is a good looking map reference.

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

Fair amount of room furnishings are here and plenty of other details from the key.

Nicely hand drawn very easy to read.

Good use of page space, I am sure that the side view would end up larger in the final.

Nice looking map.

I do recommend this map to progress to round 3

Liberty's Edge Contributor

The Good
This is a very clear turnover that I could turn into a final map without further questions.

There is a scale, key, and compass.

The encounter spaces on the upper floor are interesting and varied. There is more than one route players can take while exploring this, and that usually makes for more fun.

I love the idea of a dungeon/stronghold built around the shaft of a volcano. very evocative.

The Bad
The rooms on the entry level and lower level and very rectangular and samey. The area also lacks common rooms, cafeterias, or other community spaces

A lot of space is given over to the key, which likely wouldn't be needed in the final map. The layout and believability of this as a living space could have been greatly improved by cutting down on the space given over to you key and using that extra room to flesh out the lower level or entry level more

My Judgement
A good idea, fairly well executed. I do recommend this entry advance 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?
It's really three quarter-page maps and an oversized key, but they are all levels of a single location so (like multiple decks of a ship) that's fair. It is worth considering, however, if it would be easier for a GM to run this is the maps were closer to the text describing each level.
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?
Is the Map Clear?
The side-view is a good callout and a reasonable size. It lacks some practical areas as Crystal mentioned, but what is here is well presented.
Is the Map Detailed?
The key doesn’t need to be as big as it is, so there's some wasted space, and the description of the structure's origins flirt with too much backstory for the contest – but ultimately they give context a cartographer could need. I don’t like the mushroom cavern and forges and kitchens being bare of details, but those could be added without needing to redo the entire map.
Is the Map Imaginative?
None of these elements are without precedent, but they are combined into a creative whole here.
I do recommend this for advancement tor round 3.

This reminds me of those great maps from B4: The Lost City. It's got verticals, a nice mix of map-friendly lines and natural spaces, clear detail, and a very economic key. If I'm a GM and I pull something like this out of a module, gratitude washes over me. It seems to do everything it needs to do.

Wow. You managed to give us three fairly detailed levels and a side view. While an (abandoned) dwarven stronghold isn't exactly original, it has a compelling layout and definitely inspires interest. Well done!

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

This is a contender for me. While I'm not that excited by a dwarven stronghold, the map is well drawn, clear, and allows for PC exploration. This is definitely a map that I could quickly grab and populate with my own encounters so it has very high useability for me.

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

Not a fan of dwarves, but this… this is very nice.

Lack of color is ok for the subject; nice use of cross section. I agree with Crystal that the sameness is disconcerting in some of the areas.

Intrigued by Sky-mine Tower, so that's a nod in the right creative direction.

I like the fact that the central circle is repeated as the stronghold rises, and you have thought logically about the way the clan-dwarves might have both constructed and inhabited their pile.

Great way to pack in lots of information for both developers and cartographers...

And yes, it is reminiscent of B4.

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

Wow- This is eerily similar to my idea for a map, had I advanced. I was going to use a volcano as well. This is a good looking map and I like it. Very nice job!

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

This Map, Brian Fruzen's "Salvation's End", and Monica Marlowe's "Firebrand's Redoubt" I all pushed into my 6th/7th/8th spots in my mind.

Your maps each have their aspects done better than the others, while others include things that might have helped the other out...

But I see them as all being really, really good turnover maps for decent versions of fairly standard locations. Now, that isn't that the idea of the location isn't "different", it's that "dwarven stronghold" isn't exactly a new idea. The inclusion of the volcano makes it "more" interesting but it's still not "Oh my gods, how totally different from everything else before it!?!"

That all said, I would find your map, as you handed it in, to be at least "acceptable" for addition directly into an adventure module, and that's impressive by itself. I think a cartographer could make it even better, but you have skillz regardless.

Dark Archive

Initially I was confused by the layout, but the side view in the corner explained my questions well. I like it it has potential, but I feel like there would be too much poisonous fumes from the volcanoes core still. On the other some dwarves have extra bonuses versus poison so might be fine for them usually.

Overall solid in my view.

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

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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.

When I posted to my blog about location maps, this was the sort of map I had in mind. It's actually a little too much for a single page; there'd be more room for dressing and details with these three maps and side view broken up over 1 1/2 pages.

Compounding that, the couple of sentences spent to describe its configuration seem unnecessary; there's nothing there that couldn't be described visually in either the side view, the level maps, or even in the map's title. But there's so much work put into the player-scale information that I can easily forgive it.

This map's story:

"Curse it! Hold them back!"

Shieldmarshal Tym screamed at his increasingly frantic front lines over the din of picks slamming into maces, armor, and shields. The orange-robed, black-masked, pick-wielding figures kept pouring out of the mushroom-lined caverns of Smokemount Hold's deepest inhabited level, their voices droning a single uninterrupted buzzing sound through the tall shaft.

Behind him, the freight elevator slammed into the ground for the third time in 10 minutes, another fresh line of shield-bearing defenders streaming in to defend the north and west passages of the shaft's maw from the sudden onslaught.

"Torag's braid, the surface guards? Are we already depleted?" Tym spat the sweat streaming into his mouth onto the hot earth under him, not 10 feet from the edge of the ledge to the dormant molten core. "Guardhouse shift, reinforce the west post! Second Citadel, rotate the front! And where are my damned hea—"

A fist-sized chunk of porous stone shattered across his helm, exploding into a cloud of black dust over his head and leaving him hacking and heaving for a few valuable seconds. The shieldmarshal lifted his shield and ducked away from the hail of stones raining and cracking against his and his men's shields, turning them gray with dust.

"The hells are they doing... second line, hurlers, return fire!"

A barrage of dwarven crossbow bolts and sling stones rained back in response, cutting down rows of the onslaught like a bucket of water cutting down an encroaching wildfire—appropriate, as more invaders only roared forth like a spreading blaze with their droning battle cry, pressing into the front lines to hack and be hacked down.

Tym peered over his shield, through the thickening haze and behind the orange-clad, front-rushing foes but in front of their hustling reinforcements. Through the surging crowd he spotted a ring of robed figures circling the volcanic shaft, their arms raised higher with each fallen wave of their comrades.

Then he remembers: the vault. The feast the night before, all of clan Emberglare celebrating the strange, rune-embossed ingots they found intact in the mines, all marked with shoddy triangles.

The droning voices he'd first heard echoing up the shaft just minutes before, while heading to the Updraft at the end of his watch—Tym finally understood their sole syllable.

"Mhar." The old stories of the sleeping volcanic devastator his father would tell him to scare him from the shaft's ledges... His shield arm trembled and dropped limp to his side. "First Citadel, pull back, pull back..."

Tym turned toward the freight elevator only to see orange robes streaming through a gap in his line, as though time had slowed to a crawl. Half of the cultists charged toward the evacuated eastern wing, but the other half plowed through the last poorhouse militia line toward the elevator, which hadn't yet started back toward the surface.

As the ground trembled beneath him, the pitched combat around him faded from his ears, from his mind. It's already too late...

BEEP BOOP for more information PLEASE SEE:

Torag, dwarven god of getting stuff done; volcanoes of Golarion; and dwarves of Golarion, as well as the book of the same name.

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

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Second map I have seen, suspecting now that everyone is a map making genius.

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

This is a pretty straight forward dwarven citadel, very clear and easy to read. I found the volcanic shaft to be a neat addition, and adds an element of drama should the dormant volcano become active again. It doesn't appear to be a very large community, but it has some nice approaches to traditional dwarven community forms.

That said there is almost nothing connecting this to Golarion. It really could be found on any fantasy world with Tolkienesque dwarves. The armory number 12 was placed in a way on the map that made it hard to read and for a moment or two I thought it had been forgotten as a mistake.

Still it is a clear and simple map with some role-playing potential, adventure, and storytelling in the mix. This is one of the eight I have selected to vote for this round.

Dedicated Voter Season 8

Best map I've seen so far, by a long shot. You've got my vote!

I'm going to copy Crystal's style for this.

The Good:

-Subtle Hammer/Axe motif in the layout
-Fits with Dwarven culture both with the above and in the utilitarian nature of the building.
-Excellent attention to detail and use of space
-Volcanic Shaft- "Oh, your city uses torches at nice? That's cool. We use a volcano."
-Creative use of space- 3 levels is a great way to avoid what appears to be nearly universal otherwise- the single level map (well, there's one that has tiers at least).
-Of all the vaults/crypts/tombs we're seeing this is really the only one that has any depth to it. The rest just seem...."Ancient X of Y abandoned/inhabited by Z."
-Well drawn and easy to comprehend/envision with a logical key

The Bad:
-As noted it's not jumping out as "HEY I'M TOTALLY NEW!!" Though then again, I feel like if we keep rewarding people for totally new ideas we just push the boundaries of the game farther and farther and start introducing really silly things. So, maybe sticking with the classics isn't a bad thing.

This is my #1 pick!

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: The volcano saves this from being just any other dwarven settlement.

Other things I like: It's clean and easy to read, you clearly put a lot of thought into it, I could run an entire small adventure here, the side view is an extremely useful addition.

My least favorite thing(s): It is still almost just any other dwarven settlement, which doesn't excite me, no matter how competently done. Also do volcano shafts ever form on a slope like that? I always picture the shaft opening being at the top, and if it's just a vent then it might not be so straight. I'm not docking you for that, because I could just be wrong.

Will I vote for it: Maybe, it's currently one of three maps fighting for my last vote.

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: There's easy sections of each panel and a detail that raises the stakes in each panel, you used the design space like a superstar.
Technique: You gave us 4 maps scaled well reletive to one another and played with detail like a boss.
Utility: I will likely use this because it's a handy common type of thing to use.
Overall: -A as in this sin't my favorite but I recommend it and I'm voting for it.

Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Really great map: I feel like I could set a whole campaign here. I love the naming, and setting the whole settlement around a volcanic vent gives it a memorable schtick (which is vital for Superstar I'd say). My only criticisms are that there's a bit of messiness around the mapping of the sky mine tower level, and the fungus farm feels incongruous with the overall theme. Great job overall though!

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6

Thanks for the kind feedback, judges and voters. Hope to see you in Round 3!

An -A for me.

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 maps I've kept coming back to as I've tried to decide what I think about it.

I can see why it's getting a lot of praise, but there's something about it that bugs me, though I can't put my finger on exactly what (sorry, I know this is not the most useful feedback, and I do apologize for that).

I think it almost feels *too* perfect. It's not symmetrical and it doesn't use all rectangular shapes (though there are lots of those), but I feel like all the shapes are just too perfect. The volcano shaft is a perfect circle, for example, which seems unlikely. Now I realize it's meant to have been made by dwarves, which could explain some of what I'm seeing, but it just feels a little sterile to me.

I can see this being interesting for PCs to explore, but none of the rooms really cry out to me as great places to stage a fight. The mushroom cavern or citadel give a little room for a climactic final battle, but the rest are pretty standard spots, I think.

I'm willing to be swayed on this one, but at the moment I'm leaning against voting for this one. (That said, I expect you to advance, Charlie, so I'll look forward to seeing what you do in Round 3.)

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

One of my favorite maps, though it feels a bit cramped for a dwarf clan. Even assuming each room identified for habitation has 4 dwarves living in it, which would be super cramped you only have 88 dwarves in the hold. I feel like a 4th level with just living quarters and common areas would have been good, but not possible with the restrictions for superstar. Perhaps just indications on the side view and bottom level that there are further quarters below, the PCs would likely never need to go there, but I would allow you to increase the population. But as a dwarven outpost it is great and my concerns about population only came up because I spent so much time looking at the map and plotting what adventures I could run here.

My favorite that I came up with is a Young red dragon deciding that the volcano looked like a good place to call home and discovers the dwarf stronghold. The PCs and the native dwarves have to fight off the dragon as it tries to claim the mountain. As a large creature a young red dragon can fit almost anywhere in the hold and if a significant enough challenge for the PCs could be amazing as it rampages through the hold.

Dedicated Voter Season 8

That's a point I hadn't considered- the shape of the mouth. As usual with me I did some research.

This would have to be a stratovolcano given it's size.

The shafts of volcanoes are often fairly circular until they hit the top where lava builds up and cools and makes them very irregular.

However, some avoid this, like the Niragongo Crater. Also of note, volcanic lakes, like Kelimutu crater lake, and the "moon lake" of the Greater Hinggan Mountains. I chose those as they're good examples and on three different continents.

I'm going to operate under one of two assumptions because, as previously mentioned, this is my favorite map and I want to see more shiny things like this.

First, we all know Dwarves are OCD so they just carved it to be a perfect circle where they could.

Alternatively, the grid-pattern doesn't allow for the minor irregularities to be shown in great detail.

Dark Archive

Excellent map. I'd buy this as a flip-mat.

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

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

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 have already viewed all the maps and chosen my votes, so I am just typing up my notes in more human readable form - If voting closes before I get to your feedback, don't fret that you missed my vote :)

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...

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, functional, I kind of expect a fortress of some type and your map meets that expectation. I would be tempted to keep the title in the key and increase the font size, but the cartographer will likely sort that out, the important thing is it is present!

Size: Looks to be good, I like the quartering to provide 3 levels and a key area.

Compass Rose: Check - the orientation of each map is the same, so just the one needed.

Scale Bar: Scale is present - all maps drawn to the same scale - except the insert, which could have had its own scale - this is also where you could have labelled the mountain name too!

Key: Present, however split across two quarters, I feel you could have fit things into the one area, but the two key parts are beside each other in the layout, so no real harm done.

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...

Ok, originally, I struggled to find solid Golarion links, but I discovered with my last searches that Smokemount Hold is referenced in Pathfinder Society Scenario #4-11: The disappeared. This kind of limits the audience to society players recognizing the Golarion tie in - so what else can I find? Hmmm, it's set in a dormant shield volcano, but where? Do I have to get the PFS scenario to find that out?

They key generally seems to save maps for Golarion tie in, so looking there... ah-ha a temple to Torag, the father of creation. That does tie the map a bit more closely with Golarion. So the link is there but only just.

As a general note for all, when designing your area, try to make it known WHERE the encounter area lies in relation to the world at large. This will allow the cartographer to check the style of buildings in that part of the world to maintain feature and style consistency when rendering the map professionally.

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...

I would have preferred to see a small insert showing where in Golarion this is located, especially as it was not easy to find in the core books and searching the prd and wikis.

My personal take on Golarion dwarves is their love of their mother mountain, so when I look at your map, it hits me just how square and perfect each room is - I would have been tempted, especially in the temple area to have at least one wall be a natural mountain surface, jagged, uneven and unspoilt to allow my dwarves to appreciate the mountain that provides their home. Purely personal, so you can ignore this if you like :)

One of the interesting things about this map is that it is part exposed to the outside world and housed in a mountain - which means any assault is likely to be frontal only ( unless a mine shaft/tunnel breaks into the darklands of course :) )

But looking around such a structure, where some rooms are above or below other rooms, it strikes me that there could have been some hidden passageways, chutes and trap doors to provide fast movement between the levels without getting stuck at the potential main choke point - the central stairs. A few chutes and a couple of hidden stairwells would help provide more options during an invasion type scenario - and most dwarves building structures like this will plan for retreat and regroup points and passageways.

You fell into the old trap of compass rose aligns with grid lines - it doesn't have to, it could have been drawn leaning slightly to the left or right - you also fell into the trap of builders only able to build walls along the compass rose axes. Everything is way too square on and very old school. Old school isn't a bad thing but I would have loved to see more Utilization of natural passageways, fault lines and caverns - and so showing a more natural growth and build of the internals of the hold. There is only one such area in the lower level, and I feel that there could have been more. Such diversity of rooms avoid "another x by y room with door in the middle" blandness.

Some of the rooms, for me, seem to have a too small size for the need for a double door - look at area 18, there are six 15 x 20 rooms, all having double doors - being store rooms, I can understand the need for larger item storage, but for every storeroom seems a little over the top. Areas 20-23 are all double doored, but checking their use, I wouldn't have expected that. Double doors should be saved for the really important rooms and one or two store rooms for housing larger stores, so you could have reduced on these a little, and so provide some variety in your room design. Taking it a step further, what about archways "three doors" wide on a single storeroom - not all rooms need a door ;)

The insert helps with vertical appreciation but there is one thing to watch. If you look at the upper level, it goes back into the mountain further than the other two levels, yet the insert shows the ends of the three levels in alignment - as the difference is around 5 feet, you get away with it for the insert scale but do be aware and careful of that when drawing your elevation / cut away inserts.

Finally, it is set in a mountain, some other interest and potential gaming options could have been made by showing unexplored/undiscovered caverns and passageways where you have solid filled with grey, maybe even rendering a rock strata effect to indicate the rock types.

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...

I have a Golarion tie-in using the temple, but overall the tie-in seems a little on the light side for me. A simple small world insert showing location (or naming the mountain) would have resolved this when coupled with the temple link already provided.

I like that we have three levels, but feel the opportunity for some fast chutes and level changing was missed. The whole feels consistent and defend-able, and offers some interesting encounter areas.

On the whole, I love my dwarven strongholds. The heating provided from a central volcanic shaft is nice and using melted snow as a water source is great. Yeah, this one has definitely made my "want to vote for" list. Well done.

Marathon Voter Season 8

Those are some pretty cramped living spaces, especially for the lower class. Were you a single they might not be all that bad, but I don't get any indication that there's room for a family. Including different sized apartments would have meant you had taken different kinds of families into account. Aside from that I like the scale. Not every dwarf fortress needs to be a huge metropolis. I rather like the idea of a small independent dwarf clan trying to make a living in a place where most would be too afraid to build anything permanent. A small clan of five or six families and some loyal retainers. I just hope you had given the retainers their own individual quarters instead of going with the copy paste method. Dwarves are systematical, but even they understand variety.

The rest of the details are great, however. I like the temple, and the mushroom cave. I like that all the disgusting and smelly jobs have been given their own space in the lower dungeons. I like that it explains where this place gets its water. There's even some communal areas in the form of tavern, the dining hall and the kitchens. I could have used a bit more of those, but that's a minor quibble. And the kitchen could have been its own separate place. I wouldn't want to make food right next to the place where they forge metal and thus use chemicals. Though, medieval fantasy society, so they might not.

This map is on the right track. It showcases a lot of practical thinking and clever solutions, but it's also a bit too uniform to be quite real. It's head and shoulders above most of its peers, but it could have been more with some minor changes. Still, I do like it and I'm going to go with a weak yes.

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.

Ok! Multi-level map building. A LOT going on here.

The layout and design feels like a dwarf colony.

I get a story from this, dwarven mining camp built into something bigger in dormant volcano (which has endless possibility). I'm a little concerned that you put so much information into the first sentence above your key. Could be breaking the rules...

I love this map and I would love to write the story behind this.

I especially love the cross section on the bottom right.

I would have loved to see a "steam/heat" collection room to use for power.

Overall, this is great bunch of maps with a nice cross section that tell a cohesive story. Really like this.

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.

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

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theheadkase wrote:
I'm a little concerned that you put so much information into the first sentence above your key. Could be breaking the rules...

That was looked at. Ultimately that was considered legitimate information that could help a cartographer know how to illustrate the map, though it's also walking right up to the line.

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 the clarification Owen! I figured it was looked at!

Kudos Charlie for toeing the line effectively, that is also part of being Superstar!

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: A

  • Positive: At a glance I can see a haunted ruin, a final push (or last defense) against a warring enemy, a heist, an infiltration target, a hub for adventuring and a home for adventurers. It's loaded with details and information that broadcast the character of the place, and makes characters not only able to go there, but want to.
  • Negative: While lovingly detailed, fortress maps as living entities are harder to fit into campaigns than most due to the somewhat nomadic nature a lot of games take on.
  • Verdict: A. I want to use this place.

Usability: A

  • Positive: It gives me virtually all the information I need to use this place as I see fit. The rooms all have purpose and theme, the layout is logical, the scale makes sense, and the amenities and locations my players will usually want to go are all conveniently present. Awesome.
  • Negative: I'd like to know how far apart the levels are, given that stairs are the go. I'd also like to know some elevations on the entrance, for when I need to besiege it, as presently it's a little harder to visualize than I'd like.
  • Verdict: Definite A on usability. I have a couple of quibbles, but given the plethora of details I don't need to improvise, they're hardly a real concern.

Craftsmanship: A

  • Positive: It's clear, easy to read, easy to understand and really makes use of the whole page. Damn.
  • Negative: The 12 really needs moving a little… that's all I've got for negatives.
  • Verdict: Solid A. There's some niggles, but they appear to mostly be due to perhaps a little too much ambition in the scope.

Overall: A

Star Voter Season 8

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I picture a bull rush at adventurers standing at the rim of the central shaft. That spells danger. I am sold.

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
Excellent old school map.

Interest Level of Location: B
The volcano shaft is interesting. A dwarven citadel is a little cliché. It could be fun to explore, but it would feel like a pretty generic dungeon to the players.

Tactical Depth: B
There are tons of rooms in here with almost no interesting uses for tactical combat, but the central shaft and the exterior defenses of the citadel both offer interesting combat scenarios.

Adventure Potential: A
This is one of the few maps that works as a complete dungeon adventure on its own.

Clarity: A
No problems.

Logic: A
No problems here either.

Overall: A-

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

Very well done map. Easy to understand. Looks like a fun location.

I have you ranked #7, good luck!

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

It would have helped me to have the tube colored, shaded, or labeled on the different levels. As Jacob said it might be two round, and the line delineating it looks like all the other lines between rooms. As it was I did not see that it was a connected until the side view which really helped. After I figured that out, it becomes a cool location.

Good work Charlie, I can see adventures happening here.

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

A well executed map. The volcanic shaft is cool, but there's nothing else about it that really grabs me.

Star Voter Season 6

Nice map. Very professional. :)

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

Congrats this is a fantastic map!

Dedicated Voter Season 8

I am pleased to see this in the top 16 and was pleased to place it my own top 8. The execution is excellent. The idea is... well, it's not the best in here, but it has some shine and that is counting that I don't much like dwarves. Sorry, but I don't. I have (recently, even) played the PFS scenario that references this, but I couldn't place it in Golarion, so that does trouble me. The tie in could be so much more, fairly easily.

Still, it a really good map and the volcano IS interesting.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6

The voting's been over a while on this one, so I can now comment.

I do realize that aside from the upper level, the place is fairly bereft of furniture. I confess--I ran out of time! Given a few more hours, I would have wanted to deck out the living areas and workshops with suitable furnishings.

Smokemount Hold is probably a relatively small, but prosperous, dwarven clan hold--the equivalent of a rich, well-fortified village. The architecture reflects a dwarven sense of regularity (which unfortunately results in boring rectangles).

I got the idea when reading about how the Sky Citadels were usually heavily fortified at the bottom, because they could come under attack from all sorts of Darklands menaces from the dwarves' old tunnels downward. Dwarves are master engineers, so how would they solve this problem in new fortifications? How about building over top of something so hazardous it would deter attacks from below? Something like a volcano--a dormant one, so the dwarves wouldn't die in an eruption, but one that still held molten lava at its core.

Given a fort built into a volcano, the rest was an outgrowth of that. What do they eat? They grow mushrooms and pigs, since they can raise them securely indoors, and trade for other foodstuffs. What do they drink? Springs are probably too sulfurous, but they could collect snowmelt in cisterns... and could hatch fish in one, too. How do they defend themselves? Secure guardposts below; a big, imposing citadel as the gate to the outside world. What about from above? For anyone bold enough to actually fly down a volcano shaft, they'd fly sky mines from, you guessed it, Sky Mine Tower. How do they get rid of waste? Throw it down the hole! The bosses live up top so they don't have to watch other people's refuse falling down the shaft.

GMs have several possibilities to use Smokemount Hold in game. It'd be a good base of operations for PCs. You could have social encounters revolving around the bazaar and tavern, the temple of Torag (which could just as easily be a temple of Droskar if the Emberglares are duergar!), or the clan lord himself. Maybe something's gone badly wrong in the alchemy lab--or the mushroom farm. Garrett Guillotte's story (totally epic, BTW), is of course the classic use of such a map--the PCs must defend it against overwhelming numbers of enemies. Fortunately for them, the terrain is highly in their favor!

Thanks again to all who reviewed Smokemount Hold, most particularly Garrett Guillotte for the awesome story, Template Fu for the detailed review, and MasterofWar for actually looking up stuff about shield volcanoes.

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