Cabin in the Woods


Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Curtisin

"The old cabin in the woods?"
"Yeah, I heard there's a cult there, led by that mad preacher."
"Nah, it's ghosts causing those lights. Remember those murders, you know, from way back?”
"You're all wrong, you hear?! It's witchcraft! Those hags and their thralls!"

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Kim! Welcome back to the mapping round! It's everybody's favorite skill to put to the test, right? I can hear groaning from somewhere, I'm sure. Before I get into assessing your work this round, I'm making it a point to highlight for the voting public what they should be looking for in these map submissions. While some competitors will likely have access to snazzy computer software to produce a map that's almost ready for publication from the get-go, this isn't Cartography Superstar (though it'd be cool if that was ever thing, too, right?). Instead, the goal here is for a designer (someone usually more focused on writing) to pair his vision for adventure and encounter design with the rendering of a map which an actual cartographer can turn into a final map for publication.

That means, the designer needs to get enough into his or her map turnover that the cartographer can make sweet, sweet magic with it. And, believe me, there's nothing more amazing than envisioning a cool encounter in your head, writing it up, and then seeing a cartographer produce an amazing piece of mapping art to go alongside it. To make sure the cartographer can do that, you have to be clear with what you've drawn so they can interpret it correctly. If you're not clear, that makes your developer's job harder, as they have to go back in and correct things...consult with you on what those squiggles are meant to represent so they can inform the cartographer...or, in the worst of cases, completely redraw something if what you've given them is unusable or uninspired.

So, voters! Listen up! Please assess the maps these designers have provided as "first drafts" which a cartographer would then turn into a final map. Look for whether or not all the information is there to inform the encounter or location the designer has given us. Determine if the location would make for cool play at the game table. Rate the creativity behind it all. And, lastly, consider how well the designer used his or her 50 words of additional text to inspire or refine what they've given us. That's what I'll be trying to do in the feedback that follows.

Does the map provide enough information?
Yes. We've got the compass rose, scale, massive legend, and plenty of color and labels to help us tell everything apart. One suggestion for you, though. I used to color my maps with a combination of colored ink outlines and then shading with colored pencils. I soon found that didn't always scan so well, so I switched over to black-and-white inking first (sometimes with blue outlines for water areas), and then only applied color using image editing software after I'd scanned it in. This lets you rely on the greater and more consistently applied saturation of the colors provided by the software. And, I think that's important for your map, because some of your brown and red kind of ran together, but I see you calling out the red in your legend as bloodstains and I assumed that just applied to the pantry/abattoir area, but I wasn't completely sure if I'd missed any elsewhere. After all, adventuring locations often have the most interesting and frequent appearances of blood in them sometimes.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Potentially. It's primarily just a dungeon crawl episode through a cabin in the woods. There are of course other buildings outside of it, including a wood shed, stables, outhouse, cellar (or jail, apparently), and even a docked boat. Even the interior of the cabin is quite huge. Not your typical cabin, I think. Maybe more like a lodge, since it has so many different rooms inside. So, as far as buildings in the forest go, this one has more going for it than the single-room log cabin variety, which means it could be the setup for a fun encounter involving any number of things.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Not tremendously so. I mean it's not the kind of mapped location that screams Superstar-designed map and possible encounter site. It's technically proficient and clear. I think you need to get away from depicting pencil-thin walls however and give a better indication of wall thickness. Mapping for game design is actually a little more demanding than sketching it out as a player or GM at the table. But, your cartographer will generally add that in if you leave it out. The only problem is if those thicker walls depicted in his map wind up crowding your room squares on the map grid. So, it's far better to get in the habit of mapping proper walls, even for a log cabin. That said, I think the most interesting (or sinister?) piece to this map is probably the jail cells in the cellar. What's going on there? Considering it lies just below the kitchen and we have an functional abattoir for slaughtering livestock in the pantry, that doesn't bode well for anyone adventuring here.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Kind of, but not really. You've give us lots of different potentially inspiring and useful information, but for three possible uses for the map. And this really isn't the moment where you need to hide the mystery behind what you've envisioned here. I think you'd have been better served spending those 50 words on defining exactly what's happening at this cabin in the woods. That would make its otherwise normal appearance take on better character and definition to inspire the reader/viewer. As it is, this could be a mad preacher's cabin with a demented flock of murderous followers. Or, it could be the site where a ghost still haunts the area because of whatever gruesome murder occurred here. Or, it could be home to a particularly cruel witch who enjoys cooking her victims as assisted by whatever charmed thralls she has at her command. It could be any of those things, but I think a Superstar design to advance you to the next round needs to be more specific and pinned down. Otherwise, this comes off more like a well-executed map in search of a reason to be used at the gaming table.

Final verdict, I think the usable details and features of the map are adequate and could make for an interesting encounter, but I think there's not enough definition here to really sell it. So, I'm going to have to say I DO NOT RECOMMEND this map to advance. The voters may feel otherwise, and no matter what, I do wish you good luck and hope to see you in Round 3.

But that's just my two cents,
--Neil

Community Manager , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Hello there! I'll be one of the judges for this round, and I'll be looking at a couple of key points for your map: readability, usability, and how fun this would be to run as GM. For some background, I helped found the Wayfinder fanzine before I started working for Paizo, and have done work as a freelance cartographer.
Readability
The map is easy to read and doesn't contain too many surprises. The flavor text doesn't provide any details that I can use to make any interesting additions to the map, nor does it give what the intent of the map is supposed to be.

Usability
A cabin in the woods is always a good thing to have in the GM repertoire, but this is hardly a unique location.

Fun Factor
I could see this being used a forced shelter in a storm, or a typical haunted house scenario. But beyond that? Not sure.

Final Thoughts
This map is neither particularly inspiring or unique in its presentation. I do not recommend this map for advancement.

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

I don't have a long blog-post to connect to for my map round comments, so I'm shooting off the cuff here.

But going to try to comment in three areas for each map. These are totally my opinions, and like with the Item critiques I offered, I think you should feel free to defend your design (AFTER THE ROUND ENDS, DON't DQ YOURSELF!):

Would it make a good Flip-Mat or Map Pack product?
In a post about Round 2, Owen called these out to be "flip-maps" which in my mind says it could (doesn't need to be) a generic map in either the Flip-Mat or Map Pack lines from Paizo. Would yours?

OK, so first off -- Cabin in the Woods!. Got that out there, next up... Paizo has the Country Inn and Forest Path has a random village in the countryside, but there isn't a specific flip-mat for something like "lone cabin in the woods" though you could fake it with Map-Packs easily enough. So while generic, in story, its not something that extensively exists.

Is it interesting enough place that I want to play?
Even if it weren't a "generic" map, but also if it is -- is it most importantly a map of a place I would care to play in?

Your "cabin" in the woods is a little more like a "mansion" in the woods, which is a fairly "modern" concept. Its a classic site for horror flicks and the like, but in a world where roving groups of goblins and trolls might happen on you, it'd be more likely to have a bit of fortification and/or design to let you know you'd be safe from the zombie horde, etc.

So, what do I think of it?

Its a cliche of horror films (see movie link) but there's a reason for that. Also, within stories, there are plenty of hermits in the woods etc. (I'm thinking of Flinn in The Tainted Sword). This isn't so much a hermitage as a fairly large house, but the idea is fine. I LOVE what you did with your 50 words, and it's along the lines of what I'd thought of doing -- nice to see someone try it. I ABSOLUTELY disagree with Neil's reading of the "rules" for the round, in that the last line of the Round 2 rules, first bulletpoint states: "You may present a map designed for a specific encounter, or one useful for a variety of encounters." You have designed one for "a variety of encounters." "pinning it down to one" is a narrow reading of the assigned task, and I think a Superstar would design a map that could serve as a Flip-mat AND be evocative enough to imply one set up but "could" be used for many.

I'm not sure you're map does this though, but I have read enough of Neil's and others views and way too many people think this was the "design an encounter" round -- it's not. This is the design an encounter (scale) map round. You're all thinking of Round 4.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Curtisin

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Not what I'd expected to see up here when I woke this morning.

Thank you for the reviews Neil, Liz and Lucus (and everyone else coming with their later), they're much appreciated and will help me grow as a designer.

Thank you also to any voters who decide to give my map their vote.

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

Kim Frandsen wrote:

Not what I'd expected to see up here when I woke this morning.

Thank you for the reviews Neil, Liz and Lucus (and everyone else coming with their later), they're much appreciated and will help me grow as a designer.

Thank you also to any voters who decide to give my map their vote.

And from this point forward, please, please, please don't say ANYTHING ELSE!!!

Another DQ is likely to happen because of a response, so Just. DON'T.

And good luck!


It seems really big for a cabin, and I would be kind of leery about putting a large wooden structure right on the edge of the water. Especially a pantry. Maybe there are examples of that making perfect sense, but it just doesn't sell to me.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Kim, that's the Cabin in the Woods cabin, all right. Though you neglected to include the stairwell down into the villians lair
;) movie jokes aside, this is a fine map... Though I have a major issue with pencil-thin walls right on the grid lines. It makes it super difficult to pick apart rooms sometimes, which isn't something you want.

Another thing that bugs me is the arrows on the stairs. After some puzzling, I realized that they point at where the 'entrance' of the stairs are. I expected them to either both point up, or down. Because of your pencil walls, and the unusual arrows, I was thinking the stairs were from out of the living room. I get that it can be hard to draw clear stairs... But this is about as far from clear as possible, even with the labels.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The map is quite serviceable and clear. But honestly, it does not scream adventure to me at all. And the blurb giving several possibilities actually weakens it. The map would have been better served with a strong focus on a given situation. That could then add variety and uniqueness to the map itself.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

I like that this cabin can be approached from several different directions, but it feels more like a modern cabin in the woods than a fantasy cabin in the woods.

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

The name is probably causing some initial negative reaction. It really is too big to be a "cabin", and there are a lot of other choices for a name that could have saved that reaction.

Mostly this feels like a homebrew GM map. Everything is perfectly aligned with the 5 ft. grid. And that makes some structures crazy-scale. That's one huge outhouse, for example!

I'm not sure what the dark blue areas in the river are. Current direction? Sharks? Actually, is a river, or lake, or...?

I think this map would be fine for most home games, though. There's a flow to the rooms that would work as the players move through them.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

I’ll start by telling you what I think a good map does. It sparks the imagination of the viewer. It whispers stories of events yet to come and invites a GM to spread their toes in a sandbox of creativity. It presents mysteries that need to be solved and beckons players to open every door, delivering on each area’s promise that more adventure awaits ahead. There are some technical elements that can help.

Is it readable? Yes, very.

Are there multiple choices for the PCs to make? If not, does the map present a path for the action to flow in? There are a number of doors on the exterior. If the party breaks in through the front or back door, then they’re faced with a long hallway with lots of doors. I expect most players will want to take their adamantine earthbreaker to the wall though.

Does the map utilize the space well? You include some ancillary structures, so the surrounding area isn’t empty.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? The rooms included are important for making the space seem livable, and you included a latrine! All of the buildings are very rectangular, perhaps to a fault. I don’t see an architect taking much pride in this structure. I might believe the owner didn’t care for such things, but then there’s the private living room and master bedroom. The long, building-length hallway is a little off-putting. An open kitchen could have used the space a little better, which would put one fewer door between the kitchen and the pantry. I’m nitpicking though. It’s clear you did take time to consider a lot of issues with making the building believable.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? Probably. It’s a multi-functional map for sure.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? Though I can imagine a lot of uses for this map, it’s because it’s rather common in its appearance. This lives up to its name. It’s a cabin in the woods, and the mountain of ground tread on that subject in horror films makes it hard to sift through the ideas that aren’t my own.

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

My first and probably last day to look at maps before voting closes. So here be the short version critique.
++ is awesome, +- good with a few shortcomings, -+ icky but some cool parts, and -- not a fan.
Initial reaction: OK
understandability: ++
visuals: +-
adventurous: +-
inspired: enough rooms to give players options, cabin though... I think you hit on the three encounters I would have immediately come up with (that is a long way to get from one's bed to the outhouse first thing in the morning :P )
Vote: Competitive maybe

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Curtisin

Thanks for all the comments everyone, they're much appreciated and I hope they'll help me grow as a designer.

I have to admit that when I submitted this map, it was one of two ideas I'd been working on, and I chose to go for this one, which was mistake. The other map was more of an interesting location, but the more I read the rules for the round, the more I convinced myself that it was for a "flip map" encounter map, rather than a "flip map sized" encounter map.
So I went for the Cabin in the woods as I figured it would allow for multiple uses of the same map, rather than one more specific one, such as my fellow competitors did.

Ah well, you learn something every time.

Shooting for the stars next time.

Oh, and if you voted for my map, thank you for the support. :)

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