Hot Springs Trail

Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

A dirt trail winds through a sparsely wooded area. A fallen log provides cover, forcing caravans off-road, into poison ivy. Hot springs supply water for geysers. The last time they erupted, a merchant wagon was abandoned when the horses spooked and bolted. Broken glass (treat as caltrops) litters the area.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Elizabeth! 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 requisite compass rose, a scale, and even a legend to help us interpret what's on the map. And we need one, frankly. Without it, I'd be very lost.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
It could. Obviously, there's been some kind of an ambush or altercation that took place with the abandoned merchant wagon, spooked horses, and broken glass. The latter brings some caltrops to the party for some added fun, and the same can be said of for the poison ivy and the hot springs' splash zone. I envision some unusual battleground effects and hazards playing out in the event the PCs need to treat this as a combat encounter. And you've generously given them a fallen log to use as cover, if necessary.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Not so much, no. It's a roadside ambush site. Believe me, I've done a few of those and it's difficult to make them stand out from any other. You definitely strove to do so with the geysers, though. I think that's the centerpiece here, and it seems a little unusual for a merchant road to pass so close to them, but perhaps the hot springs is important in some way? Regardless, the map's rendering comes off a bit like a pixel-ized video game map. The basics are there, and a cartographer could still turn this into something pretty, but I'd encourage you to get used to actually drawing freehand on your map turnovers...even if you're using mapping software...that way, it won't look so blocky.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
It's certainly useful, because it gives context for the circumstances that led to some of the features on the map. But, in terms of inspiration, I don't come away with a host of ideas for the map beyond "ambush site" or follow-up investigation of an abandoned merchant wagon among some geysers. If I had more the natural hot springs being home to a temperamental fey or something else causing the geysers to appear in a region where they normally wouldn't be expected...then we'd be cooking with something more inspiring.

Final verdict, I think the usable details and features of the map could make for a fun combat area, and you've given us enough for a cartographer to get to work. The idea behind mapped the location isn't as strong for me, so I'm going to say I DO NOT RECOMMEND this map to advance. Regardless, I wish you good luck with the voters and hope to see a fellow 2009 RPGSS alumni advance to Round 3.

But that's just my two cents,

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.
The map is easy to understand, but bland in the details. The wagon is far too small if it's even a single horse-drawn wagon.

This would be a straightforward map to run from and recreate on a Flip-Mat. Are the geysers new? If they aren't, why are the trails so close to them? They would be a muddy morass and unusable, and most merchants would want to avoid it. Grass is also unlikely to grow next to a hot geyser.

Fun Factor
There's not a lot of excitement here...except maybe with the geysers? How often do they go off? Why doesn't the hot spring go off? What's keeping that intact? Why was that merchant here?

Final Thoughts
There's not enough to keep this map interesting and exciting. I do not recommend this map for advancement.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

While a perfectly usable flip map, nothing really inspires me to send my players here.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Elizabeth, I'm sorry to say I'm not a fan of your map.

The others have mentioned some concerns about the most interesting feature here, the hot springs, but I have another question: where are the trees?

You call this out as a sparsely wooded area, and a tree has clearly fallen over or been brought there to make that log, but there are no trees on the map. I mean, I guess they might not grow close to the gysers, but they're close enough you mention that the area is sparsely wooded in your description. That says to me there should be at least one tree, somewhere visible.

One last thing - the poison ivy. It's a great, low level hazard. But on the map you call it out in the legend, but you also drew on top of them. Since those leaf symbols aren't in the legend, there's a possibility the cartographer might think they're literally drawn on the ground there, in the poison ivy. Maybe out of rocks or sticks. Which would cause a potentially expensive delay if nobody catches it.

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

This could work well as a standard flip mat, but I am sorry to say that I don't really see anything "superstar" about this.

good luck!

There are some ideas here, but this so simplistic, you wouldn't even need a flip-mat. Someone could draw this on their Chessex map from a picture without any problem.

I'm both happy and disappointed by this entry, though not for the obvious reasons.

My entry (if I had advanced) was inspired by the Yellowstone terrain, and also featured geysers and a hot spring. It was also the entry I planned on using last year (if I had advanced). Though all of my other features were different from yours, those two similarities give me mixed emotions. I really dig the idea behind those features (obviously), and appreciate that its a terrain type I've not seen anywhere else. The fact that you got there first means I probably wont ever get to use my map.

However, putting that aside, I like your design ideas, and the fact that they make the terrain dynamic. I would have liked to see some of the text describing how the hot springs and geysers work, but otherwise its cool.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I appreciate the global idea you had here, but the actual execution is lacking in concrete details and leaves to much to the imagination IMO. The too square-y aspect of the map only reinforces this feeling of "not enough".

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?

See, you and I had similar ideas (in terms of style, not actual focus) I think for what was being asked for. This is the kind of situation that is exactly what flip-mat maps are designed to be... relatively generic, fit with others, but have a little character. It would easily fit existing maps like Woodlands, Forest Path, or plain Forest.

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?

I wish you'd spent your 50 words giving two or more scenarios that could be run using this. I just commented on where mud giants and hot springs could be found on another map. But as this sorta seems like "suddenly a geyser erupts" it could be a lot of places potentially -- especially with spells like geyser existing.

So, what do I think of it?

I think you rendered a very simple, but very clear map. Your choice for a space fit existing flip-mats. I think you submitted a solid entry. But I also don't think you're likely to "win" many votes because your map doesn't "wow" people. Some of this is because people might have wanted these maps to be "specific encounters" vs. just generic maps (but the rules made it clear you could do a generic map, and I'm glad you could). Here's a minor consolation prize, regardless of if you move on or not -- This is very much a map or at least a location Paizo "might" do and if they get around to adding a "hot springs" map to the Flip-Mat or Map Pack lines, you should likely get some kind of "credit." :D

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, but I’m not sure if the green area is supposed to be grass or forest.

Are there multiple choices for the PCs to make? If not, does the map present a path for the action to flow in? There’s a number of terrain features, but they’re fairly mundane. The result is that there’s not much steering players one way or another apart from the direction of the road.

Does the map utilize the space well? There’s a lot of wide open space that probably could have been put to better use.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? Geysers and hot springs are fun elements, but I’d like to see them integrated into the environment a little better. Hot springs are a great excuse to include signs of prior travelers, or at least some interesting flora not present elsewhere in the map. You have the hot springs surrounded by stones, but the map doesn’t appear to be a mountainous or rocky environment otherwise. That means someone put the stones around the springs purposefully. There’s a fallen log, but no other trees present on the map. That’s fine, but it’s a clear sign that there’s an ambush ahead, since someone had to drag that log out here and place it purposefully. There’s not really anywhere for an ambusher to hide on this map though. You have some good instincts on what kinds of things can be included to make for a good adventure, but you should develop those elements and consider their impact on the environment you place them in.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? It’s a nice dusty wagon trail, which could be used easily more than once.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? I’m disappointed by what I don’t see on this map, which means it stirs the imagination somewhat. This map prompted a fun, little research binge on water science that I aim to revisit when I have more time. It’s a good start, but the map needs a little more to really shine.

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: cool, but almost meh
understandability: ++
visuals: --
adventurous: +-
inspired: a lot of 'dead air' though a hazard makes movement options difficult and will make a memorable encounter.
Vote: Competitive maybe

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

This is the start of a cool location. It needs to be pushed a bit further to find all the interesting elements you could add, but the basic premise is an interesting one.

It does look like an interesting place for a fey or druid ambush, for example. Someone who could use the landscape.

For most others, though, it would play a lot like an empty field.

Dark Archive

I like this map, but I don't love it. It provides enough detail and background to be interesting, but not enough to inspire me beyond what's already there. It would be a useful generic location, but the map itself doesn't lend much towards creating multiple encounters. Everyone needs some generic maps to pull out for their campaign, so it's not a bad thing, but not superstar (in my opinion). Regardless, this map made my top 16, but unfortunately I only get 8 votes. I wish you luck, and hope to see what you bring us in the next round!

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