The Howdah of Mogaru’s Consort

Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

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Captured in the Valashmai Jungle while searching for her mate, the Consort was enthralled by a magical instrument, and now serves as a mobile base. The howdah is stable while she stands still, but treated as a ship in rough weather while she moves. Her surface is considered difficult terrain.

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.
Clean, crisp, and the addition of some basic textures and map make this very easy to read, and would help immensely when turning this into a final map.

This is a very specific location, and I don't see getting much re-use out of it besides its initial adventure.

Fun Factor
I've been a fan of fighting on the back of monsters since...well, pretty much always. This would be a great place to run an encounter!

Final Thoughts
A mobile fortress on the back of a kaiju? I love it, and now I'm really curious about how the adventurers ended up here. I do recommend this map for advancement.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Jeff! Welcome 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. I think so. There's a lot going on here. The artistic, 3D side view helps with understanding all the elevation markers (which frankly got a bit busy for me). The requisite compass rose and scale are in place, and you've also included a key and legend. So, I think I come away with everything I need to understand and which I think a cartographer would need to finish it...though, this draft already looks pretty darn complete.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes. It's mobile. And, unlike an adventuring location on a cloud or a flying platform, it's on the back of a giant beast. So, you're faced with the quandary of bringing down the consort and risk smashing the howdah completely in its death throes, or infiltrating the thing and taking care of business inside without ever having to face it. Either way, it's a cool setup for a fun encounter. As Liz indicates, you're probably unlikely to re-use this map, but for that one night at the gaming table, I'm fairly sure it would be memorable.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Yes. Definitely. Creative in both concept and execution. It takes a fair eye for detail to bring something together like this on paper. Otherwise, it can crash and burn leaving a GM without any means of making sense of such an elaborate setup. There were a couple of places where it looks like you've got 5-ft. stairways going up to a second level on some towers which are supposedly at a much higher elevation, though. That's a pet-peeve of mine, as I like to make sure the internal architecture makes sense to support the stairway access and ceiling heights between rooms. So, watch yourself on that. Even so, I'm critiquing at a high level now, and that's more on the advice end of things than marking you down for something egregious.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. It's actually kind of vital to understanding that this mobile "fortress" is actually on the back of an immense creature and not just in carved in the shape of a dragon's face on the side of a mountain. Of course, the term "howdah" in the title helps assure that outcome, too, but the elaboration in the additional text brings it home.

Final verdict, the core idea behind this location is inspired and the map pulls it off in pretty amazing and artistic fashion. You'll score points with lot of voters who'll be blown away just by your rendering of the map, but the design concept and execution for gameplay are just as sound. So, I won't mess around any further, and just say that I DO RECOMMEND this map to advance. Good luck in the voting, and I look forward to what you bring us in Round 3.

But that's just my two cents,

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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A good map makes you want to role up characters and get your hands dirty. Dayum! I don't think I have seen a map that made me want to get into an adventure so fast. When a map elicits an emotional response, like Return to the Tomb of Horror's city of Moil or the Fanes and tunnel maps from Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, or (to get away from adventure with "Return to" in the title) the cyclops stronghold map from...last year? just let me know what level, how many mythic tiers, and when we're playing whatever adventure Paizo decides to use this for.

And uh...let me write some encounters for it, too.

You should drop the mic. Most exciting map I've seen in this contest in any round of any year. Go make monsters.

Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Well done. It hits on all counts.


Shadow Lodge Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7

Wow. That's... wow. I want.

Scarab Sages Developer

3 people marked this as a favorite.

I am often asked how a Superstar contestant makes a map that is clear, interesting, and evocative.
This is now one of the maps I'll point to. Beautiful job.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Thank you judges for the great feedback and to Steven's glowing recommendation. I am keeping my fingers crossed for Round 3!

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

I didn't know who Mogaru was, but google answered that one pretty easily.

Of note, Mogaru is susceptible to song, so it's a nice touch his consort is as well.

I'm not crazy about the victrola, I'd rather it be a bard(s), maybe under some sort of compulsion themselves.

But the idea of this is a winner through and through. Tons of mojo without being gonzo. The terrain would be pretty interesting all on its own, putting it on the back of a kaiju knocks it out of the park.

Well done!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9

I love this so much!

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

Jeff was kind enough to share his map with me and we workshopped some of this before, so I recuse myself from my normal comments and links.

Sczarni Star Voter Season 9

First of all, congratulations! You made it to round 2! I commend you for being part of this contest. You worked hard and took the risk of putting your ideas out there on display for all to see and critique. I salute you.

I'm no map expert, but I have played and run a few games, and when I look at a map I can tell if it is interesting, if it will be useful/functional in the type of game I'd like to play, and if it's readable. I will judge your entry on those criteria.

Now here's an example of an extremely detailed map that is also readable. You have an awesome idea with the sound technical ability to back it up. That's really what separates game design from fiction. As designers we hone our creative ideas into something that works within the rules and constraints of the game. I think you've done just that. I want to visit this crazy place you've sketched up!

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Jeffery, As far as locations go you have knocked this out of the park. And the map is pretty awesome looking too.

I really wish there were a few more connections between areas - bridges between two of the towers would have mixed it up a little bit - but still, wow.

I'd also have liked to have seen a little more living space, like a kitchen or something, but this is a nitpick. This is a crazy, interesting, different map. Props on that.

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

I've seen this concept before - Tim Connors "Atop the Warring Blasphemies in Kobold Press' Midgard Tales - though in that piece there were TWO giant creatures - sluglike Gorgoroth and the humanoid Ashkarok - glacial-speed Walkers of the Wasted West locked in slow-motion battle - characters awake in a corpse pit atop Gorgoroth and must wend their way down the slimy creature, cross a tentacle grappling Ashkarok, navigate the stacked shacks of a goblin shanty town (replete with cavern sized abdominal wound) that has sprung up on Ashkarok, all while avoiding internecine goblin warfare and other hazards.

So this is merely a flying building with interesting provenance.

Just kidding. ;P

Nice map with locations that make perfect sense within the theme. The 3D work is great, but skirts a little close to the isometric that was apparently banned for this round.

I like the color used, and the spikes protruding through the locations. Really there is very little here NOT to like.

Very well done Jeffery.

Dark Archive

This is awesome, in all meanings of the word. The rooms and towers themselves are simple and straightforward (though not unique enough on their own to warrant excitement), but the location? That's just... yeah. The 3-D perspective is icing on the cake we already know we're going to eat. This may be a one-use map, but it's one everyone is going to want to run/play. You have my vote, and I wish you luck!

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I took one look at your map and it made me say a bad word. Seriously, if this were a ranked round, you'd take first place, hands down. This is a cool location, a very dynamic map, and hands down the best map entry I've seen in RPG Superstar. You have my vote, sir.

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BEEP BOOP!! For more information...

King Mogaru (sometimes spelled Mogaro) is a city-wrecking kaiju who lives in the Valashmai Jungle on the continent of Tian Xia. His nemesis is Agmazar the Star Titan, herself a lost weapon from a distant world. Both debuted in Mythic Realms.

I have a strange desire to fist-fight both of them, and this thing too. No idea why, BLORP.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 4 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9 aka MillerHero

Wow. Great idea, great map. Possibly a favorite.

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

This is most excellent!

A great location done very well.

Can't wait to see what kind of monster you'll dream up for next round!

Sovereign Court Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

WOW. Just wow, nothing else.

I like the small added detail of the guide ropes, and... what a title!

I was skeptical at first, but this is surprisingly well-constructed. And the concept, well, it's Superstar. Even with some questions in my mind about how this map would play, I am obligated to place this entry among the highest on my list.

One way to win is to play a completely different game.

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.

Are there multiple choices for the PCs to make? If not, does the map present a path for the action to flow in? Even reaching the buildings could be a challenge, and I am positive players would be excited to discuss the task at hand. What kind of Handle Animal DC does a Kaiju command?

Does the map utilize the space well? Yes, very.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? Here’s where I’m going to dissent with the popular opinion. I don’t see that much care went into realizing the reality of putting buildings on the back of a kaiju, though that idea is a brilliant one. This looks like any regular keep that had a kaiju head drawn underneath the foundation. The architecture is barely influenced by the location, and that’s a serious problem when you’re asking me to envision buildings built on the back of a monstrous, mobile beast. The spines aren’t integrated into the walls at all. They’re just drawn right over them. I would expect them to serve as foundations for treehouse-like structures suspended by chains or vines so they could sway with the beast’s movements. At the very least, the buildings as drawn here would need to be restricted to the broader spaces that experience the least movement, perhaps with paths built along the neck or shoulder joints. Why wouldn’t this thing’s spines break apart the buildings every time it took a step? They’d ripple across its back muscles even during lazy movement and Area 4 would be the only part left standing. Unless we’re resorting to the “because magic” clause to explain away these features, the architecture presented just doesn’t make any sense.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? Revisiting the settlement on the back of a kaiju is something I would work hard to get players to return to.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? Definitely, but it’s the core idea I’d want to work with and not the map as presented here.

This is both a good map idea and visually stunning. You will get my vote. The one (very minor) complaint I have is that the stairs in areas 2 and 5 don't follow the map key (V shaped stairs in key), and that for the change in elevation they would be VERY steep stairs. Almost ladders, particularly in area 2 where they raise 2 feet for every 1 forward.

As I said, its minor. This is a great map. It will get my vote.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

This map is very artistic and the main idea (settlement on a kaiju) is really good. That said, I feel that there is nothing else to this map except that it is on a kaiju. So, I will put this map on my alternate list :-)

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

I really like this map, especially how you did the 3D view and integrated the other levels, but I will agree with Brian that the horns could have been more included into the design.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

Nice Encounter Map
Great Poster Art Map

Terrible 24x30 Battlemap..aka Flip Map
To Cluttered, To many Legends..
To Much Wasted Space.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

I have a soft spot for moving dungeons and dungeons attached to creatures. And the map is rather well done to boot. Great job.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

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With voting over, I would again like to thank everyone for the support, compliments, and great feedback you have all given!

As most can easily see, I went at this challenge with the intent of making a specific map vs. the general flip map that could easily be used over and over. This idea hit me while watching Lord of the RIngs and seeing the oliphaunts and mixed it with Pacific Rim. I knew it was a bit gonzo, but hoped it wouldn't turn people off.

@Neil - Doh! I totally missed the 5-foot stairways! I chalk it up to a learning experience as it was only my second map I've ever made. lol

My initial 50 words had Reflex saves for getting tossed about when the consort moved, but it ended up being too much text and was scrapped for the word light version of "a ship on rough water."

@RD Ramsey - Looking back on the map, I might have changed it from a Victrola (as it is a specific named phonograph) and just go with an imprisoned bard idea or a "songbird" or something.

@RonarsCorruption - I also agree I could have gone with more connections between the towers, but I had a fear that it was already getting too cluttered as is. I also should have thought more about pure living space!

@Brian - I had another of my pit crew bring up the idea that the buildings didn't look like they fit on a kaiju very functionally. As I had limited time, I did not get the chance to go back and revisit the suggestion. That is a bit of why I added in the large crack in area 5, to show they the builders -also- hadn't planned on her movement causing so much destruction to their buildings.

I would love a chance to go back and redraw this and attempt to incorporate more "tree house-like structures."

Again, thank you all for the amazing feedback. I am continually amazed how talented and creative this community is!

The crack was a beautiful detail, it may have put this one over the line for me. It's not strictly logical, but it helps tells the story.

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