The Weeping Garden of Naderi

Round 2: Create an encounter map

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Snowblossom

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Followers of Naderi created this walled garden outside the bustling city of Absalom to give the crowded populous a private place to mourn. Unfortunately, there have been rumors that all too many people have come here to commit suicide, and it is said to now be haunted by heartbroken souls.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Crystal! 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?
Not quite. You've got the basic elements there for the title, compass rose (though there's no reason not to have north point up), a scale, and a key, but there are lots of separate locations on the map which should probably be tagged with a location or "room" number, and then a legend could help us better understand what each location (and haunt) entails. Given that this place is dedicated to Naderi, I have a feeling I already know what the ones by the fountain and the well will entail.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes. The hedge walls create individual "rooms" and passageways for PCs to explore. And the many haunts in this garden will no doubt bring a ton of insight and character to the place. Depending on whether we have animating statues, undead spirits, or murderous NPCs on hand, the map works well no matter what.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Yes. It's got some interesting shape to it (though the outer wall looks pencil-then and you could use some more definition for what lies beyond it and how it connects to the outside world or another structure. The hedge-wall "rooms" with their benches could be hiding anything, and some already are with their individual haunts, so I expect there's a bit of a mystery to solve well as some kind of threat, whether it's from followers of Naderi, that goddess's growing relationship with Urgathoa, or just something feeding off the suicidal energies that likely created the haunts. The elements of the map aid in telling any of those stories.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. We get the sense that this place of mourning has become haunted. I'm inspired by the multiple haunts in the garden to imagine an adventure where each one is on a timer and can only be experienced at certain times of the day and/or under specific circumstances. Meanwhile, the PCs are tasked with coming here again and again to gather more insight into what's really going on. Are all those deaths really from suicide? Let's roll up some characters and find out!

Final verdict, this map does something a little different in that I feel like it presents an opportunity for re-use and not just a single encounter. Resolving haunts usually aren't a one-time encounter thing, and this place is chock full of them. The layout and concept of the map does such a site justice and inspires the mind's eye. So, I'm happy to say that I DO RECOMMEND this map to advance to the next round. Good luck in the voting, and I look forward to whatever you bring us in 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 feels interesting enough without the need of textures, and I'm glad they were not included. It's also a nice changeup from the doom-and-gloom skull- and death-filled maps that feature so often in adventures.

There are not enough adventures in a well-manicured garden, and this would be really fun to re-use elsewhere. Symmetrical maps can be a bit boring, but I think the haunts change that up in this encounter.

Fun Factor
As I mentioned before, not having an encounter in a dungeon is a nice change of place, and I'm waiting for the groundskeeper that's more incensed that their rare Osiriani weeping willow was damaged than the presence of ghosts and haunts in the garden.

Final Thoughts
A refreshing location with a great premise. I do recommend this map for advancement.

Dark Archive

I think I love this map just for its simplicity (and the fact that you somehow managed to perfect the hand-drawn oval!), and I can see this getting used for social encounters, too. What better place to conduct espionage or an exchange of information/goods than in a private garden nook (because those never go wrong...)? The fact that something so deceptively straightforward fires up my imagination for such a wide range of possibilities beyond (or including) the haunts is both surprising, and welcome. As I'm sure you've already guessed, you have my vote. :) Good luck!

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Crystal, while at first I didn't think I like your map a closer reading has undone my first impression. I quite like it.

But what I think I like the most is that this is clearly not a "combat space". There might be a fight or two, but there's more concern over who might get caught in which haunt, and solving the puzzle of the garden.

It does things quite differently than most maps, and for that I applaud you.

Of course, I'll still call you out that outside of your main hub, it doesn't look like any other two rooms are connected, which could have been even more awesome.

I look forward to what you put forward in future rounds.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

This map is deceptive (and the oval shape is good), but still a bit too simple for my taste. That said, it is very easy to visualize the place. Good to know that there are some haunts to make things interesting for adventurers. Regrettably, the text does not really expand on this.

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Mozenrath6

I like how this can be used as a garden map for a variety of places, like a noble estate or a different temple. Then after that, I love the ties to Golarion, using a very interesting minor god that inspires a lot of ideas like Neil and Liz have already mentioned. You did a great job at picking a location and environment that encapsulates the bitter-sweet aesthetic of Naderi. The haunts are great in that their location immediately tells you what was going on, but leaves it open to lot of adventure hooks. Fantastic job! I hope this gets to actually be a flip map, I would love to have it!

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

Not sure why north points the way it does on a basically circular map.

Also not sure why you didn't write the name in the 24x30 area instead of below it, since everything should be contained in the 24x30 space.

Good Luck!

It's nice. Good attention to creating right-sized spaces while still drawing off the gridlines.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
The Raven Black wrote:
This map is deceptive (and the oval shape is good), but still a bit too simple for my taste. That said, it is very easy to visualize the place. Good to know that there are some haunts to make things interesting for adventurers. Regrettably, the text does not really expand on this.

Just to be clear : this map is on my alternate list :-)

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?

Your map does the challenge well -- you presented a "generic" space, a well-manicured garden to the goddess Naderi, but it could easily be "the walking gardens of a noble's wife" etc. You were able to point toward a specific set up for an encounter, and tied it in thematically with Golarion (Naderi is basically Juliet of Shakespearean fame, risen to godhood). I'd be kind of curious why Naderi would ever have gardens to her, but that could be answered a dozen ways.

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?

Sure. It's not incredible, but I could see this fitting various set ups. It would go well with existing maps of castles and keeps, or could be just outside the museum, etc. (though near the Seedy Tavern could be interesting too...)

So, what do I think of it?

The map itself is technically proficient, if boring and inartistic. Proficiency of art wasn't supposed to matter though, so I'd say you did the task. I think the basic story is interesting, but I'd need to see a full set up to really care. You have a basic map with a basic premise, but I see that it could be greatly enhanced by say 1,000 word write up AND I could see that being done a dozen different ways which is fun.

Definitely in my top half. Unfortunately, this is a competitive event. Unless people start DQing themselves, I'm out of votes.

Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I really like this map. This is a beautiful location, which also has intriguing possibilities. You have my vote.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

This map is well drawn and would probably get a vote from me if I had 16 votes, but I only have 8.

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? There’s only one way in and one way out, which is actually fitting given the context of a horror encounter.

Does the map utilize the space well? Yes. The area presented is visually interesting and I don’t feel there’s any wasted space with possible exception of the outer wall.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? You use different materials in the construction, lay them out in a pleasing manner and use the pattern to create secluded, but not isolate, areas within the structure. That’s exactly what this kind of building should aim to accomplish. Well done! A minor detail that could use some attention is the thickness of the outer wall. What is it made out of? Are there maintenance corridors for tending to the pipes feeding the fountains? Are there pipes? The hedge wall is great, but you could cite different kinds of flowers or plants that exist in this place. Many monuments also double as showcases for rare or exceptional flora. Sometimes you’ll find signs that promote the florists that donated and maintains the specimens. Again, these are minor details that could flesh out an already impressive map.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? Absolutely. A quite garden can find a number of reasons to make an appearance. I would buy this map without hesitation if I saw it on the shelf at my FLGS.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? This map would be an excellent way to introduce some classically-flavored fairy tale elements into a game, which is also something I said about your Ruby Butterfly. There’s more than one way to make this map an integral element to an encounter, and I’m always excited to see a map that’s rich in theme due to a well constructed design. Nicely done.

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?
understandability: +-
visuals: -+
adventurous: +-
inspired: I would like to visit here, it sounds like a beautiful garden. No encounter is immediately jumping out to me.
Vote: Competitive maybe

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Snowblossom

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Thanks to everyone who voted for me and who took the time to comment on my map.

As a little bit of a background to the creation behind this map, I got the inspiration for it during the Open Call round. One weekday I was upset and having a very bad day. All I wanted to do was to find a quiet place to just be left alone and cry, but I work in the Financial District of New York City so there is no privacy whatsoever in the area. I started thinking about how nice it would be if there were public gardens with private little “cubby holes” for people to sit in and just have some privacy and space to relax. And that’s when the idea hit me. I thought, “If I make it into Top 32, I’ll make that as my map.”

The other inspiration behind it was the suicide forest in Japan, Aokigahara. The history behind that place is just so sad and haunting. So by the end of the day I came up with the idea of this garden dedicated to the goddess Naderi, who is a deity I’ve always been intrigued by. I thought it was a unique and interesting concept which had a lot of potential for compelling encounters.

Now to address some of the critiques given…

I recalled that some contestants last year were called out for having there compasses always facing north and that they shouldn’t be afraid to have it go in a different direction. So I just decided to heed that advice… though clearly I shouldn’t have LOL.

In terms of not adding more/numbering locations… this was my major dilemma during the creation process. To be totally honest, I am neither an artist nor gifted with a talent for CG programs. So I knew from the start I would have to hand draw the whole thing. I started with a first draft on standard graph paper just to map out what I wanted the whole thing to look like without worrying about symmetry and such. After I got that done, I downloaded the template grid provided to us and I used Paint to get the symmetrical structure of the outer wall, hedges and pool (sorry, Alanya… they weren’t hand drawn, my apologies. I’m not that good LOL). I used Paint for the oval structuring, printed out the finished skeleton and then filled in the rest freehand with pen and colored pencils.

I considered naming the specific locations, i.e. The Poisoned Well, The Drowning Pool, Statue of Naderi, Crying Room, Swan Fountain etc. but I was unsure of how much to tell without giving too much away and DQ’ing myself, so I opted to play it safe. Also, there wasn’t much room to go into too much more detail since I was hand writing the map and too nervous to try making a CG key. Also, given the shape of my design, I had a hard time even figuring out where I would put it. Similarly, I did not want to go into too much detail about each individual haunt as I thought that would risk being DQ’ed. As such, I ultimately decided to leave it as seen and hope that the locations of some of the haunts would indicate what might have happened and allow everyone’s imaginations to roam on the others.

I also did not want to texture anything too much by coloring in the white areas with grass, stone pathways, etc. as I did not trust in my artistic ability (or lack thereof) to make it look clean. I was pretty sure adding any extra texturing in would have made it look muddy and would have taken away from the simple elegance I attempted to achieve.

@RonarsCorruption: Thank you so much for your kind commentary. Yes, I admit I do love secret passageways and such myself. However, I didn’t feel that connecting the individual rooms was appropriate in this instance as the hedge rooms are intended to be private “crying rooms”. Perhaps that decision might have made it veer a bit too much on the simplistic side, but it was important to me that the design made sense to its intended origin.

All things considered, I am very pleased with how it came out and it is certainly a place I would love to adventure in. I think it offers opportunities for a number of different encounter scenarios, many of which offer much opportunity for a lot of role play and puzzle solving. That said, my biggest regret (perhaps aside from not adding a bit more info on specific locations) is that I completely forgot wall thickness! AHHHH!

Again, thank you all so much. I really had a lot of fun with this round and I enjoyed looking over what my fellow contestants brought to the table. I am so very honored to be in the Top 16, especially considering the fierce competition and imaginative minds present. Everyone did such an amazing job. Best wishes to all!

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