Reaping Stars Refinery


Round 2: Create an encounter map

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

Within these walls, smiths and scholars test their physical and mental limits. Masters meld magic, alchemy and metal in an attempt to solve the enigmas of the Rain of Stars. Progress is manifest by way of sweltering heat, molten steel and ignorance burning away.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Jarrett! 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?
Not quite. We've got the compass rose, scale, a short map key and a handful of labels and colors to help us make sense of things. But, there are also a handful of symbols that aren't in the map key. Some, I can easily figure out (e.g., pitchforks and hay among a handful of stalls). Others, I'll make assumptions on (small boxes with X's are crates or something, right?). There's a well and a cart outside? And the slightly-shaded, 5-ft.-thick area separating the alchemy lab and display cases from the rest of the refinery are meant to be solid walls? If so, fully blacken them in like the exterior walls. Or, if they're meant to be countertops, point that out. Lastly, always try to leave enough room at the top of your map (usually in the upper right hand corner) for a title. Fitting "Reaping Stars Refinery" in there might require a bit more real estate than your map left.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes, it could. There's a lot happening here with liquid metal being smelted (though I don't see any actual smelting forge-fires being stoked with the coal from the coal chutes to keep it in such a state. In fact, there are no chimneys or smokestacks that I can discern. Regardless, there's room devoted to alchemy, an adjoining stable, and a display room for heists and such to take place. Overall, we've got a handful of rooms and some sense of the building's exterior to play around with.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Only somewhat. There are bridges over the liquid metal, and the accompanying text ties this refinery to the Rain of Stars, so presumably we're dealing with sky metal here. That's the centerpiece of the location and where the "action" is most likely to take place. Of course, sky metal usually requires a hotter than normal forge/refinery (as indicated in Chapter 1 of the Iron Gods AP in "Fires of Creation"). So, I'm not quite sure I buy off on the premise that this location is capable of smelting sky metal, if that's what's going on. The rest of the facility doesn't necessarily bring anything new or unexpected to this type of locale. It's a refinery with an assumed shop, a small alchemy lab, and a stable and cart for transporting goods elsewhere.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. Letting us now that we're dealing with smiths and scholars working with sky metal from the Rain of Stars. That's a vital piece of information, and it can certainly inspire a grander vision for this place. But it also kind of overreaches a bit or stretches believability a bit too far for me given what the map presents. I've always imagined anyone working with sky metal to be in a much more controlled, urban environment than a small refinery seemingly in the countryside somewhere.

Final verdict, the core idea behind such a location as a sky metal refinery is interesting and even inspired, but the map doesn't do it justice. The map itself is fine for any other refinery or forge, but just doesn't elevate to level it would need to be fulfill that vision. The mapping skills on display here are decent, though, with just a small handful of oversights. For now, I'll say I'm ON THE FENCE, but I'm leaning toward not recommending it because a key element to test in this round is a designer's ability to match his inspired vision to an equally inspiring map...and I'm not sure that's what we got here. Regardless, good luck in the voting, and if you make it through, raise your game for Round 3.

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

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

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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
At a glance, the areas of this map are muddy and hard to break apart. The text is hard to read when it's on the colored areas, and it would have been better to indicate a color in your legend and label that instead. I'm unsure how the liquid metal is being heated (or is it that way naturally).

Usability
This map would be easy to recreate on a Flip-Mat, and it's generic enough that it could be re-used in other adventures.

Fun Factor
The name of the map and the accompanying text description gave me hope that the map would be equally as interesting, but it's not. Why would I come to this place?

Final Thoughts
The map's name doesn't live up to its execution. I do not recommend this map for advancement.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Jarret, that's one huge, and very square wagon.

I mean, the map looks fine - though nothing really exceptional, it's some sort of foundry, but the wagon in the top right corner rankles me.

*too much research later*

Firstly, it is not a wagon, but a cart, because it has two wheels. In Pathfinder, carts are 5x10. This cart looks to be 12x12, which looks like it might be a medium chariot. then, by the rules. Anyways, it looks off, and since it's white on orange, it's quickly visible.

I appreciate the flow of the space - there's multiple ways in and out, but it really boils down to just a few spaces here - the biggest of which is the molten metal room. Which, while cool, doesn't quite grab me enough to make up for the fact that you might not have the mojo to follow up on the cool idea you're showing.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

I like that the Map Basically Utilizes the Entire 24X30 Area..

As a Cartographer I could easily convert the Area into a More Refined Map with Campaign Cartographer with a Legend.

While I agree the Scale is off on Several Items, but that is a Minor Problem for a Good Cartgrapher.

Artwork would refine the Map...Such as the Hay, No Need for a Pitchfork in every Pile in the Stalls..

You accomplished the Task..submit a 24x30 Map..Make it Understandable

Scarab Sages Developer

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JPSTOD wrote:
While I agree the Scale is off on Several Items, but that is a Minor Problem for a Good Cartgrapher.

I am often a good deal harsher about scale, because the cartographers we work with know we have giants, titans, pixies, and gnomes. It would be "obvious" that a ten-foot-wide chair is a mistake for a map of the real world, but in a fantasy campaign we might want exactly that.

Which means as the developer I have to take extra time to mark everything out of scale, and say how big it should actually be.

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

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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 black text on a dark red background is pushing the boundaries of legibility.

Are there multiple choices for the PCs to make? If not, does the map present a path for the action to flow in? PCs could venture into through the stables first, or barge in through the front door. There’s not a lot of options, but the ones that are there could present different challenges that effectively let the players choose what kind of encounter they want. Combat, stealth, diplomacy? This map could serve all of those.

Does the map utilize the space well? Well enough. The wide open foundry floor beckons the use of bull rush, and from more than one angle.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? While the foundry floor does present some interesting actions in combat, I don’t see why they have so much metal remaining in a molten state at once. If they do need that much metal, then there should be massive casting equipment as well. Where is the heat that keeps this stuff liquid coming from? If there’s display cabinets for metal-made items, then I’m to assume those items are made on-site. Where’s the anvils? Why does a foundry need an 8-stall stable? Why would they build one walkway half as wide as the other when it’s built over the largest vat of metal?

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? In this regard, the stable does add to the utility, and I can think of more than one time a metalworks could appear in a campaign.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? It does, but most of those ideas involve re-imagining your core concept at another location, or in a different, bigger structure. I’m having to work hard to justify the more unusual elements with excuses that don’t just default to “because magic?”

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I like the background provided by this map, but I feel it lacks a certain dynamic. That said, it is still well thought and this map makes it to my alternate list :-)

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

I like that there are several ways to enter the main building and a fight over pools of liquid metal could be very interesting and dangerous. If I had double the votes one would go to you.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
JPSTOD wrote:
While I agree the Scale is off on Several Items, but that is a Minor Problem for a Good Cartgrapher.

I am often a good deal harsher about scale, because the cartographers we work with know we have giants, titans, pixies, and gnomes. It would be "obvious" that a ten-foot-wide chair is a mistake for a map of the real world, but in a fantasy campaign we might want exactly that.

Which means as the developer I have to take extra time to mark everything out of scale, and say how big it should actually be.

This.

Cartographers, like any artists, have to work with what they're given. If they see a bunch of brown squares on the map and they're not clarified, 9 times out of 10 they're going to reproduce them as brown squares, even if you meant they were trapped tiles, or stacks of boxes, or what-have-you.

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

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Another cool idea that looks like it needed more development time. The basic concept is strong. I'd like to see this location based on the concept.

I like the phrasing "Progress is manifest by way of sweltering heat, molten steel and ignorance burning away."

I'm wondering too about the 8 stall stable. Seems like a lot of horses, even if that is a giant cart!

I *think* the idea here is that coal is fed into a fire below the floor, and that's what keeps the metal molten, but I'm not sure.

There's a few boxes with Xs inside outside the southern wall, not sure what those are supposed to be.

Anyway, the core of this is cool, but it did need some more development to push it to the top for me.

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

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Apologies, these critiques of maps and Top 32 items took too long, and I'm just not going to be able to do my full write up for your map.

I think you map, as it is, would not make a good flip-mat product. It doesn't have to, but I think a superstar would have done that AND had an evocative encounter hinted at.

I think I could pull of the same basic thing with existing maps and just a few paper tokens saying "furnace" and then also I don't like your scale, your design lacks some of what I think would be accurate for an actual metal refinery, and I don't know if that's even time-line wise "fitting" for Golarion?

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

Thank you very much for the feedback everyone.

I'll spend the next year or so, working on developing my Mapping skills; as well as strengthen my grammar and word-smith skills.

I really appreciate your direct feedback.

YAY, more direction to learn from! This is all very exciting!

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