The Grimple Playhouse

Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6

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This run-down playhouse has been claimed by grimples and is covered in grime and dead vermin. The grimples expanded a passage beneath the stage into a series of tight-fitting tunnels. They have given up trying to penetrate the sealed main office, and that area may yet be clean.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Charlie! 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. Information overload, but I get that you wanted to provide as much insight as possible in order to give the voters and idea of your vision behind this piece. You've got the requisite title, compass rose, scale, map key, and even a variety of notes inside the various rooms of this playhouse to let us know what's what. I even appreciate the red outline overlay on the upper level on the underground map so we can more easily associate all those holes and trapdoors with where they appear aboveground. One suggestion for you, though. To aid in that, slide the upper and lower map so they share the same grid lines. That makes it even easier to connect things together for the viewer. And, you have plenty of room to slide your map title, compass rose, and scale over to the left side with your map key to accommodate lining up the floorplans in that manner.

One other piece of advice: though your map key helps explain it, the traditional symbol for a trap is a square with "T" in the middle of it. You've used that for trapdoors instead, and you've put a "P" in a square to denote a pit trap. Normally, for trapdoors, you put an "F" or a "C" (for "floor" or "ceiling") to denote a trapdoor, marking the upper level with "F" tags and the lower level with "C" tags to show how the two connect. Trapdoor symbols also traditionally use circles rather than squares. So, bottom line here: Familiarize yourself more with the common map symbols and it'll help you speak the cartographer language that much more with your turnovers. That said, this critiquing at a very high level. I don't bring this up to ding your map at all. You went the extra mile on everything. This is just advice. A professional cartographer could take this map turnover and really make it sing. No problem.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes. Absolutely. It looks like we've got a rundown playhouse in a major state of disrepair. It also looks infested with some of the most vile vermin and heebie-jeebie material imaginable. Spider-infested pillows? You just freaked out half your readers. A pit trap with a greased slide leading to a vomit pool? Gross out achieved. A roach arena, lice breeding area, and rat warrens? You certainly know how to stay on theme. Any adventure taking place on this map is guaranteed to be memorable and life-scarring for the PCs. GMs will love it.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Yes. The holes in the floor throughout the playhouse create a lot of opportunities for creepy-crawlies to wander up and around anyone exploring here. There are traps evident, hazards, and even an arcane-locked door to a secure office. Then, belowground, we get even more filth-ridden corruption. It makes me want to take a flamethrower to the whole place. Or, nuke it from orbit. After all, that's the only way to be sure. And even then, you've got roaches in here and they're pretty much guaranteed to be the only thing that'll survive the nuclear fallout. So, maybe not? ::shudder::

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. Quite useful and inspiring. We've got lice-infested grimple gremlins occupying this abandoned urban building, which fits perfectly with their write-up from Bestiary 4. Even they don't know what's in the sealed main office, and I get the sense that's probably why the PCs are going to have to venture here. Unfortunately, they're going to find a lot more than they bargained for...and some of the ickiness of this place will never wash off.

Final verdict, this really is an awesome piece. The map has character. It lends itself perfectly to the likely denizens occupying the place, and there's a bit of mystery to be solved here, too. So, I'm more than happy to say that I STRONGLY 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 selection of colors here make it easy to read at a glance, though I would have liked the text to be a bit bigger. This looks like a fun place to explore, and I want to know why that office is sealed (and who did it).

There are a lot of details here, but they don't feel unnecessarily tacked on. This would be pretty easy to recreate on a Flip-Mat for play.

Fun Factor
Such a chance for maxxing everybody's gross-out factors, with a bonus option for creepy clown imagery. *shudder*

Final Thoughts
A proficient map that really builds on the grimple's descriptions and environment. I do recommend this map for advancement.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9


I love this map. I really love all the possible routes a group of players could take through it... though if you had the grimples block off one or two of the hallways, or knock down a wall on the main floor, I think that would have brought this map from impressive to amazing.

Everything is very clear, and I really appreciate the clear depiction of how the different floors react.

I look forward to seeing what you'll put forward in future rounds!

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?

This is a fair "specific" place that is mapped out, so it wouldn't likely work well for the "generic" map lines.

Also, a flip-mat already exists for a "theater."

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 didn't know gripples well, so I looked them up. Lice-infected and puking were the highlights of the gremlins, so not my personal favorites (though gremlins can be fun to play). Way back in Season 2? (2009) of RPG Superstar, our own Neil Spicer was moved on to ultimately win the contest with his [url=]The Legendary Playhouse Theater[/rul], so I've seen the theaters and such "done" and it's not entirely "new" to me.

So, what do I think of it?

Your map is fine, though your "underground" is mostly filled in. Didn't the theater have more "space" down there? Its often not just one tiny tunnel under a theater, as they'd often have the extra dressing rooms, prop rooms, etc. all "down in the basements" of old-fashioned theaters and opera houses. The gripple seem like an ok choice, but I'm not excited about them personally, and they're low CR means this is likely a lower tier adventure with me mostly taking on the same creature in sets of 2, 3, 4, etc. maybe with a few tricks up their crafty sleeves.

The "vomit pool" and the perfectly straight and "greased" track are a little much for me, as I've never been a big fan of the gross-for-gross's-sake.

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

Welcome to RPG Superstar!

I have said before the map round last year and this year terrifies me. I have zero visual arts skill, so the idea of conveying information without encounter text gives me hives.

I'm trying to offer a critique of the maps and end with positive notes. I usually tell whether an entry gets my vote for the round, but I have a lot of reading to do before I know all eight of my votes.

This map includes the things needed to make a great encounter. A good map sells itself without more text, although your 50 words contains a magical phrase: the grimples have given up trying to get into the sealed chamber. That's interesting. Why? What's so impregnable? What's IN that place? I want to go through the whole encounter to find out.

That's not the only bit. Rat warrens in a dirty grimple-infested place? ROACH ARENA?


Then there's tunnels under the theater.

This place makes my PC want to vomit. In a good way.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

That's it, I'm going with limericks for the maps!

The Grimple Playhouse

In Taldor, or somewhere 'round there,
a theater in disrepair.
When the grimples moved in,
what they did was a sin,
the whole place now smells of wet hair!

Charlie, this map has a lot going for it. I'm able to picture numerous fun (if not gross) encounters in this kind of place. Well done!

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.

This map does a good job of following a theme, and a nasty one at that!

Roach arena? Spider-infested pillows? Yikes!

What you've done is design a clear, easy-to-read map that I could draw out for my players with no problems. Your key is extensive, maybe too much so, but it sure lets us know what's going on.

I think you did a great job.

(As a PC, the title of this encounter for me would be "Escape to the Office!")

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

I like the combination of above ground square rooms and below ground natural corridors.
You got my vote.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

To much Wasted space for a 24x30 Map...
Good theme for a Themed Scenario

For a Stand Alone 24x30 Map...Without Legend it is Possible with right artwork, it could be understood easily

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? Yes. From the front door, players are dealing with a trap and then picking one of three directions. They can come in from the windows too, or from underground if that suits the story.

Does the map utilize the space well? Well enough. I don’t expect underground elements to have something in every square. That wouldn’t leave anywhere for the burrowing monsters to go.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? You present multiple layers that are easy to distinguish, yet can interact with each other. The size of the building seems about right, and there’s thought that went into the function of each area. Nicely done!

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? It's likely this could serve as a temple, meeting hall, courthouse, and maybe more, as well as a playhouse.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? A number of uses for this map readily sprung to mind. I want to see my players edging closer to that hole. I want them emerging from cramped tunnels after following a fleeing monster here and be puzzled that they’re suddenly in some kind of cramped supply room. What created that hole and where did it come from? There’s potentially many answers to that, which is exactly what I like in a map.

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

I like the sheer number of memorable aspects to this map. If you took a party through this, they'd definitely remember it 6 months later. It's packed to the gills with fun rooms.

In fact, it might be slightly too cramped. There's only one area with any real space for maneuvering, the rest is all pretty tight. That might be ok, as long as everyone is in the mood for that and it plays to tension more than frustration.

Using the text to highlight the sealed office was a nice touch. On top of everything else here, you added in a mystery.

I voted for this map.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I feel that the vermin and gross factors are overused here. But most noticeably there are large parts of your maps that are either apparently empty (above ground) or unusable (under ground). This makes the whole feeling too one-dimensional to me.

You had me at Roach Arena.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

While a interesting location for an encounter this map doesn't inspire me enough to make my top 8. I think it has something to do with all the empty space between and around the two levels and in the lower level.

I want to know more about how this play house got to be so abandoned. Why are there no people here?

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: meh
understandability: ++
visuals: +-
adventurous: --
inspired: the interesting bits have nothing to do with the theatre itself. that is an awful lot of mud to slog through considering how much 'dead air' is between the tunnels.
Vote: Probably not

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka DeathQuaker

I haven't been able to post comments until now, but I remember how helpful concrete feedback was to me last season so I want to try to return the favor.

First, congrats on getting into the top 16 with this great map!

This is a creative, interesting map full of different adventure prospects. You manage to tell (or at least suggest) a story with just a map and a few words, which is what the best entries in this kind of round do, in my opinion. I've seen theaters and the like before, but a gremlin-infested ruin is new to me, and brings out possibilities of encounters and interactions your more typical "haunted ruin" would not. I can imagine a lot of ways to hook PCs into adventuring here, and I love the mystery of the sealed office. The varied terrain allows for a lot of encounter possibilities.

Your map is clean, clear, and easy to understand. A cartographer should have little issue with it. My only suggestions would be to bump the font size (better to always err on the side of readable as possible) and to standardize the trap/trapdoor symbols as discussed by others(standard symbols are in the GMG, but sadly I know it didn't occur to ME to remind folks until too late, and I'm not sure anyone else did).

Your 50 words provides important context for the map and is well-written. Your map can stand alone without it, but the 50 words makes it even better, so IMO it does what it's supposed to.

I did balk at the ick a bit. I get the gremlins and grimples in particular are icky gross creatures. Still, I'm not sure even as a GM I would want to say the words "you have fallen into the vomit pool." The "Sean guideline" for items not making you want to puke is a good one, and to an extent, you do have to consider your audience here. I think you could have conveyed the filthiness and corruption without going for quite as much shock factor.

I wonder if, since this has an underground section and this presumably is in an urban area, there should be a sewer hookup included. Likewise, I wonder if there should be stairs or ladder to a catwalk for lighting, prop crew, etc. Even if you did not include an upper level on the map for space reasons, a reference that it exists would be included.

Overall however, you leave few questions to be asked in a very well presented map concept. Congratulations.

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