Cyclogenesis - Eye of Abendego

Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

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Explore solid clouds housing a Storm Kindler Gozreh shrine chained to a crumbling cloud giant castle hiding an active storm controller, two massive galleons circling watery graves, and a 600 foot drop to roiling seas. The Eye of Abendego spawns merciless winds and storms, threatening every step.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Kiel! 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 a compass rose, a scale, and a legend. There are obvious structures in the clouds apparently with the sea far below and a couple of derelict galleons amid a half-dozen lightning flashes. Kind of a busy map. Items from the map key are primarily geometric shapes without a lot of detail to them, so that'll give your cartographer free rein on how to depict them, but I don't see anything that would likely give them pause in doing so.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes. An opportunity to explore a crumbling cloud giant castle in the sky over a stormy sea. The structure apparently houses a Storm Kindler Gozreh shrine. We can also see a couple of ships in the roiling seas...though how they haven't been sunk yet by the Eye of Abendego is anyone's guess. Maybe something interesting keeps them afloat and they too might provide grist for additional adventure?

Is the map creative and interesting?
Well, the idea behind it is creative, but it's not quite as interesting as the promise it holds forth. I would have thought there'd be more character and definition to bring a crumbling cloud giant's castle to life. Granted, it's a ruin, but still...I was expecting more here. It seems odd to see a couple of toilet holes just off the largest statue of Gozreh on the smaller, separate cloud. There's nothing especially...interesting...about that. Instead, the presumed centerpiece is the instructions on the bookshelf, which I guess will provide insight into the control panel for the active storm controller? I don't know. The entire piece leaves me kind of lost as to what's going to happen here or why it's depicted this way.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
It's mostly repetitive information from the text appearing on the map itself. I can already tell this is somewhere near the Eye of Abendego by
name of the map, and it already calls out the explanation for cloud A and cloud B. I think these words would have been better spent helping explain the rationale for the map to give us a sense of either what happened here, what's happening now, or what's expected to happen in the near future assuming it gets used as an adventuring location. I don't need the full encounter design, but I do need more that what I'm seeing here.

Final verdict, the details of the map are sufficient to professionally render it, but not to inform or inspire. Even the extra 50 words don't really showcase the creative use of the map or the idea behind it, so I'm going to have to say I DO NOT RECOMMEND this map to advance. The voters may feel otherwise, though, and no matter what, I do wish you good luck and hope to see you in Round 3.

But that's just my two cents,

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.
I like the premise behind the map, but it's not terribly clear. The legend needs to be on a white background to be more legible. The shadows of the clouds are an unnecessary detail. Multi-level, open-air maps are much harder to depict well, and I think this would have been better served to focus on the cloud-level aspect, rather than the maelstrom and ships.

A unique location, to be certain, but I'm not sure how useful outside of the adventure encounter it would be.

Fun Factor
A fight in the storm clouds that are tethered to each other? Exciting!

Final Thoughts
I find the location very interesting, but its portrayal is lacking. I do not recommend this map for advancement.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

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Thank you for the critiques Neil and Liz! I learned a lot just from the process of getting this together and getting your expert advice gives me even more to learn.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

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Kiel, I love the setting you've presented, but I'm not really impressed with the map. The vast, vast majority of it is occupied by empty space, showing the sea hundreds of feet below. That's fun dressing, but as it stands, less than 1/4 of your map is walkable space. Or maybe more if the PCs can walk on the clouds, somehow.

I really find myself wanting more... Map. Out of this map. Even if it were the scene for an aerial battle, everything that might become interesting is off to one side.

And what little map we do get is too full to make for any realy interesting fights. I mean, how did the cloud giants get around in there? They can barely fit.

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

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I was fortunate enough to workshop a lot with Kiel on this one, so I recuse myself from my normal comments and linking because I could unfairly present the map, etc.

Sczarni Star Voter Season 9

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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 is a great idea with less than optimal execution. Your map is mostly empty space (water in this case) and the structures you've included don't have any interesting features for players to explore.

I feel like more attention to detail and artistry would have helped you here. Game designers don't have to be artists or cartographers, but they need to produce something interesting and functional for other professionals to work with.

I would love to explore the encounter you're teasing us with, but I'm not a fan of the map itself. Since that's the challenge this round, I don't recommend advancement.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

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I feel like this map would be better if it didn't have the two ships that aren't really detailed and are really small and the maelstrom and just focused on the clouds. A ruined cloud giant castle claimed by storm kindler is an awesome site for an adventure, but this fails to deliver.

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Ambitious, but not even the best confusing-water-location map I've seen. There should be more going on here than, "Well, I should probably avoid sailing into the maelstrom." I think you probably did have some good ideas here, but maybe were not able to pull it all together in time. I like galleons and storm controllers and mist, but there's just not a lot of evidence of dynamic action or cool backstory.

I hope you make it to the next round, and your muse bites you. If not, I'm sorry I can't recommend this entry more highly, but it was a good effort all the same.

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

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Idea too great in scope and execution too small in form do not help this map.

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 some elements are confusing. Are the chains made of clouds, or are they metal chains that disappear into the center of the cloud mass? Either could be fun.

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 more than one building and some issues with getting between the two. So yes, but those same issues are probably less important than it would seem in most cases. If PCs are venturing among the clouds, chances are they’ve invested in methods to fly.

Does the map utilize the space well? I’m conflicted here. On the one hand, the map is trying to sell me on the idea that it was once home to at least one cloud giant. I think they would need more space, and you could have made the entire map be one wing of a partially destroyed cloud palace. On the other hand, there aren’t any open-air sky maps with a nice perspective that I’m aware of. If there’s supposed to be some intense aerial combat happening between the PCs and something else up here, then having some room to zip around could help. I would welcome the tiny ships below to serves as an artistic backdrop to such a fight. I would have the ship flip-mats available too so we could have some PCs dealing with a split encounter, one above, one below.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? As mentioned, this is meant to be a cloud giant’s palace. Even partially destroyed, there just isn’t enough surface area for me to believe that. They’re huge creatures and the entire wing of the building is only 20 feet across. Maybe if it was open on three of the 4 sides, as if all but one wall had collapsed as the cloud dissipated, then I could believe it.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? I’d have to work really hard to get more mileage out of this map.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? It does, but there’s enough missed opportunities in the design elements to make voting for it a difficult decision.

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

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I think your idea could make for a great map and a very fun encounter.

However, I think the limitations on this map made it the wrong idea for this round. The map itself can be at most 120 x 150 ft, and that's just not enough space for this idea.

Cloud palaces, not to mention the clouds themselves, need to be much larger than they are. The 'massive' galleons mentioned are just 25 x 8 ft., not to mention they aren't really mapped for us. The maelstrom isn't very large either. Etc, etc.

This was a good idea, just the wrong one for this map.

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: what I have been referring to a 'dead air' is quite literal here, but then it turns out to be a hazard. A little railroady, unless PCs have flight, in which case it is almost avoidable.
Vote: Competitive maybe

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

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As the voting has closed I can now respond to this (and I can hope but highly doubt I'll be moving on to R3)! This round concerned me the most as I have what I affectionately call "negative art skills". Big thank you to the folks that steered me in the direction of GIMP and several online tutorials in how to use the darn thing.

My original map was actually a kaiju research center in Geb where a kaiju that was being kept dead had large entrance holes cut into it for folks to enter and exit through. While I liked the concept, I could never draw it like I wanted to and to be honest, now that I saw Jeff's map I'm SUPER glad I didn't go with it.

So, I made a cloudtop map with 2 boring geometrical structures at the heart of this thing. I can see clearly now exactly how I should have done this.

The crumbling cloud giant structure was indeed meant to be multi story but I couldn't figure out how to draw that, other than steps leading up and no accompanying map (or calling it out in the 50 words).

The big things I did wrong, I had an idea for an encounter, I tried to sell that encounter. The idea was big was 600 feet up in the air, exploring cloudtop buildings, one of which controls some storm spawning device with the drop potentially not being fatal. 600 feet allows for 1 round (and some change) of falling to give casters or folks with magic items time to activate or cast feather fall or some such. Once they did save themselves, they still had to deal with hurricane force winds, maelstrom, and violently choppy water. The two giant ships were actually meant to be chained to the underside of the clouds as well (and again I couldn't figure out how to draw it) and with the perspective of the map being from 600 feet in the air it was meant to suggest that the boats were MASSIVE (25x8 as R D Ramsey pointed out from 600' in the air would be much larger once you were down there). The idea is that the "flip mat" would be flipped over and there would be maps of the ships on the other side.

I added the toilet holes to the Storm Kindler shrine to Gozreh to suggest this was hastily erected, so the "stuff" just went down to the sea below. Also, it was meant as another way to get to the underside of the solid clouds.

The little cloud off to the side has more rubble, which was meant to show the cloud was breaking up (hence the chains holding the clouds together) and was another hazard for the PCs to investigate.

I think, with more knowledge this time, I would remake the map to have the clouds fill most of it, expand the cloud giant structure (and maybe the shrine to Gozreh too) and only have 5 or 10 foot wide drops between the clouds. I didn't need to show the water or the dangers there, and in fact should have just described them in the 50 words and let the expanded cloud map speak for itself as to that encounter.

Thank you again, everyone who took the time to comment, and especially thank you to anyone who did vote for me. Thank you to Neil and Liz for your time. I hope to see you all in R3 with an excellent monster!

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