Runic Hurricane Laboratory

Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka RainyDayNinja

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This underground complex was carved into a small rocky island on the southern edge of the Eye of Abendego by a former Storm Kindler, driven to demon-worship by the maddening storm. It channels fierce winds through tunnels shaped into Pazuzu's demonic rune to fuel foul experiments.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Joseph! 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. It's got a compass rose, scale, and key. It also includes a few room labels and an elevation marker for one passageway. However, the compass rose is a pet-peeve of mine. The unspoken rule in mapping is always have north point "up" unless there's a compelling reason not to. I don't see a compelling reason here for it, so it's annoying. Additionally, the 10-ft. elevation marker for your 5 ft. of stairs seems off. You either need more space to have 10 ft. stairways, or you need another way of crossing your enchanted wind tunnel to get to the observation dome. Lastly, just as a stylistic recommendation, always plan on leaving your upper right hand quadrant free for a map title, your lower band free for your scale (as you've done) and enough space on the left and/or right for your compass rose and any legend or map key. You generally did alright here, but that toilet designation is intruding on your potential title space, and could just as easily have been added to your map key instead. I can also see that you typed out your map scale at the bottom, but left your other labels handwritten. You've got legible handwriting, so it's not a problem, but if a trick I've learned is to save the labeling until after I've scanned an image, then go back in and use an image editor to drop all the text you want. Many of them do superior lettering anyway and you can adjust the font-size on the fly to make sure it fits on the map where you need it to go. Just a bit of advice.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Maybe. It's kind of self-contained and there's not a lot of room for anything major to happen in terms of adventuring through this location. The wind tunnels and magic summoning circle provide the most potential, but it's unlikely you'll be able to maneuver around in there very well. Even the rooms (with the exception of the laboratory) would be hard-pressed to hold the PCs any adversaries...even worse so if any of them are larger than Medium size. But, overall, I'm not sure the map itself has the potential to provide a cool setup for a fun encounter.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Somewhat. As I said before, the summoning circle and enchanted wind tunnels present the most creative and interesting aspect of this hurricane laboratory. What's that lightning rod doing in there? What kind of research goes on in this facility? The text lets us know it's run by a former Storm Kindler turned to demon worship and he's channeling fierce winds through Pazuzu's rune-shaped tunnels to fuel foul experiments. Again, it's probably going to matter more what comes out of those wind tunnels than what the PCs might do inside them or the rest of this facility. So, in that sense, this map isn't as interesting as it could be. I get that you're constrained by the limited real estate on the map grid, but you use a lot of that space trying to do justice to the Pazuzu rune with your wind tunnels. If you hadn't imposed that ambitious limitation on yourself, the rest of the rooms could explore something that gave them more character and game play options for adventure.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. It's actually pretty vital in helping to explain the concept behind this hurricane laboratory. The Pazuzu connection is inspired given that demon lord's affiliation with the sky. Associating with him is higher order stuff, though, and my mind conjures up a more elaborate map for a runic hurricane lab devoted to him. So, while the text inspires, the map kind of struggles to live up to it.

Final verdict, this piece reaches for the sky (literally), but falls a little short for me on execution. The basics are in there, and the core idea generates some interest, but the map itself is too constrained to due it justice. So, I'm going to put myself ON THE FENCE for this map. Regardless, good luck in the voting if you advance, bring us something even more inspired and polished 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.
The accompany text description really makes it: harvesting the power of the north wind for Pazuzu? That's a fantastic setup, and the map isn't too busy either. There doesn't seem to be a need to have north on the bottom edge of the map, though.

Those curving tunnels are going to make some GM unhappy somewhere, as apt as they would be. This map could be used elsewhere with little trouble.

Fun Factor
I want to know what happens when you crawl through the wind tunnels. I like this map, but there needs to be a bit more oomph overall.

Final Thoughts
An asymmetrical map that isn't too busy and ties into the world setting. I do recommend this map for advancement.

Dedicated Voter Season 9

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Finally someone has put a toilet in a dungeon :). Very very practical ! Great Job.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9


This is an interesting location, but it's not a very interesting map. Your tunnels are long and skinny, your rooms are tiny, and while you took the time to add a washroom, you neglected to add any sort of obvious entrance or exit! I mean, I guess someone could enter though the fishery, but it looks like that's blocked off. Then again, maybe the nets are under water.

In the same vien, it would have made more logistical sense to squeeze the bedroom in near the kitchen, then have all the 'work' on one side, and all the 'living' on the other.

Anyways, I think that this could be an interesting encounter, just not with this map, which is rather a problem for this round.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

a brilliant idea, unfortunately to much of this flip map is walls, rock or water for a very interesting encounter.

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

I'm going to only make minimum comments and links, instead of my usual post, because another map in the competition I workshopped has similar themes (the Storm Kindlers, just off the Eye of Abendego, etc.) and I recused myself there, and commenting on yours I don't want to say anything to DQ them, etc.

I just want to say that as you're a Three-Time Also-Ran for RPG Superstar (2013, 2014, and now -- WELL DONE!), I'm curious to see how well you do this time with the Map Round being early and fairly harsh this year it seems.

It looks neat, but so little of the map is areas people can actually move in.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I like the gist of it but I think your rune of Pazuzu's idea became a shackle to your creativity in the end. Still this map is on my alternate list :-)

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? It looks like you either enter from the observation dome, the fishery, or through one of the four points where the unholy symbol breaches the outside. That creates some variable to entering, but there’s not a lot of options after that. The space does flow rather well though.

Does the map utilize the space well? Competently enough, but it could have included more.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? I never liked the practice of using symbols as a basis for a location. It’s easy to hang too much on the symbol and not enough on the surrounding elements. Also, what purpose does an underground cavern cut into the shape of anything serve? Real world examples of this phenomenon probably started when we believed the gods were looking down at us and could see the structure’s pattern from their place in the heavens. You can’t see it from above when it’s underground. Unless extreme care is taken to explain the symbol, it comes across as a little tacky. You also risk having the most important part of your map being something that someone else designed. So, did you avoid this pitfall? Winds funneled through the symbol add a nice transformative element to its purpose, but the unholy symbol of Pazuzu isn’t exactly effective for directing winds unless you explain it away with an extreme shift in pressure, or magic. This reason is also not something you'd be able to understand when looking at the map out of context. You included some additional rooms, and the space looks believable as something someone could live in, but those elements aren’t terribly exciting on their own.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? The unholy symbol of a specific demon means it’s going to be hard to use for many other purposes, though I suppose it could double as any kind of hermit hideaway or secret lab.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? The extra rooms added to the unholy symbol just aren’t enough to make for an exciting location on their own, which means you’re relying a little too heavily on the unholy symbol to catch the viewer’s attention and drive inspiration. Integrating a symbol into a map as a prominent feature is not an easy thing to do, and I commend you for giving it a try.

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

Not much to add to what's been said. There's just not enough here. The idea isn't a bad one, just needs more development.

If I think about what would be cool in a demon-worshipping storm kindler's secret island lair, that's what I want to see here. The symbol isn't a bad idea just too much of the map. And not enough other cool stuff. Just sort of the basics.

One possible explanation for the compass rose- He wants the wind tunnels to point north, into the Eye. But then, it's still better to just flip your map. There's no reason you can't.

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: OK
understandability: +-
visuals: ++
adventurous: -+
inspired: interesting rooms, a bit railroady like the rune idea.
Vote: Competitive maybe

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