Torvin Academy Quadrangle


Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka flykiller

Razor Jenni
As the convicted are dragged through the sharp debris of the Flensing of Lies, prosecutors pronounce their sentence from the Terrace.
Council members throw confiscated written works into the Pyre.
The Gray Gardeners douse magic-wielding convicts in the pond enchanted with anti-magic properties before executing them.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Vadims! 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 entirely. You've got a compass rose, a scale, and an unusually positioned map key and legend. You've even got elevation markers and small notes scattered about the map to help give an idea of what some of the shapes and symbols represent. But I've got to admit this one is still kind of to visualize. I think some of it is the blocky, pixel-ized style you're using to designate certain areas like the makeshift bleachers and the terrace. I think more could have been done there, even just drawing freehand on some graph paper than what we've got. And the plethora of shaded areas indicating cobblestones, gravel, sand, and the sharp debris of the Flensing of Lies path starts to run together. Some of the colors (especially the grays) start blending together and it's harder to follow. I think a cartographer could eventually sort this out, but it would take some focused effort, probably a handful of follow up questions, and lot of embellishment on their part.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Maybe. We have a lot going on here. There's a prisoner entrance and makeshift bleachers for viewing public executions, courtesy of the final blade guillotine, Razor Jenni. The platform holding that instrument of death is kind of lackluster, though. It's an artifact, and just feels like it deserves something grander. And the sewer grates strategically positioned below it, the Pyre of Heresies, and the bleachers seems a little too convenient...but obviously, could provide a means for PCs to infiltrate this courtyard if they're trying to oppose the Gray Gardeners.

Meanwhile, we've also got the bookburning over at the Pyre of Heresies, the Flensing of Lies as an even more painful Game of Thrones-style walk of shame. And there's a magical pool (apparently associated with witches?) that acts to dispel magic on those about to be put to death. So, there's more stuff going on here than you might normally expect or associate with the quadrangle in Torvin Academy. And, because of that, the potential is here for a variety of different encounters and setups.

Is the map creative and interesting?
I'm not really feeling it. The blocky style and symbols leave me feeling uninspired. And the terrace next to the east wall doesn't really show a means of accessing it (no stairs? no doors leading elsewhere?). You've also made the cardinal mistake of trying to use every bit of real estate on your grid map. And, because of that, you really don't have enough space to do justice to your compass rose, scale, key, or legend. Even if you brought it just a couple of squares more, it would helps give you a border on which to place that information without it feeling so cramped. Additionally, this is just the courtyard to Torvin Academy's Quardrangle, and while that's okay, I think it needs more than some simple shaded 15-foot archways leading off the map's edge. Give us some doors along the wall that lead to the academy's interior, too. Or show us how the underground sewer passages run connecting to the grates. More could have been done here, and it feels unfinished and a lot less interesting and creative than it could have been.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Definitely useful. The hyperlink to Razor Jenni is kind of skirting the rules by tying in more words than you're allowed to use, though. It leaves me with a frown rather than a positive feeling. When doing maps for real, you don't get to link people to other places to prop up your writing. Instead, your words stand alone, and you need to be clear enough with them help educate the reader yourself. That said, the rest of the text helps clear up a lot of what all those confusing things are meant to be. The pool, pyre, and flensing zone, and terrace make a lot more sense now.

Final verdict, this is a lackluster piece for me that doesn't go far enough in concept and execution. The basics are in there, but the packaging creates a lot of headaches for the developer and cartographer to interpret and render. So, I have to say I DO NOT RECOMMEND this map to advance. Regardless, good luck in the voting if you win your way through, bring us something more inspired and polished in Round 3.

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

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.
Readability
The text on the map is very small and hard to read, and I can't read "the witches' pond" without immediately thinking about Monty Python (or The Witch of Blackbird Pond). There's no contrast between the various elements, and it definitely feels like it was hammered to fit into the required map size. There's not enough elements to give me an idea of what's going on here, and I would have to send a few emails for clarification before I could begin work on a final map for this.

Usability
It would be very easy to recreate this map from the book, but it's such a specific location I'm not sure it would see use anywhere else.

Fun Factor
It's not very exciting, alas, and the adventure would need a really good setup to end up at this particular locale.

Final Thoughts
A good location, but doesn't capture the spirit of the setting locale and fails to execute it well. I do not recommend this map for advancement.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Hi Vadams,

my first impression of your map was that you used powerpoint or excel to do it. Which is unfortunate, because there are lots of better ways to get across visual information. Closer reading reveals it to be clear enough... just barely, but without reading what was behind the hyperlink, I couldn't tell at all what this place was supposed to be.

Which I think is a major flaw with this map. Even a first draft map should, at a glance, give you an impression as to what it should be.

That said, I like Galt, and setting an encounter around one of the Final Blades is a great idea... but it looks a lot like 90% of this area is empty space. Having walls (short hedges, maybe?) to break up the "grass/gravel/sand/etc" of the otherwise flat ground would be a lot more interesting.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka flykiller

Thank you Neil and Liz for taking the time to review my entry and provide detailed feedback. Can I please ask to fix the name of the entry on the voting page? It currently says Tovin instead of Torvin.

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 fairly "specific" place that is mapped out, so it wouldn't likely work well for the "generic" map lines. Your linking to the Razor Jenni saves me the trouble, though I'm unsure you're supposed to have... *shrug*

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?

The Revolution itself was/is an interesting setting, but the site of one of the , while interesting, is a weird mix of negative energies, like if you destroy it which isn't that hard (see link's DESTRUCTION rules).

The Revolution in [url=http://pathfinderwiki.com/wiki/Galt]Galt was 40+ years ago, and rarely are adventures set back in time... so at best you have another revolt, etc.

So, what do I think of it?

I'd be curious what you had planned here. I think your map is minimalistic, but you give plenty enough detail for a proper cartographer to "do stuff." I'm a little worried this would be "torture-porn, the encounter" as I can't imagine reading detailed descriptions of people being put through the Flensing of Lies. Also, did the Revolution have much to do with witchcraft, which is what this feels like? I thought it was more a political overthrowing a la French Revolution, not Spanish Inquisition?

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 is very difficult to read. At least for my eyes. Instead of solid lines, I see a lot of colors fading into each other. It's hard for me to tell where one room ends and another begins, and what's really going on here.

I know my players and I would have a rough time using this map as is. For that reason primarily, I'm spending my vote elsewhere.

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

Oh, I forgot to link to flip-mats this might fit well with like the City Streets which could be just outside it, it could be added to by the City Square, and it wouldn't be unheard of if the City Market were nearby. In many ways, the Final Blade of Razor Jenni would more likely be a Map-Pack designed to toss on top of something like the City Square flip-mat.

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

Putting a link in your description really seems to be skirting the rule about clarifying and expanding upon the entry.

Anyhow,I could see an artist make this in interesting encounter area. Unfortunately there are at least 8 entries that I prefer to this one.
Good Luck!


This looks more like the instructions for replacing an ink toner cartridge than a map.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I get the idea, but the scope you wish to tackle is too large for a map IMO. And you really could have spent some time making it more than squares of colors.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Between the map size being too small for your vision and the excel look to this map, I can't put this in my top half of maps.

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

I can get past the blockiness, though I think the cartographer would have to work pretty hard to get this map right.

The bigger problem for me is that this site doesn't live up to its place in its culture. That's the big risk of trying to leverage existing lore.

This is an important site in the region, a place where major events took place. Events crucial to the history of the area. There's a minor artifact more or less enshrined in it.

And for that kind of location, it's underwhelming. It needs much more.

Dark Archive

I like the Galtan location, and the history of this place, but unfortunately I don't think you did it justice. This had the potential to be really awesome, but it looks like a fairly boring courtyard. A professional cartographer might be able to improve on it based off of your description, but I would rather you be the one to give us the creative detail, instead of depending on Golarion lore to 'fill in' space. Taking on such an important location was a big gamble, and I applaud you for attempting it. Good luck!

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: Ho hum.
understandability: ++
visuals: -+
adventurous: --
inspired: a LOT of 'dead air', the pool is a nice touch, but the rest of the areas seem to be one of those dungeons where every room is sealed off from every other. "I know you are burning books today, but I will be over here drowning this witch, so please don't disturb me.
Vote: Probably not

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? I understand this round doesn’t require you to be an artist, but just coloring in the squares makes it very hard for me to envision the individual elements of this map. The text is legible enough when viewed at the full size.

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 four distinct areas on the map: road, two sites-of-power, and a mound (or pit?). PCs will probably want to get to one place or another.

Does the map utilize the space well? Each site could almost be its own card in a map-pack, so I don’t feel they waste the space. I’m just not sure if a map devoted to one of these elements couldn’t have incorporated some supporting features to really make it shine.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? Your 50-words go a long way in explaining why these elements are bundled together. Making a spectacle of an execution was a common tradition, so I can appreciate the showmanship the pyre and pond create. Bleachers that bend 90 degrees are questionable, but this might just be a consequence of how you choose to render the map. I’m worried it would make it into the final product like that. The layout seems a little off, in that onlookers have to look past Razor Jenni to see the pyre, and I suspect the officials would want the crowd to have an unobstructed view of the more theatrical elements to the executions. The inclusion of the sewer grates is excellent. They catch run-off from the burning pit and the guillotine, and also create ways for the PCs to achieve a dramatic entrance, or make a daring escape.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? It’s an odd assortment of features to exist in such close proximity. Your 50 words help, but that won’t help me get more use of the map as a whole. As I noted before, though, I would probably use each area as its own map and cover up the other parts.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? I can get excited about a witch’s pond, a big burning pyre, and even the bleachers to some extent. It’s hard to come up with ideas that could use all of these together though.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka flykiller

The round's over and I'm (predictably) out, but I'll take this one last shot at reflecting upon my work and the critique I've got.

First, almost all of it was very useful for me. This was literally the first ever serious map I've made - I either use published maps or quickly draw some ugly rough sketches for my RL games. So I feel that by reading the feedback and comparing my entry to the winning ones I have learnt A LOT.

Second, despite that, this will remain the most dreadful round to me - simply because I absolutely can't draw, either by hand or in software. So yes, I actually did this map in Excel - and shortly before submission I realized it was a big mistake, as the lines which looked thick enough at 100% zoom inexplicably became thinner at 275% which was needed to match the image size. So the map was not intended to be one large space, it actually had clear zoning, doors and windows, but these features were barely noticeable in the final render. I will stand by my coloring though, I still find the lighter shades easier to comprehend than some of the more intensely shaded or grayscale maps.

And that limitation was driving my creative process all along, starting from the choice of the location - I needed something where square lines would not be horribly out of place. I took a risk choosing an established location, I shouldn't have done it but I did not feel free in my creativity because I was constantly in fear of thinking up more than I'd be able to execute. So for the next season, I intend to get some practice in hand-drawing maps to actually play on. And I think this should be the main learning point from my failure to any hopeful contestant who reads this - start practicing well in advance, and play on your own maps to get a sense of what 'clicks'.

In the meantime, I'll be lurking on Epson website waiting for an 'inkjet supahstah' contest ;)


If you are going to use software, try to use something that was designed for a specific purpose. Excel creates charts, for information. You need to create a specific visual space. So, a drawing program (such as Paint) or a layout program (such as Scribus or one of the Adobe programs) would be more logical. As it happens, layout programs will happily prepare a square grid for you.

But there is no shame in printing out some map paper, and going real slow with a ruler. You can even add labels later in a program if you want.

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

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Ah! I looked carefully at the full size version and spotted the windows. It was difficult even when I knew to look for them!

Yeah, you did suffer a bit from those symbols and lines not being as obvious as they should be.

And credit for finding a location that at least made sense with your squarish limitations.

If it helps, the map I turned in last year was worse. I was in the same boat as you- no drawing skills and terrified by that. I've practiced some since, and even bad hand drawings are better than bad computer drawings. Even if it looks like a 3rd grader drew it, it's usually better to get ideas across by hand. And it improves with practice!

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