Boggart-infested saltmarsh and boathouse

Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Project_Mayhem

The destruction of a dike has led to this Sodden Lands saltmarsh enveloping a small marina. Aquatic enemies hide in the murky water, and adventurers must pick a path through the treacherous marsh to investigate a sunken menhir. Alternative encounters could use undead, or other foes unconcerned with breathing air.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Bill! 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 quite. At least, not for me. You've got the required compass rose (though I detest them when they don't make "north" the uppermost direction on the map). You've also got your scale identified, and a key to make sense of the unusual terrain features. I really think you should have used color to offset water from land and the shallows from the deeps rather than so many lines to effect different "shading" effects. And I also think there's enough individual locations depicted on the map that you could have really benefited from a legend giving a title to a handful of numbered locations. As it is, I'm not quite sure what the buildings by the ruined boathouse are meant to be. And you've used some symbols within them that aren't on your legend. I can guess what most of them are, but your work could be cleaner and more polished here.

In addition, the title of your map indicates this is a "boggart"-infested saltmarsh and boathouse. Did you mean "boggard"...? I couldn't find the boggart defined in the PRD yet, so I'm not sure if those traditional relatives of the will-o'-wisp are available. There's an OGC version from Tome of Horrors Complete, of course, but RPG Superstar generally stays focused on only using Pathfinder content, and even then, only stuff from the PRD. Maybe it's not an issue though, and the boggart is in a Golarion campaign-specific supplement or AP bestiary?

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes. The idea that there's a bunch of water between some distant standing stones and a ruined boathouse promises plenty of opportunity for exploration and combat. The docked boats could also present a few mysteries, and who knows what's inside the boathouse itself. In fact, I kind of wish there was a little more to the boathouse in addition to the saltmarsh.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Yes. It's a pretty common kind of map to see ruined structures overrun by a marsh or swamp, but you've given this one some unique character with the marina and nearby standing stones. As I indicated before, I think you could have gotten more creative and interesting with the boathouse itself, as it's kind of ill-defined.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. It's pretty vital in helping to locate the map in Golarion, as well as the possible encounters that could take place here. The one thing I'm missing (and I know word count is at a premium here) is some kind of indication as to what makes those standing stones so special. Insights into that would help bring further character to the location and help it stand out more than just a typical sunken ruin.

Final verdict, you've given us a mostly functional map with the watered-down (pun intended) promise of adventure between the boathouse and standing stones. But I feel like there are a handful of missed opportunities and missteps in the map's presentation and creativity. So, I'm going to have to say that I DO NOT RECOMMEND this map to advance. Regardless, good luck in the voting and raise your game if you make it to 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.
This map is hard to get an idea of what's happening, especially at the smaller size. Varying line widths make things easy to understand (even at a small scale), and it feels like you were trying to make natural features fit into the grid too much. Not having the compass rose point to the top of the image for north, and you don't have a large structure that would necessitate deviating from that convention.

This map could easily be reused anywhere you needed this combination of features, but there isn't anything really memorable about it either. It would be trivial to recreate on a Flip-Mat.

Fun Factor
The varying water depths should definitely keep the unwary on their toes, and I do wonder about those standing stones. But I am left with "what's the adventure here?" (though your text description does provide some idea of what that might be).

Final Thoughts
A plain map that left me wanting more adventure. I do not recommend this map for advancement.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Bill, I'm trying to envision your map, but it's difficult. I can see this being an interesting location for there to be an encounter to take place, especially with some water being deeper, and other places it's hidden by tall reeds... but the pencil-work doesn't help.

I think using single diagonal lines for both deep and water was a mistake. They're different, but I had to check a few times which is which. I realize that's not a big issue as part of a first draft, but it feels a little unpolished when you could have done something like made deep water cross-hatched.

The engineer inside me also wants to shout... "Did these people have any rulers that weren't five feet long?"

Because yeah, the boats and the river don't exactly follow the grid lines... but all the buildings exactly do. And the compass rose. And every terrain feature (which would be a good thing if it weren't literally everything).

But at least your walls have thickness. Lots of people forget that. ;)

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?

The map is for a specific situation, BUT this could easily be a lot of places in the Sodden Lands, and even in other parts of the world where there are rivers that flood or otherwise rise/lower/etc. Finally, this could function as a "after control water has been used" map for an area that has had a massive amount of extra water suddenly show up (rain, flooding, tsunami, etc.). That all said Paizo has done some river maps of various style, like the Falls & Rapids.

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?

Sure, I don't know about the Boggart stuff (I just helped edit a book on grippli, so I'm frog-folk'd-out). But the basic map is "flooded riverside of a village" and that basic idea is interesting... plenty of ways (as pointed out above) to use it.

So, what do I think of it?

Your artistic skills are lacking, to be frank. You even chose poorly in having "deep" vs. "shallow' being just /// v. \\\ etc. But, I think a proper cartographer could "figure it out" as I was able to suss out what you meant I think. Reeds take grow fairly quickly, but the inclusion of those imply this might not be a "just happened" event but rather as you described, a change of the land area, etc... which reduces how much it could be used for other things.

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Cow-faced boggarts are new to the Pathfinder Campaign Setting, showing up with the Occult Bestiary released Sept. 2 (and on the cover, no less). They're not in the PRD.

Boggards, also known as toadfolk, have been part of Pathfinder a bit longer and were written up in the first Pathfinder RPG Bestiary.

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.

Varying water depths and the suggestion of untamed marsh and ancient standing stones all call to my inner adventurer. And I am the last guy to criticize a poor artistic rendering to help out a skilled cartographer, because I can't produce a map of this quality without help. But you should have availed yourself of some help.

When I say help, I mean several things. As long as you conceive and draw the initial map, getting some help from software or a better artist to make the lines and features discernable is no different than having software to improve a map you made yourself. Use of color can go a long wany in making the different depths or the shores or the menhirs or any other feature discernable, Instead, the map is a sheet of white with a confusing series of scratches that could add up to something GREAT when the cartographer finishes, but is no help to someone trying to see the map and figure out if they want to adventure there.

I think some of the adventure hints here are great. And I think the advice here and above could take this map from near the bottom of the pack to ear the top. I hope you'll take that to heart and keep entering Superstar if you're eligible.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

I like it..

I can Easily recreate this Map in CC3 or any Digital Art program..

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 functional, but not very interesting or complex. There's nothing that really makes it different from a generic swamp or harbor flip-mat. I could imagine myself potentially using a more refined version of this map for an encounter, which I suppose is the point, but it doesn't grab me. I don't feel the urge to explore this place.

As a designer, you're not going to be expected to be a skilled cartographer or artist, but you need to provide a solid starting point for the actual cartographers to build on. I'm not sure if you've done that.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

I am on the fence for this one. The map is functional and I could have multiple interesting encounters on it, but nothing screams awesome from it.

There's a lot I like. And nasty boggarts are indeed reputed to inhabit salt marshes.

But honestly, I wonder why you didn't reach for a colored pencil. Just putting light blue for the shallows and blue for the deep water would improve the visual clarity and appeal so much.

And a sidways compass rose? Up is north. In some situations, it might be overwhelmingly sensible to make them point south, instead. But up is never west. Why would you do such a thing? This map is a place of your own creation, you could easily have flipped the directions anyway.

Despite being a somewhat unconventional, mostly underwater setting, which is interesting, there is a notable lack of detail. Why would anyone bother trying to delve this at all? And where is the sunken menhir, am I just missing it?

Overall, I'm inclined to vote down simply because I don't think people should have to deal with submissions like this. Plenty of people are willing to go the extra mile. The fact that you are willing to fob this over in round two is disappointing.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Boggart-infested saltmarsh and boathouse

Abandoned marina and pier,
the Sodden Lands swept into here.
PC's have to creep
'cause the water is deep
And don't know if the foes are near.

My only real gripe about this map is that the grid is very dark, making some of the map look a little clunky. I like the flavor and the encounter possibilities, but nothing special in those regards jumps out to me.

It is very nice work, though!

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, but the copy could be cleaner.

Are there multiple choices for the PCs to make? If not, does the map present a path for the action to flow in? There are, but not many, and the small buildings don’t look too terribly exciting. There are a few islands and variable water depths, which could create some variety in how an encounter plays out here.

Does the map utilize the space well? It’s a river inlet, which should be rather spacious if there’s going to be boats coming and going, so the area seems realistic.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? As noted above, yes. The terrain appears natural and shows consideration of the elements involved. It’s not just a straight path down the center of the map. The living areas are rather plain, but that’s going to be the case sometimes. If I need an encounter with a hermit down by the river, then this map will do.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? Likely, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for a big, showpiece encounter.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? It’s a perfectly serviceable river inlet, and one I could see using on more than one occasion, but it’s more a map of necessity than one that I want to build a spectacular final showdown around. There is a place for this kind of map, but is that place RPG Superstar? You do have the standing stones, which could be put to some interesting uses, but I can add standing stones easily to almost any existing map by coloring in a square with a black marker.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

It is actually a nice place for adventuring, even though you really should have used some colors to make the map easier to read. That said, it does not wow me per se. Still, this map is on my alternate list :-)

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

It's certainly a usable location. The kind of place that pops up all the time in games. Which is also it's problem. I'm not sure there's much exciting about it.

It does provide choices to the players, deciding how to cross over to the standing stones, and I assume there would be consequences for each choice.

I'd like to have more information on what sort of terrain "tall reeds" are. Is it say ankle-deep water? Thick mud? Just vision obscuring tall grass? Important info to have, and not clear.

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: lots to due
Vote: Probably

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Project_Mayhem

Thanks very much for all of the feedback. This was the first map I've ever made in any real detail, so there's a lot to take on board here. Hopefully I'll get the opportunity to put it into practice in Season 10.

For the record, I did mean Boggards. I straight-out got the name confused. >_<

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