The Clockworks


Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9 aka LightSprite

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To the north, a foundry lies low against the river, belching smoke as the whining of the sawmill fills the air from the east. A delicately painted clock face leans against the foundry wall. In the center of the dirt yard looms a half-built clock tower, supported by layered scaffolding.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Kalyna! 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 get a compass rose, scale, and legend, though I'd prefer to see the scale at the bottom of the map, especially since there's an empty grassy area there for it. The more you push such things to the edge of your map, the more real estate you free up for yourself and the cartographer. Other than that, we can see a river, several structures, and each of them is labeled and appointed in a clear enough manner that we get a good sense of their purpose.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Possibly. There's lot that can be drawn upon with so many buildings in play. The half-finished clocktower and clock face leaning against the foundry wall are the centerpieces (literally) of this map's reason for being. So, presumably the active saw mill, riverside delivery of supplies, etc. also have a role to play in its construction (or delay). The layered scaffolding could present an interesting climbing challenge if the PCs are required to go into the clocktower for some reason. And the foundry has a lot of character and clockwork pieces out behind it that might prove interesting if they were to become magically animated or require pilfering on the part of the PCs. So, there's different ways this map could see use, depending on the encounter woven around it.

Is the map creative and interesting?
I'm not blown away by it. It seems like it would be part of a small town, but we really only get a sense of a few buildings designed to support just the activities around the foundry, sawmill, and clocktower. So, as presented, it seems almost frontier-like without a greater town or village surrounding it. And, if it is on the frontier, it just seems odd to find a foundry, sawmill, and clocktower in a less-populated venue. So, it's not quite as creative or interesting as it could be. But, I know the limitation is the map space. There's only so much you can depict. Still, I think you could trim off the barracks and kitchen/dining area...drop in some warehouses and shops...and you could turn this into a much more definitive urban location than what this seems to imply. I think that would make the map more interesting, while also freeing you up to be even more creative with some of the buildings and terrain effects surrounding the clocktower square.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. This was pretty vital, actually, just in terms of understanding what the foundry and sawmill are engaged in creating. The map itself doesn't really do as good a job of calling out the unfinished clocktower or labeling the clockface by the foundry. And I since those are really the major elements of this map, I think it's important to highlight them for the cartographer.

Final verdict, at its core, it's an urban map involving the construction of a clocktower with the assistance of a foundry, sawmill, and whatever workers are occupying the barracks. I actually wish there was more room to punch up the unfinished clocktower and make it roomier so some of the action can take place there. But generally speaking, I'm still going to say I DO RECOMMEND this map to advance. I suspect some voters may not be so generous, though. It all depends on how much more they expect out of the mapped location. Regardless, good luck and I look forward to seeing if you make it into 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
There's not enough contrast in colors to make this readable at a quick glance, and with the map titled "The Clockworks," I would expect the eponymous structure to be more prominent. Right now, it's dominated by the sawmill (which doesn't appear to be water-driven by that super-handy river right there). When making map legends for a developer turnover, it's best to avoid any decorative font choices, or really avoid decorative elements in general (like the textured legend background), because they'll get ditched in the final. Clarity of intent first.

Usability
It would be an easy map to re-use anywhere you need a bustling industrial area on the frontier. I don't really get a sense that it's tied into anything greater.

Fun Factor
It's pretty functional, but not wow-worthy. Fights in sawmills are always fun, and buckets of molten metal are the best. The additions of the bunkhouse and kitchen garden show some care into how this little area works together, which is great to see.

Final Thoughts
It's proficient in its execution, but it doesn't really wow me. I do not recommend this map for advancement.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Kalyna, you've put forward a pretty map... but the style doesn't really beget substance.

There are a handful of buildings inside which there might be a fight... and from the pieces in the foundry the PCs might have to put together the clock tower... But is that all? One big thing that's missing here is a good reason why the PCs would want to be here. There's no description of this being anything but "an unfinished clocktower". There's no justification for this being an area that needs a map.

This might work as a flip-mat... if the buildings were given a few more doors to allow creative exploration, but doesn't make an interesting encounter area on its own.

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. No specific flip-mat exist for a "clockwork foundry" but a "technological dungeon" does exist. (not linked because it's radically different).

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?

If I had the right story, it could be neat. Personally, clockworks on Golarion come from Alkenstar City, right? I mean, you can build your own clockwork golem-types, but I'd more likely think this should be a full-page map of a factory almost for clockwork creation, not some logging sawmill temporary town that needs to be self-supporting. Unless the clockwork golems are used for cutting down trees? Is the Lumber Consortium trying something new?

So, what do I think of it?

I'd need way more than the 50 words to know what's going on here. It could likely function fine for a one-off, OR it might be the basis of an entire adventure with the PCs called in to work for the LC and figure out who is sabotaging their clockworks etc. It "feels" like it's a tiny lumber camp, and thus I can't imagine it being used more than that one time/adventure unless it's the only "civilization" for 50 miles etc. The map itself is fine, looks like it was most likely made in a mapping program, or possibly just plain Photoshop/Gimp.

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.

The good news is there are enough details for a cartographer to render a pretty cool map. Clocktower, foundry, construction yard..all iconic and exciting places to plan encounters. The map benefits from re-usability, but even for flip mats that's a very low priority for me personally.

The tough part for me in voting for this one is that there's literally no adventure. The place wasn't finished. Why? Are there unsafe features? Hazards? traps? What about a reclusive monster lair? The map qualifies as a 'location suitable for an encounter', but there's nothing exciting going on.

Is it just me? Or are cranes suddenly very popular in RPG Superstar? Maybe round four should be "Design an encounter with a round three monster and at least one crane".

Sovereign Court Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

My 2 cents. The crane is an awesome addition, as is the giant saw blade, except that they are both off to the side. If you had made them the central focus of the map I think this map would have rocked.

Also, if you made some space between building 5 and 6 you wouldn't be loosing that space, it would be perfect for more enemies to approach from that direction.

Good luck.


BEEP BOOP!! For more information...

Not much here for me to say. The Inner Sea region sure has a lot of towers, and some mills and lumber yards.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

The Clockworks

A factory down by the stream
A little bit more, it would seem.
But if you go here
and find something is queer,
A construct jumps down from the beams!!!

I picture constructs defending this place, which could make for some difficult, but fun encounters! Maybe even a boss encounter.

Nice clear map! Nice work!

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Rather clear map. Much of the space is both usable for adventure and rather diverse, which is good.

Still, the atmosphere I get from this is "yet another settlement by the river". Maybe some unexpected central piece making this location fantastic/different from any other similar one should have been added.

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

This Clockworks has me anxious to write an encounter here.
You earned my vote.

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

This is a pretty good map. But for the superstar contest, I hope for more interesting features than just a few rectangular buildings.

This would probably make my top-16, but not quite good enough for my top-8.

Good Luck!

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? There’s a number of buildings, most of which have unique exterior features that could pull the players one way or another.

Does the map utilize the space well? Yes. It doesn’t feel cramped or unnecessarily spacious.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? I want to mention the unique exterior features again, because it’s not something I've seen often on maps with more than one building. It’s a deliberate design element here that really elevates this map. Apart from that, the function of each building makes sense, with the exception that there’s a lot of bunk space and dining area devoted to a foundry that appears relatively small. I’m curious now about what kind of work environment a clockworks would actually have.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? As an industrial compound, I could probably find more than one use for this. Gears could be used in a lot of things, not just clocks.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? I see players chasing down a foreman who’s trying to escape on dangerously incomplete airship floating overhead. There could be clockwork golems running unchecked through the streets! The central podium could be used as a gathering space for townsfolk, or the site of a labor union strike. Yes, the gears of inspiration are turning here. Nice work, Kalyna!


I think there is a good idea in here somewhere, but to me, this just looks like buildings with gears drawn on it. I can't think of any way a half-built clock tower suggests different situations, hazards or intriguing story elements.

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

I agree with most of the comments here. It's a pleasant enough map, and it's well presented. But it doesn't scream memorable adventure to me.

I do like the varied layout and orientation of the buildings. Everything feels right, organic. Not cookie-cutter.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

A cool map of a mildly interesting location, unfortunately there are more than enough cool maps this year so without also being an awesome location I can't put this in my top quater.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

Great Battle Map...
Not a Lot of Wasted Space on a Legend
Usable in Generic Situations or as a Reoccuring Location..
Would prefer Unlabled Rooms to make it Better.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9 aka LightSprite

Thank you all for your comments!

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 of options for players, many interesting , but a lot of dead air as well.
Vote: Competitive maybe

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