Meandering Oasis of Nex


Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

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Archmage Deven Algar constructed his manor and private lake on planet-like landmasses molded from Mana Waste soil blighted with strange gravitational magic. His legacy continues to float through Nexian wastelands as a wandering oasis. The oasis having its own gravity, visitors can tread along its round surface, even underneath it.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Garrick! 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. Also, lots of color to distinguish water from land mass and labels to help us understand all the little floating spheres orbiting the main landmass. SO, it appears we're dealing with a fun little set of low-flying landmasses in the skies above Nex or the Mana Wastes (or wherever they happen to wander). How do you get to them? I don't know, but they're certainly an intriguing location for a map.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes. Once we get up there, we can walk around the little planetoid like a demiplane that wraps around on itself, has its own unique gravitational effects, and a structure to explore. We can even potentially hop over to its smaller "moons" if we want to see what's up there. So, I can envision an adventure featuring this place that requires some movement between them. And, depending on what kind of trouble the PCs get into, that could be a lot of fun. Certainly memorable, no matter what.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Yes. It's not your average adventuring site to say the least. And the creativity for the nearby floating spheres goes a step beyond a simple flying city (like the Shory) or a giant's stronghold among the clouds, even if it's done on a much smaller scale. There must also be a story behind this locale. It features a heavy dose of weird magic to explain everything. And though the space is limited in terms of how much the PCs get to move around, there are still a handful of areas that could feature different things for them to encounter or interact with. An even a crash site involving another boulder-sized sphere (launched by an attacking giant, perhaps?) So, job well done!

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. Having this locale relied on an archmage who shaped planet-like landmasses from the magically-blighted soil of the Mana Wastes is intriguing and inspiring all at the same time. It's got its own little mystery to it. The individual gravity effects of each planetoid gives it character. And, knowing this thing is floating through the Nexian wastelands as a wandering oasis could be appealing to those hallucinating from lack of water or anyone seeking the lost lore of the archmage who crafted these things.

Final verdict, the details of the map are creative, thorough, and unique. We get more than any group of players or their PCs could possibly have imagined here. So, I'm happy to say I STRONGLY RECOMMEND this map to advance to the next round. Good luck in the voting, and I hope you get a shot to surprise again 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

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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.
Readability
Nice variation in the line work makes it easy to read what's going on...and looking at what's depicted, I really want to know what's going on in this encounter.

Usability
Like most memorable locations, they're hard to re-use outside of their initial adventure, and mapping this out could be difficult at the table.

Fun Factor
This would benefit amazingly from an actual 3D model at the table. I think far too often we restrict ourselves to 2D thinking at the table, and this takes that restriction and tosses it over the side—and I'm a fan of that!

Final Thoughts
Just looking at this map makes me wonder what the heck is going on here—and that's a great thing. I do recommend this map for advancement.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka primemover003

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Having just written a Nexian tomb set inside an enormous geode-like demiplane this map calls out to me in a big way. Talk about using terrain to make a dynamic combat encounter. This reminds me of what a battle could be like between two cubes on the plane of Acheron from the old great wheel cosmology.

Very cool stuff Garrick!

--Vrocket to the Moon

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

Loved the Acheron scene from my third Planescape campaign.

CHANG!!!

Dedicated Voter Season 9

TOP ACE !

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Garrick, wow. I think that's all that can be said. This is an exceptional map of an exceptional location. It has a lot of detail, but it's clear. It is weird and interesting, but it's not unreasonable for PCs to want to go there.

There's also some "far mountains" (as in, what's behind those) going on here. The crater? The crash site? It's beautiful.

My only complaint is, you mention a basement... Where is it? Seems like you could have skipped one of the planetoids and left room to squeeze it in there.

Still, stellar work. I really look forward to what you're going to show us in future rounds.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hands down my favorite map and location of the round, Garrick!

Scarab Sages Developer

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I am often asked how a Superstar contestant makes a map that is clear, interesting, and evocative.
This is now one of the maps I'll point to. Beautiful job.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Epic Meepo

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I suspect I'm going to be the only critical voice in this thread, so I'm going to skip all the praise I could offer and move right to the criticism.

This concept was really awesome when it was published twenty years ago as the Rock of Bral poster map in the Spelljammer boxed set. Flying boulder with buildings on it? Rock of Bral. Underside with opposite gravity? Rock of Bral. Big lake on one side? Rock of Bral. It's entirely possible the creator of this map never saw the Rock of Bral poster map, but the Meandering Oasis isn't doing anything that hasn't been done before and done better.

I've played Spelljammer and Planescape. I've played modules set on cloud islands and in flying castles. You can't impress me with a map just by saying, "Look, it's flying terrain!" I've been there and I've done that. If you want to impress me with flying terrain, it needs to be really interesting flying terrain.

So, ignoring the flying aspect of this map, what do we have? We have a standard lake, a standard pond, a couple of boulders, and the ruins of a mansion that's missing lots of stuff (dining room but no kitchen, guest bedroom but no parlor for entertaining, no bathroom or lavatory, etc.). If this were mapped on level ground as a meteor-struck, lakeside mansion, it would be okay, I guess. If we pretend the crash that wrecked the mansion wiped out all of the rooms that should be there but aren't, this map would probably make for a decent, reusable Flip Mat. But taking that okay location and turning it into an okay flying location does nothing to increase my excitement. It's still just an okay map, and now it's too niche to be reused after running the handful of specific encounters designed to take place there.

I fully suspect this map will advance, probably with a large percentage of the vote, but I still think it is a flawed map using its high concept as a smoke-screen for its shortcomings. And, as I noted above, it's high concept has already been done as a poster map in the Spelljammer boxed set, so it's nothing new to me.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka primemover003

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The Rock of Bral is like a thousand times the size of this place, it's a spaceport, and its set in a space fantasy setting. Just because the concept has been done before doesn't mean this particular take of weird magic terrain that wanders between the Mana Wastes and Nex is any lesser. An asteroid city in Spelljammer is pretty normal. A floating orb in Golarion is far, far from ordinary... even for adventurers.

The smaller scale in itself makes it more interesting. Also the possibility of making this flip map actually FLIP is very cool. Hell I'd buy the .pdf to print both sides and glue it to a cylinder or sphere and use magnets or tape on minis to play out an encounter here. Hell make a mobile or orrey out of the system. Line of sight for ranged attacks and spells would be bananas! You're not going to get the same playability off the Rock of Bral.

--3rd Vrock from the Sun

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Eric, you raise some good points. There are some rooms that are clearly missing. But as I mentioned, so is the basement.

Still, as a counterpoint: done better elsewhere is arguable. This is an idea done very infrequently, and quite well. I'm happy to praise and vote for swone who does something that's rarely seen, and does it well.

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 visually clear and striking. I really like the idea of a floating manor with its own little satellites. Bonus points, it's functional! We have the information we need to navigate this map.

This is a highly unusual place given the Golarion setting, and it's refreshing to see something other than a cave or dungeon. Don't get me wrong, I love subterranean warrens of evil as much as the next gal, and I've used them quite a bit in my own work, but you've shown me something I didn't expect to see here today.

Well done.

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

Eric, I am sort of in the same boat as you are. Not quite as critical, but my gut reaction is that this has an interesting premise, but doesn't quite go far enough to wow me. Maybe if the two sides were interconnected through the center? (A staircase leading to other levels of the house on the second side, for instance). Perhaps I'm just a bit too enamored an an Escher-esque map that plays with dimensions that I'm biased against this? I'm not entirely sure.

Either way, this one isn't a win for me, but good for the designer to have obviously reached others. That says something for their talent.

Dark Archive

I liked this map. Admittedly it wasn't one of my favorites, but the unique description and "location" set it apart, and pushed it over into my top 8. This is an area my character would want to explore just for the weirdness of it, and to be able to say they'd been there. There are enough possibilities for encounters to make this worthwhile to have as a map, and it's one that would be worth the extra time to get right if I had to draw this out (though printing it and creating a 3-D version would be memorable!). You have my vote, but just barely. Good luck!


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BEEP BOOP!! For more information...

Magic doesn't work as one expects in the Mana Wastes, which borders the mage nation of Nex and undead nation of Geb.

Archmages are mythic spellcasters of great power.

Similar remnants of the Shory Empire's flying cities still take to the skies elsewhere over Golarion, particularly Nex and Geb's continent of Garund.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Epic Meepo

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Scott Fernandez wrote:
The Rock of Bral is like a thousand times the size of this place...

That's why I think the Rock of Bral was a better implementation of this concept. Any map that meets the requirements of this challenge is too small to do a flying landmass justice (as evidenced by all of the rooms missing from the house on this map). To me, this map feels like a case of too much portrait, too little canvas.

As a voter, I want to see a designer who understands the scope of a 120-foot-by-150-foot area, both in real life and on a battlemat. Too many times, I've gone to draw an epic map from a module on a battlemat only to discover that the map is actually small and cramped because its designer overestimated how much area was actually being portrayed.

After this round is over and contestants can talk about their maps without getting in trouble, I'll be curious to hear how many of them actually drew their maps on battlemats and moved minis around on them to get a feel for the size of their locations.

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

I need to include a location like this in my home game. Great idea. This makes it hard to choose a favorite.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

Nice Concept Map

Not a Use able 24X30 Map...

But good Definition and Concept. A Cartographer could easily adapt the Map.

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

Very imaginative and interesting. Looks like a real fun place for an encounter, and something my players wouldn't have seen before.

It may be hard to transfer to a 2-d map, but this is still one of my top-4 maps.

Good Luck next round!


I have no idea what I would do with this... but I would love someone to tell me! Great map.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

THIS IS AWESOME. I just love all the creativity that went into this and all I could do with it. This map is most definitely on my Keep 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? Exceedingly.

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 none of those choices result in uncovering anything too special. The map as a whole is what sells the idea.

Does the map utilize the space well? Yes. It was quite ambitious to attempt a spherical location on a 2-dimensional surface. I commend your effort.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? There’s a sense of consequence with the crash site having destroyed a large section of the building. You’ve taken care to include elements that make the place look livable, comfortable even. As a PC, I would be looking to turn this into a base of operations for the party. While the entire place is an intensely cool idea, and the elements on the map are realistic, I’m still just looking at a partially destroyed, lakeside manor home. I’m curious about what’s in the basement, because if there’s answers as to why this place is floating around, that’s where they’ll have to be. Nothing on the surface hints at what this place is all about. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it can increase uses for the map.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? I can think of ways to have it return from time to time.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? Indeed, it does. I hesitate to say if I’m voting for it for sure, but it’s a strong contender, no doubt.


Eric Morton wrote:


Rock of Bral

I was all excited about this map, until I found out it was done before. Now I'm on the fence. Still, even if it was done before, its not been done very often. I for one don't need another forest, sewer, or cemetery.

It may get my vote. Not sure yet.

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

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

In any case, I applaud the author's restraint in not answering.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

You have no idea. I'm worried that even pointing that I made use of the color [REDACTED] would get me disqualified.

Regardless, I thank the judges and all of you in this community for sharing your thoughts about my entry.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Honestly I don't really care if this has been done before, the location is too cool for that to matter. A fight on this map would definitely be memorable.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

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I'd like to stop in and point out that "It's been done before" is no reason not to vote for something. Otherwise, every abandoned temple, riverside cottage, huaunted castle, mad laboratory... well, you get the idea.

This idea has, apparently, been done before once. That's a pretty good track record as far as 'done befores', because most things you simple can't keep a list because they've been done before so many times.

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

I like this map.

I think I'd say I love this map, if it weren't for the fact that a long, long time ago my GM in middle school/high school used a similar idea in a Spelljammer setting, and so I'm less "wow'd" by this than others might be. <Rock of Bral et. al. comments aside, when I say "the same concept" I mean "add a few tower layers and otherwise this is the exact freaking same">

As such, Eric Mortin, you're not alone. But I still totally expect this map will advance, and that isn't a bad thing.

If nothing else, good way to shoehorn in the idea to a world that I'd otherwise say it didn't need/have a space for.

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

I'm pretty sure I could find previous variations on every map idea in the contest.

The question is, is this a good version of what it is? And I think it is. It looks like the idyllic little getaway it's supposed to be. It's got a crash site! And little orbiting spheres!

It would have been interesting to have a hint about how to control its flying.

Sometimes you have to know when the location itself is the star. This map knows that.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

Garrick Williams wrote:

You have no idea. I'm worried that even pointing that I made use of the color [REDACTED] would get me disqualified.

Regardless, I thank the judges and all of you in this community for sharing your thoughts about my entry.

REMEMBER THIS...NO REPLY NECESSARY.

No Need to Thank Everyone for Commenting..
When Round is Over make a Single Generic Thank You Post if you are a polite and Mannered Person

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

RonarsCorruption wrote:

I'd like to stop in and point out that "It's been done before" is no reason not to vote for something. Otherwise, every abandoned temple, riverside cottage, huaunted castle, mad laboratory... well, you get the idea.

This idea has, apparently, been done before once. That's a pretty good track record as far as 'done befores', because most things you simple can't keep a list because they've been done before so many times.

It All Depends on How Closely It Resembles something Already Done..

If 10 Maps exsists and they all Look like they were traced from 1 ...Then It Matters

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Epic Meepo

JPSTOD wrote:

It All Depends on How Closely It Resembles something Already Done..

If 10 Maps exsists and they all Look like they were traced from 1 ...Then It Matters

This map thematically resembles something that's been done before. The actual layout is original.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

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I thank everyone for taking the time to respond to my entry.

For those who haven't seen me around before, I am a software engineer who moonlights as an indie game developer and got into tabletop game development in order to build my game design skills. When I'm not working on my puzzle platformer Displacement, I write free Pathfinder RPG content and serve as an active member of the homebrew forum. My work includes the runari race based on the characters of my indie computer game and the artiforged, a base class that takes a setting-neutral approach to creating a cyborg-like character.

So what went behind the creation of the Meandering Oasis of Nex?

Inspiration: Truth be told, I was inspired by an observation that the game has a spell for creating your own little dimension, but no spell for creating your own little planet. Since it's a common trope for high level wizards to create a vacation home in a demiplane of their own creation, that made me picture an analogue with hundreds of abandoned resort-style microplanets orbiting Golarion.

Maps often feel too 2-dimensional, so I wanted to try something more 3D in an interesting way. Small planetoids sounded like a lot of fun and could introduce some unusual encounter mechanics that I sadly had to cut from my 50-word description. One of my early drafts had a small solar system that hovered over a lake or oasis. I ultimately had to reduce the scope to a single planetoid with a couple of satelites. That's when I got struck with the idea with having the planetoid itself be the oasis.

Having only been playing tabletop RPGs for about three or four years, I'm fairly unfamiliar with published adventures outside of Pathfinder. From how you describe it, Rock of Bral does sound pretty fun. Planescape and Spelljammer are settings I would love to play in.

Design Goals: I wanted to create an usual planetoid system that served as the entrance to a dungeon. Clarity was my biggest design goal. I knew I needed to communicate the planetoid layout. After all, cool idea is meaningless if it can't be conveyed well enough for gameplay. However, I knew that a novel map in itself won't go far, so I wanted to convey a mystery and sense of water. In my book, a great map tells a story that the players want to be a part of.

Implementation: I sketched out half a dozen layouts to figure out the best way to convey how the planetoids work. One of the sketches divided the spheres into quadrants and marked the poles, but such proved too complicated. I ultimately settled with a layout that split the spheres into a "top" and "bottom," which also used space much more efficiently.

Choosing a location proved difficult at first, but I quickly realized Nex seemed like an obvious choice. Not only is Nex one of my favorite places in Golarion, but also Nex is well known as a place of weird high magic. So a floating sphere with its own gravity magic would fit the tone of an adventure taking place there. The fact that Nex is mostly a wasteland gave rise to my idea of it being a floating oasis that teases poor souls lost in the desert. You say you saw a lake in the sky? Surely, the heat has gotten to your head.

Ah, but the map needs things to interest players, so I populated it with props for players to gravitate to, something I've found quite effective in my home games. Hey, I wonder if there's something in that boat in the lake! What's in that shack with all the boulders covering it? Check out that huge planetoid that crashed into the house! I see some movement in the pond of that one sphere!

After I put all the pieces, the story started to come together as well. Who was the extraordinary man who made this place? What happened to him? Is the magic getting weaker? What caused that satelite to crash? What did the other smash into? Why does the mansion look remarkably prestine for something that's half destroyed? And who is feeding the fish in the pond? The party will have to adventure here to find out.

Post-Mortem: I had a vision for this map. My goal was to communicate that vision. I admittedly felt a tremendous amount of glee when judges Neil Spicer and Liz Courts could perfectly see that vision. And to intrigue the author of my favorite module Pathfinder module to boot!

However I recognize the map does not come without flaws. I could have added a few more interesting landmarks. It's probably not the easiest map to draw on a flipmat, and best suits a specific adventure. I agree that the concept behind Meandering Oasis is better served on a larger scale than a 30x24 map. Yet, I relished the challenge and embraced the small size to make the location all the more surreal. I'm happy that the risk paid off.

Overall, I feel a tremendous amount of pride that my work has captured the imaginations of voters. I aim to honor that. Admittedly, I have a hope that I can get the chance to expand on this map in future rounds.

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