Abaddon Breach Temple

Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Mark D Griffin

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A small portal to the River Styx in Abbadon grows larger in the sewers beneath Absalom. While not yet large enough for a Daemon, the portal spews filth and evil souls, mutating this area into a twisted hellscape. Four strange clerics of the Horsemen, transformed by soul-stuff, protect the portal.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Mark! 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 very large legend. Also, lots of labels, colors, and elevation markers to further our understanding of everything. It appears we're dealing with a portal to Abaddon and four different clerics devoted to the Four Horsemen of the apocalpyse. This creates four different rooms with varying terrain effects and hazards to navigate.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes. There's a unifying theme at play with the different chambers and altars, but a uniqueness to each of them, as well. There's a lot crammed into this little dungeon crawl...maybe too much for a single site, but I get what you were going for. You're thinking big, but the map grid kind of boxes you in too much. This reminds me a bit of the "Three Faces of Evil" from Age of Worms...or, even more wahoo, White Plume Mountain. Some of it might seem implausible to all be in one place, but you'll have a whole lot of fun navigating all the threats and challenges with their varying themes. In reality, this worries me a bit. As a Superstar designer, I'd expect someone to instinctively realize when too much is too much and scale back a design accordingly to make sure it all makes sense. That said, I also recognize that there's a big, driving reason to appeal to the masses by presenting them as much crazy, cool stuff as you can cram into each round's assignment. I kind of feel like this entry got caught between those two things. Regardless, it'll be interesting to see how much this resonates with the voters.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Yes. In a way, it could be said that it's creative (if not, ambitious) to try and tackle a location with four different clerics beholden to the Four Horsemen and expanding a portal to Abaddon. It can also be interesting in terms of getting your players excited about who they're opposing and the different challenges each location and combat encounter might pose. Somewhere in navigating this place, however, the audacity of the design might start to chip away at some players' willing suspension of disbelief, taking them out of the story and into a metagame view of the design.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. It has the desired effect. A portal to Abaddon threatens Absalom, and its not a single daemon lord with machinations for the City at the Center of the World. It's all four of them. It feels like a bit of an overreach, and it might have been better to focus on just one of the Four Horsemen and specific cult of followers, but either way, the concept is still inspiring and the 50-word writeup helps explain things which help in that.

Final verdict, the details of the map are pretty thorough. We get a lot for our money here. Run the right way, I'm sure it would create a lot of memorable gaming moments for players. But, I also think it's bit too grandiose for its trying to be, and could have benefited from a narrower focus. So, while I'm going to say I DO RECOMMEND this map to advance to the next round, it's with some degree of hesitancy. I'm worried that you going a little to over the top when your ideas could actually use more refinement. But, regardless, good luck in the voting, and maybe we'll see what you can do in 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.
The map is very clear to read and full of interesting dungeon details. The map feels a bit constrained by the format, and I wonder what you would have done if you hadn't place such a large legend on the right.

I like the Abaddon ties, but not sure Absalom is the best place to put it (place has enough problems as it is, and there's plenty of other equally interesting cities to place this map). The non-standard clerics are a useful point for the GM—but I don't really need to know about them to make this map.

Fun Factor
We don't get as much play time with Abaddon-related elements, and I like how they've been combined here. This looks like it could be a non-stop battle once the players are in, and that could get ugly quick.

Final Thoughts
I like the idea of four clerics coming together in this map—but I think the map is too small for that vision. It would have been better to focus on one aspect rather than four. I do recommend this map for advancement, but I would advise against trying to do too much with what you're allotted.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Mark D Griffin

Thank you judges for your helpful feedback, and thanks to everyone else for reading my entry. I hope to see you all in round 3, but for now back to work.

Dedicated Voter Season 9

This map is bursting with ideas! Your use of color and imaginative spirit make it exciting to read, and, as a player, it gets me excited for the types of encounters that would happen here.

Well done, Mark. Your mastery of the material at hand as well as your desire to create something completely new and dynamic will surely serve you well going forward.

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. That said, your basic map skills look perfect for the related maps... like the Dungeon and the other Dungeon. And as a basic layout, I love your maps style. The actual content I don't like...

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?

Ok, as a layout of a dungeon, it's neat. As a premise for a dungeon, it's not bad. Where you put it (under Absalom, where the GRAND Lodge of the Pathfinder Society is, and all those PFS scenarios begin) makes me think this thing should have been discovered and taken care of a dozen times over. Also, the idea that the size of the portal matters that much is a classic of literature, but mechanically has issues... for instance, the cacodaemon is Tiny, and that's acting like "size" matters for portals per se. And then the map seems to have alters to ALL FOUR HORSEMEN? They are not friends, they're worshipers should not be friendly, and they might be coming through the portal just to bust up the sacrilege against the others.

So, what do I think of it?

Ok, so basic map is neat. I question how well it would connect up with the existing Sewer but that's adjustable. Then I'd question how and why such an elaborate dungeon existed in a city at all... so really, I'd sooner see this set up somehow differently. The specific rooms too have some "gross" factors, but that's totally in line with Deamons and Abaddon. I wish the River Styx stuff was more incorporated, but I can't recall what by Golarion lore is the nature of the River Styx in Abaddon???

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

I Like it..

Could I easily Convert it using Campaign Cartographer or Another Graphics program using provided the Graphic ... Yes

Could I use it in my Generic Game.... Yes

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

While this feels completely unfair to Mike Hill, the spelling error here docks fewer points because the actual meaning is still clear.

Nonetheless, you should be spelling your own location’s name correctly.

Dark Archive

I was not a big fan of this map at a quick glance, but once I actually looked at it, I changed my mind. It's interesting, easy to read, and I can imagine multiple encounters or quests for PCs to complete within the area. You have my vote!

Added bonus:
Points for drawing the horseshoe in the correct position - may your luck never run out!

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.

Ah, you've used my favorite (I wish there was a sarcasm font) locale in this map: ye old Sewers of Absalom.

What can't one find in that magical place? Apparently there's a portal to another place I'd never want to go to in there. Wonderful! :)

This interests me. I want to play through this encounter. I'm a sucker for evil clerics, and I LOVE that the toxic waste (which is actually soul-stuff!) transformed them into even stranger creatures.

The bottom line is, this map is well executed. It's readable and varied without being cluttered. The layout makes sense to me, but does not feel like the same generic map I've seen a hundred times. Again, I can't stress enough how much I enjoy the fact that so much is going on here without the map being busy or difficult to decipher.

Kudos to you. Now, someone please publish this encounter stat so I can throw an awakened devilfish cleric at my players.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Mark, it looks like death is the real winner here, that portal is right on his doorstep!

Seriously, though this is an interesting map, and an interesting location, bit it feels like you misstepped a little with your golarion-fu. As Lucus above said, the four horsemen are rivals, so they're not really interested in working together. Certainly not to widen a portal into a shrine of the horseman of death.

Certainly, the map oozes flavor, but a little more focus and polish could have lead to this being really spectacular.

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

This has the potential to be really groovy. It received one of my votes.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

It's like a Chuck E. Cheese of evil. I like it.

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

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I like this map very much. Lots of space for adventuring, lot of diversity and different visuals but with an excellent unifying theme and very good spread of info on the map. So much so that the blurb was almost unneeded.

This map is on my Keep list :-)

I was hoping for a better location idea. As I said elsewhere this round, "sewer" is just about as cliché as "forest" and "cemetery", when it comes to a fantasy RPG location.

That said, I'm actually not seeing how this actually works as a sewer. I'm not a civil engineer, but the function of sewers is to take waste away from a location. The 2 pipes in this area don't seem to me to be able to perform that function. I cant think of a reason the sewers would have been designed with 2 parallel pipes leading to this area.

While your map is easy to read, I'm not thrilled with either the execution, or the idea behind it. Sorry. Congrats on making it to this round.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

This is in the group of maps that would probably get a vote if I hand 16 votes, but I only have 8. Something about the map just doesn't draw me in enough to get into that top 8.

I do think people are being a little nitpicky with the Golarion framework here. Those problems are easily fixed, even with a hamhanded "unite the clans" story starter. And while I think it's good to point out that the place simply can't work as a sewer, it would be easy to change the location.

In my case, at least, I'm basing my judgment on how much I feel like adventuring there. And this place looks really cool. This map is not just well-drawn; it has a lot of evocative material. Writhing room, corpse floor, starving wizard, fighting pit--I like it. In fact, it's one of my favorites.

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

Wow! This has enough ideas for 2 or 3 maps!

As much as my instinct is to say it's cluttered, it's not really. It's just using all available space for new ideas. Kudos for pulling off that balance.

Having said that, I do worry that there's too much going on from a gameplay stance. It feels like once the PCs are in here, it's go go go until they're done. Sometimes in a dungeon crawl it's a good idea to leave a little breathing room here and there.

And I tend to agree that the logic behind the dungeon and its location could be better.

As for the map, until I looked at the key I read the spiral staircases as some sort of torturous revolving door. There's a pretty standard symbol for spiral staircases, which isn't this one. And there's a couple of misspellings, including the location name and "altar" (4 times!). The whirlpool was a little confusing, as if the swirling lines were permanent features, but the key straightened me out.

But I like all the little icons for everything. I like the bodies half in the wall in the writhing room. I like the compass rose having a horseshoe for the horsemen.

I'm undecided on this one at the moment, but I suspect the sheer number of ideas will win me over.

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: feels like a lot of different areas yet feels cohesive.
Vote: Definitely

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’s four distinct areas surrounding a central set-piece area, cleverly visible from the way that PCs enter the room. It definitely prompts them to make some decisions about the best way to proceed.

Does the map utilize the space well? You use almost all of the space, but your concept may have been a little too ambitious for it.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? There’s a nice number of clever features, but many of them make me wonder if there’s enough space devoted to them. The fighting pits are only 10 by 10 feet and the ghast’s laboratory is only 15 feet wide. Each area feels like it belongs to someone with influence, someone important, and I’d really like to have this map be home to a series of mini-boss encounters. And I don’t mean that bosses only take up a half of a square. Some of the areas seem a little claustrophobic. I do recognize that you gave somewhat larger spaces to creatures that are large, and that’s smart design. You include a lot of details that make this a very exciting place to adventure, and if it seems like I’m being too critical of the space issue (I probably am) than it’s because the player part of me wants to see more of each zone. I mean, you have to get to one of them via a giant, open, fanged mouth. That’s fun, from both sides of the GM screen.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? It’s an impressive section of sewer, so it wouldn’t be hard to re-use it for that part. Some sections of the map might have to be covered up to get more mileage out of it though. That’s not a bad thing.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? An awakened devilfish? An Otyugh cleric? I’m eager to see what you come up with in the encounter round. The map itself is quite inspiring as well, and could be a major, cinematic set-piece for a lot of things. It’s a nice arena to set loose the imagination in.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Mark D Griffin

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I just want to take a moment to thank every person who took a look at my map, and a special thanks to everyone who took time to comment. Whether you liked my map or not, I genuinely appreciated all of your feedback, and I hope to incorporate that into my future rounds if I get the chance.

I'd also like to apologize for the giant wall of text I'm about to throw down onto this page. I'm going to try and talk about some decisions I made and address some of the comments, starting with the simplest and working my way up.

Spelling Errors
Oh my god, I'm mortified that I handed something in with spelling errors in it. I'm the kind of person who reads a text message 3 times before sending it to make sure that kind of thing doesn't happen. I'm sure it happened because I was pressed for time and doing a lot of this work late at night with little sleep, but that is no excuse. Everyone was on the same deadline, and I appear to be one of the worst offenders here. I'll do better from here on out.

Why Absalom
I wanted a city with a big enough population that kidnapping the lowest rungs of society could go largely unnoticed. There were better choices but any large city has bigger fish than the PCs who could solve their problems. I actually didn't envision these clerics being particularly high level, and they're mostly trying to stay hidden until the portal is large enough to bring the might of Abaddon to bear.

Bad Sewer
I'll admit I know very little about how sewers work. I was hoping that "mutating this area into a twisted hellscape" would absolve me of such considerations. This area of the sewer does not look like it used to, and the extent of the change is pretty large. The latent evil of the Abaddon-tainted River Styx transformed not just the walls, but perhaps created new rooms or completely rearranged old ones. The answer is "because magic", basically.

The Horsemen Are Rivals
A few people pointed this out, but I'm going to have to disagree with you guys here. Having read the campaign book Book of the Damned, Volume 3 - Horsemen of the Apocalypse more than once, my view of the Horsemen is that they get along as well as one could expect for a group of nihilistic destroyers of worlds. I would point to this passage on page 5 of that book:

The Four do not openly wage war upon one another,
instead cooperating as an unholy fellowship and presenting
a supposedly unified front to the cosmos, though below
them the daemonic ranks churn with schemes and
outright fratricide.

While there is much infighting among the lower ranks, the 4 more or less coexist because each has there own interests, but a common goal: the end of all things. Because power is the means to an end and not the end itself, they're much more likely to work with those who can bring their end goal to fruition. The Horseman of War has no interest in taking over the portfolio of Pestilence, but still appreciates that mortals die of disease. They have rivals, of course, but they are generally their servants who seek to supplant them.

Even if you do consider them rivals, it doesn't matter. Daemons are the ultimate pragmatists, willing to work with Urgathoa, Zyphus, Rovagug, Ghlaunder and others. If they can coexist with non-daemons (and they do, Urgathoa and Zyphus were gifted domains within Abaddon!), surely they can work with each other if a worlds worth of souls are at stake. There are even examples of them working together, such as the binding of the Olethrodaemon and forays into the maelstrom to murder various protean lords.

These are all just my opinions of course, but I did not come to this decision lightly or without research.

Did I try to put too much into the space I was allowed? Absolutely, I did. Once I got the idea of a temple to all 4 Horsemen in my head, I couldn't shake it. I felt very constrained by the space, and that should have been the signal that I needed to simplify the concept. I'll try to be more cognizant of that in the future. In my mind I rationalized it by saying that these clerics aren't high level yet. I couldn't fit this idea into the description, but my plan was that these clerics were just various creatures that were living in the sewers minding their own business until they came under the influence of the evil souls flowing from the River Styx. Now they guard this place, and seek out people to sacrifice to widen the portal; they worship the horsemen but don't fully understand what they are. These guys are lower level management at best, which is why I felt okay stuffing them into one place. I see now that having more focus would have been better.

I want to thank everyone one more time, especially anyone who took the time to read this ridiculous post. Even if I don't move on to the next round, I learned a lot that will improve my designs in the future.

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