Aberrant Excavation


Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Petty Alchemy

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Cape Kraken offers more than invigorating salt air, as the discovery of an aboleth fossil may draw archaeologists, treasure hunters, and necromancers alike to the dig site by a collapsed lighthouse. The remains of a veiled master have steeped here for millennia, potentially polluting the surrounding area with foul magic.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Isaac! 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 labels, colors, and elevation markers to further our understanding of everything. It's also got enough character that we can easily discern we're dealing with a dig site at a fallen lighthouse, which just so happens to hold a number of scattered, broken fragments of a crystal tablet...one of which is suspiciously placed among the ruins of the fallen lighthouse, accessible by an apparent burrow which might just connect to the dig site, as well. Interesting, but also clear enough to divine all of that without even reading the extra 50 words.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes. It looks like there's lots of interesting stuff to discover at this dig site, and, it doesn't come across as if it's just a single encounter location...i.e., you could see stuff happening both above the dig site, inside the dig site around the aboleth fossil, and even among the ruins of the fallen tower, or possibly the burrows around it.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Yes. The impled magic of the aboleth fossil or the mystery of the broken tablet presents several different options for using the map, both for investigation/roleplay purposes and combat. There's even a giant eagle nest down there on the cliffside which could present a problem for PCs searching around the area...plus whatever might still reside in the collapsed lighthouse...plus whatever the excavation team uncovered with the fossil. Very creative and interesting.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. You've presented possible reasons for the types of interest this mapped location might draw from archaeologists to treasure hunters to necromancers, but the mystery awaiting them remains the same regardless. A veiled master's fossil still resides here, and who knows what kind of effect it's been having on the area, the downfall of the ruined lighthouse, or the broken crystal tablet? Consider me inspired.

Final verdict, the details of the map are more than sufficient to professionally render it, and it's got an inspiring idea behind it along with lots of unique details and opportunities for adventure to take place. So, I'm going to say I STRONGLY RECOMMEND this map to advance to the next round. Good luck and let's see what you can do 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
Very easy to read map, and lots of little details that really bring it to life (without being overly cluttered). I don't care for the compass rose with north on the bottom edge of the page: it would be easier to flip the map to follow standard expectations.

Usability
This doesn't really fall into the "re-use beyond the initial adventure" but the location is interesting enough that it isn't a problem. The map details would be easy to recreate on a Flip-Mat.

Fun Factor
The accompanying text description did a really good job at setting up this map, and the idea of the various nasty critters that could show up because of this dig site is very exciting.

Final Thoughts
A clean clear map, fantastic encounter potentials. I do recommend this map for advancement.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

An open dig site with an aboleth skull, ruins and potentially tunnels. Players that could have to deal with bandits looking for a quick buck, aboleth cultists, or an undead aboleth or several other possibilities. This is probably the best map I have seen so far.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Issac, this is an interesting map. I can see the potential for adventure, and I like the idea of an aboleth dig site - after all, what the heck is a vieled master doing so far above sea level - but I'm getting stuck on your map itself.

Specifically, those are pretty dang big tents. At least, as far as a tepee style tent, like you're using as an icon, 10x10 feels enormous. (and they are, a 10x10 tent would sleep about 5 people, comfortably) so, there's apparent sleeping space for 15 people... and no work space beyond the dig site?

I mean, it's a pretty minor concern, all things are concerned, but it's less clear than it could be.

There's a lot of opportunity for fun stuff on this map, though a lot of it is potential more than a single obvious great encounter. Though the idea of an undead fossil aboleth is a pretty cool idea.


It looks like this would be really useful for that encounter, so this does well on technical grounds. I'm not sure about what to do with this otherwise, though. There aren't too many situations where I need a map depicting a pit near a fallen lighthouse.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I must say that though much of the space is left rather empty, you make the whole location quite enticing with precious nuggets here and there as well as undeniable adventure mojo that also saturates the blurb. This map is 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? Yes, but some of the text is unnecessarily small.

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 three primary elements to explore, but beyond that there isn’t much need to make choices.

Does the map utilize the space well? There’s too much open ground between the campsite, the dig site and the collapsed lighthouse. You did add grass, but this space is ripe for some interesting terrain features.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? Your lighthouse is on a precipice, but that is mostly irrelevant to the map. There’s interesting elements when taken on their own, but they’re somewhat dissociated from each other. The eagle nest is a nice feature, as is the burrows, but those could have been integrated a little better. Perhaps the campsites could have been fortified against incursions made by creatures coming from the burrows. Maybe they tried to plug one up, or built an encampment around one to fight against things that come out of as soon as they appear? What about a defensive structure for the dig site?

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? Archaeological dig sites could find a spot more than once even in the same campaign.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? I can understand why adventurers would want to come here, but once they arrive, it’s kind of dull. There should be more to suggest a sense of urgency, or to imply recent or imminent dangers. You started that process, but I think you could have taken it a step further to get GMs a little more excited to work with the environment you provided. It’s close, but not quite there.

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

I'm on the fence about this map. I want to like it, but that's almost entirely because of the aboleth fossil. That's a really cool idea, and I think you could do a lot with it.

I think the idea has maybe been set in the wrong location. There's lots of other places where an aboleth fossil would be more disturbing than at what seems to be a remote, collapsed lighthouse.

I can see how a collapsed lighthouse could fit into backstory for the the fossil (Especially if there were shipwrecks below the lighthouse. Never a good sign!), but on a map it feels sort of random and disconnected.

Your 50 words are very nice, by the way. Hits just the right pacing and tone.

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: OK
understandability: ++
visuals: +-
adventurous: +-
inspired: plenty to do, but a lot of dead air. I hoped the varying colors were something interactive, but not really.
Vote: Competitive maybe

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

Apologies, these critiques of maps and Top 32 items took too long, and I'm just not going to be able to do my full write up for your map.

I think you map, as it is, would not make a good flip-mat product. It doesn't have to, but I think a superstar would have done that AND had an evocative encounter hinted at.

I think an ancient lighthouse could have been cool, and hasn't been done. And I'm curious what an "aboleth fossil" would look like (I've assumed their bodies are around the form of an octopus and/or shark... but I don't think its enough.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Petty Alchemy

I'd like to thank everyone for their consideration of my map, and doubly so for all the feedback provided! I'm grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow.

I had a safer concept I considered (which would have been more general and work better as a flip-mat), but ultimately I'm happy that I chose to make Aberrant Excavation instead.

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