The Hallowed Falls


Round 2: Create an encounter map

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

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This site, found in the Loric Fells region, frequently changes ownership between bandits and beasts. The rapids overhead are dangerous, capable of sweeping away adventurers 60 feet per round. Within the hidden cave are various abandoned treasures, along with a curious crane that overlooks an unfinished vertical shaft.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Mike! 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?
Mostly, yes. The compass rose is present, map scale, and even a brief terrain key for the cartographer to understand how to distinguish between different areas of the map. You've got clean, flowing lines with sharp definition so there's hopefully no misinterpretation of anything. I got a little confused though with how the cave entrance reaches the cave itself. Is the upper half of the map supposed to be zoomed out, and then the lower portion zoomed in for the details of the cave? Or is it all one map with the waterfall cycling through two different drop zones? Either way, the presentation of the cave's interior still leaves me confused in understanding how it's reached via a tunnel versus what's just a ledge where the water tumbles past. So, I can't say everything is clear here for me. I come away with questions. One suggestion to help you with future maps is to avail yourself of some color. Clearly shading water areas blue will do wonders for calling out exactly what's what.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Possibly. We've got rapids (with a DC 20 check to swim against them) indicated. The potential for falling damage is significant. Scree could cause some challenges on reaching the cave entrance. There's enough room there for a battle to take place before we even get into the cave. And it's roomy enough once we get inside that another one could break out, too, depending on what we find there. So, there's a bit of variety here. Outdoor mixed with underground, all centered around a waterfall backdrop.

Is the map creative and interesting?
I don't know. This is more like the beginning area for reaching something more important. Sure, there's the potential for a memorable encounter here, because of the rapids and the waterfall, but it's the mysterious crane overlooking the unfinished vertical shaft that promises the most adventure. For me, the unstated goal of this round isn't just "let's see how good your mapmaking skills are"...because, if it were, we'd be holding a cartography contest. Instead, this is more about "let's see how good you are at dreaming up interesting, evocative encounter locations and creating an initial map for them." The high waterfall aspect of this locale is interesting. Is it the most creative? I don't know. I faced a challenge with this kind of map in my RPG Superstar adventure and I kept it completely outdoors with two different waterfall drops and pools. Like you, I had a treasure cave involved, but it wasn't the centerpiece. Here, it's kind of reversed. The creative waterfall location is muted somewhat in order to highlight the importance of the cave and wherever the unfinished shaft will lead. So, I bring that up not some much to compare your map to mine as to explain different ways of approaching it and the goals they serve. Bottom line, your map displays your sense of creativity. I'm not quite as interested by it as the promise of what's off the page, though.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
This was important insight, because of the significance of the crane and unfinished shaft. Clearly, we'll likely have to fight some bandits and/or beasts outside the cave before we get to its treasure, and there's the natural hazard of the rapids involved is someone falls in. The lure of what lies beneath this cave is the most inspiring element, though...at least for me.

Final verdict, I like the sharp definition you applied to the map, but got confused a little by the juxtaposition of the cave and the exterior waterfall area. And, the idea behind it isn't quite as inspiring beyond the natural hazard, so I'm going to say I DO NOT RECOMMEND this map to advance. Mostly, it's because I don't think you went far enough with things to help you stand out. The map needs a bit more something to serve up inspiration to get me super-excited. As-is, the promise of bandits and beasts with a natural hazard and a treasure cave leading elsewhere aren't quite doing it for me. Regardless, good luck with the voters in seeing if you get to move on to 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 clearly illustrated map, though I am confused about one point: are these two separate areas? Does the cave entrance pointed at in the upper half of the map lead to the hidden cave in the bottom half of the map?

Usability
Hidden cave behind a waterfall is a classic location, and this could be reused many different times. But what makes the location "Hallowed"? (Or "Hollowed" as its spelled on the map.) These aren't clear. And what's curious about a crane?

Fun Factor
This would be a scarier fight at low level for certain: it's quite the drop from the upper portion of the map to the lower, and bull rushing becomes quite a valid tactic here.

Final Thoughts
The map lines themselves are clear, but what I would need clarification on before I began working on this map myself is if the upper and lower depictions are the same. I do not recommend this map for advancement.


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I think "hollowed" was intentional here, as in "hollowed out".

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

@Mwangi Inquisitor:

Doesn't much matter which was intentional and which was the mistake. That's a bad, bad mistake if it's Mike Hill's mistake.

If, OTOH, Paizo set up this thread without copying & pasting and made the mistake on their own, I'd actually like to know that before voting.

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

Sadly I believe the error was mine. It was intended as Hollowed, but I must have typed it wrong when writing the description.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Mike...no explaining or expounding upon your entry during voting...even if it's copping to an error.

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?

I wish you had either made it clearer on your map, or I could ask you to clarify, but you meant for this to be two-maps-in-one, right? The top half is the "top of the falls" and then 30 feet down, it seems is the rest? If done right, this could work wonderfully with some of the existing flip-mats like the River Crossing, and Forest Path and especially the Falls & Rapids, with for instance an ambush on one of those, then tracking the bandits back to their secret cave, etc. In that sense, I almost wish the cave was just generic and empty with you calling out Map Packs of stuff to tag into it so I could play green dragon lair or bandit hideout, etc.

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?

As a generic site, sure. Liz calls out that "cave behind a waterfall" is a classic/cliche spot. One that doesn't have a specific map I saw. As a specific location, I guess it fits in Loric Fells of the River Kingdoms and Kingmaker is/was an extremely popular AP.

So, what do I think of it?

When I was still a "hopeful" a cave-system behind a waterfall was one of the ideas I very breifly sketched out. I'd have personally used more realistic setup, and designed it to be generic, then used my 50 words to hint all the things that COULD be done with it, etc. Setting yours clearly in the River Kingdoms, giving a bit of background, etc. and then having the basics aren't terrible. If these two maps are meant to work as one, then I'd question why the cave entrance is labelled as 45 or so feet away from the waterfall, then you imply the waterfall is directly over/below it in the drawing. If it's meant to be steppes or something, then it didn't go so well.


It's a fun map, and I actually had little problem reading the location.

However, I think you probably just DQ'd yourself.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Mike! I just want to say, you have a wonderful first name. Really says a lot about your character, right? ;)

Aaaanyways, I'd like to start out by saying I really appreciate that your linework is all clear and crisp. I love being able to clearly see what is going on even without zooming in on the map.

However, I'll echo everyone else and say that at.first, I didn't realize the bottom half of the map was an interior for the top half. I thought it was an island at the bottom of the falls. Unlikely as that would be, geologically, it would be a memorable location as a result.

That one problem aside, I think your map is nice... But it's not very exciting. A cave in a waterfall can be a good place for an encounter, but it doesn't really wow me. Especially not when your biggest hook is a mysterious pit.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Cool idea and well-done map, but could have been more varied. The fact that the idea is a rather common feature of adventure movies only makes the lack of surprises more obvious.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

My main problem with this map is that too much space is spent on the rice above the falls and not enough within the cave.

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