Ruined Mountaintop Temple of Hei Feng


Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Helena Handbasket

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Until recently, tengu devotees of the Duke of Thunder filled these buildings with raucous prayers and the clang of swordplay. That all ended when the high priest exalted himself above his god. An enraged Hei Feng blasted the mountaintop with earth-shaking thunder and transformed his former faithful into leprous ghouls.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Bill! (I'm using your nickname since you indicated that's what you prefer) 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. There's a lot here, especially in the map key, but it holds together. You've got the requisite compass, scale, elevation markers (very important for a mountaintop tengu aerie), etc.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
I really like the wrap-around incline with the bridge that brings you to the temple buildings of Hei Feng. Very nice three-dimensional representation in a 2-d format here. And, with tengu ghouls involved, it's very wise to do it this way. You can already envision opponents firing bows from atop the bridge and hillside overlooks, not to mention whatever plays out inside the temple buildings themselves. Variant tengu from the Advanced Race Guide can even replace the gifted linguist ability with glide, and then you can have some real Wuxia-style cinematics. Well done!

Is the map creative and interesting?
Yes. The aforementioned representation of the mountaintop adds a lot of character to any potential battle scene. With sword-wielding tengu ghouls pairing blades with their paralyzing claw attacks, this could be very distinctive given the terrain involved. And the blasted mountaintop makes the perfect backdrop for it. Aerial tactics and high ground could be important. So, there's a lot of potential here. I'm very inspired by this turnover.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. In fact, it's pretty vital to explaining the circumstances the map is trying to portray. This is how you should spend 50 words introducing your map. I also appreciate the writing style and descriptive language you've used here. You're basically leaving us another calling card with regards to your writing ability and not just how you envision encounters and map them for interesting play at the game table. Seriously good work here.

Final verdict, I'm pretty impressed with this one and STRONGLY RECOMMEND this map. It does justice to an undead tengu encounter on a mountaintop and provides more than enough clarity for a cartographer to turn this into an inspired piece of art. So, 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
I'm not sure what's going on with this map as a whole, mostly because it's so tiny. (It's entirely possible that it was submitted to us at the wrong resolution.) However, even at its small size, it's still very easy to see what's going on and what its intent is, and the text really helps strengthen that.

Usability
Ruined temples crouched on the edge of a mountain like some enormous gargoyle are a great location to have in your GM toolbox. Varying elevation also makes for some fun encounters, and flying opponents are going to have a great advantage here.

Fun Factor
Fighting undead tengu ghouls on top a mountain while the thunderclouds rumble their pleasure? Epic, and a great opportunity to pull a Leonidas and kick off the foes off the edge of the temple.

Final Thoughts
Despite the problem with the image, this is a very clear map that is enhanced by the clear descriptive text. I do recommend this map for advancement.

Scarab Sages Developer

Post from the Host:

This map meets the 72ppi requirement that could get you DQ'd, but obviously was sent to us in a very small format (not the recommended 1728 px x 2160 px). We present it as it was sent to us.

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

Hmmm. That's unfortunate. Even clicking on it, it's too tiny to see anything. :-/

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Bill, I'm afraid the format your map ended up being presented in makes it not really readable. I was worried it was an error on my end, but... alas.

It looks like it might be a neat space, though a little... linear. If you follow the flow of the place, it's got a pretty straight run through from the edge of the map where you enter, to the (small) building - minus a handful of short dead-ends.

Of course, it's a little hard to see how everything is connected without a bigger map.

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?

The old "ruins on a mountaintop" -- enough example maps of this exist that I shall not even link to any but I will point out Paizo doesn't have a "Mountain Ruins" flip-mat.

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?

Your bad copy (silly dpi, I'm so sorry for the technical glitch that you can't change) makes it hard to see any details, and your write up doesn't "sell" me much... so I see it as a just another random mountain top ruin. I mean, its cliche for a reason, so given that, sooner or later I'd likely end up at such a place.

So, what do I think of it?

I think you might have done some really cool stuff, but when I zoom in close to read the words etc. and really try to understand the map in any meaningful way I can't and so you suffer for that. Sorry.

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 visual part of this map it impressive, with smooth lines and cool features like mongo staircases and fortresses with clear, thick walls. My "wants to adventure there" meter moved a little. However, I can't get more details out of the terrain of the map or inside the smashed fortress.

So I look to the 50-word story to see if I can get any help and I come away a little sad. First, punishing worshipers by making them ghouls..I dunno. Ghouls are sort of the master race to me. It's like saying "I want to wipe you off the face of the earth, but here are ability score increases some terrifying paralysis, and undead immunities instead.

Greek gods cursed people to make them monsters all the time, sure. Maybe it's just me, ghouls make them better in every way. Then there's the idea that the obscure god's high priest jsut went and exalted himself high above any other. I feel like that story has seen its day and needs a more unusual twist. So..how much do I punish you for that in a map round?

The 50 words are part of the contest, so I'll think on that as I deliberate my votes. Best of luck in voting and congratulations!

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8

I can't read anything at all D:

Dark Archive

This might be a really cool map. Sadly, I can't see the details well enough to tell. When I try to zoom in, it just makes it too blurry to read, and makes my head hurt. From what I can tell at small size, it should be clear and easy to read, so I won't dismiss it yet until I see what else is out there (I'm going in order, so this is only the second one I've seen).

Sczarni Star Voter Season 9

I really like the look of this map, but I can't read anything even when I've zoomed in. I don't think that's the contestant's fault, necessarily. I'm going to reserve judgment for later.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 8

Hey Bill, just want to let you know that the work that went into this was good enough to earn my approval despite the resolution flub. Well done :)

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Ruined Mountaintop Temple of Hei Feng

A mountaintop temple is here.
The Tengu once proudly revered.
But Hei Feng sent a "Whoosh"
'Cause some guy was a douche
And now it's all blasted and seared!

Technological flub? Bah! I, personally am more than willing to look past that.

The map is very well designed, and pleasing to look at. But one would have to harness a bit of creativity to keep numerous encounters from looking like "Tengu tengu tenug tengu tengu".

Nice work!

Dark Archive

After looking at all the maps, I'm back.
I have to say I'm still very disappointed that I can't read the map key, as I feel like I'm missing some fun information. However, even at small size I can tell this is well laid out and beautifully done, and the description gives me enough of a hint that I can guess as to what I'm missing. I especially love the 3-D feel of the bridge, which was one of the details I had no trouble interpreting. The fact that I am able to determine so much with the limited information I can glean tells me that this is a strong map. On that basis, I've decided to take a leap of faith, and give you my vote. Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

This was the first map I opened, and after reviewing all the rest, I can honestly say that it remains one of my favorites. I'm asking two questions of each map. Do I want to adventure there, and do I want to run encounters there? Here's my thoughts on the Ruined Mountaintop Temple of Hei Feng:

  • As a player, I want to explore this place. It's a well designed building on a cliff that presents choices in how to go about exploring. It's not too complex, so I'm not likely to get bored in the place because of an excess of supply closets. Seriously. I want to have an encounter in every area because you've taken care to create different kinds of environmental features in almost every section. The towers look interesting, and the biggest one looks ripe for a fantastic boss encounter.
  • Nice work on the architecture. I really like how this building looks. It's functional. It's not crowded. It something different from the usual kinds of keeps we see, but it still looks like it could be a real place.
  • I never had a problem drawing circles on a combat map, so I would love to spend the time drawing this up for an adventure. I'd be excited to describe the setting as the players explored it too, and it looks like there's enough details to give the place more than one history.
  • The prospect of using the map again and again for clifftop tower encounters has me thinking about all sorts of clifftop tower encounters, and that's exactly what I want a superstar map to do.
Incredible work on this one, Bill. You have one of my votes this round.


BEEP BOOP!! For more information...

Hei Feng is the Tian Xia god of sea and sky, and patron deity of the seaworthy birdfolk tengu. Ghouls are sentient but savage hungry undead humanoids with a taste for corpse flesh.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Standback

Dear hosts, is there any possibility of obtaining an image with a more reasonable resolution from Bill?

Not to dismiss the importance of attention to technical issues, but this is entirely unreadabale. It sounds like a bunch of other voters are also just not going to know what they're voting on here. That'll lead to people not voting because they can't see the image, and also people voting because they like what they can see and want to give Bill the benefit of the doubt. Both of those seem like an unnecessary shame. If you can get a better image, voters can factor in the weight of the resolution error, and vote with the whole picture in sight.

Many thanks, and all the best :)

Scarab Sages Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I understand the desire to see this better. Unfortunately, we don't allow contestants to edit, modify, or even explain their entries after they send them in. This is a contest for a contract to write a print product, and being able to meet technical specifications is as much an aspect of that challenge as drawing a good map to begin with. Since the map doesn't violate the rules of the contest we are presenting it as is, but we no more allow revised image turnover than we allow the addition of text that was forgotten or the editing of obvious typos.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I like this map's overall design. The problem with scale badly detracts from assessing precisely its usability for adventures, but the keyword here is "precisely". The whole atmosphere is clear enough.

The blurb is GREAT !!! I want to go there right now (though likely with a few potions of Fly) ;-)

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Just to be clear : this map is on my Keep list :-)


The map is really hard to read.

As I've said before in this round, the computer-fu portion of this round scared me. I create my maps in PDF, and had no idea how to convert them to JPEG, until I mass-emailed everyone I knew. I can easily imagine that William had no idea how to size the map appropriately.

However, its tough to judge a product you cant see. Tough break. From what I can see, the design looks OK, but the idea doesn't wow me.

Congrats on making it to this round.

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

This is the most frustrating map.

I like the idea of the encounter. I like what I imagine the map is implying about the layout of the cliff-top temple. The shapes are pleasing, and the approach looks like it would be a tough nut to crack.

But I can't see it well enough to be sure.

I suspect the image size problem will keep this from advancing, but I may vote for it anyway. I like what I see of it.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

unfortunately for individual contestants with the quality of people who make the top 32, submitting the wrong size map can be the difference between being on the list getting a vote and being on the other list.

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

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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! but wha??
understandability: -+
visuals: +-
adventurous: ++
inspired: where gods take an active interest in the world :)
Vote: Competitive maybe

I can see bridges, elevations, ruins, doors, and even the curved wall seems to move. I am not sure what everything is, but I like the action in this piece.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Helena Handbasket

I am stunned and extremely honored that my map earned enough votes to get me to the next round! Thank you!!

When I realized that I had sent a much-too-small version of my map, I was devastated—and certain I was finished in the competition. For the first few days after the maps were revealed, my mood was pretty grim.

My error:
I attached the correctly-sized version of my map to my email, but did not realize that, under "Image Size", the image was set to Small. So, in brief: I am not a computer expert ;)

I will be happy to answer any questions you may have; I will also soon provide a link to a better-quality image of my map.

Once again, my humble and sincere thanks to everyone who gave me a chance!

~Bill~

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'm very glad this made it through despite the image size problem, and I look forward to seeing the full size map soon!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Helena Handbasket

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Star Voter Season 9

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Now that I can see it clearly, I want to use that map this weekend, for something. Maybe it's time for a Wrath of the Righteous side trek.

Glad it made it through!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Amanuensis

2 people marked this as a favorite.

It speaks to the quality of this map that it advanced, despite the fact that it was presented in a too-small version. Now that I can see it in full size, I'm glad I voted for you.

Dark Archive

I love this! I'm glad I finally got to see it at full size, and I'm happy you made it through. Now get to work on a monster! :)

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Helena Handbasket

Thanks again (I can never really stop thanking you all), and here are some responses to your comments/concerns:

Neil Spicer said wrote:
You can already envision opponents firing bows from atop the bridge and hillside overlooks, not to mention whatever plays out inside the temple buildings themselves. Variant tengu from the Advanced Race Guide can even replace the gifted linguist ability with glide, and then you can have some real Wuxia-style cinema tics.

I’m so happy you wrote this—it really captured the feeling I was going for! I wanted to create a dramatic, multi-level initial encounter area with lots of ranged combat and acrobatic martial action. I know that transformation into a ghoul wouldn't normally allow my tengu villains to retain their glide alternate racial trait—or the Tengu Wings feat if they had that—but I preferred to imagine them as slightly variant ghouls ;)

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Helena Handbasket

RonarsCorruption said wrote:
If you follow the flow of the place, it's got a pretty straight run through from the edge of the map where you enter, to the (small) building - minus a handful of short dead-ends.

It is true that, disregarding flight or difficult Climb checks, the initial entrance is pretty straightforward. Once you enter the temple complex, however, there are other options (which may not have been evident on my tiny map): there are stairways (in the temple and outside the kitchen) winding down to a deeper level, and another stairway leading up to the Raven Tower (which, admittedly, would probably be a dead end). Also, I intended the cistern to be another access point—neither my map nor descriptive text relates this info, but the cistern was cracked during Hei Feng’s “thunder-quake”, leaving it nearly empty of water and connecting it to the lower levels.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Helena Handbasket

Steven Helt said wrote:

First, punishing worshipers by making them ghouls..I dunno. Ghouls are sort of the master race to me. It's like saying "I want to wipe you off the face of the earth, but here are ability score increases some terrifying paralysis, and undead immunities instead.

Greek gods cursed people to make them monsters all the time, sure. Maybe it's just me, ghouls make them better in every way. Then there's the idea that the obscure god's high priest jsut went and exalted himself high above any other. I feel like that story has seen its day and needs a more unusual twist.

As a player, I would love to play a ghoul character, not just for the roleplaying opportunities, (though ghoulish hunger and appearance would definitely hinder typical adventures), but also because of the fact that ghoulish transformation is a “drawback that is actually a benefit”.

As a real person, I would find the metamorphosis into a hideous, flesh-hungry abomination to be horrifying.

I’m not saying that having Hei Feng turn his followers into ghouls was the best choice as a punishment, though. I think I was just enamored with the concept of “tengu ghoul” and tried to make it fit. Also, the blasphemy needed to incite such hands-on deific rage would probably need to be much greater (or at least better defined in an extended write-up).

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Helena Handbasket

Brigg said wrote:
But one would have to harness a bit of creativity to keep numerous encounters from looking like "Tengu tengu tenug tengu tengu”.

Hehe, like I mentioned above, the “tengu ghoul” concept really held me. But I did brainstorm a few other creature ideas to spice up the encounter areas (including the lower levels that aren’t detailed on the map):

terra-cotta soldiers, a gray ooze (in the cistern or partially-flooded lower level), a carrionstorm (occupying the Raven Tower), elementals (air or lightning, or appropriate mephits) attracted to the lingering storms in the area, etc.

So I think it’s possible to add encounter variety. Just make sure the tengu ghouls remain the focus ;)

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Helena Handbasket

Brian J. Fruzen said wrote:
The prospect of using the map again and again for clifftop tower encounters has me thinking about all sorts of clifftop tower encounters, and that's exactly what I want a superstar map to do.

Thanks! I wanted to create a temple that could be used for other faiths (though I did include a tengu statue, but it is one small detail), or even be repurposed as an eccentric’s villa or small arcane academy.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Helena Handbasket

...whew!

That was a lot of words, and I apologize if it's too much.
Also, I sincerely appreciate everyone's feedback—and votes, let's not forget the votes ;)—even if I didn't call you out specifically in my replies. I'm happy my map resonated with you and I hope my monster will surpass your expectations.

Now, off to sleep and monstrous dreams...

~Bill~

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Your full-size map is beautiful. I am really happy that you went on to the Top16. Doubly so since I played a part (however small) by voting for your smaller map :-)

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka DeathQuaker

I haven't been able to post comments until now, but I remember how helpful concrete feedback was to me last season so I want to try to return the favor.

First, congrats on getting into the top 16 with your map!

Indeed the small-sized attachment error was unfortunate, but it absolutely speaks to your design that even in the small size, the layout is clean and clear. I can't read the legend on the original but I can still figure out a good deal of what is going on, which is amazing (due to Google Drive misbehaving I still can't see the big map so I'm totally going with what was originally uploaded). You have a good sense of space and line--the whole image flows beautifully--and you use minimal color to excellent effect--in fact, given the sizing error, it's probably what saved you as it helps provide contrast for different areas and features.

It's easy to go "typical" with a temple map and you avoided that. There is adventure potential not only in the location itself, but the journey up the mountain to it.

I'm sure with the right size a cartographer would have no issue turning this into a final product.

Your 50 word text is well written and enhances the story potential we already see in the image itself. I wonder if tengu ghouls fly...

I would suggest darkening text--even for a properly sized image. :)

One "advantage" of the smaller size is it's hard to find details to nitpick. ;) Good job.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mechaPoet

This was a good looking map even when tiny. Now that I can see the full image, I can see that it's actually gorgeous.

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