Apiary of the Aurulent Brothers


Round 2: Create an encounter map

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

A Tanagaar-affiliated monastic shrine, once famous for honey from sacred bees. Now abandoned except for mad herbalist in garden workshop. “The bees changed, then the brothers,” he insists....

Black & yellow color scheme indoors.

Grounds are grassy; depicted white on turnover for clarity.

Hives around trellis are Ukrainian-style apiaries.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Kris! 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?
Wow. There's a lot going on here. You've done your best to jam in as much information as possible to explain it, but it's getting a bit cluttered. You've got the requisite compass and scale, as well as a much-needed map key. After really scrutinizing the map (yeah, I'm OCD like that), there are still some things I'm not 100% sure I get. It appears like the garden workshop also includes some water around it? Are those lily pads and flowering plants and stepping stones within it? Assuming it is wather, is there a depth to it? Is that a fence separating it from the bee hives? Or is that the terrace? The side view is clearly meant to help, but it's kind of scrunched in there between the map's key and the garden workshop itself. Compared this part of your location, the shrine is a lot simpler to figure out. Crumbled walls, burned off roof, other chambers holding the pews and royal jelly. All of that works. So, in some ways, I'm left wondering if I've really got two locations here and if it might have been best to focus on each one individually.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes. I think so. There's some cool variety to the burned out shrine, the room filled with royal jelly (and how to access it). Meanwhile, there are beehive stumps among the fruit trees, the monstrance holding the sacred honey, and the trellis with the golden casket outside. And then there's the hill with the garden workshop where an apparently mad herbalist lives. There's plenty of places for stuff to happen.

Is the map creative and interesting?
There's a creative idea behind it, but it's a lot to chew on, and I'm not 100% sure the map does full justice to what you've envisioned happening here. I'm inspired by the idea that it's an apiary that includes a shrine. The presence of the functioning beehives and the mad herbalist living nearby adds another wrinkle. Personally, I wonder if you might have been better served having the herbalist occupy the ruined shrine instead and just focusing more detail and attention down on that rather than the workshop area (which feels very claustrophobic and hard to play through at the table).

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. This was very useful stuff. The Tanagaar reference clears up the owl motif in the shrine. And the Aurulent Brothers is an obvious reference to Tanagaar's nickname as the Aurulent (or "golden") Eye. The brothers of the shrine keeping a bunch of bees to gather honey is kind of unusual for an empyreal lord focused on owls and watchfulness in the night, but if we're associating golden honey with the Aurulent Eye, I understand a little better. Sacred colors of Tanagaar are black and gold, after all, and bees certainly embody that. Of course, this text tells us the bees "changed" and then the brothers did, as well. So, there's major hints at something sinister happening here. Who knows what the PCs will discover within the ruined shrine and the entrance to "the Lawful plane." What role did the royal jelly play in it? When did the mad herbalist arrive and what does he know about what happened here? Altogether, it's an interesting setup and could make for a legitimate encounter location.

Final verdict, I'm still ON THE FENCE with this map. The idea behind it tells me the text writeup for it would be pretty well inspired. But the rendering of the map still needs a bit more work to make it clear to the cartographer. If handed over to me as a developer, I'd certainly still have a couple of questions about it so I could make sure the cartographer did it justice. 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
This is a very, very busy map, and I think it tries to overcompensate by adding a lot of additional text on the map. I'm not sure why the decision to mix in typed text and handwritten notes on the map was done: either do one or the other (preferably the former). I'm not especially fond of using side profile images to explain what's going on in a map, and the highly specific "25-degree slope" is not really useful in a map turnover. At this scale, a vial of anything is not going to be visible, and should be included as a note on the location in your text, not on a map.

Usability
A magical beehive makes me think of an old Dungeon adventure, and this is certainly a location that could get some re-use. This is the second map that I've seen with a magical portal, though.

Fun Factor
I'm not sure I could resist playing this map and not going "BEEEEES!" at some point during it. Fighting in the royal jelly could be a very interesting thing indeed. I wonder if omox demons could use this to zip around? Hm.

Final Thoughts
I like the location, but the execution of the details is busy and cluttered. I do not recommend this map for advancement.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Kris, I had trouble figuring out this map. In fact, it took me two separate looks at the legend to realize that these weren't two separate areas, lost in... Space or something. You say they've been left on white for clarity, but you could have done a very light green. Or even a gradient, which would clear up your need to describe the hill.

All said, this seems like a neat adventure location, but you cram too much adventure and not enough location on the map itself.

I also have to call you out for, except for the one rounded wall, every wall is perfectly five feet long and matches a grid line.

I'm torn on this map. Neat location, and I love your description, but... There's a few details that really miss the mark.

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.

This map ought to be talked about in terms of whether it keeps the rules. I understand if it technically violated the rules, the judges would have acted. But there's vagueness I think merits a conversation.

What I mean by that is there's a lot of text on the map that describes design elements. A hidden vial of honey? Sacred symbol of Tanagaar? These seem like details more appropriate to adventure text or the 50 words alotment. Please keep in mind I am not judging the entry based on this observation. The 50 words leaves room for some of these details to be included there, so the issue isn't that the entry cheats wordcount. Any details that help a cartographer (but don't help explain an encounter) should be welcome, too. It's that future map rounds ought to have clarity as to how much detail goes on a map, and this is an example of a map that may straddle this line.

Now..to actually consider the map, it looks to me like you ran out of time. There's clear black print for several notes and locations, but then the key and sideview are hastily scrawled. You'd be better served with a consistent appearance to the map and details. The sideview actually doesn't add anything to the map.

I also don't understand how the two maps connect. Where to the stairs lead? If there is one lawn, and the tree/ground level has two structures on it (weird jelly temple place and herb garden), why isn't the lawn with all the trees in color?

The good parts of the map: you don't see apiaries very often and that concept is pretty neat. A cartographer's rendering of tree stump bee hives would be beautiful and fun. I am surprised there aren't spaces for swarms to appear on the map if bees are disturbed, cause that would have been a nice touch.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Apiary of the Aurulent Brothers

Buzzing once came from this shrine.
But now there's abandonment signs.
A crazy old man,
Only does what he can,
To keep it from changing to time.

I want to like this map, I really do. But the overabundance of text makes it feel like you'd be better off just describing the place in words. A clear map has no need for so much text.

Good idea, though!

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.

I dig your idea. You have me interested in the encounters I'd run into here. You've presented us with something creative and well thought out.

Here's my issue.

With maps, you need to show rather than tell. I think your map is too text-heavy; much of the text on the map should be reserved for descriptive text within the adventure that would accompany this map.

The cluttered nature of the map and use of bright colors threw me as well. Again, a lot of the details you included on the map itself would normally be found in the scenario/adventure/encounter itself. I know you're trying to show us the depth and complexity of your idea, but personally I am lost there.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

This map seems a little too busy. There is almost too much detail in some of the text on the map. You might get a vote from me if I had 16 votes, but not with 8.


A lot of fun, not so much functionality. Cute but busy. It's not clear to me what is going to happen on this map. Are we fighting a mad monk and bunch of bees? If I'm fighting bees, I'm not sure I care much about mosaic floors. what I will remember about this place is that I fought bees there.

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

I like the idea of this place. I like the bit about the bees changing, then the brothers. The flow of the players across this map should be interesting.

But I'm not sure the execution of it makes sense. I don't really get the garden/herbalist hut. Why is it constructed that way? If I'm even clear on how that is, and I'm not sure I am. Where does the slope end? Is the entire map on a slope?

Really, it feels like a bit too much isn't as clear as it needs to be.

I'm also kind of skeptical about working around word count with text on the map that seems like it belongs in the area descriptions. But the judges seemed OK with it...

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Interesting location, but the map is a bit too cluttered. It feels that the whole area depicted is waiting for something that is not on the map nor in the blurb. I will put this map on my alternate 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

Are there multiple choices for the PCs to make? If not, does the map present a path for the action to flow in? Apart from going to the building or the terrace, there’s not many choices to make on this map, but there aren’t many rooms either, so players are unlikely to get bored for lack of meaningful direction.

Does the map utilize the space well? It’s presented as three structures on a field, which makes sense. It doesn’t feel crowded, which is good.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? I’d like the field to be mostly flowers for the bees and hopefully the cartographer would draw it that way. The main room isn’t too complicated and creates some nice space for big encounters. You put the right features necessary for us to believe it’s a bee farm. The herbalist workshop is a tad small though.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? As a local business it could get some extra uses across multiple campaigns. It’s a pretty niche business though so I don’t expect it would get a lot of use. You chose to separate the terrace from the main building, which would make it useful for any herbalist workshop if the building were a little larger.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? I am thinking about how I could incorporate bee cultivation into my game, and it’s an intriguing thought.

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: meh
understandibilty: -+
visuals: --
adventurous: -+
inspired: apiary sounds good, want one with bees the size of a hound-dog which I don't think this will.
Vote: Probably not

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 fairly "specific" place that is mapped out, so it wouldn't likely work well for the "generic" map lines. Tanagaar is lesser god of sorts it seems, and sounds like the apiaries would look like this?

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?

Abandoned shires and temples are a dime a dozen it seems, but we also have a few maps for such things. The apiary and accompanying garden "add" but could be done easily with other maps and a few tokens.

So, what do I think of it?

The "abandoned shrine" is such a standard issue aspect of fantasy RPGs and Golarion, that while it fits and is interesting, its also cliche as they come. Your specific map is technically fine, and the apiary stuff is interesting but its not "wow!"

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