Waiting in the Depths

Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Hodge Podge

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It is autumn somewhere in southern Avistan. An excavation team has uncovered the ruins of an ancient well beneath a hill on the roadside. Tools and carts dot the excavation area, seemingly abandoned. Dirt piles and the slope up from the excavation site to the hill are difficult terrain.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Chris! 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. You've got the compass rose and scale. There are elevation notes. And potentially confusing areas like the chopping yard, ancient well, foreman's tent, dirt piles, and exterior walls of the dig site are labeled in a way that makes them clear.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Maybe. This appears to be a single encounter location. The elevation differences and dirt piles present opportunities for difficult terrain and cover to come into play. There's the mystery of the ancient well itself, and even the dark ravine and treeline could present some different challenges.

Is the map creative and interesting?
It's okay. Nothing necessarily pops out to me here. It's an excavation site that's turned up an unusual ancient well. The tents and surrounding camp don't really appear to have anything all that unexpected. In some ways, I'm left wondering if what lies below the ancient well would have shown us something more creative and interesting than the camp itself. But, you did complete justice to the encounter you chose to map.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
This tells us we're in southern Avistan, and, despite the excavation team's discovery of the ancient well, the entire camp appears to be abandoned...so, something sinister must be going on! Adventure awaits! But we'll likely need to go down the well to find it, unless something's expected to emerge from the tents, dirt piles, ravine, or nearby woods. Otherwise, this location probably doesn't need a map, and it'll be more of a mystery investigation to look for clues as to what happened before the PCs venture into the ancient well. You weren't required to give us the details (and stat-blocks) of anything actually encountered here, but even a few hints toward what's really going on would have helped. As portrayed, the mystery of it leaves me without enough details or inspiration to give you really high marks. Even the title of the map is "Waiting in the Depths" which implies the reader is probably going to be more interested in what's below than what's presented on the map. And that's how I come away from it. So...

Final verdict, I'm ON THE FENCE with this map. It's well-rendered in the sense that a cartographer can do it justice, but I don't quite have a compelling, creative element to hang my GM hat on with either the map or the setup text to know how it's all going to come together. So, good luck with the voters in seeing if you get to move on to 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.
It's very easy to get a sense of what's going on here, and it would be a straightforward turnover to create.

While the map is straightforward, it's not especially unique or interesting.

Fun Factor
The elevation variations, as well as various points to gain cover, could make this a very interesting location to fight in—especially if something came out of the well (or forest).

Final Thoughts
There's not enough going on in this map for me to get excited about. I do not recommend this map for advancement.

Dedicated Voter Season 9

At the first glance of the map you are asking yourself out what adventure did he steal this map. (I'm just trying to make a complement here !). This map does not only look professionel it is multi layer; and just fanstastic. I've someone of Paizo is looking at this map ... give this man a contract !

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Chris, this map is beautiful! Unfortunately, it is also very dark, which makes it rather hard to read. Especially because your grid lines are black as well.

It's also more of an appetizer than a meal. The front door of something more exciting beyond. It's great to make the reader ask questions about what might be going on, but not if it means you're just holding out on the good stuff.

Also, this is probably a lot of wasted work on your part. If you spend a ton of time to make your map pretty, its probably going to be entirely redone by a cartographer anyways. Maybe not, of course, but you could save yourself hours of time and work by making a simpler map.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

I totally disagree..This is a Great Map in comparrison to other Submitted..

I would not have to convert it in CC3 or any Graphics program

No wasted Space on a Legend. Labeling is not even Neccessary

I can simply use this location as a random Drop and Play or a planned Encounter area.

I rather appreciate the extra work you put into the Map.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

JPSTOD wrote:

I totally disagree..This is a Great Map in comparrison to other Submitted..

I would not have to convert it in CC3 or any Graphics program

No wasted Space on a Legend. Labeling is not even Neccessary

I can simply use this location as a random Drop and Play or a planned Encounter area.

I rather appreciate the extra work you put into the Map.

This round isn't create a final draft of a map for publishing, it is create a map that a cartographer can use to make that final draft.

That being said, I can see how this map could be used and could easily do so for my players. Everything is clearly labelled. But I feel like this, as RonarsCorruption put it so well, is the appetizer before the whatever lies down the ancient well. That leaves me on the fence with Neil.

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Mozenrath6

Visually, this map is stunning and I’m drawn into wanting to know more about it. I wish there was more of a tie to Golarion, or someplace specific. While it’s open to a lot of adventure scenarios, I wish there was some more guidance to inspire some encounters. Very nice overall, good luck in the contest!

Sovereign Court Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I've done a few maps in my time and, wow, just wow. This looks amazing, even if that isn't the point of this contest, kudos.

I do think more space to the south would be nice, and the forest could be replaced with an underground view of whatever lies below. So I wouldn't be at all surprised to see your map as a flip mat. You've thought up an evocative idea which, with a little reworking, would just rock.

Also, utility! This map works as an alternate entrance to any number of dungeons, as a camp, as a roadway encounter, even a druids henge. And I think you managed that without making a boring camp/henge/well/roadway.

Good job and がんばって

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

It looks cool, but it's really a very simple map. Also, the grid lines could be more visible, I feel sorry for the cartographer.

This works as a generic flipmat, but its not particularly exciting to me. I'm on the fence.

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

What is represented is well represented. But a lot of space stays mostly unused. And the whole feels rather ordinary. I think it provides a great background but it lacks the something that could occupy this space and give it meaning and perspective.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Waiting in the Depths

The autumn leaves fall near a well
that's all but abandoned, you'd tell.
Though to your surprise,
if you open your eyes,
foes wait here to send you to hell.

I have a soft spot for creepy, old "Work zones". Excavation sites, half-constructed buildings, all that kind of stuff. ANYTHING can take up residence in most abandoned stuff. But it being a site where hard labor once tread can leave room for some interesting "Ghosts of people that died on the job"-type encounters, or plenty of nooks and crannies to dig for clues or solve puzzles.

Looks awesome, too! Nice work!

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 terrain elements are obscured by more shadow than is probably ideal.

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 a few different features to explore, and players can pick the order.

Does the map utilize the space well? There’s enough distinctions between the areas to make each useful for different kinds of encounters. I don’t feel the space is wasted, even when there’s not much happening there.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? I would prefer to see a dozen or more tree stumps. Lumber operations are efficient at removing trees. I can fully appreciate the idea that they found something unexpected in the process of removing the trees, but there’s only one chopped tree on this map. Did they find this well on the very first felled tree? It’s not impossible, I guess.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? I like the individual areas you decided to include on the map, and they seem like good, general purpose elements. Camps are always useful. Treelines are good. A dusty wagon trail can serve a lot of purposes. And I could also use it as a generic excavation site with a mysterious purpose.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? It does, but not many of the ideas coming to me are flashy “you’re going to level up after this” encounters. It’s a clean map with lots of uses, and I’d buy this if it were on the shelf, but it’s better suited for encounters that are stepping stones to the real show. That’s not really what I’m looking for in a Superstar map, but it is such a good multi-purpose design that I might consider voting for it anyway.

Dark Archive

This is a beautiful map. It's well done, and I can see it easily being used as is without needing additional tweaking. This is in my top 16, but unfortunately I only get 8 votes, and sadly it doesn't inspire me like some of the other entries do. I wish you good luck, and hope we get a chance to see what you can do in the next round!

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

It really is a good-looking map.

At the same time, it does feel like it's more the space before the interesting part, which is down in that well.

Even if I assume there's some tentacle-y awful thing that's gonna spring up out of it, I don't think the surrounding area has enough to make playing off that interesting. If there was more for the tentacles to do outside the well, maybe, or more places to hide or do interesting things.

Also, I misunderstood the northern area at first. I thought it was dirt for a hillside or something, but I see now it's a forest.

And that one chopped down tree stump appears to be *over* the well opening. That's actually a bit interesting if it's intentional, there could be a bit more story implied there, but it's still vague and unclear.

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: A lot of 'dead air,' but what is there is good.
Vote: Competitive, maybe

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

I'm going to forego my full write up.

This map, artistically, looks great. Very lovely. I could see a simple adventure put here. Like one, maybe two ways. That adventure though is pretty darn simple, and likely, I could have just used a few pieces of paper or tokens to "sell" everything you have going on here and then put it on any number of existing flip-mats like Battlefield.

As a specific place and encounter, I'm just not interested to find out whats waiting in the depths.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

This map is sexy as hell and I'm not sure how it missed top 16...

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

I am slowly trying to comment on these, even as we move forward, in an effort to put forward the favor given me by those who commented constructively on my entries last season. Apologies for taking my own sweet time. :)

Congratulations on getting into the top 32, and for making this beautifully artistic contender for the map round.

What's great about your map is obvious: it looks like a nearly finished piece, is very beautiful, with a lot of fancy digital brushwork and nicely contrasting colors. The eye is drawn easily to what obviously is supposed to be the focal point: the ancient well. You create a fantastic sense of mystery here and I could certainly use this location as part of a story.

If this was an art contest, or something like Profantasy's map contests, I could see you placing high, easily.

Unfortunately what we're looking for here is an encounter location--and this is where the concept is lacking. Absolutely there is some potential here--a roadside encounter is always great, and you have some varied terrains that helps (in addition to the well, something coming out of the woods, and the camp itself could all be sources of a variety of encounters). The sense of abandonment also, while atmospheric, reduces "encounter potential" -- the only immediate encounter obviously possible is the discovery that the camp itself is abandoned, with some development there. Otherwise I feel like the encounter already happened and I missed it, and any other further development would not happen at THIS location, but elsewhere (such as going into the well). You have a lot of empty space here as well--for example, the forest is just a blob of color on top, when it could have been used to add some extra detail for more encounter potential.

Your map, while again lovely in many ways, also lacks in important information -- while you note the "slope up" is difficult terrain, you do not outline clearly where this difficult terrain starts and ends. I could infer it's where some of the dark lines are, but it's your job to indicate clearly where the mechanical elements start and stop. The job of the professional cartographer--not you--is to make that into something aesthetically pleasing. You needed to focus more on the mechanical nitty gritty and game detail. As nice as the map is, I can see the cartographer still having a lot of questions about the details and terrain before he could turn it into a final product. And visually, there's a lot of dark lines and overdone shadows which, while adding ambiance to the area, obscure important detail, game-wise.

Your 50 words doesn't add much, unfortunately, and you have a lot of "empty words" that you could have employed better. We don't need to know "it is autumn" (and try not to start a lead sentence with vague "it is" as it is narratively weak) because that IS something your map conveys without your needing to tell us. "Somewhere in Avistan" -- akin to saying "Somewhere in Asia" -- is too vague to be helpful. If you didn't want to place it in a too-specific location, I would have just omitted that. The tools and carts can also be indicated on the map or left off. "The camp is abandoned" is enough given what precious word space you have. You could have then spent more wordage on why, for example, the well is an attraction and what might happen there.

This is still a lovely map, with a cool story behind it. I'm sorry you didn't make it and I hope we'll see you again next year.

Sovereign Court Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Chris, I had to give your map a shout out on my blog. Your concept really leaves me feeling inspired. I think it's because I could easily see this location as the hub that connects to all the other places in a campaign. I think that didn't exactly work in your favour here, but I'm sure it will inspire other GMs in their own campaigns.

Push it to the max next year and blow everyone away.

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