Abandoned Shory Botany Laboratory


Round 2: Create an encounter map

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka WalterGM

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Mixing sorcery and science, this Shory prototype of sustainable flight drifts aimlessly over Garund. Long ago, floras in the southern nursery expanded beyond their confines. They now carpet the courtyard and invade the arcane workings that power the laboratory, causing it to descend at a slow but steady rate.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Walter! 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. Pretty much. Compass rose, map scale, legend, key, labels, and even a 3D representation. I'm amazed that it all fits in the space you were given!

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Yes. Absolutely! A Shory flying botany lab gone astray, both literally and figuratively. The deteriorating courtyard, exposed gears, overgrown vegetation, and elemental containment tanks all hold forth a lot of promise.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Yes. I think so, but I'll be honest and say I have a soft spot for all things Shory since I got to define a lot of their backstory in Chapter 5 of Mummy's Mask. You've done them justice with this early prototype. They would have wanted to test the skies by seeing what kind of lifebearing vegetation they could potentially bring with them. I also like the heavy reliance on the glass-like windows to emit sunlight into most of the structure which you've depicted in the 3D inset. Very nice. And, from an adventuring standpoint, there still looks like plenty of room and variation of locales on the map for the PCs to stir up some trouble.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Yes. It tells us exactly what this location represents, firmly ties it to Golarion lore, gives it a wandering aspect along with a diminishing power that could bring it back to a stationary position once it's grounded again, and we've got more than enough to inspire us.

Final verdict, I liked this piece quite a bit, but I may be better positioned than most with my knowledge of the Shory to read more into the piece. The basics are all still there, though. And it's a very creative choice to reach for the skies (pun intended) on this assignment. I'm perfectly comfortable saying I STRONGLY RECOMMEND this map to advance. Good luck in the voting and I hope to see what you can bring us 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

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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 would be a treat to make into a final map: a variety of textures and surfaces and the plain bizarre nature of the location would be fun. My only complaint is that the dimensions of the map seemed to hamper your vision, and the rectangular shape doesn't really help here. A more organic shape would have been better, with crumbling bits at the edge clinging on by roots and vines.

Usability
I'm not sure you could get away with re-using this location as-is, but with a location like this, I'm pretty okay with that.

Fun Factor
You had me at "Shory" and "main propulsion hangar." There's a lot to love here, and there's a story just itching to be told here, like a rash picked up from an arcane botanical laboratory.

Final Thoughts
Clear turnover combined with a fantastic location. I do recommend this map for advancement.

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

My favorite of the round as it presents an interesting and flexible location. It doesn't bind itself to a single type of encounter, but it's also got lots of interesting details to give it a unique character and inspires me to want to build encounters on it. You did a great job using the space and format available, and on top of everything you made it Shory—aside from the cool factor, it means I can literally drop this almost anywhere I want in a Golarion-set campaign.

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka WalterGM

Thanks for the feedback thusfar--please keep it coming!

I especially like the note from Liz regarding the geometry of the lab. I wish I'd had that thought. Now I'm repeating it in my head like a mantra.

Organic shape for an organic map. Organic shape for an organic map ...

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Careful, Walter. While voting is going on, competitors need to refrain from commenting on their submissions, even if it's just to agree with something someone else said (whether it's a judge or anyone else).

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.

First of all, I LOVE the 3D perspective. That helps me imagine your location as more than just flat shapes on a page. It's also very well done artistically, in my opinion.

This is a clear, interesting map with a nifty idea behind it. I do think the building shapes you used were a bit generic. Some buildings should be rectangular, yes, but there are other types of structures. Doing something less geometric definitely would have helped convey the feel of a magical botany lab.

So, it comes down to this: I can read your map, I'm interested in the encounter, I would use the map at my table, and you clearly put more work and thought into it than just scribbling something on a page.

I look forward to seeing your treatment of the next round.

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

Perhaps my favorite of the Round - though I'm showing a bunch of biases here -

- greenhouse/nurseries/dome
- floating land
- ruins/dilapidation
- ancient technology
- environmental hazards

The potential here is enormous - just looking at the map I get visual and cinematic flashes - from air-dropping onto the dome from above, to battling through verdant overgrowth just to scale my way into the greenhouses to throwing enemies into the gearworks to accidentally releasing maddened elementals in the propulsion hangar to piloting this thing as my own personal flying-manse, only to find it is out of control and about to crash (however slowly).

Excellent work - creative concept backed by fine execution. Again, I'm a little concerned that the 3D rendering skirts too close to the banned isometric presentation for my liking, but there is no denying the merit of this piece.

Well done Walter.

Dark Archive

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I love this map! This was already a great map, and an interesting concept, but the 3-D perspective pushed it over the edge and into first place for me. I wanna go here! And thanks to it drifting, "here" can be wherever my PC already is. :) Needless to say, you have my vote. Good luck, and I can't wait to see what you do in round 3!

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Walter, this is a great map, and an equally great location. There's enough going in to intrigue people without cluttering things, room for a fight with a hazard or two, and it positively drips with flavor.

One nitpick I must make, is that for a "botany laboratory" a very, very small amount of this space is given over to the botany lab part. This is really a cool flying island that happens to contain some tiny, overgrown greenhouses.

Silver Crusade

Definitely my favorite of the round! Well done!

Scarab Sages Developer

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Walter Sheppard wrote:

Thanks for the feedback thusfar--please keep it coming!

I especially like the note from Liz regarding the geometry of the lab. I wish I'd had that thought. Now I'm repeating it in my head like a mantra.

Organic shape for an organic map. Organic shape for an organic map ...

Walter, please be really careful on your comments about your own entry. I don't think you crossed the line, but you came real close to violating rule #5 of the entire contest. "During public voting rounds, contestants are prohibited from any public discussion that could be considered as adding to, expanding upon, or clarifying the content of their current submissions."

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I feel the area used for the map itself could have been bigger and things could have been more varied. Also I have trouble reconciling the perspective and the map.

It looks like an interesting place for adventure, but it does not really feel like one.

The blurb is nice, though Shory is not an auto-win with me ;-P

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 4 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9 aka MillerHero

Great idea for a map. One of the best. Please don't post anything during the voting period so that we can be sure you go as far as you can in the contest.

Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

I like the location and the flavor of the map a lot. There isn't much exploration to be done here, but it's perfect for a quick encounter.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Very inspiring map. Looks like a lot of fun. I like the exposed gears.

Maybe if it wasn't just a rectangle base would make it better, but still this one is in my top-3 for sure.

Good Luck!


It's a great looking and well thought out map. The one thing that bothers me is trying to figure out why you would need a map for a small, isolated physical location. What is going to happen in here we need a map for?

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
The Raven Black wrote:

I feel the area used for the map itself could have been bigger and things could have been more varied. Also I have trouble reconciling the perspective and the map.

It looks like an interesting place for adventure, but it does not really feel like one.

The blurb is nice, though Shory is not an auto-win with me ;-P

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

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

RJGrady wrote:
It's a great looking and well thought out map. The one thing that bothers me is trying to figure out why you would need a map for a small, isolated physical location. What is going to happen in here we need a map for?

It is my understanding that these are treated as faux-turnovers for cartographers to turn into Flip-Mat style battlemaps. In that sense, each of these submissions for Round 2 are just that: small, isolated physical locations.

In this case I could see variously: a fight with released elementals; combat with a tribe of mutant vegepymies in the greenhouses; tromping across the glass fighting a rival gang of aerial treasure hunters; struggling against Shory automatons (are they a thing?) on the edge of a precipice while dodging spinning gears and flying masonry/broken land dropping off. Each of those occurs just as I write - give me more time and I'll generate more and more - this location in and of itself inspires me much more than others - and this from someone who is sorely unversed in Golariona and knows nothing of Shory.

Unless I'm missing something from your post RJ, which could easily be the case. ;)


A flying building. While its been done before, I kind of like this. The 3D Perspective was unnecessary, but helps me imagine this building.

I would have used a different color for the elemental vents, as they are the same color as the gears and something that my be exposed dirt.

You will probably get one of my votes.


I'm not saying it's wrong or bad, I just think I have to consider that I'm not as big a fan of a map where I have to contrive to get the PCs to the location, and then setup allows just basically one set-piece battle or scene. It's definitely cool in the presentation, but it almost seems like all the interesting things would be what happens on the way there. The best part of this isn't the map, it's describing the sound of the lurching gears, the overgrowth, whatever weird encounter would also end up in this location. Most of the map is tangled overgrowth, or deteriorating gears you probably would avoid. The effort that went into the map is obvious. It's very imaginative. I'm just not sure how functional this map is.

I guess I would put it this way: what distinguishes this from a map of a cliffside monastery, with the words "pipe organ" crossed out and "propulsion room" written in? You have the exposed gears. That's one thing.

There is surprisingly little of this map that is actually usable. Once you've avoided the tangled overgrowth and the deteriorating gears, you have a couple of big maintenance area that are more things than rooms. You have three 30' rooms that all connect to the main room.

My complaint isn't that the map isn't attractive or correct. It makes some level of sense and it's kind of cool. It's just, from a design standpoint, to me this look like "rooms of stuff" surrounded by "don't go here." So, the PCs arrive. They meander toward the entrance. The players put their miniatures in the entrance room. Then, either you roll for initiative or you don't, depending on if there's a battle.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

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The concept of this location is really cool and having a 3D depiction really helps visualize it, but the actual map isn't my favorite. As a location for a fight it is actually kind of boring. But I am planning on voting for it because I want to see what you can do in future rounds.

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 it. But I have to agree the playable area here is tiny, and think that does a lot of damage. The 3D perspective is cool, but I question if that was the best use of map real estate.

It also looks like a lot of effort to fly around a botany lab with almost no space for the botany. Why is there even an entrance hall at all when real estate on this thing is at such a premium?

Honestly this feels like a cool idea that's kind of hiding a need for more development behind a bit of flash. I'd rather have seen some hints of the research going on here than the 3D art.

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

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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? Once PCs find their way onto the thing, they can go through the front door, risk pushing through a tangle of overgrowth or break the glass somewhere. They’ll probably want to break the glass. Once inside, there’s a realistic layout that will be explored before it gets boring. Nicely done.

Does the map utilize the space well? At first glance, yes. There is one concern though. You designed it symmetrical, and that’s fine. It’s a beautiful design, but if you design a symmetrical structure, you have to work a little harder to make sure the PCs aren’t getting the same experience in both ends of the building. You do that wonderfully with Area B, but not as much in Area D. Essentially, you devoted two separate sections of your map to the same room. Sure, the vines are poking through, but I’m not sure that’s enough.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? As noted, it’s a very well-designed building that looks like something we could see in the real-world. The landing is crumbling and there’s an excellent sense of history about the place. Players will want to know what it’s function was/is, and the answers to that question can largely be decided by the GM. You use color extremely well and there’s no doubt this will be a stunning final product.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? A GM could use this building to serve a number of functions.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? It certainly does.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

The location is interesting and has a variety of spaces for adventure. I really love the detail about the broken gears. The 3D picture seals the deal. Well done.

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

No need for a larger write up, your drawing would make an awesome flip-mat product as is and I could use it a dozen ways AND you told me about an entire "thing" (the Shory) on Golarion I'd not realized existed. Well done.

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka WalterGM

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EXHALES

So much I've been wanting to say but wasn't able to. Where do I start?!?

@ Neil: You wrote that entry in Mummy's Mask? That's awesome! Although, if I had know that I probably wouldn't have run with this idea >.<. I actually picked doing something with the Shory initially because they hadn't been super defined (per ISWG) and by the time I finished up this map I checked online for more info and discovered they had been explored in Mummy's Mask. So I had a minor freak out while I read through your description of them in Slave Trenches, then reworked my initial concept to mesh with what you had come up with. Glad it worked out in the end, but I was pulling out my hair for a moment there.

@Jezebelle: I started out leaning towards rounded buildings for this (it would have been more visually pleasing) but there's a big part of me that is opposed to having circular rooms unless they're needed. And that part is the part that's a GM. I hate drawing un-needed circles and diagonal corridors as a GM (especially in PFS). And while this would have looked cooler as a circular map, I didn't see a pressing need to have it be one. For a while there was a tower on my map as well (which was circular), but I didn't have enough space to explore it as much as I wanted so it ended up being removed.

@RonarsCorruption: Hindsight being what it is, I agree with you about the space. I think that there should have been the remains of some outbuildings or something on the right half of the map. The mechanical result is the same (open space for an initial encounter), but it would have opened up more opportunities for exploration.

@Grumpus: Rectangular base. Yeah, it is a bit odd in retrospect. I originally envisioned it being part of a collection of levitating university buildings, like part of a Shory campus. The pieces were angular so they could dock with one another if needed. This was just one of those buildings, long since separated from its flying counterparts.

@RJGrady: Good points about the use of space. I'm used to tight maps like this with multiple encounters from my time playing PFS--where encounter space is tight because there's only so much scenario space available. So here's how I pictured using this map with my players.
Encounter #1 when they arrive on the landing--the gears are dangerous but easy to avoid, hopefully have something with Bull Rush to make the fight exciting. The overgrowth isn't impassible, but probably difficult terrain, and could easily have something hiding in it.
Encounter #2 would be in the plant room. Either the plant itself or a symbiotic organism that's dwelling there. We could also have an encounter in the room north of that, with the dead plants.
Encounter #3 would be in the hangar. Probably the elementals that are furious at being bound and abandoned for hundreds of years and have started breaking out of their containment.
Once combat is over, encounter #4 could be trying to regain control of the archaic flying platform. Either to present it before the PCs patron or to take it over themselves. Nothing like a flying base of operations to move your campaign into high gear!

@R D Ramsey: Good points, similar to Ronars above. I think I should have added ruined buildings in the overgrowth. It would have added alot without trying to do too much.

@Brian Fruzen: Thank you for the observation about symmetrical space! It seems so obvious now that you pointed it out but I didn't actually notice before that the north room is effectively wasted space. Sure, there could be an encounter there but as it is presented it's a dead room. I'll keep that in mind for future maps.

If anyone has any more questions or comments about this map feel free to post them up and I'll answer them as best I can :)

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

Re-reading my comment here, it sounds harsher than I intended. I looked a these maps thinking what I'd do with them if I was doing the next draft, so sometimes the focus was on what I didn't like. I think in this case my tone was a little careless, and I apologize for that.

I do like this idea, and your detailing of your imagined encounters here is helpful in understanding what you planned to get across!

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka WalterGM

No sweat! I didn't look at your comment negatively, but thanks for your concern :)

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

I didn't have a chance till after the top 16 was announced to comment on these, but I remember last year really appreciating any constructive feedback I got, so I am trying to return the favor.

Congrats on making it into the top 16 with such a cool map.

I have to admit, at first glance, I thought it was just kind of a generic ruin. I didn't realize at first -- the text helped -- that it was a flying structure (Golarion lore is beautiful in its abundant history but such abundance means I still haven't memorized every single race, etc. and had not come across the "Shory" yet in my personal travels across Golarion, as it were.) I didn't recognize the gears for what they were at first and thought the blue areas were water. Despite my non-recognition I want to be clear this is a neat, clean design that once you realize what you're looking at, is easy to follow.

Once I realized what I was looking at, I was amazed. It kind of reminds me of the Jurai tree ships from Tenchi Muyo! ;) The little bits of detail really stand out, and I'm sure a cartographer would not only find it easy to make a final product out of this in terms of understanding what is supposed to be what, but they'd have hell of a lot of fun doing so as well. You've put a lot of thought into how it works and the overall structure and function.

Your text is important for less lore-knowledgable viewers realize what they are looking at, and is nicely written. I would love a couple more explicit mechanics like how high it is currently flying (roughly speaking, understanding it is in a state of descent). Minor nitpick: "flora" is plural and does not need to end in an "s."

The 3-D perspective is helpful and yet on maps like this I'd also kind like to do without such things so there's more room for other stuff. Which is not to say it should be removed, per se.

"Rule of cool" carries this far and my only concern is this is primarily a location, with encounter potential largely in the hands of the a creative GM who can figure out how to work it in somewhere (definitely doable, mind!). There's not a sense of tension here -- the laboratory isn't even in danger of crashing as it's slowly descending. Apart from sheer ancientness or coolness, what would bring PCs here, why, and how? Do things still live here? (Plant monsters seem obvious.) For an encounter map, I'd like a little more hinting at such possibilities, even if very open ended. (I've read your overview of what you would do for an encounter here, which is awesome--just noting what I'd like to see on the map itself.)

All in all a strong entry and a job well done.

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