Desecrated Sanctuary


Round 2: Create an encounter map

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9

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Desecrated Sanctuary

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

BJ! Welcome 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. I have the advantage of being able to throw these maps up on a 50-inch TV screen, which helps be process all the details a bit better. This map leans very heavily on mapping software and pre-defined symbols, all of which aren't necessarily called out in the map key. That's because most of them are fairly understandable. But, to make things clearer you really should have either availed yourself of a few room labels and individual titles in a legend, or used your 50-words of commentary to list it out for us. As is, I can see we've got some kind of divine sanctuary with sleeping rooms and general quarters for its acolytes. There are even some instructional classrooms, a chapel, and what looks like four confessional-style booths with curtains (and secret doors) off to the side of it. Meanwhile, there's a flight of stairs connecting from point A-to-A from the sanctuary down to the cellar. And you've even included a floor grate with an air vent that lets the resident vampire leave his crypt in gaseous form and head on up through the confessional! So, I think a professional cartographer takes this and runs with it. There may be some questions that come back on a couple of the pre-defined symbols, but they seem straight-forward. I think the worst oversight here is making sure that you include room numbering labels on your map, as well. Any encounter taking place here would have to define such room-by-room descriptions, so you'll need those tags to connect the text to the map.

Does the map provide a cool setup for a fun encounter?
Absolutely! A vampire living in the basement of a desecrated sanctuary? Do the resident acolytes even know the desecration site in the vampire's crypt has cut off their god's power to protect them? Are visitors to the confessional leaving with a few bite marks after bit of charm being applied by the vampire as he masquerades as a priest? Identifying such a villain and tracking him or her across this site would make for a great deal of fun. The map could even be reusable, first as a social encounter scene and later as a combat encounter once the PCs track the vampire back to this unlikely lair. So, the map matches its purpose very well. And it does justice to the types of rooms you'd expect to find in such a sanctuary, while providing us with plenty of mystery.

Is the map creative and interesting?
Yes. I especially like the floor grates and the air vent to give the vampire more options for how it comes and goes from the crypt. There's a secret door, as well, into the cellar. And even a tunnel leading off to parts unknown. So, this map has opportunities for adventure even beyond what's presented here. Meanwhile, the level of detail provided here really brings the structure to life. You can envision acolytes and lay-people going about their business here. You can imagine the effect the desecration site in the crypt is having on the church, but the priests are too frightened or proud to admit there's anything wrong. Meanwhile, people are disappearing as noted by the captives/bodies(?) in the crypt. So, I'm inspired just by what's presented on the map.

Is the designer's extra 50-word commentary inspiring and useful?
Not really. The opportunity to include up to 50-words of commentary was essentially discarded here. That actually set off a few alarms in the judging forums to determine if it would be a DQ-able offense. I did some digging and turns out, it's not. The Round 2 rules state that competitors may include up to 50 words of accompanying text, not that they have to. Now, whether or not skipping it let's some other contestants get a leg up by expounding on their entries, or whether that sets you apart for not needing it and letting your work speak for itself to stand on its own, I guess we'll find out in the voting.

Final verdict, the core idea behind this location is sound and the map thoroughly embraces it. The reliance on pre-defined symbols is a risk, but I think most of them convey their purpose for a professional cartographer to interpret it correctly. The map itself is actually creative in some inspired ways, and I think this could pass muster if I was developing it. So, I'll go ahead and say that I DO RECOMMEND, this map to advance, but I was also close to just putting myself on the fence if it weren't for the inspiration I take from the map's layout and details without you even having to use the extra 50 words to prop it up. Regardless, you have my recommendation and good luck in the voting. If you make it through, though, keep raising your game and show us something even stronger for 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
It's certainly easy to read what's going on, but this strays very close to the "what am I doing here exactly" line and into "too much detail for me to work with." I definitely appreciate the attention to scaling of details and how the building is put together: there is a logical flow to it that I often think gets missed in adventure map design.

Usability
Desecrated sanctuaries with accompanying undead crypt is always a useful item in the GM toolbox. The attention to detail could be difficult to recreate on a Flip-Mat or battlemap, though.

Fun Factor
So, what's going on here? Who desecrated it? What was it originally? Fights in enclosed spaces like this always make things more interesting tactically.

Final Thoughts
I wish that the 50 words would have been used to give a bit of description to what's going on with this map. I hesitantly do recommend this map for advancement.

Scarab Sages Developer

Post from the Host
Bj Hensley wrote a description for this map, but our system shows it wasn't ever received by the submission tool. That's unfortunate, but with nothing on our end suggesting an error, we have to accept the map as-is. Since the rules say you may submit up to 50 words this is not something a contestant can be DQ'd over, and we present the map on its own.

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 map itself is gorgeous. Lawn colors, clear icons that are self-explanatory, and then the dank subterranean level is a big contrast. That there's no use of the 50-word alottment to describe the area or give a bit of background is a big whiff, though Owen's note suggest you at least had background text somewhere. If we're forced to look at only the map, I note note every icon is represented. Sure, the tubs and bedrolls are self-explanatory, but some folks might want a more complete key.

The map has a lot of artistic details that I could not duplicate, but I'm careful not to let a pretty map dissuade me from looking for encounter details that might excite me.

So I blow the map up. This is both good and bad. I can't really make out details without blowing it up, which doesn't please me. But then..uh...

Are those bodies in the dirt in the basement level? That's not cool. Are they creepy decomposing bodies cast aside by a vampire? Or are they vampire spawn sleeping in the dirt? Suddenly I'm like 7 years old and having visions of the basement crypt in Salem's Lot.

Silver dust scattered across the crypt. Desecrate spell. I get it. I think that's another example of something that should have gone on the key, but it's still pretty neat.

So...the loss of the 50-word text is not good. And the key/legend should include more details. But the crypt is the strong point. A grate for a vampire confessor to feed on my PC? Vampires or dead bodies waiting for me to get downstairs? What's the portcullis trap for? That could be good or..uh...really bad.

I vote based on whether i want to adventure on a map. I can't drool over this the way I sploded over at Jeff Swank's map, but I think this could catch my 6th or 8th vote.

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

I was fortunate enough to workshop with BJ on early drafts of this map/idea, and so I recuse myself and my normal posts of links, etc. because "I know" what the 50 word text could/should say and without it formally there, I might unfairly aid or detract from BJ's entry as presented.

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 liked this map from the moment I saw it. It's a very clean, finished-looking product. The information about how to read and use this map is present and clear. This map actually looks like a desecrated sanctuary.

While it's not one of the most innovative entries, your map is well done and I would slap it down on the table to use in a game anytime.

I do wish I had more information about the types of encounters that might happen here and the history of the sanctuary, but a technically sound and visually pleasing map is hard to down-vote. I think this map should advance.

Dark Archive

I agree the lack of description on this map is a negative, but you make up for it by having a fairly self-explanatory layout. The top floor is straightforward (almost generically so), and can accommodate any encounters the GM dreams up. While great for utility, it's not very inspiring. What I would have liked more details on (and where I think this map shines), is the downstairs, as that's where the really interesting stuff is. I love that you added chained humans (food source), but they can be easily missed without the description or map key to call attention to it. In some ways, I think this entry will stand out more from the others, simply because this is the only one without a description - whether that's good or bad remains to be seen. Either way, you managed to get my vote, and I wish you good luck!

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

BJ, that's a really pretty map! Unfortunately, I'm not really enthralled by it. Yeah, its a complex, realistic temple. It's a beautiful map. I love that there's a vampire lair...

But even of we assume the entire place is full of vampires, you have lots.of rooms, each of which connect only to major hallways. And the vampire lair beneath is connected through exactly one point. Or two, in a pinch, but the second one isnt something the PCs would use in a normal situation.

So, the map is pretty. The situation has potential... But I'm not really wowed by it.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9

Thank you for all the reviews! I'm bummed about the description but hoping it makes it!

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Impressive layout. Clearly, thoughts went into this. And the added crypt (which I did not see at first) is a good addition (doubly so for looking different from the main building's visuals)

The look feels a bit too computer RPG for my taste though, but this is really a minor quibble.

Scarab Sages Developer

BJ Hensley wrote:
Thank you for all the reviews! I'm bummed about the description but hoping it makes it!

BJ, please be really careful on your comments about your own entry. I don't think you crossed the line (you did not give us any new information or clarification about your entry), 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."

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9

Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
BJ Hensley wrote:
Thank you for all the reviews! I'm bummed about the description but hoping it makes it!

BJ, please be really careful on your comments about your own entry. I don't think you crossed the line (you did not give us any new information or clarification about your entry), 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."

Eep! Sorry!


Hell, it looks better than the maps of most temples in most computer RPGs I've played. You obviously spent a lot of time and effort on devising sensible and useful spacing. Plus, you clearly labeled the desecration site. I see nothing to ding here.

For goodness sake, please do not disqualify yourself!

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

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

Impressive layout. Clearly, thoughts went into this. And the added crypt (which I did not see at first) is a good addition (doubly so for looking different from the main building's visuals)

The look feels a bit too computer RPG for my taste though, but this is really a minor quibble.

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

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9

Thank you for the praise! :) I won't! *is quiet*

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

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Bj, as mentioned elsewhere; as tempting as it is to reply to everything, the best practice is to avoid posting in your thread at all until voting is done. You can do it! ;)

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

I really like this layout, and could easily run an interesting encounter here. But I wish the 50 words of text had shown up, that probably pushed this from a definite yes, to somewhere on the edge.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

Good Generic Location..

Good Battle Map aka Flip Map...

Limited wasted Space on Legend..a Great Battlemap would not need one

Only Draw back for a Battle Map..aka Flip Map
No Way to Move PCs into Vampire Crypt using the Map..Entrance is Closed off and entry is from off the Map.

Dark Archive

JPSTOD wrote:

No Way to Move PCs into Vampire Crypt using the Map..Entrance is Closed off and entry is from off the Map.

Actually if you look at it, A on the top floor matches up with A on the basement stairs. So there are stairs down, as well as the grate (which the PCs can probably only utilize ay high level).

I'm guessing the missing description gave us more insight as to where the main passage in the basement goes, but I could be wrong. Unfortunately BJ can't tell us until after voting is closed.

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

This one's interesting. It's a well thought out location. It's logical for its intended purpose, and it's logical for the encounter. But it's not exciting somehow.

I'd love to play on maps with this much thought behind them. But without the 50 words, I'm left looking at it and thinking all the interest is down in that crypt off in one corner of the map. While it's realistic to have a bunch of similar rooms in a place, it's pretty much handwaving time when they come up at the gaming table.

I've got no doubt there's some story that would get me in the rest of the building, but I can't know what that is. :-/

This vote will be a tough call.

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: lots of different rooms & directions for players to choose. I am not seeing how the inset connects to sanctuary part though, maybe if I looked closer) or an easy fix (48 other words ).
Vote: Probably.

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? There’s a lot of doors to open, some windows. PCs will be pretty sure where to go when they see the red carpet.

Does the map utilize the space well? You created a building with a layout that’s quite pleasing to the eye, and used the extra space for a crypt. It looks like the compass and the key don’t eat up any real-estate. Good work.

Are the elements presented well thought out and make sense for the environment? People live here, so you included the requisite elements: dining area, kitchen, archive, scribe stations, etc. This sanctuary could function, and the features on the map show you how occupants are paying the bills. The altar is understandably the largest room, along with the vampire crypt, which are where the two big encounters are likely to be. The crypt itself is creepy in a good way, but the elements there seem somewhat randomly placed.

Is this a map I would like to use more than once? This map is designed with utility in mind, and I would probably buy it if I saw it on a store shelf.

So, back to the initial question: does this map spark the imagination? There’s not much going on in the structure that we haven’t seen before. I rather like the design of this building over other, similar maps I’ve seen though. I just wish there were a few more elements that triggered adventure ideas. You did place numerous sets of armor, which makes me think of a few things, but I would have liked to see more. More can threaten the utility though, so it’s a delicate balance to strive for.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 9

Alanya wrote:
JPSTOD wrote:

No Way to Move PCs into Vampire Crypt using the Map..Entrance is Closed off and entry is from off the Map.

Actually if you look at it, A on the top floor matches up with A on the basement stairs. So there are stairs down, as well as the grate (which the PCs can probably only utilize ay high level).

I'm guessing the missing description gave us more insight as to where the main passage in the basement goes, but I could be wrong. Unfortunately BJ can't tell us until after voting is closed.

Okay...Without Picking Up and Skipping Squares can you Move 30 Feet on the Map and connect the Entrances to the Levels..No You Can't

That is the trouble with Multiple Layers on a Single Map...While it Might be only 10 feet below you can't really know without a description.

Looking at the Map I could almost think that people would automatically assume that they are on the Same level..like I did when I first saw the Map...

Scarab Sages President, Silver Crescent Publishing , Star Voter Season 9

JPSTOD wrote:
Alanya wrote:
JPSTOD wrote:

No Way to Move PCs into Vampire Crypt using the Map..Entrance is Closed off and entry is from off the Map.

Actually if you look at it, A on the top floor matches up with A on the basement stairs. So there are stairs down, as well as the grate (which the PCs can probably only utilize ay high level).

I'm guessing the missing description gave us more insight as to where the main passage in the basement goes, but I could be wrong. Unfortunately BJ can't tell us until after voting is closed.

Okay...Without Picking Up and Skipping Squares can you Move 30 Feet on the Map and connect the Entrances to the Levels..No You Can't

That is the trouble with Multiple Layers on a Single Map...While it Might be only 10 feet below you can't really know without a description.

Looking at the Map I could almost think that people would automatically assume that they are on the Same level..like I did when I first saw the Map...

It seems to me that the basement layer is clearly labeled as a crypt, as opposed to the larger label of the Desecrated Sanctuary, has a different ground texture, and is separated off from the rest of the map.

Additionally, I've always made the assumption that, barring any other description, there is always 10' between stories of any map. There are several Paizo adventures that don't detail the distance you go up or down stairs, and the assumption, to my knowledge, has always been 10' up or down to the next floor.

Maybe it's just me, but I can easily see that it is two separate layers, as well as the travel between so I don't really understand the confusion.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

BJ, I hope you'll post your blurb once voting on the round is over. I'm curious to read it.

Still looking through all the maps to decide which I'll vote on, but this is in the running.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 9

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Jacob W. Michaels wrote:

BJ, I hope you'll post your blurb once voting on the round is over. I'm curious to read it.

Still looking through all the maps to decide which I'll vote on, but this is in the running.

I honestly have no idea what happened to the description I submitted. I submitted it, saw a brief flash of a forum with map in the title and it acted like it went through. Having never submitted a description before I assumed this was normal and headed off to bed. To clarify a bit.

This once devoted sanctuary has been corrupted by a cult of vampires. While the locals continue to attend worship, the evil below makes use of confessionals, drifting up vents to grab a quick bite or abducting those passing through. Portcullis: Traps entire congregation in room. Tunnel: To hidden entrance/exit.

The reason the main floor is less vampish, more normal sanctuary look, is because it's still a functioning church that acts as a cover for vampires to feed. The priests could all be dead or turned (conveniently there are several rooms lacking windows). Then again perhaps they're unaware entirely and just beginning to suspect something is amiss. The tunnel can lead anywhere useful to a GM! But in my mind it leads to a secret entrance/exit somewhere near the church so the bad guys have an escape if need be and can come and go a little easier.

I was also a bit confused by everyone telling me it needed to be a flip mat (which from what I looked up has very little if any keys) and the rules, which didn't seem to say as much. Thus the simple key. I did't start this until I was informed I made top 32 so the rush may have led to it being slightly confusing which is entirely my own fault. My apologies.

Much thanks to Neil for somehow seeing a bit of what I had in mind!

And whoever pointed out that I added the spell components for desecrate.

And of course to those wonderful people who voted for it despite the missing fifty words!

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