UPDATE: The Round 2 entries are
public! Go view them and vote!
Designer and host Owen K.C. Stephens provided some hella vague hints
about the next round of this year's RPG Superstar:
Namely, some key points about the submissions included:
... a full-page map, of a previously unmapped fantasy-themed location
in Golarion ...
... having enough information for a cartographer to be able to create
a publishable map from your entry ...
... No one needs a map of a 20-foot by 20-foot room with a door
centered in the north and west walls, or of a forest that's six miles
long and three miles deep with a single road and one town in the
... it must be something that could be used by a GM to run a game set
in the mapped location, and it must have all the information a
cartographer needs to make the final map ...
That doesn't narrow anything down much. No scope limits except that it
be on Golarion and fits on a letter-sized piece of paper, which isn't
much of a content limit considering a map of the entire passage of
souls from creation to death and encompassing all of space and
time fits on a
letter-sized piece of paper, much less Golarion's entire solar
less all of
So let's look at equivalent examples in actual Paizo products of
"full-page maps" of "fantasy-themed locations in Golarion" that "have
enough information for a cartographer to be able to create a publishable
map," encompassing any scale as long as it "could be used by a GM to run
a game set in the mapped location", with the caveats that:
- Paizo products are not necessarily "Superstar quality".
- Ready-to-publish maps like most of these are not what Paizo's
- I don't have perfect knowledge of all locations in Golarion that
have already been mapped in previous products.
To keep references simple, I'll link to maps already released under the
Community Use Policy and
so they're easy to view.
Places that could technically fit this definition include:
Supercontinental and continental maps, like The Inner Sea
The linked map is poster sized, but page-sized maps of the region
show up in many products.
- Does it fit Owen's parameters? Yes---sort of. Garund,
Avistan, Tian Xia, and the Crown of the World have been mapped.
The levels of the Darklands are sort of a toss-up as their
nature makes them much more difficult to map. A continent on
another world or plane, even one previously described or broadly
mapped by Paizo, doesn't seem to fit the letter of the
(suggested) rules. Otherwise, Casmaron, Arcadia, and Azlant
could potentially be mapped on a single page. (Sarusan, while a
continent, is small enough to be a nation-sized map. Maybe.
Nobody really knows; the closest thing to an official world map
has in-character question marks on
- Would I make this map for Round 2? No. Since the goal is
to "be something that could be used by a GM to run a game set in
the mapped location," I wouldn't make such a map for Round 2.
Continent-sized maps provide a geographic reference for locating
places in relation to other places. How far is Absalom from
Egorian? What's between the Worldwound and the Hold of Belkzen?
Especially in a kitchen-sink setting like Golarion, it also
serves to create relationships between each mini-setting within
it---the Nirmathi Robin Hoods and Molthuni Generals can't be
~~in the same Inner Sea Football League division~~ uh, at war
with each other if they're on opposite ends of the setting.
As a game reference, though, it doesn't do much to inspire me as
a GM unless I'm running a very broad sandbox campaign---at this
scale there's too much in the space between places, and too
little detail in the few clearly marked places, to run a game
out-of-the-box with a letter-sized continent map alone. What's
the difference between the Hungry Mountains and the Bandu Hills?
What's unique about Absalom and Egorian? You have to come up
with it on your own, which makes it harder to "run a game set in
the mapped location."
National or nation-sized regional maps, like
This map of Varisia is in the back of the original Rise of the
which is a free download.
- Does it fit? Yes---sort of. Most parts of the Inner Sea
region have this scale of map in The Inner Sea World Guide and
Pathfinder Campaign Setting books dedicated to individual
nations. I haven't found any maps of this scale for Tian Xia
(the Dragon Empires Gazetteer contains two full-page
continental maps, one color-coded to identify individual
nations). Other continents' nations are unmapped, and Sarusan is
about as large as some large nations.
- Would I make this map? Not likely. To create a map of this
scale that doesn't already exist, I'd have to pick a nation on a
continent that hasn't been mapped. It's sort of a
chicken-and-egg problem, and while Owen's suggested rules would
technically allow it, it would be a dangerous sort of space to
work in. How would the judges view a map of a nation that's
already been mapped internally by Paizo? And even at a national
scale, you're still mostly providing a relational reference for
detailed locations; it's difficult to put a story into dots on a
map for cities and lines for roads and rivers while keeping
their structure organic and sensible. I'd have to have a killer
idea to go this route.
On the other hand, this is the minimal map size for a
far-reaching campaign. (Many APs, which run from 1st to 17th-ish
level, spend most or all of their time in a nation-sized area.)
The hard part would be communicating an AP-worthy plot in a
single letter-sized map. Do you show a map of two nations at
war, with disputed borders and battleground locations?
Illustrate the unstoppable expansion of a corrupting
Local and small regional maps, like Bloodsworn
I'd prefer to use the Sandpoint hinterlands map that appears in Rise
of the Runelords and the Beginner Box Game Master's Guide, but
there's no CUP-friendly version to share. These are sometimes
full-page but often run on half a page.
- Does it fit? Yes. By limiting yourself to a town and its
surrounding area, or one or two small islands, you open up most
of Golarion outside of the major cities and Shackles while
avoiding many concerns about places with unmapped surroundings.
- Would I make this map? Maybe. Again, even at this scale,
you're struggling to do more than say "this awesome place where
things happen is 2 miles from this other awesome place where
things happen." But you have a bit more to work with---you're at
a scale where novel harbors, massive creatures, and sprawling
locations aren't just dots on a map, they can be visible
features that suggest specific things to do.
This is the scale where it starts to get easier for "a GM to run
a game set in the mapped location": PC travel time is simple at
all levels, the game's scale is limited to a few encounters in a
handful of environment types, and locations can be just
evocative enough for a GM to run them with relatively little
prep---at least if the map is clear and interesting.
City maps, like
These are usually a full page in a book where most of the action is
set in that city. A few are half-page maps.
- Does it fit? Yes. There are lots of cities and towns in
Golarion that haven't been mapped, including some
The problem is figuring out whether they've already been mapped.
You'll have to do some research to be sure; PFWiki is a good
starting point, as is searching the Paizo store for the city's
- Would I make this map? No. Even though city maps are a
step down in scale, they're right up there with national maps in
density. There's a lot going on in a city, and a map that shows
an entire city struggles once again to do more than show that
city hall is six blocks from the meat market, or the graveyard
is 200 feet by 100 feet in size. The bigger the city, the
tougher it is to present "a game set in the mapped location".
For me at least, smaller towns have more room to be evocative;
you can zoom in closer, show more detail, and come closer to
telling a specific story. For instance, compare Sandpoint to
(which shows off some particularly cool city-map features), and
Location maps, like Foxglove
This is from Richard Pett's The Skinsaw Murders, the second Rise
of the Runelords AP issue.
The possibilities at this scale are endless. You can carve one of
these out of nearly any place in Golarion, regardless of whether
it's already on the map.
This is grid scale, and it's where GMs run games. Period. Larger
maps are great for campaign-scale play, but they're literally the
big picture of the story, the whole book. This map scale is the
chapter of your book, and it's where you can tell stories with
nothing more than walls and labels.
Foxglove is an especially nice example as it uses one scale to show
three different types of map. One page gives a GM three maps worth
at least an entire session of play. You have lots of flexibility,
you can still tell stories with some scale to them, and you don't
have to worry nearly as much about whether you're tripping over the
The hard part is avoiding the "20-foot room with a door" suggestion:
just because a location you map is interesting to you, that
doesn't mean it's interesting to other GMs, even if you play the
map at your table and your players have a blast. The map itself
has to communicate what makes it interesting, and it has to be
flexible enough for any GM and any party. That means providing
options, avoiding a single linear path, and/or creating unusual
situations that take advantage of (or at least allow) creative
Because this is so wide open, your options are particularly diverse.
They don't have to be overhead with a 5-foot
can have a 20-foot
be a side view with a 50-foot
Single-floor, single-building maps, like Cayden's
The linked map is Tim Hitchcock's turnover for PFS scenario #40:
Hall of Drunken Heroes, from Joshua J. Frost's Paizo blog post
back in 2010 about how, well, Good Maps Make for Good
Adventures, which is a
nice segue to wrapping up this too-long post:
A good map, like Tim's, tells us immediately everything we need to
know about the location. I don't have to redraw his map and I don't
have to send a novel with the map order that includes tags and
descriptions for every room so the cartographer can get the map right.
Were we to send our cartographers the bad map example from above,
without also sending along the entire article that goes with it, we'd
get back a nicely drawn, full-color drawing of 5 box shapes, a circle,
and a few smudges. Our cartographers are awesome, but their base for
quality is only as good as the hand-drawn map they receive. A
cartographer should be able to open the author's map and immediately
get to work turning a good map into a great map rather than reading a
wall of text and then turning a terrible map into a mediocre map.
- Would I make this map? I wish! Tim's map is an excellent
example of freelance map turnover, but I'm not sure how voters
would react if this was submitted in Round 2. That's where the
"game" of Superstar seems to diverge from freelancing---no matter
how much Owen says "voters are asked to vote not on artistic talent,
but on clarity, imagination, and usefulness," I'm not entirely
certain enough voters are going to buy as much into an entryway to a
Cayden Cailean temple made of two back-to-back bars called the Hall
of Thrones as much as I would.
Is this novel enough? If enough of the Top 32 submit colored, textured,
pretty, evocative maps that aren't more imaginative or as
turnaround-friendly but capture voters' imaginations, would they bump
this designer out of the Top 16?
In other words, clean maps like these are freelance bread-and-butter,
but can they be Superstar enough?