Relationship Mapping and Complicated Stories

In yesterday’s post on +Rob Conley‘s Majestic Wilderness D&D Campaign, I noted the difficulty of keeping all of everything straight.

Part of that was trying to integrate the map and geography, the PCs themselves, getting a feel for my own character, as well as being dropped in the middle of things. Ready? OneTwoThreeFIGHT!

But the more I think about it, the more I think that what I described as a relationship map is a really good idea for this. +Christian Blouin did something like this for factions in his Middle-Earth-based campaign, with the dwarves of Moria (I think) interaction as factions, clans, etc.

There’d be a couple of ways to get this done, but for what Rob has exposed us to thus far, I think what we need is probably a two-method map to start. Probably something like the example to the right, which is based on a business, but modified. The blue boxes would be factions. Right now I think we have Mitra, Set, the Draco-lindes (?), and whomever is opposing the Draco-lindes. Some of those factions, I think, overlap to some extent, such that I believe the Draco-lindes faction is allied or part of the Mitra faction – or else they’re behaving that way.

Within each box would go characters. So Halia, the disliked priestess of Set, goes in the “Set” box, and would have interactions, generally poor, with other characters.

That means we need an axis for interpersonal relationships as well. Something like the second example.

This uses colors to describe 12 kinds of interactions, from “had sex with” to “dating/dated” to loves and hates. That’s probably too much for initial needs for the MW campaign, but at least an “opposed/allied/neutral” demarkation would be useful. Combined with the right kind of hierarchy, and you could get close to the board from Chuck, or the Murder Board from Castle. Either are giving the same basic information – what are the connections between the “players” in the scheme.

Now, none of this tells WHY or WHAT people are doing just yet; that might be sub-factions within each one. That would turn the blue boxes above into a Venn diagram.

Each player could join one or more factions within factions easily. Sure, Bogia the priest is interested in spreading the Peace of Mitra across the land, but he’s not willing to use violence to do it. On the other hand, Myxkill the Faux Paladin might agree that the Peace of Mitra needs spreading, but anyone that isn’t properly spread needs to die, alas for them.

I’m sure I could start with something like XMind, though perhaps Realmworks has better tools, having been conceived around this type of thing anyway.

Ultimately, though, from both a GM and player perspective, some sort of relationship map seems very important for keeping this sort of faction-based play straight in the heads of the people who are moving our paper men around the world.

4 thoughts on “Relationship Mapping and Complicated Stories

  1. There's an article in the Pyramid2 archives (5672 "Campaign in a Box: Information Flow — Court Politics" by Chad Underkoffler) that talks about appropriate techniques for this. In my Atlantean campaign it ended up looking like this:

    http://tekeli.li/atlantis/relationships.png

    Black arrows are command relationships (from the open to the filled end), blue arrows are friendships, red arrows indicate espionage, and green arrows indicate an attempt at protection. (Very important to note that relationships can be asymmetrical, though.)

  2. At one point in time I was looking at similar organizational methods for Agency 17, and there's a good chance the current Monster Hunters game will end up in a similar spot eventually.

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