Monday, September 13

Monday, August 16

Changing relationship maps

In previous discussions about relationship maps, the map has been a static map over how things are in the world at a given moment. This time, however, I'm going to talk a little about the idea of relationship maps that develop over time.

The main idea is that one of the goals of a session can be to change how the map looks. Sworn allies can be made into enemies, or leaders whole cities can be toppled and replaced.

Most of these things can of course be roleplayed out without any particular rules. However, sometimes it's nice to have a nice foundation to start from as a GM. So, let's expand on the idea of relationship maps once more. Each important relation and link can have

  • A value representing the strength of the relationship. A low value means a relationship that is weak or unimportant. A stronger value means a relationship that is strong and important. The higher this number, the harder it is to change it (at least to the worse)
  • A weakness. Many relationships can have a weak point. Two warriors and allies in love with the same woman, a peace agreement that holds as long as no one enters an area important to both parties etc. If the characters manage to discover and use this weakness, it makes it easier for them to destroy and change the relationship.
  • Dependencies. In some cases, a relationship is depending on another relationship. Prince Afur has the power over the city, but that's only because he currently has the backing of the ancient Orthus-family. If that backing is lost, he will soon lose his grip over the city.
The idea is not to write long essays about each of these, but rather use them as a very quick framework for how to structure your adventure and environment to make it easier to run games that feel open ended and dynamic.

Relationship Maps

Relationship maps expanded

A while ago I wrote a little about how to build an adventure using relationship maps.

Mapping out your adventure pt1
Mapping out your adventure pt2
Mapping out your adventure pt3
Mapping out your adventure pt4

In many cases, these maps describe a number of secrets for the characters to uncover. However, the map in itself doesn't say anything about HOW these relationships are discovered.

You can naturally wing it, and just give out clues whenever you feel it's appropriate, but if you prefer a little more planning I suggest the following:

For each relationship, write down a number of signs of the relationship. These could be obvious and visual (Mr Darris is a member of the Order of the Black Triangle, and has a ring on his right index finger with a black triangle on it), to more hidden clues (Underneath Mr Darris beds can be found a number of letters concerning threats against the Order). Maybe two persons who are secret lovers can't help but look at each other and smile from time to time, and if given some money or bought a drink, one of the locals can tell that he's seen someone enter the mansion from the servants entrance.

To make the mystery a bit easier, I'd suggest give out at least 3 clues or signs to each relationship (that isn't already known), so that if the players miss one of these clues, there are other ways to find out.

If you want to expand even more, one could add a quick note on which skills are usable to detect the relationship, and how hard it is.

Friday, August 13

Micro-tip: Use Google maps for inspiration

Sometimes it can be hard to come up with names and maps for a specific place. For instance, not long ago I wrote an adventure sett in a slightly oriental/ arabic setting. Since I had a hard time coming up with names that had the right feeling, I took a look at Google Maps, and zoomed in over places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and similar. It didn't take me long to find a couple of names that fit perfectly in the setting.

As a side note, that's also a very good place to find city maps, even for fictional cities. Who cares if your Bindorian village looks exactly as a village in east russia?

Thursday, August 12

Player vs. player - or "The golden rule of roleplaying"

In our last game, the issue of player vs. player action came up. More specifically, one player said that his character did a mind control on another players character. This wasn't appreciated by the other player, who was open with it, so the first player changed his course of action.

The incident, however, got me thinking (and spurred some discussions on the groups Wave about the game). Several solutions were presented, like making that particular character immune to Domination etc, however, I think that those kinds of things should be settled outside of the game.

Now, the easy way is to say that "no player vs. player actions whatsoever". I think, however, that there is a deeper lesson to be learned. First of all, I'd like to separate character vs. character from player vs. player. Instead of making the situation a contest that one of the players win, make it a collaborative effort. First suggest (humbly) something along the lines of "It would fit the story and my character, and is a part of his downwards journey, if he tried to Dominate you in this particular situation. Would that be ok with you, and how would you like to play this out?" If, and only if, the second player agrees, the scene can be played out. The rules can still be used to decide if the power works, but the two players work together to make the scene interesting. This way, even though the character looses control, the player doesn't.

You can then add in a "give-and-take" approach, like the player running the controlled character can say something like "yes, you control my character for a little while, but in the process, he get's an insight into your mind, learning something from you", or something along those lines. But remember, this is an example of what can be done in addition to the above collaborative work.

The important part is that both players enjoy the situation and finds it interesting. In Swedish traffic law, there is the basic rule that basically states that "All drivers should at all times do as mush as possible to avoid accidents". That is the most important law, and all other laws are specifications and concrete rules about how to uphold/ fulfill that first law. That way of thinking could be applied to roleplaying games as well, written something like this:

"All players should at all times work towards making the game as 
enjoyable as possible for all participants"

That, my dear friends, is what I would call the "Golden Rule of Roleplaying"