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Author Topic: using R-maps  (Read 2024 times)
contracycle
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« on: December 30, 2001, 02:25:00 PM »

Hey, I just had a thought about a way to possibly use relationship maps.  I'm sitting here with a copy of the L5R GM's survival guide, which includes a breakdown of the thirty six dramatic situations as interpreted for Rokugan.  This is obviously a precis, but it does list the primary movers for each of the dramatic situations, such as:

4 - Vengeance Taken For Family Upon Family
Avenging Kinsman, Guilty Kinsman, Relative

12 - Obtaining
Two or More Opposing Parties, Object, an Arbitrator

23 - Mistaken Jealousy
Jealous One, Object Of Jealousy, Supposed Accomplice, Author Of Mistake

The virtue of this stuff is identifying the implicit relationships which are observed to drive a particular dynamic.  In No 4 above, I thinks its good to address the fact that the Vengeance requires a Relative essentially to pass judgement on the vengeance, to legitinise or oppose it one way or another - it is this context which makes the routine act of vengeance dramatic (I think).

12, Obtaining, points out the signifcance of a formal opinion; this is not a smash-and-grab thrillride, the point is not only to lay hads on but to Obtain the disputed object.

23, Mistaken Jealousy, is interesting for its description of "role archetypes" for want of a better term; the people who fill a necessary function in driving the plot dynamic.  Right there the "author of mistake" prompts you to select say farce or tragedy depending on how you backstory the mistake-maker.

Some of these appear to have obvious overlaps with relationship maps in that many of them are driven precisely by the blood-tie context.  Others have more abstract relationships, some purely formal like the Arbitrator.  In this regard it extends beyond the sex/blood dynamic, but I think the idea od making the map directly relevant to the players is good.

So - what does anyone think about the overlap of the two concepts?  What if you marked certain people in the map indicating specifically their dramatic role as above?

Does this suggest that one or more of the principal roles should be occupied by a PC?

Perhaps a relevant idea might be to do relationship maps for each dramatic principal, who are themselves primarily connected by their dramatic role at the centre of the map, and find ways to connect the various sub-maps by the players characters?

Does this imply that the perspective of the conflict on the part of players and characters would tend to be defined by the "depth" of their integration with the map?  If the characters have connections to only a single dramatic principal, surely they would see only one side of the story; converesely if the characters were differentially connected to different maps they will have differing perspectives of the conflict. The closer they are to the dramatic principals, the more significant the resolution of the conflict is likely to be to them personally (aside: which kinda shows the use of the dramatic device of the secret identity; suddenly a newly exposed relationship "you have the birthmark"-style brings the conflict much closer to home - injects the character into the centre of the map).

Does this offer the opportunity for zoning maps - you could zone off factions defined not by simple allegiance but as to which position they support/follow/whatever of the central conflict - which may or may not accord with their direct closest blood/sex connection.

Another thought about how conventional RPG's fail struck me while looking at the dramatic principals for No. 9, Bold Enterprise.  This surely must be the basic sturction of your mission-based RPG, notably versions of variant C2, carrying off or recapturing a desired person or object.  As given in the expanded list (links below), the dramatic elements are the Bold Leader, the Object, and the Adversary.  Now I think most RPG plots have an Object and ann Adversary but no Bold Leader.  RPG groups seldom operate with in-play command heirarchies; there is no Leader.  So the Leader becomes the NPC who initiates or authorises the PC's in the Bold Enterprise - the Mr Johnson who has a personal stake in the outcome.  But in doing so, all dramatic conflict has been disposed of - the characters can go through the motions but it means nothing to them individually.  Surely, such a plot requires that a character at the very least share a vital and personal interest in the outcome of the enterprise and the fate of the bold leader who is implicitly gambling all in this enterprise?

Anyway, comments welcome

http://www.sff.net/people/julia.west/CALLIHOO/ideagen2.htm

http://www.wordplayer.com/archives/poltisitu.01-12.html
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contracycle
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« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2001, 02:29:00 PM »

Incidentally, if you go to ideagen1, there is a page which does an online version of the Oblique Strategies cards for prompting people out of writers block.
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Ben Morgan
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« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2001, 03:27:00 PM »

Pardon my French, but holy sweet jesus in a taxi cab!!

I hit reload about a dozen times just now, and got an idea for a completely original Premise each time (not counting the odd duplicate).

Thanks!

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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2002, 03:51:00 AM »

Hey, had a little insight while experimenting with the use of R-maps as mentioned above.  I've been experimenting with a "death of an unrecognised kinsman" plot, which I decided to try mapping out to see what what happen.  The first thing I found was that my basic diagram had 3 family members linked by lines, who we also the 3 dramatic principles in the basic plot structure - The Killer, the Victim, the Revealer.  Then I thought, what if I move the Revealer out of the immediate family connection and see what that looks like?  And that, I realised as soon as I had done it, was that it was now a different story.  the dynamic, the way the various individuals would react to one another, would be quite different depending on whether or  not the revealer is in the family or not.

So then I started linking secondary layers of people - children, mostly, sometimes grandchildren.  I then experimented with back-linking the Revealer via children, i.e. the revealer is now family-in-law... and this too became a totally different interpersonal dynamic.

Furthermore, it would be a different story on the same map just by shifting the principal events - the killing and the revelation.  If both killing and revelation are in the future at start of play, it will all come as a dramatic shock (to the players at least).  If the killing has been carried out but the guilty party not revealed, its a mystery.  If both have been revealed, its a post facto tragedy, dealing with the fallout.

Anyway, moral of the story is that I can now see much of the virtue of R-maps in play, just by tampering with them experimentally.  I also noted a couple of repetitive relationships - fam,ilies with kids, mostly, and developed a little "nexus" entity that I think will make maps less cluttered.  I was also experimenting with non-family lines of connection, things like "authoritative" relationships (could not think of a better term).  This is why I moved the Revealer out of the immediate family, and discovered this made sense on the same basis that maps do for players; because they are "grabby" they grab NPC's too.  Obviously, if you knew that Joe Bloggs had killed Bob Bloggs, this sort of becomes your problem on the "ignorance is bliss" principle.  Lastly, this "expanded map" allowed me to proactively insert boxes marked "Here Be PC"; I think that, knowing that you need to put characters in reasonable proximity to the dramatic principles means you can indeed do some pre-planning (rather than pre-scripting) of how characters become involved etc.  Essentially, an NPC can pass their "grab" onto the players; although this runs the danger of the Bold Enterprise issue I mentioned in a previous post, I think that a sufficiently "grabby" dynamic will be at the very least "sticky" beyond its immediate context.

ch-ching 2p
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2002, 10:32:00 AM »

Hooray!

My apologies for the essentially empty post, but it's wonderful to see others developing and dealing with the same issues that have led to my great pleasure in GMing. At last, there are so many things to talk about.

Best,
Ron
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2002, 02:22:00 PM »

" . . . The Killer, the Victim, the Revealer. Then I thought, what if I move the Revealer out of the immediate family connection and see what that looks like? And that, I realised as soon as I had done it, was that it was now a different story. the dynamic, the way the various individuals would react to one another, would be quite different depending on whether or not the revealer is in the family or not."

I'm still digesting the relationship map stuff, but . . . how about this: there are 2 (or more) candidate-Revealers in the map.  If there's really a big effect based on if that person is inside or outside the family, wouldn't it "enhance PC protagonism" if they (through play) determine who the actual-Revealer is?

How would that work in the relationship map - can you have a slot for both the actual people, and possible/confirmed "roles" that can be played as the story evolves?  Would this be a way to get "bangs" that are even further removed from railroading?  Or does it just make it harder for the GM to "manage" the map by adding uncertainity?

Gee, lots of questions here - I guess I need a few days back from vacation before I start proposing answers . . . :smile:

Gordon
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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2002, 01:23:00 AM »

Quote

I'm still digesting the relationship map stuff, but . . . how about this: there are 2 (or more) candidate-Revealers in the map.  If there's really a big effect based on if that person is inside or outside the family, wouldn't it "enhance PC protagonism" if they (through play) determine who the actual-Revealer is?



...perhaps., but I still find PC protagonism a fairly fuzzy concept., so I'm not sure I can answer the questions meaningfully.  

That said, the effect I was talking about may not be that relevant to ther PC's as an effect.  First of all, I started thinking of the Revelation of the killer as a bang; this is an effect which obliges the PC's to act, decide.  Does not really matter how or why it is revealed; that can be sculpted ad hoc.  The revelation has to occur or the "slaying of an unrecognised klinsman" becomes a "mysterious death".  This dramatic situation can play out in lots of ways just by deciding whether the victim is dead at the start of play, or whether this happens in actual play or not.  Sooner or later, the revelation has to be made.  I feel that you could PROBABLY have a couple of candidate revealers in a relationship map and then choose, shortly before the appropriate bang, which character it is actually going to be.  I think I can see that.  I'm not so sure it would work that way for all of the dramatic situations , though.

The effect I was thinking of was in a large sense on how NPC's react to the news; a mother who knows one of her sons killed another (after all, the killer himself may not know what he has done) might keep it secret; a jealous rival would trumpet it to the heavens; a political adversary might exploit the situation.  A lot of this detail emerges from whether the Revealer is inside or outside the family circle and hence where the story is going to go.  If the revealer is a political adversary, future bangs will have to deal with them as adversary, maybe conceal the crime, that sort of thing.  If its a family affair, relationship breakdowns, psychological crises, suicides and major league guilt are the probable outcomes.  You might be able to pull off such a divergent set of outcomes, I dunno, but I'm inclined to think its dangerous.  The worry I would have is that it puts you back into "wander" mode, waiting for characters to complete decision one before being able to formulate decision 2.  I have some ideas about this.


How would that work in the relationship map - can you have a slot for both the actual people, and possible/confirmed "roles" that can be played as the story evolves?  Would this be a way to get "bangs" that are even further removed from railroading?  Or does it just make it harder for the GM to "manage" the map by adding uncertainity?

Gee, lots of questions here - I guess I need a few days back from vacation before I start proposing answers . . . :smile:

Gordon
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
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