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Author Topic: relationship maps and all that jazz  (Read 8249 times)
James V. West
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« on: October 30, 2001, 06:11:00 PM »

Friends

I'm rather in the dark about a lot of the stuff that's been discussed here at the Forge before I came along. Not to mention the fact that there are far too many posts for me to digest in the limited web time I have.

So, could some of you kindly folk please point me to where I might read about relationship mapping?

Thanks

James V
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Don Lag
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« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2001, 07:07:00 PM »

Me too! me too! :smile:
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2001, 08:10:00 PM »

Hey,

Oh man. Well, technically, most people have to PAY for this, as it's part of "The Sorcerer's Soul," the second supplement for Sorcerer.

BUT ... as long as we're all in bed together ...

Relationship mapping is not a whole/entire technique for scenario preparation; it's one PART of scenario preparation. (By "scenario," read "adventure," "session," or whatever floats your boat. A big unit of role-playing.)

It is literally nothing but a chart of all notable NPCs with their names connected by bonds of (a) family relationship, (b) sexual contact, and (c) anything else if it seems important and is not (a) or (b).

It is to be COMBINED with, not to substitute for, all the usual notes of who's killing whom, and who hid the letter in the old trunk, and all that usual sort of back-story thing.

Why bother? My claim is that it creates a reactive web of information flow throughout all the NPCs, as the PCs come into contact with ANY portion of the map (i.e. a person). The GM can run scenarios without ever bothering to force a given scene, because contact with any part of the map means ultimately contacting many other parts, all of whom can react.

Paul Czege rightly refers to the relationship map as "grabby" - it tends to INCLUDE player-characters as time goes by, as the NPCs try to get them involved in some way with their agendas. I like it because it means that a given NPC isn't just a one-trick pony who is visited for a predetermined purpose and then abandoned.

Well, I'm probably not explaining it well (like I said, Sorcerer's Soul, $10 in PDF form, blah blah). But maybe some other people can testify?

Best,
Ron
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Laurel
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« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2001, 10:52:00 AM »

As a GM, I use a lot of relationship mapping, both as preparation and then to refine the story as the chronicle progresses.  The reason I use relationship mapping is to have readily available subplots and hooks.  My games are very 'Stuff'-heavy...  the interrelationships between PCs, PCs-NPCs, and NPC-NPCs take up a good chunk of game time and motivate the PCs to take actions that lead to additional encounters and/or combat.

Since I've never read Ron's work yet (but will be soon), I can describe what I do without revealing any of his trade secrets. *wink*

My mapping involves naming the primary NPC, giving them a brief 1 sentence summary in the center of a blank page of paper and then drawing an arrow in one or more direction to the PC or NPC they are associated with.  Underneath the arrow, I describe in one sentence what the nature of their relationship.

Here's a rough sample

            loving protective father to
Bobby G.    --------------------------->  Matilda
Cigar chomping,                     Shy, mousey libarian
arrogant crime boss        <-----------------------
                               despises her father


I don't establish *how* I'm going to put this relationship into use in the game ahead of time, but let it seem to happen naturally whenever events are appropriate.
       
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James V. West
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« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2001, 06:47:00 PM »

Sorry Ron, I wasn't aware that it was part of Sorcerer specifically.

Sounds like what I figured it would be: a map of relationships. I think all thoughtful GMs do something *like* this anyway, often without thinking about it. Making sure your players' characters are actually important by essentially gearing the whole game around them, plus making certain your NPCs aren't just pointless stats. Mapping these types of things is a great idea, Ron. I'm a visual guy so this appeals to me.

Thanks!

James V. West

P.S. Sorcerer is next on my list of Things To Get now that vacation is over.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2001, 07:22:00 PM »

James and Laurel,

I think I need to clarify. The relationship map does NOT list feelings, intentions, or actions. Nor does it consider "hates Bob" to be a relationship. It's much more literal than that.

Ties of family relationship (siblings, etc); ties of sexual contact (affair, marriage, whatever); then stop there. Then, and this is an IF, add anyone else who's tied in ONLY by (say) employment or something similar.

That's it. One can then draw OTHER lines on the map to indicate feelings or other stuff, but that would be an add-on.

Best,
Ron

P.S. By the way, I was only referencing myself regarding the map, not suggesting that anyone has to pay for the information. I did talk about relationship mapping in the essay, so by definition the concept has to be available for open discussion.

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-10-31 22:24 ]
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2001, 02:26:00 PM »

Hey James V.,

Sounds like what I figured it would be: a map of relationships.

I'm writing carefully, so as not to cut into sales of The Sorcerer's Soul. A key concept behind relationship mapping, as laid out by Ron, is that the map is really only concerned with relationships of sex and blood relations. This is because the map is intended for hooking the players, not the characters. NPC's who're in cahoots with each other, and relationships of employment and such just aren't of the same significance. An exceptionally good illustration of this is the twin sister experiment that Jesse Burneko describes in the http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=822&forum=14&4">Vanilla Narrativism in Action thread in Actual Play. A critical aspect of Narrativist scenarios is that they function like an agar cake for a lab culture of player character protagonism. And protagonism depends on interest in the character by the audience. Relationship maps organize material within the scenario with an awareness of the importance of certain kinds of audience interest to character protagonism.

Paul

[ This Message was edited by: Paul Czege on 2001-11-01 17:28 ]
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And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Don Lag
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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2001, 08:14:00 AM »

Thanks Ron.

James:
Quote

Sounds like what I figured it would be: a map of relationships.


Yup.

I'm starting a brand new game after some 4 years of not playing, and the first thing I started off with was imagining the NPC's in the story. Since I had heard the term "relationship map" in these forums, I imagined people were taking the NPC interactions a bit more seriusoly (or analytically anyway) than I had way back when I was an active GM.

So instead of just writing down the names, agendas, and cliques of the NPC in a notebook. I took a larger piece of paper and boxed in each NPC and drew lines wherever I thought a relationship was of some importance.

Of course this wouldn't be one of Ron's Relationship Maps  in the sense that they included not only formal relationships (marriage, parent/son, sexual, work), but also a few relationships that seem to appear from conflicting agendas.

So... what I'd really like to know is, since relationship mapping seems to be something more useful than just using larger paper for NPC summaries, has anyone come up with techniques that improve the map's value as a tool?
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2001, 07:10:00 PM »

Ron,

I don't quite understand why a relationship map doesn't include things like hatred or similar items.  They seem like they'd be pretty important.

If June is Garth's daughter, but she hates him.  The Bill kills Garth.  Jun's reaction would be different if she loved him.

But then, maybe it's to nail down only things that are permanent.

June may cease hating, and start loving her father in the future, but she will always be his daughter, regardless of her feelings.

Bill and June  were lovers.  They may drift apart later, but at one time they were and it continues to effect their relationship for the rest of their lives.

If this is the case, then various other relationships should be a part of the relationship map.  Or have that possibility.  Stuff like co-worker, army buddies, schoolmates, used to live next door.  Stuff like that.

Or so it seems to me.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2001, 08:03:00 PM »

Hi Jack,

You have answered your own question quite well.

Relationship maps are about those elements of history and connection AROUND WHICH FEELINGS MAY CHANGE. Bob may hate Mary now and love her later, but they will always be brother and sister. All their actions, all their changes, and most importantly any change of attitude of player-character toward either of them, must occur in that context.

As for your last point (he said, tired), it is PERFECTLY ALL RIGHT to include links like "works for," or "goes bowling with," IF AND ONLY IF the person you're hooking in has NO OTHER CONNECTION on the map.

Much, much play and experience has led me to conclude that this policy - which is very, very simple - leads to the most effective use of the map as a GMing tool.

Best,
Ron
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2001, 06:39:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-04 23:03, Ron Edwards wrote:
As for your last point (he said, tired), it is PERFECTLY ALL RIGHT to include links like "works for," or "goes bowling with," IF AND ONLY IF the person you're hooking in has NO OTHER CONNECTION on the map.

Much, much play and experience has led me to conclude that this policy - which is very, very simple - leads to the most effective use of the map as a GMing tool.


Well, I'll have to take your word for it on this, as I haven't had much GMing experience with relationship maps, but I am disturbed that the two hard and fast relationships are blood and sex and that other relationships matter nothing unless blood and sex do not enter into it.  That is not a happy commentary on the human race IMO.

I suppose one shouldn't read too much social commentary in what works as an RPG mechanic.

Jack, who has no alignment.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2001, 07:04:00 AM »

Hey Jack,

"I am disturbed that the two hard and fast relationships are blood and sex and that other relationships matter nothing unless blood and sex do not enter into it. That is not a happy commentary on the human race IMO."

Who said anything about the other sorts of relationships mattering nothing? I said no such thing. They do matter. If ties that do not include kin or sexual contact matter enough to be in the relationship map, then in they go.

If the problem is that they were saved for last, then chalk it down to the basic observation that ties of kin and ties of sexual history ARE central to human behavior. I am not saying these are fixed-zombie-robot guides to behavior. These ties may be overridden, or they may be reinforced by purely social connections. The overriding or the reinforcement are VERY, VERY interesting to us as creators and audience.

The map is there to show WHAT (kin/sex) is being overriden or reinforced by social behaviors (ie the actions taken by characters during play).

Any further discussion of the underlying principles of the map, in terms of human behavior or morality, should be taken up with me in private email.

Best,
Ron
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Laurel
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« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2001, 03:47:00 PM »

I can understand what Ron is doing and why its successful that way.  I do something slightly different as I gave an example of, which I happen to use the exact same terminology for, but that has no bearing on relationship maps as they pertain to Ron's article, and hence this thread.  

Thanks for going into so much detail, Ron.  I feel like learned something with good practical application, and I'll test out if its useful for me this week.
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