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My Firstest Relationship Map

Started by lumpley, November 18, 2001, 09:01:00 PM

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I just mail-merged our master list of all the wizards in our Ars Magica world (in which various people have been playing since 1990) onto stickers and stuck them to poster board to make a relationship map.  Plus all the non-wizards in our current game (but none from old games).  We haven't drawn any lines or arrows yet.  It has -- ready? -- one hundred and sixty six names on it.

It takes three sheets of poster paper.

It'll mostly clump into 3 or 4 maps, which is how many games we've played in the world, with a few lines connecting them into an overall.  

Big (big!) fun.

-lumpley Vincent

Tor Erickson


When you say "relationship map" are you using it in the Edwardsian sense of connections of romance and family or in the White Wolf sense of any connections that people share (which can include business, alliances, rivalries etc.)?



Honestly, while we're at it, we probably will use it to keep track of shifting politics.  I'm thinking of little removable color-coding dots.  But all the black lines are blood and sex, and the black lines are the structure on which the colored dots are going to happen.

(Well, blood, I mean in Ars Magica wizards are almost universally adopted by their masters.  But master-student relationships are intense, formative, and plenty dysfunctional, so I think they count.)

One of the overall ethics of our game is: until it's established in play, it's conjecture.  We spent a session in play talking about which npc(ish) wizards are whose former apprentices, but most of their relationships beyond that are up in the air.  It wouldn't make sense to draw friendship and rivalry and so on lines, since who knows.

Oh, except that one whole side of the map comes from former games in the world, whose relationships were made true in play.  So we can pretty safely mark those.

I'm still saving my pennies for Sorcerer's Soul.  Do I pass?

-lumpley Vincent

[ This Message was edited by: lumpley on 2001-11-20 06:45 ]

Ron Edwards

Wow ... I have this image of a battle-map with little pins stuck in it, or maybe Arlo Guthrie's "circles and arrows with a paragraph on each back explaining how each was to be used as evidence against us."

I don't know about you guys, but ever since I started basing role-playing prep on this sort of thing (for the most part), I've enjoyed everything about GMing much, much more.


Tor Erickson

Wow.  And all of this arose from actual play?  That's pretty cool.  Yeah, it sounds pretty Soulish to me.  

So what are you planning on doing with it?  Are you starting a new campaign and using the Map as setting, or will players be taking the roles of people on the Map, or do you have several campaign groups going at once, or what?  How big is your group?  I'd love to hear some more info.


Mike Holmes

I like the idea of color coding the relationships. I'd do someting like:

Bold Red - Blood family
Red - Other family
Blue - friend
Green - Sexual
Black - Business
Orange - Rival
Yellow - Acquaintance
Purple - Political

Etc. While I realize that some relationships are more important than others, why not have this as a reference, especially once play has begun. Essentially, I see it as a tool that has uses in addition to those that one would create an Edwardsian map for (I think that this is what Vincent's got). Record keeping, fer instance. I'd also keep notes on the nature of the relationships by writing notes along the lines where it was important. But that's just me.

I used to do essentially the same thing in lists of characters. These are, of course, much harder to keep straight as you often have to separate characters that are close due to having only one dimension to list them in. The two dimensional map allows much greater freedom to map things out and show proximities. Still limited, however, as I can tell yo uas the designer of relational databases. Sometimes even 2D maps get very crowded. The visual orientation is much better for some as well.

Also consider the idea of non-persons in the map. Or people as representative of non-persons. Forex, you can have people's relationship to The Church, or their relationship to a bishop that represents The Church in the vicinity.

Fun stuff.

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Holy smeg.

I was never a huge believer in Relationship Maps as Ron defines them - I can hold and/or generate that sort of information in my head for most games, and putting special emphasis on it seemed pointless for me.

I have, however, just realised that such maps are absolutely perfect for larp plotting. In larps, the GM's power to direct or even influence the plot is greatly reduced, and the vast majority of the prep comes in writing the characters and the relationships between the characters. One key problem to avoid with pregenned larps is the character who has nothing to do with the game. Using a relationship map like the one described above, and ensuring that no character has fewer than...oh, say three relationships should solve that problem...


Gar said - I have, however, just realised that such maps are absolutely perfect for larp plotting

This is something that I've noticed in the context of LARPS in general(at least insofar as the style that crops up most in Ireland). I think that this sort of relationship map approach has been almost intuitively used by writers, and with good reason.
It's a perfect technique for time limited situations in which you have a large number of players and little (or no) GM presence or intervention. The strength of this approach in LARPs relies on a *degree of control/freedom* idea - you seed potential interactions (and discrete connections) in the character backstory, so the LARP can get underway with minimal GM intervention (i.e. it doesn't descend into utter chaos within the first few minutes). It also, as Gar pointed out, helps to avoid the problem of *spare wheel* characters, which are always to be avoided.



The story of our relationship map is that in a couple of years game time we're going to have to present our newly-established spring covenant selves to the body politic, and when that happens we want the body politic to be rich, textured, and responsive.  So we thought we'd get an early start.

We don't have a GM, so yes, the players are taking on the people on the map.  About a year ago real time we divvied up the ~60 wizards in our local tribunal and in our spare time we've been slowly developing them.  They're developed enough now that they're carrying their own weight, if you know what I mean.  A few have fallen through the cracks but that's good, that means that we can make them what we want them to be when the time comes.

There are only three of us just now, me, Meguey, Emily Care.  But let's see, there are twelve players represented on the map, maybe thirteen?  I forget.

One cool thing is that a few times a year we spend a session checking in with the rest of the world, bopping from covenant to covenant and interacting as our NPC(ish)s, so that by now, probably 140 or more of the 166 characters have had stanced statements made on their behalf.  There are real characters there.  (My favorite part is dropping in on my old beloved PCs and seeing what they're doing these days.  Some of them are thirty years older now than when I played them.  It's fun to have stayed in touch, like.)

Mike, I had them all in a (non-relational) database and boy, it was just getting harder and harder to keep track of them, especially for the other players, who'd delegated the database to me.  I think the map will work better -- if nothing else, we can see the whole damn thing at a time.  (In fact, we can't help but see it, since it's too big to fit anywhere.  Good grief.)

There are a dozen or more non-people who could go on the map, yes the Church, and a couple of Fairie Courts, and even a god I think, but we haven't quite figured out how to deal with that.

But yeah, Ron, the best thing that ever happened to me as a GM was sharing ownership of the world with the other players.  (Fully, in this particular case.)  I'm not sure that's exactly what you mean, but anyway.

-lumpley Vincent

[ This Message was edited by: lumpley on 2001-11-20 14:00 ]

Ron Edwards

Hi Vince,

"Ron, the best thing that ever happened to me as a GM was sharing ownership of the world with the other players. (Fully, in this particular case.) I'm not sure that's exactly what you mean, but anyway."

It sounds very much like what I mean. The degree, for a particular group, varies - as you say, all the way up to 100%. My tabletop play tends to be much more traditional, with a lower but still very substantial percent of GM-sharing.

I also think that Emily Care was dead-on correct a while ago when she described such games being "GM-full" rather than "no-GM" - that translates fairly well into my terminology, of having wide-spread Author Stance going on.




I think that any amount of gm-sharing is substantial.  It's the first step that's a doozy.  After that it's just a matter of how much.

That said, the 100% thing rocks.  I've never played a more fun and sustainable game.  Whenever I feel like retreating selfishly into (one of) my character(s), I do.  There's always somebody to pick up my slack.  Everybody gets a break when they want one, and everybody GMs when they feel like it.

Three times the grief for our characters, one third the grief for us.  It's a happy life.

Or else nobody feels like being the GM, we all retreat into our characters, and we sit around having awesome in-character conversations.  With three times the grief, there's always something to talk about, and we're prone to that anyway.

Not for everybody or every game, sure.  But man.

Oopsie.  Waxed rhapsodic.

But here's a question.  Do you ever play troupe-style, or are your games always one-player-one-PC?  (That's another first-step's-a-doozy.)

-lumpley Vincent

[ This Message was edited by: lumpley on 2001-11-20 16:36 ]