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Author Topic: When R-Maps Go...Complicated  (Read 1914 times)
Lisa Padol
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Posts: 365


« on: February 24, 2004, 03:01:41 PM »

Okay, so, I've read Sorcerer and the three supplements, and I've started stealing the cool bits as I can. I've had a lot of success with creative interpretations of fumbles and failures. A few days ago, I turned to the Relationship Map, with far less success.

Now, maybe it's just because I've been doing something similar all along, so nothing as dramatically impressive as what happened with creative failures is going to happen here. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what the function of the R-map is. Or maybe it's that an R-Map does better with one-shots or simpler campaigns than with a game that's been running for, um, a long time. But it's far too complicated on paper to do me much good.

I started with one plot thread. Just one -- no reason to try to R-map out the whole complicated enchilada. And I reminded myself that I'm just showing relationships, not actions. Brother of, in a band with, maybe enemy of.

So, the plot in question involves the kidnapped sons of the governor of Florida. Here follows a description of relationships. If I'm actually doing something wrong somehow, let me know?

Peter and Randall are brothers. Their father is Barry Carson, and his wife is Amanda Carson.

Peter has a girlfriend, Denise. Oh, he also has someone I didn't put on the map, a succubus or something masquerading as Denise. I'm not worrying about exactly what Faux-Denise's crunchy powers are at this point. Faux-Denise is working with the rest of the kidnappers, but we'll leave them off the R-map for the moment.

Denise wants to rescue Peter and Randy, and she's not at all pleased to have learned that someone is masquerading as her. Peter also has a lot of friends who want to help him and his brother. There's his old school chums, Mark, Bill, Ed, Dennis, Bobbie, and Nick. Each of these has families of their own, although I haven't detailed all of them. Ed's father is a Rosicrusian (from the game WitchCraft, as opposed to any other flavor), Nick is the prince of a group of about 300 immigrants in Chicago, Dennis works for a technomage named Leona who is sleeping with Perfect Tommy who works for Buckaroo Banzai (as that sub-R-map spreads out), and Mark has parents and at least one older brother.

Nick's girlfriend is Honggong, one of the PCs, though she's not going on the rescue. She has to bodyguard some of the band Age of Consent, though a couple of its members, Jay and Laura, PCs, will be going. Nick's teacher, Firemaker, is another. PC going on the rescue. The final PC going is Blake. Blake is a wanted criminal, which gets interesting, as there's an FBI agent, Ron, also going. Ron is in love with Jay, and vice versa. Ron knows Blake, having been on the undercover mission that busted Blake's company. I'm not necessarily expecting much to happen between Ron and Blake, but this is part of the map.

Also, all of Peter's friends know Jay, Laura, and Firemaker, and the relationships there should maybe get plotted.

But even cutting off the map at this point, it threatens to become a three dimensional unreadable web.

And I'm not sure how useful it is. My current tactic is writing down the things I'm expecting to happen. These aren't exactly bangs, and they aren't exactly scenes or events. Stuff like "Nick conversation with Firemaker aobut his measure, Nick conversation with Honggong about the relationship thing". Stuff like "PCs locate Peter and Randy" followed by all of the methods I can think of that might or might not work -- not that the players are limited to these, but the more I plan, the better I tend to be at improvising.

And then I number these things in the order I'd guess they'll come up, thought this may well change. The Ellen Interlude may come up before or after the PCs locate the kidnapped boys -- and we're not even talking about how Ellen fits into the map. Well, okay, I will -- Laura's boyfriend is in her social circle,  she helped Jay get into the country, the band PCs rescued her from the Scythians, the Scythians owe her a debt for generally screwing up her life, and she's connected to a lot of artists who've appeared as NPCs.

Then, I re-write the list of things, either as a list or on index cards or both, depending on what I think will actually work. But that's not an R-map.

So, am I misunderstanding what an R-map is? Or is it simply the wrong tool for the job? Or is it a tool that I've internalized to the point where plotting it out on paper is redundant? Or something else completely?

-Lisa
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2004, 03:13:13 PM »

Hi Lisa,

Whoo-hoo! Relationship confusion #1 rears its head once more.

Here's the "secret": stick with kin and sexual ties alone, for the first pass. That's right - no "friends with," "hates," or "posing as" at all.

Now, the second pass allows you to put in a few more people, but only if the "works for" or "knows" are very, very strong. And don't use them for characters who are already in the map to one another.

Everyone else can be treated as "twigs," just sort of like little associates of any one character. If Norbert Skag is sleeping with Cyndee, but is also a member of a band ... and if the members of the band aren't otherwise connected with anyone, just make them twigs off of Norbert.

See, the map isn't supposed to summarize everything. You have notes on all the characters who are important to you as GM. Those notes have all the "who killed whom" and "who hates whom" and "who is loyal to whom" material, none of which is on the map itself.

Some people also make the mistake, upon receiving this instruction, of thinking that all the "notes" stuff must be unimportant, and that's not true at all. It's just as important as it would be in plain old non-relationship-map prepping. If Ziggy killed Skag, then it's still a big deal. If Cyndee is secretly in love with Amber, that's still a big deal too.

So why bother? Because the relationship map ties are the ones which will float the players' boats. When you reveal them (and you should, quickly), it provides a resonant "beat" beneath all the emotional context and all the running-around among the NPCs. If Joey hates Zooey, it matters if they're siblings, and also it matters if they're not - but in a different way.

Relationship maps are the A-#1 technique for hooking players as opposed to characters. Never mind why people care about such things; they just do.

They also provide you with more meat for actually playing the NPCs: how do the ties of kin and sex relate to ties of loyalty and affection, for instance. You can use the first ties to strengthen the second, or you can use the two sets of ties to operate at cross-purposes. Either way, you get meaty, fun-to-play NPCs.

So try again and see how it goes. I'm very interested to see what you think.

Best,
Ron
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Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2004, 03:45:51 PM »

Ron, I took out an index card and did it over, just relatioships. So, that gives me Peter and Randy, the two brothers. Barry and Amanda, their parents. Denise, Peter's girlfriend, and faux-Denise.

Okay, but so what? I know this. I don't need to hook my players -- they're already aware of this map.

I think, in this case, it's either the wrong tool or redundant -- likely the latter. We know the map.

Yes, I think that's it. The relationship map, with the exception of faux-Denise, was revealed a few sessions ago. This is probably part of why I don't need to hook the PCs. The rest is because of the various bits that, as you say, do matter, but don't belong on the relationship map.

-Lisa
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2004, 04:57:55 PM »

Hi Lisa,

Um, I wouldn't say the map is redundant, I'd say it was being used already. Slight difference ...

Which is good news, right? You're using the tool and it's working.

Best,
Ron
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Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2004, 07:43:54 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Um, I wouldn't say the map is redundant, I'd say it was being used already. Slight difference ...

Which is good news, right? You're using the tool and it's working.


Mm, yes. It's just the wrong tool for the upcoming session. Sort of like trying to use a saw when you've already got the right length of planks, and what you need now is the hammer and nails.

-Lisa
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