Plot Maps

I got in on the Technoir KickStarter, and central to the game is this idea of plot maps. Each Transmission (its term for a setting) has a bunch of plot nodes, and they provide some mechanics for choosing them at the outset and for adding them as the game goes on. You connect the nodes on the map as the story unfolds, using directionality when necessary. Basically, it’s an Rmap for plot.

Technoir recommends that you let the players see the plot map so they can see they’re influencing the game world, and I really like that idea. (It also recommends not actually letting the players see the details, but I’m not a fan of that, esp. for Burning Wheel.)

So I’m thinking of placing a giant piece of paper on the table and drawing in the plot points as players discover/create them, adding a sense of concreteness to their actions while at the same time better anchoring the current plot points in past actions. (You could also see this as a modification of fronts/maps from AW.) I think this could enhance the game quite a bit, especially for new players.

Thoughts? Comments?

A friend of mine suggested he run a game of dungeons and dragons and he showed me how hard he’d been preparing for it.

Both he and I work in the construction industry so I was familiar with concepts behind the programme he showed us.

“Here are all the appropriate adventures that you could go on level by level and there’ll always be a choice of which one you’ll do. It’s all planned out from level 1 to 20!”

I felt really bad that this was such a turn off. I just couldn’t understand how I could care about the stuff that’d be happening at level 5 if it had no bearing on the stuff we’d be doing at level 9. It looked like the player’s input wasn’t meaningful as the programme looked robust enough to resist change.

Are these nodes created organically through play?

Sounds like it, and it sounds like a neat idea. In a way, it adds in the excitement of exploration, except the exploration is conceptual rather than physical.

If you’re playing D&D, you’re not playing BW. Sounds tautological, but it means a whole different mindset. Many D&D players will think that just getting a choice of adventures is neat. And honestly, with the way D&D works, you can motivate the players to get their characters into just about any adventure by filing off serial numbers, renaming NPCs and locations, and slotting it in.

In Technoir, yes.
You start with about three as an initial seed and add new ones to respond to player investigations. Usually (if I’m remembering correctly) by rolling on a random table when players go to their contacts and associates for more information.

I believe you also add in the contacts and associates that your players pick during character creation to tie them into that initial plot seed.

I don’t see the point. If you plan the “plot points” in advance, the game is going to crash. If not, how you recognize a plot point when it happens? Even if you do, you’re wasting your time writing the thing instead of playing.

Uh, people need to read my entire post. The plot maps are not pre-made in any of the games I mentioned, they’re made as the game is created to keep track of things and to give people ideas.

The last thing I said then.

That, at least, is reasonably easy, as BW already keeps track of significant events through things like Persona from achieving a goal, and Deeds from doing something that changes many lives for the better. You just need to watch out on top of that for events that are particularly significant to the story of each character and the game as a whole, potentially having already decided that in this game people will be playing out the search for family or the conquest of a great city and so marking off whenever they do something that furthers those goals.

You’re misunderstanding the concept. Every time an NPC or a place is introduced, you write it down on the map, in real time, as it happens, and maybe jot a note about what it means. It’s less obtrusive and takes less time than recording tests. It’s simply a way to visually show how your story is growing and all the plot threads (and nodes) in play. That way, when you’re all in that situation where everyone is having some trouble deciding what to do next (happens at every table), the map can be an additional useful guide, in addition to BITs. “Hmm… I need to do something to disrupt Count Von Evil’s plans, but I’m not sure what I can do… Oh, yeah, we established my he owns a tavern and does nefarious business out of it sometimes. Maybe it’s time for me to burn it down.”

Ah, fair enough. That sounds slightly different from what I was imagining, which was more in line with Nobilis 3E’s project system. So this is essentially real-time plot tracking? It sounds like it could get a little cumbersome, but I guess if you have it on a whiteboard or something inactive players can grab and fill in it wouldn’t be too bad.

They’re also not maps of plot points or events. (Well, in Technoir they CAN include events, but mostly they’re people, places and things. The events tend to be the least interesting choices.)

For example, you start out with “The Mad Wizard”, “The Tower on the Hill” and “an ancient relic.” Then you draw lines connecting them. Your starting situation (for example) is a mad wizard with an ancient relic in his tower on the hill.
Later you find out the Mad Wizard was part of a cult, so you add “Necromantic Cult” and “Dark God” to the map and connect them up to the Mad Wizard. Maybe you connect the Dark God and the ancient relic too, just for fun . . .

It’s just a visual shorthand for taking quick notes about how elements of your setting interact.

Perhaps the post title ought to be “Real Time Plot Mapping” :slight_smile:

Do you record threads of the story or goals, or do you leave it mostly to the concrete elements such as NPCs, places, etc.?

Haven’t actually done it yet - the only game I’m running these days is via Google+ so there’s not really any room for this idea - but the nodes would be connected by lines/arrows, and these connections would be annotated as necessary. So, I guess the answer is yes, but it’s more that the shape and makeup of the graph suggests the plot threads in play and provide some hints. I’d say the story goals should rightly stay in the character’s Beliefs.

I don’t see it as supplanting emergent story or character-driven choices, far from it. I see it more as a cool conceptual map of the external memory of the world, as a tool to support character-driven decision making and as a way to subtly reward the players by showing them that their actions are affecting the world.

When I get to try it out IRL I’ll let you all know how it goes.

I’m wishing Google+ had a nice shared whiteboard. Google Docs has shared ‘pictures’, but they’re all vector based.

Oddly enough, Google’s blog just updated today to say that Hangouts now include an option for a shared whiteboard . . .

Your wish is granted.

Too late!

I had a random multi-person chat session a couple years back using Google spreadsheets that we were using to track our traveller campaign. Different fields would pop up with dialogue, and a reply would be written beneath or beside it where there was room. It was interesting because it stored all the changes to the spreadsheet, and thus you could follow the various conversations back to their beginnings, and also track 5-6 different conversation threads at a time. I would still like to play around with this a bit more, but I’ll check out the whiteboard and see how it compares.

Did I mention that you can now share a Google Doc (like a spreadsheet) in a Hangout as well?