Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Few Notes on Story Mapping

Sometimes Campaigns get complicated.  There may be a lot of NPCs involved, or a lot of loose threads that have built up over time, or both, and you start losing track during the game of significant details that could make a difference.  What I do to handle this situation is create what I call Story Maps.  These are figurative in nature and are designed solely for the purpose of reminding me of all of the important places, people, things and events happening in a Campaign at a given time. This is also known as a Memory Map. It gives abbreviated information that allows me to see in one glance the entire sweeping panorama of the campaign. I find them quite useful.

Spoiler Alert! If you are one of my players you may want to avert your eyes from this map until the end of the Whitewode Campaign.

Here's an example:


Story / Memory Map... combination of story elements and relative locations. This version has all of the details I want to keep in mind for the game. The space on the bottom is for further notes as ideas should surface. The map is in pencil so I can amend it easily. 

In this case what you see are circles with letters in them that represent characters. Some are inside larger circles which represent groups of characters who are aligned by purpose. There are some simplistic graphical representations of mood or events related to the characters, such as the storm cloud representing a conflict, or the wavy lines representing a type of attack that is ongoing in the area. In most cases the locations of the circles on the page reflect the relative physical locations of the characters on the scene, although not to scale. This is to remind me visually not only who is related to who, but where, physically, they are located in relation to each other. Note that sometimes this is not convenient to do, such as when a group is split up and parts are in one location while others are in another location. So flexibility here is really key. The idea of the memory map is that it need not be technically accurate - it only needs to serve as a reminder of what is going on. If it does this then it has done its job.

At the bottom of the page is a list of goals where I am showing characters and who or what they are striving for in a simple format: character X --> Thing or character Y. If there are multiple goals or a domino set of goals then it is X --> Y --> Z. If two characters are competing for the same goal then X --> Z <-- Y. etc. If characters are moving then it is represented with a dotted line and an arrow showing the direction.

All of which when combined helps me to visualize the entire scene with the main events, motivations and goals of the groups involved in the conflict.

There are no fixed rules for this, and no specific or unchanging nomenclature. The purpose of the Memory Map is to remind me, during the game, what the big picture is, and who is where in relation to the others, and what their goals are. This is not to be obscure, but because I find that each time I make a Memory Map the situation warrants a slightly different approach, depending on the complexity and details involved. The Whitewode campaign has gotten rather complex, and so this map helps me to keep all of the factions, the timing of actions, the motives of all characters and their relative locations in mind during the game. Least I, ahem, forget something important.

If you have any specific questions feel free to ask. :)
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