Friday, June 16, 2017

Story Maps - Why I Find Them So Useful

~~ Spoiler Alert! ~~

If you are one of my Players, you are in the wrong place. Please back away slowly and no one will get hurt.  Thanks.

(Don't worry folks, as it happens my players never check my blog - it's ok ... shhh ... it allows me to post out here for you people while we play).  hee.  Later they'll be like "omg". shhhh.
For some time now I've been going on about Story Maps, and how I use them and I why I think they're lovely little things and I wouldn't want to GM without them.  This here is a Story Map...

Elthos RPG - Whitewode Campaign - Story Map - June 14, 2017
So I'd like to take a little time to talk about this one.  What it shows, in not so many words, sketches and glyphs, is where my current Whitewode Campaign is at, where the Main Characters are relative to one another (as always, they've split the party 3 ways from Sunday), what the Main NPCs are doing and where they are, as well as significant events, magic items, and any other tidbits I felt it is a good idea to keep in mind for next game.

The way I use these Story Maps is as an in-game cheat sheet.  With a single glance I recall all of the most important elements of my sprawling and absurdly complex Campaign. As a mnemonic device it really does a spectacular job.

And no, to answer a recent question from one of my friends out there in Googlelandia, I do not draw these during the game session.  Nope.  No way.  I wouldn't have time for that.  I'm a busy GM at the gaming table.  No time for this kind thing.  Instead, I draw them over the course of the next week after the game play, distilling down the most important elements of the game, and projecting as to where things seem to be heading, and adding all kinds of clues for myself as to what may be important next game.

For example, in the lower right hand corner is what appears to be a cat wearing a weird cyclopian helmet with an antenna on top.  Yep.  Except that's not a cat, but a Cat Man, and his name is Tintasha, and he's an NPC that dropped out of view three game sessions ago.  But he's still around, doing interesting things that my Players have no idea about (unless you're reading this, Milo!  Stop that!  Hehe.)

In fact, one fragment of the Party happened to fall from that treacherous cliff-side trail leading up to Black Wind Cave, and only survived because Arcturius happen to have selected Gliding Fall as one of his Mystic Powers, and got lucky with casting it, threw all of his Mystic Points into the damn thing, and managed to haul the other two characters tethered to him by rope such that they landed without too much damage waaaaay down on the edge of the Troll Fen.  Lucky them.

At this point they started exploring around a bit, and decided to head to the base of the cliff (good choice) and found the Old House (a really really old house made of Incan-Style megalithic stone).  Then they began to poke around and managed to discover the tunnel.  They made it all the way up to the secret passage, which because Delvin has the amazing power of Depth Perception, they discovered and opened.  They didn't go far inside at all.  Delvin, Star and Arcturius are in the secret passage discussing whether or not that should continue to follow the cat-foot paw tracks leading through the dusty tunnel, or turn around and go back the way they came.  Ahead... well, you can see clues about what's ahead down that passageway.  Nothing good.  And nothing you'd even remotely want to tangle with.  And if they make it past that, there's the next cavern in which the Tower of the Cat Men stands like a giant cat scratch in the dark.  My guess is they will turn back and try to find another way up the cliffs.  Just a hunch.  However, if they do forge ahead, overcome (or sneak past) the guardians at the gate (the first chamber), they will find that the Cat Men have a very odd hobby.  Those Cyclopian Helmets are ... well, let's just say "Interesting" and leave it there (are you still here Milo?!).

Anyway, this is the kind of thing I put on these maps.  It's a great deal easier to glance at one of these than to try to keep index cards or notebooks with all my notes on them.  This is a visual quick list cheat sheet of all that is important to me for next game.  It doesn't determine the direction things will go, but it helps me to remember what happened most recently, what direction the various party members are heading, and gives me instant appraisal of the overall state of the Campaign.

And they're a lot of fun to draw, too.

Ok, no more spoilers, Milo!
(heh - actually, there's really only a .0001% chance that Milo or any of my other players will see this before the next game. They just totally don't track me on Social Media at all.  Zilch.  ... if they only knew ... mwahahaha!).

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