The Chill 6: Gaming relevance - situation

1

I came to these books after Ron Edwards mentioned them in the supplement The Sorcerer's Soul. He recommended the situations as being one that are ripe for gaming goodness. I've had success basing campaigns on them. I get a stable of NPCs to use, and all of them have connections to each other and each has a goal and motivation for making things happen (or that things remain concealed). I'm involved in character generation and make sure to connect PCs to the relationship map.

Things generally go well! The last one I did was a Blue Rose game based on The Zebra-Striped Hearse, and that got all sorts of fun.

Have you used these sorts of relationship maps in your gaming? Have you used one drawn from a book or other source?

If you've not used R-maps, would you consider doing so in future?

Comments

  • 1

    Never used them during sessions - I depend on my memory. Probably a mistake. However they seem designed for reveals, for having secret information, which suggests that planning is going to take a lot of time. Look at government planning - it rarely works as expected. I have had sessions where we had to stop because the GM couldn't adapt to the team creativity. I think treating the game as a collaboration and focusing on building motivations might be a better way of making a flexible plan.

  • 1

    Yeah, I've also not used maps as a tool, though I've nothing against them and would like to run something to give it a go - mostly because I'm curious to see how it would pan out. I've developed a bit of an idea that @dr_mitch is something of an expert at this kind of game, so hopefully he'll contribute.

  • 0

    Nothing to contribute here but I'm commenting so I get to see other people's additions!

  • 1

    I thought it would be illuminating to describe how I'd use the relationship map and backstory for The Chill in an RPG. For the sake of argument, I'll transfer it to the game Sorcerers of Ur-Turuk, a Middle-Eastern/Persian inspired game that's a pulpy version of Ars Magica. The setting has a couple of interesting elements. First is that magic is only every temporary: "permanent" effects are maintained by periodically recasting the spell. Healing magic follows the same rules: when a healing spell expires, the original injuries return, just as they were when the spell was cast. Second is that all magical ability (in humans) comes from finding and destroying artefacts from a pre-human magical species that disappeared in a previous age.

    Conversion

    The key driver of the situation is the Tish/Roy relationship and why it leads to murder. It's a game about sorcerers, so let's make that driver magical. Let's say that Tish was badly hurt when killing Luke. Roy, a young sorcerer, had to borrow power from a djinn to cast the magical healing Tish needed. That djinn now inhabits Tish. It's a murderous creature, only held in check by Roy's magic. Additionally, the binding is powered by Roy donating part of his soul: he'd die if Tish dies. This binds the two together, but with Roy trying to find a way out of the situation.

    Luke's murder happened 20 years ago, in the Dranghosia province, rich from mining. It was then ruled by Satrap Osborne. Since then, a new satrap has been appointed, but the Osborne family retains wealth and power.

    Since rescuing Tish, Roy joined and rose in the ranks of a vahnam (community of sorcerers) that also does community works and educates children. Tom was still abusive towards Constance, and Roy still fell in love with her. Let's say Constance had magical talent that Roy was nurturing, and he saw the possibility of transferring his soul fragment to Constance rather than Tish. Tom was convicted of the killing. To keep the situation tighter, let's say that Tom was sentenced to ten years' labour in the Dranghosia mines.

    The trip to Reno was Roy's investigation of a pre-human magical site, looking to see how he could break the connection with Tish and the djinn. He was assisted in that by Laura. He's made the magical connection to Laura, and now just needs to complete the job of severing his link with Tish and moving the soul fragment to Laura; part of the ritual will lead the destruction/banishment/trapping of the djinn. Helen was a semi-sorcerer working there, spotted Roy, and blackmailed him into getting her the job at his vahnam. The cover story was Roy's pilgrimage tour of various holy sites.

    Motivations

    The next major thing is to identify all the key motivations of the NPCs in this situation. That means going through each character in the R-map and deciding what they want (one or two things generally), what's stopping them getting it, and how the PCs could help. Helen wants protecting, Laura wants the PCs as magical backup for when she and Roy confront Tish. You can fill out the rest.

    The important thing here is to ensure that the situation isn't stable, that things will change even if the PCs don't intervene. Roy's ritual will go ahead, it will go wrong, the djinn will be released. Dolly will have her breakdown, but Alex will remove her from Godwin's care; Dolly will continue tracking down what happened with her mother's murder, Alex will return to his father but resentfully.

    These motivations, actions, and blockers turn into a list of Bangs I can throw into the game when needed. There are no rails in the ongoing plot. I start by knowing which NPCs will be bumping into which PCs and I think about what they would do in response to likely events. As play progresses, I use the R-map to tell me which NPCs are affected by events, and the motivations (and relationships) to tell me what they do in response to them.

    Generally between sessions, I reassess NPCs' objectives and motivations and draw up a new list of Bangs.

    Character generation

    How to connect the PCs to this situation? At the local club, we play eight-week games; the games are pitched before they start, and people self-select into games. That means the players know some of the initial situation and will create characters to fit in with it. Typically, the players come up with general ideas and I make suggestions of how they could fit in with the situation, either by having connections to existing NPCs, or even replacing some of them with PCs if the concepts fit.

  • 1

    This was really helpful, especially the part about character generation. The djinn seems more like an artefact motivating an NPC than a person of its own.

  • 1

    @BarnerCobblewood said:
    This was really helpful, especially the part about character generation. The djinn seems more like an artefact motivating an NPC than a person of its own.

    Thanks.

    Yes, in this set up the djinn isn't really a person. There's no need for this to be the case: you could have djinni be full-blown characters in the situation. But a lot of the situation revolves around the secrecy of Tish's identity and her involvement in the murders. Perhaps you could present the situation with Roy as a djinn, summoned and bound to keep Tish alive. Roy-djinn is now seeking a different master to escape the increasingly-crazed Tish.

    There are many ways to convert an R-map like this into one that suits your game. The example above was just about the first one that sprang to mind. With a bit more thought, I'm sure anyone could produce something better!

  • 2

    Great example, @NeilNjae . Perhaps the most concrete example of applying a novel to RPG play we've had. I might just yoink it if I ever play Sorcerers of Ur-Turuk.

  • 1

    Sorry for not getting back to this. I didn't have the capacity to read the book, though I still intend to and will say something later, when everyone else has forgotten. ;)

    As for relation maps in gaming, I tend to find them okay as a memory aid (and as usual for me and memory aids, it's the act of making one that aids the memory rather than referring to it) or in seeing when connections are "missing" and a political situation could benefit from them, but really I lean on a more linear representation of things, and more details than I have space for in a map. So they assist me rather than me fully embracing them. My brain doesn't quite work that way.

  • 1

    @dr_mitch said:
    Sorry for not getting back to this. I didn't have the capacity to read the book, though I still intend to and will say something later, when everyone else has forgotten. ;)

    I'll look forward to it!

    As for relation maps in gaming, I tend to find them okay as a memory aid (and as usual for me and memory aids, it's the act of making one that aids the memory rather than referring to it) or in seeing when connections are "missing" and a political situation could benefit from them, but really I lean on a more linear representation of things, and more details than I have space for in a map. So they assist me rather than me fully embracing them. My brain doesn't quite work that way.

    So it seems I'm unusual in having an r-map based prep for RPGs. When I'm doing a blood opera style game (my preferred style), my prep consists of an r-map, a list of NPC motivations and objectives (mostly internalised) and a list of a couple of dozen Bangs.

    It's a model that works well for multi-session games, but not one that works for single-session, convention games: there's no real control of pacing and no ability to head to a definite climax.

  • 2
    edited September 14

    I use r-maps, but for politics rather than characters. I find the relationships between characters are usually too complex to chart accurately, but organizations tend to be simpler, and work well in an r-map.

Sign In or Register to comment.