- How I connect all Entities in a mindmap-like structure
- How I can easily integrate new Entities into the network
What usually comes next is me sketching down a mind-map (with Google Drive’s drawing tool for example) that includes all my Entities (and later encompasses even more elements). Connections between these Entities represent any kind of affiliation that is more than a sporadic interest, thus creating a network of interconnected pieces.
This is another technique that can easily be skipped when preparing your campaign, but helps you get a general sense of the connections within your campaign. The Plotmap also helps you to quickly identify disconnected setting elements and then reconnect them or make them part of a larger conspiracy.
The idea here is not to create a really comprehensive overview of what happens in your setting, but rather to give yourself a reminder how the dynamics work in your setting. It turns the Relationship Grid (which is a uniform method of illustrating connections) into a weighted diagram.
Another advantage of the Plotmap is its flexibility: It can easily process new added-in setting elements, PCs and their connections, and improvised characters, factions, and events – all the while connecting them to existing setting elements and making them part of the overarching setting.
The amount of work you want to put into the Plotmap can vary, depending on the role of intrigue in your game, its usefulness to you and the number of setting elements. For example, I usually draw only connections between the entries, without labeling these connections (as I tend to remember what these connections stand for), and I only use mild color-coding with my maps (only illustrating their affiliation to the PCs). But of course, you can get crazy with this, even encompassing smaller Entities into larger (like adding all members of a certain faction to the faction Entity and so on with a zoomable app like Prezi), but you will have to decide what exactly you use the Plotmap for and how much information you want to add to it.
As a general rule, for the Plotmap to generate enough interesting material, every Entity should at least be connected to two other Entities (this is especially important for improvisational elements you later add to the map – being connected to more than their entry point gives them depths and live). Major Entities should even have more connections, especially when they are central to the setting. This way you guarantee a natural dynamic to your environment, and also give each and every PC and PC connection enough importance and ties to the setting that none of them will feel overlooked or minor.
Naturally, gameplay can, will, and should change the elements and connections on your map, giving you a much better overview about what larger-scale impact PC interaction can yield. Using cloud-based tools like Google Docs, you can even keep track of the development of your Plotmap using the history feature.
Now, enough talk about theory. Let’s build from our above example (and add a few elements, as three Entities really aren’t enough):
In the above (made-up and slightly cliché) example, the color-filled rectangles represent the PCs, while the rectangles with borders in their respective color stand for their connections – in other words, these are elements that were not initially introduced by me or created when I prepared the Entity Cards, but rather added by the players. I tried my best to connect them to other setting elements so that none of them feels disconnected or overlooked. This arms me with even more tools to make play personally matter to the players, and gives me the means to both draw them into the emerging plot by presenting an incentive and have them be connected to other Entities from the very beginning.
The other setting elements, representing factions, organizations, persons, and supernatural beings, are part of a deeply interwoven network of conspiracy, where every interaction with a game element picks enough strings to shake up things at the other part of the city. But because the PCs interaction is always limited to their point of view, they only perceive a fraction of their interactions’ connections, forcing them to piece together the larger picture over the course of many different sessions. This amounts to a large mystery that can be experienced in any order, as there is always enough content to explore – and once you run out of prepared content, you can be sure that the PCs actions have had enough consequences up to this point to give you more than enough material to continue playing.