Friday, October 11, 2013

Managing Campaigns With A Large Cast of NPCs

I'm shooting for starting Children of Lilith using Fate Core around the beginning of the year. This allows me enough time to get my physical Fate Core books, my Evil Hat Fate Dice (although I have enough now between the Thematic Fudge dice and the Fudge dice I picked up earlier in the year) and get some solid campaign prep going. There are a lot of things that I want to organize and plan for before attempting CoL for the third time.

For those of my readers that aren't familiar with Tribe 8, Children of Lilith is a "cycle" book, the first book in a longer campaign arc. It was originally published in 1999 and while it's a great introductory campaign for Tribe 8 (and drives the entire metaplot), it has some rough spots that I'd like to polish out.

One thing that can be hard to manage in Children of Lilith are the NPCs. They range from single mentions in the narrative to major players in the world of Tribe 8. Once you include these minor supporting NPCs and characters that are only mentioned once, CoL has a cast of at least 60. Since Tribe 8 eschewed the "chess piece" system used in Heavy Gear, it's likewise difficult to know which NPC may play a role in a later cycle book without actually reading that book.

The task of keeping track of all of these NPCs, as well as who is related to who and why, can be a daunting one. Luckily, someone somewhere invented the relationship map and I (non-sarcastically) love flowcharts and diagrams. I have multiple mapping programs and I've done some mapping in the past with various games, but the scope wasn't nearly as broad as CoL. Also since I'm using Fate Core I have some other considerations (such as aspects) that I can leverage to pack more usable information into the map.

Luckily, there are a number of good articles and documents that have been written in the past couple years. Gnome Stew has a couple good ones, as well as the Entanglements system from Yaruki Zero. Gnome Stew actually turned me on to CmapTools, which was a great replacement for the plethora of other diagramming tools I've been mucking around with (it's free).

Maybe DP9 could have had Mykal Lakim name their NPCs. Also, DJ Skot did a great remix of "Once In a Lifetime" by Wolfsheim
(pedantic note: liberties have been taken with the NPC relationships shown, as two of the three are one-off mentions in narrative sections of the actual book)

My structure is inspired by the Entanglements system that I linked to above. Basically, squares with dotted lines are "extras". They count as a nameless NPC in Fate Core terms - for all intents and purposes, they are an aspect and little else. Thus, all extras must be directly or indirectly linked to either a minor or major NPC. Two of them are linked to Kyrt through group membership and the third directly. Ovals with dotted lines will represent social groups - the lines coming from each NPC denotes membership in the group. In this manner, I can map relationships between groups. Boxes with dashed and dotted lines represent locations. The three extras could also, obviously, have a relationship with one another beyond cell membership (let's say if Skot and Andrue were lovers). You'll also notice that the line around Lilith's box is bolder (I'm actually going to increase the thickness more). This is to help with visual recognition of a character's importance - dashed lines are the least important, while increasingly thicker lines are more important. Any useful aspects will be included in the boxes as well, to reduce the need to reference other documents.

I think this is a really good start, and with CmapTools I think I can get a complete relationship map of all of the NPCs in Children of Lilith done efficiently with a high degree of usability. Once I'm done with the entire thing I'll be sure to post a link to the document.

Update: Someone on G+ pointed out Vue, which I am playing with. I think I might like it better than CmapTools, but so far CmapTools has been fantastic.