Flowcharts in RPGs

So, in my planning for the last D&D session, I ended up making a flowchart. It was a very, very simple one, now, with two decision boxes and a total of two possible outcomes. But still, it was something I haven't done for game writing in a long time.

I used to use flowcharts a lot, and relationship diagrams too. My notes for the Fate games - which started out as medium-sized essays - now condense down to about 1 page per 3 hours of play, and it's all short prose, almost half of which ends up being proper nouns - character names, organisation and place names, and dates. If you reckon aspects are proper nouns, there's not much left at all. There's certainly almost no "if... then" reasoning, or "in case of," which used to appear a lot.

In thinking about this, I was wondering if I was denying the Fate players choices and decisions that they should be making. I'm not, or at least I don't think so, but it seems that the choices they make don't usually have consequences in the current session, but in the next or even subsequent games. In contrast, the D&D game has choices that affect the current session only, pretty much, and all the choices for the next game come from me.

It wasn't until today that I realised I do effectively have flow-charts for the Fate game, but they're drawn at the campaign level, not the session level, and I don't seem to actually put them on paper - they're all in my head. Part of this is because I don't want to plan material that's not going to be used at that level, and part is because I don't have to - it's almost never going to be the case that a decision is being made mid-game that I need to have multiple outcomes worked out for; the decision is made and then the consequences appear in the next session - by which time I've had time to write up the outcome, and only that outcome; I never have to bother with the rest.

So for the Fate games, the flowchart would consist of a lot of decision boxes marked with "didn't go this way" for all but one of the possibilities. In fact, though, I'd need multiple flowcharts, simply because I have multiple plots running at the same time, some of which connect, and some of which don't.

Maybe I should try drawing one anyway; it might be a useful way to visualise the campaign structure.

Posted by Drew Shiel at September 1, 2010 12:50 PM

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