Relationship Diagrams for GMs

I've been making use of relationship diagrams in tabletop games for years, at the campaign level. It's only recently that I've learned to make use of them at a session level.

Basically, the idea here is that any session must move toward revealing, exploring, or changing a relationship, or even more than one.

Consider this diagram, which describes the situation known to the player characters some way into a campaign. Or maybe even at the beginning.

We've three entities here, the God of Biscuits, King Methusel, and the Order of Crows. Each has a relationship with the other two, and these are two way relationships, so there are six here to look at.

The God of Biscuits is the father of King Methusel. King Methusel hates his father.

The Order of Crows obey King Methusel, and they worship the God of Biscuits.

We don't know yet what King Methusel thinks of the Order of Crows, nor what the God of Biscuits thinks of his worshippers.

So we've instantly a whole bunch of things to do with a session here.

You can set it up to reveal the two question marks. What does King Methusel think of the Order of Crows? Does he reckon they're a bunch of weaklings, who kowtow to his hated father and obey him out of fear? Or does he seem them as upstanding men and women, loyal to the kingdom, whose worship of the God of Biscuits can be used to bring down that deity?

Alternately, maybe the God of Biscuits is looking to use the Order of Crows to reach out to his son and seek some kind of forgiveness. Or both.

You can explore the relationships. How is King Methusel's hatred of his father made clear? Has he banned his worship? Exactly howobedient are the Order of Crows?

Or you can look at changes in the relationships. Maybe the Order of Crows have been given a reason not to worship the God of Biscuits anymore. Or maybe King Methusel has grown tired of the hatred, and wants to approach his father in a spirit of good familial relationships again.

That's a whole bunch of possible adventure seeds, as it were, stemming from existing entities in the campaign. And of course, the "entity" level can be anywhere you want - I've set it here between a god, a king and an order, but you could take it down to relationships between members of the order, or courtiers in the king's palace quite easily - or alternately, consider these three as a cluster of the Biscuitites, and see how they relate to the cluster around the God of Strong Flour and the Rolling Pin God.

Considering the number of possible entities, at the various scales, in almost any campaign, there's nigh-on infinite potential for material to look at in any given session.

Posted by Drew Shiel at July 3, 2012 4:31 PM

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