Generating a Relationship Map with Dice

This is something I’ve tried at the FroggyCon, as part of my playtest for the game I’m writing. Only, I’ve generated it as a dice-drop, heavily hacking the map generation procedure from Vaults of Vaarn, basically you dropped a lot of dice and linked each other with the closest X (I think I used the closest 4 at that game), using their respective values to determine the relationship:

  • even to even was friendly
  • even to odd was unfriendly
  • odd to odd was openly hostile

I’m still working on the procedure because it resulted too clunky, but it was extremely useful as a way to start a game which was completely new to everybody (since it was my first playtest, even I wasn’t really familiar with it - as you know it surprised me in many ways).

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Doesn’t that mean that odd numbers aren’t going to be friendly with anyone?

Yes. Which is something I should have been aware of before, but didn’t have a negative impact in the game. I’m still toying around with the idea of doing simply:

  • even-to-even and odd-to-odd → friendly
  • even-to-odd → hostile

But since I haven’t tested it yet I haven’t taken a definitive decision.

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That’s quite interesting as a technique. I suppose you could treat even-even and odd-odd as different, or base it on the number rolled.

In theory you could add all kinds of other oracular information here - in any pair, the higher number has authority over the lower, for instance. 1-3 relationships are emotionally intense, whereas 4-6 relationships are concerned about (something else the game cares about, a central theme).

Or even a d66 table with prompts. A 1 and a 3 means “the 1 depends on the 3 for a basic need”.

Another approach (you may be doing this already!) is to have information encoded into the “map” that you are rolling on. There’s a blue area, any dice there are Loyalists to the King. There’s a red area, anyone there has the plague. A grey circle, anyone within it is currently in cryogenic stasis. Etc.

Well, I can’t post the whole thing, since currently there isn’t a whole thing, but I can post that part.

The game is a tribute to how I played Vampire: The Masquerade in high school, which started as a Cairn hack and then moved further and further away. This part is how to generate the supernatural society for the city the game takes place in.

The Social Web

Take a bunch of dice and drop them on a white sheet of paper. It can be a black sheet for scenic purposes, but in that case you’ll need a white pencil. Each dice shows a number. The higher the number, the more powerful the vampire. Numbers from 1 to 4 are young and cool but clueless vamps, numbers from 7 to 10 hardened bastards and 11 and 12 are old monsters. Numbers from 13 to 20 are not vampires, but other, different supernatural beings:
13: The Changers, or Werebeasts
14: The Awaken, or Sorcerers
15: The Evil Ones, or Demons
16: The Bygone, or Ghosts
17: The Dreamed Of, or Faes
18: The Made, or Man’s Creatures
19: The Cursed, or Mummies
20: Roll twice: the first result is what they appear, the second is what they are
Now you will need to put a name beside each number. You should not come out with an original name unless you have no other choice: usually there will be plenty of NPCs waiting to be used there in your group’s character sheets.
Connect each NPC with the 4 closer to them. A connection between even numbers means those two NPCs are somehow in a friendly disposition toward one another. A connection between two odd numbers suggests a more harsh relationship. A connection between an odd number and an even one state of full enmity.
Once you’ve traced the relationships between the creatures of the night, you should be able to identify groups between them: draw a bunch of shapes around interconnected clusters of dies to identify the social groups. Groups with 4 or less members might not be recognized by others, or just be secret, and couples do not count as groups. It’s perfectly okay to have one or more unaffiliated NPCs around. Groups composed of only non-Vampires should be outside the Vampiric power struggle, if they show up on your map it means they probably are making a mess in Vampiric society.
After identifying the groups, note down the sum of all the vampiric members’ numbers inside the circle: this is the group power score. The higher the score, the more powerful the group. The group with the highest score is ruling the city. The group farther away from them on the sheet is their main rival. Start assigning a group’s allegiance based on proximity: the closer they are to the dominant group, the more faithful they are to it, the same for the rival group. If you need to determine relationships between other groups, use the same rule: the closer they are, the better their relationship. This should not override the relationships between their members: diverging interests and loyalties make stories interesting. Questions should start popping up in your mind at this point: how great is the power imbalance at this point? Is there some more powerful group showing allegiance to a weaker one? Jot them down and keep them in mind, they will come useful during character creation or to start the game.
After identifying the groups and their relationships, use the following tables to give them objectives, inner rules and such. Use the location tables above to give each group someplace they call home. You don’t have to do it straight away for all groups, but I strongly advise you to flesh out at least the main group and its rival.

This is how I played it last time. I’ve changed this part earlier today (after reading a link I searched in order to respond to this thread, actually) but for the purpose of this conversation I’m going to refer to how I actually played the game when I did it.

As you can see, there are other informations encoded in the map, as well as tables to add more details, one for the kind of group and the other (to be rolled on multiple times) for the inner rules of the group. I’m actually trying to add more information to it (and to make it more handier, the output of playing this RAW is a huge thing at the center of the table).

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Nice! I see you’re doing a lot of these things already. I particularly like how you’re adding together dice to determine the power level of a certain group.

Although a technique for generating a detailed relationship map is a bit different from using an existing map for convention play, as described in this thread. @Froggy would it make sense to split this into two threads?

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I’ll split it tomorrow. Feel free to continue in the meantime.

Edit: Thread has been split

I’m still tweaking it, but the general idea is to have as much information as possible generated by a single action, in order to start playing while everyone still has ideas popping up in their head.

The power level thing was pretty intuitive, since the single dies identify the power level of the creatures in the group.

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That’s a neat technique. I knew it for maps with altitude lines. Changing altitude for social capital is cool!

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